Do you ever wonder how to empower young professionals to take on responsibility? What can you do to help them be successful? We have interviewed Christoph Glaser on this subject and are happy to share our CFO´s interesting path and answers with you. We hope the interview resonates and enlightens both managers and young professionals at PATRIZIA.
When you were a young professional, did you take responsibility early on? Was there a special manager that you remember really helped you grow in this way? What did this manager do to help you be successful?
I took responsibility early on in my career. At age 27 I was in the management trainee program of GE in Europe and volunteered to lead a back office joint venture with a leading bank in Germany. After, I project-managed a greenfield credit card business in India, invested GE equity in tech companies out of London and risk-assessed GE's industrial customers in Latin America. After joining GE's Corporate Audit Staff, there was a manager I remember very well - David Calhoun (today the CEO of Boeing, but back then in 1999, CEO of GE Capital's reinsurance business) - who shared some great advice with me:
Always move towards your fear – do what you are afraid of not being able to do, because once you manage to do it, you will come out of it stronger and realize that with the right effort and attitude, skill set and intellect, you can handle it. Don’t choose the easy path, choose the one you are afraid to take it.
Always think about what you don’t know but should know to make a good decision. Have a self-critical attitude and tell yourself, “I don’t know enough to do a good job”.
Fears managers could have about a young professional leading a project are failure, potential lack of confidence in the person upon failure. How have you delt with these fears in the past? What is your perspective on “right-mindset” on this topic?
Lenin said: “trust is good, control is better”.
My father used to say: “trust is good, trust and control are better”.
Trust that the next generation will be able to perform same as you did, and to de-risk that, establish a safety plan. Don’t leave them un-observed. Observe them but remember observing doesn’t mean interfering. Only interfere if the mission or critical path is at risk of failing. Let people run and play but watch the game and blow the whistle if it needs to be blown.
Trust and passive control are key – there is always a risk of mistake – you just have to be quick to rescue.
Have you ever had an experience where a young professional took responsibility and failed? What happened? If you could go back, what would you have done differently as their manager?
Yes - I´ve seen that a few times. The most vivid example in my memory was someone who failed not because of intellect, technical skills, or lack-of work, but because of poor attitude. If you want to succeed, it is always a team sport. You are never on your own, you always need someone, and if you put your own interest first and the company´s second you are geared the wrong way.
If I could go back, my advice to this person would be: "Look, sit back first, think of all the stakeholders that matter, put yourself in their shoes, and think about how they would look at this topic, what they would like to get out of it or not, it may be different than what you think, and then connect with them by sharing your thoughts and see if they share your views and agree on potential points of action and once you do that, you take them with you."
What do you think is the most important thing you can do as a manager to empower young professionals to take responsibility? Do you have an example?
Encourage them to determine their own destiny and to strive to do things they haven’t done before.
Early in your career you have all the time in the world, you should think: what can I learn to do and is that different than what I learned before? Create a portfolio of heterogeneous skills and experiences, and to do that you have to ask for an opportunity to lead different things under different circumstances.
No one can take this away from you, the more different the better – I’ve grown up in two different systems in the eastern block, then later western block, then worked in Asia and later the US, worked in public traded companies, and totally private companies, I’ve worked in industrial and financial services, in finance and in sales, and I’ve learned a lot from all those experiences and I think that’s the best you can do as a young professional.
If we look at a project having 3 phases (set-up, implementation, delivery), what steps are important as a manager of a young professional taking the lead of a large project?
Do not start with too much speed – take your time and think about what you don’t know but should know. This attitude needs to be kept through the entire project. Be hard on yourself and your ability to know.
Teamwork is key. Make sure task allocation is right – mutual support and appreciation of what others are doing – and implement it with the right attitude, socializing gains and taking issues private, praise when there is progress. Make sure you have the right expertise and if you don’t have it, get it – asking people for help doesn’t cost. Don’t try to do everything yourself.
Delivery will depend on having properly assessed the stakeholders and what they want to get out of it. The ultimate cross check is not you saying I have delivered but the customer saying I have received, I got what I wanted, and it’s in good quality and on time. That is success. Even better when they say, I got what I wanted and more because they knew better than I – that would be fantastic.
Delivery is an action item in itself – when people talk about what should be done, or the result of their work – they tend to be descriptive and diagnostic but what is absolutely key, is that when you are a young professional you learn to communicate in a prescriptive way. If I have one of my team leaders come into my office, I expect them to make a proposal as to what the company should do on a certain topic – which should be the outcome of your work or research or project on what you have done. I suggest we do this… because of that…Too often people say here is what I see and here is why – but there is no proposal.
About the interviewee:
Christoph is a senior executive with Finance and Sales experience across both financial services and infrastructure businesses. He has worked for publicly and privately-owned companies in Europe, Asia and North America - successfully leading small, medium-sized and large organizations for the last 25 years. Most recently, Christoph served for five years as CFO of Home Credit Group, the global consumer finance business of PPF Group, which operates across nine mature and emerging markets in Europe and Asia. Prior to that, he worked for two decades at General Electric (GE), spanning multiple different roles. From 2015 to 2017, he served as CFO of GE's global long-cycle project-focused hydro and renewable steam power business. Between 2012 to 2015, he co-led GE's global growth and operations enhancing activities as CFO of GE Europe, with a strong focus on wind energy developments. From 2004 to 2012, Christoph worked first as CFO and later on as Chief Sales Officer for GE Capital's banking business in the Czech and Slovak republics, after successfully having completed a five-year stint on GE‘s Corporate Audit Staff and the European Management Development Program of the company. Christoph holds an MA in Economics as well as an MA in Chinese Studies. His personal interests revolve around foreign and military policy, outdoor sports and piloting. He is a native of Dresden, married and has three children.
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