Peter Marino on Celebrating Great Leaders

November 2019
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Name: Peter Marino

Current job title: President of Emerging Growth at Molson Coors
Previous executive roles: Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer, MillerCoors; President, Public Relations, Olson; Owner, Dig Communications



What leadership tenets have guided you?

I have found that if you live your life with honesty, integrity and a commitment to having fun, you will live a happier life and be a better leader.

In many ways, leadership is common sense. Lead people the way you want to be led. Be curious about your team. Show compassion and empathy toward your co-workers. Lead by example and don’t ask the team to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself. 

Be clear about your expectations and then hold yourself and your teams accountable to those expectations. 

When did you first realize you were a leader?

I had led people before starting Dig Communications, but I distinctly remember June 1, 2004, which was the first day of the business. It was me and the six employees I had convinced to follow me on the journey. I had a list of our values and a bunch of other materials that articulated why we were there and the kind of business we were going to build. 

I looked around and thought, “This is real!” We were actually starting a company that was looking to disrupt the agency landscape. At that moment, the business went from my dream to our reality, and I needed to lead the company to fulfill its potential. 

What were your biggest leadership faux pas, and how did you overcome them?

My biggest leadership regrets are from waiting to fire someone because I personally liked them. Every time I have waited too long to fire someone I have regretted it, because their team was negatively affected by that person’s poor performance and they knew that he or she should have been let go long before I came to that realization. When the team realizes what’s happening and you as the leader don’t, it reflects poorly on you and can really hurt your culture.  

Firing an employee is never easy and you always need to do it the right way. But when an employee has to go, you need to move with pace and correct the problem so it doesn’t have a longer-term impact on the team or on you as an accountable leader.

What is your proudest leadership moment?

While running Dig, we tried to create a culture that was special and unique, one of creativity, fun and risk-taking, and of rewarding people for a job well done.

In the agency world of Chicago, turnover can be high as employees look to job-hop in pursuit of a title, more money or responsibility, or to get onto a specific account. In eight years of leading Dig, I am most proud of the fact that we never lost an employee to another agency in town. I believe our low turnover was a great testament to the culture we created.

How can our profession better develop leaders?

Training people to be more skilled comms practitioners is the easy part. Training them to be leaders is more challenging. I don’t think you can ever do enough leadership training.

Some of it can happen in a classroom setting, such as training on how to make presentations. However, most leadership training has to be done “in the field” through coaching, mentoring and trial-and-error.  

I think great leaders should be celebrated inside organizations and held up as the gold standard. They should be identified and groomed to provide their perspectives. Let’s ask our best leaders for their advice and opinions on leadership. Let’s take some modern lessons and not be afraid to crowdsource leadership lessons from inside our own organizations. 

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