WPP Maestro Executive Leadership Experience

A few weeks ago, I attended WPP’s Executive Leadership course, “Maestro”. I was selected to attend Maestro late last year by the JWT Leadership Committee, made up of our COO, CCO, CFO, and our Head of Talent (that’s a lot of C’s!). I was proud to be selected and looking forward to the opportunity to grow as a leader within both the company, and the network. The experience took place in Norwalk, Connecticut at a retreat nestled back in the woods of Fairfield County in the southern part of the state down by New York City. It’s one of the last stops out of Penn Station and beautiful place. I hadn’t visited the area before so it was a treat.

I don’t wanna bore with all the sordid details of what went on, but I can confirm that there were no secret handshakes or mystic rituals. We spent several days working in small groups on different scenarios, each designed to move us further down the path to becoming a valuable contributor to the process of bringing agency value and trust to the forefront. Here’s a pretty apt description of the experience:

Maestro aims to strengthen the ability of WPP’s best client practitioners to be trusted senior advisors and partners in innovation who are able to build and lead increasingly large, complex relationships. The program enhances problem-solving, fact-based decision making, relationship and people/team leadership skills.

The team they’ve assembled is World Class and the process you go through is transformative. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to identify precisely the moment when you feel as though, “this is it, this is something special” and this was definitely one of those times. I’m certain everyone in the program was of sufficient caliber, but I felt like fate had put me in the presence of some of the nicest, smartest, sharpest people I’ve ever been privileged enough to work with. I met, and partnered with, some truly rock-star network advertising talent.

I’ve participated in leadership training before, most notably the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Leadership Grand Strand” Program. This was similar in content but much more focused and direct in practice. Maestro’s sole focus is on increasing value in the client relationship by demonstrating your ability to build trust and partner. As a person who is increasingly working directly with clients (and accounts!) through more visible efforts on larger projects, I’ve got a responsibility to ensure I’m successfully building that trust and strengthening that relationship and this was the perfect “boot camp” to get it done.

I don’t mean to imply that it was confrontational in its approach, but that it was an honest, professional, at times tough, process. Working through confrontation, managing expectations, establishing rapport, and being empathetic are just facts of life and the sooner you can learn to harness that, the more you’re bringing to the table. I appreciate tremendously the opportunity to get into and explore that headspace.

I could go on and on about how much personal growth you can cram into a week, but suffice to say, I can’t think of a time when I’ve been so personally and professionally challenged to push myself in new (and sometimes uncomfortable) ways. But man, do you come out the other side a better person…

Just like my experience with Leadership Grand Strand, the people I met and became friends with are going to wind up being lifelong friends. We’ve already got a standing Skype meeting every month to catch up and I find myself keenly into what all my fellow Maestros are up to.

Here it is the beginning of February and I’ve already had an experience that I think is going to be difficult to top!

You find your own rewards… sometimes without even looking.

The last week  has been really rewarding. It’s Friday and as I look back on the week, I realize events that were merely “to-do” items on my agenda turned out to be the highlights of my week. Not the place you expected to find yourself on a Friday afternoon, but certainly a place you’ll enjoy.

On Wednesday, I hosted a “lunch and learn” at work. I love my job and one of the best parts about it is all the great technology I’m constantly exposed to. An even better part of it is that I love sharing it within the context of actually showing people how it can make their lives easier, make their work easier, make their jobs easier, and basically help them realize that often lofty goal of technology, “to improve your life”. Too often, and I’m even guilty of it too, you think, “oh, this is just too much. There’s too much out there and I can’t ever keep up” and so I’m always on the lookout for ways that technology and software can facilitate making my day to day life a little easier. Once I find them, and I learn and use them, I become an evangelist of sorts and I’m always eager to share. Wednesday was one of those days. I sent an email out to everyone at work and basically said, “hey, I’ve discovered a bunch of great, useful tools that I’m finding myself using and getting a lot of value from and if you’re interested, I’d love to eat a sandwich in the front meeting room, get on the big screen, and share some of them because I think you’ll dig ’em too.” I wasn’t sure who would show up (if anyone) but lo, and behold, I had a nice crowd! We spent the hour eating, sharing, talking, and I walked out of the lunch thinking, “wow, that was more awesome than I anticipated, and I think everyone got something great out of it!”

Then, this morning, I had a meeting scheduled to sit down with a room full of Realtors and show them how to use their CRM software to use some email templates we had created for them to more effectively market to their customers and prospects. I wasn’t sure, walking into the room, what to expect, and knowing that my audience wasn’t as “technical” (in other words, they weren’t database nerds who actually got excited about working in a robust CRM) as I was, I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the outcome. I don’t know what it was, either I love to hear myself talk (well, we all know that’s totally the case) or they were really in tune with what I was laying down, but we all really clicked as a room and it quickly turned into a really rewarding, collaborative meeting. Lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm, and again, I walked out of there thinking, “wow, that turned out way better than I had anticipated!”.

So it was, I had two rather non-eventful events planned on my schedule that I wasn’t expecting so much out of, turn out to be some of the best work moments of the week. I wasn’t programming. I wasn’t creating anything, or hitting a deadline, or managing a project. I was just sitting with some people, sharing solutions, engaging in some back and forth, and walking away feeling as if both sides got way more out of it than they thought they’d get going into it.

That’s some pretty rewarding work… cleverly disguised as “to-do” items on a calendar.