You often hear the phrase "in the weeds" in restaurants referring to a server who has fallen behind, but in this post I'm going to use the phrase to mean being involved in the day-to-day details.
As the CEO of my online marketing company VerticalResponse, you might imagine that I spend my days in a corner office, attending board meetings, and generally moving things forward. And you'd be right. But what you might not know is that I love the day-to-day stuff just as much, and more often than not, you'll find me right there in the weeds with my teams.
You might wonder, how can you lead when you're busy in all those details Janine? I'll tell you...
1. It Grounds Me
Even though I spend a huge chunk of my day in meetings with my leadership team, you'll still find me every Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the trenches with my core marketing team working through the challenges and opportunities of the week. We might be looking at the conversion funnel or which keywords result in the most new sign-ups for us. And guess what? I love each and every minute of it. Why? Because the minutia grounds me.
I've been a marketer a quarter of my life. It's what I know and it allows me to focus. And often because of that laser-like focus on the details, it enables me to uncover opportunities like when we saw that people who signed up for our service and loaded their customer list into our e-mail marketing system were three times more likely to purchase than those who didn't. That's just one example of how being "in the weeds" led to an important way to move our company forward.
2. I Stay In the Know
It's amazing the things I learn or hear just by being present at meetings like the one I mentioned above. It's mostly managers in this meeting and we go over a myriad of topics. I often hear about projects being sidelined or obstacles they face because of another functional area in the company or process that isn't working.
Just recently in one of these meetings I found that a new person was having issues getting an answer to something that only people who have been at our company for a few years would have known. I gave the back story about the situation to him and the team he was getting his information from, we documented it and now it's no longer an obstacle. By having this information I am able to work with my leadership team to address issues like these and remove obstacles that I might never know about otherwise.
3. I (Still) Think Like a Customer
Even though I've been living and breathing this business every day for over 12 years, I still think like a small business owner. And as much as my teams do this too, there are often times that they are so close to what they are doing and know so much about it, that I serve as the SMB voice of reason. For instance when looking at a new tool we were developing, one of my team members voiced that she would want all the reporting at the very top with the action items underneath. Her reason was simple. She looks at a lot of reporting and would want it straight away. I understood her point, but made the counterpoint, "you're not a typical small business owner, they don't think like that."
I'll always be driving this business forward and looking for the best opportunities for growth for us and our customers, but you can bet you'll always find my feet firmly planted in the weeds.
How do you lead and still take on the day-to-day details? I'd love to hear.
JANINE POPICK is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 2,802 on the 2012 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick