Imagine you’ve just given a fantastic presentation to a roomful of executives. You’re pumped because you know all your preparation and rehearsal paid off. And you can tell from the energy in the room that your audience was knocked out too.
Then, as you’re shaking hands, one of the execs “compliments” you by saying they were amazed by your intelligence because given your ethnicity, it had predestined you to a life of mediocrity. That’s exactly what happened to today’s podcast guest, Cecile Munoz!
I was stunned when she shared that story with me. But, in a certain sense, I wasn’t. Anyone who’s been in financial services a couple decades is far too familiar with incidents like that. Too many pockets of our industry were boys’ clubs, and usually, the higher up the ladder you got, the whiter and more male the organization looked.
Thanks to executives like Cecile Munoz, that’s finally changing in a meaningful way. On today’s episode, Cecile talks about how her experiences as a Hispanic woman inspired her to create an executive search company that’s helping advisory firms redefine what leadership looks like, especially post-pandemic.
Here are three key areas of leadership we discussed and how you can improve in them so your company thrives today and in the decades ahead.
1. Reconnect with your intrinsic motivation.
Are leaders born or made?
That’s the eternal question at the top of the pyramid. We could probably all list some favorite examples that fall into either category. And, as a business coach, I do believe that anyone who commits to lifelong learning and accountability can improve in their field and adapt to changing business environments.
But the absolute best people I’ve ever worked with just seem to have that certain … something that’s hardwired into their psychology. And Cecile Munoz has noticed it too.
“Many of the executives with whom I do business now, I knew when they were starting off as wholesalers or as customer service reps. And I’ve seen them grow up through their careers. The one consistent element, the one consistent human trait that the exceptional leaders possess is their drive is inherent. It is stronger than whatever paycheck or liquidity event they may also be seeking. Their drive to do, to accomplish, to achieve, is inherent. These individuals are never on the back of their heels. They’re always on the tips of their toes. And it’s not coming from any kind of a fear and it’s not coming from any kind of a negative place. It’s coming from the sense of, ‘I was born to do this. This is what is meaningful to me. This is my purpose beyond anything else.’”
That intrinsic motivation, that sense of purpose can come from all sorts of places. For example, some of the best advisors I know got into this industry because they had some kind of negative money experience in childhood. A parent lost a job and they had to move out of their home into a cramped apartment. There was a bankruptcy that led to humiliation. A parent died suddenly with no life insurance.
Others, like Cecile and my recent guest Samuel Deane were, in part, motivated to go off on their own and do great things because of inequality they saw in the business world.
Those types of formative experiences can scar and scare you for life. Or, you can channel that difficult experience toward a positive future; one where you help yourself and others avoid what you went through.
Have you thought about where your drive comes from? Reconnecting to your sense of purpose could give you and your business the shot in the arm it needs heading into what could be a very challenging Q4. It might also help you reach prospects who are feeling unsettled and looking for an advisor they can really connect with. As Cecile Munoz says, “Once I know your Why I really get to peel away all your accomplishments and really get a sense of who you are.”
2. Improve your IQ + EQ + CQ.
By necessity, we’ve all had to pick up some new skills during the pandemic so that we could keep running our businesses effectively. But your mastery of Zoom and Slack are only going to get you so far in this ongoing pandemic environment. Cecile Munoz says she believes companies are undergoing a major transformation in what they want and need from their leadership teams.
“Globally, leaders are talking about three types of intelligence,” Cecile says. “IQ is basically your cognitive intelligence. This is something that we can measure. Your EQ, your emotional intelligence is your ability to understand the source of your emotions, the impact it has on your actions.” But equally as important is CQ, cultural intelligence, which is the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures.
You can see the cascading effect that Cecile describes in an effective modern leader: core mastery of your craft leads you to an understanding of how your work affects your team, which ripples out to create a culture that’s supportive, inclusive, and positive.
The IQ + EQ + CQ formula also leads you to other important skills that Cecile says top companies are valuing right now. Leaders who can see the broader picture are going to be more adaptable, less tied to outdated norms, more responsive to their clients and employees, and, ultimately, more human.
“These are components of real human leadership that have evolved. And I think they’re also here to stay because the more disintermediation we have between firm and client through the utilization of technology, the more human you must be when you do connect with your client. And being more human means being more empathetic, more vulnerable, more accessible, and creating greater connectivity.”
These “soft skills” are anything but. They’re hard to master, but like anything else, with a desire to improve and do the work, you can get better.
3. Adapt your culture to the new reality.
As shorthand, I think of culture as behavior; it’s what happens when you’re not looking. Covid-19 is certainly putting that idea to the test. Once you’re done with your morning virtual huddle, you have to trust your team to operate on its own. But not every leader does.
If you’re in a rush to get your team back in the office, why is that? Do you not trust that they’re working hard? Are you frustrated that you can’t “see” what they’re doing or for “how long” they’re doing it?
Yes, having your team in person has benefits, but, post pandemic, forcing your team to be 100% in the office will backfire. The forward-thinking leaders clearly understand that this command and control, top-down leadership style is toast. Gen-Z and millennials think very differently about lifestyle than baby boomers do and they’re not going to be forced to sit at a desk all day every day.
I fully expect we’ll end up with a hybrid model where some team members will want to come to the office on most days, some will come in 2 – 4 days a week, and some will live and work in a far-away town that fits their needs. Ultimately, it’s about trust. You have to trust you team and when you do, the vast majority of your team will rise up to meet your level of trust.
My two companies are 100% decentralized and my closet team member lives 200 miles from me. Part of that is because I choose to live in an area that is a 90-minute drive from the nearest city with 100,000 or more people. It works because of the people I work with, the trust we’ve developed, and the technology we use to connect us. Cecile Munoz says,
“Culture is a collective of policies and processes that represent the belief system and the greatest value proposition of the firm. I believe that culture is to the collective what character is to the individual. When you walk into an organization and you feel, gosh, everybody seems to be on the same page, everybody is happy, it’s just a feeling that you get that everybody is connected. That is culture at its best.”
For years people have been saying they want to hire people that “fit” their culture. That’s a serious problem because what you’re really saying is, “I want to hire people that look, think, and act just like I do.” Group think leads to company stink.
Instead of looking for people that “fit” your culture, look for people who will further your culture.
Fill your ranks with a diversity of experience, of background, of gender, of thinking. Like the ingredients of a fine meal, each individual team member adds their flavor to the ultimate end result. Cecile added that we should hire “someone that believes in what we believe, someone that believes in our purpose, and someone who wants to further the belief and the purpose because it matters to them too.”
By creating this vibrant culture, you’ll have fewer blind spots, you’ll have a more resilient and robust organization, and you’ll be better positioned to serve your clients in ways that meet their specific needs and individuality.
