The full interview appeared 10 September 2021 digitally and in print in NRC Handelsblad.

The complete interview with Gerrien Anbeek about leading during corona appeared digitally and in print in NRC Handelsblad on 10 September 2021.

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Gerrien Anbeek (54) is HR services manager at Douwe Egberts, where she has been in charge of fifteen people since April. I call myself stupid during the week’.

Gerrien Anbeek (54) is manager hr services at the international head office and the Dutch office of Douwe Egberts. She wrote the book Anyone can park a Tesla, about leadership in digital transformation. Since April, she has been in charge of fifteen people.

“The first month and a half in my new job, all the work was done from home. I then went for a lot of walks with colleagues, which at first they thought was very strange. But you try to become part of a team and build up trust. At one point everyone wanted a walking appointment! 

“As a manager, people turn to you with all sorts of questions. It is more difficult to take on that role if you only see each other online. I have a really nice team, but I noticed that they were getting a bit nervous: wasn’t I going to secretly implement a reorganisation? 

„Wat heel fijn was, is dat ik afgelopen juni al budget heb gekregen om twee keer een dag lang in een hotel af te spreken met het team. Mensen zagen elkaar weer voor het eerst sinds een jaar, dat was heel emotioneel. Ik hield toen een presentatie over engagement, met een actielijst en kortetermijndoelstellingen die uit het team zelf kwamen. Dat sloeg heel erg aan. We hebben tijdens de tweede bijeenkomst met het team grondbeginselen voor onze samenwerking opgesteld; niet mulitasken, telefoon opzij tijdens meetings bijvoorbeeld. Die fungeren nu echt als ankerpunt. „We hebben drie vergaderingen per week en dan zien we elkaar via Teams. Dan komt ook aan bod: hoe gaat het werk en hoe voelt iedereen zich? 

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I look at what everyone brings to the table and pay attention to non-verbal signals. If someone seems very pale, or doesn’t say anything for 45 minutes, I write it down. Later that day, I look for contact. Just a chat or an app. If it takes a long time for that person to respond, I plan a (virtual) coffee. 

“It’s about finding out what’s going on and how to bring it out. That requires you to be very active in the ‘people side’ of being a manager. 

I call myself crazy during the week to keep in touch with how people are feeling. This afternoon, for example, I had a conversation with someone in tears. She was already worrying about how she was going to get back to work after her holiday. Particularly when working digitally, you can respond well via chat, WhatsApp or a phone call. I always send messages like ‘well done’ or ‘let it go now’. The team wasn’t used to that. Now they say: we really appreciate that involvement. Translated with (free version)

The full interview appeared 10 September 2021 digitally and in print in NRC Handelsblad.

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