#PassItOn: Leadership should happen naturally
A view from Crystal Eisinger

#PassItOn: Leadership should happen naturally

Google's Crystal Eisinger shares her best career advice on leadership, building a strong team and planning for the future.

Welcome back to #PassItOn, a series featuring the best career advice and insight from women of the Futures Network, an alumni group for Wacl Future Leaders Award winners. In this instalment, we hear from Crystal Eisinger, strategy and marketing lead for ads and industry marketing at Google. For the Futures Network’s mentorship scheme, Eisinger was mentored by Belinda Rowe, global managing partner at Publicis Media and acting director of brand and marcoms at O2. Eisinger shares lessons from her mentoring session, talking leadership, starting a new role and career planning.

On leadership: meet far and wide

Dig deep to understand the whole ecosystem of marketing and communications. It’s especially important to meet with people deep within and outside of your business to get a real grip on different pockets of the industry, from brand and performance to ecommerce and measurement. Set up meetings with people in related roles at companies that are best-in-class, and third parties and beyond to make sure you’re equipped as a leader who understands all the different capabilities across the industry.

As a leader, Rowe says, you could rely on other people giving you the information, but if you make the effort to have a more holistic understanding, "you’ll get valuable stimulus to help you grow and apply new thinking, while also reducing the risk of being blindsided by random facts". 

On starting a new role: drink a whole lot of coffee

Go for a lot of coffees! Meet with as many people as you can to get as broad a perspective as possible. This will help you to understand the different complexities and strands that will come together as your plan. Within the first four to six weeks, start to write down your observations and build up the bones of a plan. Within three months, make sure you have a fully formed plan that is clear, focused and communicated to all the different parts of your business, and invest time in making sure everyone is on board with your strategy. 

Rowe adds: "Once you start to develop your plan, it’s beneficial to involve your team in the creation of it – it brings them on your journey and gives the opportunity of shared ownership." Ultimately, you are leading it, but motivating people behind your plan is also key to success. 

On gathering: make the most of team meetings

Be intentional about your gatherings, be they off-sites or weekly team meetings. Make sure your team meeting agenda is aligned to your plan and key goals. Use the start of the meeting to build openness and warmth. Rowe starts her meetings with her direct reports by asking all attendees to indicate how they’re feeling on a scale of one to 10, and uses that as a jumping off point for them to talk about what’s on their mind.

Ensure you cover business performance and key topics relating to the plan on a regular basis and make sure you leave time for any other business, Rowe advises. According to her, team meetings used well can be used to keep an eye on the prize, align around a plan, provide transparency and visibility, and build momentum within a team.  

On career planning and coaching

Rowe’s career north star was always to "be at the pinnacle of the industry of marketing and communications" and, as such, she did everything possible to learn, engage and be ahead of the marketplace. Her top tips to keep ahead of the market are to get involved with industry collaboration, engage with lots of people to understand where the future is and do good work. If your work is having an impact, Rowe says, "then leadership happens naturally". 

More recently, Rowe took a three-month career break to travel. During this time off, she also interviewed 10 potential coaches to find one who could help her develop her plan for the next 20 years. I found this refreshing, as I’d never heard of people interviewing prospective coaches before. But of course it makes complete sense. Top questions and things to consider when selecting a coach:

  • What’s your approach?

  • Who have you worked with before?

  • What impact have you had on the people you’ve worked with before?

  • And then make sure the chemistry and cultural fit is right!