“Germany´s Leading Authority on Change Management” – OÖ Nachrichten
Iljas latest book “The Changemaker Mindset” (Mango, 2019)
Ilja Grzeskowitz a.k.a. Ilja Gee is a global keynote & conference speaker on change, innovation and transformation. He was an executive manager for Germany’s largest retail corporation Karstadt as well as for IKEA, before he started his own consulting company in 2009. The keynote speaker held guest lecturing positions at the Berlin School of Law and Economics and the SRH University in Berlin, and regularly travels around the world to research future trends and developments in the field of change management. As an author, he has published ten books (among them three bestsellers), which have been translated into ten different languages and sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide. Being nicknamed „Mr. Change“ by his clients, the studied economist inspires people to develop a changemaker mindset and supports organizations to establish a change culture that is based on purpose, diversity and strong values. Among his clients are big brands as Accor, Allianz, Audi, Bayer, BASF, Biogen, BMW, Cancom, Capri Sun, Continental, DPD, Emerson, Kao, Lufthansa, Nespresso, Marriott, Mercedes, Pentax, Puma, P&G, Swiss, T-Mobile, Unilever, Unitymedia or Zara as well as traditional middle sized companies. In his change programs, he combines real-world expertise with inspiring storytelling and scientific evidence, and despite being German, rumour has it that he even has humour. If he is not speaking on a stage around the world, he loves to play a round of golf, cheers for his favourite football teams (ManU and HSV) or enjoys as nice cup of coffee (always black and lots of it).
Hey, I´m Ilja Gee
It´s not that easy to describe myself with just one word, because I´m constantly wearing so many different hats and my head is always full of different ideas, so that I sometimes struggle with focusing on whats really important. But when I look back, there definitely is one constant in my life: Change. The urge to question the status quo. To let go what used to work and boldly try out new ways of doing things. To live a life based on my own terms. Change and transformation are the read thread that have always accompanied me through the various phases of my own development and more than once have been the reason that my life was heavily shaken and turned upside down from one moment to the other.
During my civil service – for the first time ever – the work with mentally and physically disabled children showed me that there is more to life than just the same old faster-harder-stronger. And I discovered one of my greatest strength: Empathy. At the age of twenty, I left my hometown Lübeck to study economics and marketing at the universities of Greifswald, Mannheim and Hamburg. But I wasn´t spending much time in the lecture hall, because I had so many awesome jobs. I worked as an interpreter for a Texan construction company, drove with Nigerian businessmen through rural northern Germany to buy armoured sedans, was a business development manager for a software company and wrote business plans for StartUps in the age of the New Economy (yes, I´m that old).
The Hard School of Working in Retail
Despite all that I chose – driven by my fascination for sales and consumer behaviour – a pretty conservative career in retail. At the age of twenty seven, I started as the youngest store manager for Germany´s largest departement store chain Karstadt, and for the next seven years I was responsible for ten different locations all over the country, lead thousands of employees and managed sales figures in the three digit million range. But while my career just began to kick off, the organization driftet into a huge crisis, so that – together with my teams – I had to fight various internal and external changes on a daily basis (think: VUCA). Locations, Strategies and every single job could me gone from one day to the next, so uncertain was the permanent reorganization. As a leader, I had to shut down department stores. lay of lots of good people, but was also able to plan and execute future oriented projects.
When I was thirty three, I was in charge of one of the largest department stores of the country, and if you would have seen me from the outside, you probably would have said: “He´s made it!” But on the inside I was becoming more and more frustrated, so I gladly said yes, when I was offered a contract by the Swedish furniture company IKEA. During my time in the organization, I got to know the Scandinavian way of leadership as well as the other side of change – the innovative, active and future oriented one.
