I began my career 18 years ago in a technical marketing operations role, so I’ve always been heavily involved with understanding, implementing, and using various systems, tools, and platforms.
Throughout that time, I’ve had opportunities to move into different management roles. Sometimes I’ve managed teams with only a few people, and other times I’ve managed growing teams of up to 10-15 people.
You might think someone who is technical isn’t a natural born leader. I’d argue, however, that the same analytical skills we use to manage technology can be applied to managing people.
Don’t always make the obvious choice
At DemandGen, we work on hundreds of projects across dozens of clients every single year. When determining whether to assign someone a particular project, it isn’t just about numbers or bandwidth (although those are two important considerations):
- Relationship: Does someone have an existing relationship with the client that makes it most efficient and most effective for that person to take on that project or task?
- Bandwidth: Does that individual have the availability to take on this task in the given timeframe?
- Opportunity: Can I assign someone a new project that will strategically push them outside their comfort zone, or open a door to learn something new?
The third consideration is the most important variable I consider.
Even if someone has both the relationship and the bandwidth, you may want to strategically assign the project to someone else in order to grow and expand their skillset, putting them in a position of short-term struggle for potential long-term gain.
Wax on, wax off
You can’t talk about growth without training. It’s important to think about training opportunities in a very tactical way to allow team members to broaden their skillsets and give them opportunities to grow.
A structured training approach follows a developed curriculum (e.g., online courses, microlearning, third-party training). With an unstructured training approach, you consciously make the effort to continuously put challenges in front of people to create an organic path for growth. Exactly like Mr. Miyagi, but in a professional setting.
I’m not knocking a structured training approach. If you’re being an effective manager, though, you should also be training people every single day through the thoughtful and conscientious decisions you make about the challenges and tasks you provide for your team members.
Maintain a balance between people and technology
Coming from a technical background — where I spend a great deal of time thinking critically — helps me be a better manager. I can think through the lens of an architect about how I’m meeting the needs of the people on my team for training, development, and career growth.
Certainly, people with highly technical backgrounds sometimes move into a manager role and become disillusioned as they move further away from the technology.
Here at DemandGen, I’m fortunate to have a balance. In addition to managing a highly skilled team and helping individuals and the entire team grow professionally, I still get my hands dirty with the technology. This balance helps me be a better manager while remaining a technologist.
Because of the nature of what we do, you simply can’t remove yourself from the technical on a day-to-day basis because of the diverse, evolving, and varied set of technologies and ecosystems in which we work.
I like to think of myself as a player-manager. I’m calling the plays, managing the team, working the bullpen, and bringing in pitchers. But, I’m also coming up to bat, running bases, and catching balls in the outfield. It’s that delicate balance between strategically running plays, knowing your players and understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and contributing to the outcome of the game.
Your work is never done
No manager is ever perfect (although some come close). You’re always learning to be more effective, empathetic, supportive, and all the things a good manager should be.
We’re a professional services organization, which means we have to deliver a consistent standard of service to our clients 24/7. At the same time, we have to use our best judgment and take calculated risks to provide opportunities for growth.
It’s like a teaching hospital. If you’re doing it right, you’re continually building your bench of internal resources. Improving one’s skillset requires moving into areas of greater responsibility with minimal risk to the patient (or, in our case, the client).
The most important part, whatever your approach, is to provide opportunities for your people. You need to think thoughtfully and carefully about how you put a challenge in front of them, and then set them up for success while delivering the highest quality of work.
Tom Svec, Director of Marketing Technology Services, develops world-class marketing automation solutions such as lead scoring and nurturing, analytical systems and processes, and more for DemandGen clients. With deep experience in marketing analytics, campaign execution, sales and marketing alignment, demand generation and lead management tactics, honed over 15 years of B2B and B2C marketing operations experience, Tom is able to bring the perspectives of both the marketer and the salesperson to the table. Tom is certified as an Eloqua Master and an Eloqua Revenue Lifecycle Master, and is a Marketo Certified Technical Consultant.