This article was originally published on MarTech Advisor.

My primary goal as a CMO is to create a world-class marketing organization. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and around many organizations that have achieved this lofty objective, including Zendesk, Salesforce, Yahoo, eBay, Facebook, and Zynga.

However, it’s challenging to create and sustain a high-performing marketing team. Marketers’ two biggest challenges are “creating innovative campaigns that stand out in the market” and “moving fast enough to keep up with market changes and competitors,” according to a recent Wrike study of more than 800 US marketers.

These obstacles are endemic in today’s digital transformation: Marketing is changing rapidly, and it’s hard to keep up. However, it is possible to build a disciplined, efficient marketing organization and foster a culture of excellence.

We’ve seen the importance of operational effectiveness time and time again at Wrike. We’re actively servicing over 15,000 customers and helping them plan, organize, and execute work more effectively. We’ve also seen the transformational effects of operational effectiveness on both business results and employee satisfaction.

Knowing what team traits help drive this achievement is key for marketing leaders. The five common characteristics of high-performing teams uncovered by Google’s famous Aristotle Project strongly resonate with me:

  1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
  3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

While the Aristotle Project analyzed the characteristics of successful teams across all departments, I wanted to create my own list specifically for marketing teams. Each department has its own business, team, and operating dynamics that present unique challenges and opportunities, and marketers are no exception. Here’s my list of key characteristics of high-performing marketing teams.

1. Customer focused

The closer marketers are to customers, the higher their team performs. This makes intuitive sense, since driving effective communications and campaigns requires customer insight.

What’s less recognized is as marketers interact with customers directly, team members invariably feel energized and a sense of higher purpose. This helps teams derive strength and resolve to solve customer problems and perform at an unprecedented level.

How CMOs Can Help

  • Create an online community where your team can interact directly with your customers. There are many forum-like tools (Zendesk, Influitive, Jive) you can use to collect feedback.
  • Put a “Voice of the Customer” program in place to connect your team with customer feedback. Start with a Net Promoter Scoring system that measures satisfaction and collects qualitative feedback from customers.
  • Ask your best customers to participate in a customer advisory board. Share their success stories and pain points throughout the organization.

2. Ability to drive revenue

“Revenue cures all” is a truism for most businesses—but especially for high-performing marketing teams. The more closely marketing can demonstrate its revenue impact, the more inspired your team will feel.

Today’s digital economy has put marketing in the revenue driver’s seat, with omni-channel sales growing and customer behavior shifting to online mediums. Not only is this energizing, it also makes fiscal sense, and encourages marketers to squeeze as much ROI as possible out of every dollar spent.

How CMOs Can Help

  • Invest in performance marketing software to more accurately track marketing ROI.
  • Build a marketing operations team whose job it is to tie marketing spend to revenue outcomes across channels.
  • Streamline requests from business stakeholders to effectively evaluate and prioritize those with the greatest revenue-driving potential.
  • A/B test key customer journey moments with the largest impact on revenue or trials.

3. Operational Excellence

Teams with Operational Excellence at their cultural core are much higher performing than teams that don’t focus on operations. It’s no wonder marketing operations has been among the fastest growing marketing sub-functions for the last decade.

Coordinating across multiple sub-functions is a difficult challenge for marketers realizing the importance of integrated marketing campaigns. Tight planning, collaboration, and visibility are critical for successful integrated marketing. Focusing on process and workflow—waterfall, lean, or agile— yields tremendous results.

How CMOs Can Help

  • Ensure every team is responsible for 1-3 KPIs. Conduct quarterly planning sessions to identify specific objectives and results, and manage the team around this planning cycle.
  • Create dashboards where the team can see the fruit of its labor. Implement an agile process. I’ve found a 1-2 week sprint cycle in which everyone commits to a certain set of deliverables and measures success is easiest to start with.
  • Adopt a collaborative work management solution, like Wrike, to keep all your most important work in a single source of truth.
  • Implement “post mortems” where the team reviews what they learned at the end of every project (see growth mindset below).
  • Leverage automation to reduce time spent on routine information tasks, like copying updates from one system to another.

4. Growth mindset

One of the reasons I love being in marketing is almost everyone is eager to learn, grow, and develop. Carol Dweck encapsulates this spirit of personal and professional development extremely well in her award-winning book Mindset, and it speaks directly to the mind of the marketer.

The highest performing marketers are voracious learners who constantly push themselves to master new and interesting things. People with growth mindsets are often attracted to marketing because of the constant need to learn and adapt.

How CMOs Can Help

  • Read Carol Dweck’s Mindset and think about how you and your team can implement systems and processes to promote learning and development.
  • Make professional growth a central part of your hiring and management practices. For example, ask interview candidates how they stay on top of the field.
  • Encourage the team to try new things. Innovation is rampant within marketing and there are ample opportunities to try different ways to connect with and engage prospects and customers. Take time to celebrate new learnings and insights and make that a key part of the culture.

Ride the Wave of Digital Transformation

We live in a unique period of rapid change, and building a high-performing marketing team has never been more important—or more challenging. The stakes for individuals, teams, and companies are extremely high.

Seek to hire and develop these four key traits on your marketing team, and watch your performance skyrocket. Focusing on customers, the ability to drive revenue, operational excellence, and growth mindset builds a culture of excellence and breeds confidence.

For more insight into how leading marketing teams are conquering digital transformation, download our ebook: Nine Reasons Why Marketers Love Wrike.

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