This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.
You’ve landed on the ground in your new role as CMO. Congratulations! You’re facing the tough challenge of forging customer bonds in a noisy, fast-moving marketplace. Social and mobile media beckon. Big data and analytics are the key to your marketing future. Oh, and the economy is moving sideways.
It’s a really exciting time to be a CMO, right?
Here’s the downer. Nearly half (46 percent) of marketing leaders will struggle quietly in their new role. And, when they struggle, it ripples. Direct reports perform 15 percent worse than those reporting to a high-performing new leader. Those direct reports are also 20 percent more likely to leave. Tougher to quantify are the botched growth strategies, new product launches or major marketing initiatives that come with astruggling new leader.
CEB researchers recently conducted a comprehensive study onleadership transitions informed by data from nearly 30,000 leaders and hundreds of interviews. We found that the best leadership transitions happen when companies proactively engineer the transition experience to provide tailored support for four transition types:
- Replacing an Icon—This is when you have to follow the equivalent of Steve Jobs.
- Following a Train Wreck—Your predecessor flamed out. Sometimes this is due to personal failings, but quite often it’s because of underlying business problems. This is what Kathy Savitt faces at Yahoo!, for example.
- Jump Start—The prior leader was neither strong nor weak, but marketing needs to move in a new direction. You might putMichael Senackerib, the newly appointed CMO at Campbell Soup, in this category.
- Breaking Ground—You’re filling a newly created position. For example, Bill Hornbuckle at MGM is filling an expanded CMO (and President) mandate with new responsibility for product development.
Each of these transition contexts demands a different set of organizational support and transition activities for the new leader. Let’s break it down.
Replacing an Icon
About 20 percent of marketing transitions involve following an iconic leader. The first priority is to clarify the role and build relationships that will help legitimize you as the new leader and advance an agenda. A big dose of stakeholder alignment is in order here, both inside the organization and amongst external partners. That means going well beyond the standard “listening tour.”
One B2B CMO who recently transitioned in this type of scenario fielded a diagnostic survey to both the marketing and sales teams. He found common areas of perceived strengths and weaknesses in 20 different dimensions, from lead generation to sales enablement to customer insight development. Most importantly, he found the areas of greatest disagreement and dove deeper to understand the why behind the disagreement. He found an important difference in the view of how sales reps should engage customers. This was something that the prior iconic marketing leader was able to skirt past by sheer force of personality. That discovery led to a dramatic shift in marketing’s demand generation and content marketing strategy.
Following a Train Wreck
Accounting for 27 percent of leadership transitions, train-wreck-following means the new leader needs to establish a clear vision, build new relationships, and repair damaged ones.
Following a train wreck, new marketing leaders must seize the opportunity to redefine marketing’s role and set KPIs that align with that new vision. This is especially tough for CMOs today because the ways that marketing can create economic value are shifting dramatically. That said, leading CMOs in this transition type must re-think the very boundaries of marketing.
For example, the sales and marketing teams at one financial services provider have driven investment of $250 million in data and analytics across the past four years. Most importantly, those investments are enabling marketing to develop and demonstrate the power of new product development in a previously very slow moving industry. As a result, marketing’s role has shifted beyond its prior focus of delivering marketing communications to now encompass a much more strategic role in developing the product offer itself, including the surrounding customer experience.
Another 20 percent of transitions are jump starts. The most successful transitions here involve quickly understanding the industry and organization, as well as the dynamics of the new team. This meansunderstanding where there are breakdowns in the marketing fundamentals of the team.
It also means assessing the team mix and identifying the highest performing marketers, based on CEB research around what separates high performance marketers and marketing teams in a volatile environment.
About 40 percent of transitions involve moving into a newly created position, and we see this increasingly in marketing. In many cases, the CMO’s portfolio is expanding to include some combination of strategy, customer experience and even technology. That means a new role for the CMO, as well as new roles for certain direct reports. In these transitions, success hinges on properly defining the role and organizational structure, and gathering a deep understanding of the neighboring stakeholders.
For example, we’re seeing some marketing leaders take bold steps to re-draw the traditional lines around and within marketing to break apart silos. One consumer-packaged goods enterprise has re-organized marketing services away from traditional lines of TV, promotions, digital, etc. Instead, it is organizing roles by paid, earned and owned communications by forcing the mixing of digital and non-digital knowledge and expertise. For instance, paid media roles have responsibility for both TV and paid digital media (including paid social display). Earned media includes both PR and social of the earned variety.
This is the sort of re-thinking that the breaking ground transition requires. We believe we’ll see it much more often in the areas of customer experience, insights and analytics, and innovation, where traditional silos are causing more harm than good.
So, whether you’re following a Steve Jobs type of icon or cleaning up after a debacle, take heed. Not only does it take a village to successfully transition a new leader, it takes matching the focus of the village to the context of the transition.