The Three A's recipe for building a balanced team for a challenger company
Building a marketing team from the ground up is one of the most exciting opportunities for any technology marketing leader, but it can also be a daunting prospect, especially in a startup environment. No matter what department you're in, a startup requires individuals and teams to move quickly, reprioritize projects at the drop of a hat, and grow quickly within roles.
Finding candidates that can excel in this environment is difficult, but not impossible if you look for people that have a capacity to handle what we call the three A's -- accountability, ambiguity, and agility.
Accountability may seem like an obvious trait to look for, but it means more than simply doing the job. Accountability means being accountable not only for personal actions, but also for the team and the larger organisation.
Within the marketing function, it is ensuring that the team is not just focused on the execution of a particular campaign, but has the ability to think about how a campaign or task meets the vision and goals of the company as well. Furthermore, it means being accountable and aware enough to change the campaign or task if the priorities of the business shift.
It's common for people to stay in their own lane and not worry about what others are doing, but if a technology marketing leader or marketeer is truly accountable, they will work to understand what's going on across teams, collaborate when there's a benefit to doing so and speak up when things can be improved or fixed.
An attitude that can handle ambiguity
Startups tend to move a million miles a minute, so it's important to hire employees that can not only cope with ambiguity, but have the attitude to search for solutions. Sometimes, lean teams need to be prepared to jump into assignments, accomplish what needs to be done and often do it all at the last minute. Look for recruits who can easily work across teams without the need for a high volume of context, juggle different tasks, and can handle a fluid job description.
A positive attitude toward learning and a willingness to help others without being asked is a good indicator of comfort with ambiguity. The marketing and communications function is continuously evolving, and being able to roll with the punches while maintaining a positive mental attitude is vital for success in a startup.
Additionally, an environment that is open and less rigid with process can enable individuals to act independently and make informed decisions quickly, and can counterbalance having less information up front. When I see individuals excel in this type of environment, I often realize early on that they likely have potential to be strong leaders in the organisation.
In a startup, it's important to understand when moving quickly is more important than making sure something is done perfectly. The company is always going to be moving fast, so agility is required to keep up with the ever-changing business needs.
Part of being agile is being open to change and working toward a shared goal rather than a personal one. This means looking for someone who understands that the needs of the organisation and team are bigger than their own. Even if they put their blood, sweat, and tears into a project, it's important to understand that sometimes things get reprioritised or scrapped. For example, our team recently spent a lot of time on an initiative that had to be ditched because it didn't align with our changing business goals. Instead of being upset about wasting time and effort on the project, we took what learnings we could from this situation, repurposed a few things that could be used for another project and moved onto the next project.
Accountability, a positive attitude toward ambiguity, and agility are not mutually exclusive traits. Each one matters more at different times, but as you build a strong team preparing to grow a startup, you'll want to ensure your team is balanced with these traits. While some of these skills can be taught, some of them are inherent, and you'll want to consider the right balance for your team. Ultimately, each one does matter, but how much really depends on the role within the team. It's key to find team members that can excel within this environment and are open to learning and growing as a result.