In my personal experience and discussions with other business leaders, I’ve found that high-performing marketing teams can deliver anywhere between 20-30% more than average teams. I’ve also found that in more than 50% of cases when a leader is fired, it is not just because of their personal performance, but lack of meeting delivery expectations of the teams they are managing. That’s right—a leader’s success is directly proportional to the success of the team they lead.
High-performing marketing teams not only deliver the right outcomes, find solutions to marketing challenges, and meet business expectations, but they become the ‘hub’ for the organization that generates new ideas, experiments with new ways of doing things, challenges the status-quo, brings modernization to operations, and finds new ways to connect with customers.
It becomes a true force to reckon with—strengthening the CMO’s trust and conviction with the CEO and the executive leadership team and providing the longevity in role that is required to see through the execution of key marketing campaigns that will pave the path for the future for the sales team.
So, why should you listen to what I have to say on this topic? Firstly, I have more than 20+ years of experience managing teams of all sizes including more than 100+ employees. I also have done so in various industry verticals, types of organizations (consulting, private, public), global outfits (teams in more than 10 countries), varying organization models (flat vs matrixed) and across multiple functions (marketing, digital, strategy, technology, operations). I’ve been there, I’ve done it, and I have a lot to share on the topic. So let’s get into it.
What Is A High-Performing Team, And What Does it Look Like?
By working across all the aforementioned types of organizations and having built, transformed or scaled teams repeatedly, I have been able to identify and assemble a few proven ways of creating and retaining high-performing teams.
But, before we get into those recommendations, we first need to understand what a high-performing team looks like. This will serve as our aspiration or end goal. Once there's a clear picture in mind, we will be able to align our tactics to these characteristics.
A high-performing team exhibits several characteristics and behaviors that distinguish it from other teams. Here's what that typically looks like:
- High-performing teams have a shared understanding of their goals, objectives, and the purpose of their work. Everyone on the team knows what they are working toward and why it matters.
- A capable leader provides direction, support, and guidance while empowering team members to contribute their best.
- Team members trust each other and feel psychologically safe to express their opinions, take calculated risks, and make mistakes.
- High-performing teams communicate openly, honestly, and frequently. Team members collaborate effectively, leveraging each other's strengths and skills.
- Each team member takes ownership of their tasks and commitments. Accountability ensures that everyone contributes to the team's overall success.
- Team members are committed to personal and professional growth. They seek opportunities to learn, develop new skills, and stay current with industry trends.
- High-performing teams are focused on outcomes and are driven to achieve their goals.
- High-performing teams are often recognized and rewarded for their exceptional performance
- Inclusive teams value diversity and create an environment where all voices are heard and contributions are appreciated.
- Members of high-performing teams often exhibit enthusiasm and a positive attitude toward their work and colleagues.
- High-performing teams tend to have lower turnover rates because team members are motivated, engaged, and satisfied with their work.
- Team morale is typically high, with team members feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work.
How To Build and Grow A High-Performing Team in 9 Simple Steps
To build a high-performing marketing team, focus on these key tactics:
Set A Clear Strategy
Start with a well-defined marketing strategy that outlines goals, target audience, and tactics, typically using digital marketing software for visualization and tracking. Everyone wants to make sure that what they are doing matters and wants to understand how their contributions add up to the overall company success.
Determine Role Definition
Determine the specific roles and responsibilities needed within your team, considering modern marketing skills like SEO, data/analytics, performance marketing, and CX. It helps to determine roles for various growth stages of the department or company, and how the organizational chart will flow over time.
Get Strategic With Recruitment
Carefully recruit team members who align with your strategy, values, and culture. I recommend leaders pay equal attention to attitude and skills. After all, what good are the skills if there is no drive or desire to make a change?
Assess both technical skills (e.g., digital marketing) and soft skills (e.g., communication, creativity, drive, curiosity) during the hiring process. I highly encourage you to check out The CMO’s interview series How to Lead a Successful Marketing Management Team for more expert insights on this topic.
Provide Structured Onboarding
Provide a thorough onboarding process to introduce new hires to your company's culture, overall strategy/mission, and marketing strategies. This is probably the step that most organizations either take very lightly or completely ignore which results in new joiners who are not clear about the company and department goals and roadmap.
Select Performance Metrics
Set clear KPIs for each team member, regularly review progress, and provide feedback. I cannot stress this point more! It is critical for each team member to know how their performance will be measured at the end of the year. This helps avoid surprises during performance discussion and costly reworks. At the management level, marketing measurement tools can help track these metrics.
Foster a collaborative environment where team members can share ideas and work together effectively. This ‘alignment’ between team members is not only critical for information sharing, but also ensures that there are no information islands and everyone feels included and informed. There are a number of marketing collaboration software that can make this streamlined and easy.
Support Individual Development
Support ongoing growth for team members through training, conferences, and certifications. These learning opportunities can be internal or external. The key here is that any individual development plan must be aligned with their career aspirations and opportunities assessment.
Recognize and Reward Achievements
Recognize and reward top performers to boost motivation and morale. I try to be quantitative where possible so that I can point to hard figures when assessing eligibility for recognition. Recognize and celebrate small wins regularly as this approach goes a long way rather than waiting for the big hits.
Be Proactive With Retention
Implement strategies to retain talent, such as career growth opportunities and a positive work environment. Employee retention is not an annual process and should be something practiced year round. All the above tactics collectively have an impact on employee engagement and retention.
What Are Potential Business Impacts From High-Performing Teams?
The impacts of building and maintaining high-performing teams are not just limited or experienced by the respective teams, but they have real business impacts. Based on my personal experience and primary research, high-performing teams may have the following impacts on business results:
- High-performing team members typically have a higher tenure, typically 2X-3X, than average teams.
- These teams typically deliver between 20-30% more revenue or product sales than their counterparts.
- High-performing teams are more efficient from their competitors saving organizations precious resources and having a positive impact on budgets – anywhere from 10%-30%.
- Members of these teams act as ambassadors for the brand and are more successful at attracting talent to the organization through word of mouth, referrals, and brand advocacy.
High-performing teams consistently exhibit these above characteristics and behaviors, allowing them to deliver exceptional results and achieve success. By fostering an environment that creates and retains such teams, you can reap real business benefits and create a self-sustaining mechanism that has positive impacts on CMO longevity and builds trust with business counterparts.
Feel free to share your thoughts and feedback as a comment below, or you can reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter to continue the conversation. While you’re here, I highly encourage you to subscribe to The CMO newsletter for more on all things marketing and leadership.