So let's talk about hiring and attracting the right talent because I feel like everyone's hiring right now. Everyone is searching for jobs right now. And yet, somehow this feels hard. Like why isn't this easier than it should be?
Yeah, I think it's because everything seems equal. Right? So right now I mean, I'm sure you get, look like let's just be transparent. Like I'm sure you get the emails and the LinkedIn DMS that are like, Hey, you looking to move to a new spot? Like I get a bunch of those. You get like, a lot of people are getting those right now and, and often throughout in your career, right? Especially if you've built any sort of audience or brand or whatever we wanna call that. And the problem is you get those and it's like, they they're still coming. They're still bringing the same 2010 energy of like, we have great benefits and it's a cool startup and here's a big salary and you get equity, and it's like those matter. But I think, whereas before those were like, what guided your decision.
I think at this point, because you can go just to be transparent. I think a lot of people and this might be a very privilege take, so I'm happy to be wrong on this, but I think a lot of people can go somewhere new and get a 20% raise at this point in this market, especially as marketers. Right. But we want more than that. And if you want the A players, you have to market differently to them. It's the same as like, we all do marketing like it's marketing, right? So if you want different customers or you want better customers, you have to market differently to them. So I think your messaging and the way you communicate to them have to be very, very different.
So you are of course, like very happy where you are and you are like not making moves, but let's for the sake of our arguments, say you were making moves. What kind of like 2022, I almost said 2021, DM on LinkedIn would need to be sent to you to even, to even have you finish reading the rest of the message? I'm not talking about like actually jumping, but what are those things that you are, you're looking for?
Let's like, actually do this, right? If you were, if you're trying to recruit me right now, and that, that feels very arrogant.
No, I like it.
But like, you know what I mean? Let's like, actually do this. So I got one recently that I was like, oh, that's cool. They were like, look like we have this position. It is a interesting startup. It's cool technology. You might have heard of us. And I'm like, I haven't. They're like, here's who our founder is. Here's what we do. And I'm like, oh, neat I do know something about you all. And they were like, look, we're hiring for a head of content and community. We know you, we've done all of our homework. We've followed you for a while. We know you do you've, you've started four communities and you love content. We think this is the job for you. Right. And it's like, oh, that's amazing. I didn't end up taking it because there, one of their caveats was, we want you to take everything you do and do all of it here.
And I'm like, so I can't do any projects outside of work. And they're like, well, we're not gonna say no, but we want to be your main focus. And that was code for like absolutely nothing outside of work. And I'm like not interested. And it was double my current salary. Right. So a 100% salary increase. And I was just like, I'm not interested in that. Because for me, I like my career mix currently. My career mix is I'm a growth marketer at Active Campaign. I run a couple online communities. I sell digital courses and SEO for the rest of us. And I consult with SaaS and software companies in Growth Sprints. Right. And I love that mix for me. And I'm a big advocate that everybody should find their career mix. And it's usually a non-traditional mix, especially for marketers. But if I was going to get that, the biggest thing that I feel frustrated about and what I've heard running all in and hearing which is the in-house marketing community that I run.
The biggest thing I've heard from marketers is like, a lot of us have this like lead sled dog energy. Like just let us go. Just get us out of the bureaucracy. I don't wanna have approval from the brand team, the design team and product marketing's got some crap to say, and then I gotta coordinate with our email. Like, I don't wanna work with 50 different people, just like I have all these skills, let me go. And that's like this stifled feeling I think is one of like, if you are trying get A players, that's where I, I have three other points that I can bring up, but like, that's what I would lead with. You can actually do marketing here, how we think you do marketing, you can actually do your thing here. And that's the biggest piece that I think everything's missing. Like again, like all that other stuff is table stakes, but like, you gotta, if you're gonna hire an A player, you gotta let, 'em do their things. If they get there and they're stifled for six months, they're out.
