Discover more from Strands of Genius
Strands of Genius : Janene Warsap + 12 Trends of 2023
featuring: an interview with our guest editor and a research report
Welcome to the Bonus edition of Strands of Genius! On Fridays, we’ll be publishing interviews from our guest editors, and sharing a research report. Thanks for being along for the ride. Oh and by the way, you look great today :)
:: STEAL THIS THINKING | RESEARCH REPORT ::
MTM has put together one trend for each month of the year, taking inspiration from the events that will make up 2023, from Valentine’s Day and Halloween to the Women’s World Cup and Black Friday. They've covered themes from relationships to religion, mental health to travel, each approached with an eye on how it relates to the key client sectors they work with at MTM: media, technology and entertainment.
:: DIVE IN | THE INTERVIEW ::
JANENE WARSAP, MARKETING EXCELLENCE DIRECTOR AS ASSOCIATED BRITISH FOODS (ABF)
>> Janene Warsap guest curated Strands on May 4th, 2023. Read it here.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what keeps you busy. How did you end up doing what you’re doing today?
I’ve worked client-side in the food industry for all of my career, marketing and building brands from dog food and cakes, to cooked meats and sausages to bread and bakery.
I’ve always gravitated towards capability and learning and development and have had a passion for helping others grow in their careers, so when an opportunity came up for me to lead Marketing Excellence and Capability across the whole of ABF Grocery Group, I jumped! The role covers seven of our businesses and about 100 marketers.
When I’m not working, I’m running around after my family. I’m married and have 2 boys who are golf mad so you will often find me driving to and from the golf club. If not golf, I can be found on the side of a footie field. I spend time caring for me with yoga and Pilates, plus nourishing my soul with my friendships. My big passion is travelling and love exploring somewhere new each year.
I like to set myself challenges, last year’s was to do 26 things that I’d never done before - each starting with a different letter of the alphabet. It was a great way to experience new things from A to Z and definitely a challenge to find something for every letter!
What excites you most about what you do?
I love seeing people in their early career grow and develop. Now that I have some experience under my belt, I love that I can pass on my experience to help others find their career passion. I also get to constantly learn myself as I have to keep up with all the latest thinking.
The businesses I work with all operate in the FMCG space, from Asian cuisine to milkshakes, so I get to learn lots from a wide group of people working in different categories - all of whom are doing really exciting stuff. I have a lot of autonomy in my role which means I can be really responsive to issues and opportunities, and I also get to work with great people both inside and outside our organisation.
What beliefs define your approach to work? How would you define your leadership style?
My Northern (UK) working class roots have given me a strong work ethic - that’s a big one for me. Values-wise, I challenge myself and others to be open, honest, and down to earth, to have some humility, try your best and keep a growth-mindset - there is always something to learn.
I suppose my natural leadership style is collaborative, but I don’t have any one fixed way of working - it depends on the role I’m playing at the time. For example, I could be working with a team that just needs some clear direction to overcome a tactical issue or dealing with specialist and experienced senior teams on a strategic challenge - either way I’ll adapt my style to suit.
ABF is a decentralised organisation which means my role is the opposite of command and control. Everything I do is through influence and collaboration - it’s a great check on whether what I’m doing really adds value! My job is also about connecting people and creating networks across the business so I don’t always have the answer myself, but knowing who may do is helpful. Often my role is about facilitating discussions that allows people to share their experiences and expertise.
What has been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on and why?
A few years ago, I kicked off our Influential Marketing & Business Leadership capability programme and we are now about to run our fourth cohort, having taking 60 marketers so far through it.
A marketer has an essential job to lead the agenda for their brands working cross functionally but they also need to influence senior stakeholders to buy into the brand plans and the future direction that will deliver business results.
However, we found that marketers weren’t generally viewed as talking the language of the business and didn’t engage early enough with people to take input and expand their thinking in a way that allowed their plans to reflect a range of business needs and perspectives.
Firstly, this was new news to many marketers so the awareness was a valuable aha moment, the Influential Marketing & Business Leadership programme has allowed marketers to explore how they flex their influencing style, as well as providing them with a suite of tools and techniques to have meaningful conversations with a wide range of stakeholders talking the language of the business.
It’s been so rewarding to see and hear about the change in the marketers across our businesses who are now influencing much more strongly.
We are big believers in diversity -- Not only because we believe in equality, but because we also think it’s better for business. The Black Lives Matter movement has shaped industry conversations around both global injustice, and also lack of representation in our industry. How do you frame these kinds of conversations, both internally and with your organization? Is there an emphasis on action, or are the conversations really more about communication?
Working for an organisation with 132,000 employees across 53 markets and a huge range of categories means we have a pretty diverse global workforce.
In the UK, our grocery brands connect with customers and consumers from all backgrounds and cultures so diversity of thought at a strategic marketing level is critical: to achieve this we take inspiration and input from a wide variety of people and value the insight that comes from a broad range of cultural perspectives and leadership styles.
We have also created an ‘I&D Taskforce’ in the Group whose focus is on two areas: first, on structural change - how we remove barriers to talent and increase diversity, and then on engagement - how we improve people’s sense of inclusion and belonging. Ultimately our focus is on creating workplaces where people are valued for who they are and can fulfil their potential, irrespective of their background. We very much see this as something that benefits the business and our brands, as well as our people.
We’re not perfect but we are making good progress towards creating a more open, accepting workplace that celebrates diversity and provides a secure operating environment for talented individuals of all backgrounds to grow their career.
Switching gears a bit, how do you find time to balance personal interests with your career? Do you believe work/life balance is possible? Anything you’ve implemented that you recommend that others try?
Yes, I do believe balance is possible - for me, it’s about focus and setting priorities to make sure it happens. I’m quite an organised person and love ticking things off my to-do list. As a young mum I used to get awfully frustrated that there was one thing I could never tick off my list – laundry. Every time I did another wash and empty the laundry basket, it would fill up again. I soon realised that it was a job that would never be done. It’s a bit like work and emails. There will always be more to do, more things you can learn. You have to set boundaries that you stick to, and then prioritise within them.
I’m currently reading Indistractable – How To Control Your Attention And Choose Life by Nir Eyal which looks at exactly this - finding ways to stay focussed by making choices about your priorities and then planning for them so you don’t get distracted. One of the techniques I’ve adopted is to plan walking time in the middle of the day, to get out from my desk and go and get some fresh air. It’s time to think or to just switch off, depending upon my morning!
What’s your media diet? Where do you find inspiration?
Podcasts & Pinterest. From a work perspective one of my favourite podcasts at the moment is the Uncensored CMO by Jon Evans. He has some great guests covering interesting topics and its engaging to listen to. I love browsing Pinterest for all things health, fitness, fashion and home inspiration.
What’s the best piece of advice/knowledge you’ve stolen, and who/where’d you steal it from?
‘Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons’. A long time ago a friend sent me it as a postcard and I framed it and have it on my wall. It reminds me to stay calm, keep your head up high (especially on a bad day), be your authentic self and don’t be afraid to have a view and speak up.
You can keep in touch with Janene on LinkedIn.
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