Marcelo Lu

How strong are your coaching skills?

How satisfied are you with the productivity and outcomes of your team?

Is your team really understanding your vision and your job as a leader?

I’m SO EXCITED to be coaching Marcelo Lu, President of BASF Canada. In this episode of The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast we focus on:

  1. What the role of a leader is really about
  2. How coaching can actually help get your team towards the common goal
  3. The importance of great communication with those around you.

“You can never stop learning. You can never stop being coached. You can never stop coaching” Marcelo says as we finish our conversation.

Have you ever experienced any of these struggles? Share your story! If there's a challenge you'd like to discuss here on the podcast or privately, reach out to me at:

Episode Transcript

Kim Ades: [00:00:05]
Hello, hello! My name is Kim Ades and I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching, and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast, where we invite leaders from all over the world to come onto the podcast to get coached live and in person.

Today I'm really excited to have the President of BASF Canada with me today. His name is Marcelo Lu. I think it's a bit of a coup to get him on this call with me, so welcome!

Macelo Lu: [00:00:34]
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for letting me join.

Kim Ades: [00:00:36]
Letting you? I'm thrilled that you're here! So, for people who are outside of Canada and in other parts of the world, please describe what is BASF Canada.

Macelo Lu: [00:00:48]
So BASF Canada is part of a German multinational chemical company. We produce everything from ingredients that go into the pharma segment, automotive, aerospace, oil and gas, mining, agriculture, especially in Canada. So we are really approximate for many different industries. And we sell in... Basically any industry that is producing, you will see chemistry, so we show up there.

Kim Ades: [00:01:16]
So is there some area where you specialize? Like, "we specialize in this kind of product or this kind of application"?

Macelo Lu: [00:01:25]
Again, because chemistry is a building block for many different products, so, if you take a car, for example, you know, we supply a lot of the plastic components that go into cars.

Kim Ades: [00:01:37]
I see. Okay.

Macelo Lu: [00:01:38]
We supply a lot of the few additives that go into fuels. We supply a lot of the lubricants that go into the different engines. You know, we supply the coatings, we have a coatings plant in Canada in Windsor. So if you're driving, depending on the make and model, you're driving on a BASF paint.

So we really show up a bit everywhere, and one interesting thing is 3M, which is a customer of ours, they always say that you're never more than 10 feet away from a 3M product. Yeah, like the Post-it notes. And because we are a supplier to 3M, I always say you're never farther away than 5 feet away because we supply a lot of the ingredients. So it's one of those companies that you never really hear about, but we are everywhere.

Kim Ades: [00:02:23]
So before we started this recording, I noticed that you had a pair of shoes sitting on your window sill, and I suggested that just for the purpose of aesthetics, you might want to take down your shoes, but then you showed them to me up front and in personal, and you said, "but wait a minute, this is a product of ours". So I thought maybe...

Macelo Lu: [00:02:41]
This is not me, you know, putting my running shoes on the window to dry. We actually 3D printed these soles.

Kim Ades: [00:02:50]

Macelo Lu: [00:02:50]
So it's a prototype shoe. And that's what BASF does. Yeah. Innovate.

Kim Ades: [00:02:55]
Very very interesting. Okay. So that gives people a sense for who you are and what you do.

Tell us today, what is a challenge that you're experiencing that you would be comfortable talking about on this show?

Macelo Lu: [00:03:07]
Yeah. Thanks, Kim. I mean, I actually just did a... What we call here in BASF a "feedback feedforward". So it's almost like a 360 and then people can provide, you know, comments around my leadership traits. And one that always comes back and... It's especially interesting this year because, you know, with the pandemic and trying to support everybody, I always get torn between two sides.

So, I tried as much as possible, even though I am a hands-on person, to give a lot of space to colleagues, to make the decisions on their own, to really allow some, you know, productive discussion to happen before I come in and maybe give my opinion.

Yeah? But it's interesting that I keep getting these feedbacks that, especially in these 360s where it'll say "Oh, Marcello, it'd be great if you allowed more discussion", but at the same time, you get the other extreme where people are saying "Oh, we should just make a decision and move on. You allow too much discussion".

So this kind of...

