The First Borns Club

Episode #008: Michael Hartman, Marketing Leader

Welcome to the first meeting of the First Borns Club. Okay, perhaps we’re not creating an actual club, but maybe we should! One of the topics that came up in last week’s episode and this week’s episode was about the impact being a firstborn child has on your career. For some reason, firstborn children tend to be rule followers which is great when you’re a child and get constantly praised for making good choices. However, rule-following can also become a hindrance when you’re in the professional world and need to be able to advocate for yourself, take risks, and so much more. 

In this episode, we chat with Michael Hartmann who has more than 20 years of experience in various industries. Most recently, he was the Director of Marketing Technology and Demand Generation at Freeman, a leading events organization. He started his career in management consulting before transitioning to marketing. He’s also held a variety of roles in marketing operations, marketing tech, and demand generation.

Stephanie's Strong Opinions

  1. There’s no such thing as a monopoly on good ideas. Just because you’ve done something before, doesn’t mean you know the best way to go about it. 
  2. Being a leader sometimes means being blamed for things that aren’t your fault. You can’t make everyone happy.
  3. Everyone is struggling with something. Take a step back and look at situations through a different lens.

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Episode Transcription

Stephanie Cox: Welcome to REAL MARKETERS, where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsess about driving results and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat, and there’s absolutely no bullsh*t allowed here. And I’m your host, Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience, and I’ve pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection. I use the Oxford comma. I love Coca- Cola, have exceptionally high standards and surround myself with people who get sh*t done. On this show, my guests and I will push boundaries and share the real truth about marketing and empower you to become a real marketer. One of my favorite parts of this podcast is when an episode generates conversations with listeners, and then they reach out to share their thoughts. When this happens, it means we’ve clearly delivered impactful content, and it’s even better when one of those conversations is so engaging that I have that listener come on the show immediately. And that’s exactly what happened with this week’s guest. Last week, we had an episode with Michelle Miller talking about how she shed her good girl mentality, and that topic really resonated with a lot of women. It also resonated with some of our male listeners, who’ve experienced similar situations in their career, and I knew I had to have a guest on that could share this point of view. Michael Hartman has more than 20 years of experience in various industries. Most recently, he was the director of marketing technology and demand generation at Freeman, a leading events organization. We’re talking about how firstborns are rule followers, the importance of diversity of thought within an organization, brainstorming in a virtual environment, why being a leader sometimes means being blamed for things that aren’t always your fault, and so much more. So as my listeners know, I like to get started by asking you what’s something that most people don’t know about you.

Michael Hartmann: So most people don’t know that, although I probably look like I’m a dancer, I’m really not, but I have been in a flash mob. And it was a dancing flash mob that was choreographed and the whole bit, and the way it happened was, and this is a marketing tie- in. It was actually we were headed to the Eloqua Experience Conference like seven years ago down in Orlando, and our sales rep reached out to me and asked me if I would be willing to do that. I was like,” I don’t know.” And I was like,” You know what? I’m just going to go for it and do it,” and I have to tell you, it was scary but so much fun to do it. It is true it happened. There are only a handful of videos out there. Back in those days, people weren’t ready for it. But yeah, it was a lot of fun, and it was a great way to meet a bunch of people there. I think it’s a good kind of… One of the things that both Eloqua and Marketo were really good about building community among their users, so I think is one of those things that carries forward. So there’s like this connection that I now have with all these people who were other Eloqua aficionados that is unrelated to the actual platform.

Stephanie Cox: What’s cool about it too, to your point, is you’ve created this like community connection that you probably are now connecting with them on LinkedIn, and you have this similar memory that is not related to why you were there for the conference at all.

Michael Hartmann: Absolutely.

Stephanie Cox: So one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show is last week, we had an episode with Michelle Miller, and her and I talked about this idea of how we were raised to be good girls and keep quiet, not speak up, not advocate for ourselves, and you posted a comment to my LinkedIn post about it, and how you had a similar kind of experience. I thought it would be great to have, one, your perspective, especially a male perspective, and really share with listeners how this is not just a gender specific issue. It’s really an issue that a lot of people face. So would love to just hear, kind of from last week’s episode, what really stood out for you that you feel like you’ve also experienced in your life?

