Here I cover some common questions and concerns when recruiting.
I actually used these for an extended interview with a tragic end and never got to use this work I had laboured over. So I thought I would publish it here,
Want to know more about me as a manager & leader?
Alec is a caring and fair person, with strong work ethic & passion that drives him to deliver the highest quality regardless of the client or objectives. The professional attributes I value (and you could say are my core values) are:
Passion: I have always said “you can teach some one to be good at anything, but it takes passion to achieves greatness. You can’t buy passion, you cannot sell it either… You either have it for a subject to endeavour or you do not.
I prefer, where possible to higher and work with people who care and who love what they do. Where possible I would rather employ a capable person with passion for Digital than a more capable person without passion. The end result is a genuine asset to your team,
loyalty, honesty and integrity & professionalism: Although easy words to write, these statements are intrinsic as to how I conduct myself and are values that I hold dear to me. I will not lie as part of my job, if I make a mistake, I own that, I stand by my teams decisions. More than this, I am a progressive and fair person who treats all people as equals.
hard work & Diligence: I respect this very much so, I myself (Although prone to judging others by my own standards), a strong work ethic shows who someone is. Everyone has slow days or perhaps personal issues effecting performance, but a strong work ethic is visible through those ubiquitous events in people’s lives.
talent: I employ people who I believe, through a rigorous amount of test and assessment, to be talented within their area of expertise. A talent can manifest through many incarnations such as a skill as programming or data analysis but it can also be interpersonal skills, social skills, etc. In junior roles, I am looking for the extra spark of insight, intuition, knowledge, problem solving, intellect or character… That gives them something that can be developed into something great.
I pride myself on reading blogs, white papers, articles, and watching videos, in addition to attending conferences, seminars and meetups on a regular basis. This broadens my horizon, leans me new angles or techniques and keeps my mind sharp. I am also spoken / ran multiple seminars, webinars and online training courses over the years for dozens of companies, agencies and institutions or at events.
Innovation & Innovation: The digital landscape only really started a couple of decades ago, Advances in website technology from responsive to adaptive sites, CMS tools; and the machine guns speed of algorithm or software changes to the tools like Facebook or Google Ads has mean that to keep pace you need to understand what platforms, channels and networks there are to tak advantage of.
There is also hge room to get very technical and create your own dashboards, tools, matrix’s and apps that can help stream line workflow and make data analysis easier.
I generally work with great people with a flair for what they do. I make measured decisions based on as many data and logical assessment required to form an informed and effective coarse of action. Like most people with experience spanning multiple decades, I am prone to intuition and gut feelings about which way to go. These are largely supported by research, due diligence and a controlled test.
I put my team first, I have their back, I speak straight with people and I am consistent in what I with what I do. Pride in my work is what drives me.
Clear communication that speaks in the language or vocabulary of the person / people witch whom I am speaking is what makes me a strong and effective communicator. Clear communication is absolutely the key to project management, stakeholder management often determines the success of the outcome,
What is your approach to leadership & Management?
MY approach to leadership has always seen the following components as critical to smooth operations. This also is in no particular oder:
Communication: (two way comms requires listening and understanding, more than speaking.
Processes: These are the guidelines that determine how each process should be done, in order to be done to the best possible standard. They mitigate risk, doubling down on work, mistakes, and also help to educate.
Planning & Resource Management: Allocating work people team members in-line with their skills, speed, accuracy, and ultimately capacity form the variables in the equation. The aim is to get the maths to balance and have a just that the work is achievable in the timeframe and at the standard it needs to be.
Project & Stakeholder Management: A crucial skill in any senior position, in part due tot the responsibility of the organiser or head of project. I take about my approach this in another post, but having worked for multi-national media companies, global agencies and with vast clients segmented into dozens of siloed departments… I have had a lot of experience with this, especially managing external suppliers in multiple countries at the same time.
The key to this is a very transparent understanding or resources, capacity, risks, potential risks and planning with an eye for detail. I have no problem chasing people up or saying it how it is within the strict realms of professional communication.
Understanding the teams strengths: In times of lower pressure and stress, I like to assign tasks to team member that play to their strengths (or interests). This provides motivation and advances the skill sets of the team members.
Openness: There are always people who know more than you, they may be junior to you or a complete noob. Dismissing this off hand is nothing but ego and is a sign of someone who id driven by their insecurities. If something makes sense and it works pans out being after looking into, it should be accepted and capitalised upon.
