Q+A: Leadership Lessons with Mary Stankiewicz

Mary Stankiewicz made history in 2023 as the first Belle to be promoted to the leadership team from within. Follow along as she shares advice for aspiring leaders and healthy hobbies that have helped to prevent burnout.

Mary Stankiewicz Headshot

Mary gives us a first-hand account of how aspiring leaders can:

  • Reflect on proud moments
  • Never stop learning – inside and outside of work
  • Find room to be creative
  • Learn to say no, and know when to say yes

Interview by Kate Finley, Founder, Belle Communication

Prefer to listen? Click to view the full interview.

Kate: First off, congratulations on this milestone achievement in joining Belle’s leadership team as Head of Accounts. The team and I agree it is so well deserved. What are you most excited about in this new role?

Mary: I am eager to make an even bigger impact across our agency and for our client partners. A longtime passion of mine is building and maintaining strong, positive relationships. Being able to apply that skill with people inside and outside of Belle leaves me feeling fulfilled at the end of the day.

K: At Belle, we like to talk about proud moments. What is something you are personally proud of when reflecting on the past year?

M: There are so many big and small moments that come to mind, from helping secure great media coverage for clients to delivering impactful strategies and creative campaign ideas. A personal moment of pride, though, was the work I put in last year to prepare myself for this new role and the responsibilities that come with it. From learning more about our business processes and systems to running an agency to re-thinking how I structure my day and calendar, I learned how to make space for different types of work and responsibilities. There’s always room to continue learning, but last year required me to take a hard look at what I could do to be set up for success this year.

K: In your experience, which qualities make a leader successful?

M: A successful leader is relentlessly positive, empathetic and transparent with their team and others. I also think successful leaders are continuously seeking ways to improve. No matter how successful they are, they stay grounded and know there is always room for growth, learning and improvement. They encourage a growth mindset with others.

K: Any books or podcasts you’d recommend?

M: I usually listen to podcasts about news or running an agency every morning. I like the Build a Better Agency podcast because they cover topics in an understandable, actionable way. Outside of the office, I always recommend the book Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

K: How do you protect room for creativity?

M: I’ve learned that there are some moments where I’m just not feeling very creative, and that’s OK. When I realize that I’m not in the right headspace to be creative, I work on something else and come back to the creative task when I’m ready. I am best at being creative when I can give myself space. Creativity doesn’t come to me when I feel rushed or under pressure. This means thinking outside of work when I’m on a walk or driving — letting my mind wander without time constraints. It also means planning ahead and not saving a creative task for the last minute.

K: OK speed round, ready? What’s your go-to stress reliever?

M: I love long distance running, yoga and getting lost in a good book – specifically memoirs or biographies.

K: How do you stay motivated?

M: I enjoy having things to look forward to, either personally or professionally. I like to focus on something in the future that I’m working toward, whether it’s a goal, an exciting trip or a new project.

K: Who is someone that inspires you?

M: There are so many, it’s hard to choose just one. My brother inspires me to be a kinder person. My sister inspires me to look at things differently and be more creative. My fiancé inspires me to get out of my comfort zone and to enjoy life more presently and deeply.

K: Describe your ideal self-care day.

M: Sleep in just a bit, but not too late. Run for at least an hour. Come home and make a great breakfast: coffee, fruit, waffles and a smoothie. Clean my house and then have plans with my fiancé or close friends later!

K: What’s your go-to pump-up song?

M: I could list 50 songs off the top of my head! But one of my current favorites is CUFF IT by Beyonce.

K: What is your favorite concert of all time?

M: This is the hardest question of them all. But it’s a tie between seeing The 1975 in Columbus in 2019 and seeing Beyonce and Jay-Z at the Shoe.

K: So fun. I have to ask while I have you – give us a sneak peek into wedding planning. What are you enjoying most so far?

M: Honeymoon planning has been my favorite part! My fiancé and I share a love for travel so we’re very much looking forward to that time together and to experience new parts of the world.

K: Do you have a word or theme for the new year? If so, what does it mean to you?

M: “Let go” is my theme for 2023. A natural tendency of mine is to fret over something negative that happened and think “what could I have done differently or better?” or “why did that happen in the first place?” It’s good to reflect and learn from mistakes but at a certain point, you have to just let it go. There’s no such thing as perfect. I’m working on that personally and professionally.

K: Lastly, what advice do you have for aspiring leaders?

M: My advice is two-fold. It’s important to learn how to say no and to do it in the right way to make room for what matters and what you love. However, it’s also important to learn how to say yes. Make sure you are saying no for the right reasons. It can be easy to say no to something that feels uncomfortable. Don’t let the fear of the unknown prevent you from taking on a challenge.

K: Well, Mary, this has been really fun. Congratulations again on behalf of the entire team at Belle. We are so proud and excited for you and can’t wait to see how our team and agency continue to thrive with you in this new leadership role.

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Belle Communication

Belle Communication is a woman-owned and led, nationally awarded and top-ranked digital PR agency that helps brands think bigger for now + next. The firm serves the CPG, retail, restaurant, tourism and B2B industries, and has partnered with more than 100 brands including Dearfoams, Nestlé, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Nationwide Insurance.