Lucy Hurst is Managing Director of Sherbet Donkey Media and is a thought leader on the topic of leadership. In this interview, she shares her insights with The Industry Leaders about how to navigate uncertainty as a business leader.
Could you please share a bit about yourself, your background, and the journey that has led you to become an entrepreneur? What makes your perspective unique on the subject of leadership and navigating uncertainty?
Hi, it's my pleasure! Sure thing. I have a degree in photography which I obtained during the transition period from analogue/ film to digital cameras. I was fascinated by both as I grew up with one type but loved the prospect of new technology. I love to learn, so have learnt a lot about running a business over the past ten years, both in B2C and B2B businesses. I now love that I co-own a digital marketing agency. It allows me to express my natural creative streak and it lets me continue to learn.
You and your business have presumably faced some interesting challenges and changes over the years. Can you describe a key moment when you felt uncertainty was at its peak?
Yeah, certainly. We've grown from 3 members of staff to 34 and still recruiting in just over two years so I think it's natural that we've experienced some growing pains. Ultimately, they have made us even bigger and better at what we do though. There was a period when almost everyone was saying that no one else was communicating on projects. We found this really baffling because they all got on so well. We listened to what they were saying, looked into what we could implement to help alleviate these problems, and then rolled out a CRM system to include all projects along with non time invasive Heads of Department meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page with everything we're working on.
From your experience, what are the core principles or values that guide a leader during uncertain times?
Communication: Leaders need to be transparent and communicative with their team members during uncertain times. This means sharing information openly and honestly, even if it is bad news. It also means being available to answer questions and address concerns.
Empathy: Leaders need to be empathetic to the needs of their team members during uncertain times. This means understanding their fears and concerns, and providing support and guidance. It also means being flexible and understanding when team members need to take time off or make changes to their work arrangements.
Resilience: Leaders need to be resilient during uncertain times. This means being able to bounce back from setbacks and challenges. It also means being able to adapt to change and uncertainty.
Vision: Leaders need to have a clear vision for the future during uncertain times. This vision should provide hope and inspiration for team members, and it should give them a sense of purpose.
Trust: Leaders need to build trust with their team members during uncertain times. This means being honest and trustworthy, and it means following through on commitments. It also means being open to feedback and being willing to learn from mistakes.
How do you cultivate a culture of resilience and adaptability within your team? Can you share a practical example where this culture made a significant difference?
As a leader, it is important to model the behaviours that we want to see in our team members. We're resilient and adaptable ourselves, and show our team members how to bounce back from setbacks and challenges. We help team members understand that change is inevitable and that it is an opportunity to learn and grow. We provide them with opportunities to take on new challenges and learn new skills. Team members should feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns, and they should feel supported by their colleagues and leaders. We create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. When team members achieve a goal or overcome a challenge, we're sure to celebrate their successes. This helps them feel motivated and confident to take on new challenges.
Many aspiring leaders struggle with the fear of failure, especially when the path ahead is unclear. What strategies or mental frameworks have you developed to overcome this fear and embrace uncertainty as an opportunity?
I'm constantly trying to push myself out of my own comfort zone. I believe that's a great place to discover new opportunities and to ensure the uncertain becomes certain. Afterall, you miss 100% of the shots that you don't take.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes leaders make during uncertain times? Can you offer a real-life example where recognizing and avoiding such a mistake led to success?
When things are uncertain, leaders may feel the need to micromanage their team members. This can lead to resentment and decreased productivity. Instead, leaders should focus on providing their team members with the support and resources they need to succeed.
It is important for leaders to get input from their team members and other stakeholders when making decisions during uncertain times. This will help to ensure that decisions are made in the best interests of the organisation.
Leaders need to communicate openly and honestly with their team members during uncertain times. This includes sharing information about the challenges the organisation is facing, as well as the steps that are being taken to address them.
Team members may be feeling stressed, anxious, or uncertain during times of change. Leaders need to provide support to their team members by listening to their concerns, offering reassurance, and providing resources as needed.
Things are constantly changing during uncertain times, so leaders need to be flexible and adaptable. This means being willing to change plans and make adjustments as needed. With the many businesses that we've worked with, we've seen that during uncertain times, some business owners have a tendency to cut budget and make cut back. This means remaining staff members are left with low morale and more work, which isn't great for employee satisfaction. Alternatively, they'll cut their marketing budget which means less sales, you don't want this at any point when running your business.
Looking towards the future, how do you plan to continue evolving your leadership style to meet new uncertainties and challenges? What advice would you give to others looking to do the same?
That entirely depends as to what uncertainties and challenges come up, I'm happy to evolve as required for the good of the business. My advice for other business owners would be to remain adaptable, we've had to pivot countless times, we wouldn't have been able to do this if we weren't adaptable.
You've clearly demonstrated a willingness to learn and grow through experience. Are there any books, mentors, or resources that have particularly influenced your leadership style? How would you recommend others to approach their leadership development journey?
Yeah, I love to learn and grow through experience. In regards to books, Man's Search For Meaning was one that I found really influential. As for mentors and resources, Gary Vaynerchuk is always putting out great content and is a really influence. From a Digital Marketing point of view, Chris Do is also a huge influence. Honestly, I think everyone's leadership journey is different, it's unique to them so their approach will be individual.