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Bossing It: Focus On What You Can Control and Leave What You Can’t with Patty Jones



President at PSDDB on why company culture is critical to success

Bossing It: Focus On What You Can Control and Leave What You Can’t with Patty Jones

With over 25 years of client service excellence at Cossette, DDB Canada and now PS&Co, Patty Jones has a wealth of experience across a number of client sectors including food and beverage, government, utilities, travel and tourism, financial and more. She lends her knowledge on client projects when and where it can best be served, whether that be in efficient and effective client/agency working processes, brand strategy development, consumer insights, go-to-market planning, creative or production. She’s done it all and supports her clients at any stage of a project. As President of PS DDB, when not working directly on client business, Patty is responsible for continuing the positive momentum and growth of the organisation.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Patty> My first leadership experience was in university when 12 other women and I set out to start a sorority. At the time, the school had two fraternities but only one sorority. Options felt limited so a group of us set out to expand and diversify the offering. It also gave us an exciting project outside of our studies, and if successful, would allow us to leave a bit of a legacy once our time there came to an end. During this endeavour, leadership just seemed to come naturally to me and so I took on the role of Chapter President in our first year. 

LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?

Patty> I believe that diversity breeds creativity, and along with a collaborative team, produces better outcomes. I really enjoy working on a team with people from different backgrounds – they bring broader ideas and new perspectives to the table. I strive to be a good listener and collaborative leader – one that works well with others to determine the best way forward for the challenge at hand. 

LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?

Patty> I learned my biggest lesson in leadership the first time I had to make a tough business decision and let someone go from the agency. It was this experience that made me realise the trust and confidence that was being placed in me to successfully manage the company. It was also then that I came to the conclusion that there’s only so much I can control, no matter how much effort and passion I put into my job each day. The lesson for me was simple: focus on what you can control and leave what you can’t.

LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so, how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you?

Patty> While I can’t recall definitively articulating my leadership goals, I certainly knew that I wanted to learn from my peers and colleagues. Everything I have accomplished is based on what others taught me through working with them – bosses, clients and co-workers; good and bad. 

LBB> When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned?

Patty> Based on my personal experience, I would say it’s 50/50. You need to have the right combination of skills and experience to be confident in a leadership role – this can be learned or gained over time. However, you also need to have the right personality and character traits to excel in the role. 

LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?

Patty> PS&Co’s chairman Frank Palmer has a wonderful quote, “We are in the relationship business. Everything we do is a by-product of trust.”  This resonates with me because everything we do is about people – our talent, our clients and the consumers we create communications for. I struggle most when I’ve made a decision that may have disappointed someone. I strive to find optimal solutions knowing that I can’t please everyone and that can be hard. A little reassurance from others on my team, that we’ve chosen the right path forward, helps me get through tough times. 

LBB> Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it?

Patty> I would be wary of anyone in a leadership role that never felt like they had failed. Whether you are leading or learning, failure is going to happen. It sounds cliché, but the only way through it is to acknowledge it, accept it, if possible, fix it, and then move on and try not to repeat that error again.

LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be as transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered?

Patty> I have been told in the past that I am overly transparent. That by sharing too much, I could put undue burden on others in the organisation. But I am a firm believer that everyone in the agency deserves to know both the good and the bad. If there is bad news to deliver, I strive to ensure that it’s communicated with a solution or a plan of attack – ideally one that I’ve designed that needs their involvement and support to be successful.

LBB> As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship?

Patty> While I’ve never had a formal mentor/mentee relationship, there is a very long list of people that I have learned from throughout my career. I hope they all know who they are, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my former colleague Bill Baker, who recommended me to the leadership team at DDB, and of course Frank Palmer, who I have had the privilege to work with and learn from for the past 20 years. 

I do hope that members of my team have learned from me over the years. My approach to mentoring is quite informal and I try to lead by example. I learned on the job, and I help others do the same by sharing my experiences and lessons learned, providing constructive feedback and encouraging others. 

LBB> It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?

Patty> This has indeed been a challenging year and I’m not sure how well I’ve performed. On a scale of 1-10, I’ll give myself a seven. I feel that we’ve accomplished a lot in the past 18 months, transitioning DDB Vancouver into the independent PS&Co it is today, however, there have been many challenges building a team and a culture when everyone is working remotely. But I’m very grateful to have been working throughout the pandemic – that alone has help me cope during this difficult time. 

LBB> This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this?

Patty> On this topic, I would only give myself a five out of ten. We are taking steps forward but not enough of them and not fast enough. We’ve identified so many ways that the industry needs to change, it’s almost overwhelming. At our agency, in addition to ensuring we are creating opportunities for BIPOC talent in the content we create, and in the hiring process, our long-term focus is to encourage more BIPOC interest in the industry overall. We plan to work with post-secondary institutions in British Columbia to ensure there is a path forward for more diversity in the industry.

LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020?

Patty> Company culture is critical to our success. Keeping it alive has been more difficult this past year, but it’s just required us to be more creative – which shouldn’t be a big ask for a creative agency!

We’ve focused on regular all-agency virtual meetings – if only for ten minutes to kick off the week ahead. We continued our weekly peer-to-peer shout-outs so that everyone can recognise the good work taking place. This spring, we offered a six-week online meditation session, which we will do again in the fall. And there have been lots of small “surprise and delight” moments throughout the year. But most of all, it’s about celebrating the great work the team does, and reminding everyone that we’ve got their backs and are here to support them, in any way they need. 

LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?

Patty> My colleagues. I couldn’t do what I do without the insights, ideas, and encouragement of the amazing team of people I have working with me. 

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PS DDB, Fri, 20 Aug 2021 09:55:00 GMT