Building Enduring Internal Relationships

October 11, 2017

By Greg Welch



With CMO tenures still hovering around four years and the marketing function in a relative state of flux, it's both a challenging and exciting time to be a marketing leader. It's clear that a state of confusion exists around the role of a CMO and what a C-level marketer can and should deliver. Not surprisingly, many of today's CEOs are frustrated and need help to better understand how to find the right marketing leader for their organization and how to appropriately define expectations for them. I've routinely heard from CEOs looking for those rarified "water-walking" marketers who can lead their companies to growth and prosperity.

At Spencer Stuart, our work requires that we not only find the right leader for the situation, but also that we develop a blueprint for organizational alignment to help set up marketing leaders for success and optimize team effectiveness. My role as a leadership advisor is not simply to recruit for a role, but to help define the role based on our view from our exceptional ringside seats to major C-suites and boards around the world. My colleagues and I have a duty to advise on what we see working and warn against what we know won't work. We spend significant time watching and listening in the market, and I have had the wonderful opportunity to observe some of the best marketers.

As advisors to CEOs, we have developed sophisticated tools from deep multi-year research to help us analyze which companies (and CMOs) are truly winning in the market. Our dashboards provide microscopes on results, which admittedly narrow the field of those whom we would deem to be extraordinary talent. This is not intended to be critical, but the reality is that standing out in the sea of talented marketers is difficult. And for us, the trick is to first identify the best talent and then be able to entice these rare executives to consider a new opportunity.

Simultaneously, we also advise CMOs on how to further develop their own capabilities to rise to the top of the star list. Often sitting between the crosshairs of the real struggles that CMOs face on one hand and what their bosses (CEOs) want out of them on the other gives us a unique opportunity and responsibility to assess the capabilities of the best of the best.

So how do talented marketers in today's world set themselves up for success over the long haul? I have been in the search game for more than 20 years, and the one thing that hasn't changed during this time is that the very best marketing leaders make themselves invaluable internally. They do this through carefully crafting deep, personal, and trusting relationships with their marketing colleagues and their peers who lead other functions. Those CMOs who are deeply connected across the enterprise are also able to anticipate issues before they arise — another hallmark of a great leader.

Top CMOs are the first to consider the impact on functions beyond their span of control. CEOs routinely tell us that they appreciate well-rounded CMOs who can see the big picture. To ensure alignment with your CEO, work closely with him or her every day to understand the pressures and ask how you can help alleviate the short- and long-term strategic issues. As you navigate these issues, don't forget to invest in yourself. Remember even the best athletes in the world need coaches. Take the time you need to develop and polish your leadership skills, as well as the skills of those who report to you — you are only as good as the team you lead.


Greg Welch is a partner at Spencer Stuart. To learn more about how leading CMOs positively affect their entire enterprises, download the ANA CMO Talent Challenge Playbook. The playbook features case studies from more than two dozen CMOs from the ANA Masters Circle who are redefining the rules of what it takes to be a great CMO. Learn more about the ANA Masters Circle.

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