The Magic of Trust in the Employee Experience

with Alexander Senn, Head of People and Organization at Siemens Smart Infrastructure

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Alexander Senn

Episode 15

“Give people guidance about what you want to achieve as a team, and then let them go. That’s when magic happens. Because you’ve given them trust and the feeling of ‘You can do that, I believe in you.’”

Alexander Senn is Head of People and Organization at Siemens Smart Infrastructure. He leads the 70,000 employees that are part of the Smart Infrastructure family. In this episode, Alex talks about the benefits of replacing performance reviews with growth talks, how to handle being challenged by an employee, and the importance of a trusting culture at work.

“The best ideas are out of a discussion of a diverse group. It may be difficult for me sometimes, because it’s not always my idea. And to be really honest with you, I love when my idea is perceived as the best and we go that direction. Everyone loves that. But you need to learn as a leader, it’s not always the best idea. The best ideas always come out of a team discussion.”

Listen in to hear

  • How to handle a cultural change at your company
  • The benefits of implementing growth talks
  • Why it’s important to challenge the status quo

“Sometimes we don’t have enough opportunities for young talented people. Because when someone is at the top of their career, they don’t want to move. But I think we need to learn to step back and make room for talent. It’s good to have someone taking over, bringing in some new ideas and creating a different dynamic. So we need to establish a culture of movement within the company.”


Alexander Senn aspect ratio

Alexander Senn

Head of People and Organization | Siemens Smart Infrastructure

Alexander is based in Zurich, Switzerland. He has been at Siemens Smart Infrastructure for more than three years, having started as the Head of HR Siemens Building Infrastructure. Before Siemens, he served as COO of Human Resources at Swisscom for 5 years, and Head of HR Marketing at KPMG, also for over 5 years.

Episode Transcript

Narrator: There’s a certain level of trust that needs to be established between company leaders and their employees to create a positive, productive work environment. So leaders can give employees guidance and support, and then… let go. They don’t feel like they need to micromanage because they have confidence the work will be done well. And employees take ownership of their responsibilities in return. That’s what Alexander Senn is teaching us today.

Alexander Senn: ”What happens with people when you really trust them and you empower them, you need to give them guidance about what do we want to achieve as a team, as a company, they need to have a clear view on the strategy, but then let them go. And then magic happens because when you give someone the trust, And then the feeling of you can do that. I believe in you. It’s just amazing what happens.”

Narrator: Alex is Head of People and Organization at Siemens Smart Infrastructure, a business within Siemens working to intelligently connect energy systems, buildings and industry. And there are 70,000 employees within Smart Infrastructure alone, with 300,000 overall. With that many employees, he’s seen how important trust is between leaders and their team. Today, Alex is sharing with us the benefits of replacing performance reviews with growth talks, how to handle being challenged by an employee, and the importance of a trusting culture at work.

On Cruising Altitude, we talk about employee experience lessons from leaders at companies with over 30k employees. A lot like reaching Cruising Altitude at 30k feet, things look a little different when you’re managing 30,000 people. On this podcast, we bring you insights from the leaders who inhabit that rarefied air. Today’s episode features an interview with Alexander Senn.  But first, a word from our sponsor.

Alexander Senn: Uh, Siemens Smart Infrastructure is a key pillar of Siemens AG um, Smart Infrastructure addresses the pressing challenges of urbanization, climate change and connecting energy systems, buildings, and industries, supporting smarter, more resilient, sustainable and human centric cities for people and businesses. And we can divide our business in three major areas, electrification buildings, um, like building automation, control system, access control, security technology, and also electrical products like, um, components in every electrical network.

Narrator: Before we really take off, let’s take a look at Siemens Smart Infrastructure at a glance in The Flight Plan. So who are the 70,000 employees who are part of Smart Infrastructure?


Alexander Senn: We have, uh, quite a number of, of shop families. So it’s, uh, technicians is service people. We have software developers, we have manufacturing, people that are working in manufacturing. So really, uh, sales, um, R and D. So quite a wide population. We are recruiting and, and try to retain.

