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In the "If Only They'd Taught Me" interview series we delve into the career journeys, challenges, and lessons of influential executives from IBS' partner organizations. With faculty perspectives adding depth to each interview, this series offers valuable insights for students, alumni, and business enthusiasts alike. In our second interview, our guest is Zsófia Molnár, Beauty&Wellbeing Lead East Europe at Unilever. She shares pivotal moments, insights, and wisdom from her journey, offering a unique perspective on success in the industry.

IBS: Reflecting on your journey, what is one piece of advice you wish you had received earlier in your career? 

Zsófia Molnár: Understanding the significance of networking and nurturing relationships has been a game-changer. It goes beyond building business connections; it's about cultivating meaningful work relationships. People prefer collaborating with those they enjoy spending time with and share common interests. My advice is to nurture and build as many relationships as possible. Regardless of the friends you already have, always part on good terms – you never know when your paths might cross again in the future.

IBS: In your opinion, what qualities or skills have been crucial for your success in your industry? 

ZsM: Being open to change and new situations, resilience, a positive mindset, and a can-do attitude. While you can learn various skills, your mindset and attitude set you apart from the crowd. Especially after the paradigm shift from a VUCA to a BANI world, prioritising the ability to embrace change has become even more critical.

(These terms are used to describe different types of business environments:

VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. In a VUCA world, business environments are characterized by high levels of unpredictability, complexity, and ambiguity. It's challenging to foresee and plan due to constant changes and uncertainties.

BANI stands for Brittle, Anxious, Non-Linear, and Incomprehensible. In a BANI world, the focus is on fragility, anxiety, non-linear dynamics, and incomprehensibility. This term suggests that modern business environments are not just complex but also fragile and subject to rapid, unpredictable shifts.)

IBS: As a leader, how do you foster a positive organisational culture that drives growth and success? 

ZsM: Celebrating successes, embracing failures, and empowering teams are at the core. Establishing and nurturing psychological safety is a key factor that requires time. Providing empowerment and independence to each individual cultivates an environment where everyone thrives.

unilever molnar zsofi.png

IBS: Our tutor, Judit Mihalik Ph.D., what is the most important task of a team superior?

In Organisational Behaviour and Management Skills classes, we talk a lot about the most important task of a team superior: creating a circle of trust. As Zsofia indicated, the leader's principal job is to establish a psychologically safe and supportive atmosphere for the team members. With a sense of community, belonging, wiredness, all the virtues of the team can flourish, from creativity to solidarity. My favorite example is the symphonic orchestra, where musicians create a collective artwork that is more than just a sum of great individual performances. This so-called "coopetion" is a blend of competition and cooperation. It is the secret of a great, exceptional ensemble musicianship and passionate, joyful work as well.

IBS: How do you foster a sense of community and belonging among students at IBS?

As a teacher in the IBS, I strive to encourage integrity and autonomy in my students. It is especially inspiring because our students come from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. In many cases, they lack experience in speaking up for themselves in a professional, democratic, yet supportive, and direct way in interpersonal interactions. Again, with the right facilitation, students can learn from each other as well. Many of them are now trying to cope in completely new settings, separated from their families, with demanding situations in their home countries. They are true role models for the lucky ones, who have a more solid educational and social background. Thus, we no longer need textbook examples to illustrate moral dilemmas, anxiety, resilience and incomprehensibility. Small seminar groups in IBS provide an excellent opportunity to develop the skills of listening and mutual learning that are essential in the turbulent social-economic global climate.

IBS: How can business schools effectively equip students with the skills and knowledge to navigate uncertainty in the ever-changing business landscape?

Traditionally, business schools have taught how to manage risk. Now the “risk” needs to switch to “uncertainty” in our mind. We must study it, interpret it, and simultaneously guide students to grasp the difference.