The Connected Leader - Chris Bartley
Michelle: So hi [Chris 00:00:02]. So thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.
Chris: Hi. No, you're welcome. Really excited to be here. Really looking forward to it. Hopefully gonna be a really interesting chat.
Michelle: Fantastic. So you know the spirit of the podcast and I wanted to interview you because you are a very active leader with social media. So can you just tell me a little bit about how you started using social media and indeed why?
Chris: It was primarily driven by our clients. So we deliver marketing communications for a whole range of different healthcare organizations. Probably 10, 12 years ago, those healthcare clients started getting interested in all the various digital channels and digital activities. As part of that ... I've always been quite obsessive about understanding and knowing how these various platforms work. So before talking to clients and recommending different approaches to them on how they should utilize these channels, I just wanted to understand a little bit about those. So got involved probably 12 years ago and started off a lot of the channels as they emerged and as they came out, I dipped in and out, I utilized them more at one point and then ignored them for two years and then got back involved with them. Really the driver was very much our clients and understanding how they could utilize those channels and therefore getting involved myself.
Michelle: And I love that because it's ... and that's a similar story to myself. You want to lead by example, don't you? You want to make sure that you've tested and you understand. It's almost like to stress test yourself so that you are educated to then advise the clients as to how they can be optimizing them.
Chris: Absolutely. And they are expecting from us as a company that we understand these channels in detail. I think ... Obviously utilizing them on a personal level and utilizing them on a corporate level is slightly different, but the fundamental principles are very much the same and understanding what works for you as an individual does have a big influence on what's gonna work for a corporation as well. Having that real in depth insight, I think you can only ... you can read about things, you can learn from other people, but you learn something more. You get an extra dimension from being engaged yourself in what works, how it works, why it works. It just allows you to bring a little bit extra to the conversation, have that little deeper insight on something, which are the only things really that separate one organization for another are those tiny little details, those tiny little insights. So that was kind of the motivator, was really trying to get underneath the skin of and understand these different channels. My use of them has evolved a lot from there, but that was the start point.
Michelle: And you know, just because that was the starting point, how skeptical were some of your clients at the outset? What's been that journey? Because there's a ... I know from my own experience, I spent a lot of years kind of convincing clients that these were important tools to get on board with because I think particularly up at the ... into the leadership level, there was an idea that, "Oh this is just about ..." you know, "This is nonsense. This is gonna take a lot of time. There's people sharing photographs of their breakfast. How's that gonna help us?" So what's been your journey in that, with that skepticism?
Chris: Well, I think there's still a lot of skepticism. So I don't think we're fully there with that journey. Everyone knows what social media is now, which 10, 12 years ago I'm not sure that a lot of people really understood even what it was or like you said, any level what it was about. Now I think people understand it, people are using it everyday because almost everyone is on Facebook. Even if that's simply just connecting in with their relatives and everything else. Everyone is using their phones to engage with people via WhatsApp. So there's not quite the same need to educate around the basic structure of it. But I think how it's used and how it can add value to organizations and to corporations particularly, there's still a lot of skepticism about whether it does or doesn't add value, about whether it's gonna create issues for you. Especially in the healthcare space, which we're in. You can inevitably attract some negative as well as some positive opinions.
Chris: You know, just look at the vaccination debate for example. We work for a number of companies that make vaccines. There's a huge anti-vax movement. So it can be quite controversial and companies are opening themselves up to the conversation. They're opening themselves up to the discussion when they engage on social media. And I still think there's a lot of education needed around how you can manage negative comments, how you can address those, how you derisk that for different organizations. So I think there's still a bit of skepticism there.
Chris: It's really just about highlighting what the positive opportunities are for people, the positive ways that you can engage, that you can reinforce your message, that you can create communities around the activities that you're having. So I think just nice and gently has been the approach that we've taken of just gently showing, "All right, let's do a pilot, let's test something out, let's try it on a small scale, let's try it with something less important than the primary brand, and let's then build from there making a proof case to show how social media and how some of the other digital channels are really adding value to the company and what those returns are."
