Amanda Mackenzie: chief marketing and communications officer at Aviva
Amanda Mackenzie: chief marketing and communications officer at Aviva
A view from Amanda Mackenzie

Life and career is about adventures, says Comic Relief's Amanda Mackenzie

Amanda Mackenzie is chief marketing and communications officer at Aviva. She is currently "on loan" to director and Comic Relief founder Richard Curtis as executive advisor and chair at Project Everyone, and is a member of Campaign's Power 100.

Relationships are the foundations of everything; with customers, clients, agencies and partners. Why? Because, ultimately, humanity should prevail. Respect, grace, fairness and plain speaking get you a very long way. Especially today, when the electronic opportunities to mess things up are omnipresent.

Simplify everything

Which is not the same as dumbing down or ignoring progress or change. Everything can always be better and simpler. Having spent eight years in financial services, I often wonder if we could recreate the branch mentality of the 1930s in a fin-tech world, when the bank manager knew everyone, personal service was paramount and it was all part of the community. That’s the kind of "simplicity your way" we should all be going after.

Are we as courageous as we need to be?

All too often, what we think is brave isn’t actually so brave. Ask yourself: is this remarkable?

Is there a target to go after?

To achieve something ambitious, try to find a target to go after. Visions may make us excited but targets make us believe it’s not just words.

Project Everyone embarked on making the United Nations’ sustainable development goals famous. But it was only when Richard Curtis said how about we get to seven billion people in seven days that everything really gained momentum.

Hope and determination conquer all

Which in the case of Project Everyone was certainly true. It is the most dedicated, talented, selfless, driven, tenacious team I have ever had the privilege to work with.

If everyone in the company is clear about their place in the world, we will all work more effectively. Clean our teeth in the morning thinking how we can achieve great things. Bring discretionary effort and share of mind. Happy, proud teams and success follow.

So now a few thoughts about you

It seems to me people fall into two areas – those with a plan and those without – and success isn’t a prerequisite of one and not the other.

However, ask yourself this: What will I be disappointed about in myself if I don’t achieve? How do I want to feel about myself when I am retired? How bored do I get? How much hard work and emotional pressure am I willing to take? What matters most? Then allow yourself a little time to imagine yourself in various jobs and don’t be afraid to be honest.

Consider the good and the bad. And if retirement feels a ludicrously long time away, then imagine five years hence.

Adventures and chemistry

That will be the book I have written half of and shamefully haven’t touched for ten years. The title is such because I do think one’s life and career is about adventures (with purpose) and chemistry – life is too precious to work with people you don’t get on with.

Work with very different people but they must share the same values. Or it’s grim and exhausting and too much effort goes into the wrong things. But that doesn’t mean jumping ship every time you have an argument.

If you have a bad day, ask yourself the questions outlined above.

Some reading material If you are in the first ten years of your career

Please have a read of "There’s more to life than marketing". In a nutshell, get yourself a P&L to run early on. That way, executive committees, boards and chief executives of the world’s largest companies will have more marketing people and hopefully more women too

And finally Just taking a step back, bringing some perspective and reflection, usually delivers results nearer to the ones you are looking for.

In Harry Potter, the Sorting Hat chooses which house the Hogwarts pupils are destined for – there is a degree of that we should not ignore. Life throws us many paths and sometimes too much ambition, too much "ask" rather gets in the way.

This is not a substitute for hard work and good values, but it is one of those weird human truths that, if people sense you want something too much, you tend not to get it.

Amanda Mackenzie is chief marketing and communications officer at Aviva and executive advisor and chair at Project Everyone. She has more than 25 years’ commercial experience, with director roles at British Airways, Airmiles, BT and British Gas.