“To Have A High-Performing Team, You Need To Have Everyone Buy Into The Mission” — Top 5 Tips To Successfully Lead Teams with Andy England

Successfully lead teams with a mission
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andy England, CEO of National CineMedia (NCM), an executive with a long and storied career in business, media and marketing for brands from top companies including MillerCoors, OpenTable, Hershey, Nabisco and Cadbury Schweppes. In his current role, he connects brands to movie audiences through NCM’s Noovie movie theater pre-show and growing suite of digital products including Noovie ARcade and Fantasy Movie League.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Could you tell us more about yourself?

Well, I grew up in England, moved to the U.S. when I was 24, and have spent the last 30 years in a variety of consumer-facing companies in marketing and general management roles, including VP of Marketing for OpenTable and CMO for MillerCoors. Since 2016, I’ve been the CEO of National CineMedia (NCM), the largest cinema advertising network in the country. So essentially, I went from being a client of cinema to becoming its leading advocate, which to me says a lot about the power of the medium.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

I think you do a few different things. First, you need to bring leadership together both geographically and strategically. Creating the right physical environment that encourages interaction and collaboration is essential. It’s also a good idea to make collaboration one of your core company values and to communicate its importance in everything you do. When it comes to company strategy, my belief is that it should be created by the senior leadership team in as inclusive a manner as possible to get everyone’s buy-in, and incentives then need to be aligned to make sure everyone is working toward the same goals.

What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?

I think the top challenge is defining what needs to be the same, and what can be different. What I mean by that is, every market thinks that they’re unique and should be managed differently and be allowed to do things their own way. But the fact is that there are both cultural and financial benefits to managing all global businesses similarly, while still allowing for regional differences. For example, in my MillerCoors days, we aligned a team around the things that must be the same — the brand’s look and positioning — but remained flexible around things that could be tailored to the needs of each market, such as which sports we sponsored in each country. Because hockey matters in Canada, but not so much in Texas.

Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”.

What is the mission? — When Miller and Coors merged into a joint venture in 2008, it was articulated to Wall Street that we would deliver $500 million in synergies. That was a key metric of what defined success, and that mission was a galvanizing force in the first three years of the merger, and as a management team we significantly overdelivered on that promise. Everyone needs to agree on what the mission is to be able to achieve it.

What are the skills required to be successful? — At NCM, one of our core strategies is to build out our digital business. In order to do that, we need a variety of skills in digital product development, digital software engineering, data management, digital advertising operations, digital advertising sales and more. So, identifying where those skillsets exist today, and where we can find the missing pieces, is critical. You need to have the right tools to get the job done.

Who’s on the team? — Understanding who your team members are as individuals and discovering what is important to them will define your ability to manage the team, to align incentives, and to get that team working together toward the common mission. In every role I’ve been in in the last 20 years, we’ve started our journey with an off-site where team members share their profiles from personality tests like the Myers Briggs assessment to learn about what is important to each other and how best to work together. Know your people.

Who buys into the mission? — To have a high-performing team, you need to have everyone buy into the mission. If individuals don’t buy into the team mission, they are going to be pulling in different directions and you’ll never get where you need to go. Or if you ultimately do, it will take a lot of unnecessary effort and stress to get there. A former boss of mine was adamant about this, and made it clear that our focus must be on our agreed strategy. When individuals worked against the strategy, he would give them a warning, and if they did it a second time, we wouldn’t see those people around anymore. Now sure, that’s a bit harsh, but if a team member doesn’t buy into the mission, perhaps it’s time for them to find another job that they can get behind. As a leader, you need to make sure everyone is rowing together.

What are the rewards? — Financial rewards are important, but other rewards like dinners, golf games, or shared trips to the movies can be important too depending on what is important to your team members. Delivering the right rewards to the right people is key. Performance-based shares are a common way to reward leaders with stock linked to the performance of the business to give them equity in the company and a real stake in its success. Give people something to work toward that they value.

Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?

I think people look for three things in a job — learning, compensation and self-actualization. And I think self-actualization in the meaning that a person gets from doing something that matters to them personally. That’s where the vision of the company is important, because people perform best and like to come to work every day when they believe in what they’re doing. As for the other two aspects, as managers, we need to monitor learning and compensation to make sure that they are balanced correctly for each individual employee to keep them happy and engaged.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I’d like to inspire the polite persuasion movement. Getting people on the same page to move towards a common goal is critical, but there’s no reason why you can’t be polite and show respect and appreciation for what others bring to the party while you’re doing it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Whether you’re religious or not, the Serenity Prayer — “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” — is a wonderful way to live your life. It helps me keep things in perspective on a daily basis, and think it can go a long way to help reduce anxiety in today’s world.