Interview with Mary Kramer, Global Service Group Leader Human Capital Solutions at SpenglerFox
If we speak specifically about the key services SpenglerFox offers as part of its HCS package, there is strong interest in leadership development across all geographies. If we look at career transition counselling, then there is higher demand for that service in Central and Eastern Europe and Southern Europe compared to other markets, i.e. such as the Middle East and Russia. At present I see that the current wave of M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions) processes drives interest in career transition advisory. Overall, it depends on companies‘ individual situations and the overall health of the local economy.
What we do find though, in the Middle East, is that clients are increasingly asking for team building and team effectiveness development services. This is because, in that region specifically, ompanies work with a lot of diverse teams of expats: as concerns nationalities, religions and cultures. There are a lot of mixed backgrounds. So company and organizational management is looking for smoother leadership styles and greater fluidity in team leadership processes.
In our day-to-day advisory we focus, for example, on management style. We had one project in the Middle-East, where we worked closely with an expat GM, who felt his leadership team to be slightly dysfunctional. So for that company we launched a specific tool analysis project: examining how each person’s individual leadership style fit within the style needed for the overall management team. We ran a series of workshops analysing a) how people work in teams; b) what conflicts might arise due to different points of view/levels of experience across the team and c) how to work with and leverage the team members‘ diversity to benefit the entire management team and its common goals. This resulted in our defining a list of actions that could be taken to promote acceptance of diversity and differences in management styles.
Overall, I think it’s a willingness to invest in people. To look at their personal traits and dive below the surface. To be successful, businesses need to look at management team effectiveness and the leadership traits of persons running these teams. At present, I see a lot of our clients expressing interest in competitor benchmarking. This is a service that SpenglerFox has offered for the last 3 years now. Basically, our clients want to know how their business, their organizational structure, their leadership and their employer branding holds up against their competitors. Our clients want business intelligence (BI) data so they can learn how to compete best in the market.
It’s also important to note that businesses’ subsequent approaches to competitor benchmarking processes are as varied as the customers they serve. For example, we had one client come to us with a request to analyse its talent organizational structure. It needed an analysis of the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) business to see how companies treat and work with their employees so as to foster innovation: how do companies motivate employees and business teams to drive innovation. The project involved extensive talks with employees on the topic of innovation and related issues. We did a broad battery of interviews with talent throughout a range of FMCG-oriented organizations.
The degree of our (SpenglerFox’s) input varies according to the situation. In some cases this depends on how far along a client is in a particular process. For example, our counsel could go as far as to recommend stopping a process or, alternatively, working with the client to determine how to make the best of a process that it has already implemented.
Another project we’ve been involved in required a partner for mapping overall candidate and talent perceptions of the regional pharmaceuticals market. The client asked us to look at candidates’ views of different pharmaceutical companies: i.e. what is the company known for? what is its reputation? Some companies are known for innovation, some for career development potential (i.e. job assignments and job rotation), some for compensation packages and some, unfortunately, may have a negative positioning, i.e. be known for something negative such as an autocratic management style for instance.
With the above-mentioned competitor benchmarking projects, it is important to note that penglerFox succeeds in this area, because of the access we have. If you look at leadership and development or career transition services, those projects are usually self-motivated, i.e. the client approaches us with a specific need. However, with competitor benchmarking, tat type of support evolves from good, long-standing relationships and internal discussions of client needs. We usually sit down with clients to discuss and assess how decisions are taken within the company and how the company analyses what it expects to happen on the market. We work through a number of question sets to determine how benchmarking services might ultimately benefit the client.
I’d like to wrap up my answer here with a mention of our Time to Perform (Executive Onboarding) support services. I think this is an important part of our HCS offering and it’s something that might not be familiar to everyone. What we look to do with this service is support new talent in a company or existing talent, who have recently undertaken a new role. We take on the role of career coach for these executives. We help management teams to understand where the new recruits are coming from, what challenges they see for the business, etc. Meanwhile, we also work to liaise with the onboarding executive on the company’s vision for their leadership role (i.e. based on our long-term experience working for the given client. We provided this type of coaching for two General Managers recently in a leading multinational beverage company.
Although it’s not a new service per se, it is a new form of support for executive roles and can be offered as an add-on service to executive search projects. We adapt our onboarding counsel to the specific needs of our clients; in most cases focusing on mutual understanding (executive to business and vice versa) of business needs and on further honing new executives’ soft skills where necessary.
Technology has facilitated the practice of virtual teams. I’ve seen a strong rise in the number of virtual teams; it’s getting bigger and bigger. While virtual structures used to apply to specific business areas, they are now going broader. I think you have to be careful how you manage use of technologies though: you need that initial focus on face-to-face encounters. It’s important to have personal contact before letting management teams evolve into virtual set-ups. Also when working in teams driven by technologies allowing for virtual presence, you need to bear in mind generational factors. Younger people may take online chats or video calls as a given, while older generations may lack a feel for how to communicate using these products.
It’s clear that the cost-cutting aspect of tech is valuable for companies, but management teams do need an awareness that these same technologies change how negotiating is done; how people act and behave. They require greater levels of awareness and a need to notice nuances or subtleties in conversations. Then there is the issue of managers and their employees never “turning off”. Businesses have to weigh the potential negative consequences of that new reality.
Generally though, I think the proliferation of tech inside businesses affords management teams many opportunities. We see more managers going virtual, which allows them to expand their teams and to work in wider groups. We also see more talent being brought to management teams from remote areas; thanks to the connections new technologies make possible. Technologies also help businesses (in some cases) work around relocation issues. Overall, I think technologies are a benefit to business growth and management processes. But they can be difficult to use properly, provided the strong, good, underlying personal relationships are not in place. You need to build the personal behind the tech to make it work.
