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In this episode of The Speaker Show, Sean Pillot de Chenecey interviews Diego Gilardoni.

Diego is an Executive Coach, Global Business Expert, Advisor, Speaker and Author working at the nexus of leadership, culture, and change.

A truly global speaker with a global mindset, Diego brings a rich and eclectic professional experience across cultures and continents. By building on a cross-disciplinary and international background as a journalist in Europe and in the US, and then as a business consultant in China, he works with international clients, whether as an executive coach, an advisor or a corporate trainer, to help them navigate the uncertainties and the complexity of global business.

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Episode #135

The Business Challenges for 2021: purpose and mission

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (00:08): Hello this podcast is care of Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau representing a select group of the business world’s finest thinkers and thought leaders founded in the 1999. Today Speakers Associates operate out of nine offices across seven countries covering the UK, Europe and Middle East. I’m Sean Pillot de Chenecey author of The Post-Truth Business and Influencers & Revolutionaries, which are being followed by The New Abnormal. In this series, I interview a range of fascinating individuals, proudly represented by the bureau. These change agents and industry experts give an update on their specialist areas of knowledge, and also on their motivations and viewpoints regarding the future of business.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (01:03): Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Diego Gilardoni, the executive coach, international speaker, advisor and author specializing in global business and communication. Born and raised in Switzerland. He brings a rich and eclectic professional experience spanning different sectors cultures and continents by building on a crossdisciplinary and international background as a journalist in Europe and in the US and as a business consultant in China, Diego today wears many hats as an executive advisor, strategist author, cross cultural business consultant to trainer, academic lecturer, and a sought after public speaker. Thanks to his ability to draw wide, original and insightful perspectives at the nexus of global business communication, reputation, culture strategy, and international affairs. In the last few years, Diego who’s been invited to speak at corporate events and international conferences. Events of note include the annual conference of the China international PR association, the Istanbul global leadership summit and the PWC global sports industry summit.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (02:18): The business forum global convention of the leading hotels of the world. The get global conference in LA, the high forum for international business communication in Beijing, the world communication forum and the high level Euro China forum organized in Brussels by the think tank friends of Europe and the PRCS mission to the EU. He’s also given a TEDx talk on global communication and is the author of Decoding China: Cross-cultural Strategies for Successful Business with the Chinese. Diego’s also active as an academic lecturer and he was recently visiting professor in global business and corporate diplomacy at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. He is also a certified intercultural management consultant and trainer and gives speeches in English, French, and Italian. The final thing I’ll mention there is that he was amongst the speakers at The Recovery Summit, the biggest and first global virtual conference of the COVID era, along with noble laureates and some of the top leaders and thinkers of our time. So Diego, how are you?

Diego Gilardoni (03:28): I’m great, Sean, how are you?

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (03:30): I’m in very good form. Although having spoken with you briefly before we started this podcast, I’m actually have to say I’m consumed with jealousy due to the fact that I’m sitting behind my desk and you meanwhile in a upper mountain somewhere

Diego Gilardoni (03:42): I’m on the mountains. Yeah. I’m, , I’m trying to, to, to go away from the heat and like looking for some nature and fresh air in this crazy times, by the way you remember we met last time in January, feels like it was like another world, another, another reality, right?

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (04:02): Yeah, absolutely. Another reality. I mean, yeah. How things, , how things have changed for all of us over the last six months. I mean, I mean on that and actually to, to bring it right up to date cause I know the listeners are gonna be absolutely fascinated by what you have to say, perhaps starting with the last thing I mentioned there about the recent summit that was quite extraordinary. The Recovery Summit organized by Speakers Associates. You gave a talk there titled building a global reputation with cultural intelligence. Perhaps you can just give us an overview of exactly what you were talking about there.

Diego Gilardoni (04:38): Well, the talk was mostly about how, what, what it takes today in a, in a, in a, in a very interconnected and global reality to build a reputation. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot reputation today is like hot topics. But like most of the time you talk about reputation from some specific perspectives that are marketing or culture or PR. But I think that in order for a company, a global company, to build a reputation globally, which is easier said than done unique to, to have a holistic view on on what it, what makes reputation actually. And if you look at it is not just about communicating, what you do is actually who you are, what makes a reputation. So it’s about, it’s about, yes, it’s about marketing. It’s about your products, it’s about your services, but it’s about your culture.

Diego Gilardoni (05:33): It’s about your people and the more global you are meaning the more markets are part of your, of your strategy. The more important it is for you to be able to adapt all this elements to the different cultures you are working with. And so if you’re building reputation in the us, it’s not necessarily playing in the same way in Southeast Asia or in Africa. So to be a global leader of a global company today, you, you really have to think global my idea. And and the speech was really that it’s not enough to say I’m, you need to become global. And in order to become global, you have to develop a global mindset. So disability to be what I don’t remember, which scholar used that term, but I, I, I really like that. I rooted cosmopolitan. I mean, you know, for, yeah,

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (06:30): Yeah, yeah.

