Craig Pladson is a marketer and leader I’ve been following for years. I met him after he heckled me (in a good natured way!) at a MiMA talk years ago. We’ve been in an ongoing discussion about brands, digital, marketing and business ever since. These conversations happened during times when we worked together, times when I needed advice, and most recently when I was trying to get smarter about what’s coming next for brands.
He was the right guy for the job –– his new adventure is building his own consulting practice based on his experience at Digital River, Colle McVoy, General Mills, GoKart Labs, and Ovative.
While we talked at length about brands and what’s going to happen to marketing over the next couple years, I really enjoyed hearing him talk about his growth as a leader. I asked him about the experiences that taught him the most –– the ones that created an environment for accelerated development. I expected him to say it was his first job out of school (as part of the Digital River mafia), but it was actually his most recent role that generated the most discussion. It became clear that one of the drivers of accepting the role was the fact that this role would stretch him, providing an opportunity to, as he said, “put myself in a position where I was intensely learning. I thrive in that type of environment.It keeps me dusted off and pushes me to take a modern approach in how I solve marketing problems.”
The role was in a fast-growth, high performing organization staffed by great talent, smart people moving at digital speed.
But how do you lead a team, keep them moving fast, when you’re learning, too? How does a leader strike the balance between fast and frantic, especially when the leader is learning alongside the team?
Craig reminded me that a good leader has to make sure “there’s clarity and a forecasted roadmap of where we’re going and why,” but that leader must also support a team that’s learning through inevitable adjustments and pivots. By getting work to market, the team can watch and adjust based on the results, knowing “feedback will start to direct you in a way that continues to lessen the subjectivity of it,”he told me.
I’m someone that takes pride in my ability to stay curious and stay open to new ideas, but I was inspired by Craig’s intentional, focused effort to put himself in the hard situations that transform experience into insight. He made it hard for himself on purpose! When I consider my own history, I know Craig’s instinct is right: good stuff inevitably comes out of those “crucible” moments, where pressure, curiosity, opportunity and experience get blended and good ideas come out as a result. If we want to keep open, keep growing, we have to seek out and embrace those hard moments, the ones that test us, but put us in a position to learn.