Make her angry, make her think

In my experimental self-training about influencing people and organizations, I came to the very basic conclusion that it is all about one thing: emotions. In general, the three basic ones I have been able to work most with are: sadness, happiness and anger.

Sadness has been a way to catch people’s attention about health & safety and local development issues. Showing a video about people at harm who can represent one’s loved ones, or a grim picture of a community in shambles (no basic services (sewage, water supply, garbage collection), low level of education, high corruption of local politicians, high crime rate, etc. )  are very powerful calls for action.

Happiness helps me make the people around me more motivated and productive. Playing a fun song such as Felicidade by Marcelo Jeneci or Happy by Pharrell Williams  before starting a meeting makes people raise their eye brows and call me crazy, but it puts a smile on their face and sets a positive tone. Saying “Good Morning” in an exaggerated tone with a huge smile on my face, makes my colleague grin and reply in the same ridiculous manner but then we both stay grinning for the next few minutes.  

Anger is something I have been specializing in lately. This one is quite challenging because it needs to be done professionally and respectfully. Plus in Brazilian culture one is with constant fear of offending someone as direct criticism is not a commonplace practice. I have been achieving this through a complex manipulating network. I have gotten to know many people in the organization and found out their personal challenges and overall biases and started to play with those. One topic I picked up was limited option for women in leadership positions. Trying to talk to men about this normally generated uninterested, skeptical expressions, and being dismissed as a “feminist”. My counter-reaction was calling them “machista” and naming them as part of the problem. This always ended up in a big debate which I kept feeding for weeks with sending additional information provoking the points I was trying to make. Overtime, I have found them using my points in their speeches and even proceeding to promote my ideas. With the women in the equation I have been doing different things: I have highlighted the fact that they don’t get promoted, while make colleagues who are less capable do, I have told them of cases of sexual harrassment or discrimination against colleagues who are pregnant. And the best highlight of this effort happened today. There was a meeting of various directors and I ran into a female one and casually told her: “wow, lots of guys going in and out of this conference room. Are you the only female director present?”. She looked around sadly and signed: “hmm, I guess I am”. “Well, just fyi”, I continued with a smile on my face. “There are some guys around here that say that we don’t need diversity programs because there are already enough women in this building, including yourself.” Oh, my, hell broke loose after that…

These are just some interesting examples I experimented with lately. They have been working like a charm. Of course, tailoring to one person at a time. Now the challenge is to figure out how to do it on a larger scale.?



My first large scale failure in empowerment

Last week I decided to be super cool and organize a large scale event to empower women in my company. I was so proud of myself; I mapped out all the smart ladies, across different departments , I identified a popular location close to work, I sent a funny invite to 50 of them, calling them to join me for a Powerful Happy Hour.

I then immediately got a bunch of existed e-mails, the meeting got forwarded, more than 20+ confirmed. I was feeling popular and powerful.

But then today, as the happy hour time was approaching, I started receiving apologetic e-mails, in the typical Brazilian fashion. “Wow, really loved your initiative. Congrats! I unfortunately can’t come because of my mom/husband/pet birthday” or whatever other excuse they could come up with.

I felt so shattered mostly not because they didn’t show up for me, but because they saw it as something they were doing for me (or not), rather a cool way for them to network, make new friends or just try something different.

At the end , only 4 girls showed up. We still had a great time and a good chat but I was left very disillusioned.

Lesson re-affirmed: fail quick, fail cheap

Oh well, tomorrow is a new day.

Stop for a moment and get inspired

I sent this video to a few people this week and everyone unanimously said they were inspired!
So time for you to get inspired too!

So.. what are the next steps?

Brazilian corporate culture

There are quite a few things I learned about Brazilian corporate culture in my time here. Knowing the below helps one navigate the system and overall retain one’s sanity in the long run.

Bêtania Tanure is a very well known consultant and author on corporate culture and she has given a very good talk on the radio here. For those of you who understand Portuguese, it’s provided below.

Some of the most interesting key points are provided in the first 5 minutes. She summarizes the Brazilian corporate culture in 3 main aspects.

 1. Adaptability and Flexibility, which is a positive in the current changing economic situation and overall uncertainty. The downside is that this comes with a lack of discipline, doing things last moment and looking for a jeitinho (tricks/shortcuts to go around the system).
2. Relational – to the envy of American corporate world, Brazilians are much more attached to their companies and leaders and overall work place, but the downside is that they find it hard to tell the difficult truth to friends and also give feedback.

3. Dealing with Power Structures – Brazilian corporate culture is much closer to the authoritarian style than the democratic one but seems like it’s evolving. However, this is a process that takes a lot of time and effort. One of the main pitfalls of this dynamic is that executives of Brazilian companies are often very weak, as they accustomed to delegating everything downward. The advantage of it (which frankly, sounds very conspicuous to me), is that decisions are centralized and in times of crisis, there is no confusion as to who is the decision maker.