Diego Gilardoni (06:31): But you’re able to navigate the world and adapt to different a cultural realities, which is becoming more, more important today. And by the way, it was really an honor and a pleasure to, to be part of such a great event, which was really the, the first, truly global event where we were all able to share global ideas which today is more important than ever. Because like we see a little bit everywhere this tendency to do, to, to go back to tribal mentality racism, nationalism is quite scary, but just to put it Mali, that is certainly not the, the right direction, if you want to build a better world. And my, my, my idea within that speech was also that maybe today, given the let’s, I don’t know how to find a nice word to put the political situation right now, but let’s say that we don’t see many good examples in politics in the west today. And I guess that maybe it’s up to business business with a purpose to, to lead towards a real cultural change that can turn this situation into, into something better. It’s not easy, but certainly I don’t see that coming from the political world today. So I think it’s really up to globally minded business leaders and companies to, to lead away.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (08:06): Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. By the way that point you just made about being a rooted cosmopolitan I just took a quick reminder and there’s a brilliant piece about that that’s written by Jonathan Friedman, great journalist in the New York times, years ago. And talking about the ethics of identity by Kwame, Anton AEY exactly. Who’s exactly the Princeton the Princeton philosopher. And as I say, what he’s really trying to do there was to sort of REI political philosophy by returning to the example set by John Stewart mill in, on the Liberty. Moving on, I find something very interesting. Again, we were talking about this earlier on about those who were, if you like charged with, or given the opportunity to, or lucky enough to have the time to think about what is going on, think about it deeply. And you’re talking about this is being both a, a fascinating yet, yet daunting prospect and task to actually be tasked with, with thinking and explaining what is going on.

Diego Gilardoni (09:13): Yeah. Well, if, if I, if I take my, my, my own example, when, when COVID hit and we were locked down, it was obviously like a big slap, a, a collective slap in the face. And I felt it like everyone, like O almost overnight, I , I saw at least the a, a, a big chunk of my activity disappear if you want, like, like my activity as a corporate trainer working for global companies in building global teams, which obviously involves having many people in a room, like almost overnight that disappear. Now, we are obviously trying to see when is going to come back. That’s another thing we might be talking about later on turning that into a virtual training. It’s not something that you do overnight with with the same quality. So, but, but anyway, having said that, I was lucky enough to, to have my activity as an executive coach or advisor, and to be able to keep doing it over the phone.

Diego Gilardoni (10:20): So I, I didn’t have to, to, to worry too much on the short term consequences, really also in term of like income, right? Lot of successful entrepreneurs who all of a sudden ended up in a very, very critical situation. So I had the opportunity to really also step back and try to think about this crisis, what, what it means. I had the chance to, to talk with some of my clients, executives who are very smart people who are now like really struggling to know how to deal with this this uncertainty, but what, what made me a little bit like what me a little bit during, especially the first few weeks were when the whole Europe was, was locked down. It was that almost a romantic rhetoric about, you know, the dolphins going back to the Venice. Yeah, yeah.

Diego Gilardoni (11:13): You know, the, the, the, the, the birth chirping , like we say, it’s fine. It’s true. I actually I took advantage of that during those weeks. And there were times where I actually missed the lockdown, but this is something that only someone privileged can say for many people, this has been traumatic. Right. and and I think so it’s it up to those who have the opportunity to, to think, and really, to, to try to think how to turn this into a new opportunity to do it. Mm-Hmm because if you, if, if they can and they’re lazy, they don’t do it well, they, they, they, they disrespect, or those were actually victims of this situation. I, I, I don’t buy into the romantic turning crisis into an opportunity narrative because it’s too easy, but I believe there is something through in it.

Diego Gilardoni (12:06): This is I, I don’t know. I, I like the, I like your, your podcast, which I think will be a new book that a new abnormal, right. It’s not, yeah, it’s not the old normal and the new normal it’s is a new abnormal. And and you see how still too many people use an old mental toolbox to, to, to face new challenges. So we need to change our toolbox. I don’t have any answers otherwise, like I would be a billionaire, but I, I think it’s a time to ask the, the, the, the right question. And it’s the time to maybe accelerate some processes towards changing the way we, we work the way we live the way we think as well, like with, by being bold, it, it was quite for me to try to be concrete and pragmatic.

Diego Gilardoni (13:01): It was very nice to see, for example, that the city of Amsterdam, which is mm-hmm, one of the most important cities in the world decided to actually reshape their thinking in term of city policies and use the famous Don economics sustainable framework, right. To, to, to think about how to how to manage the city in the future. So this is the kind of change that, that, that we need not like applauding on the Bies it it’s really it’s really, if you, you can, and if you have the opportunity to do it, to try to find more sustainable way to live, otherwise it’s going to be worse than worse.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (13:47): Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely gonna say. And also you such an interesting thing, Diego, I mean, again, we are talking earlier on and you please sort explain this one for the listeners. You managed to combine both Leonard Cohen and a Japanese tradition in terms of having some sort of a, an optimistic view, the future. So go on and please just talk us through that. Well,

Diego Gilardoni (14:07): Actually, you know what, that it it’s, I, I had the time to, to to think like, like, like Q I guess, and many of her friend and colleagues too, we, we, during the lockdown, we had more times to think. Right. And for me, it was one interesting thing, is that on the one hand, honestly, it was very difficult to be optimistic just by watching the news, right. I mean, oh my God, how can I be optimistic? And, and then what was an eye opening process for me is that I had the opportunity to talk with two, three old men, like over 80 years old, very smart. And the three of them, they say that they’re actually optimistic. They put like all of this into a longer wider perspective. And that made me think, because I mean, like if three, over 80 years old men are optimistic, there might be something in it.

