Understanding Bosses and Chain of Command

May 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Marketeers around the world are known to be cocky, know-it-all guys, that go around explaining great theories and stories of how to create and launch a great product. However, what many don’t understand is that this has a motive, a background, learning from past experiences, most of which are acquired while trying to convince a difficult boss.

Don’t get me wrong, difficult bosses are the best you may have. They will challenge most of our views and will require for as much detail as possible prior to giving any approvals. Hence, we marketeers have the tendency to work our asses off, to build a proper plan that takes into account everything possible that may delay or reject any given proposal.

The first thing you should do when facing a new boss (either if he’s the newer on the team or you are), is understanding her style. I will write only from my experience of styles (within marketing):

Financially focused:

They will for certain interrupt a presentation to ask questions such as: “How much money do you need for that?”, “What’s the ROI?”, “Did you validated the info with the finance guys?” or “Does it affect our GP or Bottom Line?”… Hey, most managers should ask this type of questions and you should always be prepared to answer them, but only the financially focused bosses will be more interested on the numbers than the whole story behind the numbers.

Consumer Focused:

Theis is the typical marketing boss, right?? wrong, this type of managers are very rare, although the component of consumer focus lives within other management styles. Very rarely you’ll see a boss that is more preoccupied for the consumer, her behaviour, needs & likes, etc, than from a business point-of-view. And to my understanding this is good. Consumer-Focus is something Juniors and Romantics should stick to, but marketing is more about making profitable decisions (within consumer behaviour) than merely looking for plain consumer satisfaction.

Innovation Focus:

This management style is becoming very common, as the offer of products exceeds the typical base products, taking fair shares from the base business and deteriorating long-term profits. Bosses with this focus will always look for out-of-the-box ground-breaking ideas. They only care about maintaining business so far, but will impose priorities around NPDs, their results and the bets for the future.

I love to have this kind of manager, but sometimes they’re carried away from reason, driven by a hunger to “leave a mark” on the business. They require everything that’s possible and some of the impossible to make innovations happen. They are usually very bold and don’t mind taking risks (even without proper research and based on gut feelings), but tend to get attached with a given project and might get blinded to obvious results that play against everything tested or assumed.

Research Driven:

The research driven boss is one that requires that every decision that she makes is based on the results of a research. These are very carefull, risk-adverse managers that don’t trust “gut feelings” and always play by the numbers. Whenever you need to explain your plan, you need to fill your presentation with lot’s of research back-ups and know the information by heart.

Try to avoid any “gut feeling” proposals or “experience-based” recommendations and whenever budget is available, suggest further testing required to making fact-based decisions.

Results driven:

Although this is a very common management ability and one that most recruiters look for in a candidate, this type of managerial style is rarely effective. Because while being the boss, you should be able to establish goals (whether financial, commercial or consumer based) and then demand for them and not just demand for certain results that come in cascade from the very top of the organization.

The ability of being a results-oriented manager is important, but its not the only thing. Great results of a poorly stablished goal is being efficient not really effective.

Now, why on earth does the title of this post is “Understanding bosses and Chain of Command” and I have only written about managerial styles?

Simply because managerial styles allows to understand the how. How to speak to them, what to expect from them, how to convince them and what to leverage, but here are some pointers on what really matters.

You should expect that the higher your boss is in the “Chain of Command” the broader the results are expected from her. A junior manager will be required to meet certain small objectives (a brand’s growth rate, a share of market target, communication awareness and even GP) when a higher ranking executive will be evaluated upon the results of the whole company, it’s growth, it’s bottom-line, and some other financial figures.

Finding out how your boss will be evaluated and more importantly, how her bonus is achieved is the leverage to turn the odds to your favor. You simply need to understand how your idea will make your boss’s goals easier to achieve and deliver the plan upon her managerial style.

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