Fast-Track Insights – Interview with Carla Torregrosa Calvet, Danaher Business System Leader at Radiometer

Fast-Track Insights – Interview with Carla Torregrosa Calvet, Danaher Business System Leader at Radiometer

Carla Torregrosa Calvet flew in to Copenhagen from California to participate in the Fast-Track Program for Emerging Female Managers in June 2019. No stranger to new challenges, she embraced the week as an opportunity to reflect on her purpose, and we met her to discuss the key takeaways she gained and how she came to believe ‘the sky is the limit!’

  • Tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey, job titles etc.

I am originally from Valencia, Spain. I moved to California in 2010 and been here ever since. 

My career as an engineer started in Spain, where I worked as an accoustical engineer for the University. After this, I moved to the US and started to work for a Life Sciences company as an Industrial Engineering junior project manager. During these years, I had several titles as I got more experienced and promoted to higher responsibility roles. Some of these included: Associate Project Manager, Specialist Project Manager, Project Manager, Sr. Project Manager… During my exposure through the years working as a project manager and having the opportunity to manage employees to accomplish goals (directly and indirectly), I also had the opportunity to develop in Lean Six Sigma and coordinated numerous continuous improvement initiatives. I got my official Lean Six Sigma certification and was certified as an internal Continuous Improvement facilitator during these years. 

My passion for continuous improvement was something I could not ignore and made the decision to accept the new opportunity of becoming a Danaher Business System Leader for Radiometer (a Danaher company). I’ve been in this role for approximately a year now and could not be happier.

  • What is one thing, or ‘aha’ moment that you took away as a key learning from the 5 days?

The “aha” moment for me came on day 3, when the discussion around innovation made its way through. I’ve never been involved in the company’s innovation strategy before and it clicked that having a clear plan around our product’s innovation is as fundamental as meeting our 2-3-5 year plans and delivering on KPIs and annual objectives. It’s essential to ensure that any given company will be prepared to meet customers’ needs as our society evolves, and a fundamental piece for any company’s long term survival in the market.

  • Was there a particular professor/activity that you enjoyed specifically?

I really enjoyed day 3 with Ricardo Perez as the topic really pulled me in, but I do have to say that I practically enjoyed every day at the event. The information shared, the activities that we all did together to make sure the key learnings were understood were really well thought-out and engaging. I felt my energy levels increase as the week progressed as I truly found every day very interesting.

  • What was it like joining the cross-industry network of female participants?

It was a great experience to be part of and I learned a lot from all my peers and their different perspectives. Each woman there had a different journey, aspirations, short- and long-term goals and it was great to learn about them and take advantage of their stories and their experiences. I was able to accelerate my learnings and was able to make key contacts/friends that I am sure will there for me for career support when reached if needed. Thank you ladies!

  • Did the program facilitate any shifts in your perspective on your career journey, if yes, please specify?

Yes, it did. The program encouraged growth and that the sky is the limit for any woman ready to assume high responsibility corporate roles. It also showed that you need to always be aligned with your life purpose in order to be able to succeed in anything. It is key to not lose this perspective. I am now more aware and ask myself about my purpose and make sure that this alignment is always present.

  • What would you say to someone in your position considering joining the program?

I would say “Go for it!”. The key learnings you will walk away with are fantastic. Meeting other women leaders is very inspirational and the key lessons/takeaways are very useful. I would recommend this course to any woman as we are all leaders, in our own ways.

Carla Torregrosa Calvet

Fact Box

Name: Carla Torregrosa Calvet

Age: 37

Education: Masters Degree in Industrial Engineering from the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia (UPV), Spain

Company: Radiometer

Title: Danaher Business System Leader

Civil Status: Married

Children: One little girl, Alexia, that is 18 months old

Fun fact: Love to rock climb and be out and about in nature. My vacations are always planned around visiting national parks. I think I’ll never get tired of it.