Adapt or Die
Covid-19 is a once in a generation event that will dramatically transform culture and business. Leaders who don’t understand this and who don’t adapt to the new reality, will bite the dust.
Take the time right now to reconnect with your purpose, to improve your EQ, and to intentionally foster a diversity of experience, of background, of gender, and of thinking in your organization. By doing so, you’ll be on the leading edge of thinkers and doers who are reshaping our industry.
Resources Featured In This Episode
U.S. Executive Search & Consulting Visit Cecile Munoz and her team online.
Ends with Z Listen to Cecile’s podcast about topics that help us thrive as human beings.
Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.
Steve Sanduski: Warren Buffet famously said, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.” Well today, COVID-19 is our tide going out and it’s exposing two types of leaders. There’s the leaders who have the emotional intelligence, the empathy and the adaptability to thrive in this wildly uncertain environment. And then you have those leaders who are stuck in the old ways of doing business, who may have been ‘successful’ in years past, but who are still trying to play by rules that have completely changed overnight. Hey, everybody, welcome back to Between Now and Success. I am your host, Steve Sanduski, and my guest today is Cecile Munoz. Cecile is the Founder and President of US Executive Search and Consulting, which is one of the top executive search firms in our industry. And in today’s conversation, Cecile and I talk about leadership. We discuss the psychology and the driving motivation behind the great leaders in our industry.
We discuss the key traits that the best leaders exhibit and how you interview people to discover what drives them. And we also talk about culture. How do you define it? How do you build it? And what’s the leader’s role in exemplifying it? But before we get to all that, Cecile shares her story about being a Hispanic woman in a historically white male dominated industry. She talks about the challenges she faced, how she overcame them and then the optimism that she has for a future that is diverse, inclusive and equitable. And with that, please enjoy my conversation with Cecile Munoz. Cecile, welcome to the show.
Cecile Munoz: Hi, Steve. Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. Well, I’m looking forward to this conversation. You and I have known each other for, I’m guessing, about maybe 10, 12 years or so. And we’ve done some work together in the past.
Cecile Munoz: Yes.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And so what I’m excited to talk about here is not only are you in the executive search business but I think obviously you’re in the people business. And so you’ve spent a lot of time, many, many years working with leaders all throughout the financial services industry. So you really have a good understanding of what makes them tick, what makes a successful executive. You also spent a lot of time analyzing cultures of organizations and trying to identify the right people that will work most effectively in organizations. So I think there’s a lot that we can talk about here, but before we get into that, I want to learn a little bit more about your story. So tell me a little bit about how you got into this industry and why you picked this particular part of the industry to go into.
Cecile Munoz: Thanks so much for that great question. And honestly, I ended up in this piece of the industry absolutely out of no design by me. It was somewhat, I would say, a mistake or I stumbled upon it or I was begrudgingly brought into it. And in that it actually taught me a very, very valuable lesson that I still remind myself of. And I still try to embrace every day. So out of undergrad, I was in the financial services world. I was in investments. I was an analyst and I loved it. I love numbers. I’m a very analytical thinker by nature and by design. And that was my career at a time that should be clear, Steve, when there were even fewer women and even fewer Hispanic or minority women in the business, I am Hispanic and this is in the late ’80s.
And so it was very different times on all accounts. Fast forward, a couple of years into it, my father became ill and I needed to come back and be closer to my family. I’m originally from Arizona and I wanted to come back more West Coast based being near my family. And I was going through an executive search firm and I was looking at different opportunities and I happened to stumble upon an opportunity. And I was interviewed by an executive search firm and I was hired by that firm. And it’s interesting because the truth of it is I never saw myself as an executive recruiter. I saw myself as an analyst and the person who hired me, the woman who hired me said you’re a really great sales person too, which I was slightly offended because I thought I am an analyst, I’m this thinker, I’m not a sales person, so to speak.
But luckily my father taught me if someone with more experience or someone talented and capable see something in you that you don’t see, you owe it to yourself to stop and listen what they have to share it with you. And so I did. And the interesting part is that I love this business. I get to marry both the critical thinking and analytical side of me with this deep passion that I have for human connection and human understanding. I believe that the most vital part of any business jokingly Santillan machine takeover is the human component, the human engineering aspect. So every day I get to do the work that I find infinitely fascinating in an industry that I absolutely love, which is financial services. I believe that it at its core is an honorable business and something that is important for every single human being on the planet, let alone every single American.
Steve Sanduski: Well, I love the little story there that you told about your father when he made that comment to you and essentially it seems like he was pointing out a potential blind spot. And I would imagine as part of the work that you’re doing here as an executive recruiter, that one of the things that you try and identify, whether it’s through 360 performance reviews and that sort of thing is helping people identify the blind spots, shining a light on the blind spots and sometimes or many times it’s other people that can see about us what we can’t see about ourselves.
Cecile Munoz: Correct. And we do a lot of also some people call it executive coaching. I really think of it in a different way. I think of really empowering our clients, especially our C-suite clients, although we do it up and down the hierarchy, if you will, empowering our clients to continually embrace the ever learning concept, something that you and I absolutely embrace. And I say that to be human is to have a perpetual blind spot or a series of blind spots, especially when you live a very busy life, a very complicated life. And in order to truly see your proverbial blind spots, you have to do the work yourself, but also surround yourself with people with positivity and support and compassion and love and out of the true desire to see the best in you, can also share with you how they see a potential blind spot. We have to bring to our daily lives and certainly to our professional life an awareness of where we need to improve.
What we look to to support our clients to do is to continuously be aware and mindful of where is that blind spot, where is something that they either don’t see about themselves or they need to expand and push through about themselves. But equally as important, I believe in your personal life as well as your professional life is to surround yourself with a group of people that out of the best interest in your success and your health and wellness that they do serve as a mirror to you for that particular blind spot and help you work through that so that you can become a more thriving human being.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And I think along those lines there the importance of having people that compliment you. So there may be areas where you’re weak or you have that blind spot but if you have enough self awareness to know that you can hire people and surround yourself with people who can take care of that particular weak spot that you may have.
Cecile Munoz: That is a challenge. I will tell you, I know that many leaders because I’ve had the great fortune and privilege to speak to tens of thousands of top leaders at various stages of their career in our industry and outside of this industry as well, but predominantly in financial services, it is something that is far easier said than done. I know that the intent may be to go out there and hire individuals that challenge you and by the very nature that challenge or bring a different skillset than what you have, it compliments you because together you build stronger workforce. It is something challenging to do because naturally we seek people that resemble us and are very similar to us, but we need to have that diversity and the greatest diversity that we need to focus on and I believe, of course, in gender diversity and race diversity, but it’s diversity of thought, sometimes called cognitive diversity. And when you start with that, by definition, you will bring diversity of race and gender. But if that diversity of thought, being willing to be uncomfortable by bringing people who think very differently than you do.
