Managing your team’s time and energy has gotten complicated. We’re inundated with information and communication 24/7, so it’s easy to get sidetracked, and it’s sometimes hard to know if we’re spending vast amounts of effort trying to accomplish things that aren’t worth the effort.
Say your main goal is to make your clients happy, but they have a set of goals that aren’t realistic or that wouldn’t produce the results they expect. Do you expend the effort anyway, try extra hard, and hope for the best? Or do you make the hard choice to explain what isn’t possible, and why you’re proposing to focus on more productive endeavors?
What’s more, pursuing an ambitious, high-visibility goal can boost your brand, but pursuing unachievable goals will hurt your brand. Believing that your team can accomplish anything is exactly the right mindset, but that doesn’t mean you should do everything. Not every goal is right for your clients. Not every new technology is meant for their type of business. Not every social media trend is one that will enhance their reach across the right audiences.
It isn’t just about the specific goals you pursue. You can get caught up comparing yourself to others and fail to cultivate your team’s unique personal brand traits, which feed each team member’s own unique potential. Effective leadership is not about chasing the newest shiny thing. Instead of the sweet, invigorating sense of success you might expect from something that seems “innovative,” your team will only experience more stress and frustration if you fail to keep them on a path toward specific, realistic outcomes.
Every company or team has its biggest resource drainers, but the following three areas are often among the worst culprits. To make the most of your team’s talent, put these three behaviors on your Not-To-Do list:
1. Being a people pleaser
At our core, we’re all in the people business, and trust is one of the defining factors of success for any company. So is satisfying your clients, and sometimes you have to delicately balance the two. Set realistic expectations for clients by being as open, honest, and specific as possible at all times — especially when it comes to telling the hard truths. Your clients’ successes and failures are, in equal measure, linked to your own reputation and branding.
Here’s how this can play out in the marketing world. “Sometimes a client’s taste doesn’t match with the messaging you’re trying to get out, and it’s important to let the client know,” notes Shay Berman, CEO of Digital Resource. While he admits that pushing back on your client’s style preferences can be awkward, “letting a client with bad taste run the show will damage you and your client.” As the expert in effective messaging, a marketer is responsible for guiding his or her client to better decisions. When you’re feeling nervous about having a difficult conversation with your own clients, just remember that honesty really is the best policy for both you and them.
2. Holding your tongue
Professionalism is about projecting an image of maturity and courtesy, but it doesn’t require a counterproductive level of politeness. Kim Scott, a CEO coach and the author of “Radical Candor,” describes the tendency to keep quiet unless we have something nice to say as “ruinous empathy.” If someone makes a mistake and you don’t address it, it tends to make life harder for everyone else on the team. Ultimately, it’s unfair to everyone to sweep it under the rug. Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you if you mishandled a client conversation so you can do better on the next call?
“We all screw up. It’s actually an act of kindness to tell somebody when they’re screwing up,” Scott said in an interview with Business Insider. “It’s not mean, and yet we often feel mean.” Redefine professionalism on your team as constructive, realistic, sincere feedback. Rather than clamming up when you notice a mistake, call it out gently but directly. Scott recommends doling out praise in public and offering constructive criticism in private. Pretty quickly, your team members will learn that, on your team, feedback is not paired with shaming or power games, and it’s not something anyone should take personally. Everyone will be better for it.
3. Competing among yourselves
While it’s good to overcome your people-pleasing, truth-quashing tendencies, you don’t want to turn into Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Plenty of high-profile executives pride themselves on their cutthroat tactics, but in fact, that approach is nothing but destructive. It destroys morale, which ultimately destroys profitability, and it destroys brands on both the corporate and the personal level. So don’t encourage your team members to see each other as competitors. Robert Glazer, founder of Acceleration Partners, recalls a new employee telling him how surprised he was by how helpful his new colleagues were. At the employee’s previous job, people kept valuable insights to themselves to maintain a competitive advantage within the company. That’s not the type of culture you should promote.
Your employees are colleagues, and they should be focused on outperforming the real competition rather than each other. A little playful intramural competition can be healthy, but if your work culture encourages employees to win at all costs and act as lone rangers, your team members will ignore important perspectives and make decisions that are in their own best interest rather than the client’s. Instead, focus your efforts on unifying your team against your external competitors. That approach will encourage a more collaborative culture that will benefit all your clients.
To help your team do its best, put this Not-To-Do list at the center of your mindset.