Lead, like a boss!

By: Steven King
PAICR Board of Directors member
Speaker at the 2017 PAICR Annual Conference

I’ve had a lot of managers through the years, but only a few I would consider leaders. However, I’ve tried to take the best from all of them. It is with that experience and knowledge that I’ve built a leadership framework of success that you can use to establish yourself as more than just a manager.

From Rookie to All-Star – Every Team Member Matters

EVERY member of the team is important. The opinions, efforts, and contributions from your most junior employee to your most senior veteran matter. Every member should feel valued and know how their efforts contribute to the success of the team. We all have an all-star employee, but you need every member playing their part to win the game.

One Playbook – Everyone Should Know the Game Winning Strategy

You absolutely need to be clear about where the team is headed. What are you trying to accomplish this year? How does this align with the corporate goals? I’ve found that most people are problem solvers. As such, if they know at a high level what the team needs to accomplish for the year – and how this aligns with the firm’s goals – they’ll figure out a way to do it.  Your team wants to show you, and the firm, the value they provide. Your job is to point them in the right direction.

Once a Player, Now a Coach – Share Your Knowledge and Experience

There are two parts of this statement. The first is sharing the knowledge and experience that you’ve accumulated through the years. I know some managers are afraid to share what they know. They believe that keeping information to themselves makes them more valuable and indispensable to the firm. However, sharing this knowledge is not only respected, but it will only make your team stronger. And leading a strong team, with a foundation of knowledge and experience, often produces remarkable work.

The second part of this statement is the importance of transparency. You must be transparent with your agenda, inner conversations, conflicts, and concerns. There are some topics that require discretion, but overall your team is far more effective if they have all the information.  Plus, if you model transparency you are on the fast track to building trust.

Create Chemistry – Every Great Team Revolves Around Trust

Believe it or not, you don’t know it all.  Remember why you hired each person on the team. Your team members have talents, knowledge, and opinions that are different from yours. Embrace it! This is part of what makes a great team. Spend time listening to them. Learn from them. Often you will find that where trust is earned it is also given. Having a foundation of trust will foster an environment of open communication which is invaluable. If you can’t trust your team or they don’t feel like they can trust you, you’ve got some work to do.

Game Time – Now It’s Time to Let Them Shine

Now it’s game time and your job is to let your team shine. I cannot say this strongly enough, do NOT skip this step. If you skip this step, you will find that all your previous hard work was in vain. Why? Because I personally don’t know many people that like to do all the work and never get the credit. As a leader, you must get comfortable letting your team take center stage. And I believe that a team built on transparency, trust, and respect will be a team that wants to celebrate their leader.

This approach has served me well over the years. I don’t have to manage the day-to-day activities of my team as they know what they need to do.  I trust them to work toward the vision of the team and the firm. They trust me to set them up for success. So how do I know that this makes me a manager and a leader? Because I know my team would tackle any problem we face without hesitation –not because I told them to, but simply because it needed to be done.

Registration is now open for the PAICR Annual Conference November 13-14th in New York City.  Register Now.

The Agile Marketing (R)Evolution

By: Andrea Fryrear
Founder and Chief Content Officer – Fox Content Ltd.
Keynote Speaker – PAICR Annual Conference 2017
www.foxcontentltd.com/

What happens to a marketing department when it undergoes an Agile transformation? It turns out it doesn’t just get a fancy piece of software or a faster pace of work. A survey of CMOs and marketing leaders reveals that:

  • 93% improved speed to market.
  • 87% had more productive teams.
  • 80% were better able to prioritize the work that matters.

But these kinds of Agile success stories don’t happen by accident. They require detailed planning, careful execution, and ongoing commitment. Marketers can’t just throw their annual plans in the shredder, start pivoting every other week, and expect to reap the benefits of agility.

We need to fully understand what it means to practice Agile in a marketing context if we want the chance to sprint ahead of our competition.

What is Agile Marketing?