Michelle: Yeah. And I think that's valuable because I think for some organizations, there was almost a panic. You know, "Oh, we've gotta get onto these channels." It is but you know it's test it, learn, iterate, test, learn, iterate, isn't it? So that they're doing it ... I think there's also something there as well about doing it on your terms in a way that works for you. It's not a one size fits all, is it?
Chris: Absolutely. And it depends hugely what your objectives are. I mean there's still a lot of healthcare companies that are not heavily engaged across social media. They might have one or two channels potentially that they're using, but they're not heavily engaged across a number of channels. And in some senses, them being slightly slow now actually looks smart in some senses. I think you're much better off, again depending on your objectives, to have a really strong presence in one or two channels from a social media point of view. Not from a marketing overall point of view, but from a social media point of view have a really strong presence in one or two channels and really get those channels right and really create that engagement and that positive reputation in those channels than to be trying to do every single channel, to be trying to do every new bit of social media that comes out, just for the sake of doing it and just for the sake of being there.
Chris: Actually that can be quite ... it can be quite damaging if you do a social media channel and you put a half parted effort into it. You're not fully engaged to it. And I think it can look part poor and many brands, when you look at their social media presence, they haven't really posted anything for a long time. They're simply using it as a megaphone to pump out their latest press release. They're not really creating anything compelling and engaging around it. So I think that that for me is a big lesson if you're gonna engage in a channel as a brand or as an organization, you really do need to think of it as a conversation and not just simply as a channel to pump out your latest new story.
Michelle: Absolutely. The listening piece is such an important part, isn't it, of having a conversation. It's not just about that broadcast, it's also about the ability to tune in and to really get a sense of what's going out there in your landscape.
Chris: Yeah, I think from a personal point of view ... I always think it sounds slightly ... a slightly corny thing to say, but from a personal point of view, I'm much more interesting in social as a listening tool than as a communication tool. Just by being ... One of the things I love about Twitter ... So Twitter is the place where I spend more time than any other social channel and primarily that's because you can engage with some of the cutting edge thought leaders in any sphere. So I happen to be a bit of a marketing nerd. I love marketing. I work in marketing. I'm really savvy at anything that I really do. But you can follow some incredible thought leaders who are writing amazing books, including people like yourself. You can engage with them in conversation, you can see the conversation that they're having, the data that they're posting, and they'll answer you questions.
Chris: So just from a ability to soak up the latest thinking, the debates that are happening, the trends that are emerging, certain social media platforms are absolutely incredible sources of information for people looking to develop themselves, improve their skillsets. I think social media offers an incredible kind of professional development tool if used in the right way and if you're focused on that listening component more than, I don't know, whether you can repost your latest blog, which has relatively limited value unless you are one of those kind of big, cutting edge thought leaders.
Michelle: Yeah, and I agree. And what's interesting about particularly a platform like Twitter, is that you can make a connection with somebody on Twitter and it's ... I mean more so than I find on LinkedIn, I find the connection on Twitter just so simple. It's almost like if people are on Twitter, they are absolutely open to have a conversation and they don't mind you contacting them and they'll come back. I mean pretty much everyone of the people that I interviewed for GetSocial, I just messaged them on Twitter. Most of these ... delete yourself on ... for either LinkedIn or Twitter are the places I would go to to say, "Hey, do you want to be on my podcast." So they're also brilliant for networking. Not just tuning in and listening but actually making content, making contact and developing those relationships.
Chris: Absolutely. It's amazing how being engaged and showing that you're listening to people leads to some incredible opportunities. So just by replying to people's posts, just by liking them, I've had lots and lots of people reach out with me in terms of private messaging saying, "We should connect. Next time you're in Boston, come and see me." And these are people who are very high profile. Professors of marketing, who are doing big speeches where they're charging £5,000 plus to go and talk with these congresses. And on Twitter you can just ask them questions, engage in conversation, get invited to come and look at the university. It's totally crazy from that point of view.
