Event Review: Future Leaders with Fiona Burton

Emma McKale, Cutitronics

Good Leaders: May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

The first event from our 2021 Future Leaders programme was delivered by Fiona Burton, Client Partner at The Leith Agency and Chair of the Marketing Society Scotland.  Fiona also chairs the equality, diversity and inclusion taskforce which was the theme of her presentation; leading a discussion on how progress across these important areas will help us to build a more enlightened, progressive and vibrant marketing community. 

Before the main session we were invited to share our word for this year.  Optimistic, empowered, patient, kindness, balance, anticipation, intrigue, hopeful, unpredictable and reset were just a few of those declared.  Overall, I think there’s a genuine sense of positivity about the opportunities ahead in 2021.

Describing herself as an intersectional human, who is part of a multi-race family, Fiona admitted that she often finds it difficult to share insights from her personal life in a professional setting.  Fiona provided an insightful snapshot of her life before offering up her top recommendations and anecdotes to guide us on our own journey’s to leadership.

1. Take Risks

Fiona talked of convincing her Leith colleagues to throw caution to the wind when pitching for new client, conservation charity WWF.  She recounted replacing the standard agency creds pitch with a riskier “let’s just talk about the client” approach.  The risk-taking paid off and resulted in Leith winning the business to deliver a highly impactful film to support WWF’s Time is Running Out campaign, rallying all of us to take immediate action to avoid the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest https://youtu.be/uG08HAuYSPc

Fiona also shared a more personal anecdote recalling her decision to leave her first agency job for a “start-up”. A risk her then manager was less than supportive of.  However, this risky move paid off enabling Fiona to gain a breadth of business experience that she would otherwise not have got.  It also gave her the chance to work with her dream client, Disney Pixar.  A move that subsequently brought her to the attention of the directors of The Leith Agency.

2. Know Who You Are

For much of her career, Fiona was a self-professed workaholic and in her own words, actively ignored certain elements of her life. And she certainly didn’t let any of the 9 protected characteristics define her career.

What changed this bullet train approach to life was the harsh reality of a kidney transplant and the associated time to contemplate her life choices. Fiona quickly realised the need to transfer her passion for work across all sections of her life.  Within 6 months of recovery Fiona ran a 10K, was travelling more, became more bolshy and fully embraced her youth and sexuality.

3. Ask for What You Want

Fiona asked us to consider the last time we asked for what we really want, reminding us that it’s highly unlikely that people at the top of their profession got there passively.  They ask what they need to do to get there and then do it.  And this rings true for both our personal and professional lives.

The advice is simple, ask for what you want!  Pay rise?  Promotion?   Speak to your manager and find out what steps you need to take to get there.  If they’re unwilling to support you, then Fiona encourages voting with your feet because “nothing brilliant ever happened from standing still”.  Remember, it’s about taking calculated risks and being true to yourself.

4. Challenge and Make Change

We’re all highly aware of the importance of diversity in the workplace.  We recognise the need to accurately represent the diversity that currently exists within the Scottish marketing community and actively encourage a diverse range of people to consider future careers within marketing.

Essentially, we can all do something to support diversity.  Client side we should consider what suppliers we work with and who we choose to commission.  Reviewing them often to ensure they still meet our needs and not being scared to challenge whether they are committed to diversity and inclusion.  Agency side it’s about reviewing suppliers regularly.  Are you only using the same trusted names and faces?  Can you do more to demand better diversity and inclusivity?

And remember, if you don’t like it?  Challenge it and change It!

Closing what was a lively and engaging session, Fiona summed up by reminding us:

“You are the most interesting tool you bring to work.  Bring your full self – supportive and open-minded”.

Review by Emma McKale, Marketing Manager at Cutitronics. @woodel29


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