CMO EXCLUSIVES | June 24, 2013
by Jay Swansson , Co-CEO & Co-founder , iAcquire
Hiring the right team is crucial to your marketing department’s and your company’s success. When you’re driving toward quarterly or annual goals, you need a team around you who you can trust to make the big plays. If that sounds like sports jargon, well, color me guilty: I grew up in a family with three generations of coaches.
- When you’re driving toward quarterly or annual goals, you need a a team around you who you can trust to make the big plays.
- The coach sets the tempo and drives team consistency and culture.
- Role players do all of the little things it takes to win and rarely ask for, or get, recognition.
Coming from such a team-oriented environment doesn’t just give you the Xs and Os–it shows you how to lead, prepare, perform, and communicate. Having learned those principles playing and being coached in a number of sports, I have firsthand knowledge of how the principles of athletics transcend on and off the field.
In business, I’ve had the opportunity to help start and run different types of companies. One had five employees and more than 100,000 clients and partners. Today, I’m co-CEO and co-founder of iAcquire, a digital marketing agency that has 100 employees and 150-plus clients and partners. Both examples had different business models, but were consistent with the concept of “building a team” at their core.
When building a team:
- You learn how leaders lead.
- You learn how leaders react to adversity and overcome obstacles to eventually succeed and win.
- You learn how good teams become great and also how great teams can fail.
By combining the lessons of sports with the experience in business, you can determine a few core concepts to help build the right team. Here’s what such an all-star team looks like:
General Manager: Chief Executive Officer
The general manager (GM) has to communicate a clear vision that elicits a personal connection and response with each and every member of the team. The team has to connect with and believe in the vision and their personal contribution toward that goal. The GM sets the tone for the culture of the organization.
Coach: Chief Marketing Officer
The coach sets the tempo and drives team consistency and culture. The coach needs to be an extension of the company’s vision and belief system. The coach takes lead from the general manager, yet leads the day-to-day operation of the “team.”
The coach’s key role is to prepare and motivate the team, set the agenda, and deliver clear expectations, planning, and accountability. Another critical component is understanding the team’s interpersonal dynamics, and knowing when to really push and when to take a break to refresh. Lead by example and empower your leaders.
The Star Player
Do you have a star player on your team? If so, how do you coach the star player? Well, you can help that person to be great, and by doing so, you’ll make everyone else on the team better. Encourage the star player’s excellence in the context of the team. This person will bring great ideas and energy, but make sure it’s not at the expense of others, which could possibly harm morale and team chemistry.
For example, the Miami Heat’s LeBron James could lead the league in scoring every year, but he doesn’t–he leads the league in efficiency(EFF) by making those around him better. And that makes the NBA champion team better.
Often, role players are the most important members of the team. Role players do all of the little things it takes to win and rarely ask for, or get, recognition. Recognize them. Appreciate them. Celebrate them.
Role players hustle. It’s the product manager who stays late to finish the presentation, or the research guy who grinds out the analytics. Surround yourself with these great expert or specialist role players. Let them do what they do best, then bring it all together to create something special. Do that and you’ll create a rewarding experience and an atmosphere for people who want to come to work every day, seeing their personal efforts in the final product.
Here are the team players you don’t want on your team. Players with bad attitudes or selfish traits can demotivate a team, or cause concern among players and priorities. When coaches are faced with these players in sports, they find ways to trade them or send them down to the minors. Lackluster players need to know that their participation (or lack thereof) isn’t helping the overall larger company goals and vision.
In a nutshell, here’s how a business leader can become a successful coach:
- Pinpoint, and empower, leaders to invest your time and energy in.
- Help them with tools they need and obstacles they need removed.
- Surround your stars with specialists.
- Motivate the team to drive toward a common goal.
- Set an expectation of a relentless pursuit of perfection.
- Achieve excellence as a marketing department, and, above else, be happy.
Great performers and leaders will appreciate an environment where great effort and work is rewarded and average or below is not acceptable. Having a great team on your side impacts your life. It’s important that you hire great talent and put together a team you can trust. With the right team, you will win on all fronts.