Quick! Look busy!
Isn’t that our reaction when the economic waters go from tranquil to turbulent? All those self-preservation, career-advancing things we should have been doing all along suddenly take on a new sense of urgency. It’s not that we’ve been slacking (not “Slacking”), just that we’ve gotten mired in the day-to-day noise, failing to allocate time to take care of the things that really count when downsizing and re-organizing start to overshadow normal business activity.
So, what can you do to ensure that you and/or your program aren’t cost reduction fodder? These 4 things, done simultaneously, are an excellent start.
1 Reaffirm Your Purpose
There’s a lot going on. Managers are meeting, leadership is meeting. Options are being discussed. Which people are most likely to be viewed as expendable? Here’s the question that will be asked, out loud or otherwise: Can I still meet my goals without that person?
You may be doing all the right things to ensure that your company can meet its growth targets, but those who hold your fate may be oblivious. Find time to meet with your leaders; as many as you have relationships with. Share what you are working on and correlate those activities to company goals. Ask them if there are other advocate activities you should be working on that would be more valuable at this time. The more champions you have in leadership the better. Imagine a meeting of VPs and the topic is cost savings. If 3-4 VPs can justify why your role is important instead of 1 or 0, you’re safe. So secure as broad of a base of support as possible.
2 Consult with Stakeholder Teams
Many people are worried about their job security. Be a resource to them. The events team is planning a series of webcasts or in-person regional events. They need very specific customer stories to support their theme. Brainstorming with them, advising them and being an extension of the events team will be so appreciated. That level of collegiality will bubble up to your CMO. Do the same thing with digital, PR, social and others. Now, more consistent “bubbles” will reach your CMO. Further, when your CMO is in a cost-reduction meeting, knowing that four of her teams have been discussing how you have helped them reach their goals, will make your function harder to do without.
3 Amplify Your Success
Perception is reality. We often forget that just doing a great job in corporate America is not enough. You’ve got to be your own advocate. This means sharing your program’s successes with your stakeholders, and backing it up with data that is meaningful to executives. If you haven’t already established a concise set of KPIs for your program and shared those results on a regular cadence with leadership, now is the time. And remember, the C-Suite doesn’t care that you’re really, really busy doing your job. They do care if what’s keeping you busy is the same set of goals that keeps them up at night. So, all your results need to dovetail with those growth imperatives.
4 Solicit End-User Feedback
We strongly believe that an advocate program should have a stakeholder advisory board. These are the people who act as a sounding board and ensure you have a pulse on your internal customers’ needs. If you don’t have a formal board, then get this critical feedback informally. Pick a sample of salespeople, fellow marketers, CSMs, etc., and ask “How am I doing?” and “What can I do better?” Shoring up gaps in your database, services provided, SLAs or anything else about your program is uber important. When a manager or exec hears anything about your program it should be positive. Each “mini-review” adds to the overall perception of your value to the organization.
Management decisions aren’t always logical. Sometimes they’re downright illogical to those in the trenches. It might not surprise you to learn that there is emotion involved. Subjectivity about who or what is essential must be expected. These four recommendations will help a lot with the vagaries of decision making, but still aren’t a guarantee. Hedge your bet further by staying involved with your peers; keep your network warm. Like the other recommendations in this post, you should be doing this as a normal part of your career. But stuff gets in the way. Use this cycle to recommit yourself to investing in you.