Laura Maness, CEO of Havas New York, shares what’s in store for the agency for the remainder of 2021, and why meaningful employee experience must guide the future of work.
When you think about the future of work, you’ve said setting an intention is one of the most powerful forces there is. What did you mean?
Companies can’t grow if people can’t grow. There can be no racial justice without environmental justice. DE&I (and a 360 Commit to Change plan) is not an initiative. Sustainability, and taking responsibility for the whole supply chain, is not an initiative. The office of the future is not an initiative. Destigmatising mental health and wellbeing and designing energy renewal rituals to cultivate a sense of belonging, is not an initiative. The intersectionality of these things is the business strategy, and leading with empathy, compassion and heart is the responsibility of every modern CEO — regardless of industry vertical. I’ll be giving a talk at the Economist’s Innovation@Work conference in October on the impact of putting meaningful employee experience at the heart of the business strategy to drive sustainable growth. (Hint: it begins with adopting a ‘citizenship’ mindset)
You’ve recently said we need to change the narrative around leadership and ditch terms like “successful women” and “female leadership”. Why do you think it’s so important to express this?
I think the bottom line is that we rarely speak about “male leadership” with men. I have been very fortunate in my career to have worked with a lot of incredibly supportive men, but the reality is, bias exists, and the deck is unfairly stacked against women. Throughout my career, my leadership has always been focused on getting the most out of my team, and to build and cultivate a high-performance team. What matters is potential and talent. It’s been well-documented that gender balanced teams perform better than those dominated by men. And language also matters. We need to respect women as leaders, not “women leaders” or “She-E-Os”. We need to work together collectively to take action and build an equitable world. Our Havas Group talent development initiatives, Femmes Forward and Next Gen, are doing important work in helping to narrow the gap in our own business and accelerating the progression of their careers.
You’re a massive advocate for mental health and wellbeing. What self-care rituals become non-negotiable for you?
Rising with the sun has been a total life changer! It’s incumbent on each of us to put ourselves at the top of our own daily to-do list. It sounds rather obvious, but it takes discipline and practice to prioritise and protect our own self-care rituals (and not someone else’s definition of self-care). We must look after our own physical and mental health and wellbeing to have the energy and stamina our teams, our clients, our industry and our global communities need.
In addition to taking advantage of human optimisation habits like daily guided meditation, I am a proud member of the 5 AM Club (inspired by Robin Sharma’s book of the same title) and have adopted his life-changing Victory Hour to use the front end of my day expertly. After years of telling myself that I wasn’t a morning person, I’ve discovered that rising with the sun is a total life changer, and I start every single morning with a 20/20/20 formula (Move/Reflect/Grow), and an audit of my four interior empires — mind, heart, health and soul. The premise is quite simply “Own Your Morning, Elevate Your Life.” Celebrate your mind, purify your heart, fortify your health and escalate your soul. Once you reclaim the power blocked by layers of toxic emotions and the wounds of the past, your mindset, heart set, health set and soul set will soar exponentially. Your supreme self assumes command. The result? You strengthen your focus; you preserve your natural power, and you insulate your inner peace. Small, daily seemingly insignificant improvements, when done consistently over time, do yield staggering results—amazing days create amazing weeks, months and years.
What are some of your goals and areas of focus for the rest of 2021?
Havas New York has a lot to achieve for the remainder of the year! As the North American flagship, it is our goal to continue catalysing growth and cultivating a radically inclusive culture of winning and creativity. A huge part of that is putting meaningful employee experience at the heart of everything that we do; accelerating women in leadership, raising consciousness on equity, environmental and social justice, and enabling the right conditions for creativity to truly thrive.
In line with Havas Impact+, we are taking action as a proud B Corp to deliver on our public benefit of helping underserved youth, and in doing so, creating a more just and equal company and world. I’m excited to be launching a new leadership podcast series focused on scaling WILLpower (wholehearted intentional living and leading), and I’ve been putting my recent Stanford Law School degree into practice, with a focus on ESG and sustainability, mergers and acquisitions, the global economy and corporate strategy, and workforce culture in a pandemic era. Ultimately, and as always, our goal is to keep building brands and better human beings, simultaneously and to truly make a meaningful difference, every day. We’re also focused on unlocking the advantages and distinct value our Vivendi ownership structure enables on behalf of leading brands that truly aspire to be part of culture.