Interview with Nadja Fiodorova, Project manager at Unomedical, Minsk, Belarus.

The project manager learned how to sell her ideas and projects to the other managers in the group – that is managers with no prospect of getting their share of the success. In most organizations, this is a well-known, but very difficult discipline to perform. She successfully completed an important and strategic project for the plant in Minsk. The process was hard because the project manager had to confront herself and her own skills.

– You manipulate.

Nadja Fiodorova got this downright message during the first interview with Lars Moeller from ResultPartner. It was a hard predicate to digest. Today, she can easily talk about it – with a little smile on her lips.

– Maybe I’m manipulative, but I don’t notice it. It is probably my nature to be that way. For example I have a habit of asking questions in a way that only allows the answers I want. I can see that now so I’m ok with the fact that he drew attention to it. I wasn’t offended as the message wasn’t a criticism, rather an objective statement. That’s the way I saw it.

Openness and confessing mistakes is really not typical behavior for the small, feminine Russian. Nadja Fiodorova is the project manager at Unomedical in Minsk and needed outside help to implement one of the plant’s major initiatives in modern times.

Nadja Fiodorova was responsible for the implementation of a product in the category of medical equipment which was a new step for the plant in Minsk. And she was responsible for ensuring that it would be a success. It was a struggle with many unrelenting moments along the way. Many hours of coaching by ResultPartner, experience from past performance as an ice skating princess and high intelligence became Nadja Fiodorova’s means to implement the new production at the Minsk plant.

Nadja Fiodorova is 33 years old, single with no children and living with her parents in Minsk. She is engaged and plans on moving away from Belarus at one point. The small, fair-haired woman was born in the old Soviet Union were she also was a professional ice skating dancer until she turned 17. Today, she travels around as a referee at skating competitions.

– The discipline from the world of ice skating has naturally influenced my whole life, both at work and at home. I’m terribly afraid of not being good enough and to lose control.

The fear of losing power was one of the first things Nadja Fiodorova thought of when she was confronted by Race®concept and had to open up and practice how to change behavior.

– My first reaction was certainly not positive. The interviews went alright, but in the beginning I didn’t fully understand what they demanded of me. I didn’t like the situation because I thought they wanted to control me. It was uncomfortable for someone like me.

The coaching changed Nadja Fiodorova and especially her relationship with the 8 to 10 employees in her project group.

– Before, I always had the attitude: “If there is a problem, then it is my problem.” People came to me and explained their problems and then I took care of it. It wasn’t a part of them to come up with solutions too. They can still come to me, but now they can no longer expect complete solutions. I have learned how to be brave enough to ask them what they expect of me.

– To begin with, it almost seemed rude to me to downright having to say to the employee who came to me with a problem: “It isn’t my problem. I can support you, but I will not, for example, hold a meeting to get this problem solved. You have to do it yourself”. But it works. People become more independent and considerate when they have to take responsibility. And naturally, I also had to be considerate when I faced the different employees. I’m a perfectionist and have previously done all the work myself. Now I’m forced to notice people’s differences and treat them accordingly as they themselves have to act more and take responsibility now.

A relief

Nadja Fiodorova also had to learn to expose her professionalism. The stupid questions became a necessity.

– I have always been good at hiding. I hate to ask naive questions and show my weaknesses. Who wants to be the fool in the management group? But the Race Meetings made me come out of my hiding.

Nadja Fiodorova has a linguistics education from the University of Minsk and began her work at Unomedical as an executive secretary. She quickly transferred to work in the logistics department and after a few years she became project manager.

– It was a very technically based position. I resisted and expressively told them that I didn’t have the technical qualifications. The first three months were indeed difficult. I always thought that I have suffered under the fact that I didn’t have an engineering education. I felt that people were against me and power struggles also occurred from time to time. Race®concept has taught me how to handle such situations. I learned to ignore the fact that I’m not a technician. I had to be able to lead properly and create good results. I couldn’t allow the technical issues to become a problem that I was ashamed about. I just had to learn how to delegate and not believe that I had to figure out every technical detail in our project.

