A magical mentoring session with Amanda Mackenzie (CMO of Aviva), by Donna Clegg

If you listen to Amanda’s journey, it is full of great achievements such as becoming the first woman on the exec at Aviva, possessing the talent for music and having a strong grounding in family. She has a generosity of spirit which becomes evident in her presence.

What I found was that Amanda has an incredible talent to simplify things and make them accessible to all. Even in her own description of her role, she said it was to ‘give people confidence to do what they do’. As I was sitting in my big comfy executive chair in Amanda’s incredibly prestigious and beautiful office on the eighty-something floor; (which I have to say had the most breathtaking view of London), I guessed that Amanda’s job was more complicated than ‘giving people confidence’! However, she was not interested in reeling off a list of what her workload demanded, but of the essence of her purpose which centred around leadership, mentoring and coaching.

The gift that Amanda gave me in this mentoring session was to simply acknowledge the essence that I already possessed – confidence. She shared with me some ideas to bring out the best in me by believing in the qualities I already possessed:

  • Imagine points in your life when you were the best in moments – you can trust yourself to re-create these successes in different guises as you have done it before  
  •  Extend your vision –  go for ‘director’ from the start rather than limit yourself to your current or next role
  • Challenge yourself to be the boss next time – realise that you have a choice in thinking…some people think ‘I can’t do this role yet as I don’t know everything’ versus others who think ‘I can do this bit in the role and learn the rest’  i.e. have the confidence to make the jump
  • Encourage netsharing not networking – it’s not about what people do but what you can each exchange and share. This is a great way to make the most out of events such as big work functions.
  • Sometimes find a way to get round the ‘britishness’ in business – use certain phrases to give you permission to be a bit more direct or forward in certain situations. For example, I could put on my ‘ski instructor head’  so that I could offer positive and constructive feedback from an independent stance
  •  Trust your head and heart and follow your instincts

From a branding and marketing perspective, I also wanted to get an understanding of the journey of creating Aviva as a brand in its own right. The following are some of the pointers which I picked up on (they may not be in the exact order or wording of Amanda, but hopefully the message is still clear):

  •   Recognition – A chance to show the world who you have always wanted to be (announcing phase of Aviva)
  • Internal belief – belief inside you and the people around you which translates into the effort behind it. Believe and spread the spirit of the brand – relish and love what you do for customers
  • Raising Awareness – drive consideration of the brand by giving people belief in the power of the brand. If the message is crystal, external people will come along, it will translate into pub conversation as people will get it. Aviva’s message is simple…no one recognises you like Aviva – See www.youarethebigpicture.com
  • Loyalty and retention – it’s about being metaphorically in love with what we can do for people – this creates a virtuous circle

Books referenced by Amanda relating to our mentoring session:

  • The strengths way – Mike Pegg (Amanda kindly gave me this book and it is fantastic – If any of my fellow scholars would like to borrow it, please let me know)
  •  Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  •  Why Women Mean business – Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland
  •  Seven habits of highly effective people – Stephen Covey

If you are ever lucky enough to meet Amanda, say hello from me!

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