“I had a rubbish time at brightonSEO” said no one EVER! It’s just not possible. Whoever you are, whatever you do, no matter your experience level; you always find something to make it a worthwhile trip. Whether that’s expanding your mind with hints, tips and hacks that enable you to be better, meet new friends, or simply escape your everyday routine, relax and let your hair down with likeminded folk. Last week, I was lucky enough to benefit from all the above. And I have to say: it was as good for my soul as it was for my mind.
The agenda was so incredibly diverse which was a great start to bringing the feel-good vibes that Kelvin is always so on point in achieving. And I’m not talking about diversity at a superficial level – this isn’t your standard ‘cis, pale, stale and male’ conference! Diversity isn’t an afterthought, the organisers are intentional in planning the agenda by arranging a series of talks on inclusion and accessibility, ensuring women are as present on stage as male colleagues, and giving opportunities to those just starting their careers, alongside heavy hitters such as Greg Gifford, Judith Lewis and John Mueller. I have so much respect for anyone brave enough to get on stage and share their thoughts and opinions, especially alongside well-respected OG’s – this alone was inspiring and gave me a bit of a buzz to (dare I say) apply for a speaker slot myself!
Topics ranged from the technical and practical, to stuff that really made you think; about your career, your style as a leader, your mindset and behaviour as a good human and colleague. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of blogs flying about sharing knowledge and skills picked up to help people improve their day to day abilities, but I wanted to focus on the things I learned that made me feel something. I was fortunate enough to attend the Online PR show as well as the two-day conference, so here are some of my top take aways from the three days that gave me the feel-good factor.
Slow down and take pride in your work
Megan Packer introduced me to the concept of ‘productivity dysmorphia’ and the fact that 50% of us don’t take time to recognise, let alone celebrate our achievements. I know I do this from time to time, but my important take away here was defining it and calling it out as a real-life ‘thing’ that needs addressing – not necessarily just for my benefit, but for my team and colleagues.
Meg shared insights in how to recognise it in myself and others, as well as tackle it. It’s all about being at peace with what success looks like to you vs others, living in the present moment and celebrating success when it comes. I already firmly believe in the latter and am really glad she emphasised it’s okay to celebrate your achievements. I think it’s important for people to realise it’s not bragging, it’s pride. The only people who think it’s bragging have their own issues to deal with, so you do you.
Put work wellbeing on your agenda
I was really excited when I saw Beth Nunnington’s topic around leading a team from scratch as that’s exactly what I’m doing right now with the Digital PR Team at Yard. And honestly, in this first year although I’ve done some stuff around culture and connectivity, a lot of my focus has been on motivation, recruitment, process and winning new business. Listening to Beth was a great reminder that culture is key. I’ve always been a bit soppy for ‘Happiness Surveys’ and a value-led approach, but I’ve just not found the time for it…until now!
Actioning some of her points around checking the well-being of the team in more strategic ways, living the values, and setting realistic targets with clients will ensure we don’t all burnout. It can help retain the warm and fuzzy feelings we currently have both for our work and each other.
Be unapologetically YOU!
Although Greg Gifford and Judith Lewis’ talks were on completely different (although equally useful) topics with lots of practical take aways, the overwhelming learning from me after hearing them both speak, is to be your authentic self, always. They were high energy, hilarious, straight talking, punchy and unapologetically themselves, and I absolutely adored that about them.
I’m pretty loud and sometimes I worry that I’m ‘too much’ (whilst also being ‘not enough’ which is quite the achievement, I know!) but watching them made me think, “sure, some people will love this style, some will hate it…but they woke us all up, delivered some valuable points and I love it” – and that’s what I should really be telling myself about my own way of being!
Lead away from burnout
I could probably write a whole blog just on Gisele’s session…I won’t because she already has. I think she won Brighton SEO for me. Her tips and processes for leading a team away from burnout made me want to be better in every aspect of my life.
Even her tips about having difficult conversations, I was thinking “I’m totally going to use these on my toddlers”. She was amazing and had an energy about her that made us really take on board what she was saying; because it felt real, considered and well-intended.
This wasn’t about self-promotion for Gisele or Neomam – this was about her trying to make things better for all of us. It’s a good job I went home Friday night, otherwise after a few post BrightonSEO drinks I could have easily found myself in a local tattoo parlour getting the words “lead with intention” and “assume the best before judgement” inked on me!
Prioritise yourself at work
I’ve heard Jasmine Granton talk on various podcasts before and have always appreciated her style and smarts, so it was great to see her live and finally meet her in the flesh. I hope anyone who watched her at BrightonSEO heard the message loud and clear that you absolutely must put yourself first when it comes to finding the right job for you.
Before I joined Verve Search, I had a short stint in another agency (don’t bother checking my LinkedIn, it’s not there!) and, in my gut, I just knew it wasn’t for me. It felt grey and lacked personality. So, I echo Jasmine’s point that you must listen to your gut when it’s telling you something isn’t right – leaving there after 2 months was life changing in the best possible way. Never settle for second best. She also shared some awesome non-negotiables in terms of her personal expectations from an employer, which I think most of us can agree with – and, as an employer, it’s always good to feel assured you tick these kinds of boxes!
Communicate in ways that will connect
At Yard, our search team is currently working fully remotely after shutting our Edinburgh office last month, so Jo Turnbull’s session on ‘Building Relationships when Remote Working’ couldn’t have been timed better.
Jo’s advice wasn’t fluffy and theoretical, it was direct and to the point, focusing on 5 areas; emotional intelligence, communication, empathy, active listening and confidence. She made the point that it’s ok to express your emotions and be honest with your colleagues about how you’re feeling.
It’s all too easy to hide behind the screen nowadays and turn off your camera in Teams when you’re not feeling 100%. Your colleagues will notice something is up, so it’s best to be upfront. I also really liked what she said about how empathy is curiosity and walking in someone else's shoes – a point well worth noting since she also mentioned research that shows empathy is the most important leadership skill, especially after the pandemic.
No one is perfect, and in trying to be, we might just break
I’m sorry, I didn’t write any notes on Craig Dewart’s talk – I was too busy trying not to cry. I was so moved by his honesty and courage to admit that he got it all terribly wrong, to the detriment of himself and his colleagues.
It’s never nice to hear that anyone felt so low, but it is refreshing to hear a man admit to being able to face up to his imperfections and learn from them. I can so relate. I’ve let the pressure get to me in the past, making me be a leader that I would have hated.
Fortunately, like Craig, I learned and changed…I also had babies, which gave me a massive sense of perspective (strongly DON’T recommend having kids just to be a better leader). I think the more we can be honest about our short-comings and how we learned from them, the better this industry will be.
I also picked up a lot of practical tips and advice which we will be pulling together and sharing as a team sometime soon. But if you want my BIGGEST piece of advice, it’s this: get yourself down to brightonSEO next year, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the friends and knowledge you come home with.