Career Planning and Authentic Leadership

Fabio Miranda, Operations Director at Martin Brower – Brazil

In this episode, Fabio Miranda, Operations Director at Martin Brower – Brazil, talks about career planning and how to navigate various life changes. Fabio also talks about how he helped build and launch the DEI program at Martin Brower and how imperative his emotional intelligence skillset has been in leading his teams to success.


Cummings-Krueger: Welcome everyone to the Menttium Matters podcast, where we talk about leadership, life, and the transformative power of mentoring. I’m Megan Cummings-Krueger, and today our conversation is focused on the essential role that emotional intelligence plays in leadership and mentoring.


My guest is Fabio Miranda, Operations Director for Martin Brower-Brazil. Fabio has enjoyed a successful career in supply chain and operations and gained rich global experience along the way in a variety of roles, including previous roles at Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo. Having lived and worked in a number of countries with a focus on integrations and acquisitions, Fabio prefers mentoring others who may be going through these types of transitions.


He also helped build and launch the diversity, equity, and inclusion program and council at Martin Brower. Fabio received his bachelor’s from the University of São Paulo, and he and his wife still reside in São Paulo. In fact, it was Fabio’s wife who was participating in a Menttium program that initially brought him to us. We certainly remain grateful for that.


Fabio first joined the Menttium community as a mentor in 2017. Right now, he is mentoring his fifth mentee. We are delighted to have him as a mentoring partner, and we’re delighted to have him here today as a guest. Welcome, Fabio.


Miranda: Thank you, Megan. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today, for the invitation to share some of my ideas and experiences, and this five-year partnership with Menttium.


Cummings-Krueger: Absolutely. You have of course mentored throughout your career, both with Menttium, but certainly with each of your organizations. I know that in our prior discussions, one of the topics you’re comfortable discussing is career planning, which is a great example of an area that benefits from that emotional intelligence in part because a yearlong partnership is very holistic.


One common challenge that you have seen many of your mentees not initially recognize is that need to include family and significant others in their career planning thought process. I liked how you said it’s not a career change, it’s a life change, and seeing that truth can evoke a lot of emotions. Could you share a little more about that?


Miranda: Yes, sure. Normally when we start discussing their career, we discuss the challenges that the person will face when moving to a different country or a different city within the same country, and then their new bosses and the new reality for the person. After three or four meetings, the family comes up and then the person realizes that I need to move my family, my children, leave my parents, or leave my house. What do I need to do with my significant other because she or he has a job or also a career.


I encourage everybody to start thinking about this at the beginning of the discussion, because this is a life change. Everybody will move. For the person that is moving within the same company, it’s, believe it or not, easier because you close your eyes, and you open your eyes again. You are in the same company with people that normally share the same KPIs, the same processes, the same acronyms. Everything is pretty much similar. Although the job and role may be different, and have new challenges, the environment is similar.


But everything else is different. The city, the neighborhood, and or even the country. In my case, it was a language and everything else was different. My son had to learn a new language, new schools, new friends, new everything. So, it’s very important for you to realize that you need to move everybody else. They need to be comfortable, and they need to settle down. They need to understand how to get to the supermarket, the gym, the school, watch new cartoons on the television, and everything else. So, it’s important to understand how this is going to work out. Then, you sit down with your new boss and say, this is what I need; I need some time, I need some time to settle my family down, I need some time back and forth to do this, and I need some time to understand what’s going to happen.


I had time in my opportunity with my mentees here at Menttium to discuss this. The first one was moving from a different city within the same country. Another one was moving from different countries. These were more stressful, so these discussions are different, right? You need to understand what’s involved here. Sometimes it is a desire issue; your desire, may not really be your family’s desire. So how do you accommodate that?


I told you the story about a person who was living in a small city and moved to a big city. I was watching the news on the television, and I realized that the George Floyd incident was around the corner from them. I immediately called her and said, “Are you okay? Is your family, okay? Because you were in a very small city where everything was calm, and now you are three or two blocks away from the George Floyd incident. So, are you okay?” She said “Yes, we’re fine. Thank you for calling me because it was very stressful, but we are fine”. They were not used to that kind of movement, that kind of big city event. So, it’s important for you to understand how you’re going to react to that. And you don’t know that until you are there, right? So, this impacts your emotions and how you will react to that.


