There is no single strategy or tactic for better leadership. Yet it is clear that if you don’t have a culture of humble leadership, you are likely to go in the wrong direction. Today’s guest is Marcelo Parravicini, CEO, Principal at Cygnus Education. Inc Magazine ranked his company #596 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Cygnus Education provides strategic marketing, communications, and enrollment management operations solutions to colleges and universities. Marcelo and I talk about humble leadership and why it is essential at this time. Join us as we look at what gets in the way of humble leadership.
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Marcello Parravicini: The Transcript
About: There is no single strategy or tactic for better leadership. Yet it is clear that if you don’t have a culture of humble leadership, you are likely to go in the wrong direction. Today’s guest is Marcelo Parravicini, CEO, Principal at Cygnus Education. Inc Magazine ranked his company #596 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Cygnus Education provides strategic marketing, communications, and enrollment management operations solutions to colleges and universities. Marcelo and I talk about humble leadership and why it is essential at this time. Join us as we look at what gets in the way of humble leadership.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Marcelo Parravicini: [00:00:00] You can really engage in nurturing. You have to come through, put the company first, but you also have to make absolutely certain that if there is an opportunity for someone to thrive. Either it’s an opportunity for someone to shine and provide you with a return on investment that benefits the company that you effectively manage that resource to realize that. So if you think about raw potential, the question is what’s the degree to which you understand the difference between nurturing coaching versus micromanaging and separating those two because nurturing coaching, helping someone evolves, helping someone mature professional professionally is not something that can be achieved by micromanager managing the person. If you tell them these is the steps that you have to take, and this is a step one A, one B, and one C, and then is two and so forth. If you even each and every step of the way, what you want to form is an individual that’s going to seek validation and approvals as opposed to an individual, that’s going to take a risk. So [00:12:00] give them the nurturing, the coaching that they need to build a confidence, to take a chance, take a risk and go for it.
Intro: [00:01:00] Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: We have a really interesting conversation today about leadership, but it’s probably different than what you think. And maybe you got it from the title. We’re going to talk about humble leadership and why humility is such an important piece to you being a stronger leader and you being an extraordinary leader requires you to be humble. We’re going to have a special guest today. He is the CEO of Cygnus Education. They were number 596 on the Inc list in 2021. And we have with us Marcelo Parravicini, a really great name. I love to be able to say, hopefully, I got it right. But what we talk about today will help you understand some of the things that you might be struggling with. , one of them. You know, what’s the difference between doing the right thing and being right, and what that means to your leadership. How do you encourage people to feel a sense of empowerment? How do you [00:02:00] truly be a leader that is willing to look at their mistake? And These is just some of the things that we talk about in today’s conversation.
I want to pause right here for a second before the interview to remind you that if you are still looking at how do you grow. If you think that leadership is a key component of the growth of your business from one phase to the next, moving from where you are now to where you want to be if you believe leadership is important, that I’d love for you to take me up on my free offer here because this chance to sit down and talk about what great leadership looks like and what extraordinary leadership really looks like. And how do you get to that point? I want to have that conversation with you. You’ve been listening to this podcast for maybe a few episodes, or maybe it’s dozens of episodes, but you haven’t reached out to me yet. Well, I’m talking to you because when you think about what does it take to be a great leader? Many times we can’t see it because we’re inside the problem. There’s some things that are getting in our way and my job over the last 10 years to help leaders see what those things are, create a plan to move forward. And I want to do that for you. Now, this plan is not going to be easy to do. It would probably take [00:03:00] you having the courage and really leaning into this, but it’s not about me selling you something, or are you enrolling into my coaching programs? Although they’re amazing. My only focus in this conversation is to serve you. If you really take that in. Someone’s reaching out and offering to serve you. This doesn’t happen very much, and this is comes genuine for me. I want to help you be the leader that you want to be in the leader that your team deserves. So all you have to do is go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call. You may say, you know, this is not the right time. We’ve got so much going on. It’s exactly the reason why you want to make sure that you’re focused on the right things. Many of the times I’m having conversations with people and they aren’t, and just helping them figure out where to focus their energy and their time. Changes everything just go to GeneHammett.Com and schedule a call. I’d love to talk to you about your own leadership and your path forward and love to get to know you is, you know, plain and simple. Here’s the interview with Marcella
Marcello, how are you?
