I've learned how people from different backgrounds, or with
opposing perspectives, can make unexpected and remarkable
contributions to all aspects of agency work and life. And once in a
while, one of those perspectives can persuade you to alter your own
personal point-of-view on a given issue or project. Often, it
Wide-ranging viewpoints, opinions, backgrounds, lifestyles,
mindsets and outlooks also make our agency more attractive to a
wider range of clients. Our diversity better equips us to deliver
more comprehensive and engaging work that resonates with broader
Not only that—it keeps us honest. We know with certainty
that are always two (or more) sides to every story, because they're
sitting at the table.
Take a careful look in the mirror
That said, it does pay to see yourself clearly, which is
something else I wish I'd known earlier.
As marketers and communicators, we invest a lot of time in
getting to know our audiences. What motivates them, what inspires
them, what makes them tick. What makes them different.
When I started this business, I could see all of that for
everyone else. But I couldn't do the same for myself. I took for
granted a lot of the qualities and strengths that differentiate me
and make me unique in what I can bring to my business, my clients
and my people.
By assuming that nearly everyone saw the world as I did, I
didn't just miss out on the benefits of diversity—I
shortchanged my own leadership development.
It sounds obvious now: Everyone's brain works differently. Some
of us naturally connect dots that others don't. Some of us have a
knack for spotting what others miss. We all process what we see and
hear in uniquely valuable ways. But when you live in your own skin
every day, it can be hard to see what stands out about it.
And you can't take advantage of something you don't
Today, intentional self-awareness helps me be a better leader,
decision-maker, collaborator and partner to my clients, because it
drives me to play to my strengths. Spending the time to develop a
more comprehensive knowledge of my own personal abilities (and
liabilities) helps me perform to the fullest extent of my
capabilities. I didn't understand that when I was younger; I do
Betsy Henning is the CEO and founder of marketing services
agency AHA, in Vancouver, Washington.
Are you a small agency leader with a tale to tell in
hindsight about your founding? Contact Judy Pollack at
[email protected]. To sign up for the Ad Age tenth annual Small
Agency Conference & Awards, to be held in July in New Orleans,