Black and white photograph of Mastercard’s vice-president of CX and design, Tansy Murray, smiling into the camera.
Mastercard’s vice-president of CX and design, Tansy Murray. Image: Mastercard

‘During Covid, it’s impossible to be a stellar parent, partner and colleague’

9 Mar 2021

Mastercard’s Tansy Murray shares her advice for leading teams with empathy and explains why we need to ‘silence the inner critic’ under the current circumstances.

Tansy Murray leads a global customer experience team of designers, writers, animators and front-end developers at Mastercard. She’s passionate about designing products that put Mastercard customers first, that are “transformational, impactful and equitable” and that follow her mantra of “good design is good business”.

Something Murray is excited about at the moment is her team’s work on Tap on Phone. The technology allows small businesses to accept digital and contactless payments from any smartphone, a feature she believes is a game changer at a time when independent merchants are under pressure.

But alongside her leadership and design duties, Murray is also a mother who has been balancing parenting with working from home during the pandemic. Here, she talks about navigating such unprecedented times and how her design skills have helped set her up for success.

‘When a team sees their leader act with integrity and decency, they model that behaviour’

Has working from home been challenging for you?

That’s an understatement! But it’s been a challenge for everyone. My husband and I have been working from home with two young kids. It’s been a delicate balancing act between teaching, entertaining and feeding children – then throw work into the mix and things gets really chaotic! Sometimes guilt creeps in if you need to prioritise work over home life and vice versa.

Do you think your career in design has helped you approach working from home in a certain way?

Good design always starts from a place of empathy. Being hardwired to empathise with those around me is definitely advantageous. Most of my team have young families and it quickly became obvious that this wasn’t going to be business as usual.

So I acknowledged the reality of the situation. Every day we checked in to see how everyone was coping. When people were struggling, we spread the workload to those who had more bandwidth. When a team sees their leader act with integrity and decency, they model that behaviour.

Have there been any pleasant surprises?

I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek. He is so astute on leadership and teams. One of his observations is that a team is not a group of people – a team is a group of people who trust each other.

When the pandemic struck, my team acted like a group of people who trusted each other. They shouldered the workload for those who couldn’t manage and they did it with grace and kindness. I wasn’t entirely surprised, just incredibly proud.

What advice would you give to others who are working from home?

Take it easy on yourself. During a pandemic, it’s impossible to be a stellar parent, partner and colleague. It’s tough for everyone. It’s tough for people with kids. It’s tough for people living on their own or in relationships. This pandemic is taking its toll on people’s mental health. Let’s silence the inner critic and give ourselves a break.

What advice would you give to other leaders right now?

Firstly, lead with empathy. Things are easier when we acknowledge the reality of the situation. Sometimes kids make guest appearances in calls and meetings. No big deal. Rearing children is now part of the working day. During meetings, if my kids interrupt, I make a point of talking to them without muting. I normalise it so that everyone else feels they can do the same.

With everything going on in the world right now, it’s important to be flexible. Shoehorning people into conventional office hours doesn’t work. Map skills and capacity, spread the workload evenly across your team. Be realistic; if someone can’t make a meeting, just make sure they can catch up later.

If you could go back to when we first shifted to remote working, what advice would you give?

Get your hair done – you won’t set foot in the hair salon for months!

In all seriousness, act with decency. Remember, all of this will pass. And if we lead with decency, our teams will come through this more united and dedicated than ever before.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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