Does that require the business to be at a certain level? And by that, I mean, like essentially a startup? Essentially like hiring their first, second, third marketer? Because once you, once you introduce more hierarchy and more marketing teams, you start to run into this brand team, content team, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Yeah. it's really common. So I think there's two scenarios. Either you have to be early and you're hiring your first one or two marketers, right. Or you have to have thought through what a senior level individual contributor looks like. That's what I would want. I don't wanna manage people. I hate managing people a lot of the time. And that's just because managing people a lot of the time looks like back to back meetings all day, every day, and endless spreadsheets. And I've done that. I did that as high school assistant principal, I did that as an SEO director at two different agencies. I almost had a stroke at my last agency, just from the stress of managing people. And I was like, I don't know if that's what I want to do. So I think more companies should have a track or an idea of like, how do we keep these amazing marketers that maybe don't wanna manage people or don't wanna manage a big team.
I don't wanna be a director of 20 people. And then you become a VP and you've got, you know, like however many people under you, right. Like yourself. Like I don't, I don't know. But you end up taking there's this thing called the Peter Principle. And if people aren't familiar with that, the Peter principle, the way I remember is the Peter Principle is when people get promoted. So another P word. They get promoted to their level of incompetence. Meaning like, they should actually be a level lower than they're at, but they've gone too far. They can't go back. We need to figure out some of those types of things. And when you have that senior level, individual contributor that opens up a lot of doors at your company to bring people in and also keep people.
I totally agree. We talk about this a lot, not only with marketers, but in thinking about how we develop a professional growth and advancement structure that does not require management, but does enable a higher salary or higher benefits or whatever it is. People ask us, you know, people ask everyone, how do I get paid more without managing people? Can my advancement track look different than me moving to manager and director and VP? I think there's an element of that. I think there's also an element, like you said, a really, really important element, which is we identify our A team players and individual contributors, and then we're like, you're so good. Go do this other job. Like, why don't we just keep them more doing that.
Manage the people that did what you did. And it's like, yeah, but that's a new skill. Like managing people, I thought when I was a teacher, I was a high school teacher for six years. And then I went to school, I got my master's degree in educational leadership. I became an assistant principal. And I quickly realized that it was a totally different skillset and everybody like, really gased me up on it. Like, you're the best of us. Like, you're gonna be great at this. And I'm like, yo, I kind of suck at this. Like, this is really hard, right? Because like, if you're an A player, right, you're an all-star individual contributor. You're the best of the ICS in your company or on your team. Then you go into management and you realize you are now managing everybody who is not as good as you. You Thought you were gonna manage a bunch of you.
You're not, you're managing a bunch of people that don't give a shit. And it's like, okay, this is different. And if you're like me, where I way over index on like empathy and compassion and those sorts of things, people need different types of leadership. And that type of leadership may not be a good fit based on your team. You know, like whether like vertically, you know, whoever you report up to whoever reports to you and also like horizontally in your organization, your style of leadership that you're most naturally a fit for may not be a fit for that organization or that team.
This is right on. I'm gonna use an example of myself, even though I have an awesome team and this is not real, but let's say that I'm a director who gets promoted to a VP, right. And my team that I'm managing are the people you're talking about, which are sort of the B team. They are they, they were not promoted, right? They, they were not elevated. And so not a only do I have a new responsibility of managing them, but I also still have the same responsibility of being responsible for whatever business objectives and results that team is responsible for. And this is how we wind up having vice presidents or higher up even still doing the work of directors and below. And what that does is bring the entire organization down a level, right? Because we are not, we're not able to operate at the executive level that we should be, because we're still trying to backfill ourselves, basically, still trying to make sure that that work gets done. And then also these other responsibilities that got taken care of when you got promoted. I think that sucks.
It's it does suck. And it sucks for everybody, right? It sucks for that person. It also sucks for everybody on their team. Cause like, if you went, let's just use that example and keep running with it. If you went from director to VP, right. And you're still in that director mindset of thinking your direct reports are individual contributors and they are not, like managing individual contributors is different than managing managers. So now you've got a third skillset, right? And that's again, like super different. And then they end up stifling. Where it has to come from in my experience? It has to be top down. It can't be something bottom up, cuz you're gonna replicate. You're gonna, it's hard. Like if you went from director to VP, you're still running that same playbook. You're like, all right, cool. I'm managing these people now, I'm gonna do it the same way I did it. You need that CEO, CMO, whoever, the person above view that you report to, to manage down to you to be like, no, no, no, come over here. It's a new skillset. I'm gonna show you how to do that. And then you are going to like, that's how we kind of elevate, but it has to be top down. And it has to come, I think from higher up leadership.
