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A conversation between Klaus Doppler and Andreas Nau


Klaus Doppler and Andreas Nau first met at the Business Summer School run by the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Since 2006, the Business Summer School has given advanced training to over 250 new leaders, providing them with an opportunity to discuss leadership style and corporate culture as decisive success factors in times of increasingly stringent challenges and ever more complex structures. Its combination of new theoretical insights and robust real-world-oriented discussions for participants both among themselves and with well-known business leaders makes the Business Summer School a unique learning environment.
In all its courses, the Business Summer School considers that a values-based corporate culture and the spirit of partnership is a vital, integral part of the professional development of next generation leaders.
The school’s program offers all participants the opportunity to broaden networks, take advantage of a cooperative learning environment to gain valuable new insights for their work, and to step back from their workaday concerns to gain “a view of the bigger picture”.


Klaus Doppler
… is a trained psychologist and qualified theologian who works across a variety of business sectors as a freelance management coach and organizational consultant specialized in the management of critical change processes.
He is also the author of numerous publications on leadership and change management and advises executives in major corporations on change management. In his conversation with Andreas Nau, Klaus Doppler is particularly interested in the role that Web 2.0 with its social media tools can play in the change process of the TUI travel group.

Andreas Nau
… is CEO of MicronNexus GmbH, a subsidiary of the leading travel group TUI. For Andreas Nau online sales and social media are two of the key issues. MicronNexus provides online-platforms for car rentals across the world which makes it very much the new kid on the block among the TUI group of companies. Yet the Group itself – renowned for its traditional sale of package holidays through travel agencies – is facing increasing competition from online travel providers and radical changes in consumer behavior, and is coming under increasing pressure to change both its brand image and its hierarchical management structures.


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Klaus Doppler: I have a particular take on leadership on which I base my services: I only have to be led if I’m blind, lame or dead drunk, otherwise I’d rather manage by myself. In other words, leadership always implies an incapacity on the part of those being led. If you reject this view, you must first have a pretty clear idea of what the positive benefits of your own style of leadership are. This is why I think that one of the greatest gifts someone who leads others must have  is the ability to be a really good listener and to take a critical view of themselves! So when you look around and see how the management in your own company are acting, how would you rate their ability to stand back and take a critical view?

Andreas Nau: In our company there are a great many people who’ve been in the same position for years and years. And my gut feeling is that these are the very ones who are least open to change.

Klaus Doppler: So how do you tackle them when you want to change something? Let’s suppose you’re dealing with someone at the very top. What can you do in your company in that case?

Andreas Nau: Basically there are two methods. Either you say – it’s not worth my while pushing this issue through so I’ll leave it. Because I’ve realized that his agenda – which prevents him from listening to me – has such a heavy footprint that I’ll never change it. There are some issues where this really is the case. Or, on the other hand, you say – well, I think I can get the company to take this issue on board, and in that case what you do is look for allies and try to build up a form of “subculture” for promoting ideas that are worth developing.

Klaus Doppler: How widespread is this subculture in your company?

Andreas Nau: To some extent it’s got to do with the particular issue involved. Let’s take social media as a case in point. We’ve got a company in England working in the high-priced specialist segment and very early on they built up a Facebook presence on their web site. And that now means that over 60 percent of guests who book on the site start to dialog with other guests on the order of “What can I do in Patagonia? Which bars should I go to, which restaurants?” Now the people in the company who take this development seriously can come together and consider as a group what can be done in this particular market segment. Earlier on it was completely unheard of that anyone would ask questions like “How important are social media to us as a company in the travel business? Do they trigger serious change?” Sadly, at the moment we’re still not managing to get such questions aired at the top levels in the group. But a great deal still depends on the particular structure we have, made up of a great number of single companies which obviously all pursue their own individual agendas.

Klaus Doppler: Is there also a side to social networking where middle level management and company employees dialog and create their own networks? Is this openly allowed or is it more covert?

Andreas Nau: Let me start by saying that it was perhaps just one year ago that in some of our companies we had to get permission from our IT departments and the works council before we could even start to think of using Facebook and Twitter. Our works council hadn’t the foggiest idea what they were! OK, that can be quickly explained and they did give permission and even found it was quite a good idea. But it does go to show just where the priorities lie. So my answer is a clear no: we’ve got nothing approaching that in the main holding but you certainly can find it in some of the subsidiaries.

Klaus Doppler: Why’s that? I recently read an article about the revolution in Egypt which had an Egyptian joke: Mubarak goes to meet his maker and in the next world meets Nasser and Sadat who ask him how he died – was he shot or beheaded? And Mubarak answers – I was Facebooked! You get my point: Facebook and the other platforms are completely devoid of hierarchy whereas in company communications there are very highly structured forms of hierarchy where you have to think twice about what you’re going to send out and in what form you send it. But in social networks we’re all on the hierarchical level and we can simply communicate with everybody. Someone puts up a posting and I add a “I like”. And so does the next person and suddenly you have a hundred people who liked it.

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My basic idea is that there are Mubaraks in German companies too. The question is whether you can, or whether you’re allowed, to do something about them via social networks or in-house platforms.

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Does this pose a threat to the “order” of German companies?

Andreas Nau: Obviously companies have a certain degree of order and whoever holds the reins of power is frightened – terrified as I’ve come to think – about losing them. As a fellow employee what’s important is to understand the reasons that motivate them and then to decide whether you’ve got a chance of influencing them. I don’t even think that this was the reason why they weren’t willing to allow Facebook inside the company …

Klaus Doppler: But they would censor it!

Andreas Nau: … but not so because many managers still haven’t even looked into Facebook. With the benefit of hindsight I think that they’d heard of it but hadn’t given any thought to just how important it is for us.

Klaus Doppler: Is that a stroke of good luck or a misfortune?

Andreas Nau: Perhaps a bit of good luck! Because the whole of company management hasn’t really dealt with the issue in any depth, this means that we’re left a great deal of freedom. They tell us to go away and do something. And then people go and dream up really fantastic things in this field. Even established companies like TUI Deutschland come up with really brilliant ideas about Facebook can be used.

Klaus Doppler: And do you also use it for communicating with company staff?

Andreas Nau: Not yet, but I wouldn’t mind doing so. The question that needs to be asked is why we still  haven’t done so. Probably because there are so many other priorities on our agendas but basically I believe that the fear of losing control isn’t as pronounced on our side as it is in other major parts of the group where everything is really heavily structured in a hierarchy.

Klaus Doppler: What you’ve just touched on is very important for me – this fear of losing control. I’d probably have it too if I were a manager. I’d want to keep a very firm grasp on things. Imagine if I doing an online survey and it started to run against my expectations so I stopped it and then people came to me and told me I was crazy and couldn’t do that and the survey was up and running again!

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