If an employee’s expectation for their job matches with the company’s values, then it is a match made in heaven. The most career value will be added to the business where an individual’s expectations align with what the company looks for.
I started my career working in a law firm in Mexico focusing mainly on M&A and financing. I joined Accenture in 2004 at a time when Accenture was seeking to encourage its in-house counsel to be more proactive as business advisors, so that they could add value to the business by knowing it well and collaborating with the rest of the company to generate business. Since 2010, I have been working on the business-side of Accenture for Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. I have experienced an evolution in technology which, compared to 10 years ago, has become an incredibly valuable asset. I now manage a team of over 200 lawyers who are spread across Latin America.
In the technology industry, the value that in-house counsel can add is at its highest level ever.
Outsourcing is currently one of the main drivers for Latin American business. We identified that there is a market for taking part of the business from the client and doing its work in-house in a cheaper, faster and more efficient way. Over the last few years, my team has closed international deals inside Latin America where we have been able to take ownership of transactional processes for our clients. The in-house team participates in those deals, but the rest of the knowledge comes from other sections of Accenture and their understanding of what contracts should look like. The in-house team puts together a health check that considers the deal from a regulatory standpoint. Once we have established what is permitted by local regulation, the deep knowledge of the relevant industries comes from other teams within Accenture.
In my team, we measure success through short-term and long-term priorities. These priorities are set by each individual and they discuss their progress with their supervisors. There is a bonus available for any individual who over-achieves in her priorities. Key performance indicators can incentivise the team, but it is important that the priorities set are accurate and objective. I place great importance on following up on progress in relation to the priorities within my team by dedicating sessions of up to five hours to sit with the lawyer and discuss what they are achieving right now, what their goals are and where their career is going. There is a real investment in the development of each individual. I am authentic in my investment in individual members of my team; if the individual aligns with the value and essence of the business, they will be a fantastic brand ambassador for Accenture.
Being respectful of each individual is a core value of my leadership style. In my decision-making, I acknowledge that each member of my team has a life outside the office.
I prioritise the integrity of the team as a means of achieving collaboration. I want all members of my team to feel accepted on a 360-degree basis, which means that everyone has to be accepted as a professional and as a person. We appreciate that there are moments in life where the most value we can add is by being in the place that we need to be, instead of sitting in the office. Understanding that the person being mentored is human, with their own concerns and world, is a complete game-changer as it leads to better performance, added value and peace of mind.
A leader is a facilitator. As a team leader, I facilitate the road to avoid the team encountering roadblocks which prevent them from delivering. The lawyers in my team have all the skills they need to do their job, so as a leader it is my role to provide them with the tools to do their job. When I see high performance results and team members who care that I am around, that is when I know that my team is engaged to the standard I expect them to be.
In my experience, trust is something that you have to earn.
The business needs to understand what value the GC adds and how the GC creates trust. Once the trust of the business has been gained, there needs to be a second evolution, where the business understands that when the legal team says “no” to something, it means that we have explored all the possible options and identified an insurmountable risk.
Once you reach a level where you are perceived as a business advisor instead of a lawyer, then you know that you have done a successful job. It is about being seen as part of the leadership team.
When I first joined Accenture in 2004, decision-making was driven by a common sense not necessarily aligned with local policies. Setting the decision-making ship on the right course was very difficult. To achieve this, procedures and protocols had to be established to prevent risks becoming problems for the business. Communication is key to ensuring that the business is well-advised. Although I may be the one who sits in the executive meetings, it is crucial that I am able to deliver the messages from those meetings to the rest of the team to enable them to execute the strategy of the company.
It is surprising how often the strategy of the executive committee differs from what is done in sub-teams on a day-to-day basis.
The General Counsel function is to speak the same language as our clients to ensure that we have the same perspective and basic information on key issues. We are proactive to ensure that before we begin negotiations, we align the expectations of the lawyers and clients to ensure that the clients understand our point of view and the risks involved.
The in-house team are enablers of business. We want to find ways of doing even more business as well as mitigating certain risks. This means that we need to adapt the way that we communicate to the type of message and audience to whom it is communicated. We seek to be successful in translating numbers, strategies and local policies to clients and counterparts. There are many emerging markets that we can learn from in this area. By looking at different geographies and observing similarities in those countries, we can make the most of this in the Latin American region.