Julie Louise Nielsen

Fast-Track Insights – Interview with Julie Louise Nielsen, Operations Manager at Maersk Tankers

As an Operations Manager for an international shipping company, Julie Louise Nielsen is used to questions about her position in a male-dominated industry. But when we met her to discuss her participation in the Fast-Track course in June 2019 she was keen to point out that times are changing, with female role models championing the debate, and corporations taking responsibility for creating diverse and inclusive cultures.

Julie discussed the inspiration she gained from the week, from quiet reflection, to the igniting of further ambitions.

  • Tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey, job titles etc.

I started my career in shipping right after finishing high school in 2006. For the longest time I had planned to become an Air Traffic Controller, but it was that exact year when they stopped recruiting for 3 years. So, I landed a job as a shipping trainee and I was quickly captivated by the pace and energy of this global industry, where no day is the same.

It’s been 13 interesting and challenging years during which I have grown personally and professionally in a constantly changing industry, and still do today.

From jobs as a Tanker Operator, Bunker Purchaser and Bunker Broker, I am today working for Maersk Tankers as an Operator, where we handle one of the largest product tanker fleets in the world. As a Tanker Operator, you are basically running a taxi service at sea. We are responsible for transporting our customers’ cargo from A to B, and we are the keyholders for all parties involved in a transshipment.

The company I work for, Maersk Tankers, has also been on a journey since 2017, when it separated from A.P. Møller Mærsk. They joined the Diversity Council as part of their efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. The shipping industry itself is usually not perceived to be an industry for women, but I disagree. And it is also down to us, women in shipping, who must, together with our companies, prove and highlight this. It is very interesting and challenging to be a part of this journey and a lot has happened since 2017.

Maersk Tankers trusted me, by appointing me as one of their talented females to attend the Fast-Track Female Leadership Program. Representing these efforts in an industry primarily dominated by men is indeed a role I hold close to my heart and with pride, for a more diverse future workforce in shipping.    

  • What is one thing, or ‘aha’ moment that you took away as a key learning from the 5 days?

All modules were interesting in their own ways, but key learning for me was the self-reflection on day 1 and day 5. It has been great for me to sit down, make lists of do’s and don’ts and to accept, that it is okay that I am ambitious and that it is okay that some people may react in different ways to my approach and to my ambitions.

It has assisted me in my day-to-day work, to understand and tackle my reactions to things and situations. Now I am able to pull out my tools from my course files, acknowledge the situation I am in and put myself in the other person’s position and try to understand their needs.

The way we were told to design our own lives, was an eye opener. To sit in the small groups and say out loud, how you would like to design your life, was challenging but very rewarding. The group provided feedback and suggestions on how to achieve your ambitions, and pointed out that the things you might think are out of reach, may actually be right in front of you, if you just take another approach.

  • Was there a particular professor/activity that you enjoyed specifically?

Dr. Kriti Jain, who taught us about self-awareness, as teams, individuals and in the society, was very interesting. I could have listened to her for days, I think. The way she challenged my purpose, vision and impact was outstanding. She taught me how to distinguish the patterns of thoughts and behaviors that enable me, or hold me back from reaching my truest potential.

Furthermore, a week without Morven McLean, the Academic Director, would have been far duller! She pulled us up, when the lessons have been long and full of information. Her energy way of refreshing all the modules so they came together as one, was of great value.

  • What was it like joining the cross-industry network of female participants?

I was anxious to face a week with 30 women, given that in my daily work I am surrounded mainly by men. However, the diversity within the 30 participants was still fantastic. All the different nationalities, the different back grounds and different career stories were inspiring. For me it was also very rewarding to learn from their experiences and to take away some of their thoughts and actions. It has been invaluable.

  • Did the program facilitate any shifts in your perspective on your career journey, if yes, please specify?

It has lit a fire in me, sparking the thought that I should allow myself to aim for something more in my career and stop worrying about other people’s reaction. It has also shown me that my ambition to become a leader someday, is reachable, if I dare to develop and further explore my patterns.

  • What would you say to someone in your position considering joining the program?

