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!
SpenglerFox wraps up the summer with discussions on talent motivation and agility with clients in the Czech Republic On Thursday, 30 August, SpenglerFox consultants led by Michal Vajskebr met with between 20-30 of the firm’s top clients in Prague to wrap up the summer holidays with some good food and drink and exciting discussions. The event took place in the Černá labuť (Black Swan) Gallery with its splendid view of parts of Prague's Old Town and Letná Hill. The main draw for the event was two very successful and interesting speakers, who came to share their experiences in executive leadership teams throughout the region. The topic of the evening was how to inspire and motivate good talent with a focus on retention. The expert discussion panel, moderated by Michal Vajskebr, included Martin Horčička, COO at Wüstenrot and Ján Čarný, managing director at COFACE. Comments by the panelists led to some interesting discussions and delivery of insights on what attendees’ personal leadership experiences and challenges they faced in the past taught them about team-building and motivating managers to perform. Martin Horčička (Wüstenrot): Martin’s experience is specific in that he has done a lot of interim management consultancy and worked in teams where he was brought in to manage a business turn around. His biggest challenges related to building and nurturing trust among members of the teams he managed. He pointed out in his remarks that the best first step, when new to a leadership situation, is to find the commonalities that you have with your team; specifically, when working in multicultural environments. One issue that Martin pointed out is that many managers, workers, team leaders, etc. are looking for a higher purpose in their day-to-day jobs. They want to be part of something bigger. He noted that when discussing difficult operational changes with teams he led in Western Europe, there was greater comprehension and respect from his employees once he convinced them he shared their concerns and passion for the future of the company. He noted that during his time in Belgium, the workers in the team he led had a personal investment, feeling-wise, in the company they worked for and wanted to ensure its viable future. Martin pointed out that one way to involve team members and secure their commitment to business plans was to seek their input in defining the company's business strategy. On the executive leadership side, he recommended taking the time to evaluate managerial talent and measure their personal investment in or commitment to the company vision or strategy. He noted that team members are more likely to deliver better results when they know they are trusted and company leadership is willing to give them the freedom to be creative. He underscored the need for executive leaders to foster constant dialogue with their managers and team members: help your talent understand there is no shame in asking question or seeking assistance. You'll be surprised at the results you can achieve when you set talent free to be creative and engage. Ján Čárny (COFACE): in his opening remarks, Ján reiterated Martin's comments that people really should like their work. He noted that local and regional markets have evolved quite a lot since his first years working in the Czech Republic in the investment banking industry. He pointed out that during that time most business leaders in Central Europe had yet to come across the concepts of corporate vision or company mission. Ján mentioned that, for him personally, one of the key motivators for excelling at work is the challenge that a given job or assignment poses. He had worked on finance-related projects on the Czech market, but then moved on to take on regional roles in Poland and later Ukraine. He noted that managing teams in diverse markets in the CEE region was fulfilling for him, because he got to see how corporate structures function in other regional markets. He also had the opportunity to contrast leadership roles in corporate vs. more family-style businesses. Over the years and across various national teams, Ján has come to see understanding of a company's business model as being mission-critical. He is constantly speaking with managers and their team members to find out what they do and why. He noted that problems most often arise when people do not understand their role in the business. It is important that executive leadership support teams in the creative aspects of defining and implementing business plans: executives should empower their teams by saying what to do, the team then says how to do it. Remarks from the two main speakers were followed by contributions from local and regional business leaders contributing to an open discussion forum. Some key points raised included the following: it’s important for executives to assess and define what existing operational systems work and not just pursue slash-and-burn policies (what to keep vs. what to discard); executive leadership increasingly appreciates how value for the company was achieved over the mere creation of value (teams should achieve results based on honest, transparent business plans); observe your talent, especially among younger generations, and find a way to balance their need to create and achieve with the results your company needs to deliver; focus on inter-personal relationships and building trust and mutual respect among your employees (corporate life produces a lot of unforeseen and sometimes unpleasant situations; you may perhaps have to fire your colleagues but, with politeness and respect, you can nurture those relationships and build new ties in the future); foster an environment that supports openness, honesty and authenticity (even regional cultures that have a tradition of operating based on 1:1 or closed-door meetings can be rebuilt). For further information please contact Michal Vajskebr. Image : Pixabay
