But you'll read little about the internally facing skills that chief executives tell us are far rarer in their marketing executives, and certainly as important as market-facing skills. In fact, say these CEOs, poor performance of the "inside job" is the chief reason senior marketers get replaced.
1. Read the matrix as well as you read the market.As organizations become more matrixed, complex and relational, understanding how they really work and where the real power levers lie becomes more difficult. No matter how good you may be at reading the market, you had better be equally adept at reading the matrix if you want to get anything done. The best senior marketing executives bring the same combination of rigor and intuition to organizational dynamics that they bring to the market. They know how to influence the many organizational segments they must win over in order to succeed -- from the ad and sales people to finance, to customer service, to the CEO. A major global bank, for example, assesses its marketing people on their level of organizational awareness and political savvy as well as their marketing credentials.
2. Know thyself.It's not enough to understand how the organization works or even to understand the people with whom you're dealing. You must also understand yourself and be able to manage the dynamics of a wide range of interpersonal encounters based on that self-knowledge. An encounter with the CEO, for example, is not just about the CEO but about the dynamic of you and the CEO. You must first know authentically who you are and then be able to bring your authenticity to bear in whatever way the context calls for. This is emphatically not a chameleon-like ability to please people. Rather, it is an ability to flex your personal style according to the situation. You may need to be direct, inquiring, reflective, facilitative, accepting or confrontational, as the case requires, but whatever style you use must be based on a solid inner core of self knowledge. Many organizations provide executive coaches for their marketing leaders, but how many really provide those leaders with the freedom to understand who they are? Sometimes what might seem a little indulgent can have significant payback.
3. Face the music of marketing messages.The brand messages that marketing creates for the company or its products have an organizational impact that is often overlooked. If you urge customers to "Just do it," then you had better be prepared to let employees exercise the same autonomy and daring in their jobs. Failure to understand and manage those internal implications can lead to organizational misalignment and even discontent. Nevertheless, most marketing training and professional development remains externally focused.
Andy Houghton is managing director of YSC USA, a global consultancy that focuses on transforming organizational capability.