What constitutes resilience - individual, in a team and organizational
A conversation with David Ebermann
Karsten is passionate about getting to the core of things in leadership coaching. His clients often describe him as an intuitive, empathic and at times challenging sparring partner who asks the right questions.
He helps his clients to look at issues from a different angle to reach their goals.
Karsten has an extensive international business and leadership background gained over 16 years.
He held leading positions at Accenture, Bombardier Transportation and Dell. In his last position as Managing Director for DELL's consulting business, he built up the field of business consulting in Europe.
Karsten is a Leadership Coach since 2006. He is accredited by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC)and the World Economic Forum. He published several articles and books on the topics leadership, coaching and resilience. Furthermore, he is a certified psychotherapist (naturopath) and works as faculty at the Center for Responsible Leadership at WHU business school in Koblenz.
A conversation with David Ebermann
Coaches and selling – a tough love
It is not easy to be a manager, and even more difficult the higher you climb. But increased speed, uncertainty and complexity that dominate the everyday lives of decision-makers on C-Level are only one part of the problem. The by far worst part is the total loss of power and status which goes along with a loss of one’s influential position. Exactly this happened to Martin Senn who was the CEO of Zurich, one of the biggest insurance companies worldwide. He committed suicide end of May at the age of 59. Martin Senn was a long-time employee of the insurer, serving as its chief executive for six years before he was forced to step down in December due to public pressure following economic difficulties and a failed M[&]A transaction. The loss of prestige and influence had hit him hard. An acquaintance said Senn had suffered from depression recently.
The Insecure Overachiever
Since the 1950s, McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s leading strategy consulting firm, has been known to employ the best graduates from the best universities, and to use performance incentives and a very formative high-performance culture to shape these young, hungry ‘high potentials’ according to their requirements. After these young consultants are pushed to the maximum by their international projects, most of them voluntarily leave the company on good terms after three years at the latest in order to take up leading positions in the industry and then to become potential customers of their former employer. Over the past few decades, this HR strategy and its accompanying high-performance culture were adopted in the field of professional services by the majority of international companies and are now also entering many more traditional industrial and service-based companies.
A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way to a prestigious leadership symposium of a large car manufacturer. For the following two days, I was supposed to be one of the experts facilitating workshops for the 80 or so participating managers. The topic of my workshop was called “Resilience and Leadership” and I was very much looking forward to it. I had just completed the manuscript of my new book called “The Art of Self Leadership”. It was my 8th book on the topic and I really think of myself as an expert when it comes to dealing with adversity and hardships – at least in theory. As it was early February there had been a very cold period with snow and ice in the past days. However, this very morning sudden rain had turned the stairs in front of my house into an ice rink and despite the warning of my wife the blessings of gravity hit me by surprise and I fell hard on my back. The pain was remarkable but I quickly got back on my feet and since I was running late I somehow got my luggage and myself into the car and drove to the venue of the event without much further ado. At this moment, I was not thinking very much. There was only one voice in my head saying “You have to get there somehow and you must not be late”. I don’t recall exactly how I got out of the car since I could barely walk. When I arrived at the conference the organizers looked at me with deep concern in their faces indicating that I looked exactly as bad as I felt.
Why should anyone be coached by you?
Narcissus, the young man from Greek mythology, fell in love with his own reflection in a pond and ultimately drowned in his attempt to get too close to his own image. Leaders with narcissistic tendencies fit perfectly into both the modern business world and also the political system. Donald Trump or Silvio Berlusconi are perfect examples for this phenomenon in the political domain while business leaders like Elon Musk (Tesla) or Thomas Middelhoff (Arcandor) are prominent cases for the business world.
The US-American Dan Buettner is an extreme sportsman, adventurer and author of National Geographic. On his expeditions to various parts of the world he had become aware of a phenomenon that he first reported in 2005: the "Blues Zones". These are geographical regions which are characterized by a significantly higher life expectancy than in the rest of the world. One of these "Blue Zones" is the Okinawa archipelago, which belongs to Japan today. Japan's southernmost prefecture consists of 363 islands, on which a total of 1.3 million people are living. 900 of these inhabitants are 100 years and older, which is an unusually high life expectancy even for Japanese conditions. The average life expectancy for men there is 86 years while German or US-American men on average only become 78 years old.
Leaving our comfort zone often requires accepting a certain loss of control going alongside with the feeling of fear. This is nothing that executives particularly fancy – however it is key to success in today’s world.
I don’t particularly like the term “work-life-balance”. This has several reasons. For one, most people use this term without reflecting about the true meaning behind. The concept of work-life-balance implies that work and life are two opposite sides of a scale. It means that if you work you don’t actually live. This is a pity since most of us work a lot. In fact the idea behind makes a lot of sense for industrial workers at a factory line but does not apply for people in the knowledge industry. Matter of fact what really counts is a more holistic “life balance” which is far more challenging than just levelling out work and life. It can generally be said that a manager’s ability to bounce back from hardships will be particularly challenged if crises or setbacks are experienced in several areas of their life. The more areas are perceived as unfulfilling or even problematic, the more detrimental the effect will be on the level of available resilience.