TALK | Top management consultant Assig + Echter on wrong paths in human resources and Germany as a location for innovation

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Best of HR –® Dorothea Assig and Dorothee Echter advise international top managers as Assig + Echter Top Management Ambition. The interview is about what goes wrong in personnel development and how that affects Germany's ability to innovate.

Dorothea Assig, expert for outstanding careers, and Dorothee Echter, Topmanagement.Wissen.weltweit, have specialized in advising top management worldwide for over two decades. They lead outstanding management personalities with their organizations and Company to sustainable reputation. With their ambition management theory they make sure that the top management offers direct and effective orientation and initiates successes.

Here writes for you:


Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherConsultant and head of the Institute's job pictures Yourweb.


There is currently a lot of discussion in the Human Resources industry about the methods to find suitable applicants for management positions: How concretely can the Ambition Management method help them here? How should an interview work?

With Ambition Management, the interview questions do not aim at past performance or competencies, but at what drives and motivates the candidates in their innermost being. „What is your favourite task? When do you experience flow? What do others always entrust you with? How does the mood change the moment you join a project group? What do you think was your greatest success?“ Because as they are driven themselves, they will drive the company.

The individual ambition must match the topic that can be solved in precisely this task, with exactly this team right now. That is more important than anything else. In the past, more attention was paid to hiring the “somehow” or “general” best, general competence criteria were set up, and then testing and eating out of hell came out. And later, the candidates should then be shaped to fit specific tasks. That did not work.

Companies love KPIs and performance measurement, but you repeatedly criticise the fact that many companies are just sticking to figures and comparisons. What do you suggest as an alternative?

Ambition management means letting your own intrinsic motivation work instead of striving to fulfil given criteria. This is what all companies want - self-motivation, self-initiative. Research has shown that even the slightest extrinsic motivation (e.g. key figures that can be achieved and subsequent rewards) weakens intrinsic motivation.

The alternative is that leaders recognize their own ambition and put it into words. Instead of “I have to achieve 15% more profit margin on the product line”, it says, “I want us to sell only highly profitable products, that's what I stand for.” These are two completely different styles and emotional worlds. Ambition management achieves and exceeds what is possible. Goals only provide pressure, not the highest possible performance.

Now there are many people who only want to orient themselves based on facts and figures ...

These people have this very special natural talent for numbers and logic, which is not identical with leadership or entrepreneurial talent! They should work in IT or controlling functions or in companies that provide statistics or big data. They are also not suitable for management tasks in human resources or recruiting.

Recently, the recruiting scene has been increasingly criticizing esoteric selection methods - such as physiognomy, voice recognition software or profiling. What is behind your Ambition Management method?

This is where all the despair and confusion of Human Resources comes to the fore. To be on the safe side, many people do crazy things and clutch at any straw. We would expect a recruitment expert to trust her or his own intuition more than these questionable methods.

Your book also deals with the special abilities of highfliers and their difficulties in many companies. What needs to change for companies to make better use of the skills of highly gifted personalities?

That is such an important question. Any highly gifted person must recognize, appreciate, correctly classify and express the own talents, preferably with the help of experts. They must understand that they are special and that not all people understand and judge as quickly as they do – an insight that has serious consequences for social interactions.

The company must recognise who is a highflier and assign the right tasks to them. It is self evident, that they must never be insufficiently challenged. The right task is much easier to find with Ambition Management, because processes are more individualized, oriented towards the identification of the greatness of individuals.

You are international top management advisors: What distinguishes the German leadership culture from the one in other countries?

The international management culture is becoming more and more harmonized due to the globalization of corporate activities and new communication technologies. When people from many countries communicate via video conferences instead of in personal meetings, or when managers are in 10 countries in 14 days, new codes are needed, which everyone immediately recognizes as belonging, friendly, approving, etc. These codes make international trust and international cooperation possible. We have identified them and have been teaching them for 20 years. They fall into the categories of gratitude, appreciation, generosity and simplicity ...

One thing is different in Germany: there are traditionally more "frank words", "honest feedback", more criticism. Only a German top manager wonders whether his praise should not be taken as a “slip in”. Engineering has thrived on criticizing the inadequate for a century, and the best engineer became the board. Today, no board is internationally successful that does not know how to express grateful and appreciative relationships.

What does this say about the innovative capacity of Germany as a business location?

Miracles happen in Germany when it comes to innovations. They are often not so spectacular, but are characterized by a substantial structure. Companies could trust the leaders' ability to innovate much more - and have them done. That is why our new book is called “Freedom for Managers.” Let them free to rise to their size and the innovations will follow stantepede.

Have you noticed a change in leadership culture in recent years, for example due to digitalization?

O yes. The most important may be that personal encounters are gaining enormously in importance. Among the many audio, video and internet communications, a face-to-face conversation, a joint visit to a museum, a breakfast with business friends stand out and remain unforgettble. Because these meetings build trust, credibility and personal reputation. In the end, such personal closeness is decisive for great careers.

This is why each manager should create what we call an „influence-community“ of personalities in her or his own field, outside the company. Each leader must build her or his own influence-community, an open circle of influential, likeable and congenial personalities. They start with XNUMX, XNUMX ex-colleagues or alumni of a business school who meet on a regular basis. The own influence-community must be constantly re-inspired by personal meetings. Building an influence-community is an essential ingredient of great careers. When a new board member is wanted, when a great new order is to be placed, when a recommendation is needed, the influence-community cares. In top management, personal closeness is the key. The personally written season`s greetings card stands out. It will definitively be noticed and appreciated. It will help shaping your reputation.

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