To Be or Not To Be (a good Boss)

•October 10, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Every day we are exposed to different examples of Leadership and many worth paying attention to either for positive or not so positive reasons…. In my view, being a good boss is grounded on 3 principles:

Put People in Position to Succeed, Remove Barriers, Get Out of the Way.

Let’s see:

Put People in Position to Succeed

Leading a team is not an easy task and a boss’ first and foremost job is understanding strengths and weaknesses of the group. It is his/her responsibility to then place people in positions where they can perform their best while growing professionally (room for mistakes included!).

Liverpool FC is a wonderful example of that: despite some personal highlights the team’s strength comes not from individuality but from how they operate as a unit. The engine flows perfectly because manager Klopp (the boss in this case) has a keen ability to position players in areas they can perform their best for the benefit of the whole. Each cylinder runs at 100% and complements the other, delivering on their share of the task. That mindset made them the best in Europe last season, possibly the best in the world.

When you have players in functions they cannot perform, your team is confused, hesitant and underdelivers.

Remove Barriers

I see this as a boss’ daily job: making sure that organizational bureaucracy, politics or egos do not get on the way of your team’s ability to execute. It doesn’t mean you are baby-sitting…not at all. Instead, you are demonstrating how respectful to your employee’s career you are, using your seniority, position and experience to open the path. This is perhaps the most valuable thing a good boss does.

One of my old bosses used to ask “what do you need me to do?” and that question forced me to bring clear and objective requests, not complaints and wasteful thoughts.

Nowadays, speed is not an option and when you don’t consciously work on removing barriers in front of your team, it results in a slowed down, stagnant and frustrating performances.

Get Out of the Way

This is the hardest…because it forces you – the boss – to trust others, a scary thought for many. I also accept the fact that others can do things better than you…another scary thought for some.

I say: Let them do it! Let them make decisions, let them chose left or right, let them find the answer and let them find the options available. Let them bring it to you, don’t tell them what to do, don’t impose your title, your style or your solutions onto the process.

Interventionist bosses usually don’t succeed.

I truly believe these 3 principles are foundational behaviors, meaning the root for all other characteristics of a good boss. But it goes a step deeper because they are fundamentally grounded on the idea that you’re as good as your team, so if you’re a good boss, they will make you look good, if you’re a bad one…the blame is on you.



WeWork failed IPO: Perception x Reality (or Hype vs Getting your Act Together)

•October 4, 2019 • Leave a Comment

WeWork has a very clear business model: It signs up big proprieties for long term, lower prices leases and then slice them up, re-rent them on short term and much higher prices. 

Similarly to Starbucks, Uber, Amazon, or Facebook, WeWork “blitzscaled” the market to create dominance and it is everywhere. It is cool amongst digital nerds, hipsters, millennials, genXers, entrepreneurs and even Wall Street bankers. Throw in some nice amenities, a contemporary relax-pro vibe and good networking opportunities and that rent is clearly justified, right? Even if they lose $219,000 every hour, it sounds like a smart real estate business, it makes sense to me…

That’s what WeWork’s $47 Billion IPO valuation counted on…until reality sunk in and the market could see only a $10-15B value. Still big but not close to matching the hype and buzz around it. This week the IPO was called off.

Besides the economics and governance issues behind this decision, what I find fascinating is how we, Humans, still struggle to play this perception vs reality game.

We make a lot of decisions based on what we “think” we know, not what we actually “know”, and I truly believe it is important as a marketer to drive positive perception, generating momentum, engagement, curiosity, interest and word of mouth. However, I see a lot of businesses trully believing that driving perception is a strategy and that it is more important than reality, that the coolness factor is eternal and they can ride that wave without really paying attention to their core product.

I learned that customers are not dumb. They find out whether you’re full of it or the real deal so in my mind the job of a good marketer is identifying what are the product/service truths that can be used as foundation for a positive perception, and then let the market forces take over, generating the hype we can back up.

Unless it is your business model (like some restaurants and fashion companies), hype based marketing can be a good tactic, but it is not a long term strategy…fruit-infused water is cool, but ItDoesn’tWork…

United Nations Week is upon us so we should talk Global Marketing.

•September 25, 2019 • Leave a Comment

More often than not, a “regional” campaign is counter-productive and goes against Global integration and success.

I explain: Yes, operationally we should regionalize management as it saves money, speeds up logistics, keeps business close to the action, etc so having a – let’s say – Asian or Latin American office makes total sense.

When it comes to marketing, though, having a regional campaign can be a problem.

This is because many times countries within the same region have very different relationships with your product or service so you either try to solve a problem that doesn’t find relevance everywhere or you tend to settle for a mediocre common denominator.

That’s why most “Latin American” campaigns fail…Geopolitically Latin America does exist, but for Marketing…it mostly makes little sense.