Every time you are shown to be wrong, you have an opportunity to be better!
Professionalism: I consider myself a professional that responds accordingly in situations, I do not let me emotions dictate my responses. Hence, I never raise my voice or treat co-workers anything other than as my equal. Even disciplinaries are viewed my perspective as a way to improve things for the subject in question. I prefer positive reinforcement combined with constructive (positively frames) criticism.
Banter & Social: Odd thing to put on my list, but I do like banter / chit chat / jokes and well meant sincere conversations with my teams over the years. although edgy at points, it is very deliberately aimed ‘entertaining’ without being offensive.
Solution Driven: Project management problems typically fall into one of three categories:
- Logistical – time frames, road blocks, unforeseen hold-ups, resourcing issues or budgetary constraints, and conflicting priorities with other teams.
- Staff issues
- Technical problems
Problem solving is something I both enjoy and have many years of experience at. When presented with problems, I typically respond with options for solutions. Often with will involve performing a test/s to gather data whish to make the most informed decision.
Data is the foundation and logic the framework for building a case for something. Applying scientific methodology to the process; ensures that you can either control the variables or work around them so as to still be accurate enough.
Reviewing anything from ad scheduling to seasonality, historical data, returning visitors and competitors can all feed into a picture that once complete or near complete; can reveal the most effective direction to move in. This doesn’t just form digital strategy, but also informs team management decisions.
Fair and Straight
I am fair and straight with people, thus ensuring that everyone knows what I mean and how I feel. If I need to speak to a subordinate about some negative aspect of there work, I approach this with compassion, to try and understand what has happened so it can be avoided again.
I ready reward good work or above and beyond effort with verbal and written praise. Negative language is something I avoid but is unfortunately necessary at points. It in all cases I am both professional and polite.
How do you create an environment where your team are comfortable to take risks?
This is not something I have encouraged or been in a position to encourage in most of my jobs, depending on what you consider a ‘risk’. I would certainly encourage an employee to set out a test or experiment, but with the knowledge that the risks are managed down / minimalised and that the results of the test do not incur negative consequences for my team.
Most of my roles and projects had limited risk, and decisions were driven by data, hypothesis were made, variables controlled and hence the risk of testing was reduced as much as possible.
I had a team member who had a creative approach to building content and links for a Forex client that required us to engage external agencies for some of the work. I supported him throughout this process, and it delivered fantastic results. The risks were that if this didn’t work, we would have wasted money on external agencies and not managed to deliver the result to the client. The budget on this was relatively small and so the risk of wasted spend was minimalised by limiting this test to a single client with a specific opportunity. This achievement resulted in the client adopting this as a new service and was a significant upsell.
Once I’ve given the green light to go ahead with a new initiative, I stand by, support and protect my team’s decision to do so regardless of the outcome. This enables my team to feel that they have the freedom to perform innovative initiatives without fear of reprisal.
I feel you need to foster an environment where people can be creative and that when they have a strong or viable idea that they are supported through the process (by myself) of implementation. Without this people don’t advance or learn as well. In my opinion business thrive on a creative environment, that’s how they get competitive advantage and grow.
Lastly, my team/s over the years has weekly assembled to discuss new ideas, initiative and perhaps somehting interesting they read on digital marketing. This format for open consequence free discussion creates and environment where people fee free to put forward to suggestions, strategies, and ideas without fear of reprisal.
I do not feel it is beneficial to allow everyone to feel that they can all run in different directions away form work to follow within a job. Processes and clear red lines need to be drawn to allow for all staff to comfortable.
Ultimately there should be a assessment of risk where relevant to determine the level of risk and this should in turn inform the decision as to whether the risk should be take.
What is your style of leadership?
‘Participatory’ would broadly and succinctly describe my approach, but I drawn from many disciplines and approaches depending on the team being managed. Rewards bonuses etc may motivate some more than others.
I put my team first and I only employ people who I truest implicitly. The core of my approach comes from open, transparent communication between employers & employees. This fosters mutual respect and cooperation between all. In order to achieve this type of working relationship, participative management (like myself) adopt several principles for involving employees more actively in business operations.
First, we share information about business growth and progress allowing employees to feel vested in the company’s goals. Next, we provide training to enhance employee skills and knowledge to increase positive job performance and improve operational outcomes. Finally, soliciting employee participation by seeking input and advice for making business decisions and rewarding successful suggestions or ideas.
