CMO Coffee Talk ‘Aha! Moment’: 15 Best Practices for Managing and Empowering Your Marketing Team

5 minutes
May 25, 2022
Digital Marketing

Editor's Note: CMO Coffee Talk is an open space for more than 1,300 CMOs to come together weekly with their peers and discuss timely, crowd-sourced topics. Matt Heinz of Heinz...

Editor’s Note: CMO Coffee Talk is an open space for more than 1,300 CMOs to come together weekly with their peers and discuss timely, crowd-sourced topics. Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing co-hosts these dynamic, illuminating conversations with 6sense CMO Latané Conant.


Managing a marketing team can be difficult. It can also be the most rewarding aspect of your job.

Doing it well often requires insights and best practices. But conduct a Google search about “marketing management” and you’ll find all sorts of information about what marketers do — the theories, tools, and frameworks – but it’s really hard to find information about actually leading a marketing team.

8 Tips for Managing a Team Of Direct Reports

Here are eight proven best practices for managing your growing team of marketing direct reports:

1. As a manager of people, you better like working with people.

This seems obvious, but I’ve personally experienced a lot of managers who like the title and the extra pay that comes with management responsibility — they just don’t really like dealing with people.

2. Recognize your role as a manager of the team, and be comfortable with it.

Your role isn’t to write the best blog posts, come up with the best ideas, or create the most successful campaigns. It’s to enable your people to do these things successfully.

3. Behave consistently with your organization’s values.

Like it or not, as a manager, you’re a role model. Your direct reports will follow your lead. If they see you treat others with patience and respect, they’ll do the same. Sadly, the converse is true as well … and it can create a miserable work environment.

4. Create an org chart and make sure everyone on the team knows where they are on it.

This sounds like an HR function, but it’s not. It’s a leadership responsibility.

5. Be clear about how team members communicate with each other and with clients.

Define which channels are used, who to “cc:” on emails, how you use messaging platforms, who you keep the rest of the team in the loop, and more.

6. Outline the basic processes that make the work flow.

This isn’t about lead flow. This is about creating a predictable pattern and common understanding about how to get high-quality work done so your people can operate independently and your business can scale.

Since marketing is a dynamic business, your workflow must be flexible enough to maintain quality while withstanding continual changes.

7. Recognize the effort your people put into their work.

Thank them for it. Sure, they get a paycheck either way, but recognizing how hard your people work to get something done is motivation to further excel (and improve) next time.

8. Make it safe to fail.

Marketing is fraught with risk. In order to continually drive results and revenue, your marketing efforts have to be fresh and new. For some people, this isn’t a comfortable space in which to operate.

Give your people some guardrails, check in with them often, praise publicly, and critique privately.

At the end of a new task or project, conduct a private post-mortem to discuss what went well and what could have done better. Together, develop specific actions your team members can take next time to improve.

Great Managers are Teachers

As a people manager, if you’re doing things right, you’re also making your job harder.

Success for a people manager ranges from watching a junior team member nail a client presentation or master a new task, to promoting them to a new role, or even saying good-bye and wishing them well as they embark on a new job somewhere else.

In any case, you’re continuously teaching new skills, coaching, and role-modeling new behaviors so that your people and company succeed.

7 Tips for Managing a Team of Indirect Reports

Here are tips to help new and experienced marketing managers who do not have a direct reporting relationship with their team members:

1. As a project manager, you better enjoy the details.

Successful project managers keep all the details straight while never losing sight of the goal.

2. Talk to the team before assigning work.

Even if responsibilities seem clear to you, be sure to discuss your vision with each team member individually. Let them know how their role operates in the project, the key deliverables, and the type of impact you expect each person to contribute.

3. Do your homework.

Yes, you are relying on the team members to know their part – but as the project lead, you must understand the data and interdependencies between tasks.

4. Take on some of the work yourself.

The best way to gain respect is to join in the heavy lifting. As a project manager, show your team members that you support them by taking on some of the work yourself.

5. Keep everyone informed.

There’s an old advertising adage that goes something like, When you’re sick of saying something, that’s when your audience is just beginning to hear it.

Even if you think everyone is on the same page, don’t hesitate to repeat yourself. Use different means of communication, and continue to provide context to ensure the whole team is informed.  Nothing creates team dysfunction like erratic information sharing.

6. Give prompt feedback.

As the project lead, you must follow the schedule that you laid out. This ensures you’re being courteous and respectful to your teammates.

7. Publicly praise, privately coach.

When praising your team’s accomplishments, give credit to everyone within the team and do so publicly.

Inevitably, something will go wrong. That’s when to take the conversation offline. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership by honestly and directly sharing feedback in a way that helps your team members learn from their mistakes.

Coming Up on CMO Coffee Talk…

In our next CMO Coffee Talk meet-up (which is just around the corner!), we’re answering burning CMO questions in our first edition of CMO Ask Me Anything. Bring your questions — we’ll be answering them in real-time. You don’t want to miss this one!

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