FAMILY FIRST – BUSINESS SECOND
As much as I liked the retail business (and I still do), as time went by, I discovered my real passion: To work with the people. To inspire my employees, customers and business partner to use the power of change to grow and get better. To understand what makes us tick and how we make our choices. And in March 2008, in a traffic jam on the Autobahn, I made a choice that should change my life like no decision before: I quit my safe job as a corporate executive and started my own company. Since then I have published ten books (wich have been sold way over 100K times and have been translated into lots of different languages), gave hundreds of keynote speeches for great clients all over the world and awesome personalities hire me as their personal coach (wich makes me very grateful).
In my one to one work, I help entrepreneurs, managers and executives to live a self-determined life that is based on purpose and freedom. On the other hand I support organizations to develop a culture of change that is based on shared values, diversity and purpose. And even if my team and I are celebrating the 10th business anniversary in 2019 (and I still enjoy to work hard and a lot), my family always came and will come first. They are my safe harbour and constantly give me strength and inspiration. But first of all they are my strong why, the rational and emotional reason, that reminds me every single day, what drives me and why my big goal is to change the world – one person at a time.
VITA, VALUES AND MISSION STATEMENT
To give you some insights into my personality, you´ll find a compressed version of my vita, our mission statement and the values that are the foundation for me and my team in everything we do. Furthermore you can take a look at the awards and designations I received over the years. I don´t really brag about them in public, but – despite all modesty – of course I´m really proud of every single one of them.
Iljas career in numbers
1975: Born in Lübeck, Germany (Made famous by Thomas Mann)
1994: Abitur at Carl-Jacob-Burkhardt Gymnasium zu Lübeck
1994: Civil Service at Universitätsklinikum Lübeck: Work at a integrative facility: Taking care of disabled, handicapped and slow learning children
1995 – 2001: Studies of economics at the Universities of Greifswald, Mannheim and Hamburg. Main courses: Marketing, Economic education und organizational theory. Certificate: Diplom Kaufmann
1995 – 2001: Various part time jobs, e.g.: Translator for American and Nigerian Companies, Barkeeper, Business Plan Writer, Start-Up-Consultant, Business Development Manager
2002 – 2008: Store Manager at Karstadt, Hertie und Wertheim: Responsibility for a total of ten department stores in Lübeck, 2 x Hamburg, Kassel, Mönchengladbach, Frankfurt/Oder and 5x Berlin
2008 – 2009: Storemanager IKEA in Hamburg
2009: Incorporation of Change Competence Crew
2013-2015: Guest lecturer at the Berlin School of Law and Economics und der SRH Hochschule
Since 2009: Internationale Keynote Speaker, Bestselling Author and Consultant
Since 2013: Founder and host of the Change Award
Our Mission Statement: The business philosophy our whole thinking, behaviour and work is based upon
Companies only change when the people change. Therefore we believe in two things: In the power of inividual personalities and the magic of a change culture that is based on strong values. If you combine the individual needs with the organizational vision, the result is always magical cocktail of passion, commitment and operational excellence. We verbalized this in our mission statement:
“Our business strategy is all about people, because we strongly believe that the human personality is the most important success factor in times that are defined by change, transformation and uncertainty. We help people to live a self-determined life based on purpose and freedom. We support organizations to use the huge opportunities of the future by helping them to create a culture of change, that is based on shared values, diversity and purpose. The individual definition of success is the north star on that journey, change is the process to reach the destination.”
These values are the foundation for me and my team
Responsibility: Only wenn everyone takes personal responsibility in his/her role, we can be successful as a team.
Gratitude: We go through life with an attitude of gratitude durchs Leben. We always give before we take.
Diversity: We respect every human being for who he/she is and treat him individually.
Integrity: We let actions speak, not words and always do what we said we would do.
Support: Nobody wins alone and we´re always stronger together. The team is holy and we aim to lift the people up and make them successful.
Family: Success has a definite order for us: Family first, business second.
Meaning: Our job is not only a job. Everything what we do is based on a purpose and we do our best to make the world a little bit better every single day.
Humour: We laugh a lot and often. Especially about ourselves. Because for us, work has to be pretty darn fun!
Quality: We have high expectations and standards. This is true for our products, our service, but most of all for ourselves.