The honeymoon period is an important initial period for new growth managers, marketing directors, chief marketing officers, RevOps leaders, and nonprofit executive directors, along with all the others who step into a new role to lead growth for their organizations. It’s an important first phase of work, because team members are more forgiving, expect that you’ll need to be brought up to speed, and no milestones have yet come due. It’s a time in which you can understand the context and the challenges that you now own.
Extending the length of this first period of positive interaction, and setting the stage for growth are key goals for the "honeymoon" in growth leadership.
There are two certainties that come along with the honeymoon period:
1) It comes with a growth mandate that is important to the organization.
2) It is a period that will not last forever. In 2021, the average tenure of a chief marketing officer dropped to its lowest point since 2009. (Marketing Week).
Understanding the key elements that lengthen or shorten the honeymoon period, and knowing what questions to ask can help you to build from this initial phase to the beginnings of new momentum.
Four factors determine the length of the honeymoon period for new growth leaders.
1- The strength of the mandate.
Every growth leader comes to their assignment with a mandate for growth. The level of importance that a mandate carries and how it stacks up against other priorities shapes how much leadership and change leverage each leader has available to lead growth.
Here are some ways to measure your growth mandate.
Ask these questions:
- Who announced the corporate goals that go with your mandate
- Have those goals been officially announced?
- When you make the rounds, are people aware of the goals you’re working for. Do they offer support?
- How long is your leash? A short time frame to achieve goals, size of your working budget, or span of control can mean that a mandate is not that important.
- Is the organization deeply engaged in other high-priority initiatives? How long is the list?
- What kind of resource has been made committed?
- How big is the risk to the company if you are not successful?
2 - The commitment of your sponsor
The leader who is sponsoring your role assignment has much to say about how long and how effective the “period of grace” will last. A top leader with a strong commitment creates a better runway for growth.
If you are a partner or owner and also wear the hat of growth leader, then your sponsors are your peers or board of directors. The sponsor commitment is not just what they say to you as the growth leader, but what they say to others and the manner in which they smooth the way for initial resources and change. Their availability to you, and whether they micro-manage or support you, will tell you how committed they are to your growth leadership.
3 - The culture of the organization
The culture of the organization will determine a great deal about the length of a growth leadership honeymoon, and the prospects of reaching growth goals. In a culture that views failure as a normal part of the learning path, then the length of a honeymoon can endure.
If the culture is hostile to change, then mistakes get multiplied and the friction for change can become high very quickly.
4 - The accuracy of the assessment
An accurate assessment of all of the critical factors that touch on the growth goals is part of the honeymoon activity. The level of accuracy and the depth of insight that an assessment produces either set the stage for a plan that can work, or perpetuate the kind of thinking that has stalled growth in the past.
Thorough internal and external market assessments are almost always part of the first actions growth leaders undertake. Getting a clear picture is critical. Getting an outside perspective can be helpful if it includes an assessment that provides real insight.
Be alert for landmines
When you dig for insights using data and by asking questions, then you sometimes uncover things that make other leaders uncomfortable, or may even threaten their leadership. Being aware of the power of data, and taking care in the way that it is managed can build trust and teamwork, or it can create tensions that don’t support growth.
Look for reframes
There are strategic and operational approaches throughout the growth landscape that are based upon the paradigms and narratives that an organization tells itself. Some of these are certainly accurate, but others may be antiquated or misaligned with the realities of the market. If these underlying assumptions are not corrected, then the patterns that have resisted growth will crop up again and again. If they can be reframed, then it will open the door for growth.
5 - The skills of the growth leader
Effective change management depends upon a list of strong leadership skills. Since almost any change venture is going to break down silos and step on multiple existing turfdoms, building trust, sharing success, and applying empathy go a long way.
One group of growth leaders under the label of RevOps are highly focused on mastery of data. While data will help you to identify and focus on challenges and opportunities, what that data actually means for the other leaders and departments has big implications for how well and how long they will go along with a change agenda.
One skill the growth leader must possess is the ability to see how decisions and data impact other stakeholders. That only comes from a combination of accurate empathy and effective listening. Those are two skills that will lengthen the honeymoon period and increase the odds of success.
Combine the right factors to be poised for growth. The effective orientation, context, and groundwork that begin during the honeymoon can lead to a growth launchpad - working insights and relationships that are poised to take important steps toward growth.
In every situation, not all of the five factors listed above will be perfectly aligned for growth. The growth leader needs to understand which ones can strengthen their leadership and find ways to mitigate or improve factors that are less than optimal.