Chris: And the opportunities that follow you round, that come to you as opposed to you having to look for them I think are amazing. That to me is the huge benefit of social media that I think people don't necessarily talk about is the active listening part, not only in terms of the upskilling that it gives you, the insights that it gives you. But you're absolutely right, in terms of the connections that you make, the opportunities that come your way, it's absolutely incredible. And Twitter, I have found by far and away the best platform for that. LinkedIn I think is good in terms of an address book and a contact list. And people kind of ... I think often people find me on Twitter and then contact me through LinkedIn. But I think Twitter is a absolutely brilliant engagement platform. It's just fantastic from a professional point of view rather than a personal point of view.
Michelle: Yeah. I'm with you there Chris completely. So you've talked a little bit about he tools and the systems that you specifically use. It's predominantly Twitter, but obviously you have your professional presence on LinkedIn. Are you using any of the other channels personally? And if so, why?
Chris: Well I'm sort of weird in that I don't really do any personal social media. Not like family stuff. So I'm not on Facebook, which is kind of unusual. From a personal life point of view, I use WhatsApp, and that's really where all of my friends and all of the friend conversations that I have, they're all on there and my parents and everyone else. So they're all set up in groups on WhatsApp. But I have Instagram and also YouTube that I use to talk about marketing and I use to understand those platforms. So Instagram, I'll be honest, I don't really understand Instagram. I'm on there and I'm on there so that I can learn more about it. I've been on that for ages and I still don't understand it. But slowly but surely I think that's gonna sink in.
Chris: And it probably took me ... Again, I think this is gonna sound kind of strange, but it probably took me five years, six years to really understand Twitter. And it's fundamentally a very, very simple, straight forward platform, but once you start understanding that it's not so much about posting or retweeting other posts as it is about he conversation and the level of engagement. It took quite a long time to understand that and then to kind of build up and find the right people to follow and really understand the people who were engaging in conversations that I wanted to be part of.
Chris: And I haven't quite got there with Instagram yet. Who knows? It may take another five years to get there with Instagram. I know Facebook are making some changes to their platform that are more about creating conversations and more about written content and I think that may suit me a little bit more. YouTube I think is a big one for our clients. So it's one that I've invested a little bit of time in creating a channel, again, so that I can just understand that platform really well. It's also an incredibly social media platform. But again, slowly but surely understanding a little bit more about what works on there. So yeah, I've got a nice mix from a personal and family point of view. It's all just WhatsApp.
Michelle: Yes. So tell me a little bit about ... that makes sense. It makes sense for what you're doing. And of course you're learning and honing and you want to know what's going on within to be able to be informed about what your clients are doing, don't you? So it makes sense to kind of tap in. I do similar things myself. It's just ... I've gotta be there because I want to personally know about these channels. But yeah, you're right. It does take a bit of time to play with them. And of course, they're evolving all the time. I mean you just mentioned there, Instagram, they're making it more conversational. These things continuously, they evolve, the almost iterate in line with what's working with the people, with the humans, don't they?
Chris: Yeah. Well also it's really interesting because I don't really get Instagram and I probably use it in a terrible way. However, when you look at our company and you look at the engagement with our social media platforms, the engagement on Instagram from an employee point of view is head and shoulders above an other platform. All the guys who work here, they're all on Instagram, they're all relatively active on Instagram, they're all looking at our company Instagram feed. Lot's of people who are looking at us as employers are on there looking at that. We're connected to all sorts of weird and wacky people as a company in terms of Instagram. So as a social platform for engagement and setting the tone and culture of the company through social. Instagram is a phenomenally good platform for that.
Chris: And the people who are updating that for us from a company point of view do really get it and do really understand it and post interesting things and it's really helping us to create a kind of visual culture around the company that people are very brought into and enjoying and it's very kind of socially orientated. So I think that that's helping us both in terms of just bringing a little bit of joy to people who work here in terms of what we share there. So from that point of view, it's a brilliant platform. It's just that from my point of view, I struggle a little bit with it on a personal level. But a company level, it's fantastic.
