Liderar conversando

De niño oía decir de mi padre que era un gran conversador. Sin saber muy bien como se llega a eso, con el tiempo aprendí que es una virtud que exige saber escuchar y hablar. Por este orden. Con atención y energía suficientes en ambos casos. Porque la buena conversación es lo contrario al espíritu de tertulia. Uno de los siete malos espirítus de los que hablaba el maestro Fernando Martín-Sánchez.

Hace unos días reflexionaba al terminar un taller de estrategia con mi equipo, sobre la esencial habilidad de conversar como equipaje para el liderazgo. Y no como lujo intelectual -meramente retórico-, si no como herramienta práctica de ejecución. En nuestro caso de ejecución estratégica. Después de listar objetivos y medidas complejos y ambiciosos para los próximos años, concluimos que, en gestión avanzada, todo progreso se reduce a una buena conversación. Me explico.

Dentro de una organización, cualquier acción discreta -en sentido matemático- tiene como parte médular una conversación. Que ocurre después de un plan y antes de tareas más o menos individuales. Ya sea una contratación, un despido, un plan de desarrollo personal, un proyecto, la génesis de una idea, el finalizar una etapa. Cuando hablamos de creación de valor con nosotros mismos, con nuestros empleados, con nuestros clientes, con inversores; todo se hace conversando. Entre dos o más. Pero siempre alrededor de un intercambio. No de forma aislada, ni unilateral, sino utilizando la información y la persuasión. Es decir, conversando.

Por eso cualquier modelo de gestión que aspire a la excelencia debe construirse alrededor de buenas conversaciones. Fáciles o difíciles. Motivacionales o exigentes. Largas o cortas. Esenciales o barrocas. Pero siempre bien trazadas y ejecutadas, dotadas de sentido, exactas en su fin. Lo demás serán reuniones más o menos relevantes o encuentros perfectamente prescindibles.

Ser consistente en nuestras conversaciones, darles el espacio y el tiempo que merecen, no es solamente nuestra ventaja competitiva si no el medio más eficaz de humanización del mundo del trabajo. Y la materialización del liderazgo como servicio.

La unidad básica de la ventaja competitiva es la actividad discreta

Michael Porter


In 2019 I was in Barcelona and phoned with my wife exhausted with a crying six-months old baby girl and another little girl screaming in the background. She was on the front line of a family crisis. And she was alone.

I was about to start an executive program at IESE and I learnt many and good things about business, leadership, people and crisis. Julia had to learn many of those things by herself and the hard way.

Finishing her second maternity leave, when we were updating her CV for the job comeback, we thought of functions and responsibilities she exercised in those 3 years of “vacuum”: P&L responsible, director of operations, head of purchasing, people manager. A real CFO aka Chief Family Officer.

She came back to work on March 16th 2020. On the first day of the first lockdown. Right on spot for dealing with the craziness of an info point that the Comercial Chamber had established for helping companies to go through the crisis. With two girls at home and a husband fully absorbed in his own crisis.

Today she is being promoted. While being full-time CFO.

My admiration to you Julia. As wife and mother, coach and bookkeeper, jurist and team leader. You are an inspiration for our family. And for many women that decide for the full experience in family and do not refuse to leave a positive mark in the professional world.

Trust-based homeoffice and Zoom fatigue

Best practices in a hybrid work environment

On March 4th, I had the pleasure to facilitate the roundtable Leadership best practices in a hybrid work environment among cross-industry senior managers from European leading companies. In spite of the incredible positive aspects of the «new normal», the depth and duration of the pandemic is bringing also increasingly side effects that were not really foreseeable. Leadership traits and styles have to be therefore constantly calibrated. These were the main takeaways from our discussion:

Sigue leyendo Trust-based homeoffice and Zoom fatigue

Servus! Servant, Servire

Austrian German has two delicious forms for saying hello. The formal one talks about God –Grüß Gott– and the friendly one about service –Servus-. The origin of the later is also very baroque, meaning an offer of service by the person who greets. In other languages there were similar expressions, unfortunately lost over time.