I agree. I agree. And it needs to move the whole, the whole hierarchy up in that way. Right? Because now I'm sitting on an executive team where we all are supposed to be coming with a certain amount of accountability to each other, but I'm over here still playing a director role sitting on the exec team. So now I'm the lowest common denominator that the rest of the team is coming down to. Right. Instead of me rising up to them and everyone suffers for that.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the ways to kind of get out of that is I, I think two fold, right? Like it's very easy to keep micromanaging people, but I do believe in like coaching people up or coaching them out. I think that's one of the best things you can do for people. And I don't, I've had that very vindictively done to me. I call it weaponizing your values, right? Like people, some cultures, weapon like extreme ownership is a great example. I think I have the book in my shelf right behind me. Wonderful value to have, but it gets weaponized a lot. You tell everybody you have that. And then you have people basically fall like something wrong and they fall on their sword. And they're like, that was my fault, extreme ownership. I'm taking full ownership and the person above them goes, yeah, it was your fault.
And you're like, no, I'm supposed to like take ownership, and then you're supposed to be like, yeah, it was my fault too. Like we all thought we were all, we don't do that. But that's the kind of thing that happens is like you, when you, that whole idea of coaching them up or coaching them out, that can be weaponized in a very negative way. However, I do feel like there are certain people in roles at companies and I'll be really blunt. Like I have had this done negatively to me. I've also had it done with a lot of grace where somebody was like, Hey man, come on. This is not it. You know, it's in your heart of heart's like, it sucks to have this conversation. You know, this isn't it. I know this isn't it, let's, let's get you over here.
Right? Like, let's get you doing this other thing. You know, that's what you're best at. I know you're trying to be more and you're trying to move into this other thing. It's clearly not it. Right. And here's why, and they say it with so much empathy and so much grace and you just gotta be like, all right, like they get it. Right. Like I knew this was true in my heart, but I was trying to step into this thing. So I think that's gotta be the move, right? Like when you are (inaudible) for managing managers or in whatever level of management, you're in level of leadership, figuring out like, is this actually the best fit for them and do they actually wanna be here? And like, what sucks is like, sometimes people have been so scarred that they're gonna be like, no, no, no.
Like I totally wanna be here. This is great. I'm all in. And they'll say that until the day that they give, the day they don't give notice that they just are like, I'm out. Today's my last day, I quit. And you're like, wait, like in our one on one last week, you said it was, we were cool. Like I'm, dang. Like that sucks. That that's been your experience that you felt you had to do that. Right. Cause that wasn't the reality. So I don't know. I think it depends on that, but you know, you're gonna run into that too.
As a manager. How often do you coach until you let them go?
So that's a hard, I think it depends on their level of experience and like why? Right. So in my current role right now, like I don't manage anybody and that's because I needed it to be that way to continue like being alive basically. But previously, like I think it depended a lot on their level of experience and like why it wasn't a fit. Right? So I've worked with people that we brought in and they talked to great game and we thought it was gonna be awesome. And we put them on some projects and they started doing the work and we're like, oh, you cannot do this. You can't, you can't do like that was awful. You just blew like three and this was at an agency, but it was like, you just blew three client calls in a row. And like, you can't answer questions.
And like, you interviewed really well, but you can't talk to clients. This is a client-facing role. And we had to have that hard conversation of like, Hey, I need this fixed. And you know, oftentimes again, like that was a really toxic company. So their solution was like, make them work twice as hard and see if they step up, which is so screwed up. But like that person, we were like kind of leaning on them a little bit. And we were like, Hey, like I need, I need you to be at a hundred percent. That my boss needs you to be at 200%. I just need you at baseline. Can you even do that? And they're like, here's 30% effort. And we were like, Hey man, it's not working. So, you know, I think it depends on that. And also like why are they leaving?
Is it a culture issue? Is it a personality issue? Is it an actual skill issue? I don't know. I think defining that defines like timelines and things like that, but I think also like part of being a good leader is giving them a chance, an honest chance to improve, right? If it's a skill gap, we're gonna close that skill gap. Right. If it's something else going on in their life, we're gonna try to close that gap or whatever. And I think also to the degree you can you know, there's a lot of issues that are personal, but to the degree you can like rallying the team behind people, right? Like not being like, you know, you wouldn't be like, Hey, Brendan's underperforming. Can you guys all like, be extra nice to him or something, but like, you know what I mean like, Hey, can we give this person a little bit of extra support for a little bit?