Steve Sanduski: I’m glad you mentioned diversity here and I want to just go back here for just a moment. You mentioned that you got into the industry here in the late 1980s, you’re a woman and you’re Hispanic. So tell me about what challenges you may have faced back in the ’80s and the ’90s maybe into the 2000s. What were the challenges that you were facing as a woman, as a Hispanic, has the situation improved now that we’re here many years after you started in the industry?
Cecile Munoz: So the good news is that it has improved but even better news is that we have still a long way to go. And fortunately, there is a greater awareness of what needs to be done in greater action. So I’m the eternal optimist but I’m also the never ceasing to push forward because that’s the only way that change happens. But Steve, so many things have changed just to give you a quick snapshot. When I started in the industry, women had to… For the most part, I would say greater than 80% women wore skirts and we wouldn’t wear pantsuits. We had to wear skirts. I mean, that seems like something so simple but imagine how radically different that might seem to a Z or a millennial today. There were very few women in our industry and even fewer Hispanics. The other thing that I saw as a negative or it was perceived as a negative for me is that I chose to open my firm on the West Coast, working in financial services.
I had individuals tell me, “Cecile, when are you going to get serious and open up an office in New York?” Because somehow I wasn’t serious by being geographically in a different location. It’s just I had to be there. And yes, now I do have an office on the East Coast, but it came years later. And I actually was given what was perceived as a compliment when I was an analyst, but it really was not, but that was what fueled me to move on and still stay in financial services but think of a better place and eventually not worry about the glass ceiling and build my own building. And it was after a presentation. I was the only woman, I was certainly the only Hispanic and the compliment that I received was that they were amazed at my intelligence because given my ethnicity, it had predestined me to a life of mediocrity.
Steve Sanduski: They actually said that?
Cecile Munoz: With a smile and a clap.
Steve Sanduski: Oh my gosh, wow.
Cecile Munoz: Because I think in their mind, they were saying good for you for rising above your stature in life or your origins. I am Hispanic. I grew up in a very humble home. I’m the daughter of immigrants. I’m the last of seven. I come from a very small rural town and yes, we have all thought our way to have what we have in my family. And I thank my father for teaching us that well, he didn’t give us wealth, he left us rich with love for each other and the unending belief that life happens when we make it happen and we have the capacity. But yes, that was a compliment.
And I remember thinking about it and I thought, well, this is their belief system. I don’t believe that I ran away from the industry. I believe that I created a pathway by which I can augment my voice of what I believe I want to see the change in our industry by having the opportunity to guide, influence and engage with the largest leaders in the biggest industries as well as the most dynamic boutique RIAs to invite them to think differently by bringing on board exceptional talent that might think differently than they. But it was very tough. I can tell you, it was painfully difficult to be taken seriously as a woman, as a minority and as a relatively young person in the industry competing against the largest executive search firms in the world, because that’s who my competitors are.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. Well, and obviously today, you’re very, very successful. You’re a real role model here in the industry.
Cecile Munoz: Thank you.
Steve Sanduski: And so it’s a real pleasure for me to be able to have you here on the show and share all the contributions and the great work that you’ve done. And I’ve talked to my mom, she’s still with us fortunately and she’s worked for a good part of her life. She worked and when I was growing up, she used to tell me stories about what it was like for her growing up. Now she’s 85, 86 right now. So we’re talking back in the ’60s and ’70s. She said back in the day, when she got pregnant, she had to quit. She was working for the telephone company. And that was the thing. It’s like, when you get pregnant, you have to quit. I mean, it was like a thing. And you think about that today and it’s like, how could we be so stupid?
Cecile Munoz: Yes. We look at things that seems so obvious, right? It seems black and white, but that’s the weight and the power that social norms has on the way we individually live our lives and those social norms, which of course are created by a shared belief system of people transfer into our corporate culture. Because I say that culture is to the collective what character is to the individual. So we bring those collective thoughts. So those agreed behaviors and norms, and we turn them into policies into an organization, right? And that is why we constantly have to think about where is the society going? What makes sense for people at large? And are we reflecting that in our company? I remember one particular event where I had been doing business with let’s just say it’s one of the world’s largest mutual fund companies in the country.
And this was in the late ’90s, early 2000s. And I had been doing business with them for a long time. I was one of their largest partners, if you will. And I was finally invited to meet with the CEO, which was believing no small feat. I was prepared, beyond prepared, I arrived early. I had never met his particular executive assistant of which he had two. So I arrive early. I go up the multitude of elevators through the multitude of screening in Boston. And when the door opened to the elevator, I walked out, she just looked up at me and she said, “Great, you’re here. Your desk is over there.” She gave me a couple of bits of instruction. She said, “We have some recruiter from the West Coast coming, give her five minutes. If I’m busy at three minutes, you buzz him. And if he says this, then that means that he’s done and she needs to exit. But if not, then she gets the full five minutes.”
And I looked at her and I smiled. I had a choice of how I was going to react. And she was an older woman. She was probably your mother’s age. So she was dealing with a belief system from her generation and the way she lived her life. And I smiled and I called her by name and I shook her hand. I said, “I’m Cecile Munoz. I am so happy to finally put a face with a name. You have been so helpful and generous to me, always putting my calls through or taking a message.” I said, “Got it. About the time I will say everything I have to say in three minutes.” And she also said, “Make sure and offer her a cup of coffee or water or something.” I don’t know what people from California drink.
And I said, “I’ll keep it to three minutes. I would love a cup of coffee, black. And I’ll sit over here and quietly think while you get your day done.” And she just looked at me mortified. First of all, I hate black coffee. I use an excuse for milk to do have my coffee. And she just looked at me and she apologized. I said, “Don’t apologize. You are doing your job. I’m here to make your job easier and still do what I need to do. Thank you so much for telling me what my timeframe is. Got it.”
Steve Sanduski: Yeah, it’s crazy. And as you mentioned, I think the good news is I think we’ve come a long way, but the reality is we still have a long way to go. And it’s just a never ending situation that we all have to be cognizant of. And we all have to do what we can to continue to improve the situation.
Cecile Munoz: And it’s particularly important now, Steve, because we have effectively four generations in the workforce. And when we talk and we do either executive search or consulting with our CEOs, that is something that they’re really grappling with. Take the case of advisors who have a thriving practice or a growing practice, typically, you have an advisor that is either a junior of the boomers or a senior of the Xs and is looking to have more talent, which probably is coming from the millennial workforce, right? So you have effectively three different generations who do look at things differently. Certainly the Xs to the millennials share a lot more commonality than the millennials to the boomers, which typically is a grandparent to grandchild situation. So I think when I reflect on my experiences, I choose not to think negatively about them because there is no growth, there’s no understanding. There’s only pain in that.
