At the close of 2014, I was the only full-time marketer on The Iron Yard’s staff. Today, there are 7 of us total, meaning the last few months have been quite a fun adventure in learning and re-defining how the team works. Several of the people I hired had worked with me (and many times each other) on Iron Yard projects before. As a result, we’d developed a way of working that transitioned naturally from contract work to full-time work.
As I began to hire people who had no prior relationship with The Iron Yard or anyone on the team, though, I knew that our way of doing things wouldn’t necessarily be explicit on its own. As the new kid on the block, learning a culture and team and where you fit in can be a tough business as a lone ranger.
We decided to define our values as a team—the core elements of the way we go about our work and interacting with each other. Becoming an efficient part of a company happens much more quickly if you have a rubric by which to make decisions about what you are producing and the ways you communicate (or don’t).
Here are the values of The Iron Yard MarCom team:
Remember the mission
If we lose focus of the mission, it doesn’t matter how good our work is. Knowing why we do the work we do is critical. It’s what makes our work good. Our mission is the context for everything we do.
Consider our students in everything we do
People who trust their precious hours and hard-earned dollars with The Iron Yard should be at the forefront of our decision making on the marketing team. What we produce affects real people seeking change in their life and our work should reflect a deep conviction to serve them well.
Always strive to see big picture of what MarCom is doing
While the buck stops at Eric to set priorities and constantly keep the big picture in front of the team, each person on the MarCom team should work to keep the big picture of what we’re doing on the forefront of our minds.
If we don’t keep the big picture in mind, we run the risk of doing what’s necessary in the short-term, but not making the sacrifices needed to build something truly great in the long run.
We do serious work, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Laughter is expected often and loudly. Remember, a round of beers is most likely the best medicine.
Headphone rule and respecting space to crank
We’ve chosen to work in close physical proximity because the benefit of problem-solving and ad-hoc communication to our work outweighs the potential cost, which in most cases is distraction and decreased productivity. Nothing kills productivity like an environment rife with distraction. We are fun jovial people, so this will always be a struggle for us.
The rule is simple: if someone has their headphones on, they are uninterruptible. I also recommend turning off Slack when your headphones are on (habit fields).
Visual perceptions about work and actually getting stuff done
Tasks involving creativity and problem solving are unpredictable, and different approaches may not always fit into the traditional definition of work. On the MarCom team, we aren’t going to judge people by what it looks like they’re doing. We’re adults who can get work done, not a bureaucratic cube farm where everyone has to look busy all the time.
That being said, if you aren’t getting your work done, it’s nearly impossible to separate visual perceptions from consistently poor performance and that will be addressed.
Thought leadership and forward thinking in your area of responsibility
Similar to our efforts in keeping the big picture for MarCom in front of us, you should keep the big picture of your area of responsibility in front of you, thinking critically about where we’re headed, researching and bringing new ideas to the table.
Consider how your work, decisions and needs affect others on the team
Marketing teams are often plagued by quick changes, hard deadlines, misunderstandings and the miscommunication or unmet expectations that cause problems. (That’s why agencies often wear people out.) When you are thinking about the work you do, consider the other people it depends on and/or will be delivered to and how those people fit into the process.
Above all, seek to set clear expectations with everyone.
Propose solutions, not just problems
If something needs to be done, change, is broken, is poor quality, etc., we don’t raise a flag and simply notify someone (or everyone) that there is a problem. Recognizing problems is the cost of entry; thinking through solutions challenges us to solve problems as they come up, not just settle for awareness.
Openness, honesty and commitment to hard conversations
Working closely as a team is a tall order and even the most congenial of people are going to butt heads at some point, especially when they are working on something they care about and are good at, which all of us are. Let’s get this established out front: we’re going to have some hard conversations with each other at some point. This is healthy. It will help us all get better at what we do, understand each other better and is a necessary part of learning to communicate as a team.
Commitment to and accountability for quality
We need to hold each other accountable to doing quality work. It’s not helpful for anyone—our students especially—if someone does shit work and you aren’t honest with them.
Commitment to deadlines (which reflect our team)
Meeting deadlines, especially ones we set for ourselves, is a reflection of our team’s commitment to The Iron Yard. If we don’t care enough to set smart, realistic deadlines and meet them, how can we ask students to labor over seemingly impossible homework night after night?
We’ll strive for balance, but run a tight ship when it comes to shipping.