True teamwork inspires mutual trust and respect, regardless of position and title, and Angelina Farry, managing director of Eleven PR, a division of TBWA\NZ Group, has upheld those values over the years. Her sense of sportsmanship as a netball coach has shaped her own code of conduct and ethics as a leader in encouraging positive collective outcomes from her teams.
She has over 20 years of experience in the New Zealand PR and advertising industry, and has partnered with a range of blue-chip lifestyle, tech, travel, luxury and business brands. Providing senior counsel to Eleven clients, Angelina is an expert in New Zealand insights, culture and in delivering desired outcomes across a range of communication disciplines.
Besides 10 years of valuable experience working advertising-side in large multinationals, Angelina also spent 13 years managing PR agencies. Her sense of entrepreneurship also led her to embark on her own journey as a business owner with a successful agency under her wing.
Angelina’s work has been recognised at major award shows including PR Asia, Spikes Asia, Effies, Axis, and Eleven has been recognised as Agency of the Year across all major APAC award shows.
LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?
Angelina> When I was younger, I captained and then later coached various netball teams. That was probably my first experience of leadership and I loved it. Ever since I have always enjoyed helping teams to work together to maximise their collective strengths.
Professionally, I got my first chance to start actively managing teams when I was in my 20s and have never stopped.
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?
Angelina> I learnt a lot about the type of leader I did and didn’t want to be from the leaders I’ve had around me. I’ve had some amazing role models who were calm, focussed and always made those around them feel important and heard regardless of their level of seniority, like Marty O’Halloran at DDB NZ. I’ve also previously worked with leaders who coped badly with stress, which manifests as personal health challenges, and behavioural issues like micromanaging, bullying, blaming, and undermining the confidence of others, which did a lot to teach me what kind of leader I don’t want to be.
Leaders should treat others the way they want to be treated – not necessarily the way they may have been treated growing up in the advertising industry. Balance and respecting your team’s boundaries and time is vital.
LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?
Angelina> When I was younger, I attended a meeting as a very junior account manager with a very senior client. He took time out of his day to give us an induction and despite the fact he was the CMO he brought the drinks and snacks in to our meeting room and made sure we were very well looked after. That moment has always stuck with me as a life lesson – that regardless of how senior you become or how important you may think you are, you should never behave as though you are above anyone or anything.
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?
Angelina> I was always very independent, ambitious and career focussed. As my roles evolved and I became more senior, I began seeing my direct reports grow and achieve things they didn’t realise they were capable of. Giving the people the autonomy and freedom to achieve is so important – often they may do things differently to you and have different ideas, but as I was taught when I was coming up through the ranks, it’s important to give people the freedom to fail, rather than feeling that there’s only one way to do something.
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?
Angelina> I think it’s a bit of nature and nurture like all things, but you can always learn to be a better leader, and every day should be a ‘school day’. Never think you know it all because you don’t.
LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?
Angelina> I think balancing a leadership role with being a parent is a challenge for everyone who does it, particularly if you have younger children. You’re either working, or parenting, and it never really stops. It has given me a deep understanding and respect for working parents, the challenges pregnant working mums face and how strong mothers in leadership roles have to be to flourish in this industry.
I had the most amazing PR account manager once, she applied for the role and said she had to disclose she was pregnant and would understand if I didn’t hire her because of it. She was the right person for the team and the role, so I hired her, and she did an incredible job.
People talk about the ‘motherhood tax’ in our industry, and I’ve always made it my goal to help other women overcome that challenge and realise they can be a mother, work flexibly and have a successful career too.
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?
Angelina> I would never regard anything as a failure if you learn from it, either personally or from a member of my team. I strongly believe you can always take some type of positive learning from any situation or experience.
LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered?
Angelina> I think there’s merit in a balanced approach, and I aim to be both authentic and considered. When I was younger, I was always very action focussed, and I still am. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised sometimes the best thing to do if you don’t have an immediate answer, is to wait as often things will change, evolve and become clearer with time.
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?
Angelina> I’ve tended to have partners rather than mentors. I ran my own agency business for six years with Karen Maurice-O’Leary who is an incredibly talented, award-winning creative and outstanding human. She taught me that no matter what happens, it’s up to you how you respond – it can be a positive or a negative response but it’s always your choice.
I try and mentor everyone I work with by helping them develop their skills and ideas. Good ideas can come from anywhere and if you give people the courage to believe in themselves, you’ll always get a better outcome.
The one thing I think all leaders should be very aware of is that the only thing people will ever remember about you is the way you treated them. That will be your legacy.
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?
Angelina> The key thing is to make sure you’re there for each other, there’s always a lot more going on in a person’s life than you see at work. People have lives, families, children, interests, and we’re all juggling so many things these days. As a leader, you need to inspire people to want to be part of something, to want to deliver great work and to enjoy what they do, but leaders need to realise that healthy, balanced people work to live, they don’t live to work.
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?
Angelina> As we know, it’s vital our industry leans into this because we’re constantly shaping perceptions with the content we create. DE&I should be part of ongoing conversations and it needs to be baked into everything you and your team does on a daily basis. It’s a journey and we’re making progress, but there is still a lot more we can do to advance the issue.
LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how did you manage to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020/2021?
Angelina> Company culture is hugely important, but it’s the people that make the culture wherever they are. We’ve all learnt to work in new and more flexible ways, and I think as a leader if you’re empathetic and focussed on putting people first, then your culture will always be positive and strong.
LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?
Angelina> I’m a huge fan of emerging technology and new platforms. There are so many great tools that help to streamline busy lives, and if we can create more space and time for ourselves by being organised, we’ll have the space to continually up-skill and read widely.
But the most useful leadership journey resource is my team. They’re creative, inspiring, and clever with great hustle. I’m a strong believer that you should never stop learning from those around you – so always make sure you stop and listen.