A Marketer’s Search for Meaning: 5 Attributes of Relevancy

Posted on April 28, 2015 · Posted in Creativity, Leadership

April 28, 2015

I read an article the other day that said that people are hired for hard skills and fired for a lack of soft skills. I’ve found this to be true, and even more so for marketers as our pace of change keeps picking up speed.

I listen to marketers talk about the struggles they have in their organizations and I notice something. Those who consistently amaze me have a set of qualities that aren’t mainstream. They look at their work differently and what they create stands apart. There are things that they do, think about and commit to that others won’t make the effort. I see them as:

Grit – I love this word. Resilience. Passion. Perseverance. They convey the same essence, but I love the, well, grittiness of what this simple word means. Let’s get down to business and let’s get things done. It’s how certain people are able to dig deeper and deliver that extra ‘something.’ They’re not bothered by short-term distractions, because they have their eye on the long-term goal. Athletes are like this. The play’s over the but game’s still on. They turn around and give it all they have again and again and don’t get caught up in setbacks.

Curiosity – Whether it’s technology, a process or how to handle a situation, these elite are constantly curious about the world around them. They ask questions about things other people overlook and talk to people that others dismiss. I’ve had fascinating conversations with people I admire  about how walk/don’t walk signs look different in various parts of the world and why. They are perpetual students with constant curiosity.

Accountability – Own things. Own your career. Own your role. Own your outcomes. No one respects a person who makes excuses or passes the buck. Luminaries don’t complain about how someone else isn’t delivering and, instead, focus on what they can contribute – and then they over perform. Be so incredibly awesome at what you do that you put pressure on everyone else to up their game just by showing up every day. Henry Rollins said, “There are other innovative people that wake up early just like you, so you’d better be prepared.” 

Reflection – In the midst of all the demands placed on leaders and their teams, they take the time to step back and reflect on the work that they do, the meaning they create, and how that meaning affects the experiences that they create for others. Taking time to reflect is much different than judging what happened. Reflecting is objective and filled with observation. Judgement looks for something or someone to be wrong. Having new experiences doesn’t guarantee that a person will learn from them; but leaders reflect on them and look for deeper insights into how they will perform, how they will work with others and how they will approach new challenges.

Vulnerability – This isn’t something you do but something that you’re willing to be. The reason that I include this is because the willingness to be vulnerable – to stick your neck out and not know if it’s going to get chopped off – is the root of innovation and creativity. University of Houston professor and author Brené Brown talks about this in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.  She talks about a conversation she had with a CEO and recognized entrepreneur known for disruptive innovation. When she asked him about the biggest barrier to creativity and innovation, he said:

“…it’s the fear of introducing an idea and being ridiculed, laughed at, and belittled. If you’re willing to subject yourself to that experience, and if you survive it, then it becomes the fear of failure and the fear of being wrong. People believe they’re only as good as their ideas and that their ideas can’t seem too ‘out there’ and they can’t ‘not know’ everything. The problem is that innovative ideas often sound crazy and failure and learning are part of the revolution. Evolution and incremental change is important and we need it, but we’re desperate for real revolution and that requires a different type of courage and creativity.”

Marketing is hard. Actually, that’s not true. It’s great marketing that’s hard. It doesn’t take much effort to maintain the status quo. When marketers list off reasons why there’s no need for them to change, I can’t help but ask them: “Is that really how you want to spend your career…just treading water?” Some are honest and up front with me and admit that yes, that’s what they want. They don’t want hard. They just want a job.

My question for you is, what do you want from your career?