A leader should rely on their team as their team relies on them. When a colleague needs help to do something maybe they have not done before or are unsure on, I provide input, advice, guidance and examples. A team is by definition a group that work together towards a common goal, everyone has their part to achieve in delivering on the goals.
Also, a participatory approach fosters a feeling within the team that their opinions matter, that they are valued, and their input is both needed and wanted. I have on many occasions collected the team and had brain storming sessions to help an individual member with a difficult project, for example.
Getting other team members to provide feedback on my own work, or that of their peers in a collaborative way has also produced positive outcomes, both in terms of spotting opportunities and providing a sense of inclusion.
During my time working for an agency, we had the opportunity to pitch to a very well-known brand. I put together a deck and delegated certain aspects of the work to other members of my team. The participation of my team meant that a more complete, well rounded and higher quality presentation was delivered. Their participation in the creation of the presentation, enabled them to more clearly understand the needs and objectives of the client once we had successfully onboarded them. This also helped the junior team members to improve their skill base and prepare them for potential future leadership roles.
What has been the most challenging aspect of leadership?
Managing a disgruntled employee, someone who was disaffected and dissatisfied with the company. Before I had begun in the role, my manager informed me that she had, in her opinion, been treated badly by both the business and previous management. My manager implied that she was exceedingly difficult to manage.
I believe that because of her pre-disposition towards both management and the business she immediately saw me as a continuation as what she perceived to be poor management.
She questioned everything I did, refused to follow direct instructions, and often deliberately tried to undermine me. This had a negative impact on client relationships. In addition, although the quality of her work was adequate, often her deadlines were not met, which affected the team’s overall performance. She was also widely recognised as “being difficult to work with” by her peers which made teamwork even more difficult.
Initially I felt that my honest and direct approach would earn her respect and trust, but the difficulty in working with her continued unabated.
I tried various approaches to improve our relationship, and her relationship to the rest of the team. I did this by having personal chats, group get togethers, mediation, KPIs and performance management. However, none of this brought no success. Ultimately the decision was made with support from my superiors to let her go. A combination of an uncooperative team member and the decision to performance manage her out of the business have been the most challenging aspects as a leader.
It has only ever been relationships with people notorious for being difficult to work with that I find challenging. All other challenges are part of the game, and that’s why I play.
How, and on what basis, do you delegate tasks as a manager?
Delegation is determined by priority and resources, and capability. Workflow management is managed by determining priorities and resources, who can deal with what and by when. On more complex projects these are mapped out using a combination of project management tools and well defined processes, couple with regular stakeholder meetings.
Processes should determine who is responsible for what, project management determines when (and who) and the delegation of those tasks is in alignment with those processes.
If team a members prefer some skill or interest (say they are interested in analytics) I would try, where possible, to delegate their preferred work to them. My approach is typically quite systematic. I set tasks and deadlines that are inline with the capabilities of the individuals that allow us to collectively meet deadlines.
In many roles I have been both managing a team and hands on at the same time, so I have had to delegate tasks that the junior members are cable of achieving whilst performing the tasks which only I can do. In one role we had a huge auditing project and a small timeframe. I therefore delegated the tasks to the people in the team whom I knew could do the best job in that area whilst, concentrating on the components where I would provide the most value.
I enjoy hands on work but delegate work to team members who want experience in that areas and free my time for relevant takes for me. I feel this drives motivation and feeds loyalty and interest in the job. I understand that in order to achieve the best result it is not always possible to do this. Under certain conditions, such as tight deadlines, you have to utilise the skill sets of your team more efficiently.
How have you supported a colleague through a difficult situation?
There was a time when one of my team was going through some personal trauma. I gave him the space he needed to deal with this in terms of some time off, flexible hours and phone calls.
On a practical level I reallocated his work throughout the team, taking much of it on myself.
On a personal level I took him out to lunch and gave him space to discuss his problems in a safe environment. Providing emotional support and talked to him like I would a friend in the same situation.
On a professional level, I had a co-worker in the paid team when I was in the SEO team, we both worked with the same client. She had delivered some poor results and her strong points were not communication. The client had specifically asked that I help her as he needed something to show his boss to make him look good and he was always pleased with my decks! So, I worked with her, I got her to collect all the data, analysed the data, showing her what I was doing as I went. I then walked her through how to cut the data to paint a better picture for the client as per his request.
