How to become more agile in the areas of marketing and communication? Employ sportsmen and women!

I recently met a former member of my sports team and his wife for dinner. Today, he’s head strategist in a famous industrial company, she’s a recognised communication expert. After much talk about the past and the present, we spoke about “buzzwords” and how companies use them. The main focus was on the term “agile”. Examples were exchanged, including that of an advisor friend whose project for introducing agile processes came to a standstill after just a few months: Managers at the customer blocked the necessary measures, because they weren’t in line with their personal annual targets.

Although there are certainly successful examples in the current “agility craze”, we came to a clear conclusion: In order to be more agile, companies should employ more sportsmen and women. In particular in the areas of marketing and communication, this would be an advantage:

1) Promote the joy of experimentation

At present, marketing departments are ensuring a reorientation of customer dialogue. They are making the change from product centricity to customer centricity. And they are increasingly implementing inbound marketing measures so that their strong content will attract customers. The playing field for digital marketing is large. The objectives are quickly defined, but the path to the best solution is rarely pre-defined and full of obstacles in the technological jungle. It’s like in sport: You want to win, but, despite optimum preparation, to score a goal you look for the gap in the opponents’ defence. The solution is in experimentation: For example, by taking the goalkeeper off in favour of another outfield player, as we can currently witness in handball or field hockey. Ensure this joy of experimentation found among sportsmen and women in order to increase the prospects of success in digital marketing: You can gain open-mindedness for new and exciting things, acceptance of the necessity of countless test runs, and the willingness to take risks, to constantly improve, and in the event of failure to look for new paths to solutions.

2) You ensure solidarity

Successful companies increasingly act in a sector- and country-specific manner. The number of target groups is growing. In order to satisfy their requirements individually, sales, service and specialist departments need support. Accordingly, the diversity of tasks and volume of work for marketing and communication teams is increasing – as a rule, with the same team size. Successful sports teams must also manage rising expectations, for example on the part of club management, fans or the media. With a constant team size, the stronger the team solidarity, the more they can achieve this. The better the team communication, the better the mutual support among the team members, and the less self-focused the individuals, the more the solidarity will grow. Use these characteristics to strengthen your team solidarity in order to exploit the efficiency potential as a strong marketing and communication team, and thus master all challenges. In this way, you can ensure togetherness instead of confrontation, sharing of knowledge instead of jealously guarding it, a solution-oriented approach instead of the discussion of problems, and initiative instead of waiting for instructions.

3) You gain proactive pace-setters

Strategic re-alignments, M&A projects and change projects are complex. The Communication department has great responsibility: In internal communication, barriers to understanding and acceptance must be tirelessly overcome across locations and hierarchies. Content is diverse, the number of information channels is high. The communicative design areas are increasing and must be used, one-dimensional “top-down action” on the part of a responsible person is no longer in tune with the times. An integrating and moderating approach was recently encouraged by the German national team coach Prokop at the handball world championship when during a time-out he asked his players “How do you want to play?”, thus involving them in the decision on further tactics. Communication departments too benefit from having several pace-setters in the team in large projects. Pace-setters who act proactively, thus independently providing the structure for a long and dynamic process. Pace-setters who are willing to take new paths in order to convey the central messages via the most diverse communication channels in a comprehensible and memorable way. Pace-setters who are able to involve management and supervisors on other management levels and to moderate their deployment.

4) You establish an empathetic culture of learning by error

The probability of errors rises when new things have to be implemented, when matters become more complex and difficult, or when decisions have to be made fast. This applies at work and in sports. It is thus all the more important to have a distinct culture of error in order to learn and improve. Here too, it helps to look at sport. Whether during a one-on-one interview between trainer and player, or in the team: Week for week, not only empathetic listening takes place that helps all involved to understand how an error occurred, but also joint interaction: Who can do what and how, and who can help whom in order to make things better in future? Benefit from this philosophy: You automatically implement an empathetic culture of learning by error, of which the success is based on unbiased analyses, honest and confidential discussions and the joint development of solutions and support options.

Summary: Become more agile. Employ sportsmen and women.

In an interview on the theme of agility, the leadership expert Wolfgang Jenewein recently confirmed that managers have a hard time establishing a necessary new attitude in everyday team life. This includes, among other things, changing from “command & control to experimentation”, the establishment of an “inclusive, coordinating and humble togetherness,” the requirement to “inspire, structure and moderate”, as well as “empathetic listening”, which above all leads to understanding and willingness to help.

Sports teams master these agility requirements. Accordingly, sportsmen and women are keen to experiment, strengthen solidarity, act as proactive pace-setters and ensure an empathetic culture of learning by error. Invest your money profitably in the long term in particular in the area of marketing and corporate communication: Employ sportsmen and women – and become more agile.

My skills for your success (selection):

  • 10 years heading the global department at international market and technology leaders
  • Over 3,000 projects for increasing customer centricity and operational business activities and strengthening corporate identity
  • Positioning (Coaching) of 40 board members, managers and heads of departments

You have questions about my offer or a specific requirement? I am happy to help you and look forward to hearing from you.