A vice president in an $80 million company was considered to be a high potential hire. His leadership wanted to provide him with as much support to succeed as possible, which is how he and I met.
He was completely competent and a subject matter expert in digital marketing. Unlike marketing in the ‘old days’ digital marketing touches every part of an organization. From sales to finance, from human resources to operations, from global to local, digital marketing is an effective way to engage with all stakeholders of an organization. However, this poses a problem: Where should digital marketing sit within an organization? Where can digital marketing have the best fit?
In this case, digital marketing and, hence, my client were housed directly under the chief marketing officer. For internal reasons, the CMO decided to move digital marketing under operations. Announcing this to my client caused immediate frustration. My client didn’t believe that reporting into operations was a good choice because operations had no expertise in digital marketing.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter where digital marketing is housed. What did matter, however, is the fact that this announcement left my client feeling immediately demotivated. He felt misunderstood, not included, not heard, and not consulted in the decision. In addition he felt sidelined. He was angry and disappointed. He immediately asked for a severance package, which the CMO rejected. But he also wasn’t willing to resign. He had a wife and children at home and he couldn’t afford to not have monthly income. This was the scenario presented to me in the coaching conversation. What to do?
We engaged in a conversation to clarify the context especially around the edges. What was my client’s understanding of the situation? What had he not mentioned to me that might impact the available options?
Next we went through all available options we could think of:
A) Follow CMO’s decision and report to operations
B) Follow up with CMO to influence and persuade her to change her mind
C) Speak with HR to clarify other options not previously considered
This scenario is not uncommon. It happens daily in corporations. Restructuring is the norm not the exception. But once a decision is announced, how do you respond to it in a way that moves you forward? It’s easy if you agree with the decision, but what if you don’t?
So, here is what transpired: The VP reached out to someone in HR, who listened, but really couldn’t do anything. The decision was clearly with the CMO.
It was time to make a decision. It became clear that working under operations was not a viable option for my client. He was also pretty certain that he would be unable to persuade his CMO to change her mind.
So what did he do?
The executive spoke with his future boss, the head of operations. He skillfully used leverage by openly and honestly communicated his decision. He would move over to operations, but spend the next 6-9 months looking for another job. Can you imagine how excited his new boss must have been?
His future boss immediately went to the CMO describing the situation which resulted in the CMO reconsidering her decision. I don’t know yet how the story ends. Watch for a potential follow-up.
By being authentic and real with his future boss, my client was able to find an ally. Two people, and potentially three if you include HR, have a better chance of influencing than one alone. Leverage is powerful.
Following is a blueprint of the steps to take to use leverage to influence
- Gain clarity
- Identify options
- Take the first step
- Take action
- Leverage – use alliances to influence
Where can you use this in your own life?
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Magnus Lindvall