Management

Team You.


Last week I posted some ideas about how to shake off the torpor and malaise of Q1-2019 in the digital ad/marketing business. Today I’m speaking to managers and sales leaders.  This is a moment where you can (and should!) reshape your relationship with your team. What looks like a rough patch is actually a garden of possibility.

Whether you’re a CRO, a regional manager, a vertical category lead or even a project captain, there are some immediate, tangible and highly effective moves to be made.

STAQ is generously underwriting this week’s Drift. STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks provides actionable insights into your programmatic performance compared to the broader marketplace. This week’s market level insight: Open auction hits 90% of total programmatic revenue in January and February of 2019, a level not crossed in any month in 2018. Join STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks today.

No Group is Too Small for a Culture. Those who wait for the company to define and establish a culture and values for their teams are inevitably frustrated. Think of the sales team you lead (and don’t forget the account managers and others who support!) as if it were a platoon. Unit cohesion is everything, and Team You is looking to you – their leader – for inspiration and guidance. Engage them (in a group and individually) with these questions: As a team, what do we believe? And How do we treat one another? It won’t all happen at once, but it will begin to happen immediately.

Manage the Moments. If you think management is about the reviews you conduct and the meetings you lead, think again. What you do – occasionally – in the big moments pales in importance beside what you do in all the little ones. Are you pausing and getting your team members to bring answers along with the problems? Are you leading conversations with optimism and patience? Are you summoning the discipline to be completely clear with your employees? Like parenting, management is not something you can schedule.

Reinvent the Meeting. When you do bring your team together, put some real thought and planning into it. Do in a team meeting what you can only do in a team meeting. Don’t waste time reviewing numbers and facts. Decide. Question. Plan. Prioritize. Collaborate. If there’s no strong verb associated with your meeting, it’s not serving your needs or your culture.

Don’t Scrimp on the Inspiration. Statistically, most of us don’t sit in the pews on Sunday anymore, but we are joining the Church of TED in record numbers. There has never been more thoughtful motivation available than there is right now, all with a mouse click. Real people are overcoming real adversity and re-framing business and leadership practices, and they’re giving it to us for free. Program a 5-minute video or short article into your team meetings, along with some discussion time. You may get an eye-roll or a cynical comment along the way, but stay with it. For strugglers, it’s hope; for performers, it’s fuel.

Team You won’t just happen. It takes work and discipline. But it’s your most impactful – and controllable – driver of success.

A customized sales strategy workshop for your team is easier and more cost-effective than you might think. And it may be the key to not only performance, but retention of your best people. Visit www.upstreamgroup.com/workshops or reach out directly to learn more.


The First Thing You Say.


Two weeks ago in this space I wrote about the general malaise and episodic funk that many in our industry seem to be suffering under.  (The New Normal, February 7, 2019.)  As a manager, I believe one of your greatest callings is re-framing situations and market conditions for your sellers and returning them to a centered, productive mindset.  In confusing times, that’s not easy.  OK, it’s never easy.

In both private manager coaching and management workshops, I tend to elevate one truly vital piece of advice.  Without it, all of your logic, strategy and motivation will end up going nowhere.  It goes like this:

Pay close attention to the very first thing you say.

STAQ is proudly underwriting this week’s Drift. STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks provide insights into programmatic performance compared to the broader marketplace. This week’s insight: Despite PMP CPMs being up 31% YOY, the steep decline in PMP impressions (-40%) makes overall PMP revenue (-21%) a smaller part of the overall programmatic marketplace so far in 2019. Join STAQ Industry Benchmarks.

When stressed or challenged, sellers and other team members tend to (1) come to their manager interactions very hot, (2) come seeking immediate answers and gratification, and (3) they want to dump the problem or situation in your lap.  And as managers, we tend to walk right into the trap by responding immediately and factually.  We believe that if we just answer the question or supply the information right now, then the situation will magically resolve.  But it just doesn’t work.

