FEATURE4 July 2023

How I work: Kantar’s Amy Cashman on ‘being clear about red lines’

Covid-19 Features North America People Trends UK Wellbeing

In the latest of our series on research leadership, we sit down with Amy Cashman, executive managing director, insights division, UK & Ireland, Kantar, to talk about setting boundaries, delegating and inclusive hybrid meetings.

Amy Cashman black and white photo against a graphic orange and black background

What does an average day look like for you?

Monday to Thursday, I normally get up sometime between 6.30 and 7am, and my husband and I take it in turns getting the kids ready for school, which is making sandwiches, the usual discussions of cheese or ham, that kind of thing, and then getting the kids to school. I’m probably working from home two or three days a week on average. So either I'm logging in at home or going into the office to see people for a client meeting, for example. 

After work, I normally try to get home around 6.30-7pm at the latest to spend some time with my three boys and relax with my husband. Once a week I might do a work thing in the evening, but I try to keep that at once a week maximum. 

Fridays work a bit differently. I’ve worked part time for 11 years since having my family. Originally I did three and a half days and then when my youngest went to primary school I went up to four days. Since I’ve been in my current role, I have started working on Fridays while my son is at school. Because I didn’t work Fridays for 11 years ,I don't have any standing meetings in my diary. I use the time to catch up on thinking, call people I haven't chatted to for a bit, check my emails, that sort of thing. I log off about 3pm, and get my son from school. Later on, I’ll check my emails one last time before the weekend starts.

How do you find the balance of being at the office vs being at home? Do you tailor your work differently depending on location?

At Kantar, we haven’t mandated anyone to be in the office so it’s completely flexible in that respect. I normally look at my diary and think about whether the conversations I’m having would be better in person or not. I always try and see clients in person if I can and if they are open to it, and I always try to make our group leadership team meetings in person if I can. I will build my diary around that. Kantar also has an office in Leamington Spa, the old Millward Brown office, and I try to get up there and see people there. I really try to evaluate the conversations and key meetings that are best had in person and prioritise my time from there.

What are your biggest priorities in work at the moment?

We launched our new purpose at the start of the year and we've been really exploring what that means for us as individuals. Over the last couple of years since the Bain acquisition, Kantar has focused its operations, and we have a really clear focus on our brand, which we can do now that we’re a bit more slimmed down. So we've been talking to the team about that, which has been very successful. We have also had the launch of our syndicated brand tracking product, which has definitely taken up quite a lot of space, in terms of thinking about how we brought it to market, what the USP is for Kantar in that space, etc.

What is the most challenging aspect of managing a hybrid team and how do you approach that?

I think one of the most challenging aspects is hybrid meetings as I think they need careful and inclusive chairing to ensure that if you’re not in the room you get to ask questions, participate and give your point of view. Sometimes, when you're the one in the room, it can be easy to just speak to the people next to you and have a bit of side chat about a cup of tea you’re having, so I think trying to build a sense of inclusion in hybrid meetings can be a challenge but you’ve got to be very conscious about making that happen. 

Truthfully, we are a global company with colleagues around the world and so the way we communicate now with Teams is far more inclusive and engaging than what we would have done in the past with things like conference calls, so from a global team perspective it’s been brilliant. Because we have two sites in the UK, it also enables us to get more of a level playing field around meetings, it’s not like everyone has to travel to London for a meeting as we can do it online. 

How do you approach boundaries between work and home life? 

One of the things I talk about with my team is being really clear on what your red lines are. I’ve always been really clear on that since I’ve had children. I’ve had quite a few things that for me were a red line, so I’ve never missed sports day, an assembly or a parents’ evening. On occasion, not missing an assembly has meant that I’ve missed an important meeting, but I’ve been really clear about that as well, so it’s not only about setting the red lines; it’s being vocal about what they are. My personal view is that the conversation about those things wouldn’t change if I were to be slightly shy and say I’ve got a dentist appointment and I can’t come – that’s not the same thing as being clear and saying it’s my son’s assembly and I don't want to miss it. 

