May 19

Turn Individual Mindsets into Departmental Strengths


By Chuck Coker

Three out of four employees feel as if they work in a company or department that provides collaborative chemistry. As you can see from the chart below, this sentiment varies greatly, depending on the size of the organization. There is a much greater chance that chemistry is positive in small companies when compared to larger organizations.

The reason this problem occurs is that within a smaller organization there are fewer levels of management, and consequently fewer opportunities for miscommunication to impact the company. In short, it is easier to stay on the same page with objectives in smaller companies, because you can more readily see the impact work has on the organization.

The larger the organization, the greater need there is for a marketing manager to ensure there is clarity and focus among the employees, as to their role in helping achieve the corporate vision and mission. It simply may not be as easy to determine how their efforts impact the organization.

Aligning departmental goals with the company vision

The larger an organization, the greater the chance for employees to feel like they get lost in the shuffle, despite the massive opportunity they must impact customers and their own corporate culture.

Employees do not always present themselves in a corporate manner. They identify more with who they are, and what they can do, rather than how they fit into a corporate machine.

Therefore, employees will not buy into corporate hype or broad-reaching programs (especially incentives), if they cannot see direct benefit based on their individual performance. Your job is to help them refocus their attitudes. Do not remove their individuality, but rather help them better understand how important they are, and how their contributions relate to the overall corporate vision and mission.

To help an employee make this transition, you must identify what they have in common with the company. The easiest way to accomplish this is to clarify what the company can offer the employee, and vice versa.

This is not a simple give and takes relationship. This does not work, as to give and take is not what today’s employee seeks in a job. This relationship must be communicated from a developmental perspective. When an employee comes on board, they bring certain competencies and character traits. But, because of the existing depth of the organization, there can be additional depth added because of the greater resources.

You must also remember that departmental chemistry is not something that remains static. It is constantly changing, and therefore must be addressed on a regular basis. In the same way, each new project or campaign impacts departmental chemistry so does everyone.

The marketing manager that does not address departmental chemistry is destined for turnover, and possibly failure. Most employees experience stress because they are required to juggle too many tasks and responsibilities. To counter this, in addition to your normal meeting agenda, make sure you consider using the following important pieces in your meetings:

  1. Give a departmental update providing the status of current projects and how they impact the department’s mission/vision (and subsequently that of the company, as well.)
  2. Provide individual participation highlights how each employee has contributed to accomplishing departmental goals since the last meeting. Try to illustrate how their competencies and character have made a difference.
  3. Identify key aspects of the projects that have enhanced the knowledge and development of new competencies in various departmental members.

Your employees likely do not see the job from your perspective. When accounting for their need to interact, and how this interaction improves them as an individual, they will take notice. Make sure each team positively impacts their team members’ work environments.

One possible challenge you might encounter is when employees feel as if they cannot see the alignment between what they are doing, where the company wants them to go, and how it will directly benefit them. This will normally happen at some point in every employee’s career. You must prepare for this, because it will happen, based on the results of our survey of more than 1,600 employees:

Because employees are required to wear many hats you must routinely communicate how that flexibility in focus and constantly changing direction will benefit them in the long-term. For certain employees, this can be difficult, because the more technical or analytical a marketing position, the greater you will find resistance to change among those who are particularly good at that competency.

The key lies in the clarity of communication within the department. The greater the clarity the easier it will be for individual employees to see how they can complement and support each other and how, as a team, they can accomplish any task with each other’s help.

When you consider element #3 for your meetings, each employee will then begin to look at others in the department as someone who can help them accomplish their individual goals as they achieve departmental objectives.

Collaboration is important to employees, but it is not their greatest strength until they can see the strategic benefit for themselves. Position them to see this benefit going during each project, and you can significantly enhance departmental chemistry. Only after an employee and his coworkers see this will you get the team’s buy-in and alignment, which positions you to achieve the overall goal.

