Effective leaders excel at motivating their teams to develop their strengths, persevere through challenges, and drive results. These qualities have only become more essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, as employees work from home and cope with both minor distractions and high-stress situations. As a remote manager in my position as Global Head of Audience Intelligence and Measurement at Quantcast, I take an empathetic approach to leadership. Based on my experience working with a diverse group of media analytics experts across various disciplines, I offer this advice for leading through adversity:
- Empathy unlocks the best in your people. Over the last year and a half, employees have been dealing with challenging work-from-home situations, whether they’ve been alone in a studio apartment, back in their childhood bedroom, or surrounded by children taking remote classes (or, more likely, not). Accommodating various scenarios and schedules was not easy for me as a manager, but it has been worth the extra effort. By granting flexibility to my team members, I gave them support and the space to figure out how to manage their time productively. My team was willing to adjust their work schedule and hours to get their job done, because they knew I had their backs. When you lead with empathy, the people who report to you will rise to the occasion, determining what they need to do to perform well. Yet, if you push and push for results on a rigid timeline, you’re just going to push them out.
- You’re only as good as your team. It’s important to build a team with complementary skill sets. When I made one of the biggest jumps in my career, managing the media analytics of one of the largest advertisers in the US, I filled in my own knowledge gaps by hiring experts in the disciplines that were new to me. I worked with them to understand and share knowledge, which enabled everyone on the team to grow and learn from the experience. As a result, my team developed a reputation as problem solvers because we could collaborate together to develop solutions for our clients as a unified front. Teamwork should be mutually beneficial: it’s not about who works for you but how you work with each other.
- Be prepared to learn from anyone or anything. The biggest growth can come from surprising places, including failures. As a graduate student in France, I enrolled in an economics class I had already taken in the US, and therefore assumed I would not need to put in a lot of work. But when I rolled into the exam after skimming my notes in English, I made a minor yet substantial mistake, mixing up the French words for ‘to borrow’ and ‘to lend.’ Needless to say, I did not pass the exam. It was a very humbling experience, which taught me an enduring lesson: knowing the subject matter isn’t enough; you have to present it in the right way. From my past failures, I’ve discovered that it may take awhile to lick your wounds and figure out what went wrong, but if you can learn from it, then the sky’s the limit–for you, your team members, and everyone who works with you.
- Promote work-life balance. For my team as well as myself, I believe that self care is essential. When I prioritize time with my family, it makes a big difference in my overall happiness–in life and at work. And it only adds to my productivity on the job: I am more strategic and thoughtful at work because I am more protective of my time with my family. Another part of self-care is putting my job responsibilities in perspective–if you get too stressed in a job, it affects your ability to function effectively in your position. I encourage my team to find that balance and set boundaries for themselves.
- Deliver excellence, consistently. And if you’re not able to, be upfront about it. Knowing that they are recognized for consistently delivering work that is valuable and highly sought after is what inspires my team to continue to strive for excellence. This involves keeping up with the latest developments in the industry, sharing new ways to approach problems with each other and clients, and collectively learning from our success and failures.
By taking an empathetic approach to leadership, you put the individual first, but in doing so, you ultimately strengthen the team as a whole. People feel valued when their managers give them autonomy, flexibility, and support, which motivates them to want to return the favor and give their best back. When people are happy in their jobs, they do better in their jobs. And that benefits everyone.
To learn more about strategies for success in the changing advertising landscape, you can read 3 Lessons Learned: Why Resiliency and Agility Are Essential in Today’s World.