Sally Henderson
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Sally Henderson

#ShineBrighter Interview Series with Bruce Daisley VP EMEA Twitter

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Sally Henderson is on a mission to help the World of Work work.

Her “Shine Brighter Interviews” highlight leaders and organisations in the creative industry who are actively investing in people, leadership and talent, and reaping the rewards for doing so. It is her hope this insight will motivate a movement towards investing in leaders and talent as standard over the exception to the norm. Please join her, as the industry is nothing without great people! 

To change the world of work, we need great leaders and companies as role models…

Here is Sally's most recent #ShineBrighter Interview with Bruce Daisley, EMEA VP Twitter carried out before his hugely informative and thought-provoking recent leadership event #Culture2point0 with Sue Todd.


Introduction

SH: Can you tell me a little about your role, and how it relates to people and talent at Twitter?

BD: I am VP EMEA Twitter. I act as a connection between the countries in my region to the central business. I give autonomy to the local markets, help them get what they need to succeed and get out of their way, and advise them how to best present their story to get more resources. You could say I am the router switch.
 

Industry perspective

SH: What is your view on the industry’s approach to talent and development?

BD: I still think creative industries are broadly meritocracies where talented people do well and rise to the top. Historically, there has been a gender imbalance with this. Talented people do rise, some of them have to try harder, and for some, it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time, or the face fits. Obviously, when it comes down to individual firms, some are much better than others.

SH: What are the core challenges facing creative organisations from a people and talent view in your opinion, and what makes you say this?

BD: The number one challenge facing every organisation right now is that the way we are working is frying our brains. Largely, our approach to work in the last twenty years has been to add more and more to it. Technology has added more at a great cost, as it crowds everything else out. This is very relevant to creativity.

Since email has been accessible on phones, the average person is doing two hours a day more work. When you look at any tracking studies of stress and burnout, half of all workers reporting exhaustion is up 30% in the last two years. People being exhausted also correlates to a higher feeling of being lonely at work.

I have been fascinated by Jaak Panskepp recently, who has been studying Seeking Systems at Washington University. He found that we all have an innate desire to try new things. As an example, sharks can’t be kept in captivity, they die as they have a core need to seek out and hunt. Every one of us has Seeking Systems, yet it is fear that kills them. Emails create a cortisol-drenched state of fear. There is this constant need to check the phone! Any time there is cortisol present in the brain, it can’t operate a Seeking System. For Seeking System read creativity - we’ve allowed technology to crowd out our ability to be creative.

SH: From your career so far, what were/are the common mistakes you see happening in the industry regarding people and talent? What do you think should be done differently, and what makes you say this?

BD: The notion of culture fit is one. When I heard “culture fit” in the early parts of my career, overtly this meant the sort of person to go out for a drink with. This was a pattern of recognition that favoured white men, and was so ingrained into how we thought, and often think, about the working environment. So, the question is how to bring genuine diverse thinking and difference in approach when it comes to talent, if diversity means culturally spikey. It is very easy to choose people who feel like us. This is so difficult to overcome.
 

Company perspective

SH: What are the key changes you have experienced in your business from a people and talent perspective in the last 2 years? What’s driven this and how have you responded?

BD: In the last two years, not a lot has changed. The demand for good people is always high, as talented and dynamic people are always in high demand. There was one period when another organisation took a lot of our people in one go. When this happened, one thing we reminded ourselves about was whether we are ensuring Twitter is a place people feel they can accomplish all of the motivating parts of good work. For example, getting better at their job, having autonomy, a clear reason why they come to work and a real sense of team. In essence, it gave us a sense of renewal and reminded us to check that we are doing as well as we can.

SH: Would you do anything differently, based on your learnings and experience?

BD: No, not beyond what I have already mentioned about reflecting on making sure we are doing our best.

SH: What’s been the biggest surprise to you regarding people and talent over the last 2 years? What made it a surprise?

BD: No-one has left in the last 12 months, which is really positive. We reduced the workforce last year and seeing the resilience of our people really pleased me. Peoples’ ability to adapt to change is always inspiring when there is a strong reason why they come to work in the first place.

