Make Data Applicable to Your Department's Environment

To apply data, it must be used within the context of what you are trying to accomplish. Regardless of what assessment data you accumulate, it will not have relevance until you apply it in a manner that everyone understands. To do this you must create an environment that is user-friendly, which can only happen when there is exposure to people skills data – commonly called “soft skills.”

While this concept may seem out of context or “HR” in nature, it is the most critical aspect of whether or not a person has the capacity to perform. The challenge is that employees have been focused more on the task-oriented aspects of their job which neglected the employee’s primary need of subjective attention.

Marketing managers must incorporate the dynamics and language of people skills strategically into every task, otherwise they will not inspire their employees, but rather demotivate them. When the term “strategically” is used, it means that there must be an awareness of what unique strengths are common to differing marketing positions, and what they look like in everyday life.

In this way, the language can be used developmentally, and as a tool to motivate employees to develop their “personalities” into something of value. How do you do this? You illustrate how behavioral traits, value systems and particular mindsets contribute to the success of projects. You point out how Joe is successful because of his ability to listen, understand and then take the picture the client has painted and translate it into a value proposition on a webpage that is compelling to a specific buyer persona. Only then will the concept have context. Only then will employees begin to identify with and appreciate other employee’s unique skills. If they find similarities and relate to those traits, then they probably have the capacity to develop in those areas also.

Developing your team with the 4Cs

As you consider the graphic below we need to return to the concepts that were introduced earlier in this book – manage the objective aspects, and lead/develop the subjective aspects of your employee’s unique makeup. Brilliant leadership will take the CMO or marketing manager into the final phase of building a dynamic team – leading and managing each of the 4Cs.

Look at the graphic again and realize that this is a perpetual process, one that must have all aspects addressed, or there will be gaps and turnover.

4CRadial1

Let’s first address what employees feel their company needs most – competencies.

The marketing manager must realize that interviews and résumés (according to University of Michigan studies) are up to 25% embellished, and are only 14% effective for hiring the right person. You must make a conscious decision as to how you want to approach collecting better applicant data, or ways of screening your present employee base to identify competencies.

Once you have decided on a tool, screen your departmental members and use this data to fill in the matrix provided earlier. Now, you have a basis to manage competencies, as you will now have definitive data on the skills necessary for task completion.

Your next step is to take the data for marketing specialist and compare it to that of other employees. This will provide you with an opportunity to see who has the skills for development in areas needed for cross-training or new competency development. Identify where there are similarities and differences. Compare your employees’ scores to the benchmarks provided in the 2012 Executive Guide to Marketing Personnel to see if there are significant differences.

Where you see similarities, you may find that desired skills may be transferable. Identify if the individual is interested in cross-training or new competency development, and add the training and development time as part of the position objectives. This will fulfill their need for personal and professional development, and prepare your department for greater flexibility and depth of knowledge.

An important thing to remember when you address competency issues is that you cannot afford to guess. If you agree with most marketing managers that competencies are the top need for your department, you must rely on accurate data rather than instinctive feelings.

The cost investment is negligible when compared to the mistakes you can make in training or investing in the wrong person. Measure (through assessment) the competencies you need from the following paradigms so you can nurture/lead their development:

  1. Competence in the specific skill sets

  2. Ability to grow and development

  3. Personal behaviors required to execute the task

  4. Values/mindsets that will drive the execution of the task

The second of the 4Cs is character, which provides insight into whether (and how) they will do their jobs. While there is rarely an issue as to whether employees WANT to do their jobs, you need to know how they will approach the task and if that is in sync with the way things need to be done.

You must also reason through how their approaches will the impact the department as a whole. You cannot do this without empirical data; use the assessment results to help you manage this area. You will want to make sure you understand the values and mindsets of each of your employees, and what drives them to complete their tasks. Once this is understood, you will immediately be able to identify where possible clashes will develop, or have a greater chance of occurrence.

As those mindset differences occur, there will be differing expectations as to what project development and execution will look like. Your job is to make sure the differing aspects of each project (requiring teamwork) is apportioned to the person with the strongest mindset for that phase. Here is an example:

Joe (Branding Specialist) and Mike (Research/Data Analyst) are in the process of working on a new product line that needs to be launched within the next 90 days. While both employees possess very objective minds and are not very emotional, they are very different. Joe is very time sensitive, understands the time frame and will lose it if he does not have his data on time. Mike is very pragmatic and wants to make sure every available piece of information is gathered and crunched properly – he hates errors caused by ineffective research.

Solution – If you, as the marketing manager have this data and understand it, you manage the introduction of the campaign to both gentlemen AFTER meeting with them individually.

In the meeting with Joe you help him understand Mike’s mindset of wanting to be thorough and his desire to provide the best possible data. After this is established, you ask Joe to assume the role as project manager for timing (his strength.) However, by making Joe aware of Mike’s mindset, he will understand that Mike will always feel like there is just a little more work that needs to be done at the last minute. Therefore he must plan their interim updates for several days prior to him actually needing the information to provide a time cushion and avoiding a confrontation of whether the meeting is timely or the data isn’t ready.

