The Horseshoe Effect

Ernesto Uscher has devoted his professional career to developing and grooming Hispanic leaders in Latin America and the US. For the Colombian HR leader, this is his passion and part of his legacy—but it’s also good business.

Ernesto Uscher, Partner ad Managing Director of Hispanic Markets, The RBL Group

After establishing a reputation for highly effective leadership, working with large global organizations as a consultant in more than forty-five countries, Ernesto Uscher has expanded the RBL Group globally, providing new opportunities for Latin American talent. Uscher explains how he envisions the future of talent in the Hispanic markets.

“I’ve always considered myself an entrepreneur, even when I didn’t understand what the word meant. Ever since I remember, I have been trying to create something new, to sell something, to influence people, to use my people skills to convince, to reach new potentials, higher limits. I love people; I love helping people reach their full potential. My brain is wired in such a way that I knew I had to connect two pieces of who I am—the people side, heart, with the more rational side, brain—or I wouldn’t be happy in my career. I’ve been in the consulting field for more than twenty-five years and, because of my specific skills and passions, I think I am at my sweet spot right now. I am good at what I do, I love it, and strongly believe that it creates significant impact on individuals, organizations, and communities globally.

I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given by my mentors Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, recognized experts in the field. My career and impact grew exponentially after I moved to the US and had more exposure in international markets. Before joining The RBL Group as a principal, I represented them while I was partner at the consulting firm HPI Colombia. While on a business trip to Salt Lake City, I went unannounced to their offices and said, ‘I want to represent you in Latin America.’ They probably thought I was crazy, but it worked. Two years later, I said I wanted to be a principal in the US focusing on the Hispanic market, and here I am.

My job, as I see it, is to unleash the power of talent and organization that will  help create meaning, growth, and a better society for everyone. Trying to figure out how to bring together the two sides of who I am, I looked for a company that provided this approach, and this is what I found in The RBL Group: a place where I can learn and practice how to provide a bridge to the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sides of businesses.

This is what I call ‘The Horseshoe Effect.’ As a metaphor, think of how a horseshoe is shaped, with two ends. Many companies are at one end; they work very hard to be recognized as solid in strategy, processes, and results. Other companies are on the other side of the horseshoe; they try to maximize results mainly through developing people. I believe it’s not one or the other; it’s both. At the RBL Group we help connect both sides using the shortcut, not going along the whole extension of the horseshoe.

In my quest for leadership over the course of my career, I’ve learned some important lessons. At a past company in Argentina, it was my job to choose the people I felt would fit into some critical positions. There was a very hardworking woman that I thought would be a great fit for a promotion. She would have the chance to work in Buenos Aires, instead of the suburbs, get a raise, a company car, amid other things. I told her the good news and she said, ‘No, no! I don’t want it.’ I thought it was a no-brainer; it never occurred to me I’d have to encourage her to take the promotion. But here is what I learned: She lived with her elderly parents and took care of them, so she didn’t want to be in the capital. What about the money? She said her family had all the money they needed. She said, ‘Why would I want a car? I don’t even drive.’ I learned that people aren’t machines; you can’t just assume what they want or what their motivations are. Now, I try to make sure I help maximize people’s contributions, helping them be the best person possible, not losing the chance to make a change in their own worlds.

We’re hearing a lot about how the role of HR is changing. While that’s true, to have a real impact, HR departments need to make sure they do the basics right, that is the ante for being a great business partner. You won’t have a seat at the table with the executive team if you’re messing up the payroll. Then you can step up. HR needs to think big and connect their objectives to the overall goals and strategies of the company. HR needs to be proactive and trustworthy. The future of HR will be around providing the right business and people analytics to make decisions that will have impact. In my opinion, companies that break the code in this area will be very successful.

I’ve worked all over the world in more than sixty countries. Diversity is one of my favorite things to talk about. I believe really embracing diversity means helping others understand, connect, and be willing to accept others and their contributions instead of just tolerate each other. It means teaching them how to put themselves in the shoes of others no matter how different they are.

The Hispanic market I focus on is gigantic. There are more than fifty million Hispanics in the US and more than 500 million in the rest of the word. What’s interesting about the Hispanic market is that all of us have more similarities than differences, but we do need to learn how to navigate these differences respectfully and sensitively. Hispanics are intelligent, hard workers that deserve a chance to succeed. Let’s work together to help find the unpolished diamonds in our Hispanic population.

No matter where you are in the world, there are certain strategies and behaviors that always work. Having a positive, optimistic attitude. If you don’t have the right attitude, you will miss so many opportunities to connect and move forward. Being humble and honest always works. Walk the talk. Make sure that you are always consistent. What’s in your head, in your heart, what comes out of your mouth, and what you do must be in unison.”