Nancy Lengthorn, Head of Diversity at Mediacom UK – the UK’s biggest media agency. Nancy is responsible for building on the many diversity and Inclusion initiatives in place at MediaCom and sets the agenda for inclusion.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No! Long ago, I remember thinking I’d like to work in an industry that had something to do with magazines and I don’t really recall planning anything since! I’ve always followed opportunities based on whether they look fun and challenging – I don’t think it’s a cop out to follow your heart. I’m a big believer in working with people you enjoy spending time with and finding a culture that fits your personality and ethics. We spend too much time at work to not have these factors as central themes.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
Like most women, in some jobs I’ve faced outrageous sexism and inappropriate behaviour and that was sometimes tough to deal with when I was younger. But quite honestly, it’s helped to shape my moral code and encouraged me to be brave, so I now find myself in a good place to stop it being a factor for others.
What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?
Find a cheerleader! Any new role inevitably means a number of ‘firsts’ and it’s invaluable to have someone who is on your side and has already been through the process. A new leadership role can feel pretty lonely sometimes, but these people can help you avoid the pitfalls and make you feel supported which will enable you to set your own tone quickly.
When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?
Firstly, look for someone who is inquisitive as they’ll learn quickly. Secondly, I’d be looking for a connection with the organisation – someone who seems like they’ll live and breathe the company values. When you find that match, people have a good chance of being happy within an organisation and then good work tends to follow naturally.
How do you manage your own boss?
My boss is relatively new, so I probably haven’t nailed that yet.Communication is key. I think there is a tendency for people to expect management to come from the top down, but for me it’s a two way street and we definitely produce the best, most collaborative work when both parties are up to speed with each other’s issues and priorities.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
As the mother of four young children, I am permanently bordering on a catatonic state, so the day always starts with total devastation that I am awake! I quickly get over that as work is generally a much easier prospect than negotiating with toddlers! Luckily, I love my job and get so much from it, so the end of the day invariably sees me buzzing with ideas but wishing I had more hours in the day.
What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations
Firstly, focus on integrity rather than short term stunts and schmoozing. If you are going to raise your profile, you need to be able to sustain it long term, so make sure you can deliver. Secondly, you need stimulus to ensure you can generate the sort of ideas or project that will raise your profile, so go to everything, read everything and speak to everyone.
How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?
I’ve been so lucky to always have a mentor figure that I can go to for advice or counsel. But actually, observing how those people behave in various situations has been as useful to me as talking. I’ve gained so much from watching how people conduct themselves in difficult situations, tricky client meetings or high profile meetings and the examples they’ve set have really helped to give me the freedom to develop my own style.
Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker?
Effective networking can be invaluable. My advice would be:
- Develop a couple of networks – one that covers your specific area of expertise but also one that allows you to develop a broader view
- There are no stupid questions when you’re networking! If you’re too worried to ask a specific question of someone, chances are someone else is thinking about asking it too
- Don’t only focus on industry networks, there’s so much to gain from a cohort of good communicators in your own company – it helps to break down silos and increase your future opportunities
What does the future hold for you?
At Mediacom, we’ve helped to set the agenda for Diversity and Inclusion within the industry but we’ll be pushing that much further. We’ve acted as consultants on many initiatives (such as Apprenticeship schemes) for other companies over the last few years, and I’d love to see that sort of collaboration happen more often. Other than that, I don’t want to know what the future holds as I like the surprise!