Do it! Accept the opportunity your company is offering you to be able to take the next step in your career, even if you think that you are not qualified to attend. Because, if your company sees it, you do have what it takes. This course may be an eye-opener for you to see what your company is seeing and what your opportunities are. At least it was for me!

Fact Box

Name: Julie Louise Nielsen

Age: 33

Education: Danish Shipping Academy

Company: Maersk Tankers A/S

Title: Operator

Civil Status: Single

Children: Nil

Fun fact: I am the first member of my family who has graduated from high school. My high school teacher was disappointed to see that I was attending shipping and not politics.

ALP Spotlight – Liezel Du Toit

ALP Spotlight – Liezel Du Toit

Having taken on 4 new jobs in the last 5 years, Liezel Du Toit is no stranger to leadership challenges. Now Senior Director, Head of Revenue Excellence at Maersk, we spoke with Liezel about her participation in the Advanced Leadership Program for Women 2017, and why a successful leadership career requires both a strong drive, and moments to pause and reflect.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey, job titles etc, before and after joining the Advanced Leadership Program (ALP) in 2017?

I started my career in Cape Town, as a trainee for P&O Nedlloyd, at that time the second largest shipping company. I learned a lot of things in my various rotations in different departments, but the biggest learning of all was that our industry is old, broken and riddled with inefficiencies. It was love at first sight! My personality was immediately triggered and the amount of issues facing our customers was a great challenge and source of inspiration.

In 2005, Maersk bought P&O Nedlloyd and I was very fortunate to step right into the largest global shipping company as Customer Service Manager for Cape Town. As a woman growing up in South Africa I was used to bias. Bias against my age and my gender was common place. Stepping into the Maersk organization was a revelation to me. All of a sudden nobody cared that I was a 24-year-old woman, they only cared about my performance, which meant that I was the only person holding the key to my career and I started to take that very seriously.

In the summer of 2008, I was offered a position as Trade Manager, responsible for Far East to Southern Africa, based in Copenhagen. My husband and I had already agreed very early on in our relationship that I had the higher earning potential and the drive, which meant he was willing to follow me around the world. When the opportunity came, he stepped up, quit his job and took the primary role in moving our lives, so that I could focus on working.

I worked as a Trade Manager for 2 years, creating strategy, meeting clients, building products and being responsible for a profit and loss for the first time. After two years I was promoted, still in the Trade scope, but taking a larger responsibility and a new geography covering West Central Asia to West Africa. I made another geographical shift in 2012 and in 2014 I broke through and become a director. At this point Maersk decided to create a professional Revenue Management department and I was appointed as one of the first 3 Heads of Pricing, covering West Central Asia and Africa. This was my first leadership role in 6 years and gave me the responsibility of setting prices for 50% of our global revenue. This role required a lot of Transformational work, since we had to standardize how we worked in order to start our digital journey. My natural tendency to seek out inefficiency was triggered once again, considering all we found in our journey to become digital and always available online. I became more and more interested in doing Transformation as a key part of my role.

In 2017 I joined the ALP and started realizing that I need to create the narrative of my career. I felt confident that a new type of role was needed and instead of applying for a new job, I proposed that a new, more senior role was created for me. It was very stressful, I have never leaned out this heavily, but my boldness was rewarded with a promotion to Senior Director in May 2017, becoming the first Head of Pricing Transformation. This was my dream job and also the first time I had a full global scope.

In Feb 2018 I was asked to expand my scope and take on all process, policy and technology ownership for Price to Contract. This was a big challenge, since I never worked with technology directly and was not familiar with working Agile, but somehow I managed. In September 2018, Maersk announced a new organization and a major shift towards becoming the Integrator of Container Shipping. This made me Senior Director, Head of Revenue Excellence and I am happily serving in this role as we speak.

What motivates you to pursue a leadership career, and how does your company enable this?

I enjoy being able to deliver results through others. I have always been a very trusting person and I naturally trust and empower others. I find that this encourages people to step up, since they prefer not to disappoint someone that has empowered them. I love the feeling when someone is suddenly able to do more, simply because you believed in them. Being a leader is a time consuming, but immensely rewarding role.

