It was March 2020, and Ingrid went into action mode straight away. Apart from making sure everyone was able to work comfortably from home in the Netherlands, there were ten other offices to consider in Europe, Asia and Africa. Realising that the corona situation would affect MDF’s core activities in all offices, it was not an option to wait and see how the situation would evolve. Ingrid was convinced MDF needed to become “corona-independent”.

The need to adapt

Ingrid was determined to make swift steps. “I felt a pressure to act quickly and come up with concrete steps to make sure we would get through this.” It was imperative to develop the capacity of all staff worldwide to start offering our services online. “Not being an expert in online services myself, I needed the help of our in-house expertise to make this possible”. Ingrid made a plan to enable internal learning and called in the help of a handful of people –“early adopters” – to get started right away. 

Giving room and letting go

“I am always very action-oriented. This time, I was very dependent on others to help to implement the ideas.” Ingrid learned that if the tough gets going, it is important to bring in structures, yet also let go when needed. There was so much going on in parallel, it was impossible to monitor everything. “I trusted everyone did what they could and fortunately because the whole world was in this situation, it was okay to make mistakes and experiment.”

Leaving no one behind 

The situation was difficult because everyone dealt with it differently. Ingrid’s pacesetting style made it possible to move quickly, but this went hand in hand with resistance, expectant looks and critical questions from colleagues. “It was really a challenge to get everyone on the same page, but those critical reflections were much needed to make better decisions.” 
“Looking back, I managed in a more structured and less intuitive way.” Ingrid made conscious efforts to address individual questions and was deliberately transparent and elaborate on her thinking and decisions. More regular meetings and more time for informal, online catch-ups over coffee to check in with everyone. “Communication was essential. We could have done that even more.” Regularly checking in to learn about new initiatives and good practices helped to utilise these experiences and share them within the organisation.

Being there for each other – now and in the future

“I am really proud of what we have achieved together. Although the pressure was high, the atmosphere was good and everyone took care of each other. Looking back, I worked hard, but I managed to stay light-hearted. It was important to be kind to myself and others, and accept that mistakes are part of this new way of working.” Not everyone enjoys to work online, so it will be important to think about how to keep everyone motivated in the future. “During these times, it again became apparent how committed everyone is to the work we do. Let’s cherish this.”

Opportunities for the future 

MDF will probably continue to work online post-corona. The situation has brought to light many opportunities and has made it possible for all offices to collaborate in a more dynamic and inclusive way. “I really enjoyed connecting colleagues from across the world and I have good hope we will continue to create great things together in the future.” 


Would you like to reflect on your management style and qualities? In November, MDF is organising a blended course on Leadership and People Management in the Netherlands. In this course, you have a chance to reflect on your qualities as a manager and explore how to deal with difficult situations. 
If you live in the Netherlands, sign up today, or contact Lisa Freiburg for information about online training options