The visibility and the open meetings ended up being a relief for Nadia Fiodorova. Now, all the others in the management group and the entire plant got to know that her project on the new product was the major target area of all times for the plant. Through herself ​​and her weekly reports they also got to know so much about the project that they had to give her respect, as she puts it.

– Because I’m not technically trained, I almost froze in the beginning by the thought of the other management colleagues’ objections. I had to break free of myself and get over the fear and show them that I could do the job because I’m a skilled coordinator and able to delegate many of the technical details. I don’t think that it would have been a success without the Race Meetings as we would in that case not know what each of us was doing at the company. And we wouldn’t know each other’s challenges. By knowing each other’s challenges we can both support each other and come to respect each other’s work.

The red warning spots

At the recently held Race Meeting, several of Nadja Fiodorova’s projects had been marked with “red spots” which indicates that they require special attention in the time leading up to the next Race Meeting.

– You would think I would be nervous, but I’m pleased that several of my areas have been chosen. This way, my management colleagues know that it is in the company’s best interest that we are on guard. This makes them understand and support me more. In the old days, I would have been very lonely and very afraid of making a fool out of myself in areas with red warning signs. Now, I and all the others think of how the crucial points will affect our goal – as the ultimate goal is shared. This acknowledgement makes it less hard to take responsibility.

– We are no longer trying to force the responsibility onto the shoulders of others. It is a relief that all of us have learned this. This way, we can also ask stupid and naive questions to each other. Otherwise, we will not make any progress in this large shared project which is about getting the entire plant to succeed. Secrecy will catch up on us in the end anyway. All the loose ends you were unable to handle or didn’t have the courage to ask about will catch us at one time or the other. All of us know that – in our own way.

– Now, all of us are proactive and have made ​​things visible to each other. And we worked on how not to make things as emotional and personal as we had had the habit of doing before. Three things meant the most to me during the process with Race®concept:

  • We started listening to each other.
  • We all knew in which direction we wanted to go.
  • We are one united team.

Nadja Fiodorova still thinks that the process was and is difficult.

– Sometimes I almost felt it turned into power struggles between the coach and me. Fortunately, we were also able to laugh about it afterwards. I think I have felt threatened on the respect for my intelligence. Overall, I didn’t find it particularly fun to be coached.

Became more positive

Nadja Fiodorova also feels that she still faces a challenge in getting all the employees to go along with the new times.

– Not all have understood that they must change and take responsibility. The whole process is hard and requires a lot of one’s social manners. I do believe I have been good at saying thanks to them and remembered to give praise, but maybe I do it more now. This change of our way of working most certainly can’t function with punishment and a strict managerial behavior. One can certainly push some actions through, but then it has to be with an invisible pressure. At other times you obviously need to be straightforward. One must have the courage for this. The balance places huge demands on the managers and it requires that you always have in mind that feelings and work must be separated in the right way.

Nadja Fiodorova has also transferred several of the elements from the Race Meetings to her personal life.

– The encounter with Race will always stand as a challenge to me. I have felt that I was losing power to a certain extent. It hasn’t been pleasant even though I got through it alright. And other good things came into my life while I was working with the frustrations. The concept has for example helped me see the positive side of the life surrounding me. It is probably a matter of more courage and not being so afraid of getting struck by different difficulties. That ability can most certainly be used to many good things, says Nadja Fiodorova.

Thin-skinned and controlling

The personal coaching weighed heavily around Nadja Fiodorova when ResultPartner entered the picture.

– Nadja was already limited by a strong need for control and she found it hard to make concessions. She also felt pressured by the high demands she put on herself – probably something she has carried with her from her time as an ice skating princess which of course was a time with great expectations from her and the people surrounding her. When it came to Nadja, the most important thing was to get her to mobilize more courage to show both strength and weaknesses, says Lars Moeller.

