So Far, So Good
In the recent Harry Potter Reunion on HBO, actor Jason Isaacs told a story. He was asked to read for the role of Lucius Malfoy, Death Eater, terrible father, and Voldemort’s second-in-command. It was a juicy part in a successful franchise. But Isaacs had just played Captain Hook in a new adaptation of Peter Pan, and he didn’t want to be typecast as a villain. So, he purposefully flubbed his audition, reading Malfoy’s sinister lines through gritted teeth in as deadpan a voice as he could. It turns out that his attempt to be bad was actually terribly, marvelously good. Malfoy’s emotionless voice is one of the many memorable aspects of the Harry Potter films, and the rest is — as they say — movie history.
Of course, unlike Isaacs, most of us don’t set out to do a bad job. But, that begs the question …
What is good? And then, how do we know what good look like?
At work, no matter what skills we have or role we play, we all want to be good at what we do. That’s why it’s so important to have a specific and shared definition for good. When I came onboard as Skillsoft’s CMO in October 2019, I heard that question. “What is good?” I was interviewing and spending time with as many people in the organization as possible when it came up. The question was innocent enough, asked in reference to what I had just signed up for: rebuilding a marketing function. But, it stopped me cold. “What does good look like” naturally led to another question.
What do we need to do to get there?
I paused, at the time, and answered as thoughtfully as I could, recognizing that there was still so much I needed to learn about the organization. I knew, instinctively, there were four areas of initial focus:
1. Be better attuned to the market and its needs, bringing critical customer insights back into the organization to inform all aspects of our business.
2. Drive growth. Marketing isn’t just about delivering top-of-funnel needs; rather Marketing must serve as an acquisition, growth, and retention engine for the business, delivering value at every customer touchpoint throughout the entire lifecycle. It’s a bit remit.
3. Become truly global by thinking about the localized needs of our markets and building out programs and campaigns that incorporate regional input from the outset rather than as an afterthought.
4. And serve as brand evangelists. Always.
While I would most certainly add to that list now — and there are still areas of opportunity — I think it was a good starting point.
What does good look like? Even if it’s a challenge to articulate it, you know it when you see it. And, over the past months and years, I’ve seen so much of it.
Five months into my job at Skillsoft, our organization — like so many others — had to respond to the pandemic. We were about to send everyone home to work remotely for what we thought would be just a few weeks, perhaps a month, as we waited out the new COVID-19 virus. But we had our largest, global, customer event Perspectives coming, just ten weeks later, which demanded a complete virtual overhaul. We had so many new people starting. People who would have limited in-person interaction with their peers as they onboarded, thus missing out on the common rituals that bond us to our organizations and our peers.
But it didn’t matter. Because my team was committed to being and doing good. They knew what good could look like. And they adapted, remained flexible, and stayed resilient. That “can do” spirit extended long after Perspectives, enabling us to succeed in myriad ways and achieve game-changing milestones for ourselves, our customers, and our organization. I couldn’t be prouder.
Now, 22 months into the pandemic (which is still a little hard to fathom), there has been a wealth of goodness. I have an outcome-driven team that engages each other in thoughtful dialogue about how to best meet the needs of our audiences. They acknowledge and praise each other’s good work. And, they’ve embraced the same growth mindset and passion for learning that we encourage and enable in our customers.
I look around (albeit often virtually) and I know, this and these people are what good looks like.
It’s my own personal Hogwarts. I have an entire team of marketing wizards, and they’ve all solemnly sworn to make good.