I am leading a team of four people and we are - on the surface - responsible for marketing at a mid-sized biotech company operating globally from within the EU. 
in the last 1 ½ years since the creation of "my" marketing department, there had been quite some personnel changes, which I do not want to discuss here. As a matter of fact, my most senior team member is not even a year with us and the most junior just few months.

That somehow led to business development people stepping into some responsibilities that were left vacant by those resignations and changes. This is something that I thought of as being helpful and in the interest of the company. However, I now feel that these same people with support of their team leads knowingly or unknowingly are claiming more and more responsibilities for themselves. They do it subtly in a way that they start activities and are simpling asking me for review or feedback and are really pushing things. So my freshmen team feels a little bit left behind, besides, I am not always in agreement with the BD approach and they are not really reacting to review suggestions by me or my team. The BD people certainly are more proficient in terms of subject matters but I feel that the representation and messaging approach should be done by us with their input instead of them directing the whole effort.


Now I wonder whether it is my job to reconcile this as the drive by business development is certainly generally good and we would probably take longer for the same tasks and might not always get the same results while the team is still learning. Or whether I should discuss this openly with our management that there seems to be quite some confusion on responsibilities. 

Any thoughts?

LEmerson's picture

This seems like a leadership issue. "This led to business development people stepping in." If people start stepping in and there is a sense of conflict about roles it's hard to imagine the structure as part of any clear plan. You can look at communication issues but it doesn't matter unless there are clearly defined roles under strong leadership.

One thing I'd recommend is dealing with behaviors, not feelings or what someone might be thinking. Specific behaviors aren't as open to wide interpretation as feelings. When you say "They do it subtly" you're inferring intent to manipulate. In my opinion if you're going deal with these issues you should specifically identify what they're doing and how it negatively affects the plan, rather than attributing motives.

SCN10A's picture

Thank you for this interesting perspective!

It is my impression that our management also does not have a clear vision for the separation of activities between BD and marketing, which complicates things. This always muddies the water if our colleagues think that they can do things better because they have "more experience" and have more "direct client contact". Maybe, but that should not decide whether somebody takes over responsibility for a certain task, especially, if the mentioned experience and direct contact do not always lead to the best results, the way I see it.  

Sorry for the inference instead of reference to clear undesirable behaviours, however, there have been specific examples:

  • BD wants to review many of my team's activities (because of their alleged experience etc.) but are not sharing any of their work, not even for information
  • even if there is a clear separation of activities for certain projects, they sometimes work on tasks in the background, and really push their results as baseline for further review while ingoring the work performed by my team (because their work is allegedly "more suitable" etc.)
  • they initiate marketing tactics that I object to based on "my" marketing strategy but they keep on working on those stating ("if you do not want to get involved, don't bother, we take over the effort")

This is all complicated by our management refusing to accept a clear marketing strategy, claiming that a strategy is not necessary and instead we should just continue working on the stuff we are doing already (conferences, LinkedIn, few ads etc.) while keeping the eye open for opportunities to increase reach, whatever that exactly means...

LEmerson's picture

People get weary of me using the analogy to professional sports teams compared to business management, but it's almost exactly the same thing to me. Say you have a football team with a bunch of superstarts on it. There needs to be  a head coach with a well defined plan and strong leadership, otherwise it's going to descend into chaos and fall apart. To be successfiul everyone needs to be on exactly the same page doing exactly what they're supposed to do. With weak leadership you'll have half the team thinking it's the best idea to run a pass play, and the other half thinking it's best run a dive up the middle. That's exactly what you have here. On professional sports teams each player not only learns their roles and how to execute, they learn everyone else's roles too so they can be more effective at theirs. Once you leave it open for interpretation you get this kind of chaos. Again, it's all about the plan and execution.

Any chance this company started much smaller and has recently had a growth spurt?

It's a tough situation to go to your boss and tell them how they should be doing things. That usually doesn't have a great outcome. Would it be possible to discuss with other department heads and come up with your own plan to maximize everyone's effectiveness?

SCN10A's picture

I love the analogy! As a soccer fan, I can even visualize how it would not be a good idead for a mid-fielder to try to fill in for every position even if he/she thinks they are the best...

You suspected exactly right: The company quadrupled in the last 4-5 years. The problem is, that the other department heads believe that they know best what works and that they have the means to push for some activities. Last time I talked to them, explaining that we are slowly ramping up our efforts and that it might take some additional time now with all the team changes, they literally said "We go to do something, and we got to do it now!", which I still think creates unnecessary pressure, especially given the success in the past 5 years.  

The problem is, and I am not saying it is malintend, that everything I listed in my prior post is leading towards the assessment by those other two department heads, that they need more personnel as they are "doing so much marketing" (unasked for!). They already did hire people and will continue to do so in future, I am sure. This, I guess is something that can only be clarified by our management. 

Getting sidelined like this of course does not feel nice, but it is worse as those other departments are getting visibility for their efforts and our CEO seems to appreciate their efforts. Results have always been key and I feat that our CEO also believes that whoever does the job "best" is supposed to be responsible for the respective task --> that's not how it is supposed to work as I am responsible for the results of my team and those other departments have dedicated responsibilities on their own that they should take care of. 

rmhoerle's picture
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This is definitely a tough situation.   I was once a part of a very strong sales group with a weak marketing team.   (I'm not implying your team is weak although you have communicated that they are relatively inexperienced.)    We definitely stepped into marketing's turf in an effort to move our sales efforts forward.   As a team that was compensated on tangible revenue and profit growth, we felt it imperative to see that the work get done.   In our case, I would have preferred that our boss (a VP) speak directly with the marketing VP to work through roles and responsibilities along with clear escalation paths when expectations were not met.   Perhaps you could take that approach and speak with the BD leader.   Since you do have a new team, you could propose that there be a transition period during which the BD team maintains some of their marketing activities with a planned phaseout with clear timelines to move toward your team fully implementing the plan in place.   An escalation path is critical.  Once you earnestly pursue a peer to peer approach, if your are unsuccessful, you could then potentially approach the CEO.   I'm currently president of a 140 person company and I expect my directs to try to resolve conflict among themselves first before they pull me in.   Not only does that protect my time for my own role, but it is significantly more effective for my team to resolve their own conflicts and build their relationships directly than coming to me.  

Best of luck!

LEmerson's picture

Do you have a way to speak with the CEO? Not to blame or complain, but if you had some specific examples of inefficiency you could suggest something along the lines of a project manager. One of the first steps a project manager takes is idenifying everyone's roles.