Marketing Leadership: 6 Rules For Leading Happy Teams

Marketing leadership rules to create a happy team header. If you want to know how to lead a marketing team that does great work, you need a grasp on what makes them happy. In a study on happiness and productivity among call center workers, published in The World Economic Forum, the authors found that happy employees achieved 13% higher sales than unhappy colleagues. Did they put in additional hours? Nope. They were simply happier. It appears that those happy employees simply used their time in more productive ways. Happiness seems to be responsible for at least some success in the workplace. This matters to people who lead marketing teams — especially to the 97% who responded in a CoSchedule survey saying they are not always successful in achieving their goals. How can you invest in your marketing team's happiness and produce better bottom-line results? Here are six rules to follow for happy marketing teams.

Marketing leadership: six rules for leading happy teams.

Click To Tweet

Lead and Manage Marketing Teams With This eBook and Template Kit

Strong marketing leadership requires strong team and project management. Learn everything you need to know about managing marketing projects and teams with this downloadable ebook and template kit.

1. Play to People’s Strengths

Some work requires doing things that you don’t like, but you should always take the opportunity to give people tasks in which they will enjoy or excel. Not only will this keep people feeling positive, but it will create a better product. Here are some strengths to keep in mind:
  • Who likes learning new software and tech? Ask your team what new tools they’ve tried lately and see who’s got a big list. Can they use this strength by making sure you’re using your tools most effectively?
  • Who has outstanding social skills? Look for the team member who always remembers birthdays, kids’ names, and weekend plans. Can they organize a team-building activity?
  • Who is good at explaining processes? Someone on your team is probably the one consistently writing numbered steps in the group chat or in emails. Can you pull them in front of your clients when onboarding, or can you have them assess some of your workflows?
  • Who is a natural leader? Is there someone who makes decisions and runs with them? Can you assign that person a team or small project to lead?
  • Who loves playing with data? This person might be the one who has their own ecosystem of spreadsheets which no one else can figure out. Can they use this data manipulation skill and interest to inform your marketing strategy?
A couple resources to identify strengths:
  • StrengthsFinder assessments (now rebranded to CliftonStrengths) are an industry standard for assessing strengths and pointing out resources to help people grow.
  • This free, fast Enneagram test is fun, and it can help you identify aspects of your personality to understand how to work better with others and the your best environment.

2. Provide Resources They Actually Want

Don’t be fooled — not every “perk” is actually a perk. By and large, most employees value their health, flexibility, and vacation time. Yes, even more than they value free snacks, free coffee, company-wide retreats, and employee outings. As a leader, you need to ask yourself, What does my marketing team need to succeed? We know that autonomy, mastery and purpose help to motivate employees—and I’d wager that they help far more than enticing offers of free coffee. I suggest giving your team the flexibility and tools to work in the way that they feel is best. Questions to ask your marketing team to update your resources. Then, set them up with a selection of great tools for managing their projects (like CoSchedule’s Work Organizer), and encourage them to figure out how they can use them to their best advantage. Look for tools that:

3. Make Space to Fail and Learn

Those who fail together, trust each other. Those who fail, have the opportunity to learn and produce better work in the future. Make your workplace a sacred place where failing is acceptable — as long as something is learned from it.

Make your workplace a sacred place where failing is acceptable.

Click To Tweet
Example: One thing we do at our company is the monthly Hack Day. We set aside all other work and “jam” on something together. Our Hack Days look like this:
  1. We set a day in advance. We clear our schedules of normal tasks during that day. Sometimes client-facing colleagues will set an Out of Office automated reply, just in case.
  2. On the Hack Day, our team lead chooses a project to work on and presents the project to the group in the morning. We break down tasks, decide on responsibilities, and then break away to complete the work.
  3. We have a team lunch, and we have a more casual chat about what we’re working on and what we’re learning.
  4. In the later half of the day, we see the pieces coming together. At the end of the day, we sit back and take a look at what’s been done.
  5. Most of our projects are web-based and take a few weeks to come fully to fruition, so we usually review Hack Day projects on a monthly or quarterly basis, rather than doing a full review on the day we make it.
Sometimes Hack Day tanks, but sometimes it’s the prototype for a brand new product. Here are other ways to make space to fail:
  • Ask your team members to include one thing that didn’t work in your monthly review, and explain why it didn’t work.
  • Hold retrospectives where your team can talk openly about things that did and didn’t work in your projects.
  • Model the behavior — show your team when something you tried didn’t work.

