How to Lead People Effectively on Agile Marketing Teams
Actionable advice on how to get the best out of your agile organization.
As a manager, you’re often left in the dust when organizations shift to agile marketing. While your role has always been to manage the team’s work, your direct reports are now spread out across different agile teams and have been told to only work on items from the marketing backlog.
So if you’re not there to assign and manage work, where do you fit in? The good news is that you have an even more important role now — to coach, mentor and lead your people to be excellent in their craft.
Trust your team
The first step to being an effective leader is to put complete faith and trust into the team. After all, you hired these professionals for a reason. You have to truly believe and act as if they know how to do the job better than you.
Without trust, you’ll never get away from the command and control management that agile is fighting hard to remove, and if the organization is truly ready for this culture change, it could put your job in jeopardy.
In agile marketing, day-to-day activities and how the team gets work done need to be owned by the team. Think about a 20-year-old cashier at McDonald’s. This person has little autonomy to make decisions and has a manager right there telling her what to do.
Now think about a group of kids about that age that created Facebook from their college dorm rooms. They were free to experiment, fail, learn and grow because they had full autonomy to be entrepreneurs. We want to think about our agile marketing teams more like a group of entrepreneurs than hourly employees.
Create centers of excellence
While we’ve focused on what not to do as a leader, you still have a very important role to play. Let’s say that you’re the director of Brand Strategy and you have several designers that work for you, each one parsed out to a different agile marketing team.
While day-to-day they work with their teams and figure out how to best accomplish creative, you’re kind of like their homeroom teacher (but in this class you actually do something)!
I encourage you to create a Center of Excellence, where you and your direct reports come together to figure out how to be the best in your craft, and how you’ll carry those standards across all of the agile marketing teams.
Your CoE team should meet regularly and can even operate as its own agile team, creating a backlog of priorities that need to happen. Those items may include training, purchasing new tools, updating brand guidelines, creating a library of assets all agile teams can use.
CoE teams work well for any discipline, not just branding or creative. The same idea applies for social media, content marketing, SEO and more.
The idea is that you serve like a marketing owner to these Centers of Excellence, understanding what the priorities are and working to ensure that collaboration, communication and skills development are happening within your team.
Shift your focus further out
In traditional marketing organizations, managers are often worrying about the day-to-day work and did Suzie complete all of her tasks. Well thankfully, you no longer have to be the babysitter—you have better things to do!
As a leader in an agile organization, you’re going to look further out on the horizon, thinking about what’s to come, not what’s in front of you today.
What are the market trends? What new tools will your staff need to be successful? What skills will your people need in the future? What are customers looking for? How can you grow your team to be the best in its craft?
As a leader of people on agile marketing teams, you have a very important job. You are the coach and mentor, making sure your people have the tools, technology, skills and quality standards they need to succeed.