How To Get Cross-Functional Crunked

Collage of teal, black, and peach. With images of cocktails and 4 smiling H&G employees with their arms around each other

Some offices award an Employee of the Month. We share the Tough-Ass Tequila.

It all started when certain members of the team had rougher days than others. We wanted that person to know no matter what side of the aisle you’re on—or department you’re in—we see you, support you, and you’ve totally got this. 

Here at Helen & Gertrude, we use drinking a lot to describe how we do things. It's not because we're a bunch of lushes. From our project kick offs (pre-games) to retrospectives (hangovers) it's an apt way to get all members of the team excited about the process, no matter their function. Similar to grabbing a cocktail with your favorite crew, drinking has a lot of lessons on breaking down silos.

Inc. describes the silo mentality as a mindset when certain departments don’t like to share information with others in the same organization. And it’s bad news: It takes away from efficiency and operations, is a big blow to trust and morale, and could even lead to the death of a productive company culture. 

Silos don’t just go sideways, they go up and down, too. Senior leaders might not have enough info from those on the ground level. Or info on the ground level gets lost in translation on the way up. We all remember the game telephone, right? Nobody wins. 

So how to settle the score? We were born breaking down traditional creative and media silos. I find a night out is perfect to help explain how to bulldoze down the silos and build up a killer cross-functional team:

  1. Shop your crew’s clothes. What to wear is always a big freak out question mark, especially when you’re bored of your own clothes. Change it up with a night of festivities in your friends’ attire. We help that happen by hosting “cocktail hours,” quarterly events where the media and creative teams come together and switch up their roles. The creatives put on media hats to strategize for an imaginary client, and the media folks put their artsy minds to work on a project where money is no object. Try switching up roles on your teams, so everyone can bring diverse ideas to the table. 
  2. Pick your ring leaders. Somebody’s got to be the planner of the night, calling (and taking) the shots, right? While most agencies have a singular person shepherding the project the entire way through, we like to have one from each function: account, media, insights, and creative. They prepare and lead happy hours, aka the anything-goes-brainstorms, and power hours, where we narrow down ideas. That means they research industry and digital trends, review competitors and campaign performance, moderate online brand communities, develop concepts and execute them, keep track of timelines and edits, and communicate it all with other team members. This creates ownership of the project for every function and makes it possible to reach decisions without the entire company in the same room. 
  3. Always pre-game. A few drinks before heading out is fiscally responsible and gets everyone in the right mood. That’s why we get all members from each function in the same room at the beginning of a job. Everyone can agree on the same client requests, timing, budget, testing opportunities, and mostly importantly, the KPIs. Because we all know how it goes … the creative team wants to make a ginormous, pretty splash and the account manager needs it to work within a specific budget. Let’s get all priorities aligned and put the project’s success first. 
  4. Ride out the hangover (and learn something). It’s crucial to talk about the night out the next day. Did she REALLY do that? What even happened to them? Similarly, every project should be constantly re-evaluated. If it’s not aligning with what’s been laid out in the project kickoff, you’ve got to make a change. Our customized Live Dashboards let us and our clients see how campaigns are performing 24/7, so we can learn how content is doing in real time. And when the work comes to a close, we hold meetings with all functions on what went right, what went wrong, and how it can be different in the future. We also host hangouts where we look at trends and news, competitor ads and the reactions they evoke, as well as insights obtained from social listening research. Knowing how to keep up preps us for the next pre-game. 
  5. Check in with your buds. Can a girl ever go to the bathroom alone? Nope. It’s a two or more extravaganza where you don’t just use the loo, you get the lowdown as well. Same goes for feedback. We don’t just check off a series of boxes. One must actually write words explaining the feedback—plus, there are rules in place for providing it constructively. At a lot of organizations, only your boss reviews you. Or maybe your boss, another person who does what you do, and yourself. At H&G, everyone has the opportunity to review literally anyone. Yup, if you’ve got something to say about the CEO, you can put it right into her mid- and annual-year review. Besides having that opportunity, we also require two people outside of a person’s department to review each individual. Next review, ask for thorough, well-thought out feedback from other functions to give a 360-degree perspective on how you could work better with the entire team.
  6. You don’t need a party to drink with a bud. Grab a glass of beer, wine, watermelon juice, whatever, and kick back with co-workers in routine one-on-ones. Chit-chat about things you might not talk about when the whole crew is there. Getting to know people outside of their day-to-day tasks will make them more human and more likely to respect each other’s unique expertise. Not to mention, the exchange of knowledge and the collaboration that takes place because of it is truly glorious. 

As the Billboard award-winning music duo LMFAO says, “Shots, shots, shots … everybody!” we follow up with, “If you ain’t getting cross-functional crunked, then get on out of the club!” Let us know how these tips turn out for you and your teams. All you need to get started is a bottle of tequila. Cheers!

Jill Duff
Creative Services Lead, Copy

Jill is an extroverted and ambitious writer with a passion for taking conflict head-on. She’s working on her 46 ADK High Peaks and 63 US National Parks. If you catch Jill in town, ask her what’s going on in Rochester, and you’ll get a long list of the latest American Advertising Federation Greater Rochester happenings to the newest dive bar around the corner.

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