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Jamie Wilson: Leading in a Time of Crisis

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Jamie Wilson is the Founder and Director of Coordinate, a Canberra-based creative agency that was named 2019 ACT Telstra Business of the Year.

Jamie has also sat on the Board of HerCanberra for six years and was instrumental in helping our team navigate the challenges of 2020.

Today, he shares his personal challenges from the year that was, as well as the inspiration that carried him through, and his learnings from leading in a crisis.

There are years that ask questions and years that answer them.

For me, 2020 was the year that did both. We’ve had to deal with an angry environment, challenging health and social issues and an economic collapse. It’s been the toughest, longest and most challenging period ever.

Just as we’d caught our breath from the bushfires and hailstorm, COVID-19 struck. When COVID first made the global headlines, I was in New York for an Advertising and Technology forum where people started wearing masks.

I didn’t really understand or recognise what was to follow. When I returned home, the impact was felt immediately.

Coordinate was hit hard and so was HerCanberra. I remember scrambling for answers:

  • How do I make a team of people, facing multiple personal and social challenges, feel safe, connected and engaged?
  • How do I provide comfort, security and certainty in uncertain times?
  • How do I find the ongoing strength and energy to lead people through this crisis and their personal challenges?
  • How do we reinvent quickly to overcome the economic decline?

The challenges were complex and deep, amplified by anxiety, fatigue, fear and uncertainty. Those with children had to battle through homeschooling and full-time work. It was an overwhelming time for everyone and bigger than what I could fix.

Personally, it got tougher as the year went on.

I lost my beautiful Grandmother in April. I was asked to deliver her funeral service due to COVID restrictions, which was as much an honour as it was tough.

Jamie with his grandmother Bette.

A close friend and colleague’s daughter was diagnosed with Cancer.

Then Mum was diagnosed with Cancer. I’ve always been strong and resilient, but for the first time in my life, I felt helpless and scared.

Despite the challenges and adversity 2020 has presented, I have a lot to be grateful for and I appreciate what I have learnt this year about myself and others.

I’ve never taken those close to me for granted, but I am even more grateful for the people that supported and inspired me through 2020.

Jamie with his mum, Carmel.

My beautiful partner, my family and the Magnificent #8 (my closest friends)—we stayed close and connected, even digitally through the lockdown.

My close friend and personal trainer, who kept me strong, fit and focussed. He gave me the strength (and laughs) I needed to be strong for others.

My amazing partners, staff and advisors at Coordinate and HerCanberra. Together they demonstrated incredible courage, resilience and teamwork—I’ve never been prouder of them.

The way they responded, united, supporting each other through the crisis was a highlight. We are now closer and stronger.

Jamie with his partner Giorgi.

Most notably, I have been lucky enough to be coached through the crisis by international business leader, educator and author, Kevin Roberts (KR).

KR spent 20 years as Worldwide CEO and Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi—the most famous name in advertising, revered as the hothouse for world-changing creative ideas. He led Saatchi & Saatchi during the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks and coached me on ‘Leading in a time of Crisis’.

My learning, courage, strength and resilience in 2020 belong to KR. He challenged, inspired and demanded the best from me, transforming my mindset, attitude and approach.

I wanted to share a few of his shots of inspiration, which I will carry into 2021 and beyond:

  • Forget about the new normal, we have to embrace the New Abnormal.
  • Manage the crisis while building the future. Create the New Way Forward.
  • Build your life on making Happy Choices. Listen to the warm and seek out the positives.
  • Create magic moments, even in the smallest daily occurrences.
  • Work on yourself – take time to eat well, exercise and sleep.
  • Work on your partnership – stay connected and close.
  • Talk about the tough stuff – honestly and specifically.
  • Develop a Personal Purpose and live by it. This is your framework for decision-making.
  • Do more with less. More joy, engagement, empathy, energy, innovation, ideas, connection, creativity, agility, resilience, family and friends. Less travel, layers, bureaucracy, office time, certainty, face-to-face, precedent.
  • Set achievable challenges every 100 days. Something to strive for and focus on.
  • Practice calm rationale thinking – “Fire in the belly, ice in the mind”.
  • Live by The Four Agreements: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.
  • Inspire everyone to be the best they can be.
  • Help yourself by helping others – nothing will make you stronger.
  • Be a positive, fearless optimist – full of hope.

KR would start every meeting by asking me to describe how I felt in two words. It’s a simple, quick mental health check, we now use at Coordinate.

As we come to the end of 2020 and approach 2021, the two words I’ve landed on are ‘Grateful’ and ‘Positive’. Who would have thought those two words could be used to describe the year that was.

Feature image: Adam McGrath

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