As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Christine L. Delucchi.
Christine L. Delucchi is a Managing Principal and Chief Growth Officer at Streetsense, a global creative consultancy. Christine has oversight of consultative sales, marketing and customer experience and is the principal in charge of many long-term accounts. Christine is also a member of the executive team and sits on the JV Board that governs the Streetsense & CBRE partnership.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Ihave always been an entrepreneur — from selling worms at age 6 to local fishermen and running neighborhood lemonade stands to building three companies and ultimately selling my last company, Delucchi Plus, to Streetsense in October of 2016. I was born to build and grow businesses through establishing great relationships, seizing opportunities and problem solving along the way.
I started my first company at 29 when the internet was born developing websites for real estate companies, and this evolved to a fully integrated communications firm for commercial and residential real estate, hospitality, and consumer retail brands. At Streetsense, we consult on the positioning of brands and places and how to drive value for our clients through market positioning, storytelling, placemaking, activations and consumer engagement. The consulting work we do today touches the entire customer journey both online and in the physical environment.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting (and scary) thing that happened to me when leading my company as part of our executive team was COVID-19. After 25 years of heading companies, this was brand new and none of us had experience on how to navigate a global health crisis, so we just jumped in together and did whatever was needed to offer support to employees and their families.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest (and not so funny) mistakes I made were financial as my background was journalism and marketing, not accounting, so my big mistakes were always around taxes and cash planning. I learned quickly that investing in a great financial leader was key to my success and sleeping at night.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I worked for one person in my early career for a decade that taught me everything about business and running a company from the ground up. He was not a great people manager or communicator, so I was the one who managed the teams and client expectations without any formal training, so I learned to trust my instincts and developed foundational soft skills that are key to my success.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high-stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
A good night’s sleep solves everything for me so 7–8 hours of sleep gives me more energy than going to the gym. I have learned when I’m stressed or worried that if I get a good night’s sleep, I will find clarity in the morning.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Diversity at the board and executive level (and across the company) is essential. It’s imperative to hear different perspectives and collaborate on key decisions as without diversity you will have unconscious or conscious bias. Having a diverse executive team also sets an example for the team and shows employees that Streetsense is a safe space to be yourself and a place that all people have equal opportunity for growth. Streetsense is also uniquely positioned to shape future places and communities across the world to be more inclusive, sustainable and diverse.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
To truly make a difference, every company needs an intentional plan for ESG and DEIBJ that is core to their mission and vision and provides the roadmap for decision making on a day-to-day basis. It is not enough to be a strategic initiative but needs to be core to the company’s culture. Companies need goals and measurement tools, as well as an intentional plan to truly make a difference. This requires investing time and money and putting people in roles in the company that have the autonomy to implement change throughout an organization.
At Streetsense, we are making a significant investment in our people and our brand story, and we are also creating a purpose-driven brand where ESG and DEIBJ are not just things we care about but core to how we do business, who we do business with and the heart of our employment brand. We are currently rethinking everything we are doing to ensure we have a culture of attraction and a people-first brand. The definition of this is continually evolving as we come out of a world health crisis and continue to live amid social injustice. We have to keep listening, learning and growing and being open to change based on the feedback and needs of our employees, clients and communities.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The CEO along with the executive team sets the vision, culture and strategy for the entire organization.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Being a CEO is the hardest job in the company. It’s a huge responsibility but if you have an organization that is 100% aligned to a mission, vision, and business plan, it becomes much easier as the CEO can focus on building value and positive experiences for employees, clients, and shareholders.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Women typically lack the confidence that men have in asking for what they deserve and getting paid for the same contribution. Women are underrepresented on boards and in the C-Suite. I joined Chief earlier this year to try to help change this dynamic. Chief is a private network built to drive more women into positions of power and keep them there. I have always been committed to helping women in business and women-owned organizations grow professionally and individually to this is one of my passions.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The striking difference throughout my career is the job description and experience needed for the role and the soft skills that define your ultimate ability to be successful.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Soft skills are by far the skills needed to be a transformational leader. The smartest person in the room is not always a great leader. I believe someone who does not have critical thinking, problem-solving, empathy, and great communication skills should not be in a leadership role.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Lead with authenticity and transparency and this will allow you to build trust which is key to being a successful leader.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I get up every day thinking about where I can make a difference. Right now, providing mentorship and giving back is my key focus.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- That you have to make your own opportunities and not wait for them to come to you. I have created many roles for myself in companies that were never advertised as I saw a need and just assumed responsibility.
- That you earn trust as it’s not always given. I have learned that the best way to earn trust is to do what you say you are going to do, communicate often, and be authentic.
- That it’s worth taking risks for things you believe in. I have learned that it’s important to speak up if you want to drive change.
- That believing in people more than they believe in themselves makes a difference. I have learned that creating opportunities for people to stretch to areas they are not as experienced in builds confidence.
- That if you do the right thing, you will never have regrets. I have lived by this principle my entire career and it has never failed me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Provide food, health care, and education to all people in need across the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Without change, there’d be no butterflies” My dad gave me this quote when I was going through a difficult time, and it has helped me embrace change my entire life.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Pema Chodron is my favorite author. I have read all her books and they changed my life and taught me to run towards life challenges and embrace change without fear.