Marcelo Parravicini: Well, thank you. How are you?
Gene Hammett: I am fantastic. Excited to have you on the podcast.
Marcelo Parravicini: Excited to be here.
Gene Hammett: Well, we’re going to have a very interesting conversation today. [00:04:00] We’re going to talk about all aspects of leadership. One of those being you know, what role does being humble and your leadership allow you to create the team and create growth that you want. , before we get into that, I’d love for you to tell us about Cygnus Education.
Marcelo Parravicini: Yeah, Cygnus Education is a performance marketing company dedicated to higher education institutions. We deploy a number of digital marketing strategies. For universities that offer online education products.
Gene Hammett: I used to work in this space. I didn’t tell you this in the, in the pre, , roles of getting together, but w when I was working with a digital agency, we did a lot of work with like Spelman college and some other colleges here in the Atlanta area. I would kind of curious what you’re seeing right now, as far as the biggest challenges that this market has.
Marcelo Parravicini: Well, it’s interesting because, on the one hand, the pandemic has fueled online enrollment growth. Not only that they has expanded the, audience, the online education audience, if you will. Meaning prior to the pandemic, there was a significant portion of the population [00:05:00] that had never before considered online education, suddenly they are being forced to finish or complete ongoing coursework online. So now they’re exposed to online education and realize that, you know, is a viable alternative. To traditional in-classroom or on ground education. And just like we have come to learn that we can be as productive if not more productive working remotely. , you have a lot of students I’ve come to realize that not having to drive to a class, arrived to a session, and having flexibility by taking more flexibility by taking online courses is what created these new audiences. So not only you have fast growth because normally that happens with an economic downturn. You now have a new audience of available students to these institutions.
Gene Hammett: Well, I can see that happening and people are more open to the online world than ever before because of what we’ve been through in the last you know, almost year and a half, when you have grown this company to where you are now, I’ve got in my [00:06:00] notes here, number 596 on the Inc list. When you grow like this, it’s never alone, right? There’s a limited which you would break. And you probably felt that many times in this journey, as you began to hire people and, and create a place where people are actually scaling the business beyond what you could do on a database. Day-to-day. Let me ask you directly. What part of your leadership do you think has really played an impact in the growth of this company? ,
Marcelo Parravicini: I’ve always placed a great deal of emphasis on the idea that you want to get it right, as opposed to be right. It goes back to my days in business school. I was exposed to a case study in a study in this case study. And I have to watch this video. And the video is about a bunch. These are a bunch of senior managers watching a focus group discussion, and they were not listening. They had already made up their mind what was right. And everything that focus group was telling them. They figured out how to twist the words to fit their own narrative. And of course what they were doing resulted in an absolute failure. But if you actually took the time to listen to what the people were saying, it [00:07:00] was not going to work in that left. , can I stay in the back of my mind? I’m not saying to you that I learned from that on day one, I made my own mistakes, but ultimately when all is said and done, you want to get it right. Which is not always going to align with you being right. Then you have to be willing to live with that.
Gene Hammett: You know Marcella. There’s a lot of commonalities in leadership and what it takes to be in a family partnership, whatever it looks like at your home, but if you’re striving to be right all the time, it’s probably going to be a frustrating place at home and at work.
Marcelo Parravicini: And that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. That’s a better way to put it. And you have to empower employees when all is said and done you’re, I don’t think all of my team has employees. I don’t think of, junior, senior, middle-level mid-level management, senior management. I think of it as a team of peers, colleagues, and you have to be able to empower your colleagues to, you know, if you will come up with it on IVs, deploy their own strategies. And in, in a time-saver make mistakes.
Gene Hammett: It’s a common theme across a lot of the interviews we [00:08:00] have here with fast-growth companies is letting people fail. But I want to, I want to take a look into, you know, the actual leadership. Whether it be conversations or how you actually engage with people or delegate. When you say empower employees, what do we see inside your world.