At the NBA, we started to look at the world a bit differently to find out that for our product, basketball, there were more similarities between the Philippines, Spain and Brazil vs The Philippines, Japan and Korea or Spain and the UK, for example. That the existence – or not – of basketball culture and game development was more important to the way we market it vs their physical proximity or even cultural heritage.

McDonald’s does that with tremendous success as a big part of its global team’s job is matching problems and solutions independent of regions.

What I believe then is not that we eliminate regional marketing activities to install a global one but that we truly integrate and look into opportunities beyond operational structures. The World is one big engine and its pieces work better when they work together.

The UN could use some of that integration, too, I think.

The business of Rugby is big, but what Rugby teaches business is much more important.

•September 25, 2019 • Leave a Comment
This Friday 9/20 the Rugby Men’s World Cup opens in Tokyo. 

It is considered one of the top 10 sports events in the world with an estimated audience between 2.5 and 3 billion and set to generate $3.5B to Japan’s economy.

Specially exciting is the competitive balance as the always favorites All Blacks from New Zealand are not as feared as usual and might give it a chance to other powerhouses such as Australia, South Africa or Wales. Actually, given the difficulty of NZ’s 1st phase group – where they play hungry England and the vociferous Pumas from Argentina – they might not even pass the Group stage. Unlikely, but as possible as ever.

Those who know me know I love sports. Not only soccer, basketball, tennis, football, hockey but almost any form of sport will catch my attention and earn my appreciation. And I practiced many of them throughout my life.

However, the one that taught me the most was #Rugby.

In a simple thought, I only got into my Masters at #Northwestern because of Rugby:

Having to write an essay about the first time I learned a personal lesson that I later applied in my business life I didn’t hesitate to put in words the teachings of teamwork I only understood while playing Rugby.

Nothing, absolutely nothing happens without a team. Watching a game is like watching a fluid and precise execution of the best business strategies: eyes locked on the objective, clarity on responsibilities, a diverse set of abilities – with each player having chance to play his strengths – and the ultimate example of how nothing works unless the whole team plays as one. In this game of inches, where moving forward is the only way, if you can’t do your job trusting the other guy to do his, there is absolutely no way to win. It is a beautiful thing.

Beyond the perceived brutality and complicated set of rules, there is an intelligent and fundamentally human game. And if it was good enough for Northwestern, it should be good enough for your next meeting.

Tune in, learn, enjoy.

Explaining Account Planning through Soccer

•January 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As the biggest sports event in the world approaches – The 2014 Soccer World Cup – and as a good Brazilian, I’ll summarize my thoughts using a soccer analogy:

Planners don’t score the goal

Our job is to leave the ball bouncing at goal line so the creatives can score. However, a bad strategy leaves the ball bouncing at mid-field and…how hard it is to score from that far?

What I call Perceptive Planning is about finding the best path to the goal line using anticipation, improvisation skills and teamwork.

Let’s play ball:

1.  Focus on the audience.

Strategists are vain people, and, by being so, are attracted towards creating elaborated and complicated theories that showcase their supposed intelligence and sophistication. We, many times, put more emphasis on these theories than on the impact the work will have in motivating human behavior. We fall into the trap of loving to be applauded after a complex and erudite thought process.

What I try to prescribe is that these thoughts mean nothing if we can’t get creatives to understand it or clients to see how it makes the work better. We, many times, talk to ourselves.

Make sure your audience knows what to do when they leave the room.

2. Don’t over-process it.

A process is not an objective in itself, a good process is the one that informs, facilitates and improves the outcome. Planners, sometimes with the excuse of being “rigorous”, spend much money, time and effort in unnecessary steps, created either to shine a light on the planners’ skills or to justify a “pointless” point of view. Processes are good and everyone – even creatives – have their own. We just can’t follow them without questioning whether their steps help or not our goal.

Ask yourself what really is necessary to prove, validate or explain. Throw everything else away.

3. Be Flexible

One size does not fit it all. There is not one only way to solve every challenge.

Getting the right information upfront will allow you to design the right approach. Commonly, because we have been successful before, we try to force fit same approaches into completely different situations.

We should also understand that is our job and responsibility to provide expert recommendations to our clients so, in that sense, we should question their strict processes when they seem wrong.

Anticipate where you want to go. Take the proper time to decide the course of action, don’t jump into doing before knowing whether it is the right direction.

4. Spend money on Discovery, not on Validation.

This is not an original point but such an important one. In the creative process, research is an extremely helpful tool so Planners should know when the information is more useful: Upfront, finding things out.

Most Validation work puts too much pressure on consumers who, most of the times, have no idea what they want. We should advice clients to limit that spend and, instead, put the money in discovery research. By doing that, we will become so knowledgeable about the problem, the hypothesis and the behavioral triggers that we will be more comfortable with the idea of not needing validation (focus groups are good when used for discovery, not validation)

Get uncomfortable upfront. Don’t leave the tough conversations for when it’s too late to fix it.

