Episode 57

Creating impact: AI, LinkedIn, coaching and beyond

Febronia Ruocco, Strategic Insight Specialist & Executive Coach who has worked with Cadbury Schweppes, Diageo, Heineken, Heinz & GSK, shares why having fun is key to building an authentic LinkedIn presence, how she sets up contracts and creates safe spaces in her coaching practice, and why she thinks researchers, not AI, will be the death of the researcher.

Ryan Barry: Hi everybody, and welcome to this episode of Inside Insights Podcast, powered by Zappi. I'm Ryan, and I'm joined as always by my co-host, Patricia and our producer Kelsey. Good day ladies. 

Patricia Montesdoeca: Good day, Ryan. 

Ryan:  So I have to tell you about, I'm wearing this t-shirt today. It's called The Stray Dog. Also not a sponsor of the Inside Insights Podcast, but as somebody who, uh, I wasn't born on the East coast.

I was born on the West coast, but I've lived in New England more or less my entire life. 

Patricia: You were born in the West Coast. Why didn't I know that? 

Ryan: I was actually born in Reno, Nevada. My mother was, uh, working in Lake Tahoe when she had me. Uh, no wonder why I like to ski so much because she was skiing when she was like eight and a half months pregnant with your boy at, I think the tender age of 19.

God love you mom. Um, so now my mother is a hip young grandma to my three kids, uh, which is fantastic. But yeah, I was, so I've lived in, uh, new England my whole life and New England is, uh, wonderful for a variety of reasons. But one of them is that you're on the ocean. So as a result of that, I spend most of my time seeking sea.

This summer I went to a wedding in South Bend, Indiana, um, one of my colleagues got married, shout out to Mark Resnick. It was a wonderful wedding, but on the way back to Chicago, we started to stop in all of these lake towns in Michigan.

And this is one of them, new Buffalo, Michigan. I'm a big new Buffalo guy, and I realize that lake living in the Midwest is not something to sniff at. It's beautiful. And similar to like harbor towns in Massachusetts or even like in Europe or in Columbia and other places, it's got a similar vibe. It's just fresh water. You don't have to, you know, you don't have to rush to wash off. 

Patricia: And there's no hurricane warning that you have to batten down for. 

Ryan: Correct, correct. Maybe some tornadoes. You gotta watch out for that. 

Anyways, we digress. Or should I say, our guest today is Febronia Ruocco, and before we hit recording, we talked about another part of the world that has beautiful scenery, which is Italy, where her family's from.

Febronia has been in a variety of insights roles, both as an independent consultant, as a head of insights. And interestingly, uh, the podcast you're about to listen to is the first time I ever actually met her. Even though I exchange LinkedIn posts, messages, debates, comments with her all the time.

And so it's, it's an interesting reflection in like how you can build a virtual friendship with somebody. And so we decided to do this podcast without ever speaking to each other on the phone and just LinkedIn commenting. Um, and it was a fun conversation. So why don't we let everybody listen to it?

[Music transition to interview]


Ryan Barry: Hello everybody. I am joined today by Febronia Ruocco and I, um, it's a cool interview for me because Febronia and I have become friends. From social media, and today is the first time we've ever actually spoken. Hi Febronia. 

Febronia Ruocco: Hi, Ryan. Great to be here. We're so excited about joining you this afternoon. 

Ryan: Yeah, same. Same here. And, we were just talking folks, uh, for almost half of our time that we scheduled about the wonders of Italy and art and social media, and it, I, I wanted to start here. So you were saying to me just a second ago that social media fluency is relatively new to you. 

And it's interesting to me 'cause I wouldn't, A. wouldn't have known that.But B. that's how we know each other. 

We know each other from engaging and, and different provocations and different thoughts. And so I guess just to start, like how did you sort of get comfortable in your career with social media and how have you navigated what, what I see as a very, uh, a very clear and distinctive personal brand that is elevating insights and coaching and advocating for the industry around us.

Febronia: That's a great question and I, I don't even really know how to answer it. So I guess I'll just walk you through how it kind of evolved. I think Covid changed a lot of things for a lot of us. So suddenly during Covid, a lot of things moved online. So it opened up a whole new scale of opportunity and a lot of experts and thought leaders and insight started doing discussions and podcasts and talks, and it just kind of fired me up and I thought, you know what? I'd love to have a go at doing some of that. 

Now I'd always had a LinkedIn profile, but I hadn't really brought it to life. I, I don't think I'd really brought to life the person behind it. It was more like a static CV.

So I think just watching other people and being inspired gave me the confidence to kind of have a go. And then the more I had a go, the more people I met and the more conversations I got engaged in. And it was a lot of fun. It, it wasn't planned, there was no strategic plan. There was no, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna build this, I'm gonna build that. It was just me having fun and connecting with people. 

Ryan: It's funny, I'm actually, uh, similar. I've never really had a strategy and everybody says you're supposed to. I post, I have something to say and I don't, if I don't. 