Michael Hartmann: Yeah, sure. It was really interesting one. I’ve enjoyed all the episodes that you’ve put out. It’s kind of a required listening for me at this point, but I will say that this one kind of hit a chord, and it started when Michelle talked about birth order, and that she was a firstborn. You mentioned you were a first born, and I was also a first born, and as I was listening, I was hearing some of the same things thinking about my life growing up, where I was definitely a rule follower, felt like if I didn’t follow the rules and somebody else got away with not following rules, it wasn’t fair. I felt like I was always trying to please people, and some of that I think was also a family dynamic. And move forward into high school, college and beyond, that was kind of in my mind was I’m always trying to please people, trying to do the right thing, and when you first get into a position where all of a sudden somebody in corporate world is not complying with what you think the way the order of the world should be, it seems unfair. And it’s really easy to get in sort of a defensive or judgmental kind of attitude at that point, which is really sort of self- defeating at that point, right? It really was a struggle for me in those early years to kind of go,” Oh, wait. The world’s not what I thought it was,” and it’s not the world’s fault. It’s on me to kind of realize that I need to change how I’m reacting to the world, not having the world react to me. So a lot of stuff that you and Michelle both brought up about trying to follow rules and how that translated into your work life really resonated with me.

Stephanie Cox: So let’s talk about this. Do we need a recovering support group for all of us firstborns that were raised to follow the rules that now are like,” Oh, crap. We need to break all the rules.”

Michael Hartmann: Yeah. Obviously, I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I think it’s more common than we think it is. I think I suspect a lot of people who were are on your podcast and in the world we travel are high performers and people who’ve been successful, even if they’ve gone through ups and downs, and so sometimes it’s we don’t see the struggles that all these other people are having. Maybe there is a need for, and that’s part of why I was happy to join on this call. I think it’s broader than just a gender thing, right? I think clearly I’m not a woman. I didn’t grow up as a woman, and I’m sure that that’s happened to people where they felt like their voice wasn’t heard, but I know also from my personal experience with having people working for me and my own experience, where I felt like my voice wasn’t being heard either. So do we need a support group? Maybe. I don’t think it would be a bad thing.

Stephanie Cox: Thinking about that, because I think you’re so right. There’s more of us out there that were raised this way, whether it’s because we’re firstborns or because of family dynamics, as you mentioned. How have you been able to kind of break through that and really say,” I don’t always need to follow the rules. My voice is worth listening to. I have a lot to say.” How have you overcome some of that, especially when it’s ingrained so early as a child?

Michael Hartmann: I remember you talked about a story about this one particular pivotal moment where you sort of had this mind shift, and I have a similar one where I was working at a company, and another friend of mine… thought it was a friend of mine also was working there, and came to find out that not only was my voice sort of being run over by this person behind the scenes, but also was undermining me, throwing me under the bus. I think it was one that moment where I realized if I don’t start to advocate for myself more, whether that’s speaking up more, doing the things that I think are the right thing to do, even if there’s not explicit support or approval. I think you and I have somewhere in mindset about not waiting for approval and moving forward with things, because we feel like you’ve got to move to make progress. I think it was that kind of moment in my career when I realized I’ve got to stop waiting for things to come to me, and I need to start going to the things that I think are important. And I think that was really it. It would’ve been really easy, I think, to fold at that point and not really continue to pursue what I thought was the right thing to do, and ever since then, I’ve been a lot more vocal. I had to learn. I’m not going to say it was perfect. There were times where I would go tell you I was not my best self, and that vocal turned into being maybe a bully. Not even a bully, but just overbearing, if you will. I think it’s taken a little bit of time to bring that down and continue to be pushing for the things that I think are right, while doing it in a way that still allows other people to be a part of the process.

Stephanie Cox: Well, and you mentioned this idea around leading teams too. So how do you think about helping others that are maybe struggling with this be able to get through it faster, so they can have that aha moment maybe earlier in their careers then maybe you and I did?

