I am returning to my ongoing blog series on The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Chief Marketing Officers. This series was inspired by a talk I gave to a client, and I have covered the first nine habits over the past few months. I hope you have found them to be helpful … here is the final habit.
Habit #10: Live Your Desired Legacy
This is the culminating habit. If you are practicing the other nine, this one should be relatively easy to put into practice, to make a habit. But it still takes deliberation, discipline, and action.
Living your legacy means that you think ahead about the lasting impact you want to leave behind you. In Habit #2 we talked about being clear about what you stand for, and to be visible inside and outside the organization, acting on your beliefs. Habit #10 goes beyond that, this is about focusing on what you will be remembered for, what lasting effect you will leave behind. And if you do not think about that while in your role, and focus on it, it will not happen.
Vineet Nayar of HCL is a good example of a leader who is acting now to leave behind a legacy that will forever change HCL, and maybe even business at large. Tom Peters has said Vineet Nayar could be the next Peter Drucker. Vineet’s new book “Employees First Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down” is an account of his personal journey to hold himself and his team accountable to employees, so the employees can serve their customers better and fufill the mission and promise of HCL. That will be his enduring legacy.
My good friend John Pepper, the current Chairman of the Board of Disney, had a clear focus on his desired legacy when he was Chairman and CEO at Procter & Gamble. He wanted to firmly establish the Purpose, Values and Principles of a rapidly globalizing company so it would never lose its special culture. And he wanted to enter China and Central and Eastern Europe in a way that would be the foundation for a healthy P&G business for generations, but also the beacon for how businesses should operate in these emerging economies.
Most CMOs are not good at this. My two examples above are from CEOs. CMOs think too short term, and don’t fully embrace the lasting impact they can have. In my consulting I try to work with CMOs to isolate the few things they can focus upon that will make their companies stronger, their employees more inspired and energized, and their customers and partners more loyal.
My practical advice is to write down the 2-3 things that will be your legacy, and do this at about your 6-month anniversary in the role. You will know enough by then to get it “about right.” Build a plan to achieve it within 3-4 years, and revisit it every six months. Share it with your colleagues. Be accountable to yourself and them to do it.
When A.G. Lafley offered me the GMO job at P&G in the summer of 2001, I took about a week and wrote a one page memo on what I hoped to do in the role, what I would leave behind that was better because I was there. I shared it with him. It became my guiding light in the role, and essentially did not change throughout my tenure in the role. And what I am most proud of (and it continues to evolve, a measure of a strong legacy) is that P&G’s approach to brands has forever changed … from a narrow view of their functional benefits to an expansive, life-changing, purpose-driven view of their impact on the lives of the people they serve.
The last thought I will leave with you on legacy is that this process will greatly enhance your satisfaction with your job. It provides a “north star” for all you do, and also helps you decide when you have done what you set out to do. Then it is time for a new adventure!