5 Key ways to earn respect


“Earn your leadership every day” — Michael Jordan

In business, the true resources you have are the people you work with. I’m referring to the relationships you build with your colleagues throughout your career journey. And those relationships are based on respect.

Frequent questions have circulated throughout my career – I am regularly asked how, as a young woman, am I able to garner the respect of my staff, clients, senior management and chief executives, on a daily basis. I believe that while knowledge, experience and ambition are critical components, attitude and empathy are the factors that I know have shaped who I am today. So allow me to provide a few pearls of hidden wisdom from one working woman to the next…

Management should embrace three habits: earn & show respect, embrace teamwork and reflect frequently.

1. Use your natural empathy

While I can see the different strengths of both men and women in this industry, I believe that as women, our natural aptitude will allow us to continue to succeed.  In the very near future, senior management teams in media agencies will be dominated by women, but independent agencies will need to take the lead on this one now.

The biggest and most obvious challenge is the role women play in child rearing and the propensity for women to prioritise family and parenthood over their career, a decision for which I have only respect and admiration.  I believe that the responsibility falls on employers to provide more support and flexibility to allow women to do both; to continue to move up the leadership ladder, while also being the parent they need to be to their children.

2. Support and nurture junior team members

They are the future of the business. The key to being a strong leader is the strength of the people around you. A focus on staff development is not only great for the client, as it ensures our people are best-in-class, but it is also an internal driver of agency growth and a positive agency culture.

Under my current leadership, I make a point of finding and developing young talent, as well as nurturing and learning from the agency’s most experienced staffers. I am a fond believer in agency internship programs and the development of team members. On the other end of the spectrum, I am a fan of challengig senior management – I love a good “knowledge dump session” and I like to put the skills of those in the spotlight to the ultimate test (it’s important to ensure that the well-seasoned agency veterans remain updated and “hip” so to speak… shhh).

3. Empower the leaders in your team

You’re only as strong as the people below you. I have grown professionally from an open mentality – learn from those around you and remain free and open to new skills and environments. Many of the top brass in the industry are old school media players, who bring enormous benefits in terms of relationships and client networks. As a young player in media, I am inspired by change and the challenges that transformation brings. I am a digital native who entered the industry during a time of seismic change, and as a result I am ideally positioned to future proof the business/

My tip is to is to embrace the changing mediascape and take on new roles and responsibilities within the workplace. I have either personally led or been heavily involved in numerous internal programs or restructures aimed to this effect, including: the direction of over $1 million in training and development spending to ensure strong future leadership; cross divisional training programs to create multi-disciplinary staff in a truly full service agency; transitioning the business from a retainer model to performance-led remuneration; restructuring the business from a vertical to a horizontal structure where senior managers sit among junior staff; overseeing the creation and development of new business divisions including the agency’s creative and content marketing divisions.

4. Listen

Empower the leaders in your team and nurture their respect. Throughout my career I have been lucky enough to have experienced the tutelage of the more experienced partners –a phenomenal advantage that offers a blend of both old school and new school waves of thought. Simply put, I have learnt how to listen.

5. Have a point of view

Be assertive, not aggressive. Don’t be dogmatic. Be confident to tell the client your opinion, voice concerns and raise new ideas. Have an opinion and back yourself. This mentality has served me well, and if you can take any of these newfound pearls of wisdom away, my advice is to treasure this one and use it wisely.


About Claire Fenner

Claire Fenner is the General Manager of Media for Atomic 212. At just 31 years of age, she already has a considerable industry pedigree, and is a formidable media operator. Claire prides herself on her strong leadership, her flair for client relationships and her impressive media negotiation skills. She has worked previously at Carat as Director of the largest media account in the country, Woolworths, and cut her teeth as Business Director at boutique media agency Cut Above Media. Claire’s mantra is “Results, Results, Results”. Just look at the work she did with Woolworths, where she spearheaded a project that saw the supermarket chain nab a healthy 2% market share from Coles in a single campaign.

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