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Bossing It: Listening and Learning with Marie Le Hur


Ocean Outdoor's marketing director on being a people orientated leader, sticking to your guns and why 'picking your battles' is key

Bossing It: Listening and Learning with Marie Le Hur

Marie Le Hur is marketing director of Ocean Outdoor UK, responsible for the marketing of Ocean’s digital out of home portfolio to brands, agencies, specialists and landlords. Marie joined Ocean UK in April (2023) from Hydrow where she was global sales and marketing director. Prior to that she spent four years at Samsung UK, rising to ecommerce marketing and creative lead.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership? 

Marie> I first became a manager when I worked at McCann Health in Sydney and continued to build this experience client side at Samsung. It was there that I really worked out what kind of leader I wanted to be, but in my opinion, it starts with your managerial style. I’ve always put a lot of effort into being a good manager because it’s such a big responsibility to be a part of someone’s development. It’s too easy to let workload take priority over 1:1 catch ups, business pressures drown out good intentions and leadership voices impact the day-to-day team. It's really a question of balance, which I’ve achieved for the most part by taking a clear and fair process-driven approach and communication style, alongside always finding time to catch up and spend time with my team.

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? 

Marie> I decided pretty early on I wanted to be a people-oriented leader who never lets business pressures get in the way of kindness. I don’t think you need to be aggressive to get the best out of people. It’s important to be direct and set clear expectations, but I strongly believe that can be done in a respectful, organised way. No one should be demanding endless last minute work or changes, putting people on the spot to prove a point or scare-mongering to ensure they’re prioritised. I refuse to work like that.

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

Marie> In a previous role, I set up a Lean in circle made up of women from different teams and levels across the business, including a few from my wider team. The purpose was to discuss challenges and opportunities we faced as women in business and support each other with advice and kindness in equal measure. I was nervous before the first meeting, but it was something I felt very strongly about sharing and knew I would also get a lot out of personally. It proved to be a huge success and knowing how it helped others gave me the confidence I needed to continue developing my own leadership approach. 

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 realising that you had it in you? 

Marie> I’ve always been ambitious and competitive but have also suffered from imposter syndrome from time to time, especially when tackling new challenges. My mentor in a previous role helped to give me confidence in my own leadership abilities, not to mention my talented wider team who I learnt a lot from – regardless of their level. Moreover, I learnt that I don’t need to feel pressured to be an expert at everything, as long as I have a good understanding, an informed point of view and expert team members in the right roles.

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? 

Marie> I think most of it can – and should – be learnt, including the confidence to stick to your guns – and recognise when to be flexible. There are so many different kinds of leaders, so the key is to work out the style that suits you best and enables you to get the best out of your team. The danger is when people try to copy someone else because they’ve been told it’s the only way.

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

Marie> In the past, I’ve struggled to ask for help which can result in unnecessary stress and workload - something I’ve since worked hard to balance. This partially came from a worry that I could inadvertently put unfair pressure on team members. However, I’ve learnt that sharing challenges with a peer or leader, as well as delegating to the wider team are important parts of leadership. This approach also tends to be best for the wider group if done in a clear, organised and fair way.

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? 

Marie> The lesson of ‘pick your battles’ is a key one. I always try and do the right thing for the business and the team, but sometimes there’s a directive that just needs to happen. And people DO understand that – we’re all adults and you can’t always fully protect your team. In those instances, I think it’s vital to give context to those affected as early as possible, so frustrations are minimised and plans disrupted as little as possible.

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? 

Marie> Transparency is definitely the way to go, especially as it creates trust and shows you as personable and genuine. However, it’s also important to protect team members from information overload, especially if it will cause unnecessary worry or stress.

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? 

Marie> I’ve had one ‘unofficial’ mentor who was a level or two above me and looked after a separate team. It worked well because we understood what each other did and had a few overlapping projects, but we never had to talk day-to-day shop. She taught me a lot about being myself, being direct, being kind and believing in my own abilities. I see mentorship as an important part of managing a person, so have always aimed for that to be a part of my team relationships – when the other person has been open to it.

LBB> In continually changing market circumstances, how do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through difficult waters? 

Marie> It’s all about communication – ensuring you’re being honest with the team and asking for their opinions, whilst avoiding over-sharing when things are very changeable and causing worry unnecessarily.

LBB> As a leader, what are some of the ways in which you’ve prioritised diversity and inclusion within your workforce? 

Marie> There’s definitely things you can do on a personal level, starting with equal opportunities during recruitment and continuing with educating yourself – and encouraging your team to do so too – on industry issues, sensitivities and ways to help drive positive change. It all starts with listening and learning from those impacted though, and never assuming you know best.

From a gender perspective, as a female leader I always do what I can to support and encourage other women in the work place, and plan to continue to use my voice to challenge the status quo when it comes to issues like the lack of women in leadership positions, having a seat at the table, and the gender pay gap.

LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with increases in remote and hybrid working patterns? 

Marie> It’s critical especially when considering issues like churn which can be hugely disruptive and expensive for a business. Content teams who feel rewarded, have genuine ownership and clear R&Rs are always going to do a better job and help drive the business forward, but those aspects can be sadly deprioritised when people are busy and stressed. Keeping culture alive during lockdown in particular was difficult, especially as it’s important to consider different personality types – not everyone wants to do a weekly team quiz on Teams to stay connected! I think it’s key to have fun and social options for those that appreciate them, but it’s as much about ensuring 1:1s with line managers are never missed, priorities are clearly communicated and hard work is recognised. 

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

Marie> I attend as many industry and agency events as possible, particularly focused on digital and tech developments (as you can’t be a marketeer without knowing what’s coming!), as well as women in business-related topics. To that effect, I also follow and WACL. External viewpoints are critical in ensuring you aren’t just hearing your own echo chamber; however I do believe taking the time to really listen and learn from your team members and those around you can be equally as impactful. 

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Ocean Outdoor, Mon, 22 May 2023 14:35:40 GMT