Cummings-Krueger: Absolutely. I appreciate your talking about how important it is to face it early on. I think one of the end results of dealing with a global pandemic is we’re all recognizing the truth of the fact that it is very holistic, our work and our life, and they come together.


Another area of focus that has come up frequently is that need for self-awareness; that ability to step back, clearly see what your mentee may be doing, and how they’re being perceived when they’re doing that. The ability to broaden their view beyond the KPIs and the results so that they recognize the need to be present, make those connections, and those relationships.


So again, in our post pandemic world where so many of us are working virtually and trying to create those connections and demonstrate what we’re capable of, now there’s that added complexity. What has been your experience around this?


Miranda: My experience is interesting because particularly in supply chain, we are process oriented people. We are focused on KPIs, supply chain, logistics and everything else. So, we are not good at saying what we are doing or marketing ourselves. It’s now after twenty-five years in this career that I have learned that. If I had learned this fifteen years ago, it would have been better. But now that I know, it’s even more important to have the connections and network, and to show people what we are doing and how we are dealing with all the challenges. Because sometimes the KPIs themselves are not telling the whole story and what you are delivering and how you are describing the challenges, difficulties, or complexities are not enough.


You need to tell the story, the complete story. You need to do good storytelling and you need to understand what you are doing, where you are, and why you are doing that. My current and previous mentees were not having difficulties with delivering results, but they were having difficulties with showing the results. I was meeting with one of them last week and he said, “No, but I told them that this was going to be a problem”. I said, “Okay, but how did you tell them? To whom? You are telling the guy with the idea that his idea is not going to work; he’s not going to accept that”. So, he needed to know how to do it, how to make the connections. How is he going to tell this other person that his idea is wrong?


So, the connections, the network, they are important. We tend to believe that we only need a network outside the company when we are headhunting and looking for a new job. But the network for your career to grow inside your company is very important; where you are, who you need, who are the alliances that you need know for you to grow. Up to now, I have good friendships that I have built during my career. I have the network that I built at Procter & Gamble in my first job up until now because we are still in contact. We know where we are in different companies. We talk to each other, not for job proposals, but for connection and to help each other. When I need someone to work for me, I call them, and they offer people, and we have all these connections. So, it’s important that you know that, and you know how to react.


Sometimes you need to be quiet. I’m very bad at this, so I have learned this a lot. This is the experience that you must have in your career, right? When you talk about emotional intelligence, it is how intelligent you are to deal with your emotions, right? Sometimes you know the answer, but people are not prepared for your answer. Just stay quiet, wait for the discussion to flow, and then you come back with your answer. It’s important to understand the right moment, the right aspect of the discussion. It’s important to know you better than the other people.


Cummings-Krueger: Absolutely. Mentoring is that ability to see through someone else’s eyes. Authentic self-promotion right now is a key area. As you say, it’s not just getting the results, but telling the story of the results. Do you have any examples of what you’ve found helpful when you’re helping a mentee understand the value of networking connections or the value of how to be able to tell their story?


Miranda: I will use one example of myself and then I will use the example of the guy I was previously mentoring. For example, I was trying to move around in different positions within Procter & Gamble. I had a connection with another area, so I had a discussion with my boss, and he was looking for a position for me in a different area. I was able to switch positions with another guy because of these connections. I was not in a demand planning position. I was aiming for a supply planning position, but I knew the guy and I knew the boss in the other position. We had this connection because I had done some work for them, and we were able to switch positions. So, it was very nice.


Another example of a connection is when I moved from Procter & Gamble in Panama to PepsiCo in Brazil. The CEO of PepsiCo Brazil was the brother of a person that I knew in Panama at Procter & Gamble, who I had helped when he was moving to Panama. He was new to Panama, so I helped him with housing and other things, and we became friends. When I got to PepsiCo, I met his brother and then the connection was made. So, this is something simple. I didn’t help him because I was thinking I would gain anything.


