As marketing executives, leaders and advisors focus on analyzing and strategizing, we will do well to give serious time and thought to how we mentor, train and lead our teams. Steve Bell is the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the law firm of Womble Carlyle. His track record — not only as a business developer, but as a team builder and leader — is one to be emulated. In this Guest Post, Steve shares a practical tool for all who aspire to lead. (Follow Steve on Twitter.) Thank you, Steve, for a valuable contribution.

As I grew up, my Dad frequently told me, “I can’t stub my toe hard enough to make it hurt you.” Nonetheless, as any parent can identify with, he never hesitated to share the wisdom of his experience. (Sometimes, I listened!)

My career in professional services sales and marketing has now topped 25 years, during which time I’ve had opportunities to lead sales and marketing teams at three large firms.  Long ago, at my very first leadership position at Price Waterhouse, I started keeping a list of professional miscues as I made them. Over time, the “wisdom” gained from stubbing my toe over and over transformed into a set of guidelines that I always share with new hires, and refer to frequently as our team dissects challenges that we have encountered.

A Charter of Conduct

Recently, at a Lex Mundi Marketing & Business Development gathering in Miami, Akina partner Deb Knupp spoke about how important it is for today’s marketing leaders to develop and deploy charters of conduct for their teams.  Turns out I’ve been doing this for years, via my list, which I have labeled Rules of the Road.

In the spirit of Deb’s talk, I offer the list for consideration by leaders and team members in any professional setting. Borne of my own experiences, this is my personal list — revised a bit to include more “do’s” than “don’ts. I invite you to revise it as appropriate to provide your team with a roadmap, or charter, as you begin a new year.

  1. Always tell the truth.   Don’t cover up.  Be forthright.  Answer questions simply and squarely.  Assume that the questioner is just seeking information, not attempting to trap you.
  2. Get me involved early if you can anticipate a situation that I will need to help resolve.  Avoid surprises.
  3. Avoid gossip and taking sides. Deal only with business facts, not with personalities.
  4. Remember that the economic bond of partnership transcends all else.  If you talk to one partner, you are talking to them all.
  5. Say only that which you would say to a person’s face.  If you have to start a sentence with the words:  “Please don’t tell so and so…,” avoid speaking the words that follow.   (Exception: I always emphasize to my team that they can speak with me in the strictest confidence.)
  6. Avoid writing whenever possible.  Avoid voice messages when possible.  Try to do it live and in person or on the phone.  Avoid unnecessary audit trails.  Avoid the “cc” line on e-mails and memos.  If it’s worth someone knowing something, it’s worth having his/her name on the “to” line.  Too often, “cc’s” look like “cya’s.”  And, too often they create endless responses, counter-responses, etc. — wasting our precious time.
  7. Delegate.  Just because you receive an assignment from me or anyone else, does not mean that I expect you to do it personally.  Find your highest and best use, and spend time there.  If an activity is not at your highest and best use, try to place it where it can be more appropriately handled.
  8. If you require a decision on my part, complete your staff work.  You are responsible for accurately footing columns of numbers or spell- or fact-checking.  Bring me accurate timely facts on which I can make a decision – facts that truthfully reflect all points of view.
  9. Communicate to me only that which needs to be communicated.  Since you are empowered to make decisions and take actions, you are not required to copy me on all correspondence.  However, if you do copy me, please let me know why I am being copied and what I am supposed to do.
  10. Focus on the point of sale and ringing the cash register, which, after all, is the reason that professional services firms invest in marketing and sales functions.  Avoid commitments (e.g. committees, meetings) that do not relatively directly relate to the point of sale.
  11. Act as though you own this business.
  12. Help everyone you can.  If you say that you will help, you are obligated to do so.  I can help you turn down work, but there must be good reasons for doing so.  Once you have accepted an assignment, you are totally on the hook to finish it well and professionally.
  13. Make it happen.  Stir the pot.  Keep the balls in the air.  Precision and control are less important than high levels of productive activity.  Remember that running is “controlled falling.”  We want to run.
  14. Make me proud.
  15. Have fun.