Michael Hartmann: I don’t know that there’s one solution, but one of the things I do and the people who work with me, and I’ve kind of evolved this over time, but it’s really I’m a big believer in that people… Well, a couple of things. The way I like to lead is I think about the whole person, so I’m very much wanting to understand what’s going on in their lives so that I can help them through challenges that may not be work- related. But I also believe their career and what their aspirations are really their responsibility, and my job is to help them kind of fill the gaps and guide them towards what will work. So I think it all starts with how do you develop that relationship with those people and coach them? And then I actively, like when we’re in conversations, whether it’s one- on- one or in groups, I’m always trying to pull in the people, especially the people who are not vocal by nature, and in trying to get them to open up. I’ve got some examples of that. I think early on, I inherited somebody whose previous manager… Well, both of them had a military background. He was very much used to a command and control.” Here’s my order. You go do it,” and he became to me one time with a challenge with somebody who was coworker who working in another team, and wanted me to basically tell them what to do. I had to kind of guide him, like,” Hey, I could do that, but it’s going to be how I would do it, not you. I think you need… I don’t want to disrupt your relationship, but I…” So I really encouraged him. We talked through, coached him through how to approach it, the things he could do, and I think it was a big change for him too of realizing that he could do these things without having to be told what to do. So it was just kind of believing. I think believing in their capacity is one. The other is also just being humble about thinking as a leader that not only do you feel like you have to know everything, but you can’t know everything. I have an example of my recent job where I had somebody come in, and we were working on a problem we were trying to solve in a marketing operations kind of scenario, and I pretty much came into the meeting with,” I think this is the way to do it.” And the person who worked for me kept challenging me, challenging me, and finally actually convinced me that the idea that she had was the better one. For me, that was a time to celebrate, and I told her that, and I told my boss that. I told her that I told my boss that. I think that kind of stuff, really not just saying you want to hear people, but actually truly demonstrating that, that’s a big part of it.

Stephanie Cox: Well, it’s interesting that you brought up the idea of people who don’t speak up for themselves, because I think I’ve been in so many roles where I’ve seen that and try to encourage it, because one of the things… We talk about diversity a lot, but this idea around diversity of thought and how beneficial it is to have people with different backgrounds and different points of view to share their thoughts and opinions and feedback, especially in marketing. So how do you think about encouraging just different diversity of thought when you are with an existing team or when you think about hiring new talent?

Michael Hartmann: I actually really like… The idea of diversity of thought is really a powerful one. Somebody I worked with along the way said something that really set it my mind today. He said,” I don’t really have a monopoly on good ideas,” and that’s really struck with me. It stuck with me throughout my career in that there are so many other people who have different ideas, and often we get into a leadership role where we think,” Oh, I’ve already done that, so I know the best way to do it,” and it’s really easy to… I think it is especially tough for people who are moving the first time into a leadership role, and for me, it’s been a matter of just trying to continue to find people who… I’ve hired people who on paper didn’t fit a job description, but there was something else about what they had in their quiver of experience and talents that you can kind of sense. It’s really hard to do that. I had the good fortune, some of those cases where I’d seen them working inside the company. I hired them from another part of the company. It’s harder when it’s somebody you haven’t seen, and I think that’s actually, one of the challenges of hiring is actually finding those people who maybe have the potential and will bring another perspective that we don’t already have on the team, but have other capacity, like their experience actually might make us be better overall. It’s hard. I don’t know that I have the silver bullet for that. I know that part of it is definitely just personality dynamics, and part of it is hearing stories about what they are passionate about, like projects that they’ve done that they’re really proud of and they’d look back on and talk about how that worked, especially if it worked where it was not just them, but them and other people. I think that’s a big part of it too.

Stephanie Cox: So have you ever been in a situation, and I can share a little bit about mine, where I’ve hired someone who has a very different non- traditional background to someone we might hire for that role, but to your point, has the right like personality traits that sometimes you can’t teach. I can teach you how to do a lot of things in marketing. There are some things I can’t teach, right? I can’t teach, drive, ambition, hustle, et cetera. How have you dealt with a situation where you’ve brought someone in that has a different diversity of though, and the team is unsure how to react to it, engage with it because it’s so outside of the norm of what might be traditional for that role?

Michael Hartmann: I think there’s one scenario in particularly. I’m thinking about somebody who I hired as my digital marketing team, email marketing team, who had actually been in admin, like an admin assistant, but was interested in doing something else. So I think part of selling that to the rest of the team is talking about how that person has the desire and capacity to really want to learn and understand, and is not afraid to roll up their sleeves and work hard. I think that’s a big part of it is you’ve got to tell those people who are already there, trust me that this person is going to bring all those other intangible things to the table that we all want, right? Nobody wants to work with somebody who’s not going to put in the effort and work hard to make everyone be a success, and I think that’s the big part is to just let them see that you’re going to do that. But it also required on my side a lot of time investment to really train and get that person up to speed, where she could then be productive on her own without me having to be in there all the time.

