Elevate your leadership skills with these 4 tweaks

You put in so many hours a day reshaping your company’s image, but what about you?  Kavita Singh asked marketing leaders for four tips on developing leadership skills.

1. Develop skills essential for your team, not just you

Once you’ve learned what skills you have, it’s time to put them in action. Your role may not require you to be an expert in all aspects of your company, but there is a massive benefit in familiarising yourself with each department. It can help you understand your peers and their frustrations while boosting your own skill set at the same time.

Ascot Global Marketing Director Cara O’nions attributes her success to “being able to put herself in her employee’s shoes.” She even developed technical skills in finance so she could assist her team more. 

Cara says: “In my role, I may not be using Ascot’s marketing technology. That’s more of what my team is doing, but it’s about understanding that landscape and making those decisions -- choosing your market so you can get a feel for what's best for the business as a whole.” 

Internally, your peers will see you’re elevating your skillset so you can support them. Not only do you achieve raising your own profile, but you also make them feel more unified when they can come to you with technical questions. Your peers will vouch on your behalf, the more you’re involved internally.

When Conrad Mills, former marketing director at Mastek, was working at larger enterprises, he noticed a disconnect as he saw tech marketing handled by separate groups rather than a unified team. 

“Someone would write a piece of content, but then the marketing team would work out the best way to market that on the website and they would look at the SEO. I actually made a conscious effort at Mastek to get a better understanding of content management systems for the website. I learned how Google Analytics and Ad Words worked. I’m not an expert when it comes to that, but it’s important for marketers to have some technical understanding of how these aspects of their field work. Everyone should be able to understand data and use that for decision making, I’m comfortable doing that now.”

Mills also made an effort to sit with other teams to develop a deeper understanding for technical skills. For example, he spent time at inbound agencies to see how they set up campaigns. 

2. Make your peers feel comfortable 24/7

Being able to utilise your strengths on a daily basis is essential for your role. However, it’s easier said than done, especially when you’re already focussed on getting your daily tasks done, on top of managing everyone else on your team. Being able to manage your team is an opportunity to exude your leadership skills, but it’s important to bring a human element to your approach. 

Catriona Bunting-Biss, head of marketing at Wilson James, takes time to listen to her peers on a one-to-one basis. When she gets coffee with her colleagues, she emphasises the no phones policy, so she can give her peers her undivided attention. 

She says: “It sounds simple, but I have learnt this from the best managers I’ve had; you should make your staff feel valued and appreciated. In turn, you will get the best from them.”

When it comes to relaying information to both her internal and external peers, Bunting-Biss keeps it as straightforward as possible. With so much industry jargon existing, she focuses on keeping headline tasks as simple as possible. Additionally, she doesn’t micromanage every detail over to employees unless it’s necessary.

Catriona says: “It’s about knowing what my objective is in any situation and who the stakeholders are. This could be anything from developing a detailed project plan, procuring a new supplier or presenting an idea with strong visuals that work for my audience. Adaptability is key, and so is the ability to cut through the noise and keep it simple.”

3. Find out what you’re great at and optimise it 

Anyone can be a manager, but wouldn’t you rather have ‘leader’ attached to your name? Cara experimented with her marketing team at a meeting, where they discussed what they valued in each other as colleagues.  She learned about qualities she possessed that she might not have otherwise seen in herself. She realised how much value there is in sitting down and taking a minute to evaluate the skills needed at Ascot. It’s important that as a leader, you make sure you’re doing these exercises together. You’re not just on your own island at work,” says Cara.

“People see things in you that you’ve never seen in yourself. One of my US colleagues said I’m a rule breaker. What she meant was that I don’t let people snowball on their own but change course, bringing them in a new direction with a really clear vision,”she adds. 

Along with being called both flexible and adaptive, Cara says the one trait she valued the most was being seen as authentic.

“Being the same person you are at home and the workplace is really powerful. In fact, I’ve learned over the years that being authentic and being true to who you are is the most important thing you can really bring into the workplace. It depends on the culture of the organisation that you’re in, but when you find a home where your authenticity and strengths are really encouraged and valued, that makes for an incredibly powerful work experience.”

4. Strengthen your personal brand 

Raising your profile internally is important, but equally important is what image you portray publicly. It may sound simple, but it’s still very effective to keep up with your LinkedIn page. 

Catriona says: “I post on LinkedIn fairly regularly, and it’s a combination of stories that mean something to me, good work that our business is doing, and articles that might be useful for my network. Yes, it is curated and yes, it is about my personal brand, but it’s all ‘me’ and an online reflection of my values and interests.”

For Conrad, contributing to content is a hugely beneficial for his personal branding building. He says: “Everyone has some sort of social media presence. Providing genuinely exciting advice to people you’re connected with on Twitter and LinkedIn is great, but also sharing content or making it useful is key. Write about an experience you’ve gone through, that would be useful to other people. If you’re talking at events or presenting at webinars, it’s an opportunity to share something that’s valuable to your audience rather than yourself or your company promotion.”

Lastly, Cara points out the benefit of attending and speaking at conferences, webinars and speaker events. If you’re invited to either speak or attend an event, she suggests coming up with two to three aspects of your brand to build a narrative around, whether that means what you’re currently working on, or what traits you want to accentuate. 

She adds: “It’s almost a responsibility to inspire people who are just starting out or at a crossroads in their career, but it is also important to just be yourself and stay true to your personal brand.”

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