Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Corinne Klajda

October 17, 2022
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Corinne Klajda

This week we feature the multi-lingual Corinne Klajda, managing partner of Accord Group Poland and one of the founding members of the AltoPartners Executive Search & Leadership Consulting global partnership. Born on the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius, Corinne graduated from the Beijing Language & Culture University before completing an Executive MBA from the CEIBS in Shanghai. Her passion for executive search is matched only by her enthusiasm for RunningForGood: in October 2021, she ran 250km across the Namib Desert, raising almost US$60,000 for scholarships for 10 Paralympian girls and has just completed a gruelling ultra-race in the Atacama Desert in Chile as part of Racing the Planet’s Four Deserts Ultramarathon series. Next stop: The Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

How did you get into executive search? Was it by accident or design?

It was entirely a leap of faith! I went to China on a scholarship and stayed 10 years. I became fluent in Mandarin and worked at Halliburton International and then later at International SOS Assistance. I discovered the wonderful world of executive search when Ray & Berndtson offered me a job as country manager. After a decade in China, my Polish husband and I decided to head back ‘home’ in 1999. Based in Warsaw, I joined the Accord Group, leaders in executive search in East and Central Europe, and was part of the management buy-out in 2005.

What’s your secret weapon?

I love what I do, and I love my profession. Not only is it a fascinating mix of people and strategy, but you also get to interact with the crème de la crème of the global business world. You can’t be an island in this industry, and your network is everything. Very early on, I also realised that everyone needs a coach, and I was fortunate to learn from some of the best. I am a great believer in active listening because nuggets of gold come from unexpected places. Listening really helps people to connect, and magic happens when people share their stories. To be a mentor is a privilege, but I also believe in reverse mentoring. For example, I love to learn from my younger colleagues. A love of learning is essential as you have to stay abreast of trends and developments across industries and functions so that you can support – and, if necessary ─ challenge clients to ensure that they stay on top of their leadership game.

Best piece of advice from a mentor?

You can only change yourself, not others. Focus on improving yourself and what you can control. Let go of what you can’t control.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Breathe, relax, and believe.

Who is your main inspiration?

I am inspired by many people, but my late father remains my greatest inspiration and my best mentor. He always believed in my potential when I couldn’t and dared me to dream big. He was a blue-collar worker, and my mother was a stay-at-home mum. Their work ethic continues to inspire me to push harder and further in life and running. My father liked to make up his own expressions to comfort and amuse us. My favourite is still “you only stop when you are dead; otherwise, you keep going….”