Diego Gilardoni (15:06): And then it’s true that we, we have, we have, I think, a moral obligation to be optimistic. There was this famous Italian philosopher who was an opponent of the fascist regime, Graham. She, who said that. Yeah. We have to, we have to use the, the optimist said that the optimism of will needs to prevail all of the pessimism of intelligence. And I think this is what we have to do now. And on a more poetic level, I, I, I found like in this song of lyrical and Anthem is like from 1992, when you say is like there is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. And it said, yes, that’s it? That that should be actually the motto of people who wants to, to, to change. Yes, there is, there are a lot of cracks today and actually we, we, the, the reaction shouldn’t be to, to, to put everything a trash and actually to try to see that there is hope there.

Diego Gilardoni (16:15): And that made me think about how’s it called Quin Sugi, which is this famous Japanese art of restoring broken pottery with sea of gold lacker, right? So instead of throwing away a VA, you, you fix it with this beautiful gold, like you already use on the, on the cracks. And actually by, through that, you create something new and even more beautiful. Right. And if you, if you try to put this on a more philosophical level, and I can see actually also my activity as an executive coach with clients, when you, when you face like a, a situation where these people are dealing with self perceived flaws or imperfection, it’s actually, there is a way to, to, to reframe them in a more positive way. And and we, we can actually create something new. It’s obviously not something that you do overnight, but I think it’s a very interesting process. I like this idea of of a crack in everything. And that’s how the light gets in. It’s up to us to see the light and try to, to, to, to create something from there.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (17:32): Mm it’s such lovely thought MC fantastic.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (17:36): I love that. So tell me, it’s amazing. It, so tell me about I think something I think is really fascinating now, and you alluded to this earlier on, and that is that, you know, as we’ve been through, you know, this great psychological experiment, whatever, you know, the great pause, the great reset that everyone’s been talking about, and obviously the great reset is gonna be the title for next year’s world economic forum meeting. I think one of the things that you pointed out was that there is an extraordinary level of obviously confusion. There’s a real need for leaders to be able to be you know, encouraged to think openly in a safe manner, but in an sort of in an inspirational catalytic manner. And I think this links very much into what you were talking about earlier on about your activities as, as an executive coach. So that I think will be really, really fascinating to understand what your approach is, how you are doing it, and you know, and quite frankly, why you think there’s such a need for this?

Diego Gilardoni (18:42): Well, there’s such a need for this, because I think that the great, the, the, the, the great thing about, about coaching executive coaching is and that’s what makes it very different from being an advisor or a consultant, is that you don’t provide answers, but you ask the right question to help the people actually unlock their potential and reality from a different perspective, you know, getting that haha moment. I, I, I was recently using with the client, is this, this metaphor, which is not mine again, I, I, I learned about it years ago and don’t remember where, but it’s imagine that you look at the, the, the classic picture of the Egyptian pyramids, right? You have the three big pyramids there, and that’s how you look at them. That’s the way we are usually look at pyramids. So if you, yep. If you, if you mention that, that is your visual frame for your life, for your work, your personal relationship, it’s made of assumptions biases, but it’s a limited frame, right?

Diego Gilardoni (19:48): So mm-hmm, you are aware only a part of the context, but what that picture tells you, for example, about the social context in Egypt or the economic context, or the environmental context in Egypt, nothing. Right. Because, so what if you say, can helicopter and just go up and look down to the pyramids? Well, there is a new, completely different context where you can actually see all of this. And I used that metaphor with this client to try to bring him to, to look at the specific situation from above. And actually he realized through this extra science of visualization, that at that issue with a big eye, eventually within a wider context, wasn’t that much of an issue anyway. And it was able actually to identify opportunities, new options that he had never considered before, just by gaining a new perspective and a new awareness of himself and outta context.

Diego Gilardoni (20:57): And I found this powerful when you see, because this is, is really the client owns their own answer, you know, so it’s up to us to, to ask the right question to, to, to, to, to help them, whether through a supporting or challenging attitude, to bring them like to see that there are more than what they think they, they, they are, and to look at things from different perspectives. And actually recently, I, I had a very encouraging experience with a client both on, on this level, on the efficiency and, and power of of executive coaching as a process for leaders to become even better leader mm-hmm , but also to be faced with the, a new of leaders. And here, I’m talking about very young meaning, early thirties, very high potential business leader in Africa. Yep. And this guy is amazing.

