'Winter is coming': strategies for building a healthy, happy and resilient B2B marketing team

Resilience has always been a major challenge for B2B marketing leaders – both on a personal and team level, and so it was no surprise that our latest virtual roundtable on this topic was insightful and well-received, with great practical tips for surviving the Covid winter

One of the first virtual roundtables that we ran for the B2B Marketing Leaders membership, back in March 2020, was focused on team and personal resilience, and given how much water has passed under the bridge since then, we thought it was high time we repeated it.

This time, our panel was boosted by the attendance of Lawrence Mitchell, former B2B marketing CMO at RBI, and now a resilience and wellbeing consultant – his contribution was excellent and insightful.

It was clear right from the outset that this is a major challenge for both senior B2B marketers, and their teams, at the close of 2020. The phrase (borrowed from ‘Game of Thrones’) “winter is coming” was used by one of the participants early on to describe the likely impact of further lockdown measures, and sent the context for much of what follows. In short, B2B marketing leaders are looking to reinforce their strategies for maintaining team resilience, moral and motivation in what are likely to be difficult times to come, and those attending appreciated the opportunity to compare notes, share experiences and propose solutions. Here are some of the key points and observations, relating firstly to marketing team members, and secondly to leaders.

Building marketing team resilience

1.  Create new rules for a new era

Don’t rely on the old rule book to get us through this. We’ve ripped it up, and we’re writing a new on the fly.

2.  Create a vision to build towards

Don’t focus on what’s bad in team communications or the size and scale of the challenges. Don’t pretend everything’s fine, but build a vision of the future to build towards. Accentuate where we’re going, and the positives that will come from that.

3.  Freshen things up… and keep freshening them up

We’re now in a different place than we were in the spring at the start of lockdown, so actively try to change the manner and way in which you engage with the team in order to respond to and reflect that. The key objective must be to keep team culture fresh and vibrant, not let it get stale. Look at the time to Christmas as a three month sprint, and build a plan for that. Create a menu of things to look forward to. Leaders need to create new habits that are relevant to the situation.

4.  Little things to move the culture forward.

  •      Move off Zoom or Teams for some meetings – use the phone instead. It gets around the growing problem of Zoom fatigue
  •      If you have a big team, shift from whole team meetings to move to niche gathering
  •      ‘Walk and talk’ meetings where everyone is out walking are a nice format.
  •      Ask people to share personal anecdotes or experiences to start meetings, even if it feels banal – e.g. what was the first live music event that you went to? Such things are great at provoking comments and discussions.
  •      Give the team a choice about how and when you engage with them, and in what format. Friday ‘thankyou’ nominations and callouts.
  •      Start each meeting with a one-minute check-in to see how everyone is feeling.
  •      Run a Friday ‘thankyou’ message (via whatever format) to recognise achievements during the week, and actively encourage nominations from across the team.

5.     Speak openly about well-being.

This can be difficult for international teams, where culturally people have different attitudes towards this topic or don’t know management well enough to open up. Buddying or mentoring can help this – team members aren’t always able to admit problems to their leaders. This is also beneficial in creating another channel of the right information, which can work to combat negative rumours and hearsay. Team leaders can’t control all the information that individuals get, and back or side channels can be a source of stress and anxiety.

Building marketing leader resilience

1. Ignore your own needs at your peril

Marketing leaders need to make time for themselves. Self love and self care are not selfish. If you don’t look after yourself, you can’t be effective in looking after anyone else. Take time to do the things that maintain your positive mental health.

2. Set your own red lines

Be clear about what you’re prepared to do, and what you’re not – with particular regard to meetings and calls outside ‘conventional’ business hours. Make this clear both upward and downward. Be flexible with your team but ensure they understand the parameters, and set reasonable expectations downward also.

3. Start and end the day well

Take the first hour of your day and make it your own. Do the things that you need to prepare yourself to be productive and at your best. And upgrade your sleep, as it will improve all aspects of your performance and mental wellbeing. Work out what you need to do in order to have a good nights sleep, and ritualise that behaviour.

About the B2B Marketing Leaders programme

B2B Marketing is running regular roundtables to help CMOs, marketing directors, VPs and other B2B Marketing Leaders to navigate the coronavirus crisis and prepare for what comes next. For more information on the programme go to our website.

If you’d like to join one of these sessions, email sarah.casswell@b2bmarketing.net