“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” –John Quincy Adams
If you have had the pleasure of meeting Betsy Spellman, Chief Marketing Officer of Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, you have been in the presence of someone who epitomizes leadership as described by John Quincy Adams. Spellman, a respected leader by her marketing team, is equally as respected by her fellow firm leaders and the lawyers in the firm. The legal marketers who have worked with Betsy know that she will mentor and allow them to thrive, all while having their back.
Bobbie Conklin (BC): How did you get started in legal?
Betsy Spellman (BS): I was working in communications for local non-profits (United Way and an art center) and met a dynamic woman who held the marketing director position at Steptoe. I wanted to be the first person she hired. She helped me land a position opening and marketing a new office. In the beginning, I was simply looking to increase my earning power and job stability, but it didn’t take long before I began to relish the challenge.
BC: What is something that you attribute to your career success?
BS: Feedback has been my friend. Some of the feedback I have received was extremely harsh, but it gave me information I needed to improve my performance and understand how I was being received. Each time, I would evaluate what I’d heard, try to imagine the other point of view, lick my wounds, and become determined to overcome my real (or perceived) weaknesses – no matter what.
BC: What advice would you give to your younger self as it relates to your career?
BS: I’d tell my younger self not to stress so much about it all working out. Looking back, I realize that being open to new ideas, always moving forward and making (or taking) opportunities has always been what has worked best for me.
BC: How has LMA positively impacted your career path?
BS: LMA is where we find our tribe. Having relationships with other legal marketers who so generously share their experiences has always given me hope, motivation, and inspiration.
BC: How have you successfully grown your team?
BS: We focused on change management and growth based on success. We sought out the right projects and the right disciples to influence the direction of our marketing efforts and exceeded expectations. Through our efforts, we found openings where we could provide value and where no work had been done before; then, we developed the evidence necessary for firm management to see the value in expanding our team. We set our own expectations, and then tried to beat them as we moved forward. We’ve sought people with great attitudes, a customer service orientation, a sense of curiosity, and a willingness to work hard. We work as a team, cross-train, and we all pitch in to meet deadlines and expectations.
BC: What is one of the biggest challenges to leading a team, and how do you overcome it?
BS: Helping the team to stay focused, hopeful, and motivated is always a challenge. I remind myself: Always, always, always treat the team with respect and kindness. Give feedback privately, in real time, and without attitude. Provide support, encouragement and kudos as often as possible. Make saying “thank you” routine. Practice empathy. Help team members see themselves and their work as others see them, so they can continuously improve. Give the team opportunities to interact with firm lawyers, and provide context for the work they do. Make sure they understand firm culture and hierarchy, and equip them to manage expectations and influence their clients as trusted advisors.
BC: What leadership skills are you looking for in candidates?
BS: One of the most critical skills for legal marketers is the ability to influence the thinking of our constituents. I want candidates with high emotional intelligence that can use persuasion to help lawyers learn effective business development techniques.
BC: What recommendations do you have for great leadership reads?
BS: Read The Next IQ: The Next Level of Intelligence for 21st Century Leaders, by Arin N. Reeves. The book offers a new way to lead that stretches from intelligence to inclusive intelligence. I also highly recommend The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling. They break down what it really takes to execute on your big ideas and provide examples with stories to illustrate their concepts.
BC: When you aren’t working, what do you enjoy doing?
BS: Doing something creative always gives me pleasure and a sense of excitement. That may take the form of cooking, designing a garden, decorating, or enjoying someone else’s artistic expression. It’s also really important to me to work towards creating the reality I want to see in the world, so I volunteer with the local farmers market I helped to start over a decade ago with a group of good friends.
Profile by Bobbie Conklin, Business Development Manager, Steptoe & Johnson PLLC