Febronia: And I'm very honest as well in what I post. Um, like sometimes I post about books, sometimes I post about insight related topics.

Recently I posted a lot about AI following you guys and the work Zappi was doing. But again, it's, it's usually I wake up and I think, what, what is inspiring me today? What's motivating me? What have I read that has resonated? Again, there's no. There's no real plan. You're making me think I need a strategic plan now.

Ryan: No, I, one of the last episodes was with Jo Lepore and we were having a similar conversation.  Like, I think, I actually think it's quite disarming for people listening. Like, you don't need to be a thought leader. You need to be yourself and you don't need a social media strategy.

Ryan: I don't have one. I mean, I. Um, but, but it, but to be fair, it looks like you would, right? Like you do a great job of canvassing all the various podcasts and big announcements in the industry and offering your perspective. And I, I imagine a lot of people with particularly a corporate insights background felt like I had a woman, actually, our co-host, Patricia, she said to me when she used to work at companies like Coke or Colgate, She'd be scared to post because it looked in the inside of those businesses in the early days of say, LinkedIn.

That posting there looked like you were looking for a job. And so it was almost like a subtly frowned upon dynamic, whereas I think that's kind of really changed now. 

Febronia: I think there's also, there's a group, uh, of people that I follow, I'm connected with that've done lovely branding and got lovely coordinated photography that they launch with all their posts.

And it's very slick. So there are people who are taking it pretty seriously and using it to market their business or their brand and that's lovely. Um, but there's also individuals who are kind of. Experimenting and feeling their way. And I probably think I fall into that category. And for me it's just, it's fun.

It's my downtime when I'm relaxing after work. Uh, and it's just genuinely the things that I'm interested in. So the industry things are things that I'm noticing. The coaching pieces are things that I've done in my course that have, you know, landed or made a, um, a difference to my learning and the podcasts, I just genuinely devour them.

I love listening to podcasts of an evening, so sometimes I just think it's good to share and the more you share, people come back and say, oh, you know, that was great. Have you got any more that you'd recommend? So yeah, I hope it is helpful for people. 

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So I have a question for you about podcasts. Um, you listen to 'em in the evening?

Febronia: Both. I'm an early riser, so I wake up probably about 5:36 AM so I, I kind of listen while I'm making coffee, listen to a podcast, and then usually when I'm winding down in the evening, like to listen to one or two.

Ryan: So I think it's probably, uh, relatively well known at this point if you've listened to the show that I might host a podcast, but I'm not a big listener of podcasts and I'm trying to change that. Because I've had the times I've listened to podcasts, I've had. Life changing insights. Crazy story. Oh wow. From the time I was 18 years old till my mid thirties, I never exercised.

That's not good. As a father of three children with a stressful life. And I listened to a podcast in May of 2020 randomly. 'cause again, it's not habitual for me. And I heard this person say, yeah, all I do is I get my heart rate up for 20 minutes a day. And for whatever reason, you know, when something happens and it just cuts all the way through, um, I was like, wait, I can do that.

And ever since I've just worked out every day, my body is more healthy than it was. Mm-hmm. And um, and then I was listening to, uh, a podcast, um, Joe Lepore, who was another guest of mine's podcast with this gentleman named Lars, who's an innovator. I got insights that I brought to work the very next day.

So, so all this to say, I'm also on a journey to try to find a space in my life to listen to podcasts, so your posts will be helpful for me.

Febronia: One thing that I'm quite ruthless about and I have, have become more so in the last few years is about how I use my time. Hmm. So I used to watch a lot more TV than I do now.

You know, just, you know, casual stuff, the news, movies, whatever. But now I'm a lot more choiceful and I think I prefer, I actually prefer reading a book, listening to a podcast where I feel a sense of learning and growth. I still watch TV, don't get me wrong, but I think I've limited the kind of activities that don't have any kind of productivity, though you do need to decompress and you do need to watch an entertainment and just, you know, relax as well.

So I do do that, but not in the quantities that I did before. 

Ryan: Yeah, it, it resonates with me. Uh, full disclosure, I am one of the billion people who's currently watching Suits on Netflix and I'm enjoying it. 

Time is the one thing that is a truly finite resource, and it's usually the thing that controls us. And so how we spend it is actually what matters. Um, and, and so being intentional about time is, I wanna talk to you about coaching in a second, but people are not by and large in control of their time.

And you, so it's funny, you said social media, you didn't have all these intentions and strategies. You choose to listen to podcasts and spend time there, and so as a result, you show up authentic. 

Febronia: Yeah. I'm not staging anything. I'm not, I'm just being myself. And, since I started doing that, people connect with you and you, your followers increase organically because you're not, you are not staging something. You're just being true to your own values and purpose. 

Ryan: That's it. And I, I think everybody's, everybody's great at something.

And so if you're, if you find that in life, you're, you're in a beautiful place. Um, so, Febronia, you have an interesting, professional profile to me because you're an insights person, but you also do executive coaching. 

