Management

10 Ways I’ll be a Better Manager in 2017 (Part Two)

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10-ways-part-twoTo help foster a great 2017 start for my company, I’m publicly committing myself to being a better manager next year in 10 different ways.  In this last Drift of 2016, here are the final six:

  1. Be an Example by Planning My Own Days. So much of the American workforce starts its day by plunging right into its email inbox and starting to work south.  This begins a cycle of reaction – and non-productivity and frustration – that can last the whole day.  Too often I see myself doing the same thing.  So in 2017 I’ll have a plan – if only an outline – for how I plan to win the day.  And I’ll share that plan with my team so they’ll do the same.
  2. Put on My Own Oxygen Mask First. It sounds like a cliché from a self-help book, but it works.  Many managers – myself included – tend to burn out by failing to look after themselves.  Showing your team how much stress you can absorb and how many hours you can work is not a sign of strength.  Ironically, the best managers always seem to be the healthiest and most balanced.  In 2017, I aim to be one of those.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. With AppNexus Mobile Solutions, you can access more demand partners than ever, gain precision insight into your inventory’s pricing and attract the ad spend of the world’s largest advertisers.

  1. Bring New Voices Into the Room. Insularity is a problem in our business.  Even though we’re good at what we do, we run a small company and there are only so many voices we hear in a given business day.  Maybe your team is just as small and insular.  Or maybe you run a small team within a bigger company.  In 2017 I’ll be trying to find different voices for my team to hear.  Customers, TED speakers and thinkers and doers who have nothing to do with our industry or our business.  Because it’s often the unrelated or distant connection that helps you break through in your thinking.
  2. Ask Twice. As managers we should never forget that the first inclination most of our employees will have is to please us, to tell us everything is under control.  When we say “Do you understand?” or “Are you all set with this?” the immediate answer is “Got it!”  But is it true.  In 2017 I’ll start asking twice.  Because it’s in the second – or even third – question that the employee starts to feel your genuine concern and curiosity.  “Quickly take me through your plan” and “Let’s talk about how I can support you on this” are also good phrases to keep the conversation going.
  3. Take Time for Inspiration. Given how sophisticated and worldly our digitally-focused, millennially-oriented workforces are, they’re not supposed to care about inspiration, right?  In a world of ones and zeros, who’s got time for slogans and deep thoughts?  As someone who speaks directly with digital sellers and other executives in our business virtually every day, I can tell you that inspiration is more vital than ever.  Your people – and mine – are seeking meaning in their work and in their lives.  There are many inspiring stories, lives and ideas out there.  And in 2017, I’ll be trying to share more of them with my team.  I hope you will too.

As mentioned last week, we’ve evolved the mission of The Seller Forum to focus on developing the next generation of great digital sales managers.  If you’re one of them – or could be – or if you’re a CRO who wants to invest in the growth of your own middle managers, email Tamara Clarke and she’ll help with your 2017 Seller Forum and help you take advantage of pre-sale rates.  The first Forum of 2017 is on Thursday February 9th in New York, so don’t wait.

As this was our final Drift of 2016, let me thank you for reading our ideas this year.  I wish you, your family and your colleagues a wonderful holiday and a new year filled with hope, promise and grace. ~ Doug Weaver

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The Managers Test.

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The Managers TestThousands of books have been written on managing employee performance, each volume offering theories and tactics more complicated than the one that preceded it.  But like most things in life, simpler is better.

Recently I was discussing a thorny employee issue with a client, and as we mapped things out a simple ‘test’ presented itself.   The three factors to be explored – in order – are clarity, capacity and will.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Krux helps more than 180 of the world’s leading media companies and marketers grow revenue and deepen consumer engagement through more relevant, more valuable content, commerce, and media experiences. Industry analysts have repeatedly named Krux a leader and visionary in the data management space, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Download the reports today to learn more.

When you’re questioning a performance problem, you shouldn’t simply call the employee in for a free form conversation or give him a list of complaints.  Both approaches will lead to a bunch of random reactions and you’ll get lost in the details very quickly.  Instead, take things in order.

Clarity. Is the employee really – really – clear about what is expected? This is on you.  Have you communicated effectively about the full expectations of the job or task?  Have you put it in writing?  You may have a clear picture of what needs to be done in your head, and right now it’s probably fighting for space with all those frustrations you’ve developed. But you must take the time to carefully externalize the picture with your employee.  Once that’s done, you can move on to question number two…

Capacity. Is the employee capable of doing what is expected?  You must ask hard questions about whether the employee’s experience, skills and training fully enable to do what is needed.  Many of us never ask this because it calls into question our own hiring practices.  If you suspect a lack of training or adequate supervision is the issue, you may choose to apply time and resources.  But don’t forget to ask the hard question:  can this employee do this job?  When you’ve checked the boxes on clarity and capacity, you move on to the third and final issue…

Will. Is the employee willing to do what is required?  This is the hardest but most important part of the test…and often we don’t even consider it.  Sometimes people don’t do things simply because they don’t want to.  They will likely call out a lot of other issues and rationalizations. But if you look closely, a lack of will is not that hard to spot.  And it’s the issue that probably matters more than any other.  This one is fully on the employee and you must act decisively when you see it.  Say goodbye.

