In a new series of articles, we will meet the different leaders of Ingka Group and talk to them about what matters most to them. In this very first one, we meet Belen Frau, Deputy Retail Operations Manager, who is passionate about leadership and the business, who leads with people at heart and results in mind, and whose favorite part of the job is meeting co-workers and customers all over the world. She sees the co-workers as the best proof point that we really recruit based on values, as wherever she goes she finds amazing people who do all they can to be better leaders, better co-workers everyday.
You have had leading roles in different countries, and now you work as Deputy Retail Operations Manager. What do you consider good leadership and has this changed over the years?
I believe there’s not just one definition of good leadership. It’s about caring for people and business and daring to take decisions. It’s about being a good example, being coherent with what you say and do, and even more with who you are. I would say leadership it’s a lot about adapting to different stakeholders and situations and a lot about communication. Communication is the foundation of leadership and it’s equally important to be clear and consistent as a leader as it is to be inspiring and engaging. And it’s also key to listen to your team, their worries and needs, communication is a two-way dialogue.
In my view, a leader also has to have a positive mindset, it’s basically a responsibility. We all look up to our leaders, if they are worried, we worry. We have to be positive especially in these changing times, acknowledging that we don’t always know which is the right decision to take, but that we are sure will find it together.
I can see leadership has changed in the sense that before leaders were expected to have all the answers, and now the focus is rather on asking the right questions and being humble to listen and learn while triggering the right conversations. This is another key element of leadership, I believe – humbleness, accepting that you don’t always know the answers and letting other people contribute. It’s about putting the we before the me. It’s not about being right, but about getting it right together.
What lessons have we learnt in the pandemic that can help us become stronger leaders in this new normal – and help us tackle the big issues as retail leaders?
We’ve learnt so much. The first thing is that not doing anything is a huge risk. We’ve been so successful in the past, it has sometimes prevented us from making decisions because we’re afraid to change what has been successful. During this time, not changing hasn’t been an option. We could not stay static, we had to create, adapt, move. I think that’s probably the biggest learning. It’s better to make an imperfect decision than to stay static. Test and learn, being agile is the new normal.
I’ve been so inspired by the entrepreneurial mindset and spirit of many talented people around the world, who in just weeks accelerated processes and projects that had been planned for years. It was a great confirmation that at the end it’s always people that make the difference!
I also see a change in how customer centric we have become, doing all we can to create a convenient experience and continue serve the many people during these difficult times. And this can only bring us forward as the leading home furnishing company in the new omnichannel reality, putting people and planet at our core.
What would be your best advice to young, aspiring leaders today?
First of all, I would advise to do something you love, because when you drive with passion, and like what you do, you’re just the best version of yourself. I don’t think you should be too obsessed with whether your career will develop you or if it’s an accepted area in the labor market. I specialised in finance during my studies and I started working in auditing, because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. But what I really liked was marketing, so I moved into the commercial area instead, first in my studies and then also my career has led me closer to the customer.
Besides following your heart my second advise will be to prepare yourself. Opportunities reach the people that are ready for them. The idea of starting a career and then sticking to it forever is over. We all need to be life-long learners, loving the past and embracing the future being ready for what’s coming, because all we know is that the only constant will be change.
And my last one: believe in yourself, dream big and make dreams happen!
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