Growth hacking. Growth marketing. Whatever you call it, growth is a key goal for businesses.
Some might even say it is the sole aim for most businesses.
Especially as the majority of a business’ activities are structured around growing one’s audience, sales funnels, budgets, and influence.
For senior executives, CEOs, and founders, instilling a growth mindset in employees is a major key to success.
What Can Executives Do?
Executives’ jobs are highly focused on motivating their team members to be as growth-minded as possible.
Conglomerate Whole Foods knows the importance of prioritizing employees in their company values. One of their key goals is “dependent upon the collective energy, intelligence, and contributions of all of our team members.”
We need to keep such a value in mind when tasked with managing teams, particularly under-pressure teams like marketers.
You may have read the best management books but being a manager or executive is not an easy task (I know this from experience).
Whether you have had years of experience in the position, or are brand new to it, the management styles you employ with your team have to be well-considered.
You have a great deal of responsibility and accountability as an executive, but you also have a number of people relying on you for guidance, advice, and authority.
It can be overwhelming, but by following five practices I have used while working with my team, you can develop the management skills needed to form a growth-minded company that sees results.
1. Defining the Company’s Core Values
Before you implement a business plan, it is imperative that you define your core values, not only for the overall business but for each team.
Your teams need to understand what is needed of them, not just from a work perspective, but from the perspective of what they can contribute as people.
At Venngage, we believe in winning and losing together, as a team. In that sense, our executives are expected to look beyond their own team’s perspective.
We are expected to help out other teams because we understand the broader impacts on the company. This same knowledge needs to be instilled in the teams we work beside.
Go Back to Basics
I find that it helps to turn to your company’s mission statement. It is something that most employees know—there may even be individuals who print it out so they can look at it all the time.
But simply knowing what the company’s values are isn’t motivational enough. How do those values trickle down into actionable operations?
Additionally, the company’s core values relate to various departments in different ways. As an executive, you need to define how they work for different teams.
That is the best way to motivate your team to work towards growth instead of having short-term goals, as you can see from the below graphic in ‘Making Leaders: Leadership Characteristics Of Makers And Engineers In The Maker Community’.
You would do well to remind your teams of the defined core values whenever you can, and show them specific examples of how they are working.
Reward your team members for enforcing the values in actions, which will motivate others to do the same.
More importantly, ensure that you are leading by example—you are the executive, after all.
2. Setting the Right Growth Expectations
You have your core values, now it’s time to set your goals. This process is all about giving your teams expectations to work towards—and these go beyond salary expectations.
But the expectations you have for each team shouldn’t be too broad or too ambiguous, or else anything and everything will fall under the purview of the teams and you will not see any measurable growth.
And, according to Lean Labs’ Melissa Randall, the goals should be realistic. “By creating unrealistic goals, you’re not motivating or pushing your team towards success. You’re setting your team up for failure.”
The Oxymoron Goals
I like to talk about setting specific yet broad goals for your team, which may seem like an oxymoron, but actually makes sense if you think about it.
You have your main goal, and it is likely to be something quite broad and all-encompassing.
Having teams work towards that goal can be demotivating, though. The primary goal is too large – increase company revenue by X% is not something that can be accomplished by the actions of one person.
On the other hand, setting extremely specific goals and KPIs undermines the talent that your employees are bringing to the plate as it tells them exactly what to do.
You want to avoid telling an employee to post on Facebook twice a day, or to reply to comments. If they’re working in social media, they already know this.
Your employees have been hired for their abilities, and you need to make the most of those talents by giving them targeted goals that are achievable, yet challenging.
With that in mind, you should work towards breaking down the overarching company or team goal into deliverables that can be attained and measured.
Instead of focusing on increasing overall social media reach, ask your team to increase ROI on advertising by X amount.
This method works because there is already a correlation between promoted content and social media reach, as outlined by Get Codeless.
The specific goals you create for your teams will better your chances of reaching your primary goal – sustained, company-wide growth.
3. Be Nurturing, But Constructive
One of the biggest tasks that executives have is to communicate well. You need to share your ideas with your teams, but you also need to be open to their feedback.
In Julie Zhuo’s The Making of a Manager, she says that “important processes to master include running effective meetings, future-proofing against past mistakes, planning for tomorrow, and nurturing a healthy culture.”
I love the comic she includes in her book, created by Pablo Stanley, to elucidate her point.
In a workplace setting, you need to encourage open, two-way communication so that nobody feels like they’re being left to work in isolation, or that they can do whatever they want.
How to listen is an important aspect of communication, and not solely for customers; it’s for employees, as well.
Here are some pillars of employee engagement we have used and that you can keep in mind.
As an executive, you may find yourself communicating to large groups, in which case, you should overcome any insecurities you may have regarding public speaking – you will be doing a lot of this.
Team Meetings: Pros and Cons
But, what I’ve found about communication structures is that team meetings aren’t the only way to keep lines of communication open.
They are good for sharing overarching aims and for team members to learn what others are doing.