Narrator: You’d think that with that volume of employees doing all sorts of different jobs, Alex would face some unique challenges. But he doesn’t really see it that way. 

Alexander Senn: I mean, it’s not the challenge. It’s an opportunity. And maybe you will think now I start with. Talking about technology and processes, but this is not the biggest challenge I think, or the biggest opportunity is the culture. And especially the leadership culture, because I strongly believe that the, the biggest lever in creating really a and pre experiences is leadership. And that’s why we decided in Siemens, um, to focus on, on two strategic initiatives. We really want to establish, uh, culture of empowerment and also growth mindset. So out of four strategic priorities in Siemens, two of them are strongly people and culture-related, empowerment and growth mindset. And we strongly believe that creates really a good, uh, an excellent employee experience.

Narrator: And there are many more people than him who take ownership of the employee experience.

Alexander Senn: It’s the leaders. It’s people, it’s the business. Because always, um, people think, oh, this is, uh, people in the organization or that function. No, no, no, no. At the end of the day, it’s the leaders and also the employees, but we can help them, right. We can, um, Um, work on trainings, um, guide them, coach them. We can implement concept to, uh, enable them, but at the end of the day, the job needs to be done by the business and by the leaders.

Narrator: So we’re just getting to know more about Siemens Smart Infrastructure, but look who it is: your personal flight attendant coming with your complimentary pre-flight drink. Because we’re about to get into what makes Siemens a first class place to work. So what does fostering the best employee experience mean?

Alexander Senn: The best experience, um, so that they join us and that they stay and that they really can fulfill their potential. So we want to create an environment that really everyone can grow. And that everyone can bring their best performance. I think this is, this is the key. This is absolutely key. And yes, we need processes and yes, we need technology that help to create that environment. But I said at the beginning, at the end of the day, it’s the culture and, and, and especially the leadership culture that really then give that room to our people to, to grow and to, to find their own way within Siemens, uh, to fulfill their potential they have. And because I strongly believe everyone can be a star in something. We just need to find out what is the area someone can bring in his or her skills in the best way.

Narrator: Sometimes creating a best in class experience means doing away with traditional or legacy processes if you’re finding they aren’t actually that effective. And trying something new.

Alexander Senn: In the past. I mean, we had the performance management process, right. Setting targets at the beginning of the year. And then at the end of the year, right. Our people, and we realized this is not helping to really establish a growth mindset culture, and a positive culture where people really want to grow and maybe try new things and try to make mistakes, because somehow it was a little bit the judging of people at the end of the year. And with that process, also the leaders, they had at the beginning of the year conversation, and then maybe the middle of the year, and then at the end of the year. But with that, this is not helping to establish really a continuous feedback culture. So that’s all we said, Hey, why we are having that? Why we are forcing our people, our leaders, our employees to go through such a process which we believe or that it’s not helping. So that’s why we decided just we need to get rid of that process. And then we decide, okay, we stop that. And then we want to create a culture of continuous dialogue each and every day, whenever it’s needed to give each other feedback, to talk about the future, to talk about what are the learnings someone need to to to invest in, um, uh, to giving each other feedback after the meeting, after workshop. And then we implemented growth talks. And growth talks, it’s all about really to take the time to reflect what someone needs. Where are the areas of development areas and what can I do as a leader to support my employees and with the clear goal that it’s it’s everyday can be a, um, uh, growth talks after every meeting can be a moment of, of growth talks. And then we talk with our people about what happened? What can we learn out of it and what kind of support someone needs? And this is now we started that journey one and a half years ago. We’re in the middle of it, but I can already see it’s, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s a difference. It’s a different culture of how people feel, um, how they behave also within the team at the interactions with leaders, and it’s much more positive, future oriented. And really the, the spirit of growing, learning, um, achieving something together. Um, and I strongly believe it’s also because we got rid of performance management ratings and now really established, uh, growth talks.

Narrator: But trying something will also mean handling change management, of course. That’s when measuring your initiative’s success comes in, and being able to show data supporting the change.