I am especially motivated to have a diverse team of people in my team, it helps me to balance my thinking and my views and it helps us to achieve more. My company has always been very supportive of my desire to be a leader. I was given the opportunity to have a team, but I was also partnered with an HR professional that takes care of me and my team. We have bi-weekly 1:1 sessions, talking about my team, what they are struggling with and creating career plans for them. This is a luxury in my opinion and I am very grateful to work in a company that puts this so high on the agenda.

What is one thing that you took away as a key learning from the 5 modules?

I learnt many practical skills, some strategic tools that I have heard of, but never had the time to truly study. If I had to choose one learning then it was that we all struggle with similar business problems. In a strange way this was a relief and helped me to focus more on where I can do better, rather than just being stressed about the things that were not working.

In what ways do you use the skills that you’ve learned in the ALP in your work and how has the program helped you become a better leader?

The key change for me has been to spend more time on reflection. These weeks at ALP were precious to me. They forced me to focus on something other than my immediate work, gave me access to a group of amazing sparring partners and allowed me to reflect on things I never made time for. I could discuss, vent and get a lot of advice. Post ALP I realized that I needed to continue this reflection time and build a structure into my life that facilitated this, otherwise it would just be another good intention.

Effective shortly after completing ALP, I introduced ‘Thursday Walk to Work Day’. When I am not travelling I work at Esplanaden 50, which is around 3 km from my home. Normally I bike to work, but now I walk to work and back every Thursday, rain, snow or shine! This gives me time to think and my team has noticed a big difference in me. I will ponder on questions they ask me and generally be more relaxed, so the depth and quality of our conversations has improved.

What is next for you in your career, since finishing the ALP, and what are your long-term career aspirations?

Considering that I have had 4 new jobs in the last 5 years, my ambition right now is to settle in my role. I want to build a strong team and create my natural successor. I am very happy that I managed to groom and promote two people to director level to replace me in my last two jobs, but I need some time to focus and groom the next senior director. My passion is with Transformation, creating new solutions for our customers and building a motivating environment for our Sales teams. Considering that my work is all about changing the landscape, I am certain that my next job does not exist yet. I am fine with that and a measure of success will be that I once more carve out a role for myself, this time at Vice President level. I know that it is tacky to talk about job levels, but job levels come with decision making power and I want to use my power for good!

What has been your biggest leadership challenge since finishing the ALP and how did you deal with it?

My biggest leadership challenge since leaving, was taking on 2 new roles in the space of 7 months in 2018. Neither of these roles were well defined, which I don’t mind, but it meant that I had to create a narrative to encourage talents to work in my team. This was hard work, but very much linked to my passion, so it was not an issue for me. However, some people that followed me had to accept a new layer being created between me and them, when my scope more than doubled in September. They felt betrayed and worried that they were no longer important to me. It was an emotional time, but I worked closely with them and also made sure their new leaders took their careers very seriously. In time they have come to realize that they actually get more quality time with their new managers, since my schedule is so hectic, but for a few months this was tough.

What one thing could encourage more women to pursue a career in leadership?

The reward of developing others, and the gift of diversity. It is such a pleasure to lead the combined brilliance of a group of people, instead of relying on yourself.

Fact Box:

Name:                                             Liezel Du Toit

Age:                                                 38

Education:                                     B.Comm Hons, Economics, University of Cape Town

Company:                                      Maersk

Title:                                                Senior Director, Head of Revenue Excellence

Civil Status:                                   Happily Married

Children:                                        No kids

Fun fact:                                         I am the first person in my family to finish high school

ALP Spotlight – Tina Herbing

ALP Spotlight – Tina Herbing

Continuing our series of interviews with alumni of the Advanced Leadership Program, we spoke with Senior Legal Counsel at Gorrissen Federspiel, Tina Herbing, about how she found her proficiency and passion for business development during the ALP class of 2018. She also discusses her approach to a leadership path on her own terms, and the importance of working within a company that supports career development.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey, job titles etc, before and after joining the Advanced Leadership Program (ALP) in 2018?

