Why CMOs Fail: “It’s Not My Fault”

In a survey released by Korn/Ferry, 60% of senior executives blame their organizations for why CMOs failed. The study says, “The CMO is brought in to drive change, but the organization was not aligned behind the change agenda.” Whose fault is that?!?

In researching and writing my book, The CMO Manifesto: A 100-Day Action Plan for Marketing Change Agents, it became clear that the first step toward success for new CMOs is to clarify expectations about the change they are expected to lead. What is the magnitude and rate of change that the organization needs and will support? Are the CMO and the CEO on the same page? The answers to these questions should be determined very early in the new leader’s tenure, if not before accepting the offer.

Successful CMOs also take time early in their first 100 days to forge alliances with their C-suite peers and other key executives. They take time to listen, to learn and to align the rest of the organization around the need for change. They don’t show up on Day One with all the answers. They take time to build “our change agenda” not “my change agenda.” Those who come into their new roles ready to point out how their peers have it all wrong are likely to experience “organ rejection” and are destined to fail.

The CMO’s role is difficult enough without starting off on the wrong foot. The job is ambiguous at best. It varies in scope from company to company. It must simultaneously drive short-term results and long-term change. And the CMO may not have direct control of the levers needed to deliver business success.

The good news is that CMOs can succeed and there is a common road map to achieve success. Let’s hope CMOs learn how to follow the map so they don’t need to blame “the organization” for their failures.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.

This post previously appeared on Forbes.com. nFusion CEO John Ellett is a regular contributor to the Forbes blog. You can follow his insights for marketing change agents at http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnellett.