OMG chief urges women to 'step out of their comfort zones' to succeed

Women need to step out of their comfort zones and embrace leadership roles and new challenges, according to Philippa Brown, UK chief executive at Omnicom Media Group.

Sharing her leadership story at the annual Omniwomen conference in London today, Brown said that the key to success was ensuring you "don’t keep doing the same thing all the time". Explaining how she stepped out of her own comfort zone she revealed that five years ago she pushed herself to get a non-executive position on the board of Leeds Building Society.

Brown explained: "I was completely out of my comfort zone and I still have a book of acronyms next to me to understand the language; but I bought a new perspective to the table; I brought a digital perspective and a consumer perspective. I am so pleased I pushed myself."

She also emphasised the importance of diversity in driving a business forward. Recounting her ten-year stint at IPC, where she was group marketing director before rising to the role of managing director, she said the experience of working at the publishing giant taught her the value of diversity.

According to Brown, 80% of the staff at IPC were women. She quipped:  "We would always joke that if you got into the lift there would always be one pregnant person." She adds: "It was a really nurturing company and it was there that I realised if you could create and nurture a company with such a great diversity balance it would be really successful."

Tips from the top: four leadership lessons from Philippa Brown

1. Authenticity 

"I’ve always been really proud of who I am," says Brown. "I have never tried to be a man in a suit; basically I have enjoyed being a woman in this business and I have never wanted to be a man." She also highlights the value of age and honesty in an industry which has often been accused of being obsessed with youth. She adds: "Yes I am also proud of being a woman in my fifties." Embracing bringing her "whole self" to work she adds: "I love talking about the menopause yes i’m going through it, yes it is annoying but it is part of life." 

2. Understand what motivates and drives you

Brown urges women to embrace their ambition. She explains: "I am very driven; thats who I am." She shared; "A lot comes from your background; my competition came from my Dad who was a professional footballer and played for Wolves for 20 years. If you understand what motivates you. It is my dream to sit on the board of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club. That is where I get my drive from."

3. Step out of your comfort zone

Don’t keep doing the same thing all the time. As she explains: "At Leeds Building society I  was completely out of my comfort zone and I still have a book of acronyms next to me but I bought a new perspective to the table; I brought a digital perspective and a consumer perspective. I am so pleased I pushed myself."

4. Focus on your team

Success is a team game and Brown was keen to highlight the role of her team in her success, She explained: "Spend time with your team, talk to them; surround yourself with good people."

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