Over the past 7 years, I’ve had the privilege of being part of one of Australia’s smartest companies.
PHD has been my professional home for the best part of the last decade, and I couldn’t have asked for a better workplace. I was allowed to learn, to grow, to experiment, and to lead in an environment which encouraged me to find a better way, every day.
I have to admit, I was slightly nervous coming in, as the general feedback I was getting from colleagues and contemporaries was that people move from agencies to brands, not the other way around. In the end though, I have no doubt that it was the best move I could possibly have made!
By any metric you care to look at, PHD Australia have enjoyed tremendous success over an extended period. Fantastic client and media relationships, significant growth, great culture, and award wins in and outside of our industry.
You don’t hang on to such a wild ride without learning a thing or two, so as I move on to a new challenge, I thought it worth reflecting on this experience, and sharing some of the valuable lessons:
1. Culture is everything
Culture is not a half-day bubble football experience or a ping-pong table. Culture becomes evident when teams are under pressure, when there are major projects to tackle, and backs are against the wall. It can be seen in the way people pull together during these moments.
In essence, culture is the way that people in your organisation interact with each other.
It is not how proud people feel to wear the colours of your organisation, because frankly, that’s almost impossible for any organisation to do, but how proud people feel to wear the same colours as their colleagues.
Culture can not be manufactured, and it is almost impossible to impose, so if you’ve managed to assemble a team of passionate and responsible people, stand back, and let culture happen.
2. A job title does not make a leader
Leadership is not a position that can be given, it’s one that has to be earned. What makes it somewhat tricky is that it’s not really a position that you earn from your superiors, it’s one you have to earn from your colleagues, and continue to earn from your team.
Your boss can make you a manager, but only your colleagues can make you a leader.
3. Be bold
Challenge the status quo.
“It’s always been this way” isn’t a reason for something to continue to be this way.
I’m not suggesting charging in half-cocked demanding change, but if you find the opportunity to optimise or innovate, gather the evidence required to create a compelling challenge to the existing narrative, and get people on your side.
Help them understand how change can benefit them. Demonstrate that you’ve done the research and considered the risks, and if you truly believe in the cause, persist with it.
Sometimes the time isn’t quite right, but once you’ve pointed out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, his nakedness will soon start to make others uncomfortable too.
4. Burst your bubble
Don’t be #teamdigital or a traditional purist or a social evangelist. It’s tedious and ultimately unhelpful. Be team “get the best results”. After all, its all communication, just delivered through different mechanics. There is a place for every tactic, innovation and buzzword, but that place isn’t “everywhere”.
By broadening your understanding and opening up to other disciplines, you increase the tools in your belt that will allow you to solve problems.
Any artificial fence you recognise is one you allow to fence you in.
5. Be yourself and have fun
I know doesn’t always feel like it, but it’s important to remember that outside of the occasional baby saving campaign, we’re not really saving babies.
A bit of perspective goes a long way to clear thinking and decision making, and ultimately allows you to be yourself. Trying to be something you’re not is a job on top of the job you’re already trying to do, and can be a major distraction. People appreciate the honesty in sincerity, so don’t be afraid to fly your flag.
By coming to work naturally, you allow your work to come naturally.
I look forward to taking these lessons with me in my journey forward and hope that in sharing, others might find some value in my experience.
I couldn’t be more grateful to the team at PHD for the past 7 years and can only hope I’ve taught even a quarter as much as I’ve learned here.