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Leaders Letter 126 – Leadership Lessons From Agency CEO Paddy Moogan

Dear Leaders, this week I am introducing a new interview series with leaders I have worked with and I asked them five important questions to help you with your business moving forward into the new year.

The first is a good friend of mine Paddy Moogan, CEO of Aira, an award-winning agency doing the agency model differently, where culture was a key and deliberate differentiator. As you will see from the questions Paddy has gone from co-founder to CEO and has some great gems and offers many wise words for you across your leadership journey.

Onto the Q&A:

Q1. You recently created an agency leadership programme, what do think are the next steps in shaping the future of digital leaders?

I think that digital leaders of the future need to be more emotionally intelligent than previous generations. Empathy is likely to end up being a superpower for managers and this can present challenges for managers too, but I think it’s an important area to develop.

We’ve been trending towards this anyway over the last ten years or so, but the pandemic and remote working has accelerated the need to understand the viewpoint and experiences of the people you manage.

Even if a manager isn’t a natural when it comes to emotional intelligence or empathy, they are things that can be learned to a good enough extent to be valuable. But it starts with a leader being open to the idea that it matters. If they’re not, they will struggle to lead the current and future generations of workers.

Aira’s recent conference at the Red Bull HQ

Q2. What is the biggest takeaway you learnt from your recent in real-life conference?

That conferences are hard! I have a huge level of respect for people who run large events because a lot can go wrong (thankfully, our event went great).

Aside from that, it was a great reminder of the value that face-to-face interactions have. I think that we’ve all forgotten about the benefits of being in the same room as a bunch of different people. So it was great to get that feeling back again and have conversations that just wouldn’t have happened via an online event. 

I do think that real-life B2B events are harder to make work (attendees-wise) than previously. But it will go back to where it was, just slowly. 

Q3. What’s the biggest shift you made when becoming the CEO this year?

The biggest shift was probably the change in mindset from co-founder to CEO. This was really interesting and a little unexpected. It’s given me a renewed focus on how I’d like Aira to operate and the things that are important to focus on.

That felt strange because things are going well and nothing felt broken. But having a bit of a reset and focus on my “new” job was really valuable and gave me some clarity that I probably didn’t have previously. 

It’s also made me let go (slowly!) of a few things that I’ve always kept hold of, particularly around people and culture. That’s a big shift for me personally, but it’s the right call and it will naturally always be something that I care about a lot anyway – even if I’m not working on the day-to-day of it.

Q4. What are the three best tips you can give leaders planning for 2023?

  1. Don’t underestimate the value of face time with your team. Remote working is here to stay, but don’t lean into it so much that you forget about the value of going for lunch or coffee with your team if the opportunity arises.
  2. Be prepared for churn. Remote working has opened up a huge talent pool for leaders to tap into. But it’s also opened up more opportunities for your team to continue their career elsewhere. Don’t take your team for granted and have a plan for team churn.
  3. Try and stay on the front foot. The economic climate is looking pretty grim and we’ve barely gotten over the impact of the pandemic. So it’s easy to batten down the hatches and go into survival mode all over again, but try to focus on leading in a positive way rather than being too defensive.

Q5. If you could click your fingers and address one big issue for 2023 what would it be?

If I could make the argument over remote / hybrid / office working go away overnight, I would!

I think it’s a flawed argument in all directions because there is no right answer. 

Of course, the world has changed and remote working has accelerated far quicker than expected due to the pandemic. 

But the real thing we should be focusing on is the change that has happened in people’s heads. Whichever working environment they prefer, they now have far more choices than ever before and expect flexibility. If they don’t get it from you, there are plenty of other companies that will give it to them. I think this is the real discussion point of this topic – not whether office or remote working is the future or not.

Go & Connect With Paddy

Have a great week and think about how you can reshape 2023 based on the great recommendations from Paddy,

Thanks,

Danny Denhard