4. Set Aside Time to Regularly Meet With the Team

Far too many of us are overworked. Motivating an overworked team is tough, especially when you feel like you don’t have the extra time for personal check-ins. The occasional team lunch or one-on-one coffee might seem like an unnecessary expense, but it can do wonders for your marketing team’s happiness and morale. Your team will be happier if there is a sense of friendship and trust within the group. This also means being quick to address conflict, so it doesn’t bring everyone down by proxy. Give your marketing team a chance to forge a strong relationship. People don’t like to feel like they are just another cog in the machine. Take the time to get to know your team. What are their hobbies? Do they have family in the area? What do they do on the weekend? Meet with your team members, one on one, and ask about: Questions to ask during 1-1 meetings.

5. Stop Moving the Goal Posts

Our digital world moves quickly, and many of us are guilty of moving goal posts as we get more data about how a particular campaign is going. It’s tempting to set a goal, reach a goal, and then say, “Okay, what’s the next goal?” Maybe the previous one was just too low of a guess. When you’re laying out your goals, take your time to set realistic, business-driven marketing goals that will be a good cause for celebration when you achieve them. You can use a sophisticated OKR software that’s designed to help you do this, but even if you do, I caution you against setting too many metrics-based goals. Working with too many KPIs or working with goal posts that shift place every time you near them is demotivating. What you need is a clear, concrete, and OKR-driven growth strategy that’s ambitious yet realistic. What the S.M.A.R.T. acronym means. Use concrete, achievable goals, and use them sparingly. Examples of goals:
  • Increase conversion rate by 1% this month.
  • Double the number of places we cross-sell our product this year.
  • Maintain our client rating of 4.8 stars through the quarter.

6. Take Time to Understand Each Team Member's Long-term Goals and Help Them Get There

This goes hand-in-hand with getting to know your team as individuals and taking the time to understand what really motivates each of your team members. Few of us were born with the desire to run really effective instagram campaigns for a local restaurant chain. We all have real life goals that have far more sway over our day to day choices (e.g. starting a family, helping a parent, starting a business, being in a local play, getting in shape, finding a partner, etc.). Do you know what your marketing team envisions for themselves this year? In five years? Ten?

Do you know what your marketing team envisions for themselves? Ask them.

Click To Tweet
Take the time to ask. Here are some questions to get you started. Learning about your employee's professional goals. When the people on your marketing team feel valued on a personal level, this will invigorate a project and heighten your chances for success. That’s why it’s important to keep your marketing teams happy.

7. Understand The Traits A Leader Uses In Their Role

Effective marketing managers possess a unique set of leadership traits that enable them to drive successful marketing campaigns and lead their teams to achieve business goals. Become a master in these marketing leadership traits to be an effective leader. Marketing leaders are skilled strategic thinkers who can analyze market trends, identify opportunities, and develop comprehensive marketing strategies. On top of this, creativity is a crucial trait for marketing leaders. Allow room to think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas and campaigns. Marketing leaders need to be adaptable in today's fast-paced and ever-changing business environment: they need to anticipate change. Collaboration is key for marketing leaders, as they often work closely with cross-functional teams. Effective communication is essential for marketing leaders to convey their vision, goals, and expectations to their teams. By cultivating these marketing leadership traits, aspiring marketing managers can enhance their skills and position themselves for success in the field of marketing management.


There’s no golden set of rules for any team, but in our team, these are the things that work. Following these six rules helps us feel invigorated, motivated, and happy to be part of our team:
    1. Play to people’s strengths.
    2. Provide resources they actually want.
    3. Make space to fail and learn.
    4. Set aside time to meet with the team regularly.
    5. Stop moving the goal posts.
    6. Take time to understand each team member's long-term goals, and help them get there.
    7. Understand the traits a leader uses in their role.
We know that people do their best work when they are in a good mood, and as a marketing team leader, you can follow these guidelines in order to set the stage for happy colleagues who do their best work.
About the Author

Sarah Tolle is an editor and content strategist with the indie media company Black and White Zebra as well as the co-creator of the Indie Media Club's Digital Media Bootcamps, a program that teaches the fundamentals of planning, producing, and promoting awesome digital content.