Leading companies successfully into the future
Wolfgang Metze is Head of Private Clients and a member of the management team at Deutsche Telekom. He talks about customer-centricity, trusting people, and preparing management and board meetings.
The Agenda Podcast
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 podcast moderator, Ingo Notthoff. #LeadingTogether
In this podcast episode you'll hear:
Wolfgang Metze, Managing Director of Private Clients and member of the management team of Deutsche Telekom, talking about his return to Deutsche Telekom, focusing on customers' needs, managing employees in a trusting environment, and preparing for management and board meetings. With more than 20 years of experience in various management positions, Wolfgang explains the importance of physical fitness in achieving success, and what matters most when it comes to career planning.
This episode answers the following:
- How Deutsche Telekom has evolved in the last seven years
- What’s necessary to build a customer-centric culture?
- How management and board meetings are prepared at Deutsche Telekom
- How to deal with resistance at the upper levels of management
- The role that physical fitness plays in success
- The advice young managers should follow
*Please note: The podcast episode is available in German.
Leading companies successfully into the future with Wolfgang Metze
You started your career at Telekom as a trainee. You are now responsible for the Private Clients business. How can you plan a career like that?
"I don't really believe in career planning. I think it depends on what you decide to do in life, and I decided early on that I wanted to take on responsibility, and that's what drives me. Then, of course, there are other factors that are important for a career. I'd like to name three.
The first is passion. It's very important that you have passion for what you do. That you like the topics you work on, the industry you're in, that you enjoy being there.
The second is discipline. It's necessary to be able to persevere, even when things get tough. To be disciplined in the things you do.
Then there are the technical skills. In my case, that means continue learning, expanding your knowledge every day, and putting a lot of focus on it. Last but not least, luck is also part of it."
You returned to Deutsche Telekom after seven years. How does that make you feel?
"I spent 16 years at Deutsche Telekom, where I held various positions. My career path in the company started here. Then I left for seven years. How does it feel to be back here? It's a bit like coming home. But home has changed. I've changed, too. The market has changed.
Telekom feels much more international to me now. We are the largest telecom in Europe with the most valuable brand. You can feel that. We are more diverse. I have also changed. I had my first management board role in the last seven years. I worked in a different culture, very Spanish in essence. There are clear differences. [...] But the good thing is that the values that Deutsche Telekom had, and that I had, remained the same. And that's why it's such a pleasure to be back here. The main thing I've noticed is that everything has become a bit more relaxed in recent years [...]
The second thing is that the accessibility within the company also changed, including the atmosphere. The doors are all open. We have open offices. We became much more accessible in terms of hierarchy. We have diverse teams. We work in a more agile way. So the whole atmosphere has evolved and adapted strongly to the market, and the customers' needs.
In terms of content, I think what I find here strongly is the customer-centricity. The customer plays a major role in the company. The diversity in the teams, the fact that we work together cross-functionally, that we also work a lot with the regions, and that we don't always think that we know best at the headquarters, that's certainly something that has changed a lot in terms of content. Interdisciplinary teams, a holistic view of customers, to solve customers' issues. And that we no longer focus so much on the product, but rather much more on the customer and the entire experience, i.e. the customers' experience."
Trust is the basis of everything. Without trust, there is no courage.
How do you deal with pressure?
"Together with my colleagues, I'm responsible for the largest segment, the Private Clients' segment. Of course, there is pressure. But I differentiate it between positive and negative pressure. I see it as positive. Namely, the pressure to keep up with the pace of change for our customers. To recognise their needs at an early stage to respond to them. To continue to be successful. That's why this is a positive pressure for me, which means that I focus strongly on the things that are really relevant now, that we have to solve together. [...] When the pressure is on, I go running three or four times a week, relatively early, to relieve it and to avoid passing it on to my colleagues. And, above all, not to take it home to my family."
How do you empower your employees?
"I trust my colleagues and I engage in an open dialog with them. This means that, first and foremost, I want to have all perspectives in sight. It's not about what I want to hear, but my expectation of my colleagues is that they are well-prepared when they come to a meeting. But they also bring their arguments, their perspectives to the table, regardless of whether I want to hear them or not. Then it's about finding the best solution considering all the arguments and perspectives, and implementing it as a whole.
That's my job, to set these framework conditions, to promote this culture. To enable my colleagues to do this, so that we can make the best possible decisions."
What kind of management style do you have?
"I have a positive leadership style. I focus on the positive. I focus on opportunities. I focus on improvement. I trust because without trust there is no teamwork. I create teamwork. I bring the right people together. Connecting the dots is what I call it.
It's very important that you don't just look at something from one perspective, but from different perspectives. And trust is the basis for everything; without trust, there is no courage. We have to be courageous in order to make decisions. To do that, I need to have basic trust. I am authentic. I am straightforward. I communicate clearly. At the same time, I am appreciative. I am interested in people. I am open to new things. I am open to other opinions, and value other opinions. I'm also open to criticism. That's sometimes a bit difficult with managers, when you criticise them directly.
We make decisions on facts and arguments, and not on hierarchies or reporting lines. I think it's very important that we make decisions based on facts, and not just on intuition or out of self-interest, so to speak.
You can also rely on the fact that people laugh with me in meetings, that we have fun with things, even in private. It's important to me not just which business topic comes up, but which person brings it up, because there is a person behind everything. Especially in my close environment, it's important for me to know how the person is doing. If I know that there's a problem in the family or another issue, then I can deal with it. I don't neglect the human side, and I'm interested in what's really bothering my colleagues. You can also rely on me to make clear decisions, and to communicate and justify them very clearly."
How do you prepare for management and board meetings?
"I prepare meticulously before I go into meetings. I read the documents, I think them through. I also get the facts, or talk to one or two people before to have a clear opinion that I can bring to the meeting. I also try to anticipate what questions might come up. What's on the other person's mind? What problem would they like to solve? How can I help to solve this problem? What information can I bring to the table?
I really prepare myself meticulously. I am present at the meeting. That means I don't sit down and open my laptop and do my emails, I do that beforehand. I also create the space for myself so that I can be there and be present in a management meeting. The most important thing is, you asked me about board meetings, management meetings, I really look forward to these meetings. I look forward to diving into deep discussions with my colleagues. I look forward to seeing them. I look forward to being able to shape our company and make decisions in these meetings."
What advice do you give to young managers?
"I have a lot of these conversations, with young managers or future managers, or trainees who are just joining the company, with colleagues, but also with my children. What I always tell them is: go your own way. Don't look at what others expect of you, or what you should be doing now, but really go your own way. It doesn't always have to be straight.
Think about where you can bring passion. What you're interested in, because your professional life is long. Passion plus talent are very important to succeed, in the end.
Be self-disciplined, go the extra mile. Leave your comfort zone and then learn from it because it will make you better."