Marcelo Parravicini: The whole idea that you hire people because they know what they’re doing, as opposed to you telling them what to do. You want to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, that have more experience in the various areas that you may have touched throughout your career, but, you’re not an expert. You can go into a thinking I’m the subject matter expert that everything my company does, that’s a bad beginning. You want to have a high-level understanding of everything the company does, and if need be, you want to be able to dive into it. But ultimately you surround yourself with people that are smarter than you have more experience than you in each and every one of the areas, your company managers, and you have too little your people and say, Hey, formulate the plan, execute your plan. I will measure your effectiveness on outcomes. I will not microwave each and every [00:09:00] step in the implementation process or the formulation process. Now, if you want my opinion, you can pull me in. We can brainstorm, but ultimately, if your plan is your execution, let me look at the outcomes.
Commentary: Hold on. Marcelo just said something. I want to make sure that we don’t skip over. He said, surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. Well, it makes common sense. What are you really doing it? You want to make sure that when you are hiring people in, they have domain expertise that allows you to grow the business beyond where you are today. Now, this may be a raw potential that they have, that you have to shape and mold. That’s fantastic. , but you want to make sure that you’re not avoiding the smart people. You want to make sure that you’re investing heavily into these people, whether that be the right salaries and the right benefits and whatnot. Those are important but also investing in their own growth. And taking the time to help them grow because that’s the key to you creating a place where people don’t want to leave and people were willing to walk through walls for you. Now I say all this because I know what it’s like to have constraints around hiring people and having budgets and things like that. But you want to make sure that your [00:10:00] processes are attracting the people that are smarter than you, that are able to push the business beyond where you are today. Because if you’re only bringing in people that you’re hundred percent training up, it really is a challenge because some of those people will never make it to A-player status. Now, your job, when you do hire A player status is to be the leader that you know, that you need to be that humble leadership that we’ve been talking about here, in a sense of self-awareness it really is a strong skill inside of all leadership. I truly believe that just my 2 cents here. Now, back to Marcelo.
Gene Hammett: I love the fact that you get into this. Right away with empowering people, because if you don’t bring in people that you can trust and that are smart in certain areas, it’s harder to do that. But, but you also are bringing in people in probably that have this raw potential in your you’re coaching them up. And you’re, you’re doing that. What does that look like in your style of leadership?
Marcelo Parravicini: You happens, you prank, you, you’re going to find yourself, people, with that, either bring to the table, raw potential or people that haven’t yet realized, you know, people that have this by having been in the, in the vertical or the [00:11:00] industry or at work for a very long time, haven’t really realized their full potential. And you gotta wonder why. Now there’s a limit to which you can really engage in nurturing. You have to come through, put the company first, but you also have to make absolutely certain that if there is an opportunity for someone to thrive. Either it’s an opportunity for someone to shine and provide you with a return on investment that benefits the company that you effectively manage that resource to realize that. So if you think about raw potential, the question is what’s the degree to which you understand the difference between nurturing coaching versus micromanaging and separating those two because nurturing coaching, helping someone evolves, helping someone mature professional professionally is not something that can be achieved by micromanager managing the person. If you tell them these is the steps that you have to take, and this is a step one A, one B, and one C, and then is two and so forth. If you even each and every step of the way, what you want to form is an individual that’s going to seek validation and approvals as opposed to an individual, that’s going to take a risk. So [00:12:00] give them the nurturing, the coaching that they need to build a confidence, to take a chance, take a risk and go for it.
Gene Hammett: Fantastic. I love the, the, the, what you just described there. If you told them step-by-step, you’re going to find people who just want validation. And the way I usually put that is they always come back to go, well, what’s next? Which is not what you’re trying to build people who can think about what’s next and have the courage to make those decisions. And I really appreciate you putting a spotlight on that for a second. , Marcelo, you have. , we’ve been dancing around this thing, but there’s this concept of humble leadership that this whole episode kind of centers around. And it goes back to that thing. Not, not having to be right all the time, but do the right thing. When you say humble leadership, what are the, what does that really mean? As far as the principles you believe as a leader?
