Developing others: teams, mentoring and beyond

One big theme among marketing leaders has been investing time and effort into developing their relationships with people and with their teams. From a strong network of experts that can help you get things done, to making your team stronger and showing leadership, to finally learning from customers and having first-hand accounts of user experience, investing in people can yield amazing benefits for marketers.

For Sanofi’s Digital Transformation Lead Caitlin Nguyen, meeting as many people as possible from different backgrounds and learning about different points of view has been one of the best investments of her time. Caitlin revels in asking lots of questions, attending different events, “accepting that each opinion is different” and that for any view you might have, there is always an opposing view out there. It’s all about learning, networking and acceptance.

Caitlin says: “For each conviction that you have, about anything about your work, or what’s the right thing, there’s always an opposing view. Be open to being challenged, be open to feeling uncomfortable. “

This sentiment is echoed by Michelle Webb, Commercial Director for the NFL. Michelle has learnt that one of the best investments of her time at work is time spent with people. Whether it’s been feeling like a family within and alongside Team GB ahead of the London Olympics, or learning the ropes of her new role at the NFL, investing time in developing a team and creating cohesion has always paid off. “If you’re communicating well, things don’t fall through the cracks.” It makes everyone feel a better sense of achievement and, as a manager, it makes your job easier.

P&G Senior Director and Category Head Chetna Soni’s top career investment has been speaking to consumers directly to gather the essential customer feedback that you can only get from direct conversations. 

Time spent outside the office empowered her work in the office, and this continued during lockdown albeit a bit less often because of Covid-19 restrictions. Pre-Covid, Chetna’s favourite way to interact with customers was actually, as much as possible, to interview people in their own home to understand their personal context and how they use P&G products.

Chetna told us: “The best investment of my time has been the time I’ve spent outside of the office, spending time with consumers understanding their life, their aspirations, their pain points.”

Finally, building a network of mentors is the best investment of time that Ben Flintoff, Former General Manager of Baskin-Robbins Australia, recalls making. Having someone to chat to, to bounce ideas off and learn from has been his most foolproof way of avoiding mistakes:

“Mentors can change over time depending on your work situation and everyone you form a mentor relationship with has something different to add.”

Developing self

Amit Thard, Regional Head of Ecommerce, SEA, at Black & Decker, has particularly appreciated the return on investment from paying for online courses with his own money. He’s made it a habit of doing online courses once a year to keep learning new things:

“I go online all the time, it doesn’t have to be a formal university. There’s always some good idea in there and it helps on the business side.”

Paying for her own doctorate in management was Katherine Freeley’s top investment. The former Colgate-Palmolive Associate Sourcing Director for Media, now Global Media Head, Procurement, at Novartis chose to study conflict management in order to understand how to harness the power of conflict in her work context. She considers this to have been one of the most useful steps taken in her career.

Her advice?

“Don’t be afraid of conflict, manage it constructively, express your opinion and have an open work environment.” 

As for David Pugh, former Marketing Director at MG Motor UK Ltd: 

“Every day’s a school day. I love marketing and I’m a generalist who’s always learning, and always looking to learn about marketing. When I think back on my decision to go to business school, that was the best investment in my career. This is why I always encourage studying.”

Pursuing passions 

Learning doesn’t just have to be about education and getting a degree; it can also be about following a passion. Shruti Samant, Digital Marketing Specialist at P&G Health, focussed on composing music and filmmaking as a hobby alongside her studies. 

Eventually, combining her passion with her academic knowledge helped her come up with the creative content she generates today:

“I think marketing is a blend of expression from arts that I got from my passion and logical data analytics that I got from science of my engineering background, and definitely concepts and strategy and fundamentals from MBA. So in the process of pursuing my passion as a hobby, I learned the art of creating content and I think content is the most important element in marketing.”

And how about learning to be a better public speaker? It’s what Lizzie Widhelm, SVP Ad Innovation and B2B Marketing at SXM Media, invested her money and time in, aiming to become more confident. This has helped her shape her career, and also have the confidence to make her voice heard outside of work, too. 

Lizzie says: “At the time, I thought ‘What am I going to use this for, I’m not the CEO of the company.’ But since then, I’ve had more opportunity than ever to speak on behalf of the company but also I speak in women’s groups where I speak on parenting issues and things I am passionate about. Because I put in the effort, I’m now comfortable with it.” 

Investments can mean very different things to different people, but the one common denominator behind all our guests’ answers to this question has been how their ‘best investment’ has bettered them as people and as professionals. Whether making them more efficient or more grounded, better at their jobs or outside them, or finally just allowing them the opportunity to escape their everyday and clear their minds, their best investments are all personal and yet applicable to anyone starting out or well on the way in their marketing career.

These insights were gathered in interviews with marketing experts as part of our Shiny New Object podcast series.  The host of the Shiny New Object podcast is Tom Ollerton, founder of Automated Creative.