Effective Digital Leadership

Written by Cath Foster - 01 Jul 2019

To support the launch of our whitepaper, 'A guide to in-housing and creating a digital centre of excellence', we've gathered insights from across the Fresh Egg team. In this post, Cath Foster shares her expertise of leading multidiscipline teams.

Here's a rundown of what our series of initial in-housing thinking covers:

Part One: For digital teams, it's about time - where we explore:

  • Why ignoring time usage within a team is dangerous
  • Doing the right work
  • Understanding where time is spent
  • Team efficiency
  • How digital teams approach work

Part Two: Essential tips for hiring top digital talent - where we explore:

  • The website content future employees are looking to see
  • How a business is projecting its culture and benefits
  • How a business is portrayed on LinkedIn
  • Ensuring Glassdoor is well maintained

Part Three: Effective digital leadership - where we explore:

  • Organisation and planning
  • Visibility and communication
  • Support and opportunities
  • The constant stakeholder

Excellent, now you've caught up we can move onto our core topic. 

Effective digital leadership

Being the manager of a digital team is far from a walk in the park. Alongside the personnel management duties a digital team manager is typically expected to ensure work is completed to brief, achieving value for the business, spotting opportunity and maximising the effectiveness of the team in achieving goals and objectives.

Managing a multi-discipline digital marketing team and impacting significant cultural and operational change through an in-housing transformation can be challenging. Digital transformations really only work when direct access to ‘bought-in’ senior stakeholders is available, with a trusted and transparent relationship across all participants. A well-oiled team, with good strategic leadership and planning, can result in a more productive working environment for all involved.

At Fresh Egg our account directors act as multi-discipline digital managers on behalf of our clients, often facing the same trials and tribulations when working with a business as an in-house manager will experience.

Do you have an in-housing challenge we can help with?

Here are some essential areas to consider when managing an in-house digital marketing team:

#1 - Organisation and planning

It is imperative to plan. The quote “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” certainly holds true for marketing plans. Tasks and workstreams need to be reviewed, validated and prioritised against business objectives, ensuring all planned work is in accordance with the strategy, driving impact and value.

These tasks can then be mapped into a project plan to provide structure to the activity. There are a number of free planning tools to assist in-house teams to help organise workflows, such as Trello and Team Gantt.

Creating a clear strategy and plan provides the following benefits:

  • Easy identification of any dependencies in workflow or tasks
  • Stakeholders can be assigned tasks with deadlines, increasing the accountability within team members
  • Understanding of resource allocation and key dates allows for a balanced resource utilisation
  • Activity can be project managed and executed with gusto, driving forward the strategy at pace
  • The value of activity/tasks is better understood across the wider team
  • Encourages team integration and collaboration through developing a deeper understanding of colleagues' roles and capabilities, and how these can dovetail with their own activity, all working towards a common goal
  • A point of reference that all individuals can refer back to when day-to-day reactive work can throw you off course
  • A benchmark to measure future performance against, understand the value of activity and when success is being achieved from both an individual’s point of view or the entire team
“The shift from representing the client internally at Fresh Egg to assisting an in-house digital marketing solution isn’t a significant leap”

Nate Wood, Strategy Director, Fresh Egg

#2 - Visibility and communication

It is important that the overarching digital strategy is communicated to key senior stakeholders to share the mission of the digital team with the wider business.

Doing so ensures that the full team are singing from the same proverbial hymn sheet and collectively pulling in the same direction, providing individuals with a sense of purpose. It helps to set and manage expectations across the business, avoiding continual justification for tactical activity in the future and time drains from working on non-impactful tasks.

The digital strategy can be communicated through simple a PowerPoint presentation or the use of a Trello board, arranged to demonstrate a roadmap of planned activity. Which format is used should be dictated by the intended audience. Aligning the strategic plan with any future reporting and communications to the business will continue to provide clarity, and you should also consider the positive result of reiterating the team objectives  to quote good ol’ Aristotle, “it is frequent repetition that produces a natural tendency”.

The documentation and ongoing reporting provide the business with a solid reference point to measure performance against, allowing stakeholders to understand where the team are in their journey to success, building trust in the digital team's capability.

The process of planning and referring back to the plan at regular intervals can ensure that silos are avoided, helping to build a cohesive team. Conducting regular team huddles, focused on planned activity, can encourage collaboration and positive communication between team members, spark ideas, and inspire further integrated workstreams.

Slack is a useful tool to assist in consistent collaborative communication, allowing for project-specific group discussions, and used in the right way it can assist in unifying a team. However, use this tool wisely or it can default to a communication channel that hinders collaboration.

#3 - Support and opportunities

Resource and task allocation should be regularly reviewed to ensure the right people are working on the right tasks.

Through regular resourcing analysis, unnecessary time drains can be removed, pinch points can be identified and activity optimised to utilise the most relevant resource. We discussed this process in more detail in the first part of our in-housing blog series, 'For digital teams, it's about time'

Through aligning workstreams, the digital leader can identify where there are gaps in expertise and resource capability, highlighting, and pre-empting the need for third-party support or team training needs. The continual review of the strategy and performance allows a digital leader to recognise and highlight opportunities to drive additional value, or to mitigate and offset risks and barriers to success.

#4 - Consistency and integration

A good digital leader should aim to be the one constant stakeholder across all workstreams, achieving success by:

  • Understanding any dependencies and crossovers.
  • Ensuring stakeholders are informed of conflicting issues or useful research, and aiming to join all the dots and create a fully integrated team. 
  • Continually referring back to the plan until it becomes a natural part of the day-to-day operation and the beating heart of the team. 

What are the key learnings?

If you are looking to build a digital team, then it is essential that your organisation is doing all it can to ensure the team is getting the leadership and direction it needs to excel in the in-housing journey. If what we've discussed was of use and you think we can help, then don't hesitate to get in contact with us by calling 01903 285900.