How to train your leaders

Jade Hickey
By Jade Hickey | 30 July 2020

Jade Hickey is account executive at VMLY&R Sydney

Dear current leaders,

Do you remember what it was like to be a junior?

When you’re starting out - by definition you know nothing.



Bursting with enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn, which brims from you so aggressively that you constantly look like you might explode with excitement.

You see the big boys go to work and pitch brilliant creative ideas, articulating them so well that you go home immediately and Google: ‘how to think more creatively’.

You say ‘that’s so cool’ too many times in a meeting where the work was only mediocre, but you can’t help it, because it genuinely blew your mind.

Your heart does 100m sprint races faster than Usain Bolt as you go to say something you’ve rehearsed six times in your head for a fancy meeting.

And then, you stuff up the execution.

Bright red, you look to your boss for encouragement.

And that’s where, as a manager, you play a very important and often overlooked role.

You might not remember how it felt to be a junior, but that’s where I’m at. One year in, and still low ranking, but at least now a little more clued in to how everything works. I’m the youngest in the company, and while that means I don’t yet know much compared to the well-seasoned c-suite, the key word there is ‘yet’.

Being across multiple projects and clients has meant that I have been lucky enough to work closely with a number of managers in this past year. And with each manager, comes a different managing style.

So, I’ve been collecting a list of people management advice for myself, to ensure that I eventually become a kind, encouraging and inspirational leader like the ones I have dealt with so far. It seemed selfish not to share it, because everybody needs someone inspiring to look up to, and these all take close to no time, effort or money.

So, here are some things to keep in mind if you have a junior under your wing. The great leaders I have worked with so far always take the time to:

1. Say thank you:
Humans work harder for the carrot than the stick, and juniors are certainly no different. We’re eager to please and more importantly to prove ourselves, so a little thank you, even for the small things goes a long way.

2. Give encouragement:
We’re out of our league, and in many cases a little afraid to speak in top-heavy meetings. A simple nod or ‘good point’ can help us to not feel like our voice has been lost. Even if we miss the mark a little, there are easy ways to gently guide us back on track.

3. Give us a little ‘yes, and’:
It’s lovely to hear that we’ve done a good job, but without it being followed by constructive feedback, it’s pretty worthless from a learning perspective. Giving pointers and ideas for how we can improve is invaluable and means that next time we will do an even better job. The simple format of a ‘yes and…’ is the easiest way to add a little value to our ideas, without negating what we have done.

4. Keep us in the loop:
Many times we are involved behind the scenes, but don’t get to come to the main event. This is understandable of course, but if we’ve had a part to play in the project, taking five minutes to give us the update on how it went and what that all means makes a major difference.

5. Throw us in the deep end:
….Standing close enough with a floatation device to jump in if we need it of course. We’re never going to learn to swim if you never let us take our floaties off. And while that metaphor probably went a little too far – what I’m saying is, if we put our hand up for things that are out of our reach when everyone else is stretched, then give us a chance. It’s the best way to learn and micro-managing never did anything for anyone.

We all start out as juniors. And while I’ve joked above about us knowing nothing, we do offer a fresh perspective to every meeting, and oodles of overly enthusiastic cheap labour. We are willing to put in the hours, roll up our sleeves, and learn as much as we physically can.

So be kind to us.

Encourage us.

And say thank you.

Because after all, we have nowhere to go but up.

Kind regards,
A future leader


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