Diego Gilardoni (22:01): First of all, he knows very well that if he is there is because brilliant, but he also knows that he can only learn and learn more. So very humble, very self-confident, but also very humble, which for me, like, it’s a, it’s a powerful combination. Mm. And it was incredible to see how through only two or three session, we were able to shift the, the old conversation from dealing with some specific issues to thinking more strategically about what is the culture that you want this company to have in order to, to shape the environment around, because eventually the conversation become, it’s become a conversation about sustain and realized that actually E wants to have an impact. Right. And he had a lot of aha moments in, in in, in those sessions, despite the difficult times we’re going through. Right. Sure. It could see your opportunities and to, to make my, my final pointer on this.

Diego Gilardoni (23:10): And I think it’s, it’s, it’s very telling and it’s actually it encapsulates what the conversation should be today, looking forward that it’s when it really you could see also physically it was very energized and motivated. It’s when it made a shift from thinking about me and my career to we, when he made a shift from me to, we, it was like liberating because he could see that he, it will be much more powerful in thinking from this perspective than just if it’s about himself. Mm-Hmm, I’m not talking about like a, a a new age who, who kind of Like a, a really, really efficient and good business leader. And going back to what I said at the beginning, it, if this is the new generation of leaders, then we can have hope. So my, my, my ambition, if you want, as a coach, would be really to, to be able to, to work even, even more with people like that. People who have potential and who want to have an impact. Mm . There would be really a combination of, of professional and gratification with with something bigger. Right.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (24:33): Yeah. Yeah. And then you were also talking again, to link this, to our conversation at the start, the start of this interview when you were, you know, talking about, you know, the time we physically met up with, you know, six months ago or so, you know possibly a bit more back in January of this year and, you know, who could know really what was, what was gonna unfold. And so again, I know you talk a lot about dealing with uncertainty and helping, you know, leaders deal with uncertainty, I mean, years ago. And again, we’ve spoken about this, you know, Francis Fukiyama, you know, the Japanese American academic, you know, famously put in his great book, the great disruption, he talked about, you know, fear, uncertainty and doubt, you know, the so-called Fu factor that had that really illustrated life for him at that point. And that specific element of that uncertainty is I think one of the things that, that you are really, really fascinated by and want to help leaders deal with.

Diego Gilardoni (25:34): Well, definitely, I, I, I was actually doing some kind of personal survey among clients or colleagues you Seela right now, really, what is it? That is the, the most challenging part it’s for, for, for many leaders regardless of the specific business they’re doing is really this ability to, to dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity because that the, the, that is obviously strictly correlated with anxiety and stress. Right. Mm. And I think that part of it comes definitely from personal character or some people who like naturally they are wired to be more at ease with that kind of of situation mm. Others less. I think that the pressure you is really is really huge right now for many of this leaders, because we really don’t know when this is going to pass, if it will, you know, waiting for the vaccine, but even if it said, and how do you, how do you keep the ability to lead on a day by day by keeping the, the big picture vision and strategizing protecting your employees?

Diego Gilardoni (26:55): Like it, it’s, it’s really, it’s really huge. And, and most leaders, well, you know, the right, like they can be, they can feel lonely. Yeah. Yeah. And what if there is a good working relationship at a good level of trust that session of executive coaching, depending on the clients and availability can be from 20 minutes to an hour. Whatever to me is really to be seen as a, as an Oasis of safety and confidentiality, where those leaders can also show their vulnerability, because they know that actually that is a sign of strength. And you have the executive coach actually helping you, seeing that as a sign of strength and giving you the support that you need. And you cannot have from your colleagues, or sometimes not even from your family, because you want, you don’t want to bring all your professional issues at home. So you need like really like sounding board yeah.

Diego Gilardoni (28:02): A coach to, to help you with that. But what is very interesting here, Sean, is that when it comes to dealing with uncertainty, there is also a cultural component, which is really important to consider because it’s actually, there are cultures that are naturally more at ease with uncertainty and others there less. Right. So this is also very interesting. I, I, I could see that in my activity as a, as a corporate trainer for let’s pre COVID I did a series of of speeches and training with a big multinational company dealing like actually with all the international teams in charge of marketing and communication . And it was very interesting to see that one of the key issues that maybe prevented some of these team to, to work well together was exactly the way different people coming from different culture could deal with uncertainty.

Diego Gilardoni (29:02): Some people is, yeah. It’s whatever, that’s how it is. We’ll see. Right. And other people actually need everything to be planned in advance. And so it’s, it’s, it’s not, it’s not something that you change overnight because we are wired in a, in a certain way. But I think that it comes now maybe looking at what should leader be able to do is not only to deal with uncertainty, but also to help his people dealing with uncertainty by providing the right the right context, the right level of of psychological safety as well. Right. You could see. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, I don’t remember if it discussed maybe through LinkedIn, but I, I, I remember one of our friends from speakers, associates, Paul Gallo wrote a very interesting article where he put like identified those companies that like from the beginning, their first thought was about their employees.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (30:06): Hmm.

