When experienced executives come to Mannheim to share their experiences, it represents a win for both sides: Students learn first-hand about the challenges a given industry or area of business faces, while speakers get an outside perspective and fresh ideas. In addition to providing inside views that no textbook can teach, such events also provide participants with unique opportunities to expand their networks.
Jesper Ek, Head of Sub Region Nordics Roche Diabetes Care, Guest Speaker on Leadership in the ESSEC & MANNHEIM EMBA
"We are biologically and culturally constructed to find meaning in everything, including our work. But in many companies, short term results tend to become more important than the 'why we exist'. If the company purpose has gotten out of focus, the first question to ask yourself is 'Who would miss us if we disappeared from the market?'. That way you rediscover for whom you exist and this will boost your employees’ motivation."
Jesper Ek gave a very well received guest lecture to our ESSEC & MANNHEIM EMBA Classes on the topics of leadership and employee engagement. In a short interview, he sums up the salient points of his approach to leadership.
The motto of your talk was "Nothing starts with results – everything starts with people". How are employee engagement and the success of a team or company related to one another?
In a worldwide study, Gallup showed that only a minority of around 13 percent of employees across industries is engaged, the majority is disengaged, and up to one fourth even actively disengaged. I usually try to explain this by using a metaphor. Try to imagine that your team has ten people and your team is sitting on a very long tandem bicycle made for ten people. According to the data from Gallup, only one and a half of them would be actually making an effort to get the bike moving forward, the majority would do nothing to help, and two and half of them would actually actively use the breaks and keep the bike from moving. Having this in mind, then it is easy to see what impact higher employee engagement would mean for the productivity and success of your team and your whole company.
Why is defining and focusing on a company purpose so important?
I believe that we all are motivated by the “why”. We are biologically and culturally constructed to find meaning in everything, including our work. But in many companies, the “what we do” has become more important than the “why we do it”. The reason for this is for the most part due to where you focus. Short term results tend to become more important than making sure we remind ourselves of why we exist. But if the company purpose has gotten out of focus, the first question to ask yourself is “Who would miss us if we disappeared from the market?”. That way you rediscover for whom you exist and then it is easier to see the why in your purpose and this will boost your employees’ motivation.
Is it possible to learn how to lead people (in contrast to managing personnel)?
Yes, absolutely. You can start by being present “here and now” with your people instead of being obsessed with the results. Start with small things, get to know your team members, listen to what they are telling you, acknowledge good ideas, make them feel safe, make them understand why you do things. And don’t be afraid to turn your back on results for some time: Companies that are emotionally engaged are economically more successful. Take a look at Gallup Q12 questionnaire for example where they estimate that the top quartile of engaged companies have both significantly higher profit and growth than the rest.