Surveying the tightly packed group of 19 award-winning CMOs, I had two challenges. The first was being heard over the Broadway mezzo-soprano who was rehearsing in a nearby room. The second was making sure the conversation about leadership was as scintillating as the singer.
As it turns out, this particular Tuesday at The CMO Club’s annual CMO Awards was a smash hit. The singer stopped practice shortly thereafter, and the gathered CMOs generously shared the stage and their wisdom. Here are six toe-tapping leadership tips for your reading pleasure.
Defying Gravity (Get Your Team to Aim Higher)
Several CMOs highlighted the importance of encouraging innovation from within. Citing the adages, “If we’re not failing, we’re not trying hard enough,” and “Fortune favors the brave,” the conversation zeroed in on the need to celebrate failures, not just successes. One CMO cited her “70%/20%/10%” budget allocation rule, where the 10% goes to programs that are innovative for the whole category. Finding those innovations pushed her team well beyond their comfort zone.
Whistle a Happy Tune (Set the Tone)
As leaders, a CMO’s general demeanor has an outsized impact on both his or her team and the entire organization. Recognizing this, one CMO described herself as the “fun factory,” taking every opportunity to express positivity, even in the face of daunting challenges in a serious category. Saying things like, “You’ve got this” and using lighthearted emojis in emails, this CMO ensured that her “can-do” attitude danced its way across the company.
Getting to Know You (Inspire Curiosity)
Given the speed of change in marketing and within many product categories, several CMOs discussed the importance of inspiring curiosity within their teams. This takes the form of informally sharing trends on a daily basis or more formally via physical and virtual meetings during which trends, books and other ideas are shared. One CMO cited his four L’s—Lead, Laugh, Learn and Listen—and highlighted learning as something that needs to be part of vibrant corporate culture.
Stranger in Paradise (Build a Diverse Team)
In the interest of avoiding “group think,” especially in the area of innovation, one CMO encouraged her peers not to overvalue harmony. Instead, she suggested CMOs needed to “grow a backbone” and welcome dissenting opinions if they wanted to get to the best outcomes. This sparked a conversation around the need for diversity, not just of opinions but of backgrounds, so that business and marketing challenges can be confronted from multiple angles.
What I Did for Love (Lead with Purpose)
One CMO serenaded her peers about the transformational power of having a clear organizational purpose. This purpose enabled refreshingly frank conversations with her employees, allowing each to first consider their own purpose and then see how that might align with the organization’s. In the process, some employees realized they were in the wrong place, while others suddenly felt a new sense of commitment and opportunity for personal growth.
Anything You Can Do (Engage Your Peers)
Lamenting the all-too-common belief that “everyone is a marketer,” many of the CMOs shared strategies for building stronger relationships with their peers as a means of avoiding unwelcome meddling. One suggested working with the CFO to build measurement models, which usually helped that individual realize how little he/she knew about marketing. Another suggested deploying Ludwig von Mises’ “human-action model” to change behavior among your peers. Yes, this was indeed a deep conversation with genuine stars.
Final note: To moderate such a sharp group of CMOs was a genuine treat for me, especially since there wasn’t a diva among them. Clearly, for them and for me, the learning never stops, so I hope this will remind you to ping me with your own tips or challenges.