Herding Cats a.k.a. Marketing Leadership

I am not a “cat guy” purr-say, (sorry for that)  and it’s not because I don’t admire nature’s best-built killing machines, but rather because they are a bit messy. We had a cat growing up, and I quite liked her, though as my sister says, she was “purely decorative,” i.e. it was very difficult to discern her as a being separate from the box and heating pad that she sat on all winter. In fact, she sat there for so long that the fur on her belly all but fell off from the heater. Poor thing. But I digress.

In Chris Locurto’s recent episode on “how to lead a people person” he hits some real key points on how to approach people who tend to be much more focused on the relationships they are in than accomplishing the tasks. In particular, marketing tends to attract these “people people” like moths to a lamp. To my mind this isn’t a bad thing, but it presents a challenge. Marketing people, like cats, are often going in all different directions, and they can be very difficult to focus. They have so many ideas and there is a lot of rapid change, no wonder the can’t sit still. Add to this the constant distractions of smartphones and social media, and you will have the quintessential marketing associate who gets things done, but remains unorganized, doesn’t meet deadlines, focuses more on talking with others, and doesn’t necessarily work great with his or her team. In essence, you have me five years ago.

It takes a lot to admit my own shortcomings, but looking back I can now see that two things were at work. First, I wasn’t in an environment that helped me focus. For a leader, this is a quintessential aspect of focusing people persons. This means that there needs to be established moments and times for focus and drive forward. Small competitions to see who gets the most done in an hour can be extremely effective. Also, making sure that the workplace is free of distractions, making expectations for cleanliness and organization part of the weekly if not daily routine can be huge.

Second, I didn’t have the right moments to brainstorm and stimulate. I think that every marketer would be happiest brainstorming for at least an hour on Monday mornings. That way they start the week of happy, energized, enthused and excited that their own creative energies might affect the outcome of their life, success, projects, everything! In addition, those Monday morning meetings can be made fun, with coffee / treats, with any news from over the weekend, with reminders of what the 90 day plan is.

Third, don’t “expect” them to work with others, “guide” them to. Regardless of personality style, depending on one’s maturity and confidence, many people can be very shy. It takes positive collaborations to really build understanding between two people. That is to say, “people people” tend to work with “people people,” but that person might not be interested in working with a cranky, though talented, graphic designer who is politically and personally diametrically opposite. Common ground can always be found, but it takes concerted effort to figure things out .


Fourth, ask good questions. Marketers love to be asked “what” but they need to be asked “how.” This is the challenge that is presented to them and allows them to use their creativity. The usual conversation goes, “Wow! I love that idea, but how do I get there??” Then the marketer is inspired because you took his “what” and you challenged him to make it concrete. You will watch the wheels turn and move forward. Also, if they say, “I don’t know,” then they are effectively saying that the idea doesn’t mean so much to them that they are willing to invest their hearts into it. That is good for you to know because then you wont make them work on projects that don’t inspire them, and also it allows them to feel heard and invested in the team, regardless of whether or not the project goes forward.

Fifth, a wall of creativity! Your marketer needs to have an opportunity to display half-done, interesting though not necessarily useful, integrative and inspiring material across a variety of media. In addition, they need to have a wall of recognition, when they earn serious accolades from colleagues and staff for their best work, which moves from mere creativity to serious value and utility. This doesn’t need to be an official awards / voting process, it just needs to be an idea that was adopted that made the company money.

These are just a few elements that I have found helps move your people person marketer to a team that is focused on goals, and has an unleashed level of creativity.










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