The respect imperative

Debora Franchim, Customer Engagement Manager in Brazil shares her personal story about inclusion, equality and belonging.

What are your most important values?

Humility is an important value for me, because it allows growth. We need to believe that there is something better than we do in order to improve what we do.

And respect above all!

People need to feel respected, despite hierarchy, race, gender, status. I’m going through an interesting moment on respect lessons, because I have a 2-year-old at home. When this tiny person who is learning how to speak turns to you and says “you shouldn’t yell, mommy”, you understand how respect is basic and essential in any human interaction.

Tell us about your career journey?

I’ve always worked with CRM and loyalty in Brazil. I started my career as an intern in Brazil’s largest publisher, Editora Abril, and from there I went to Santander Bank, to work with credit cards.

Credit cards are the best school for CRM, and there I learned all about segmentation, contact strategy, multichannel – well not so multi, as we didn’t have smartphones yet – and specifically the concept of campaign ROI – it was a bank, after all.

After three years in Santander, I went to GPA the largest retail in Latin America – currently our main client in the region – where I had the privilege of managing their loyalty programme. While there I also welcomed dunnhumby to Brazil, being very close to the expats who first came to South America. The truth is, not many people in Brazilian retailers speak English, so who did, had a clear advantage on being in charge of dunnhumby.

Four years went by and I moved from GPA to Marketdata, part of WPP Group, and with that I went from client side to consultancy side. Not easy giving up making decisions. There, I was responsible for strategic planning for CRM and client lead for loyalty programmes, with wonderful clients in banking, telecom, retail, fashion, direct sales, publishers. I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and after five and a half years of Marketdata I finally arrived in dunnhumby.

Now, with experience of consultancy side and client facing, I’m here, leading Customer Engagement in the country, working with three retail clients, and lots of exciting challenges ahead!

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve faced in your career?

It was to move from client side to consultancy side. I recommend this move for everyone at some point (or the other way around) because we definitely become a better consultant if we were clients before, and a better client if we were consultants before.

You must shift something in your mindset: if you know the right solution for a situation, you can’t simply decide what to do and do it. You should influence the person who will decide. It may or may not work. Also, you must adapt your convincing skills to each stakeholder. Each person has a different driver and, as a consultant, we need to identify these drivers and use it in our benefit, whether it is personal satisfaction, a desire to please the manager, or simply the conviction to do the right thing.

I’d say it took me a few years to feel completely comfortable in this chair, but the satisfaction of having achieved that feels really good.

What does inclusion and belonging mean to you?

It means to feel comfortable. Not having to think twice before saying anything or acting somehow. If you don’t feel included or belong, you maintain a permanent state of alert, which is exhausting and unhealthy.

What value does inclusion or belonging in the workforce bring?

Respect and collaboration, mainly. But besides the values, it creates a more productive and innovative environment: comfortable people will become high performers, allowing themselves to bring new ideas and innovations. A non-inclusive environment generates “more of the same”, as it is the safe choice.

What are you doing to make sure everyone feels included?

I’m probably not doing everything I can, but I believe in the little daily details: truly listening to everyone, connecting to everyone on the team, despite their role or grade, caring about my team’s personal life, inviting people for lunch – especially those who are always alone – respecting each one’s financial reality when choosing a restaurant.

Also, I always try to build a diverse team, because I believe people complete each other. Today I have a team with men, women, young, not so young, heterosexual, homosexual, rich and not, Brazilian and not, mother, single, married. It obliges them to live with these differences and recognise the best of each one.

A special challenge is to truly respect foreign habits and values, that are different than ours and impact our work. I make a special effort in understanding other country’s culture, avoiding judging and I stimulate my team in doing the same thing.

How do you create advocates out of your male colleagues?

I believe that today this challenge is bigger regarding other cultures. When I listen to complaints about how someone from another country acted, I try to remind this person that what is a problem for us might not be a problem for others. If it is a critical issue, we should talk about it. We face frequently small discomforts, such as “was unpolite in the email”, “left early for home and didn’t deliver”, “takes several holidays in a year” these are just reflections of different cultures, and we should respect that.

Regarding gender diversity, it’s harder, because sometimes we don’t even notice the exclusion, unfortunately it feels natural. What I try to do is point out some inadequate comment when I listen to it. Also, when I find myself as the only woman in a leader team or a decision group, I always make some comment such as “we need more women here”.

What is your favourite film?

Slumdog Millionaire. Although our friends in India told me the film does not represent the truth at all! 🙂

And finally, what is the ONE item you’d take, if stranded on a desert island?

Well, assuming the desert island would have no cell phone reception, I’d take a notebook and a pencil, and I’d write to avoid getting crazy.