Stephanie Cox: When you were talking earlier about just training our team and this idea of, as a leader, you don’t have all the right answers. I always tell my team, no matter how much experience you have, you have something worthwhile to say, right? You have a different perspective than maybe someone with 15 or 20 years of experience. It doesn’t mean that your perspective is not as great of an idea or wrong because you don’t have as much experience, so I encourage them to speak up. But I also think as leaders, part of what our job is is teaching people how to do stuff. Would it be faster for me to do something myself? Probably, but then the person on my team doesn’t necessarily learn how to do it. So taking the time to spend and invest in them, like you said, is so important. I mean, is that something that you feel like marketing leaders are not doing today to the extent that they need to be, or what do you think the landscape looks like?

Michael Hartmann: I actually think it’s probably goes beyond just marketing leaders. I think a lot of leaders in general find it easier to say,” I’ll just do it myself,” rather than teaching or encouraging. I think it’s super demotivating to somebody if they’re asked to do something, and they don’t feel like they have the ability to do it, and instead of helping them get there, you just do it and they don’t learn. I can imagine they’re just not going to be motivated at that point to do anything else, and I think you’re right. I can’t remember. It may have actually been on one of your podcasts, the whole idea of teach a man to fish, he’ll fish the rest of… That concept, I think, applies in this case, right? I think if you want people who are going to be confident to bring their ideas to bear, that they can do things and they can do more than what they’ve done in the past, you need to show that you believe that they can do it. It doesn’t mean that you expect them necessarily to be able to do it right now, and I think that’s the important thing is to not only tell them that, but actually show that. If that means helping them get in there and do something to learn it, I think that’s okay, but at some point you’ve got to let them go. It’s a little bit like children, I imagine, for those who’ve got kids who’ve finally grown up and left the house. Not quite there, but building that foundation so that they have the confidence to be able to go out in the world and do the things that they need to do. That is, I think, the key to leadership is really getting people to be confident that they can do the things that are expected to do, even if they’re not necessarily ready for it right now.

Stephanie Cox: So as you think about planning for a marketing team and what you’re going to work on, how do you typically handle brainstorm sessions, and what do you do to encourage people to share their ideas and feedback in a way that’s, one, productive, so you are accomplishing the goal at the end of the day, but then also too makes them feel like their voice is heard. Do you have any tips or tricks there?

Michael Hartmann: This is a great question, because I think brainstorming sessions are great, but they have to have an end. It’s kind of like strategic planning. It’s got to have an answer that you can start executing. But I think the important thing is setting some boundaries about how long we’re going to do this and how we’re going to approach it. But I think the idea is you really have to be the one who’s enforcing that if you’re truly doing brainstorm, no idea is a bad idea and just let those go. And then at some point, though, you’ve got to start to say… Let’s say you’re trying to narrow down on tactics or campaign ideas or some idea for an event. At some point, you’ve got to say,” Okay, we’ve got about as many ideas as we’re going to get at this point, and we’ve got to start to narrow it down and focus.” That’s where, actually, probably where the next challenge comes in, which is you want to make sure that not only in the brainstorming time are people’s voices heard, but on the whittling down side that all the ideas were giving consideration appropriately, and that someone doesn’t feel like they were slighted as a part of that. I’ve done that with some projects in the last couple of years, and I think that’s actually… You talk about being remote. I think that is going to be one of the challenging things. What has worked really well in that for me in the past is doing that where we get everybody in one room. We say we’re going to have two hours, three hours, four hours, and this is what we’re going to work on. We’ve got an outline, and everybody knows what to expect in the meeting in terms of what we’re going to do. I think that’s one of the scenarios is going to be hard in this virtual world where just I don’t know that that works as well. Even with video, you get some of the body language components of the communication, but that’s, I think, going to be a tough one over time.