I choose to say A, how far we’ve come, B, it takes resilience to do anything meaningful in life. Even growing up a bunch tomatoes in the backyard, you have to constantly battle all the bugs in weather and climate and everything else. But it also takes a willingness to understand the person’s perspective and their collective experiences and where their point of view and try to find that middle ground. And it’s keenly important right now as we have an opportunity and certainly the advisor force to grow their practices, to think about succession planning and how to create an effective communication across potentially four generations.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And I’m a baby boomer myself and we have three kids. And all three of them, I guess, technically would be considered millennials. Although I’d say the two older ones are definitely millennials and then the youngest one probably maybe leans more toward the gen Z because she pretty much grew up as a digital native. So in some respects, I feel like I’ve had a bit of a front row seat here on the different generations. And I think I lean more toward the millennial gen Z type of person and not with the baby boomers, but maybe that’s my blind spot.
Cecile Munoz: I would agree with that. No, I would agree that you do. Just knowing you Steve, I would agree.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. All right. Well boy, there’s just a lot of here that I want to talk about. I definitely want to continue talking about the corporate culture idea, but before we get to that, I do want to talk about being an executive, being a leader in the financial industry today. So like you said, you’ve talked to thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of leaders over the years. And I want to go into a couple areas. The first is I want to talk about the psychology of top leaders. So as you talk to folks, as you try and place people in organizations, what in your experience have you seen are the psychological traits or characteristics, the drives, the motivations of leaders that make them successful, either running a large organization or what are the psychological makeup that they need that gets them from starting out to 10 years, 20 years later, leading building a large organization? What would you say some of those things are?
Cecile Munoz: Great question and the best way that I can answer it is to give it to you from a screenshot of over the years. I’ve been doing this for almost three decades now. So in many of the executives with whom I do business now, I knew when they were starting off as wholesalers or as customer service reps. And I’ve seen them grow up through their career. And although different things come to light and different skillsets and different characteristics or traits seem more valuable during a period of time or more important or a muscle that is needed to be flexed more so than other, depending on what’s happening during that business cycle, during a crash versus a boom period. But the one consistent element with the one consistent human trait that the exceptional leaders possess is this, their drive is inherent. It is stronger than whatever paycheck or pay day or the quiddity event that they may also be seeking. But their drive to do, to accomplish, to achieve is inherent.
These individuals, I never in what I call the back of their heel. They’re always on the tip of their toes. And it’s not coming from any kind of a fear and it’s not coming from any kind of a competitive, ambitious negative piece for the most part. I’m sure, obviously, as in everything there’s outliers. But it’s coming from the sense of I was born to do. This is what is meaningful to me. It is coming from a sense of this is my purpose beyond anything else and that is ever present in the folks that I’ve taught throughout their career.
Steve Sanduski: And I always love to go even further back then. So basically you’re talking about intrinsic motivation and I’ve seen that as well. People are intrinsically motivated but then my question is, where does the intrinsic motivation come from and what I’ve seen in many cases in working with many successful people as well is… And I don’t want to go all psychological here, but oftentimes there’s something early in their history, early in their growing up, whether it was, they grew up in a broken family or they had some tragedy or they had some financial calamity that happened early on that just really turned the corner for them and gave them that strong desire to really overcome whatever that was back in the early days. Now that’s not everybody, of course, I’m generalizing a little bit but do you see that? Or do you see other things that kind of create this intrinsic motivation?
Cecile Munoz: I think that from a generalization perspective, yes, you’re right. I call it the why. Once I know your why I know who you are and I know if it makes you as a professional make sense for my particular client and you as an individual will thrive in this corporate culture. And so once I know your why I really get to peel away all your accomplishments and really get a sense of who you are. Because let’s really be clear here, you and I have the good fortune as to your listeners of working in an industry that attracts and is populated by truly talented, well-educated, type A hard driving personalities. It might feel like we’re doing which I believe we’re doing something very noble, helping people retire with dignity. And if you want dignity in your life, you better be able to take care of your family and have healthcare and all the things that you want, but it’s not philanthropy, right?
We’re a population of people that are very confident. But you’re right, it’s intrinsic and it’s down to the core of who you are. And it’s then layered upon by life experiences, by how you grow and your confidence and more importantly, how your emotional intelligence or EQ develops through the process of your career. Statistically, the career advancement for most executives is of top performance, particularly it’s largely dependent on a combination of your EQ and your IQ. Heavily weighted on your EQ. And that’s that piece that we say, why do people like working with them? He drives well, people want to work for him. We used to use in the ’90s, if you remember, people are willing to fall on their sword for that person. But going back to your point, yes, it is that inherent drive of something that happened in their life. I’ll share with you a story that is just it was unexpected.
This individual is a CEO of a very large, very, very, one of the largest financial services in the US and I have known him for years. I had tried to recruit him for even more years than I can remember and it was never the right time for him. And when I recruited this gentleman in the process of speaking, it was seemingly a smaller company. It was for an independent deedee and it was a smaller company and it was a slightly different type of a role. And he said, “This is right for me. This is what I want.” And through the course of a conversation, I was mentioning something that I do in terms of philanthropic work for my family and for my community back home in Arizona and helping single moms. And he said to me, “Cecile, that’s really meaningful that you do that.”
And he shared with me a story that he had emancipated from his parents when he was a young man for obviously not good reasons. And he went through foster care and he was adopted by a single mom who was struggling, but cared so much for this individual that adopted him. And so he grew up understanding the challenges of feeding a family and caring for yourself. And that’s what propelled them to go into our industry. You would never know that this man is phenomenally successful, phenomenally polished but after a series of conversations, having a conversation about nothing to do with what we were talking about the client, I found out how important it was for this man, whatever company you worked with, that the company was doing the right thing for its people and for its clients, this was personal to him.
Nothing will motivate you than that memory. And so when I found out that why I hung up and I picked up the phone, I called my client. I said, “I found your person.” I found someone that is always going to care no matter what the load is and what the challenge is, he is always going to lead from a standpoint of we must do the right thing.
Steve Sanduski: It sounds like maybe your understanding of that why came out maybe not necessarily through an intentional process, but as you’re trying to understand someone’s why and you’re trying to get that deep story and uncover that intrinsic motivation, how do you do that? Is it beyond just simply asking, “Well, what motivates you?” There’s got to be something beyond that to really get to that intrinsic motivation. How do you find that? Can you assess that through assessments? Is it a multitude of things that you might do?
Cecile Munoz: It is a multitude of things. And this is one of the things that we really coach our clients. Our goal is also to empower our clients and not only just the HR department, which of course HR has fundamentally changed and it’s one of the areas because of COVID and all the changes that we’re seeing that has to fundamentally change and be much more of a clear core executive leadership at the same level as everything else aligning with the CEO. But to answer your question more directly is, it is a multitude of steps. It is the willingness to have broader, deeper conversations with a candidate. And it’s something that unfortunately a lot of firms don’t do. We rely so heavily on just looking at historically what someone has done, tactically and an execution basis, just focusing on their expertise. Because this piece, you only know when you know who the person is and that really has not so much to do with the bullet points on their resume and a history of their achievements.
