Careers

17 August 2022

A leadership job-share: one role, twice the brains

Daniela Charalambis and Kathrin Tischer have been sharing a leadership position for the past ten months. A conversation about job-sharing, arrangements and the trust you need to have
Reading time: 11 min.

Daniela Charalambis and Kathrin Tischer have been sharing a leadership position for the past ten months. A conversation about the right way to prepare for shared leadership, potential pitfalls, the importance of boundaries, trust – and celebrating joint successes.

Ms Charalambis, Ms Tischer, you have been sharing a leadership position for the past ten months. What are your responsibilities?

Daniela Charalambis: We are jointly responsible for the strategic direction of the communication and packaging for the own brands REWE Beste Wahl, Wilhelm Brandenburg and the cosmetics brand ‘today’. In practical terms, we have divided our responsibilities so that Kathrin is in charge of brand communication, analysis, and strategy, and I am in charge of packaging and procedural issues.

Nonetheless, there is of course a lot of overlap in what we do, because we are jointly responsible for the brands, and communication and packaging are integral to a holistic brand image. We currently manage a team of ten employees and two apprentices.

daniela-charalambis
About:
Daniela Charalambis

is Private Label Marketing Lead at the REWE Group and shares this leadership position with Kathrin Tischer.

You have been job-sharing for around ten months. How did this come about?

Kathrin Tischer: It arose from the need backfill a vacant leadership position for which two part-time employees were available. And our line manager felt that we would be a good match. As we didn’t know each other well when the idea came about, we engaged in a ‘getting-to-know-you’ process before we started job-sharing.

kathrin-tischer
About:
Kathrin Tischer

is Private Label Marketing Lead at the REWE Group and shares this leadership position with Daniela Charalambis.

How did this ‘getting-to-know-you’ process work?

Kathrin Tischer: Beforehand, we used an HR questionnaire to give our views on fundamental questions in order to see whether we were a good match for each other.

What type of questions were they?

Kathrin Tischer: For me, the crucial question was: Do we have the same goals and the same professional aspirations? If someone with big career ambitions embarks on a job-share with someone whose primary objective is to achieve an effective work-life balance, then in all likelihood, it’s not going to work.

There was also the question about skills. How do we complement each other, where do we differ from each other? This is actually perfectly possible for us. Dani comes from a design background; she takes care of packaging. My background is in brand strategy. While we don’t focus strictly on our own separate tasks because we both have to work on them, we do have an expert for each area of responsibility in our job-share. In addition to this questionnaire, we also had a coach assigned to us before we started working together who mentored us.

What did you learn from the coaching?

Kathrin Tischer: How to anticipate and reflect together on the team’s potential uncertainty about our new working model, to organise together, and to discuss how we would handle the situation if the team stopped working effectively. And how important it is to schedule in weekly feedback sessions.

Between us, we have seven children. For that reason, the job-share arrangement was and is the right decision as far as we are concerned.

Daniela Charalambis
daniela-charalambis
Daniela Charalambis

How do you see things after ten months of job-sharing?

Daniela Charalambis: We are very happy together. We are a good match and are positive about working together. That’s not to say that there aren’t things that we could improve in the organisation or project management. We are conscious of this; we represent the first job-share in our division and there are still some things that need ironing out. But the feedback we get from our team and from our line manager is positive. The model has been well received.

The different areas with which we interact also all consider it to be effective and interesting. There has been a particularly a positive response to the fact that one of us can always be reached, that we’ve given ourselves the name ‘DaniKa’ and have set up a joint email address. We actually want to be seen as a single role and it was therefore logical to create a shared name of our own.

As far as we are concerned, the job-share arrangement was and is the right decision.  Between us, we have seven children. That means that we always have to keep a lot of plates spinning. Job-sharing helps in that respect as it allows greater flexibility. We can help each other out.

How old are your seven children?

Daniela Charalambis: My four are 11, 9, 2, and 1…

Kathrin Tischer: … and mine are 4, 2, and 2.

You’ve got three and four children respectively – how do help each other out?

Kathrin Tischer: Each of us has fixed working days. However, there are quite a lot of issues that need to be decided quickly. If, for instance, there is a communications issue and I’m not there, Dani takes over or coordinates to keep things running smoothly. And vice versa. Of course, we do try to communicate internally in a way that the team always knows where they stand and who to turn to if the going gets tough.