Diego Gilardoni (30:07): Yeah. Where they like doing as much as you could to provide help for the employees and their families. You could see those CEOs and executives got their salaries. Right. And, and that that’s when reveal who a leader is. I have seen actually many companies like thinking that it was business as usual. I have seen companies taking advantage of the situation to lay off people. They wanted to lay off already, but that was the good excuse. And I have seen, I’ve seen this in Switzerland, like the majority of the parliament in favor of letting the companies will get money from the government to deal with the crisis, still pay money to their shareholders. That’s my money. I mean, what, yeah. Yeah. Right. And then you can see actually companies like Ikea who are now negotiating to give this money back to, to the government that help them have think this is really, I don’t know if it’s going to change or not, and what it’s going to change. It reveals who we are. And I think that those companies wanted it in that way. I think they were definitely able to create a situation where it was easier to deal with uncertainty because you don’t have as an employee to first think about your economic survival. Right.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (31:29): Yeah. Yeah.

Diego Gilardoni (31:30): And obviously it’s different if you’re talking about the small, a small company, but when, when you see like multinational companies who have money, let’s be honest, Don’t put that as a first per well, it’s really telling. And that, by the way, considering the values of the new generation will have an impact on their reputation globally, The way they dealt with a crisis. That’s how you define a leader. Yeah,

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (32:02): Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Diego Gilardoni (32:04): Seem the, the best and the worst.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (32:06): Yeah, absolutely. And I think fascination, the point that you’re making there about the issue of you know, stakeholders, you know, replacing shareholders as a sort of primary sort of a purpose behind the, the company, et cetera, there’s a lot of talk, you mentioned, you know, the great power gall and obviously his book and the radar was fantastic. And I think he talks a lot about things like spiral dynamics, you know? Yeah. So you have your, you know, your sort of orange companies, let’s say like the multinationals and the investment banks, and that’s all about just, you know, they judge themselves by beating the competition and it’s all about profit and growth. And then you have your green companies are about, I think what you were talking about, which is much more about culture and empowerment and motivation, hence companies like Ben and Jerry’s,

Diego Gilardoni (32:52): But it’s also, it’s also, you know, like, I, I always say this, like if you think about those example, those executives who, who, I know one, actually a company that I, I advised like a couple of years ago, the, the, the CEO actually, she cut her pay like for four months in order to be able not to lay off anyone and to make the machine work during the, the worst of times. And I have heard their story. And then I heard people saying, yeah, but they do it for reputational reasons. What if, and even if there was true, yeah. They do it. And also like, if I was like a, a, a smart shareholder, it’s like, when you say, if you are not nice, because you’re not nice, you’re a bad person, at least be pragmatic and be nice when you go to a restaurant because they was serve you better. Doesn’t take a PhD in behavioral economics to do that. And the same goes for this companies. If I do like a sacrifice on short term as a shareholder, then my company’s reputation will improve because of that action. And eventually I will get my best out Facebook as well. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But this is, this implies the ability to think beyond today, having a, a longer term vision and and a big picture vision, but still many people don’t.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (34:15): And can I ask, and is this the sort of things, again, I, I know that you are in terms of being a, sort of helped your management consultant, you’re also associate partner at halted insights. So can you perhaps just, just talk a bit about the sort of activity, which I’m sure, again, links back into a lot of what you’ve been saying, but, you know, when you’re talking about reassessing company cultures, you know, without giving any way, giving away any sort of corporate secrets, you know, how do go about that? So let’s say, so, you know, there are obviously many companies who quite frankly have acted very, very poorly during the the initial stages of the first stage of the lockdown or the pandemic others have actually shown great examples of how to do it. So when you are assessing company cultures against, you know, the context, what sort of things do you actually get up to what’s your approach? Well,

Diego Gilardoni (35:07): I think that the, the first thing that you need to consider is that, and obviously the, the, the organizational culture corporate culture is, is again, one of the many hot topics of the, of the moment. But sometimes you know, that you, you get a little bit confused because it, it sounds that you need to be cool, right? You have to have a cool culture. It’s not about being cool or whatever the culture is, nothing fluffy at all. It’s something that you can measure. And actually in ox data inside, we have like a a data driven model than we use with companies to actually measure the actual culture, just to say that culture needs to be functional to strategy.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (35:50): Yeah.

Diego Gilardoni (35:50): And so it, it, when there is an alignment between culture and strategy that you do well, otherwise it doesn’t work. So let, it also depends on the, on the, on the sector, for example, you today, it’s very important to be cool, as I said, and maybe it’s nice to have as part of the culture, the fact that you can play ping pong at the office. Well tell, but let’s let let’s let’s imagine that that can be functional to the culture of an advertisement agency.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (36:23): Yeah, yeah,

Diego Gilardoni (36:23): Yeah. Like start up, but like for a power plant, I don’t know if that would be the, the, the, the best culture to, to, to allow your, your, your, your strategy to work since like, protocols are more important than having fun. So it’s really, it, it, it let’s take culture seriously. And so I would say that these times, what is changing is the context, so that will lead, or is leading companies to reassess their strategy against this new context, right? So this would be now the time to do a cultural audit and see whether the culture that has worked so far is ready to face these new challenges. And so being functional to the strategy. So on a very practical level, what what we do with the companies would decide to go through this process is that, first of all, it’s a process that needs to be owned by the leaders of the company.

