Five Ways to Be the cMo – chief Mentoring officer

One of the best parts of being a CMO is mentoring sales and marketing talent. Mentoring shouldn’t just be 1:1, however. The key is to build an entire culture and organization that supports mentorship and career growth. Here is my list of 5 ways to create a mentoring culture in marketing and to become the cMo.

#1 – Be a mentor for the long haul

A person’s career usually will transcend your time with them at a company. Let employees know you are in it for the long haul for their career, whether it is at the company or not. Unplanned turnover stinks, but you can’t stop high performing employees from getting better opportunities elsewhere if your company can’t offer the same.

However, if you have built-in long-term career sponsorship and assistance as a benefit to being on your team, it makes it more difficult for top talent to leave.

If you love someone, set them free…..

Same for top marketing talent. Encourage their long term career growth, and they will appreciate their time on your team that much more. This starts with your direct reports and cascades down.

#2 – Encourage speaking at marketing industry events

Encourage your team to speak at conferences. A linked-in profile filled with speaking engagements at Inbound, Marketing Nation, Salesforce among others reflects on the caliber of people on your team but also helps with external recruiting and it also drives your employee’s career advancement. Yes, they might get more recruiter calls, but remember rule #1- you are in it for the long haul, which paradoxically helps with the short-haul also.

Getting your team to speak early and often isn’t easy. Push the team to submit speaking abstracts. When someone does something truly amazing during the year, encourage them to imagine the presentation they could make on the topic and push them to submit an abstract.

Most junior marketers have never submitted speaking abstracts before. Hold a training session on how to do this. Involve your PR person to assist and drive deadlines. Nothing energizes a marketing team and gets the competitive juices flowing than having some members of your team flying off to Copenhagen on the company’s dime to present at a top marketing conference. Everyone will want to do this. Goal your managers on the number of their direct reports who are marketing stars.

#3 – Defined, stretch jobs with onboarding guides and mentors

Nothing helps with career advancement more than giving people stretch jobs. On my teams, I generally put people in over their heads and see if they swim. All kinds of employee research probably says not to do this. But if you provide enough support, a trusting environment where people can ask basic questions and mentorship, you can make it work.

Onboarding guides are key for each job. For each job, have the subject matter expert build a skill list of the requirements to be successful. List the subject matter expert for each skill so your new hire can ask questions. When you are done with the process, have them update the guide. Using this process, you can build a great catalog of key skills for a job, and mentor your new hires at scale. This also builds confidence in each employee and builds overall organizational competence. And most importantly, it makes every subject matter expert a mentor to others in the organization. I served in the Navy on a submarine. This form of mentorship and onboarding is how you take a submarine crew with an average age of probably 23 and have them operate an extremely complex piece of machinery in a very hostile environment. You can make this work in marketing.

#4 – Embrace the 9-Box

Using the 9-box system to evaluate employee performance and potential is a key component of mentoring. If you can’t objectively discuss with someone in the organization where they are along these dimensions, it is difficult to provide meaningful mentorship. Institutionalize the 9 box and push your managers to have tough career discussions.

#5 – Mentor your PROS and career climbers differently

Long ago, I worked at PepsiCo (career mulligan #1 of 2), and Pepsi had a very defined method for building talent. I am probably not getting this all correct, but essentially, you end up with two types of people in the organization. PROs, were people who were never going to advance into management, but are extremely capable in their specialty. If you use a nine-box performance review method, these are people with limited upward growth, but they are tremendous performers. The other group of people is those who are climbing upwards, taking on new skills, learning.

To run an effective marketing org, you need both types of people in the org. The question is the mix, but the commonality here is that performance for both groups is high. PROs are your bedrock, the stability, the people who know where all the bodies are buried. The career climbers sometimes have sharp elbows that need to be coached. Not all your career climbers will survive, or stay as you promote some and others become unwilling PROs stuck in a role.

From a mentorship standpoint, you want to make sure you have tools, programs, and experiences for both. A career climber wants a broad set of experiences to build out their marketing stack. A PRO wants to be a deep specialization in their role. Training and mentoring these two types of people is fundamentally different.

Being the cMo is critical to building a healthy, effective marketing organization. An organization filled with mentors and teachers is a joy to be a part of.

PS- The Yoda in the ferns picture. The stock pictures of mentoring looked so boring. Yoda in the ferns, staring at you all day? You better mentor. Photo by Nadir sYzYgY on Unsplash

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