I joined Gorrissen Federspiel, one of the leading law-firms in Denmark, immediately after graduating from University of Copenhagen in 2003. The job itself has been an interesting journey, giving me the opportunity to work in many different areas with the best and brightest colleagues and to manage both younger colleagues and large projects.

Gorrissen Federspiel has an international focus and strongly encourages their lawyers to live and work abroad. I did that after qualifying as an attorney-at-law, where I spent 1½ years in London. It was an amazing time and very important for my future career as this was where I started to build my international network and also got a chance to work as an associate in Slaughter and May, a magic circle law-firm.

In 2013, I was promoted to senior legal counsel/salaried partner. I chose this career path by not applying to become an equity partner, but instead being offered a different leadership career, where I participate in the managing of the group I am working in, have my own areas of responsibility e.g. training of our associates, share knowledge and build up a network and close relations with our external partners and clients. When making the decision about which career path to pursue, I needed to consider carefully what was my driver. For me, building my own business was not my driver but I did have a hard time putting my finger on what it was – other than working as a specialized attorney-at-law, which I very much enjoyed then and now.

However, joining the Advanced Leadership Program last year made me realise what drives me – that is business development and working on the more business-related areas of managing a big company – such as Gorrissen Federspiel with 450 employees. It means that I am now involved in the business development of the company together with the top-management. The skills I acquired during the program, and also the advice and coaching received as part of the mentoring part of the program, have been essential in achieving this. Hence, my job is much different and much more interesting now than just one year ago. I see this as a new part of my career plan materialising.

 

What motivates you to pursue a leadership career, and how does your company enable this?

It motivates me to train and educate my younger colleagues. Being a lawyer is so much more than law and passing on these skills is one of the key drivers. Helping people grow and develop motivates me.

Also, Gorrissen Federspiel is a great place to work. There is a strong team spirit and feeling of working in the same direction. Being able to help maintain and develop the work culture is also a main driver.

Gorrissen Federspiel has been extremely supportive, encouraging and giving me the opportunity to pursue this.

 

What is one thing that you took away as a key learning from the 5 modules?

All 5 modules were interesting in their own way. I was literally sitting at the edge of the chair during all modules. However, if I am to bring out one module it must be the “Organisation of Tomorrow” taught by Rory McDonald. Learning about disruption, innovative business models, business culture and not least the customers’ (or clients’, in my case) “job to be done” really changed the way I look at things in my professional life. It is driving the approach to the business development projects that I am working on at Gorrissen Federspiel at the moment.

Also, I have really learned a lot from the other cool women in the program and I am honoured to be part of this network.

 

In what ways do you use the skills that you’ve learned in the ALP in your work and how has the program helped you become a better leader?

It made me realise what motivates me and gave me the tools to pursue the goals that motivates me. Currently, I am working on a business development project – without the ALP I would not have had the tools to pursue this project.

It forced me to think through my career choices carefully. In the end, it gave me the courage to jump away from law, which had been my safe haven, to also include new areas.

 

What is next for you in your career, since finishing the ALP, and what are your long-term career aspirations?

Working on this new career path is next for me, developing my business and leadership skills. My long-term career aspirations remain the same, however. Enjoying every day at work, smiling when entering and exiting the office and making sure that I remain a whole person.

 

What has been your biggest leadership challenge since finishing the ALP and how did you deal with it?

I believe that the biggest leadership challenge – and the next skill I need to develop – is to get people to actually do what I would like them to do. It is difficult to change things, which have been working for so many years.

 

What one thing could encourage more women to pursue a career in leadership?

Knowing that it is possible to pursue a career and be ambitious without sacrificing your entire personal life – be it family, hobbies, friends or just the need to do something else than work.

