Managing Your Career: Finding and using your Core Strength as a Brand Leader

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Brand Leaders always pride themselves on being generalists, and as we move up, we have to be. But the reality is that we are naturally better in some areas than others, and at very senior levels that can help guide your career choices. Here’s a very simple tool I have created to help guide your thinking to see where your natural strength lies, within one of four choices:  1) Managing Products 2) Creating Ideas 3) Strategic Thinking or 4) Leadership of People.  Grade yourself, or ask others to help you, whether you are High, Medium or Low at each of them.  But to this game, we only let you put ONE at the high and you should force ONE score as low.  

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Where is your Strength?

  • Managing Products:  You’re naturally a business leader, who enjoys the thrill of hitting the numbers–your financial or share goals for the year. In Myers Briggs, you might be an ENTJ/INTJ (introvert/extrovert, intuition, thinking, judgment) the “field general” who brings the intuitive logic and quick judgement to make decisions quickly to capitalize on the business opportunity. You like the innovation side more than the advertising. You are fundamentally sound at all the core elements of running a business:  forecasting, analytics, finance, distribution, working each of the functional areas to the benefit of the products. You may have some gaps in creativity or people leadership, but you’re comfortable giving freedom to your agencies or team to handle coming up with ideas.  My recommendation is that you stay within Brand Management as long as you can.  If you find roadblocks in your current industry, go into new verticals before you venture into new career choices. If you go outside, consider running businesses on behalf of Private Equity companies or even venture out into Entrepreneurship where you take your core strength of running a business to making it on your own.Slide1
  • Strategic Thinking:  You enjoy the planning more than the execution. You might fall into the INTP, where you’re still using logic and intuition, but you are stronger at the thinking that helps frame the key issues and strategies than the tactical solutions to the problems. The introvert side would also suggest that your energy comes from what’s going on in your brain, more than what others are saying. If you stay within industry, you’d be very strong in a global brand role, general management or even a strategic planning role. You need to either partner with a strong executer or build a strong team of business leaders beneath you. Going outside, you’d enjoy consulting and thought leadership which could turn into academic or professional development type roles.  
  • Creative Concepts/Ideas:  You are the type of Brand Leaders open to new thinking, highly creative and you connect more to ideas and insights than strict facts and tight decisions. You believe facts can guide you but never decide for you. They are high on perception, allowing ambiguous ideas to breathe before closing down on them.  They respect the creative process and people.  They are intuitive but opt for how something feels as they use their instincts for what is a good or bad idea. You may have gaps on organization and strategy that hurts you from being a senior leader.  Going forward beyond Marketing, you might opt to switch to agency side or find a subject-matter expert role (Innovation, Marketing Communication or Public Relations) that better suits your strengths.
  • Leadership of People:  You find natural strength in leading others–getting the most from someone’s potential.  You’re good at conflict, providing feedback, inspiring/motivation. You are a natural extrovert, where you get your energy from seeing others on your team succeeding, almost more than yourself. As you move up, you should surround yourself with people who counter your gaps–whether that’s on strategy or execution. You might find yourself better at Management than Marketing, and you should pursue a General Management role. You also would benefit from a cross functional shift into a sales function.  After you hit your peak, consider careers such as executive coaching. 

I realize that most senior leaders will struggle to come down to their ONE key area of strength and you might find yourself more of a combination.  For instance, I had a hard time deciding between Strategy and Creativity, and have managed to find some balance in my second career as a Brand Coach as well as an Advertising Coach.  But I am not quite comfortable enough in presenting Creative Ideas on behalf of an Agency, nor do I just want the purity of strategy.  If you find yourself debating two, that still can provide you with some focus as a combination of strengths to take forward into your career. 

Here are Five Soul-Searching Career Questions You need to Be Asking yourself throughout your Career

  1. Within your current company, how high up do you think you can realistically go?
  2. Should you stay in the same industry or look at new verticals?
  3. Should you stay in pure Brand Management or venture into a subject-matter expert type roles?
  4. How long do you want to keep working?
  5. Do you stay an employee or do you take this moment to leap out on your own?

You have to answer these questions honestly before going out into the market, looking for a job. These answers help frame the strategy for the roles you’d consider. Think of these questions as a starting point to your Personal Branding. To read more, including looking at a deep dive assessment of your personal situation and how to create your own Brand, follow this Powerpoint presentation:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

 

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How to be a successful CMO

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

 

Quintessentially, rule #1 is you have to make the numbers. 

As the VP, your main role is to create demand for your brands. What’s expected of you is to gain share and drive sales growth to help drive profit for the company. The results come from making the right strategic choices, executing at a level beyond the competitors and motivating your team to do great work. But how you do it, and the balances you place in key areas are choices you need to make. Making the numbers gives you more freedom on how you wish to run things. Without the numbers, the rest might not matter.

Here’s my Six points of advice on How to be Successful VP of Marketing. 

