A practical example: A medium-sized company that sells consumer goods mainly via e-commerce, but also internationally through trading partners, is flourishing. It is profitable, grows significantly in double digits, currently “only” in the upper single-digit range due to the corona crisis. According to the business data, it looks to a prosperous future. So far so good.
In a personal conversation with the owner, however, it became clear that despite positive figures, he is not satisfied, because the company has been losing know-how in key positions below the management for some time. So far, this has been compensated for. He also has no doubts about the quality of the current actors. But now the question arises whether a better teamwork in the management team can not help to bind important talents to the company and to develop them further according to the possibilities. Especially since the company is located in a location that has no direct appeal to talent; this is another reason why there is a risk of losing the critical substructure. After all, the company is aiming to double sales in the coming years, but this will not be possible without the contribution of some key know-how carriers.
The owner decided to pursue the question as part of a leadership journey program and commissioned an external advisory team to carry out the analysis. The aim was to find out which challenges have to be overcome in the coming years and whether the collective is able to master them in the interests of the owner. In the specific case, the management team consisted of three managing directors, two department heads and one expert with excellent technological skills.
The multi-stage program was primarily based on the following questions:
Is there a common consensus on business activity and overarching goals? For example, from the point of view of sales versus profit growth, talent promotion and targeted succession planning.
Does the way of leadership (trust, transparency, operational discipline) enable the goals set to be achieved?
Is the organization – measured in terms of the organizational chart and the processes actually practiced – correctly positioned to achieve the goals together? Do these goals arrive in the organization? Are there convincing concepts to tie talent to the company?
In preparation for the leadership journey, the first step was to determine the location of the individual program participants. It is important in order to get to know the individual actors and to be able to make a sound assessment.
- The most common mistakes made by new bosses and managers
Every beginning is difficult, even in the role of the boss. New managers in particular tend to be overzealous and make mistakes that can question their leadership position. Silvia Habedank, an expert in human resources development, lists the eight most common traps that managers fall into.
- Case 1: Underestimate the importance of the inaugural speech
It is helpful to invite the team to a come together and to officially introduce yourself again. In a short speech you should on the one hand tell something about yourself and your career and on the other hand give an insight into the management style as well as values and goals.
- Trap 2: Immediately turn everything upside down
New executives often fall into blind activism because of high expectations. It is better to use the first few weeks for employee reviews. This gives you an overview of expectations, tasks, collaboration, processes and possible sticking points. Changes should only be initiated with the involvement of employees after the inventory has been taken.
- Case 3: Let employees use it
When a new manager arrives, employees tend to use them for unsettled and unsatisfactory issues so that they stand up for these concerns towards third parties. But caution is required here, because often only subjective perception comes to light. So you shouldn’t make promises and make hasty decisions, but first get a comprehensive impression of the status quo and responsibilities.
- Trap 4: Make intensive friendships with employees
If friendships develop with individual colleagues, one should question what influence the relationship has on day-to-day business in the company and what impression colleagues and superiors get when they learn about the friendship. To protect managers and employees, it therefore makes sense to keep a sufficient distance.
- Case 5: keep right and don’t admit mistakes
Admitting mistakes and accepting criticism from employees is often interpreted as a weakness in leadership. However, the opposite is the case. True greatness and competence shows who is open to justified criticism and who can undo a decision if necessary. This is how you gain credibility and trust as a superior.
- Trap 6: Avoid conflicts
Executives in need of harmony are usually also averse to conflict. They secretly hope that problems will resolve themselves and often address grievances far too late. Whether misconduct by employees or conflicts in the team – you should state expectations early, always give constructive feedback and correct them in good time. Clarity in leadership is a key success factor. And clarity and friendliness are not mutually exclusive.
- Trap 7: Always have an open door
A statement like “You can come to me at any time” is fatal. The reason: Unplanned conversations confuse the daily routine and tear the manager out of concentration in his or her respective task. That means: Leading “in between” is not advisable. After coordination, take undivided time for employee interviews.
- Trap 8: Want to outperform experts in technical knowledge
It is a fallacy to believe as a manager that you have to have an answer to every technical question or that you can solve every problem. The specialists are responsible for this, namely the employees with their corresponding specialist knowledge. The supervisor’s job is primarily to perform management and control tasks. Anyone who feels responsible for it as a boss quickly becomes a “senior clerk”. Tip: Delegate so that you gain freedom and achieve your goals.
