Celebrating International Women's Day: Personal Stories #1

The importance of trusting your gut

“Early in my career, I decided to go with my gut feeling and promote a young and unexperienced manager, despite advice to the contrary – and it turned out to be a very good decision,” says Christine Botman, Director Customer Support at Albert Heijn. “Sometimes it takes guts to go against the normal standards. It was important for me to trust and support her in her personal development.”

Trusting her gut feeling is how Christine determines whether a team has balance. “You feel whether people are open or not. That requires good listening and observation.” She said that if you see that results that are lagging, it’s a good indicator of the need to create a new balance. “Sometimes it’s worthwhile to have these moments of imbalance. It makes you aware of the necessity to make new decisions. When one of my team leads is leaving, that’s a moment to reflect on what we need. I really value people who can confront others with feedback around their skills and attitude. You must give them room to develop.”

Christine believes that a balanced team needs diversity of gender but also age, background and experience. “Teams must have the ability to be flexible in good and bad times. A diversity of characters is necessary for that.”

She says a balanced team is important to gain results and have fun. “You can only develop yourself when you challenge each other. As a leader, you must stimulate that. That’s what I do.” Christine once had new team member come on board who openly questioned the standards in her team. “At first, there was a strong reaction from one of our colleagues. But after thinking about it, he concluded that he had to change his opinion. I valued his vulnerability and ability to change. It showed that an imbalance in arguments in the team eventually leads to the growth of the team altogether.”

She remembers a time she was part of an unbalanced team. “There was no common goal or common way of working. There was a lack of cooperation and people strengthened each other in negativity.” She also recalls the gender distribution to be out of balance in the team. To address the issue, Christine gave feedback to the group. “It was clear the team wasn’t ready for it and I didn’t do it in the most effective way. But eventually, I had a very good one-to-one conversation with direct colleagues, in which we shared our personal values and doubts. That was very valuable to me.” In the end, the team found a better balance.

“I want to be close connected with my own beliefs. Too many people are led by what they think others expect. If you want to change things, you must stand up for what you believe. Afterward, you must respect and value the new insights and talents. You must value diversity.”

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