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My learning curve is steeper than ever before

Simone went from generalist consulting to recruiting assessment. She has built a collaborative team that thrives on the diversity of its members.

Simone leads an international team of ten people who oversee our assessment and interview processes, training and materials. Her strengths-based leadership helps her team members be at their best. We wanted to learn more.

Tell us about yourself and your role at McKinsey.

My name is Simone, and I started at McKinsey 19 years ago as a fellow. One of the reasons I accepted my offer was to learn from colleagues I admired because they thought more quickly than I did.

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During my business studies in Reutlingen and Lancaster, I was captivated by anything related to math and logic. I wasn’t that interested in organizational and HR topics. After two years at the firm, however, I began conducting interviews for my office. Most people participate in recruiting after they’ve been here for about a year. I found working with candidates almost more inspiring than my client work. I switched from consulting into our Center of Excellence for Candidate Assessment in 2006. Ten years later, I assumed leadership of the team.

I love my role because it combines my passions for caring leadership and analytics. I also have the balance and flexibility I need for my husband, Jörn, and our three children.

What do you find most exciting about your job?

It’s always evolving, along with our hiring needs, analytic capabilities, and technology. For example, I’ve been involved with the development and testing of our new game-based assessment tool – one way in which we’re using complex models to assess cognitive abilities.

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What do you most appreciate about your team?

One big difference between being a relatively junior-tenured consultant and the assessment team manager is that in my current role I work with my colleagues over a longer period of time. This gives me the opportunity to get to know them better; we understand each other’s strengths, challenges and working style preferences. We have people who revel in chaos and teammates who need lots of structure; we have perfectionists and people who rely on the 80-20 rule. Realizing this diversity helps us develop the best solutions and is something I really appreciate. I’ve become close friends with some of my colleagues, and I’m grateful to be part of this McKinsey family.

What challenges have you had to face?

I was surprised when my team leader asked me to take over, just after I returned from my third maternity leave. As much as I felt honored, I knew it would be a big job. The team was facing new challenges incorporating tech into our assessments, expanding the scope of roles for which we interview, and developing additional assessment processes for tech talent. I didn’t have solutions in mind, which made me nervous.

To address this, I first surveyed my team’s knowledge; we had more than I’d anticipated. Then, I built alliances with our tech recruiting colleagues who depend heavily on high-quality assessment materials form my team. All of a sudden, I didn't feel alone; I realized I had a whole network of supporters. I started hosting more team problem-solving discussions, and together we’re developing solutions.

When I took this leadership role, I also faced a transition managing people who used to be my peers. I found a personal coach to help me better understand changes I needed to make – in my approach, leadership style, and relationships. That helped me continue my friendships and openness with members of the team. I take special care to explicitly compliment my team members on their strengths and focus on building collaboration.

What tip do you have for your colleagues about living with diversity?

Be aware of your mini-me bias. It is scientifically proven most people prefer interacting with others who are similar. Interacting with people who are different makes us better, not just in our jobs but as full people. For example: part of my job is training interviewers. I like to be well prepared for those sessions. I study the materials no matter how many times I’ve presented them. I visit the room, check the sound system and presentation equipment, etc. because if something does not go according to plan, it throws me off. I recently started teaching with a colleague who kicks into gear when things don’t go according to plan. She has helped me become more relaxed because I can be 100% certain she will rock the stage if the lights go off.

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