Team meetings are also a good place to encourage teams to communicate any challenges or setbacks they might be dealing with, not only with the rest of the team, but with senior management.
Team meetings have their place at work, but you should also create structured one-on-one meetings where you can get some alone time with each employee.
I am personally a strong proponent of one-on-one meetings as they are good for sharing constructive feedback and setting personal goals.
They also give employees an opportunity to discuss matters that they may not be comfortable sharing in an open forum.
This is where you show your nurturing side, by listening to them, giving them advice, and utilizing your leadership skills.
Dealing with Negativity
Of course, you won’t be giving positive feedback at all times – there will be moments of negativity.
Handling these circumstances well will be the biggest challenge, and the most rewarding experience, if done right.
Your nurturing side will need to take a backseat to your more constructive persona when dealing with negative feedback – you don’t want to demotivate your team member, nor do you want to give them the impression that what they have or haven’t done is fine.
What you need to do is to give them a push in the right direction.
Turn the negative feedback into an actionable change that they should be aiming for. That is the best way to motivate your employees to become autonomous and work towards growth.
4. Improve and Adapt
The world is constantly changing, as are businesses. In the current environment, being adaptable is the only way to succeed in growing your business.
As Ann Flanagan Petry, author of Advancing Relationship-Based Cultures, puts it: “An agile mindset is one that recognizes that adapting to change is the price of admission for living a meaningful life.”
And this mindset starts from the top down.
You can’t expect employees to adapt to new ways of working if they don’t see that same change from the people above them.
When you are in a C-Level executive, or a manager, you have to realize that improvement and adaptability are intimately tied into effective communication methods.
Learning from Your Teams
While giving and receiving feedback on work-flow processes and achieving goals, you will be using your playbook or manual – if you aren’t, I would strongly advise you to create one with an ebook design guide.
But just because something is written down doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. Nothing is set in stone, especially not when you are trying to be growth-minded.
This is particularly true of new processes that may not have been tested yet – as we recently found out with our new outreach team.
We had created a manual and detailed how to use a new system. Our outreach team had found another, better, way to use it. They let us know and the manual was updated.
This wasn’t the last update we made – someone was tinkering with the system and found a brand new way to use it for outreach.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that once your employees have had a chance to test out their operations, you should get their feedback and work with them on adapting your playbook so that it is more in line with real working conditions.
You may need a complete overhaul, sometimes, and you need to be open to it.
If your teams are struggling to keep track of clients, you may want to change tack and incorporate Thought Farmer’s knowledge sharing techniques.
Or if a process is too slow, you may want to remove a middleman so that communication becomes more stream-lined.
Being adaptable is part and parcel of 21st-century life, and by being open-minded to change, you can show your teams the way to becoming better at startup growth hacking.
5. Be in Control, But Not Controlling
As we have already discussed, executives have a great deal of responsibility.
To ensure that everything gets done right – so you aren’t blamed for not reaching company goals – you may be tempted to control every aspect of your team’s operations.
Micromanagement – Good or Bad?
Most people associate micromanagement with negative emotions, and it is something that executives tend to avoid, especially when managing millennials.
Employees don’t like micromanagement – it takes away their autonomy – but many in upper management can see value in micromanaging.
According to Nina Angelovska piece for Forbes, micromanagement can be a good thing, because “bosses who closely monitor, provide detailed guidance and corrective feedback when needed are something totally opposite”.
Some of the world’s greatest CEOs were apparently micromanagers, Angelovska explains – Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates all had this trait.
And wanting to be in control is a very normal feeling, particularly if you haven’t had to delegate a certain task or process before.
If you implemented list-building strategies for the business, it will be incredibly difficult to hand it over to someone else.
This isn’t necessarily because you don’t trust your employees – it is more likely because you know the process best. Assigning it to another person means having to train them and accept that there will be mistakes till they know the process as well as you do.
But as easy as it is to continue to handle certain operations like you used to, it won’t help your workload or show your employees that you have confidence in them.
The Power of Letting Go
Instead of controlling everything and everyone, you need to let go of control, so your employees can be autonomous, which is one of the top things employees want.
By allowing your teams to take over tasks completely, you give them the opportunity to learn and grow from their mistakes.
At Venngage, we strongly believe in this kind of autonomy – when an individual is assigned a product, they control every aspect of it, no matter what level they are.
There is no micromanagement here because we have seen improving results from giving people complete autonomy.
Our product pages are now ranking on page one of Google because of the efforts of the individuals in charge of them – through successes, failures, and experiments, employees have learned from their experiences to consistently achieve our goals.
And that autonomy is what you want from your employees so that you aren’t required to continue holding their hands and showing them the way.
And once your team is autonomous, you will have the pleasure of running operations like clockwork and seeing steady growth over time.
A lot of life as an executive is about testing the waters and trial and error.
Not every day will be perfect, but by following these best practices, all of which I can personally attest to, you can motivate your employees, and everyone else, to push for growth-mindedness.