It really helps that we have a shared email address which we both use to receive our emails. We both check our inbox regularly, even if we are not available at the time. In terms of being easy to reach, we’ve got everything well organised. If anything, we need to learn to separate ourselves even more.

We could not have resumed our leadership positions on our own on 60 percent FTE contracts.

Kathrin Tischer
kathrin-tischer
Kathrin Tischer

What other challenges do you face?

Daniela Charalambis: The biggest issue is the synchronisation. For instance, during handovers, informing the other person effectively, so that they are familiar with the issue without having to invest as much time in it as you have yourself.

How do you resolve the problem of synchronisation?

Daniela Charalambis: We work with notes and have a joint notebook, where projects are mapped out, we keep on top of our urgent to-do list for the week, transfer new information that comes in. If we are still unclear on any issues, we discuss them in our twice-weekly synchronisation meetings.

What are the benefits of the job-share approach?

Daniela Charalambis: Definitely the flexibility! Juggling my job and family life more effectively. Of course, that just goes for me; children don’t have to be the reason for wanting to job-share.

However, we are not the only ones to benefit; the company does too. There are two of you. You don’t have to think about issues alone. Instead, as Kathrin always says, we have twice the brains. You can bring far more skills to a position. Our backgrounds are completely different, finding that in one individual is probably extremely rare.

Kathrin Tischer: … especially for the equivalent cost of just 1.4 people. We both work just under 70 percent FTE, so together make up 140 percent FTE. If I subtract the weekly four hours of synchronisation time that we both need, it still comes to 130 percent. And, like I said, we have twice the brains…

Does that mean it’s a win-win situation for employer and employee alike?

Kathrin Tischer: Yes. We both come from leadership positions that we could not have resumed on our own, working just 60 or 70 percent FTE. And with so many children, we couldn’t do more than that at the moment. This way, we can pick up where we left off before, as well as continuing to add value thanks to the skills we offer. But without having to tear ourselves apart 24/7 for our various roles – instead, it’s a whole lot more balanced.

And another important point is perhaps that we not only motivate each other; we also coach each other. I learn so much from Dani and she does from me. This allows us both to continue to develop, which helps both professionally and personally.

What matters in your working relationship?

Kathrin Tischer: We have to work out how to reconcile our professional and private lives. And it is so challenging that the only way to make the best of the situation is with pragmatism and mutual trust – which is how it is with us. We have huge understanding for each other on a personal level and we have the greatest professional trust in each other. It wouldn’t work any other way. And that is why it is so important to establish whether you are a good fit from the outset.

And, generally speaking, what characteristics do the two job-share partners need for it to work?

 

Daniela Charalambis: No alphas. You have to be a team player because you’re working together to achieve common objectives. If someone has a competitive mindset, then it’s not the right model for them.

Kathrin Tischer: You have to think in terms of ‘we’ as much as possible, rather than, ‘She’s giving MY presentation to the management board.’ That’s not right, because she is doing it as ‘we’ – and it’s a collective effort, not an individual effort. We can only be successful if we think as DaniKa as much as possible, rather than as individuals. We stand up for each other. If there is criticism, it is our criticism, if something is successful, then we celebrate it. Together.

Job-sharing is part of the personnel policy

Job-sharing in leadership is part of the REWE Group’s family-friendly personnel policy that takes account of different life phases. In recognition of its work in this area, the REWE Group’s head office in Cologne was recently awarded the Zertifikat audit berufundfamilie (‘family-friendly audit certificate’) for the fourth time in a row. It promises that further measures to balance professional, family and personal life will be implemented over the next three years. In addition to job-sharing in leadership, these include increasing the number of men who work part-time and focusing on older members of the workforce.

In addition to the head offices in Cologne, the vast majority of the REWE Group’s divisions are also certified in accordance with the audit. For example, PENNY is the first and, to date, only discounter to receive certification. REWE is Germany’s largest certified family-friendly employer.

The ‘Zertifikat audit berufundfamilie’ (family-friendly audit certificate), a prestigious quality mark recognising sustainable family-friendly personnel policies, is awarded every three years. It can be seen as a marketing tool to increase employer attractiveness.

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