And you don't have to give a reason. I think that can be super valuable too. Like sometimes people just need to be, and I, this is very like, woo, woo and hand wavy. But like sometimes people just need to be seen. They just need to feel valued, you know? Cause you don't know what's going on. You know, we, your company, a good example, like your company just changed insurance and, they got their insurance went from great to like trash because it saved the company some money and you're like, why aren't they getting their work done? And they're not gonna tell you that it's because they just got a $3,000 doctor bill. Right. And then, but we have to, like, you don't know why people are underperforming. And I think starting to figure that out and building that culture of trust and transparency, I think really matters.
I agree. We had a lot of this actually this past week with what's happening in Ukraine. I, a lot of team members came to the table and they were just like, you know what? I just can't do it today. Today is not the day where I can like pretend to run ads and pretend to like, I just can't do it. There's a war. Like, and I think, I think being able to have some grace and moments like that, well, you have to have grace and moments like that in order for them to show up again the next time when something else happens, cuz something else will happen. Right. I remember the lack of grace that happened at the beginning of COVID that I think was out of fear mostly and just chaos where like, people didn't know how to show up for each other. But I distinctly remember being home with my kid who is at an age of, no, I can't like leave him alone in a room for nine hours while I pretend to work. And also me, myself, like, oh, okay. So we're like Clorox our groceries now. Like that's what we're doing.
(Inaudible) too, I was like, I don't, we don't know, we're just panicking.
But here I am on my keyboard, like talking to sales people, like you've gotta be joking me. Like, there's, you just, you just can't operate at a level of insincerity and non-awareness. Manager or not like just being on a team with other humans, bumping up against other humans in the world. Like you have to be able to show up in a way that allows them to say to you, you know what, I can't today. I'm gonna share with you why, or I'm not gonna share with you why. But I, but I just can't today and I'll be back tomorrow when I can.
Yeah. You just, I wanna, I wanna repeat what you, what I just heard you say, is you can't operate from a place of sincerity without awareness. And I think that is such a good reminder of you're trying to be sincere, but are you actually aware of what's going on? As somebody, I don't describe myself as being like an empath or anything like that, but I'm a feeler and I feel deeply. And when people hurt, like that messes me up. Like I hurt with people. I will very much like Rhene Brown sit in the pain with you. And I love that stuff. What makes me feel terrible, but like, I, that's a place that I show up really well for other people. So when we were having a lot of turmoil prior to even 2020 with a lot of the police violence and injustice that was going on in the country and our current president at that time, and then like the pandemic happened and now seeing the atrocities that are occurring and, occur regularly, like let's not pretend like this only matters cuz it's a European country, right?
Like all of these things, like I feel that very deeply, like I can't be on Twitter because their explore function just showing me like all the terrible stuff going on in the world every day ruins me. Like, I'll be out for like an hour just doom scrolling. And I think being sensitive to people about that is, and being aware and again, creating that culture where you can be aware and ask them like, Hey, what's going on is how are you even just reaching out? Like, Hey, how are you feeling about this? You know, like, how are you feeling about what's happening in Ukraine right now? Things like that. I think that that really matters. And it might not be, might not be a KPI, but it is, you know what I mean?
Absolutely it. Absolutely. I love the way you said that. And like our friend Brené tells us vulnerability doesn't mean that you don't have boundaries. You can't have vulnerability without having boundaries. So this doesn't mean that we're showing up, you know, at our weekly all hands meeting and everyone's doing like a (inaudible) lecture on a stage about their childhood trauma. This is just about like recognizing that people's life is the same as their work. Like humans as holistic humans are experiencing more than the responsibilities that we throw at them in dashboards every day. And as you can't, we're at a point now, especially working in primarily remote workspaces where you just can't effectively be an employee or a colleague, if you're not able to address the humanness of your fellow colleagues. You gotta figure out a way to do that. That makes you feel comfortable and them feel safe. And with boundaries.
