As this article explains there are many ways to climb a mountain, and your staff has many ways of solving the problems of your business. The Page Group believes that leadership is all about empowering those around you to do the best that they can, and to be accountable for the things they are responsible for. To micro manage team members on every decision they make only takes the wind out of their sails and creates an atmosphere where they feel of lesser value to the company. Empower your team. Let them climb the mountain the way they want to climb with clear guidance and rules as to the goal to be achieved, and you will have happier and healthier work place for all. Leadership empowers those around them to be the best they can be and accomplish all that they can to drive success in the business.
Leadership: Confident CMOs Don’t Tell Their Teams How To Climb Mt. Fuji
CMO EXCLUSIVES | March 10, 2014
by Ty Kiisel
Manager Of Social Outreach
The Japanese have a proverb that marketing leaders need to memorize: “There are many ways to climb Mt. Fuji.” Leadership opens the door to this proverb driving your team to success.
- I’ve seen otherwise very successful marketing leaders get bogged down in the mire of a subjective and convoluted approval process.
- I’m not suggesting that we allow creativity in the marketing department to run amok.
- As a marketing leader, I want members of my team to take ownership of their projects and perform at their highest level.
In other words, just as there are lots of ways to reach the summit of Japan’s famous volcano, there are many ways to achieve almost any objective. It’s a lesson the Japanese embrace, but we in the marketing department don’t always do so well.
During my career I’ve seen otherwise very successful marketing leaders get bogged down in the mire of a subjective and convoluted approval process, making it almost impossible for their teams to think outside the box and be creative. These marketing leaders insist on making sure they leave their marks on every word of copy or design that comes out of their departments.
I’m convinced it’s fear that motivates their behavior—this “need” to make sure they touch (often manhandle) every initiative. When I first started blogging several years ago, I was pushed off in a dark corner and told to make the blog work. Nobody really paid attention to what I was writing about, there was no formal approval process, and I cranked out a blog that earned a little recognition in the space, projected a good company image, and won over customers.
I’m not complaining; being ignored (maybe even forgotten) was the best thing that could have happened for the first few months of this initiative. I knew it would take Google somewhere around 50 blog posts to index us—which meant I needed to write something every day to make it happen as quickly as possible. Doing that with a formal review process would have killed the initiative before it even got off the ground.
I knew my objectives and understood the message I needed to share, but in reality it took me several weeks of daily writing to find my voice and get into a groove—a challenge that would have been nearly impossible going through regular content reviews. After two or three months, the blog took off and the number of visitors grew steadily every week. And, although the blog wasn’t ignored when new marketing leadership first took over, I was still given the freedom to write freely and remained uncensored. I was trusted to execute appropriately, and I never abused that trust.
As a result, we gradually expanded the effort to a podcast and evangelizing role for me all over the U.S., London, Japan, etc. I still wrote every day, and our audience continued to grow. Our efforts were paying off in terms of positive brand impressions, thought leadership in our space, and even some personal notoriety for me.
I’m not suggesting that we allow creativity in the marketing department to run amok. But I am suggesting that the traditional review cycle, had it been applied to our new blog initiative, would have made it impossible to create the amount of content that made success possible. I’m also suggesting that subjective and arbitrary content review cycles make it hard for people to do their best work.
Early in my marketing career I was taught to ask myself three questions whenever I was reviewing someone’s work:
1. Is it broken? Is there something wrong that needs to be fixed? Are there technical issues? Are there typos? Is it off-message? Does it look off-brand? If the answer is yes, then it needs to go back to the writer or designer, and the problems need to be clearly identified—not necessarily fixed. Unless there is a time crunch, my feedback is usually something like, “I get stuck here. This feels clunky to me. This doesn’t work because of …” Then it’s up to the writer or designer to take another look and incorporate my feedback.
If it isn’t broken, I ask myself question No. 2.
2. Could it work? Does it look like it has a reasonable chance to meet the objective? If we executed, will it be successful? Is it worth testing? If the answer to question No. 2 is no, but the answer to question No. 1 is yes, you probably need to take another look at basic strategy and messaging.
If the answer to question No. 2 is yes, I move on to question No. 3.
3. Is it how I would do it? I ask myself this question as a reminder that it doesn’t matter. There are many ways to climb Mt. Fuji. If it isn’t broken and looks like it could work, execute. Far too many marketing initiatives sit on an approver’s desk and never see the light of day because that person becomes a bottleneck of back and forth. I’ve seen something as simple as an email go through multiple iterations for months on end because “This isn’t the way I would do it” was more important than “Could it work?”
My blogging story doesn’t end where I left off. It wasn’t long before we had new marketing leadership. The new head of marketing decided to add another layer to the editorial process and put his stamp of approval on something that wasn’t broken. He didn’t understand the burden or bottleneck of approving daily posts to dozens of media outlets would create for him. He didn’t realize how doing so would bring that effort to its knees.
As a marketing leader, I want members of my team to take ownership of their projects and perform at their highest level. I want to collaborate with them to ensure we always put our best foot forward, but collaboration doesn’t mean co-opting their work to make it mine.
Asking the three questions above, in order, helps me provide value to my team and allows them to put their best work forward. When I’m not motivated by fear, but rather a desire for the team to produce what I consider our best work, I don’t have to fight the urge to get into the weeds.
Isn’t that what leadership is really all about?