For Marketing Executives

I’ve spent many years working as a marketing executive, and I’ve learned one especially important lesson along the way that I’d like to share with you.

“How can I create more value for my company?” is a question those of us who work in marketing should ask ourselves every day. The answers we come up with will likely extend far beyond how we might better forecast market demand or imagine a more creative advertising campaign.

If my goal as marketing professional is to build productive, long-term relationships with my customers, it will also be worthwhile to consider how I can build these same kinds of relationships with colleagues in my own organization. The more effectively I work with others, both within and outside the marketing department, the more effectively I’ll be able to meet the needs of my customers and achieve my organization’s goals.

In their book The Trusted Advisor, David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford identify four qualities — professional credibility, personal reliability, relational intimacy, and service to others — that are essential for any personal relationship built on trust. Just as every successful brand is founded on the trust and loyalty a company earns from its customers, so every healthy, productive personal relationship – whether at home or at work – is based on these same four qualities.

As a coach and marketing executive, I often find it useful, when coaching other marketing professionals, to structure our work together around the development of these four trust-enhancing qualities. At the start of our engagement, I’ll sometimes ask a client to consider four questions, each of which is based on one of the four elements of The Trusted Advisor’s “trust equation”:

  • What functional skills do I need to develop, not only to excel in my current role, but also to prepare for future roles? Do I have a detailed plan in place to develop these skills? If so, how diligently am I working my plan?
  • What behaviors should I initiate, eliminate, or modify so that I demonstrate I can be relied upon to do what I say I’ll do, and meet my professional obligations when I say I will? Do I have a detailed plan in place to practice these behaviors? If so, how diligently am I working my plan?
  • How can I strengthen my capacity to relate to those with whom I work, not just as one executive to another, but also authentically, as one human being to another? Do I have a detailed plan in place to cultivate this capacity? If so, how diligently am I working my plan?

And finally…

  • What habits should I practice to re-orient my thinking and behavior away from my own wants and needs toward those of my colleagues? Do I have a detailed plan in place to cultivate these habits? If so, how diligently am I working my plan?

The answers my client provides to each of these questions usually provide valuable guidance on how we should begin our work together, and where the greatest points of leverage lie. No two executives are alike; our individual personalities are the culmination of decades of social conditioning that shape how we relate to others. We each have our own development work to do, and it’s essential that as a coach I appreciate the unique qualities my client brings to our relationship and start from there.

Probably the one question we ask ourselves most often as marketing executives is “How do my company’s products and services create value for our customers?” What’s surprising is how few of us take time to reflect on how we can increase our own value by intentionally building relationships based on trust – relationships that will make our work more impactful today and that will serve us well, as we progress through our careers, for years to come.