Alexander Senn: I’m all open and honest with you. Um, change is not always easy for people because to be really honest with you, it was much easier for leaders just to have one conversation at the beginning of the year, another conversation at the end of the year. And now I’m a little bit black and white. I know there are leaders. They also did a great job and had regular conversations also with the old process. So don’t get me wrong, but now black and white, they said, oh, now I need to give my people targets, but what can I do then with, on the performer, when I can’t rate them at the end of the year? And we then said with data and you always need to convince people with data, especially also in our arena of, of HR, is we said, Hey, when we look into data, we found out that the so-called under-performer, uh, they were rated in the past very good. So, you just couldn’t find a pattern where you can see this is strongly linked to performance. And then we also had good discussions about, oh, in the most of the jobs, it’s quite difficult to really make the performance transparent. I mean, when is a, I don’t know, a three in a scale of one to five, one is a five or five. Uh, how can you judge that? How can you, as a leader, really make sure, or that you’re sure this is a four, that person is a four, the five, that is quite difficult. And we invested so much time and we really discussed them with them. Created an platform where we had conversation with leaders that were maybe a little bit uncertain what’s going to happen. And then, I was part of a lot of these discussions and then ask them questions. Um, do you think it’s good to invest time now? Hours in management teams is because who is a three who is a four. And be open and honest. We invest a lot about convincing why that person is a three and a four. We should focus on content on the why behind on behaviors, what need a person to learn, where to unlearn. And that convinced them how the leaders and they tried it out. And when I talked to them today, they are convinced about growth talks because they realize it’s much better not to convincing others why someone three or four, really talking about the quality. About content, about the areas of learning. What are the top performance? Why are they the top performance? So we don’t spend time on ratings, scaling, just content. And this is, this is all about, uh, when we’re talking about growth talks. For example, The first initiatives I would say is the new normal guidance, um, is the way we want to work after the pandemic. So in the new normal, we discussed in the, uh, together with the board, um, two years ago, how do we want to work after the pandemic? So what are the guiding principles? And then we said we don’t want to go back like we worked before the pandemic. Like, I don’t know. Everyone came everyday to the office because we learned during the pandemic, it’s working. Mobile working is working. Much more efficient. We reduce costs. It was quite easy to have very good online meetings. And then we said, Let’s give our people a guidance. And then we said in the future, we want to empower our people. They can decide when and where they want to work. So, and we said, we assume that every one of us can work three days a week mobile, when they want. You empower them, they can decide. But we wanted to give them also some, a little bit of guidance of, we assume that three days, because we believe we still need to come together for certain reasons, workshops, team, buildings, whatever. But we don’t want the leaders there calling the people back to the office like it was maybe before the pandemic. And this is maybe I would say best practice and we can see also in the, in the feedbacks from employees that was really perceived very well because it’s a clear signals of trust. Um, we trust you. We believe in you. We empower you. You know best where you can bring your best performance and when. So this is, uh, I think, uh, best example, and we should not forget the blue collar. Also here we are working on much more flexibility. But this is definitely a challenge for an industry like we are in with blue collar and white collar. Um, this is clear, but it’s, it should not stop us, um, inventing such, um, an initiatives for, for white collars and as explained before.

Narrator: Alexander has said before that employees need fewer rules, but more trust and empowerment. And that it will pay off with higher engagement and impact from them. That’s such a powerful statement, and something that he has learned from experience.

Alexander Senn: I just observed and realized. Uh, what, what happens with people when you really trust them and you empower them, you need to give them guidance about what do we want to achieve as a team, as a company, they need to have a clear view on the strategy, but then let them go. And then magic happens because when you give someone the trust, And then the feeling of you can do that. I believe in you. It’s just amazing what happens. When you do it the other way around, you don’t trust, you control them, it creates fear. It creates, oh, I only do what Alex wants me to do. This is wrong, because I strongly believe it’s not me with the best ideas. It’s the team with the best ideas. Diverse people together in a team create the best solutions. And then we, as leaders, we need to step back. We give our team the room, and the beauty of that is there is a lot of learning happening. Because yes, there are mistakes, but with mistakes, this is a learning. And you only learn with, with mistakes. Because otherwise you’re not taking risks. You’re always going the safe path. And I’m always taking the safe route is brings not then innovation and success, strongly belief. We need to take risks and justify my own experience. I really want to say to every leader. Try it out and you will see that your team will outperform and bring the much better performance than in the past when they were in a controlled environment.

