While most of us at Fuqua, myself included, have long ago given up on our dreams of playing professional sports, I have to admit that when I had the opportunity to hear from Elizabeth Lindsey, Co-President of the Consulting Division at Wasserman Media Group, a little bit of that competitive fire inside me was sparked again. Wasserman is an industry-specific firm that serves sports and entertainment clients. Listening to anecdotes of Ms. Lindsey’s role in major sports and entertainment marketing campaigns had me ready to jump on the field myself (or perhaps, being a former collegiate runner, I should say “jump on the track”). Although quick to declare that she was not a sports fan, Ms. Lindsey thought it only appropriate to pass on her leadership advice through a sports analogy, breaking down her thoughts into a four-part playbook during her speaking engagement with our class:
1. Define the Playing Field
Showing up at a football game with a cricket bat isn’t going to do you any good. Nor will sitting in the student section of the opposing basketball team be particularly enjoyable. Coming to the table prepared and knowledgeable about the audience to whom you are speaking is a key to success in the business world as well. Specific to Ms. Lindsey’s field of expertise, sporting events present a rare opportunity in which consumers actually accept advertising and welcome brands into their life in support of a team. Capitalizing on one of the few live forms of entertainment that people still find engaging has been essential to her success.
2. Recruit the Best Team
A strong believer in passion-based marketing, Ms. Lindsey emphasized that success is all about the connections that you make with the people with whom you interact. In short, people do business with people they like, both externally and internally. A corporate culture of “one team” has been important to Ms. Lindsey’s career. Win or lose, no one wants to let his/her teammates down. A culture of perseverance, creative problem solving, and teamwork is essential in both work and life.
3. Come up with a Game Plan
Sports is a global passion with very localized content. You have to be there, in the crowd, to understand and feel it. Not only does media content vary between countries, but channels to market are rapidly changing in today’s world. Ms. Lindsey spoke from her personal experience working with various professional sports organizations and their different strategies regarding channels such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Importantly, Ms. Lindsey also pointed out that developing transferable skills is important as industries and professional opportunities rapidly change. For example, the ability to synthesize large amounts of information and translate it into concise, understandable writing can be applied to many different industries.
4. Find the End Zone
It doesn’t matter how fast you’re running a marathon if you’re going in the wrong direction. Aligning your team on the end target and focusing everyone’s efforts is important to success. To that point, your team often extends beyond the four walls of your office. As she put it, in a world of “competimates” (competitive teammates), negotiation is not a zero-sum game. Ms. Lindsey’s most successful negotiations have been based on honesty, with both parties understanding each other’s needs and challenges. Trust can take time to build, but is one of the foundations of professional success.
Sports fan or not, Ms. Lindsey has tackled many challenges in her career. Her advice spans beyond the sports and entertainment industry. While my background is in finance, something that many would consider worlds apart from marketing, the strategies that Ms. Lindsey outlined are applicable to my professional life on a daily basis. Not only do I plan on using her playbook, but she is also the kind of professional that I would want on my team.