Living from crisis to crisis, never being able to think strategically, and constantly missing deadlines have long been the reality for many marketing teams. But now our audiences expect personalized, relevant messaging and our bosses expect us to document our bottom line impact. Old school processes just can’t deliver those outcomes. Faced with this untenable situation, more and more teams are searching for a better way to manage their work.

 As this Google Trends graph shows, many of them are turning to Agile marketing as a possible solution:

Agile post Google graph

But what does it really mean to practice Agile marketing?

Agile vs. agile

I once had a boss who would swoop in, cancel all the work marketing had in progress, and declare a totally new priority for us to pursue. His justification: he was being agile. True, he was making frequent changes, but that’s not the same as practicing Agile marketing.

Don’t be fooled: changing your mind all the time does not make you Agile.

Agile marketing, with a capital “A”, involves the deliberate application of a specific Agile methodology to the way marketing executes its work. And, like all great marketing, it’s founded on a well-researched, audience-centered marketing strategy. Planning and strategy should — and must — be part of an Agile approach. Without them, Agile teams just end up doing the wrong work more efficiently.

Three Agile Methodologies

If you’ve heard much about Agile in the past, chances are it was closely associated with the Scrum methodology. While Scrum is the most popular approach in the world of software and IT (where Agile practices originated), it’s not the only way to put Agile ideals into practice.

Lightweight, flexible options like Kanban and Scrumban offer marketing teams more leeway, and typically align more closely with the way we already do our work.

So when the time comes for your team to take its first steps on an Agile marketing journey, investigate all three methodologies first.

Agile Principles and Values

Agile marketing isn’t just about speed, efficiency, or methodologies. It’s founded a set of principles and values known as the Agile Manifesto (there’s also a marketing-specific one) that influences every aspect of how we approach our work.

For instance, Agile teams value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Many small experiments over a few large bets
  • Testing and data over opinions and conventions
  • Intimate customer tribes over impersonal mass markets
  • Engagement and transparency over official posturing

Notice the emphasis on audience value and data-driven decisions. Remember, Agile isn’t just about getting faster, it’s about doing better work. Incorporating Agile values into your team’s DNA will not only increase its agility, it will help it start delivering marketing that actually matters.

What’s in it for Finserv Marketing

We’ve already covered some of the big picture benefits of taking a more Agile approach to marketing: faster speed to market, higher levels of productivity, and better prioritization. But Agile marketing offers a vast array of benefits for financial services marketing.

The list is long, but here’s a short sample.

The Power of Iteration

First, Agile marketing teams are empowered to respond quickly to emerging opportunities in their space. Typically a traditional team creates long term plans, sometimes quarterly or annually , designed to reach a goal or opportunity. They’ve invested time, resources, and budget into those plans, so once they’re in motion deviating from them is costly.

This is known as a waterfall approach, and it’s represented by the gray line on the chart below.

Agile post Waterfall Graph

Image source: Forbes

 Agile teams, on the other hand, follow the blue line. They release small pieces of marketing work often, evaluate their performance, and then iterate based on the data. Sometimes this means expanding on a successful experiment, other times it means abandoning a failed idea.

In both cases there’s little risk, because the release was small. Over time they might build up to a larger, more expensive campaign, but only once they’ve validated the concept through iterative releases.

Either way, they can nimbly pivot over time to hit their target.

More Marketing, Less Drama

One of my favorite outcomes, when marketers switch to an Agile approach, is the sense of calm that descends on the team. There’s less stress, more creativity, and a much stronger sense of unity.

A 2016 survey of hundreds of marketers offers a more quantitative look at the benefits of working on an Agile marketing team:

  • Improved teamwork and morale (13.7%)
  • Better division of work between team members (9.7%)
  • Better team alignment on priorities (16.2%)

When we compare this is a 2015 study on marketers’ overall stress levels, the difference becomes even clearer:

Agile Post Circle Graph

Agile alleviates stress to create space for teams to do outstanding work, which, let’s face it, is the only way for brands to differentiate themselves anymore.

Better, Faster, Smarter Campaigns

It’s not just individual marketers who benefit from an Agile transformation. When we make marketing teams more effective, we produce more impactful marketing that helps our organizations grow.

