This time of year is when you sit down with your boss and have the dreaded annual performance review.
It’s likely dreaded for a reason. You hate getting feedback and your boss hates giving feedback. These days performance reviews feel like a bit of jockeying. When you do you self-evaluation, you avoid putting anything that can be used against you. And when your boss does your evaluation, they will avoid putting anything that will imply a promotion, raise or even maintaining your employment. Maybe it’s time that we think of the performance review as a necessity of the job, but we should stop thinking this is big defining career moment that will help you. If you have a great boss, use it to your advantage. Some of my bosses took it seriously, many did not. In my 20 years of working, half of my performance reviews were worthwhile, and considering I had one manager for 7 years who did an excellent job for me, that leaves 13 other years where the reviews did very little for me. I recommend you take control of your own career and never be at the mercy of others.
If you are managing your career, then give yourself a Performance Review
We look at Marketing Careers over 4 different levels: Assistant Brand Manager (ABM), Brand Manager (BM), Marketing Director and VP Marketing. Companies may use various titles, but the ABM is generally a do-er or contributor to strategy, while the BM is the owner of the plan and the go-to person on the brand. Usually the Director manages a broader team and the VP oversees the entire marketing team.
We have mapped out at the 32 essential skills that a Brand Leader needs, at every level. What I have found is that marketing is about learning the fundamentals and then use your experience to continuously improve. As much as your company self-assessment is guarded and careful, when you do your own, you have to be very honest with yourself to identify what you need to work on.
When it comes to Analytics you should be mastering this as an Assistant Brand Manager and Brand Manager, but you have to continue to use these skills throughout your career. While digging into every aspect of the business helps you learn the basic analytics, what separates great marketers on analytics are those who can transform all those numbers into an analytical story that helps set up a decision point.
Brand Planning is usually owned by the Brand Manager. But honestly it can take a few years to become competent at writing plans. If not done well, planning can get out of control. The goal of a brand plan is to get everyone on the same page, to ensure everyone is moving in the direction that is outlined in the brand plan. There are so many elements of a plan you need to get comfortable with, from creating a brand vision that motivates everyone, to purpose and values and onto strategy and tactics. To ensure action comes out of the plan, the Brand Leader should be creating specific project plans for each element of the plan.
While positioning is one of the core strategic functions of marketing, it is rare for a marketer to be involved in positioning their brand. Most are taking the positioning from the previous marketer. Positioning is really about simplifying everything on the brand, down to something that is focused and digestible for consumers. A good positioning has a focused target market, one main benefit and two reasons to believe. From that positioning, you can create a Brand Concept or even move forward to writing a Creative Brief that can help execution. Too many brand leaders lack the ability to write a brief and it’s impacting marketing execution.
Any type of advertising requires brand leaders to use judgement and make decisions. The decisions should be balanced with strategic thinking and gut feel for the creative choices and media options. While we all have natural instincts even before we get into marketing, being able to articulate those over a complex network of advertising experts and over a long project timeline are very difficult. Practice these skills early in your career on smaller projects and perfect them as you move to more complex and bigger projects. With a large advertising project, the brand leader has to work through the ad agency that would include 3 distinct groups–account team, creative team and strategic planner. Then moving towards production, you need to oversee a series of subject matter experts including producers, directors, sound technicians and actors. You have to stay true to your vision at every stage of the project. I have found that with each new project right up to the VP level, you should be continuously looking to improve. How you make decisions, how you motivate others and how you communicate will either make or break the advertising projects you are leading.
New products can vary in their degree of complexity. The simplest ones are incremental launches using the same brand name, and using the same production and distribution channels. The more complex type new products involve a new brand name, a new technology, new distribution channels, new production, government regulation, determining the projected sales, costs and support needed.
One big growing weakness is the go-to-market execution that involves the marketing and sales teams to work together. Over 20 years ago, it was very common that marketers did a stint or two in the sales department. As the roles have become more senior and specialized, it has become more difficult to move people between the roles. This has created silos between Sales and Marketing, leaving the marketer with a perception that they live in an “ivory tower”. There is a skill in learning how to influence the sales team, ensuring that your marketing and sales are working together to make the brand stronger. At any stage, you should be constantly getting into the stores and meeting with sales people. As you get more senior, you should learn how to present to buyers.
In terms of Leadership and Managing you need to hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in strategic thinking and planning. Then you need to hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in execution in the market. In terms of people management, you need to be seen as actively interested in helping your team to manage their careers. Teach, guide and direct your team members for higher performance. Training and development provides on-going skills development to make the team better.
We have also mapped out 15 leader behaviors for you to also use as a self-evaluation, looking at the behaviors that separate great Brand Leaders from the pack. A great Brand Leader is accountable to results, strong on people leadership, a solid strategic thinker, carries broad influence and brings an authentic style. Leadership behaviors are harder for us to self-evaluate. I would recommend you have casual conversations with those you can trust to give you feedback. There is a term called “blind spots”, where people who you work with know that you have a weak, but you don’t know.
Identify your own gaps
We recommend that you go through each of the dimensions and give yourself a score in relation to your peers. A score of 5 means you are one of the best in your department in a given area, a 4 is above average, 3 means you are average and the scores of 1’s and 2’s would mean you have a gap. Force the scores so that you can clearly identify 3 skills and 3 leader behaviors as being a relative gap to your peers. Based on where you are with your career, I recommend you end up using the year to close Then as you build your own personal plan for the year, map out a plan of attack for the coming year.
Don’t worry, we all have gaps. At every level of my own career, I had some major gaps. Many I wasn’t even aware of and some I was even in denial. Only as I moved up to Director and VP level was I able to close some of the gaps. For example, I struggled throughout my career when dealing with the sales team, was never a great negotiator and always weak when it came to managing up. Maybe if I had one more self-evaluations along the way, I could have closed the gaps sooner.
We all have gaps. What are going to do about closing your gaps?
Below is a Powerpoint presentation of a workshop we run on Managing your Brand Career. I hope that it challenges you to think differently and identify some areas you can improve for next year.
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We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me at 416 885 3911