The Mentor Impact on Top CMOs

The guests I’ve spoken with on CMO Moves have had incredible careers and all agree that the powerful impact of mentors helped them achieve success. Mentors come in many forms, but are frequently the people you work with or leaders in your company who set the tone for the organizational culture.  When things aren’t going well at work or you aren’t feeling supported, let’s face it, you don’t quit your job, you quit your boss. But there is responsibility on both sides. Great mentors are truly empathetic and great champions of your success.  Great mentees know how to focus on the unique superpowers of their mentors to help shape their development. And rounding out your perspective with a team of mentors who all sit on your personal board of directors is key for success.  Here are a few tips from some of my CMO Moves guests:


Great mentors come into your life at key moments

“I've been a very fortunate to have had great mentors around the world at different moments. Some have stayed with me for many years; some came to me in at a moment when I needed to learn something very specific. From my very first boss at Proctor and Gamble; to the privilege of working with people like Steve Reinemund, Indra Nooyi, and Mike White when I was at PepsiCo; to the incredible opportunity to meet Lord Philip Gould, who became a beacon in my transformation as a human being and as a leader; to the people that work for me today, who inspire me and teach me new skills of our labor. I couldn’t mention just one because I've had so many inspirations across the journey.” – Listen to Antonio Lucio, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, HP

Great leaders pay it forward

“I had the privilege to work with people that were not only at the top of their game and extremely talented but who were also extremely generous in terms of helping me grow. John Hayes, CMO of American Express, for example, or Mickey Drexler at J. Crew. Those were people who had a huge impact on my career and made a mission for themselves to help me be better. As leaders, we have a big responsibility to pay it forward. The older I get, the more I see the perspective of all those people who, in big ways and small ways, taught me [during my journey] and I’ve tried to do the same for others.” – Listen to Diego Scotti, CMO of Verizon


Know their superpowers

It kind of depends on who the person is and what their superpower is. For someone like Bill [Gates], it would have to be around his incredible capacity to learn and his incredible curiosity because during my time with him, I was just stunned at his reading capacity and his breadth of interests. And so my question for him would clearly be around: How does he decide how to spend his time? How does he decide what projects he's going to actually involve himself in? What's that thought process like and how does he keep that curiosity stoked so much? For somebody like Satya [Nadella], who's our current CEO, one of his magic powers is just this incredible empathy that he has. He has this ability to put himself in other people's shoes. He's never done marketing in his career and, my goodness, he really somehow understands what it's like to be a marketer in high tech and he has great empathy for the difficulties of that. So, my question for him would be around that superpower. How did he nurture that?  Was he born with that? Did he work on it and what tips would he have for other people who want to build that superpower? But it would be very particular to the person themselves and I think that served me well over the years and working with different mentors. – Listen to Chris Capossela, CMO of Microsoft 

Don’t be afraid to reach out to somebody you admire

I was based in South Korea in Seoul and I was working for Samsung Electronics in their global marketing operations department and I was working for an exceptional woman, the first woman VP ever for Samsung Electronics. I was very lucky she was my manager and what she taught me, I would forever be thankful, was the invisible things were important because it would help me actually influence people that were not in my line of management. It will help me also understand what was happening. From a feelings perspective, the dynamics within a group by just observing actually what was happening with their bodies and their attitudes. She helped me understand the invisible dynamics and interpret them, which was extremely powerful down the line, throughout my career and in my personal life. Role models and mentorship overall is incredibly important in any organization or outside in life. I think it has helped me a lot throughout my career to see things that I didn't see before and help me understand. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to somebody you admire and starting a relationship with that person.  – Listen to Barbara Martin Coppola, CDO of IKEA 


Women are leading the mentoring revolution

“I think women leaders are doing a far better job today than men at nurturing this next generation by identifying younger women, early in their careers, who they want on their teams. When I sit down and [conduct interviews] with these early career women, I ask them about where they find inspiration and who they look up to. What does their personal board of directors look like? Often, they have a list of four or five key women in their lives who help them, who look out for them, and who offer wisdom because they care. I don't see the competitive juices flowing, but rather, these mature, incredible women who are saying: ‘I want to help that next generation’.” – Listen to Greg Welch, Senior Partner of Spencer Stuart

