Why every leader needs a sparring partner

CEO & Owner of Ruoff Advisory GmbH, Susanne Ruoff, speaks with former BBC interviewer, Nisha Pillai about ways leaders can gain trust and build great teams, also with the help of a sparring partner.

Susanne Ruoff on The Agenda Podcast
Susanne Ruoff
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The Agenda Podcasts

The Agenda brought to you by Sherpany uncovers the journey leaders take from facing challenges to making decisions. In this unique series of podcasts, leaders talk candidly with former BBC World Service interviewer, Nisha Pillai. #Leading together

In this podcast episode, you will hear:

CEO & Owner of Ruoff Advisory GmbH, Susanne Ruoff, as she discusses gaining trust as a new CEO, and the importance of networking in a new organisation. In her experience, leaders should be clear about the directions taken, and get people to understand it from the beginning. It is not always easy, but the setbacks in Susanne's career helped her become an even more seasoned leader, one who currently helps other decision makers tackle the challenges of leadership. Here are some of the topics covered in this podcast that help you gain trust and build great teams, and also help you understand the value of a sparring partner:

  • How to gain trust as a new CEO, and engage with people effectively
  • Dealing with unexpected setbacks and bouncing back
  • The importance of having a sparring partner, and the key learnings for leaders


How to gain trust and build dream teams with Susanne Ruoff

Gaining trust as a new CEO and engaging with people

"Trust is something that starts with yourself. Do you give people trust? And then people trust in what you will achieve ? I was called for the CEO job because of my digital and my technical background and the whole experience I had there. I started really to make tours in the employee area. I was walking around all over Switzerland as well abroad to learn from the people. You need to know your base. [...]

You need to first make it clear how you go forward with this because everybody thinks something different. Define first a vision. What should be a positive future? How does it look? And then how do we take everybody with us? [...] That was, for me, the most important but also the most difficult process."


Bouncing back from unexpected setbacks

"When you get in a crisis, or in a very difficult situation, as a leader you have two sides to deal with. You have you personally. [..] You have to deal with yourself and you have to accept that's the situation. 

And then the other is the company. How do you steer the company in a difficult situation, in a crisis? And my personal learning is to take your mirror, and ask yourself what you want to do. You can just go out and say, OK, I leave everything and walk away. Or you can say this is what I have to do so that we can go in the right direction, and then you have to lead the company."

A leader is as good as the team and the company behind him or her.

The importance of having a sparring partner

"I think every leader knows, it's not one way. There are always different situations and different options [...] as a leader, you need sometimes a very neutral person that can help and advise you what are the pros and cons and how the consequences will be. [...] It's not always a difficult situation. It's also having a sparring partner on the same level, and you can exchange certain ideas about the future.

There are many, many roles in this sparring partner, coaching, mentoring, whatever you want to call it, it's different. It's also onboarding for new leaders, because if you become a CEO, you need to learn certain things , and if somebody can help you and give you some advice, that would also be a good start. [...] 

Three tips. 

  • First, is your team inclusive enough that you as a leader can be sure you don't miss an aspect? 
  • Second, do you have good governance and good control? This is somewhat operational, but it's important, especially today in cyber. 
  • Third, how does the future look? What disruption can come? What could be important for your company that you can grow or, on the other side, become dangerous? What are these points, and how do you work on them?

There are many others, but I think these three are always the topics with every leader I talk to."

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Susanne Ruoff on The Agenda Podcast
Susanne Ruoff
About the author
Susanne Ruoff is an accomplished CEO, Board member, and Advisor, with a strong track record of driving results through business transformation and digitalisation. She has more than 30 years’ experience in national and international businesses, across a range of sectors, including Logistics/Healthcare, Technology, Payments, Outsourcing and Telecommunications.