My previous mentee was going to present himself to a new boss, and I said, “tell her your story. Don’t tell her what you want in the first meeting but tell her your story; where you came from, who you know, what you have done, all the changes that you made to the structure. Then at the end, tell her what you want”. In the end, he got what he wanted. He moved from Argentina to Spain, and everything went the way he wanted because the person understood his story and said, okay, you are building your career. You’re not just asking me for movement. So, these are very good examples.


Cummings-Krueger: Yes, absolutely. Have you found it useful for your mentees to look for feedback as far as how they are being perceived? Because so often we’re not fully aware of how we are being perceived. What have you found is useful to help mentees with that?


Miranda: Yes, I often ask them to do this. One of my mentees was concerned about that because she was working in a small office during the pandemic. She was working from home, and she was not aware of what’s going on with her performance because her boss was in a different office in a different city.


I told her to call her boss and ask for feedback, but not only from her boss, but also her peers and HR. She asked, “Should I do that?” I said, “Yes, you can do that. You don’t need to wait for the checkpoint in the middle of the year. You don’t need to wait. You can call and you can ask for that”. And she was surprised. She was surprised with the results, the perception, and she changed some aspects of her performance. At the end of the year, she got promoted.


Something that is important is talking to people. I like to talk to people so this is one of my habits. I have today under my responsibility, almost 800 people. I have six direct reports and then the organization below them. I live in São Paulo, and I just got back from Rio de Janeiro. I spent three days there talking to people, drivers, and everybody. This is one of my habits that I like most; talking, interacting with them, hearing what they’re doing, the difficulties they face, and what they do best. They like to show me their cars, talk to me about their dogs and everything else. It’s good because I learn from them, and they know me and learn from me. I have a lot of phrases that I like to say. For instance, on safety, I say “Nothing justifies an unsafe act”. They get this, so they repeat my phrases and things like that, and this is how they learn and how I learn from them. So, this is something that I do a lot. I encourage my mentee to do the same; talk and listen.


Cummings-Krueger: Yes, exactly. With the pace of life, sometimes that intentional effort gets lost. Another aspect of your emotional intelligence really comes from your cross-cultural knowledge. You’re of course from Brazil, that’s where you are today. You lived in Panama for a while. You have had many cultures on your teams. I think at one point, maybe it was your team in Panama, but you said you had members from Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Chile.


What I appreciated was the example that you shared with me about how important it is to set the example that every team member is going to teach each other about their culture and correct or teach in the moment, and that you found that practice helped create a connected culture on your team. Could you say a little more about that?


Miranda: Yes, for sure. I was the only non-Spanish speaker in the group. I was the Brazilian boss, who spoke only Portuguese. As the only Portuguese speaker, I had to learn a little bit of Spanish before going to Panama. I told my team; I’ll try my best to speak Spanish. I’ll try my best to understand Spanish, but please correct me if I say something wrong. Stop me and correct me because I want to learn. There are a lot of differences between the different accents and different words. The word for swimming pool in Argentina is different from Venezuela and a lot of words are different. So, let’s teach each other, learn from each other, and do it real time so we don’t laugh at each other.


It’s easy for us to laugh at each other because we have small groups, the Venezuelans, the Argentines, the Colombians. It’s easier for us to go on a coffee break and laugh at each other instead of teaching. So, let’s do it differently here. We’re going to teach each other different expressions, and then we’re going to make fun of all of us. It was very funny because we were teaching a lot of expressions, different accents, and different ways of speaking. They were teaching me, and I was teaching them Portuguese because they wanted to learn Portuguese as well.


It created a bond, so the team was connected. It helped us solve a lot of things, helped us to be committed to each other, and it was very good. We didn’t have people talking to each other on the side. We were all candid, and this broke down barriers because we were not trying to understand, we were making efforts to understand each other. We were able to move this from the language to all aspects of the job.


