#PassItOn: 'I've learned more from failure than success'
A view from Katie Traxton

#PassItOn: 'I've learned more from failure than success'

Katie Traxton, managing partner at We Are Fearless, shares the best career advice she's learned over the years.

Welcome to #PassItOn, a series featuring the best career advice and insight from women of the Futures Network, an alumni group for Wacl Future Leaders Award winners. In this instalment we hear from Katie Traxton, the managing partner, marketing communications of We Are Fearless. Before her role at an agency, she held roles at companies including BP, Volkswagen and BMW Group. 

For the Future Network’s mentorship scheme, Traxton was mentored by Lisa Thomas, the chief brand officer of Virgin Group and managing director of Virgin Enterprises. Traxton shares the lessons she’s learned along the way on failure, leadership and dealing with imposter syndrome. 

Owning your mistakes

Lisa has given me insight into how to know when to own my decisions, and realising that if you have the right experience and skills, then it’s ok if you make the wrong decision sometimes. In my career, I’ve learned more from the times I’ve made mistakes than I have from my successes. When you get things wrong, and you have to work out where you’ve gone wrong and how to not make those mistakes again, it moves you along more. 

As future leaders in the industry, it’s important to share our mistakes with other people. Don’t think that if you’re sitting on a panel, it’s about saying, "this is the most successful campaign I’ve ever had", but rather talking about how you got to a point where you could have that great success. Probably there were quite a lot of things you learned along the way, and it’s no shame to share those things.

Learning from imposter syndrome

People talk a lot about imposter syndrome. I have it horrendously all the time, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. In some ways it’s a version of humility, which you need as a leader. But it’s more about how you harness and manage the imposter syndrome than whether you have it or not. Most leaders I speak to have it at some point, but how do you get a grip on it so you can make the most of it and you don’t let it control you? Also, it keeps you grounded so you don’t go around thinking you know everything. 

Planning for the future

In my career, there are some things I couldn’t have anticipated or didn’t see coming – I didn’t think I’d ever go agency-side. One of the best examples I can offer people is just finding your feet and your way as you go. There was definitely no clear plan. 

Ultimately, I’d love to get to a CMO position and ideally one day a CEO position, which is unusual within the C-suite routes, but particularly for a woman. I have to make savvy business decisions in the next five years. Lisa said that one of the really important things is to be motivated. There may be two job opportunities that are equally good for you, but if one of them is going to make you get out of bed every morning and make you look forward to going to work, you’re going to get more from that one. 

Giving away your tricks

I used to work in motorsport and I once asked a world champion motor racing driver, what’s your best tip? He said: "Give away your best secrets. If I tell everyone all the tricks I have to be a better driver than them, then I have to get even better tricks and become even better." I thought that was amazing, because so many people think your best ideas are secrets. I do my best to share everything I know with my mentees.