Skip to main content

5 Lessons CMOs Can Take Away From My Tennis Champion Mom

In my last post in the Leading in Change series, I spoke about the importance of momentum to both championship sports teams and successful companies. That led me to thinking about how analogous sports is to business. And how many lessons can be learned from successful athletes and sports teams — especially for CMOs in this rapidly changing marketing 2.0 world.

As a Canadian national tennis champion and a five-time Team Canada member at the world championships, my mom is one of my biggest role models for success. She is intensely driven to be a champion: she lives and breathes tennis and being the best at what she does. At the dinner table, conversations often turn to, “It’s like in tennis when…” As my sister and I have grown Allocadia, these lessons have had many business applications.

Given the increasingly challenging environment that CMOs are operating in, you could say that CMOs are also trying to be champions in their own field (with the winner building brand and revenue for the company). With this in mind, here are five lessons I’ve learned from my mom to help remind us how to be champions:

  • Don’t focus on the outcome, focus on shot after shot: My mom shared once that the key for her to achieve her desired outcome (winning the match) is to focus on shot after shot, not the outcome. If you solely concentrate on the outcome, or the result, you can sometimes lose the focus needed to make it happen. As a CEO, I always have to keep the outcome or bigger picture in mind for my company. But this “focusing on shot after shot” tactic has really proven invaluable at times when focusing on outcomes becomes distracting: either for small projects (like presentations) or large ones (like building Allocadia). As a CMO in today’s environment, you always need to have a desired outcome, but when it comes time to making it happen, focus on shot after shot.
  • Test your game plan continually: My mom goes into her matches with a clear game plan on how she is going to win, and then she executes. In tennis, you are essentially forced to test your game plan continually each game, because the results are always clear: you win or lose. And either way, you incorporate the learnings from the game into your next one. In rapidly moving or changing markets – such as what CMOs and entrepreneurs face today – it can be easy to get lost in the game plan. We can over think the planning components, and not focus enough on the execution. Marketers should be constantly thinking of ways to test and refine their game plan. Ask yourself, what game am I going to test this plan in (Is there a campaign you can use?) How can I then incorporate my wins and losses into a new ‘game’?
  • Study how people think: My mom is always reading about “the mental game” of tennis as she believes that being a champion is equal parts skill and mental game. Recently she mentioned a new blog that she liked, where the teacher features all types of tennis players, not just the pros. For marketers, it’s always valuable to study the best of the best in marketing, but there is also much to be gained by studying the CMOs and teams who best reflect who you are. How can you learn from them? What skills do they have? And more importantly, how and why do they do things? As an entrepreneur, I talk to many people and learn through them how they think about and approach problems. In the startup world, there are so many different ways to build your business, and some people can be quick to offer “rules”; the key to being a champion is to take learnings on how others think, and then decide, how you think.
  • Be unique and use that to inspire others: My brother-in-law once found my mom running up and down the front steps of her house with a backpack full of bricks because “she needed to workout”. That creativeness and dedication makes us smile and inspires us, in this case, to not only workout more, but come up with different ways to do it. Marketers should aim to always be a little different, too, in order to stand out and lead our teams. Your campaigns can be creative, thoughtful and unique — and so can your leadership. People like people who have character; they surprise you, and are memorable. (For creative marketing ideas, I often turn to the Damn I wish I thought of that word of mouth marketing blog.)
  • Don’t stop at finding the right teammate: When my mom finds the right tennis partner, she is constantly thinking of new ways to push the partnership and make sure it’s the best it can be. The work essentially begins once the fit is there. She analyzes their play continually: how they work together, their technique, and their attitude. This doesn’t always result in the happiest of dynamics, but it’s definitely always a winning dynamic. As a CMO, there are a lot of new players needed: data-savvy marketers, marketing automation experts, and content experts, and so it can be easy to stop at finding the right people. Keep working on the team once they’re there. At Allocadia, one of my biggest jobs as CEO is to build a high performing team that can help us achieve our growth goals. Once we bring people on-board, I need to also ensure there is ongoing team work that inspires and pushes the team to their best – to help the company and each of us be champions.

There are so many business lessons learned through competitive sports. Do you have any champions who inspire and motivate you to your best? What have you learned through sports? We’d love to hear about them. Comment here or connect with me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter.

As CEO of Allocadia, I’ve had to learn to lead in a rapidly growing, fast-moving market. And as marketers building Allocadia, we have learned a lot about selling to CMOs: their needs and challenges, and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead in this new Marketing 2.0 world. This Leading in Change: CEO Blog Series is intended to help inspire CMOs and marketing operations to lead and build data-driven marketing organizations.