Diego Gilardoni (37:29): They have to be first committed to rethink about their culture and see whether there is room for change. We need to change. It cannot us be an exercise. Mm. It needs to be coming from the top. And it needs to be very committed then with the leadership, you, based on a model that we have that take into consideration different aspects of the business, these different elements based on, as I said, at a data driven model, we assess what would be from their perspective, the optimal culture that would support the strategy. Right? Mm. Then you do a survey across all the company. Right. And you can actually, you measure what is the actual culture, because as you know, very well, sometimes leaders think that people perceive them the way they perceive themselves.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (38:26): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cause

Diego Gilardoni (38:29): I’m sure, you know, very well, very often is not the case. And actually I’ve seen more than one examples where the, the culture eventually turned out to be very functional at all levels, but the top. Right. So eventually when you realize that there is big enough gap on different dimensions between what has been defined as the optimal culture for the leadership and the actual culture. Well then with the leadership, again, you start a process of change management that sometimes maybe, you know, it’s it’s a small element that it’s important, but you work just on that sometime it’s more general, but the point being is that culture is something concrete is the practices is what you do every day is what you do every day with your colleagues, functional to the strategy or not. And now what what’s interesting coming back to COVID is that obviously at the, after the, the big slap of the, of the first lockdown, you would see some of the companies like maybe say, maybe it’s not the time to, to do this.

Diego Gilardoni (39:38): We have to go through the emergency force, which I can understand as a reaction. But I think eventually now it’s really the time to do it. It’s the time to do it also, because it’s not something that you do, like in a couple of days, it takes months, but if you’re really serious about your people and your culture as a leader, you need also to accept that you might not be right all the time. And that it’s important to see whether all layers of the company are aligned with that culture and with the strategy and yeah. Yeah, yeah. And and definitely, I think today it’s the, it’s the time, it’s the time to do it.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (40:20): Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think it’s extraordinary. How you talking earlier on about great examples of leadership during all this, you know, and if there’s anyone that’s performed better than the New Zealand prime minister NDA Arden, then . I she’s just been amazing hasn’t you? I mean, absolutely. And, and, and is only literally I think, yes, they turned 40. I mean, yeah, no, just, just extraordinary.

Diego Gilardoni (40:45): When, when head of governments start getting younger than you, Sean, we have a problem.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (40:50): what do you mean? We’re both still in our late twenties as you well know. Yeah.

Diego Gilardoni (40:54):

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (40:55): What about this? I mean, when we first met again, you were you gave me a really fascinating range of insights. Again, a lot of which you’ve sort of alluded to in this conversation, but you, something you really struck me, then you, you said then, then when I first met you, you know, culture matters and it matters more than we think, you know, there’s a need for cultural intelligence in terms of having an, a global mindset, but then you’d also talked in real detail about cultural diversity. So perhaps let’s talk about that specific issue in terms of diversity and just why it is so important, what your approach is when you are explaining to leaders about quite frankly, the right approach to take. Well,

Diego Gilardoni (41:42): I, I think that it again a little bit like when we, we, we just talk about organizational culture culture is serious. It’s, it’s not fluffy. And so if it’s not tackled strategically cultural difference within a team within a company can be a mind field. Cause you know, like if you’re not prepared, like we are who we are. So for example, I always say I am Swiss and I need to be on time all the time, but I, I don’t make enough prefer to do that. It happens. Right. Mm-hmm . And, and so when, when I, I, when I was living in the us, I, I dated for a few months, a Mexican girl who was amazing, but she used, she used to be like late, like one hour late. And you imagine like for a Swiss and

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (42:32): so ,

Diego Gilardoni (42:34): So when I, when I first, obviously I, I was very annoyed by that, but when I start shifting my perspective, realizing that that was not a lack of respect, just she had a different sense of time. Let’s put it this way. I just went strategic. And if I wanted to see her at eight, I, I would tell her to meet at seven and it would work. This is just, it just is a joke, but you can sit within, within international teams. And I really I’ve been working with very interesting situations like with global teams, people coming like group of 20, 25 people like with almost 20 culture represented really from all over the world. And in the specific case, I’m thinking now that it was like one of the last few things that I did pre COVID. It, the, the program that we supposed to, to, to, to, to lead in term of global mindset development literally came from the top. So the top leadership realized they on experience that diverse teams are more creative,

Diego Gilardoni (43:41): More productive, but you have to create the right conditions for that. If you don’t, it’s going to be fully dysfunctional because you cannot have an Italian, a German, a Chinese, non American in the same team working on a six months project, if they are not prepared, because there are different sense of time of planning dealing with uncertainty. So you really have to, to, to do some serious training about it. But when you do that, mm-hmm and you manage to include them in the process. You’re not a teacher telling them what to do, but it’s really about empowering them about showing them how reach the world of culture is in term of getting the best out of each culture and putting them together into a common project. When you do that, it’s amazing what you can what you can achieve. And so again, it’s not cultural diversity.

Diego Gilardoni (44:34): You don’t have to have it because it’s cool. It because it works. Yeah. But for it to work, you really have to invest in your people. What I can give you a recent example. I, I heard this from the, the Dean of of a business school in in Switzerland, just like they have like 17 nationalities in their bachelor programs, you know, is one of those very expensive school kids coming from all over the world. And so I was asking him, so how these, for these kids, he must be a great experience. This diversity being able to write, to share other people eventually say no, because they’re not trained for that. So they’re just throw into a group, right. To, to do some classroom assignment or, or whatever, but without being prepared, what, what, what does it mean? It was, it’s giving me an example.