Narrator: Part of Alexander’s success has been leading his teams right along with them. He changed the culture of leadership and surprised employees when he first started.

Alexander Senn: When I joined them, I can now really join Siemens and maybe the culture and the team, um, at the beginning was a little bit different because they were somehow looking at me and asking me for guidance, for input. And then when we had discussions, then when I said something, then I said, oh, okay, this is the now a decision. I said, no, this is just my, my view on it. And just let’s discuss it. And at the beginning they were, uh, surprised or also said, Hey, but we need your guidance. I said no, I mean, you, you have the job. You have to write skills. And you don’t need me, because it’s you. You own the task, you own that, that, that job, or that the project, whatever. And what happened then, when I talk to people half year and year later, they said, well, Alex, it’s just amazing to see. I can do much more and they really realized what kind of potential they have. And, uh, and, uh, nowadays is a totally different game. When we have a discussion I’m like in the middle of a team discussion and I’m like a team member with no more rights. My answer is not counting more than, than others. And I, I said at the beginning, the best idea out of a discussion of a diverse group, diverse team with different aspects. And, and this is, this is, um, that the change that, that happened and wonderful to see, yes, maybe difficult for me sometimes because it’s not always my idea. And to be really honest with you, I love when my idea is perceived as the best, and we were going that direction. I love that. Everyone loves that. But you need to learn as a leader. Um, it’s not always the best idea. Um, the best idea is always comes out of a team of a discussion, different aspects. 

Narrator: But how does Alexander know when things are going well?

Alexander Senn: To measure everything we do is very important because especially also in the, in the people in the organization arena is important because we talk about culture, about behavior, and then it has a tendency that we talk, I’ve heard this is good. I’ve heard this is not good. And this is, this is dangerous because you should always talk facts and data. And you can do that also in our arena. So that’s why I’m really happy that we have established, um, uh, and employee survey, we’re conducting three times a year. So we have really not every second year we have feedback because I mean, in our fast moving business would be too late. So we have somehow data points every three to four months, and we can clearly see a difference, when we compare data out of the employee survey two years ago, and now it’s a huge difference. We increased our results or the feedback from our people in each and every, dimension, all questions, increased numbers, better results. And that ends then with an all-time high in, in our employee net promoter score. And I think I’m not quite sure. Um, I think it’s 35 and this is, uh, I would say excellent for such a big company, like, like Siemens, a big and global company, like Siemens is. And then I can also say, okay, and then look at our business results. And I’m quite proud to say that also here, Siemens is all time high, a record year, last year. And I believe also not only, but also because our new way of working, um, cultural change initiatives, um, not only, but also strongly believe that.

Narrator: Another thing he measures is the professional development of employees. They’ve developed a learning platform to upskill workers.

Alexander Senn: We invest a lot in, in learning, um, that we strongly believe that in five years, we need to, readopt skill. We need to learn new skills in different areas. So that’s why we need to really invest in, in learning. And really in each and every individual needs to learn new skills or un learn also. And to help our employees and give them a little bit of direction, um, we developed a learning platform that is individualized. And what does it mean? So the platform knows who is logged in and then what are the needs and with, um, the trainings offered and, and I choose then the trainings, the platform is learning. And you can also, as a leader, you can say, oh, for my job, for me, for my team, this is what we need to learn. And these are the trainings my people need to attend. So you can also guide them, give them clear direction, the platform gives you also recommendations. What could be of interest for you. You can also, ask for, what do I need to learn when I want to become a, I dunno, data analyst, software engineer, and they know what do you need to maybe to develop in that area? So this is, I would say excellent technology still working on it. Having said that, and coming back to the leadership and you, you see it’s like or a tape through my whole conversation. It’s all about leadership because at the end of the day, coming back to growth talks, this is the moment to talk about the future and what do you need in the growth talks? And then you can, yes. Offer them trainings in the learning world. But at the end of the day is much more learning on the job, et cetera. But I said, I think the learning world is great technology that will help us to, to re adopt skill in the right areas.