So I want to talk to you about coaching for a minute. Yeah. And the reason I think about coaching is it's a passion point of mind.

I believe anybody who's in a people manager role should be spending more time coaching than managing. That's how you get the best out of people. But some, gimme a little bit of context of like your philosophy of coaching and, and, and some of the, some of the techniques you use to help people, uh, do their best work and to get the most out of their life.

Febronia: I think with me, again, it started in Covid with my niece and nephews starting university. So I did probably a little bit of mentoring with them and they were the ones who turned around. It was my niece especially who said, have you thought about doing coaching? You know, official coaching, not just coaching in your job, which we all do to a certain degree, but actually doing a coaching certificate because I think it's something you'd be good at.

So the light bulb went up. At that point, I'd never really thought about it, and then I inquired about it and a few, uh, peers in the industry had done some coaching. And so I asked around and ended up at Henley Business School and it opened up a whole new, uh, perspective on coaching because when we're coaching at work, it's more teaching if, if you like, getting people up to speed and helping them, um, learn the tools that they need to do the job.

Coaching in the sense of what I've been learning at Henley is all about supporting and providing a safe space so individuals can do their own thinking. So it's an exploration that you do together in partnership, a partnership of trust, but it enables the individual to come to their own conclusions.

We don't give advice unless expressly asked for it. If they ask to be mentored, you can obviously mentor or offer opinions, but the whole point of the exercise is to guide them through an exploration and often just creating that space where they have time to think. And sometimes there are moments that just go in silence whilst the coachee is reflecting.

It’s a beautiful thing because as you said before, time is such a commodity. It's such a premium, um, that, you know, to have that special time to reflect on it can be very tricky. 

Ryan: Yeah. It, it's, it's true. So you actually said the words, have you ever read Nancy Klein's book? Time to Think

Febronia: Yeah. And also The Promise That Changes Everything. They were seminal books, I think for me, because I'd never really considered that. 

And also coming from an Italian family where everyone talks loudly over each other, there's all of that dynamic and it's perfectly culturally acceptable. This whole, um, concept of actually giving a person space and silence was a bit strange for me at first.

Ryan: Yeah. I can see it. And, and there was a real tension of coaching versus apprenticeship or management because, you know, like, this happens to me and maybe, maybe this resonates with you. I'm talking to somebody and. They're, they need space to think my subconscious is going, here's the answer. Because I've had, I've had that permutation of a situation happen a million times, and the worst thing you could do for somebody in that moment when they're thinking it through is give them the answer.

But there is a profound benefit to apprenticeships. I used to work, uh, in an office way back in the day. And about a million times a day, I would go into my boss, Jeff's office, and ask him questions. And that was an apprenticeship. It was like, what should I do? What do you think about this? 

But to your point, most people have the answer in their head, and a lot of times they've needed health thinking it through, and I think there's like a tension of getting into those different head spaces. And so I guess, how do you recommend people in a managerial role navigate those? 

Febronia: By asking more questions. So rather than telling people what to do, which undermines people's confidence, even though you're doing it with the best of intentions, asking incisive questions.

So how do you think we should go about it? What do you think we should do next? Empower the person. Give them space to think through, you know, what the options are, and come up with a, a, a strategy on their own. I think the coaching we do at Henley is very humanistic, so it's designed to create self-agency in the individual.

'cause we all have the power to unlock our own, our own answers on topics that are, um, Mind our, so it's also respect for the, individual that, you know, they have the capability, you know, they have the competencies. I think in business often we don't listen to listen. We listen to talk. Yes, we're already preparing our next reel as the, the person is still talking.

And in coaching, you learn to be in the moment. You learn to be really, uh, present. And, uh, do you know the book The Power of Now? That talks a lot about being in the present moment and the strength and energy and resilience you can build from tapping into that. 

So just focusing on that individual, what are they saying? What are you noticing? You know, uh, when they, when a person speaks, it's not just verbal. There's a lot of nonverbal cues, facial expressions, looking away, sighing, uh, um, sometimes they might. Sit up straight or slouch back. There's lots of cues that give you an indication of the emotions that they may be consciously or subconsciously experiencing.

And that's, that's the power of coaching. You kind of tap into that and explore further. 

Ryan: The cool thing I like about coaching is the concept I, I use this phrasing a lot, but if you were my coach, the pen stays in my hand. It's on me to do the work. Exactly. And I think a lot of time there's unintended, disempowering consequence of if you were my boss and I came to you and, and you're just like, yeah, just do that.

And then all of a sudden you're like, oh, now I'm gonna, now I'm gonna condition myself to ask Febronia the next time I have something because it doesn't behoove me to think on my own. I think there's a really interesting. Just a balancing act for people, managers. 'cause I, I would recommend anybody who can get a coach.

I have an executive coach and I'm at a point now where she's with me all the time, Nora appreciate you. 