SH: What has been most effective for you / what core people and talent initiatives have you created in terms of Attracting Talent?

BD: We are always trying to project ourselves in a competitive market, with a true sense of fun and inventiveness that stands out. We hire people that fit this, whilst also demonstrating we are not just here for enjoyment and fun, but to personally develop our people professionally at the same time. 

SH: What has been most effective for you / what core people and talent initiatives have you created in terms of Retaining Talent?

BD: We introduced a scheme where anyone could apply to go on a business course on-line, or attend Wharton Business School. This was a competitive application where anyone could apply. People responded very well to the opportunity to improve themselves with knowledge that was accessible and relevant beyond that of their colleagues. It was a massive investment that was very effective for us.

SH: What results have you seen from your approach to attracting and retaining talent? 

BD: When we sit down and pull a list of our top talent and our super stars, we see that we have kept and promoted these people. I am generally happy with accomplishment we have made in last couple of years.

SH: What are you most proud of in terms of people and talent offering at Twitter?

BD: Twitter in the UK is six years old, and we still have a lot of our original people. When people do move on, it is more frequently to bigger jobs in the US than going elsewhere.

SH: What remains a challenge you wish to tackle, regarding people and development at Twitter?

BD: Firstly, everyone wrestles with the idea of how to make work feel more manageable, this isn't just a challenge for us at Twitter. There are some really simple solutions:

  • Ensure people take a lunch break every day. The impact on the psyche is so powerful when you do this,
  • Treat 40 hours of work as flexible in terms of scheduling finite in volume, and selective on how the work is delivered.
  • Take the badge off your email that displays how many emails you have. Removing the knowing about how many things need to be to dispatched reduces anxiety. It’s important to remember email isn’t work, it is just part of work. There is no output to doing email all day.

Secondly, when you look at creative work places, they are a lot quieter today than 20 years ago. It is astonishing how quiet an office is now. People don’t wander over and chat, as people feel interrupted with the burden of email. Technology can also though allow us to look at more creative workspaces where people can chat and interact more on a personal level.

SH: What do your people tell you they want from work/career to you as an employer?

BD: Personally, I don’t buy the “Millennial stuff”. I don’t think people are materially different today than in the past. People want autonomy, the ability to feel they are having a personal impact (and not doing someone else’s’ laundry list), personal development, and to be part of something bigger than them. I don’t think this has changed from previous generations. 

One thing that has changed is that the city of London is broken now. The average property in London is twelve times the average salary. This isn’t sustainable, people can’t afford to work here. Traditional aspirations, such as building your career to afford to buy a home, are now pushed out of peoples’ reach.

SH: What advice do you have for other leaders/owners of a creative business?

BD: Treat people like individuals. Have one-to-one chats to understand peoples’ goals. This is the most critical thing when it comes to developing and retaining your people. You need to have empathy with where their head is, at whatever level, and see the steps ahead they aspire to.

SH: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to share, and that will help creative businesses / leaders get better at attracting and retaining talent?

BD: The more attention people pay to these things the better. People who work at companies are people who like to plot out their life, careers and know the areas ahead they can explore. Facilitating this is really helpful.

SH: Who else would you recommend as a great example of investing in people and talent?

BD: Kathleen Saxon, Founder, The Lighthouse Company and Lindsay Pattison, Worldwide Chief Transformation Officer GroupM, Worldwide CEO Maxus Global.
 

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Sally Henderson is an International Results-Based Executive Mentor on a mission to stop businesses wasting money on poor recruitment and actively invest in their people to make the world of work work.

Sally is a passionate advocate of supporting those leaders in the demanding and often mis-understood role of Managing Director in the creative industry to boost performance and help leaders thrive in a healthy and transformational way.

If you are an MD looking to develop your leadership and business go to www.sallyhenderson.co.uk to find out more about her work, as well as the free resources, webinars, #ShineBrighter Round-Tables and Results-Based Executive Mentoring that is proven to help you fast-track greater results.

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