Podcast

Daniel Torres Dwyer 05 August 2019

Leading and Building a Compelling Vision in the Digital Age with Dagmar Chlosta

Dagmar Chlosta is a 30 year veteran of the FMCG industry with a focus on sporting goods and cosmetics. She served on the board of Schwan Cosmetics, the global leader in cosmetic pencil manufacturing, as Chief Market Officer responsible for global Product, Communications and Marketing. Prior to joining Schwan Cosmetics, she worked in various global executive positions for Under Armour Inc. based in the USA and the adidas Group based in Germany. Her core expertise lies in the areas of Strategy, Operations and Transformation.

She is passionate about leading through a compelling vision and creating a culture of belonging which allows people to  fulfill their potential and be inspired. She is a renowned change expert having led many major transformational programs across industries.

Ms Chlosta has lived and worked in the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom and thrives on  an international and diverse environment. She is a strong believer in gender balanced teams and the power of women leadership.

Given this background, we wanted to invite her to the Podcast to discuss leadership in the digital era, to understand how we can build a compelling vision in this day and age.

 

Topics Covered in the Podcast

• Digital Transformation and its implications in an organization

• Why is this Transformation important

• How the world has changed as a consequence of Digital

• Setting a compelling vision for your organization today

• Leadership required to transform an organization

[Music]

Daniel:

Hi, I’m Daniel Torres Dwyer and welcome to LS International’s Career Success podcast. Dagmar Chlosta is a 30-year veteran of the FMCG industry with a focus on sporting goods and cosmetics. She served on the board of Schwann cosmetics, the global leader in cosmetic pencil manufacturing as Chief Market Officer responsible for global product communications and marketing. Prior to joining Schwann cosmetics, she worked in various global executive positions for Under Armour in the US and the Adidas does group based in Germany. Her core expertise lies in the areas of strategy, operations and transformation. She’s passionate about leading through compelling vision and creating a culture of belonging which allows people to fulfill their potential and be inspired. She’s lived in the United States, Germany and the UK, and she thrives on international and diverse environment. Given her background, I wanted to invite her to the podcast to discuss leadership in the digital era to understand how we can build a compelling vision in this day and age. Hi, Dagmar. Thanks for joining us today.

Dagmar:

Delighted to be here. Thank you, Daniel.

Daniel: It’s a pleasure to have you here as well. As I mentioned before, we’re going to be speaking about Leading in this Age of Digital and how to do that. First of all, why has the concept of digital transformation caught so much publicity?

Dagmar:

Well, thanks for asking Daniel. I think that digital transformation really has almost become a buzzword of the decade. Corporations are undertaking major transformation programs in order to manage the ominous digital transformation and stay competitive. Public organizations and governments are struggling to keep pace, to become truly digital. Companies are trying to appeal to a new generation of digital natives by managing the so-called digital transformation. But quite honestly, when asked, “What does it really mean to successfully conduct so transformation in the organization?” that’s when leaders tend to answer very evasively without clarity and without vision because they know deep down that there is something much bigger going on but in the absence of being able to describe that bigger, they default to digital transformation, they expect that this will enable their organizations to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world. So, it really seems as though digital transformation has become the scapegoat for so many changes in our society that are hard to explain and even harder to keep up with. Where we want to presumably had clear rules and clear expectations, we are now asked to deal with increasing uncertainty and ambiguity and many leaders and companies are the loss for answers on how to deal with these changes. So, because digital transformation has become the synonym, these changes, all eyes are firmly on it. It’s almost as if digital transformation is the most concrete out of all of these movements that we’re seeing.

Daniel:

Why should a company even undergo a digital transformation?

Dagmar:

Many leaders I think believe that as long as they manage digital transformation, it is very unclear what that really stands for. Many leaders believe that their organizations will be much more successful and their business will thrive. But I believe that by just focusing on digital transformation, that that is a huge misconception because the changes that we’re seeing today are so much more universal and so much bigger that we need to tackle them all in order to be successful.

Daniel:

So where to start that?

Dagmar:

What we are seeing oftentimes is a pattern that’s evolving. Its companies are losing out against the competition, you know, market share, shrinking. Customers are no longer engaged. Hence its clear digital transformation is needed. Though, the leadership proclaims, “Hey, we will undergo digital transformation organization, we set our organization up for the future.” The default pattern is that a CDI or Chief Digital Information officer is hired and huge expectations are set into the silver bullet, which they all call digital transformation. If this is successfully implemented, then everything else will fall into place but in my opinion, that is not the case. Businesses changing in so many more areas than just the digital space that we need to come up with more answers than making our businesses suitable.

Daniel:

And has the world changed because of digital or vice versa?

Dagmar:

A difficult and a very good question actually.  I think digital has really brought a new dimension to change. With digital, change has become much faster. It has become more transparent and it has become much more part of our daily lives. Therefore, it’s even more important that we redefine how we lead in these times of change.

Daniel:

Okay. Well that actually brings us to; I think probably the most important topic here, leadership. So, what would leadership look like in this day and age of digital?

Dagmar:

Well, thanks for asking Daniel because that’s a topic that’s very dear to my heart. As leaders, as human beings, I think we all need to look at all of the different facets of change and the challenges that we are facing as a global society to truly transform and create a new work environment that lets people thrive that inspires us, that it’s beneficial for the individual and the community and at the same time of course allows companies to grow and prosper. What we need is a universal transformation; a universal transformation that encompasses all of the changes that we are seeing and the provides us with answers on how to become true leaders in times of efficiency, agility, AI, speed, automation, gender and generation disparity, virtual versus real communities, the search  purpose and many, many more major developments, which all requires us to take a good hard look at ourselves, our behavioral patterns, our perceptions of successful management and then start asking ourselves the right questions we can tackling these topics.