The history of the achievements just shows you what their intellect is able to deliver. You can also say, okay, this is who he is as a leader and how he comes across as a human. But you have to ask it in a lot of different ways. You have to give yourself the space and the time to get to know that person not dissimilar to when you dated your wife, you may have and good for you and good for her if after the first day you know this is the person I’m going to marry but you probably didn’t propose to her the next day or a week later and then got married two weeks after that, right? You probably went through a series of getting to know each other a little bit more. I’m not proposing that there’s a year long courtship, that’s not possible. But there are tools, there are questions, there are methods that you can adopt that will give you a better insight as to who the individual is.
Number one, number two, AI and data-based analytics for human nature and human engineering have really advanced. We all know the different tools, the Myers Briggs and those types of assessments. They have gotten better and better because they’re using algorithms to give you greater insights. So I say that things like that are not higher. I think they’re an additional data point as to who that person is across from you. But the best way if I were to just leave one piece of advice is to say, ask a series of open ended questions. And do you see the one to three ratio. For every minute that you as the interviewer speaks, your interviewee should be speaking for at least three minutes. Unfortunately, it’s usually the other way around. The interviewer is talking and explaining and talking about the company and the person across, of course, what are they doing? They’re nodding. They’re not saying, “Oh my gosh, you’re crazy. What are you doing?” And at the end of the conversation, you feel you had a great interview, but you did most of the talking.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And that applies for advisors too. When you’re having your discovery conversation with a potential new client it’s like, I think that one to three rule certainly works well for that scenario too.
Cecile Munoz: Yes. And ask open ended questions and ask the ever challenging and ever uncomfortable why.
Steve Sanduski: Okay. So you ask the why, can you give me another example or two of some of these open ended questions that you have found tend to really cause the person you’re talking to to open up and share some things that are really important.
Cecile Munoz: Sure. So let’s say there’s a bullet point that says I came in and there was inefficiencies in the department and I instituted XYZ changes which resulted in a savings of a million dollars and increasing productivity of 36%. Great. That’s wonderful. Tell me about that. They’re going to tell you tactically how they did it. Well, I came in and I did an analysis and then I executed. But it’s to say, why do you think there were inefficiencies? How did you convince people to do this? What made you take that on without anybody asking you? What gave you the confidence? How would you do things differently? So asking somebody, why do you think that there were inefficiencies? It could potentially be a charged question because now you’re potentially saying negative things about the company that you’re in and we all know that when we walk into an interview we try not to say negative things, right?
And even putting someone in that uncomfortable position, theoretically of potentially saying a negative, you get to see how they handle something that they don’t expect without having to be a got you moment and those are not effective. You get to see them in real time process or critical thinking. And you get to see how open and honest and vulnerable they are because that’s the person that’s going to show up after the interview on a day to day basis. And you when you say what caused that you get to see again how they think and how they can be in the spot, in the moment problem solvers. And then you just keep digging deeper.
Because again, when they show up at your door for an interview or on Zoom, they have thought about the questions, they’re ready to say. And you’ve got to break through the beautifully wrapped, prepared statements and get to the heart of who that person is. And anyone who has kids, I don’t have kids, but I have a lot of nieces and nephews, you know that they’re really good at just telling you what they want to hear, but you’ve got to keep pushing. You got to keep pushing. You got to put them in an uncomfortable spot that tells them I really want to know who you are.
Steve Sanduski: Well, it sounds like you’re really leaning here toward the EQ of the EQ plus IQ that you were talking about here just a minute ago. So I think that’s a good segue into talking about the skills that effective leaders need today and going forward because the world that we live in today is a lot different than the world that you and I joined here in financial services several decades ago. So tell me, first of all, I think everyone understands IQ and I think everyone probably understands EQ, but if you could just briefly describe EQ and then how does that apply to leaders in our industry? And I think a second part to that is can you train EQ? What can people do to improve? Or is it just part of our personality? Is it something that we’re born with and we’re either high IQ, EQ or we’re not or can we improve around the margins? What are your thoughts on that?
Cecile Munoz: We can always improve just like we can improve our intelligence absolutely. I think we are all born with some modicum of EQ of our awareness but absolutely there’s lots of brilliant, great work that can be done as a collective. And a firm should encourage individuals, especially at the top of the pyramid to continue to expand and grow from an EQ perspective. But I’m going to throw a third one at you. I think that we’re now in globally, the global leaders are talking about three types of intelligence EQ, IQ and CQ, CQ being culture intelligence. And so I’ll break that down. IQ is basically your cognitive intelligence, right? This is something that we can measure. And we all probably have had at some point some type of an IQ test or we’ve measured our intelligence certainly in the US and that’s how we progressed from one grade to another in school and that’s a result of eye tests and so forth.
So that’s your IQ, your cognitive intelligence. Your EQ, it is really not about your personality and it is not just being in touch with your feelings. That’s emotional awareness. EQ is your ability to understand the source of your emotions, the impact it has on your actions but equally as important, the understanding of the emotions of others around you, or the environment around you, or the society around you and how your actions impacts their environment and their wellbeing and their surrounding. So now you see how we cascade from that, how a leader that has great IQ, which perhaps is a good predictor of his or her ability to have subject matter expertise in whatever your firm does as a service or a product. But if he or she also has strong EQ he or she is constantly aware of how his or her actions and decisions and reactions and thoughts has on the team below them and consequently to their clients outside. And that creates a culture of inclusiveness and support and engagement. Does that make sense?
Steve Sanduski: It does. So this idea of EQ is leaning a lot toward empathy and the ability of me being able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and understand from their perspective how my behavior, how my actions are affecting other people, is that really what you’re saying there? This ability to essentially put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see how what you do affects them.
Cecile Munoz: Yes. And the stronger your EQ, the better you will be at building deeper, stronger relationships because you’re connecting at a deeper fundamental level versus just an exchange.
Steve Sanduski: So we’ve got EQ, we’ve got IQ, we’ve got CQ, the culture intelligence. And we’ll talk about culture here in just a moment, but in terms of other leadership skills that you’re seeing things maybe it’s curiosity, maybe ability to execute, to get things done, ability to get things done through other people. What are some of the things that maybe you’re seeing today that you are more deeply emphasizing as you’re recruiting executives that may be different from say five or 10 years ago?
