Accidental texts, performance miscalculations and what you should never apologise for

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Jane Perry is Managing Director of Geometry Singapore, WPP’s end-to-end Creative Commerce Agency. She has more than two decades experience in delivering commerce experiences across retail and design.  Jane left Australia 18 years ago and has since lived and worked in Cambodia, Malaysia and the UK before settling in Singapore.

Biggest fuck up?

It was about 12 years ago, and I still cringe thinking about it. 

I DM’d a colleague (on my Blackberry at the time) about the challenges I was having with a client.

However, I sent it to the client… and he was sitting opposite me in a board room. 

I had one of those out-of-body experiences where I wanted the floor to swallow me up. I bucked up, waited for the meeting to be over, and approached him directly. 

I owned it completely and apologised profusely. To my surprise, this changed the course of our relationship for many years to come. It actually provided a forum to tackle the challenges I was having. 

Whilst I wouldn’t recommend this approach for managing client relationships, I was lucky to have a client who was both forgiving and receptive. 

I learned from this experience to never ever badmouth or underestimate a client.

Rant

Flexible working conditions! In our industry (especially in Asia), there’s often a conservative corporate culture of measuring performance based on how long an employee spends behind their desk.  Hours in the office are often used to measure productivity, and it’s a gross miscalculation. 

Some of the best talent in my team work flexible or part-time hours, and it works both for them and for our business.  My team is small, nimble and agile, and we’re rarely all in the office at the same time. 

We don’t clock watch, and no one cares if our people are working from their homes, a café or the hairdresser – everyone is measured on outputs. 

Our worldwide CEO refers to it as “freedom through responsibility.” I have always had a very high degree of trust with the teams I have managed (trust being a fairly fundamental hiring requirement, after all!), and I have yet to have a staff member abuse any flexibility or autonomy offered to them.

One silver lining of the current COVID-19 climate is that it has highlighted how remote working and flexibility can work.  The pandemic has forced a seismic shift in the way agencies operate, and this new norm will remain for the foreseeable future. 

We need to do better at reviewing flexibility and remote/virtual working policies for current and future employees. 

Useful advice 

Aside from never badmouthing a client…

I worked with a remarkable woman around 15 years ago who was arguably the most senior woman in leadership in any global advertising agency at the time. I admired her tremendously.  She gave me some advice that I didn’t fully grasp at the time (I was young, ignorant and confident), but it has stayed with me and means so much to me now in the way I operate as a leader.


She said, “Never be apologetic for being a woman or for being feminine. Gone are the days where you need to behave like a man to succeed. Use your femininity, your intuition, your empathy to drive you in your career.”

I’ll leave you with a line from my all-time favourite poem ‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann, which I think applies as much inside the boardroom as it does out of it: “Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.” 

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