Your strategy shouldn’t be about dispensing answers, but rather posing questions.  You shouldn’t immediately assume the responsibility for the situation, but instead transfer the responsibility or resolution back to the employee in an empowering way.  That’s why the first words out of your mouth in these situations are so critical.  Next time the heat gets turned up, try rolling out some of these phrases and see what a difference they make in the quality of your interactions (and the quality of your life!)

  • I know what I’d do, but I really want to hear your thinking.  Give me two alternatives on what you think we should do in this situation.
  • Let’s slow down and make sure we’re solving the right problem.  Tell me what we’re not considering right now?
  • Let’s break this down into the things we can and can’t control. What do you think we can really change?
  • Tell me how I can help you get refocused on the things that are going to help you succeed.
  • I can tell you’re struggling with this.  I’m more than willing to let you blow off steam for a little while.  Then I think it’s time for us to break this situation down together.
  • I believe in you and I know you’re better than the conversation we’re having right now.  Tell me how you think this turns into a victory?
  • I’m not sure we have all the information we need to make the right call right now. You’re closer to the situation:  What else is important here that we haven’t looked at?

Spit back answers all day and you create dependent followers. Push the responsibility back to them – put the authority where the information is – and you empower confident leaders.  Every one of us wants to have great conversations with our employees and team members.  And we will.

But only if we start them the right way.


When Nobody is Watching.


What if there were no bosses? If there were no office hours, no vacation policy, how would the people make decisions? If there were no one watching, what would lead them to make good decisions that cared for the business and your customers? What if the ultimate responsibility were theirs?

This may sound Utopian – or foolish, depending on your perspective. But it’s increasingly the reality of business. In our industry, it’s here.

We’re asking for your support for the family of our great friend and digital advertising pioneer Joe Gallagher, who we lost tragically and unexpectedly this summer. We’ve set up a GoFundMe page to raise scholarship funds for Joe’s kids. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated and 100% will go to the Gallagher family. Thank you for your generosity.

The combination of big territories, big employee-to-manager ratios, distributed locations and the raw speed of business means that employees are making their own decisions much of the time. Your policies and caps and meetings and policy reviews simply can’t keep up with the pace of business. Control-based top-down rules and approvals end up looking foolish and bureaucratic.

So, what then?

This is not to say that policies and rules are obsolete (a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, for example, is an excellent one). But regardless of how much you elaborate on the rules, you need your employees to make judgments… sound, moral, positive judgments. And the only way to get there is to establish a culture of values. Here are the four values that I recommend to my customers; each is personally controllable by the individual and helps him/her make better decisions both internally (with team members) and externally with clients. Share them, talk about them.

Be Curious. Healthy, appropriate curiosity leads one to ask more and better questions of customers and coworkers. It generates true empathy. It builds trust and connection. Curious people want to know how things work, more about the customer’s business…more about their co-worker’s role and queue.

Be Generous. Those who are generous don’t keep score. They continue to treat customers like customers even when there’s no big jackpot in front of them. They give coworkers the benefit of the doubt. They don’t infer motives that are not there. They help others.  They focus on making a difference while also making a profit.

Be Tenacious. Tenacious employees go the extra mile for customers and coworkers. They don’t accept the easy, obvious answer.  They stay with the conversation, the project or the problem – that much longer. They take the time to examine the situation fully.

Be Worthy. Worthiness is about the journey, not the destination; about the quality and excellence of work and effort, not just about the score. It’s not about getting… it’s about deserving. Deserving the customer’s trust, deserving the best efforts of your coworkers, deserving the job you have and the success you crave. As John Adams said, We cannot assure success. We can only deserve it.

If you want your team to thrive, let them make the decisions within a culture where values are the dominant drivers. Then get out of the way.


The Front of the Jersey.


Welcome to the world of the free agent.

While the talent pool from which we draw is rich and talented, it is also ephemeral.  Even though she’s genuinely serious and committed about your opportunity, the new seller or account manager you’re interviewing today already has a foot out the door.  It’s not that she’s shallow or underhanded; she’s just always thought differently about her career than you have about yours. She expects short term assignments with many, many teams over the arc of her career.

