‘Not everyone is a good leader, it’s not a reflection of yourself’

Erika Morton
By Erika Morton | 8 March 2021
Erika Morton

Erika Morton, managing director, The Park Australia

International Women’s Day 2021 hits us at an interesting time this year. Luckily in Australia, we’re on the tail end of the pandemic. Businesses and brands are starting to recalibrate to a changed workforce and adapt to new ways of connecting with consumers. Additionally, we are in the midst of a female culture crisis within our Government departments.

The IWD campaign theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge. A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. I think it is important to share and learn from others in the industry. I am a big believer in continuing to challenge myself.

I have had over twenty years’ experience in the industry both in my home country New Zealand and here in Australia. Here are some of the things I would like to share with women in the industry.

Stay true to yourself
This sounds obvious but it’s sometimes hard when you are just starting out and entering the intimidating world that is agency land. I was given this advice early in my career by one of my most influential mentors – Jane Eagles. Don’t be afraid to be female. You don’t have to strip yourself of certain “soft” traits to make it in this industry. Show empathy, be kind, respectful, nurturing and considerate.

I have never forgotten this piece of feedback and live this every single day. It is important to know who you are and what your values are – both personally and professionally.

Not everyone is a good leader or mentor
Jane was fantastic but there’s not always someone like her everywhere you go. There are a lot of bad leaders out there. It’s not a reflection on yourself. If your values don’t align, then move on. You will find a place that will inspire you and make you feel challenged and nurtured at the same time. I love the values and ethos of The Park. In one of my first meetings with Jack, Lloyd and Will, they told me that The Park should never be the most important thing in your life. That spot is reserved for your friends and family. What a breath of fresh air to hear that.

Everyone does have a superpower
We are not and should not all be the same. This industry has traditionally made a point of hiring certain types of people. Everyone has a different superpower. The magic happens when you allow those people to shine and develop their skills instead of trying to discard them or mould them into something else. One of the values that we live by at The Park is diversity makes the world better. And this couldn’t ring truer. Allowing everyone to shine in their own light makes for a stronger team overall.

Frame feedback constructively
I really believe that you shouldn’t knock anyones’ confidence. If feedback is framed constructively then it is more effective. For the majority of my high school years, my Dad was the President of J&J Pharmaceuticals in Japan. It was an important role and we were lucky enough to live in Belgium, Indonesia and Japan as a result. When he asked me during my last year of school, what do you want to do when you graduate, I told him I wanted to do a Bachelor of Theology. My Dad said, that’s a great idea, but have you considered doing a Bachelor of Business studies first to learn the fundamentals and then you can do Theology afterwards. I agreed thinking that could work. Needless to say after my Bachelor of Business I decided to start my career and never looked back … A perfect example of feedback framed constructively.

You’re only as good as the people around you
I couldn’t do the job I do without the smart, and talented people that inspire me everyday. Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people more intelligent than you. And ones that are ego free. Don’t take credit for your teams’ effort. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to deliver. Also, support the introverts. Not everyone will shout about their successes. Find ways to support these people who are working just as hard but who choose not to vocalise it.
I have had the absolute pleasure of working with some of the best. And many of my team members across my Clemenger and the M&C Saatchi days have become friends, clients and supplier partners and I remain close to these people to this day.

Mentor women entering the industry
If someone takes the time to reach out whether it’s a potential supplier partner or colleague or someone starting out in their career, acknowledge them and take the time to hear what they have to say. It’s a small amount of time out of your day and you just never know what incredible people you may meet as a result. Share your learnings and success as they will do the same. The age old adage “be careful to those on the way up as you might meet them on the way down” is true!

Progressing your career
Women are notoriously bad at asking for what they deserve and for what they want. I have missed out on promotions throughout my career because I have not done that. There have been a couple of times where a male candidate has gotten the promotion over me and I think it was for being a certain gender or having the audacity to ask for that position. I would say to any woman trying to get a promotion, be clear about what you want and how your skills and experience suit the role. Also, if you do miss out, then ask for specific feedback on how you can step up or what is preventing you from getting the role. If you keep missing out on those roles then maybe it is time to move on from that particular organisation.

It’s important to note that things have changed significantly. We are seeing a better balance in our industry. More powerfully, the women are sticking together. We are creating networks and helping each other step up. So if any women starting their career wants to have a chat with me, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and I’d be more than happy to have a coffee.

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