For this edition of Future Leaders – we boarded the ‘Mary of Guise’ Barge, captained by David Amers, Planning Partner for the Leith Agency.
With over 30 awards for effectiveness, including the inaugural Marketing Society Scotland Agency Star in 2010, David has an extensive career in planning and qualitative research.
David began his career however as a History teacher. After fondly reminiscing and showing us a photograph of his staffroom days – David revealed how effective leadership does not stray too far from the classroom dynamic.
How to be an effective leader
In order to be an effective leader, you need to nurture your colleagues. In a senior position, you have the benefit of experience – use this weighted insight to protect and nourish your team.
Furthermore, guide younger colleagues to adopt leadership qualities. If you practice high quality leadership, they can be inspired and encouraged to guide their peers.
2. Lead with praise
Secondly, effective leaders begin the conversation with praise. David drew on his teaching experience that if a child receives 7/10 in a test – you do not highlight the 3/10 errors first. Likewise, in the workplace, open with what a colleague, client, or agency has executed well, then suggest potential improvements and amendments. No one achieves 10/10 - especially not at history.
How to be an effective planner
1. Ask others for help
Even as a senior planner, David stressed that you cannot be an effective planner on your own. Underpinned by time pressures, creative fatigue and unshifting brain fog, asking for external help is a strength. Creatives, strategists, family, partners – they can provide a refreshing boost of perspective on a brief or idea.
2. Listen, distil and clarify
Stop reading. Listen. Have you taken a moment of silence today?
Throughout this discussion David highlighted that listening is an underrated skill for effective planning. For example, if we listen well and consequently respond with relevant questions, we will get more constructive and insightful responses from our clients.
Next, once we have received this information, effective planners distil and clarify the content. Do not just write everything interesting down. Focus on the ‘why’. Ask ‘why is the client spending money with us?’ Can we distil this brief or idea down to 25 words?
A creative director cannot save an empty idea. There is no great idea without substance.
Jaws was pitched as ‘shark attack’. Apollo 13 can be summarised as ‘Houston, we have a problem.’
Distil and clarify your idea in order to execute an effective plan. If you cannot think through an idea clearly, you will never be able to express yourself clearly.
3. Be brave
Effective planners are not always successful planners. Towards the end of the discussion, David highlighted that ideas will not always land. You need to have confidence that your ideas may be rejected or critiqued. Secondly, an effective planner needs to be brave and adopt a fearless opinion. Understand that a provocative idea moves a product forward. Ultimately, a client does not come to an agency if they do not have a problem.
In summary David highlighted that an effective leader must nurture and lead with praise, and that an effective planner must ask for help, distil ideas, and be brave in their opinions. But which is more important– effective leadership or effective planning? David concluded this Future Leaders event by stressing that it is both. This Venn diagram cross over is the sweet spot. The smooth sailing so to speak.
Reviewed by Sarah Baillie, Account & Marketing Manager at StudioLR.