During marketing week we had the chance to hear directly from leaders about their experiences and careers in marketing. Interesting, but everyone has a story like the ones we heard. I was looking for the lessons learned and how that applies to me and my work and career. A sampling of my notes:
Very powerful when a marketer prefaces comments with; “the data suggests.”
You have done something right, when sales asks you to meet with a tough customer. It shows they trust you and believe that you can help them.
Can you deliver a hard message to the sales team?
Can you generate customer enthusiasm?
Are you willing to ask the obvious questions?
Make sure that you know the difference between “assertive” and “aggressive.”
Be ready for this interview question. “Who have you mentored or managed that you are most proud of?”
According to Henry David Thoreau, even ants are busy. “The question is: What are you busy about?”
Is it possible that nonstop busyness keeps a person from what is really important? That was an easy question. Of course the answer is, yes. I confess that I am not a big reader of Thoreau, but I recently heard the popular expression; life is what happens when you are busy making plans.
A mid-year goal for me is to become more aware of the business priorities and make sure my actions are supporting those priorities. I want to be busy on the right things. As a marketer, I have the additional responsiblity to connect everything back to customer needs.
Keeping it simple, focused and possibly even a little less busy.
GE recently announced three new leaders through the internal announcement system. These leaders were asked if they had any advice to share. I have done a simple cut and paste blog on their responses. These three do not need me to add anything. What great responses!
Richard Hausmann, VP of Magnetic Resonance: There are two lessons I’ve learned in my career: first, always be open to new situations and innovative ideas (standing still means falling back), and second, it’s all about a good team. My former boss always said: nobody is perfect but a team can be!
Banmali Agrawala, President and CEO for GE Energy in India: I have learned to listen to people before speaking my mind. I have learned this the hard way as earlier in my career I was rather eager to share my opinions rather than listen to others. More often than not, one only learns by listening to others.
Puneet Mahajan, VP and Chief Risk Officer: I would say a few things
– You are only as good as your team
– Take the tough jobs that will differentiate you from your peers
– Build deep domain and ensure you embrace globalization
– Be Humble & Curious – learning is a continuous process
"I think we should start a circus."
One of my projects over the past few weeks has been to create a business case for a “bad idea,” something we have no chance of ever doing. I am pretty sure that if I worked in a small business, I would have simply concluded instantly, “We are not doing that. It is not worth it, what else ya got?”
My colleagues and our leadership happen to love the business case. It has provided the basis for objective discussion about this bad idea. It seems that there has been reluctance to just call it what it is, because of concern about the origin of this bad idea. Ah, the big company life! Although this bad idea is new to me, it is one that has been discussed off and on since 2009. The business case is based on many assumptions and the analysis is not that complex, yet they love it and I am getting the credit. I will present the business case to an “officer” of the company next week. An officer of the company is a big deal, so I will rehearse and prepare with the objective of getting a cease and desist order. Not what I am usually going for.
Business Case Recipe
- Describe the problem to solve. Answer the question; “How will things be different if we solve this problem?”
- Use a four or five year time frame
- Create an excel column for each year
- Create four proposals with different levels of risk and estimated cost of implementation
- List out all assumptions
- Cite any references
- Use Excel to calculate the net present value of the four options
- Make a recommendation for one of the four proposals
- Outline an implementation action plan and timeline
How can marketers be accountable?
Step One: Believe that you can make a difference. If you can make a difference then you will be motivated and naturally want to work on the right projects. Projects that mean something to your organization and ones that help you grow and learn. Projects that highlight your value, which is very important.
Step Two: Promise what you will do or create. Put yourself out there and commit. Take a chance, but be willing to ask for help. I think it is important to clarify your promise in an email, or a document or in a power point slide. Be flexible and clear so that you can make sure you have made the right promises.
Step Three: Do what you promise. It feels good and is good to do what you say you will do. This is the time to be creative and innovative. On occasion you will do more than you promised. Your reputation depends on you doing your part.
Step Four: Hold yourself to high standards for communication and effort. Sometimes you will not be in control of the result and that is ok. Accept it. Control what you can and have trust in your leadership to help you work around the uncontrollable.
- Prepare your case
- Ask for what you want
- Make your case
- Ask for commitment
It starts with clarifying your purpose. Also known as, “use a mirror first.” You have to know what your idea is and why it is meaningful. Then you can identify the stakeholders and predict the points of resistance.
Be creative as you define your idea and prepare your ask. If your idea creates a unifying and lofty goal that you can rally support around, that is great. If not, you will need to be able to connect your idea to existing corporate goals or strategies.
As you make your case, be ready to customize the message to the audience. What is in it for them and what is the best way (media and format) to make your appeal? Expect that leaders of a business unit are interested in anything that affects their results, but that not everyone needs to know all of the program plan milestones. Use questions carefully. Open ended to illicit information, closed to get focus or obtain approval. The art is mixing emotion, humor, logic and evidence in a way that makes everyone feel dignified and respected.
Sooner rather than later, but not too soon, assess readiness to commit to the idea. If you ask for commitment and get it, conclude the meeting by restating their commitment and then stop talking. If the stakeholders are not ready to commit, ask; “What can I do to win your commitment?” And take it from there.
Winning approval for ideas is a weakness in my game that I am working for the next few months. The inspiration for this blog comes from an on-line seminar I recently attended. I am also reading The Art of Woo, by Shell and Moussa. This book is about using strategic persuasion to sell ideas.
Ask yourself these questions if you are wondering if you are in the right job.
- Am I working with “my people”? You and your colleagues should share values and sensibilities. You should have the same intensity about your work. Simply put, you should like the people you work with.
- Does my job make me smarter? I think you want to be part of an organization that offers challenges and takes you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes it is fun to be the smartest person in the room, but it is more important for your career to be growing and learning.
- Are doors opening up? There is no such thing as a dead-end career. However, there are dead-end jobs. From your current job you should be able to see the next job. Consider all opportunities as good.
- Is there a joy factor? There should be something at your job that makes you happy. On the far extreme, your job gives you your meaning. It does not have to be the only thing that gives you meaning, but you also do not want to be at the other extreme, where your job is demeaning. Aptitude does not equal passion. Just because you are good at something does not mean that you enjoy it.
Is it possible that in our careers we will see a shortage of qualified people and a real labor shortage? I heard from a politician this week that 2012 marks the beginning of the baby boomers turning 65. Hundreds of thousands of them reaching retirement age, next year and every subsequent year for 20 years. I am not sure how I was supposed to respond, but since I want to work for another 15 years or so, I took it personally and was encouraged.