Michelle: Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about how social media is embraced within your organization. Obviously you're leading by example. Not always leading at the front, let's say on Instagram. But you still acknowledge that you want to know about these tools because it's going on within our organization. So tell me a little bit more about how it's embraced within your organization and how teams are encouraged. Is that driven by you as the MD? Encouraging employees to get involved? I assume some of it's going to be by the nature of the work that you do for the services you provide to your clients. So just give me a flavor of how that all fits together.
Chris: Yeah. So I think we're quite advanced in the way that we think about it. I think it'd be fantastic. People can more than welcome to share some comments on the podcast if this is a real common practice, but I really don't think it is. One of the things that we've created is a role, which is someone who has this sort of working types and a champion of view. And the idea of this person is that people don't really want to hear from us as a company that much, but they're really interested in the individuals and our individuals here have big social networks. They have big networks with their clients and people are really interested in what they're doing. They're working on fantastic projects.
Chris: So what we've created is a role specifically to support people, create little pieces of content about some of the things they do here, the things that they're really proud of and the teams they're working with, and they way that their work is changing things for our clients. So they help them to create little pieces of content that they can share personally and we then support some of that content through our company channels. We just like it or we repost it in terms of our company channels.
Chris: But I think that that approach to supporting people to build their professional profiles through social media, it's not a case that ... I didn't hire anyone to go on social media or do stuff. I think it's a good idea and that's why I'm on there. But we actively have someone support everyone across the company to be able to use those channels in an effective way to build their professional profile and I think that that's probably quite forward thinking. I'm sure there are lots of other companies doing it, but from a individual point of view and I think from our company point of view, it's hugely beneficial and it's taking away one of the big constraints of people being able to use social media from a professional point of, which is content generation. How do I do it? How do I think about it? How do I make it really interesting and engaging and have the time to do it alongside doing everything else that I'm doing?
Chris: So we're taking away one of those challenges and one of those barriers. I actually find that once you do that and once you've actively invested in people in supporting them to do it, people are all over it. They love it, they think it's great because you're actively taking an interesting in the great work that they're doing saying, "Hey, you should be really proud of this. You should be talking about it and sharing it. We as a company are here to support you to do that." And in some senses that was inspired by a conversation I had on Twitter.
Chris: I posted out a question about ... I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was something to do with the company, which I do occasionally do. Whether we should do something or not do something. And one of the colleagues who works here with me replied, who'd never replied to me on Twitter before, I didn't even know he was on Twitter, came back and said, "You can make the company a fantastic place to work. You'll make it a fantastic place for clients to want to work with." His quote was actually slightly more elegant than that. But I thought that that was absolutely ... it was a brilliant quote. It was a brilliant insight from someone at the company in that we have to share as a company the brilliant stories, the pride that people here have. So we set about creating a plan to do exactly that.
Michelle: Fantastic. And I love that. And it's like you're ... I mean it's become part of the job, hasn't it? And I think this is where ... because there's a lot of ... I know I've done quite a few interviews with people management, organizations, around, "Well how do you manage your people with social media?" But this is really ... it's not managing them, it's empowering your people with social media. There was a similar conversation from Karen Bradshaw, not quite doing the same, but they introduced Facebook workplace and she said there was a lot of resistance around, "Oh, people might be wasting their time on social media rather than focusing on the work. But she said, "Of course what's happened is the conversations and the time spent talking and collaborating and discussing and being creative on Facebook, but in the workplace," she says, "have give people so much more freedom."
Michelle: And of course all the conversation now is so much more prod because it's all work focused, but it's almost like we've unleashed creativity and so much more innovation for the people rather than ... We've taken off the restraints and they're using it in the same way that they would use it externally. It's just driving a lot of positivity and innovation. So that's really wonderful. It's almost like you've created an internal influences network.
Chris: Yeah. I suppose ... yeah, I guess it is. I went slightly with the whole influence of things.
