navigating the ‘new’ in the new normal - adaptive leadership - an ebay story

Recently I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Klaus Duetoft from eBay in preparation for an upcoming HR Now event he will be speaking at the session entitled ‘Navigating the ‘New’ in the New Normal - Adaptive Leadership - an eBay story’.

We had an amazing chat about how eBay has been exploring what the new normal means Internationally. 


E-commerce is an area of incredible growth with high market penetration in Australia. 2020 must have shifted that market dramatically. What impact did this have on your leadership model?


Overall the changes that have occurred locally as well as globally over the last 12 months, not only have they been dramatic from an individual perspective, but also it has meant that we have had to pivot quickly as an Organisation.  As you think about Covid-19 landing, essentially we saw this very early in China, then progressively throughout other places across APAC where we have businesses, then US and EMEA, as we navigated the reducing infection rates, the US and EMEA continued to climb. So from a Leadership perspective, we needed leaders to not only balance managing their businesses, the complexities that sellers and buyers faced, distribution challenges, but also leading teams that were often dealing with lock downs, remote working, their own mental health impacts, and doing that whilst as individual leaders they dealt with these things themselves. eBay has always had an incredible foundation in relation to our purpose, our values and the nature of our culture, so there was no question that we ultimately made decisions that were right for our employees, buyers and sellers. Our leadership needed a level of resilience, flexibility, a nimbleness to pivot quickly and navigate rapidly changing landscapes.


What leadership behaviours do you think we need to see more of in the future and what do you think we need to see less of?


Definitely Resilience, flexibility, authenticity, nimbleness and an inclusive mindset.


You have mentioned how socially connected eBay is and how the hybrid model of working will be the norm for you? How are you preparing your leaders to lead in this hybrid model?


eBay's culture can be defined as a driven, focussed, relationship orientated, networked culture.  Connection is important, we are collaboration driven, so operating in these ways are not really conducive to a completely remote workforce, rather as mentioned a hybrid model where an individual can navigate how they work and in what format, this is a global discussion that our Global Executive Leadership team is having in terms of what the future of work is for us, and breadth of complexities and dynamics that need to be taken into account, ultimately you want to mould that future of work into a sustainable way of operating, being thoughtful and intentional in how you decision that future way of working where it sets individuals up to be successful, enables our organisation to successful and ultimately preserves the elements that make eBay a magical place to work.  

One of the elements we are thinking through is what the role is for working from home and working in the office, for example, maybe the role of working from home is when you need to do deeper thinking, individual contribution driven work etc, whereas the office becomes and for us in a lot of our workspaces a collaborative zone, where project teams connect, planning gets done together, team meetings are held, growth discussions occur etc.  

In that context what are the expectations for our people leaders and our team members, how do they need to operate, how do they ensure that they can be at their most productive in these different types of forums.


You have an amazing success story of very low attrition and high engagement. What do you think the eBay secret is?


I think first and foremost, we have an amazing culture, as mentioned earlier, we are relationship driven, collaborative, supportive, driven, achievement orientated, people are incredibly passionate about our brand and what that stands for.  For us we have to be bigger than just a business that makes money, our sellers and buyers are real people, they often rely on eBay as a platform to fund their lives.  Our purpose is enduring – ‘We empower people and create economic opportunity for all’ – for me personally this is such an empowering and enabling purpose, to think that you work for a company where what you do, makes such a difference to people's lives, is pretty amazing.  I think the other aspect is that people get to really own their roles, deliver, be supported in that and have the accountability, this is important because it means that we each have the ability to make a difference.


What do you think the main challenges facing industry and people and culture in the next five years will be? 


As eCommerce companies mature and grow larger, keeping the bureaucracy out of them, ensuring they stay nimble, being authentic to their guiding principles, purpose and beliefs, I think in a lot of traditional businesses these are often challenging for them.  eCommerce companies are incredibly competitive businesses, the challenges society has faced over the past 12 months and continues to face has dramatically for a lot of people demonstrated the power of eCommerce and so it isn’t a surprise that for us we have seen significant growth in new buyers and overall volume.


You have talked about adaptability in leadership style. How do you think your own leadership style has adapted to accommodate the new ways of working? 


This is a tricky question, because firstly I don’t’ want to come across as if I am enlightened, I think we are all learning how to navigate the complexities that exist for us today.  There are a few things that I have probably inherently followed, values are incredibly foundational for me, I use my values as a clear decision point in how I lead and operate, being authentic and consistent whether working face to face or remotely is important.  I’ve always been outcome focussed not input focussed, for example, how or where someone works isn’t important to me, they should figure a rhythm that best works for them and sets them up for success, whats most important to me is what they do and how they do it. Do they deliver against the agreed expectations we have, do they make a difference and do they make that difference in a way that reflects highly against our purpose, culture and values, this for me has meant I feel more resilient and able to support my teams through a highly dynamic and rapidly changing work environment.

about klaus: 

Klaus Duetoft – leads the eBay Inc International People Organisation , providing People support to all eBay employees across our eBay Inc International Region, in addition he is a member of the eBay Inc Markets Global People Leadership team.  He has teams based in Singapore, Korea, Japan, Turkey, China and Australia.  Countries which his team supports includes Singapore, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Russia, Mexico and Turkey.

Previously he was the founder and principal of Irrelach Consulting Pty Limited, a consultancy focused on delivering Outsourced Human Resources Solutions to small to medium sized Organisations.  

Klaus has gained his extensive human resources experience in industry sectors including the pharmaceutical, fast moving consumer goods, high technology, eCommerce and mobile telecommunications sectors. Additionally he has had experience delivering human resources solutions throughout countries including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, United States of America, United Kingdom and South Africa. 

He believes in bringing a robust commercially orientated human resources approach to Organisations he and his teams are engaged with that ultimately enable Organisations, Leaders and Employees the ability to drive for results, create long term business value and do that in a way that is sustainable.

about the author

Jeannette Lang - General Manager VIC/TAS/SA

Jeannette has over 20 years experience as a senior HR leader. With a strong network (nationally and internationally) of HR practitioners she is focussed on the placement of senior and executive HR professionals.

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  • 18/08/2021 Max & Max
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