Category Archives: Leadership

Straight outta Silicon Valley

I’m sat at SFO airport waiting to board a flight and reflecting on my 72 hours in Silicon Valley. I’ve been at Menlo Park courtesy of Facebook, up in Mountain View meeting some Googlers, down in Palo Alto and finally in the sunny city of San Francisco itself meeting with start-ups and entrepreneurs to get the skinny on what gives this place it’s energy and draw for the next generations of thinkers, makers and investors.

What struck me more than anything is the almost unanimous focus on people first. It pleasantly surprises me to hear this time and again, for admittedly I was expecting a more ruthless ‘follow the money’ response to my questions.

Maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s the recent legislations, maybe it’s just that it’s so damn expensive everyone pulls together, but almost every response was around building the right team, with the right people and avoiding the sharks and d*ckheads, which for those that don’t know me personally, is exactly my mantra so it resonated.

Before I leave I thought I’d share my top insights for success from the valley in the hope that if we all taken a human centred focus in building our teams, we’ll build; happier, more successful, more durable places to work and invent.

Here goes:

1. Your first people are the biggest decisions you will ever make so set your foundations strong.
2. Build for people and embrace the friction that this causes to your business models and frameworks. People and the diversity they bring will only better and enrich so if something is getting in their way, break it down and rebuild it so it enhances them another abilities.
3. Back people and then back markets for they are the only consistencies in a world that shifts constantly.
4. Be prepared to back your entrepreneurs no matter what for they will cause the best ‘Good Trouble’.
5. Size for ‘Pizza Box’ teams. If your team can’t happily share a pizza then it’s too big and decisions won’t get made in the right way and work will be layered and complicated, keep it lean, lean in and everyone will have a fair slice.
6. Build progression around 50/50 goals so that you stretch yourself and your team to aim high for the 50% they will hit and learn quickly from the 50% they will miss.
7. Be open to talent shifts and support them where you can, no one likes to be a square peg in a round hole and the cross population of skills will stabilise growth.
8. Know every factor in your ecosystem and the relative value of it (which if you follow the above will be human focused) so you can make informed decisions with reduced risk quickly.
9. Be open to crazy ideas as they’ll probably be the best ideas you ever hear.

I’m happy to say I do most of this, but I’m definitely going to action point 6 immediately as I love this thinking and I think my teams will too.

What will you do from tomorrow?

 

San Francisco

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The race we’re facing in 2019

So many people in our converging industries seem to be super charged for 2019, which by their accounts (and I would agree) is partly due to a turbulent and testy 2018. A collective sigh of relief has been expelled as last year drifts away and we look ahead to which rollercoaster we might jump on next.

I have a few things I’m expecting. To be on trend let me state, these are not ‘predictions’ given no one wants to use that word anymore, so let’s roll with ‘anticipations of trends’ based on how last year played out (in my point of view). Here goes:

  1. Brands will campaign for more. We will see a demonstrable shift from creative campaign ideas being enough to satisfy client briefs to demands for business ideas built to live (not die) that address the transformation trinity; brand, business and consumer (not necessarily in that order). The knock on effect to this shift will result in a more rigorous creative shake up within departments that will force blinkers off and digital diversity to the centre.
  2. An uprising will create groundswell. A growing breed of agency-to-consultant (and reverse) hybrids will start to rise and break the Accenture / Deloitte 90 page approach to ‘agile’ and instead take an ‘in the trenches’ approach to change. This in turn will see lofty vague strategies start to (finally) become a thing of the past.
  3. Diversity will drive money. More diverse revenue streams will be required to see agencies and consultancies through this year into the coming ones if they are to sustain or grow. Long gone are the 70:20:10 rules for income. A spread of hub and spoke approaches will see new shapes of teams come together and incubate fresh income. Smart disruptors will prevent an ‘I want one of those’ copy approach to ensure this new freshness prevails.
  4. Intelligence will reign over data. AI and it’s benefits (beyond speeding stuff up) will become better understood by marketers so we will start to see ethics put in place as an output of the committee discussions from the last few years. Smart leaders will start to map these AI architectures to their data stacks and in turn provide new insights to their CMI teams thus closing the loop. At some point (though possibly 2020) GDPR all face an AI specific challenge as old and new data sets merge for new use.
  5. Audiences will rule the rules. The comms saturated Millennial audience will grow tired of farcical ‘purpose’ attempts from brands to capture their attention, they will start to more actively call out those that don’t actually do what they say they intend to. Brands that fail to realise that just saying something and not taking action is not enough will start to lose their audiences to disruptors new and old. Shared narratives will no longer sustain and an uprise of direction from audience demand will more consistently inform NPD.

Short but hefty so I’m keeping it to five.

I am super excited about this year, indeed the next few years. This coming chapter will be harder because so much change is in the air, but change raises both expectations and standards so I for one want to be on this rollercoaster.

Hope to see you at the 2019 finish 2020 starting line…

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Image found on Google – thank you 

Cannes Lions 2017: From stories to experiences

Movies like Terminator, iRobot or Minority Report didn’t predict the future, the creators just opened up a new way of thinking within the realms of their scripting.

Similarly, as an industry, we advertisers pride ourselves on creativity and storytelling. We strive to create new ideas and worlds every day and communicate these through stories. Our stories get seeded online and then evolve amongst communities online and offline. They’re influenced globally by opinions and cultures, evolving and developing as multiple varieties from that one original core. The best stories transcend through the industry as ways of inspiring others.

But we must move beyond just stories. In today’s ‘post cinematic’ world we have so many new and exciting ways of creating, telling and sharing experiences; immersive mediums, alternate realities, cognitive and predictive data, connected and intuitive ecosystems. All of these things push the boundaries of storytelling, so why then, when for years we have successfully told linear stories, do we suddenly get ‘tech fear’ and limit ourselves at the hands of technology stressing over whether it’s been done?

This year I was honoured to be invited to judge the Cannes Lions mobile category and it was clear to me that when creativity and technology meet there are a few key trends emerging across the globe:

  1. Tech for tech’s sake is taking a back seat, FINALLY! The pioneers of converging an idea with the pace of life today are really doing their research to nail the killer insight at the heart of an idea, and you can see how this helps the idea evolve but not stray.
  2. That said, few are brave enough to state they don’t quite know what they’re doing (which is OK by the way as long as you are ‘doing’) and so stick digital and social amplification plasters over the cracks in an idea and talk about reach (I’m rolling my eyes now).
  3. Too many brands are quick to experiment but slow to adopt and scale, they come with an award in mind but lose sight of their audience in doing so.
  4. Very few have really, truly wrapped their minds around how to move from telling a story to putting their user at the centre of it to create an experience.
  5. Those brave enough to explore new terrain are doing so with a cause at the heart of it, which is empowering, I salut you.
  6. Ethics and morals aside for a moment, there’s still a ton of opportunity to just do really cool shit that leaves your brand emblazoned on the minds of those you want to buy your product.

Two words in most of the case studies and two that I hear every day are; Disruptive and Innovative. For me, true disruption emerges at the convergence of technologies, ideas and of course stories.

I was excited to see the bar is inching up, however there is a whole new world we can create through the next generation of stories and experiences that is currently untapped.

Whilst I love a good story, it’s definitely left me fuelled to continue to push for experiences, ones that make hairs stand on end, screeches escape mouths and eyes to well up, all of which happened in the jury room #justsaying.

Cannes Lions 2017

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Creating Cultures of Innovation

Innovation is such a loaded word.

How do you constantly reinvent yourself? The team around you? How do you think like a start up when you hit 150 people, 300 people, 500..?

I come across two sets of people every day; the ‘No, but’s’ and the ‘Yes, and’s’. It’s the latter that drive change because they disrupt with positivity.  My starting point is always to invite these guys in and let them thrive for as long as possible.

Once positive disruption is in place (and it needn’t take many people to create a stir) quickly focus on negating potential risk of that running for too long. Once you have something that you intuitively feel is right, start making it. It doesn’t have to be slick, rough and ready is good, but play with it, test it, let others do the same.

Ask yourself; if you were to put money into this how confident would you be that it will succeed?

I can promise you this; regardless of what your idea is you will be more confident once you start making it. You simply can’t get the insight and feedback loop you need from a deck with some words and pictures in it. It’s not the same.

Once you have something tangible, look at what makes it fit for brief, or purpose (depending whether you’re coming at this as an agency or client). The idea itself will die if it’s not put into practice, and quickly.

At this stage you should involve your audience in your beta, this is where you get the ‘authentic truths’ from and where your product will start to improve quickly. This will also help you identify where scale and profitability will come from, which in turn will shape your ‘go to market’ approach.

If you’ve reached this point, well done! You should feel like you have a desirable product or service and this is where sh*t gets real.

There are many ways to go to market, especially with ‘the internet’ enabling us to reach the masses quickly and effectively. Don’t forget to include the audience you’ve just built in your testing, include them as you plan your approach.

Hacker marketing, or growth marketing should never be underestimated, I recommend this book if you’re ready to start getting something out there and you’re a start up, or try this one if you’re an agency or client with an internal team changing the status quo. Obviously feel free to read both!

It doesn’t stop here, once you’re up and running, never stop innovating or disrupting. If you sit on your laurels, someone else will come along and disrupt you, which doesn’t feel good.

