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. 

The future of work

During my maternity leave I’ve had the chance to reflect on the changing working environment. There’s a lot of talk about flexibility, but it is very difficult to find businesses or organisations who truly embrace and encourage flexibility. 

Outdated working environments stifle creativity and flexibility.  Allocated desks. Landlines. 9-5 in office hours. Hierarchy. These all contribute to old school attitudes. 

Now don’t get me wrong, many people cling to these things as solid foundations. They make the workplace feel comfortable and safe. Some of them, like my own desk, are things that I value. But do they really set the right environment for doing the best and most exciting work? Does it empower people to be masters of their own destiny? Does it make people accountable for themselves, their teams and the quality of the output?

The workplace of the future, in my view, will be less static and more fluid. There will be less rules and more accountability. Costs will be lower so rewards can be higher. There won’t be talk about work/life balance, because work and life will blend seamlessly to create a happy and healthy workforce. 

The reason so few businesses and organisations have achieved this is because there is a fear of the unknown. A lack of trust and a nervousness that some employees might abuse the system. And a desire for senior management to be able to see, organise and control what goes on in their organisation. 

So my 3 commitments as I return to work as a senior leader are:

To listen more: What will make work more enagaging, more fun, more seamless for everyone. 

To be braver: Break down hierarchy and barriers, interfere less, encourage talented colleagues to be masters of their own destiny, say YES even more than I did previously. 

To lead by example: work flexibly, be accountable, reward the right behaviours, attempt to blend work and life seamlessly and hopefully get great results along the way.

My return to work is exciting, but it is also daunting. How will I achieve everything I want to at home and work? Flexibility is the answer and the future is really only ever a day away.

Another referendum…. please no!

I don’t know about you, but I am electioned & referendumed out! 

I’m sick of of being on the losing side whether that is in Labour leadership elections, general elections, or referendums. I seem to be in the minority in all of these recent contests. 

The last time I was on the winning side was the Scottish referendum. And although we won the vote, we didn’t necessarily win the argument. 

The referendum was ugly. It showed a side to Scotland that I don’t want to ever see again. Families and friends were torn apart over it. So Sturgeon’s announcement today made me groan in despair. At a time when we are going through huge constitutional change with Brexit, she is just throwing more fuel on the fire. This will only further destabilise our economy and make businesses have even more doubts about their future in the UK. 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-37634338

I fear that the time for reasoned arguments and logical discussion has long passed. Truth no longer exists in British (or Scottish) political discourse. I’m afraid that we will look back on this time in British politics as the moment we lost our economic, cultural, and political standing in the world. The fact that we’ve done it to ourselves is just horrifying. 

I hope this announcement is just political gesturing from the SNP and this will be kicked in to the long grass. But I doubt it. 

My son is growing up in a time where the majority seem to feel that division and isolation is the way to make Britain, or Scotland, a better country. I’ll do everything I can to teach him that this is not the way. Being open, generous, and embracing globalisation is the way in which to achieve a better society. I hope he listens, and I hope by the time he is old enough to make a difference that it isn’t too late!

Returning to work

I love work. I always have. So maternity leave was something I was nervous about. I was worried that my brain would turn to mush and I’d be bored. Oh, how wrong I was. 

I’ve enjoyed every minute of my maternity leave so far. My mind has developed and been tested in new ways as I’ve found my way as a mother. My son is anything but boring. He is fun, engaging, and sometimes challenging, but never ever boring.


I had intended to have 4 months off, use my keeping in touch days to stay close to the business, and return full time in November. But after a challenging birth, and loving spending time with boy, I decided to propose an alternative plan to my employer. 

The older you get, and the more senior you are, the more confident you sometimes are at being master of your own destiny. At asking for what you need. At knowing that there are multiple ways of working that benefits both you and your employer. Flexibility in the workplace, both day-to-day and in life changing moments, is essential to an engaged and high performing organisation. So it is in an organisations interest to make unusual requests happen. 

So I return to work in November one day a week until the end of the year. And then full time from January when my husband will take 2 months of shared parental leave. I think our son is getting the best of all worlds. 

Of course, my employer will get more than one day a week out of me. I can’t help myself. And with my handheld device I’m connected to the agency, staff and my clients whether I’m physically in the office or not. But with this arrangement I feel I’m going to get the quality time I want with my baby, whilst also being able to have a positive impact at work. 

I’m grateful to Ketchum for accommodating my request and embracing the flexibility. I’m excited to show that this sort of arrangement can work. I’d encourage other mums returning to work to think about an integration plan. And for anyone who wants to take a career break, or re-look at how their working week unfolds, anything is possible. Just make sure that you consider the value to your organisation as well as yourself. 

Mulberry madness

I couldn’t believe it when my friend, Laura Oliphant, shared this article with me yesterday. 
http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/mother-with-newborn-in-harness-was-banned-from-entering-mulberry-handbag-sale-a3363816.html

First of all, a baby harness is not a bag! A baby is not a possession to be put in a bag. A baby is a human being who needs tender love and care, and who’s mother (or father) should be able to go about their day without this level of discrimination.

I’m sure this wasn’t a Mulberry policy, but their employees not using their basic common sense. Given Mulberry’s target  audience is woman of childbearing age they would be alienating a large chunk of their segment if they kept this up. 

I know from my own experience that when a retailer or restaurant is baby-friendly and helpful I spend more of my money there. But when I get a frosty or bad reaction I don’t ever return. 

Training staff in how to be kind and courteous is key to all retailers. Teaching them to use their common sense is more difficult, but these sorts of mistakes can do fundamental and long-term damage to their brands. 

As a big fan, and regular customer, of Mulberry I’m so disappointed with this story and I hope they contact the woman involved. 

My love is like a red red rose

My son is the love of my life. I’m not at all embarrassed to say that. He lights up my every moment. He makes me want to be better, to succeed, to change the world to make it a better place for him. 

That’s why I can’t support the Labour Party any more. I simply don’t believe that having Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister, or Labour running our country, could in any way be good for my wee boy’s future. 

Why? Because they want to take our country back to the 70s, not forward to 2017, 2018, or indeed 2025. They don’t believe in wealth creation. They don’t believe in enabling and celebrating individual or collective success. They are anti business and anti globalisation. They are anti-interventionism, and have dodgy ‘friends’ in some of the world’s worst organisations. John McDonnell is a bully. Diane Abbott is at best stupid. And Corbyn is a puppet for the hard left, most recently speaking at an SWP event!

I used to say I couldn’t vote anything but Labour. That my blood was red for a reason. That I loved the Labour Party like I loved my family. But as I’ve grown up. As I’ve become a boss and a mother, I’ve realised that choosing the person to be Prime Minister and the Party to run the country is a big responsibility. It can’t come down to blind loyalty. It has to be about the political vision, the personal leadership, that is on offer. It has to be about who is offering job security and educational opportunity. Who is balancing economic growth with a strong welfare state. Who do I believe, when our country is in danger, will protect us and the rest of the world. Corbyn and the Labour Party he is leading is not the answer to any of the things outlined above. 

So the obvious question is who will I vote for? And the honest answer is that right now I just don’t know. Locally, in Haringey, I will vote Labour. We have a strong sensible Labour Council that is investing in our community. But at the General Election I will have to actually read the manifestos, listen to the speeches, and for the first time in my adult life I will be one of those fought over floating voters. Unless, of course, Labour finds its purpose (and a new leader) before then. But I won’t hold my breath.