Chris: But yeah, you're right. We are doing that. And I think that that word empowerment, that's really important because when you look at ... We're a creative agency. There are tons of creative agencies out there. All those creative agencies do pretty similar things. They have access to similar talent. There's not ... We create huge point of difference for our customers but we don't have huge points of difference ourselves. Really the only difference between the different creative agencies is the talent inside that agency, what you empower it to do. The people can move round but the way that people feel about your organization, the way they feel about how you value what they do and how you empower them to do it, that is pretty close to being the only point of difference between us and anybody else. I can't imagine us turning around and saying, I don't know, "We're gonna monitor your social media use," or, "We're gonna do it," from my point of view, "culturally." That just ... I don't know. Well I don't know what the impact of that would be but it wouldn't be good.
Chris: Whereas I think that by empowering people and saying, particularly around the work that they're doing and showcasing the best of what we do and making that, putting that out into the public domain, I think that it just sends positive messages on so many different levels. And the other thing that we're doing to support that and also to support particularly the client side, is we're bringing in some external companies to have a look at what we do. So we're looking ... I mean what we want to do, cutting edge consumer digital companies want to do digital trainers who come in and train big groups of our people on. Just to make sure that we're not missing things. Just to make sure that we're at the very cutting edge of what's happening across the whole industry. Because you know it's quite easy to become siloed in your own organization and with your own thinking and not get exposure to what else is going on. And we found that tremendously valuable.
Chris: So we probably train ... there's about 125 people here. We've probably trained 30 or 40 people on what would normally only be reserved, I think, for very senior people in terms of digital strategy, how to apply it, what some of the tools are. That's been really ... That's really helped open our minds to what's possible, what we can do for clients, but also how we could be utilizing this to individuals as well. We try to be really open minded and open to what's happening everywhere else.
Chris: I think that that's one of the big benefits of social media is trying to be open. Trying to allow yourself to be influenced by other people, influenced by trends, influenced by new things that are happening and then apply those in a really practical way, either to what we do as a company, so what our teams do as individuals, or what we can do for clients and how we can help them embrace these same techniques, technologies, platforms, etc. So I think it's really helping us to be, cliché term, future focused as a company. It's terrible. You just can't get away from sounding like a marketing person.
Michelle: There's nothing wrong with marketing people.
Chris: No, I know. But it's just when you occasionally hear yourself say something that's just like a marketing cliché, being future focused, it's like something that's written on the mission statement, you just have to cringe at yourself. But I think it is really helping us to ... particularly to help our clients to be right at the forefront of what's happening, but to help ourselves as well through some of that.
Michelle: Yeah. I mean just ... and it's necessary, isn't it? Because things are evolving and moving all the time and you've got to keep on the pulse with it all. And that's a challenge. That is a challenge. I know when I was doing a lot of research, there's a lot of organizations that really struggle with keeping up to date with digital. There's another pieced of research I was just reading that's come out of Capgemini I think about digital transformation and the challenges that organizations are having. So what ... I should imagine this ... I mean what you're doing is really inspirational, but also for a lot of leaders that are thinking about, "We know we need to be doing more. We know we're not on the pulse as we need to be with digital." There's a lot of fear out there as well, isn't there, and overwhelm around what people should be doing, could be doing. What advice would you give them?
Chris: I think form an individual point of view, the people who are in senior roles, social media is terrifying. So I think the first thing to acknowledge, even when you've been heavily engaged and even when you do it for clients, it is terrifying when you start a new channel even, even if you've got a big presence elsewhere, you're really opening yourself up and making yourself vulnerable by going on social media. So I think it's a case ... I understand that actually everyone feels that way. But by opening yourself up to seeing other things that are happening and understanding actually that even if you're a expert in social media, there's a massive amount of things that you don't know or don't understand or haven't fully understood. And it's perfectly okay not to know everything. It's perfectly okay not to have loads of followers, etc. I would just say get out there and embrace it and get going on one channel to start with from a leaders point of view.
