Episode 7

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Published on:

17th Aug 2023

Picking your Battles in the Workplace with Amanda King

In this week's episode Sarah chats with Amanda about the importance of picking our battles in the workplace, and why it's important.

About Amanda:

Amanda King has been in the SEO industry over a decade, has worked across countries and industries, and is currently consulting through her business, FLOQ. She's always been focused on the product, the user and the business. Along with a passion for solving puzzles, she's incorporated data & analytics, user experience and CRO alongside SEO. Always happy to trade war stories, find her on Twitter or LinkedIn for intermittently shared advice and thoughts on the industry.

Where to find Amanda:

@floq.co on Instagram

@amandaecking on Twitter

Amanda's Website

Amanda on YouTube

Amanda King LinkedIn

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Transcript
Sarah:

Hello, everyone, and a very warm welcome to the SEO Mindset podcast. Thank you for tuning in. This podcast is brought to you by myself, Sarah McDowell, and my amazing co-host Tazmin Suleman. This week we have a great topic and an even greater guest. So this week, we're talking about picking your battles in the workplace with my guest, Amanda King. Who is Amanda King? Amanda King has been in the SEO industry over a decade, has worked across countries and industries, and is currently consulting through her business, Flock. Now, before I get Amanda on to join me, just a quick reminder of the ways that you can support the SEO mindset. So if you enjoy what me and Tasman do, there are numerous ways. But for example, if you go to the seamindset co UK forward slash donate, you can go to our buy me a coffee page and give us a one off donation. And also, if you go to the forward slash, listen, you can subscribe to us, and then you'll never miss a new episode. Those links will be in the show notes. Right, enough of me blabbing. Let's get. Hello, Amanda.

Amanda:

Hello. It's lovely to be on. Thank you for having me.

Sarah:

Thank you so much for coming on. And we said before recording that this was the shortest turnaround, because we literally spoke last week, and we're recording this week. So, yeah, you do not mess about, and I love it.

Amanda:

Hey, I'm easy, and I love coming on and chatting about all things SEO because I am a massive nerd. I think we all are.

Sarah:

Well, yes, this podcast is for those SEO nerds industry. So, yeah, it is good to nerd out about SEO.

Amanda:

It's a good topic. And nerding out not just about the hard skills either, but all about kind of how to get stuff done and how things actually look from a day to day basis. Right. It's not just the skills. It's also how to talk to people.

Sarah:

And all of well, that's I'm glad you said that, because that's the whole reason this podcast exists, because me and Tasman found a bit of a gap. So there's lots of wonderful, great podcasts out there to teach you how to SEO, but there wasn't one at the time when we were looking that just focused on career, personal development, mindset, talking about those kind of topics. So it's great to have a platform, great to have guests like yourself. And, yeah, I love it when people come and suggest topics as well, like yours, picking your battles in the workplace. So to start off with Amanda, what do we mean the royal we? What do you mean when you say pick battles? And why is it important in the workplace?

Amanda:

Yeah, okay. So I'm sure we've all had that coworker, right, that comes in and it's their way or the highway, where it's just like, you do everything my way or you're on my bad books, I'll never talk to you again. And that's no fun. It's not a way that actually gets anything done, and it's not a way that actually acknowledges what's important to the business. Right. Picking your battles is really about recognizing that not everything that you want to do is actually that important, because it's not. We prioritize our tech audits and our strategies for a reason. There are things that are really important, and then there are things that are nice to have, or we're not entirely sure what impact they're going to have, or we want to test something out. And that is picking your battles. It is recognizing that there are no absolutes. Right. It's a sliding scale of compromises. So to me, it's always like I very rarely actually would say, okay, no, I don't care. I don't care how this gets done. It has to get done. And I only do that so frequently because you're also pulling in kind of that goodwill, and you're trading on favors from people. And that's not something that you can do all the time at a business, particularly at an enterprise. Right. Because that's what politics is. Right. It's people doing you favors, extending goodwill, trusting you, and going out on a limb with you. And you can't do that all the time.

Sarah:

100% could not agree with you more. Would you be able to give our listeners an example, like, one example of where you have picked a battle and share with us the outcome?

