If you’ve been in marketing, say, 20 years, do you have a career full of wide-ranging experience? Or are you stalled with only five years of experience repeated four times? Growing your value proposition to management is essential, because sometimes marketing leaders have to make difficult choices of whether the right people are “on the bus,” if they need to be “moved elsewhere on the bus,” or if there are people who need to be “moved off the bus.”
The bus metaphor comes from the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In my last column, “Neuroscience, Leadership and 7 Challenges for DM Leaders,” I described a brain-adaptive approach linking neuroscience to leadership.
Today I share another requirement of leaders as described in “Good to Great.” This is where great leaders get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figure out the route to their destination.
If you’re not a direct marketing leader today, but aspire to be a well-rounded professional, in a moment I’ll share five growth practices you can adopt to position yourself to not only have a seat, but someday drive the bus.
But let’s begin with looking at what leaders are encouraged to consider as they look at their “team on the bus.” The concept of “First Who, Then What,” from “Good to Great” summarizes it well:
- Good to great leaders begin organizational transformation by first getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figure out where to drive it.
- “Who” questions come before “what decisions” like vision, strategy, organizational structure and tactics.
- When in doubt, don’t hire.
- When a people change is needed, act.
- Put the best people on the biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.
For leaders, seating your team on the bus, and in the right seat, they (you) must leverage individual strengths that will have the highest impact on an organization’s success.
For direct marketing team professionals, there are five practices where you can bring value to both the organization, and to yourself and your own future.
- Reinvent every few years. You don’t want to be the professional who has been in the workforce for 20 years, and suddenly realizes that it’s really only five years of experience, repeated over and over, like you’re on a treadmill.
- If you want to grow, ask leadership in your organization what you have to do to attain certain goals. Muster the confidence to ask someone you admire, and who’s successful, if they will be a mentor.
- Learn about what others are doing in your organization. Cross-train yourself. If you’re a marketing manager, learn more about product fulfillment. If you’re a copywriter, learn from the marketing manager. If you’re deeply rooted in direct mail, learn digital. Not only will you become more valuable, but you’ll enrich your understanding of the bigger picture.
- Attend events, especially local programs. Read every day. Challenge yourself, from time-to-time, to read about a topic outside your normal area of interest.
- Peer into the future. Anticipate what you can contribute to transform your organization’s direct marketing success.
For aspiring leaders: when you take charge of your career and your future with these five practices, you can improve the odds that you’ll be placed on the correct seat of the bus in your organization.
For leaders: evaluate your organization’s structure and the people on your team now to determine who should be on your bus and where they should be seated. This is your first step to grow from good to great.
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