How to strategically align an existing team

This post is by Zena Churchill, a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. Over the past 20 years, Zena has worked for some of the biggest international and national brands. Having worked both agency and client side, Zena has strong insight and experience across most facets of marketing, specialising in media, strategy and BTL.

Hands up who has ever moved into an exciting new leadership role only to have the gloss of it all rapidly fade when you realise the team you are now responsible for just doesn’t work – at all?

strategically align an existing team

No matter how experienced you are in the industry, one of the biggest challenges you will face when you take on a new position, either within the same company or with a new company altogether, is taking on an existing team.

These teams will have a dynamic and with that a status quo, so as a result it can be tough to integrate in and make leadership decisions while you are still trying to figure who is who and what the hell is going on.

If you have ever been in this situation, or you are currently in it you know how it goes. Everything is great for the first few days, but by the end of week one it becomes very obvious that there is a team problem. Understaffed, overstaffed, under skilled or a really poor team culture, whatever the issue, it will rise to the surface very quickly, and unless it’s dealt with it will just sit there – festering. So what do you do?

From the extensive work TrinityP3 has done with marketing teams over the years we regularly see variations of the same three approaches taken by marketing managers to address the issues they are facing (or not), each with vastly different results.

The ‘nothing to see here’ approach

Also known as the ostrich method, this approach involves ignoring the issues at hand and pretending there is ‘nothing to see here’, while deep down secretly hoping the issues work themselves out before anyone else notices.

The problem is, everyone has already noticed and they were hoping you would be the one to sort it all out (they just forgot to mention it during the interview process). Doomed to fail in the long run, the biggest issue with this approach is that these problems will continue to impact both the teams and your performance, meaning you are setting yourself up to fail in your new role from the get-go.

The ‘rearrange the deckchairs on the titanic’ approach

Whilst the origin of this phrase is up for debate, the fact that this is one of the most ineffective approaches you can take is not. For fear of upsetting the team or because the company won’t allow you to move anyone on (yes, I have worked there), rearranging the deckchairs means you feverishly scramble around inventing a new team layout with exactly the same people.

Complete with new roles, position descriptions and KPI’s the new deckchair configuration is an ill-fated attempt to save yourself and your marketing efforts from sinking. While it gives the impression that something has been done to fix the problems, moving the deckchairs does not remove the underlying issues on hand – an understaffed, overstaffed, under resourced or wrongly resourced team, it’s just given them a new job title.

It’s worrying how often the team at TrinityP3 sees this approach as a way of solving issues impacting a marketing team’s performance, when all it does is slow the inevitable sinking.

The ‘new world order’ approach

Developing a new world order is not the easiest of approaches, nor the most common, but it is the best one. To do it well involves investing time and energy to identify and address the team’s problems head on, in a strategic, methodical way with a clear end goal in mind – a streamlined, efficient and effective team with whom you will be able to deliver on departmental and company KPI’s.

Building a new world order involves fully understanding the strategic focus of the company, its goals and its KPI’s from the view point of every function of the business (don’t just listen to what the person who hired you told you, find out for yourself).

Once you understand this, you need to figure out how your team fits (currently and long-term) within the business to be able to deliver and contribute to the company moving forward. This multi-faceted approach to optimising a team for performance makes sure tenure, personality or other subjective factors are removed from the analysis of the team and allows you as the leader to make decisions based on the team member’s ability to deliver on the strategy and toward the positive growth of the company.

Because, if they are not able to do that, then they shouldn’t be there. This approach can cause some short term pain as you deal with the fall out of restructuring an established team and bedding down a new world order, but when done right, the mid to long term benefits will far outweigh any of the pain caused.

At TrinityP3 we have worked with many companies, helping align the marketing function (and team) with the strategic goals of the company. Using a team of industry experts, we assess a company’s situation from many angles both internally and externally, and while the outcomes may vary between companies, the approach we take during a strategic alignment and the characteristics of the team at the end share many commonalities.

Characteristics of a strategically aligned team

  1. Can clearly define the strategic direction of the company at a macro and micro level
  2. Is motivated and aligned with the business and the expected outcomes
  3. Will thrive in a challenging environment and continue to challenge the landscape (including themselves) to be better
  4. Allows you to work on the business more often than you are working in it
  5. Is populated with skilled individuals who are industry wise and solutions focussed

So, if you find yourself in a new leadership position with a new team that just isn’t working the way it should, don’t hide from the issues at hand or simply rearrange the furniture – it’s time to step up and create your new world order.

TrinityP3’s Marketing Structure Review service offers a comprehensive assessment of your internal structure. We deliver recommendations designed to optimise performance via the alignment of your marketing structure with the strategic focus and commercial purpose of your organisation. 

Why do you need this service? Read on to understand more

About Zena Churchill

Zena is a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. Over the past 20 years, Zena has worked for some of the biggest international and national brands. Having worked both agency and client side, Zena has strong insight and experience across most facets of marketing, specialising in media, strategy and BTL.

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