The politics of hate and despair

I was once called a political animal. My blood ran Labour Red. My nickname is RedRobbo. At one point not so long ago I could never have imagined leaving the Labour Party, never mind consider voting for another political party. But if a week in politics is a long time, 10 years can be devastating. 

I joined the Party in 1997 when I started university. Like most of the country, Tony Blair inspired me. He gave me hope. He gave me opportunity. And he made me believe that I, a working class girl from the west of Scotland, could be anything I wanted to be. 

The Labour Party then stood for equality, opportunity, fairness, support for the most vulnerable, celebration of the most successful. It was a Party that wanted to change the country for the better.

When Blair left 10 years ago, I knew things were going to change. I knew Brown would be the next leader, and I knew we would lose the next election. What I hoped was that it would be a wake up call, and that we would choose a candidate that was as progressive as Blair had been in 1995. But no, we choose Ed and the progressives in Labour fell silent. Then we choose Corbyn and it was Armageddon. 

The result of the EU referendum, and the lacklustre destructive role of Corbyn made my membership of the Labour Party untenable and I resigned in June 2016. At that point I hoped to return when a new leader and new progressive agenda was developed. But I now believe that will never happen. 

The decision last night regarding Ken Livingstone’s anti-semetic views and conduct is the most disgraceful thing I have seen in recent years. The Labour Party has become a political vehicle that is no longer a safe space or living the values that I believe progressive politics are about. 

Worse it sends a message to Jewish families like mine, right from the core structures of the party that hatred of Jews and Holocaust revisionism are a mild inconvenience. I don’t need to quote anyone to know how putting a party like that in government might end.

The Labour Party has become representative of the politics of hate and despair. Corbyn and his cronies should be deeply ashamed. But they are not.

http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/uk_58e4b71fe4b0d0b7e1663303

There are still some great MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Some great councillors across the country. Some great members knocking on doors. But they are now the minority. The British people don’t want to hear from Labour any more. The ship is sinking fast and for those that believe in progressive politics it is time to abandon ship. It is time to offer the British people something new. Something exciting. It is time to offer us a glimmer of hope. 

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Don’t leave your door open, leave yourself open

I’ve always prided myself as being a door open, approachable, fun colleague. As I’ve got more senior I’ve tried to maintain that, and I’m not afraid to admit that it’s hard. I also totally subscribe to the mantra, that in work, it is better to be respected than liked. So it is a really difficult balance to strike!

I read this article today and it really made me think about how I can make myself more accessible and approachable to colleagues at all levels. 

https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-problem-with-saying-my-door-is-always-open?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social

One thing I’ve done since returning from maternity leave is hot desking all over the office. It has given me the opportunity to get to know people who joined when I was out. But also for them to see that I’m just like them in many ways. I like the same tele, food, wine, travel. It also lets them see the work I do. On clients. On new business. Helping the business to grow in any way I can. I think, and hope, it is making me more accessible. 

Many things struck me about this article, but this piece of advice cut deep:

‘carefully holding your tendency for extraversion in check so that others get a moment to speak up’

I’m terrible at this! I know I’ve got a big personality, I know my brain operates at 100 miles an hour, I know that I can dominate a conversation, I know that I can get carried away quickly….. I’m very aware of it, and I need to get better at managing it. 

So here’s my goal for the next 3 months (apparently that’s how long it takes to form a habit) I’m going to try and be the last person to speak in meetings (or at least not be in the first 3!). I’m going to write down my first thoughts, then I’m going to actively listen to every single person, and then I’m going to see what impact there is on my own opinion and point of view. 

This is not going to be easy for me. And I’ll need some of my colleagues to keep me in check. But hopefully it will make me a better colleague, a stronger leader, more accessible to people at all levels. And the impact? Surely it will mean we make better decisions. 

I’ll report back in 3 months.

Women of the world, rise up. 

On international women’s day, I’m going to be spending my time at the #omniwomen conference in London. Sourrounded by successful, motivated, and talented women from across the Omnicom companies, I’m certain I’m going to learn a thing or two. But I also want to use the day to make connections, to share experiences, and to challenge myself on what more I’m going to do for the women in my life. 

