[This is the second part in a series of posts on leadership in content marketing. You can read the first part on ‘Show up + Speak up’ here.]
One of the most powerful TED talks on leadership is by Rosabeth Moss Kantor: “Six Keys to Leading Positive Change”. As we mentioned before, Kantor boils down the concept of leadership to this mantra:
Show up. Speak up. Look up. Team up. Never give up. Lift others up.
So how does this apply to content marketing, I wondered? In a previous blog post, I tackled ‘Show up’ and ‘Speak up’. In this post, I’m dealing with ‘Team Up’ and ‘Lift others Up’.
Team up + Lift others up
In my previous job, I worked as a content marketer in a small company (220+ staff). There I went about things in what Robert Rose calls ‘The Lone Wolf Model’: I was the content strategist, copywriter, webmaster, database manager and media buyer ‘all-in-one’. I relied on 1 out-house graphical designer, and 1 in-house ‘relationship’ marketer/telemarketer, and that was it. It worked like a charm, but then again, it was a relatively small firm.
Then I moved on to a bigger company (4000+ staff) where content marketing was mostly uncharted territory. I quickly realised that the Lone Wolf Model, which isn’t scalable, was useless. I had to build a team and develop team lead skills pronto. I had to ‘let go’, knowing full well I was 100% responsible for the final result. And whereas before, I’d had to win over 2 stakeholders, I now had to talk to a whole Board of Directors.
Teaming up, inside and outside of the marketing department, was the only way to get the (gargantuan) job done. Looking back, I wish I could say that excelling at my job automatically made me an excellent team lead, but that wasn’t the case. Being a team lead turned out to be another ball game altogether. It wasn’t, and isn’t, a matter of having the expertise and then getting the authority to get people to do what you think should be done. At all.
In “Becoming a team leader: a survival kit” Joseph Wynn nails down what it really means to be team lead. A star developer, Wynn found himself accepting a team lead role that was offered to him unexpectedly. He naively thought, like I did, that being a pro at his job and getting along well with his team members, qualified him for the role. He soon found out this was not so, and I encourage everyone with team lead ambitions to read this guide and learn from his advice.
Being a team lead requires a love for sharing knowledge, a willingness to coach, the ability to influence change and a whole lot of other ‘managerial’ skills that are unrelated to the job that needs to be done (whether it’s content marketing or developing or whatever, really). Some skills I already had, others I had to work on. The good thing is: unless none of the above resonates with you, being a team lead is something you can learn, if you put the effort in.
A crucial leadership skill, which Kantor addresses in ‘Lift others up’ is the ability to let others shine and give credit where credit is due. As a person with an innate sense of justice, I am relieved to say this has always come to me naturally. There is nothing so detrimental to the team spirit, as people standing on the shoulders of others, and taking that entirely for granted.
This goes not only for leaders, but for everyone in a team. Fairness, and more specifically the absence of it, really can make or break a team. In order for everyone in a team to ‘live and breathe’ fairness, it is up to the team lead to walk the talk. This will give a clear message, or rather, two of them: 1/ I’m here to help everyone in this team and 2/ if you’re not fair to your colleagues, I will call you out on this.
So, here’s another to-do for 2019
If you have plans to become a team lead, or even when you’ve been doing that for some time now, I suggest you read the guide by Joseph Wynn I referred to in this post. Try to figure out what you need to work on, and get help for that if you can. I was lucky enough to be assigned a fantastic business coach; you might want to ask or look for one yourself as well.
Don’t ever take yourself for granted: schedule regular – daily? – feedback sessions with yourself. If you have a set of values you work and live live by – and I do recommend having those – they will help you in this exercise. I for one use a combination of the leadership mantra by Kantor, and the 6 core values that I defined – after long deliberation – to be my guideline in life. They are:
Show courage – Be authentic – Get things done – Deliver value – Keep your balance – Play it fair
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Photo by Kyle Hinkson on Unsplash