- A common language within organizations – and, by extension, the skills that this language refers to – is essential
- When assessing the current state, be honest about where you are and where you need to go
- Above all, ask yourself: What can I do to create a shared language, a shared efficiency?
For almost 10 years, I lived in places where English was not the primary language and rarely spoken at all beyond a few common phrases. While I always learned the native language of whatever country I lived in, acquiring that fluency never changed the fact that it required a mental and cultural switch – a shift – to understand and be understood.
In some ways, I found the isolation that comes from limited communication freeing: I thought more deeply, said less and listened better. But in professional settings, those limitations on effective, nuanced communication hampered productivity and required an enormous amount of patience and teaching to overcome. I often hear echoes of those experiences in my conversations with clients today.
With the recent major shifts in the marketing industry, technology impacts on business verticals, and cultural and generational shifts within the workforce, there are a lot of different “dialects” being spoken in marketing organizations.
We hear from clients about the need to upskill into “Marketing 2.0” or “next-generation marketing. When we dig deeper into the issues, we also hear about their need to educate on brand and company goals, develop intergenerational team skills, or even teach the basics of how B2B marketing differs from B2C. Given these challenges, it is often hard to know where to start the conversation, much less which “language” to use when doing so. A common language – and, by extension, the skills that this language refers to – is essential.
To make it easier to get started on helping everyone speak the same language, consider the following steps.
1. Begin by setting the expectation in your organization that in today’s environment, everyone needs a periodic “marketing language” reset. Even the most senior and high-performing among us can benefit from checking in with what is changing and adding to their skillsets. In fact, the willingness to learn and adapt should be the hallmark of leading and performing well, so asking leaders to model this attitude should be an easy request.
2. Be honest about where you are and where you need to go. Taking inventory of your marketing team’s skills and comparing them to best practices is an important step. Knowing your company business goals for the near- and medium-term, as well as future trends in marketing that may impact your organization, is also important. Next, assess where your marketing organization is as a whole and as individuals. Consider the resources, technology and tools you may need in order to improve skills.
3. Decide what you need to get there and go. Can you hire differently to meet upcoming needs? Use a vendor to accomplish a critical task? What assets do you have on hand to improve performance, and what learning might you need to acquire? Above all, ask yourself: What can I do to create a shared language, a shared efficiency?
If you get into the habit of engaging in this reflection and planning annually in the same way you approach budgeting or professional reviews, you can actually shift your team from responding to deficiencies and problems to anticipating opportunities and innovating upon them.