Narrator: Siemens Smart Infrastructure also helps employees develop leadership skills. 

Alexander Senn: People join a company and leave a leader. This is true. The difference of an excellent employee experience always ends with the relationship within the team with the leaders. And so that’s why we have a really strong focus on developing our leaders, explaining them why empowerment is so important, um, what they need to change. We offer them learnings. Um, uh, we really try to, um, bring maybe the, the critical leaders. They’re not believing in empowering together with people that are thought leaders in empowering that they really hear directly from them and what they have achieved when they have empowered their, their people. So, I think this is, this is the key, key element I would say. And then I believe we need to create opportunities. So people need to learn the need to grow. So they need to also be able to take the next step in their career. So that’s why it’s so important to have a transparent internal job market, that we work on a proper succession planning, that we identifying the talents and we give them opportunities and we also create opportunities. Sometimes we have not enough opportunities for young talented people, because when someone is top of the game, top of the career, they don’t want to move because it’s great up there, or with the big responsibility. But I think we need to learn that we need to step back and make some room for, for talents. For example, myself. I love my job. I’m now with a job for three years. I could imagine to do that job for the next 15 years, but that would not be good for the company, and for the organizations. So that’s why I promise you. I don’t know, I will step back in four to five years. Because it’s good. Someone is taking over, um, maybe bring in some new ideas and creates a different dynamic, I strongly believe that. So we need to establish also a little bit a culture of, of, of movement within the company. Mentoring, coaching, this is definitely something we offer. Because also leaders, they’re not born as leaders, they need to learn. And I think coaching mentoring is helping, because then they have someone to reflect situation. And I think we have also here, um, uh, the employee, uh, survey data, they help us to reflect then as people in the organization, business partners with our leaders. Looking at the results and, and also to have the dialogue with the team to reflect together with the team about the results. And what needs to be changed. So asking your team, Hey, what do you want to tell me? And not only in the, in the, in the survey, really in a round table, open and honest, and then agree. What, what are you asking for? What do I need to change? What do I need to learn? And I think that creates a learning culture also within the leadership teams and within the leaders. And with that, I believe you can clearly see who has potential to become a leader or to take on, uh, a bigger responsibility because we have the data and we have the feedback from the employees and we should listening to our employees who is really a good leader. Because good employees, they choose to work for a good leader.

Narrator: Alexander has talked about the importance of employees challenging the status quo. And it’s important for leaders to be able to handle that kind of challenge. 

Alexander Senn: To be challenged as a leader is not always easy. Because maybe you’re proud of something, because you have, I dunno, developed something together with your team and, um, implemented and it’s successful. And then you have someone joining the team from outside and is then challenging our own process initiatives idea. The natural reaction right away is to defend. And this is not good. First, you need to listen to understand what is being challenged. The reason why, and really listen, listen, listen, listen, listen. And then really step out of your role and that you are in charge of that, I don’t know, process, whatever. And we need to look at it like as a consultant, say yes, maybe she or he is right. And, and. And then try to change and be open for change, but then track, is it improving, do we achieve better results? And I think this is the key. So that’s why I said at the beginning, you need to measure almost everything you’re implementing, especially in the support functions, because then you can always change. Adapt to the, to the needs, to the changing environment and then track is then the change you have just implemented duration initiated. Is it creating impact or not? I think this is the key question. Do we create impact with what, what we are doing?,

Narrator: We’ve been cruising right along until now. Because just like we can learn a lot when the employee experience goes well, there’s a lot to learn when things don’t go so well. So hold on tight, we’re taking a look at the turbulent side of employee experience. Alexander says he’s seen examples of a bad employee experience, and it comes back to the leaders.

