Archive for September, 2016

No regrets

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

piafNon, je ne regrette rien.

No, I have no regrets.  How many of us can truly say that?

According to recent research in the US by Allianz 32% of Americans regret major choices in their lives.

Topping the regret charts according to the research?

Ignoring your health; neglecting to exercise; giving up on a romantic relationship; losing touch with friends.

It’s common for people to reflect that they’ve let stress rule their life in a really unhelpful way.

A bit of stress isn’t bad for you.  It can raise your adrenaline levels in the office, some people thrive on it up to a point.

But if you’re living with stress surrounding you every time you step into the workplace then you need to take some action.  If you’re dreading the next encounter with a certain colleague or a boss, so much that it gives you sleepless nights or anxiety strewn weekends.  When you’re very stressed it’s too late in my experience.  You can’t diagnose yourself at that point.  Seek out mindfulness techniques and meditation now, not when you’ve crossed the line, not when you’re too busy to think.

One very big stated cause of regret is letting fear drive your decisions.

Psychology professor Hal Shorey says that there are two aspects to this that lead to regret.

First that instead of taking healthy risks and following your passions and intuition people worry that they won’t be up to the job, or that the choice won’t meet the standards that other people have for them and so make choices that aren’t really right for them.  I can remember being on the brink of what felt like a huge career decision, several people thought and told me I was making the wrong one and of course I was filled with anxiety.  Then a friend said to me “well the decisions you’ve made so far haven’t been that bad have they, and also if it doesn’t work out you’ll go and do something else instead”.
That outside perspective stabilised me into what turned out to be a key step in my career.

The second consequence of fear based decisions is ethical regrets according to Shorey.  He says: “with a lot of my grads, they’re making good money for the first time in their lives, and they think to themselves, “oh my goodness, I’ve arrived.” Then they’ll be asked to do things professionally that they may think are unethical or go against their own knowledge of leadership and because they’re concerned about losing the job they go along and conform”.

Conform, and live with a lifetime of regret.

According to our own research, conducted by Lightspeed in the UK, USA and Russia for our new book, The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, more than 40% of women surveyed regret their career choice – an upsetting number – though perhaps understandable given the glass walls so many women face in the workplace.

Kathryn and I wrote the book because we don’t want any women to be disappointed with their career paths.  Indeed we hope the book well improve a system that seems stuck in an unhelpful and unprofitable cycle of disappointed careers and frustrated intentions.  We would have regretted very much staying silent on this issue.

Fast Company Magazine writer Gwen Moran says that it’s not possible to map out a strategy for a regret-free life, and some regrets of course are bigger than others.  Some we get over, some stick with us for ever.

When you’re considering the next move in your career think seriously about what your regrets would be, what opportunities you’ll never get over if you miss them.  Most crucially, a year from now, what could you have achieved, what difference can you make?  And how can you set about doing it?

How did we do that and what can we learn?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

_90885783_team_gbAs we waved Team GB off on the way to Rio were you thinking what I was thinking?

“Good luck, hope you do well, but I don’t really expect you to bring back as many medals as London 2012”.

Team GB defied my expectations.  The best accumulation of medals in 108 years.  A spread of medals across more sports than any other nation.

Where academic studies have found that gdp and Olympic performance are inextricably linked (rich countries do better), GB punches significantly above its economic weight.

How did we do that?

Significant investment in sport, funded in part by the Lottery.

In terms of outcomes, the National Lottery money spent on sport seems money well spent.  In the first Olympics after the lottery launch (when the investment clearly hadn’t had time to bear fruit) GB won just one gold medal in 1996.  This year’s success shows exponential improvement.

It is perhaps a sign of the great British success that the haul isn’t without criticism.  Outside the UK questions have been raised, and you might say that people have been quite rude.

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper ran a story questioning the success in cycling and stating that it has led rivals to wonder “if there isn’t something fishy going on with the Brits”.  Outrageous.

El Pais in Spain said that GB’s pursuit of medals was “brutal and heartless”.

Focussed certainly.

Sports with the best chance of medals get more investment.

Lesson one from the Olympic experience is that UK Sport have been calculated in their efforts to deliver step change.

They have supported areas of strength.  Any business that milks its strong brands or divisions in order to take a punt on step-changing areas of weakness (and supposed potential) should remember Team GB when the experiment doesn’t pay off.

UK Sport’s website features the #Discoveryourgold programme.

