Samsung Head of Brand Marketing: ‘Say what you want about Millennials and Gen Z – they taught me how to lead well in a crisis’
Samsung’s Hayley Walton was four months into the job when Covid hit. It’s taught her success isn’t defined exclusively by achieving business objectives but also human connection. And that her younger colleagues won’t get the credit they deserve for making her a better leader.
“Covid has taught me that my success isn’t defined solely by the achievement of business objectives. If we strip back the professional pretences, it’s also measured by the lasting and meaningful human connections I have made.”
We’ve all been in that moment where you start finessing your resume. Identifying achievements you think might spark the interest of a potential new employer. In 2020, we achieved some big things that would capture the attention of many.
- Market share growth: tick.
- Successfully launched more products than ever before: tick.
- Moved brand consideration north: tick.
All whilst saving ever valuable dollars. We did this from our kitchen benches, lounge rooms, studies and sometimes from the front seat of a car hurtling towards a border before it closed again.
In years gone by, this would be exactly what I would be using to pat myself on the back and capture my success — but post Covid, I’ve learnt that my achievements are so much more.
“So many of my team were grappling with their first taste of economic adversity and social isolation. Job stability was unknown, social freedom constricted and, after finding their feet in the real world, some returned home and learnt to exist within the family unit again.”
‘Casual Fridays’ aren’t enough
Four months into a new role, Covid came at a time when face-to-face interaction would usually be considered essential. Leading a team of young professionals, both internally and across agency partners, took an abrupt turn. Gone were the professional rubric and rituals, funky office fit outs and wacky casual Friday’s; instead we returned to a simpler need for real human connection.
We saw the fragility of the human spirit, raw — and for many — exposed for the first time. Say what you will about Millennials and Gen Z, but this cohort taught me more about how to be a leader than they will ever get the credit for.
I can remember exactly where I was when I learnt about 9/11, but so many of my team were grappling with their first taste of economic adversity and social isolation. Job stability was unknown, social freedom constricted and, after finding their feet in the real world, some returned home and learnt to exist within the family unit again.
No more hiding in a team meeting
The consuming realities of Covid forced us to remove our masks and enabled us all to be perfectly imperfect. Sitting on a call in your pyjamas explaining the origins of the obscure knick knacks on the shelf behind you allowed us to break down walls that were otherwise impenetrable when in an office.
We were finally bringing our whole self to work, feeling seen in all aspects of our lives. My team quickly learnt I was the same person talking performance marketing tactics as I was with my seven-year-old son — who fast became a Google Meets celebrity in his own right.
We’ve fostered a close-knit community, bound together because we have collectively experienced and survived as a team. We are now truly honest and open, uninhibited in sharing our thoughts and vulnerabilities. As leaders we know how challenging this type of dynamic is to foster, I feel immense privilege to have experienced this with my team.
Covid has taught me that my success isn’t defined solely by the achievement of business objectives. If we strip back the professional pretences, it’s also measured by the lasting and meaningful human connections I have made.
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