It’s incredulous that in 2017 women are still not treated equally to men. Whether it is the pay gap, representation in parliaments, representation in board rooms, or share of voice in the media, despite all the progress made, woman are still behind men. 


I used to think that we were all masters of our own destiny. That if you worked hard enough, and delivered results, you would be rewarded based on that. I’m a firm believer in fairness and meritocracy. But I was wrong. Gender continues to be front and centre as a barrier in the workplace. 


So here is my pledge to all the talented women in my life. I will be your champion.  

If you need help, ask. And even if you don’t think you do, I will probably offer it anyway. As women we need to work together, to rise up, and challenge every single day the inequality we see around us. We need to offer the hand of frienship. We need to be proactive in mentoring, promoting, and partnering with the great women all around us.

I’m honoured to work with women who inspire me every day. And I’m lucky that I have a personality that tries to smash through barriers without a second thought. I’m going to use those two things for the benefit of women everywhere. 

So I want to end with saying thank you. To the women in my daily life, and the women I work with at Ketchum, you all help make me stronger, and for that I’m very grateful. 

That tingling feeling

We’ve got a huge pitch today. A global team has been working on it for a month. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Love. Laughter. And a million deck changes….. Agonising over ever word, every image, how to start, and how to finish. 

I wish when I had started my career I’d kept count of how many pitches I’ve done. Like a midwife keeps count of babies delivered! How many wins. How many losses. How many where the client seemed to disappear and we never even got a result. 

I could have wrote a book. The chapter about the one where we had the wrong company name throughout the deck and didn’t notice until the CFO pointed it out to us (the shame). The one where every client in the room was on their blackberry from beginning to end (and we won – go figure). The one where we got a standing ovation (and lost). The one where we got the start so wrong we just closed the laptop and continued freestyle (we won!). The one where we pitched in February, thought it had gone dead, but got a call in November to say we had won. The one where we went to the wrong address and ended up over an hour late…. we didn’t even get to do our presentation. 

Every pitch team, everywhere in the world has a story to tell. For me, the most important thing is the team spirit, the fun, the creative. It’s the process of putting together our masterpiece and then giving it all we’ve got when it is showtime. You always learn something new in a pitch. So it’s never wasted time. 

This morning I’ve got that tingling feeling. I’m excited. I can’t wait to share our thinking, our ideas, but most of all I can’t wait to show off about the team. One of the best I’ve ever worked with. 

The tingling feeling is the best. It means we are ready. It means we have enough juice in the tank to smash it in the room. It means we are going to give it our best shot, and who can ask for more than that? Wish us luck. 

What the world needs now…..

Life is short and full of surprises. If 2016 taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected, and not always in a good way. 

There has been a rise in me first attitudes all over the world. Everyone is looking for someone to blame for what’s wrong in their own back yard, and it is easier to blame people who are different to them. The difference doesn’t matter. It can be the colour of skin, religion, gender, sexuality, or even just different attitudes to how life should be lived. 

The right have done an incredible job of exploiting these fears, while those of us on the centre or the left have been too quiet and too slow to challenge and offer alternatives. 

You don’t need to be influencing policy on the national stage to make a difference. In fact, it could be even more powerful if we start with the people closest to us day-to-day. How? See the best in people. Assume that they are doing things for the right reason. Challenge rude or bad behaviour. Reach out and offer help to someone just because you can. 

I’m an optimist. I believe that if enough of us can show kindness, to our friends, our family, our colleagues, our community…. if enough of us can be the good we want to see – then that is enough to turn the tide. We’ve been quiet for too long. We’ve been afraid to challenge for too long. What the world needs now is love, and we all have enough of it to drown out the hate currently dominating the news agenda. 

