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    One team lead, two part-time employees = twice the woman power

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    13. December 2023
    8:25 min.
    Since early 2023, Krones has been running a pilot project entitled “leadership tandem”. In it, two women share a single leadership role, each working part time.
    • Since early 2023, Krones has been running a pilot project entitled “leadership tandem”. In it, two women share a single leadership role, each working part time: From left: Karola Lippert and Alexandra Keilhammer as well as Franziska Niederhofer and Manuela Ebenthal.

    You’ve got a family, with children, and are working part time – can you really be a manager? Four women at Krones say yes, you can. They are part of a pilot project in which a single leadership role is shared by two part-time employees. We’ll introduce you to the two teams in this article.

    If you have children at home yourself and are working, you will likely find yourself nodding in agreement to the following statement: It takes a lot of organization and effort to juggle the needs of a family and a career. Things become even more challenging when, as a parent, your full-time job involves a management role. In order to better reconcile the two worlds and make it easier to meet the tough demands of both jobs, Krones launched a pilot project for tandem leadership in 2023. The basic framework is straightforward: One full-time leadership role is shared across two part-time positions.

    But as simple as it may sound, it is actually quite complex. Manuela Ebenthal and Franziska Niederhofer, along with Alexandra Keilhammer and Karola Lippert, share insights into their day-to-day experience and explain why solid organization, flexibility and trust are the most essential elements of a successful tandem.

    Franziska and Manuela, Heads of Key Account Management Suntory

    Our first duo consists of Manuela Ebenthal and Franziska Niederhofer. Both are long-time Krones sales specialists. Manuela has been in Sales for nearly 20 years and was Area Sales Manager for Korea and Taiwan before taking parental leave. Franziska completed her vocational training in 2008, during which time she worked in various Sales departments. Most recently, she established Suntory as a key account within the Krones Group and has been responsible for it since 2016.

    Both women had every intention of returning to Sales when their parental leave time was up, but full time was not an option for either of them. The pilot project offered Manuela and Franziska the perfect opportunity to combine their old working life with their new family situation. “I had already gone back to work in October 2022. Franzi joined me in January,” explains Manuela. “Then we set to work right away on building the tandem alongside our day-to-day operations. We knew we needed a well-organized structure as a basis, to work together effectively.” Whether it’s unrestricted access to each other’s Outlook inbox, documentation of every task and meeting through OneNote or defining a suitable filing system – organization is absolutely essential for them to stay up-to-date on every issue in their daily work. In each individual customer project, it’s up to Manuela and Franziska to coordinate an interdisciplinary team comprising project management, sales specialists and colleagues from the engineering departments.

    Image 38210
    Manuela (left) and Franziska teamed up to lead the key account management for Suntory.

    Solid organization is also important when it comes to working times and in-office availability. “We’re sharing a full-time job, which means that each of us formally works 20 hours per week. To ensure that our customers have access to one of us every workday, we’ve essentially split the week in half: I’m here Monday through Wednesday, and Manu works Wednesday through Friday,” explains Franziska. On their shared day, both are in the office so they can discuss projects in person. That’s also the day they meet with their own managers to coordinate, hold strategic meetings with Suntory or discuss other major decisions on projects. “But this strict schedule is more of a guide. In reality, flexibility is incredibly important,” laughs Manu. “Because of course there will be that time when a crucial meeting happens on a Monday, or you’ve got a business trip scheduled, or you suddenly have to change plans because one of your kids – or you – are sick.” Franziska adds, “That makes it all the more important that we built a good structure from the start, so we can step in for each other on a moment’s notice if need be.”

    There are no ‘vacation gaps’ – our internal organization allows us to cover for each other completely when one of us goes on holiday. Erwin HächlFranziska NiederhoferKey account management for Suntory

    For their day-to-day routines, the two have divided up their work by projects and regions. That’s because, as Manuela puts it, “It’s not possible for everyone to know everything about everything – if we tried, we’d have to have so many meetings, it just wouldn’t be practical. Of course, if a client is coming to visit, we’ll make sure that we’re both here to consult with them.” Customers also benefit from the two-woman team when it comes to vacation time. “There are no ‘vacation gaps’ – our internal organization allows us to cover for each other completely when one of us goes on holiday. Of course, fundamental strategic matters will have to wait during that time, but whoever is on duty is able to take care of important ongoing queries, and the project can continue,” explains Franziska. Manuela adds, “That makes your vacation all the more restorative, because you know you’re not going to have a mountain of emails waiting for you when you get back.”

    All in all, it was a successful first year of shared leadership for both women. “It was a year of challenges, but we make a great team and were able to overcome them,” says Franziska. 

    Read more about the second tandem and the Diversity Board at Krones on page 2.

    13. December 2023
    8:25 min.

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