  • Better: 80% of Agile teams can deliver a better, more relevant end product
  • Faster: 87% of Agile teams are more productive
  • Smarter: 93% of Agile teams can switch gears more quickly and effectively

Agile practices were designed to deliver these kinds of results because they originated in software in the 1990s, when large projects would routinely run years late and millions of dollars over budget.

Most of us haven’t gotten anywhere near that level of disaster, but who doesn’t want quantifiably better market campaigns that actually get finished faster?

Agile is the Answer

Modern marketing exists in a state of constant disruption, and it shows no signs of getting simpler anytime soon. Agile marketing represents our best, and maybe our only, chance of dealing with this new reality.

Be sure to see Andrea at the PAICR Annual Conference November 13-14th in New York City.  Register Now!

So Now You’re a Big Wig

By: Tom Mulligan
PAICR Vice President, PAICR Board of Directors member
PAICR Member since 2010

After years of hard work as an individual contributor, your contributions have been recognized and you’ve been promoted. Now you’re a manager. So what do you do?!

Recommendation #1: Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Many inexperienced managers (and some experienced ones) fall back on what they know, which is doing the individual contributor job. After all, that’s why they were promoted, right? Because they can do the job better than anyone else, right?! Wrong. They were promoted because their knowledge of doing that job should enable them to effectively manage a group of others doing that job.

Think back to when you were an individual contributor. Did you want your boss constantly leaning over your shoulder, micro-managing everything you did? Of course not. You wanted guidance and support, but you also wanted trust and independence and even the freedom to make mistakes once in a while. After all, that’s a great way to learn. Plus, if you hadn’t been given that opportunity, how could you ever have done well enough to be promoted? So do your team a favor—provide them with guidance and support, but then let them run with it.

Not to mention that, as a manager, you will have a lot more on your plate. There will be more meetings to attend, more research to do, and more need to just think and contemplate and ponder. And, LOTS more communicating to do, which leads me to my second recommendation.

Recommendation #2: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

I once participated in a fascinating team-building exercise that illustrated the importance of communication. There was an obstacle course with boundaries, barriers and other challenges to be overcome. (Please note, this was a business obstacle course with rags and Tupperware on the floor, not an American Ninja obstacle course with giant trampolines or climbing walls.) The object of the exercise was for the entire team to traverse the obstacle course in groups of two. One of each group of two was blindfolded, and the other served as the blindfolded individual’s guide. The two-person teams had to go through the course in a predetermined order, and there was no passing or changing the order.

So, the seeing guides would tell the blindfolded individuals things like “take two steps forward,” “turn about 45 degrees to your left,” and so on. Not surprisingly, accurate and frequent communication was critical for this.

The really interesting part, however, came when a group encountered a barrier that required a pause in the team’s progress—for example, one was “stand in place for two minutes.” At those points, the sighted individuals would tell their blindfolded counterparts something like “Okay, we just got stopped. We’re going to be standing here for a few minutes, and then I’ll let you know when we can start moving again.” Seems simple enough, right? But it wasn’t. In every case, within 15 or 20 seconds, the blindfolded individuals would start to ask things like “What’s happening? Are we ready to start moving yet?” Wait, didn’t you just tell them that they’d have to stand still for a while, and that you’d let them know when they could start going again? Yes, you did. But here is the lesson: people always crave more communication, especially from their leaders. In short, YOU CANNOT OVER-COMMUNICATE. The more you communicate, the better.

In the absence of frequent communication, people start to assume the worst. “They are all leaving without me! I’m holding up the group! My leader isn’t paying attention, we’re falling behind!” Time drags on when you don’t get updated information – 20 seconds can feel like 2 minutes, 20 minutes can feel like 2 hours, 2 weeks can feel like 2 months.

So take advantage of every chance you get to communicate – and not only with your team, but with your peer group of managers as well. Just as intra-team communication is a challenge, inter-team communication is a challenge as well.

From my experience, the more you delegate and communicate, the more successful you’ll be as a big wig.