  1. While your people run the brands and the execution, you should run the P&L and essentially run all the marketing processes. You have to run the P&L and make investment choices. Bring an ROI and ROE (Return on Investment and Effort) mind set to those decisions. These choices will be one of the essentials to making the numbers and gaining more freedom in how you do the job. In terms of process, it’s always been my belief that great processes in place—brand planning, advertising, creative briefs—is not restrictive but rather provides the right freedom to your people. I’d rather my people drive all their creative energy into great work that gets in the marketplace, not trying to figure out what slide looks really cool in the brand plan presentation. I’ve worked as a Brand Manager in a marketing team without process and it was total chaos, not fun at all.
  2. Focus on the people and the results will come: The formula is simple: the better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results. You should have a regular review of the talent with your directors. I’d encourage you to ensure there’s a systemic way to get feedback to everyone on the team, preferably on a quarterly basis. Waiting for the annual review is way too late and almost negligent as a leader. Your people have the potential to grow with feedback. But without feedback, they’ll be confused and even frustrated. You should invest in training and development. Marketing Training is not just on the job, but also in the classroom to challenge their thinking and give them added skills to be better in their jobs. Marketing fundamentals matter. And the classic fundamentals are falling, whether it is strategic thinking, writing a brand plan, writing a creative brief or judging great advertising. People are NOT getting the same development they did in prior generations. Investing in training, not only makes them better, but it is also motivating for them to know that you are investing in them. That helps drive retention and commitment into producing great work and driving results. To view examples of best in class Marketing training: Beloved Brands Learning Sessions
  3. Be consistent: People have to know how to act around you. You have to set up an avenue where they are comfortable enough to approach you, and be able to communicate the good and bad. A scary leader discourages people from sharing the bad results, leaving you in the dark. On the other hand, open dialogue helps you be more knowledgeable of what’s really going on, so you can run the business. Also, they have to be able to challenge you and push forward new thinking into the system.   This helps your brands to stay modern, push new ideas and connect with consumers. If you push your ideas too far, you could be pushing ideas from a generation too late. Be consistent in how you think, how you act in meetings and how you approve.  Inconsistent behaviour by a leader does not “keep them on their toes” and create an atmosphere of “creativity”. It inhibits creativity, and creates tension that adds no value to the brands. People forget that leadership assumes “followership” from your team.  Creating a good atmosphere on the team will make people want to go the extra mile for you. Be a good listener and you’ll be surprised on what people tell you—how honest they’ll be, how much they’ll tell you. Knowledge makes you a great leader, and it starts with listening.
  4. Let them own it and let them shine: Remember when you were a Brand Manager and the passion you put into that job—the greatness you sought–drove you even harder.  Now it’s time, for you to step back and let them have that same passion to do amazing work and drive the results. It has to be about them, not you. At the VP level, I used to walk into every meeting knowing that “I knew less about the issue on the table, than anyone in the room”. I looked for ways to support and encourage great thinking, while challenging them to reach for even better. It’s not easy to balance giving them to freedom and yet knowing when to step in and make a decision. When I was a Brand Manager, my VP once said to me “every time I make a decision, I weaken myself”. Honestly, I thought he was certifiably crazy, until I was in the VP role. And then it made sense. By making all the decisions, you bring yourself down a level or two and you take over their job. They’ll start to look to you to make EVERY decision and that just makes you the “Super-Duper Brand Manager”. Instead, knowing how to ask good questions of your team to challenge or push them into a certain direction without them knowing you’re pushing them is more enlightening than coming up with statements of direction. But on the other hand, when they put their great work up for approval, and it’s fundamentally sound, approve it. Don’t do the constant spin of pushing for better, because then you look indecisive. For how those on your team can be better, view: How to be a Successful Marketing Director or How to be a Successful Brand Manager or How to be a Successful Assistant Brand Manager
  5. You are the Mayor of Marketing:  Bring a vision to the role.  I tried to use vision statements to rally the team, almost like campaign statements. I used  “Everything starts and ends with the Consumer in Mind” to push my team to be more consumer focused. And I used  “If we each get better, we all get better” to bring a re-commitment to training and development. Look at what needs fixing on your team, and create your own vision statements that relevant to your situation. Bring a human side to the role.  Get up, walk around and engage with everyone on your team. It will make someone’s day. Your role is to motivate and encourage them to do great work.  Challenge them and recognize the great work.  It might be my own thing, but I never said “thank you” because I never thought they were doing it for me.  Instead I said “you should be proud” because I knew they were doing it for themselves. Influence behind the scenes to help clear some of the roadblocks in the way of their success. Know when you need to back them up, whether it’s an internal struggle they are having, selling the work into your boss or with a conflict with an agency they are struggling with.  
  6. It’s a rather lonely job: I remember when I first took the job as VP, I found it surprisingly a bit lonely.  Everyone in marketing tries to be “on” whenever you are around. And you don’t always experience the “real” side of the people on your team. That’s ok. Just be ready for it. Also, the distance from your new peers (the head of sales, HR, operations or finance) is far greater than you’re used to.  And it might feel daunting at first. Your peers expect you to run marketing and let them run their own functional area. And the specific problems you face, they might not appreciate or even understand the subtleties of the role. Your boss also gives you a lot of rope (good and bad) and there’s usually less coaching than you might be used to. It’s important for you to have a good mentor or even an executive coach to give you someone to talk with that understands what you’re going through.

As you are coming up through the marketing roles, observe great leaders equally watch bad leaders.  I learned equally from watching both. It will help frame how you will do the job. Keep a checklist of “when I’m in the VP role”. Bring those into the role, and look to improve upon what your predecessor left for you.  I was lucky in that my predecessor did a great job in turning around the business, giving me freedom to bring energy and passion into the role.

My last piece of advice for you is, Enjoy it. Yes, it’s stressful. You worked hard to get here. Bring that enjoyment into the role.  If you love the work, it will be contagious and your people will feed off that passion and energy. They will be better for it.

After all, the better the people, the better the work, and  in turn the better the results.

To read how to run your career as well as those on your team read the following document. Feel free to download and share with your team.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

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