In this series, we’ll examine the first 90 days from a variety of perspectives and provide lots of links to different resources for more in-depth looks at individual topics.
Once we understand the overall business strategic landscape, the next major immersion is in the people of our organization. To best understand the people we’ll be working with, we need to know the three Rs for every key individual:
Who is a key individual? Anyone in our chain of command, plus anyone we identified in our power chart from part 1.
A key individual’s role is defined by what they do, by the how of their work. What does this person do every day? What is their typical day like? Who do they interact with?
Roles are often defined clearly on paper; human resources likely has piles of job descriptions laying around. One of our first tasks in understanding a key individual’s role is to understand how much the actual job varies from the job on paper. Later on, if this individual reports to us, it will be incumbent on us to correct this misalignment.
Unlike the role, which is what someone does, understanding responsibilities means we must know what a person is held accountable for. In startups, a person may have a listed role as an executive, but what they are held accountable for may be wildly different. This is equally true in very large organizations; in my experiences and travels, I’ve met people with significant roles but no accountability of any kind.
Unlike a role, which can be ambiguous, responsibilities should be concrete. A person should have clear metrics, clear measures of what they are accountable for. If they don’t, either the organization has failed them in providing clarity, or they’ve failed the organization in providing results.
To be effective, we need to map out the required assets that our key individual must have to fulfill their roles and responsibilities. Key requirements often fall in one of four categories:
- Knowledge: what information, training, and skills does the organization provide to help a person deliver results?
- A red flag in our first 90+ days is an organization with no formal training and professional development function. Avoid organizations who do not invest to make their employees more valuable!
- Budget: what tangible resources does an organization provide, from hard and soft dollars for people to equipment and capital expenditures? While not everyone needs a billion-dollar R&D budget, budgets should be provided commensurate with the results expected.
- A red flag in our first 90+ days is an organization that believes substantial parts of marketing are “free”, such as SEO and social media. Be prepared to educate why this is not so, and then be prepared to ask for the budget appropriate to the expected results.
- Time: how does the organization allocate time? The best, most innovative organizations often allocate up to 20% of employee time towards professional development and innovation.
- People: how does an organization pair managers with employees? Is it haphazard? Is there a screening function to identify which employees are less or more likely to be a good fit?
- A green flag in our first 90+ days is an organization that makes a formal, process-driven attempt to identify new employees and how they’ll relate to others. Many tests, such as Myers-Briggs, Gallup Strengths Finder, and others create a starting point for helping new employees fit in.
The Three Rs
The three Rs answer these fundamental questions:
- What do you do? (role)
- What results are expected? (responsibilities)
- What do you need to achieve results? (resources)
People who are unclear about any one of these three areas will struggle to generate results – and as a new CMO/marketing executive, you’ll struggle to generate needed results from them as well. People who are unclear about more than one of these three areas are in serious trouble; if they report to you, commit to help them achieve clarity as quickly as possible if you want to retain them. If you report to them, you’re in for some rough seas until you manage up and help them achieve the needed clarity.
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