Christian has structured our umwerk systems end to end with a gentle hand made of iron – and has made us happier and more efficient as a result. Our CIO is a fan of life-long learning. And of solutions that make it possible for us to work together in the very best way. To this end, he pimps our company with extensive know-how derived from remote leadership. We as a team and our customers benefit from his knowledge. We asked him a few questions.
With commitment to remote leadership, our umwerk systems team has completely arrived in the age of digitalization. Before COVID, we all worked the traditional way at our headquarters at Rosenheim. But after two years of working from home, we have made a clear-cut decision not to revert back to this conservative on-site model. The bottom line is that this new way results in greater efficiency, innovation and exnovation. And this benefits our customers as well as us.
For the success of this shift, Christian was decisive in our advancement with his expertise in personnel leadership and personnel development as well as in the transformation of groups into high-performance teams. In our view, the nicest side effect of our work culture à la Christian is: more time and quality of life for each one of us.
Who is Christian?
- Academics enthusiast (B.Sc. M.Sc. MBA)
- Certified IT process manager
- Certified change manager
- Certified scrum master
- Certified scrum product owner
- Inspired hobby cook
- Inspired squash player
- Passionate player of video and board games
At the beginning of 2023, we were able to ascertain that we are a natively digital team. Our staff have complete trust that they can work for us from anywhere in the world – or on site at the Rosenheim headquarters.
For the control of these new culture-based challenges, Christian keeps his herd (that’s us) on track. We asked him a few questions.
Team uws: “Are digital leadership and remote leadership actually the same thing, Christian?”
Christian: “No. [laughs] From a historical perspective, remote leadership evolved out of digital leadership. The understanding of leadership in digital leadership crystallized at the very beginning of the age of digitalization. During this pioneering phase, executives saw themselves confronted with the implementation of the shift to things digital and the epochal transition.
Then it was important to win the people in the enterprise over to the transformation to digital and bring about the shift in the company culture with the help of tools, methods and organization. In my view, the main tasks of the digital leadership generation lay in entrenching a digitally corporate self-image in the teams and in rewriting the company DNA with a completely new consciousness regarding opportunities and risks as well as markets and company cultures that work in fundamentally different ways.”
Team uws: “Exciting. So what is remote leadership?”
Christian: “The best way for me to explain this is with our own example: with umwerk systems, we have now, in 2023, arrived 100% at a remote organizational model. I can claim this because the digital transformation of our enterprise boasts a high level of maturity, which we continuously optimize.
In contrast to the pioneers ten, twenty years ago, our leadership challenges revolve around ideally steering and anticipating all of our remotely distributed resources and digital business flows. We now want to transform the experiences extensively available to us from the phase of digital leadership into genuine commercial advantages. The great thing about this: we ourselves benefit in the same way as our customers and partners.”
Team uws: “Got it. And how can you tell that we have internalized remote leadership here at our company?”
Christian: “Well, I observe, for instance, that the people in our team see themselves as digital natives; Berlin, Salzburg, Istanbul, Rosenheim, Munich: we are all used to working together in hybrid formats and from all over the world with a focus on success. That has become our normal, our daily work routine.
The reason this works is because our common understanding of leadership previously underwent a fundamental transformation. What we experience today has absolutely nothing more to do with the rigid leadership styles of decades past.
As executives, nowadays, we want to empower, moderate, provide meaning. We want to serve our enterprise as an instrument. For this reason, we do everything we can to initiate things so that it is possible to enable ourselves with efficient time management. What’s really important for us is to promote trust, personal responsibility and agility and to abandon micromanagement.”
Team uws: “What challenges do you see in this?”
Christian: “My focus is continuously aimed at what we can do from an enterprise perspective to optimally support and challenge our team and/or us as individuals also in the abstract, remote context.
We want to make this transparent for everyone. Take, for example, recruiting communication: we want to give our (future) employees the sincere promise that we will do remote better than the competition. To accomplish this, we have to answer in real terms how and with which methods we are rising to our remote collaboration challenges. (Spoiler: We’re using the approaches of intentional collaboration and empathetic leadership).
We want to make tangible which opportunities and risks remote work entails for people, enterprises and leadership. Or absolutely important: how do we treat each other humanely even in the remote social context? How do economic efficiency, innovation, congeniality and human connections work also in (what some consider) the ‘vacuum’ of digital space?”
Team uws: “And which benefits from the remote leadership approach can we use to positively distinguish ourselves?”
Christian: “Well, let’s just take the remote buzzword ‘flexibility’, something most companies write into their want ads pretty often: our flexibility promise consists of many individual aspects. Taken altogether, we offer the following added value in terms of flexibility: more high-quality time for life for the people on our team. To this end, we need to put the people inside and outside the company at the center and learn and/or proactively support mutual trust. Trust grows with the number of positive contacts we have. This insight is a culture feature with us!
Our remote leadership approach also implicitly recognizes values such as respect. Respect for other people’s time! In order to not only ponder these ideas of respect, but instead make them a reality, we prescribe ourselves time-saving, clear structures and rules and simultaneously reduce organizational overheads. Clear, simple structures and rules that everyone knows inside out and loses little time over.
Or organizing communication and communication channels to be as lean as necessary and as efficient as possible. My motto: It’s better to communicate regularly and briefly than seldom and at length. For communication, we select strategic technologies and tools that are appropriate for the team and switch off overstimulation resulting from too many channels.”
Team uws: “We like it that the idea of values is so top-of-the-list. Could you please tell us more about this?”
Christian: “Sure. In my opinion, ‘trust’ is an important key. One area where the DACH region is currently still adrift is the issue of choosing where to work. How many enterprises have a hard time simply letting their staff work where they want?
We stick to the golden rules of collaboration taken from the philosophy of Scrum and simply assume that everyone on the team always contributes maximum personal performance. We prohibit finger-pointing on an ongoing basis because this doesn’t resolve any conflicts. What we absolutely want to prevent is a culture of envy and tattling on others. Here our approach is to generate transparency between teams and individual coworkers, and thus generate an understanding of the situation others find themselves in. Our “Monday weekly” serves us as a solution tool, providing us with an overview of our workload as individuals and as a team.
Moreover, in my view, getting rid of the rat race is an important leadership task. Studies have shown that many who work remotely have the feeling that they have to make themselves continuously visible and prove to their employer that they are really (!), really (!) working. The toxic pressure resulting from wanting to be constantly available for the team can make people burn out. Here, too, we see it as our responsibility to protect our coworkers from that uneasy feeling of having to deliver non-stop and having to be ‘on’ 24/7.”
Team uws: “Thank you for these informative insights, dear Christian! If we weren’t already working here, we would be scribbling out an application as we speak.”
Christian: “Giggle. Very good.”
Team uws: “And of course we’re also interested in how, in your opinion, our customers stand to benefit from our transition to remote.”
Christian: “That customers and partners benefit from a service provider’s having a neat, efficient, time-saving and therefore cost-saving organization practically goes without saying. In addition, our focus on communication, on being able to listen and on handling mistakes well are genuine added value for the people who would like to work with us.
With these organizational skills, we reduce the occurrence of deltas, misunderstandings and cascading processes. We plan workshops and polls without overhead and without extensive organizational preparations; this is something we’re good at. Networking is proceeding digitally better than ever before. We are ideally integrated and read or listen to what the best minds in our industry, who are spread the world over, have to say.”
Team uws: “Thanks a lot, Christian!”
Christian: “Don’t mention it.”