Blind to Your Team’s Potential: Unlocking Potential in One LEAP
Too often, an enormous amount of potential in marketing teams goes to waste.
Businesses pour their efforts into the wrong activities, simply because they don’t know how to approach things differently. Whether it’s missing out on valuable innovation opportunities, not having alignment among a team, or struggling through digital adoption – marketing teams aren’t functioning at their best. As a result, many are wasting time, money, and impact.
It bothers me to see talent going to waste or being unappreciated, and it bothers me that marketing is getting tarnished as a result. Too often, teams have all they need to succeed – they’re just stuck in their old ways and can’t see a solution amongst the hustle and bustle.
Finding and unlocking that unharnessed potential is a game-changer.
It increases engagement. It improves productivity. And it helps you have a big impact.
To assess where you might have untapped potential, it’s time to take a LEAP – or at least start thinking in the acronym LEAP.
LEAP stands for the four areas where potential is most commonly going unnoticed in marketing teams – leadership, experimentation, alignment and people.
Assessing the four pillars and what you’re missing in each, then making a game plan to unlock all that potential, means your marketing team can increase their impact. Every team and business has the ability to thrive and stand out from the crowd – so let’s start bringing out that potential.
Marketing needs a leader championing a culture and vision from the front.
A marketing team’s leader sets the tone and direction of all activities and defines the ecosystem in which team members can either thrive or flounder. Leadership is about setting the vision, then providing the space for everyone to bring their skills and passions, and giving them the responsibility and autonomy to experiment and innovate with solutions.
That’s why subpar leadership is detrimental to the success of a marketing team. If there’s no one championing the vision from the front and showing people the way, then teams can go in all separate directions. They may not have the confidence to experiment, or they may switch their brains off and wait to be told what to do. There’s no buzz of creativity, co-creating, or free-thinking. Similarly, if there’s no leader holding things to account, then there’s no responsibility for anyone to ever do anything. Either way, there’s no way you can have a high-performing team without effective and inspiring leadership.
That being said, a leader isn’t just about being a visionary. A leader can’t expect to be an expert in everything, and they can’t have the answer to every problem their team is facing. Rather, leaders have to be comfortable with encouraging others to run with their ideas and their own solutions. It’s a lot of pressure because leaders are used to taking the blame. But leadership is about taking responsibility for some things while giving your team the autonomy and the confidence to follow their strengths and innovate.
You have to get comfortable with letting some people figure things out themselves, even if they go about solving problems in a way you wouldn’t. As Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown coined, a truly great leader multiplies their team’s interests, ideas, and passions instead of diminishing their creativity and intelligence. It’s about bringing the best out of your team, rather than trying to do it all on your own.
While your role as a leader is to enable all your team members to thrive, there are also some tougher bits. As a leader, you’ve got to be the one to make the difficult decisions and lead the tough performance management conversations that others might try to avoid – and while it’s a tough part of the job, it’s essential.
We worked with one business that was in limbo. They needed a fill a key digital role to really get some momentum going, but they’d been stalled in the hiring process for almost 6 months. People were saying that the recruitment process was wrong, or they weren’t getting the right people applying… but nobody was taking any initiative to change anything or drive the process forward. This was when the leader needed to step in and make a plan. People are often afraid to make a big call – which is when a leader’s authority, passion, and drive is absolutely essential.
So how can you improve your leadership to better tap into your team’s potential?
- Never underestimate or undervalue your team and their abilities – they are always more important than technology and they need to know it.
- Champion your organisation’s vision and purpose from the front. If you are passionate about your work, that passion will spread like wildfire throughout your team.
- Never assume that you are right, and always stay aware of new ways of doing things. Leaders can be wrong, and that’s okay! In fact, that’s great.
Curiosity and experimentation are key to achieving your goals.
Experimenting in marketing isn’t just throwing a whole bunch of ingredients into the cooker and hoping for the best. People who tend to avoid experimenting in business often don’t realise that good experimentation is made up of a robust system of structures and processes, aimed at identifying opportunities that are being missed and finding creative solutions to them. It’s about finding out if existing assets are having the best impact that they can and using innovation to find ways of doing things that little bit better.
As humans (who sometimes make dumb decisions) we tend to make assumptions that we always know what’s right. We look at things from our own perspective, often forgetting that there could be another way of approaching a problem. I’ve done it myself! Several years ago, I was working as a brand manager for a company moving towards digital adoption (back before being digital was a given!). I was tasked with generating an advertising campaign, and I immediately went with what I thought would work. I signed off the advertising before stepping back to take a minute and think about the process, and whether there was a way of testing if I had selected the right message and creative. Well, what did I know – I was very wrong. The ad I thought would be a hit instead flopped, and didn’t have any of the impact I was expecting.
I didn’t know what an experimentative approach was back then, but that experience opened my eyes to the huge impact that experimentation – or a lack thereof – can have. It’s so important to never assume that what you know, or what you’re already doing, is the best way. You have to get comfortable with trying new things, receiving feedback and allowing data insights to inform your decision making– even if it isn’t what you expect. Taking the time to run some small tests or try something new can feel risky, but it’s much less risky than staying the same forever.
