Different Strokes for Different Folks

I’m speaking at SMX West next week with Jess Bowman on in-house SEO, ensuring you integrate SEO effectively into the development life-cycle. I’ll post the session once it’s done, but in the interim, a related and integral topic has had me consolidating some thoughts I’ve been aware of but never solidified on paper before…


Speaking Across Disciplines – Get their FULL attention, and their MAXIMUM contribution


Many people involved in IT are first born children or only kids. If you are a third child of 5, but are the first born son or daughter, then you are also likely to have traditional first-born traits (fascinating long-term study by Dr. Kevin Leman). I’ll include a list of some identified common traits just below.


Apparently, people who make the best account managers (sales folks of all levels) are last born children. There are again exceptions – if your parents had 3 children (within 8 to 10 years) and you were the youngest, and then they had another child (or children) 5 or more years later, you would also exhibit youngest child traits – assuming you fit the generalized model, which is amazingly accurate in most cases.


Middle children (second born sons, daughters – all with exceptions, provided preceding and following sibling came along within a maximum of 3-4 years either side) are the hardest to pin-point, but are creative, easy-going folks – again in general.


Some common traits of first borns according to Dr Leman

·  Perfectionist and organized

·  Reliable & conscientious

·  Hard-driving natural leader

·  Critical and mostly serious

·  Reader

·  Logical

·  Does not like suspense or surprises


Some common traits of middle-children

·  Mediator

·  Compromising and loyal

·  Diplomatic

·  Hates conflict

·  Very sociable (real life)

·  Maverick but secretive

·  Unspoiled


Some common traits of last kids

·  Charming

·  Loves attention

·  Tenacious

·  Manipulative and shirks blame

·  People person

·  Engaging & affectionate

·  Loves surprises


And for the Onlies

·  Little adult by age 7

·  Very thorough

·  Cautious

·  Voracious reader

·  Can’t stand to fail with very high expectations of self

·  Low high tolerance for others

·  More comfortable with older or younger people

·  Uses ‘very’, ‘absolutely’, ‘exactly’, ‘totally’, ‘extremely’ a lot in conversation


(if any of this strikes a chord, I really recommend you get his book.)


What on earth does this have to do with SEO?


SEO’s need to make things happen. They need to:


·  Sell their offering

·  Convince stake and shareholder (inhouse)

·  Engage and manage clients and stakeholders

·  Engage and manage a team

·  Co-ordinate, delegate, coerce, wangle and be devoted to the team

·  Do the work on time and to budget

·  Check everything

·  Research and share

·  Encourage and facilitate

·  Strategize and organize

·  Be creative, critical and logical

… and more


Obviously, any one person cannot possibly fulfill each of these tasks as effectively as a small team might. This post is therefore more concerned with big in-house SEO resourcing than small, but the insights can be applied across the board.


Also, this is not a book J and therefore it needs to be short. I could have fun with this, but the ideas are not my own; application to our industry may be a first, but Dr Leman deserves full credit either way.


I am not saying only hire people for open recs according to their birth-order. What I am saying that perhaps hiring a dynamic Lead SEO Account Manager whose responsibility it is to be client facing, diplomatic and prepared to take clients at face value without judgement might not best fit a first born or only child.


A first born or only qualified SEO with experience may, however, be your perfect match to a more driven, pressurized, bottom-line dedicated, highly organized logical position requiring tactics and refined managerial skill.


Let’s see how all this might work to give you the in-house SEO dream team you want that not only sells your SEO initiatives to in-house peeps and stakeholders, gets it organized, and is on the cusp of what’s happening, but gets it done on time and under budget!


A. Oversight team manager who does the charts, deals with the money factor and the reporting,organizing and overall management

– First born or Only (bearing in mind exceptions due to time lapse in birth order and gender).


B. Team manager who deals with cross-disciplines, and handles the social media aspect

– Middle children (again considering exceptions to the rule)


C. Client facing or stakeholder-facing manager and facilitator to sell, get approval and pursue set monetary objectives tenaciously to ensure team gets the best deal they can, while getting the majority of praise themselves

– Last borns (also considering exceptions)



So the next question begs…




A. Give your first born managers

Data, facts, figures, expectations, clear real and desired goals, autonomy to proceed without extensive oversight and red-tape, minimize time-tracking requirements with over-arching categories, trust them to deliver the best they can. Give them performance based bonuses. Encouragement will be taken more seriously than less tangible ‘praise’. E.g:

‘You’re wonderful! I love that you headed this!’ (praise)


‘I really like how you put this together, the program is performing well due to your leadership. Keep it going!’ (encouragement)


Back this with the performance based bonuses on a quarterly basis, and you have an employee for life. Watch they don’t burn themselves out, so make sure the maximum bonus is both realistic and achievable, and that you let them know weekly how they are performing in relation to achieving it with clear guidelines on where they need to brush-up. And give them a break. These guys will burn their bottoms for you if you treat them right. Lose them, and you have to start again. It’s not easy to get these guys, and bear in mind they are more likely to get head-hunted than most for in-house delivery… Not sales. Try to get them to sell and see them leave within 3 months.


B. Give your second born managers

Clear requirements. Ensure that they have full support of the first born managers to enable them to escalate issues without fear of conflict with team members below or above.  Request regular (weekly) debriefing on work done, their expectations and their understanding of what they have achieved. Give them the ability to lead and run social media campaigns once they have worked out their clear reporting and objectives for that campaign (in conjunction with reporting manager – 1st born or only).


Let them message informally on twitter, facebook etc (or manage a team that does) once you have set a limited number of specific guidelines (e.g. never comment on competitors, don’t get too ‘friendly’ but be approachable for the brand etc) Encouragement is better than praise, but praise is good for these guys. Better in some cases than encouragement – read on….


C. Give your third born managers

Clear requirements on client objectives, business objectives, and what you want to achieve via SEO – or SEM (more holistically). Then let them run. Don’t expect emails and reporting from them, so make sure they have a personal assistant to do their paper work, or you might not get it, and if you do it may be unclear and a bit of a mess. Ensure they know that their PA is not accountable for what they provide, they will be accountable. Remove the ability to shift blame – which last borns can do with exceptional alacrity, goodwill and innocence. They must read and sign everything, with the clear understanding that while they don’t do the paperwork, they must read it before they sign it as their signature ‘makes it so’. Frequent phone or face-to-face meeting (preferably) are required to ingrain protocols and bottom-line expectations, but need to be brief and targeted at humour and appreciation for what has been achieved versus what you want to achieve. Make them realize that you won’t let them off the hook, but you will let them play.


Again, I strongly recommend Dr Leman’s books about birth order, stress management, child management and more. I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but what he does say makes sense to me, and has – in a personal vein – made an enormous difference in my life. This post is based on the reading I have done to date (fascinating books), and I wanted to share what I had learned that might make a difference NOW to SEOs everywhere, and managers everywhere.


Chances are you’re already in the right place, but if you aren’t, and if you’re unhappy, overstressed, under utilized or under appreciated, this might speak to you. Again, these are generalizations, and the economy is tough right now. Regardless, I hope this was of interest.


Happy SEO-ing, and come see me at SMX next week!

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