I’m not the only one – I’m the first one

Photo Credit: Bing ChatGPT (background), I’m real.


The site leaders of the German sites met in a video conference. Purpose was the standardization of the audit system for process safety and occupational health. This meant shaping a uniform global process from the different nationally shaped ones.

Previously, there had been a number of changes in the company. Acquisition, spin-off, private equity takeover with return to the stock exchange. And the company headquarters had just been relocated from Germany to the USA.

No surprise that the new unified system was the American one.

During the video conference, we were informed about the changes and adjustments that affected us in the German sites. Important, sometimes also sensitive.

You could ask questions. In theory.

It was very quiet on the part of the site leaders. But I dared to come out of cover with more than one question. After all, I wanted to find out what was in store for me legally and where my degrees of freedom lay in the implementation.

After the event, my American supervisor called me, who had also listened.
“Bernd, you were the only one in the meeting who opposed the introduction of the new system, why?” So my boss had interpreted my questions as resistance.

“I’m not the only one. I’m the first one.“

This sentence made him think. Subsequently, he listened to me. I was his first sounding board.

Of course, I couldn’t change the introduction of the new system, but I could ensure more understanding on the American side as far as the implementation was concerned. Not everything could be copied 1:1.

Do you know the role of the fairy godmother in the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” by the Brothers Grimm? She cannot undo the curse. But she can mitigate the impact.

As a German site leader within an American company, I often found myself in the role of the fairy godmother. Compromises had to be negotiated. Again and again.

Globally uniform business processes come with a cultural price tag. Implementation requires empathy, tolerance of ambiguity and the ability to ask empathetic questions.

Later in my career, when I was the supervisor of the site leaders in the global manufacturing role, I had to keep reminding myself of this fact. I had experienced my boss like that at the time. I learned a lot from him.

➡️ And with you? Do you also know the role of the fairy godmother from your area of responsibility?

I am Bernd Scharbert and my task as a mentor of leaders is to pass on my experience after more than 30 years of leadership experience in the corporate world. If you are interested, please feel free to follow me at LinkedIn, #prepare4landing or contact me directly.

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