Even though the Middle East emerged much later than Europe and the US on the international business scene, numerous conglomerates and multinational companies have established some kind of a set-up in the region. Attracted by the promising growth potential, many multinationals have built large local and regional teams in the main cities such as Istanbul, Cairo, Dubai, Casablanca or Riyadh. Just like anywhere else on the planet, the progress of telecommunication, the increasing interconnectivity of cities by plane and the hiring of the first millennials, have shaken the established organizations to their core. Working space is expected to be friendly of modern design and even a place where you can have fun in. Permanent email and phone connectivity blurs the boundaries between home and work space. Businesses in the region are now challenging the traditional office space, where employees worked a rigid 9am to 6pm shift sitting at their desk. Video conferencing, informal meetings, and work on a project-basis require additional facilities. One of the growing trends in the Middle East, which is gaining popularity day by day, is the flexibility for employees to work from home. Some of the cities in the region, more particularly Istanbul and Cairo, face horrendous traffic. It is not unusual for employees to spend 3 to 4 hours a day commuting. It is thus no surprise that home-office flexibility becomes as important as remuneration, benefits and job content, when it comes to attracting or retaining talent. In the recent years, multinationals have started to adopt an open space set-up to reflect their values of transparency and teamwork. Directors and Managers are now invited to join their teams in an open space. Meeting rooms offer the required confidentiality for conferences and sensitive conversations. This is sometimes hard to digest in a region where a private office stands for position and status. An even more advanced form of this trend is desk-sharing. The idea came as a solution to reducing office costs, which may well be the second largest expenditure after payroll, while desks are often underutilised. Consultancy firms whose teams often spend most of their time at client sites, lead that initiative, which enabled them to improve their P&L significantly. Newly-founded businesses are early adopters of nomadic work habits. Co-working is booming in cities like Dubai, a hub for regional start-ups. Flexible desks and meeting areas are offered by well-known global players in flexible workspace solutions, however independent co-working spaces are flourishing. Even the government-managed free-zones are now offering workspace to newly registered companies. This whitepaper attempts to highlight trends on the workspace evolution in the Middle East region, and how the latter impacts on international businesses. We believe the best way to explore these trends would be through testimonies of people that have led and/or coordinated their implementation in their business environment. We selected key note speakers, each one representing one of four key markets in the region: Dubai, Egypt, Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA) and asked them the same questions for consistency. We hope that our exercise will provide you with interesting insights and perhaps some food for thought. Africa_MiddleEast_FLEXIBLE_WAYS_OF_WORKING.pdf Size: 2.98 MB
We are delighted to announce the hire of Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology “Based in Dubai, Eva will support our clients in both Executive Search assignments and Human Capital Services projects (Leadership Development, Assessment Centres, HR organization…). Having worked in multinational enterprises and family groups (Unilever, Amazon, FANUC, Lindab, Wadi Group), Eva has gained a broad cultural and professional expertise while working in Germany, Luxembourg, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Egypt and Kuwait. Along her career, Eva grew her expertise in Talent, Change and Performance Management and Recruitment/Talent Acquisition. Eva holds a Master degree in Economics from the University of Passau, Germany, and an MBA General Management from the European University of Economics and Management in Luxembourg. She earned a Doctorate of Business Administration from Surrey Business School, UK, with the doctoral thesis titled “Talent Management in Luxembourg”. Eva is a fellow of the University Forum of Human Resource Development (UFHRD) and the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM). Eva speaks German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese.” Says Cedric d'Halluin, Partner, Emerging Markets - Middle East, Africa, Russia, Turkey. “I am thrilled to join a multi-cultural team of Executive Searchers and HR professionals in a company that is grounded on high ethical values and family spirit with a strong customer-centric approach.” Says Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology.