Archive for December, 2014

Love and Laugh

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

The other day I was chatting to the head of a media company about how one of his new recruits had settled in.  He’s said that his new employee, a senior executive, had settled in well, and was already making a great contribution.  He’d reported that he’d already had more laughs in the first few months of the new team than in his years at a previous job.


This is startling isn’t it? Shouldn’t every business have the time and space for a few laughs, a bit of gentle banter and some affectionate piss taking?


It should.  It doesn’t hurt anyone’s professionalism to chill out at the end (or during) a hard day at work.  My old coach would agree with me.  He’d talk about leadership not as command and control but in the context of helping the people you work with to get the best out of your team.  During coaching sessions he’d show movie clips to illustrate true love and passion in working relationships. There were clips from The Matrix (for instance the kiss where Persephone wants Neo to kiss her like he kisses his true love) and from Ali (to illustrate team work and faith :”I wanna be in your corner”).


We didn’t discuss my favourite movie about a working relationship (I was the coached not the coach), so allow me to reveal it here.  Clearly the protagonists’ occupation is far from exemplary, indeed it is appalling, but the team dynamic is superb.   Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the story of one of the most beautiful and until the very end effective working relationships captured on the big screen.


From the very beginning where Butch apparently “rescues” Sundance from an accusation of cheating the sense of absolute trust and love between the protagonists is wonderfully narrated.


There’s the knife fight where Butch has to win back leadership of the Hole in the Wall Gang.  Butch says to Sundance “Maybe there’s a way to profit from this, bet on Logan”.  Sundance responds ” I would but who’d bet on you? ” When Logan, the challenger, says “When it’s over and Butch is dead, you’re welcome in the gang” Butch whispers to Sundance “I don’t mean to be a sore loser, but when it’s over, if I’m dead, kill him” and Sundance replies “Love to”.


Great trust, great love, perfect understanding of and respect for each others strengths and weaknesses, countered by almost constant mild insults, lots of laughs.  If you can have that with your colleagues then your work culture is a good as it gets (and the HBR agrees).


The XX Factor

Monday, December 1st, 2014

“Notice anything unusual about this panel? Yes, it’s all-female. And yet male panels, or those with one woman, are so common, they go unremarked. Our industry is filled with incredible women, but the future isn’t female – just equal.” Lindsey Clay, chief executive, Thinkbox in Campaign Magazine.

It really is about time we made progress on this issue.

I’ve rarely been on an industry panel with a majority of women.  Yet I sit in meetings every week at MediaCom where it is of course common place.

What’s different about 124 Theobalds Road ? We have never had gender quotas.  Our business returns a great set of results consistently.  We are a meritocracy.  We don’t only promote women because we work in a business that ultimately markets products bought by women.

Arguments about women knowing better how to sell to women are irrelevant.  Was it a problem when Karen Blackett was the director on an account that predominantly sells fast cars to men? Of course not.  What was a problem was when I arrived at a previous agency to find that I had been given the Royal Doulton China Figurines account because I was a woman.  My ability to empathise as an urban twenty something with whatever drives ladies to spend north of a pony on one was not aided by my gender.

Confidence is one of the key issues hampering women’s career progression according to Atlantic Magazine.  They think that women are less confident than men professionally.  When they are equally confident then they’re labelled ball breakers.

Not everyone will agree with authors Kay and Shipman.  This isn’t the only reason for a lack of equality in the numbers of women leaders. But the good news about a confidence gap is that it can be overcome.  This is why Kathryn Jacob and I are writing a book packed with the kind of career advice you never get taught, including how to acquire confidence.  As one Atlantic correspondent writes : “Ten years ago I began teaching shy medical students “tricks of the trade” for appearing confident.. Early on I noticed that just by practising techniques for appearing confident, my students began to feel more confident… With enormous positive implications for improving lives.”

If anyone has any stories, tips or tactics for our book, please get in touch.  As for what’s different about MediaCom, I hope and believe that we have a culture that encourages everyone’s confidence, regardless of their gender.