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5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team, With Elke Heiss, the Chief Marketing Officer at Y Soft

Being a woman and seeing how women can hurt each other in the business world instead of supporting each other is very upsetting. Women are…


Being a woman and seeing how women can hurt each other in the business world instead of supporting each other is very upsetting. Women are taught to compete (against men mostly) and therefore it makes them competitive against each other. A movement that encourages females at an early age to be empowered, mentored in business skills and that they do not need accolades from men would be a good start. It is also important that women don’t need to be extreme to be successful. By that I mean women don’t need to turn down what some can be consider being aggressive.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Elke Heiss, the Chief Marketing Officer at Y Soft. Elke Heiss leads the company’s global marketing efforts. She is responsible for developing the company’s integrated marketing strategy, positioning and messaging, brand awareness and thought leadership activities. Ms. Heiss has successfully reshaped and reenergized the global marketing department resulting in respect from the company’s board and within the broader company.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

As my career progressed, I increasingly had positions where I managed teams. This started while I was still in Europe and continued when I moved to the US over twenty years ago. I worked within marketing agencies managing technology company accounts and being responsible for P&L at these agencies. I really enjoyed working with CEOs and educating them on integrated marketing. 4 years ago, I decided to do this on my own. I was doing this type of consulting for Y Soft and then was asked to become CMO.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Early on, I realized I wanted to work in tech, particularly B2B, because I am sort of an adrenaline junkie. These types of companies are usually led by very passionate and innovative CEOs. They never stop thinking of a better mousetrap and developing something new, ultimately wanting to make the world a better place. I was first introduced to this adrenaline inducing “drug” in the early 1990s with a company called XIRCOM, led by Dirk Gates, who created the 1st wireless LAN.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is one of those stories that is only funny years later. It was certainly not funny at the time. It is about crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s — in other words, triple checking everything. I was working with a young startup who was exhibiting at CeBIT. There was tremendous excitement about their press conference and I was thrilled to have organized a press room where we were expecting about 50 journalists. Half an hour before our presser, a very large company came along and said it was their room. We both had paperwork confirming the room. At the time, I was paralyzed and panicked. In the end, we solved it but the lesson was to triple check these important things ahead of time.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

It is important to lead as well as manage. To lead an effective team, you have to understand the company’s strategy and make sure you have the skills within the team to deliver on that strategy. The team needs to understand integrated marketing, how they fit in and be accountable for their role. However, the team has to continue to deliver beyond the current strategy as well. For this, the team needs to be empowered, their skills can be developed, and they need the right technology for the job. Frequent team meetings are also needed to help keep the team cohesive.

What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?

Time zones! And not being together physically. Despite web conferencing tools, not being there means people are not hearing the water cooler or hallway conversations. These are sometimes the most important conversations about what is really happening within the dynamics of a team. That is why it is important that the entire team get together on occasion despite the cost of travel. For example, we recently completely redesigned and updated our website. Even with web conferencing, it was more difficult to discuss design changes than if we were next to each other looking at the same screens.


What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Be a leader. Set clear strategy and empower people. Empowering people is a strong motivator. Even still, each employee is different, and CEOs need to help their leaders map employee’s personal goals with company goals.

Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?

I completely agree with this. There are many things leaders can do to retain talent. It starts with hiring the right people in the first place. Do they have the skills that match the job and the right culture fit. The recruitment process needs to be very positive from first contact through onboarding. KPIs should be created together and they should be very clear on how achieving them contributes to the company’s objectives. At the same time, leaders should find out what makes each individual employee tick, what makes them happy, what do they want to achieve personally and in their career. Honest and constructive feedback as well as rewards and recognition are important as is access to senior executives in presenting their own ideas. “Don’t work to live” means there has to be a good balance between your personal life and your work life.

Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

1. Understand the company’s strategy to build a team that can deliver on the strategy today and tomorrow. Anticipate what will be needed.

2. Develop the team’s skills both professionally and personally. Empathize and have a genuine concern for the individuals.

3. Ensure that the team is integrated — each has their own role but understands how it fits into the larger picture and how they support each other.

4. Communicate consistently with constructive & positive feedback often enough

5. Champion the team to upper management. Give them visibility and access especially when there are opportunities to present new ideas.

Prior to taking my current role as CMO, the previous head of marketing was a good example of being a manager instead of a leader — there was a lot of micro-managing happening. The consequence of this was that the team’s potential was not realized, and, in fact, they were under-utilized and therefore unhappy. This was shown in the work and the lack of team energy.


You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Being a woman and seeing how women can hurt each other in the business world instead of supporting each other is very upsetting. Women are taught to compete (against men mostly) and therefore it makes them competitive against each other. A movement that encourages females at an early age to be empowered, mentored in business skills and that they do not need accolades from men would be a good start. It is also important that women don’t need to be extreme to be successful. By that I mean women don’t need to turn down what some can be consider being aggressive.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is by Ralph Waldo Emerson “Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes. Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” My own trail has been different than what would be considered normal. I’ve lived in many different countries and have learned from those experiences. I didn’t go the traditional route of settling down. I take opportunities that come my way and live my life on my own terms.

Originally published at medium.com

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