Don’t just keep this test to yourself.  Share it with other managers.  Better yet, share it with the employee.  Walk through the three questions and make the test the framework for your next performance discussion.  It just might be the simple means of solving your toughest issues.

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Starting with ‘Should’

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Start with ShouldAsk a hundred sales managers how they’d like to see their teams change and grow and at least seventy will say “I want them to be more strategic.” But strategic is one of those words that sounds meaningful but lacks real definition: like transparent, sustainable or integrated, it rolls off the tongue but often means less to the listener than the speaker intends. And while they instinctively want sellers to act more strategically, well-meaning managers often end up enabling the kind of short-term, tactical, task-driven behavior they abhor.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Independent research has named the Krux DMP industry leader in strategy, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Krux helps marketers, publishers, and agencies deliver more valuable consumer experiences, growing revenue and deepening engagement. More than 160 clients rely on Krux worldwide, achieving 10x or higher ROI. Download the report today to learn more.

A dozen times a day, sellers and other team members bring messy problems and situations to the manager’s office, expecting to exchange them for tidy solutions. The harried manager finds it most expedient to simply make that exchange; it’s faster to just tell the seller what to do. And then it happens again…and again…and again. The result is a culture of tactical dependency and disempowered, less-than-confident sellers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The difference can come down to one little word: should.

Effective managers run a different play. At the point when a team member brings them a problem or issue, they slow things down and ask a question: “What do you think we should do in this situation?” And then a second one: “If that ends up not being possible, what else do you think we should consider?” Should is a powerful word. It’s an invitation to the dormant strategist and a challenge to the lazy thinker. Should tells the employee, ‘don’t bring a problem in here without also having at least considered a possible solution. Better yet, bring two potential answers.’

Sellers and team members become addicted to the easy answers we toss back to them every day. So stop answering questions with facts and directions and start answering them – at least initially – with questions of your own. And make sure those questions include the word should. Be disciplined with your own behavior and you’ll be amazed how fast the behavior and thinking of your team transforms.

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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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Doing is Believing.

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Doing is BelievingOne thing that’s certain about this business of ours: everyone is so damn smart. No matter your personal opinion or experience with just about anyone in digital marketing, the first thing you’ll say is “Well….he’s really smart….but….” Smart is to the digital ad world what blond is to Scandinavia. It’s certainly a high class problem, but there is one big downside. We tend to over-think, over-analyze and over-talk just about everything.

In recent months I’ve been coaching managers at many leading companies in our space and they describe very common – and frustrating – interactions with their team members. When they take the time (as good managers do) to really connect with and listen to their sellers and other staff it can get messy really fast. Employees (they’re really smart, remember?) want to discuss and debate all the history and fine points behind decision and policies. They want to feel heard on the minute details on the difficulty and danger of their accounts lists. They want to open up long closed issues and directions. And the well-meaning, evolved, new-age manager ends up spending a lot of time and energy trying to manage how her reps feel and what they believe.

There’s a better way.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by PubMatic, who provides a Marketing Automation Platform for Publishers (MAPP).  It empowers publishers with a single view into their advertiser relationships, across every screen, channel and format.  Through workflow automation, real-time analytics and yield management, PubMatic enables publishers to make smarter, faster decisions that drive revenue and streamline operations. To learn more, please click here.

Yes, people in sales organizations want to feel heard. And they may think they want their hands on the levers of policy and management – right up till the day they actually own them and ask “…and why did I want this?” But what they really thrive on is clarity. They want to know their management and leadership is taking in good information (including theirs) and then they want a decisive manager to say “this is where we’re going and here are the guidelines on getting there.” And then she says no more.

Hear the voices of your team members but don’t let them turn you into a weathervane that changes direction with the wind. Empathize and identify with the lives and aspirations of your employees, but don’t become their career grief counselor. Above all, shift your focus from what your people think and believe to what they do. With every interaction, have a list of specific measurable actions for the employee(s) to take. And be ready to say: “I understand your position…what is it specifically that you’d like to see me do right now?

We can hold salespeople and ourselves accountable for discrete actions. Actions breed a culture of clarity and consistency. Take enough steps and you have direction. You can’t manage or control what’s in someone’s head…only what they do. So shut down the endless cycle of reflection and debate and start getting stuff done. You’ll be amazed at how much better everyone ends up feeling.

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