Cecile Munoz: Well, definitely adaptability. Adaptability has really risen to the top of the heap. It was already one of the leading core skills as outlined by basically the top leaders of the world. The conference that happens every year at Davos, they listed as one of the key traits for CEOs is emotional intelligence, EQ and adaptability. But I think what COVID has done and what living in this crisis and this pandemic has done, it has also absolutely brought to light that as leaders, we have to be adaptable. And we also have to have deep level of empathy and compassion with which to lead and also be able to function in vast amounts of gray and uncertainty. Now, listen, we both know that to be successful in financial services, to be a successful advisor is to be able to stay calm in the storm of uncertainty and guide your clients to a safe harbor.
Always putting that calm hand on their shoulders that’s saying, “We’re going to get through this together and I’m going to get you to a better side.” But at least my generation, and I’m a X-gen, none of us have lived this, through the sense that if you go outside and breathe the air, you could die on top of whatever economic challenges we’re facing and we will be facing post COVID. So as a leader, you are now also challenged with how do I have empathy and compassion for my team who by the way, they’re not in front of me anymore because most of us are working still remotely. And how do I lead them to continue to push further, to strive harder, to work harder in a lot of uncertainty without recognizing the challenges that they have in their life because their work life and their professional life have now all collapsed to the square footage of wherever they live.
If you ignore that, if you ignore the emotional state of your team and of your clients, and I know that you probably have a much better perspective of how advisors feel about this because of the work you’ve done for years with advisors, if they don’t acknowledge what that pain their clients are going through, same thing for the leader, if they don’t acknowledge the emotional state of their staff, which many of them probably are emotionally exhausted trying to be teachers and parents and executives, then their leadership may not feel as connected. They may feel he doesn’t understand. They don’t know what we’re all going through. And it’s challenging because we have historically rewarded a different subset of behavior, right? Relentless leader, unapologetic leader, hard-charging decisive, they still have to be decisive. They still have to make very difficult decisions usually with little moments notice and with even fewer bits of data, but we have to make those decisions.
All I am saying now to your point is these are other components of leadership, of real human leadership that have evolved. And I think they’re also here to stay because the more disintermediation we have between, let’s just say, firm and client advisor and client through the utilization of technology apps, and go to the website, you can get everything you need, you don’t even have to talk to a human being, it’s all accessible on your mobile app, but the more disintermediation we have between you and your clients or your consumers, the more human you must be when you do connect with your client. And more human being means more empathetic, more vulnerable, more accessible, greater connectivity.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And I agree. I mean, I’ve been talking for some time as well about the importance of putting your humanness in the conversation. And yes, we’ve got all this technology and that’s all wonderful and we have to be up to date and we have to use that but ultimately here in financial services, it’s still about the relationship. If you’re providing financial advisory services, it’s still that relationship. And so no technology is going to make your humanness obsolete. So I think that’s an important point to keep in mind.
Cecile Munoz: Absolutely. Listen, there is a lot of work going on up for AEI, artificial emotional intelligence. Trust me, they are fast at work trying to replicate this human emotional connection. They have not yet and I don’t think we will see it in our lifetime, but I may be wrong, but there’s a futurist that I follow and I love what he says. He says the future is human. And this is where I believe that advisors have an extraordinary advantage against everybody else because they have built their careers by connecting with their clients, right? That’s why for the most part, if they started off in a wirehouse way back in the day and then they maybe went to a regional and then eventually they went to independent or any way they have triangulated that and we’ll add independent broker dealers into that mix, they took their advisors because the relationship, the trust was between the two of them, not always necessarily to the brand and under which they operated. So advisors have inherently understood this. And the really successful advisors, I think understand it and execute it at a deeper level.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And I think the futurist is correct. And one of the things I have been saying is that there’s a high correlation between the acceleration of technology change and people’s desire for a human connection. And so as we continue to advance in technology, people still, they’re craving the human relationship. So despite all these apps, iPhones and everything that we have, people still want to have that human to human connection, of course supported by, powered by, made deficient by the technology, but there’s still no substitute for the human to human connection. So as I told you I want to talk about here is culture and the COVID situation has created a very interesting dynamic among the many things that it has done.
And so one of which is, it’s one thing to have a culture when you have your team coming into the office every day, and you as the leader, you can see what’s going on and people are communicating and there’s an opportunity for a culture when you’re in person. But that I think there’s obviously a big difference with the situation where people are remote. And I suspect even after the pandemic is over, there’s definitely going to be a lot more people working remotely and decentralized organizations versus the centralized ones that we have today. So how do you think about culture today? Just give me some of your highlights on building a culture. What are key aspects to a culture? How do you even define culture? Let’s just start with that.
Cecile Munoz: So the way we guide our clients to think about culture is to say culture is a collective of policies and processes that represent the belief system and the greatest value proposition of that firm. And it’s made real and experienced through the work usually not of the people in the top part of the pyramid from executive structure but by everybody else, by your middle management and all those employees, at client service or reception, everybody that touches your clients more so on a daily basis. Of course, that’s slightly different in the case of an advisor but your culture is living, breathing. It’s not something that is your mission statement. You write on the wall and you leave it. Your culture is created by the contribution of the DNA of the belief system of the DNA of every member of your team, every single member of your team. And everybody that joins it either strengthens it or dilutes it.
As I said, I believe that culture is to the collective what character is to the individual. So when you walk into an organization and you feel, gosh, everybody seems to be on the same page, everybody is happy. It could be a myriad of different people but you feel the experience is very shared and it’s very similar and it’s not a branding issue or that they all knew their subject really well, it’s just a feeling that you get that everybody is connected. That is culture at its best. It’s not that everybody thinks the same, it’s that everybody believes in the purpose of what they’re doing. Everybody believes on the why they are there and why it matters.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And I think ultimately and I think this is what you’re getting at too is that the way that culture manifests itself in the organization is through the behavior that gets exhibited and why I think this COVID could be a fascinating case study is you can also say that culture is what people do when you’re not looking. And so when people are working remote, are you not skipping a beat with the culture? Are you not skipping a beat with the level of execution in your organization? And I think fortunately in many of the advisors that I talk to, they’re seeing that that for the most part, they’re just as effective working remotely. And you mentioned adaptability here a moment ago which is also very key. So a lot of these organizations now they’re having daily meetings, daily Zoom calls at 8:00 o’clock or 8:30 in the morning.
Some firms are even doing two calls a day, just very short check-ins. You get a beat on how every everyone’s doing on a team, that sort of thing. So I think this idea of culture as behavior and people talk about execution, how do I execute the strategy? How do we move forward with that? Well, it’s about the culture that you’ve created. You’ve created a culture of execution where people execute not because they have to, it’s because they want to, it’s because they believe in the mission, as you were talking about, they believe in the company’s values. They believe in what the organization stands for. And so they want to execute. They want to move forward. They want to get stuff done because they have a strong belief in what the organization is trying to accomplish.