And who can blame her?  The speed at which companies and strategies are launched today is eclipsed only by the pace at which they are abandoned.  Your rep is not thinking about ten years with your company because she can’t imagine your company thinking of ten years of anything.  Which leaves you, her manager, with the coach’s dilemma.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

A well-worn slogan in sports is “getting them to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.”  But can this even be done in a world where everybody keeps their resume polished and their LinkedIn profile up to date?  It can, but it takes dedication to a strategy.

Call Out the Elephant in the Room.  “We both know that you won’t necessarily always work here…” can be the phrase that really opens up your dialogue with your employees and shows that you’re treating them as adults, not assets.  It puts their time with you in the context of their careers and their lives.  And that’s a great place to be.

How Does Today’s Action Create Long Term Value?  Want your team members to get better at something?  Frame the discussion around their long term value in the marketplace.  Every rep has a stock price and that stock price is either going up or down.

Commit to Them.  Tell them that you want this to be the best place they’ll ever work, and that you’d like to be remembered as the boss who made them better at their craft.  Then do what you say.

Put the Relationships in Long Term Context.  Put their relationships with others on your team in the context of their “career network.”  Will there be a network of people out there who speak well of them in the future, or a network that’s felt slighted, overlooked or abused?  In the context of career growth, this matters.  And they’ll get it.

Foster a Culture of Presence.   Great managers are like parents. We don’t always like or do what they say, but we feel their absence.  Be present for your team, individually and collectively, and focus on what’s happening right now.  Be the boss who celebrates the outstanding proposal and the great example of customer service.  This makes the name on the front of the jersey mean something today, and makes those wearing it – even if for a little while – play all that much harder for it.


The End of Cynicism.


Along with experience in the digital marketing world comes a certain knowingness – a sense that one’s eyes are clearer, his sense of judgment more acute.  There’s an assuredness that we’ve seen all this before and that we can instantly recognize winners and losers and easily sort the wheat from the chaff.

You not only know this guy:  you’ve hired him.  Or maybe you are him.  You understandably value the digital experience he’s had at a half-dozen companies over the past 12 or 15 years.  This dude can make it rain.  Maybe he can.  But his experience and sense of self often come with a heavy tax.  The cancer that too often grows with experience is cynicism.  And it’s a killer.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

The smart CEO and the enlightened manager are acutely aware of how this disease presents itself and how quickly it metastasizes.  Mr. Experience holds the informal meeting-after-the-meeting to let the younger sellers know that this plan looks an awful like what he saw when he was at XYZ.com.  He airs his reservations about company direction in an email reply to the whole team.  Sometimes his physical presence at a meeting – body language, expression – are enough to spread the pathogens of doubt and fear.  At a time like this — of industry consolidation and massive change – he is patient zero in an epidemic of cynicism in your company.

The tricky part is, he may not even know what effect he’s having.  And he likely believes that his approach coming from a place of generosity and helpfulness.  I really love this company!  If he works for you, you must act.

Call it Out.  Have a closed-door meeting with your cynic and make it clear that he’s entitled to his opinions and thoughts, but that the overt behavior he’s exhibiting must stop.

Inside Words/Outside Words.  Let Mr. E. know that you want to hear his ideas personally and create a secure channel to listen to him.  But make it clear that once the door opens, you need him to support or stay quiet about direction and initiatives.

Consider the Alternative.  Too many CEOs and CROs operate out of fear – fear that saying goodbye to experience means kissing off your potential revenue.  But look carefully:  does the revenue this guy is actually producing compensate your company for the sense of despair and doubt that’s immobilizing your other team members?

You’d never tolerate an employee who came in and crashed your network every day, keeping a huge number of your employees from getting anything done.  But we do it every day.  Your company and your sales team have life-forces that thrive on possibility, hope and good intention.  Know the difference between honesty and cynicism and do what you have to in order to give your team the environment they deserve.