Any athlete can apply to be assessed for this programme, and success stories include Winter Olympics medal winner Lizzy Yarnold.  Lizzy applied for the UK Sport and EIS Talent ID campaign, Girls4Gold in 2008 having never tried Skeleton before. With the help of the World Class Coaches and Support Team, inside just five years Lizzy won gold in Sochi 2014.

So as well as focussing investment behind areas of strength, UK Sport have tried to broaden the talent pool, take people with no track record and make them champions.

Does this contrast with how the UK is doing at academic subjects at school?

Academically there’s a huge talent problem.  This year’s GCSE results have fallen again and thousands of teenagers will be faced with inadequate results in English and Maths.

We’ve spent 20 years finding and supporting talent in sport.  We’ve spent the last decade screwing up some people’s potential academically.

Apprentice schemes such as the one we run at MediaCom scour the talent market place for individuals who have been failed by schools in one way or another.  The level of grit that some of the candidates have developed over the years is actually perfect preparation for a job in media.

The second lesson to learn from the UK Sport is to open up opportunities to everyone.  If you write people off who haven’t performed against conventional benchmarks or followed the normal path to work then you end up with a company of people who can only perform conventionally.  In this media environment where change is the norm that’s a dangerous place to be.


Consensus sounds nice, but is the last thing you need for your business.

Monday, September 5th, 2016

jfk-in-his-own-words-1920“We are the urban elite.  We live inside an echo chamber.”

Creative genius Dave Trott in Campaign.  Telling us off for surrounding ourselves with people who look and sound like ourselves.

What’s to be done?


More women in the boardroom.

Even the best companies in our sector aren’t anywhere near equal in gender mix at that level.


An apprentice scheme.  We’re very proud of our apprentices at MediaCom. And the fact that they make our mix of people more diverse strengthens the teams working together immeasurably.


There isn’t a business in the media and advertising sector that can be complacent about the proportionate mix of its workforce in terms of BAME diversity.


No-one in our sector is doing enough for people with disabilities.


Without doubt we need to work harder at this, and without doubt it will pay dividends in terms of making the business stronger.


Meanwhile, and in addition, even if we look and sound alike, we can stop agreeing with each other.


JFK’s short life is notable for several iconic moments (aside from the conspiracy theories over his untimely death.)


The first televised presidential debate between JFK and Nixon.  Said to have changed the course of politics as image became more important than it had ever been to getting elected.


The rumour of an affair with Marilyn Monroe.


His support for West Germany after the building of the Berlin Wall by the Soviets: “Ich bin ein Berliner”.


The Cuban Missile Crisis.


55 years ago the CIA launched a strike against Fidel Castro, the Soviet backed leader of Cuba and the ouster of the US backed President General Batista.


The Bay of Pigs invasion went badly.  American trained troops were overwhelmed by Castro’s army, and swiftly surrendered.

As a response Castro requested Soviet nuclear missiles to be placed in Cuba to deter future harassment.  Construction of the facilities began in the summer of 1962.  When the news broke in America of Soviet missiles being installed 90 miles from Florida a crisis began.  A US blockade began, and so did long and very tense negotiations.


Then for 13 days in October 1962 the situation worsened and the world was on the brink of nuclear disaster.


In the deliberations in the White House during this period various options were considered.  These included bombing the missile sites and a full scale invasion of Cuba.


Kennedy opted to deliver an ultimatum rather than launch an invasion.


Disaster was avoided when Soviet leader Krushchev agreed to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for a promise that the US wouldn’t invade Cuba (and a secret agreement to remove US missiles from Turkey).


You can imagine the discussions, you can imagine the tensions.  Many Americans stockpiled food and drink and expected Armageddon.  US defence secretary Robert McNamara said “I thought it was the last Saturday I’d ever see” when on October 27 an American reconnaissance plane was shot down over Cuba and the US invasion force was prepared.


Afterwards JFK talked about the crucial importance of challenging your colleagues not just your opponents.  This sounds like reflection from a man who was in the centre of conflicting advice, and a furious and crucial debate.


Whilst it’s unlikely that you’re about to face decision making in your next meeting that is a fraction of the importance of the Oval Office discussions during that October it’s useful to bear in mind that there’s nothing healthy about consensus.


If your office culture means that you’re surrounded by people who don’t challenge you, then you’re never going to get to a good decision.  It’s irrelevant whether the lack of challenge comes from niceness and kindness or fear and trembling.  Either way it’s dangerous.  For your business. For your career.  For your customers and clients.