Is kids mental health being left behind?

I sent a tweet last week that seemed to hit a chord. It started with a chat in the office about school homework with Sam Hicks and the pressure that builds around doing it, who does it, tuition etc. It is something that is a regular conversation with all parents of kids at a certain age. Parents will pretty much universally agree that as kids they did not have to do as much at a certain age, around 9ish. No one remembers the same level of activity, homework, after school activities, weekend stuff, it’s frenetic for a nine year old. The most important thing for me, it’s seven days a week.

The thing is, it coincides with the sea changes going on in society and in the work places. Just look at the ‘interruption’ to BGT the other night? At our work place and many others over the world companies are working hard to support people who may be suffering with mental health. There are very visible initiatives like Mediacom with Josh pushing the agenda very hard, at Spotify we have Heart and Soul at its core with lots of opportunities for support and to talk openly which some of our team have been doing. It’s all so important that these issues are discussed.

Beyond ‘corporate’ acknowledgement there are smaller initiatives. My leadership team have agreed that we should not be emailing the teams after working hours, at weekends and not have fifty emails waiting for them at 6am Monday. We have been really working on this over time, when my directs are on holiday I have a hard rule that says they go on holiday and switch off. It sends shivers when people say ‘yeah I am off but will be on email.’ Don’t do it, don’t do a poor job of your holiday and a poor job of working and at the end or it all, not properly relax. That’s no use to me. All my directs know how I feel on this and I encourage them to do the same. A break is vital.

So all good, we are on it as adults. We know however that education moves slower than industry, schools can get stuck in old fashioned ruts, they do not adapt fast enough. So here is the thing. Why is it good for us to switch off when the kids are getting homework on Fridays for the weekend, why is it ok for kids to come home and work when we get to take a break in the main, why is it ok for kids to have to work through holidays when we don’t. Have we forgotten that their minds are more fragile than ours, we are setting behaviours, we add to that stress with arguments about how hard they are trying or how well they are doing? Pressure, lack of rest, lack of relax, arguments and more. If we were to set this as our approach to the work environment we would not hold on to a single employee.

The worst of this is that it’s tough to say here is what we do about it..stop doing homework gets reprimand at school and depending on schools will leave kids behind. So it’s open ended but feel like we should keep talking about it and asking schools what they intend to do. Certainly my next parents evening, it will be my first question.

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Recipe for a successful conference

Back after a few days at my Sales Academy in Evian and have been reflecting on what makes a great sales conference. My team and I had been working so hard to make a success of this event and I feel like we made amazing progress. Of course nothing it’s perfect but 2019 has been the best yet and I started to think about how and why that was the case.

1. The first thing for me is a purpose. Following our high performing teams training we settled on our purpose as a management team being ‘Setting The Stage for Success’ what did we mean by that? Simply put, our job is to be the roadies for the team. Put everything in place to help them to succeed. This is what we carried through to the Academy as the theme. Too often leaders are the front men, the ones on stage, our view is that our teams should be up there.

2. Inclusion. This year we really involved a whole range of teams, individual sales teams from every market and division to create ‘Adbreaks’ – 5 minute case studies through out the few days, amazing opp for teams to present best work to a big crowd. We involved speakers from diverse backgrounds, a long list of amazing female talent in the business and both internal and external. All briefed to talk Setting the Stage for Success.

3. Safe space. As the team has grown and collaborated over the years, we have created a very safe culture – led by my wonderful directs with all team members happy to ask questions even to the most senior of Execs who we asked to come over, including our Global CFO and Head of Free Business, as well as the founder of Gimlet. The level of trust in the group has been amazing.

4. Fun.  Not too much, not too little. This year we were in a relatively controlled environment and so bed times were not too late. Lots and lots of fun but not too late and that has a lot of benefits. People were sharper the next day which meant they added more and interacted more. Tiredness leads to stress which can build when you are pulled away from your day job, even for the best content. Hangovers are so 2018.

5.Environment. We chose a venue that was calm, beautiful views and partially isolated and it was wonderful. Our meeting space was light and airy with views over lakes. We had lots of space and we built in time to breathe. Longer breaks, longer lunch, time at end of day to unwind and catch up, all meant people could concentrate and put phones and laptops down. The engagement was amazing.

6. Time to think. Often the goal of these events is based on packing as much in as possible ‘since we have everyone here.’ We have tried this and it does not work. If you want to drive attention during the sessions then making sure people have time to work and relax is vital. So longer breaks, time to unwind at the end of the day before any evening activities are all vital to a good mindset through the week. I was blown away by the attention of the teams this year because we engineered better timings. We also made sure that we ended on a Thursday and not a Friday so there was a working day left.

7. Prepare to be gone. A small additional note to this, prepare for absence well in advance and give air cover. If a business can’t operate with out irate clients for two and half days then we have an issue. Warn clients that you are having a massively beneficial team / learning experience, you won’t be around as normal and anything else should be managed around the event. I would also hope our clients would show consideration, lets face it, everyone does it at some point during the year.