A little bit of curiosity is what drives innovations and helps you find better solutions. It’s important to never default into a linear habit – always second guess your assumptions, strive for continuous improvement and experiment with a step at a time to see how your team can be performing even better. It can be as simple as adjusting an advertising platform, or a piece of copy, or even a question you pose to clients. Let your customer tell you what they want through the data you’re getting, and pay attention to it! You’d be surprised at how often playing with the smallest tweaks can have the biggest impacts.
So what do you need to remember when experimenting?
- Go small and go fast – pick something that you can implement quickly without major investment, rather than spending weeks or even months putting in place something that may not work.
- Measure, measure, measure – there’s no point experimenting if you don’t know whether it’s working. Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve with it, and make sure you’re measuring that.
- Create a culture of experimentation – when something fails, don’t ask “What went wrong?” or hassle your team for not getting results. Instead, ask “What have we learned from that?” and “How will we move forward now that we’ve tried that?”
- Make sure that all experiments are designed to achieve your goals to ensure that they still have purpose and will help you move towards your vision – see the next section for more on how to get clarity there!
If a team isn’t aligned around a shared vision, their talents won’t be used to their full potential.
Alignment means finding a common language. It means finding synergy and having the same goals, vision, and clarity. An aligned team communicates faster, makes better decisions, co-creates innovative solutions, and wastes less time justifying what they’re doing. Instead, they spend more time walking the walk.
I’ve seen the transformative power of alignment in clients – because alignment often ties into every other aspect of a marketing team’s work. Divergent worked with one company who recognised they were dropping the ball on the digital aspect of their business, but couldn’t get any cohesion between their siloed teams. As a result, they weren’t making any progress towards digital adoption. We facilitated a session with their marketing and sales teams, co-creating the process and action plan together. By the end, they were all on the same page, getting excited and having conversations with one another they’d never had before. Since then, they’ve been on fire – using their common language and co-creating mentality to merge their silos and go further than they could have ever got separately.
So how do you get alignment amongst your team?
- Start with the vision. If there’s no common vision driving you all, your team will naturally go in separate directions. Generate some interest in goals, then get together as an entire team to brainstorm about what you want to achieve. Who do you want to be for your customer? Add it all together to create a vision statement for the next 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years.
- As a team, establish the steps you need to take to get to your vision. Let people take responsibility for their part of it, and let people get excited about what they want to do.
- Have regular check-ins – both in groups and individually. Keep checking that people are on board, feel included, and are excited for the business. People are proud to be part of a team if they believe in the vision – and ongoing support will get that happening.
- Keep the momentum going. How can you remind people of the vision? What can you put around the office or in your regular communications that remind your employees of their impact and what they’re doing for the customer?
- Don’t try to go it alone. While you can have the best intentions, it can sometimes take a bit of outside help to get your team out of their group-think mentality or siloed approach. Don’t be afraid to utilise external workshops or coaching, which can help get your team out of their funk and excited for what’s to come.
No matter how advanced technology is, people should always be your focus.
Technology is just a lever; it’s a tool. While it’s essential, it isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Think of a racing car. It can be engineered to perfection, with the latest technology and engineering to ensure it can whizz around the track. But if the pit crew isn’t trained, prepared, and empowered to do their best work, the pit stop will be long and the fastest car could still come in last.
The pit crew is your marketing team. If you’re investing all your time, budget, and energy into technology rather than your people, you aren’t going to have the biggest impact you can. If people feel appreciated, valued, and empowered, they won’t just be turning up to work for their paycheck. They’ll be taking responsibility, speaking up, doing more, feeling proud of their contributions, having better conversations, and achieving better outputs.
Understanding and untapping the potential of your people also means your customers – they’re your people too! There are huge opportunities being lost in business, simply because teams forget to properly understand their customers and what they actually want.
So how can you ensure you’re putting people at the heart of all your decision making? Ask yourself:
- When was the last time you went out to just gain insights about your customer?
- Do you rely solely on the sales team to give you timely information about your customers?
- Are you approaching problems from your customer’s point of view?
- Do you even know what problems your customers are facing?
- Are your website and other platforms designed with the customer’s pain points in mind?
- When was the last time you came together as a team to walk in your customer’s shoes?
If you aren’t thinking about your people and making the effort to properly understand them, then there’s no way that your marketing efforts are having the best impact.
Technology is something to certainly get excited about, and it’s changing the face of marketing in more ways than we can count – but don’t get so caught up in it you forget about people. At the end of the day, people are the decision-makers and the decision-drivers, and technology is a tool you can use to implement those decisions.
Unlocking that potential
Identifying what’s missing in your marketing team is the first step in a transformative process. Is your leadership championing your team vision and empowering your staff? Are you taking an experimentative approach to your work, rather than always assuming you know what’s best? Is your team aligned around a common goal, and are they all speaking the same language? Are you investing in your people, giving them all they need to thrive?
Some of the questions you’ve got to ask yourself are tough – but they’re important questions to ask. Only once you’ve maximised your potential in all four areas can your marketing team truly be the powerhouse it’s capable of being.
Divergent is on a mission to transform marketing into the powerhouse we know it can be. Too much potential in marketing teams goes to waste – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Through problem-solving workshops, marketing pivot sprints and strategy workshops, Divergent harnesses a team’s potential to help them innovate and implement solutions that drive business growth.