Young Agency Leaders: Foster Teamwork & Continual Growth

By | November 21, 2013
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Does your agency have a young, motivated group of marketers managing multiple client campaigns, leading different teams of agency staff, and taking on more ownership of agency business operations? For many young agency pros, it’s not the marketing skills that are an unexpected career hurdle—it’s the management skills needed to thrive in the scenarios above.

This post is the second post in a Marketing Agency Insider blog series aimed at sharing lessons we have learned along the way to building a team of young and empowered leaders.

TeamworkTeamwork Wins Championships

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” - Michael Jordan

What can’t we learn from one the most talented basketball players of all time? This leader on the court had all the skills needed to push his team to the next level, yet he understood that he could not do it alone. To be a great leader, you have to have a great team.

3 Ways to Foster Teamwork & Continual Growth

1.    Be Invaluable.

To be an asset to your team, you’ve got to get to the gym and put in the work! Who’s the “Jordan” in your agency—someone who you’d love to have on your biggest projects or accounts? As you look to grow into an agency leader, be realistic when you ask yourself: are you a go-to player, and do you create more value than you capture?

It takes a certain kind of talent to thrive in today’s marketing climate. A-players are skilled in a variety of disciplines, including strategic planning, analytics, automation, content, email, mobile, social and more. These hybrid marketers are capable of running fully integrated campaigns that produce bottom-line business results. 

Young leaders are focused on honing their own marketing and management skills—and understand the importance of nurturing their teammates’ skills too. Remember the chain metaphor? You’re only as strong as your weakest link. Foster excellence with a strong example, and spread that contagious desire to be an invaluable member of the team.

2.    Build Ownership and Trust within Teams.

Agency account managers have earned the trust, respect and support of their colleagues. In managing an account team, these individuals have been entrusted with two of the agency’s most valuable assets: a client and a group of professionals.

Your team is there to support and grow a client campaign, as well as their own professional skills. Your commitment to quality work, proactive and professional communication, and ultimately the client’s happiness, is a reflection of your own leadership skills.

Some consider team leaders as coaches.

"A good coach is simultaneously the chief cheerleaders and chief critic: demanding and supportive (one without the other is insufficient).

- Managing the Professional Services Firm, David H. Maister

Fostering ownership and trust among your team requires transparency, commitment and a common goal. I love the quote above because it’s often easy to weigh too heavily on one side or the other—the, “is it better to be feared or loved?” thoughts that you can relate to a critic (feared) and cheerleader (loved).

Why not take the “or” out of the equation and set clear expectations so you can be both without abandon. Following are a few lessons learned for getting there, and fostering a healthy team environment:

  • Transparent Teamwork: As a team leader, set deadlines, owners and expectations for each project well in advance. We use Basecamp to manage client campaigns. Account managers input as much as possible ahead of time—and meet with client and internal teams to discuss—to set priorities and goals together. 
  • Commit to Quality: Agree as an agency on your standards of quality client work. As a team leader, equip team members with a style sheet for any client writing—and hold strong on reviewing only client-ready work.
  • Rally on Specific Goals: Like teams rally to win a game or play without errors, rally your team around specific internal and external goals. These can align with client KPIs, such as the number of quality leads originating from the blog that month, or they can be more personal—submit more client-ready work, identify opportunities to manage up more frequently, physically take notes when given direction, etc.

3.    Always Push Your Limits.  

Lastly, as the type-A people most agency professionals are, good enough is never good enough. There’s always something more to learn or improve.

When the high jumper is attempting to clear a given height, the coach is supportive and helpful. But as soon as that accomplishment is reached, up goes the bar by an inch or two. The next goal, challenging but achievable, is kept out front."

- Managing the Professional Services Firm, David H. Maister

Especially for marketers in a rapidly changing industry—we must be comfortable continually pushing the boundaries, adding new skills to our portfolio, and stepping up to never settle for good enough. It’s significant for your own development, for building a powerhouse team, and for earning the respect of your peers and clients.

Additional Resources

If you’re interested in more on fostering a winning marketing team, check out the following articles:

See the other posts in this series here:

Are You Growing Teams Built on Trust?

How are you continually pushing the envelop in terms of your and your teams’ professional growth?  Let us know in the comments below.