If you don’t like working with people, then you sure as hell will not like working in strategy. Often, a creative team can slip away to an empty office to ideate. A client handler will be off handling some client. A UX designer will put on their “don’t-fuck-with-me” headphones.
A strategist should never hide.
I’ve had incredible fortune in my career and have worked with the best and brightest in strategy. It is in NYC that I am facing my most difficult challenge yet – I am, for the time being, the sole senior strategy lead for the NYC outpost of my agency’s network. The rest of my team is scattered in Austin and San Francisco. We have, in my opinion, one of the best teams in the nation. But we are separated by thousands of miles. I questioned how I would survive. It was the week before I moved that I was reminded that a strategist doing true strategy will never be doing it alone; there is no “i” in strategy.
What can a strategist do to remember there is no “i” in strategy? What are the fundamentals you need to keep in your toolbox as you lead your first project or team?
Here are 4 simple thoughts to keep in your back pocket:
1. Always leverage the smart minds around you. (Hint: They’re everywhere).
Finding the right strategy takes work and you should never set the expectation you must go at it alone. Leverage the smart minds around you to give feedback on your brief. Ask if they have a perspective on the insight you’re digging up. Pull your creatives aside and ask if they are thinking of solving the problem in a different way. You’ll find brilliant reactions and perspective all around you.
2. Never think a task is below (or above) you.
Your team is after a few things on any project – a great strategy, kick ass work, and a bit of fun along the way. Be the problem solver you sold in your interview. If the client handler is having trouble framing the upfront to a deck – be the extra set of hands. If the UX designer is struggling with campaign objectives – be the guide. Too often I see strategists walk away from a project before the kick ass work is realized or the fun was had. Be the quarterback for your team and clients and be ready to do whatever it takes to get the jobs done.
It took me sometime before I realized some times it is better to shut up and listen than try to give your point of view on everything. You’ll know when your team needs you to speak and when they want you to listen.
4. Abide by the golden rule.
Treat your team of developers, analysts, project managers, creatives and client handlers how you would want to be treated. Respect their work and their time as much as you want them to respect those few sentences you typed into a powerpoint presentation and called a strategy. Strategy is a team sport and you’ll find the most success on the teams that follow the golden rule with themselves and their clients