The next chapter

All too soon the time has come for me to return to work full time, and goodness I didn’t realise how hard it would be. 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love work. I have great clients, I enjoy the thrill of going after new business, I love the social interaction and solving challenges as a team, and I’m partial to smashing a target or two. So you would think that I couldn’t wait to get back in the thick of it again? And in once sense I can’t. I’m excited. I’ve got a whole bunch of new ideas that I’ve been thinking about. I’ve got a fresh perspective on what’s important and how to get to where we need to get too. So yes, I’m excited to get back to it, but I’m also incredibly sad. 

I never knew that I would love maternity leave as much as I have. There is not a moment of the past 6 months that I didn’t love. Keir is funny, playful, loving, and just a little bit cheeky. I had no idea such a young baby could have such a big personality. He charms everyone he comes in to contact with, and through the winter months he has been a complete ray of sunshine. If I’m really honest I just don’t want to leave him, and I’ve shed a few tears over the thought of it.


It’s the first time in my life where I’ve wished there was a way to be in two places at once. And to manage it I’ve set myself a few guidelines:

– focus on the things that will have the biggest positive impact both at work and at home 

– know when good is good enough 

– commit to a maximum of 2 evening engagements a week

– be a role-model for flexible working 

– don’t sweat the small stuff 

– spend Friday nights as a family

– ensure every interaction with Keir, no matter how small, is full of love and fun…. and always has a huge hug

I’m sure once I’m in a routine things will start to fall in to place and I’ll find the right blend between work and home. I’ll definitely be seeking tips from other working mums, and there are some great role-models at Ketchum. You don’t have to choose between being a great businesswoman and a great mum – I’m determined to be both and unapologetically simultaneously so, not as two somehow dissonant halves. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m certain it is going to be worth it. 

Wish me luck!

2016 was simply the best

I’m sure a few people had a double-take when they read my blog title. There is so much despair and hatred towards what’s gone on in 2016 that I don’t blame you. From Britain leaving the EU, to Trump, and the horrors of Syria, 2016 hasn’t been  the world’s finest moment. 

But for me personally, 2016 has been the best year of my life. In the first 6 months I found my stride as Deputy CEO of Ketchum, learning new skills and embracing different styles. I got to know so many more people that I work with as people and discovered passions and talents that I simply didn’t know we had. My new role has given me a fresh passion for the communication industry, and also a firm belief that Ketchum has the ingredients to be the best, most innovative, and most sought after agency in the world. I’ve still got a lot to learn, and our agency still has much to do, but it’s an exciting time and we will make the most of it. 

The second half of the year has taken my breath away. My little baby Keir made a dramatic entrance following 43 hours of Labour on the 14th of July at 0218. He is spectacular in every way. I did not know that I could love another human so deeply and so unconditionally. I did not know how things that had been such a priority and had huge significance in my life would become secondary to this tiny human that I am responsible for. I’ve found absolute joy in every second that I have spent with him in 2016 and he has made me refocus my time and energy. I’ve managed to keep close to work without it encroaching on this special time. I’ve always believed in fairness, equality, meritocracy, work hard/play hard, fun, adventure, success, laughter, friends, family.  Not one of these has changed. In fact they have become deeper beliefs. I’m committed, more than ever, to doing small things that can have a big impact to try and make the world a better place. For Keir, and for all of us. 

So whilst right wing thinking seems to be on the march all over the world and progressive ideas are having to work 100 times harder to be heard, I’m not disillusioned, I’m determined. Those of us in the centre (left and right) must come together to fight extremism in all its form, to promote tolerance and acceptance, and to make arguments about ideas that the masses can believe in and get behind. 

So if you have a project or a nugget of an idea, I’d love to help you. Probably in a small way, but every little helps – right?

2016 has been my best yet. But I know for many of my friends it has been a long hard slog. So whilst I will say goodbye and cheers tonight, I know not everyone will. Let’s hope that 2017 can be a year to remember for everyone for the right reasons. It won’t happen by magic, we all need to work at it. As my mum always said to me when I was growing up ‘you get back whatever you put in’, so let’s put in all we’ve got and see the amazing results that will bring. 

Happy new year. Health and happiness to each and every one of you.