Marcelo Parravicini: I don’t think of it as humble leadership per se. Right. I think if anything, my approach has been label that way, I guess, one way to, to frame it in relation to someone being humble is I don’t think of myself as a subject matter expert. I’ve been labeled that a few times in my [00:13:00] career. I’d rather think of myself as a lifelong learner. And I think of myself as someone that will continue to learn each and every step of the way and someone that has a great deal left to learn. I think it’s dangerous. Sometimes when you think of yourself as an absolute expert in your field, I like the idea that you are confident in your ability to do something in your chosen career. I get that, but ultimately there is an opportunity to continue learning and the market will continue to evolve. And you know, that’s a matter of face the macro or the microenvironment.
If it’s perhaps a regulatory landscape, a competitive landscape, you can look at the various moving parts that impact your business and come to the realization that you don’t know what’s coming next. And you have to always be willing to consider what you’re simply not aware of. And what you can learn from and something that’s critical in terms of learning is that you can learn from absolutely everything in everyone. You can learn from the, you know, a young professional, you, she has hired right out of college, as well as you can learn from someone like yourself that has over 20 years of six [00:14:00] years in marketing, it doesn’t matter who you’re engaging with. If you are a lifelong learning learner, you have to be open to the possibility of learning from absolutely everything inevitable.
Commentary: Now, hold on for a second. Marcelo has just talked about continuing to learn. No, you probably have said this before. You probably have stacks of books on your bookshelf. Like I have behind me. And you think that’s enough? Well, let me ask you this. Have you ever asked for help and found that whatever conversation we’re having with someone gave you an insight, gave you a perspective that you didn’t have before, maybe they challenged some of your thinking and you were willing to learn from that and grow from that? Well, that’s exactly what I do as a coach. I work with people who are humble enough that are willing to ask for help and I help them grow their businesses. I can talk about all the successes I’ve had, but I want you to think about this. You don’t have to hire me as your coach. I may not be the right personality for you. You may be looking for something else inside your coach, but if you do ask for help and you are open to growing and learning from that, my guess is that will make a profound difference in how you [00:15:00] show up and how you lead and how you serve. And if you’re willing to ask for help, it shows to me that you’re willing to truly learn from where you are today to create and be the leader that you need to be. Now, you may think that this is you’ve got all this dialed in. You can just put your head down and get to work. I hear this all the time, but sometimes you have to slow down and you have to be able to look at, take a different perspective. And that is exactly what a coach will do for you. So don’t be afraid to ask for help be courageous enough to say. You know what how do I find the right help for me? Who is the right person and have the conversations that you aren’t having with your board or with your executive team, or with your significant other, and those other mentors that you’ve surrounded yourself with have conversations that will profoundly impact who you are and help you grow as a leader, back to Marcelo.
Gene Hammett: It’s another common thing that happens across this podcast. When leaders come in and say, you know what, if I have to be the one who, who has the ideas. And has to make all the decisions. It probably isn’t the strongest company, because what you’re really saying here, reading between the lines is I can even [00:16:00] learn from those people that are on the front lines with employees. And then I would even make a case that they’re the ones that you should be listening to more than anything because they’re talking to clients, they’re talking to, they’re looking at data that you’re not in touch with. The way you used to be because in marketing, it’s changing quicker than almost any industry out there. I think it changes faster than technology. Would you agree with that?
Marcelo Parravicini: You are right. It changes rapidly. And not only you’re dealing with the innovative evolution that doesn’t take a break. They say a new something every single day. You’re also dealing with a very fluid regulatory landscape, incredibly fluid. And, and this is a regulatory landscape that actually will pivot incredibly hard dependent on who sitting on the white house, for example. So I can tell it right now you have a less conservative administration in place, and they tend to look at performance marketing, online education in a different light than a more conservative administration. So you have to be mindful of what happens, not only within the vertical. Also at the micro-level.
Gene Hammett: Marcelo, I want to turn the, a kind of light [00:17:00] on you specifically, because we’ve been talking about your style of leadership, but I’m sure you’ve been through some tough moments. Some, some lessons that you’ve learned or inflection points, what sticks out that you think would help our audience here learn about leadership, and what you’ve learned in this journey.
