Gündüz, you’re a citizen of the world and you have been working in international teams at METRO PROPERTIES for 23 years. What does it take to succeed at that?
You definitely need to understand the mindsets of different cultures and nationalities, and be open and empathetic. That’s the only way to understand why certain work processes function differently in different countries. Why some people need more guidance and others can work independently. Meetings are also structured differently from country to country. As a company, METRO has a very international overall footprint. And some teams, like the ones in Asia and Singapore, are very diverse. Because of my intercultural background, I look at people, processes and our communication from a unique angle, and I can take a flexible approach. Of course, a good command of languages is also important when you work internationally. Otherwise, communication can become very difficult in settings such as meetings. My German, Turkish and English language skills have helped me tremendously. But, despite this international scope, Turkey has always been my home.
Respect is a good thing, but it shouldn’t inhibit people in their thoughts and actions.Gündüz Bayer, Managing Director Region Asia at METRO PROPERTIES
How do you support and challenge your employees?
As a supervisor, I try to get to know my people very well. I want to know what skills each person has, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. And that is by no means limited to the workplace. That’s how I learn precisely where each individual can best focus their energy on personal development. I also appreciate it when people can work independently, and I aim to give them confidence in their own capabilities. In my opinion, if you want to accomplish something as a manager at METRO, you have to be able to work on an international level. When I see potential in an employee, I definitely try to send them abroad for a couple of years. I’ve seen first-hand people’s mindset when they depart and how they have changed when they return. Depending on where they come from, they have different degrees of difficulty adapting to another style of working. It takes some people longer than others, but the long-term benefits are worth all the work.
How did your unconventional management style develop?
I spent my childhood and teenage years in Germany, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Switzerland. My father’s job required it. When I was 3, we moved to Germany, where we started out in Bad Godesberg and then moved to Frankfurt. That was followed by several years in Istanbul and Athens, and then we came back to Germany, but landed in Stuttgart. Starting fresh over and over again – in a new country, a new city and a new school – meant learning to observe the people around me closely from the get-go and size up each person on their own merits. Also, I went to a very good school in Stuttgart all the way through the end of my secondary education. It was a private school that provides its pupils special support as part of a holistic educational philosophy. The students’ relationship with their teachers is completely different there than at most schools. They treat each other with immense mutual respect. They regard each another as peers and the students address the teachers as ‘du’, the familiar form – even the headmaster. They feel it’s important to think for yourself and work out your own position. This attitude helped me when I was a student at the University of Hohenheim: I had no particular trouble getting up and talking in front of 150 of my fellow students in a seminar. Respect is a good thing, but it shouldn’t inhibit people in their thoughts and actions. In my team, everyone has to be able to disagree, argue and express their opinions freely. Sharing information and trusting one another is also part of that. In my view, that’s the way to generate the best results.