Amanda:

Yeah, so this was fun. My most recent career before I was and I say fun in all of the most sarcastic ways. My most recent career was with one of the Australian telcos here in Sydney. So think like Vodafone type deal. And in the first week of December, we changed where our JavaScript files were hosted and the platform that we moved them to disallowed all of the JavaScript files. Google couldn't actually crawl them. And our entire website was built on JavaScript. So it basically meant that there was a possibility, alabet small, that Google could potentially just drop our entire website from search results over the Christmas period. As nice. Yeah. So when I caught this, I basically went to kind of our lead systems engineer, straight to kind of the head honchos within our tribe, and was like, we need to fix this yesterday. And I said, if organic traffic is responsible for 33% of our revenue, if we lose this and we lose this visibility, we are potentially losing I can't remember the exact figure, but I want to say it was something like $3 million over the course of five weeks. And for me, that was really important because it's not just me and my expertise saying, hey, this is a problem. It's me contextualizing it in a business framework and saying, we could actually lose tons of revenue because we lost the visibility of our entire website. And luckily, they listened. That was the first favor I pulled out of them. That was six months after I started working there. And they turned it around in, I want to say 48 hours. And at Enterprise. That's fast. That's really fast for Enterprise. So it worked out well. But I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that that was the first big thing that I was asking for. And I didn't ask them to do it just on faith. I said this is the actual impact that it could have on the business.

Sarah:

And I think in how you kind of presented it, they couldn't really say no. Right. And I suppose that's the whole point with so when we are picking battles or prioritization or putting a case forward, so your battle is picked kind of thing, I suppose. Are we saying that you've just got to make it really hard for that person to say no? In a way, yeah.

Amanda:

And I think part of it as well, particularly at kind of larger companies, but really at any company is when you're picking your battle and you're fighting for something, you want to work within the structures and processes that are already in place. Like if there is a process to get financial approval, or if there is a process to pitch a big project, you do it that way because it's there for a reason. It may take longer, it may be a bit of a pain, but it's there. And if you don't do it that way and then you kind of complain about this work not being able to get done, then it's like, well, you're not doing things the way they're meant to be doing again, you're not making friends, you're not kind of working within the system, you're trying to fight against it. So I think that's part of it as well.

Sarah:

Oh, 100%. Because you want to make sure that it's successful and yeah, you don't want to set yourself up from the fail from the beginning. Right.

Amanda:

Picking your battles is not just about choosing the biggest priority or the most urgent things and saying, this is my priority. Right. It's also about you doing the groundwork and the planning and understanding how to actually get things done within your organization and what's important to your business. Right. Because something that, for example, server side rendering is a recommendation that a lot of SEOs will make out of the gate by default for a lot of modern websites because they rely so much on JavaScript. And therefore we may put that in the high priority or the urgent element. But if you actually break down the work and the money that it would cost to do at a lot of larger companies, it's not a priority. Right. Because they don't want to spend a year and a couple of million dollars retraining an entire squad of developers.

Sarah:

And that kind of feeds back to what you said earlier that just because you've come across something or there's a recommendation or something that you think is important, it's not necessarily going to be important to the business, to the team. And it's about so SEO has to fit and work with other departments, like any other department. Right. And yeah, I think first things first, you want to get stakeholder, buy in, you want people to get the SEO is important and the projects that you're putting forward are important. And the only way that you're going to do that is if you are understanding the processes, making relationships with other departments in the team, educating people, and also picking the projects that make the most sense. Look at the business goals, right. What is important to the business and how can SEO support that?

Amanda:

Yeah, absolutely. And synergistically, there will be things that are high priority for you as an SEO that do end up being high priority for the business. But it does take that additional lens. Right. My situation that I gave the example of is relatively rare. That kind of thing doesn't happen very frequently. And I put my foot down because I knew there was an edge case, a small one, but an edge case that this could happen. And I didn't want to set a precedent where it was like, oh, Amanda isn't on top of her game, she doesn't keep track of where things are at with the website. So there's that side of it as well. Sometimes it is a bit of a reputational thing, the battles that you pick as well.