The core of the analysis was the team effectiveness assessment. Here, the type of cooperation and the ability to focus and communicate on common goals in a team were analyzed. In the specific case, this was the key moment because the individual actors convinced with their ideas about binding talent to the company. But what was clearly missing was the uniform message of the management team to target talented people. The non-orchestration of the individually strong approaches was recognized as a weak point by the entire program
team and worked through in several team discussions.
The result is a uniform talent retention logic with which everyone involved could identify, so that the creation of an implementation plan and the ensuing anchoring in the organization went smoothly.
In the third step, an organizational assessment was carried out around the questions:
How does the organization work and are there dysfunctions?
Where will follow-up situations arise in the future?
How is there a connection to the company?
Specific measures that resulted from the team effectiveness assessment were, for example, new incentive mechanisms for the management team and a link to the successful succession planning of the key roles. Another result was the participation of some key people, including selected talents, in the company in order to achieve a medium-term alignment of interests. The technology expert was also promoted and one of the two division heads will move into the management team next year. In this case, an external appointment was not necessary.
But what are leadership skills that are fundamentally important in e-commerce today, but also beyond? Managers have been and are being trained to extrapolate trends as precisely as possible. For example, to derive budget or market developments from it. However, today we live in uncertain times. Managers are needed who have the self-confidence to make decisions when the facts are not complete. This requires acceptance of the fallibility as well as the willingness to adapt the direction again and again according to changing framework conditions. “Probing and Sensing” replaces the learned approach of “Predicting”.
Furthermore, managers are sought who are able to work in a team that is controversial, but respectful, with colleagues who have a diametrically opposed but complementary profile. This requires tolerance and a real understanding of diversity. International experience and an internal pioneering role in the sensible and consistent application of technology in day-to-day business are indispensable requirements for the managing director of tomorrow. We are looking for a “talent motor” that is able to bind the next generation to itself. It is important to present convincing management concepts that are economically successful, technologically forward-looking and sustainable.
What does the individual have to bring in order to be successful in a management team in general and especially in e-commerce, also with regard to the interaction? The ability to network functionally is becoming increasingly important, as is the realization that all disciplines / functions are equally important. There are no “stars”, but individual talents, who, however, have to grow into a team. This sounds banal, but only the barrier-free interaction of the individual talents allows the strength of the individual managers to have an effect in the corporate context. What is specific in e-commerce is that the talents are usually very young and take a certain amount of time to gain their own experience and to learn to read organizations. The speed in e-commerce companies is often immense – this is attractive on the one hand, but on the other hand occasionally leads to “jerk actions”, which are not always conducive to achieving the goals set.
The long-standing focus, which was in the assessment of managers on the MBA training, is currently losing value for many positions, at least if it is not embedded in concrete practical experience and a feeling for what is feasible. When choosing a suitable team of consultants for the leadership journey, two main requirements should be considered:
The consultant has experience with complex team coaching processes and
does he have “access” to the business model, i.e. does he know of similar constellations from the past (in this case: international medium-sized companies / consumer goods / e-commerce) that he was able to successfully advise?
A good “chemistry” between the client and the team of consultants is helpful, since sometimes uncomfortable “truths” have to be spoken. However, specific leadership skills are not necessary with this leadership advisory approach. (pg)
- How managers motivate
Employee motivation does not only mean offering material incentives for services rendered. Long-term productivity and employee satisfaction are rather based on strong intrinsic motivation of the employees by the managers.
- Convey meaningfulness of the company
What is the purpose of your own company and why is there an operation? Providing a satisfactory answer to these questions makes sense for all employees.
- Avoid senselessness
In order for employees to be motivated to the tips of their hair, managers have to make sure that their sense is not taken away. Since meaning is a subjective attitude, a manager cannot transfer it directly. A supervisor can, however, directly contribute to experiencing an activity as no longer fulfilling or senseless.
- Meaningful leadership
“Sense is always subjective, it arises from our relationships with other people, with certain things, with what we do,” says Reinhold Messner. It is therefore up to the manager to help employees find meaning. This strengthens identification with the job.
- Motivate at all levels
If you want employee motivation, you have to make sense. However, this principle must not only apply to individual managers in the company. This approach must be anchored in the DNA of the company at every organizational level.
- Ensure self-determination and autonomy
Self-determination and autonomy are central factors for intrinsic motivation.