Wallstreet Online Interview with TPA’s Alfred Tolle

Management and company: What remains of Corona



(translated into English from original article in German)


In contrast to the previous recessions and economic shocks of the last seventy years, the upheavals are not caused by the financial markets or individual industries, but rather by a virus.


For companies, due to global supply chains on the one hand and medical due diligence to prevent the spread of the epidemic, this means previously little known challenges for the organization.


Despite initial easing, the future will be about dealing with or in the pandemic, which the global economy will probably keep under control for years to come. Even if it may sound trite that every crisis also contains an opportunity, six months after the start of the lockdown in March 2020 it can be seen that some companies have come through the COVID-19 crisis better than others. Among other things, this is related to their leadership skills.


We spoke to Alfred Tolle from The Preston Associates, who recently joined the global executive coaching company. The manager was previously responsible for Google’s Scandinavia and Benelux business , was CEO of Lycos InC, Vice President of Bertelsmann online in Southeast Asia and a member of the board of one of Korea’s largest Internet and media companies in Seoul.


Mr. Tolle, why did some companies get through the crisis better than others?


We have made the experience that companies that act in a meaningful way (have a strong purpose) got through the crisis better than others who are only at the beginning of these considerations.  The corporate purpose sets the direction and defines what contribution an organization makes to promote the quality of life and the business success of its customers.


Companies that have clarified the questions about the effects of their work on society and the environment and know what contribution the organization makes to a future worth living and who have also succeeded in creating a place of identification for customers and employees are, in our experience, better off the crisis came as those who are yet to do this homework.


What does this mean for leadership?


The so-called mindset shift plays an important role. In our daily work we have made the experience that, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, most organizations responded very traditionally with short-term measures such as short-time work. These behaviors not only unsettled those affected, but also the remaining employees. Now they mean that these companies are unable to take the new opportunities and possibilities of the upswing with them.


However, companies that have succeeded in not getting through the first phase of lockdown reactively in emergency mode, but actively planning scenarios and thus achieving an attitude of reinvention that is too creative. These companies are much better off today and have greater opportunities to grow and find talented employees.


What does this mean in concrete terms?


You know, I met a company manager who recently said to my face, “I don’t believe in working from home, people just lie there on the sofa and I can’t control them.” Fear seems to play a big role here, but it does is completely unfounded from our TPA point of view and from the experience of the last few months. From our point of view, a manager has the task of absorbing the pressure on the employees – from the shareholders for example – to provide the team with clarity and framework conditions that make high-performing teams and innovative concepts possible.


Organizations can always benefit when they change the employer / employee relationship in such a way that they meet both physical, financial, digital and also emotional security needs or reformulate them in times of crisis.


This requires a new management culture that does not correspond to the classic, learned role models from top-down….


Well, many companies were already changing in advance. You have recognized that the implementation of topics such as digitization, which affects all areas of the company, cannot be implemented without flat hierarchical structures, moderation, dialogue and communication instead of announcement, trust instead of control. Collaborative models and a consistent entrepreneurial minimum are important components of this leadership style.


Leadership has to do with trust, with trust in the company and the organization to do the right thing. And that’s why, let me come back to this, the corporate spirit or purpose is so important.


In this respect, those organizations that are already on this “journey” have an advantage. You can show a leap of faith for your employees. And when leadership creates innovations by rethinking and redirecting uncertainties, companies also succeed in consolidating or gaining the trust of their stakeholders.


What do we take with us from the corona pandemic and transfer it into our normal everyday work?


Well, it has been shown that employees have had to make many independent decisions in the past few months. It is now all the more important to maintain the agility in practice and thus to make commitment to innovations and – even before the lockdown as impossible – now possible.


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