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Executive MBA (EMBA) alumna Dr Vanessa Marcie is helping leaders build better relationships through her training and coaching startup.

In 2016, Dr Vanessa Marcie (EMBA 2016) was leading marketing and communications projects for a French Investment Promotion Agency while being a stand-up comedian. Today, she’s changing the way leaders communicate and strengthening teams in a novel way: through humour.

Leading With Humour is a management and capacity building consultancy, and Vanessa’s vehicle to detoxify company cultures, improve retention and increase productivity by encouraging leaders to put employee well-being front-and-centre.

Vanessa delivers workshops, training sessions and coaching to clients all over the world.

“My workshops focus on solving problems, overcoming barriers and building meaningful connections through humour,” says Vanessa, who completed a PhD in Management and Marketing Communications at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis and has published extensively on the subjects.

“The framework is academic, tailored to clients’ needs, and results-oriented – I’m using fun, humour and play as building blocks to achieve productivity and performance.”

Embracing digital communications

From its founding in 2019 until earlier this year, Leading With Humour provided an in-person training experience. However, Vanessa has embraced the potential of digital technology and continues to deliver impactful workshops and provide support to her clients. Since the business world went into lockdown, Vanessa has written for Harvard Business Review France, spoken at online conferences and organised weekly networking chats. She’s helping her clients cope and thrive through the challenging times, too.

“Like many businesses, I’ve had to adapt to the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 crisis and move all my activities online. A new world is emerging and with it new ways of communicating and serving clients,” Vanessa continues.

“A crisis is a disruption and an opportunity. Helping companies adapt their corporate culture while operating at distance, and improving employee well-being through humour in an incredibly stressful time has been a learning experience for me as for my clients. Undoubtedly Leading With Humour is emerging more innovative, flexible and relevant to the context.”

From EMBA assignment to client commissions

The concept for Leading With Humour, and the subsequent entrepreneurial spark that led to the company’s foundation, came to Vanessa through research completing for her Executive MBA Individual Project assignment. Starting out as a research project supervised by the late Professor Sucheta Nadkarni, Vanessa ended up developing a methodology for transformation at organisation, team, and personal levels. Her work was well-received, garnering coverage in the Financial Times and European Business Review.

“I started receiving requests for training and workshops from companies and individuals, reinforcing my belief that there was an appetite for a new leadership approach. Doing a job which has a real impact on people and organisations was so rewarding that I decided to leave the comfort of my corporate job to become an entrepreneur. So far, I have enjoyed every single minute of the process and I’m looking forward to the future!

“When you start a company from scratch, and what you do is innovative, it’s essential to be able to rely on your support network to launch. I’m so lucky to have a real support in the Executive MBA cohort, as well as Cambridge Judge Business School and the Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre, throughout my EMBA and ever since.

“I wouldn’t have started my business without the EMBA – it changed my life!”