Spencer Stuart recently found that the average CMO tenure fell to the lowest level in more than a decade, after tracking the Chief Marketing Officer role at the top 100 advertisers for 19 years. CMOs working at the top 100 advertisers in the U.S. had been at the role for just 39 months, or 3.3 years, half the average tenure of large-cap company CEOs.
The CMO’s job is rarely as crisply defined as other C-level roles. The span of responsibility in the role ranges widely from being an internal consultant for marketing thought leadership to defining how a brand and a consumer move together through the entire customer journey, making it the most interconnected role in the company.
Given the murkiness of the role, shoring up blind spots is essential to navigating a company’s big bets, creating buzzwords and dousing fires.
In conversations with CMOs, many accept existing team infrastructure, inclusive of an executive admin, to marshal next practices and processes and evolve strategy in their new role. Often overlooked is naming a Chief of Staff. Creating the role of a CoS is a brilliant, practical way to enlist a capable leader and confidant to enable the business.
The CoS is a role that lives within the broader business picture and drives prioritization for the CMO, carries the vision back to the businesses, and enables a broader view of the organization when rolling out a strategy.
In scale businesses, inherently complex in nature, the CoS serves a particular function that, among other things, broadens awareness of the whole organization, enables rapid decision-making, and prioritizes communications to keep the executive relentlessly on track. A leading authority on senior leader transitions, Dan Ciampa shared a framework for determining the level of CoS best suited for the job at hand, offering a chart with three levels of increasingly complex roles for a CoS dictated by the leader’s challenge, CoS’s capabilities and reporting relationship.
According to Jodi Breuer, strategic planning & operations director and chief of staff for Amgen, the job of the CoS is as “Chief Enabler,” adding great capacity to the executive’s mission and role.
“There is no other role with a direct window into the decisions, pressure, pros and cons, exciting conversations; no other role that gives you the access so far beyond what your role or scope would be traditionally,” Avni Doshi, former CoS, global strategy, at Johnson & Johnson said in an interview.
The way a CoS goes about this includes:
· Understanding and executing the vision and strategy against the company’s big bet. For example, executing on the CMO’s engagements with a cross-functional leadership team and throughout the broader organization to enable change.
· Enabling the processes and capabilities that shape the future organization. For instance, serving as a right hand in carrying out a portfolio-level review of business performance.
· Advising and coaching the leader in service of the business by being an objective voice and bringing the concerns and the wonders back to the CMO without betraying confidentiality.
· Managing the timing and communications of growth initiatives. This is where a CoS employs foresight. The CoS has to be in front of the big bet by casting a wide net to draw in internal and external experts who expediently move the bet forward.
· Rolling up business performance. A CoS can undertake this by telling the financial story about business performance and working with the finance team to manage the process of rolling up numbers, forecasts, and long-range planning for a cogent, concise narrative.
Former CoS’s Advice For New CMOs Seeking A CoS:Look for someone comfortable being the woman behind the woman,” advises Breuer. “Someone who understands that their success is the making of success for someone else.”
Breuer and Doshi also recommend leaders:
- Hand-select their CoS. Lean into the trust they already have established with said individual. Without full trust, there’s holdback. There’s magic and speed and capability in trust.
- Make time to break down the situations as they see them so that their CoS can, while maintaining confidentiality, work to influence and shift thinking where she is able.
- Establish their CoS as a member of the broader team. A good CoS plays the role well when they have the trust of their CMO and the trust and respect of the team below CMO, so they can play the middle. The CoS should be of the people and in the ear of the leader.
- Choose a CoS who can be the mirror to the executive and share what the organization is feeling, needing and sensing from the leader.
- Be cognizant that recruiting for the CoS role will be more successful if the next move, post-CoS role, is known. It’s not a sustainable role, it’s a stepping stone.
Clearly, this special role can be transformative for both the CMO and the CoS. Choosing the right person can accelerate a leader’s effectiveness and build positive relationships across the organization.
As underscored by Doshi, the CoS role, when played well, dramatically expands the capacity of the CMO to deliver for the business. With the average CMO tenure falling to its lowest level in more than a decade, there’s good reason to consider a CoS—someone who can help a marketing chief make an impact posthaste.