 

Fact Box:

Name: Tina Herbing

Age: 42

Education: Master of laws, University of Copenhagen, LL.M. King’s College London

Company: Gorrissen Federspiel

Title: Senior Legal Counsel

Civil Status: Married

Children: Ella (9 years) and Anton (5 years)

Fun fact: I spent many years as a kid and teenager as a scout, which means that I can start a bonfire, tie strong knots and put up a tent, but it also gave me the first exposure to leadership.

ALP Spotlight - Hella Roashan

ALP Spotlight – Hella Roashan

To start this series of interviews, with alumni of the Advanced Leadership Program, we spoke with Head of Quality at Coloplast, Hella Roashan, about her recent promotion and relocation to Costa Rica from Denmark, where she will be part of establishing a new Coloplast manufacturing site. Roashan shares the lessons she learnt within the ALP class of 2017, and her approach to leadership challenges.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey, job titles etc., before and after joining the Advanced Leadership Program (ALP) in 2017?

After finalizing my master’s degree from DTU, I started as a Validation specialist in the Quality organization at Coloplast. In my first 3 years as a young engineer, I was going through a major professional transformation where I got to know the organization and the business, and the different career paths, but most importantly I discovered what motivates me and how I can add value to the company. Therefore, I decided to pursue a management role and became Head of Quality Process Engineering in 2013. Since then I have held different management positions within the Quality Organization at Coloplast Headquarters. When I joined the Advanced Leadership program in 2017, I was Head of Product Support where my team was responsible for technical lifecycle management of Coloplast products on the market.

After ALP I decided to pursue an international career and got the privilege to join a start-up team responsible for establishing a new Coloplast manufacturing site in Costa Rica, as Head of Quality.

 

What motivates you to pursue a leadership career, and how does your company enable this?

I was fascinated by the culture when I joined Coloplast. There was this feeling of having a common goal and helping people with intimate healthcare needs. People were eager to share their knowledge with me even though I felt that as a young engineer, I could not (yet) offer much in return at that time. And then most importantly, despite ambitious deadlines, high workload and busy schedules, people were having fun and enjoyed coming to work every day. I was fascinated and at the same time really curious about organizational culture and how to lead people. I could see a potential in me and this is the great thing about Coloplast – If you have the potential, you want something and are ready to work hard for it, then anything is possible.

 

What is one thing that you took away as a key learning from the 5 modules?

The one module that especially stood out for me was Simon Lancaster’s class where we got tips and tricks on how to use language techniques to get our message across. It really became evident for me how impactful words and body language can be, if done right. With a little practice and the right tools, it is possible to become a really strong communicator, which is key when leading people.

 

In what ways do you use the skills that you’ve learned in the ALP in your work and how has the program helped you become a better leader?

I am much more aware of how I communicate. I observe how the great communicators in Coloplast use the same tools as we were thought by Simon so it is a skill that can be mastered. It was also great to get more insight in how to create a great strategy and execute on it successfully.

Besides the classes, being part of a network of women in leadership positions has been a great benefit. It was very inspiring and encouraging and has motivated me to push even harder to reach my career goals.

 

What is next for you in your career, since finishing the ALP, and what are your long-term career aspirations?

For the next 2 years I will be working on building our new factory in Costa Rica. Being part of a start-up will broaden my business understanding even more and will give me the possibility of influencing the setup and culture at a new site using my experience.

Long term career goals are definitely to get more organizational responsibility and being able to impact the business at a larger scale. Who knows – maybe I will be the first female CEO of Coloplast one day.

 

 What has been your biggest leadership challenge since finishing the ALP and how did you deal with it?

The biggest leadership challenge since finishing the ALP was actually recently where I was transitioning from my former position, to a new position at Coloplast. I was extremely excited about my new position, but l had also invested a lot in my former team so it was also very important for me that the transition period was smooth and easy on the team. I found it hard to balance between how much to influence the new managers on my way of leading the team and how much to let them figure it out themselves because maybe they will see other opportunities than me. I decided to make myself available but let it be up to the new managers to contact me if they wanted the sparring. This way I figured they will grow more and I learned to let go of my control.