Alexander Senn: There are always examples, wrong leadership behavior. Leaders I didn’t realize, in which situation and employee is. And then not listening and maybe also not caring for employees. And it’s all about, that you’ve put yourself in the shoes of others and try to understand, and then not judge, and you’re not performing, et cetera. Maybe ask yourself, why is that person not performing? What can we do? And, uh, this is maybe, um, all these kinds of situations that ends then really, really not good at the end. These are maybe the examples that comes to mind. It’s not a implementation of an IT tool. Yes, there are also some examples where we did not, um, talk to the business right from the beginning, or they were part in development, we thought this is exactly the process we need, and not asking somehow the customers then at the end implemented it, then we got the feedback that maybe could have been done a little bit differently. But I think this is not really the bad experience. No one will leave a company because of a tool or because of a process. They will leave the company because of the culture. But don’t get me wrong because I don’t want to, oh, Alex is now caring and we need to be nice with people. This is not what I mean. To care means also to be very tough sometimes in a situation when someone is, I dunno, is not fulfilling the requirements or she, or he doesn’t do the job. Then we need to tell them. Or when we think, and we tried, it’s not the right job. And we try to, um, to invest in training, et cetera, and someone’s really not fulfill the requirements. Then we need to act. And this is also caring. So also to, to end the contract with someone, or to say, Hey, I think we should go different, different ways. This is also caring. And I remember, uh, as an, as a P and O head, you have, um, you have these kinds of situations, where you’re also involved in, in, in, in, um, in, um, in an outplacement, whatever. And when I talked to people and they didn’t like what we did back then, and decide we are not fair, et cetera. When I talked to them years later, they say, well, Alexis is the best what could have happened to me because I realized I really need to change and I realize it’s we, it was really not the right job. And maybe also not the right environment at that time. And I think this is, this is key. So that’s why this is important. What I mean with care is listening to understand what is going on, what can I do? How can I support? But when you then realize as a leader, as a company, that you did everything, then it also needs to come to an end. And, uh, sometimes someone needs to open a new chapter for, for, for himself or herself.

Narrator: Alex says it’s important to distinguish between the person and the employee. And to promote health boundaries around work and life. 

Alexander Senn: We all have a role. And some tough decisions, it’s the decision of the role. And not of the human being, alex as a person. Now, it sounds a little bit strange, but it is true. I have a job here with my, uh, responsibilities and, uh, I need to make sure that I do everything to support the business, that the businesses are successful. And if someone is hindering that, then, uh, I need to take a decision that is maybe also hard for individuals, but I do it in my role. And that helps me a lot. This is not me as a human being, this is the role. And it also helps that. I love the people. I have a strong bond with them, with an employer, or with Siemens high engagement, but I see also risk here. We should also have all of us, um, a healthy distance to a company because it’s not all about the job and the company. I think family, yourself, you’re much more important. Your health, what you love, what you’re like, who you are. You’re not the company, you’re not the role. The role is the role, and maybe you will leave the role one day or the company’s eyes. You need to go, you need to leave that role. So that’s why it’s so important. We need to keep a distance. We need to be very engaged, but we need to keep somehow, um, a healthy distance.

Narrator: Of course the pandemic has affected that work/life balance. In other words, it’s easy to let work take over, unless you intentionally set breaks for yourself, and encourage employees to do the same.

