Phil Rubel summary Phil Rubel shares his extensive leadership experience in the US, Canada and Japan in various fields including advertising and consulting. Mr. Rubel is originally from Canada and moved to Japan in 1997 on a three-year posting but returned multiple times. In total, his career in J
Publish Date: Jul 30, 2021
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Phil Rubel summary Phil Rubel shares his extensive leadership experience in the US, Canada and Japan in various fields including advertising and consulting. Mr. Rubel is originally from Canada and moved to Japan in 1997 on a three-year posting but returned multiple times. In total, his career in Japan ran for over 20 years. Mr. Rubel experienced working in various roles and fields such as marketing, business licensing and acquisition, strategic planning and account management. Mr. Rubel was recruited by McCann Erickson in 1997 as the Senior Vice-President and Manager of one of the company’s division. There, Mr. Rubel dealt with global clients and helped form new partnerships. Prior to working at McCann, Mr. Rubel co-founded an agency in Canada. Mr. Rubel then moved onto other prominent leadership roles including becoming CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon, CEO of Beacon Communications, Partner at KPMG and Director Marketing & Communications at Philip Morris Japan. He has currently returned to Canada as the Managing Partner of Song Sparrow Advisory & Executive In Residence at the University of Victoria. On his first leadership role in Japan at McCann, Mr. Rubel recalls how Japan at the time was struggling with the burst of the economic bubble, and was hesitant in engaging with global management and leadership practices. Mr. Rubel says having people look at thing with a “fresh set of eyes” and motivate them to take risks was a new leadership style compared to what he had experienced in Canada and the US. He adds: “I think one of the challenges for any new manager to Japan is to determine how to instigate a change without being revolutionary and more evolutionary.” After McCann Erickson, Mr. Rubel became the Japan head of Beacon Communications, an advertising agency formed by merging different companies of Publicis Groupe and Dentsu. Mr. Rubel recalls the merger process as a “life time opportunity.” He sought to define the purpose of the new organization and create a common culture for all employees coming from the different agencies. On day 1, Mr. Rubel went into the office in casual attire and asked the team to take off their company lapel and start thinking as one company. Mr. Rubel encouraged those who he felt were the most engaged and motivated from the start to implement their ideas. He also spent time talking to each employee on a one-on-one basis or in small groups so people felt their voices were heard. Mr. Rubel says having a transparent two-way communication process and providing explanation over and over made people more open minded and engaged. On innovation, Mr. Rubel points out that creativity is a commonly misunderstood phrase. He says: “it's not about being artistic or anything like that…it's actually a disciplined approach. And if you look at, for example, all of the work that's been done in design thinking, which is a very big passion of mine is all about experimenting upfront and mitigating risk, but still allowing risk and failure to happen.” During his time at Saachi & Saachi Fallon, Mr. Rubel says his leadership approach did not change much, although the scale of his team had changed from his time at Beacon Communications. He explains: “Obviously scale has a big impact onto what you can do and how you can do it. But from a leadership perspective I don't think that principles changes all that much. It's about knowing and understanding all the stakeholders. It's about being empathetic and inclusive. Also in Japan [it is particularly important] to show the way, demonstrating, not just talking about it and then also making absolutely sure that any commitments that you make, any promises that you say that you keep and that you follow through.” On advice to foreign leaders coming to Japan, Mr. Rubel first recommends to take the time to understand the organization and all the stakeholders before taking action. Secondly, he advises to come to Japan with an open mind instead of thinking one has all the answers, but also not try to act Japanese but to “be yourself.” Mr. Rubel explains: “I think if you just stay open-minded and just be yourself I think you can really enjoy yourself in Japan. It's an amazing culture. It's an amazing business society. Now this is my second time leaving Japan…The lessons from Japan still are relevant to daily business here.”