Roy Magee
Mar 25, 2011

Stepping up to supervision

Roy Magee, regional vice-president for Asia, for AchieveGlobal, shares his advice on how young executives should cope with the move to management.

Roy Magee, regional vice-president, Asia, for AchieveGlobal
Roy Magee, regional vice-president, Asia, for AchieveGlobal

The current workforce is a daunting place for marketing executives, especially young executives. They have already spent much of their fledgling careers in an overtly pressurised and stressful work environment due to the effects the global economic crises and, in doing so, been forced to learn the value of being nimble, adaptable and committed – the hard way. But with a wave of impending retirements, a high industry turnover rate of 10 per cent, an increasingly competitive hiring environment and widespread adoption of the recession’s mantra of 'do more with less', a new challenge is on the horizon. 

The step up to manager has always been a big one, especially in the marketing industry. Marketing firms – although they are by no means alone – are typically good at spending time, money and resources training executives to acquire and develop the requisite skills to execute but few lavish the same attention on developing leadership skills. On promotion, many executives are therefore thrust in to an unequivocally different role, ill-equipped with the knowledge or skills to succeed. It is important to remember that the best executors are not always naturally the best managers. To use a football analogy, how many great managers in the EPL have also been great footballers?

According to Achieve Global’s consultants, many companies have already thrust new managers into pivotal roles without lengthy on-boarding periods. For many it’s been too much to handle. Our team have even fed back that they are seeing marketing executives turn down promotions to managerial positions. For these people, the difficulty and pressure of the job outweighs any excitement or pride they would feel in accepting the role.

It’s easy to understand why the excitement of a promotion might be tempered by nervousness and insecurity associated with stepping into a management role. After all, employees transitioning to managers in today’s business environment must orient themselves with more that just delegation, quality control and transitioning from buddy to boss. Now, they must become accustomed to working with a diverse and increasingly frustrated workforce, constantly changing job duties, increasing demands from their firm and mounting processes. So how can Gen Y marketing executives prepare to tackle the modern challenges of management?

Here are three hallmarks most critical to first-time managers. 

Building personal credibility

Marketing organisations have become less hierarchical, which has led to positional authority being less of a hallmark of leadership than personal credibility. Personal credibility, however, is neither an attitude nor quality. It’s a perception others form of you, based on their assessment of your actions over time. Once an employee steps up to management, everything they do and say is carefully noted by members of the workgroup and others in the organisation.   

To earn respect, new marketing managers must show respect – a daily effort that builds trust and supports long-term collective efforts. When they admit that they don’t know everything, leverage the experience of their team, give others credit when it’s due, follow through on their commitments, and work hard to remove obstacles for their work group, their credibility will thrive. These attributes are as valuable as industry skills. They are therefore a deal breaker in successful management.

Activating team commitment  

The dawn of our increasingly competitive business environment and lingering financial pressures from the global economic crisis mean marketing organisations cannot succeed simply by maintaining business as usual. Creativity and extra effort are required on the part of every employee from the CEO all the way down. Successful managers know how to activate their employees’ energy and dedication.

An effective new marketing manager inspires and focuses energy and creativity by setting goals that team members see as worthwhile, by showing the team how their work fits into the bigger picture, and by establishing and responding to clear performance objectives. Effective new managers not only delegate simple tasks but include employees in idea-generating and decision-making – letting them feel a sense of ownership of the collective work. Fully committed employees will use their own ingenuity and dedication to 'go the extra mile' to reach organisational goals. The manager, can therefore spend less time giving directions and making sure everyone is doing their job, and more time on higher priorities.

Engaging senior management support

It’s natural for novice managers to focus on their teams. Successful managers, however, know that without a solid relationship with their senior managers, they can’t count on the support they need to achieve results. Managing upward is therefore vital to supervisory success – not just pleasing the boss, but establishing an alliance between partners.

New managers can achieve this bond by ensuring that they understand what’s important to their senior managers and actively supporting it. They should also – wherever possible – make a concerted effort to go to their managers with solutions, not just problems, and proactively keep their manager up-to-date on any current or potential issues. Whether in person, on the phone or via e-mail, maintaining ongoing dialogue with senior management is critical.


Organisations in 2011 will need employees at all levels who can work independently. As long as change, whether positive of negative, continues as a dominant theme marketing managers will need to rely on the three hallmarks of success. These will give first-time managers the traction they need to hit the ground running without losing their balance. As they gain experience, they will encounter situations requiring new skills – coaching, resolving disputes, correcting performance, and conducting performance evaluations – but the three hallmarks will remain central to their success.

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