I met Dirk Tesche in a Holiday Inn Hotel Bar next to my office in Frankfurt, Germany. Straight away the first look at him told me, this man is different - light leather bag under his coat, a black hat on his head and a welcoming smile on his face – a look you don’t see often in Germany.
I think first of all I should introduce Dirk to you, as you might wonder, what kind of special person he seems to be. So here we go: Dirk has more than 40 years of professional experience, the last 15 years working as an Interim Manager for different international companies, driving change through Mergers & Acquisitions as well as insolvency proceedings with continuance. One of the companies he worked for as Interim Manager was Philipp Holzmann AG. It was the 2002 insolvency of Germanys former largest and one of the world’s biggest construction companies. Through the insolvency process Dirks tasks included among others the structuralizing of Philipp Holzmanns’ 320 international subsidiaries and associated companies. The winding-up embraces till today nearly 60 kilometer (or 37,3 miles) of records – and as far as is known, the process is still not finished.
Let’s come to the interview and enjoyable midmorning I had with Dirk:
Through the last 15 years, Dirk was involved in all different kind of changing processes. Asking him in what kind of roles he drove those changes, his answer came immediately:
Dirk Tesche: “I am always the Implementer unfortunately seen as the Invader and the first thing I have to do is to put up an umbrella to save the employees from fear. Afterwards the most important things I do are within the nonverbal area. Today you would say that I use my Soft-skills.” With a smile he added: “To be honest, I’d rather call them Fluid-skills. I am able to obtain more information within one week, then anybody from the company itself. And you know why? Because – nobody – ever – takes – the – time – to – talk – with – the – staff ! What is natural for us, most controller or financiers have never done before - talking to their
people. And that’s what I do. I talk to them. I encourage them to get a chance to be part of solutions, to tell me what is happening in the company, I offer an open ear to them and for their anxieties. You know, my ears are my most important tools and I try to walk through a company twice a day, if possible. Because I am like a sponge, I need to absorb as much information as possible. Otherwise I couldn’t follow my own understanding of leadership: Leading means to encourage employees to act by their own choice and for their own good.”
In Dirks eyes it is self-evident to talk with the General Manager or CEO (if they are still there) and to the shareholders, but the second hierarchical level is one of his most important “partners”, as those people provide the base for operations. And Dirk would never forget the people working at the machines or the nice men and women from the front desk. “Because they know the daily business, they know the grapevine.” And you should never underestimate the grapevine.
As a company, thinking about hiring an Interim Manager for situations like change, you might wonder for how long such a manager is needed. Dirk explained the following:
Dirk Tesche: “Of course there is no fix statement I can give you, but in many cases it takes something around nine months.” He made a pensive face and added: “But the magic number is three, not nine. Because within three seconds I need to get the sympathy of the others. Within three minutes I need to figure out if the sympathy is entitled and within the first three days, I need to know where the skeletons in the closet are and I have to find solutions about how to get rid of them within three weeks. Then we have three months to eliminate all skeletons and the hard work is done. Ok, now you might wonder, why do I stay for another five months or more. And here you find a stumbling block, most companies can’t handle. Yes, the business is getting better and they believe everything will come out fine. But that is wrong. For the next months I exchange the shovel for tweezers. Because now it’s the time to talk to employees again, to convince them again and again. People don’t change within two or three months. It takes time. And this time the company should invest to get the highest probability of success for the whole change process.”
Asking Dirk what his most surprising change situation had been, where he was asked to help the company: he said:
Dirk Tesche: “I was called for a change process, where a foreign company bought a French enterprise in summer and was extremely surprised that it is nearly impossible to make business in France during August (you need to know, that nearly everybody is on vacation in August, so most production companies are not producing anything). And on top, the production costs of the new company where way too high. So here several problems occurred just because somebody did not analyze or plan detailed enough, what would have been extremely necessary.”
Let’s get the focus to the talent of companies, that you should not lose, when you are in a difficult situation, and it doesn’t matter, if we look for example on the acquiring or the acquired side. As an interviewer it is always interesting to get deep insights in such processes and I really wanted to know, what companies do, to retain their talent. But the answer was honestly shocking: “Unfortunately often nothing.”
After this answer I needed to recollect myself. Imagine you are a company. You are going to merge with another company. You do this, because you see not only financial benefits, but technical process and innovation. How successful would such a merge be, when the partner company loses its talent?? And maybe you lose great talent from your company as well. It would be a catastrophe! So why on earth would you not try to retain your and the other companies’ talent? Dirk answer’s:
Dirk Tesche: “Most of the “important” managers and executives are from finance or controlling. Most of them miss the importance of the whole aspect of empathy and even more dangerous how important employees are for the success of an enterprise. You can’t measure everything in numbers, not when people are involved.”
