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Bossing It: Patti McConnell on Anticipating, Organising, Planning, Reading and Understanding Personalities


Co-founder and managing partner of Something Different on being a little bit United Nations and making stuff happen without carnage in her trail

Bossing It: Patti McConnell on Anticipating, Organising, Planning, Reading and Understanding Personalities

Patti McConnell, along with her partner, created Something Different’s unique agency structure to foster the best possible creative work, a better experience for clients and a freer more innovative environment for staff. Patti is known for her intense loyalty, candor and dark wit. She has spent over two decades working with some of the world’s most renowned brands and global businesses.

Her work has been recognized at the AICP, ANDYs, Cannes Film Festival, Clios, Effies, Emmys, New York Festival and One Show awards.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Patti> I started anticipating, organising, planning, reading and understanding personalities at a very early age. I had a very strong mother with extraordinary talents and a somewhat complicated personality. By my teens I took on the role of ‘ringleader’-making plans for my friend groups, with individual idiosyncrasies taken into account. Mobilizing apartment moves in college and beyond knowing who had what skill set to own a piece, and always knowing who was emotional able.


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

Patti> Watching and listening. I never wanted to be bossy and had to learn the balance of giving direction but in different ways depending on the audiences. I studied teachers and principals, restaurant workers and school bus drivers. There were those who barked and bit, and those who owned the room or space, using the right words and tone. I responded to strength, empathy and authenticity. I didn’t respond well to fear, ego, manipulation or bullshit.

LBB> 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 realizing that you had it in you?

Patti> I think so. Not sure I understood it as leadership. More that I just knew I could rally troops, wanted everyone to be happy and on a personal level, I simply felt safer and more at ease when I took the lead. I liked being a little bit United Nations and a lot of making stuff happen without carnage in my trail.

LBB> 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?

Patti> Hmm, it’s a combination, isn’t it? I think we’re born with a good amount. Are we bold, curious and willing to use and own our voice? Humble enough to know how to use it. Empathetic enough to leave our egos at the door. A good portion is maturity and developing confidence. But the piece we are taught is how to polish it and calibrate for what needs to be lead. And without question, we learn what is important and to learn from those around us.

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

Patti> I take it all very personally. I want people to be happy and feel engaged, empowered, included. When that falls short, my knee jerk is to blame myself for not setting the right roadmap or reading the needs properly. 

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

Patti> Oh my gosh, every day. I have to be very mindful to not get too in the weeds and to avoid solving a problem when I smell shit about to happen. We have to respect styles and one’s timing for processing. I’m learning all the time how to allow others to be and do in their own manner. And I need to bite my tongue sometimes and just let it happen. And you know what, it’s usually just fine. Not the way I might have done it, but most often even better.

LBB> 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?

Patti> Again, there is a balance but weighing heavily on openness and transparency. I work in an industry in which we enable a huge spectrum of personalities and talents. We have to be open and willing to accept and encourage and learn from all different personalities. But I strongly believe in stepping back enough to listen to what is and isn’t being said and learning about someone’s make up. I think I’ve led best by really investing the time and care for those I work alongside.

LBB> 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?

Patti> I’ve had extraordinary mentors at each and every step, both in terms of immediate managers, colleagues, clients. Yes, I have innate skills but I’m a collage of incredible mentors. And frankly, there’s a stint in my career I’ve said was an absolutely horrific experience and yet, may have been the most impactful in who I would be and how I would do it.

As for mentoring, it’s something I love. Not sure I like to call it mentoring. I like to coach and support. And I strongly believe in feedback but offered the right way.

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Something Different, Thu, 27 May 2021 11:29:00 GMT