Diego Gilardoni (45:30): There was a group that included some Americans, some Asians, including some, some Chinese Germans, et cetera, just out of cultural identity, the Chinese students for fear of losing face. They don’t talk in public if not prepared the Americans, as you will know, even, even if they don’t have anything to say, they want to show that they are there. So obviously naturally in those teams that we’re not prepared to work together, the most assertive cultures would take the lead and the other following. So that’s not working together. Right. So in order to work together, you, you have to make people aware of who they are at first. So why is it that I act or communicate in a certain way? And when you have this awareness about what are the cultural values that shape your behavior, then you can understand the values, shaping the behaviors of people, of other cultures, and then trying to, to, so it’s, it’s it, it’s a, again, it’s a very complex but fascinating process.

Diego Gilardoni (46:36): And really when you invest into that, the results can be amazing if you don’t, it’s just going to be very messy. Yeah. And also, sorry, Sean, by the way, it’s also very interesting what you mentioned before about the leaders or not. So leaders during the, the the, the most critical times of the, of this crisis that’s is also culturally shaped the way for example some, some leaders had used a narrative of war that is just making everything worse, because people are already anxious and you use the narrative of war because you are a much, or you are alpha male, and it comes from some specific cultures in other culture is more about trying to be together. Understanding you remember, I don’t know if you’ve seen like the, the, the Finn prime minister who is also a woman doing a press conference for children.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (47:31): Yeah. I mean,

Diego Gilardoni (47:32): That is communication 4.0, that is smart leadership and not playing the warrior. And, and then we see the results by the way.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (47:45): Yeah, yeah, exactly. How interesting. And then, and then on that exact point what about dealing with the tensions of, you know, right now of today? So you’re talking about, for instance, you mentioned there, you know, the, the, the analogy of, you know the the Chinese versus the American people being in the same meeting and maybe the American would be, you know, the loudest, most assertive person there, the Chinese member of staff or whatever member of the team unless they were absolutely convinced they, they had the answer might not say anything. How would you be dealing with multicultural teams now literally at a time of, of real tension?

Diego Gilardoni (48:27): Sorry. You mean like, given, given even the current context.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (48:32): Yeah, exactly.

Diego Gilardoni (48:33): How would that impact internal? Yeah.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (48:35): Yeah. Well,

Diego Gilardoni (48:37): That’s a very good question, Sean. I don’t know if I have like a clear cut answer. Honestly right now, I don’t know, because I don’t have the chance to work with those teams, for example. But based, I, I try to answer based on two recent examples, like when I’m dealing with these teams, obviously we are talking about 1% of the population, like internationally minded people who, if they are there, it’s also because they have the ambition to go beyond in their own country. There are original identity. So there are more open-minded than average and maybe radio to, to, to, to try to gain new new perspectives. So we’re not talking about average citizen. I had the very interesting example on that last, a couple of years ago in a team where you had like both Russians and Ukrainians, and it was one of the opt moments.

Diego Gilardoni (49:43): And I, I was a little bit nervous before when I got the list of the participants because I, I, I was afraid it very tense and, and then eventually turned out very well. I mean, those, the both were saying, just like, if we, if it was up to us, there was, there wouldn’t be any war. Like, so I think here we, we, we’re talking really specific kind of of people who are particularly open-minded, but again, and like, you know, it was very interesting for me last year, my like, experience I had like teaching a university in Beijing for, for a month. And having to deal with this super brilliant young students, right, talking about like 20, 21 years old, and that this is the new generation. It, this is a generation who sees C being as the leader, something maybe here in the west, you cannot understand, but it’s thank to the communist party, if now have the opportunity to study to good university and have good jobs, just try to simplify.

Diego Gilardoni (50:51): Right? Yep. So they also are maybe those in my class, not like a hard nose nationalist, but definitely like proud, rightly proud of, of, of their country, but at the same time, very open to listen to other, then it’s up to them to make the synthesis or, or whatever. But I, I, I really, I mean, I try to, to be hopeful, even though, as we have said, like, it’s, it’s quite worrying right now, but this generation, it, the generation that will turn the things around, or, I mean, we are fully now into the 21st century. And what we see now is so 20th century, right? Mm. And actually you see some politicians that would actually would like to bring us back to the stone age, culturally speaking. So what, what within actually is a new Renaissance and a new alignment. I see the seeds for that.

Diego Gilardoni (51:50): I see it in universities, in, in, in, in business. And it’s definitely the new generation that will or not be able to do to do that. And those of us who believe in that kind of vision we need to do as much as we can to, to help them. And I, everyone needs to know what they can do. I, I can feel, for example, for me supporting a young leader in business or an organization to unlock their potential in order for them then to deliver change. That’s something that would really be great going forward because we need those people.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (52:32): Okay. And then can ask you just as we begin to to finish off, and it’s been, again, such a fascinating conversation. What about things that are inspiring you and have inspired you during the lockdown? I mean, I dunno how you’ve been spending your time apart from, I mentioned earlier on my deep sense of jealousy at your time in the mountains, but, but in terms of reading for instance have you been reading anything, anything recently that you could recommend for the listeners that you think has been a particularly inspiring or interesting title?