So what do the people need in order to not leave their company? How do you try to retain the important talent?
Dirk Tesche: “Most employees want to feel acceptance, appreciation and praise for their good work. The last thing they want or need in most cases is more money. Today’s work is not only about money. It’s about a right work-life-balance, reputation, authenticity and the knowledge, that somebody is listening . And here you see the benefit of hiring an Interim Manager. As an Interim Manager you must be able to juggle between managing, sales, psychology or your role as pastor. . Most companies think in Excel and results. But Change Management is a People Business. Excel can’t help you here.”
And with these wise words my interview with Dirk Tesche ended.
Thank you Dirk for giving me this fascinating insight of your work and the two hours, I really enjoyed while talking with you!
Sourcing Talent in in an Evolving Africa. A white paper on executive recruitment in African regions. Executive Summary The following document is the first in a series of white paper documents prepared by consultants at SpenglerFox Executive Search to provide our clients and business partners with insight into new developments on African markets. We focus primarily on changes taking place in four key regions on the continent: Northern and Maghreb Africa East Africa Southern Africa West Africa This issue of the comprehensive white paper looks in particular at the market in Southern Africa and addresses a number of key issues: growth markets in the region and how businesses plan the location of hubs and headquarters; the HR outlook and how talent sourcing occurs in the region; regional specificities related to finding talent that might not be obvious at first glance, and standard salary packages for executives and upper-level managers. Picking up on the regional specificities point mentioned above, we feel it is important to point out particular regulatory measures on hiring implemented in various countries in the region: namely, in South Africa. These countries have strict quota systems to equalize the hiring of both white and black citizens as well as men and women. Such quota systems, with their noble aim of trying to integrate historically-discriminated populations and afford new opportunities to disadvantaged groups, do have an impact on how businesses hire in the region and how they plan incentive and career advancement programs. To make the document more timely and relevant for readers, we have also included an interview with a business partner who has first-hand experience managing operations in the Southern Africa region. This testimony highlights what areas are most difficult for sourcing talent; what successes have been achieved with programmes for finding talent (best practice); what mistakes have been made and learnt from in recent years and what advice the interviewee has to offer on succession-planning. The interview provides added value and real-life examples of how a business has addressed issues that impact a number of organisations in the given region: sourcing expat vs. local talent; promoting worker mobility; setting up attractive remuneration packages and talent retention programmes; and managing long-term talent development programmes. We hope this text proves both informative and useful. Africa_Southern_Africa_2018.pdf Size: 3.35 MB
Sourcing Talent in an Evolving Africa. A white paper on executive recruitment in African regions. Executive Summary The following document is the first in a series of white paper documents prepared by consultants at SpenglerFox Executive Search to provide our clients and business partners with insight into new developments on African markets. We focus primarily on changes taking place in four key regions on the continent: Northern and Maghreb Africa East Africa Southern Africa West Africa This issue of the comprehensive white paper looks in particular at the market in Northern and Maghreb Africa and addresses a number of key issues: growth markets in the region; the HR outlook and how talent sourcing occurs in the region; regional specificities related to finding talent that might not be obvious at first glance, and standard salary packages for executives and upper-level managers. To make the document more timely and relevant for readers, we have also included interviews with business partners who have first-hand experience managing HR operations in all the Northern and Maghreb Africa region. Their testimonies highlight what areas are most difficult for sourcing talent; what successes they have had with programmes for finding talent (best practice); what mistakes they have made and learnt from in recent years and what advice they have to offer on succession-planning. The interviews provide added value and real-life examples of how businesses have addressed issues that impact a number of organisations in the given region: sourcing expat vs. local talent; promoting worker mobility; setting up attractive remuneration packages and talent retentionprogrammes; and managing long-term talent development programmes. We hope this text proves both informative and useful. Africa_NorthernAndMaghreb_2018.pdf Size: 3.65 MB
Mis Güleryüz, Regional Practice Group Leader of SpenglerFox, talks to Talentpolitan magazine about her career that brings new talents to the business world. In a few sentences, tell us about yourself and your business. I was born and raised in Istanbul where I studied to become an electrical and communications engineer. I ended up working in the executive search sector; most recently in the Industrial and Manufacturing Practice Group at SpenglerFox. When and how did you begin working in this field? How did you choose this profession? I worked in sales and business development for 25 years. I was eventually approached by the SpenglerFox executive search company to come work for them. Their contacting me happened at just the right time, for I was considering a career change and a role with less travel. It took two years and five rounds of intense meetings, but I ended up here. Is there a difference between headhunting and executive search? Generally, the processes are the same. In both roles, you are looking to find the right person for a specific role. “Headhunting” is more of marketing term that had been previously used to reflect the challenge of finding highly-skilled people for critical professional roles. That term tended to reflect the perceived aggressiveness of the process. In executive search, we