"In Ukraine, only hire women!"
Raphaël, you then left for Ukraine for a CFO position. What do you learn in this country?
In Ukraine, I discovered a triple challenge: a professional challenge of adapting to a new function which required me to quickly learn the job of CFO; a challenge of adapting to a new culture; and a linguistic challenge since I arrive being the only employee of the company who does not speak Russian. To meet these three challenges, I immersed myself in a busy schedule in which I had to be able to do everything at once. For example, I was doing four hours of Russian a day: I was learning Russian during my lunch, I was learning Russian in the evening, and I was having a few meetings in Russian with a translator.
I also discovered an extremely endearing country, culture and company with very warm personalities. The "culture of conviviality" is the leitmotif of the Pernod Ricard group. The employees showed it well.
Finally, what struck me was how eager Ukrainian employees were for knowledge and skills from Western Europe. There was a very strong demand on their part to learn and understand. Open to every good practice from another country, the Ukrainians wanted to adapt and implement it. They said, “We want to learn. Tell us what to do, how to do it and we will do it. We are capable of it”.
In terms of management, have you identified any common points between Ukraine and Bulgaria?
A common point between Ukraine and Bulgaria concerns the place of women in the world of work. On several occasions, people I had interviewed before leaving had told me: "Only hire women because the men are there for their careers, while the women are there to make it work" . In other words, women do their job, and only then, depending on the results, do they expect recognition, while men are generally more career-oriented. They want a promotion first, before they start delivering results.
In Ukraine, I was struck by how feminine and competent my financial management team was. This allowed me to realize that gender issues are very much linked to the vision we have of them. For example, in France, at the time, we would have questioned the competence of a woman for a position of IT Director, Logistics Director or Production Director. But in Bulgaria or Ukraine, it is the opposite. We know that women are very competent in these functions, and in fact, they are very often more so than men.
What else do you learn about management styles?
In Ukraine, I read an article by Harvard Business Review, « Leadership that gets results »[i],
which was about management styles. My boss said to me, "Listen, look at this, it's interesting. I notice that you tend to ask a lot of your teams. For a while your management style will work, but at some point people will burn out. I invite you to explore other management styles, it might be useful to you. By reading this article, I realized that the management model that had influenced me the most was that of the public service as it had been passed on to me by one of my very "demanding" General Managers. in the sense of "mobilization". With him, it worked! Indeed, if we mobilize people a lot, at some point it makes sense, it attracts their attention, and the task becomes important for them, suddenly they get involved and we can enter a virtuous circle: by asking people to be more invested, this investment makes it possible to do more, which in turn restores the image of the service in the administration and allows people to feel more proud to belong to it. In the end, with this style of management applied to a team of civil servants, we came out on top.
But, moving into the private sector, without being very aware of it yet, I continued to use this model and to always ask more of my teams. Reading the HBR article, I discovered that there is not only one style of management but that there are several. According to the article, all styles are interesting. They all have a place, but not all at the same time. So you have to master several of them, you have to be able to use the one that is best suited to the situation and you have to know that there are certain styles that don't work in the long term. If they are too present, they become counterproductive. And the one I used the most, the “pacesetting style”, was one of them. This article was a wake-up call: I had to manage differently.
That's when I started getting interested in alternative management styles, like coaching and mentoring. However, I saw, in this very committed female population, a strong potential which did not have in my eyes the career development in connection with the investment and the quality of the work carried out. So I tried to create mobility. I sent a collaborative to Kazakhstan, I sent some to Russia. In doing so, I discovered that in fact the barrier on the potential was not so much in the structure of the company: the barrier was probably in themselves. There was a cultural ceiling that kept them from seeing (and even wanting) what others could do. This reinforced my desire to facilitate their career development.
[i] Harvard Business Review, Leadership That Gets Results by Daniel Goleman https://hbr.org/2000/03/leadership-that-gets-results