Leadership

Summer is for Managers. (Part III)

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In this third of our summertime management posts, we take a second look at leadership and how it defines the organizations we all struggle to manage.

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership within and across the dozens of companies I’ve worked with over the past several years.  A single disruptive idea keeps coming back to me:

Leadership isn’t a set of actions by the leader.  It’s a state of being for the organization.

In this age of strong-man leaders and celebrity CEOs, we tend to individualize leadership and celebrate the speeches and the big “leadership moves” of the individual leader.  But from all I can tell, those victories are pyrrhic and their effects ephemeral.  The truly great leaders know that leadership isn’t about what you do or fix; it’s about what you tend and sustain.  It’s not the next hill to be taken, but the ecosystem to be developed and supported.

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In my opinion, great organizational leaders (whether they are leading an entire company or a sales organization) should be focused on the questions behind three overlapping and interdependent ecosystems:  Talent, Incubation and Culture.

How might we attract, filter and secure the talent we need and deserve?

How might we better incubate and assimilate that talent into our organization during the critical first two years after hiring?

How might we foster and maintain an attractive, supportive culture based on employee engagement?

Great leaders keep asking their managers these questions and weigh each big decision or program against the scrutiny these questions create.  And they force their managers and teams to examine the overlap and co-dependence of these concerns.  Without an attractive culture, how can a company attract great talent?  Without a focus on incubating new talent, what is the point of securing those hires in the first place?  Unless we engage our employees, new and experienced, in caring for and teaching each other, how would we ever hope to create an attractive culture?

Great leadership isn’t about you.  It’s about your organizational focus and values. But you need to start that conversation.

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Your Double Life.

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Individual contributors become managers every day, and when they do the event is usually quite clear and visible to everyone in the organization. But the transition from manager to leader can be another story entirely.

I just read a terrific post by Butterfly co-founder Simon Rakosi called “Why Transforming Managers into Leaders Shouldn’t be Left to Chance.” He points out some great distinctions between management and leadership, including Managers educate around skills and tasks; leaders inspire around a vision and Managers view their employees in silos; leaders focus on team dynamics.

The challenge in our dynamic, hyper-kinetic industry is that there’s rarely a clean breaking point between one job and the next: it’s rare that someone ever says “I’m done being a manager now: time to start leading!” Most senior digital sales executives will pivot between these two roles a thousand times – often within the same day.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at www.krux.com.

On paper, the chief revenue officer is a leadership job, while the regional director is pretty clearly a manager. But the CRO must instantly snap back into manager mode when working with her direct reports, while the regional director must step up and lead when in the presence of his full team. A couple of thoughts and ideas to make your head stop spinning:

  • Leaders play checkers, managers play chess. So says Marcus Buckingham in “The One Thing You Need to Know.” When you’re in leader mode, all the pieces move the same, so the message or policy is for everyone.  When managing, each piece moves differently:  focus on what’s right for the individual in front of you right now.
  • Lead in public, manage in private. Managing is an individual sport. Shut the door.
  • Every group deserves a culture. If you’re manager of a team of individual contributors and others – even if that group is just two or three people – start answering the question “What does it mean to be part of our team?” Better yet, answer it together.
  • You can never understand enough about how people work together. Process, process, process. Leaders rightly obsess about it, and their teams get more out of it than you might imagine. Beware of any discussion that ends with “We’ll figure that out…”

To all of you out there who are living double lives, make sure you live in the moment and be the best manager and leader you can be. Just be sure you know which is appropriate and called for at the time.

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State of Leadership.

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State of LeadershipAs we continue our preparation for the Fall Seller Forum on September 14th, (“Beyond the Org Chart: The Maturing of Digital Sales Leadership”) I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership within and across the dozens of companies I’ve worked with over the past several years.  A single disruptive idea keeps coming back to me:

Leadership isn’t a set of actions by the leader.  It’s a state of being for the organization.

In this age of strong-man leaders and celebrity CEOs, we tend to individualize leadership and celebrate the speeches and the big “leadership moves” of the individual leader.  But from all I can tell, those victories are pyrrhic and their effects ephemeral.  The truly great leaders know that leadership isn’t about what you do or fix; it’s about what you tend and sustain.  It’s not the next hill to be taken, but the ecosystem to be developed and supported.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. The AppNexus Publisher Suite helps maximize monetization for Publishers today with tomorrow’s technology through integrated, intelligent, and open ad serving and programmatic selling solutions.

In my opinion, great organizational leaders (whether they are leading an entire company or a sales organization) should be focused on the questions behind three overlapping and interdependent ecosystems:  Talent, Incubation and Culture.

How might we attract, filter and secure the talent we need and deserve?

How might we better incubate and assimilate that talent into our organization during the critical first two years after hiring?

How might we foster and maintain an attractive, supportive culture based on employee engagement?

Great leaders keep asking their managers these questions and weigh each big decision or program against the scrutiny these questions create.  And they force their managers and teams to examine the overlap and codependence of these concerns.  Without an attractive culture, how can a company attract great talent?  Without a focus on incubating new talent, what is the point of securing those hires in the first place?  Unless we engage our employees, new and experienced, in caring for and teaching each other, how would we ever hope to create an attractive culture?

I look forward to fleshing these concepts out further at the Seller Forum and in discussions with customers in the coming months and years.  If you’d like to be part of the immediate discussion – and if you lead a media sales organization – reach out to secure your seat for the Fall Forum.

