José Rivero is the director of a small company in São Paulo - the heart of the Brazilian Economy. Less than 20 people share the office space in a very frantic atmosphere where sales and transactions happen all day long. Tradaq is a company that plays the broker in a multi lateral barter network where clients use the company’s database for promoting businesses – buying and selling.
The emotional tone is at limits now and then – mainly due to the personal sacrifice of additional hours at the office so that goals may be met, and commissions enriched. What could be for certain the portrait of a stressed relationship with traits of antagonism in a demanding situation for results is not the case. What we see is the situation of a trusted leader that ensures space and freedom for his team to play.
As a Mexican having studied abroad with a Master in Economics, Rivero has chosen to settle a business in Brazil after a couple of years working in Investment banks in Rio de Janeiro. Moving to São Paulo was just another well thought step as a young entrepreneur. His company – Tradaq is a leading player in the barter segment of goods and services.
There is nothing very different in the open space where busy agents use their computer terminals and headset phones - except for a pair of screens given each one that enables better visualization of the work and to manage two to three different windows simultaneously. This is just something of what Jose Rivero values in his company. A fanatic for technology, he provides tools and systems that makes his team more productive – without having to micro manage the day to day operation.
Just like a soccer team, there is a captain among the players. But even though the hierarchical chart points for a middle manager, the setting is more of people playing than people working. And don’t get me wrong please – just recently a special one day seminar was done promoting David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” for the whole staff. And that meant shutting down the office for a normal working Friday.
If you visit the office just before lunch time, you may well go out with José and some of his employees. Of course now and then, some specific worry make be brought to the table, but as they eat a salad or an Arabian fish – it’s politics, Hollywood, literature and of course, soccer that happens to be the main dish. This informal Socratean style to keep the team together and show himself very human and special, just came about - naturally. It's the way the guy is. It was not intended to be that way. Or – putting it in other words: it’s José living fully in his human characteristic.
Tradaq holds every year, outside São Paulo, a meeting with the staff for planning and evaluation. Each employee has to be there – and the family goes along. There is no special MC or planned social play. Things come about very naturally – either drinking wine by the fireplace or a small crowd playing and watching backgammon.
Outside help, in the hands of two consultants is much more for generating, keeping and upgrading a culture that values systemic thinking and is in touch of innovative initiatives. It happens every now and then to address via email or calling for a quick meeting, to show videos and articles found in the web. We can well say that this exchange of knowledge flows naturally.
Is there a formula to build trust? I would say that there is no chance to create it if it’s not a natural emphasis. People must see that their leaders do value the person – and not just the employee. And that this kind of principle is present daily and consistently, permeating the culture of the organization to a more human environment.
I have been blessed in these last three to four years to meet with extraordinary people and do businesses with them. This is the story of one of my clients as we go to end our third year of 'eXchange'. I get richer in experience as they get better and better in their business.
Trust is for sure the number one characteristic needed in dealing with people and in trying to build a team.
How do we bring it about?
I have to thank Ellen Weber who last night sparked the fire in me to share as in practice I have seen trust being real in the corporate world.
The thing is, we have taken the human traits out of our office and things haven't come out too well.
Trust is valuable - but together with trust (which is - btw a two way street), we have to start building an environment where people feel more natural and act more spontaneously. Tension is energy consuming, and fun is energy liberating.
I feel that the most important thing to do is to evaluate oneself as a leader and really go hard on understanding how human we are supposed to really be in business!
Management has told us to be very business oriented - take every opportunity to get your machine as well-oiled as it can be. Don't waste time with what doesn't directly affect the afternoon balance. We are at odds with anything that may take the appearence of idleness. We don't discuss life - we are supposed to act over it.
Management has told us to be very skeptical of humans. They are lazy, they are fond of playing and not working. They are from the culture of 'manhana' - tomorrow. They don't like to get their hands on the jobs. "Let's turn these humans into real employees". As we try to transform our fellow men and women - into alliens as if imported from another galaxy, we are transforming the corporate office into a schrizophenic power house.
Management has told us to hold ourselves from showing what we really are. As if to reveal oneself was a matter of shame and fear. We are suppose to be what we are and embrace it as the most important (and only one) thing we have!
To stress a solution is to rethink what management has asked from us - and simply deny whenever it tries to make us less human and less ourselves. That extends to our staff.
- Organizational climate is at its best
- People are happy and value their work
- There is no 'pollyana effect' - each one is always very critical to their own improvements
- Leadership is strong and at the same time is not over weight
- Productivity is something valued from within - no need to be reminding the staff
As per some of the metrics we have measured:
- 20% growth for the last 3 years
- 8% growth of the business transactions through new comers
- Almost 90% of 'recommendation index' (see Reichheld's satisfaction index)
Of course, just having a trusted leader and an environment of trust - solely - won't bring this about. But we have seen that TRUST is one of the more important ingredients to make the company a success
A leader has to bring with him general culture and incorporate in his day to day values other than those of the corporate world. He must face life in all its plentitude and possibility. In his case, José has travelled the world and has collected thousands of pictures each year. He is well read - so he can discuss English-Spanish-Portuguese literature as much more than just an occasional reader. He likes the arts and appreciates museums and galleries. So you will never be out of conversation with the guy.
Although many of us would say 'this guy is out of the curve' - which I might agree - but we have to take into consideration that he has obtained more than simple wins, as he strives through the language-cultural barriers, has his own family life to take care of ... and so on.
Recently Exame PME - a monthly corporate magazine (written under the editors of EXAME Magazine - the most important business publication in Brazil), pointed to a couple of the innovative initiatives that the company, under José Rivero, has undertaken.
Most of the things I have shared with is complimentary to what is known to the public and to the clients of Tradaq - making it in any form a personal use of the privileged informations I may detain about the company.