Kim Ades: [00:04:08]

Macelo Lu: [00:04:09]
Dichotomy is very interesting to me, and something that I'm challenged with. Yeah? That I never know what is enough, you know, rope, when do I have to come in a bit more. And starts spilling over into people thinking that maybe I don't hold other leaders accountable or things like this.

So it's something that I want to work on, but, you know, there are many different angles here and one might, you know, appease one group, and then the other one feels that, you know, it goes the other way. So that's a challenge I would say.

Kim Ades: [00:04:39]
Perfect. I love it. It's beautiful. And it's right up my alley. So let me ask you a question. Do you have children?

Macelo Lu: [00:04:45]
I have. I have two.

Kim Ades: [00:04:46]
How old are they?

Macelo Lu: [00:04:47]
Three and one.

Kim Ades: [00:04:49]
Okay. So I work with leaders just like you, the highly driven population who have huge goals that they want to reach, who have a team underneath them, who are in a position of influence and leadership. I work with people just like you.

And sometimes they have this big idea of how they need to operate as a leader and it gets confusing. And in order to simplify things, I like to talk about having kids because in your home, you're a leader too. And so one of the guiding principles is what do you want for your kids? Do you want them to be independent or dependent?

How do you want to raise them? When we think about the things we want for our children, To be critical thinkers, to have great judgment, to be independent, to feel good about themselves, to have confidence, to build great relationships, to be great communicators, all those things, right? To be kind, to be good human beings.

When we think about the things we want for our children, that provides us with some guidance about how we need to let them work things out, let them fail sometimes, and when and where to be on hand, when they fall. But your job primarily as a parent is to help them learn how to assess things, learn how to make decisions.

So it's the learning how to, which is really your role as opposed to making the decisions for them. And I know it's confusing at the age of one and three, right? Because at the age of one and three, we are making a lot of decisions for our children. But as they age, you want those decisions to be less and less and less, but you want to give them the building blocks or the tools to teach them how to make the right decisions, how to assess situations, how to feel comfortable, how to get up after a failure or a fall.

Does that make sense? Okay. So what I see in your situation is a massive opportunity, and the massive opportunity is twofold. One is I don't think people are clear about your values as a leader. If they were clear, then they would understand why you do what you do, how you do it.

Macelo Lu: [00:07:00]
Yeah. This is a good challenge because one of the other feedbacks is that maybe I have a lot of ideas, but I don't explain them well enough that you got people to buy in to the idea before we act on it.

Kim Ades: [00:07:12]

Macelo Lu: [00:07:12]
And I mean, you going through this you reminded me of a couple of things. So when people ask me "what is your job description?" I usually gravitate now to say I'm a facilitator and a cheerleader. Just between the two. And then people get surprised because, you know, in my position, maybe I should be doing more decisions and I actually just say, no.

I mean, there's other people that are much deeper into the detail, they know what needs to be done. So I need to be there and facilitate and to cheerlead. And the facilitation is if there is a roadblock, I should be the one to help take out roadblocks so that they could move there.

And one of the things, the visuals that I remember a bit is... Somebody asked me to make a presentation on leadership once and I was searching the net and I found this great image of a herd of horses. Yeah? Not to say that people are horses, but the imagery I think was very interesting because immediately when I saw that I thought of... This is a little bit where I think I... what I should be doing.

So, you know, in essence, when you go and you heard horses, you are not telling them to go in a straight line because it's everybody moving, but you at least want to provide direction. And, you know, if one or the other strays, you want to be able to bring them back to be part of the group still.

And that's a little bit where, again, facilitating and cheerleading, that's where I try to be. Even though, obviously I'm not perfect because I still got these feedbacks, but that's at least what I'm striving to do more, you know?

Kim Ades: [00:08:42]
So I'm going to use another term instead of facilitating and cheerleading. I'm going to use the term coaching. And that's really, really, really what you are describing is your job is to coach and make sure that people are all heading toward the common goal, and perhaps toward their individual goals too. And when they get stuck, your job is to help them see past that moment of being stuck.

