The experiences of Gita Hoogeveen as an interim director
Gita Hoogeveen has a wealth of experience in management positions and has been active as an interim director for a number of years. We spoke to her about her leadership style and how she puts it into practice. An inspiring conversation!
I have held general management positions in technical and manufacturing companies for over ten years, with periods working abroad and plenty of intercontinental travel. My educational background is also in chemical engineering, so I am a technical woman with general management experience. That's a unique combination. I have developed a strong preference for interim work because I find strength in helping companies through difficult periods. For example, in times of crisis, during restructuring, or with the sale of an organisation. In the meantime, I have been active as an interim executive for almost four years, whereby I'm doing assignments at technical and manufacturing companies for anywhere between 9 to18 months.
And what kind of assignment are you currently working on?
At the moment I am Chief Restructuring Officer at a semi-public company and I am leading the restructuring with the ultimate goal of successfully selling the company. My current assignment involves complex political and decision-making processes. You can see me as a bit of a 'stickler' in my work: I ask the tough questions and I keep an eye on the timeline of the restructuring. My leadership style in this is to bring people together in order to get them on board for change.
When you look at your current assignment, what results are you proud of so far?
We have achieved some great results, such as selling two business divisions and normalising the relationship with the shareholder. That is also the advantage of being an interim manager. I have the ability to participate in discussions with an open mind and am therefore able to maintain a helicopter view on the one hand, and look more neutrally at the interests and arguments of stakeholders on the other. What I have learned in this assignment is to be able to navigate in political and decision-making processes. This starts with fully understanding the political process and then being able to use the political environment to achieve goals.
What is the reason why they chose you for this assignment?
Because of my extensive experience in operational companies, I understand how the dynamics in a factory work and how the relationship between employees and customers are connected to this. In addition, I have led numerous restructurings, reorganisations and cost-cutting programmes.
And what do you, as a person, contribute to this assignment?
Focus and a results-oriented approach. I have learned over the years that results can only be achieved by bringing people together. Paying attention to people is crucial when it comes to generating momentum. By bringing a leadership team together, they learn to understand and trust each other and this provides the basis for being able to decentralise ownership of change. At some point, I will leave again and then that transformation has to be anchored in the organisation. A good comparison: I am having the walls of the house painted, and my role is to see to it that everyone starts painting, but that they also like the colour of the walls.
Do you have an example of where you have achieved results with this approach?
At a previous assignment, I led a Business Unit of 1100 people who were spread across different regions and locations. A number of unsuccessful reorganisations had taken place, which had created a lot of small islands as well as a lack of trust between people. I knew that in order to reach people, I would need a multiplier, because I could not mobilise over 1,000 people on my own. I then started to assign ownership to the group of managers. A practical example is that I brought them together in person every two months to have a strategic session together in combination with breakfast or lunch. Over time, I let different managers organise this session so that it was no longer Gita's meeting but their meeting. Managers started talking to one another, they ended up visiting each other and began working together. This became the basis for connecting and this ultimately improved the results.
What a great example. Do you have a closing tip for the reader?
Whatever you do, focus on getting people on board. Do not focus on achieving, for example, a 10% increase in turnover, but focus on what people need to do in order to achieve a 10% increase in turnover. To achieve lasting results, you must first understand what, when and how people do things. It is only by keeping the focus on people that you can achieve lasting change.
A good comparison: I am having the walls of the house painted and my role is to see to it that everyone starts painting, but that they also like the colour of the walls.