This year we told the stories of several of our CMOs and marketing leaders through our special Journeys series. These in-depth features gave us a glimpse into who these experienced leaders are, how they think, and what’s influenced them along the way. They’ve taught us so much about leadership and life, and we thought we’d share some of our favorite advice throughout the year.
CAROL CHEN: IT PAYS TO BE A KEEN OBSERVER
From Shell Global CMO & SVP Shell Mobility, Carol Chen, we learned that it pays to be a keen observer. In her Journeys piece, Chen tells us that a major piece of marketing success is not only listening to customers, but really hearing them: “When you enter a conversation with genuine curiosity, most of the time people will let you in, and share insights into what you’re curious about.”
Going further, another aspect is hearing what the customer is not explicitly telling you. As marketers, we have to learn to hear the feedback that’s left unspoken. According to Chen, “It’s about understanding consumer intent and desires by observing behaviors.”
MARK SMALLS: BE THE MENTOR YOU WISH YOU HAD
From JAMS CMO Mark Smalls we learned that it’s important to use your talent and experience to help others. In his Journeys piece, Smalls says he loves to share his knowledge and help those coming up behind him: “This philosophy was shaped by joining companies and repeatedly seeking mentorship, but not receiving very much of it. There’s something to be said about the toughness that comes from the school of hard knocks, but I would have benefited greatly from having more meaningful mentorship connections.”
Today he is deliberate in his mentorship practice, always seeking new ways to pay it forward. “In every large organization, there are unwritten rules you really need to know to be successful. It’s difficult to navigate without someone to help you get the lay of the land. Now I’m proactive about sharing insights with rising leaders on what they need to know to be successful in an organization.”
ZENA ARNOLD: ALWAYS MAINTAIN YOUR CONNECTIONS
From Kimberly-Clark Chief Digital & Marketing Officer Zena Arnold we learned the importance of connections. In her Journeys piece, Arnold says, “My upbringing was focused on academics: there was a lot of pressure to get a perfect score on tests. I saw that as the path to success. But I now see that to succeed in life, and in the business world, it’s less about perfect scores. It’s more about the connections you’re making with the people in your life. Are you enriching their experiences? Are they enriching yours?”
Arnold reminds us that keeping in touch is no small endeavor; it’s something that takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. Moments of connection serve so many purposes for leaders – stress relief, personal fulfillment, education, and even advice. Arnold says her connections “help me see things more clearly. They help me think about what is next in very insightful ways. They give me great advice.”
MANNY RODRIGUEZ: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO PUSH YOU
From UCHealth Chief Marketing, Experience & Customer Officer Manny Rodriguez we learned that it’s important to find people who push you to be better. In his Journeys piece, he tells us: “Don’t be afraid to be challenged. If your people storm into your office that means they trust you and they have passion for their work. If you have an org that always agrees with you, you have problems. Surround yourself with people who will push you and contradict you. If they see something that isn’t right, you need to create the space for them to call it out. You’ll be a better leader for it. And your business will be stronger too.”
Rodriguez goes on to say he never wants to be the smartest person in the room: “Hire people a lot smarter than you. Go into every conversation knowing you have something to learn.” As leaders, we should seek out perspectives from everywhere – from the most senior to the most junior person in the room. Why? Because “they can tell you things you don’t know and can’t see from your vantage point.” Take in all the perspectives because your team wants and deserves to be heard.
LISA ARMSTRONG: IT TAKES MORE THAN A PROJECT PLAN TO DRIVE CHANGE
Residio’s Head of Marketing Lisa Armstrong taught us that driving change is a complex beast. In her Journeys piece, Armstrong says it takes more than a project plan to drive change: To create effective and lasting transformation, leaders must have “a true understanding of every constituency impacted by the change and an authentic, empathetic connection to their perspectives.”
Armstrong says she uses this kind of thinking to successfully integrate acquisitions, rationalize hundreds of brands, and drive international expansion. She uses empathy – placing herself in the minds of others – to overcome resistance to change. “To effectively drive transformation, you have to be willing to transform too.”
DAVID LEICHNER: IDEAS ARE EVERYWHERE
Cybellum CMO David Leichner taught us that ideas surround us. In his Journeys piece Leichner recounts how throughout his career he’s picked up so much valuable information, not only from professors, mentors, and industry luminaries, but also from family members, colleagues, and young people with fresh perspectives.
According to Leichner, “To become a seasoned executive, it helps to have great mentors to learn from, but I believe we can learn from everyone. You never know where the best ideas will come from. Often they come several levels down from people who know better than you what the market needs or what’s hot in tech.”
GRAD CONN: GET COMFORTABLE WITH RISK
From Sprinklr CMO Grad Conn we learned the importance of taking risks. In his Journeys piece, Conn reflects on his years as an entrepreneur, saying: “I did five startups over the course of a dozen years. These years were characterized by amazing successes – absolutely incredible moments. There were also death-defying failures. And sometimes these two things happened within reasonably close proximity to one another. What I learned in that phase is that if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.”
Conn realizes failures and mistakes were not the end of his world – or even his career. Sometimes it takes time to recover, but that’s how to get comfortable with risk. “Risk taking is an important element in keeping your career alive for a long time. People who don’t take risks see their careers end earlier than they should.”