CMO Success – How Would You Define It As a Person and Professional?

A group of top CMOs from various backgrounds and industries recently gathered to find out if it's possible to balance a successful career with a fulfilling personal life.

According to Spencer Stuart, the average CMO tenure is 48 months with a range of 26-65 months depending on industry. With about 2 to 5 years to make your mark professionally and personally as a CMO, it’s good to get advice from peers.

Such was the topic at a recent Digital Roundtable of CMOs and senior marketing executives, sponsored by The CMO Club through their Solutions Clubhouse program. With participants from a variety of industries and geographies, we discussed the topic of professional and personal success. What is it? What is essential in achieving it? And of course, can you have professional and personal success at the same time? It was a remarkably thoughtful and introspective group. Having been through the trenches as CMOs, often for more than one company, time had taught them much.

We started off asking if they could identity one critical thing that they each felt was essential in achieving professional and personal success. Comments around values-based leadership and connection with people in the marketing organization and company were common threads of the discussion. Also, the combination personal and professional success theme of elevating the marketing function’s value in the c-suite by aligning the marketing goals very tightly with the company’s goals was viewed as essential.

The group overall concluded that the following were key if you wanted personal and professional success at the same time:

  • Work for a company or brand whose values are in step with your own.
  • Align your personal passion and purpose with that your industry and company to have a higher probability of happiness in and outside of work.
  • Have a healthy dose of humanity in your leadership style to get work done but more importantly to inspire and influence those around you.

Next up was a conversation about taking risks professionally and how to be successful putting personal goals ahead of professional goals at times. For many this was as straightforward as needing and choosing to unplug for some part of a day or for a real vacation. Many CMOs work around the clock – business never really stops – so they are always connected, always managing questions day and night. Personal lives can suffer from lack of presence due to digital interruptions and anxiety in marketing organizations can be high with a self-inflicted feeling that they have to be always available to respond immediately. While unplugging may seem like a small professional risk, at an executive level it can be a rather large one. All agreed that unplugging, difficult as it may be, was essential to do from time to time. The group believed that the duration and frequency of unplugging was a very personal decision and had high hopes that as younger generations increase in numbers in the workforce, balancing being always-on and unplugged will become the norm rather than the exception, making this risk obsolete.

This led quickly to a discussion on top ideas for getting ahead professionally. The element of time was a common thread. Top ideas were to figure out what you want to achieve over time and to think about what you want your professional legacy to be both in terms of business results and impact on the people around you. Also prominent was the need to balance your energy over time to avoid burn-out. These CMOs definitely had a long-term view and knew that quick wins did not always equate to long-term success professionally or personally.

It was an inspiring group and conversation. If I had to sum all these great words of wisdom into three takeaways they would be…

  • Be true to yourself – your beliefs, your passion, your values, your goals.
  • Have a healthy dose of humanity in all you do.
  • Strive to be both the inspiration and aspiration of those around you by delivering on business goals and doing so in a way that makes you and others proud.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and will add your own ideas to the comments.

More insights from your CMO peers can be found within the Solutions Clubhouse. If you have ideas for future Digital Roundtables, please contact Sandra Zoratti (sandra@thecmoclub.com) or Mariah Courtney (mariah@thecmoclub.com).