Recovery phase of the crisis and how c-suite leaders can effectively lead for the post-COVID future

Small Business Canada

Teresa Barreira: Chief Marketing Officer at Publicis Sapient

Teresa Barreira is a transformational leader and innovator. Currently, she is the Chief Marketing Officer at Publicis Sapient. Barreira’s creative thinking coupled with her 25 years of global B2B marketing expertise has enabled her to break the mold of traditional marketing in Technology and Service companies. A dynamic and fast-paced changemaker, Barreira has reinvigorated the Publicis Sapient brand, repositioning the company to drive profitable growth and become a leader in digital business transformation. She created an agile operating model to focus on speed, data, and innovation and built a multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural global team, to foster diversity and inclusion. Most recently Teresa created and launched a new immersive platform, the first of its kind, shifting content creation from linear engagement to an interactive experience. Under her leadership, marketing-influenced revenue has more than tripled.

Teresa was formerly CMO for Deloitte Consulting LLP where she helped to drive over $8 billion in revenue. During her tenure, she transformed the company’s approach, realigning marketing to drive growth and become data-driven. Teresa has held numerous leadership positions with technology companies including IBM and Accenture and startup software organizations such as Lotus.

Barreira is known for her passion to innovate and think differently, she embraces the unknown and operates with fearlessness. Recently named one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in IT Services of 2020 by the IT Services Report, and a 2019 recipient of the Silver Stevie Award for Female Executive of the Year, Teresa makes the complex simple and converts challenges into opportunities. A proud Hispanic and a native of Portugal, she’s lived and worked in the US, Canada, and Europe, and spent most of her career leading teams through transformation, launching new companies, brands, or lines of business, and cultivating a culture of experimentation and learning. Teresa holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Northeastern University in Boston and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

What can you tell us about your role as Chief Marketing Officer at Publicis Sapient? What does a typical workday look like to you?

My focus as CMO is about driving profitable growth. Two years ago, we relaunched our brand and it emerged as a powerful growth driver for our business.

Today the focus has shifted to sustaining that growth and continuing to reimagine and evolve marketing to be future-ready. Truthfully there aren’t ‘typical’ workdays right now.

Every day is different and brings new opportunities and challenges, the most exciting part is that my role allows me to have conversations with various members of my team, to learn from them, and get energized by their ideas and passion.

What would you say has been the biggest impact that COVID-19 has had on your role at Publicis Sapient? How has it affected the way you work?

COVID-19 obviously disrupted our lives, but for us, we were able to drive greater speed of execution and more experimentation as a team. We were already working in a distributed work model, but I feel COVID brought us closer together. It allowed for more synergy, collaboration, and most importantly innovation and agility. We really put our test-and-learn approach into action.

One of the ways we did that was with the launch of The HOW Channel, a platform for short-form video content, all under 5-minutes in length, and we did it in under 30 days. I don’t think that would have been possible before the pandemic

What are some of the ways that CMOs can confidently navigate through the coronavirus crisis and help employers create an efficient work-life balance?

The crisis presented an opportunity to lead with a greater sense of empathy. We aren’t spending time with each other face-to-face, but I’ve spent so much time getting to know my team members in different ways. It’s important to be present and make it a priority to connect more frequently —especially while isolated and distanced as we’ve been. I’ve made a point to have monthly calls with each team, sometimes just to ask people, “how are you?”, doing that has gone a long way.

In your expert opinion, why do you believe it’s important for employees to bring their personal and most authentic self to work on a daily basis? How can it impact their productivity and the success of the company?

The crisis enabled us to “show up” as our full selves every day, which has been a positive for companies. Video calls are a great equalizer, they don’t discriminate or differentiate an analyst from a C-level exec, no one is at the head of the table and no one is in the back of the room. In many ways that created a sense of empowerment for people to feel more comfortable speaking up in meetings and showing up as themselves. Ultimately, when we bring ourselves to work, we bring our best, which fosters more innovation, creative-thinking and as a result, improves the product or services of a company.

What would you say are some of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs are currently facing when it comes to the recovery stage of their business post-pandemic?

Talent scarcity and the battle for skilled labor will soon be one of the biggest challenges all companies face—both large and small. Even more so than health concerns, executives, today are aware of this pressing issue, a recent Russell Reynolds survey of 1300 executives stated that 59% see talent scarcity as a top concern, placing it higher than health in the next 12-18 months. 61% of the C-suite and 73% of next-generation leaders are willing to change employers for the right opportunity. This figure climbed by 5% and 8% respectively since pre-COVID numbers.

There is a huge opportunity here too—with the pull of talent, we need to explore new talent pools and unlock the potential in skill-based vs. degree-based hiring. Exclusively hiring four-year degree holders is antiquated as companies hire individuals with the skills needed for jobs and the ability to learn new ones. Companies that invest in their employees and continuously upskill and reskill workers end up with highly skilled and loyal employees with more robust professional profiles of their own. It’s a powerful cycle—when companies are known for having top talent, top talent seeks employment with those companies.

What advice do you have for c-suite leaders when it comes to leading a company effectively and positively following a global pandemic?

The future of work will be defined by a hybrid model that suits multiple needs and preferences. We aren’t going back to the workplaces of 2019.

Leaders now need to address different populations of the workforce, with different life circumstances and expectations.

In many ways, the right approach is much like our approach to our products and services—test-and-learn. We’ll pilot these hybrid models and keep employees involved in that process so we can ensure their needs and preferences are considered, and it’ll be iterative. We’re going to enter this new normal together and I think everyone needs to share a collective understanding of that.

On a final note, what are some of the initiatives that Publicis Sapient has taken when it comes to adapting to a new way of doing business during COVID-19? 

We’ve always been focused on helping our clients stay relevant in the digital world, COVID only accelerated that need, making it an even higher priority. We’ve seen huge demand and new opportunities from current clients looking to expand to new clients. COVID challenged the world and our clients and reminded us why the work we do, why digital business transformation is so important. We’ve taken on some transformational work making a difference in our clients’ and their customers’ lives. We made it possible for some of the most vulnerable populations to stay home and keep the heating and lights on. Our work made it possible for vaccinations to get into peoples’ arms faster.

We sped up and made food deliveries possible. We enabled people to buy energy at more efficient prices. Overall, we’ve stayed committed to our strategy and the impact is clear now more than ever.

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