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7 April 2014

What do we mean by T shaped?

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By Amanda Fone.

The nature of organisations is changing right under our noses. In the past a job was defined as a set of skills, experiences and activities carried out by a single person. That person had a job description. Many people doing many different jobs in a business would create an outcome that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Today’s organisations need people who can think outside a narrow job specification; people who can drive disruptive solutions, create innovative products and services and meet more complex needs of clients and customers. Today work is more collaborative and cross-functional. Nothing remains constant for long.

Future roles will have an expectation of scope, responsibility and effectiveness and they will require an eclectic set of skills. People likely to be successful in these future roles are described as being “T shaped”. The vertical shaft of the T represents a person’s depth of experience and skill; the horizontal crossbar represents the amount they are willing and able to collaborate. “T-shaped” people are well-rounded and versatile. They are likely to take on more scope and responsibility and to take on different roles as work changes. They are therefore more valuable than those trapped in the vertical (or specialist) shaft of an I.

For ten years we have interviewed sponsorship professionals who have become trapped in a career silo too early and find it difficult to move into wider marketing, commercial or communications functions. (The same can be said for PR practitioners  and marketers who become too specialist in one area of expertise.) These people progress up the vertical (or specialist) shaft of the “T” year after year to Director level only to find that, when they get the job title they have been after, they hit the “cross bar” ceiling. They should have added more breadth to their skill set as they went up the vertical.

What does this breadth look like? I think sponsorship professionals have to develop an understanding of and experience in all of the following during their first ten years’ experience: Events/Hospitality, PR, Partnerships, Customer Acquisition, Retention, CVM (Customer Value Maximisation) CRM (Customer Relationship Management), Insight, Data, Segmentation and Marketing effectiveness across Paid, Owned and Earned Media. Professionals who gain all this (and it will require working in an agency as well as with a rights holder and a brand) will be truly rounded. In addition strong financial literacy and commerciality are key skills for communicating effectively with the Financial Director and the C suite. In most organisations Sponsorship is seen as part of the Marketing mix – many CMO and Chief Communications Officer roles have partnerships or sponsorships as part of their portfolio of responsibilities.

Our message, to sponsorship professionals who want to increase their chances of being the CMOs and CCOs of the future, is: join the CIM and put yourselves forward for projects that will develop your horizontal bar. If you don’t you may face a future of bumping up against it. And if this talk of vertical shafts and cross bars does your head in let me simplify it: make sure you get breadth and depth of experience across the Marketing and PR mix, if you ever want to broaden your career out beyond sponsorship.

Amanda spoke on the ESA summit panel on T-Shaped Careers last week with Andy Sutherden, Global Head of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, Hill+Knowlton Strategies; Mark Evans, Marketing Director, Direct Line Group; Nick Caplin, Director of Communications, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe; Michael Fleming, Business Development Manager, Havas Sports & Entertainment ignition. The panel was moderated by Matt Rogan – Founder of Two Circles.