– I believe she has a very fundamental self-confidence which she has built up during her time in the ice skating world, but she also had a great need to develop her courage and to get recognition all the time. This is a person who is very sensitive to criticism. You have to be really sensitive about it to make her come to a realization of something not being as it should be. Therefore, you need to be cautious in your coaching. If the realization is too head-on, a petite thin-skinned type such as Nadja Fiodorova will not be robust enough to receive powerful and downright feedback.

The feedback from ResultPartner had to be provided elegantly.

– To accept that psychology is an important exercise. Nadja Fiodorova is a person who has fought hard to succeed as an ice skating princess. People like that always try to avoid defeat as they have had plenty of it. Being so ambitious that she often places preposterous demands on herself is a strong characteristic of Nadja Fiodorova. The leadership role was particularly difficult for her because she felt that she had to bear the full responsibility if her employees and managers didn’t do as they were supposed to.

Unlike the others at the plants, Nadja Fiodorova is very international. Both as an ice skating princess and an ice skating referee she has been to many countries and crossed numerous time zones several times a year.

– Therefore, she can’t be coached according to the same mindset which is applicable for some of the other Russians. Again, it is important to coach in relation to the individual. In this case the saying “One size does not fit all” really applies, says Lars Moeller.

Share the beatings with others

Nadja Fiodorova handed out credit to everyone if something went well during a project. It is typical for many people, but especially characteristic of her. If something went wrong, she always blamed herself.

– You have to be a very tough person to always bear full responsibility when things go wrong and give collective praise when things are going well. So it goes without saying that the process has been hard for her, says Lars Moeller.

Nadja Fiodorova learned that she didn’t always have to take all the beatings herself. One of the tools was to ask her the question: “Who is really responsible when things go well?” In that way she also became capable of giving herself some of the credit.

– Sometimes, she would set her goals to be completed so far out in the future that she found it difficult to see what the goals would amount to. Then she had to split “the elephant” into smaller pieces. An example: the goal may seem far away if you set out to go for a long run on a long, straight road. In a city you can reach small successes at each corner. All runners know this. If you have a big goal you need to have it split into some smaller pieces. The ultimate goal may well be big and ambitious with small successes along the way.

– That way of thinking is typically for younger managers while more experienced managers use intuition to sense whether they are on the right track. Maybe a young person such as Nadja Fiodorova has a bigger need to figure out whether she is maneuvering in the right direction. She certainly had the need for more evaluation during the process.

Her role amongst the other managers at the company in Minsk was another challenge for Nadja Fiodorova. She was the manager of a very complex and strategically important project for the company in Minsk. Therefore, it was crucial for her person that she was able to sell her ideas and create motivation in the global project group. Basically, the task was harder for her than a normal manager task because the people, whom she needed to pull out of their daily routine, had no interest in helping her.

– Her project was a piece of work the plant in Minsk came to benefit from. The people she had to convince and be helped by were placed in Denmark, England, Slovakia and the United States. It was difficult to convince the people to find resources to help her because they hardly got anything out of it themselves. They had to give something without getting anything in return. It is an extremely difficult situation. Such projects are traditionally difficult. And she faced a challenge as the stakeholders of the project were difficult to motivate as they weren’t part of the Minsk organization, says Lars Moeller.

ResultPartner worked a lot with Nadja Fiodorova to enable her to sell and motivate so she could get the most out of the members of the project group.

– After telling once that this and this had to be done, Nadja Fiodorova didn’t think she needed to do more. This was her big problem. We had to make her understand that she had to sell her idea to these people who weren’t employed in Minsk, but still were to help her. Otherwise, she would see no progress in the project. Nadja Fiodorova managed to implement the project on time and to the senior management’s satisfaction. It was a great achievement and the project has great prospects for the company in Minsk.

Nadja Fiodorova possibly belongs to the category of Prima Donna Management.

– The prima donnas of the labor market are not a concept that has been fully researched. Therefore, we have no fixed definition or template to work from. We know that the prima donnas are talented, unique and that they know their worth. Such people develop an arrogance that you have to respect. For many leaders, they can be more than a little annoying to manage. But we have to face the fact that they want to be treated special because they are talented, says Lars Moeller.

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