In connection with our Mercuri Urval Article Series Finding the Way Ahead, I had the pleasure to interview Mr. Ralph Dicht, a long-standing and very good professional contact of mine. Ralph was so kind to share his view and experience on leadership. Thank you for your time, joining in and helping other Leaders, Ralph.
Ralph: First of all, what a great idea to launch a series of articles to help peers no matter what industry or geography they might come from. The challenges we face today appear to be very consistent across the globe. I felt honoured when I received the message and got the invite to join that Article Series of Mercuri Urval to contribute to the series.
Tell us a bit about your background
Ralph: Having worked for more than 20 years with international, global and diverse teams and clients across many countries, I have experienced leadership in different forms and shapes and ultimately growing into a lead partner myself. I have started my professional career in the year 2000 and have been working in Germany, the US and Switzerland.
Having had a professional work life for 20 years now and been working in different countries, I guess you have seen some crisis before
Ralph: In the late 90s / early 2000 I have seen the reactions to the 2002/2003 SARS pandemic working with a team serving a large US bank at that time and the reactions and immediate action taken. I witnessed the financial crisis during a 2-year rotation from 2008 to 2010 in the US and later in Switzerland mainly working with teams in the financial sector. We all learn every day and every challenging situation appears to require additional and ever more complex considerations and solutions to be successful.
What is the key factor that makes us resilient and able to successfully navigate through these special times?
Ralph: To me it is the culture, the team spirit and the emotional intelligence (EQ). No doubt that this is important in any situation but it moves quickly into the centre of handling complex challenges and getting out of them as successful as we can. In our firm, we ask ourselves that question from time to time but specifically it appears either when we have a change in leadership or when we are facing challenges as a firm. Unfortunately in between those events and living in a fast world, our focus is on the next couple of weeks, month or quarters, to execute or deal with challenging situations and tasks. We sometimes appear to forget to take a step back and put some spotlight on our culture, the ingredients it needs to harvest it, to keep the right talent and promote the right leaders that have the virtues needed to maintain the right culture.
You just mentioned the importance of solid company culture. So what are the key ingredients for a good company culture from your perspective?
Ralph: We probably all agree that collaboration is one element, ability to find consent and some competitiveness are other ingredients. The perfect culture in our assessment was to overweight the collaboration element, add some portion and ability to find consent and constructive dialogue while maintaining a healthy portion of competition. When we first assessed our culture a couple of years ago, I remember the external consultant presenting that picture of our company culture. The overwhelming colour in that picture was the one representing competitiveness. While we worked on that and invested a lot of time and energy, I feel it is a constant construction site and our success varies probably by team, department, country or region. In order to achieve that culture and even more important to maintain it, one main requirement is to have the perfect team players. This perfect team needs a team leader and the emphasis is on the team as much as on lead. Why? Well in my mind this pandemic and the situation we are in, shows clearly it is not only the young generation -the so-called millennials-, technology change or climate change that requires a change in how we work together. It is also the complexity of our world and the challenges we face, that requires the perfect team with many different skills including a strong team leader that takes responsibility, doing the right thing with the right means.
I am a “converted” in that sense and was lucky to have unconsciously considered some of these virtues and elements when putting my teams together. I became more focused and conscious about it when reading a book of Patrick Lencioni about the ideal team player, a couple of years ago after a faculty session of our new partner program, waiting at the airport for a delayed plane to arrive. Patrick Lencioni got me by the simplicity of how he put the theory into a story that one can instantly understand and rationalise. I realised that I was exactly looking for these skills or virtues when putting a team together which needs to be humble, smart and hungry. Humble or human helps to keep this team together in tough times, fighting every inch together, going the extra mile, celebrate successes and have fun. Smart is combing not only intelligence but also emotional intelligence. How well can we listen and understand the needs of others in order to put the right team together and react in the most appropriate manner? No matter if you deal with the CEO of a company or the receptionist as important as being able to deal with the most complex models or strategies. Last but not least you need to be hungry to be successful, to work hard to achieve a common goal, to get out of a challenging situation stronger than you were before and to a certain extend also hungry for change and innovation not just for the sake of it but to enable success and growth.
So what would be your final advice to the following question: What leadership do we need and how do we secure leaders that will succeed?
Ralph: Well, we need leaders that are able to groom teams that combine the virtues of an ideal team players, being humble, smart and hungry. Leaders that assemble the ideal team members to generate and maintain an environment, an ecosystem that is built on a culture that puts collaboration first, adds a good portion of consent and constructive dialogue and the right amount of competitiveness with the aim to succeed as a team.
Thank you very much for your valuable and inspiring input, Ralph!