Lessons from Greg

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ATTY. ERIC LANDICHO

A couple of weeks ago, our firm said a final farewell to a very dear and important person in our team: our chairman, Greg Navarro. Apart from the pain of losing a good friend, it is never easy when an organization loses its compass, its true north. That was Greg for us.

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He became Deloitte Philippines’ managing partner in 2011, and although his tenure was brief, it was nonetheless a master class in leadership. He took on many hats within the firm and in the greater Southeast Asia (SEA) region as a member of Deloitte’s SEA leadership board. He also got involved in several organizations and foundations to further his long-standing advocacy for good governance and, in many ways, to simply give back to society.

He meant a lot to so many people, selfless as he was with his time and his wisdom. If you did not have the good fortune of knowing Greg, allow me to give you a glimpse of who he was by sharing some leadership lessons we learned from him that will serve you well in life:

‘Spend time with the young’
Despite his busy schedule and numerous commitments, Greg always carved out time for the younger members of our staff. Every year, when we held training programs for staff members who were transitioning into leadership roles, Greg would always ask for an hour or two in the schedule during which he could just sit and talk with our millennial employees. He would share with them lessons from his professional career, but he would also give out nuggets of wisdom that transcended the office space: Be kind. Stay curious. Go out there and see the world. Get a dog.

More importantly, he would spend that time listening to his younger staff, picking their brains and inviting them to pick his. This was one way he stayed in touch with the members of his team whom he might not necessarily have the chance to work with directly; one way he showed he cared – he often said that what was good for our people must be good for the firm, and what was good for the firm must be good for our people; one way he kept his finger on the pulse of what engaged employees; and, perhaps unknowingly, one way he inspired so many young Deloittees to be just like him.

‘Pick your battles; not everything is a matter of life and death’
As a leader, it would be easy to get lost in the gravity of one’s stature and responsibility. I’m pretty sure Greg was more than aware of the more than 600 Deloittees who counted on him to make the right decisions for the firm so that they could, in turn, work on their plans and dreams for themselves and their families. And I’m not even talking about the people he worked with in all the other organizations he was involved in.

This role could get overwhelming. But ever the steady hand, Greg always maintained his calm even (or especially) during trying times. He kept his cool, he made sure he was present for whoever currently needed his insights or decision, even though a slew of other people might have been demanding his attention for what seemed to them like major crises. This composure, and his unwavering focus on the bigger picture, got us through a lot of challenges, ever wiser and having carefully weighed all the options.

‘Do well, but also do good’
Greg had this uncanny knack of motivating his people to do their best even as he gave them a lot of space to do their work. That’s how he drove people to do well. But he also encouraged them to do good.

As president of Deloitte Philippines Outreach, Inc., the CSR arm of our firm, he kept a close eye on the projects we initiated and the causes we supported, always looking at ways to help more people and get more employees involved. He also got involved in the community-building activities of other organizations, steadily extending his reach and putting to good use his expertise and his expansive network. Greg was a firm believer in the old adage, to whom much is given, much is expected. And he never tired of walking that talk and inviting people to join him.

Lead by example
For all these reasons, Greg was a very easy person to work with. He never nagged and he never micromanaged. He didn’t dwell on mistakes or waste time assigning blame. He focused on getting things done and building an environment where people are not afraid to collaborate, to try new things, and even to make mistakes. This approach has, no doubt, made us a better team.

And that, I suppose, is the final lesson we will take from Greg: that when you lead, you do so with the thought of making your organization better so you can hand off to the next generation an organization that is bigger, stronger, better able to make a difference in the world. So even as we mourn the loss of an exceptional partner, we celebrate the lessons he taught us and look forward to continuing the work he started.

The author is managing partner and CEO of Navarro Amper & Co., the local member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd. – a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited – comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam

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