Chris: Organizationally, I think you can take one of two approaches to it. You can either say as a leader actually, "This isn't gonna be my bag, but we need to have someone really senior whose bag it is," and empower them to really get engaged and really get involved with it and really champion it throughout the company because it ... I think it's one thing bringing in big outside consultancies and we work with a lot of companies that are 100,000 people plus. They're massive organizations. And you're bringing in outside consultants who you're spending vast sums of money on. Unless you really have at least a reasonably good understanding of what these technologies, what the platforms are, how they're practically gonna be implemented when they're rolled out, what the consequences of putting in place certain structures or processes might be. You don't have to be an expert in all those things, but to have some level of understanding of it is absolutely vital.
Chris: Now other ways, you're gonna find yourself in a similar situation to that, the recent Accenture thing and the Hertz thing, where actually you're suddenly in the media being sued, having huge problems, having huge issues, rolling out these big projects. I think that there's a level of responsibility on senior leaders in those organizations to really understand a good level of the technologies and the platforms and the purpose and the objective and what the consequences of that may be. And if that's not you as an individual, you need to find someone within the organizational, employee someone in the organization who is empowered to be able to do those things really well.
Michelle: Yeah. I'm with you there. With regards to ... I mean you've been in this space for a while now, 12 years. What would you say has been ... there's probably been a lot of this, but what would you say has been your biggest learning so far around social activity? Is there anything that you kind of wish you'd known that you didn't know that would have made life simpler, easier?
Chris: That is a tricky question.
Chris: I think the first thing is to say that ... The biggest learning has been just how much I didn't know, and I still have that today. That goes both of the areas of interest of have, like marketing. I suddenly discover whole new things that I had absolutely no about, or I would consider myself pretty well read in the subject and in the topic. Similarly from a social media point of view, there is so much more that you can go out and learn, even if you're an expert on one channel. Starting another channel or broadening your activities across another channel, you suddenly have this huge new learning curve. I think that being open to learning, being open to understanding that there's a massive amount that you don't know, that I think is quite important.
Michelle: How do you feel ... I'm interested in this because it's an area that ... it's something I've witnessed over the years. How do you feel about social being able to connect the disconnect between the leadership team and the rest of the organization? Is there anything that you feel, or that you've seen or you've witnessed that plays out around that?
Chris: Yes. I think it ties into what you do as a leader organically anyway. As I mentioned, we're about 125 people. So it's kind of, relatively easy here to build one to one connections with people and for people to have a one to one link into what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. So I meet everyone who starts at the company, I try and talk to people at every opportunity about what they're doing and how they're doing things. And that's relatively easy with 125 people. I think the opportunity that social media gives you, that your internet gives you, that ... I don't know, whether you have a Yammer channel as a corporate channel. The opportunity there is that as you get bigger ... and the same goes for 125 people. It gives you more opportunities to have one to one conversations with people, to understand in a slightly less formal setting what people are concerned about, what's been miscommunicated.
Chris: What I find all the time that I talk to someone and after five minutes, they're saying something about an issue that I'm thinking, "But that's ..." I go, "Why are you talking about that? We're not doing that." And you get to the bottom of it and you address it. It's like Chinese whispers.
Michelle: It is.
Chris: I get communication out and it filters around the company three times and all of a sudden, I don't know, we're moving offices in three weeks time and I'm like, "Hold on. No we're not." "Hold on, why do I not know about this?"
Chris: But I think that social media gives you that fantastic opportunity to make sure that you don't have those ... or you minimize as much as possible those opportunities, the miscommunications. There's opportunities for people to feed back to you, there's opportunities to have one to one conversations. There's probably three or four people in the company who regularly engage with me on Twitter. I learn all sorts of interesting things from them and I ask questions on Twitter about things we should do as a company. I get input from within the business that I would not get if I put a post on our internet through Twitters because it almost has a sense of anonymity, even though you know who it is. So I think that it's just simply about extending the number of people who you can touch in a day, the number of people who you can touch in a week, who you can understand how they're feeling and what they're doing and they can understand how you're feeling and what you're doing.
Chris: Those one to one interactions make all the difference to how people feel engaged with the company, how they feel valued. If you see a great post from a work colleague and you comment on it and you reshare it, that gives people a real sense of love. It's a strange thing to say I suppose, but people really value the fact that you've seen them and recognized them, that you've engaged with what they're doing. It's hugely motivational. So I think that's where these internal tours ... or internal/external tours is using Twitter in both and internal and an external format.
