Ben Girdlestone is Head of Communications at Magic Circle law firm Slaughter and May. His team focuses on media relations, internal communications and brand, working closely with colleagues in the business development, digital and design teams. Ben’s career has been split equally between in-house and agency. Most recently, he was an Associate Director at Headland before joining Slaughter and May in 2014.
The first is being in tune with what my organisation needs at any given time. The second is the ability to get to the heart of an issue quickly. The third is probably being lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
One of my previous jobs was pretty tricky. After a tough couple of years, I left but had to battle quite hard to regain my confidence. I found this challenging. Bad professional experiences make you appreciate the good ones for sure.
I thought I'd struggle with lockdown three at first, but it's been largely OK. I'm lucky that I work in a firm which is understanding and encouraging. It's fine if a child or pet puts in an appearance on a Zoom call or, if you need to take time out during the day to home school or shop. Everyone works very hard and supports each other to make the situation feasible.
We all feel a keen sense of responsibility to keep everybody connected through our internal communications programme. People rely on us to impart important messages around mental health and wellbeing and to reassure them that the firm is still doing great things - even remotely. Beyond that, I make sure to take time to find out how each of the team are doing as often as I can. It is fine not to feel OK and it is up to the rest of the team to support any colleague(s) that might be struggling.
There are so many to choose from. If I had to choose one, it would be the two consecutive days I fronted the comms on two very complicated private equity deals which attracted a lot of press attention. It was unbelievably intense managing multiple stakeholders with different agendas. It didn't help that there was a heatwave and the office didn't have air con!
The most important lesson I have learned is to really listen to people - beyond just the words that are being said. To ask myself, what is this person actually trying to tell me? On a professional level, I have gained an understanding that change affects people in different ways and how important it is to have empathy with those that might feel unsettled or unsure.
I have received a lot of great advice along the way, but something quite recent sticks out. My boss suggested I change my approach to a problem that was frustrating me. She advised me simply to view it as a business challenge that needed a business solution to sort it out. This has helped me approach issues much more easily and effectively.
I've been lucky enough to work with a handful of people over time who have the ability to see things in a completely different way to everyone else. It's so easy to become institutionalised and regimented in your thinking - in life as well as in work. I take inspiration from those that look at the world through a different lens.
This is plan B. Plan A was to be an advertising hot shot!
I can DJ and have a lot of late nineties/early noughties house music records in my loft which I would love to spin again one day...if only I still had my record decks...