Skills That Matter

The sheer volume of content about marketing published every day is staggering. The vast majority is about bright, shiny stuff—big creative ideas, sexy new tech and inventive tactics. A much smaller percentage focuses on the bigger picture—the shifting marketing landscape and the strategic questions faced by marketing leaders as they navigate it. (This newsletter is typically focused here.)

But there’s another, even smaller category that deserves some attention now and then. This content is about the strategic leadership skills we must cultivate within ourselves in order to thrive in the face of change and uncertainty. Sounds like a subject worth reading about, doesn’t it? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Your team might be experimenting with agile processes, but have you considered your own inner agility? This excellent piece from McKinsey advises leaders to embrace the unknown: “To spot opportunities—and threats—in this environment, we must teach ourselves how to have a more comfortable and creative relationship with uncertainty.”
  • Agility is not the same as speed. In fact, building inner agility often requires slowing down. If you’re struggling to put this into practice in the face of a jam-packed calendar, here’s something to bear in mind: “your first thought is rarely your best thought”.
  • Growing comfortable with uncertainty means thinking beyond the black and white reality presented by metrics and spreadsheets: “Measures and numbers can bring structure and objectivity to strategic decisions. However, you should use them to aide your judgement, not substitute for it.
  • Speaking of strategic decision-making, Faris Yakob offers a helpful list of biases to be aware of when you’re formulating a marketing strategy. The list is tailored for agency-side planners, but most of the principles apply equally well to client-side leaders.
  • One simple rule to bear in mind about strategic decision-making: it’s all about saying “no.” Saying “yes” to everything is a fast road to mediocrity. And with so many tactics and tools now at our disposal (for example, 7,000 software tools to choose from!) the ability to say no is now more important than ever.
  • How do you know if you’re saying “no” at the right moment? Try using a structured decision-making framework. This one was developed for digital product management, but can easily be repurposed for marketing initiatives.
  • Final thought: no matter what else is changing, developing deep empathy for customers will alway be a vital skill for marketers. With this in mind, let’s close with some simple advice from Deloitte CMO Diana O’Brien: “Get out of the office. See customers. Talk to them.”
Issue #43
Apr 29, 2018

Further Reading