Interview with Alessandra Montrasio, Global Marketing Director at Nestlé Waters.
Alessandra Montrasio does not believe in diversity.
And yes, the above sentence is there to grab your attention – because of course Alessandra thinks diversity of ideas is a good thing, it’s just that she has moved on to a better description for what to aim for. I will soon explain what that means, but first let’s learn more about her.
Alessandra is Global Marketing Director at Nestlé Waters. In her role Alessandra Montrasio is in charge of advertising, packaging, e-commerce, product launches for all water brands (US$ 6 billions), and she leads a multicultural team of 10 people (8 nationalities) in a multi-geo environment.
Alessandra is convinced that one of the most important roles she has as a manger is to:
a) Ensure that her team feels safe to express themselves
b) Create a team full of people with different backgrounds
So why did I say earlier that she has given up on diversity? Because the practise of applying diversity in the workforce has somehow became limiting. It has become a phrase for hiring people from a range of different ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc. more to tick a box, rather than to really leverage the value it brings.
But to focus on “diversity” is to forget what the real goal is. The real goal is: The Richness of Humanity.
A diverse team leads to a richer team – but the goal is not the diversity. The goal is the richness.
Richness of points of view.
Richness of ideas.
Richness of experiences and backgrounds.
Richness of perspectives.
Yes, Richness of Humanity.
And when you start thinking like that your focus as a leader changes. It becomes much clearer how a team rich in diversity creates added value.
I asked Alessandra how to create these rich teams.
“1) You have to be intentional about it. (For example, Alessandra will tell her headhunters to go out of their way to find people with different backgrounds than the existing team members.)
2) You have to be aware. (Meaning you have to pay attention to how these diverse group of people affect each other and the group dynamic.)
3) You have to be convinced about the value it brings to the business. (Because if you are not, you will not give the right amount of attention to building rich teams to begin with.)”
She added: “As a manger you become like a facilitator – it is your responsibility to create an ‘ecosystem’ that functions well.”
I love the idea of a diverse team as an eco system.
Think of the eco system in a rain forest or any other bio-diverse environment. It’s full of totally different animals and plants living together in symbiosis. Think of the richness of that environment. That is what we want.
I ask Alessandra to summarise the mindset a leader has to have to build a rich team:
Alessandra summarised it neatly into:
“Believe in it.” (ie Prioritise it)
“Enjoy it.” (ie Makes sure it motivates you.)
“Think about it.” (ie Dedicate time for it.)
She also told me about one of the teams she had lead was a great example of putting together a team of richness. The team had consisted of a young man from Middle East with connections to the local royal family, a man from a small village in China who was a bit of an outcast growing up because of his outgoing spirit, and an Indian lady who had studied to become a computer engineer only to realise she did not like it and had switched to marketing. All people with profoundly different backgrounds that flew into Paris to work with the bubbly and highly energetic Alessandra from Italy.
The next time you are tasked with putting together a team don’t just aim for “diversity”. Instead, follow in the footsteps of Alessandra and think of how you can put together a team that is harnessing the Richness of Humanity.
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