Sarah:

And reputation is so important. So important. And, yeah, it is hard, but I suppose in any business, if you work in house agency, freelance, whatever, your reputation is really important in how people see you or how people perceive you. So I guess that is another important area, isn't it, when we're talking about picking battles, because, yeah, it's going to happen. We all make mistakes, we're all human, and that's what we say a lot on this podcast. But if you can do things to mitigate that or like to think about that, then you're just going to make your life easier. Right?

Amanda:

Yeah, absolutely. And we can chat about this a bit later as well. But I mean, for example, I very rarely actually pick battles with developers, right. Usually what I will do instead is come to them with a question, or come to them with an ideal solution and say, how can we solve for this? What does this look like? And have a conversation rather than saying, no, you have to do it my way because I'm not a developer.

Sarah:

Right, yeah, very good point. Very good point. Right. You have led me quite nicely into a break here. So, yes, thank you very much. Not your first rodeo. So, yeah, let's take a short break and then we'll be back with part two and you'll be sharing more tips around picking battles, and we'll also be talking about overcoming challenges. Does that sound right? Does that sound good?

Amanda:

That sounds fantastic.

Sarah:

Wonderful. Join us for part two, everyone. We are back with part two. Welcome back, Amanda.

Amanda:

Thank you. Thank you. It's lovely to continue to be on.

Sarah:

To continue to be on. Did you enjoy part one? That is the question. Absolutely.

Amanda:

Always.

Sarah:

That was the right answer. Well done. We've covered what we mean by picking battles. You shared some wonderful examples, and you hinted at one of your tips because very professional. So, yeah, let's talk about more tips. What other tips do you have for our listeners when they are picking their battles?

Amanda:

Yeah, well, I mean, you actually touched on quite a lot of them yourself, right? So stakeholder buy in is massive. And for me, stakeholder buy in is essentially remembering that the people that you're working with are also people. They have emotions, and they have Hobies and they have interests, and they have drivers, and they have things that they care about, and then they also have a particular way of interacting with the business and their job, because it's a job. It's a job for everyone. So that is probably my biggest thing when I am trying to get something done, is, okay, who do I need to kind of win over? Who do I need to have on my side? And sometimes it's easy, right? Because some people may really understand POS or PMS. Some people may really understand SEO and already understand its value and already have a dedicated stream of work for it or whatever, but other people don't. Sorry, excuse me 1 second. Um, so but sometimes it's not. And sometimes it's about really understanding what drives people, what they care about. Like, some people in the business may only care about what their competitors are doing, or some people may care about a particular metric of success, like cost of goods sold or something like that. So it's learning those motivators and understanding it and behavioral psychology as well, I think is a big one for me, because we don't make decisions rationally, we don't make decisions logically. We make them emotionally. And I think that is something that, when you understand a lot of things, make a lot more sense. So that's also why I said that I tend not to come to developers with a specific solution and say, hey, we need to do this thing. I very rarely actually pick battles with developers because they're actually a lot like SEOs in that there is a lot of people out there who think they can be better developers than the developers, and they can get very defensive very easily. So rather than coming to them and saying, hey, we have to do this particular thing this way because I said so, I will go to them and say, hey, we have to solve for this thing. You know, the code base a lot better than I do. How can we do this in a way that solves for this, that Meets Both Of our needs and That's Opened A lot of doors for me, along with bribing them with sweets and liquor. That happens. I'm just generally nice to people as well. I go into things with a curious mindset. I came Across this perspective years ago, and it's really Stuck With me. I Wouldn't necessarily say it's a piece of career advice, but it's generally the way that I think about picking battles and choosing what to prioritize and what to focus. I have strong convictions, loosely held, right? So I have the experience. I've looked at the data myself and I've come to this conclusion. But if you look at different data in a different way, have a different perspective, come to me and we discuss it and we're like, okay, that actually Makes More sense. I have a very open learning mindset. And as an SEO, I feel like it's really hard to get anything done if you don't have an open mindset, because things change so rapidly. Not just in SEO as a field, but in front end development, in CRM software, in APIs, in marketing, new channels and new opportunities open up. And SEO is a lot of times one of those things. Again, particularly in larger businesses, where you do, to a certain extent, have to recognize that you are a cog in the machine. You are one small part of a much larger kind of wheel of momentum that is moving the business forward. And sometimes, quite frankly, you have to recognize that SEO is not a priority For The business. And so maybe it's something like, for example, at Optus, one of our big focuses was accessibility. And as an SEO, I can also speak to Accessibility. And I think Tom Kritchlow has said this quite well in numerous different ways. But it's also about finding other people's good work, how it impacts SEO and Reflecting it back to them. That is also, to a certain extent, a part of picking battles and picking your battles because you are building that relationship, you're building that trust, and you are sharing with people the positive impact that they have had on your field, regardless of whether or not that was their intention or a part of their requirements, when they were doing the thing that they were doing. So Picking your battles right has sides to it. It's not just the conversation that you have when you're trying To Get The thing done, but it's also the relationships that you build before that and how you Build them.