Stephanie Cox: Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned that, because I know for my team, as we’re virtual, we’re trying to figure out the best way to brainstorm different campaign ideas. We’ve done like the shared Google Doc where we’re all like working at the same time and brainstorming, and it seems to be more exhausting on Zoom than it is when you’re in person and you’re using a whiteboard. So we switched it up recently, and I used a platform that was almost virtual sticky notes, where people could put up different sticky notes and then we could move them around together and organize them. It seemed to work really well, because it mimicked what I would do in the office.

Michael Hartmann: I love that idea. Yeah, I’ve seen some of these platforms are coming out. They’re like virtual whiteboards and things like that. I’m with you. I think the idea of doing Zoom for this is going to be really hard over time.

Stephanie Cox: Yeah, and it’s interesting. We all talk about being like burnt out on Zoom, and for me I’m finding I’m in just as many meetings as I was pre- COVID. A lot of those were on Zoom to begin with or in person, so it’s not like I’m meeting with people more, but for some reason, I’m video conferencing seems to be more mentally exhausting than in- person. I don’t know, for whatever reason.

Michael Hartmann: I don’t know what it is. I’m sure somebody is out there doing research about it though.

Stephanie Cox: Yeah. There’s going to be some really interesting research that comes out of 2020. One of the things that you mentioned earlier was this idea around making people happy and feeling a need to do that. How do you think about, in those situations both as an individual contributor and as a leader, when you have to deliver bad news or you can’t make someone happy for whatever reason, how do you typically think about having that conversation with them, especially when your natural indication from years of your childhood is to please everyone?

Michael Hartmann: This is one of the hardest parts of management. I’ve coached a couple of people recently who are looking to move up in rank, and I tell them one of the things you’ve got to get ready for are difficult conversations. And so I think one is delaying it’s not going to make it go away. You’ve got to do it as soon as you can, once you have all the facts. But I think it’s really important to tell the why, but even more important is before all that happens that you have had to build a relationship where there’s trust there, that you’re going to be doing what you think is the right thing, even if that means it’s not what they wanted, or even what you wanted sometimes because sometimes it’s out of your control. I think being as honest as you can about the reasons why, and having that kind of conversation where you’re describing that to the extent you can, that’s the only way to do it. That may mean that the person walks away and they’re upset, and that’s okay too. I think what you have to do is leave the space there to say,”When you’re ready, let’s talk again.”

Stephanie Cox: Well, and I think the other thing too is, especially right now, everyone’s dealing with so much more in their life personally and professionally than I think we typically deal with in a normal year, if any of us can remember what that’s like. And I always tell people, you have no idea what baggage and what situation every other person has and personally that they may not share with you when they work with you, and that does influence how they react to hard conversations or how they react to something else that you said. And so part of it too is having a little bit of empathy and realizing a conversation that may not feel like it’s that big of a deal for you to tell someone that you can’t do what they need or that idea’s not going to work out, normally they might react okay to that, but given the world that we’re in today, that might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We need to kind of just think about all of that, and more so than we probably did six months ago.

Michael Hartmann: Totally agree. I think it was from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, where Stephen Covey talked about seek first to understand, then to be understood. There’s a story that was behind it. I think that’s one of those things that still, like it resonates in my head can every time I’m thinking about having a conversation with somebody, especially if it’s a difficult conversation is that’s the empathy piece, right? Understanding that there may be something going on in that person’s life that you don’t know about that they’re struggling with, and trying to address that, to be empathetic about that while still delivering the news you have to deliver.

Stephanie Cox: Well, and I think too what’s interesting about difficult conversations is by nature I’m a pretty, I would say direct but polite person, so I don’t like things to linger very long. I like to just hash it out right away, especially after it happens, and part of that I think is because that’s how I react well to feedback. I want to know, like if I said something that offended you or upset you or you didn’t understand, I want you to tell me right away, because that’s just how I learn the best. So I do that similar with a lot of my team, and I think what’s interesting is if I look at just over the course of my leadership, there have been times where I’ve had conversations that I thought would be hard that went really, really well because it wasn’t a surprise, right? A lot of times I call them like little pebble conversations where you’ve kind of talked about an issue, maybe not in depth because it wasn’t a big issue, but you’ve talked about it over a period of time, so when you have like a bigger conversation, no one’s surprised by it. And then there are also times where you feel like you’ve talked about something 10 times, and the person’s still surprised when you have maybe that harder conversation. So how do you think about, especially when you’re talking to someone over a period of time and maybe either bad delivering news or talking to them about like performance issues or areas just for future growth or why a project they’ve worked on… We’ve all been there, right? Where you’ve worked on something for so long, and then it gets killed by the company, and you’re no longer going to do it. How do you think about those conversations and preparing someone to be able to handle maybe the bad news, as well as thinking about how you handle it afterwards, because it sometimes can make it really awkward for everyone involved.

