Posted: November 16, 2017

Lauren is the leader of a healthcare marketing team. She's bright, outgoing, and personable. She's also disorganized, uninspiring, and ineffectual. Great with executives, Lauren is not so great leading her team. She's often frenzied and hurried in her demeanor, provides lackluster communication, and misses key opportunities to support her people. In essence, she doesn't inspire them to dream or make a creative difference. How can Lauren become a better healthcare marketing leader?

Being a good leader requires certain skills and behaviors, and luckily many of those traits can be learned. No matter what your actual title is in your organization, having the qualities of a good leader can help create a more effective team ... and it can make your efforts to engage your consumers more effective as well.

But in healthcare marketing, you have a unique opportunity to make a real, positive difference in people’s lives. Healthcare marketing campaigns, by their very nature, can influence consumers to make healthy choices, change behaviors, and in some instances they can even help save lives.

This special opportunity to bring about positive change comes with its share of responsibility. As a healthcare marketer, you carry the burden of affecting the lives of your consumers and their loved ones. To be a true healthcare marketing leader, you need to not only master the usual skills – to inspire innovation, to create engaging campaigns and assets, and to track, measure, and optimize your performance – you must also carry forward your organization’s values and mission. When your healthcare marketing efforts work in concert with your organization’s mission and help promote its values, you’ll find the extra motivation you need to succeed.

To lead anything well — people, projects, organizations — you need to be honest, bold, and self-aware. And while books, webinars, and famous leadership gurus can offer proven leadership strategies, there's no one right way to lead for everyone. However, according to the Principles for Creative Leadership, there's a framework you can follow that can help you become an excellent healthcare marketing leader in your organization.

The Principles: Inspire, Direct, and Support

To inspire your team to greatness, you should be positive influences, communicate effectively without negativity, offer visions of growth and success, and strive for improvement — all similar to how you aim to communicate to your consumers, if you think about it. Encourage your team with hope and a plan they can get behind. Nurturing a culture of inspiration takes forethought and planning. Here are some takeaways from this principle:

  • Encourage reinvention. Ask the team to step outside the box on projects to craft ideas and alternative ways of performing tasks. Taking the first steps toward a more consumer-focused strategy in this way could be exactly what your team needs.
  • Expand your network. Participate in key conferences, networking events with healthcare marketers and industry professionals, and join groups or forums. Find out what your competitors and other healthcare leaders are doing well.
  • Make time for out-of-office team building. Tackle an escape room project or rock wall climb, something everyone lends their best skills to for the benefit of the team.
  • Assign writing projects. Since formulating on paper is a powerful form of group communication, task team members with writing a memo, blog post, or case study on a subject in their wheelhouse, perhaps UX design or a new healthcare marketing term, to share with the team.
  • Share your team's work with others on social media, in the company newsletter, and within your organization or industry. This is a great way to foster a team spirit across your organization — your coworkers are probably your organization's patients as well, and they want to feel good about the healthcare decisions they're making.
  • Glean inspiration everywhere. Pictures, art, messages, quotes, awards, and copy that resonates with the team should be posted everywhere so that all a team member needs to become inspired is to look around the workplace.

Leaders that have inspired great teams typically take a guiding approach. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, says a good leader is mindful of others, self-aware, and understands how others feel. Your focus is always on moving the team forward with a clear vision, a realistic goal, and leading by example. Try some of these suggestions for directing your team:

  • Craft goals. Everyone should know what they are and why they're working toward them. Is your goal more website traffic? Maybe a dynamic redesign or user experience research is in order. If your goal is driving appointments in bariatrics, are your search and social campaigns coordinated and personalized?
  • Encourage ownership. Involve the team in identifying problems. Team members griping to one another in whispers or afraid to voice complaint are not being directed properly.
  • Track metrics realistically. Only track metrics that matter and strategize to improve them, if needed, as a team. Tracking likes on Facebook or time on site might not be the metrics that show if your campaigns are driving business or your website forms are a barrier to seminar scheduling. But things like click-through rate or A/B testing a CTA might offer more insight.
  • Trust the team. Ask for advice, ideas, and problem-solving solutions from members. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, said "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
  • Communicate clearly and honestly. When you don't know the answer, tell them you'll find it. Use best practices for delivering information. Needless meetings, emails, or memos should be banished. Also, lack of communication is a top leader failure.

Your team cannot succeed without support. Relationship building — between you and the team and directly between team members — is vital. A leader must both invest in the team and get out of the way. Never micromanage. Leaders must remain accountable and open to learning from their mistakes. The team doesn't fail. The leadership does. Here are some ways you can support your team:

  • Create a comfortable environment. A place in which your team can work effectively, is nurtured, encouraged to brainstorm, and have access to things that help them work well is required. Work spaces with Lego stations, puzzles, and comfortable furnishings are not thriving for nothing.
  • Encourage team communication. Suggest possible mentorships between members, welcome new additions with gusto, and help build solid relationships among the team.
  • Buffer distractions. Be an intermediary between your team and anything vying to reduce its flow and productivity.
  • Absorb blame. A leader accepts responsibility. Work through mistakes and use them as learning experiences.
  • Provide support and flexibility during difficult personal times. Team members have lives outside the office. Take time to know when something has happened that can offset their flow. Acknowledge their difficulty and show empathy and understanding.

By practicing the framework within, leaders can hone their teams and perfect their leadership capabilities. If Lauren chooses just one or two exercises to put into practice from each category every month, she'll become a much more effective healthcare marketing leader.

Aside from being a more effective team leader, in healthcare in particular, practicing these principles of "inspire, direct, and support" can help you connect and engage with consumers. Building a better healthcare marketing team requires dedication to inspiring your consumers toward healthier decisions, directing them to the appropriate service lines or facilities or providers, and supporting their journey with personalized messaging and experiences.

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