CMOs in transition: How to make your first 180 days a success

Perspectives

CMOs in transition: How to make your first 180 days a success

As a marketing executive, how do you respond to any major transition? You plan. You prepare. You plot. You get creative. That’s what CMOs do. Ideally, as a CMO in transition to a new role, you also take the time to talk to peers who have faced similar challenges, analyze your team, identify obstacles, and fine-tune your strategy.

That kind of preparation can take weeks or months. But today, it has to happen fast. New competitors, disruptive channels, and customer demands for responsiveness don’t wait for anyone. Today, all are unfolding at lightning speed. It makes getting started on the right foot critical.

In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that the average CMO’s tenure was under two years. Fortunately, that’s been on the rise. In Spencer Stuart’s most recent CMO tenure survey results, the average CMO now holds their role for 48 months. That’s double the average in 2004 and the first increase since 2011.

Since 2013, Deloitte has hosted Transition Labs to help new CMOs answer that question and prepare to meet the role’s wide range of demands—as the customer champion, driver of business growth, architect of marketing capabilities, a catalyst of innovation, and the guardian of the brand.

While taking on these responsibilities can be daunting, we’ve found by focusing on three key things, a CMO can balance the load and drive the right priorities. We have found that by focusing on these three areas, managing your time, your talent, and your stakeholder relationships, a CMO can improve their probability of success in the first 180 days.

Manage your time

In a new job, it can be hard to pull out of the details. You can easily find yourself spending 10 percent of your time on the important tasks while the other 90 percent gets filled with meetings and people throughout the organization trying to connect with you. Too easily you can look back at your first six months, and find you’ve spent too much of your time fighting fires instead of making headway on your goals.

As a new CMO, you can’t manage your time the way you did in other roles. You should clearly map a small set of priorities to your long-term objectives in the role and the mandates of the organization. But, it’s not enough to just know what those goals are. You should also find the right people and carve out time to make clear progress toward those goals. It’s not something you can start late in the job. It has to start from day one.

Manage your talent

Managing talent has never been easy. With the increased rate of change from digital technology, you’ve got to get your team up to speed as fast as possible. Too often, we’ve found CMOs come into a role overly optimistic on the capabilities of their team. Plus, they don’t want to come in and ruffle feathers on their team too early on.

However, when many CMOs look back, they wish they had made talent moves faster—even successful CMOs say they wish they’d made moves quicker in their tenure. Whether it’s making plans to re-skill good people, or finding the right person for the role your organization really needs, doing it within the first six months pays off.

Having the wrong people in the role for too long can end up hurting your overall effort more than you might think. Don’t let a talent situation fester.

Manage your stakeholders

You probably already know who your stakeholders are—but have you sat down and created a stakeholder map? It’s a simple exercise to help connect your priorities to stakeholders to understand their influence and support of your overall goals and priorities.

This exercise can help you build a conscious strategy for managing support. It can also help focus your time spent on stakeholder management, avoiding spending time where it’s not needed while potentially ignoring situations that need immediate attention. You can also build a strategy to use a current supportive relationship to win over others.

Transitioning to success

We have found that often success in a role is made (or broken) in the first 180 days. Break your priorities, talent, and stakeholder actions down to closely manage the first 180 days making quick progress towards the long-term vision and objectives. By living this plan, CMOs can break through what is seemingly urgent to focus on what is really important.

About Deloitte’s CMO Transition Lab

The CMO Transition Lab is in an immersive one-day session where you can gather with a group of peers in a confidential setting to help focus your efforts on what is most important, and what can help your company be successful.

Published on August 1, 2015.

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