February 4, 2014

When Senior Management Has A Senior Moment

B2B Sales, Marketing Strategy

This article appears in Jeff's monthly column in Adnews - Australia's leading publication serving the advertising, marketing and media industries.

Having _a _senior _moment

My mum sometimes talks about having a ‘senior moment’; when someone of, how do I put it, significant life experience does something a bit silly. They forget a conversation they've just had, what day it is, or fumbles the name of their own son. No hard feelings Mum, I promise. It’s a little joke she makes about early onset dementia. She doesn’t have it of course, she’s wickedly quick.

Unfortunately, we – the marketing people of Australia – already have a problem with senior moments, regardless of how old we might be. Moments where the pressure of a situation in the immediate future trumps what, if we just thought about it, could be a much better outcome in the long run. We do it repeatedly. And you know what, it’s a bit silly.

I’m talking about when senior people go AWOL as if they’ve just forgotten about that meeting they said they’d be at, mysteriously drop off that important conference call, blow right through the work-in-progress meeting and continue right through the back door – you know the drill. For the purpose of this piece, ‘senior’ refers to someone in a position of relative responsibility over a team, project, department or business.

Now I’m not talking about delegation, empowerment or myriad of other buzz words that describe inspiring a team to get things done. I’m talking about the exact opposite – dropping a meeting or engagement when those you’ve just abandoned don’t have the authority, skills, confidence or influence to continue the work. Be honest. You do it sometimes… maybe daily. I did it last week. Let’s just put our hands up now and admit that we’ve all been ‘that guy’.

As a senior person you have a choice which meetings you attend, at least to a degree. Something is either important enough for you to focus on, or it should be delegated with the empowerment and coaching that comes from your experience. What I’m actually seeing is repeated failures of senior people to be where they’re needed, with little or no warning. I can understand that things come up but if they’re coming up daily then there has to be a better way – for our clients, partners and our people.

Don’t get a big head but when senior people decide to go AWOL they change the future. You, as the senior person certainly get some perks in the trade; perhaps you can even claw back an hour or two to focus on the big picture. And after all, you’ve earned it right? Perhaps you have.

Why is the trade of futures so silly? Here’s the big picture as I see it. For that hour or so you may get back from missing the meeting, you will always make a trade. Short-term pain removal for long-term gain removal. And when I see it happen, I see other things start happening too. For me the value equation doesn’t add up.

Meetings, face-to-face interactions and conference calls are the most valuable parts of a client, stakeholder or team member relationship. Without them your staff may develop slower and when problems arise in the future they’ll be less capable of anticipating solutions.

Without the leadership, experience and steadying of a senior hand, work still gets done, but then too often redone and the clients/stakeholders lose faith or feel ignored. The quality of creative and strategic work can suffer too. You saved an hour but the design team lost 20 in reworks… not such a great trade, especially when you’re paying the bills.

Senior moments have become almost acceptable – or at the very least, predictable. Of course there are times when they can’t be avoided. I think as a leader, senior people should be aware of how often it’s happening and take a more holistic, long-term view and find a way to be there for their people, clients and the greater good of the business.

So the next time there’s a senior moment skulking around in the shadows of your mind, take a second and think of my mum. Actually, wait – maybe don't. Get in there and do what you promise. Let that other guy be… that guy.

This post is by Jeffrey Cooper. Jeff learnt his most valuable lessons in marketing by spending his own money...

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