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Bossing It: Eva Rausch and Barbara Bijlard



Joint heads of account management at 180 Amsterdam Eva Rausch and Barbara Bijlard share their leadership journey

Bossing It: Eva Rausch and Barbara Bijlard

Eva Rausch and Barbara Bijlard jointly lead the account team at 180 Amsterdam, an agency that looks at the world as it could be. The account team consists of 20 people with 10 different nationalities. 

Eva has been working on local, regional, and international clients in multiple countries for over 20 years. Barbara has been working for different Amsterdam based agencies before joining the agency over nine years ago. Barbara her focus is on the local clients, while Eva is more involved on the international side. Despite their different focus in terms of clients, they lead the account floor together as one integrated/hybrid team.

How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?

Barbara> It’s an ongoing process that will keep evolving. But having some core principles is definitely important.

Eva> I agree, you keep learning while doing. Self-reflection and listening is really important. I strive to be respected for how I behave and the integrity of my actions as well as providing an environment where the team can grow and prosper.

What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?

Barbara> Of course the Corona pandemic has been (and still is) really challenging. The biggest lesson is to be aware of the mirroring function you have. If they see you’re stressed, they will take over that feeling. At 180, we focus on the world as it could be, instead of looking at the world how it is. Try to step out of the situation now and then and try to focus on the positive.

Eva> Focusing on the world as it could be helps us look forward, always. A team needs to feel that things are moving forward - and they need their leader on their feet. This period has brought that into sharp focus.

Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you?

Barbara> The idea grew on me, but looking back at my life and how I behaved in many situations I must admit that I kind of always had some traits that steered me into this direction.

Eva> I can mirror this. It’s not that I set out to be a leader one day, but it was a natural progression on my path. When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned

Barbara> It’s part of my personality but I’m still learning every day and I definitely think reading certain books and coaching sessions can help you figure out what kind of leader you want to be and help you see where your strengths are.

Eva> There are a lot of different ways to become a strong leader. I think reading and taking courses definitely helps me to figure out where my strengths are and where I can think about areas to improve but I find the best way to learn is to do.

What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?

Barbara> Having multiple roles: not only leading my team, but also being client facing and involved in many projects, being part of the management team etc. It’s always a challenge to decide where to spend my time where I add the most value, instead of wanting to do everything.

Eva> For me it’s to evaluate what the team needs most to succeed, and to make sure I can provide that and more. And then leading by example when you work closely with the team members on a daily basis.

Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it?

Barbara> Yes, during a certain time I have been less ‘visible’ because I was onboarding a new client for over a year and I was away a lot. I got lost in the details instead of keeping my ‘helicopter-view’.

Eva> I think it’s important to be self-reflective. When I recognise that I might have made a mistake or failed, I talk to someone about it, and discuss potential solutions and different ways to address the issue. A second opinion helps me to look at problems from a different perspective and learn from that.

In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered?

Barbara> Openness is absolutely important, but I don’t think you have to share everything that’s going on with the whole team. Authenticity is also broader in my perspective.

Eva> Ultimately, different situations call for different leadership styles though it should always come from having a deep sense of empathy and authenticity.

As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship?

Barbara> I think I’ve had many mentors or people I have and still learn from. Have had the privilege to take part in Omnicom’s Tiger academy and met many people from around the world that are in the same situation and can help each other.

Eva> I agree, there are and have been quite a few people in my path that I learn from and look up to and/or discuss my experiences with. Every once in a while someone asks if I could help with a perspective or help with career advice. I enjoy those and hope to provide a different perspective for them to grow.

It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?

Barbara> I have been reading a lot about growing my resilience and actively tried to change habits to fuel this. These were often small steps that definitely made a difference, for example try to include humility and humour more often, take time for exercise (self-care is crucial), be more forgiving and don’t take everything personally.

Eva> I think not knowing enough was my most difficult task. In the office you see everyone on a daily basis, you pick up on moods and how people are. I scheduled time in the calendar to talk to the team one on one and try to ‘see’ how they ‘really’ are as much as that is possible on a screen. It gave me a bit of reassurance that I can hopefully be helpful for the individuals.

Being empathetic and helping them understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel, we just don’t know how long the tunnel is.

This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this?

Barbara> The agency has always been defined by its diversity but we took a close look at how we could open up to communities that were under-represented. We set up a cross-department task force to get input into what we can do and from that our Apprenticeship scheme was launched.

Eva> It’s been a great moment to reflect on what we can do better. As a leader you can become used to going back to hiring from familiar places. In the past year we’ve made it a priority to build a new pipeline of talent outside of traditional avenues.

How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020?

Barbara> ‘Be nice or leave’ is a sign that you can’t miss when you enter our office. It’s part of our culture and we truly believe that colleagues and clients feel we really are nice people to work with.

Eva> A good spirit within the team reflects on our work and a good relationship with our clients is crucial to the success of our business, so we believe our company culture is a vital part that helps us through these difficult times.

What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?

Barbara> The people around you. Don’t be scared to ask for feedback or help, don’t live on your island but try to look at situations with a fresh perspective.

Eva> Absolutely. Getting the right people around you makes the difference. They help you see the world as it could be.

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180 Amsterdam, Fri, 12 Mar 2021 14:37:44 GMT