Sarah:

I've just been like a nodding dog here. Everything that you're saying, I'm like, yeah, I agree 100%. Spot on. And, yeah, there's a couple of things interesting. I mean, everything that you said that Was interesting, but some things that sort of Caught My eye. That's what we say in podcasting.

Amanda:

Attention caught your attention, maybe.

Sarah:

Thank you. There we go is the first thing about emotional drivers, right? Like, we're humans and we respond based on how we're feeling and what we're doing. And I suppose something that we have to be aware of is we don't know what's going on for someone, right.

Amanda:

The reason someone could have said no to your request is because they were having a really shit day, not because your request was invalid.

Sarah:

Yeah. And I think the more see, making friends at work, making relationships, is just because how many times if you've had a bit of a rubbishy day or some things aren't going right, or I don't know, and someone's noticed and they've reached out to you and been like, hey, just checking in, right? That makes you feel good, doesn't it?

Amanda:

Yeah, no, absolutely. And over the pandemic as we were kind of coming back into the offices. I probably shouldn't be admitting this too loudly, but I preferred to come into the office I preferred to come into the office on Fridays because my work was going to see all of my kind of loose connections and all of my stakeholders and having a bit of a chat. That was my day, was going in and talking to people. Because I will say that is building friendships and building at least somewhat non work based banter is a lot easier in person.

Sarah:

Oh, 100%. And once you have a relationship with someone, obviously everyone's going to have their own priorities. We don't know what's on someone's to do list, we don't know what pressures someone at work has got what department, do you know what I mean? But you're going to do yourself a massive favor if you work on and it doesn't have to be much, just try and just reach out and have little chitchats. And you can still do that remotely as well, because if you're a remote team, you'll be using some sort of communication channel. And, yeah, one of the things at my work is we have I don't know what it's called, but it's basically for general chat or there's a channel that's something like non work nerd chat and stuff like that. And it's awesome because, yeah, people are people at the end of the day, yes, people are hired to do certain roles, they do certain things, but we're all human. We like human connections. AI is not going to take over our jobs, hopefully.

Amanda:

And I think something as well, both in kind of picking your battles and overcoming challenges. Unfortunately, one thing is time, right? Because it takes time to build relationships, it takes time to understand the business and the business priorities. It just takes time. It takes time to build that trust. Which is why, when I kind of put my foot down about this JavaScript thing, it was a bit of a leap, right, because I had only been at the company six months and for an enterprise company where you still have people who are coming up to their 20 year anniversaries. Six months is nothing. So I was actually a bit like, are they going to listen to me? Is this going to happen? I wasn't sure. And it did, which was great. And it is those shared experiences and that shared trauma that will build those relationships further as well.

Sarah:

But also sharing wins as well.

Amanda:

Absolutely.

Sarah:

When you've pulled off something. So when you fix the situation that you had, or you're working on a project where you need input from others, you need favors from others, make sure that you share big people up, right. Big what they did, it doesn't take long at all. But giving them recognition, one will make them like you make them feel appreciated, because we all want to feel appreciated, but also they'll be like, last time Sarah asked me to do something, I looked really good for the company because we made this happen. So that's another thing as well, isn't it?

