May 19

Finding (and Avoiding) Problems in Departmental Chemistry


By Chuck Coker

What can go wrong with departmental chemistry?

We have discussed the unique personality of the average employee. As we consider these characteristics, we must note there are many things that can go awry in a department full of employees, especially if they resemble the profile we have developed. Since many employees fit this mold, we will address some of the challenges their personalities will present in a department full of similar people.

As a manager, you can quickly address some of these difficulties once you recognize them with the recommendations provided below. Prior to considering a recommendation, realize they may add time to the process but will keep the group working together as a stronger team.

For every asset, there is a liability. What makes an employee good can also create stress? Managers make sure tasks are done.

Leaders optimize and inspire their people to achieve their goals in front of them individually and collectively. Inspiration and motivation are what make for good departmental chemistry.

In addition, to be a marketing manager, you must also be a people expert. There is a myriad of books you can read but try to focus on understanding behaviors and values. If you understand how and why an employee behaves in a certain manner, you will be able to inspire them and make them feel as if they are crucial parts of your team.

Transforming individual needs into support and encouragement for others

We’ve already established the fact that employees are an independent group of people who don’t mind being a part of something bigger, but who do need to carve out their own personal space and identity and to be valued for such uniqueness.

Your job is to take what you have learned in the past few pages and translate it into something other than just work experience. Your job is to make it into an opportunity for them to build relationships with other employees who can help them grow and develop. You can do this in many ways, but developing a mentality is something that leaders do well.

Here are some examples of how a leader will create the right environment to improve departmental chemistry:

  • They’ve learned by experience in a department where goals and responsibilities are clearly defined, the chemistry between the team members grows exponentially. If the lines are fuzzy, there is always the possibility that people will feel slighted or ousted.
  • We go on marketing retreats; we collaborate on a weekly basis and we do things outside of work.
  • Trust and confidence are a must as it brings out the best in employees. Mistakes are quickly remedied and learned from without a lot of judgment so work can improve going forward.
  • Collaboration across global and departmental borders helps us achieve a common goal and/or project outcome.
  • We believe in information sharing, experience disclosure as well as apportioning great ideas. When people respect and like each other their collaboration and production levels skyrocket.
  • We live and breathe as a team. The more we work together the bigger the impact. We will even work late when necessary, having fun, and getting along together, in and out of work.
  • We do weekly team activities like building each other’s business plans.
  • When crises strike, marketing comes together and exceeds expectations meeting a big deadline.
  • Willingness to ask what’s needed and offer suggestions on unmet desires as possibilities.
  • The ability to work together with great chemistry allows our department to be open to each other’s ideas and to feed off each other to create the best possible marketing campaign.
  • Most in our department has a great sense of humor and are more concerned with the result – not whether their name is on it.
  • We cover for each other if anybody is on leave or traveling and support each other in crises as they arise.
  • When people like each other they work well together, when priorities are set and consistent, people’s performance is at its peak.
  • We are in a high-volume environment and getting along/being in sync is critical. I spend a lot of time building a team, creating the creative platform for performance. We all understand the expectations, the quality needed, resources available, and goals and thus can execute effectively.

These are just a few ideas for you to consider. They are not all-encompassing. Ultimately, you will have to identify what will motivate your group, based on their unique energies.

Inspiring and motivating self-focused individuals is not always possible unless you have some help. Therefore, departmental chemistry must come from more than just a leader. It is an environment that must be created, not just managed. It takes employees who are willing to adapt as customer needs change.

This environment will allow you to deal with inevitable change, without it being an imposition. And, it will allow you to take those self-focused individuals and have them contribute to their peer’s success.

Taking what they have in common and using it for THEIR team

What do employees have in common, if one is a content specialist and the other is a social media expert the initial answer is likely, not much. However, you need to find common ground, despite differences in role, competency, character, behavior, and mindset.

The larger your department, the more of a challenge it may be for you to find that common ground. If you do not find a way to help your team to embrace such diversity you will end up managing a group of individuals, and never have a team that works together.

The longer this mentality persists, the more often you will be trying to replace employees who have found a more suitable place to use their competencies. Where is the common ground?

If nothing else, a CMO or marketing manager must create, clarify, and communicate an image. You must inspire others to want what you are promoting, to a higher level of credibility or visibility. You are the department of concept and communication. If nothing else, every member of your department owns a piece of this objective.

Each employee knows how to do this, from a different perspective. Each approach will be different, but each can be effective, given the proper circumstances. Your job is to communicate how one compliments, not replaces, the other, and how the goal cannot be accomplished without each employee contributing his or her piece.

So, how do you make a group of biased (to their specialties) individuals’ gel into a productive team?

The answer lies in where there are commonalities in what they are doing.

As you look at your upcoming campaigns and projects you likely intentionally map out and plan each individual step, from beginning to end. Herein lies an opportunity to bring the group together. What is your first step? Is it research and analytics to identify buyer personas? Is it searching the Web and social media sites for competitors to make sure you can differentiate yourself from those contenders? Do you use this information to identify and refine content to make sure you have the right message? Or, do you have each specialty prepare insights and present them at a strategy session?

Obviously, there are many ways to approach a campaign, and yours will be unique to your department. The key is making sure each member of the department understands the process.

When your department reaches the point of understanding each step in your campaign approach, they should be able to understand why you designed it in that manner, and how you see it as a benefit to the team. However, you must ensure they see the individual benefits, as well.

You can help them see their personal benefits in the linking of each aspect of the process of how one task compliments and enhances the other, especially in transition. The transition phase of moving from one step to another is a growth opportunity for every single member of the department, which helps build each of the 4Cs in the process.

Consider it this way:

  1. Each task requires either the use of or further research and development of the competencies the employee brings to the table. That competency becomes openly visible and completes a step in the marketing campaign process.
  2. If that competency is done well and in a timely manner it displays the character of the individual employee and gains respect for his work and efforts. The new employee receiving the handoff has an opportunity to compliment the individual on their success. They also have a wonderful opportunity to learn more about what it took to complete that phase of the process and how it blends with what they are doing.
  3. This transition enhances the (next phase) employees’ understanding, appreciation, and competency (if there is a desire). As this employee gains an appreciation for what his/her predecessor completed, chemistry is developed between the two employees, each gaining a new respect for the other and a growing knowledge of how individual aspects in the marketing process complement each other.
  4. This new-found respect generates interest in the diverse fields of marketing for the individual and motivates them to increase their capacity as a professional. As the desire for growth and development occurs, they will identify new information, research, and opportunities for improvement that they will share with others who have helped them. This additional information adds to the competencies of the department and takes them another step forward.

You cannot force or require your employees to like the other employees in their department, nor can you force them to mature professionally. This takes synergy, which can only occur among them, and them alone. You must inspire them to help one another; the only way they can do this is to see the connection and why they are INTERDEPENDENT, not INDEPENDENT.

About the author 

Chuck Coker

For more than 30 years, Chuck has focused his career on people's development. He has implemented proprietary Personal Formation, Human Capital, Talent Management, and incentive-based programs across a broad scope of Fortune Companies, regional organizations, and educational institutions.


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