Driving change – what agency leadership can learn from Cannes and Brexit | M&M Global

Driving change – what agency leadership can learn from Cannes and Brexit

The media industry must think in leaps and bounds, and start behaving radically differently, warns Marie-Claire Barker, global chief talent officer at MEC.

Marie-Claire Barker

After a week at Cannes Lions which ended with the news that the UK had voted to leave the EU, it’s time to reflect. Reflect on what is driving the decisions people are making. From the purchases we make, to who we will hire or promote, to the choices we make on social media, to how we view our place in the world.

As an industry, we know we are responsible for influencing consumer behaviour and decision-making throughout the purchase journey. As human beings and employees, we are responsible for shaping and influencing the culture of our oganisations by the way we behave. At the end of the day, it is all about the actions we take and not just the words that we say or hear.

Influencing change in our industry, in the way we behave and how we are represented, is not happening quickly enough, and it was reflected this week in Cannes.

We need to start practicing what we preach. After witnessing numerous panels talking about the lack of female representation at senior levels in our industry, a party invite was sent out inviting only ‘attractive females and models’ to attend. Where is the authenticity in that messaging or indeed the thought process behind believing that was a good idea?

Incremental steps and panel discussions can’t be the only outlet we have. We need to think in leaps and bounds, and start to behave radically differently. Until we influence the way people act, the choices they make when recruiting and who their leaders are, the status quo will remain.


Fundamental leadership challenge

As with Brexit, we face a fundamental leadership challenge. We must be able to lead teams with different skills, different behaviours, different ways of communicating and working, and different backgrounds and cultures. Our leadership should also reflect those differences in order to remain relevant and understand how to inspire.

Brexit showed us how decisions can be made with little information or understanding. We must learn from this. We need to open our minds to what is possible and tune in to a generation of employees that have a point of view and a perspective of how real change can be made.

For years, industry leaders have been debating how diversity is tackled and addressed, and yet we see little movement to reflect the debate. Maybe we are asking the wrong people to drive that change? At MEC, we asked a group of millennials their view on the subject, and in 48 hours, over a weekend, they developed actionable, innovative solutions that we had not even considered. Watch this space!

“For years, industry leaders have been debating how diversity is tackled and addressed, and yet we see little movement to reflect the debate”

This year, we took 16 of our brightest young employees from across the globe to Cannes. After winning an internal competition, they acted as our live reporters at the festival, sharing their insights, point of views and inspiration across our network and beyond. The diversity in their thinking and the perspective they shared, was the best example of how you get the most creative thinking from difference, not duplicity.

Also in Cannes, we matched rising star students with industry luminaries in a mentoring initiative which was reciprocal in nature. The students wanted to understand how to manage a career and the leaders heard what the next generation want from them. We also gave students the opportunity to be interviewed for internships and entry level positions across the MEC global network, again showing that a different approach can be taken to attract talent.

We are striving to drive the change that is needed to set a new pace of change in our industry. We want to set a new standard, and we will be launching more initiatives later this year, among others some of the diversity-first ideas that our future generation came up with over those 48 hours.

Marie-Claire Barker

Global chief talent officer, MEC

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