Valeriia: Hi Ann-Kathrin! Hi Linda! Welcome to the ‘Employee Story of the Month’ series.
Ann-Kathrin: Hi Valeriia! Thanks for having us.
Valeriia: Of course. Since I am talking to my managers now, my Talents & Culture team, it feels more like a regular informal chat in the office, but the topic for this month is actually ‘Shared leadership & some of the challenges and lessons in female leadership’. So, first let’s start with a round of introductions.
Linda: My name is Linda, I am 33 years old. I am Head of Talents & Culture here at Homelike. I joined in September 2019, so it is like almost 3 years now that I am in the company. I have been on parental leave for one year and just returned this summer to the company and my position.
Ann-Kathrin: My name is Ann-Kathrin, I am 33 years old and I am also the Head of Talents & Culture team here at Homelike, and I am working for the company since May last year.
Valeriia: Perfect, thank you very much! So, first of all, the question for you – how does a joined leadership work between the two of you?
Ann-Kathrin: As Linda just said, we are sharing the responsibilities since almost 2,5 months now, so we are still getting into the setup. I mean, the main part of it is definitely that we are responsible for different areas or different projects, that means, for example, we are always splitting our quarterly OKRs between the two of us, so that everyone of us is really taking care and focusing on different tasks.
Linda: Maybe also to add here. I think it is important to know that we knew each other before already, so giving a bit of background on how this joined leadership actually was established.
When I found out that I was pregnant, we were looking for a cover/a substitution for the time I was planning to go on a parental leave. And then really short notice in the end, because it was really tough for us to find anyone, I was in touch with Ann-Kathrin, and just found out that she was also looking for a new position back then, and then we talked. That was also how she then joined Homelike, so it was a really cool instance at that time. So, it has not always been like this that we actually joined the leadership here at Homelike. But it was more really covering for each other, so when I was gone for this year, Ann-Kathrin joined and took over the responsibilities and also led the team. And then, when I returned now, we were sharing responsibilities. And what I really enjoy here is that we really kind of cover for each other, depending on our different life phases. So, I think it is like a combination of you know, leading on our own, each of us, but also now having this time in between when we actually have joined responsibilities. And as Ann-Kathrin said, I think it was good that we have those OKRs, so we could also clearly define owners for different projects. And also given the fact that I was just returning part-time, it was kind of natural that we split meeting responsibilities, so that for example, Ann-Kathrin joined the meetings later in the afternoon or in the evening, where I joined meetings rather in the morning or meetings when she was not available to attend. So, that is also how we just manage in the operations.
Valeriia:Alright, that is actually a very nice story! And as you said Linda, it was not never like a shared leadership before, but if you compare to a traditional leadership style that you had experienced in the past, have you noticed any significant change in your structure or in style of your work, your team relationships maybe, or decision making and things like that?
Ann-Kathrin: I mean compared to the first year at Homelike that I was the only one in charge for the Talents & Culture team. Now it requires definitely a lot of communication and alignment, which is fine because you are not the only one taking decisions anymore, so we definitely made sure that we take the decisions together, but this also means that we have to be open for ideas or also other or opposite opinions, which we have to discuss. And you have to be willing to compromise, so even if I would have done it differently or maybe also Linda, we definitely need to find a way to compromise and to have a good solution. But I think also this gives stronger decisions in the end because we discuss more, we exchange more, but it also means, which I think is very positive fo the two of us, if we share the responsibilities and the ownership of the department, it is definitely also less stressful, because we just share it, we share ups and downs, which definitely makes it very nice. I can just recommend that.
Linda: I can just definitely confirm everything that Ann-Kathrin said. I think I definitely felt more democracy in our decision-making, not only between the two of us, but just given the fact that I was not the only one deciding on things. I feel in the team in general, we are discussing more when it comes to making decisions on certain projects or progress, or just sharing feedback much more democratically. So, I feel it has brought us closer together again as a team, and there is not such a .. it is a small team anyways, and I think we have always been very open, but I now feel even more that we are one team and there is definitely no kind of hierarchy or wall between us in the team. I also agree that there is less pressure because the position itself, there is a lot of responsibility that comes along with it, you know, being in charge for everything related to Culture and Talents here at Homelike. I think that´s definitely a big burden sometimes, and I also can say that with my other duties at home, being a mother, I feel that it is nice to have also less pressure and also know if I am sick or something happens that I have a sparrings partner that I can rely on and maybe, you know, also really discuss problems together, and there is really eye to eye communication with someone who is also an expert in this field. I think that is something that was not there before, and I really appreciate that now.
Valeriia: Yea makes sense. So, it is basically based on collaborative effort and support from one another. That sounds great. Maybe it would be also interesting to find out like what would you say are the most important aspects then, when leading the Talents & Culture team as well as forming the whole Homelike culture and also supporting all our talents?
