Agile organizations start with agile people

For most of us, agility means the ability to move quickly and easily. It defines someone or something that is alert, sharp, light-footed and nimble. Examples might include an agile mind, an agile athlete, an agile leap or an agile person. In the world of software development, agile marketing has come to take on a different meaning. The agility I’m advocating doesn’t involve sprints, scrums or scrum masters. Instead, marketing agility emphasizes people and organizations.

Marketing agility is an organizational capability as well as a professional attribute -- and it is an extremely valuable trait during times of uncertainty and change. As marketing professionals, there are things we can do starting today to increase our personal and professional agility. They include the power of association, the power of experience and the power of yes.

The power of association

Jim Rohn, author and motivational speaker, wisely notes: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Rather than adapt to the environment in which we find ourselves, we can proactively choose to change or create our ideal environment. Surrounding ourselves with people whose traits we admire and from whom we can learn is what I call the power of association. Consciously and subconsciously, their actions and behaviors will influence our everyday choices.

While we can’t always pick our family, boss or CEO, we certainly can choose the employees we hire, the suppliers we work with, the teams we form, the coworkers we have lunch with or hang out with after work, the people we mentor and who mentor us and the professional associations to which we belong, among others.

If we want to develop our personal and professional agility, we should surround ourselves with colleagues who have a track record for successfully challenging the status quo without being perceived as rabble-rousers. The power of association is very effective and completely within our control.

The power of experience

The second action we can take to increase our personal and professional agility is to seek out new experiences and perspectives. New experiences, especially those that are challenging or even a bit uncomfortable, can stretch us in new ways. This doesn’t necessarily mean switching companies or changing careers, though these options are also viable. If we are a career marketing professional, we can seek out a number of new experiences within our chosen profession.

For example, if we work behind the scenes in a marketing operations or automation role, pursuing a customer-centric position can help us gain valuable up-close-and-personal insight into customers. If our marketing positions to date have been strictly based in the U.S., seeking out experience in different parts of the world can expose us to new buying habits, workplace practices and customs. If we’ve been at corporate headquarters for many years where long-term planning and governance are valued, switching to a product group can help us develop experimentation and high-speed iteration skills. If we support a business group with quarterly sales in the tens of millions, rotating to support a struggling startup division will help keep us nimble.

These are just a few of the many ways we can purposefully choose to expand our experience and perspective. In the words of the late Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” That is why experiences are a powerful and proven way to enhance our personal and professional agility.

The power of yes

The third method for increasing our personal and professional agility is to develop the habit of raising our hand. Whether it’s tackling a current business obstacle or seizing upon a new growth opportunity, companies are never short on things to do. They do, however, often struggle to find the resources to get it all done. That’s why managers generally welcome it when employees volunteer to lead an initiative, take part in a project team, participate in a brainstorming session or otherwise offer their time and expertise to assist.

There are times when we raise our hand and other times when we are drafted. Over my own career, I frequently served as a volunteer and a draft pick for special assignments. Most of the time, I willingly accepted. Some assignments were companywide initiatives; others were leading a project management office. Some took me out of marketing; others put me squarely in the center of transforming marketing. Some were full-time assignments; others were in addition to current duties. And, yes, some were downright dogs. But all of them were tremendous opportunities to develop new leadership skills while having an active hand in designing and implementing an initiative that management had deemed important. Each new assignment provided opportunities to observe, listen, ask and learn. They gave me new insights, perspective and skills. And, by doing so, they raised my personal and professional agility.

Start building your personal and professional agility today by practicing the power of association, the power of experience and the power of yes … and watch the career magic happen.

Engelina Jaspers helps business leaders build nimble marketing organizations with customer insight and speed to execution at its core. Check out her new book, "Marketing Flexology: How to Outsmart Change and Future-proof Your Career." 

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