Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

Agency Leadership Decoded: M&C Saatchi Singapore’s Madina Kalyayeva on building strategic team interactions

For Madina Kalyayeva, M&C Saatchi Singapore’s managing director, to keep a team engaged and empowered is simple – it’s all about looking no further than the team in generating and spurring innovation in creative work – trusting what each has to offer and share. 

“We tend to seek motivation from special programmes or coaches, while we neglect the talented individuals we interact with on a daily basis,” said Madina. 

As a female leader, there are three things that Madina encourages the most in her team: Seeing the good in change; keeping one’s network diverse; and learning to be comfortable with the unfamiliar. 

Being comfortable with the unknown

The digital world is ever-changing which means that brands and creative partners like M&C Saatchi are continuously placed in new and unfamiliar positions that demand them to adapt to change and drive inventiveness amidst making sense of the unknown. Madina said that considering this challenge, while best practices are good, it doesn’t serve well to stick to one thing for too long. 

Best practices are good, but not necessarily reliable as information flows faster than ever, and complex models are now required to evaluate possibilities. That is why today, in the digitally enabled world, we need to create new patterns and seek new opportunities.

Madina Kalyayeva, Manading Director, M&C Saatchi Singapore

In building up the sophistication and versatility of her team, the marketing leader strives to encourage members to make their network as diverse as possible. This is the same principle she adopts herself, and thus one of the key aspects of the kind of leadership she puts forth. 

She believes that the “diversity of thought” can be the very tool in coming up with effective creative-led solutions. 

Develop relationships with people who are outside of your comfort “friendship” zone, connect with those who are different and learn about similarities and cooperate with them to achieve a common goal. This can become a tool for a solution through the diversity of thought.

Madina Kalyayeva, Manading Director, M&C Saatchi Singapore

Strategic & insight-driven huddles

The MD of the Singapore team believes in beefing up the team’s talent and experience and actually tapping them in order to bring to fruition groundbreaking work. 

The marketing leader implements sharing sessions where once a month, a partner, client, or team member is invited to conduct a session about something they believe is exciting which could be anything under the creative and marketing domain, such as Discord training session, Metaverse Fashion Week walkthrough, 101 to Minting of NFTs, and Best Practices in Publishing, amongst others. 

Madina strongly sees the effective impact of these strategic huddles as they become a unique opportunity to learn from one’s peers, clients, and partners. It’s about encouraging team members to use the people around them and their network to the most potential, and constantly interacting and really listening to how they have solved a problem, initiated a solution, or suggested an impactful idea. 

“We all go home and put on a different role – this initiative allows one to show the wider team the other functions they take on and their interests outside of work and teach us something new,” says Madina.

Genuine interactions producing out-of-the-box thinking

As the world changes by the minute, it’s not only important, but crucial, to constantly think outside the box. Madina said that the insight-driven sessions have only borne good fruit upon their implementation. Besides the fact that it allowed the team to learn about each other’s outside-of-work interests and activities, the new things learned allowed them to view and put together proposals differently. 

“We started to utilise the networks better and welcomed more outside-of-the-box ideas from the junior team, as they often have the most diverse connections,” she shared. 

Madina said that in the desire of organisations to connect teams together, initiatives would sometimes feel forced, hence, turns to be counteractive. Therefore, the key is building authentic and genuine points of interaction. 

“Forced by management team activities to bond became unnecessary, and the teams started to also hang out outside of work and on weekends together,” said Madina.

She added, “In general, productivity increased as everyone became more familiar with and keen to learn more from each other.”