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7 Questions on Leadership with Mauricio Capistran

Name: Mauricio Capistran

Title: Mexico Site Sr. Director

Organisation: Oracle Energy and Water

Mauricio is a Senior Director with 20+ years of experience in the technology industry. His experience includes building high-performing teams, managing cross-functional product development in startups, defining regional strategies for large transnational companies, and playing Tetris at amateur-but-decent-enough-competitive level. He is passionate about the impact of team culture on technical and business challenges.

Besides his work responsibilities, Mauricio enjoys adrenaline-inducing activities, such as mountain biking, skiing, and fathering of two teenagers.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Mauricio's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Accepting that many things are outside of my control. That the most valuable work I do is mostly through influencing others and that results will not be visible in the short term. As a leader, one is effectively working to influence an uncertain future.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I don’t think anyone “becomes” a leader, it’s more like you “step up to the plate” on particular situations, in many cases by accident or because it seems there is no other option. In my case, I’ve never sought leadership positions; I’m more of an introvert. However, I am also very passionate about my work, which sort of pushed me to take technical leadership positions. From that, it just seemed like the natural step was to move into a people leadership role, which, in hindsight, I was totally unprepared for. Anyhow, I stepped up to the plate and quickly realized I had so much to learn. I believe what helped me during this process is the genuine effort to help every person in my team to develop and grow professionally and personally.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I’ve been through many different “structures” during my work life. Nowadays, what I’ve found that works better (so far) is:

a) Wake up early and get some exercise done (typically running or biking). That gives me an energy boost, plus it sets me in a winning mental state. No matter what happens in the day, at least I already worked out.

b) Have a good slow breakfast and a cup of coffee. I’ll be rushing the entire day, but I’ve found that I need to respect my mealtimes to enjoy the moment and break away from the rush.

c) Read & process email. I typically set apart 1-2 hours to go over email. Then I try not open my email again until the afternoon, in order to have undistracted time for work.

d) Meetings & scheduled tasks. I also schedule lunch in my calendar to make sure I get the time to do it, although it’s typically short.

e) Read & process email in the afternoon. Again 1-2 hours.

f) Schedule my next workday. I review pending items and schedule time for the next day (or days) to work on them. I try not to schedule important meetings or tasks that require heavy mental work in the 2 hours following lunch, since it’s when my energy level is lower.

g) After work I don’t have much structure. Run errands, have dinner, sometimes squeeze in time at the gym, watch a series, read… it varies a lot.

h) Then I try to go to bed “early” by 10pm (I often don’t succeed) in order to wake up well rested the following morning.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Struggles will consciously come up between the short-term success and building for the future. Balancing the two is very complicated. The well-known story of: “I don’t have time to work on improving (skills, processes, etc.) because I have a deadline to meet” is actually very hard to resolve. As leaders, we feel responsible for the outcome, but we often forget our top responsibility is our people. It is up to the leader to create a safe environment (and sometimes make tough unpopular decisions) to enable our people to grow. It’s a fine and difficult balance to keep, and it’s up to the leader to do it.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The first that comes to mind is “Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation” by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi. The authors describe the sometimes-counterintuitive science behind motivation and how to build a great team by balancing tactical and adaptive performance. I love the scientific approach of the book but also how it presents clear actionable strategies to implement a great culture. That book helped me realize the negative effects created by some of my well-intentioned strategies.

Another book that I’d highly recommend is “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. It gives a great perspective on the effect of finite vs infinite mindset when leading.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Failure is not an option, is a requirement. Do not be afraid to mess up. There are too many variables to handle and sooner or later you will fail at something. Accept failures, be transparent with your team about them, and learn from them. Know that failing doesn’t define who you are. Your values define who you are. Your team will respect you and follow you because of your values, not because of your successes.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

A few years ago, one of the managers that I supervised was having excellent performance. He was technically sound, very organized, was well respected by his team, and his team consistently delivered with good quality. I knew he had a lot of potential to continue growing. I discussed with him a few options to get promoted, get more responsibilities, and continue his professional growth. After a few days, he came back and let me know he preferred not to get promoted. He knew he could take more responsibilities, but he was not willing to trade off other activities in his personal life which he valued. He continued to be a great asset to his team and to the company in years to follow. However, it really made me comprehend that the goal is not to keep climbing the corporate ladder, but to be able to align your professional growth with your values and your life priorities.

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