No matter what type of team you lead, every manager has to be a good marketer.
Of course I don’t mean the traditional sense of marketing, as in promoting products and services to potential customers. Managers must instead market their own teams internally—in other words, they must proactively tell their peers in the company what their team is doing and why it matters.
Silos will naturally arise in any organization. It’s very natural to identify more with your immediate team than with the organization as a whole. But this is why internal marketing of your team is so critical.
How do you get started? When I ran NetQoS, I placed a bulletin board outside each manager’s office and asked them to post the 3–5 most important metrics for their group. I then asked them to update their progress against these metrics when appropriate, but at least once a quarter.
It sounds simple, but those bulletin boards worked wonders. People could walk around and immediately understand their colleagues’ core priorities and how they were tracking.
Here are a few additional tips for marketing your department:
- Know your elevator pitch. Even if you don’t put up a bulletin board, you should know your team’s 3–5 key metrics by heart, including how they support company goals and how they’re tracking. Be prepared to communicate about them at any time in a short elevator pitch. You might use it in a meeting when your team’s activities come up, or when you’re at the coffee pot and someone asks “How are things going?”
- Avoid jargon. If any of your team’s metrics or activities consist of specialized language or jargon, it’s a good idea to restate the outward-facing version so people from any corner of the organization can follow the essential meaning. Use “earnings” instead of “EBITDA,” for example, keeping in mind the junior designer who might not have any idea what that clumsy group of letters stands for.
Also do your best to foresee potential misunderstandings. For example, imagine that you internally publicize that you’re aiming to raise the Net Promoter Score to 65. What happens when a software engineer checks out your goals? She might think: Raise it to 65? That sounds like a terrible score. Do those people over in customer success even know what they’re doing? Instead, phrase the goal in such a way that it’s clear that an NPS of 65 is excellent.
- Keep it simple. No one wants to see your 60-slide PowerPoint or hear you get into the weeds on project details. Cut out the noise and get to the signal: What’s critical for people to know? What’s the coolest thing going on? How is it relevant to your colleagues on other teams?
- Create your own mechanism for sharing information. Whether it’s an app like Khorus, a bulletin board outside your office, or a simple Google Doc, keep a concise summary of your team’s priorities and the latest updates where people can see it.
- Address the pushback and “suggestions.” New managers quickly notice that other people in the company have lots of ideas about how their team should be run. It’s very easy to say, “Sales should do XYZ” when you work in an entirely different department.
When your peers in the company express ideas about what your team should be doing, take time to grant the suggestion its fair due. Often you will find that the easiest answer from the outside isn’t the best answer, and you may need to communicate why you’re operating in a certain way again and again.
The best managers are able to articulate their reasoning in a way that takes outside ideas and criticisms seriously, enlightens others as to their perspective, and doesn’t verge into defensiveness.
As a manager, you’re a critical conduit of information. Don’t forget that one of your key audiences are the teams that work alongside you. Marketing your team will help you connect the dots and keep people energized—inside and outside your team—about getting the right stuff done.