Management: What I’ve learnt.

Once you’ve mastered the world of Activation, it’s then on to a Managerial or Senior Managerial role in which you’ll have more Strategic and operational responsibility. It’s important you find that balance between technical skill and leadership capability to really be the best Manager you can possibly be. This is something I’ve spent a lot of time delving into over the past few years – looking inward but also looking to learn from people in the game who have brilliant Leadership skills. I’ve tried to distil this knowledge below into two key points, with a focus on practical advice for anyone entering a Senior Management position.

Set your foundation.

There’s been two occasions where I’ve received some great advice from people I’ve met by chance. The first was a Marketing Director that told me “you need three great levels of support in order to go far in your career. A Manager. A Mentor. A Coach”. Since investing in Coaching back in 2020 and working to find multiple mentors over the past 3-4 years – I can truly say that having these three distinct support tiers can be a brilliant foundation for any Manager.

A Manager: This is the most difficult because we don’t get to select our Manager unless we’re on a job hunt. When you interview for a role you should be assessing the quality of your Manager and openly putting on the table the level of support, development and time you need to be effective – whilst also being up front about how to like to work so you can both be an effective partnership.

Your Manager should be that day to day support function you need that treats you like a grown up and respects what you bring to the table and you should be exactly that for any direct reports you have.

A Mentor: Some believe that Mentors need to specifically come from within the Company and others believe they shouldn’t have any links to the Company whatsoever. Personally I think this is down to you and what you’re comfortable with – but one thing to understand is that a Mentor is distinctly different to a Coach and the conversation should be noticeably so.

Mentorship is all about proactively taking a situation or problem(s) to your chosen Mentor and benefitting from the wealth of experience and wisdom that they have in that particular area. It might be that you’re having to rethink the structure of your team and need guidance on how to go about making the assessment or what process to follow. Learning first hand from other Leaders who’ve undertaken the same process and have the knowledge available to share gives you a huge advantage in getting it right. The Mentor will give you first hand examples of how they’ve navigated these issues and will give you direct, practical food for thought that you can take into your working life.

I’ve approached Mentors to discuss Leadership styles, the transition to Managing Managers, getting people to buy into a vision, having difficult conversations and many other topics. All of these Mentor conversations have been achieved through LinkedIn – reaching out to great people who I want to learn from.

The Coach: Probably the most fun is the role of the Coach. They let you do the talking – but ask the right questions to get you to where you need to go. You’ll dig into some of those big barriers you surround yourself with that stop you from fulfilling your true potential by pushing you to question their origin and truth. A good Coach will coach you in your entirety and not just the work version of you. I’ve been guilty in the past of trying to keep the Coach/Client focus strictly about work – but I soon realised that the Personal and Professional versions of me are one in the same and carry those “limiting beliefs” around in equal measure.

I’ll give an example as to why it’s been so great for me. It’s human nature to view things in a very binary way and I was hugely guilty of being someone who defined my performance in this way. Everything was either “good” or “bad” – there was no in between. I had to really scratch at this and ask myself those tough questions. What if I always smashed it and never had a bad presentation? What do I really mean by “bad”? If people ask me questions during a presentation – I’d think they were trying to catch me out and I’d fearfully retreat or snap with an answer that squashed the question quickly. But what if those people are truly interested in knowing more about the topic at hand? What if instead of “good” or “bad” – sometimes it was “okay”?

These are the types of heavy hitting developmental conversations that truly impact you at your core and I’d say Coaching has been hugely effective for me here. Take a look at the various Coaching directories to find one that meets your criteria.

Transitioning to Managing Managers.

This is a topic I’ve discussed with a lot of different people over the past two years. It’s an area that, in my opinion, you’re never truly given the support or training you need to effectively navigate it.

One Day you’re managing a team of Marketing Executives who work at the coal face of Digital Marketing activation. The next, you’ve been promoted to manage a team of people who manage those Executives. Now what?

The first thing to note is making sure you set the boundaries for yourself.

  1. You don’t have to know everything. You’re looking after a team of talent specialists in their craft – use them!
  2. It’s fine to feel like you’re not entirely in control as you move in this direction and that’s okay. You’ll grow confident in those you manage to get the job done – even better than when you had those responsibilities.
  3. Be patient while you adjust to your new role. This is one of the biggest transitions you’ll go through in your career.
  4. You are good enough. You got here because you deserved to get here.
  5. You can’t fix what you’ve inherited overnight – so be true to yourself in what you can realistically achieve in 3, 6, 12 months and beyond.
  6. Use your Management support network to best navigate all of the issues that pop up along the way.

Where a lot of people fall down here is that they assume that because they were able to become a Manager who’s successful enough to be promoted to Senior Management – they’ve got the winning formula that everyone else must follow.

This is going to be industry dependant of course – but I honestly think this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Knowing your role now.

You used to be the one to press the buttons, but you’re now the one stood behind everybody making sure they have everything they need to get the job done.

  • Provide a clear vision and strategy that the team is working towards but don’t build this entirely yourself. Make your team feel part of it all by collaborating with them to build the Strategy/asking how they view the future in their Channel. This’ll take time to develop so don’t expect it to materialise within the first 4-6 weeks.
  • Regularly ask your Managers – how can I help? This might be to remove blockers, secure additional funding, pick up a task or give one of your Managers guidance on how to have a difficult conversation with one of the team.
  • Listening is your number one tool to truly understanding your team, their strengths/weaknesses and what’s important to them as individuals.
  • Avoid stepping on toes. Delegate responsibility and only step back in if/when you need to. If you don’t, you run the risk of micro-managing – one of the most bewildering and confusing things you can put a Manager through.

Know the Leadership Styles and be aware of yours.

Earlier in the year I finished the Institute of Leadership & Management Level 5 course which gave me a real appreciation for the 10 different Leadership styles.

I had some feedback in my first year at the company that I was working too much and thus making the role of Manager look unappealing to those in other positions within the team. This is known as the Pace setting Leadership style and the impact of working so many hours, on other people in the team – wasn’t something I’d thought about previously. Conversely, this style was just what we needed when we had to get a large amount of Campaign work done in a relatively short space of time during a particular period.

This is why it pays to try and understand the different styles and their level of impact, including those to stay away from. Coercive Leadership for example is never going to work and doesn’t have a place in modern business – but you should always have an element of Affiliative Leadership to truly value the people in your team.

Fulfilment, value and purpose.

Finally, I wanted to expand slightly on my point above around having a Vision.

From my own personal experience – if everyone has a stake in that Vision of the future, then you’re all more likely to care about it’s success. If I dictatorially define that Vision – it’s more about mine and less about theirs.

In order to feel valued and fulfilled – I believe that the above is a pre-requisite. If someone tells me what their Vision and Strategy is and sets it in stone – then I’m going to feel like my experience maybe isn’t good enough to warrant being consulted on how the future may look for say, Paid Social. I’m going to feel under-valued and demotivated.

If someone asks me to tell them what my vision is for Paid Social, what I view as the big industry headwinds, identity developments and potential build outs to maximise the channel for Performance – I’m going to feel like they view me as the go-to on this subject and that I’ve helped build this overarching Vision of ours.

This is why it’s crucial to consider how you’re establishing and driving towards the Strategy.

In the above view I’ve tried to formalise some of my own experience as a Manager moving into Senior Management. It’s a transition I’m still learning about to this day and enjoying the developmental challenges along the way. Hopefully you find some value in my thoughts above.

I hope you enjoyed reading through. As usual, any comments or thoughts – feel free to email me or send me a message on LinkedIn.

Neil Jones.

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