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Talking the Talk: How Ewa Czerederecka Got Her Team to Open Up

March 15, 2022 | by Sridhar Pappu
Last year, Ewa Czerederecka asked her team in Warsaw, Poland, to take their commitment to transparency to the next level. Since becoming the Contract Margin Review team leader for Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey within the CSA Operations group in GE Aviation’s Services division in 2019, she’s overseen the work of two teams — one in Warsaw, her hometown, and the other in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. In that relatively brief time, her teammates have grown accustomed to her candor and her encouragement that they be more candid with her. Now she wanted them to take the next step: Be more candid with each other.

“It’s not enough to just ask, ‘Hey, does anyone have any questions?’” Czerederecka says. “But initiate the discussion — sometimes ask a really provoking question, add a statement, see if people agree with that or not. For me, that’s leading with transparency.”

To prepare for the annual People, Performance and Growth survey, she asked her teams to evaluate their own work. Breaking off in pairs, they worked one-on-one, making notes and sharing honest, constructive observations that came from years of working alongside one another. Ultimately, she asked each pair to prepare a presentation for the group at large.

Czerederecka’s boldness hasn’t gone without notice, either. She joined GE’s engineering division after graduating from the Warsaw University of Technology in 2008, and it didn’t take long for her to see that top-quality work is often the by-product of transparent leadership. Indeed, she has been praised for the way she’s led her teams in the Services division. Her manager, Jessica Iacobucci, notes that “Ewa exemplifies candor, shares information to problem-solve and contributes to the development of others… [She] personally leads meaningful change and energizes others to get involved.”

Top: Left to right: Lindsey Krause, Jim Dougherty, Shelly Klocke, Brian Pfeiffer and Ewa Czerederecka during a CMR Kaizen at the Engineering Design Center in Warsaw in February 2020.

Czerederecka says she learned this directly from watching Brian Pfeiffer, one of her former managers at GE Aviation. Pfeiffer was comfortable telling his team what he didn’t know. And then he did something that managers often talk about but don’t always put into practice: He would share his opinion. Pfeiffer had confidence in his lack of knowledge in some areas and turned it into a strength, she says. In short, he walked it like he talked it. And his commitment to transparency led to something else: an open, albeit professional, vulnerability.

He wasn’t afraid to admit the things that he needed to work on. Czerederecka took that to heart when she began to manage her own teams.

“When I saw him doing this,” she says, “it inspired me a lot. [It allowed me to] open up even more, because all of us have different challenges and it’s OK to talk about this.”

That openness became even more important for Czerederecka at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. She knew that her teams had concerns about their own health and safety, so she hosted a virtual meeting and encouraged everyone to share their fears about the future.

“All of them [were] going through the same thing,” she says. “And even though we are two different teams — one in Dubai, one in Poland — I think that those two teams definitely got closer.”

That meeting was a manifestation of everything Czerederecka strives to promote on a day-to-day basis: an open space where her colleagues can share their doubts, concerns and honest reactions constructively.

Czerederecka keeps the lines of communication as open as possible and lets her team know that being upfront about challenges or problems is not a hindrance.

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