How are communication leaders around the world responding to the Covid-19 pandemic? What do they see as challenges? And how will they adapt to a post-pandemic environment?
These are some of the topics we discussed with Artemio Garza, who leads Egon Zehnder’s Communication Officers practice in North America. Artemio is a core member of Egon Zehnder’s Marketing and Digital practices. Based in Miami, his special focus is on multi-unit retail, consumer goods, and private equity companies.
Carl Zangerl (CZ): Tell us about what your job at Egon Zehnder entails.
Artemio Garza (AG): Our mission at Egon Zehnder is to create a better world through great leadership. I have a marketing and communication background myself, and I advise companies on how to structure their communication functions and help identify people who can assume leadership roles.
We’ve been talking about the term ‘digital transformation’ for a long time. Many organizations have been re-thinking how they do business, how they interact with customers, and how they engage their own people.
The realization is now setting in that the current Covid-19 crisis is accelerating the pace of digital transformation. I regularly turn to McKinsey for insights on what’s going on in the economy and organizational change.
Here’s what they they are thinking: “The coronavirus pandemic is a humanitarian crisis that continues to take a tragic toll on people’s lives. There’s no denying it is also acting as a catalyst for change—economic, societal, personal, and corporate—on a scale not seen since wartime. The scale of the change and the speed at which it’s happening is shining a bright light on the fact that companies are facing a once-in-a-generation shift. And for all the uncertainty about what the future will look like, it’s clear already that it will be digital.”
So what are the implications of all of this us, as communicators?
During my tenure on the board of the Boston chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, I had the good fortune of meeting and staying in touch with Jodi Freedman. Jodi was a communication leader at the Bose Corporation for many years and recently accepted a position in an entirely different sector (healthcare) and during an extraordinary time (the Covid-19 pandemic).
She posted the following article on LinkedIn, and her reflections deeply resonated with me — facing the challenges of learning about a new organization and sector, compounded by those unleashed by a profound crisis.
Finding My Place in the Cross-Cultural Communication Field
It was three years ago that my career gained what I thought was to be my launch into the global market. After graduating from college and achieving my dream job of working at a huge corporation in Tokyo, the unexpected occurred. Within six months, I quit and moved back to my home country, the USA.
Deciding to leave so quickly shocked not only my community, but also myself. I had spent four years learning about Japanese language and culture. Having studied abroad, researched, and interned in Japan. I had braced myself for expected sexism in the workplace, strong drinking culture, and even power harassment. However, the one thing that was I had not prepared for was my own lack of cultural agility.
Despite knowing what the Japanese perspective might be, I found myself defining right and wrong. I would often deem Japanese corporate culture to be unhealthy for its collective mindset, in contrast to my valuing individuality and freedom as someone raised in the USA. When I ended up leaving Japan to pursue a career in cross-cultural communication, I came away from the experience subconsciously wanting to fix Japan. I had a vision and a strategic plan; next steps were to gain the tools.