Michael Hartmann: I’m with you on the direct. I would much rather have feedback direct and quick as well, but with kindness. I think that’s really important. I’ve seen that not handled well, and I think it really depends on the person too. Some people are more emotional than others. Some people don’t want the direct conversation, so there is a little bit of trying to modify the communication the way you need to, how you’re delivering it to that person. And again, this kind of comes back to sometimes you have to deliver the bad news or the tough news, and you may not be liked about it. You may be blamed for it even if it wasn’t your fault, and that’s part of being a leader though, too, is that you’ve got to be willing to do that. It kind of goes back, kind of ties everything back together a little bit, right? Is that if you are in that position and you feel like you have to be a people pleaser, it’s going to be really, really hard, but if you get to the point where you realize that you can’t necessarily make everybody happy, even if you wanted to, even if you didn’t necessarily agree with the decision or it was not quite what you wanted, it’s still your responsibility to do it, and you need to do it in a way that is fair to that person. Doing it sooner rather than later, I think, is way better than waiting and letting a person who’s wondering about it not know what’s going to happen. None of us like uncertainty, as we all know from this year, that that’s really, really stressful,

Stephanie Cox: Completely agree. The other thing I was going to say too while you’re talking about that, that immediately made me think about it was a lot of times when I have feedback, regardless of what kind of feedback it is, if it’s feedback on content that’s written, on a design, just general performance related feedback, I always take into consideration, and this is, I think where empathy comes into it that we talked about earlier is how does that person best handle feedback, right? Because everyone, I think, deals with it differently. I would rather someone just be more direct with me. Some people need feedback when they’ve written something for you to position it as a question. Like,” Well, why did you think about it this way?” Or,” What if we thought about it this way,” right? Whereas other people are like,” Just tell me what you want,” right? So how do you think about trying to figure out what everyone’s… We talk about like with relationships, love languages, but what everyone’s work language is, so you know how to best communicate with them?

Michael Hartmann: Again, I keep going to you have to invest the time. I don’t know any other way to do it. I mean, over time you might get better at spotting it faster, but you definitely have to think. It’s a skill that you have to practice. Just like anything else, you can get better at it over time, but you have to invest the time and effort in it. If you’re not spending time doing that with the people who work for you, or even the people who are around you that are peers or even up, I think that’s important. Just like you, I had a thought. I think one way also to demonstrate that it’s okay to get feedback that’s negative is one of the things my last boss would say is… I would write something, maybe a communication internally about a project we were working on. It would come back completely rewritten, right? I would draft something. I think it was hard for her to say, like she felt bad about it, but I always recognize, like,” That’s okay. Writing is not my strong suit, so I’m learning by getting your feedback and getting that, so let’s continue to do that.” And I’m happy to talk about it too, because I think that demonstrates a little bit of a humility that I think we all should have that we may not be the best at every one of these different things that might be needed for an entire team, and so sort of demonstrating that that’s okay to get that feedback, even if it’s negative or not even negative, but just it’s an opportunity to learn. I think that’s one thing that I’ve done is be willing to talk about situations where I’ve either not been successful or failed or gotten negative feedback and sharing that with people work with me. Say,” Look, it’s okay not to have it right every time”

Stephanie Cox: It’s so funny that you say that, because I always talk about I feel like marketers today, we all talk about how wonderful everything is and how everything was successful if you check out social media. The reality is, to your point, all of us fail on a pretty regular basis, right? No one is doing marketing every day and absolutely killing it, right? There are things that we put a ton of time and effort into that fail. There are things that we don’t think will work that work for no good reason, and I think there’s just so much where it’s important, to your point, to have humility and really think about what it is that you’re doing. At the end of the day, we’re marketers. We’re not saving lives. I just think having that perspective is so, so important these days.