 

What one thing could encourage more women to pursue a career in leadership?

If I should mention only one thing, then I would definitely say that women should start embracing the imperfect and take more risks! I know a lot of talented women with leadership potential who hesitate on trying out leadership roles or women that are middle managers and hesitate to take it to the next level. In some cases these talented women completely disregard the possibility of advancing to upper management because they do not think they are competent or would have the time to perfect the job. I say go for it. What is the worst thing that can happen?

 

Fact Box:

Name: Hella Roashan

Age: 34

Education: Master of Science in Medicine and Technology, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Company: Coloplast

Title: Head of Quality, Costa Rica Manufacturing

Civil Status: Single

Children: None

Fun fact: I was born in Afghanistan and came to Denmark when I was 10. Before moving to DK and starting in a public Danish school I was homeschooled by my parents.

An Interview with Märtha Rehnberg

“Diversity is at the core of creating new and disruptive solutions” An Interview with Märtha Rehnberg

The fifth and final module of the 2018 Advanced Leadership Program for Women took place earlier this week in the historic surrounds of Kosmopol in central Copenhagen. The module revolved around the theme: ‘Exploring Exponential Growth’ and was led by Märtha Rehnberg, co-founder and partner at Dare Disrupt and Member of the High-Level Industrial Roundtable “Industry 2030” at European Commission. We spoke with her after the module to discuss the business relevance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the rise of ethical thinking in the tech space and the link between diversity and disruption.

 

At the start of the day you disrupted the title of your module to re-name it ‘ Your Technological Intuition’ what does this mean?

Although it sounds like a paradox, it means that to create interesting and innovative solutions we need to not only understand what is technologically feasible, but also what is interesting for society. Intuition is about understanding people and society, and tech is about understanding science. To be leaders today we have to be well versed in both languages.

 

What is the connection between digital, diversity and disruption?

Digital technology decreases the barrier of entry to industries that tend to be secluded. For example, 3D-printing is a production technology that is accessible to more people. Whenever something, or some means of production, becomes free or more accessible it leads to diversity, and diverse ways of thinking, and diversity leads to disruption, in its most positive sense.

Diversity, in all different kinds of elements, is so important here because we need people that think differently. Diversity is at the core of creating new and disruptive solutions.

 

Gender Equality is Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 5. You spoke a lot about the SDGs – how do these fit with discussions of exponential organisations?

Digital technologies enable us to go after bigger and bigger problems to be solved. They also enable you to scale products and therefore also pursue some customer segments that were too costly for you to go after before. For example, if you have a 3D printer file, you can send it to everyone that has an email access.

When we talk about exponential mindset it is about understanding the exponential tech but, more importantly, it is about understanding the exponential problems that we need to solve. And we’re in a hurry to solve them.

 

Tell us a little about your involvement with EU vision 2030

The Vice-President of the EU Commission, Jyrki Katainen, as well as the Commissioner for the Internal Market and SMEs, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, put together a group of 20 people from Europe to define the vision for the European Industry by 2030. Basically: ‘where do we want to be by 2030 and how do we get there?’ The SDGs are core to the strategy and the idea is that this vision will inspire, and be a moral compass for, industrial policy. We talk about SDG-driven growth, moving from a volume-driven economy to a value-driven economy, circular economy, ethical artificial intelligence, decarbonization, putting a price on carbon – we talk about all kinds of things that require European industry to create some interesting solutions.

 

Why is disruption so important for this Advanced Leadership Program, and for ambitious future leaders in particular?

It’s in the words of the question – leadership. For us to solve the biggest issues of our time we need leadership, and leadership is about daring to go after radical solutions that are going to be disruptive – to your existing organization, business model and people. As a leader you need to understand how to manage the disruption.

I provocatively tend to say that if you think that the world is perfectly fine today then disruption is not for you. If you, like me, see that there are some huge problems out there, I don’t think that incremental innovation is enough.

