How do you build a high-performance marketing team? It starts with employee happiness — and ends with a meteoric rise in your metrics. Are you ready to drive your team’s performance to celestial heights?
As a marketing executive, you must elevate your entire team’s performance. But cracking the whip, as the idiom goes, is an anachronistic form of team management. Instead, you need to understand your team. And your team needs to feel that you understand them.
Given the breadth of your responsibilities, do you really need to be concerned with feelings? Definitely. If you’re concerned about delivering results, you better be concerned with how your team feels. People are complex. And this complexity is amplified when you try to get everyone to row in the same direction.
Do you ever feel like you’re attempting to navigate the strait between Scylla and Charybdis? By leveraging the happiness rating technique, however, you can align divergent individual qualities into a cohesive team that conquers the unimaginable. And it starts with a simple question.
Happiness = productivity and performance
According to Aristotle, “Happiness is mostly thought to be [the ultimate end], for this we always choose for its own sake and never with a view to anything further.” Do you hold happiness in the same regard?
Happy employees are typically more productive employees. As a result, I ask one simple question during one-on-one meetings with direct reports:
“What’s your happiness rating? It’s on a scale from 1-10 — and there are no right or wrong answers.”
Yes, you might not get an accurate answer… at least on your first attempt. By now, you might think that your direct reports will likely provide responses based on what they believe you want to hear.
You might be right. But this isn’t about hearing, it’s about listening. And your job doesn’t stop with asking a question. As you listen, you’re collecting information. This is important because you will need this information to connect with your team on a deeper level as you cultivate a high-performance culture.
As such, you need to go below the surface and learn about how each person really feels. After all, feelings and emotions are anything but surface-deep. In fact, you might discover that your rational employees are highly irrational. But that’s okay because so are you!
Discussions about the irrationality of humans have circulated among intellectual circles throughout history. The Scottish philosopher David Hume, for example, believed that “reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will” and that it “never oppose(s) passion in the direction of the will.” More recently, however, António Damásio, neuroscientist and author of “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain,” argues that there’s an intricate interplay between emotions and reason.
According to Damásio, your emotions facilitate your decision-making process. It’s part of his somatic marker hypotheses. And it might help you understand your team. Damásio writes that “feelings point us in the proper direction, take us to the appropriate place in a decision-making space, where we may put the instruments of logic to good use.”
Once you understand that emotions, feelings and reason are all intricately connected, you can see the importance of taking a feelings-focused approach to leadership.
How to connect feelings to performance
The 11 steps below can help you connect feelings and emotions to performance and productivity.
1. Ask to rate happiness from 1-10
Can happiness be accurately quantified? Probably not. But that’s not the point.
You want to learn about what matters to each team member. As you do this, you’re also going to build trust, develop connections and set the stage for high performance.
2. Ask why
Once you get a score, you want to ask the “why” behind the number. In other words, you want to draw out a more complete response.
Ask what feelings contributed to the score. The numeral value is simply an anchor point for a deeper conversation.
3. Validate feelings
Validating feelings might be the most important step in the process. When your direct reports talk about their feelings, you must validate them.
As such, avoid giving advice or minimizing what they’re feeling. Rather, use statements such as “I understand why you feel that way” or “I can see how frustrating that can be.”
Even if the frustration is part of the job (e.g., pulling reports, etc.), you need to acknowledge that it’s a frustrating aspect of the role. You might be surprised about the shift in mood that follows.
4. Invite lower scores
Depending on the corporate culture, motivations, personality traits and a variety of other factors, your direct reports might provide answers that don’t truly reflect how they feel.
Exert effort to make each person feel comfortable providing an accurate response (to the extent that self-reports can be accurate). This includes informing each person that it’s acceptable to have any score.
As a leader, let your direct reports know that your intention is to ensure they’re happy and that you can help address any concerns — even if it’s about you.
5. Seek improvement from high scores
If you get a high score (i.e., an 8 or 9), your direct report is simply informing you that there’s room for improvement. A nine might sound good, but this isn’t about your subjective valuation of a number. As a result, you need to follow up with another question:
“What can we do to bring this number to a 10”?
Even if you get a 10, you still want to ask if there’s anything to do to improve happiness — and you might discover that a 10 is far from perfect.
6. Address minor grievances
During this process, you might discover that your employees might be happy, but they’re frustrated with a few minor things. Make sure to discuss each grievance the moment it’s brought forth.
This is important because identifying minor issues early can help ensure they don’t metastasize into a larger problem. Plus, your team will feel good that you’re concerned about seemingly trivial aspects of the job.
7. Create a cadence
As a marketing leader, you probably hold recurring one-on-one meetings for each team member. During each regularly scheduled meeting, you should ask the happiness rating question. Remember, you’re only going to do this in private meetings within a predictable cadence.
8. Use psychology to keep rating high
After your best efforts, everyone on your team continues to insist that their high ratings are accurate. Now it’s time for you to introduce a psychological driver to cement that belief over a longer period of time.
According to renowned psychologist and author Robert Cialdini, the commitment and consistency principles are useful in facilitating compliance due to “our nearly obsessive desire to be consistent with what we have already done.” If you get your team members to talk about why they love their job, they’ll likely strengthen this belief over time.
9. Ask what motivates them
Motivations, which facilitate goal setting and provide the perceptual lens through which to view the external environment, are likely to differ dramatically among your team.
Do you know what motivates your direct reports? Some people are driven by money and title while others only seek validation and appreciation.
Ask your direct reports about their motivations, while ensuring they feel comfortable providing any answer.
10. Ask what they need
Ask each person what you can do to make life easier. If you want your team to perform at a higher level, you need to focus on the wants, needs and desires of every group member. Is there anything you can do to help your direct reports become happier?
11. Seek change in yourself
As you collect information from each person, take a moment to assess your own management style. If you’re fortunate, you’ll get a small critique.
By understanding what you might be doing incorrectly, at least from their perspective, you can make changes to your management style or your messaging.
Remember, your job isn’t to solve every problem. Instead, it’s to engage in a dialogue while validating the feelings of each person in the group.
Messaging your team
When you market to your customers, you create audience-specific messaging. And your team is no different. After capturing information in your one-on-one meetings, you might want to adapt your message based on what’s important to each person.
You’re in a unique position to capture information from fluid one-on-one dialogues. Don’t you wish you had that level of exposure to your customers? Armed with insights regarding feelings and motivations, you can start to get everyone moving in the same direction with greater intensity.
As you validate feelings within the above framework, you’ll also notice that happiness ratings will increase. And when that happens, your team’s performance is on the precipice of a dramatic spike in performance.
What about my team? Do my direct reports really tell me the truth? Who knows for sure? But one thing is certain, their performance is off the charts.
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