Alfredo Assumpcao is the founder of Fesa, IIC Partners' member firm in Brazil, which is the largest retained executive search firm in Latin America by revenue. As well as being a successful businessman, Alfredo is a business author, musician and poet. In the latest edition of his book 'Fearless Management: How to be Happy in the Corporate World', Alfredo argues that happiness is the most important component of a successful business.
1. Why is your book called 'Fearless Management'?
A good manager is one who feels no fear in practicing free communication in his or her organization - to subordinates, to his or her manager or to his or her peers. A good manager or leader must create an organizational environment that allows people to act without feeling fear - that is the only way leaders can get the best out of their people and the only way leaders will deliver the best possible levels of productivity and profitability for their organizations.
2. What are the signs that a company is fearless?
A high level of productivity and profitability. Look at Apple and Microsoft, as just two examples. They have very talented people who are empowered and are free to create and to act. Their people are not afraid of being themselves and putting out different ideas for the good of the company. If you look at the most successful companies in the world - and please, forget about government organizations - you will find all of them, without exception, practice a culture close to what I call fearless management.
3. Why is finding happiness in the working environment so important? Why is it the primary goal?
Whenever you are happy in your working environment you will give the best of yourself. Therefore your company will get the most it can out of you, which benefits the company. On a personal level, you, as human capital, will be happiest when you are given the opportunity to perform to your full potential. It cannot be beyond your capability, which will make you sick, and the employer will probably lose you. If it is below your capability, you will probably leave and find another job. Using the person as a full professional is what makes one happy in one's working environment. It is a 'win win' game. The company gains and the employee gains.
4. What has happiness to do with business? Isn't business just business?
People want to be happy. This is an old way of thinking: "Whoever has the power demands and whoever does not have the power obeys". Exceptional, high performance companies do not follow this way of thinking anymore. Diversity is accepted and the group is more important than just one person. Leaders must develop corporate environments with cultures that allow people to realise their full potential. There is a lack of talent in the world. And talented people know how to evaluate corporate culture and will take decision about joining a company or not, on the basis of its culture. Nowadays everything is connected; communication is very fast. Goods and services designed in one country are delivered or produced in another to be sold again in different global markets. And the pace of change is increasing more and more rapidly. To develop and produce products and services that will meet the increasingly globalised economy and rate of change, companies need to have people performing to their full capabilities, people who are happy. So, happiness in the company, to achieve innovation, is part of the agenda of any CEO and shareholders nowadays aiming to attract, retain, develop and motivate the best people. And for companies to acquire the best talent they must offer something more than just salary, bonus and benefits.
5. In 'Fearless Management' you make the observation that the corporate world is really the only place where people of all backgrounds freely come together.
In the corporate world, especially in the great multinationals present in more than 100 countries, you will find acceptance of diversity as a mote. Entrepreneurs generally do not mind with whom they deal with to a make profit. So people of different nationalities, genders, religions can find in the corporate world the right place to be themselves. In the corporate world you find the greatest concentration of leaders - they are not in the armed forces, religious institutions or governments anymore. This is the future.
4. You note than when people of different beliefs come together in corporate environments it creates political situations. How can people manage their own behaviour, be happy - be ethical, but still succeed when others are political?
There will be no place for the employees acting politically or performing in a maneuvering way. Goodness is the new way in outstanding companies. Companies that do not open their eyes to this new approach of administrating a business will be liquidated or acquired. Long life for the companies will depend on the way people are managed. As I told you, being happy means performing to one's best. If one is performing this way, he or she will be happy and get ahead much faster in the working environment. He or she will be preserved as a talent necessary for the company.
7. If doing is serving, and it is so fundamental to your own essence, why did you choose HR and then search as a career instead of becoming a doctor or teacher etc?
To be of service is the great mission. Everything in this world is has a specific purpose to improve our world. A leaf that falls from a tree at the moment that it arrives on the ground, it starts fertilizing the ground serving to bring more life to the planet. In this sense, we are a kind of leaf.
In the same way, we, as human beings, must serve each other and the planet. This way we can build great teams in the corporate world, have the companies improve quality and increase profitability. If someone searches for the world's the organizational environment of the great companies, the most successful, those built to last, all of them, without exception, are managed with such feeling and mission in mind. It is vision, mission, objectives and practices, all together, in this direction.
In my profession I can serve the world better by serving leaders. I recruit leaders who will interfere as changing agents in the corporate world environment. Each of these leaders, once placed, will replicate in his or her company goodness down the organization. As a doctor or a teacher I would never have had the same 'raw material' - leaders - available to me.
9. Why do you have such an all-encompassing and holistic approach to leadership and management?
Because I am here to serve to my utmost as a human being according to the demands on me by the planet, our home. If the planet serves me I will also serve it. I do not own the planet. On the contrary I am a micro organism living on this planet. So, I respect it. And for sure that whenever I am an example being followed I will be doing what is expected of me by the cosmic consciousness. It has to do with the planetary system looking for equilibrium. I spent three years studying with the Gurdjieff School learning about myself and the connection we have with the universe. I learned that we must serve each other. And I also learnt that when you are serving in your utmost you have achieved the highest degree of happiness. Yes, I brought everything that I learned from there to my organization. I am not religious. I practice spirituality that has nothing to do with spiritualism or religion. I do not believe in religion. I believe in people working for the goodness of the planet.
10. What has happened in your life that has made you the highly successful and highly complex person you are today? Any defining moments you can share?
I left my small village, Anta, to visit the city of Rio de Janeiro to participate in a music festival named Festival Universitário da Canção (Song University Festival). At that time I was already a composer and I wanted to use one of my songs to start in the artistic field. Nothing happened. My song didn't even get in to the 20 songs that would be presented. So, I gave up and decided that I should be an executive in the corporate world. But I knew that later on I would come back to the artistic side of my life, which I have done. To make a long story short everything that I imagined or dreamed of I was able to achieve sooner or later. I have my book 'Happiness, our Everyday God - where, how and when to find Him' which explains all that. It has to do with synchronicity, meeting people who, in one way or another, will assist you in your way ahead. It has to do with dreams, visions, intuition, premonition, imagination, inspiration, and the kind, that you feel but never explain, to come across an idea, for example, and work very hard to make it to become a reality. I progressed looking for happiness. This is my God. This is my mote. Whenever you are happy you produce the best work. That is the way for you to realise your life's great achievements. If you believe in it, move on in the direction of your vision. It will become then, your guiding star.
11. If you can give just one piece of advice to a manager or leader or aspiring executive - what would it be?
Be humble and honestly happy, not desiring for your colleagues what you, as a person, would not desire for yourself.
Because, in this way you build an excellent environment full of respect and affection for people.
13. What is next for Alfredo?
For more information on 'Fearless Management: How to be Happy in the Corporate World' please visit www.alfredoassumpcao.com
Alfredo recently participated in a discussion on human capital as part of a leadership summit organized by the prestigious Brazilian business school Fundação Getúlio Vargas. You can view the debate here www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fGwhClvMRI