In the meeting with Mike you help him understand Joe’s impatience and only wanting to do things one time – the first time! Once the concept is established, you should encourage Mike to look at the data prior to the meeting and create at least two options for Joe – does he want the data in its present state with whatever implications that may entail or would he be willing to wait a day or two for more definitive data. Ask him then which option he would prefer at this juncture.

Now, both players are poised for compromise and/or agreement with each in a position to feel as if they have done what was required and completed their task appropriately.

If you manage the process from this paradigm of thought, you have positioned each employee to succeed and feel as if they are contributing to the project success. You have managed the project, but also begun to develop individuals with the skills they will need in the future.

In the process you may also want to present opportunities for each employee to learn more about the other’s specialty, especially if they have similar behavioral and value traits.

The next phase of the perpetual cycle you will need to address is departmental chemistry. If it is addressed early in the company’s/department’s lifecycle it is easier to shape. If you are in an established department it may take some time to modify, depending on departmental size, if you feel there is a need for change.

You will need to assess chemistry with a very different approach than you used to assess skills. While important to the job descriptions, they are irrelevant when it comes to aspect. You will need to focus on behaviors, values and mindsets.

Here are the steps you will need to take to make sure you have strong departmental chemistry:

  1. Identify the corporate values as they pertain to the company and departmental mission.

  2. Define those corporate values in terms of the three most important of the six values or mindsets

    1. How strong is the focus on seeking the correct and most effective answer?,

    2.  How strong is their ability to do things quickly and efficiently?

    3.  How important is the harmony, flow and beauty to the process?

    4.  How important are the people and their causes to the process?

    5.  How important is my individual agenda to the overall process?

    6.  How important are corporate morals and values to the overall process

  3. Prioritize each of the three as they pertain to accomplishing your mission/vision, and use them as a basis for hiring new members for your department. If they have more than one of the values slightly different there may not be much of an issue. If two or more are out of sync, your chances of success are limited. Do NOT hire someone who does not possess (for the most part) equivalent personal values which equate to the corporate values.

  4. Measure (assess) your present departmental base (if already established) and identify the present employees whose personal values are in line (and how closely they are aligned) with the department/company. For those aligned there should be little to no issues or changes necessary. For those who are not aligned you will need to include (as part of their objectives) exercises that help them focus on those values or change their job description.

If your departmental members have similarly aligned values (which are congruent with departmental values) you can manage them, regardless of behaviors. Values are key to keeping alignment. This can only happen if you have the same objectives, and desire to achieve them in a similar manner.

You need to understand the intensity of those values even when they are congruous. When you have an understanding of the importance of that value to the employee and how that intensity will impact their performance and interaction with the other employees you will be able to quickly discover how to align or position the employee on the appropriate team. The stronger the value, the greater the command the employee will have in directing and managing certain aspects of a campaign.

The greater the discrepancies in their value systems, when compared to departmental values, the more changes to roles will need to be made. As you understand values data and its impact on the department it will be easier to formulate a plan to drive necessary changes.

The key to approaching this process is to remember that you must lead your employees, not just manage their tasks. Make sure they see you are trying to help them by positioning them where they can learn and grow from others who have knowledge to share.

Remember that employees (in general) are somewhat independent and require personal attention. However, you want to make sure the attention is positive, based on their individual aspirations, and positioned so that they seem to be gaining position and stature as they build stronger industry relationships.

The primary issue you face is building your employees’ capacity. While competence is what most marketing managers must “acquire” in order to meet task demands, it is often within their reach if they knew what to look for in their people, or those from other departments.

An article from the Wall Street Journal was quoted illustrating that if we acquire data and use it properly we get better long-term results. Each person wants the capacity to grow, develop and better themselves through the use of their natural abilities.

If you are trying to build your department, the first step is to perform a work environment study (WES), or benchmark the behaviors and mindsets necessary to perform the tasks of every position in the department. You will want at least 4-5 people’s input.

The second step is to identify future needs that are going to require attention. Complete your studies or benchmarks on those prior to filling the position. Establish what is necessary for success in that position, so there is no doubt what you are looking for.

Once the process is complete, the third step is to take the data you have on your present employees and see how closely aligned they are to the scores needed for the position. If you have someone in the department at a junior level who possesses those attributes, they can be moved into the new position after training a replacement, saving the company money and illustrating capacity development in the process.

If you are solely trying to develop the capacities of each employee in your department you will want to slightly modify the process. You must always start with your work environment studies or job benchmarks to identify the requirements of the present positions. Your new second step will be to take the data and compare it to the profile of the individual performing the task.

You should see a fair amount of similarities. If you do not see similarities, you are possibly having challenges with this employee. In most cases you will see some variances that will provide you with insight as to why they struggle with certain tasks. If you do find this to be the case you have several options:

  1. Move the employee into a position that is more congruent with their behaviors and mindset.

  2. Shift some responsibilities to another employee who has a better ability to handle what will be challenging for this employee. Whatever is divested, can be replaced with other responsibilities.

  3. Institute direction and focus on learning the skill sets needed to enhance their present behaviors and mindsets through either internal or external developmental resources.

  4. Provide or be a coach/mentor/peer to assist the individual in acquiring the appropriate mindsets needed for their present responsibilities or future roles.