So there are two things, again, going back. Number one is help them understand your values. And what I mean by values is help them understand your vision of leadership and, more specifically, your vision of how you see the team moving forward. So when you express "Hey, my job is to help you be your best selves. It's not to make decisions for you. It's not to step in with all of my ideas it's to contribute sometimes. Here's my job. Here's my role". Then they understand why you play it out the way you do. In meetings, why you let a certain amount of discussion and then cut it off. And so they see why you're doing what you're doing and where you're coming from.

But the second piece of that is that you have an opportunity to teach people how to think. So in other words, when, as you're raising your children, you're teaching them how to make decisions, how to assess problems, how to assess situations. And what you want to do is empower your team to identify when they get stuck and then provide them with the uniquely Marcello way of getting past these barriers.

So not only are you saying "here's what I would do". You're explaining why you're making that decision so that they learn how to overcome these barriers moving forward. So there's two opportunities for you and really both of those things, both of those approaches, those strategies allows you to address the feedback on both sides of the equation.

Macelo Lu: [00:10:48]
Yeah. And I think you hit on another interesting point where I see more and more, at least for me the need to communicate more. So communication, it becomes a vital here as people are leading other people is that leadership presence, but it's presence via communicating and the more, at least in my experience, the more people feel that they're being communicated, the feeling that they are being included in the discussion, the more natural buy-in when will get interactivity.

You know, and because there is maybe a lot of things happening at the same time, I sometimes fail on communicating one or the other thing, and then maybe that's where colleagues may see, you know, that I'm not allowing enough discussion or allowing too much discussion. But it's a good point.

Sometimes it's just to be transparent in what we're going to do now, is gonna do a nice brainstorming that has an end to it, but we need to go through it so that we can flush out the best ideas or the best things.

Kim Ades: [00:11:45]
Right. So telling them in advance, what process you're going to use and why.

Macelo Lu: [00:11:51]

Kim Ades: [00:11:52]
Right. And what this does is it exposes them to how you see things, what your values are, what your priorities are and how you approach problems. And it's all of the things you want to pass down to your company as a powerful leader. I just want to give you an interesting piece of information.

So again, I've been coaching for a well over 16 years, and over this time period, I have collected some interesting data that I have been focused on. And the question has been: as a leader, how equipped do you feel as a coach? In other words, How strong are your coaching skills evaluate yourself. And the second question is how satisfied are you with the productivity and outcomes of your team? And what we have seen... And there's a direct relationship between these two factors, is that the more a leader has strong coaching skills, the more satisfied they are with the performance and productivity of their team.

It's a straight line. And so what you're really saying is "Hey, I could use a little bit of help in tweaking, finessing, getting a little bit better in the area of coaching". And that's really what you're saying.

Macelo Lu: [00:13:10]
Yeah. And it's... People ask me and I always say, it's what is leadership and all that. And I always say, you can never stop learning, right? So...

Kim Ades: [00:13:20]
A hundred percent!

Macelo Lu: [00:13:21]
You can never stop being coached. You can ever stop coaching. So I fully buy into that. We even installed an internal coaching program here in BASF Canada, where we trained colleagues to become internal coaches. So that culture itself we try to, of course, spread here in the company. Yeah?

Kim Ades: [00:13:42]
That's amazing. And just to share with the audience, when I approached you to be on the podcast, your response was "I think it's very important as a leader to be transparent and open", and that's why you're here. And I think we are leading by example, and so just picking up a few of those extra skills, I think will make it a home run for you.

Macelo Lu: [00:14:05]
Yeah. I hope so! Yeah. And again, once you stop learning, you stop being effective and with impact. So yeah.

Kim Ades: [00:14:14]
I agree, I agree.

Macelo Lu: [00:14:15]
Always curious and willing to learn a bit more. Yeah?

Kim Ades: [00:14:18]
I agree wholeheartedly! Marcelo, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I hope I gave you some things that will cause you to think, or that you could apply in actual meetings.

For those of you who are listening, if there is a challenge that you want to share on the podcast, please reach out to me. My email address is And if you have a challenge that you're not so willing to share on the podcast, but do want to discuss, reach out to me anyways. My email address is

Marcelo, thank you so much for being here with me. I'm thrilled to meet you face to face right here on the podcast.

Macelo Lu: [00:14:58]
Very good. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you as well, Kim.

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