Having worked in several digital companies or in a digital advertising team for over 10 years, I have seen a lot of management styles. Some good, some not so good. As I have taken up leadership positions along the way, I can honestly say one of my favourite things to see is [mostly] young executives come into the field so eager to “get” Paid Search, so focused and determined. I sometimes wonder – have I ever been that way? However, what really grinds me SOMETIMES, is when some managers don’t manage/nurture/encourage that hunger. I have had great mentors in the past – and it is from these less than a handful of people that I am going to draw on – as the basis of my advice to managers who have hungry execs, but see them leave for something better just after 6 months or less.
People learn differently
This point was going to first be titled as “Teach Them Right” because I truly feel sometimes managers don’t bother with the different characters they can have in a team. I am very grateful in a job that I had several years ago, two of the managers were very aware of the very different kinds of characters in the team. Heck we were a team of ladies that all came from different countries – yup, no two came from the same country. What did my managers do? They catered to that – and played to each of our strengths. Managers – know the communication level, style and attention your executive needs and use it.
Don't be too busy
We are all busy in this world. And hungry young executives really want to be busy more than you know. That is how most of them feel they learn – by doing. But if you do not take time to communicate not just their tasks, but the context of it, what the client usually demands & why we are asking a certain stance (nope, it doesn’t always make sense – and just because the client is paying the bills, in my opinion is not a good enough justification for every non best practice way of doing things). There are a lot of young executives who are ideological and want to believe in something, for example – the integrity of what we do. So take the time to ensure that they get it – or you are going to miss them being unhappy and be surprised when they hand in their notice.
Your job title doesn’t directly correspond to the level of respect you get from executives. We have always lived in a world where respect begets respect. I come from Nigeria, a country with a culture of defaulting to respecting/looking up to those who are older than you irrespective of some faults. I’m older than a lot of my peers these days, so off course I definitely respect this culture – and in a field where you can get 26-year-old Account Directors who will a lot of times manage people older than them, I am definitely looking to see whether the respect I give you is being reciprocated. And so are a lot of your account executives. Because they are smiling and nodding and go about their job with no huff & puff doesn’t mean you’ve got their respect. They are looking to you to be their leader, not their friend. If the latter happens – that’s a bonus, not the expected relationship status.
This actually ties in with my first point. When you have learnt how best to communicate with your account executive and are confident that you can get the best out of them – be honest with them. About what they are getting right (praise is important) and about what they keep doing wrong (constructive criticism is more important). I am a loud character, everyone knows this, I KNOW THIS. But one of my mentors still bravely decided to have a one on one with me not just to tell me I’m loud but to advice that it is NOT about changing my character but about working the room. If one shares the smaller office space with the CEO, CMO, CFO & a few board members – using my inside voice is the best volume for that space. It is an advice that has served me well and if you give such brave & honest advice to your executives they will want to stay close to you because they know they can trust you to tell them the truth – the good, the bad & the ugly.
This final one I think is the spice of life for every relationship. It is important we set expectations with clients, it is important to set expectations with family & friends and it is so important to set expectations with your account executives. From the big obvious ones like – a deadline is a deadline to the little ones like, the level of communication you require if they are going to be late into work. Sometimes, just expecting them to work off how you behave/do things isn’t enough.
I hope you have found this helpful and that a lot of you are smiling and nodding because you agree and that you are the kind of manager who knows to at least try to cater to different learning styles of your execs, tries not to be too busy, gives the level of respect they demand, is honest and sets the right level of expectation to their account executives. Another important thing to remember is that we have all been there - we all started as executives. So when you stroll out of that door sharp at 5.30pm but you see for the third/fourth time in a row your account executive is staying late, when they were the first to show up in the morning – just take a moment and make sure they are doing it for the right reason.