Alexander Senn: We are in difficult situations since two years because and I also needed to learn to really, to, to organize my life differently at home. Because there is the tendancy that you’re 24/7 on, and this is definitely not good. Um, and I’m always bring the example of, of a sports man, woman. They also pause by purpose. They say, when I have a big event, I pause before. They’re not working like hell training the day before. And I think we need to learn to high perform, high engage, but then not engaged. Pause, do something different. Don’t Not opening, uh, email, checking emails. I think we need to learn not to check emails. We need to learn just to be off. Um, I think otherwise I see a big risk that we see and you see the numbers of people with burnout like that it’s increasing. And this is also because people that have all learned to pause, to break, to do something different than being in a virtual world. And with during the pandemic, this is definitely something. And we, as we invested a lot in that and we really said to our people, we organized this, discussed it, and we shared openly that we all that. I also struggled. I mean, a conversation with a, in a, in a, in a round table, I was, I said, I struggled at the beginning. And I realized I need to change now something. Because otherwise my, at my performance one, it was not always at my best level, at the best level, uh, the beginning of the pandemic, because almost five, six days online all the time. Then I said, I need to change something. And then I really said, because also lunch breaks or had the meetings also during lunch break, because it’s so easy. I need to stop that. And then I took a decision three actions. First action was start the jogging again two, three days a week. Wonderful. Second was, um, lunch breaks again and not marked private in the calendar. Everyone could see Alex needs food and needs a break. And then also, and I think that’s what maybe most important, also going out for a walk 30 minutes during afternoon, I really said now, afternoon, I need a blocker of 30 minutes to just go out for a walk and that was really, really helpful. And that brought me back to my normal performance level. You need to be somehow role model and you need also to talk about what you’re struggling with as leaders, because we have the tendency in our society, the leaders, the top leaders, they are the superheroes. They know everything. They can work 24 hours. They are, they’re a little bit different. And I don’t believe so. And I think when I did that, then also, my people, they share what they’re struggling with. And this that gives me the opportunity to help them. You know what I mean? So showing them that you’re also vulnerable, but you also are in a challenge situation and what you do with it, um, that definitely helps them. Then the new people that they say, okay, I think I also need to change. When Alex goes out for a walk during the day. I also can do it. So that’s why I say it by purpose. Hey, I just come back from a wonderful walk. Or also had some shoe fixes, uh, while I was outside walking said, Hey, sorry, do you need to show me slides because I would love to go with you together out for a walk and then, uh, put my headphone on. And, um, that was wonderful and that really then was somehow a little bit inspirational for my people.

Narrator: Overall, he says be humble, try not to judge, and lead by example. 

Alexander Senn: The best advice for someone, in my role for the first time would be listening. Um, don’t take yourself too important. Listening to your people, try to understand where are they and maybe what do they need? What can you do as a leader to help them? It’s not you that need to be in the middle of everything. It’s the team and you should stand behind the team, coach them, advise them. So ask yourself not, what the team can do for you. Ask the other way around. What you do for the team? I see so many, so many leaders, especially in, in top management leadership teams, they grew up differently. They are somehow trained to judge. When they start presenting, yeah, this is not good. This is missing. This is missing. But that creates a, an environment of fear. And you’re not listening. And I think we as leaders, should really start listening. First try to understand. Because especially when you have experience, 20 years, then you are quite fast in judging because I did that. I, we had that two years ago try, but then you’re not listening, but maybe the idea is much better than what we try to do in the past. So this is so key and it’s so, so good. No. So funny to see also how in Siemens, peers, they are struggling and they’re always going back in their old behavior and role and the really try to, hey, stop. We need to encourage people. We need to ask question without always judging, because you’re on level two, doesn’t mean you’re smarter or the ideas better, or you know everything. And I think that what we need to realize.

Narrator: But, he says, don’t be so hard on yourself because good leadership is a learned and practiced skill.

Alexander Senn: We need to also understand this employee, employers, employees. The leaders they need to learn. We give them time. And then also small step of improvement is good and it’s going in the right direction. Always I talked to employees understanding, yeah, my leader’s not empowering, but then ask, he or she different than behaves, he or she differently than two years ago? They said, yes, yes, yes. It’s much better. And I said, okay, look at that and tell them, or her or him, Hey, this is great. This is excellent. The change is excellent. But can we do try that? You know what the small steps of change is also change. Change is not going to happen overnight, especially when it comes to behavior. Um, then it needs time.

Narrator: And with time, you’ll be building trust with employees, supporting their growth, and watching the magic happen.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Cruising Altitude. This episode is brought to you by Firstup, the company that is redefining the digital employee experience to put people first and lift companies up by connecting every worker, everywhere with the information that helps them do their best work. Firstup has helped over 40% of the Fortune 100 companies like Amazon, AB InBev, Ford and Pfizer stay agile and keep transforming. Learn more at

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Cruising Altitude

Lessons from companies over 30,000 employees

Conversations with leaders who are designing the best digital employee experiences in the world – from the front lines to the back office. Life is different over 30,000. Welcome to Cruising Altitude.

Hosted by Firstup Founder and CEO, Nicole Alvino.

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