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Bossing It: Why Context Is Key for Kerry Adams


Velvet Badger's founder and managing director on rolling up your sleeves, being an advocate for the pen and paper and fighting imposter syndrome

Bossing It: Why Context Is Key for Kerry Adams

Founder and managing director of Velvet Badger. Experienced project leader and operations director with a demonstrated history in the marketing, experiential and advertising industry. Skilled in brand, design, digital, content production and web 3.0 project team management.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Kerry> Managing a full design team, freelance producers and attempting to increase the internal facilities of a growing brand agency. Being part of a company that swiftly moves from 10-30+ people is the most crucial time in any start up growth as it's the tipping point and the most demanding of any growing business.

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?

Kerry> By experiencing the type of leadership I had no respect for in past positions I began to unconsciously build a picture of the type I would be. It came to a few key points for me..

1. Never ask someone to do something I would not do myself

2. Always have an open door policy

3. Allow others that proceed you to teach you new things. Never assume that you have all the answers or know everything.

4. Reward great achievements.

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

Kerry> When I think back to when I was project directing big production teams on auto show roadshows I truly thought at that point that I had a process and that I could problem solve anything thrown at me, find solutions or just work harder and longer to ensure successful delivery. However nothing prepares you for what it takes to be an Employer. It's all of the above but with the added responsibility of so many more hats. A start breeds a new attitude of 'rolling up your sleeves' it means you have to be HR, Operations, Accounts, Legal, Management and so much more. Velvet Badger has forced me to see leadership in a very different light.

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?

Kerry> Becoming a leader was never a life long goal. It still isn’t. Having worked with large broadcast and experiential agencies since the start of my career I always saw leadership as something or someone I had to measure my performance against to get better.

Becoming a leader today is a by-product of another goal which was to set out to achieve the things that all the places I had worked left to be desired. Those being, the ability to decide the type of what I wanted to take on. Being in control of the decisions in terms of execution. And, creating an agency that people wanted to show up for.

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?

Kerry> I believe one dovetails into the other and it ebbs and flows depending on whether you have experienced the situation in the past or it’s all new and a learning experience. But they are both valuable in equal measure.

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

Kerry> There are two areas I personally find challenging in leadership..

One being the required consistency to have all the answers and knowledge can be daunting. One may see a leader as someone who has been there, done that and can navigate the path for them. When in truth running your business is a continuous path of unknowns. The second being capacity and time management. As a native producer I would always have a to do list and set my daily goals. But nobody can prepare you for the unknowns that crop up in the day to day running of an agency that can throw you off in an instant.

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?

Kerry> Imposter syndrome is real! That constant “am I doing this right”. They say having a baby is the best and scariest thing you can do in life as you have this being that demands round the clock nurture and full attention. I say the same in business and starting a creative agency. I feel a level of failure each day, in some form or another. Whether it's not quite getting around to finishing something or not responding to someone or not being able to provide attention to the one person who really needs it. You learn to overcome, retain that information for future use and move on. The only way I feel something is not a negative is to use that knowledge to prevent it the next time.

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?

Kerry> Openness breeds openness. If I want people to feel they can approach me it is because I offer some form of authenticity and oneness to them in return. There are limits on privacy but I believe that employees need to feel they can approach me and know that I have met them halfway with as much detail that I am willing to offer. I also believe that people need to know a little more than the bare minimum. The context is key to understanding and resolving issues.

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?

Kerry> It’s only now that I look back and see who my mentors are/were now that I am being faced with things that I saw them face. I always cast back and think about approaches they would have taken to ensure I don’t act in haste. I will say that all of them are females in senior positions within my industry. It's been a really challenging year and that's an understatement.

LBB> How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?

Kerry> Being honest and informative. I advocate being fair and where fairness may not have a space, honesty will provide the explanation. I think that this year has been less challenging than the previous two as our business feels the most stable from a team perspective.

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?

Kerry> Luckily our industry is digitally driven. we were half the size of our current staff quota in 2020 and therefore it was easier to manage, communicate and maintain relationship strength through that year. It was important for me that our then employees felt cared for and this sentiment remains. Finding time to have fun and bring the team together is difficult but always achievable whether planned or not. It's important that the team knows they are appreciated and I hope they feel this comes through consistently.

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

Kerry> On a day to day level, my notebook. I am an advocate of a pad and pen. Writing something from the brain to paper is a way to both ensure it is fulfilled and a to do list prompts that achievability. As a business owner and manager it's all of the tried and tested processes I have kept in my armoury that breeds organisation. A good old excel spreadsheet is a comfort to me.

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Velvet Badger, Fri, 11 Nov 2022 16:42:43 GMT