Putting women at the forefront

I really go out of my way to make sure that I'm mentoring women and putting
them at the forefront. I'm really interested in [supporting] young women in particular. As of late I’ve been hiring a lot of women filmmakers and directors to support some of the things that we're looking at. I feel like women in business play a really interesting role.  There are certain pockets where I can stop and say to myself, ‘OK, how do I help this woman on my team?’, or if I'm making a decision about a director or I'm making a decision about a program, ‘Is there some natural bend toward women that I can be supportive of?’ I do stop and think about those things now. – Listen to Kristin Patrick, CMO of PepsiCo Brand Development

 It takes a village

“A lot of people have gotten me where I am and to whom much is given, much is expected. For me, it's really important to open the door for others and to pay it forward. And I try to do that in a variety of ways. One is just mentoring and providing support, career guidance, and advice to other women of color who are aspiring to be in a C-Level position or aspiring to become a CMO. I’m also on the board of the Public Health Institute, one of the largest public health organizations in the nation. One of our flagship programs that I'm really excited about is Rise Up, which is focused on activating and helping women and girls all around the world. We’ve built a network of over 500 visionary leaders and have impacted over 7 million girls, youth, and women around the world by working on laws and policies that will improve their lives tangibly. One of our projects is focused on eradicating child marriage so young girls can focus on going to school, learning and actually shaping and developing a better future for themselves.” – Listen to Dara Treseder, CMO of GE Ventures


True leaders connect on an emotional level

“I've been blessed and fortunate over the years to have worked for some incredible people who have really guided and shaped who I am today as a leader. I believe strongly in this whole concept of ‘servant leadership’ that is often discussed but not always clearly understood. I genuinely believe that everything I do as a leader should be for the benefit of the team and the organization that I have the privilege of leading and working with. Leadership transcends all. If you're able to lead; if you can genuinely create followership and you’re able to resonate and connect with people on an emotional level, I think it allows you to accomplish things that others can't.” – Listen to Terrance Williams, CMO and President of Emerging Businesses of Nationwide

Focus on where you are needed the most

My key mantra is to hire the smartest people I can to every single role; ideally, they’re smarter than me. Then I just make sure that I'm supporting them. Not in their direct area of expertise, which I don't have experience in, but in providing a clear vision, providing clear objectives for what we need to do as a business and as a brand and then removing any barriers that they have in terms of meeting those objectives and that vision.  When I start my day, [I ask myself] where am I needed to make the greatest impact? Where is there an area that needs my particular expertise, not necessarily, the place that I want to spend my time, but where my time is most needed? – Listen to Mary Beech, CMO of Kate Spade

Support failure as a learning opportunity

For me, there's nothing more important than a team. To see people succeed individually and within a group is so heartening. As we let people try different things, the beauty of agile marketing is you can fail fast and fail quick. Not that we like to fail, but it's an important part of somebody’s learning process. Being able to witness it and experience it is better than telling somebody that they are going fail. We’ve seen programs or projects that we know are going to fail, but we let them go through because it's a great individual lesson and the person comes out and much better person through that process. And so we do reward success, and we do support failure as well. And by mentoring, we let people really shine. – Listen to Kieran Hannon, CMO of Belkin International


Share your expertise with the next generation

“I've had some amazing bosses and mentors along the way that I literally just followed. I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to have worked for some incredible people and on some amazing projects. And as a result, I’m really passionate about mentoring and teaching others. It's been an incredible career. I've learned a lot along the way and I would really love to teach. I see my future working at a college, working around young people.” – Listen to Pam Kaufman, President, Consumer Products of Viacom & CMO of Nickelodeon

Help develop education that inspires future marketers

“I'm actually collaborating with a number of colleges and professors, including Yale, Harvard Business School, NYU Colombia, and Singapore Management University to modify the curriculum. We have some of the professors come and shadow me for a week or two to see how marketing operates in the real world and understand so that they can teach the students. I'm also teaching at these schools pretty regularly, which is so exciting and energizing to me personally. I love working with the future generation to inspire them to join marketing. When I was a student, marketing was the most glamorous and exciting function to be in. But today, it doesn't have quite the same sheen. I'm planning to set up at least two to three days every quarter, if not more, going to universities and interacting with the students. I want to inspire them and encourage them, and teach them about what they could be.” – Listen to Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer of Mastercard