Marcelo Parravicini: I think you can be blinded by early success. You’re not on this cry signal necessarily. It’s a successful company. I described sickness as an up-and-coming company with a great deal of potential. And you have to remind yourself of a couple of things. I agree. The first one, he has a great deal of potential can easily become a flash in the pan if you’re not careful in what are the things that can actually have you run into a wall is the degree to which you are blinded by early success, fast growth. And you don’t take a moment to reflect on, do we need to pull back a little bit? When do we need to slow down? Do I need to take it, you know, maybe conduct an assessment of our ability to continue to grow at this rate, make sure I have all the right resources, the solutions, the processes in place to sustain these growths. And if not, [00:18:00] they a minor set back realign operations.
Make sure you can take the next step because that’s the wall that can push you back that can hurt or your reputation. And if you’re not careful can trustly the early success into a fresh in a path.
Gene Hammett: You know, I think we get a lot in common here, Marcelo behind me. I wrote my book and I’m not trying to pitch my book to anybody, but the trap of success, I got a, I felt this and I experienced it with my first real company. I was an entrepreneur for, from I think the beginning very beginning, but I took a company to about 40 million in revenue over about a nine-year period. And I got complacent and I got early success. I mean, it was, I thought everybody created million dollar company. And I thought I had it figured out until I didn’t. And now looking back, I realized I failed, to be courageous enough and to truly grow and learn through those phases. And I appreciate you bringing that up today. I want to bring this home with, you know, I’m not sure if we’ve missed anything and what you think is important inside leadership. , but I want to give you a chance to, , to just bring up [00:19:00] whatever we have missed in this conversation.
Marcelo Parravicini: I think it’s important to every now and then reflect on your mistake. In your career, personal mistakes you may have had in your personal life. When all of a sudden done every step we take to get here is part of who we are. And in reflecting mistakes, one has made that allows you to also prepare yourself for the mistakes that your colleagues are likely to make people that are less experienced younger. They haven’t walk the walk, if you will. So you can predict with some degree of certainty that people are going to make some mistakes in their lives. Professionally, personally, it doesn’t matter where human. And If you reflect on that, then if you can learn from your mistakes, you can actually help other people are in front of their mistakes and grow professionally and personally.
Gene Hammett: You know, I can’t help it think that’s another part of humble leadership because a lot of people think that this, because. You know, the CEO or the founder of a fast-growth company, and that you have millions in revenue that you’ve created, that you really haven’t any mistakes. You probably have some mistakes, not only behind you but in front of you. And I [00:20:00] know it as well.
Marcelo Parravicini: We all do. And we’re human and that’s one of the learning.
Gene Hammett: And being able to take that moment, reflect on those mistakes. I do this with some of my coaching clients, and it’s been a very powerful experience because they’re not willing to do this. Most people don’t go and have those kinds of thoughts, and I’m not saying we’re going to wallow in them, but we’re going to learn from them. And that’s, that’s what I hear from you in this flection on mistakes. Marcelo really appreciates you being here and sharing your journey of leadership and appreciate your wisdom.
Marcelo Parravicini: And I appreciate your time and the opportunity to have in this conversation.
Gene Hammett: I love to take a moment and just reflect what I’ve gotten from this interview, so that those listening in can, can really look at their notes and look at what’s going on. Marcelo talked about, you know, not having to be right, but getting it right. And this whole episode, Centered around that humble leadership and about what he’s bringing to this, to be willing, to let people fail, be willing, to empower people, be willing to, , reflect on your mistakes. All of this is in alignment with being humble, and I really appreciate what he shares with this.
And I don’t know what your next step in leadership is. And hopefully, you do. [00:21:00] And if you don’t have very clear plan about what you’re focused on and how you’re growing and what’s next for you, I want to help you do that. I’ve had a chance to the last 10 years to sit down with some incredible people. And do this series of questions that are really powerful to help you figure out what’s next.
Sometimes it’s a blind spot. Sometimes it’s just reframing of what’s going on. It’s been extremely powerful. I do this for absolutely for free, because I love to, to make a difference. This is not a sales pitch, but this is a chance for me to truly connect with you and build a relationship. And if you’re listening to this now, you want to have that conversation with a seasoned executive coach. Make sure you reach out to me at GeneHammett.com. I love you to schedule your call and support you and help you. This is what I love to do.
When you think of growth and you think of leadership, think of Growth Think Tank as always lead with courage. We’ll see next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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