5. To Data or not to Data

There is a intrinsic link between Planning and Data. That is a fundamentally good thing. It doesn’t mean, however that every data is good and that every data should either used or trusted. Many times we, planners, clients and others, use the information without questioning its source, its methodology and its integrity. Many times we do it for convenience, speed or because it is sexy but, in my perspective, it’s recipe for winning a battle but certainly losing the war. I see as planners’ responsibility to welcome all data but curating and interpreting its implications carefully, even if it results in disagreements in the process. Without the dialogue and the questioning, our hypothesis will reveal weak and our role in generating influential creative won’t be reached.

Misused Data is creative’s worst enemy, good Data is creative’s best friend.

 6. Take responsibility.

“They didn’t like the creative” might be the most heard phrase in our industry. My view is that if a Planner sells the strategy but the agency didn’t sell the work, the Planner also failed. We need to understand our role and accept our responsibilities. This is the only way we will have “skin in the game” and fight for the best work instead of saying “I did my part”.

Even if the creative team doesn’t share the credit, separating yourself from them is recipe for failure.

Care about the work as if it is your own, because it is.

7. The brief is a living creature: it changes as it grows.

Most planners are proud of their briefs, and correctly so as a good brief is something to be proud of. However, we, planners, should allow and welcome its natural evolution as a normal step in the creative process – one that starts with the client brief and ends only when we ship the film or publish an ad. (In the “digital” world, it actually continues as we optimize executions on the go).

Refusing to do so, in my opinion, is like hiring a director and refusing to hear his/her point of view on the script at hands. A good brief is as a solid starting point, but not necessarily the final answer. Good planners appreciate and welcome the dialogue.

Every step of the creative process should improve on the previous one.

So, what I call Perceptive Planning somewhat demystifies common behaviors in the industry to support the notion that account planning should be simple and useful, strongly emphasizing problem solution and collaboration.

As in a soccer game, we can have nice dribbling and the “jogo bonito” but, without scoring, it’s all useless. As a Brazilian, I know it…

Love it, Love it not…The ups & downs of our great city

•August 9, 2013 • 1 Comment

Things we love about Chicago

  1. How clean the city is
  2. The Grant, Millennium & Maggie Daley parks
  3. The innocent, perpetual hope of Opening Day
  4. Summer + Holiday season
  5. Neighborhood festivals
  6. It’s a “bar city”
  7. That O’Hare is so important for the US
  8. The Art Institute, Sue and the Bean
  9. That flowers during spring & summer
  10. Al Capone’s heritage
  11. The Sears Tower
  12. The open-minded chefs
  13. The low expectations people have about the city
  14. Our alleys
  15. Ravinia
  16. Drawbridges
  17. The Indie music culture
  18. 5411 empanadas
  19. National anthem at a Blackhawks game
  20. Downtown view from the Planetarium, Montrose Park or S. Lake Shore
  21. Parking Dibs
  22. 1871 @ the mart
  23. The Marathon and everything around it
  24. Rosa’s Lounge or any of the great blues bars
  25. We take sports seriously
  26.  We are stand-up comedy center of the world
  27. The river walk (coming soon)
  28. The green river on St. Patrick’s

Things we don’t love about Chicago

  1. Price of gas
  2. March and April – enough cold!
  3. Gangs
  4. Back room deals
  5. Corruption
  6. Our Parking Meters
  7. Our street pavement
  8. There are no day trips better than Milwaukee
  9. That O’Hare is such a mess
  10. The sales tax
  11. The Willis Tower
  12. Highway traffic
  13. Parking Dibs
  14. The annoying reminder of Trump’s ego stamped on our face

The Most Dangerous Word in American Politics

•November 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It’s not Debt, or Jobs, or Abortion, or Bailout or even Obamacare.

It’s Gerrymandering and it is the reason why the US is stuck.

It’s the process by which districts are redesigned to favor one political party. These districts, then, send representatives to the House, as congressmen.

Gerrymandering is killing the US. The whole thing about bi-partisanship won’t happen until we change gerrymandering.

The moment districts become heavily favoring one agenda by gerrymandering, they tend to elect more radical candidates. Dialogue, debate and compromise become non-existent words. As a result, Congress is full of people that, even if they wanted to compromise, wouldn’t. And wouldn’t because if so, they would not be elected in their respective districts.  It’s a survival problem. Basic human instinct.

Iowa is trying to change that by putting in the ballot the two top-voted candidates in the primaries, even if they belong to the same party. In that way, there would have to be a cross-the-aisle approach to be elected because supporters of the opposing party would favor the moderate candidate. It sounds complicated, but it’s not, I’m just not good in explaining…

The point is this country will not go far if gerrymandering persists. People fought hard in the past for the values that built this country and we shouldn’t let a made-up word, that was first shown in a cartoon in 1812 – referencing Massachusetts Governor Gerry highly partisan re-districting process – dictate were we go from here.

I never thought I’d say that but I hope we start looking at Iowans as trendsetters (all do respect to my Iowan friends)…

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