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What can we learn from our grandmothers?

Katy Wright on taking inspiration from female role models from previous generations

Katy Wright

Managing Director, FCB Inferno

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The Royal funeral reminded us of our own grandmothers and the experiences they went through, which were often much tougher than anything we have known. These memories can serve us well today. Female leadership skills which are carried down through the generations can teach today’s managers to build resilience and serve as a lesson in creating personal and professional change.

All leaders need to excel in areas such as nurturing talent, mentoring, coaching and helping teams rise to the challenge of excellence. These are skills that many of us have learned directly from our grandmas.

I’ve been thinking about my own grandmaternal experiences and I’m starting to see where many of the strengths I aspire to as a leader have come from – from valuing a work-life balance and multi-tasking to encouraging teamwork and inspiring others.

We should all dig into our family histories to learn more about our roots and to draw out the lessons and apply them to our everyday lives.

My own grandmothers were known as Granny and grandma. One was a stalwart Lancashire lass whose husband died leaving her to bring up her boys alone. From her, I saw discipline, frugality and resilience she may not have been the most tactile, but you knew she loved you But she was also smart, she taught us numerous card games and she read to us, because she loved reading. Education was important to her. I don’t remember her ever having the TV on, partly as she insisted on having the same black and white tv for ever. Ironically, the only time it would come on was to watch the snooker.

The more I delve, the more those memories come flooding back and I can unearth more insights into the skills I need to lead a team and inspire others.

Katy Wright, Managing Director, FCB Inferno

She showed us her life and that didn’t change with us children around. We’d walk everywhere. She’d wear dresses and a coat pretty much whatever the weather. Les Dawson would have been proud. She’d come to life over tea and cake with neighbours in her block of flats.

She made us fish and chips and though she couldn’t cook for toffee, her speciality was coconut cake. I always wanted to make her smile. But I also wanted to make her proud. If she’d been born now, I’m sure her cool, calm, resilient and super smart approach would see her running a FTSE 100 company, though probably still owning the same black and white TV.

My granny on the other side was the opposite. She was fun, creative and could literally multitask till the cows came home - we called her super gran. An incredible, warm woman, she was proud of all her grandchildren. There was literally nothing she wouldn’t try/do and all at pace. But, she couldn’t cook either. Fortunately, my mum was an incredible cook so I’m not as terrible!

Looking back on those experiences, I really draw inspiration from both grandmothers, and I understand how their strengths have fed my character and sense of selfhood. The more I delve, the more those memories come flooding back and I can unearth more insights into the skills I need to lead a team and inspire others.

A story my mum always told us with fondness was about the person she feels had the biggest impression on her while she was growing up, her own grandmother. Her mother (Super Gran) had sadly got ill when my mother was very small, so she was bundled off to granny’s house. A shy, quiet little girl, she found a world where her imagination was allowed to run riot. She’d wear whatever she wanted, dress like a princess – and be encouraged to invent stories. Walks back from school involved singing at the top of her voice. She came out of her shell and became a self-confident and motivated woman a real force of nature. Those memories have percolated down through our family and here I am today working in advertising with all these amazing creative people, and I feel totally at home.

Today we have opportunities our foremothers could never have dreamed of, but the foundations of our success are built on struggles of those that came before. That leaves us with the responsibility to continue to carve out and provide support, motivation, and inspiration to the coming generations.

I’m lucky to have had such incredible women in my life and I’ll be forever grateful. For me, the greatest measure of success will be having a positive impact on those around me, just as my grannies shaped who I am today.

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Guest Author

Katy Wright

Managing Director, FCB Inferno, FCB Inferno

About

Katy is FCB Inferno’s Managing Director, granddaughter of Jenny Crumpton and Agnes Wright. Having trained as a fighter pilot, Katy is no ordinary Account Handler. Having pivoted into advertising, Katy has worked both client and agency side in a career that’s spanned over two decades. Prior to her appointment as MD in January 2021, Katy ran the most successful inter-agency team in BMW’s history. Key to her operational style is her focus on building strong relationships internally and externally, resulting in acclaimed campaigns for BMW, Virgin and Kimberly-Clark to name a few. With a true passion for people and developing talent, Katy has previously hosted the TEDxCoventGardenWomen event in London, tackling themes of gender and identity.

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