My Biggest Lesson: Kenny Blumenschein
Kenny joined Energy BBDO in March 2020 as a executive creative director, leading the global creative business for the Mars Wrigley gum brands, Bens Original, KIND Bars, Tasty Bites and Seeds of Change.
He has over 16 years creative leadership experience in advertising and tech. Kenny possesses a unique skill set of multi-market experience in North America, Asia and Europe. He also has T-shaped creative leadership expertise with a deep knowledge of campaign ideation, data insight, strategy and product innovation.
It was about 15 years ago. I was a junior copywriter at that time and I had just won my first Gold Lion in Cannes. I was over the moon and hurried into the office of my ECD to thank him. From my point of view, the win only happened thanks to his wonderful guidance through many rounds of revisions. He was listening – as always – with a smile. He thanked me for my kind words. Then he added something, which I have never forgotten. It’s a simple truth but I think can often be overlooked.
“As a leader, it’s never about you. Your responsibility is to take care of your team and create a space where they feel safe enough to fearlessly do the best work of their life. You are successful as a leader when your team is successful.”
At that time, my perspective was that everyone was in it for themselves and that it was all a competition. Winning awards, getting promoted, earning more money, very ego driven, etc. This one piece of advice completely shifted my whole perspective and made me approach everything differently. When you remove ego from the process it frees up space for real collaboration. This has since made me really value the importance of leadership and the cultural role it plays in a company and to an individual.
It has made me put the people I work with at the center of everything I do. Which for me means getting to know each person I work with as an individual first, title second.
I think given the last year the advice is even more valid. COVID-19 has pushed us into a strange, very unhuman, isolated way of working. We tend to focus on a small screen all day and the job in front of us. It’s not all about the projects. It’s important as a leader to see beyond that. There is a person on the other end of the Zoom or Teams screen. Even though they may seem altogether it’s very hard to know how anyone is really doing. I’ve been trying my best to remember this advice and continually check in with my teams and, I hope, provide a space where it’s ok not to be ok.