Linda: I think when it comes to leading a Talents & Culture team, for me like the base is always the trust, right, because.. and there it is a big advantage that we also knew each other from before. I do not know how it would have turned out if, you know, the shared leadership was with someone completely new that you have not worked with before. But the fact that we have been working together, we already knew and we were respecting and trusting each other. That is like a big advantage. And I think that is also for me one of the most important criteria because indeed there is a lot of trusts needed when you share responsibilities, when you make decisions, not on your own, and when you also need to align on such a frequent base. As I said, the second one also is communication, I think it is anyways the key to a lot of things. You just need to communicate even more now to make sure you are on the same page, right? and that people are also feeling that you are on the same page. And that there is not one preferred person in the room but you always have the same kind of status and update and information. And I think in general, I mean depending on what you want to hear on this question, but I think what is important to lead a Talents & Culture team, I think I can talk about this now for an hour, but maybe you also have some ideas in this regard.
Ann-Kathrin: I mean just adding to the first point, I think without trust, this would not work, the core leadership. And I think it is definitely beneficial that we had been working together in a previous company for some years. But also in terms of leading a Talents & Culture team, I think especially here, being the core leads in the company sets a very good example for the whole company about how to successfully really share the responsibilities and the ownership of leading a department and driving these very important topics forward. And also adding to this, it is super beneficial for the talents, but also for the leadership team if they do not have one person or one point of contact, but the two of us. Of course, this could also lead to some friction or miscommunication, but I think the advantage is definitely when someone is sick or for a longer time on vacation, there is always someone of us who was able to take care of and up to speed.
Valeriia: Yeah, definitely! That’s correct. Thank you for clarifying these questions. Maybe just a couple of more on the challenges and lessons learned from women in leadership at Homelike. I would like to direct the first question to you, Ann-Kathrin, as one of the women in leadership at Homelike, what would you say is the leadership lesson that you#ve learned that is unique to being a female leader?
Ann-Kathrin: I mean in general, there is like the traditional idea of a difference between male and female leadership, so I do not want to confirm any stereotypes now when distinguishing. I just hope that in 10 years from now on, maybe that there is no need for distinguishing anymore, but great leadership skills do not depend on gender or any other attributes, but definitely on performance, skill set that for me is independent from gender. But when talking about female leadership or the experience that I made, what is the most important to me is that you need to have a role model, so it is super important that you have someone to look up to and if you are a woman in a leadership position, then of course, acting as a role model, leading by example and also showing what is possible in your career and really making sure that you set a good example.
Valeriia: Yes definitely. Alright, and Linda, maybe a question for you. As one of the most common challenges for female leaders is handling both work and family and since you just recently came back from a parental leave, can you please tell how it has been for you to find the balance? And is there even such a thing as balance?
Linda: I mean the word balance, depends. As a mother, you have this 24 hours job, so the balance definitely shifts. But I would say I am able here at Homelike to really keep a balance somehow, that really goes also together with the support that I really got from the first day I returned, and even before. And I think that is really outstanding, and I appreciate that a lot, because I think it is not always the case that you are accepted returning in a part time role in a leadership position. And it was never even questioned. I think it was also no questioned that we are actually joining and doing this together. Also in terms of the salaries etc., so I think that is really great. We really got support from the management here. I can also see that in general, management understands. They also have children, so they know what it is about, having sick child at home or you know, going to the kita to pick them up and so on. So I think that’s also really good for me to manage my both lifes, like the family life and the work life. And I think on top of that, we have a lot of flexibility here. First of all, the hours are flexible, so I am working part time. I can really decide on my own when I am starting my work. Generally, when I have something important in the morning, I schedule around that and then we also have the flexibility to work from the office or from home. Given the fact that my little son was at home, for the first time I was really looking forward to go to the office, so I could have the separation. Now since he has joined the kita, it is also really nice to have the possibility to do home office. It supports me out a lot in my balance. And on top of that, has nothing to do with Homelike, but I think it is also important for me that I have a partner that is also taking a lot of care of our son, that we really split and share the responsibilities here as well. He also took a longer time out for parental leave that I was also able to return to work earlier, and he is also the one actually managing the whole integration into the kindergarten. So, that also shows, I think, that it is not only the mother´s responsibility, it is a shared one, and if you have a strong partner by your side, then that’s also supporting the balance of working and having a family. I think in my case it is really working out well. I can honestly say I am really enjoying the afternoons with my son, but I also have the time here at work, which is also something I enjoy a lot, where I am challenged, and I am able to perform in my position and in my passion. So, yeah, that is really good.
Valeriia: Super nice! Very inspiring, I would say. Thank you both for sharing your experiences, your stories and for just simply being authentic about the discussed topics today. Thank you again and talk to you next time!
Ann-Kathrin: Thank you, Valeriia!
Linda: Thank you, Valeriia! Chao.