Adam: Thanks for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Alfonso: Believe it or not, I hold a Guinness World Record. Back when I was General Manager at Nestlé Puerto Rico, our team attempted a new Guinness record category – the largest human hand, which was a lot of fun to be a part of. We organized the event with Huellas Footprints to honor the ‘high-five for life’ program, which focuses on five healthy eating habits for children. The result was 849 children between the ages of 6 and 12, along with teachers, braving a day of rainy skies to form the shape. To this day we still hold the world record. We also had a lot of fun celebrating a cause our team believed in.
Adam: How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Alfonso: I have been at Nestlé for over 30 years, starting my career as a consumer marketing manager and working my way up to now serving as the CEO of Nespresso North America. When people ask why I’ve stayed in one place so long, my response is always that I haven’t. I’ve been working at a company with a broad portfolio offering that has allowed me to touch new pieces of business and has brought me opportunities for travel – both aspects bringing new opportunities to learn from. The synergies between my personal and professional goals and how I’ve been given a path to achieve both is a no-brainer for me. I’ve always wanted to have opportunities to travel, and experience different cultures and people, and my career has allowed me to do just that. I started my career in Mexico, and then lived in Argentina and Switzerland among other countries before ultimately ending up here in the U.S.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Alfonso: Integrity. It’s a big word, but it’s about walking the walk and building that foundation of trust among your team through actions that support your words. Active listening is another great asset to have as a leader, so that you understand your team and how you can empower them. If you don’t have integrity or understand how to listen, it’s hard to inspire.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
- Be Passionate. Have clear beliefs in where you want to take your organization and your team. If you’re passionate about your vision, your team will be inspired to follow.
- Empower People. You can be the most charismatic genius in the world, but if you’re not trusting in the people you surround yourself with or giving them opportunities, you’re doing them and your business a disservice.
- Be Decisive. When you have an idea or a vision for your venture, you have to be prepared to make the hard decisions in a timely manner.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Alfonso: You get more bees with honey. I really believe that by doing things the right way, and being a good partner or teammate, you’re motivating others to do the same, and ultimately can get more done to have a real impact.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should do to pay it forward?
Alfonso: It’s not necessarily one thing, but really making sure that you are treating others the way you want to be treated. Whether it’s kind words of encouragement, or staying flexible by giving people second chances, we all just want to be treated with kindness. If you act with kindness and care, you will eventually pay it forward.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you as a leader?
Alfonso: I’ve always been a sports fan. Growing up, I was an active kid and now in my adult life, I’ve found it’s a great way to release stress, so staying active is as an important part of my daily routine. I believe team sports are the best way to train as a leader. It helps you experience what teamwork is, understand how to rely on others, and underscore the importance of diligently working together towards a common goal.
Adam Mendler, Lessons in Leadership
Adam Mendler is the Chief Executive Officer of The Veloz Group and the creator and host of the leadership and personal / professional development podcast Thirty Minute Mentors, where he interviews America’s most successful people on how they made it to the top and how listeners can too. Adam is the co-founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, a leading office furniture e-tailer; Custom Tobacco, a one-of-a-kind cigar customization e-commerce platform; and Veloz Solutions, a technology consulting and software development practice. Adam is a noted keynote speaker on leadership and related topics and teaches a graduate-level course on teamwork and leadership at UCLA. A Los Angeles native and lifelong Angels fan, Adam loves sports, classic movies and TV, politics, physical fitness and backgammon.