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Ralf Zimme

Co- Founder and Tutor at IBIT, the International Training Centre for Crowd Safety

An industry expert that runs a sanctuary for old, mistreated and ill animals with his wife and is inspired by Sir Isaac Newton.

Ralf Zimme has worked in the live music Industry since 1987 when he started working as a stagehand for a local promoter.  He stayed in the job for many reasons – money, free live music, good company, and positive feedback, and ended up starting his career in the industry…

Ralf became Crew Chief, Production and Stage Manager, initially for the small events, but later for the bigger ones until he started working as a crowd & safety manager in the early 2000’s for a venue management company, running a multipurpose stadium and other arenas.

Since 2010 he has been co-founder and tutor at IBIT, the International Training Centre for Crowd Safety.

Ralf currently lives in the Cologne / Bonn region of Germany.

Welcome to the Leadership Interview, Ralf

How do you start your day?

My wife Sabine and I run a sanctuary for old, mistreated and ill animals.  I usually start the day by making coffee and feeding our outdoor animals (sheep, goats, hens and pigs).

What was your first job, and what is the worst job you’ve ever done?

My first job was at the Jazz gallery in Bonn.  I don’t remember the band’s name anymore, but I remember that during the load-out it took me nearly half an hour to put two monitors back in the case, meanwhile the other hands and back liners had nearly finished the whole set… But in my defence: If you didn’t know the right arrangement, it was not easy… Or maybe I was just too much of a rookie 🙂

I couldn’t name a worst job.  I think we could start a research project on categories for the worst: worst catering, worst production manager, worst own planning, worst planning of others, worst material not used, worst material used however… and so on.  Maybe this is a business idea for a new game!  Nevertheless, in the field of safety you cannot have a career with only positive experience.  You need to learn from mistakes in all fields of event production and understand the outcomes of these failures to understand the potential risk and improve.

What advice would you give to others about furthering their careers?

I’m not sure whether I should give advice on careers.  Even if my CV on first glimpse reads like a straight line, I was very lucky, and it did not feel straightforward at all.  I think one should always be self-reflective and check if your job makes you happy and if you are good at it.  If you are young try different things, combine the knowledge you achieve and make a unique ‘you’ out of your knowledge, experience and passion.  And then you still need luck.  But it might be a start.  And: Learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others.  Improve continuously.

Who inspires you and why?

Well, if it’s about celebrities it’s Sir Isaac Newton.  He was a genius in so many fields of science in times when it was so much harder to promote new or revolutionary ideas. And nowadays I am lucky to meet many very clever and passionate people who inspire me in many fields.  May it be small ideas for my personal or professional life, interesting perspectives or just attitude.  I believe we must develop personally and professionally our whole life and allowing yourself to be inspired might be a good source for positive development.  But one has to allow being inspired, because inspiration might mean change and change might be uncomfortable.

Do you think a talent to lead is nature or nurture?

Leading means team playing, empathy, sharing knowledge and motivation as well as empowering others.  This can be talent, but I believe it needs more than that.  There is also a need for professional management tools to ensure good communication, reporting and reflection in the team.

How can a leader fail? Do you have a personal example?

It depends on what he or she wants to achieve and who is judging whether they failed or not.  There is a reason for different management styles with variable advantages and disadvantages.  Leaders may fail, because they don´t know what they want or the way to get there.  It can be by choosing the wrong leading style or underestimating the resistance of a team or other seniors against the project, the leader and so on.  Especially in our business where many people start a career out of verve and then follow the path, people often lack the skills they need for leading others.  The authors Peter and Hull named it the Peter-Principle – to advance people up to incompetence.  That’s when everyone wonders why he or she is boss.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

I leave that judgement up to others.  I know I should do a SWOT analysis at this point, but I am too lazy. 🙂

What do you find most challenging about being a leader?

Being a leader.

What are you most proud of?

Our sanctuary with all its inhabitants who had bad lives before (except for the geese who are man-eating monsters) and who are all terribly friendly and content and happy with the lives they have now.  It is the only one they have, and they make the best of it.  We could learn from that attitude…

What’s your biggest self-indulgence?

To get up early and have a coffee on our meadow in the sun, watching our animals graze, bath or do all the nonsense they find is appropriate for the morning.

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