The Governance Revolution: What Every Board Member Needs to Know, Now! SpenglerFox CEO, Jens Friedrich, invites Deborah Hicks Midanek to discuss her recently published book 'The Governance Revolution: What Every Board Member Needs to Know, Now!' Deborah is a veteran independent director, a pioneer in the corporate restructuring industry, and a serial entrepreneur. Widely respected for her turnaround skills, she has diagnosed and remedied problems for over 60 corporations and facilitated the growth of nearly 30 other ventures, including her own. Described by the late Fletcher Byrom, CEO of a Fortune 25 company, as a “pure thinker” – quickly gaining a deep understanding of complex problems and demonstrating an extraordinary ability to assimilate information and craft resilient solutions. More_on_Deborah_Hcks_Midnek.pdf Size: 161 KB Deborah_Hicks_Midanek_Slide Deck.pdf Size: 920 KB
A White Paper/Conversation with Industry Leaders What GlobalBusiness Leaders Have to Say about Successful Product Roll-outs and Meeting KPIs. The following paper includes insights from executives representing a handful of global companies. These individuals serve in roles such as general manager, business unit head, regional marketing leader and supply chain manager. They have experience working all over the world and represent markets such as Asia, the Middle East and Africa, North America and Western Europe. When speaking with them, the team at SpenglerFox sought to map the current environment for acquiring new leadership and managerial talent. Our discussions also focused on how this talent helps their organizations ensure the success of launching new products on the markets where these businesses operate and how these manager-leaders set KPIs to evaluate and measure the success of said launches. WhitePaper_TheEssentialsOfTalent.pdf Size: 1.07 MB
Rex was hired as a Project Director for a multinational factory in China. He held a similar role with another multinational before accepting this new position. The recruitment process was rigorous and exhaustive with many rounds of interviews with various department heads at regional and global levels. Rex was offered the position and accepted, reporting to his new boss (The Global Head of Supply Chain) who was based half way around the world. In his new role, Rex did not directly manage a team, however, he was responsible for managing several department heads that did not report to him. Rex was also responsible for updating all key stakeholders at headquarters on a project’s status. Sadly, Rex only lasted one year in this role, since he was not able to match the performance expectations of multiple stakeholders. This is a situation where Rex would have benefited from executive coaching. Amidst the daily demands of his job and the expectations of his stakeholders, Rex needed to better manage his focus while making strategic decisions at every moment to achieve goals and make progress. Like Rex, every level of management can benefit from coaching. But the individuals who benefit the most from executive coaching are those who are motivated to pursue growth in their personal and professional lives. In most cases, new hires at every level do not receive enough support for grasping an organization’s culture. Michael D. Watkins, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD and author of “The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels,” explains that all new hires at every level must gain insights into the values, norms, and guiding assumptions of an organization. At the same time, they must navigate the very fine line between working within the existing culture framework and seeking to change it. Executive coaching is a natural next step in working with companies transform their businesses and aligns perfectly with my own life purpose and passion. I have been working as a retained executive search consultant for over 10 years, helping companies succeed by finding the right leaders as a search consultant, and then coaching these senior executives to reach their fullest potential. Transitions are always difficult for any organization. Whether through an internal promotion or an external hire, most senior executives receive only a basic orientation and onboarding. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Onboarding Isn’t Enough,” co-author Michael D. Watkins finds most companies are doing little to support the onboarding process. “Nearly all large companies are competent at the administrative basics of signing leaders up, but that level of onboarding does little to prevent the problems that can arise when working with new colleagues and grappling with unfamiliar cultural norms and expectations,” Watkins says. In my discussions with HR decision makers and business leaders about their biggest challenges, I have learned that many companies are trying to transform their organizations in a marketplace where disruption is constant. In this VUCA environment, some of their strongest business leaders were not performing as successfully as they once had and were having difficulty adapting to change, new market landscapes and new processes. These are very common themes and challenges that I consistently hear from companies in my travels. I realized that as an executive search consultant, my value in impacting a company positively stopped at the recruitment and hiring process. I knew that I wanted to continue helping clients and executives succeed beyond the appointment of a senior leader, and this is why I began executive coaching. Technology advances in the last several years have created a much faster and more complex world. According to the renowned mindfulness expert Rasmus Hougaard, our attention in the workplace is under siege. We are constantly under pressure, always on, overloaded with information and trying to work in distracting environments. Executives today face many more challenges in adapting to change and successfully keeping pace with these complex work environments, compared to ten years ago. Authors Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck in their book, “The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business”, advocate that understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success. Coaching positively impacts a company’s bottom line by helping executives remain present, be focused and make optimal moment-by-moment decisions that deliver optimal results. As I look back at my work as a search consultant, my most fulfilling moments were helping executives achieve their goals. Many senior executives in Asia, Europe and the US have reached out to me to explore job opportunities, but also seek career guidance. With every inquiry, I always tried to take the time to share my thoughts and advice. In doing so, I felt I was giving back to those who mentored me throughout my own corporate career. Many search firms like SpenglerFox offer executive coaching and HR consultancy services in addition to traditional retained executive search. To receive further information about the executive coaching services, please contact Mary Kramer at email@example.com. About the Author: Victor Filamor Victor Filamor was SpenglerFox’s Country Manager Hong Kong and Asia Consumer Practice Leader in 2007/8. He is currently a Partner and Certified Executive Coach with a retained executive search & leadership advisory firm in Hong Kong and Singapore specializing in the Consumer & Retail and Industrial sectors. Prior to his executive search career of over a decade, he had 25 years of P&L management, as well as marketing, sales and operations management experience with Consumer and Industrial Fortune 500 companies and Asian multinationals. He has lived in four countries across Asia Pacific.