Who’s teaching who?

Gone are the days when experience counts for everything, where longevity gives you a right of passage...

Over the past twenty or so years in this game, I’ve built up a fair hand of experience, I’ve worked across media owners, creative and media agencies, across all media platforms and pretty much every client category you can think of. So, you think my stock would be pretty high, that I’d be the one doing all the coaching and mentoring, that my team and the younger staff across the agency would be hanging off my every word. Not so.

But it’s something I’m really happy about.

Gone are the days when experience counts for everything, where longevity gives you a right of passage, when having done it before means you know how to do it now.

These days, smart leaders and managers are learning as much from their staff, in many cases their most junior staff, as they are teaching. I speak from daily experience.

Why? Well, the game is changing, it’s no longer clever to only plan your business a year ahead, or stop and reflect for the quarterly report. These days, I suggest we must all be on our toes permanently. Handily, I love a pair of killer heals, so I’m generally poised forward.

All joking aside, over the past year, I’ve probably learnt more from my team than I’ve taught them; the appropriateness of a egg plant emoji (never), the possibilities with Periscope (endless), the importance of artistic inspiration on Instagram, the realisation that social influencers are, for the most part, just regular people who are entertaining, not talent like the celebs we are used to, who should ‘get it’ when we put a plan together with them.

The millenials – a phrase I kind of hate – these are people, young and truly talented individuals, live, love and learn differently from those of us who’ve been around the block a few times. Their lives are fast, open, optimistic and adventurous, and that should be a lesson to us old-timers.

We should, and I hope that I do, listen to them; really listen, because, while they might not have as much experience as we do, they have newness, instinct and a willingness to try and fail, get up and go again, and that is remarkable.

So, these days, I try to remind myself that I alone am not the teacher, I’m also the student, and if I listen, try, try and try again, I will only be sure of one thing – a collaborative, trusting and loyal team and the ability to produce great work that continues to push boundaries.

Gemma Hunter, Executive Creative Director & Head of MBA Australia

First published in the print edition of AdNews on 5th February 2016.

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