I could not be happier, it takes work, it takes a small army of people to pull it off but the results will show. Don’t start with revenue as the goal, start with behaviours and your people and the rest will follow. I am so proud of the leads we have across EMEA, they bond, they get on, they work independently and as teams. We are in such a good place and the people are everything.

My Shiny new object podcast & Interview with The Drum

A first for me on this blog is a link to a podcast I featured on with Tom Ollerton a few months back.  Here the Drum has a summary of the interview, first published Here

The podcast itself can be found here on Spotify

Spotify’s European sales chief, Marco Bertozzi talks about the latest marketing technology on the Shiny New Object podcast with Tom Ollerton, AI consultant and the former innovation director at We Are Social.

“No-one is going to remember my career” states Marco Bertozzi , VP of Europe Sales at Spotify.

Despite this seemingly self-effacing statement about his career, Bertozzi bubbles with positivity and is powering a mini-movement that celebrates the wonderful parts of our industry in the form of the #LoveAds campaign.

Despite his hippie ideals about adland, Bertozzi is one of the most successful sales guys out there – but getting there wasn’t easy. He confides with the audience that he once sent his pitch team to the client’s office for a pitch whilst simultaneously asking the client to come to the agency for the same pitch. This kind of gaffe would send me into a spiral of self-loathing but Marco seems to draw strength from his miss-steps. He happily chirps that “I’m really good at not worrying about things I can’t do anything about.” He tells us that in the evenings and at the weekend there’s not much he can really do to change anything, so why worry?

However, life isn’t all about work for Marco and he was keen to talk about his love of running – though he warns of doing “junk miles.” where a person repeats their regular exercise and don’t push them self. If this behaviour becomes the norm then it tends to hold back their development.

When asked about how he finds time to run sales at Spotify and keep fit – he insists you have to go to the gym during the working week – forcing people to go at lunchtime is an “archaic model.”

Marco’s shiny new object is “Marketing in a Screenless World” – and he’s on a mission to draw marketers attention away from visual marketing. He claims that “The marketing world is obsessed with video” and tells us of the seismic changes in the industry that Voice Tech and Audio will bring.

I agree with Marco that “People are looking for opportunities not to look at their screens” – with connected speakers, podcasts and audiobooks quietly changing the media landscape. But what is the opportunity for brands in this screenless world? In a word – intimacy. When a consumer is listening to audio on headphones cut through is guaranteed with no distractions. Spotify’s ad suite is taking advantage of this – giving brands the opportunity to make dynamic audio ads that are responsive to the audience in real-time. Snickers used this to powerful effect by spotting when a listener’s music habits took an unusual turn – and served up an ad that called this behaviour out.

If you get the chance to meet Marco then I urge that you do. Or of course, you can just listen to this podcast on Spotify.

BertozziBytesize: Is nostalgia for vinyl & books a leading indicator of screen burn out?

Record sales are at an all time high, up 30% , they have not been this high since Nirvana’s Nevermind. Books are back – up 6%. We still love to send cards instead of emails when it really matters. Podcasts are growing exponentially, music listening is off the ‘charts’. We often hear about people wanting to ‘touch’ things like the feel of the book, or we relax on a Sunday when we have a newspaper and a coffee. It is a theme right now, a return to the ‘old school’.

I was thinking about this and I feel that we continue to apply rationalisations from 2005-7 to today. I think some of the above is true. Yes you can feel more relaxed with a book or newspaper. The art of putting a record on a player is captivating. It’s the same as rolling a cigarette or lighting a fire, it is a ritual. Settling back and reading a book is relaxing for sure. I am not sure it is for the same reasons today as for a few years ago.

It is because we instinctively know we need a break from screens. 

I don’t like us right now. I don’t like what we have become, what we have become. I hate myself for the amount I stare at screens. My heart sinks when I look around and see everyone buried in their phones, whether it is on a train, in a queue, walking. I notice that people can make it through a dinner party until about 10ish before phones creep out – ‘oh let me show you this video’ ‘let me show you a photo’ ‘let me send you a link’ you see it everywhere, all of the time. It is an addiction. I sit on a couch and check my phone, all the time, I used to watch TV.  We don’t look around when we walk, perhaps the most depressing thing of all. When we go in the car, my son looks out of the window, no screens, he sees stuff and comments. We could all learn from that.

I could go on forever on this topic. I logged out of Facebook for this reason. I am warming up to do the same with others. I feel a slight dread coming because of phone usage. So when people start to buy vinyl, when the book becomes cool again, it’s not because they like the feel of paper or vinyl. It is because they need a break. They want to use their eyes, use their brain without interruption, without a vibration, a drop down, a flash or a beeb. They don’t want to stare into the blue screen for 14 hours a day anymore. Scrolling through pages of irrelevance is starting to knore away at our souls.

The book is back, the coffee and the magazine, the lazy Sunday with the newspapers and music in the background, all of these are key indicators not of some old school desire to touch and feel, but rather that we need a break. Just as with climate change, the signs are there but there are less obvious massive changes, so it is with our behaviour. The signs are there, people need a break, digital detox, logging out of social media, I wonder whether these are the leading indicators amid a world where we shut down and realise how we need to look at our friends and family first and screens second.