I’ve worked as a marketing leader across FMCG, omni-channel retail and DTC lifestyle sectors, including Cadbury, L’Oreal, Levi Strauss, lastminute.com, Boots, Weight Watchers, Experian, General Mills, ABF, London Business School and abrdn.
I’ve held both permanent and more recently interim and fractional CMO roles. I thought I would share my learning from leading change across over 10 interim assignments, so here are my 5 steps for delivering #impactatpace.
1.Get up to speed at speed
In the current climate this is key whether you are in an interim or permanent role. However, interim roles usually involve leading a change or #transformationagenda at pace, so the need to get under the skin of the business quickly is accentuated.
You may not have much time between being interviewed and starting work or have a formal induction process. I have been interviewed on a Thursday and in role by the following Monday. Given this, it helps to accelerate your understanding of the business. Sign up to emails, social channels, visit stores, read sector reports, ask friends, colleagues and agency contacts for their experiences as customers or insights from working in the sector.
Use introductory meetings to ask stakeholders and colleagues what they think works/ doesn’t work today and what could be done differently. Be open, listen actively and ask who else they recommend you connecting with to help build a network quickly.
2. Define tight objectives and milestones.
In many interim roles you will be leading a #change agenda but may have day to day deliverables too. Once you have met key stakeholders and have an overview of the business, draft an initial diagnostic and project plan for your assignment with clear deliverables. Work this so you can balance any obvious “quick wins” with progress against more strategic goals.
Contract on this with your boss and stakeholders. The business agenda may change so monitor, amend and re-contract monthly if necessary. The important thing is to be super transparent in managing expectations of your output and ensure there is regular momentum.
3. Build a powerful internal network.
Having #impactatpace relies on building influence in an organisation quickly. This is as much about your informal network as it is about relationships with key stakeholders. Often there will be colleagues who feel strongly about the agenda you are leading and see the opportunity in supporting and aligning with you to make this happen. They can become powerful allies. Once you have established who these people are, involve them as you build your vision and roadmap.
When leading the transformation agenda for a leading food brand, I built a cross-functional team of colleagues eager to be part of shaping the change programme. This was key in establishing it as a business initiative rather than a marketing one and fuelled my ability to deliver results at pace.
4. Leverage your external perspective.
It is widely acknowledged that an advantage of hiring interims is their broad experience and ability to bring an independent perspective. Maximise this “political neutrality” but also ensure you anchor it in an appreciation of the business agenda and cultural sensitivity. Being in an interim role allows you to tackle problems quickly by focusing your energy on delivering without any wider agenda.
Draw and share parallels from other brands and business models you have experienced. When I joined LBS, I could see parallels with Weight Watchers, a very different organisation, but one where the power and advocacy of their community was key. This allowed me to share learnings on successful marketing approaches that could be adopted.
At the same time, it is also key to know where you add value and where you need to harness the deeper organisation expertise of others. In an interim role you won’t have the time to “go deep” into every aspect of the business so know where you need the input of other colleagues.
5. Get the right talent in place quickly
The need to have the right in house and external support is heightened in an interim role. You need to quickly assess the capabilities within your team and the wider organisation in relation to the resources needed to deliver your plan.
If you need to make changes in your team to have the right capabilities in place, do so quickly if possible. Sometimes this can present career development opportunities for people beyond their day job. Be clear if the expertise you need doesn’t exist internally and gain agreement to bring in interim or agency support. I’ve experienced this when leading digital customer experience (DCX) transformation, when skills such as customer data strategy may not exist in house.
This is also where the right agency partners can add huge value. I’ve developed a network of “go to” agency partners who I trust to deliver and have used on multiple occasions. This is invaluable when you need results quickly.
Beyond these 5 steps, I would always recommend being super clear on your personal brand and #valueproposition – know what has made you successful so far in your career and dial it up.