039: Using Leadership and Mentorship to Become an Executive with Rick Alessandri of Univision
Rick Alessandri is the Executive Vice President at Univision Communications. At a young age, he didn’t expect to be a media executive. In fact, he thought he would be an attorney when in university but quickly realized he wasn't passionate about it. From a young age, he had passion for sports and music.
He started working for Sports Ticker in 1982 while in university and in 1983 he became a full-time employee because he was computer savvy at the time. Slowly by slowly, this morphed into the newsroom operator, sports reporter, and many other duties. As the business grew, he became more and more involved and he got interested in the business of sports and started to learn about it.
They grew the company and sold it a couple of times, and ultimately sold to ESPN in 1993. In 2000, he was asked to take a job with George Bodenheimer as his chief of staff VP. Here, he learned how to deal with people, manage people, and how to get deals done. This earned him different job positions at ESPN and now he’s at Univision running the corporate business development team.
He believes mentors have been pivotal in his career but it was always coupled with hard work. You have to put the effort in and have the willingness to learn in order to be successful. To attract a mentor, it's essential that you're passionate, committed, and are also curious to learn. His best mentors are George Bodenheimer and Peter Bavasi with Peter being the best because he saw the potential he had way back when he was merely successful.
His first risk was taking a full-time job while he was still in college. At this time, he made a bet with ESPN even though it was just a start-up company with no defined success. Over the years, he’s taken risks in his career but nothing as big as making a leap to lead a Spanish media company. This terrified him in the first few days but it's been a remarkable journey and very rewarding. He wishes he took even more risks while young when he had no major responsibilities, because as you grow older, you try to balance the risks.
DEVELOPING LEADERSHIP SKILLS
He’s learned a lot of things from managers, both good and bad. However, he tries to be as transparent as possible in his leadership. Managers make a lot of tough decisions and the only thing you can do is be honest with your employees. Handling downfalls hands on and in the moment spares you from a series of disappointment with the team members later on. Also, as a leader, you’ve got to listen to your colleagues and bosses, synthesize the message and take the best part from it. This will gain you exceptional growth. A good manager will get out of the office and interact with his/her employees but most importantly, they have to treat them with respect regardless of their title.
Although some leadership skills are innate, you can still learn from numerous resources available if you're curious enough. For Rick, he learned and enhanced his skills from supporting STOKED and Junior Achievement in New York. JA is an organization that focuses on financial literacy with youth and he’s gained a lot of experience just from interacting with the kids. They’ve got incredible talent and he’s proud to be associated with such a group.
MAKING DIFFICULT DECISIONS.
The most difficult decisions happen when you have to make decisions that involves and impacts other people’s lives. He vividly remembers the first person he fired which was a difficult moment for him to the extent he cried.
The most important job as a manager is to communicate a vision successfully. It's important for employees to understand the destination, the journey, but most importantly, what the end game is. Let them know how you measure success and the understanding of why it's important to you, how it impacts them personally and professionally. The critical thing for a leader is to let them do the work by themselves. Don't put employees in positions of responsibility and then sit on them constantly.
Univision will be launching new products in development as well language learning projects of how to speak Spanish and English. They will also have a big soccer event in December where they’ll host 8 international soccer teams. This game will result in them crowning a USA champion and a global champion.