Febronia: Um, oh, that's good. That's nice. 

Ryan: But you might not have the benefit of doing it. So I, I think a lot of stuff, like we do this at Zappi, Febronia. I'll give you an example.

There's a woman that works at Zappi who is in a job that requires her to organize people and whip 'em into shape. She wants to be authentic, and she's calm and quiet. So she's getting coached by somebody who's a VP who has a similar disposition to her in a completely different functional role because his, his skillset and personality are sort of harmonized, but they're not, uh, affiliated in the org chart per se, right? So there's one way to do that. Um, I think in the managerial role, there's a really important responsibility to say, am I helping with a solution or am I helping being a sounding board? 'cause those are completely different dispositions.

Febronia: And that's why we contract at the beginning of a set of sessions or an individual session. We contract and, and ask what is the work we're going to do so that we're working in partnership. And also so that the coach doesn't lead the agenda because the person who this is the benefit for is the coachee.

Um, you know, coaching is not about your performance as a coach. It's about being in service to the other individual, whether it's just supporting them by listening, by providing, um, questions that help them explore and navigate the topic. Um, by helping them figure out an action plan, you know, whatever the work is that you are doing for that hour that you've contracted to do.

You are in service to them. It's not about you. It's not about your profile. It's not about your performance. It, you know, it's not the Febronia show. It's about that person walking away with having had a few aha moments. And if they have an aha moment, a breakthrough, it's the big beginning of a shift in their behaviors, which then leads to growth.

And when they come back and you start to see that it's such a beautiful thing. 

Ryan: It is, it really is. When you see, when you see the penny drop in, someone like, yeah, I, I always see it like I, I've seen this in a few people and it's one of the more motivating things as a leader when someone sees a problem and they're intrinsically obsessed with it and they're thinking about it and the penny drops.

It's just a really wonderful thing. But it requires intentionality For those of you who are in formal roles and your company might not be affording you, uh, the opportunity to bring in a coach for one of your employees. Or for somebody who's maybe working their way through their career and your boss maybe isn't natural at it, I would encourage you to contract, I think for, for what you said really resonates with me.

Contracting is something we don't do nearly enough in settings within business.. And it's how you can really understand each other. 

Febronia: Like even in ways of working, if I think about insights, you know, I work with a number of different leaders. They all have different styles.

So I contract, how would you like us to work together? Because some have more of a style where they want to take a bit more of a leading interest in insights. Others are happy for you to take the bulk of the organizational aspect, but everyone is, is different and has maybe different needs and different expectations of, of what they need to deliver in their roles.

So contracting and just being clear, again, it builds that trust and partnership. And that's where the magic happens because then when you have that trust, you know, you often get asked, well, you know, I'm not gonna be in tomorrow. Can you do that presentation? Can you lead this? And, and it, you end up as an insider working more in the marketing strategy sphere of things and not just being a data analyzer, if you like.

Ryan: Which, which is important. So I think people take away, have the awkward, vulnerable contracting discussion 'cause then the unlock deal. Yeah. Um, so the reason I wanted to talk to you about coaching first is a lot of our LinkedIn discussions we've had have been around elevating insights and, and I'm of the view, uh, personally, if we use technology effectively.

Insights people will elevate and that I think the nub of the debate that we will have, and I'll say it now and we can have our debate. Yeah. I don't think companies, and I'm, and I'm calling on all of you clients. Yeah. I don't think enough enablement and development of talent is happening. Which is why we started with coaching to let people effectively use all these toys that are being thrown at them to do the strategic work.

And, and a lot of people that I observe, I mean I work with 300 corporate insights teams at Zappi, maybe more. Yeah. Are basically. Stuck between two paradigms and I don't see enough emphasis being put on talent development, and that's actually the nub of my friction. So I, with that as a backdrop, I mean, what do you see in terms of the tension of the rise of technology, but also the continuous need for insights professionals to be more strategic, more connected? Versus in the weeds of the data. 

Febronia: Yeah. I think our banter started off when you were posting about the disruption that AI was gonna bring, because, you know, Zappi, you guys are well known for your disruptive approach and it, and it's a fantastic approach in the industry. But you were talking about how AI could mean the death toll of the researcher.

I think there are bigger issues even before you get to AI in that company. Cultures are still basically dictating the profile of insight, so a hundred percent. So you have some, uh, you have some industries where insight is more autonomous. Is seen as an autonomous support to the marketing function. You have others where insight is still part of the marketing function.

Um, you have cultures where insight is seen as an executional team, we ask you to deliver, and you have teams and corporations where Insight is setting the strategic plan and agenda. Now, I've been fortunate, a lot of my roles have been in the more strategic field, and I've worked with senior stakeholders, so that's why my banter back to you was, but that's not how I see it, because my experience has been different.

But that's not to say what is really happening out there is still the profile. The profile of insights is still struggling to get through, and AI is causing more complexity because you can't take the lead with it if you haven't established your own function yet, your own gravitas. They're not gonna let you play with the toys if you are not delivering as an insight team that is supposed to affect the growth agenda.