Michael Hartmann: Yeah. I totally agree. I think two thoughts on that. One, the idea of being humble about that is not necessarily… I think it could be perceived as a sign of weakness. I actually think it’s a sign of strength and confidence that you’re willing to say that this is an area that maybe I’m not great in. If I want to get better in it, I know I need to work it. The second is, you’re right. I mean, what we do every day is not going to, outside of probably few exceptions, not going to change the trajectory of somebody’s life one way or the other. I have a friend who is literally a brain doctor. I don’t know how he deals with that stress every day, because that truly is something that changes. I remember I mentioned the person I hired who wasn’t a fit for my marketing operations role and the first time that she had to send an a marketing email, and it was so scary for her. I was like,” Look, this is your first one. Just trust me. Sometime soon, you’re going to send one that’s going to have a mistake in it. It’s going to go to the wrong people, something like that, and it’s okay. It’s going to happen, but don’t freak out about it.” I think that’s really important to kind of have perspective too.

Stephanie Cox: When you said that, my first thought was do you ever not freak out about it, because I still think even to this day, I’ve done this for 17 plus years, and when we send a a large email, I freak out. I’m like,” Oh, gosh.”

Michael Hartmann: Every time.

Stephanie Cox: Well, and it’s crazy because on digital, I talk about there’s so much stuff that you can spin up and spin down on digital and take back, and email seems to be the one thing you can’t pull out of someone’s inbox yet. But I also think, to your point, knowing that you are going to screw up, and part of the time, just being honest, that you did with customers. Like,” Hey, sent you an email for an offer, and guess what? The link didn’t work. Sorry about that. Here’s the right one.”

Michael Hartmann: We had a major faux pas where we sent something to a set of customers that was not supposed to get it. None of them that were supposed to get it, and it was part of an automated process. There was one scenario that we missed in the whole build out of the process, and I had to go with the AE to the client and say not only were we not supposed to set send it, it was basically saying something that was completely wrong. There was a competitor that was actually providing the service, and we had to go to the client and basically say,” Look, we screwed up. We are more than happy to send an email back to those customers saying we screwed up and point him to the competitor’s site.” They loved us for it. Meanwhile, the competitor actually shot themselves in the foot, because they overreacted and thought we were trying to undercut them or do something. It actually hurt their relationship with that client. Totally believe that you own it when you make a mistake, but you do what you can to fix it.

Stephanie Cox: I think there’s so many of us that could tell that story. I was just thinking about my personal experience when I ran the Salesforce Marketing Cloud for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, so my team was responsible for really using the marketing cloud technology to market to customers and prospects. And we spent months working on this massive preference center, and we had tested it. Everything was working great. It was super, super cool, and we go to send that email out and guess what? We sent it out to everyone, and it links back to the test preference center, not the live production, so it doesn’t work for anyone. I mean, it was hundreds of thousands of people, and so we are getting blown up on Twitter and we’re like freaking out. We just sent out an email that was like,” Oops, sorry about that.” People… right? What was cool about it was we did what we would tell them to do as customers, right? Which is just apologize. You made a mistake. You’re human. It happens. I think it’s just an important thing for us all to remember at the end of the day is we all make mistakes. We all have, I think, challenges that we face in our careers, whether that is having a hard time standing up for ourselves, learning how to say no to others, learning how to tell people no, no matter what it is, but we’re all kind of on this journey to journey in the world together. I think having a lot of empathy for everyone else around us is so important. Perspective. That’s the word that really resonated with me after my chat with Michael, and with everything going on in the world right now, perspective is even more important than ever before. When you’re interacting with your colleagues, family, or friends, you really need to make sure you’re taking into account their perspective and what could be influencing their reaction to an action or a conversation you have. It seems like everyone in the world is facing a higher level of stress than normal right now, and we all need to show each other some grace. So that’s my challenge to you. The next time you have an interaction with someone, think about their perspective for a few minutes. What could be driving their reaction? What else is potentially going on in their lives that you may not know about? We’re marketers. We’re not brain surgeons. We all just need to take a step back, relax and put ourselves in the shoes of others right now. You’ve been listening to REAL MARKETERS. If you love what you’ve heard, make sure to subscribe, rate and review our podcast. And, don’t forget to tell a friend. All of this marketing goodness shouldn’t be kept a secret.