Looking back at a my seven year career with the adidas Group I’ve worked as a Key Account Manager, Go-To-Market Manager and Brand Director for both Brand Reebok and adidas; taking me all over the world, from the Netherlands to Chile and Spain.
And just as an athlete starts to find their way in a new team, I looked at every new role like a training ground where I learnt new skills and picked up insights that helped me take the next step in my career and make my mark on a new project or team.
Here are my 9 learnings which were crucial in setting me up for Senior Management
1. Collaborate and lead by example: The highlight of my career was the Reebok brand director position in Chile. Here I learned not only how to lead a marketing team, but as well how to behave as a player in the country’s First Line Management team. Collaboration with peers and giving the right example are key behaviors of being successful in that role.
2. Create a personal vision and career plan for yourself: For me, my personal development started with the definition of my personal vision for the longer term in my life, both personally and professionally. I would say that once the vision is there, it becomes easier to define a path for the future, with strengths that have to be developed. Envision your professional and personal direction for the longer term, then break this down into a plan.
3. Take initiative and be pro-active: Being proactive is the best way to gather experience, feedback and knowledge that is needed to get closer to your personal vision. Take action and go out to approach people and be clear about what you want to achieve and how they can help. In general, people are happy to help if they can.
4. Take the time to build relationships: Being Dutch, I was used to the Northern European no-nonsense way of doing business. In other countries such as Spain – and even more so in Latin America – the personal relationship plays a far more important role in driving business results.
In Northern Europe, it was common to see a customer have a 45 minutes business meeting and walk out with a result. In Latin America, I received the feedback to first take some time to build a relationship and get to know my business partner before moving on to more complex business discussions.
5. Work hard on your current assignments and when the opportunity comes up for roles that lead you to your goals, don´t hesitate and take them: In 2008, we just had bought a house in the Netherlands and we had a one year old and a six week old daughter. Reebok was being run as a joint venture at that time and was to be integrated as a subsidiary into the adidas Group. I was offered the chance to go and help as a Go-to Market manager, relocating to Zaragoza in Spain. The timing was not ideal, but I decided to take the opportunity.
It was such a stretched assignment, having to deal with the change management situation, a new language etc…
What did I take away from it? Well, although something might seem challenging, with hard work and a positive attitude I learnt that I can adapt easily to new environments and circumstances.
6. Seek out different experiences through cross-functional moves in the early years of your career. Communicate to your manager that you have an interest in working in another department and be clear to the manager of that other department that you are interested in getting to know more about their work.
It is often challenging to start in another department, but the learning curve is steep and the new experience really helps to get new perspectives. There are plenty of opportunities for cross-functional moves in the adidas Group, but you have to take the initiative to make them happen.
7. Be more concerned about the skills that you will learn and which you will need for your longer term goal, than about job titles or money during these first few years. The lateral moves that I made between sales and marketing functions were not always a step up, but they allowed me to develop a strong foundation and more complete view that comes in handy in the role that I am doing right now.
8. Make time for the coaching and development of team members. It takes a lot of time to develop your team-members, giving them continuous feedback and being available for coaching sessions. However, this investment in time and energy really pays off quickly. The better the development and motivation of your team, the better the results.
9. When dealing with demanding customers or counterparts, create win-win solutions: When I worked as a Key Account Manager, I had to deal with demanding customers on pretty much a daily basis. I was continuously looking to create win-win solutions, because they are the solution for a strong working relationship on a long-term basis.
If you’re interested in developing but not necessarily in the traditional silos offered by many other companies, then the adidas Group may be the place for you. Interested?
Check out the adidas Group careers page to see what opportunities lie in store for you