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Michael Brenner is senior director of global marketing for SAP. He is also author of the B2B Marketing Insider blog and cofounder of social news site Business 2 Community. Michael is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 101 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Marketing Leadership: 5 Steps To Learning Agility

02.08.2014
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As we all struggle to stay competitive in a fast-moving world, the topic of leadership is a really important one. We need to adapt to new business strategies, new ways of working and new challenges.

How do great leaders stay current with the latest trends and polish their skills to meet these new challenges head on?

At a recent meeting I attended with some of the best minds in B2B Marketing, I was introduced to Columbia University’s Center For Creative Leadership whitepaper on Learning Agility by my friend Carla Johnson.

The paper presents 5 steps to learning agility that are relevant to today’s marketing leadership challenges. I will highlight the 5 steps here and also cover some of the best tips from the paper to become a more agile marketing leader.

The World Has Changed! Has Your Marketing

Last summer, I joined 800+ B2B Marketing leaders at the annual Business Marketing Association conference in Chicago. And my talk there echoed the main themes of almost all my presentations:

  1. The world has changed
  2. Most marketing stinks
  3. We need a new approach to help our companies grow

It’s A Good Time To Be In Marketing

Following that conference, I covered research released at the show from Forrester and the Business Marketing Association that presented evidence that it is a good time to be in marketing, despite all these challenges:

  • 88% of respondents said their peers turn to them more often for data and insight needed to strategize and plan
  • 78% agreed that marketing’s influence on corporate strategy is greater today than it was just two short years ago.

But, we need to adapt, acquire new skills and grow as marketing leaders:

  • 97% of B2B Marketing professionals see the pace of change accelerating.
  • 34%  feel overwhelmed by the change
  • 21% feel that the skills for which they were hired are now obsolete.
  • 96% feel that the breadth of marketing skills needed for their teams to succeed has increased dramatically.
  • 60% said they seek out younger workers in the hiring process who have greater technical comfort and facility.

5 Steps To Learning Agility

The whitepaper presents these 5 Steps to learning agility that apply to marketing leaders:

  1. Innovating: They are not afraid to challenge the status quo
  2. Performing: They remain calm in the face of difficulty
  3. Reflecting: They take time to reflect on their experiences
  4. Risking: They purposefully put themselves in challenging situations
  5. Defending: They are simply open to learning and resist the temptation to become defensive in the face of adversity

The researchers and authors of the paper found that risk-taking was the hardest skill to master. So if you find yourself intentionally getting into new and challenging situations, then you are probably one step ahead of your peers.

One great example of this is the hit TV show Undercover Boss. I believe that just their willingness to join the show is a sign that these business leaders are risk-takers who want to gain a totally new perspective on their business.

The study also found that learning-agile people tend to be more “social, creative, focused and resilient. They are less interested in accommodating others and are not afraid to challenge norms.”

One final point about the paper that I thought was really interesting. The study found that leaders who were described as defensive were rated as lower performers by their bosses. And mangers who were seen as more “reflective” were rated higher by their direct reports.

Click here to download the full whitepaper.

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Published at DZone with permission of Michael Brenner, author and DZone MVB.

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