Leadership in PR: a day in the life of an MD
This week, Babel Consultant Jessie sat down (virtually) with Jenny Mowat, to find out more about leadership in PR, and the day to day life of an MD.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Before lockdown, my day started early with a quick gym session ahead of my commute where I’ll read the news and catch-up on emails. Then, once I arrive at the office, I’ll embark on a day full of meetings, calls, creating business proposals and planning for the business, with intermittent breaks for fresh air and coffee!
I’m then out of the office door by 4:45pm to make the train home, where I continue to catch up with emails or read a good book, before collecting my sons from nursery. Once they’ve had a quick snack and bath, they’re in bed by 7:15. I then spend my evenings relaxing by cooking, chatting with my husband, checking emails, heading to the gym or out with friends if I’m switching up my morning routine, and watching TV. I’m always in bed by 10 – I need my sleep!
What led you to your current role?
I was on maternity leave with my second child, who was seven months old at the time. I had originally been interviewing for in-house roles, but changed my mind about going back to agency life after my first interview with our COO, Narelle. I knew I wanted a new challenge that took me beyond just leading a portfolio of accounts within a large agency – I wanted to be able to make changes and follow my gut, and I quickly realised Babel was the perfect place for me to do that.
Narelle asked me how I would feel about taking on the challenge of running an agency, without having to worry about paying the office’s electricity bills on time, or having constant meetings with accountants and suppliers. Hearing Narelle’s own story about having her children just a few years after co-founding Babel gave me the confidence boost I needed to take on the role. I was committed to getting the job from my first interview and I haven’t looked back since.
What is the most challenging part of your role?
Prioritisation. I work a four-day week, and it’s important to me that I spend my Fridays outside of the office, and focus on myself and my family. So when I’m in the office, I have to ensure I am setting clear deadlines for myself and my team to ensure all tasks are completed and reviewed as efficiently as possible, and ultimately to really stretch us to our next goal.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
My team, without a doubt. I get a euphoric buzz every time we achieve something as a collective, when someone gets a national hit or convinces a client to do something a bit different. It’s massively rewarding to see Babel’s teams develop and thrive, and for team members be promoted.
I’ve been involved in team development since I became an Account Manager. I love that you can see the impact you have on someone’s career and achievements, just by taking the time to talk through and explain things, rather than expecting them to understand and deliver without your guidance. Investing in your team is crucial for honing your own skills and personal development, they go hand in hand.
What is the most important part of your role?
The continued growth of the agency and delivering amazing results with business impact for our clients. From building revenue levels and service capabilities and offerings, to spearheading creative campaigns and team development: it’s all about delivering great results with measurable impact.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My dad has always told me, surround yourself with awesome people. You can’t achieve everything by yourself, you need the right people around you to achieve your collective goals.
What advice would you give to others in the industry?
Always remember you are a team. Collaborate, communicate, support each other, and be kind.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. When starting out in my career, I always cared too much about the tiniest of negative comments, to the point where I would become upset and take that home with me. I’d tell my younger self to think about the bigger picture. Step back and take a minute to think about the situation from someone else’s perspective. Consider the person who’s just aimed a bad comment at you, and the pressure they might be under. Chances are, they are taking out their own stress on you because their boss has done the same to them.
Once you understand the problem behind the situation you’re facing, map out scenarios and solutions to deal with the problem and overcome it. You’ll stop feeling so stressed if you are proactively doing something to make the situation better. Then, once the immediate issue is resolved, take it full circle and think about what you can do to prevent the same thing happening again in the future.
How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
It’s an endless juggling act. I have support from my husband and an amazing nursery and babysitter. I make it a priority to set clear boundaries between my personal and professional commitments, so I have the occasional bit of time to myself as well.
Why do you love your career?
I love that we get to genuinely influence what people see and hear from brands. No two days are the same, and I’ve had the opportunity to, and continue to, work with very talented people.
Best ways to de-stress outside of work?
I love cooking. In fact, my friends often joke about my alter-ego ‘Marge’, the over-mothering provider who loves cooking en masse. I often indulge in some naff TV and a glass of wine while cooking too. Beyond that, I’m a fan of spin classes. Since the lockdown, I have also been following some great online HIIT tutorials and taking walks while listening to podcasts.
How has COVID-19 changed your role and the way you manage employee wellbeing?
We have settled into remote working/life quickly, but I have found we’ve needed to be more creative and proactive with keeping employees connected. While catch-ups usually happen naturally when you’re all working in the same office, I’m making it a priority now to set myself reminders to check in with people. Whether it’s taking virtual tea breaks to talk about what we’re getting up to outside of work, hosting quiz nights, arranging individual check-ins, or running all-team calls first and last thing to check in on daily priorities and highlights; we have had to develop a more structured approach to keeping employee wellbeing front of mind.
What have you changed to adapt to working during a lockdown that you would like to continue when the lockdown is lifted?
I have always been pro flexible working, be it working from home, or working flexible hours, and I think the changes we have made to adapt to the lockdown have proven this can and should remain a priority for everyone.
Beyond that, I have learned that we all need to take the time to have non-work chats once we’re back in the office. It’s easy to end up so head down on work that we forget to ask how someone is, or what they’ve been up to. We’ve also been making our team catch-ups and socials more fun with quizzes and fun facts, and I’d like to continue that once we’re back in the office.
Jessie Beach-Thomas, Consultant