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On September 16, 2013, I stepped into PETERMAYER’s offices on Camp Street as its newest employee and head of strategy. This September 16, I celebrate my 10-year anniversary at PETERMAYER as its CEO.
In those ten years, my job has fundamentally changed four times and I’ve held six different job titles. I’ve seen colleagues come – go – and come back again (we call them rePETErs). Clients too, including at the time, our largest – left and returned again. We’ve had growth spurts and setbacks, building and rebuilding. Won and lost awards, pitches, arguments! I’ve been incredibly fortunate to mentor people into fantastic careers, with PETERMAYER and elsewhere. And to support their whole lives through having children, buying their first homes, and experiencing loss. My own kids grew up and are adults authoring their own life stories now.
I’ve led through cultural and business impacts that have repercussions on us all. Three US presidents. Same-sex marriage was legalized. #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, #OscarsSoWhite, and any number of other movements and moments that have refocused on DEI in business and society. Digital transformation through every aspect of our lives, giving rise to career opportunities in e-commerce and the gig work that has changed our industry and the fundamental makeup of what we call “career.” The rise of streaming services. A global pandemic and with it, global supply chain disruption. Hurricane evacuations and recoveries. And some murder hornets tossed in there. And new things to learn – and abandon, it seems – nearly every year. The Metaverse. Cryptocurrency. X. AI.
The biggest change of all? I believe we’re witnessing a fundamental shift in the attitude of people toward work. That is a big, broad tapestry affecting every sector. In the ad industry, we were the white-hot center of unpaid overtime, unpaid internships, the celebration of workaholism. According to Ericsson’s “10,000 Hour Rule,” it does take time to achieve mastery at a skill, so the investment of sheer time isn’t without its merits. And honestly, I loved every moment. Advertising is a passion-based industry, and if you do find your passion there, there’s a pilot light always on that is searching for that next idea, insight, or connection.
But now, our live-to-work ethic of the past doesn’t stack up. People value their whole lives, and don’t want an overbalance of work. The words “job”, “career”, “work”, “weekday” have changed. Ghosting. Minimal Mondays. Four-day work weeks. Quiet quitting. Much of what we hear about work culture is negative. For the first time, we are talking about mental health at work.
My biggest learning in the last ten years? There is no playbook for managing through the issues we now face as leaders. Applying models of the past won’t achieve the results we’re after for the future. We’re faced with the imperative to reinvent, and this time, no one-size-fits-all management consultant can help us. This isn’t about process or product, it’s about people. Individuals, even.
I’ve learned that I need to connect people to work, and teach that practice to other senior managers. We need to earn passion. It’s something I’ve called leading with love. It’s intensely personal and requires investment in each one of the folks we work with. It’s not “servant leadership”– it’s mutualism. We work to know each person who works here and support their continually changing and evolving needs through their whole life. And they work to know us, attach to the values and purpose of the company, and learn to deliver through that lens. If we get it right, we get the attachment, empathy, and ride-or-die ties that feel like love. It’s incredibly time consuming and vulnerable. But it’s the job.
I’m grateful for the last 10 years and to work at a place that continues to teach me, and that gives me the opportunity to make opportunity for so many others.