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In this episode, Heather speaks with Jo-Ann Robertson, CEO of Ketchum, in the UK. Jo-Ann shares what drives her to lead, her unabashed desire to lead from the front with a team, her experience when she was not the best version of herself, and what she thinks leaders like us need.

Key takeaways:

  • All feedback is good. Take it.
  • Challenge yourself to grow.
  • Leaders can change their styles to meet the needs of their people.
  • Leaders must demonstrate what they want before they speak about it.
  • Just because someone has more commercial value or brings in more money, doesn’t mean that they are good for the culture.
This episode resonates conscious empathy and the importance of connecting with our people. Hope you learn a lot!

Jo-ann Robertson is CEO of Ketchum in the UK and Chair of the Young Women’s Trust, a charity working to achieve economic justice for young women. 

She began her career as a Labour party political activist and TV reporter in Scotland. Having worked in journalism, politics and communications, Jo-ann offers clients a truly 360 degree perspective to meet their specific needs. Her areas of expertise include integrated communication strategies, strategic media relations, stakeholder relations, corporate reputation, crisis & issues management public affairs and government relations. 

Jo-ann believes that being a people first business drives performance and is focused on building a diverse and inclusive workforce at Ketchum in the UK.

Always Learn

I’m still learning. 

Everyday, I try to reflect on how I have led my people because essentially, that is my job as CEO. It has been really interesting for me, particularly over the last ten years or so. I think my style has fundamentally changed as I have observed others and consumed information around leadership.

The critical moment in my journey was when I worked with an executive coach five years ago. It opened my eyes to what my preferred leading style is and how that works for people. I also learned various ways to lead which I could try out through different techniques. Some of them has been hugely successful, but not so much for others.

I feel good as a leader. I feel comfortable where I am now, but I am always trying to challenge my self to be the best that I can be. – @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Share on X

Always Listen

I have always been someone who really listens to feedback. 

That doesn’t mean that I take every piece of feedback I get as gospel, but I always listen to them. Then, I reflect on whether I think it is fair or not, and whether I think I should do something about it or not. 

Your position is not just because you got a title. You have to earn people’s respect, and their followership. They don’t have to follow you. So if you want to lead them, it is your job to find ways to connect.

I have really learned in the last few years that you can say something a hundred times, but you have to really demonstrate it for it to be true. People judge you according to your actions and words in equal measure. So, you really have to show what you say in practice because saying that is just not enough. Also, you have to be careful that they are the same as often as possible.

The absolute majority of people come at things with the right intention. There are very few people who set out on any given date to screw up or to obviously try to sabotage something.

It is very empowering to see my people challenge one another because that little bit of friction and tension is where we really come up with incredible work. – @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Share on X

Always Collaborate

I absolutely lead from the front

I am a driver, and that is my natural style. I am really motivated by goals and I really like to win. But all of these are within the context of working with a team. I get the most satisfaction and joy at work when we are really succeeding because the team is all playing beautifully together. 

I love having debates because I have a strong point of view. Sometimes, people misinterpret that as the notion that my opinion is the only thing I am interested in. But it’s quite the opposite. I love to hear the points of view of others. I love to move my people around as they battle between each other.

We’re all incredibly talented as individuals, and we have all got good ideas. But, none of those ideas are ever as good as when we really come together as a team and push them forward.

We put our people at the heart of every decision we make. We’re losing so much great talents just because oftentimes the workplace is not an environment in which they can thrive. Most of them allow only one type of person to be successful.

We have all got good ideas, but none of those are ever as good as when we really come together as a team. – @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Share on X

If you’re not in the thick of your business, then it would be impossible for you to make the right forward-looking decisions. – @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Share on X

I really encourage my people to have fun in what we do. – @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Share on X


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