tend to deal with C-suite level positions that focus on company strategy and leadership. How is the executive search process evolving? What are the critical points in the process for finding talent? And what methods do you use: from beginning to end? The process has evolved mainly based on how clients perceive the market. The market for placing new talent is now more global. So, we address all projects from a global perspective working with all the experts in our team to provide input. The most critical aspect of search is communications. There has to be chemistry between ourselves and the client. A successful search process always starts with a very good brief: we sit down and talk to the client about what they want and what they need. The client has to trust us: they need to see that we understand their business, how leadership interacts with employees, and that we can deliver the right talent to execute the given role. The process is not just about one-off assignments: businesses grow and change and, for us, this means we need to monitor our clients' evolution and develop relationships and care programs that are responsive to their changing needs. Does successful recruitment require specific skills? Communication is critical. To be a good executive search consultant you need a strong level of social and emotional intelligence. You have to view assignments from a global perspective, sometimes taking a deeper look at what clients need just as much as what they want. Success in our industry involves having a superb network of contacts and knowing our clients’ businesses from back-to-front. What are your favorite questions used when interviewing candidates? Do you feel that any specific questions are either loved or hated? Do you have a favorite trick question? My favorite question to ask is “What makes you happy?" I ask this both generally (about life) and specifically (about career). Other questions I like to put to candidates include “Can you define an ideal leader?” and “What does success mean to you?” These questions usually give me good insight into the candidate and help me get an idea of their work process, what metrics they use to evaluate other employees’ success, as well as their ability to manage and delegate work. Have you ever experienced failure in life? When and how? For me, failure is a relative term. I think we all have different measures for where we think we “should” be at any given moment in our careers and this defines how we feel about success or failure. I can remember a time at a former company when I really wanted to move to a role at the company's offices in Switzerland. I had delivered on my work, executed well but, in the end, I didn't push hard enough. I later realized that perhaps I didn’t want the move as much as I thought. If I had, I would have pushed myself much harder. What defines your ability to succeed in your business? I think I’ve been successful because of my openness and my honesty. Plus, I am very eager to learn. I think my approach to our business as a positive, but analytical, thinker has helped a lot. So much of what we do is about how we speak, how we approach people and how we deliver on client requests. I think my biggest success has been learning how to engage with clients and deliver specific messages. This has helped develop trust and personal bonds over the years. Do you follow up with people after you’ve placed them in a job? How do you feel watching their personal development? The key thing here is that we’re not selling a product. We are changing peoples’ lives. That’s why we integrate follow-up tools into our placement support processes. We have a multi-phases review scheme to monitor how candidates are doing and to discuss their satisfaction. As a rule, I also make calls to candidates right on the first day. I want them to know that we care how they do in their new role and are willing to pass relevant information back to their bosses so that management can work to improve onboarding processes. Finally, follow-up with candidates is definitely an investment that pays off, because many times over we’ve received very good referrals from people we’ve successfully placed. They trust us and know their colleagues will be in good hands with us. Let’s talk about your customers? Why do, or should they, choose to work with SpenglerFox? I’d say because of our commitment to candidates and our thoroughness in managing the placement process. We do client feedback reviews and most often they compliment us on our communications process, our support programs, speed of response and our integration of coaching services into our search process. There are many other businesses out there that do what we do. However, we invest a lot in relationship-building. We place emphasis on our trusted advisor role. We also focus on a borderless approach to doing business, where we leverage the contacts and know-how of experts in our global practice groups to find clients the best talent available on the market. How does someone follow in your career path? How do they begin and how do they advance? Essentially, there are two routes. Either you join the business as an intern and then gradually move to a consultant role. Or, in other cases, people move to this business after having worked for several years in a specific industry segment. I think that, afterwards, to thrive in our business you have to have a strong interest in people: in building long-term relationships. People in our business advance and succeed because of a willingness to learn and take on new skills. Our business is constantly evolving and we increasingly see impact from sector overlap (i.e. integrating disciplines like tech and psychology) and the need to learn continually. How would you define a talented candidate? I think your best talent comes from people who are willing to engage. You want someone with people skills as well as emotional and social intelligence. It truly depends on the situation though. Some businesses may feel that the top talent is the executive that performs best; the one who meets quarterly targets. Others may define success as the manager who finds the best solutions to problems. At SpenglerFox, we do our best not to pigeon-hole talent or insist on working within the paradigm of traditional roles. In some cases, we help clients define and place candidates in jobs that hadn't existed in the past. Top talent is able to work across disciplines and inspire and motivate colleagues and teams with their problem-solving skills.