Aligning the needs of the organization to meet the needs of the individuals

As individuals, most employees are independent and want to feel as if they are in control of their future. However, they also have natural behavioral tendencies (based on the 2012 Executive Guide to Marketing Personnel) that indicate they enjoy communicating and interacting with others in a collaborative way. Therefore, they demonstrate a high degree of satisfaction with departmental chemistry.

If you’re in one of the 25% of teams that does not have that chemistry, this will help you put this problem to rest. The key is helping each member of your department understand their role, in the context of corporate mission or vision. That will allow you to take the employee’s collaborative nature and use its innate desire to be part of something bigger than oneself.

Taking a group of individuals and making them a team is not an easy task. However, it is much easier if you know your department’s strengths and weaknesses. We identified a handful of concepts key to departmental chemistry. They are:

  1. Managing employee competencies by understanding what types of behaviors and mindsets will best execute those competencies.
  2. Developing new competencies based on how employees learn.
  3. Managing employees’ character by understanding the behaviors and the values driving their work ethic and using those values to focus.
  4. Developing character traits based on employees’ predominant values as they align with corporate values.

When you combine these concepts with an understanding of everyone you have the basis for a plan that will work and work well. The plan must be communicated on two levels to each departmental member of your role and their role and how, together, you (the team) will get results.

How do you take a highly individualistic person and ensure they have a desire to be collaborative, as well as be enthusiastic about contributing to the company’s mission and vision The key is to understand the way an employee thinks and expresses himself or herself.

The average employee is more strategic than the average employee. As such, they approach projects and campaigns from a more global perspective. They want to understand direction, scope, and what the outcome should generally be more than the details of each step along the way. In most cases, this (along with their aesthetic mindsets) impacts a desire for visual images to help them interpret their path.

Employees like to see the proverbial big picture. Using a software program that provides illustrations as to how each person fits into the process will bring clarity. Some examples of programs that can aid your capacity of communicating the processes are Microsoft Project and Mind Manager Professional. If you are like most managers, you probably schedule and conduct regular departmental meetings. This is where graphic presentations can be used to illustrate the project and provide direction for everyone. Take whatever time is necessary to give your team a thoroughly global perspective. Take the time to address the project in each stage and what will be required during each stage. Make sure that individual questions are addressed conceptually, so they have a greater understanding of how their contributions impact the whole process.

Individual questions should be held off until the employee’s individual session is held to ensure personal recommendations are not taken personally or critical in front of an audience. The individual sessions should be used to make sure everyone knows how the tasks in their assignments impact the overall good (vision/mission) and the dependency of others on their individual success.

Employee alignment

Based on our survey results employees feel that departmental chemistry is the one area in which marketing managers excel. Let’s work under the assumption you are doing a reasonable job that requires a bit of tweaking and direction to maximize this critical aspect of leadership.

If this is true, it is probably because you, as a marketing manager, use your strong strategic and communicative natures to encourage and focus your team members.

Your key to success will be how you (personally) set the tone for the department, regardless of how the company addresses individual employee competencies and character. Even if your HR department knows how to hire employees, they will have little input for the development of future competencies or their work ethics. You must take the steps necessary to facilitate both aspects of their professional life.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Assign each employee a mentor. In many circumstances, especially in smaller companies, this maybe you. Most everyone desires the opportunity to learn and develop. The mentor can help an individual put together a personal development plan, which will allow the employee a greater sense of direction and ability to relate to others in the department.
  2. Make sure each employee has a peer with whom they can speak freely. This peer should be one who carries a positive attitude and will interact with them openly. The closer the alignment with marketing specialty the better. This person may also be someone you feel is able to cross-train the individual. This will provide a jump start to that process.
  3. At the earliest possible time, find someone who can become a student to this employee. It does not matter whether it is a part-time employee, or someone working in a different department. Each individual teaching session will require improvement in communication and chemistry development. Provide opportunities for the person to teach, and they will find an opportunity to improve themselves and others. This can enhance departmental chemistry and set the tone for corporate chemistry.

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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