Saying Servus! as introduction is a wonderful way to position our footsteps in the direction to serve. Also and foremost in the profesional life. Because serving is nothing else than looking after the others. Whoever they are. Sometimes clients, other times employees, commonly superiors, always persons. Persons that have interests, yes, but have much more than that. And the distance between the bare interest and the myriad of expectations, needs, wishes and fears which defines every individual, can only be run by service. That is what servant leadership means. Putting the person in the middle of every undertaking. Person before being someone defined by a role, by a function, by a company or even worse, by fame, power or money.

If we learn how to lead by serving, we are not only connecting with the very nature of our fellows, but we will reach outcomes that we can’t even imagine. It is not a mere management tool, it is the only way to sustain a humble, authentic and ambitious leadership.

LaaS: learning as a service

Almost at the end of IESE’s Program for Management Development in Munich, the topic of learning as a non-stop undertaking comes often to my mind. At different ages and at different life’s stages. Because education -even in the executive framework- implies the recognition of a gap. Those gaps are in every person, everywhere, every time. No one possesses the whole, even if we long for the whole. That is the key of staying on the way to learn. Because that longing keeps us hungry of something new. Even if it costs. Sometimes a lot. Sigue leyendo LaaS: learning as a service

Agile. To humanism through software

Some days ago, I published a new article about the agile method beyond the software-development context. Being agile is much more than creating good code. It is about putting the person in the middle. And connecting people with other people towards a shared objective: interacting, suffering and improving together. The result of such a dynamic, can only be excellent.

Full article in (in Spanish)

A good project management?

Our next project management breakfast is devoted to «good project management». If project management is a multidisciplinary body of knowledge, difficult to be academized, the «good» project management does not provide much more precision to the locution.

For a short statement in 360 seconds, I have come up with only three words: servant, realities and priorities. They relate to the team, the subject matter and the methodology.

Servant is the one who serves. In the PM-context, it could be defined like project management as a service. Putting the attention first on people. Then it comes the rest. And people are the team members, but also your customer and other stakeholders. If you have to be demanding because the project needs it, demand yourself first. The effect will be double: authenticity as manager and appreciation to the others.

Realities. Because managing projects is about managing realities. Nothing of speculative or wishful thinking. Having many possibilities is great to leverage the options, but at the end you have to come down to the earth. Typically it is also the «fair middle» between optimism and pessimism. This reality check is specially useful in a crisis project.

The last one, is the priority setting. The resources are limited per definition. When assigning resources, a thoughtful assessment of the priorities is key for a healthy project management. And not once, but many times, till achieving a continuous priority-setting cycle. Because the priority of today is a secondary issue tomorrow. Time, people and money will find their efficient way if priorities are correctly set.

Watching the Ignatian KPIs

When it is about to measure performance, the selection of the correct indicators becomes a primary task.

Talking with my brother-in-law about this, we ended up in a discussion on Enlightenment as trigger of the modern age. Because since then the human development indexes have reached levels never seen before (life expectancy, infant mortality rate, etc.). Even with no fully accurate data in earlier ages, we can assume the correctness of those KPIs. The point is if these and only these KPIs are representative of the human development. As provocative question, the World War II was the most degraded and savage confrontation known in the human history.  Looking that outcomes, can we conclude that humans in 20th Century were better developed than those living some centuries earlier? Sigue leyendo Watching the Ignatian KPIs

Herrera Oria, 5 management principles of a social leader

Fifty years after his death, we review the key management principles that made Ángel Herrera Oria (1886 – 1968) one of the most influential religious, social and political leader of the 20th century. In his duties as journalist, social pioneer and cardinal; he kept a very own line of handling, that can be summarised in the following principles. Sigue leyendo Herrera Oria, 5 management principles of a social leader

Whom to serve?

Some days ago I read a shared article in LinkedIn about humble leadership. I was happy to see how the understanding, what is leadership all about, is spreading more and more:  a way to serve. And if you are managing people, the only destination of the service is the people you are dealing with.

It’s the people, stupid! rephrasing Bill Clinton’s popular quote.

Sigue leyendo Whom to serve?