Chris: They can just give you so much more opportunity to engage with people, to inspire them, to motivate them, to make sure that your communications are really coming through to them, and that they understand them. They don't have to agree, just understand makes a massive difference.
Michelle: Yeah. I agree. I mean I refer to that as walking the floor at scale. That's what they kind of enable you to do, don't they? So therefore, why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't you do that as a leader? So this has been a wonderful conversation Chris. I've really enjoyed it. So many wonderful insights and lots of different practical things that you're doing as an organization, which are hugely inspirational. I love that idea of empowering the people internally with content and really helping them to get their story out there, which of course is all adding kudos and creativity and gravitate to your story as an organization. Because as you say it's that point of differentiation, isn't it? It's the reality of getting the story that's going on inside and the expertise inside out there.
Chris: Absolutely, and sharing best practice because it's a great way for the other people who work here to see that we value those-
Chris: We're sharing them externally. But also to learn from what's happening because you're interesting in what your colleagues are doing. So when you see a post from your colleague, you're really interesting in reading it and learning it and you might never read that on the internet, but you see it posted through LinkedIn, you see them posting on Twitter. You might well have a look. So it's a great way for us to share best practice internally, but share best practice with the rest of the industry as well.
Michelle: And just on that point. I just ... When you were saying that, just to go back to that, I suppose there's a fear that, "Oh, you're building these people up to be experts, thought leaders in their own right, for want of a better word, and building their profile up, giving them this gravitas, giving them this expertise, helping them and supporting that. I suppose a number of organizations would say, "Oh but then they're gonna go and leave us. Why would we do that when we've invested all that time?" I know what my view on that is, but how would you counter that?
Chris: That's absolutely true. You totally open yourself up to your people being high profile to the recruiters and head hunters, phoning them up three times a day and offering them 10K to move into Central London. That is a risk and you just have to embrace it. For me, one of the things that's incredibly rewarding about being a leader and [inaudible 00:36:14] comments of a company is that we bring people in as graduates, we bring people in in their career, we help give them some really great skills.
Chris: If we can build their profile, great. And if they move on to other organizations and they build great careers, that's absolutely brilliant. What's even better is if they move onto those other organizations and they say, "Actually, do you know what? When we worked at Metacom, it was great at Metacom. They were really supportive and actually they were really engaged." If they're spreading that message around the industry, whether it's with our clients when they move to our clients, whether it's with other agencies, that long term is an incredibly positive thing for us. So a real aspiration for us as a company is that the people who leave feel really good about us as an organization. That doesn't always happen, of course. There's people who leave who aren't very happy with us. It always happens. But what we're really trying to do is we're really trying to make leavers advocates for us, whether they're in client organizations or other agencies. Long term I think that will have huge rewards for us as a business.
Chris: And we see people come back. There's lots of people who have been to other agencies, not like those other agencies so much, and come back to us, which is fantastic and really makes us happy because it's a real endorsement of what we do here.
Michelle: Yeah. And that's great long term, future focused thinking, isn't it?
Chris: Yeah, it's a more future focused ... and now I'm gonna have to put that on Twitter on somewhere.
Michelle: Good we get that in Chris. I love it.
Chris: Cliché term of the day. Future focused.
Michelle: Solo marketeer. So just finally before I wrap up with my quick fire questions that I wanted to shoot at you, you are a leader. You are leading in a highly digital, connected age. Things are speedier than ever before, there are new channels and tools at your fingertips. You are keeping at pace with those. You're invested in doing that as a modern leader. How do you feel that is? What would you say to other leaders about ... Is there a choice? We often hear adapt or die. What's your view about the future of leadership and how they're linked with digital and social?
