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10/6/2020

“We need to question our ways of working more often and learn to let go”

New Work has become one of the guiding principles in times of digitalization. But what does this development mean for employee management? And how can we manage to cope better with speed, pressure and stress in today’s world? We talked about those questions with Andreas Clausen from Beiersdorf’s R&D Leadership Team.

Andreas Clausen

Andreas, you lead the Skin Care Development in Hamburg in the Research and Development department and are also responsible for the Innovation Center in Shanghai. This means that you act as a manager between two countries – China and Germany. How do you manage this balancing act? And how does leadership at a distance work for you?

Trust is the key. But that applies regardless of whether the team is based only with me in Hamburg or also in China. Both of my teams work very functional, focused and independent. Nevertheless, I always try to be responsive to their ideas and challenges. My goal is to be close to the needs of my employees and to support them in being successful. In Hamburg, I am of course more tangible just by being close by, but virtual cooperation also works very well with the team in China. But before you can work together at a long distance, you have to know each other a little. I try to be in China three times a year for a longer period of time. This year, however, due to the Covid-19 pandemic that was unfortunately not possible.

The working world is changing rapidly – something that we currently feel more than ever. How has this affected your job as a manager?

Whether we call it New Work, VUCA or the digital world of work, our ways of working and working together are amidst radical change. For some time now, we have been experiencing an incredible acceleration in our careers – and we as managers are particularly in demand here. We have to react to this. For me, New Work is inextricably linked with a change in inner attitude and personal behaviour, with a fundamental rethink: it makes work more human and empathic, elbow mentality and territorial thinking give way to an “us” of manager and employee, with consideration and appreciation for each other. For us as managers, this means letting go of power and questioning how and which decisions we want to make in the future. When do we need hierarchies? Who needs to be involved and how? This is a dialogue that we have to conduct much more consciously today, and which I am approaching step by step with my own management team.

Does this mean that managers today have to completely overhaul their management style?

Basically, yes. But of course the change does not happen overnight. We must experiment much more consciously and courageously take new paths. The core task of managers is to give their employees orientation and support in times of change – the foundation for this is an open and trusting communication. But it is also about creating an environment in which learning is desired, in which one can try things out and make mistakes. And it is about getting the organization to develop more resilience to withstand acceleration and permanent change. So in the end, what is needed is much more leadership than management. Leadership today means leading change.

What skills do you think a manager needs today?

As I said before, today’s leaders need first and foremost the courage to initiate change. This includes the ability to let go, flexible thinking, courageous decision-making and adaptive action without having the certainty that the decisions made were ultimately the right ones. This requires a high degree of emotional intelligence in the form of empathy, self-regulation and resilience.

Resilience is a good keyword. You have been one of five mindfulness ambassadors at Beiersdorf’s Hamburg location for several years. How did you come to this position?

Mindfulness has been an important anchor in my life for more than five years. At that time, I was lucky to be one of the first participants in a mindfulness training at Beiersdorf. It has been scientifically proven that mindfulness practice has a strong stress-reducing effect. Particularly in today’s working world with its high rotation speed and great density of information, it helps a lot to stay in touch with yourself, to be able to focus and to be fully in the here and now with your attention – or at least to keep observing yourself and actively trying to do so. Because the more precisely I perceive and feel myself, and the more I find a step towards myself inwardly, the clearer I become. Nowadays many people do not feel themselves anymore, for being occupied with permanently circling thoughts. Distance helps us to see things more clearly and to develop a certain calmness and distance. For me, mindfulness is a kind of resting place; a way to cope better with the acceleration in the present time, to develop more resilience. And in my role as a mindfulness ambassador and trainer I would like to pass on my experiences directly to other colleagues.

Do you have a special advice in this context?

Everyone has to find the right way for themselves, there is no patent solution. It’s about what helps you personally and what you manage to integrate permanently into your everyday life. For me, essentially this is meditation. More acceleration inevitably means more thoughts. Meditation is basically the mental exercise to consciously perceive one’s own thoughts, not to evaluate them and to let them move on. And often when I cannot sleep at night because I have too many things on my mind, evening meditation helps me to ground myself again by concentrating on my breathing. This is my personal formula for dealing with pressure, stress and acceleration: breathe away.

Dear Andreas, thank you very much for this candid conversation.

NEW WORK FESTIVAL

In November 2019, Beiersdorf launched a colorful program with the first NEW WORK FESTIVAL to bring the NEW WORK theme to life for employees. In addition to workshops & Scrum trainings, hackathons, and panels by and with Beiersdorf employees, there were also numerous presentations by well-known external speakers – including Michael Trautmann, John Stepper, Charles, Bahr, Brad White, and Cordelia Röders-Arnold. In November 2020, the festival will now enter its second round, this time purely virtual, but again with many familiar faces. Stay tuned on our LinkedIn channel for more info.  

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Kathrin Erbar

About the editor: Kathrin Erbar

Kathrin takes us on a journey to the fascinating field of research and development at Beiersdorf. Before exploring Beiersdorf’s DNA, she was doing the communication for HR related topics, such as diversity, leadership or New Work. She also used to be responsible for financial communications at Beiersdorf for several years.