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Life lessons of a Strategist

Jill Bradshaw  |  5 September 2017

Having returned from maternity leave with my second child, I have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to change my role from Account Director to Senior Strategist to fit with my career plans and home life. This transition has been both empowering and challenging as, not only have I had to get my work colleagues to see me in a different light, I have had to use both new skills and skills that I haven’t used in some time.

I began to reflect on my career and what has helped to shape my ways of thinking, which led me to consider life lessons and where they come from. Two of my most valuable life lessons which have influenced the way I think in the workplace have come from unexpected places.

Life lesson #1
My first (not surprisingly) has come from my children. Anyone who has children, or even been around children, knows they ask a lot of questions. A lot! And whilst, the incessant “Why’s?” can be annoying at times, they are actually a vital part of their learning. The joy of childhood is that unlike adults, there are no preconceptions. Children ask questions and absorb information like sponges to become little experts in their own right!

In my role as a strategist gathering insights from the person on the frontline is key – be it a patient, carer and/or healthcare professional. This can only be done by asking questions so that I can put myself in their shoes. There is so much to learn from them, and in a healthcare communications agency, our role is to ask questions and listen. By using this process in our day jobs, we are able to accurately represent patients in communications to both healthcare professionals and other patients in a similar position.

Life lesson #2
The second is stand-up comedians. That’s funny, you might think (pun very much intended), but stick with me for a minute. Now with this, I’m not talking about slapstick comedy, or plain weird comedy, I’m talking about the clever comedy that makes you think “That’s so me”.

Comedians like Peter Kay or Michael McIntyre who have the power to cause genuine belly laughs among their audiences. So why are they so effective? I believe it is their attention to detail. They have spent time observing and getting completely under the skin of their subject matter so that the detail in their dialogue and delivery truly resonates with the audience. They haven’t made sweeping generalisations or assumptions about the subject, they have picked up on the small specific details, which they can only know by truly knowing the subject.

This has taught me that it is imperative that agencies, such as ours, spend time getting to know patients – observing and listening to understand their circumstances. Only by doing so can we develop communication programmes that are truly patient centric. It is far too easy to make assumptions based on what we think we know, we need to engage to ensure we really do know.