So there's a cultural job to be done before we can start getting jiggy with the tech. 

Ryan: Uh, so we actually don't have much banter. I couldn't agree more with everything you just said. It's the nub of what pisses me off. Yeah. It, you know, when I joined Steve in 2014 to build Zappi, I thought to myself, if you can commoditize quant, you'll elevate the insights profile.

So that they're not doing testing all day. They're sitting above the data. And still to this day, nine years later, the cultural problem is the biggest blocker of evolution. Because it's not sitting above the data, it's, oh yeah we can be more reactive 'cause we can get an answer tomorrow. And that's not the point you're supposed to be learning.

Febronia: But the problem, Ryan, I think also comes in that we're in a cost of living crisis. Yes, the high inflation rate has affected company structures and what happens? Insight research gets seen as a bit of a luxury. It gets cut and the marketeers are then expected to do their own insights.

I mean, marketeers on the whole are pretty research savvy. They're pretty good at, uh, at, you know, analyzing their own data as part of their own, uh, understanding of the marketing mix. But to add the whole insight piece onto what they have to do already is too much. They can't then give it the focus that it needs.

So we go through the, we, we kind of surge through these cycles of resource, cut. Resource, cut. Resource, cut. So the, the graph is, is never a clear trajectory of developing that insight profile. You're always starting again because you're going through another, oh, well, the, the, we had five people in the team.

We now only have two. Then you go back to five, you start again, then the cuts come in again. So until we get a consistent commitment to resourcing the insight team. It's gonna be very difficult for those teams to really build that profile. Now there are some organizations that do it well, um, but they are committed 'cause they see the benefit of investing in the insight function.

But cost of living crises don't, you know, they don't help. And, you know, everybody would love to be working more with the, um, automated tools, but that also takes time at the beginning for you to get up to speed on what they can do. And there's so many apps and things now. You know that that requires resource, so, I dunno what the answer is, but I think the, the whole culture piece is, is still significant.

And then again, adding to that, I think there are individuals in our industry who are more MRX focused, who are more about the market research, they're more operational. They enjoy doing the delivery of the projects and going out and researching the consumers, right? And that's, that's all well and good, but those individuals are not gonna raise an insight profile in a big, in a big team, say in a big pharmaceutical company where you've got some really savvy, and at times, you know, can, can appear quite difficult, stakeholders.

So it is also, you need the right personalities to do the right jobs in the insights and MRX field. 

Ryan: There's a lot in what you just said to unpack, so, so I'm gonna go in order. The first thing is these swings, you know, you could call 'em centralized, decentralized, big team, small team. But I would also add one thing, continuity.

I mean, every eight, absolutely. There's a new head of insights with a new regime. So, how the hell do you establish something if the company keeps changing? Uh, I, I don't, I don't understand it. I mean, I, I'm, we are, we're victimized of this in our business. I see it all the time. Someone comes in with bullish.

Febronia: And then there are other issues, like if the previous team hasn't set up a knowledge management base, there's data that's not been, uh, put into a repository that everyone can use. So, you know, even before you get to AI and synergizing and holistically analyzing and interpreting data, you need to have all the data sitting in one place that you can get it 

So this is, yeah, so this, this, this is where I'm at. I think we're kind of blinkered by the fact we've got ai. So it means that we're further down the line, more advanced than we actually are. We've actually got quite a few jobs that we need to do first. 

Ryan: No. So this is actually the nub of my problem. So the MRX persona that you're talking about was, it was a much more relevant job, I think 10 years ago than it will be in 10 years…

Febronia: And I've done it myself in my agency days where that was my role to construct the surveys, to deliver to the clients, to meet the client objectives and to analyze the data and do the presentation, and, and I enjoyed it.

And that, that was the role I did for a number of years. Yeah. But it's very different to the role that I'm doing now, which is dealing with senior stakeholders who are having to deliver to the leadership team and make big commercial decisions, which, you know, have implications of millions of investment.

Ryan: Yeah, that's right. That's right. Well, the reason why the provocation of will AI kill the researcher is the relevance factor. And I sit here and go, oh my gosh, how many departments are even remotely in a place where they can capitalize on this opportunity? The answer's very few because the teams are disconnected and the data's not connected.

And the same points you're making. Yeah. And there's a major firm too, because in a utopian world, the opportunity for first party primary insights to drive growth strategy should be at the center. But there's maturity of department and an organizational cultural issue. I mean, how many companies say they're customer centric that actually are, but 

Febronia: I think, you know, your provocation and, and, and disruption about, you know, will AI be the end of the researcher?

The researcher themselves will be their own end if they don't get it together. And I don't, and I don't say that in a mean way or being disrespectful to my peers, but we have to drive that agenda. We have to take the bull by the horns and say, look, I'm operating in this kind of culture. These are my limitations. Where can I add value and convince the stakeholders that a shift in perception and a shift in the way we work would actually benefit investment and returns. 