Amanda:

That's I mean, you can take it a step further as well. I know some companies will have actual reward point kind of systems where if you actually give people kudos or a positive review, you'll get points and that actually translates to physical something, whether that's like a gift card or whatever. There are some companies that have that kind of official side of it as well. So if that exists, that's a great thing to do too. Maybe not for everyone, but for the main players involved and then something as well. I'm not sure, Sarah, what your experience has been with this, but something else that takes time, right, is back channeling. Is back channeling. Instead of because there are the two levels of stakeholders, right? There are the people who can make the decisions to do the thing and then there are people who do the thing. Right?

Sarah:

Okay.

Amanda:

Right. So a lot of the kind of mid to smaller things that I wanted to get done or wanted to kind of suss out and see if they could get done, I back channeled with the people who would actually be doing them, right? And just kind of sent them a bit of a banter, caught up with them, had a really casual five minute conversation and was like, hey, if I went to your boss's boss and requested that we do this thing, is it going to absolutely kill your team? Is this going to be a terrible thing to do? Because you have 20 other urgent things from the business that you need to get done. Do you actually have time for it? If I did this, will it sit well with you or is there something else we could do? So there's that level of pre qualification as well, to a certain extent, when you're trying to pick your battles or understand what to do. And I think Deloitte and some other big four consulting firms, they have this officially within their process documentation. Right? They call it the pre yes. You essentially want to get a yes before you get a yes officially.

Sarah:

Okay.

Amanda:

Where it's like, we want to do this thing. What do you think of it? You want to bring kind of you want to bring people along for the ride and take them through your logic again, so if you're making a really weird assumption or you're really underestimating how much work something is going to take, it can get caught before it gets to the point where it gets officially approved. So you're not essentially shooting your coworkers in the foot and being like so there's that side of it as well.

Sarah:

Yeah, I love that tip. I love that tip because yeah, I suppose you're also doing your due diligence, aren't you? And again, like the person who says yes or no, if you've already done that bit of due diligence and you've spoken to the team, when you go and take it to that person to approve, you can be like, we've already had this conversation. They're really on board, they're really excited. Let's do this. So again, I suppose it's all about ways to not set yourself up for a fail, all the ways that you can set yourself up to succeed, I suppose.

Amanda:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's probably the biggest thing for me is not surprising people and not just throwing something in their lap and be like, hey, do this. No. Whoever likes being on the receiving end of that. Again, you're not making friends when you do that kind of thing. And look, you don't have to make friends. You don't have to be everyone's best buddy, but you do want people to respect the way that you work. And if you just continually throw stuff at people without context, without consideration, you don't have people's respect. They won't like doing stuff for you, they won't go out of their way to let you know that something else is happening or some other person is trying to screw with the requirements or you won't have that back channel conversation. And that is where a lot of work gets done, is in those back channels.

Sarah:

Honestly, yeah, I've really enjoyed this conversation because everything that we're talking about isn't rocket science. It's easy to implement, but the changes or the impacts are massive. So really appreciate you spending time and talking to me about picking battles and yeah, I think this has been an awesome episode with lots of stuff that our listeners can take away and implement.

Amanda:

Yeah. One last thing actually is that I think if you are having trouble getting something through, whether because it's a very large project or it'll cost a lot of money or you're not sure what the end result is going to be, and you can't positively articulate what the business impact will end up being. Again, back channeling, but using a proof of concept, taking a really small section of your website and saying, I'm going to take this not so important section of the website and test this thing on it and work with this other team to test this thing on it. It's not going to take us more than a couple of weeks and we'll be able to tell you whether or not it will actually have a positive impact on our website, for our products, for our industry at this point in time. And that can get a lot of people in the room and a lot of people listening if it kind of does what you want it to do, right?

Sarah:

Yeah. 100% amazing. I mean, you've got me thinking of like, yeah, this is wonderful, this is wonderful. Again, not rocket science. Easy to implement, great strategies. If you want people to take main takeaway, say the one key thing. How would you like, sum it up in, like, in a sentence?

Amanda:

I would say that you really just need to be curious and open minded.