Chris: I think it's one of those ... It's one of those interesting things because it's a little bit overplayed. What most people call leaders right now have already got themselves into a fantastic position, they've already built great careers, they're already doing super well. So there's not quite so much incentive for them around adapt or die. That's not really the reality for most people. But I think the reason I would say to start to engage with that, particularly for people who aspire to be leaders, is that as we move forward, your ability to connect to the community that you're part of, the business community that you're part of, the company community that you're part of, that's becoming ... Well I think that's always been incredibly important in the way inspire, the way you motivate, the way you empower people to do things. Not just within the organization, but across the industry. Social media is the best way now, the way to do that at scale.
Chris: So it's incredibly important if you're an aspiring leader to engage within the broader community for people to start to recognize who you are, that you say sensible things. It will undoubtedly lead to all sorts of opportunities to further your career, to get engaged with people who are at the cutting age of your profession to people who are leading that profession. So people who are already in leadership roles, I think it's about adding strings to your bow. Most people I know how are leaders are always looking for that new little edge, that new little advantage. I think you're missing a huge string to your bow if you're not engaged in some form of social media, even if it's purely to start to understand it, to understand why you need to have someone who is in your senior team who is an expert in it, who is leading it from a company point of view, where the mistakes that you could make as an organization might be.
Chris: So I don't think there's an adapt or die for people in leadership position right now. I think for emerging leaders and people with that aspiration, it's an absolute must because if you don't engage social media, you will not be ... or you're putting yourself at such a big disadvantage to those who are. Just in terms of the opportunities you are open to, you're really making it much more difficult for yourself. So yeah, I guess that was sort of a slight ramble, but hopefully that ramble [crosstalk 00:40:47] think about it.
Michelle: No, that's perfect. Yeah, that gives people a lot to think about. So this is my little ... I hope you don't mind me firing some quick fire questions at you, which is just a little bit I suppose behind the scenes. A little bit more learn about the leader away from the social and digital side of things. So I've got three questions for you Chris, before we round up.
Chris: Yep, I'm ready.
Michelle: So, if you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Chris: I would change the anti-vax movement. You look ... Vaccination does incredibly good things for populations around the world. There's this huge ... Well it seems to be growing, anti-vax movement. I would change that. Look to find a way to engage with those people and help seal the positive benefits of vaccination.
Michelle: Perfect. Okay, and obviously very aligned with the work that you do. So which book have you read recently that's inspired you?
Chris: This is so sad, but it's a book called Eat Your Greens, which is nothing to do with health foods and it is entirely about marketing effectiveness and it's absolutely ... I have to say it is a brilliant book full of short pieces from various different marketing leaders around the world and I've really learned some very interesting things from that. But it's terribly sad that it's a work book. I just look like a sort of strangely obsessed individual, which is kind of true. There you go.
Michelle: Look, I gave up TV five years ago to get through all the business books that I've bought over the years and Eat Your Greens is one of them. So it's a cracking book and I agree with you. I echo your praise for that book.
Chris: You're equally sad, if not sadder. At least I occasionally watch TV, so thank goodness for that.
Michelle: And what's the best piece of advice you've been given to date?
Chris: Oh. I think the best piece of advice I got given a very long time ago, which was about getting promoted. One of my clients said to me, funnily enough, said, "The way you need to think about promotion ... You need to look at the people who are two levels above you. Look at the types of things that they're doing, look at the way that they think about it. Take the traits and the things that they do really well and try and apply them in your role. By doing that, your behaviors will align with the behaviors of the people making the promotion decisions about you and that will help you to progress through the organization." It was dead right. I really tried hard to do that. To look around at the different people who were senior to me and the real strengths that they had and replicate some of those behaviors and apply them to what I was doing at my level. I think that that really, really helped me. That kind of idea of copying the things that you think are great about the way other people do things.
Michelle: Yeah. I mean be the change, isn't it? Fantastic. Brilliant. Okay, well Chris it's been an absolute pleasure and a delight to interview you. It's been hugely insightful, very inspiring, and loads of practical insights there to share with our listeners. So I'm just gonna leave with saying a huge big thank you to you.
Chris: Thank you very much. It's been a very interesting and engaging conversation. So delighted to be here, thank you.