My other red line is I never, ever look at my emails on holiday – my view is Kantar has me most of the time during the working day, and my family should have me on holiday, so I don't look at my emails and I very rarely work at weekends. I can't remember the last time that happened. I try to be very disciplined – when it’s a working day it’s a working day, when I’m with my family I’m with my family. 

What motivates you?

The two main aspects of my job I love are being with clients, talking to them about Kantar and selling our business to them and building relationships, and the second part I love is being with the team and thinking about how we can help them grow and develop and make Kantar a great place to work, so those are the things that I find most motivating about my role.

Obviously, I have to do a fair bit of P&L management and that sort of thing but I always try to keep a balance as I know my energy comes from the people side of things, either with clients or colleagues. That’s one of the things I’ve learned from getting back in-person, because I genuinely enjoy going to the office. My colleagues are good fun, we have a chance to chat and I missed that. I get a lot of energy from people generally. The sorts of things you find out about people when you’re chatting in the kitchen about their friends or life outside of work – those sorts of things are hard to replicate on Zoom. 

What motivates you in your personal life?

I have three boys and I very much enjoy being a parent, going swimming with them, playing tennis, cycling and walking, and playing a lot of games, like quizzes. I also really enjoy baking and trying to keep fit – going to the gym and doing yoga. I really enjoy travelling, which was an issue during Covid and you felt like you hadn’t left your postcode for a while. Now we're back to that, we recently had a family holiday in Canada and none of us had been there before, so to experience somewhere totally new as a family was brilliant. 

What helps you focus? Can you share any tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years in terms of productivity?

In my 20s, in the early part of my career, I was not very good at delegating. I was not very good at letting go. I felt like I had to get quite involved in things. I started understanding at an AD level that that was going to hold me back. It’s something I have a lot of conversations about – I say to people, ‘you think you’re doing the right thing but you’re actually stopping the people beneath you from learning and you’re preventing your own growth’. 

So, I spend a lot of time trying to be good at delegating. That’s a big part of being confident when I go on holiday, for example. I didn't check my emails the whole time I was in Canada because my team is great and they know what they need to achieve and that they can come to me for support if they need it, but they are accountable for what they need to do. I think delegating is a big part of managing work-life balance effectively and setting a clear vision for people so we know what we’re all trying to achieve. 

I also have two separate phones: a work one and a personal one. I know some people find it hard to have two phones but, for me, it works as a way of separating things. 

More generally, having clarity on your boundaries and being really clear about them with others really helps. My colleagues don't expect me to respond when I'm on holiday so no-one emails me when I'm on holiday. They know that’s not something I generally do. Being clear and relatively vocal about these sorts of things is helpful.

How do you encourage your teams to have good boundaries, too? It’s really good to set an example as a leader but it can be difficult for people to switch off.

I do talk about it a lot and I hope the tone is clear from that. I never, ever email my team at the weekend or at night, if I had to send an email at night I would just save it in my inbox until the next morning, as if you send an email at night I feel it kind of sets an expectation. Even if you say don't feel you have to respond, at some level people may think you want them to.

Last year, we all had a day off for World Mental Health Day and everybody got to do some different and nice things to switch off. It’s about trying to build a culture of being very flexible. I had an important call the other day and my colleague had to take his kid to karate so I said, ‘it’s fine, just phone me back when you’re back from karate’. Life happens. I think that’s one of the good things about Covid – people have seen another side to the life that people have beyond their work. And certainly in our organisation, people are respectful of that. 

Do you have any advice on how to stay focused?

I go out for a walk for calls. I tend to look at my diary and if there is a conversation that I feel I don't need to have on Teams, I tend to try to call them and do it as a walking meeting instead. I’ve found that has helped me get out and get some fresh air by walking around the block. When I really need to concentrate, I also just listen to music to help me focus. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.


8 months ago | 1 like

I really admire you Amy for your red lines. You are an incredible Ambassador for other women in the business - THANK YOU

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8 months ago

14 years ago, during a personal objectives review meeting, Amy added one to my list: "Piotr should not reply to emails when on holiday". It was among the most transformative mentoring acts I ever experienced, and to this day, I pass this mantra over to work colleagues, junior and senior alike. Thank you, Amy!

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7 months ago

Thanks for sharing that Piotr. I am so pleased it was a helpful comment!

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