I do not believe that big data, customer-driven buying cycles, and a broader set of job expectations are the source of marketing leadership angst.
The real culprit is the impermanence of the marketing profession. And that impermanence, when ignored or underestimated, leads to erratic decision-making, isolation, and irreparable stress. This can drain even the most accomplished marketers.
While many technology experts and consultants encourage marketers to do more, I encourage you to be more. This can be accomplished by pausing, observing, and regaining your balance.
In today’s crazy-busy world, we need a little extra help. We need to find our Inner Marketing Guru (IMG). Think of this guru as our inner guide. Our IMG reminds us to pay attention by living our lives from one moment to the next, and by escaping our tendency to unconsciously react.
The seven Buddhist precepts for awakening embody this IMG concept beautifully. As we explore each of the precepts, see how they could potentially be integrated in your daily leadership practice.
1. Mindfulness is the art of paying attention to several elements, such as our body, emotions, and mind. An absence of mindfulness severely restricts our ability to learn from our surroundings and from others. Mindfulness teacher and author Jon Kabat-Zinn says "When you cultivate mindfulness, you suddenly realize how mindless we are."
2. Investigation is the ability to understand and accept the dharma, or the true nature of all things, or seeing things as they really are. When you assume you already know what customers want, or truly believe you can change how a certain executive behaves, chances are your acceptance muscles need some conditioning.
3. Energy. For marketers, this translates into maintaining the fuel and persistence to carry out your initiatives and goals, even when you feel discouraged. In my CMO groups, I pay special attention to my members' energy levels, and how they nourish themselves intellectually, physically, spiritually, and nutritionally.
4. Happiness. Author Piyadassi Thera cautions that "The man lacking in this quality cannot proceed along the path to enlightenment." How does your organization cultivate happiness? Do you celebrate customer and team milestones, or do you promote long work hours, political intrigue, nonstop project fire drills, and pressure cooker business tactics?
5. Tranquility can be found by calming both the body and the mind. Every work environment should include a quiet, technology-free work space. Google and Huffington Post are well known for their meditation rooms. Employees can use these spaces to nap, meditate, and unplug from the hectic work pace.
6. Concentration is the ability to steady one’s mind and stay strong during times of turbulence. Five behaviors can hinder our ability to concentrate and be effective. They include sensual desires, wishing ill will on others, limiting beliefs, worry, and doubt.
7. Equanimity – this is the capacity to adapt; to let things move and shift. This allows us to shift from being rigid to being open to new possibilities. When we are calm and concentrated, equanimity can naturally appear.
How can you activate your IMG and dramatically improve your decision-making? Here are three ideas.
1. Watch your language. Establish a check-in process during team meetings. For example, when I practice the "check-in" process with my associates and clients, I ask "What’s different?" What worked in your performance? What didn’t work? For what am I grateful?" Agile software developers offer a similar communications construct for their "scrum" meetings. This specific language raises the conversation to new levels, and leaves little room for drama, blame, and victimhood.
2. Let go of the past. This strategy will go against Jim Collins's hedgehog model. While many companies reinvest in their core strengths, they often don’t know when to walk away from the past, divest their cash cows, and reinvent themselves. Track how often you begin comments with "I have worked in this industry for 25 years, and I know this is true…" That’s a sure sign you are resisting equanimity.
3. Invest in a peer group. Find a face-to-face community of like-minded leaders who are committed to supporting one another. By participating fully, you will reap five key benefits. You can test ideas, solve problems, get fresh insights from outside your industry, share resources, and celebrate wins.
In his seminal book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said "between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Our Inner Marketing Guru empowers us to respond thoughtfully to the monumental industry shifts in front of us. Conscious communication, present moment focus, and celebrating wins will help you attain power and freedom.
Maybe the Buddha was an enlightened CMO in disguise.
[Image: Flickr user Kevin Dooley]