Cecile Munoz: Correct. And you’re absolutely right about that. And I think that it is these behaviors. As in we talk about sometimes things, how do you incentivize behavioral? It has to also, when you incentivize a behavior, it is going to have an impact on your culture. Remember back in the at Putnam and not to pick on Putnam, this goes back to the ’90s, they used to say, “You want a friend here, you go get yourself a dog.” And that was commonplace, Steve, you remember that.
Steve Sanduski: Yep.
Cecile Munoz: That sense of competitiveness at all costs. We’ll say, listen, yes, you have to incentivize behavior, you have to align success with renumeration and compensation, yes but that can’t be the why they joined you versus another firm. And if it is, then you should be prepared that when things get tough or maybe somebody else is willing to pay more, that that person’s going to leave and you need to be okay with that. And if that’s what they represent, no harm, no foul there’s room everywhere in the business force for different types of companies. But you’re right. It has to be, especially in times of great uncertainty, both professionally and personally and every which way you can think of during a pandemic like COVID.
And think about this, most people are working very hard and I’m sure in the back of their mind they’re thinking, what if my job is not here anymore? What if my job is replaced by technology? What if my firm sells and I’m no longer needed? What if we merge with somebody else? Because we look at the activity of what’s happening to the MNA activity that’s happening in the market and we can understand the business logic for it. But as an employee, trust me when I tell you, because I hear it, “Cecile, I just wanted to get myself on the radar because I think that, that, that.” So why they come to work every day and give us their all for you and your clients, it has to be something greater than just a paycheck. They have to buy into your why.
And a culture can have some roots in aspirational desires but it has to be cemented in beliefs and actions and processes that are executed every day. It can’t just be, “We want to be the very best.” Okay, well, great. I have not met one firm that says, “We want to be the worst and not really care about people, so please come join us.” Those aspirational things are great and they look really nice on a brochure, but what are you doing every day? And you’re right. COVID and working borderless workforce, if you will or working remotely, those firms that have instituted far greater touch points with their team are thriving and how wonderful that you get to have that connection now. That before we just didn’t because we thought we were fine. So again, the more human connection, the better. We consulted with a lot of CEOs that when this first started, many of them felt rudderless because they didn’t have the people in front of them. They didn’t know if they were being effective.
And so our advice was lean into it, lean into this discomfort, be vulnerable in those conversations and ask them, how am I doing? Am I giving you what you need? Are you getting enough of me? How can we stay connected more? How can I support you? And how can we be there together? Because I’m going to lean into you too. And one particular CEO of a very large wealth management division of a bank who did that saw all his very successful sales people almost take a deep breath and say, “Well, how are we doing? I mean, are we doing okay? I have some creative ideas because we can’t fly out now to be in front of the clients. I have some ideas.” And this gave birth to tremendous amount of creativity that before when he’d even have risen to even a potential conversation. So I think good things are coming out of what we’re going through.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And I think one of the things we haven’t touched on here, but I think it really is embedded in what we are talking about here is this idea of trust. And when you talked about this example here of the person at the bank leaning into the staff, the way I think about that is if you trust your team and if your team knows that you trust them, then nine times out of 10, if not 9.9 times out of 10, that team member is going to live up to that trust. Because if you have confidence in them, if you trust them, they don’t want to disappoint you. They want to live up to that. And you contrast that with organizations that might be more fear driven, where you’re guilty until proven innocent type thing. I’ve seen those. I mean, those are horrible situations to be in. Fortunately, I don’t think there’s nearly as many of those kinds of organizations today as there used to be. But I think this idea of trust is so important as well.
Cecile Munoz: You’re right. Absolutely. I think what COVID has also done and having to work remotely and there’s level of uncertainty, it has taken off the veneer of what an executive thought his culture was or even a manager because there’s cultures within cultures, right? What they thought was their culture to reveal really what they have. So now they have a choice and that’s wonderful. You have a choice of having really honest conversations, just the way you have them with your clients or you should be having with your clients, with your team of how are we doing? How can we do this together? What other tools and resources since we can’t be together can we use to be far more effective and stronger together? Because the truth of it is any organization is only as resilient as its people.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And one other point I want to make on this culture piece before we wrap up with a couple of quick items is so often you hear people talk about, well, we want to hire people for cultural fit. And I think we need to get rid of this idea of cultural fit because it tends to what that essentially means is I want to hire people just like me, and we need to get away from that.
And so I think and I’d love to get your thoughts on this as well, maybe you frame it in a different way but instead of looking for people that fit your culture, we should start thinking about trying to find people that are going to further our culture, that are going to compliment our culture because it is this diversity of thought, this diversity of gender, this diversity of thinking, this diversity of experience that’s really going to add to the mix, that’s going to stew the pot here that not only is it the right thing to do but it’s good for business as well. And I think the more we can think about that and understand that the better it is going to be for everyone, the better these companies are going to be, as well as the more success you’re going to have in working with your clients and being able to solve their issues and meet their needs.
Cecile Munoz: Steve, I couldn’t have said it better myself. That is absolutely right. And the piece that you said there is really important for me to underscore it. Culture is not a one and done. Just like we, human beings, constantly evolve as people. Look, I’d like to believe that at the very core, I am still very much as I say, my father’s daughter and that’s one of the greatest point of pride and that is rooted in my ethics and my beliefs and my moral compass. So yes, but I’m constantly evolving. I’m constantly learning and I’m constantly growing. And so the point about culture, it is constantly growing and thriving. So we shouldn’t say a culture fit. We should say many of the things that you said. And I would add someone that believes in what we believe, someone that believes in our purpose and someone who wants to further the belief and the purpose because it matters to them too.
And incidentally, that’s what drives the millennials and that is definitely what drives disease. And when you think of it selfishly as a business owner, you and I are business owners and we counsel other business owners and business leaders, you constantly have to be mindful of what are the norms of the workforce. Because the workforce does not adapt to what current companies are doing. Workforce drives change, especially the largest component of the workforce. So I love the way you put it and I would add to that someone who believes in what we believe in and someone who agrees with the purpose and the purpose matters to them equally.
Steve Sanduski: Excellent. Well, Cecile, I could keep talking to you for hours here but I know we need to be wrapping up here. So let me just finish.
Cecile Munoz: That has always been the case with you, which is why I always call to vend your ear and get your thoughts about all else over the years, absolutely.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. I appreciate that. All right. So a couple of quick things here as we wrap up here. So one is I always like to ask, is there anything else that you want to share that we haven’t talked about? Maybe there is a question that you were just wishing, gosh, I wish Steve would have asked me this. And if nothing else, please tell me about your company because I want to make sure that folks are familiar with what you do as well, but anything else that you want to add that we haven’t talked about yet.
