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Unlock the Potential of Marketing Leadership, with Patrick Leimgruber, Category Growth Leader at Sanofi

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They say a courageous leader is someone — when thrown to the wolves, will return leading the pack. Well, in the corporate leadership, one may not need to literally battle in the wild, but must be geared to face the gravest of challenges with utmost ease.

Such is the kind of smart leadership style Patrick Leimgruber believes in, and embraces to keep his subordinates motivated, and to help them become progressive leaders themselves.

Leimgruber understands the importance of high-performance optimisation principles. They make you hungry for growth and help you become committed to their team’s development. He shares five team development strategies to build a strong team mindset and create a safe space where everyone is encouraged to speak their mind.

What’s Inside?

  1. Leading With Purpose: How Marketing Leaders Shape the Next Normal Amid Unprecedented Challenges
  2. The Sanofi Story: Why Do Leaders Need to Take Action?
  3. 5 Strategies to Align Teams Through Strong Leadership
  4. How Can Leaders Shape the Future
  5. Lessons Learned
  6. Who Is Patrick Leimgrube?

Leading With Purpose: How Marketing Leaders Shape the Next Normal Amid Unprecedented Challenges

As the pandemic continues to endanger millions of lives worldwide, the new global economic reality significantly affects every aspect of our everyday lives: how we work, how we connect with our team, how we communicate, what we buy, etc.

The massive changes in customer behaviour and business outlook have put growth marketing leaders on the front lines in this unprecedented new reality. Now more than ever, they need to anchor themselves simultaneously on what matters most in their companies and execute multiple initiatives to chart a path forward.

This means that they must lead with purpose by taking care of their team, customers, and communities. At the same time, they must focus on three horizons to shape the way forward:

  • Navigate the current situation
  • Execute a recovery strategy
  • Plan for an uncertain future

Sounds like a lot of work, right? If you are strategic about it and implement the steps shown below, it doesn’t have to be. 

The Sanofi Story: Why Do Leaders Need to Take Action?

Sanofi is truly a purpose-led company. We have a core goal to serve our customers and help them live healthier lives. What makes Sanofi unique is that it’s a place where you can be very entrepreneurial. 

When I came to Sanofi, my first focus was getting the marketing basics right. After that, I quickly shifted my focus to building the right team and culture – bringing the team together, breaking down silos, and aligning everyone with a single vision. 

 

No matter how much you think you have everything under control, bad things can happen. Around Q3 of 2019, we lost a big part of the team for various reasons. I took this personally, feeling like I failed in my role since it’s my job to ensure we have a functioning team. But I tried to focus on fixing the issue. 

In this instance, as a leader, I realised I needed to be more aware of the work and pressure that certain people put on themselves. This was the part when I understood the crucial need to focus on the team.

5 Strategies to Align Teams Through Strong Leadership

To bring the team together, we focused on 5 key steps. Whenever there are changes in strategy or on the team, we review them and make changes when necessary.

1. Listening to team members

When I arrived in Sanofi, I first sat down with everyone 1:1 and discussed what was working and what needed to be fixed. It showed to be very helpful to talk about how we individually embody the business’s values.

The rule of thumb is: Employees who feel heard are more engaged and productive. When you show your team members that they have a voice, they are more than willing to use it. 

Even the statistics confirm it: 

 

Is your company missing out on opportunities to improve, innovate, and serve customers more effectively? There is only one way to find out – just listen to your ream!

2. Connecting extensively

I wanted the team to connect more on a daily basis. That’s why we set up a daily standup process first thing in the morning where we would get the whole team together on a short call to discuss what they are working on. Many studies show that teams who talk a lot perform better. This ended up working out for us too. 

Since then, we have integrated 5-minute morning yoga sessions during the COVID period. Initially, it was met with skepticism, but the team appreciated the ritual. 

Face-to-face meetings do wonders when connecting with employees, but when working remotely, make sure to check in with your employees every single day.

 

Clear and inspiring communication is central to going forward as a company. For many employees, corporate leaders have been the most trusted source of information since the frantic early days of the pandemic. People won’t always say it out loud, but they are still struggling with the sudden shift to working from home.

It is a challenge but also an opportunity to connect with your team while working remotely. Update even if there’s no update is something you should always have in mind. Consistently keep people in the know about what you’re doing even if there are no changes at all. 

3. Have fun 

Connecting with your team is not just about talking about business but also ensure some time for fun and a lot of laughs during work hours.

