How Do We Leverage Fractional Executives for Success?
Updated: May 5
Pass-The-Mic Podcast Series is an unscripted group discussion born out of AcornOak’s belief in the power of many voices. Each episode begins with one question asked to a small group of open-minded and passionate individuals who explore complex and difficult concepts with curiosity, uncertain beliefs, and the willingness to objectively listen and learn from the shared insights of others.
Starting the Conversation
As the podcast host, Virginie Glaenzer paved the way for this conversation with Sonia Cook Broen, Mindy Anderson and Sammi Dittloff who explored one of the main trends of the Future of Work: Fractional Executives.
Welcoming Our Guests
We were honored to welcome our panel of special guests eager to discuss functions and responsibilities of executive fractional work.
Sonia Cook Broen, Fractional Chief Technologist Officer
As a Fractional Technology Officer, Sonia lends her eye to problems ranging from devops to design thinking. With a decade of experience in big tech across a range of verticals and another ten years in web development and graphic design, Sonia brings a multifaceted lens to technical assessment and strategy.
Mindy Anderson, Fractional Chief Marketing Officer
With over 20 years of brand and digital marketing leadership experience with worldwide iconic brands, Mindy has a passion for working on big, challenging problems and finding creative solutions that reach people in an authentic and personal way.
Sammi Dittloff, Fractional Chief Marketing Officer
With 16+ years of writing, promotions, analytics, and marketing experience, Sammi works with clients to create a purpose-driven, data-informed content and brand strategy that highlights what makes them wonderfully unique.
Listen to the tour de table introduction of our participants.
Key Shared Insights & Perspectives
A significant market shift is underway. According to the CEO of Intuit, the gig economy will make up 43% of the U.S. workforce by 2024. Many individuals are opting for part-time, freelance, or consulting work as a way to achieve better work-life balance.
As technology enables new methods of collaboration, businesses wanting to appeal and retain their workforce are starting to implementing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work.
Fractional Executive vs Consultant: Understanding the Differences
The groups discussed the difference between a fractional executive and a consultant, with the former being more embedded in the team and focused on long-term solutions.
"A consultant will advise a company on the gap analysis that they're seeing," shares Mindy, "but our mission as fractional executives initially has to do about how can we be the go-to company that solves the problem that customers are having right now."
A fractional CMO will typically define the company's brand strategy and create milestones for prospects to become nurtured. They will also develop content marketing strategies and survey prospects and clients to address their pain points.
As a fractional CMO, Sammi has a wide range of project responsibilities that come with the role, including long-form content writing, developing strategic documents, building monthly reports, documenting processes, and designing assets. She explains, "When I begin working with a client, I focus on building a strong foundational structure that everything else will grow from."
"Fractional work involves a deeper level of engagement compared to consultants, who typically engage in less task-driven work with clients," explains Sonia, a fractional CTO.
As a fractional technologist officer, the responsibility may involve building trust with both leadership and technical members of various teams and identifying process design to create better dynamics in working teams. It may also involve creating a roadmap and setting the direction for the technical team.
"In essence, a functional executive is responsible for transferring their expertise and knowledge to the existing team," concludes Virginie.
Expectations: Measuring Success as Fractional Executives
Measuring success as a fractional executive can be challenging, as it depends on both measurable and immeasurable qualities of a team. During the discussion, speakers emphasized the importance of setting clear goals and expectations, using internal KPIs to track progress, and effective communication and collaboration between the fractional executive and the client team. For a Fractional CTO, one metric that can be used to measure performance gains is the user acceptance period in software development.
As for Fractional CMOs, the success of brand positioning and content development can be measured by laying out performance expectations early on and breaking down goals into specific categories. The EOS framework is a trackable scoring system that can be used to measure success as a fractional CMO. This simple framework defines what's important, who owns it, and exactly what success looks like. With every member of your team accountable for a handful of goals and numbers, you'll get consistently better results.
In addition, the success of fractional executives can be measured by clients' desire to engage with them again and the energy shift in the team.
"The way I measure my success is if my clients want to engage with me again or if they keep me on retainer, as well as how the energy in a team shifts when they start to work together differently, which the leadership feels immediately," explains Sonia.
Timing: When Hiring a Fractional Executive Make Sense
In terms of when to hire a fractional executive, the group suggested that it's best to bring them in when there is a specific need or project that requires their expertise. This could be when you are launching a new product or service, experiencing rapid growth, or facing a challenge that requires a specific skill set. Fractional executives can help businesses achieve their objectives more efficiently and cost-effectively than hiring a full-time employee.
Regarding engagement length, it can vary depending on the scope and objective of the work but it's usually a minimum of six months. Overall, it can range from a few months to a year or longer. It is important to discuss the engagement duration with your fractional executive and agree on the timeline that will achieve your desired results.
Lastly, it's essential to communicate and collaborate with the client to achieve the best outcomes. The group shared some practical tips for working with fractional executives, including setting clear roles and responsibilities, and ensuring that everyone is aligned on goals and expectations.
Hiring: Essential Questions to Ask When Hiring Fractionals
When choosing a fractional executive, consider their experience and expertise in your industry, their ability to work collaboratively with your team, their communication skills, and their availability to work within your timeframe. It is also important to ensure that their values and approach align with those of your company.
It is essential to ask four key questions that will foster a healthy relationship and productive collaboration for both parties:
1. What is your level of participation in strategy compared to implementation work?
The first question pertains to the level of participation in strategy versus implementation work. For a hiring CEO, this helps to understand the extent of the executive's hands-on involvement, while for the fractional, it sets the expectations and clarifies the internal resources required.
2. What is your area of expertise?
The second question seeks to determine the area of expertise, specifically in marketing, finance, or HR, given the vast scope of these departments. This helps to set up the right expectations and truly understand the expertise needed.
3. How often will we meet and how?
The third question relates to the frequency and mode of communication. By understanding the preferred methods of communication, such as email, Slack, or Zoom, and their availability and expectations, the fractional can plan how often we will meet and how.
4. What is your estimation of the duration and amount of time required to make a successful contribution to our team?
Finally, once we have established the objectives and goals, the last question focuses on estimating the time required for successfully contributing to the team, and for how long. Fractionals are flexible, ranging from 5 hours per month to 2 days per week, and the duration of work can vary from 3 months up to 9 months together.
As we came to the end of the hour, our group concluded the discussion in the same way we started, with a tour de table.
The intention for this podcast is to help each of us become the self-authoring leader of our lives through meaningful actions. Each participant had the opportunity to reflect on what they heard and share their take-aways from the conversation or any last thoughts that they felt was left unsaid that they like to leave us with.
Listen to the last 10 minutes of the episode.
Final Thoughts to Consider
It's evident that there is a significant shift taking place in the way organizations are built and people are hired. The emergence of fractional executives is a testament to this change.
Unlike traditional consultants, fractional executives are the new generation of executive management. They provide businesses with the ability to leverage the expertise and experience of professionals who would have been difficult to retain in the past.
Moreover, fractional executives empower full-time teams with someone who is focused on sharing knowledge and implementing new processes rather than playing politics.
This new approach to hiring executives allows organizations to thrive and excel in an ever-changing business landscape.
Hiring a fractional executive can be a valuable investment for companies, helping them achieve their goals efficiently and effectively. Read our simple guide on how to hire a fractional executive.
Secure your fractional executive today!