So we need to drive that change. We need to lead not just. Take the activation piece and be executional. We need to stop and think and say, look, how can I make a difference in this business?

I love the interview you did with Oksana. She's doing some incredible work. She was doing absolutely incredible work and the way that she also resourced , she, I think she allocated, and correct me if I'm wrong, resource to specific priorities only. So she had a clear view of what the key priorities were that would deliver to the Clorox company in terms of commercial profit.

And that's where they, um, put the main, the main part of the resource from the insight team, because she doesn't have a finite team. But things like that really show how we can make a difference and, and, and, you know, change the way we're perceived in that organization. 

Ryan: Yeah, so we'll just talk about both you and her for a sec. Classically trained researcher agency background now at the catalyst of transformation. Every one of you that's been promoted into a director or head of insights role, that's more of a technical researcher, you have it in you to transform. There's evidence of others around. , a lot of people will celebrate a dear friend of mine, Steph Gans for Pepsi, who's famously not a researcher and has done wonders with that insights function.

But it doesn't have to be that. And I, and I think you're right, we have to get out of our own way. So if we get all of our data connected and we use all these toys, smart driving strategy and that's what motivates me and that's why a lot of my provocation comes from.

Febronia: Yeah. And I can see you are getting really excited and I am too, because also these tools offer one thing that the organizations want: Pace. They want pace and they want scale. They wanna be able to achieve scale at pace. So what a great opportunity. So if we get our acts together, there's gonna be more opportunities to then tap into these fantastic tools.

But, you know, if we're still being, you know, the research driven insight team, it's not gonna happen, is it? 

Ryan: No, it isn't. And, and, and that's the thing, like I still see. This is kind of a relatively sad observation. So I did a bunch of IDI’s and market immersion recently, like this summer, with the exception of every insights department in the world buying Agile.

And buying agile and being agile are not the same thing. Very little change I think in terms of the disposition. And I think we need to elevate ourselves and not buy agile, but actually change. Our relationship with people, process and technology holistically. 

Febronia: Absolutely. And you do a lot of work in innovation, so I'm guessing you are familiar with the concept of sprints that started in the tech world.

I've worked with sprints in my time at GSK and that's a very different way of working 'cause you have to be agile enough to pivot on a daily basis, if not numerous times in the same day. 'cause you're reacting to the needs of the business and the key stakeholders, and that is a very uncomfortable place to be.

For some of us who are focused on research and processes and what have you, you have to be, Ready to, to move at pace and, and, and, you know, work with things that aren't a hundred percent available or a hundred percent correct. You've gotta build hypotheses. You've got to have confidence to move and, and, and pivot.

And, and that's also coming. You know, that that's gonna come a lot, a lot more quickly than we think. 

Ryan: Oh, for sure. And that's why like, to me, it's, I play such an emphasis on getting your data in control. Because if you have your data harmonized in control, You can learn what you know. So when you are being agile, you can just test new hypotheses without relearning the same things.

And this plagues corporate departments, particularly big ones where it's, you learn your company already knows this…

Febronia: But there's also, there's also some bad behaviors that, you know, I've known, uh, some, uh, insight individuals who like to harness the data, the knowledge, you know, ring fence it, and it works.

As long as they're in the business, they're the go-to person and they have all the knowledge. But I see it differently. We have to embed and share that knowledge. We have to make it easily accessible to everyone so everyone can access it and manipulate the data in different ways that's relevant to their business function.

Not, you know, not sit on it for, for our own power to drive an ego that that's, that's really damaging to an organization long term. 

Ryan: It, it really is. This is the shift though from the keys of risk mitigation to the shepherds of the consumer are different.

They're different jobs. The job of the future is the shepherd of the consumer, and that is a wonderful opportunity, I think. 

Febronia: Uh, and also partnership with the, the key stakeholders. I mean, I've, uh, over the years partnered with many marketing directors where we've bantered and bounced ideas, watching groups we're sharing, we're, you know, sharing ideas live.

And from that come a lot of, uh, tweaks that we make to creative language used in comms or. Product ideas and so on. So you can't just sit there and be delivering on a project. You've got to be involved in the day-to-day strategic concerns that are going on in that marketing director's head. 

Ryan: Exactly. 'cause then you can actually have a huge, you can add value data sets. It's the lens. 

Febronia: What we're doing. You have to be a marketeer. I think, uh, in my situation, I did start off as a marketeer. I did a postgrad in marketing and then I did two years working at Electrolux in Vienna as a marketing assistant to the marketing director.

So I did start off in marketing and I dunno whether that's influenced me as a researcher and also an insighter, but I've always had my eye on the marketing strategy, so I think it probably has defined the way I like to work. 

Ryan: Yeah. Well, because if you just think of that career journey, you started with the outcome in mind versus the input.