Sarah:

Be curious and open minded. Wonderful. Let's all try and do that for Amanda. Let's all try and be more curious and be more open minded. Wonderful. Right, so a few questions that I'm going to squeeze in before we a bit of a hard question, but name one person to follow in SEO. I know there's loads of people out there. I'm asking you for one.

Amanda:

I would say someone that I always have appreciated in the SEO industry is Mike King. I pull rank.

Sarah:

Mike King. What was that from?

Amanda:

Well, so his handle is.

Sarah:

Ipool Rank. Yes, I've come across Mike King.

Amanda:

We're not related.

Sarah:

Damn it. It's really funny that I recognize his handle straight away. When you were like, I pull rank, I'm like, yeah, I know. I know who you're talking about. We'll put them in the show notes. Thank you, Amanda. Okay, best career advice.

Amanda:

If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room.

Sarah:

Nice. Yeah. Again, nodding dog is out. I'm agreeing. And where can people find you?

Amanda:

So I will most regularly be on LinkedIn, Amanda King, but probably my business flock is a bit easier to find. There are a lot of Amanda Kings on the Internet, unfortunately.

Sarah:

Oh, no.

Amanda:

Yeah. I wanted to buy the Amanda King domain, but it is currently held, I believe, by a jazz singer in do.

Sarah:

You enjoy jazz music?

Amanda:

At least we'll say yes. I don't dislike it. I don't dislike it. And then I would say the other place that I am with some regularity is Twitter, where you can find me at amanda. EC King or my website, of course.

Sarah:

Wonderful. Like, everything go to this episode, show Notes, because everything will be in there. So links to follow, amanda, our links for the podcast. We'll also make sure that we put Ipool Rank in there as well, so you can see why Amanda nominated them. So, yeah, just show notes for your friend. Everything's in. There. Wonderful. Right, so, again, just to remind people, if you want to support us, you can give us a one off donation via our Buy US a Coffee page link in the show notes for that and subscribe subscribe to the podcast. And then you will never miss when a new episode goes live. So when I have another wonderful conversation, like I have today with Amanda, you'll be notified as soon as that is live. So go and check those out in the show notes. Right. Should we say goodbye, Amanda?

Amanda:

We shall. It's been lovely and thank you for having me. And I'm sure everyone will listen whether or not they find anything useful. Hopefully.

Sarah:

They will. You've got me thinking like, light bulb moment here. Light bulb moment here. I need to do this at work. Loads of people will get lots from this. So thank you. Right, take care, everyone, and until next time.

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About the Podcast

The SEO Mindset Podcast
Personal growth tips to help you to optimise your SEO career and not just the algorithms!
The SEO Mindset is a weekly podcast that gives you actionable, personal growth and development tips, guidance and advice, to help you to optimise your SEO career and not just the algorithms.

The podcast is dedicated to talking about important topics that aren't often spoken about in the industry such as imposter syndrome, burnout, anxiety, self awareness etc. Sarah and Tazmin, along with their special guests highlight important topics, share own experiences as well as giving actionable solutions. Basically we have open, honest and frank conversations to help others in the industry.

Each week we cover topics specific to careers in the SEO industry but also broader topics. We will help you to not only build your inner confidence but to also thrive in your career.

Your hosts are Mindset Coach Tazmin Suleman and SEO Manager Sarah McDowell, who between them have over 20 years experience working in the industry.
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About your hosts

Sarah McDowell

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I've been in Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for around 10 years, currently working as the SEO Manager at Captivate (part of Global), the world's only growth-orientated podcast host. I am a self-confessed SEO nerd (I find the industry fascinated and love learning how search engines like Google work) and a bit of a podcast addict (with this being the fourth podcast I have hosted). I am also a speaker and trainer. I hope you enjoy this podcast!

Tazmin Suleman

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I am a Life Coach, helping people grow and thrive, however my background has included careers in Development, Data Integrity and SEO. Through coaching, mentoring and teaching I help people build happier more fulfilling professional and personal lives by changing their mindset and habits. I teach courses on these topics and have incorporated a lot of the teachings in this podcast. I hope you find it useful.