If we truly want to solve the much wider topic of universal transformation, we will have to consider what matters most to people today. What drives what inspires them and what we as leaders can do to make those that we are allowed to lead fulfilled contributing parts of the organization. This might sound as though it is in stark contrast to the other business drivers that I mentioned earlier, speed, agility, et cetera. It’s not.

Daniel:

Ah?

Dagmar:

It is not. If companies want to have sustainable success, they will only be able to achieve this really engaged and fulfilled workforce. If a company wants to undertake a major transformation program, it will only be able to successfully implement the need to change if its employees believe in the change and a part of it.  And Daniel, I guess you would agree, change is not easy for most people.

Daniel:

I agree.

Dagmar:

Change in uncertain times, it’s even more difficult because this change automatically instills fear. The fear of at the end of the day not being proud of the solution, the fear of no longer being relevant, the fear of not belonging anymore, particularly in our day in age or we are seeing a disparity between the analog and the digital generations where we are seeing the demise of our ethical structures and the old white male boardroom and we’re forward I say , where we are seeing a new generation that is asking for purpose first and commercial relevant second. In this day and age, many are struggling and are anxious of what the future might hold. As leaders, it is our responsibility to support our teams in these times of change, even if we might feel uncertain ourselves. If our teams automatically associated the transformation, the organization with fear for activity will deteriorate rapidly at once existing culture will dissolve and the company will stand a fair chance to not make it through the transformation. This is where the sense of belonging kicks in.

Companies, organizations, affiliations can provide something very valuable to people: Belonging. Now, one might argue then for digital natives who live much more in a digital community and have by far not the same sense of loyalty that you know to a company that maybe a generation “X” might have had, this might not really be of relevance, but I beg to differ because at the end of the day, most people want to belong to something in our place of work or we build relationships where we spend most of our time or we celebrate successes and commiserate our failures. This micro course provides a wonderful platform for belonging, whether in a physical or digital environment does not matter at this point in time.

Daniel: Okay.

Dagmar:

A transformation has the potential and that is a big danger to take all of that away if not done with empathy and foresight. It’s upon us as leaders to engage with our teams in this universal transformation process, to make them part of the change, to build upon their knowledge, their experience, to acknowledge their fears and their concerns, to challenge them to rise to the occasion and to be part of the transformation. All of this can only be successful; incredible if handled with the right amount of integrity, openness and honesty. And believe me, it’s no good to not to level with people. Don’t leave people in fear of what is to come, make them part of the solution, that the solution will be painful, be brave and courageous enough to address it early on in the process because an organization where the future small is only ever as good as the people that work for it.

Daniel:

I agree.

Dagmar:

And if your teams don’t feel that they belong, if they feel they are not relevant, if business results will soon reflect this. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that as long as we will have mastered a digital transformation, we will be successful. We will all be valid wise to look at things in a broader scope and truly consider what it takes to implement a universal transformation, make our team’s part of the change and it will make us all successful. And it will provide for fulfilled and inspired work environment in which people feel they belong, where they thrive, and where companies grow.

Daniel:

And yeah, to create that sense of belonging across different functions. And I think most importantly from what you’re saying, different generations and ways of thinking, how do you build like a compelling vision and mission and spread it bottom up and top down in an  organization?

Dagmar:

I believe that all really falls back on the individual leader because first and foremost, you have to have a burning desire to bring this vision to life. Once you have developed this vision, once you know where you want to be heading with your organization, then you really have to transport that burning desire. You have to believe in your vision for the company, for the organization. You have to engage with the people, make your vision go viral, be passionate about what you’re aspiring to achieve and then share your dream and also share how you want to go about achieving this dream. Again, as you just said, “It goes back to the sense of belonging.” If your teams feel that they belong, that they are part of something, they will also share in the vision and become part of that journey. You know Daniel, I’m firmly convinced you will see many changes over the next few years, but one thing will remain: yes, humans want to be part of something bigger, that’s either vision that can be a company, a community or an idea. Therefore, we as leaders, we need to lead in an inclusive way so that we can achieve greatness together.

Daniel:

Okay.  Well, this was very interesting because I think that at the end of the day, achieving a vision and sharing a common reason to get out of bed every day and go to work, like wanting to get things done is very important and I think that also Dagmar, thanks for introducing us  actually to the concept of universal transformation. I think that it won’t be the first, the last time that I hear about that.

Dagmar:

I would hope so because I really think that, you know, when we talk about digital transformation these days, as I said, to me it is really just– it’s one of the many facets and it’s become a scapegoat, but it’s so much bigger and we are seeing so much change and most of us really are struggling how to deal with all of that change, whether it’s big or small companies, you know, whether it’s individuals. So let’s all try me together and let’s lead in an empathetic way and with the right sense of belonging and let’s lead our teams through this and work together in a joint way to make it all happen and to really master this universal transformation.

Daniel:

I’ll take your advice on board and Dagmar, thanks so much for joining us today.

Dagmar:

Thank you, Daniel.  It was my pleasure. Thanks so much.

Daniel: And thanks to our listeners as well for joining us and we’ll see you in the next edition of the podcast.