By Tristan B. de la Rosa, Founder & Principal Coach of Banyan Way


As an expatriate corporate executive I have conducted numerous seminars & workshops, and organized & participated in countless conferences & round tables in many parts of the world. I have interviewed hundreds of Marketing Managers and other executives on the biggest leadership challenges they face. Discussions typically revolve around the classic 4Ps of marketing placed within the context of macro-strategic concerns such as the birth of regional economic and political blocs, the digital revolution, global marketing in a post 9/11 environment, the rise of powerhouses China and India, and climate change.

I have found one recurring theme underlying all these discussions. From Shanghai & Saigon to San Francisco & Sao Paolo, the leadership challenge that concerns these executives the most has less to do with the 4Ps and more to do with People. They have a single over-arching question: “How do we get the most out of our People so that we achieve the company’s profit and long-term growth objectives?” One marketing executive used an interesting metaphor: “I don’t think I can get a good handle on my 4Ps until I have the People who know what kind of handle to use and where, when, and how to install it.”

The concerns and worries from marketing executives that arise with regards to the People challenge generally fall under 5 categories.

1.  Inspiring and Influencing: This talks to the executive’s leadership skill itself, the ability to command attention and respect, to draw and inspire followers, to motivate them towards a vision and a goal.            

  • How do we inspire our People so that they share the same degree of enthusiasm and commitment as we do for the Company’s vision and mission?
  • How do we encourage them to commit to “stretch” goals and how do we help them so that they achieve these goals? 
  • How do we engage our People so that they come to the office filled with energy and enthusiasm, ready to take on and consider all the possibilities and opportunities that the day presents? How do we turn our company into a humming thriving space of human activity where great ideas bubble forth in endless succession amid the din of competing voices and laughter?

2. Teamwork: Executives are faced with the challenge of bringing together people with different backgrounds – academic, technical knowledge, culture and ethnicity, political and religious beliefs - and getting them to work as a team. This challenge takes on gargantuan proportions in multi-category global settings where executives need to lead teams from several disciplines in a number of countries towards a common goal.   

  • How do we channel all the intellect and energy coming from all types of sources into a single laser beam?
  • It is hard enough to get consensus from a few talented and outspoken people sitting around a conference table, but how do you do this with a hundred people from a dozen countries? How can we get a hundred voices from scores of nations to talk as one?
  • And then how do we get the people behind these voices to act as one?  How do you do so without over-centralization, without slowing down speed-to-market, without dampening individual and local initiative?   
  • How can we better use technology for this purpose? How do we do so without losing the human element?

3. Innovation: Competitive pressure – not just from players within the same industry but from other wholly-unexpected sources – has made innovation an imperative to corporate survival. The challenge many marketing managers face is promoting innovation especially in large highly-successful organizations whose accomplishments paradoxically may have created among its key executives a feeling of complacency and false invulnerability.          

  • How do we drive our People to think out of the box: scientists who can tweak molecules into  breakthrough product formulations; production personnel who can consistently make on-standard products at the least cost possible; marketers who can magically position brands to be distinctive and dramatically differentiated from competition; advertising, PR, promotions agencies  who can thrust our brands full front in the face of consumers and communicate our message in provocative and memorable ways; salesmen who can place our brands wherever our consumers shop and merchandise them in ways that cannot fail to grab attention?
  • How can we train our People to think more like entrepreneurs? How can we get them to ask the question – “If this were my own business, what will I do faced with this situation?” – more often?
  • How do you encourage risk-taking? How do you push People to the edge and give them the courage to jump and find out if they can fly? What if they have a fear of flying?   

4. Customer Service: With most competing products offering comparable performance, often the differentiating advantage belongs to the company that gives the best customer service. 

  • How do we motivate our front-line People to give the best customer service, the most memorable and delightful experience possible so that in the end customers cannot help but rave and refer us to their friends?
  • While not in the front line, how do we likewise motivate back-office and support teams to help the front-liners in this goal of turning customers into raving fans? 

5. People Retention: Many marketing managers talk about the painstaking process and the huge cost it takes to screen, hire and train People. They are therefore very concerned with the subject of bringing them in and retaining them.  

  • How do we attract the best People in the industry? How do we create a reputation among top university graduates and practicing professionals that our company is the industry Mecca when it comes to job challenge and empowerment, compensation and benefits, and skills development?
  • How do we retain people once they’re in? What environment – cultural and physical – should we create that will encourage them to stay and continue working with us? What is the optimum pay and perks package that will satisfy and keep them from considering moving to another company?        
  • How do we help our People to keep a proper work-life balance, prevent them from burning out, and ensure that they receive support for what they do at our company from the people who matter to them most – their families?

In her book, The Hills of Shatemuc published in 1856, Susan Warner wrote: “There is a world there, Winthrop, another sort of world: where people know something; where other things are to be done than running low furrows; where men may distinguish themselves! I want to be in that world.” For marketing executives worldwide, the top challenge has been and will continue to be identifying and having in their team men and women with the same driving spirit as Ms Warner wrote about 150 years ago. It is only then that these executives can move and get on with the job of turning their companies’ and their own marketing dreams into market realities.