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Distinction by nationality? A trap of prejudices

What are the pitfalls of leading an international team of colleagues abroad? This was also discussed in the first episode of the new podcast series Women Leaders beyond Borders. Sylwia Szymula, Chief Retail Officer and Board Member of Uniqa Czech Republic and Slovakia and Anna Rejer, Head of Life & Health Department at VIG Re were guests of the pilot. 

You can watch the episode on YOUTUBE or listen to the episode on SPOTIFY and APPLE PODCAST.

Women Leaders beyond Borders - FinŽeny
Women Leaders Beyond Borders: Anna Rejer, Head of Life & Health Department at VIG Re and Sylwia Szymula, Chief Retail Officer and Board Member of Uniqa Czech Republic and Slovakia

When a manager works abroad, she has to overcome not only geographical boundaries, but also psychological ones. This applies especially to a team of new colleagues. Anna Rejer has the apparent advantage that her team is very international. However, as she herself admits, there is still much to learn in this discipline. „I can even say I´m learning every day and not only regarding my team. I am learning every day how to cooperate with people, how to understand people. After all, everything depends on people. I always respect people, try to listen to them, to understand their position. Some people expect I will respect their culture, their nationality, but others have an extremely different approach.“

According to Sylwia Szymula, who works mainly with Czechs and Slovaks, there is a lot of potential to make assumptions  with national overtones, but it is highly recommended to avoid it. „It is better to keep any national topics aside because otherwise we end up very quickly in a trap of assumptions and prejudices. So I try to definitely have sensitivity for contextual topics, maybe cultural aspects at the same time not make them bigger than they are and try to connect on eye to eye, personal level with every person.“

The common idea of a manager's role is that he or she should have influence, both on the direction or results of the company and on the performance of individuals. From Sylwia Szymula's perspective, in the latter case it is important at the micro level that the manager is a source of energy for others. „Every meeting I have with someone in the company, I try to ensure that we are aligned on the direction that we want to go to elevate this energy or recharge this energy in one or another way to strengthen what the person will carry forward with their teams, with their peers and so on,“ Sylwia says. 

Subordinates are not used to a manager without energy and enthusiasm and, in fact, they are not even curious. So how to keep the energy up for the tough times? „To me it is important to have a moment in every day, when I can stop, disconnect from the running thoughts and at least for half an hour be in a different environment and do something that makes me focus on here and now. Then the thoughts can turn into solutions,“ she adds. Anna Rejer mentions a similar method, only she alternates longer periods of strict focus on a specific topic with longer periods when she completely switches off and puts the work matter aside. In doing so, she returns to her passion, astronomy, or recharges herself through sport or other physical activity.

More information about the podcast can be found on the website HERE or on the podcast's LinkedIn profile HERE.


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