The Keys to unlocking your team's potential
Published on 08/15/2023
As marketing technology leaders, we hold the keys to unlocking our team's potential and driving exceptional results for both our clients and those on our team. While some of the aspects of leadership discussed here might seem obvious, it’s important to recognize the critical role they play in building a supportive environment in the workplace.
The important takeaway is that it is our responsibility to not only see our team members as colleagues and important organizational resources, but as human beings with a diverse set of challenges, needs, backgrounds, and motivations. Fostering leadership from a standpoint of individual growth and support creates an inviting atmosphere, a sanctuary where employees desire to contribute, be part of, and thrive in, all while driving exceptional work for the organization.
Let’s look at a few pillars of leadership that can be important for leading effective, and happy, teams.
To me, one of the most important aspects of being a successful leader is empathy and communication. So many of us in this industry have had a unique path to our current position and have challenges or circumstances that might not be readily apparent at first glance. Starting from a place of trust, and privacy, with your individual team members can help provide them with a channel for communicating issues they are having and how those might be impacting their experience on the team. This ensures that you’re aware of any issues that might impact the team and are able to provide the needed support to help in whatever way that you can.
Work is an important part of our lives, but it is not the only (or most important) part. Setting the expectation amongst your team that personal development and relationships are paramount helps to create a scenario where they feel more protected when discussing how their work may be impacted by factors both external and internal to the workplace. Taking the opportunity to approach each situation with empathy, privacy, and understanding, rather than rushing to conclusions, provides a safe space and helps create an open dialogue, leading to a motivated and united team.
While it might not hold true for all teams and situations, for those managing engineering resources, it is critical that you possess the technical knowledge necessary to understand and guide your team. In positions of marketing technology leadership, you will be called upon to be a subject matter expert across a wide variety of domains and disciplines and will be able to make important decisions that will impact the day-to-day work of those on your team. A failure to understand the opportunities, and challenges, on a technical level can set everyone up for failure, and lead to spiraling costs and burnout amongst your team.
To effectively guide engineering teams, we must delve into their challenges, struggles, and the evolving tech landscape. Staying informed about industry trends and developments allows us to make informed decisions and offer relevant support. This deep understanding earns our team's respect and trust, fostering an environment of growth and achievement.
Speaking of growth, the commitment to empowering your team members to reach their goals and potential is one of the most critical aspects of being a leader in this space. For most of us in this field, a lot of career growth and development has been on-the-job and supplemented by encouraging managers, books, and online resources. Understanding that the day-to-day work environment is not simply a mechanism for providing benefit to the organization but is also an important training ground for everyone on your team is an important step in building a culture of growth.
One of the primary challenges you might encounter are team members who have the ability, and desire, to further their skill set and development but are unsure about the possible paths or means of taking the next step. Building out a clear development and learning path for your team is critical to ease concerns of those who might find it overwhelming and to help guide everyone towards the next step in their career path.
Assigning non-urgent work in a domain someone might be interested in learning, creating training sessions, providing FTO for external training and providing means to attend conferences are just a few additional ways that you can help encourage a mindset of growth and development on your team. The important thing to note is that all knowledge and experiences can benefit your team, even if they fall outside of the traditional areas that we work in, so you can never go wrong encouraging employees to pursue and grow in the areas that interest them.
Transparency is a cornerstone of effective leadership, and it should be exercised as often as possible where discretion allows. Obviously, some circumstances prohibit this, such as receiving a sudden client or initiative pivot that is out of your control, but even then, steps should be taken to ensure that those who are responsible for the effects of those updates are informed as early as possible so that they can mitigate its effects. Never underestimate the simple power that simply keeping people informed in an honest and constructive way can yield.
This applies even more to the expectations and relationship that you have with the members on your team directly. We must communicate clearly and openly with our team, setting clear expectations from the start. If a team member falls short of expectations, address it early and constructively. Timely feedback fosters growth and encourages accountability. A transparent culture builds trust, ensuring our team feels supported and valued in their roles.
Keeping your team informed on both individual and department initiatives helps everyone feel more accountable and part of an overall direction rather than a cog in a machine.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it is remarkable how often driven team members at organizations feel unrecognized or adequately compensated for the value that they provide. As a leader, it is your responsibility to understand where great work is being done and to reward it with whatever means are both available and appropriate.
An extra FTO day to aid a long weekend for someone who has worked tirelessly on a critical project, a gift card to enjoy a free lunch on the company or public recognition in calls internal and external to your team are only a few ways to reward accomplishments that deserve to be recognized. Lastly, there is likely a reason that you’ve got a high performer on the team, and they have their own goals and interests that are driving their great work.
Try to understand what motivates them, and you might find even more opportunities to create a satisfying work environment for them whilst also doing great work for your organization.
As marketing technology leaders, we hold the power to transform our teams into trailblazers in the dynamic marketing technology landscape. By embracing the pillars of Empathy, Understanding, Growth, Transparency, and Accomplishment, we create an environment where collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement thrive. Let’s lead with a human-focused approach to management and create innovative, happy, work environments that we ourselves would thrive in.