Starting as a part-time sales advisor next to his studies at a local H&M store in Germany, Michael Hafner soon realized that he was exactly where he wanted to be. That was ten years ago. Today, Michael works as Area Sales Manager for four markets where Monki has stores today.
Michael Gafner, Monki
Name: Michael Hafner
Title: Area Sales Manager for Germany, Austria, Finland and the UK.
Years in H&M group (Years as Leader): 10 (7,5)
Previous roles: Started at H&M as a part- time sales advisor, later became full time sales advisor, then department manager. From there to store manager assistant to store manager. Moved to Monki three years ago to become area manager.
Inspired by the great leaders around him and by watching people grow, Michael Hafner believes that the goals you are working towards need to be part of a natural vocabulary. For him, a good leader gives clear direction and, lets the team decide on the path to get there.
“Whenever there is a Monki success story, we are all very proud and think: We made this. Together. My team is quite new, and they are all eager and hungry for success. It’s great to see that their interest goes beyond their own role; the visual is interested in controlling numbers, the controller is in contact with HR – everyone is interested in each other’s areas. We are all very eager and very goal oriented and we try to grow and get better every day. “
Reaching goals starts already at the recruitment. I need to see the fire in someone’s eyes; is this person goal-oriented, eager to learn, ambitious? Does this person want to develop?
Learning from one’s mistakes
“I have made a lot of bad decisions looking back, I don’t even know where to start”, Michael says with a laugh.
“We all learn more from failure than from success. A typical mistake we all make is not to be open and transparent with our weaknesses. Of course, we all want to show how good we are and all we can manage, but it’s important to understand that it’s ok to make mistakes. It’s better – and stronger – to admit ‘hey, I don’t really know how this works’, so that you can get the support you need.”
As a leader, I think it’s my responsibility to create an environment where it feels ok to make mistakes. It’s a matter of building up trust and self-confidence.
To create this kind of environment, Michael always tries to be transparent with his own mistakes and makes sure to have a close relationship and open dialogue with the team.
What advice would you give to a new leader in the H&M group on their first day?
“Be open about your strengths; what you can do and what you’re good at. But also about what you can’t do, and where you need training. Everyone should know who they are working with, so be open about it. Everyone will then accept you as you are.”