After the work was done, I sent her all the data, the deck and asked her to send it to the client without mentioning my involvement, which helped significantly improve their working relationship. She applied this technique to other clients and achieved her end of year bonus.
Encouraging a team to go outside their comfort Zone
There have been times when team members are asked to perform tasks that they have had little to no experience of before. My approach to this has been to support them through the process, striking a balance between providing guidance and support whilst not spelling out every step for them. I feel that people learn best when learning for themselves. In addition, a clear brief and expert support when required helps people to operate outside their comfort zone.
My approach is that; I am here if you need me, which provides a safety net allowing people to know that although they are outside of their comfort zone, they are neither alone or in danger, but rather that they are improving their skills, value and driving their career forwards.
Specifically, one team member was asked by me to produce a presentation for a client, however, she was not confident in his abilities to produce presentations. I provided a list of techniques, advice, and general guidelines. Throughout the process I provided input and suggestions on how to better deliver the content or make slides clearer or more concise. The end result was that she did a great presentation and now is greatly confident in this area, and it’s now something he enjoys doing.
Dealing With A Disgruntled Employees
I was in the uncomfortable situation of being asked to lie to my client to cover up the poor decisions made by my predecessor, which were against Google’s policies. An update to Google’s algorithm resulted in a massive decline in organic visibility and hit the business hard to say the least.
My approach, once the cause of the issue had been identified, was a frank and honest discussion with them. I delineated the facts of the situation and created a solution to resolve it which they could implement. I had a face to face meeting which started with me saying ‘you are not going to like the problem, but you will like the solution’.
The client shook my hand and thanked me for my honesty as he felt that up until this point he had been misled. My approach is often tactful but frank and straight forward with people, and this seems to earn respect and trust in equal measure.
How do you contribute to workplace culture?
I was part of the social committee in Mozo and pushed for fun team-based activities. Although it sounds odd to say myself, I have been described as ‘a character’ and tend to integrate myself throughout the people I work with in my office. I have frequently encouraged extracurricular events, inter office competitions and such like. In one role both offices had table tennis tables and I organised an ‘interstate competition’ before a townhall style meeting.
Anyone who has worked with me before recognises that I work hard and deliver results and I feel that this is how I lead by example. This fosters a culture amongst my team. I like to engage my team, and get my team engaged with other teams either socially or professionally. When people work well with others and can have their social needs met, I think this breeds a good workplace culture.
I feel that honest, straight talking, and strong leadership coupled with an approachable nature leads to a good culture within my own team.
How do you ensure balance work and life for your team?
I have always had a good working relationship with my teams. I lead through example in many cases and consider my level of knowledge to be one that supports my team to help them achieve results. I also encourage (as mentioned above) work lunches or after work gatherings.
On a practical level I organise my working week such that the team are briefed early and supported throughout. Being properly organised and understand a clear picture of what is or could happen over the near future allows for effective planning. Dynamic, detailed and realistic plans, that have to be managed up (where necessary), prevent overload and burnout.
Deepening on my role or position within companies with which I have worked, they’re size and existing culture, I have organise external events and have been on social activity committees.
My team’s mental health is of paramount importance to me. Ensuring that their needs are met with time off, workload reduction or reintegration schemes (where necessary), I have always tried to treat my team properly.
When & how have you had to prioritise customers?
From working in agencies, its hard to think of a time when this is not the aim. To provide specific examples, I have performed SWOT analysis style audits, compared the opportunities with their budgets and created strategies that best utilise the client budget.
In my role at Mozo I created a content strategy that met the needs of each stage of the customer conversion funnel, providing the customer with solid advice on a range of related topics that drove them down the funnel.
The decision I made was to remove the budget from some ineffective paid social, and, to invest heavily in content to help educate our customers on their financial journey during a complex decision-making process. This led to growing the content team and some of this new content got a lot of media attention. The links and attention it attracted actually boosted our organic visibility allowing us to reach a larger and more well-informed audience of potential customers.
As well as addressing customer need, this initiative drove acquisition, grew the company in both revenue and employee numbers and was highly successful.
In the freelance work that I have done, I have worked closely with the client to understand what it is they are trying to achieve from a business level perspective. I have worked my strategies around their needs to deliver results in line with the objectives of their business.