Febronia: And, and I think the years that I spent agency side really taught me a whole raft of great technical skills, uh, across qual quant, but also great managing upward skills, presenting to clients, being accountable for that delivery, building the business, you know, on the agency side, the business development piece.

So again, there were all great, uh, lessons that contributed to the whole. Furthering of the career down the line. 

Ryan: Absolutely. Well, well, Febronia, this has been fun. Everybody, the opportunity is yours to seize it. Follow us both on LinkedIn, 'cause we're gonna keep debating and pushing all of you. But thank you so much for taking the time. I had a really wonderful time speaking to you. 

Febronia: Thank you. The pleasure's been all mine. It's been wonderful. Thank you, Ryan.

[Music transition to takeaways]


Ryan: So Patricia, I hear you have two takeaways. 

Patricia: I have two huge takeaways that really, really resonated with me. And one, the recommendation, I'll do it first. 

I loved the way you and Febronia, and I hope I'm saying that right. Um, were like building your relationship and your friendship, life on air in front of all the listeners, in front of all of us listeners.

It was fantastic. And my recommendation is don't be afraid of social, don't be afraid of LinkedIn. You don't have to have, I mean, you heard them both. You don't have to have this thought out strategy of thinking and what am I gonna say and what am I gonna, who am I. Who are you? If you want to have a social presence, that's the first decision.

Just kind of the next question to ask yourself is, what moves me? What interests me, and what do I wanna share with others? Right? Make sure it's fun. Make sure you're genuine, make sure you're authentic and don't set up a stage or something weird. Just be yourself and share it. I think that's a great call out. So I really liked how you guys were doing that, right? 

Ryan: Yeah, and I think it's, I think your takeaway is important, right? Because there is so much toxicity on social media in general. I'm talking about Instagram and Twitter.

I know they've renamed X but fucking X… Are you kidding me? Um, people don't seem to be willing to debate anymore or share different points of view. And I think your point of showing up and keeping it real is important, but also like it's okay to have a dialogue with somebody. 'cause if you are, if you don't agree with somebody or something makes you feel defensive, there's actually learning on the other side of that if you open your damn ears up. 

So I think that's a really positive message. I appreciate it. 

Patricia: I really like that one. Now, the two huge ones, it's all about, you talked about coaching. And I really like that. I mean, she fell into coaching. It was suggested to her by her family member. 'cause she was doing it naturally for her, for her nieces and nephews.

And then she did the thing that you should do first. Oh, I like that idea. I'm doing this naturally. But she didn't just jump into it, she thought. Let me get educated. I thought that was so simple, so basic. And so that's the message is if you wanna do something and you wanna make sure to do it more professionally, more, you know, officially go get educated.

Find somebody that meets your needs. But what I really loved is how the two of you talked about how coaching is the way to get the best out of people, right? And have your own philosophy of coaching. But there are some things that are coaching that are not negotiable. Right. Some things that are not, and it's all about providing a safe space.

Whatever label it is. If you're gonna have a contract with somebody that you're going to, that has asked you for their help, and you have agreed to help them on X, Y, and Z, you have to make sure that that relationship, that space that you create, physical or virtual, is safe. They cannot feel judged or criticized for.

They have to be accepted because they're learning. If you're lucky and if you open up your head, you're gonna learn just as much as they do. And that's the beauty of coaching, is both you learn and the only way that you can understand them and help them as a coach is by making sure that it's a partnership of trust.

That's a beautiful phrase, a partnership of trust, not you telling them what to do, not giving advice, but creating a safe space so they can think. And have their conclusions. 

Now. There was something really small that she said that was huge to me is create spaces, create silence spaces. Sometimes we feel the need and I'm included to fill the space of silence.

Sometimes people just need a space of silence to think because they've got their head full of. And that space and that silence so that they can think, it might be strange at first, but if you teach 'em that it's okay, then they're gonna use that space to create their own self-agency and to help themselves. And to learn. To learn. Which is what you're trying to do as a coach. 

Ryan: Absolutely. 

Patricia: Exactly. So that's gonna be the most important thing. Giving them the space so that they know that in this space that you've contracted, you are there just for them.

You're not telling them what to do, you're helping them learn themselves what to do for themselves. The self-agency was really important, so I really, really like that. I can't stress how important that is. One thing is being a boss, but a coach is something totally different.

Ryan: It's, I think if, if you have the benefit of a dedicated coach or you have a peer or colleague that you respect and contract with them to be your coach, the expectation is everything Patricia just said. But a lot of times that might not be the, the benefit or perhaps you're a manager of people and you have to know when to sit back and be in listening coach mode, when to be, let me show you how to do this mode apprenticeship versus These are my expectations and my hard edges, and I need you to do this.

That's how I'm going to determine if you're doing a good or bad job. And that's very difficult. And, and so I try shit like being very specific, like, I'm in listening mode, correct? Do you want me to help you solve this? Or, Hey, right now I need to set some. So I think it's about contracting with people, which we obviously spoke about previously.

