Steve Marshman, Managing Director and Executive Vice-President at WASSERMAN discusses marketing leadership and his transition from advertising agencies into the world of sponsorship marketing with Nick Obritsch, Marketing Manager at TaylorMade Golf Canada.
The Wonder Years
17 years ago, I sat, settling into a new chair. That chair was only one of 4 within this newly hatched company named Catalyst. Moving from advertising agencies into the sponsorship marketing world and brand-new company was a big step, but one that provided much more than just career experience and progression.
Behind that new venture was the entrepreneurial and progressive spirt of Steve Marshman, the owner of Catalyst. With previous experience across several marketing agencies as well as client-side, he started a small company that would ultimately lead and motivate hundreds of marketers over the years while the company of 4, grew to a headcount of 120+ today.
I spent 5 years as part of the Catalyst Sponsorships Marketing team as we grew in size and office space. 12 years later, I often think back to my time and lessons learned while watching Steve lead. Memories are not only business learnings but core team building moments that make a team feel like a family as you were not only known as an employee, but as a person.
As an effective leader and storyteller, it felt as if Steve could have easily run for government or written an award-winning novel. Instead, he continued to grow his marketing team and his impact in the golf world partnering closely with well-known Canadian corporate clients.
Steve’s small venture had grown in size and visibility across North America, eventually being sought out by Wasserman Media in the US, to be their Canadian agency. Today with 120+ employees, Steve Marshman is the Executive VP and Managing Director of Canada at Wasserman Sports and Entertainment. As the agency continues to grow with recent acquisition of Trevor Peters creative agency, Wasserman celebrates their 4th Sponsorship Marketing Awards Agency of the Year accolade in the last 5 years. Gone are the years of a niche agency focused on golf, as today they range multiple clients, marketing and sponsorship services.
On difficult days that need some inspiration or thinking of how to connect with one of my team members, I often reflect back to my years at Catalyst in that small office. As a key mentor in my career, I was excited and honoured with the opportunity to connect once again with Steve Marshman, during an interview focused on marketing leadership. After some personal catching up, our conversation covered critical leadership topics like communication, goals, and culture. Enjoy the highlights from our conversation.
CONNECT THROUGH COMMUNICATION
Listen 1st and Talk 2nd
As one that could hold anyone’s ear, the first lesson in leadership came as somewhat of a surprise, which was to Listen 1st and Talk 2nd. You can learn so much with your eyes open and mouth shut versus trying desperately to speak first and control the room. This tip boils down down to understanding your team, and individual team members.
Through our conversation I learned that to foster an effective team, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your staff and take some time to understand both their work-related challenges as well as their aspirations.
Also, it is very important to try and learn something personal about each team member and they will pick up that you care. This in turns builds their investment in the company, team, and relationship.
Clear and Engaging Communication
When it is time to share, communicating for effectiveness comes down to being prepared, then be clear and concise with your message. A well-prepared message will come across as natural, confident, believable and eliminates the opportunity for confusion.
Along with listening and speaking, there are some great take-aways that help build impactful and engaging communication. It can be as easy as eye contact, as it shows your interest and also keeps the interest of your team members. Reflective active listening is communication gold that helps to confirm that you understand their message as you repeat key messages back, but it also enforces that they feel heard and seen.
Ok wait! Yes, being patient is another powerful leadership skill. Leaders can easily be excited and eager to get their point across, but it’s important to avoid interruption during communication and let your team members finish sharing their points.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DESTINATION
A great analogy Steve used in our conversation was about paddling a canoe across a lake. If you haven’t picked out and pinpointed a spot that you’re paddling to, you’ll go off path, waste effort and time. To effectively lead, you need your team headed in the correct direction.
It is important to set your destination and have realistic and measurable goals. Don’t make people guess what success looks like for them. When there is clear direction, employees can be provided with autonomy. Autonomy breeds pride and results in their work.
You should take the time to understand how each employee fits into the business and where their efforts contribute to the end goal.
LEADERSHIP EXAMPLE IN PRACTICE
Build a Great Culture
It’s important to note that Wasserman won agency of the year during the COVID years, and it appears that Steve’s positive example of leadership played a big part during those struggling times.
Building a great culture may be on any leaders list, but when there is a crisis or times are tough, it is a time when leaders have the opportunity to shine above everybody else. While all employees were working remotely and worried about their jobs, leadership did not shy away at Wasserman. They shared open and honest messages from the global CEO down through all regions, such that employees understood their situation and felt supported.
This effect was positive throughout the organization as they explored new opportunities for their properties, clients, athletes, and marketing activations.
Remote team building and regular employee check-ins on work and health help culture intact. Marketing output and the creative juices kept flowing, and employees remained engaged and happily employed, due to the strong culture created by leadership.
Alternatively, avoiding an issue within your organization can create negative results. Being proactive in your approach and authentically doing the right thing in a tough situation can be powerful.
Considerate communication, company culture and knowing your destination can be difference makers when it comes to marketing leadership. And as we parted, there were a few final messages. He shared that if we are proud of the work that we are doing, we’re more likely to give that extra 5% and elevate our work product. At the end of the day, effective leadership is a catalyst for efficiency and job satisfaction.
I enjoyed that ‘Catalyst’ was used in one of Steve’s final thoughts and made me once again think of those days back at Catalyst Sponsorship Consulting. The company and its leader, Steve, will always hold a special moment in not only my career, but my life.
Nick Obritsch, CM Candidate
Marketing Manager at TaylorMade Golf Canada
Blog, CM Candidate