We got the team on houseparty.com and set 30-minute slots for us all to play together every week. We don’t talk about business. We just get together and laugh. We also try to set up exercise and yoga sessions.

 

Every Friday, I write an email to the team summarising my top five moments for the week. Time flies so fast. It’s hard to remember all the good moments but reading back through these helps people reflect on the week and their highlights. 

Having fun during work hours is not just about creating fun events but to also embed a deeper meaning to employees’ physical, mental and social wellbeing. People are not any more attracted by the fancy job title nor the salary but to co-own the purpose of work and to know you can help shape the company’s future together.

Organising fun events open up conversations about what people did, what they are doing, what they want to do, and how the company might support the aspirations. Suddenly the thing that people are usually afraid of, the uncertainty and the unknown, becomes this excitement about the future.

The bottom line is, care about your people and sincerely want them to be happy, healthy, and feeling fulfilled. Online team events are just one way to show it.

4. Creating open space for discussion

During my sessions with my team members, I encourage them to ask more questions, make decisions, be creative and try out new things. I have my personal opinion on specific topics, but I want my team to find solutions to challenges independently. 

Very often, your team will know more about specific topics than you do. It’s imperative to go along with them, encourage sharing and let them do what they feel is right. 

 

Make sure your team members feel comfortable speaking up. It could be with you, their manager, someone else they trust at work, and so on.

Unfortunately, studies show that only 1% of employees feel highly confident to voice their concerns in the workplace at critical moments, and a third of them feel like their organizations don’t promote or support open conversations.

Here are ways to boost confidence and enable people to speak up:

How to encourage your team to speak up at meetings?

  • Conduct anonymous surveys to find out why people aren’t raising their hands. They may be afraid of being criticized or overlooked for a promotion. Or, they don’t understand what you expect from them.
  • Don’t overwhelm your team with way too much information, abstract or monotonous tasks. Next time you present an update, keep it as simple as possible. Focus on the top one or two issues and save the less critical stuff for some another time.
  • Reward people for speaking up. You don’t need to throw a party for an employee who asked a question during a meeting. But, show them that you appreciate their contribution when they comment with a simple thank you.
  • Meetings can be a severe time-waster, so make them more engaging. Kick things off with telling a story, playing a game, or an ice breaker. Don’t forget to send the agenda in advance so everyone can prepare their questions or concerns.
  • Stop dominating the conversation and just listen. If you speak the majority of the time, others won’t even bother chiming in. Yes, there are times when you need to talk but try consciously to talk less and listen more. It may take some practice. 

5. Get alignment, set a vision and values 

At the end of the day, it is essential to determine which values represent the company by continuously asking yourself why you started the company in the first place. This can help you pick the core values that best represent your brand.

Identifying the company values started as a workshop with the whole team. We took a full day to think about our purpose, what we want to achieve, what we are accountable for, and our goals. We defined our vision, how we want to work together and what our values are. 

We embraced feedback and started defining where each member could help and where they needed guidance. On a daily level, we connect all our decisions back to our purpose: How are we helping people live healthier lives?

Having a clear set of values helps your employees understand what you stand for as a company. These values may be abstract, but they guide their work and a sense of security. As a result, your employees will have the weapon tо make the right decisions and achieve the company’s vision and goals.

Incorporating approximately 3-5 core values is recommended. They can always be adapted to contemporary situations when necessary. Implementing too many values can be overwhelming or constricting in the long run. It may even make your brand blend into the crowd instead of standing out.

How Can Leaders Shape the Future?

Given the ongoing crisis, marketing leaders must act decisively to stabilise the business and fight to stay afloat. But don’t neglect the importance of looking ahead as well. 

 

Successful leaders focus on their goals and the specific path to get there. They keep an eye on how other leaders are getting there but don’t copy-paste their actions. Blindly following other leaders’ advice can be a distraction that can move you away from your goals. Model success but ensure to personalize it! 

Now more than ever, it’s an excellent time to create consistent growth and optimize yourself as a leader. Nothing stops you from putting in the work that helps your team become better at what they do.

Lessons Learned

  • Leadership is about making effective decisions and managing the consequences, not getting lost in data to make a perfect choice.
  • To encourage your team to speak more, do the following: Conduct anonymous surveys to find out why people aren’t raising their hands, don’t overwhelm your team with way too much information, abstract or monotonous tasks, reward people for speaking up, make meetings more engaging, stop dominating the conversation and just listen to your team.
  • Building a connection in your team creates more motivation and improves performance, whether through 1:1s, socializing, or shared values.

Who is Patrick Leimgruber?

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