Fair Exchange: Bite-sized training helps marketer upskilling
by Erna George (@) We leaders all know that, in the long run, coaching saves time and, when done the bite-size way, it doesn’t have to take copious amounts. What is required is planning, persistence and presence.
Coaching is underused and a key challenge is time — time is scarce and getting it right the first time means not having to repeat the action, therefore saving even more time. Additionally, in a fast-changing world, we have to get ourselves up to speed and the old adage of ‘to eat an elephant, one must do it one bite at a time’ comes to mind.
Planning for relevance and to ensure coaching happens
Understanding knowledge or skills gaps, and what needs closing, is a critical starting point, so ensure you have the basics of an individual development plan set and agreed on. Decide and agree on the core focus areas that benefit the individual and the business. Why? When team members see the impact they have on a brand issue (that is potentially in their target), it ratifies that they’re progressing and are rewarded for it. When you understand gaps, you can ensure you expose people to the right meetings, projects and content.
Keep an eye out for fresh news in the world of marketing to ensure relevance of branding principles and approaches. In the past week alone, I’ve learnt about new approaches to segmentation and new ways to stay connected to consumers — all from my morning check-in on LinkedIn.
It’s a rule for me to scan LinkedIn before I leave for work at least three mornings a week. It’s scheduled and, when I find a great piece that either closes a learning gap I know exists in my team or expands my horizons, I share it on my marketing team’s WhatsApp group. Time taken? Maybe 10mins before the craziness of the day starts.
In addition, it’s inspiring, coming from a different perspective. What the team does with this information is up to them. I sometimes reference it but, importantly, they note I invested the time to share. Whether it’s something to broaden minds or to build skills, there are bite-sized lessons everywhere.
If the focus on training is constantly on your mind, it becomes a habit. When you are in formal engagements, insert some probing questions to see how learning is progressing and recommendations for people to seek learnings within the next steps of the project — place the journey in their hands while you guide.
Ensure they shadow on relevant projects or meetings to learn by osmosis. No extra time needed. When doing, please note that it’s like meditating (people’s minds wander), so contextualise to ensure they are clear on what they’re supposed to get out of the session. All the lessons will fall into place over time but you’re not instructing; you’re allowing an experience.
Sometimes I will encourage carpooling to and from external meetings to have time to set the scene for the ‘lesson’ or chat through takeouts for our backpacks of learnings. We learn from each other’s ways of thinking. opening minds to different ways of looking at the same issue in what may be ‘dead time’.
Encourage feedback for a few reasons
- You can ensure your style of coaching is working and showcase that you’re open to learning (humility may breed openness from the other parties — leaders open to learning encourage the same from their teams
- Asking people to repeat what they have learnt in their own words can make concepts more sticky in their minds, and
- In talking in a relaxed conversational way and in context about your brands and the marketing jobs to be done, it allows a different part of the brain to fire and should make for easier recollection later.
Give the gift of your full presence — no distractions. Amplify your marketing efforts and experience by sharing.
My team know that my attention span is short so they must be bright, be brief and be gone. In return, I must be present. My presence enhancers? Phone off and turned over (no distracting flashing lights); sitting at the meeting table away from my desk; and sitting with our line of sight away from the glass door to my office. Sometimes we may need to step away into a meeting room; five minutes in an environment like this ensures focus and clarity.
If you’re fully present, you can listen for what is or isn’t being said. You can fill in the right blanks, and encourage broader thinking in relevant areas. You’ll use every interaction to the full and everyone will get more out. You’ll repeat less and you can push further in the next round as, without the clutter of other stuff, you’ll remember the quality of interactions and where you left off clearly.
In sharing learnings and insights, teams are left feeling empowered and valued, and this builds engagement. An engaged team wants to learn, and will build the momentum of learning in the organisation. Your team will be ready, armed and adaptable to pounce on new opportunities and first-mover advantage — a lot stronger than you alone.
Remember it takes:
- Planning: Know your and their development areas, then source opportunities to close these gaps
- Persistence: On-the-job lessons and feedback with context (in the moment), always
- Presence: Your complete undivided focus in the moment
If you and your team are building experiences together, your approach to branding will be in sync and in this there are four winners:
- You win: There is a great sense of satisfaction to see people progress, your time is freed up and you learn from them
- The team members win as they learn new skills and ways of thinking
- The business wins as, when people feel that their careers are being nurtured and progressed, they are more committed
- The brand wins as the team gets stronger and the best minds are building towards its success — sourcing from new avenues and going beyond the obvious to be different or better.
After starting at Unilever in a classical marketing role, Erna George (@) explored the agency side of life, first as a partner at Fountainhead Design, followed by the manic and inspiring world of consultancy at Added Value. She has returned to client-side, leading the marketing team in the Cereals, Accompaniments & Baking Division at Pioneer Foods. Her monthly “Fair Exchange” column on MarkLives concerns business relationships and partnerships in marketing and brandland.
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