Don’t let your career stall

Volume 16 Letter 8

A few months ago we were fortunate enough to be doing a course for a major drinks provider in Asia. To kick off the programme we asked the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to say a few words to the marketing team. Expecting the usual presentation about how market share and profit is growing (or falling), I was surprised by the presentation. The CMO for Asia stood at the front of the room and in front of 50 of his charges told a very personal story about how the absence of strategy had stalled and almost derailed his career. Here’s his story……..

The CMO started out by drawing the following graph. He said that we all start our careers in the lower left corner and over time we expect to advance in our careers culminating in a senior manager position or ideally as the CEO of a company. (see ideal path).

The CMO told us how early in his career the company had identified him as a high potential manager and how through hard work things had progressed as planned (see the red line). However, after a few years of steady and rapid advancements things went very wrong (flat red line). Results weren’t as expected and his boss brought him in for a very tough talk. He was being removed from the high potential career path.

The CMO continued with his story saying, “you can imagine how tough this talk was”. Then he told his team how he sat down with himself and started to analyze where things had gone off the rails. Pointing to the flat part of the red line he asked “how had I gotten to here so quickly but now was stalled?” Answering his own question, he said he realized that while hard work had gotten him to this point (top of the red line) “something was missing that was preventing me from making it to the next stage. I was missing a strategy”.

Early in a career it’s possible to make up for the absence of strategy through hard work but, the thing is, without a strategy every detail becomes important. As your career advances toward more senior management roles more tasks get piled on and the ability to allocate scarce resources to projects or business areas that will most effectively impact results becomes a critical skill. It’s a skill rarely taught at university and difficult to acquire on the job.

The CMO told the group how he was forced to learn strategy to get his career back on track. He went on to encourage everyone to learn and practice strategic thinking using the strategic planning tools we were going to present before they hit the same wall that he had. As the chief marketing officer for Asia he encouraged the group to “stop using their instincts and to start using Insights”. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

As many of you start to plan for this year I encourage you to:

  • Prioritize your projects,
  • Rank your customers,
  • Focus your resources (time, money and people) where they can have the most impact and
  • Use market Insights not just your instincts!

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