Early on in their careers Martin Walter and Fua Nipah gained experience as managers at an international level. Here the two Vice Presidents talk about intercultural challenges, management style and teamwork.

In our interview Martin Walter and Fua Nipah give an opinion on topics such as: What makes a good boss? How is senior management different? What tips would you give young colleagues today to build a successful career?

Martin, are you a good manager?

Martin Walter

Well, that is something for those to judge who work with me. One thing is sure, I don't wake up in the morning and say hey, I'm a good manager. It's something you have to keep working on. I reflect on the situation and think about how and why some situations end up well or less well, in fact quite often, not just one day in half a year, but also on the way to work, on the return trip home and even during breaks. A good manager today is not necessarily a good manager tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. The person who is not constantly willing to learn will soon be left behind.

Profile of Martin Walter

Nobody is born a good manager, but a lot can be achieved with hard work.

Martin Walter is Vice President Finance and Controlling Asia Pacific at MANN+HUMMEL in Singapore. The 35-year old has previously seen service at MANN+HUMMEL locations in Germany, Brazil, China, India and the UK.

Fua, did you ever have that feeling to be left behind?

Fua Nipah (laughs)

Sometimes when doing sports! As a manager, less often. But for my first management task I did suffer from some inhibitions. As Martin says, you have to constantly keep working towards becoming a good manager. I was very lucky with the management above me. Therefore, at the start I was unsure if I myself would be able to meet those high standards. The recommendation of my father, who is a role model for me when it comes to management matters, was to stay natural and be myself, but also not to underestimate myself. I still try to follow his advice today, and I believe it works quite well.

Profile of Fua Nipah

As a manager, it is important to learn to take on responsibility for a group and make decisions on their behalf.

After working in Germany, India and China, Fua Nipah has now become Vice President for Global Shared Services at the Ludwigsburg location. In his position the 40-year old manages a team of approx. 460 employees in the MANN+HUMMEL service centers in India and the Czech Republic.

You both entered management positions at a very young age. Did you have the feeling that your age influenced your work or influenced how you were perceived by others?

Nipah

Even today I still feel that age is not important. When I took up my first management position in India, most of my management colleagues were older. I knew that they were more experienced and that I could learn a lot from them, especially with regard to the special local conditions. It is perhaps unusual for someone at my age to have a job with so much responsibility. But at the end of the day it's all about the quality of the work and your performance which helps you to command respect as a manager.

Walter

Each of us, young and old, have to earn their position and respect and sometimes also fight for it. I have always tried to show a good example and to clearly communicate the things which are important for me and then to also consistently practice those ideas and demand the same of others. If employees see that you are interested in them and are prepared to back them, they will reward you with their trust, and the team spirit is strengthened.

Do you think anybody can become a manager?

Nipah

In my honest opinion, I do not believe that all people from birth are cut out to be a manager. The person must have the passion and ability to lead people. To be a manager also means taking on responsibility for a group of people and to make decisions for those people, something which should not be underestimated.

Walter

The willingness to continually obtain feedback is very important to develop further. While nobody is born a manager, a lot can be achieved with hard work. And naturally a bit of luck and opportunity is necessary to be able to make the jump to become a manager.

Nipah

That's right. In my case it was the lucky linking of my previous tasks which brought me to my current position. Prior to China, I was involved with coordinating the product development in Germany. Then at a lunch I came into contact with the then regional manager for Asia which led to an offer for my position in China. In China, I then again had the opportunity to talk to a manager from the group organization who mentioned the position in India. In terms of content, this position had nothing in common with my previous position, but as he knew my method of operating and my attitude, I was still able to get an offer for the position. Therefore, for me, luck is not totally underserved, but rather a combination of preparation and opportunity.

What are the characteristics of your personal management style?

Walter

I have a clear idea of the values which I would like to put into practice and which I would also like to see in my team and my working environment. Transparency, respect and integrity are not just catchwords. For me, it is important to be consistent and to a certain extent predictable in order to provide the people in my environment with security. At the same time, we have to keep an eye on our targets and inspite of all the seriousness still have fun and be able to have a laugh together.

Nipah

I am an open person. On the one hand, I communicate clearly and openly with my employees and motivate them in their daily life. Committed, entrepreneurially thinking and competent employees are a guarantee for success. On the other hand, I am also performance-oriented. A pleasant atmosphere and good team culture on their own are not enough to maintain success.

What influence do you have as a manager on the team culture?

Nipah

A very big one. It's not about how we handle our own team but it's about how we act as managers amongst ourselves. For example, when managers cannot come to terms with each other this will rub off on the whole team and then have an effect on the whole organization.

Is there a difference in the team culture in the different countries you have worked in?

Nipah

Teamwork is important for all of us, regardless of the country. On almost all projects we work in a global team and pursue a common objective. But cultural differences have to be understood and accepted in order to successful.

Walter

There is a certain common denominator. Our MANN+HUMMEL values are right on target. Many of us around the world want to practice these values. The differences are only in the arrangement of the values. The idea of respect, or how to show respect, can mean something completely different in China, India or Germany. Here in Germany, we tend to address topics directly, even when they may have not been totally successful. In China, this could result in a loss of face for those involved. These cultural differences make cooperation very interesting. As a result, intercultural competence is always an increasingly important factor for success – for managers and for companies. It is important every day to push our limits and stay dynamic.

Many thanks for the interview.