Leadership with a quiet voice, blue hair and tattoos

For those of us in retail, it’s been a tough few months and the weather isn’t helping.

So, whilst it’s hard to drag myself from my blue/grey/beige commuter town office, into the downpour on a dark afternoon to travel ALL the way into London for a mid-week event, it’s also much needed.  As I travel, batting off phone calls about restructuring, planning, budgets and all the other joys a marketer gets to deal with mid-January, I’m looking forward to getting a little external face time with my peers.  

The cozy interior of the Soho Hotel and it’s cinema room, make for a welcome exchange – meeting new people, often struggling with the same issues and problems.  Many of us were were drawn by the Google hosts who we look to, to  educate and inspire us in our journeys in discovering, engaging-with and managing our customers.  The #thinkwithgoogle series has been a lesson over the years on how to educate your busy audience and the session today lived up to expectations.

VUCA has been a much used acronym in O2 Innovation towers over the last couple of years, so it was good to hear how Josh Krichefski and his team at Mediacom were using it as a model to adapt and stay at the forefront.  I loved the idea of living in the learning room – encouraging teams not to worry about the hierarchy or their status, but to focus on how they can be part of something bigger. 'Ownership' and the titles and status that it brings has been so central to our existence and rewards structure in business that it’s hard to challenge.  I see links here to some of the diversity filters that Chaka Sobhani, Chief Creative Officer from Leo Burnett (video below), mentioned about who owns the storytelling and how their filters become our reality.

We live our business lives with competency and reward models based on filters established by centuries of a male view of success. Diversity may mean redefining this in our working cultures – maybe that’s delivering strategy in a northern accent, leadership with a quieter voice, or expertise with blue hair and a sleeve of tattoos.

Circling back to the grey day, Dan Gilbert finished off the afternoon, mood-hacking in his signature yellow shirt – psychologically training his brain (and ours?) to filter for happy.  Brainlabs starts with people and culture and funnels brilliant ideas into experiments to experiment their way through to success.  My father was a pilot, so his analogy on Aviation vs Hospitals approach to learning really hit home.  My Dad used to have to do exams every 6 months as new processes were filtered through from the worldwide organisation setup to continuously improve and update training.  Contrast that with hospitals, where the litigious fear drives a culture of hiding and secrecy and you start to wish airlines did operations.

As John Lewis Partnership (and Marketing Society chairman) Craig Inglis said, work reflects the lives of the people working on it and that it is in other people’s stories that we find the joy of understanding.  Diverse, resilient teams are built intentionally – by, recruitment, management practices and self-awareness and intention to move ourselves into that learning room.




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