Diego Gilardoni (53:02): So, Sean, I have to be honest with you. I’m a big reader and I really hope at the beginning of the lockdown that I would, you know, take up the Russians dust. I have the time to do that. Oh, I, now I want to go back to Don Lilo. I Don whatever. I wasn’t able to read nonfiction for four months. I don’t know why I am back now. I’m reading almost odds, a book through the title. I, now, I, I, I don’t remember. I, I just started it now. I have a blank, but like great writer, but it was very interesting. And I speaking with other friends, they had the same, the same, the same issue. I read a lot of sorry. I said that I, that I didn’t read nonfiction. No, I read a lot of nonfiction, a lot of essays by the way, yours as well powers now it’s and, and but I wasn’t able to read any fiction or, or novel.

Diego Gilardoni (54:00): Now if you ask me for first specific book, I, I don’t know, but I read, I, I read a couple of books around the, what it takes to be, to be a leader in the future and not the classic, you know, self health kind of thing. It’s really what, what, what does it mean to, to, to be a leader? And I, I, I read a lot about that and what actually struck with me is that more and more, there is this concept of the leader who shows his vulnerability being the strongest, and they strongly believe in that. Right. And so I, then maybe I I’ve seen some movies. It actually was it was it was great to see again Invictus, you remember with Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela? Well, that was again inspiring because it’s really, I don’t remember a master of my destiny, the captain of my soul. Yes, that was a great movie. He was a great man. And maybe, maybe one thing that we have to realize that sometime to make sense of what’s going on now, we have also to go back to great that are not with us anymore, but whose teachings are still very, very valuable.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (55:34): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, Frank, couldn’t agree more. Okay. Dear, in that case, just, you know, last couple of questions. And so just so we are, so the listeners are crystal clear about this. So I know you mentioned in great detail, the fascinating work you, you are doing with regards to executive coaching, but with regards to speaking engagements either face to face as they come back or indeed as they continue, meanwhile, to be webinars if someone is looking for an absolutely brilliant absolutely dynamic speaker, just talk us through again you know, some of the things that you’d be talking about at the moment to really inspire audiences.

Diego Gilardoni (56:16): Well, to me, it’s really about working on visualizing what we can accomplish in the future of the nexus of leadership change and culture. Everything that we have talked about today I can see the need for companies from leaders who are very busy, you know, from day by day activity to gain a wider and different perspectives. And I got a lot of good feedback from the, the, for example, the, the, the recovery summit, it’s this need for new perspectives, like maybe with, with more questions than answer, but asking the, the right questions. I I’m encountered with people now, all this is not ideal. You know, also Sean, it’s much better to be on a stage. You feel the air, you, you, you see people. And I really hope that this will pass as soon as possible because I want to be back to companies to conferences, but like in the meantime, like let’s, if, if I can help people like be more global acquiring a more global mindset, trying to look beyond the day by day and and the negative context of now by trying to be also a little bit motivational, not in a fluffy way, but because I see both as a, as a, as a, a coach or also as a consultant and as a trainer, that our potential, as people, as leader is always higher than what we think.

Diego Gilardoni (57:54): And sometimes you need some external guy like me coming in and telling you, and this is what I would like to be able to do between now and when we will finally free to, to go around the world and speak to international audiences face to face again.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (58:14): Okay. Well, fantastic. In that case, just so everyone’s clear about where they can track you down Diego. So as everyone is gonna be spending the next certainly sort of a, a few months in the same situation whereabouts can they find you either via social media or via websites, et cetera?

Diego Gilardoni (58:32): Yes. At first previous have on my website and I can find all my contacts is that, easy to find. And then I am on, on, on LinkedIn. I’m not anymore on Facebook. Good. I dunno about you, Sean. still on Instagram, like you show the mountains, but like I would say the, the, the best way is definitely LinkedIn. You find me there and I’m looking forward to talk with whoever would be interesting to do something together in the future.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (59:05): absolutely. I’m sure, absolutely. That there will be in a huge way. So Diego Gilardoni the international speaker, advisor and author specializing in global business and communication, and also an absolutely fantastic executive coach. Thank you very much.

Diego Gilardoni (59:22): Thank you, Sean. And see you next time in London. I hope

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (59:26): absolutely.

Diego Gilardoni (59:28): Thank you.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (59:37): Thank you for listening to The Speakers Show Podcast. Please leave a rating on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it. And also it’d be great if you could subscribe to the podcast itself, you’ll find it also on Google podcasts, SoundCloud, or your favorite podcast app. Thank you.

Podcast host

Sean Pillot de Chenecey speaker

Sean Pillot de Chenecey

Foresight strategist, author and podcast host Sean Pillot de Chenecey is an inspirational speaker, who’s also consulted for some of the world’s biggest brands.

Sean has a very deep level of knowledge regarding the genuine issues impacting brands from a cultural, social and business perspective.

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