Cecile Munoz: No, I’ve really appreciated the mindfulness and the thoughtfulness of your questions. The only other piece that I would add is to share that I think we will continue to be in an ever stage of change and adaptability. So the other piece that the world economic forum really focused on and I absolutely agree with and I see smart companies doing it across industry is not so much the C-suite, not so much focusing on driving to do excel, but also driving to continuously hire and surround themselves with exceptional talent that is adaptive and adopting the mindset of ever learning, ever training, ever re-skilling or up-skilling the talent you have. Making that a constant piece of your culture, always driving ourselves to grow and do more, it’s important to us. Re-skilling, up-skilling, retraining, I think that will give you the flexibility of your muscles to flex in any direction that the market might throw at you.
Steve Sanduski: Great. Well, let’s jump into a few rapid fire questions and I just heard you say ever learning. So I’m going to ask you a great segue there, what’s something new that you’ve learned here in the past 12 months or so?
Cecile Munoz: I’ve learned that what I thought there was worst challenge, there was the black Monday and then there was the 2008 crisis and I thought I had this figured out. And the fact is I have never lived under so much personal and professional uncertainty as I am living through now. And I’ve realized that I have to first lead myself through the anxiety and the fear and the sadness over losses that have happened in my family and in my life before. And I have to come to terms with that and be accepting of that. And before I can lead my team and certainly before I can lead my clients. And it has been unbelievable source of strength that has helped me guide myself out of this, guide my team through this. And I feel that we are in a much more honest open and if I even may say commerce state because of it.
Steve Sanduski: And I hear a lot of EQ coming out of that.
Cecile Munoz: Listen, it’s hard. Having emotional intelligence is hard because you get to open up all your vulnerabilities, all the things that we typically like to keep to ourselves underneath the vest, but nothing in shade grows stronger and better.
Steve Sanduski: That’s right. Good. All right. How about what is one habit that you think has led to your success?
Cecile Munoz: Persistence and resilience and it’s sister, cousin courage. No one will ever have all the answers. I will never do everything perfectly or as perfectly as I wanted and things will always go sideways when I least expect it. And to have the courage of conviction to believe in my purpose and what I am doing is important and meaningful is to keep going, but it has to have a vector. Courage and perseverance and consistency has to have a vector and for me, it cannot just be a paycheck. It has to have a higher meaning and a higher purpose than just that. And to me, that vector is hoping and love to do the things that I want to do, to do them with the people that I love the most.
Steve Sanduski: Excellent. And then we’ve talked about leadership here. So is there a leader that you admire and why? Might be someone that you know, might be someone that you just admire from afar, might be someone who’s not even alive today?
Cecile Munoz: There are many people that I admire because I love to read the philosophers and I love to learn about ordinary people that I admire. I admire the nurses, talk about a culture and a shared purpose. Those nurses that kept going into this emergency rooms, putting themselves at risk. But if I think of it from a professional standpoint, I really admire a pharma organization, Novo Nordisk, their CEO, Lars Jorgensen. They are the largest producer I believe is of medication for diabetes, but they have figured out, this company has figured out that their job is yes to provide shareholder value, but they also provide great stakeholder value in terms of their culture and how they take care of their people. And they even provide philanthropic value. They have made it viable for people who cannot afford.
They think their stat say that one in 10 individuals who need insulin products cannot afford them. So they have managed their profits in a way where they always make it available to those individuals who cannot afford their product to have it out of a greatly reduced price. So they can’t afford to have and live as healthy of a life. And I think of it from the perspective of the courage that it takes to lead a company in this manner, the intellectual capacity it takes to manage revenues in a matter where you can’t keep doing that and how happy those people must be. They’re always rated as one of the best run companies. And they do it in a highly, highly competitive industry that is pointing predominantly to just pure profits. They’ve had the courage to be different.
Steve Sanduski: Well, this idea of stakeholder value that’s… I should probably do a separate podcast on just that topic alone, because…
Cecile Munoz: I would encourage you because yes, absolutely, Steve. Absolutely.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah, because I think it was a back in, I’m going to say, the early ’80s, maybe the late ’70s when the economists and the business people were basically saying that the sole purpose of a corporation is to generate a profit for its shareholders. And that has swayed our culture for decades now. But I think it was just in the past year and maybe the past two years, was it the business round table that came out and said, “No, not quite. Now, it’s more about stakeholder value.”
Cecile Munoz: Of course. And Steve, of course, you know this. Yes, I think it was Friedman that wrote, it was basically an op ed to, was it the New York times that he said, “Hey, let me throw out this hypothesis that we exist to create shareholder value.” And that completely pivoted the way companies run. And think of that for a moment, think of if we ran really companies that way, what is it saying? Which we are, we as a leader is course correcting and making decisions far sweeping decisions and budgetary decisions and human capital decisions based on the, I’m going to use the word, whim based on the desires of shareholders who are best are temporary owners, right?
Steve Sanduski: Right.
Cecile Munoz: They have no accountability. They can sell your stock tomorrow. They can buy more of your stock tomorrow. So you’re right. I think it was also at the World Economic Forum where they said, “We have to start thinking about stakeholder value.” And that when you think about stakeholder value, all these things come up, culture, how you hire people, how you train them, how you engage them, how you develop them. And again, millennials and Zs why I keep focusing so much on them. They are the next workforce, right? They are the future leaders. That is what they care about. What is the purpose of this company and do I believe in it and how does it treat me.
Steve Sanduski: Right. Yeah. So the gen Z, millennials are really about the idea of stakeholder values. So definitely I’m going to work on that. I think that would make a good podcast episode.
Cecile Munoz: You’re going to do a great job at it. I can’t wait to listen. I can’t wait to listen. It’s going to be great.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. Right. All right. Final question here in seven words or less, what would you say is your motto for life?
Cecile Munoz: Well, I’ll give you part one and part two. So I grew up in the model for our family and you can hear it from great grandkids that’s four years old is figure it out. That was our motto, figure it out. And as scrappy kids in rural America, it has evolved too and I even use it with my team. If it’s possible, we’re capable. If it’s possible, I’m capable.
Steve Sanduski: I like that. Excellent. All right. Well, Cecile, I think we’ll wrap it up there. So this has been great. I appreciate the time here today. It was great catching up with you and I wish you continued great success in the work you do. What’s the best way for folks to reach out to you if they want to connect with you?
Cecile Munoz: Wonderful. Thank you for that. You can go to my website which is usexecutivesearch.com. You have all my contact information there. You can also ping us. We also have a webcast, which is not just specifically on financial services. We talk about topics that help us thrive as human beings. I talk basically what we’re talking about here, Steven, and really focus it to people who may not be in financial services that can utilize the value insight gained from all these conversations, conversations with people like you as well, Steve. And that is endswithz, the letter Z, .com. And we return every email. We return every phone call because our success really has been based out of the connections that we made with human beings on a daily basis.
Steve Sanduski: All right. Well, we’ll wrap there Cecile. Thanks again. It was great catching up.
Cecile Munoz: It was my pleasure. Thanks so much, Steve. Be well.