Vanella Jackson Global CEO Hall & Partners
Before joining Hall & Partners in 2004, Vanella had a successful 20-year career as an Account Planner in some of the world’s best advertising agencies including Bartle Bogle Hegarty, J Walter Thompson and AMV BBDO.
I was sitting, as I do every year, on the grads’ table at our Christmas party. I heard lots of laughter at another table and looked across to see what was going on. I spotted the source of the hilarity – it was the waiter who was making them laugh. I watched him for a short while and noticed how he attended to everyone individually, connecting with them and making them each smile with appreciation.
It was then our turn. Joseph came over and checked in with everyone around the table, unobtrusively and personally. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He took attentiveness to a new level. We all remarked on it, saying how Joseph had made us feel special. He was a natural when it came to customer service.
It was then time to dance – it was the Christmas party after all! Natural enthusiasm took hold and one unfortunate outcome was a shattered wine glass on the dance floor. Joseph came to the rescue with practical efficiency and little fuss.
I thanked him, and also for his attentiveness over dinner. He told me that it was a joy to do a job well; he believed that whatever you do in life, if you do it to your best ability good things will happen. I asked him what else he did. He told me that while he’d been working in catering for a while, he was also studying business and entrepreneurship, and that his ambition was to find a job that could use these skills. I gave him my details, saying I would be happy to help in any way I could. The evening continued, and more and more people came to tell me about Joseph.
I met Joseph a few weeks later for coffee. He was a bundle of energy and excitement. He fired lots of questions at me, and also told me everything he thought about our business and what we were doing. In all my years talking to people I’ve never met someone so fully prepared for a conversation. He simply knew everything about us and could talk eloquently about it all. He also knew a lot about me personally, as well as my close colleagues. It was impressive.
Joseph’s combination of raw talent, commitment to be the best he can be and unbridled enthusiasm makes me realise that we need to be more proactive in finding new ways to spot a wider range of talent. Our own biases often get in the way. We just need to challenge ourselves to look at them. Why, for example, do we prescribe grads for entry-level people? Can’t entry- level talent come from anywhere?
We all know that successful business depends on successful teams. It’s the talent that you find, nurture and shape that fuels your competitive edge. One of the biggest risks to businesses is assuming that you know what that talent looks like, and that it looks like what you’ve always had before. It’s so easy to hire in one dimension, too often ignoring the raw talent that can be found elsewhere.
I believe that if we embrace diversity and encourage people to work with their unique strengths, we’ll create stronger, happier teams that are more inventive and productive. And, as we know, the service-profit chain demonstrates that happy teams lead to happy profits.
Joseph is taking the next five months to finish his course. We’ve promised to talk again then, when he’s ready to find a job. My intention, and hope, is to find him a place at Hall & Partners.