Cummings-Krueger: I just love that story, the setting of the expectations and the transparency, and then being able to build that trust. Building on that, as far as cross-cultural experience, and knowledge, you did as I mentioned at the beginning, helped build and launch the DEI program at your current organization, Martin Brower. Emotional intelligence is extremely important with this kind of work, especially because there’s an aspect of being able to increase the emotional intelligence of others. What have you found effective with this kind of work?


Miranda: The most effective thing is to listen to people and give them a voice. We have found it is powerful to bring people to the table with different dimensions of diversity. Here in Latin America, after some research, we have chosen to work in five different dimensions of diversity. We have more than thirty or forty different diverse dimensions, so we had to choose to focus on five. The dimensions we have focused on are women, LGBTQ+, ethnicity, people with disabilities, and generations. In these groups we have people from Brazil, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Panama who engage via online meetings and so on. The power of the people that are engaged in these groups is amazing with what they bring to the group and what we are doing. We are teaching the company on this. We are in this process now of teaching about the dimensions, teaching about everything, and hearing what they must tell us, right?


This is the most powerful thing that we have learned. We give voice to them, specifically to those that identify with these dimensions. If someone has a disability and is working here, they are delighted because they say, wow, I can speak about myself and I can ask something. It’s more than just being here and having the opportunity to work for Martin Brower, I can also help others to come to Martin Brower and things like that. This is the power of this work.


Cummings-Krueger: It seems like part of power also; I would think comes from the creativity that results from being able reframe things and see from different eyes and different angles. Consider things you didn’t consider, right?


Miranda: Yes. Think about the people that don’t belong to the five dimensions we are focusing on. If I’m male and white, I may not know what they have been through. I don’t know what they have been through in the past and I don’t know what their challenges are, so let’s bring people to the table and listen to them. Listen to them, ask them what they need, what they want, and what we can do. I always say, if we can touch one person’s life, we are doing our job. And then we can expand. We have 1,000 people at Martin Brower in Brazil. If each of us can touch one, we are touching 2,000 and then we can expand.


Cummings-Krueger: I’ve always loved that perspective. At Menttium we have an expression, changing lives one match at a time, and it’s very much that same thing.


Just a couple more questions I’d like to end on, one of which is just the overall catch-all as far as what advice you’d like to share with leaders. What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?


Miranda: We need to understand from the beginning of your leader role, that spending time with people is part of your job description. It’s not written in any of the job descriptions that you are going to read. It’s not written that you need to take care of your people, develop, and spend time with your people, but you need to do this. It’s part of your job. I often say to my people when they come to me and ask me, boss, do you have some time? I know you are very busy, but do you have some time to talk to me? I say yes, I do, because talking to you is part of my job. It’s very important that you realize that you know that you are doing your job because this is what we need to do. So, this is something, this is my best advice. Spend time working with your team.


Cummings-Krueger: But you always hear the expression, certainly here in the states of, ” it’s just business”, but it’s humans doing business, right? My last question for you, it sounds like you’ve got a few favorite sayings, but is there a saying, a quote, a motto that comes to mind that you’d like to share with everyone?


Miranda: Yes. I’m reading a lot of Adam Grant, and I know I shared this with you. He’s a social psychologist. He has written two books that I love, Origins, and now Think Again. He has a saying that is good and suitable for this moment. He says, “I believe that the most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed”. I listen to his podcast when I’m running and when I’m doing my exercise in the morning. He’s very good and he has a lot of advice on work and life.


Cummings-Krueger: There is a politician that came from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone, and he said, “We all do better when we all do better”. That reminds me of that.


Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences that really illustrate so well how important it is to be a continuous learner when it comes to emotional intelligence, but also for sure it is a natural byproduct of the mentoring relationship.


I want to thank all of you that are listening to this Menttium Matters podcast. We have a number of excellent guests coming up, like Fabio. They’re coming your way, so make sure you subscribe, and you don’t miss any episodes. But you can also refer to show notes on the Menttium website for additional resources. We look forward to having you join us next time.