Interview with Eugenio Ferreira da Silva Neto | Collingwood Executive Search

David McGowan, caught up with Eugenio Eugenio Ferreira da Silva Neto, Head of Solution Projects at Endress & Hauser Group to discuss culture, leadership and strategy in business

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Eugenio Ferreira da Silva Neto has over 15 years of experience of leading Innovation, Marketing, Business Development and Digital Transformation in global multi billion turn over Industrial Automation organisations. He recently took some time out to discuss with David McGowan the importance of a strong relationship between strategy and culture to achieve success in these areas. We hope you enjoy!

David: Culture, leadership, and strategy: The dynamic trio - Why culture is crucial for success?

Eugenio: Digital technologies are transforming virtually every industry, and an increasing number of companies recognize that digitalization provides unparalleled opportunities for value creation with customers. It also presents a formidable organizational challenge because of the impact of culture on organizations.

David: Based on your experience, which one is more important, get the strategy right or have a suitable culture in place?

Eugenio: First, let us define what is culture in organizations. I like this simple definition of culture: "The way we do things around here". This description explains why a positive culture leads to higher customer satisfaction and sales. And why it matters a lot for jobs with soft skills such as services. And it can harm business when customers get upset with "the way of doing things around here". Hence, it does not matter if you get the strategy right, but you do not have the proper culture in place. Success will not be sustainable, even if someone executes the strategy flawlessly.

David: What else can culture make or break in organizations?

Eugenio: Culture can make or break agility in organizations. Many companies spend an abundance of leadership energy trying to improve behavior or gain new skills such as ownership, empowerment, customer-centricity, which are necessary for agile culture. But in a complex, hierarchical organization, a lot of decisions escalate up the ladder multiple times through the middle management before actions happen on the floor. So, it does not matter if you empower a cross-functional team to move at high velocity when there is a slow decision making culture in place - agility dies.

David: Do you think strategy precedes culture or vice versa?

Eugenio: When strategy leads culture, making the right decisions consistently will lead to a better culture. But often, culture precedes strategy affecting its execution and undermining the success. Microsoft is a good example. It reached its lowest in 2009 with Steve Ballmer in the helmet obsessively focused on short-term performance. As a result, Microsoft missed big technological trends. Then when Satya Nadella became CEO in 2014 and started prioritizing a growth mindset, learning-it-all culture, Microsoft became again, one of the most valuable companies in the world. It does not matter the order when leaders cannot lead the companies in the right direction.

David: Why is strategy and culture alignment so important?

Eugenio: When company strategies are clear and purpose-driven, culture arises to fill in the gaps and leadership can reinforce it by promoting initiatives that impact the organization's culture in the best possible way. If we assume that strategy defines the journey and destination (easy to change), then culture embodies the environment (hard to change). Then you might fail even when you choose the proper equipment and have a map in hand if you are not physically and mentally prepared for climbing a high mountain or crossing a desert. Strategy goes nowhere without culture. To succeed with any strategy, we need to have the right mindset, leadership capabilities, systems, and processes in place.

David: Why investing in the corporate culture mindset is essential to succeed today?

Eugenio: People matter as the most important asset of a company. We need people strongly committed and aligned with company strategy to sustain success and support the company's vision, mission, and values. Strategic planning and execution might occupy the people's minds, but it is their hearts that give the best to create a positive impact in the organizations.

David: As a leader, how do you cultivate and maintain the right mindset?

Eugenio: Culture is something that can be adapted and changed, and as a leader, we have got to live and build a learning culture. You cannot achieve success when your mind says - it cannot be done, because we have never done it before. As a leader, we must cultivate a growth mindset in our teams, learn from adversity and recognize new business opportunities, not just challenges in front of us. Leaders should also be humble and open to learning from their mistakes that certainly will occur along the way.

Thanks for this opportunity. I would like to complete this interview with the following quote that rounds the topic of culture, leadership, and strategy: Leadership is influence — John C. Maxwell.

About the author
David McGowan
5 min read

David is one of Collingwood’s newest members joining as an Executive Search Consultant and leading recruitment within the Industrial IT/OT and Cyber Security market.

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