How to Be an Innovative Leader in Your Company

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Working in a new position at a company that requires a different mindset to get results can be very challenging for any leader.

And this very thing happened to me…

New Job. New Mindset.

About 6 years ago, I left a consumer product company to join a component manufacturer. I went from selling the beds to promoting the ingredients. This transition took some mental and psychological adjusting because I had to shift my thinking from B2C to B2B.

The company I work for now is a top-notch group with a 129-year history and an excellent reputation, known for its operational excellence. Although the company’s story goes back more than a century, our current marketing efforts are a recent concept.

From the outset, I knew that to move the needle I had to get creative.

In addition to the lack of marketing history and shifting my own mentality to B2B, I was working with a very small budget. This led me to a big question…

How do you have an impact when there is a lack of appreciation for the discipline and meager budgets to fund needed marketing efforts?

Aware of the Unknown

It helped to report to a guy who was well aware about what he didn’t know.

In other words, he didn’t understand marketing, and trusted me to do my job.

He allowed me the freedom to create programs that were going to meet our business objectives.

This brings me to my first point:

  • You have to go for the early win
  • You need to get people nodding “Yes”
  • You have to show them the positive impact you can make right away

Yes, you still need to have your long-term objectives lined up, but it helps to build on some small successes in order to gain more trust from the group.

This will enable you to grow your budget, and then attack the big picture.

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If you are starting with a limited budget, like I was, then you’ll have to create some understanding around the idea that to break through the clutter, you will have to be innovative in your approach.

The truth of it is, no matter what the budget, is that you always need to be innovative.

And working with a small amount of money makes this even more important. One simple adjustment we made was maximizing the use of our in-house advertising agency. I noticed right away that this group was packed with talent that wasn’t being fully utilized.

Sell. Sell. Sell!

SELL your butt off!  

A big mistake marketing people make is failing to sell their ideas well.  The solution is to get buy-in from management for your approach by having them help you develop the business objectives in the beginning.

Once you do that, you can share the tactics with them and connect it to all of THEIR ideas.

Everything starts with a good strategy, so get them involved in order to have support going forward.

Measure EVERYTHING

First, you need to establish, with management, what success looks like.  Then, agree on how you will measure it so when your program is over, there is NO DEBATING whether it was successful or not.

Be Patient and Be a TEACHER

You are going to have to sell your programs and ideas over and over again, and probably to the same people.

Remember that this is okay; when they are asking questions, it tells you they are interested.

If your group is not used to aggressive marketing programs, it is going to take some time to get them connected. Don’t be condescending, and don’t show off how brilliant you are, throwing around big marketing terms.

People who do that are morons with huge egos who need to prove they are the smartest people in the room.  There is no room for this when you are building something important.

Marketing is Everything

The more supporters you can inspire by simplifying everything, the better off you are going to be when you are integrating your ideas with others’ in the company.

Great marketing campaigns only work when operations, sales, and senior management are sold on the direction.

You will be much more successful when you have people wanting you to win. I am very lucky because I work for a company that has been open to our efforts.

Personal Experience

I have had hundreds of people compliment me, both inside the company and outside, on what we have done at Leggett and Platt in the last 5 years.  They can’t believe how innovative we have been, and they constantly refer to the fact that Leggett and Platt is not the same company that it was 5 years ago.

My response is to make sure they are giving credit for the success to the senior managers at Leggett & Platt.

Yes, we are creating the programs, but at the end of the day, none of it would have seen the light of day if it were not for their support.  They were the ones who have had to trust and to change.  And when you are dealing with 129 years of doing something a certain way, change is NEVER easy.

In my opinion, they are the ones who deserve the credit.

Specific Instructions

Be aggressive, and don’t be afraid to be firm in your opinion and direction.   Assure you’re focused on meeting a business objective rather than just putting together something creative, and make sure you get the results.  If you do, the company will grow in a direction your whole team can support, and the person leading the change will be you.

Recap

Here are some takeaways on how to be an innovative leader in your company:

  • Get some early wins and build on small successes
  • With a small budget, create understanding that you will need to be innovative in your approach
  • Sell your ideas and get buy-in from the right people
  • Define success, then measure everything
  • Be patient, be a teacher, and inspire others

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Mark Quinn is the VP of Marketing for the Residential Segment at Leggett and Platt
He also blogs on his experiences and opinions on his blog Q’s Views

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Image Sources:  tommyland

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