Rupal was joined on stage for a panel session by Chris Teague, Co-founder of People Activation, and Amanda McKenna, former Co-founder of the UK's largest independent digital agency, turned angel investor and strategic consultant.
Chaired by our very own Katie Bolas, Project Director at Gather, it was a lively discussion around the challenges of heading up a business and leadership agility.
A common theme was the importance of managing your time and taking control of your routine.
Chris Teague reflected on the importance of “freedom”. He says he “hates routine” but “my wife says I’m the most routine person she knows”. For Chris creating the space to do the things that energise him – the run in the morning or the Friday decompression pint with a friend – are vital.
This resonated with Amanda McKenna too who is “not good at flow and being organic” as she put it, “I find myself spinning lots of plates, young children, work, I need to compartmentalise my time. There are things I just have to do to set myself up for the day, like banking exercise first thing.”
Rupal shared how she’d taken time to outline her personal energy map, to make the most of the natural rhythms and internal shifts in energy we all have. As leaders “we do get to control at least some of our time” and by aligning our energies with our activities we can avoid some of the “friction we feel in our day-to-day lives”. Pay attention to when you feel creative and schedule writing and presentations for that time and when you’re feeling more introspective get stuck into some strategy.
On the subject of agility, Chris shared how at People Activation, they have worked to bake agile rhythms into their team culture. It’s less a way of working and more a way of thinking that allows people to respond in the most appropriate way to meet customer needs and create value. “From day one, we wanted to build a culture of empowerment – rather than telling people what to do, we ask people what do you think?” It’s an ongoing challenge and 17 years on “it can still be slow and frustrating at times” but they see people thrive when they are empowered to use their judgement to respond to challenges.
Reflecting on her journey taking a business from a team of two to a headcount of 300, Amanda recognises she was too "in the weeds in the early days". It's a challenge she sees with many of the leaders she now coaches. For her, "true agile leadership is when leaders take the role of visionaries, architects and coaches, empowering the organisation, setting them on the path and nurturing them on the way".
She added that "too many companies don't approach team and team optimisation as a broad discipline". Think about a football coach, after a game, the team comes together and they talk over what went well, how the team could improve, and what to build on for the next match. These perpetual learning questions are conversations not had enough, especially when we're having to adapt and shift during times of frequent change.