Santander CMO: Marketers must prioritise their wellbeing

Santander's chief marketing officer says his biggest career lesson has been learning to look after himself.

Marketing professionals are facing increasing pressures in their jobs, with more and more information available to work with, more demanding customers, wider remits and significantly higher expectations of what marketing can contribute to the success of a business. With this in mind, the biggest lesson I have learned during my career and a cornerstone of my success has been prioritising my own wellbeing by developing the right mindset. 

When I talk about wellbeing, what I'm really referring to is a combination of emotional, physical and professional aspects which, in combination, can give an individual a very powerful set of tools to deal with the weights of professional life. Let me explain what I mean by dealing with each of these areas specifically, through what I have learned during my career.

Balancing act 

I am outspoken on the importance of understanding the impact of a strenuous career on mental health. What used to be referred to simply as "burnout" is now understood to be a much more complicated set of issues which manifest themselves in lots of different ways. Because of this, it is important to try and combat the onset of any one of these through a broad approach to looking after oneself. Finding the right balance is key, ensuring that you're not neglecting your home life in favour of work. Obviously there will always be intense periods of work. That is unavoidable. What is important though is to not make this the norm. Bringing space between you and your work will create an ability to be objective while still bringing passion to the job.

Be mindful 

Learning how to handle stress positively will allow you to be calmer in difficult situations. This is something I have worked proactively on for a number of years and which has been central to my success. Using techniques like meditation, both during the working day and outside of it, has had a profound impact on me. Simple ten-minute exercises are available to anyone through apps like Headspace, suited to different times of the day and situations people might find themselves in. I try to instil this in my team and encourage mindfulness. We share articles and information on what works and doesn't. We also have a Santander colleague app that teaches people to meditate.

Physical health and mental wellbeing are irrefutably proven to be connected. The equation on this is much more straightforward. Finding time to exercise, in whatever way you see fit, will increase your ability to handle complex situations, reduce impacts of stress and through the release of endorphins, simply make you feel happier. Personally, that's cycling, but for others it may be time in the gym or simply finding the time to walk more each day. 

The value of mentors

There have also been incredibly useful interventions that have what I call a more "professional" angle. Having a series of mentors has been essential to my development, ability to grow, learn and handle new roles. What I have also learned in the last five years is that being a mentor and learning from my mentees has been crucial to my development. I definitely get as much out of a session with my mentee as they get out of it. Approaching the sessions with a "reverse mentoring" mindset really has been the key to unlocking this extra value.

Be proactive

Taking responsibility for your own development is also hugely important. No-one is going to give it to you on a plate; however if you look, you will find a myriad of fantastic ways to develop that are more often than not free. All you require is commitment of time and effort.

Let's take the Marketing Academy for example. Securing a place on its fellowship programme was pivotal in my progression onto the executive committee at Santander. This didn't just land in my lap. I had to get out there and find it. 

I also encourage that in my team with something we call Explorer Time. This is an encouragement to each team member to find some time each day, week or month to go out and explore. To learn, to achieve balance, to grow. The individual decides how much and when. It will be appropriate to their current situation, but crucially it is their choice and they have the licence to build it into their work time, no questions asked.

I want to end by saying that this is not about having the mindset, "I want to become a leader and will do whatever it takes to get there". If you look after your wellbeing and develop the right mindset, you are far more likely to achieve and succeed in any given role, which then leads to opportunity. If it doesn't, you'll be happy anyway because you've taken care of yourself and put your wellbeing first. Win win! 

Keith Moor is chief marketing officer at Santander, overseeing Santander’s brand and marketing in the UK as well as sponsorships programmes such as Santander Cycles and its CSR initiative, the Discovery Foundation.

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