Great leadership isn’t about you.  It’s about your organizational focus and values. But you need to start that conversation.

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On Leadership.

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On LeadershipAmong the dozen books I consistently recommend, there’s one that I consider a must-read for anyone tasked with leading a company, a sales force or any kind of team. I’m talking about Marcus Buckingham’s “The One Thing You Need to Know.” I’m thinking a lot about leadership just now, as it’s the central topic for the fall Seller Forum. And as inspiration, Buckingham doesn’t disappoint.

The trick about “The One Thing” is that it’s actually three things. After playing a little intellectual cat-and-mouse, the author tells you “The One Thing” about “Great Managing, Great Leading and Sustained Individual Success.” I’ll focus here on what he tells us about leadership and what it can mean to you.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by The Media Trust. The Media Trust provides critical insight into the digital advertising ecosystem through continuous monitoring of websites and ad tags to verify ad campaign rendering, ensure creative quality, and protect against malware, data leakage and site performance issues, which lead to lost revenue, privacy violations and brand damage. Visit www.TheMediaTrust.com

On my first reading, the revelation was that leading and managing were two completely different functions. “Managers play chess” (in which every piece – every individual in your company – has different qualities) and “leaders play checkers” (in which every piece moves the same) is another way of saying “management is individual and leadership is universal.” When you are leading, you are speaking to and for the entire organization – you are saying what’s true for all of us, not just some of us.

Which leads me to “The One Thing” about effective leaders: they are clear.

Clarity, according to Buckingham, is the single quality that all effective leaders share. He tells us that it’s more important for a leader to be clear than it is for him or her to be right: if you’re clear enough about what you believe, those who follow you will help “make you right” in the end. The leader is the one who clearly communicates what the company or group believes, its values and its destination.   But is there “One Thing” that it’s most important to be clear about? Yes. A leader clearly answers the question “Who do we serve?” Take a minute with this one: it only seems clear on the surface, and you may be surprised by how much ambiguity there is on this question in your own organization.

If you have a favorite book, quotation or TED Talk on leadership, I’d love for you to share it.

And if you are a digital media sales leader and would like to attend the Fall Seller Forum on Wednesday October 21st in New York, let us know right away. The event may be two months away, but more than a third of the available seats are already gone.

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Six Questions for Dave Morgan.

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Morgan - jacket-blue CU - MG_0361 medium close cropOur theme for The Seller Forum on October 28th will be leadership, and a big part of leadership today is disruption: causing it, managing it, preparing for it.  Across his career, keynote interview Dave Morgan has been the disruptor-in-chief for companies focused on ad technology (RealMedia), audience targeting (Tacoda) and now the economics of TV buying (Simulmedia).  Here, some of his abridged thoughts on disruption in our world.

1.      How can you tell that an industry or a sector is ripe for disruption?

The easiest path is to find industries or sectors where emerging technologies are virtually certain to solve big problems or create new value for consumers and major industry or sector participants. By the early 90s, it was pretty obvious that the news, information, advertising and entertainment world would be disrupted by networked digital computing. We didn’t know it would be driven by the Internet. We didn’t know how long it would take to hit each sector of the industry and what the results would be. But, it was obvious that disruption was coming.

2.      Many companies who claim to be disruptive and revolutionary turn out to be just iterative and incremental.  Any way to tell the difference up front?

I think that to be truly disruptive or revolutionary, you need to either create something that didn’t exist before to upend a market structure or major market leaders by doing something in an entirely new way.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by REDBOOKS. For ad sales and business development, REDBOOKS is the most effective prospecting and competitive intelligence tool – used by your peer teams at Google, ABC, CBS, Comcast, ESPN, Time, Apple, Adobe and ad-tech companies of all sizes. Real-time, actionable news/alerts, direct contact info + all the context to close sales faster.

3.      Sales and company leaders in the digital and media worlds are having to deal with and plan for disruption all the time.  What have you learned over the years that could help them?

Study your market intensely, from all sides. Put yourself in the shoes of all of the different market participants. Generate a personal point of view on the market, and how it is likely to evolve – or devolve – and make sure that the point of view guides your actions every day.

4.      Is there a personality type or background you try to hire for a disruptive company like Simulmedia?

Yes. We want people who are curious, mission driven and have shown themselves as real risk-takers. We want people who are impatient. If they have been at a large company for more than five years, we tend to avoid them unless they have also demonstrated real success at a true start-up.

5.      How do you sustain a disruptor culture as a company grows?

It is much harder to be disruptive as your company grows its team. You start institutionalizing practices. You have to work really hard to make sure that you are still promoting and rewarding disruptive behavior, though not just for the sake of it. You have to attack you own products, your own processes and push your folks to raise the bar every day.

6.      You’ve said it’s important to have a personal point-of-view on the market.  Explain.

Too many folks in our industry pick jobs based on compensation and titles, not the problems they are solving or the changes that they will make in the market. Developing a personal point of view on the market you work in is a good way to be sure that you’re in the right job, working for the right company, and playing the right part in the market’s development. If you don’t have a personal point of view, you’re no surer of anything in your future than your last paycheck.

If you lead national sales for a team that sells media or marketing services to advertisers and agencies and would like to request an invitation to The Seller Forum (10/27-28, Manhattan) send us a note.   Seating is very limited.

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