Keep pushing, interrogating, improve your product, or move on to something else.

Whatever you do, don’t sit still.

In the words of Steve Jobs ‘If you don’t cannabalise yourself, someone else will.’ And look what he achieved.

stevejobs1image found on Google – thank you

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179

This week I was privileged enough to be counted amongst 12 other fantastic women as leaders of tomorrow in the IPA Women of Tomorrow awards

In the run up to this event and many others on March 8th, I’ve been asked a lot about how I feel about being a leading woman, and more recently a leading woman ‘in tech’ and I wanted to share my thoughts with anyone else who may be interested.

First and foremost I am both proud and humbled, it is exciting to be recognised as one of the women to watch ‘bursting full of brains, vision, inspiration and energy with a wealth of experience, results and high recommendations under their belts.’ Thank you Nicky Bullard, one of my judges and another amazing woman.

Whilst I am a feminist (it would be silly to not be on my own side having been a woman for a while now) I have to thank my other judge Dan Shute (who is a man) for calling out that one of the reasons I won was not because I’m shouting about my gender but because I’m cracking on with simply being the best person I can be, which is all I’ve ever done. 

I love being a woman, but that doesn’t mean I’m ‘anti man’. I also love being a leader, inspiring others to become leaders, working with clever people and working with techy stuff, because I love all these things I am good at it.

I encourage everyone to find something they love doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, black, white, young, old, privileged or not. I live my life on the mantra of ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it.’ Thanks Walt. I’m not saying we all get our fairytale ending if we skip through life singing, but live by this and a ton of hard work and very little can hold you back. 

I’m as much an advocate for equality as I am for not using circumstance as an excuse, together we will always achieve more. 

That said, sadly there are a dying breed of luddites out there still doubting equality, to them I’d like to point out that 179 is the sum of my bra size and my IQ, I’ll let you do the math.
  

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Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, complacency did

A big part of Leadership is the ability to pivot and adapt to change. Within the creative industry change happens all around us, new ideas, emerging technologies, new skill sets, different teams, in my entire career I don’t think I’ve had two days that went the same way.

I currently help lead the digital discipline across an integrated agency that has moved rapidly from its roots in traditional advertising, to adapt to our clients needs to deliver quality integrated campaigns.

With this evolution we are seeing a new expertise blossoming in the coined value of ‘T-shaped’ people, those that have a strong vertical but can work alongside other teams and departments to see the wider context of their work. For example, my vertical is digital, but I work through ‘the line’ with traditional creative and production teams. Within the digital vertical I am working with other ‘T’s’; designers who work with tech, producers who work with writers and so on.

The success of our agency is inevitably about the ability to embrace change, being curious about what everyone around them is doing and collaborating to make it amazing.

We’re a digitally empowered nation. As an agency our clients and their audiences are smart. They can tell when the dots aren’t joined up so a blended skill set is no longer a nice to have, it’s a necessity to transformation.

The search for the best talent today is less about specialism and more about diversity. This next phase promises to be dynamic, turbulent and challenging.

The last of the dinosaurs are on their way out.

all my friends

 

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Dream. Lead. Achieve.

I’m lucky enough have to have a team of rising stars to mentor and see through their careers, and being that time of year when promotions are being considered and reviews are being done, I’ve been asked a lot recently about what the difference is in stepping up from being a manager and about what makes a good leader.

I thought I’d share the principles I choose to lead by;

  1. Always do more than you expect of your team and never ask your team to do something you’re not prepared to do yourself.
  2. Solve problems; the day people stop coming to you with problems is the day you stopped leading and the day you lost their trust.
  3. Make decisions, never make excuses.
  4. Take more than your share of blame and less than your share of credit. Give the credit to the team around you.
  5. Always have a vision.

Early on in my transition from management to leadership, my mentor said to me: “Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things.” A quote I went on to find out was from Peter F. Drucker. She was right. She’s still my mentor.

Today, I still have a lot of dreams and aspirations, I’m still learning how to be a better leader and more importantly, how to develop better leaders. Having a great idea, putting a team in place to execute it and committing to making that dream become a reality is what separates leaders from just dreamers.

To do this, beyond principles, I also believe you need certain qualities to be a great leader, for me these are;

  1. Honesty; being open and being true, because in doing so you will earn trust and loyalty.
  2. Integrity; someone described this to me once as ‘standing in your own pool of truth’.
  3. Commitment; once you’ve made your decision, stand by it and do whatever it takes to enable it.
  4. Inspire; you can’t lead if you can’t evoke emotion in those around you.
  5. Always have a dream.

pawn-mirror-chess-king-edit

“If your dreams don’t scare you they are too small.” 

Richard Branson

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