Caroline Schlienkamp is standing in front of the new “village house” where she lives, with a big smile on her face. The idyllic half-timbered village near Hannover has around 800 residents. “Our village needed a shop and a meeting place where people can laugh and chat together,” she reported on the initiative to establish a “village house”. “It was a long journey with a lot of hurdles, but everybody had a lot of fun and we developed a great sense of togetherness on the way.” She was joined by around a dozen other residents of the village in her commitment to the idea of creating a greater sense of community. After five years and overcoming some tough challenges, the dream became a reality. A few days ago, the shop and café – the “village house” – was opened as a meeting place for everybody. “It’s even licensed to hold civil marriages,” enthuses Caroline Schlienkamp about the scope for lots of community events in future.
The story has more in common with her professional career than is obvious at first glance. Caroline Schlienkamp looks after the legal side of the “village house” initiative in a voluntary capacity. But that’s pretty run-of-the-mill stuff for the commercial lawyer. After all, as Head of Group Legal for Talanx AG, she’s normally dealing with the legal aspects of multi-million takeovers or long-term cooperation agreements with banking partners – to name just two examples. Since April, she has also been responsible for the areas of Data Protection and Compliance.
The cooperative concept of the initiative is also reflected in her career overall. In 2019, Caroline Schlienkamp was nominated for the Talanx Excellence Programme (TEP) – the programme prepares successful managers in the Group for their next step to positions on management boards. Together with her four fellow participants, she had the mission of persuading as many employees as possible across the world to participate in the discussion about the reason for the existence of the Talanx Group and to develop the joint Purpose: “Together we take care of the unexpected and foster entrepreneurship.” The “Together” is her constant companion in all aspects of life.
In the meantime, she has also been appointed as a Board Member of HDI Service AG and as such she is responsible for more than 350 employees in Internal Services and Purchasing Non-IT. “I very much value the wide scope for decision-making in our Group,” was how Caroline Schlienkamp summed up her motivation. The size of the Group makes her work enormously varied. “In my position, I can play an active role in shaping our company. This is very rewarding for me personally.”
The 46-year-old has grown into the responsibility of management and very much enjoys empowering people to achieve their best performance. “I motivate, challenge and encourage, I optimise the working environment and I provide a lot of feedback,” is how the lawyer describes her management style.” She commented that making a culture of feedback and management a reality was important to her, and added that open and honest communication were equally indispensable. Personal interaction between employees and managers in an atmosphere of trust and respect forms the platform for good cooperation. Caroline Schlienkamp’s firm conviction is that part of this relates to “including employees in decisions that impact on them directly, and transferring responsibility to them,”. However, she believes that employees also have to embrace responsibility themselves – it is a two-way deal.
She was in her seventh month of pregnancy when she received the offer of her first management position. In herself, she knew that she could do this. But how would she manage the organisation with a new-born baby? After her husband opted for parental leave, took on most of the domestic work at home and decided to look after child care, Caroline Schlienkamp signed the contract following a lot of soul-searching. She’s never regretted it, even though she sometimes silently cursed when negotiations dragged on into the night-time hours.
Up to now, the two partners have mastered the everyday family routine on a very equal footing – they put it down to well-coordinated teamwork. “Perhaps my husband would say that he was doing a lot more in the household,” suggested the enthusiastic home cook with a grin. In spite of her long working days, Caroline Schlienkamp always makes enough time for her son, now ten years old. As far as she’s concerned, that’s part of a good work-life balance, in the same way as sport and friends. She only sacrifices valuable family time in the late evenings and at weekends for professional demands if there is the utmost urgency. “Everything runs smoothly with good organisation and discipline,” she commented with a laugh.
Caroline Schlienkamp will be enjoying family time in the future – now also at the “village house”: drinking a coffee, enjoying a chat, having fun or putting in a shift behind the counter.