A hundred percent. Yeah. I think making people feel safe to be themselves and also to do the work that they're proud of, that emotional safety, the way I used to describe this is like, if people are crying in the bathroom, you're fucking up. Well, people aren't crying in the bathroom anymore. They just don't turn their camera on for zoom calls. Right. Cause they're like, I don't want you to see me. Right. And there's a lot of reasons people don't do that. And I wanna be sensitive to that. But like I think with things like that, like that it looks different if you're at a remote company as well. People aren't crying in the bathrooms, but other things are happening and starting to figure out what that looks like for your team when they don't feel safe to do good work.
You know, a good example of this I, somebody the other day was like asking for approval on something. Hey, can you read this? Can you read this? And I was like, you don't need to make me complicit in this. You don't need me to be like, well, Brendan reviewed it. I don't need to review it. You got it. Like, you're good. And I'm not saying that in like, I didn't wanna review it. But like, I think sometimes people use that as a crutch because of again, past experiences or just whatever. Like, they don't feel safe to like do it without somebody, you know, having some cosign. So it's like, how do we get you to that place where you don't feel like you need the cosign anymore? How do we get you place where you don't have to feel like I'm complicit? How do you feel safe to the point that, you know, if it sucks, nobody's gonna come to me and I'm gonna sell you out. Well, I didn't see that. Never say that. Yeah, sure. I told them, I told them they were good to go. So that's on me. You know what I mean?
For sure. When you're a director coming back to like managing teams, and maybe you have a team maybe don't, but your direct manager is terrible. I feel like this happens a lot. Not just to marketers.
It's been my experience, every time I've been a manager, every single time. My boss above me has been from, from being an assistant principal to my first SEO director position. The head of digital was not a great manager. He barely spoke to anybody. He was like a weird mad scientist. And then at the next spot, my direct manager was a nightmare. He was like this is so patronizing. But like, he was like 12 years old and had no idea what he was doing. And it's just like, clearly he couldn't, he didn't know. He had no skills. He'd never worked anywhere other than the place we were at. Which he and his best friend started. So his high school best friend. So it's like, all right, no, like not gonna judge you, but like that was the reality there.
So I it's really challenging. You have to seek out a mentor and you don't have to say the M word and you don't have to formalize the relationship, but what you do and the way that I've done this, cuz I had to, to survive was I found people and I, you know, you can do like the first I'm pointing to the book behind me, the first 90 days kind of thing and figure out like who the actual stakeholders are, who actually holds the power in your organization. They can mentor you, but also go outside your organization, find another executive, find another person at your level or above and ask questions. Hey, I'm dealing with this. How would you handle it? They'll tell you what to do, go do it, report back that you did it and what happened. And that earns you permission to ask your next question.
And you build that kind of like advise, that personal advisory board almost as a way of like, you know, fancy buzz, wording it. But that's what I would do. Because you can't trust that person above you and all their toxic crap is gonna get put on you. And either you're gonna do one of two things either. You're gonna absorb all their toxicity and protect your team and you're gonna quit at some point or you're gonna just gonna, it's gonna go straight through you to your team and you're gonna become this leader. You're not gonna live in like alignment with yourself because you're just being super toxic to your team cuz that's how you're being treated.
So how does your manager's manager know how they're managing you? How is your boss actually getting feedback about your experience and where does that feedback go? If anywhere else. Like this is how toxic people don't ever leave companies is because they're too high up. They're too insulated.
Yeah. I'm trying to, my brain came up with like four stories and analogies and I'm like, you can't, that's other people's stories. Cuz that does happen. I know that a lot of places like it's like, you know, they go to like talk to somebody and they're like, oh really? I love your manager. They're great. They're just crushing it. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And you're like, cool. I quit. Cuz they're actually awful. And I have this whole list that I was gonna send to HR of all like the crazy stuff. Like they called my cell phone and yelled at, raise their voice at me because my light on Slack wasn't green and I'm gonna have to buy one of those like jiggle. I saw this on TikTok. People are buying like mouse jiggles so that their things never are not green. Oh my God.
Why? Why do we have to do that?
