LENZ views leadership broadly and encourages leadership development among everyone on our team. In this series of interviews, several of our leaders reflect on their principles and practices, and on the lessons in leadership they’ve learned along the way.
Christine Mahin is the Accounts and Operations Director at LENZ. She came to LENZ from the fast-paced world of the New York film and television industry, where she worked as a field producer and post-production supervisor. Her clients included broadcast networks such as A&E, Sundance, and Showtime, and web-based corporate clients such as Jay-Z, the Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair. Her work in both the creative and operational sides of production well prepared her to guide LENZ clients through their marketing journeys.
Excluding colleagues at LENZ, who taught you the most important lesson that guides your leadership at LENZ today? What did you learn from them?
Two people come to mind.
I worked in New York for 10 years before I came to LENZ. I worked in television production, which is incredibly fast-paced and often emotionally very trying. The best leaders I worked with engendered a very powerful sense of teamwork.
Wendy Roth was my New York mentor, a pioneer in the reality television space. She inspired a sense of immediacy through collaboration, inspired you to get it done right. She wasn’t directive: not giving orders and pointing. She was doing it right there with you. Even if she had created the show—was the executive producer at the top of the chain—she would work shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
Another leader I worked with was a producer on a reality TV show who embodied the “lead from behind” strategy. It taught me that it can be incredibly motivating to want to do something for someone because they care and they’re kind—kind of the opposite of the Machiavellian approach.
Those are the people who I’ve taken into my own philosophy and practice. I try to capture that same feeling of motivating others through collaboration.
What is an important lesson about leadership that you learned from a client?
We do a lot of work with Emory University School of Law. Susan Clark, the Associate Dean for Marketing and Communications, is our main point of contact. She leads in a way that I’m personally very inspired by.
She examines every angle and encourages input from everyone. She really values and listens to every data point, and she understands that everyone has a different perspective that will shape and inform the finished product. She’s incredibly patient with how she receives those inputs and applies them.
Her example has taught me to listen to everyone’s voice, to slow down and be patient with the process.
It’s also inspiring to me, as a woman, to see powerful, thoughtful women who are respected and have made their way. As I advance in my career, I value that more every day.
What impact that you’ve made on the world through your leadership at LENZ feels most meaningful to you?
I’m most proud of being thoughtful about the LENZ culture and curating an already healthy, positive work environment.
My role captures both the functional and emotional parts of LENZ. For the functional: make sure all departments are working together as they should. For the emotional: make sure everyone is happy and satisfied while they’re doing it.
It’s a unique opportunity for me to have one eye on operations and the other on satisfaction. And I think it’s unspeakably important to keep morale and cooperation in the forefront.
The departments that we have at LENZ, and the people within them… to say that they’re experts in their fields would be an understatement. They’re incredibly intelligent and talented people. But through cooperation, the group mind becomes smarter than any individual.
And it’s deeply satisfying to me when people feel good about the work they do. When they feel appreciated and perhaps hear through account services how well the client responded to the work they’ve done.
We have a really robust reporting process where we look back at the results of the work we do. I love the reporting period. It’s a chance for everyone to look back and see, “Oh my gosh, that work we did. Look what it’s garnered.” It’s so important for everyone at LENZ to know the impact of their work on our clients’ success.
Fast forward as many years as necessary. You’re leaving your present role, whether for a promotion or a job change or retirement. What advice would you give to the next person who fills your position?
I think the account services department and the role of operations attracts people who are organized and enjoy structure. And the advice I’d give is to trust in some of the strategic chaos of the process.
Richard [Lenz] has often preached the value of a lack of definition. Without total definition, you allow for growth, for reaching beyond a job description, for thinking outside the box.
For someone who really enjoys structure and stability, that can be scary and appear at first to be disorganized. But it’s not.
LENZ allows people to enhance their strengths and shape their job descriptions based on what they’re best at and love. You can’t do that if you’re always following the bullet points of the job description. Lean into that lack of definition, and leverage it to grow yourself and your role at LENZ.
If you think of some of the other areas of expertise represented by the people at LENZ — the work that you don’t do yourself and maybe don’t know how to do — what is one area that fascinates you? What draws you to that?
That’s the gift of the account services department. We get to see everyone do what they do best. It is so special to be the conductor of an orchestra of virtuosos.
We have a brilliant creative director. [Ben Barnes.] Everything that he does eludes me, but I’m proud to be able to show the clients what he creates for them. I recognize that only he can do it, and only that department can marry the science and the art in the brilliant creative work they do.
Our interactive team is amazing. They can make the most complicated website issue tangible and easy to explain.
The work that comes from our media department is so nuanced and careful and multifaceted. Rachel Cushing, who leads the team, is remarkably thoughtful about every aspect of the work that comes from that department. It’s a privilege to work with them and have the honor of sometimes representing their work.