But, um, I, I really would recommend anybody out there who can, who has access to getting a coach do it. I think the thing we probably didn't talk about, so I've had coaches, everybody knows for a while I love her. Haven't actually met her in person yet, which I need to change. But the coach will help you think and open up.

But this is the actual best part, and we didn't even really talk about this. It's still up to you what you do, all the coach is gonna do is help you think through it. Like, so if you have an executive coach, don't expect to be a good executive. It's about the work you do. That person's just gonna help you open up your thinking.

So like everything in life, Patricia, there is no get rich quick scheme with coaching. You still have to do the fucking work. 

Patricia: Gotta do the work. 

Ryan: Gotta do the work.

Patricia: And as long as the coachee knows and the coach knows the same thing, the contract, then they understand that they're, the coach is there to be in service to the individual and the individual's there to work and grow. That those are the rules. 

Ryan: That's. That's exactly right. 

Patricia: Now the second topic that I found fascinating, right? It's all about, and it's kind of two topics in one, but there it's impossible to separate it's tech information and the role of insights and the role of insights leaders. So all this is like, it's many roles in one, but I see it as one topic.

Why? Because you can't talk about the role of data. Insights without talking about the role of the person that's responsible for that data. So I wanted to talk about that and I'm gonna give Frank Santiago a shout out because he taught me, and together with him, I became much more proficient at understanding the value of organizing the shit out of the data before you start even diving into that pool.

Because if the data isn't, pardon the very technical language, but if the data isn't an incredibly organized manner that is logical for whatever business you have and tagged in the way that you need it to tag, right, so that you can access it easily and the whole entire company or whoever is that data is relevant for, can access it easily.

It will not do the one thing it needs to do, which is help you make decisions in the future. Data is only there to be at the service of the person that needs to make the decision. That's its function. It's not there to look pretty. It's not there to show how much money I've invested. It's not there to show how much I know, what I know is useless if I can't use it to make decisions.

And so organizing the data first is very, very important. And it's for me, and, and I'll have to, I'll be honest with all of you. This is very relevant to me and my biases that I'm doing this right now in my company. 

But first they have to set it up. And the role you guys both talked about, The data could be the death of the researcher because marketing people are pretty savvy, but marketing people have another primary job.

Maybe their secondary job is data, but their primary job is marketing. In the same way that an insights person, their primary job is analyzing, understanding, and creating the insight so the decisions can be made and their part marketer as well. So it's a yin and yang situation, but they need each other.

Right. But. What we wanna understand is that similar to what we were talking about, humans being humans, always, even if the world changes, at the end of the day, no matter what the world we have looks like, no matter if we have one study a year versus a thousand studies a year, right? 

You know what I mean? We have to make sure that's organized, so whoever's working on it, they're all looking at the same data.

It has to be there to make decisions, and the researcher has to be somebody to help with the business. Right? Not, not not taking orders, not establishing, you know, checklists, but they have to be the person who adds value. They have to be the person that constructs, yeah. Maybe they construct a survey or maybe they don't, but they're, they're dealing with senior stakeholders, so they have to be adding value, not be executional, and they have to drive change. Which makes a difference in business. 

The data's there at the service of the people who need it, and the insights people are the bridge. To take that data and to make it come to life so that we understand the markets, the products, and the consumers. See how it's all, there's, it's impossible to separate.

Ryan: Yeah. It, it really is. And, and, and this is why I'm just like calling to arms, everybody to pause and elevate because the world's gonna pass us by. I mean, I, I'm, I'm starting to get increasingly frustrated with insights leaders who are just delegating this, this change. So the fact that you are, as a chief growth officer driving this, I respect that.

Because you're supposed to be responsible for the systems, and then everybody's managing up all day. But like, actually, what are you architecting? What are your teams gonna work on? How is your data gonna get smarter? How are you gonna.. Just speaking of coaching, elevate your people.

So yeah, I really, it's funny because there is a difference between asynchronous social communication and a podcast. We thought we misunderstood or disagreed with each other. We don't, I think what we're the cultural point she makes is, is what's holding a lot of companies back. Not even necessarily the desire.

Patricia: Exactly. It's how to make it happen. People want things and they don't know how to make it happen, which is my main business goal. My main, personal goal here is I spoke to everybody when I first came and I realized they all want the same thing that my boss wants, and now I have to make it happen.

But how to make it happen, I've asked that question so many times and I get silence. 

Ryan: And that's that. I'm not gonna tell you who our next episode is 'cause we haven't decided which one we're gonna air next. So you'll just have to wait and see. But we got a lot of heat coming up this season.

Thank you, Patricia. It's good to see you, bud. Happy fall everybody, wherever you are in the world. Thank you. I'm not here for pumpkin spice lattes and flannel shirts. I'm actually wishing it was still summer because summer's awesome. Okay. Everybody, have a wonderful day. 

Patricia: Bye guys.