But that's what they do. And then their boss has no idea that they've made that phone call. So my, I have a friend who told me that they would, when they went to, they went in the middle of the day to go pick up one of their kids. Cause they were sick at school and they went to get gas and they kept their phone on Slack the whole time opened and they didn't let it go to sleep because they didn't want their light to not be green on Slack. Cuz they would get yelled at again. They'd already been yelled at for it once. Because the optics quote, the optics look bad. But then when it's like, do I, is this harassment, is this okay? And other people are totally blind to it. They're like, yeah like that's, you know, they're doing great.
Their team is great. They're hitting all their numbers, blah, blah, blah. And it's like, Hey you know, they having a lot of churn. I don't know. There's a lot of like gaslighting that goes on and excuses are made. Well this well that, and it's like, I don't know. I don't know how you handle that. I think a lot of people end up of putting it on Glassdoor or whatever else and a lot of people just never say anything and that sucks. But I don't think it's the responsibility of the victim, if that makes sense.
Yeah. It does make sense.
What should they do about it? It's that like level up job. To be checking in, like if I, if I was a VP and I managed like five directors, at some point I should be talking to all of their direct reports and I should have enough rapport with them where they feel comfortable, you know, being like, Hey, how are they doing? And they're not, you know, if, if every. Here's how you know something's wrong. If you are a VP and you have, you know, a couple directors and they have a team's under them and you talk to every single person and every single person gives a glowing review of their director, they don't trust you. They've like, somebody in there has lied. There's just too many people. Somebody has lied. Right. The idea that they're all doing great and perfect all the time. So like that, I don't know. Maybe it's just a, the best answer to your question is just like trying to figure out what the red flags are, you know?
Yeah. And also identifying the difference between a toxic culture and a toxic manager. Because if the institution itself has developed a culture where every single employee feels like they have to buy a mouse jiggler, like that's well, outside of the construct of like this one manager being a shit show, that's kind, it's fairly unsolvable. Like cultures are very, very hard to redefine and like restructure and through great change organization that can come, leadership changes or MNAs or whatever. But otherwise once a culture is set, the people carry the culture through and, the majority will always win.
Yeah. If you're coming in as a new manager and in your first couple months, like half of your team quits and people are trying to put that on you, those people were already out the door. That has nothing to do with you. Right? Like that was a bigger overarching thing. And to your point, maybe this is what you were saying. Maybe not, like it is hard to come in, change a culture that has been established, you know, like the, in one of my director positions I came in and nobody would listen to me. Nobody would do any of the stuff I asked them to do. Not, like none of them. And I was like, cool, we did this, we tried this, nobody did that. So then we tried the next thing, nobody would do it. Nobody, you know what I mean? Like we tried trainings, we tried this, I tried, you know, making sure that they were doing their stuff and doing all the trackers and every step, every intervention, like 80% of the team wouldn't do it. And they're like, that's your fault? And I'm like, is it though? Is it though? Because they feel like they don't have to listen to me and nothing will happen. And that seems like it's a carryover cuz they were all here before me. And you said you were having trouble before. That's why you brought me in and now they're doing it and I'm not gonna be gaslight into being like, this is my fault. So that was a big piece of it.
And maybe just like don't lead people
Back to like maybe just be an IC.
I think, and I think that's what I'm, you know, I've had this discussion before of like, I don't know if I'm a bad leader. I don't know. Cause I've never had, I don't know that I've ever had a really good chance to lead, but what I've settled on is I'm a really good leader on a team where I can be the the best like player on the field versus the coach on the sidelines or up in the owner's box or wherever else. Right. Put me on your team. Like I'll, be the lead sled dog, but I'm not gonna be the person driving the sled or, or any of like, you know, all that other stuff. So I think it's just about figuring out like where your strengths are and then trying to find that position and being really honest about it.
And you can be a great leader without being a manager.
A hundred percent. A hundred percent.
I think that's where we should, where we should end. I think you are a great leader.
Yeah. I don't know. I don't know. I haven't been, I think I can be maybe being a great leader doesn't always mean maybe being a great leader doesn't always mean being a great manager. I think my managerial experience leaves something to be desired, but I think that the qualities of leadership, it's like a Venn diagram, right? Like there's some overlap between leader and manager. Maybe?
But they're not the same.
Maybe not. I don't know.
Gets super existential right at the end.
Well, well that, you know, just, yeah. So just take that with you.
Good, good. We did it. We did the thing.
We did it. Hey, it was great to talk with you.