Ekaterina (Katya) Beloblovskaya, General Manager of Electrolux Group Ukraine, recently won our Global Leadership Award for her resilience and extraordinary leadership skills during a time of war and uncertainty. She describes the challenges and learnings of leading a team through crisis.
How did it feel to win the 2022 Leadership Award?
It was an honor for our entire team in Ukraine. My first thought was how great it would have been if we had heard the announcement in our office in Kyiv so we could have celebrated together. This award is a tribute to the whole Ukrainian team for their outstanding attitude, great devotion, and performance.
It’s 18 months since the war broke out in Ukraine. What has been the greatest challenge and how have you dealt with it?
Living with the war is exhausting but, at the same time, I feel that it has raised my resilience level. Now, the challenge is to maintain this high level of resilience.
There were so many challenges last year, but the toughest was to find the balance and appropriate leadership style. The start of the war was also very emotional for me. I tried to use the same emergency safety approach that they use on an airplane — first, put on your own mask and then help others. You try to keep your emotions under control and find a way to survive.
It was a shock for all my colleagues. We stayed connected and waited for the right moment to start a conversation about business. Within the first month of the war, we relaunched our business with new logistics processes, renegotiated customer contracts and financial terms, and continued sales. It was tough. But we are still together; we are all alive and moving on; and we are dealing with all the challenges until peace returns to our home.
You are now an Area Sales Head, responsible for some of our most important countries in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) — Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltics. How are you finding your new role?
That is another challenge which I gladly accepted and I’m doing my best to cope with the headwinds. The market situation in Europe, especially in CEE, has been very volatile since 2022. However, I’m very lucky to have fantastic teams in each country and I’m confident we will overcome the challenges.
What makes a good leader, in your opinion?
For me, leadership is about being fair, open, human and empathic to employees who feel valued and motivated, who believe in what they do and who try hard to achieve the best results.
Behind every great leader is a great team. How do you foster a team spirit, during the good and bad times?
This is so true. And it is very connected to how I see leadership. I think that openness, clear expectations and targets, open discussions, and recognition of results encourages our people to strive for one result. During tough times, collaboration and support is more essential than ever.
How is the situation on the ground for our team in Ukraine?
The market dropped by almost 50% in 2022, but there was still plenty of demand as many people moved internally within Ukraine. They rented new places and needed home appliances. At the same time, we had to keep servicing the Caucasus markets from our distribution center in Ukraine, to avoid losing the market position that we had worked hard to build up.
Of course, the market landscape in Ukraine has changed and the rules of the game are now very tough. We’ve seen a shift towards lower price categories and the market has shrunk so there is less space for all the competition. Despite this, we have exceeded our net sales forecast, which we are all extremely proud of.
This has only been possible thanks to our tremendous team engagement and spirit. Everybody fights for each sale regardless of what is going on around them. In May, I went to Kyiv, and I can’t even describe how happy we were to meet physically … just to talk and hug.
Why the jury presented Katya the Global Leadership Award 2022:
“In 2022 Katya performed in extremely challenging conditions and strove to exceed company expectations while ensuring her team’s safety and mental wellbeing. Ekaterina believes in a growth mindset, and her work led to an impressive 43% growth in the Caucasus region year-to-year. She proved that even in the most severe situations, a real leader finds a way to deliver and keep the team motivated.”
Role: Katya is General Manager of Ukraine and Head of Area Sales Central for CEE (Poland, Ukraine and the Baltics). She is based in Warsaw, Poland.
Background: Katya was born in Kyiv and graduated from Edinburgh Business School. Her early career was in advertising. In 2008 she joined Electrolux Group as Trade Marketing Manager for Ukraine and later Marketing Manager for Ukraine and Caucasus. In 2019 she was appointed General Manager Ukraine.
2022: In February 2022, Katya fled to Poland with her daughter, dog and two suitcases. Since then, for her and her Ukrainian team, work has been an anchor which helps them cope with everyday fear, uncertainty, frustration and sadness.