The latest IPCC report came out on the 8th of October and informs us that, while in the Paris Agreement nations agreed not to surpass a 2°C temperature rise and strive for 1.5°C, the exponential difference in the impact going from 1.5°C to 2°C means we absolutely must go for the 1.5°C. We talk about network effects and it’s the same thing with mother earth: the more we tweak the more exponential distribution we create: at 1.5°C we lose 70-90% of our corals, at 2°C degrees we lose all our corals.

Furthermore, for greatest impact we only have 12 years to change – and we must choose “radical solutions”. As part of the Green Growth Team, where I’m sitting with Mads Nipper, the CEO of Grundfos, we are working on the new green growth strategy of the national government of Denmark and we recognise that to get to 1.5°C, it’s not enough to be low-carbon or carbon neutral, you must be carbon capturing.

The report says that the solutions are there, and the technologies are there, but we need radical solutions, and that is what I tried to inspire the Advanced Leadership Program class with today.

 

At the end of the module, you asked the participants for their ‘best of the day’ – what was yours?

I do these programs a lot and I think the discussion today has been different, but I’m not an expert to say this is solely to do with gender. We have talked a lot about ethics, values and leadership and I’m happy that the link was made between tech and leadership. Technology is not just something that sits in your R&D department or your IT department, but is something we all need to actively engage in. I hope that the participants now feel well-equipped to do that or are at least interested in it.

 

Why do we have a problem getting more female top leaders?

From a Swedish perspective, I love the debate that’s been going on about exposure and how it inspires girls to choose their career path. And it starts from the very beginning: at the core of how we educate our kids, what you give your kids as parents and how schools talk about jobs.

Tech has some work to do in terms of branding itself as something that is for everyone. Up until now, tech has not had a strong sense of purpose – a big ‘save the world’ kind of purpose. It’s been about creating cool tools. Whereas now, we see that the radical solutions that will solve the big problems will come from tech, and I think that is attracting more women. Going forward I hope that coupling tech with government agenda is what is really going to increase diversity and attract women to the tech space.

 

Throughout the day you asked: “What do these technologies mean for me?” How do you hope the female talents harness the power of disruption to fulfil their potential?

I hope that they are empowered to be even more visionary and communicate their visions to galvanise changemakers. Tech is a way to make people follow you. If you can become fluent in the tech language, that may help you to find the changemakers you need to grow a team and follow your visions.

I believe that much of this is already in the bag, and not thanks to me, but because the participants in this Advanced Leadership Program are ethical and purpose-driven themselves and their visions are around solving big problems.

 

An Interview with Simon Lancaster

“You cannot be a great leader without being a great communicator” An Interview with Simon Lancaster

In September, Simon Lancaster taught ‘The Language of Leadership’ Module to our DC Advanced Leadership Program for Women, class of 2018. Simon Lancaster is an expert speechwriter with over 20 years’ experience writing for CEOs of Unilever, HSBC and Rio Tinto, and visiting lecturer at University of Cambridge. We spoke with him after the module to hear more about the importance of storytelling in corporate communications, the way female leaders have changed their communication style in recent years, and why it is essential for any aspiring leader to harness ‘The Language of Leadership’.

 

At the end of the module, you ask the female talents to write and deliver a speech. Why is it so important for future leaders to master speechwriting specifically?

I don’t think you can be a great leader without being a great communicator. Leadership is fundamentally about inspiring people, engaging with people, influencing people – all of which place a premium on communication. Whether you are looking at politics, business or civil society, so often the difference between the great and the not-so-great is one of communication.

Why is the language of leadership more broadly so important for this advanced leadership program, and ambitious female talents in particular?

It’s something that is really overlooked within MBA and leadership programs. A lot of business schools teach wholly the wrong language for speaking about business. They will use management consultant-speak to promote a mindset where the company is like a vehicle: “How do you drive change within a company?” “How do you accelerate reform?” What do you do to create maximum high-performance?” And language, thought and behaviour all work together. So, if you speak about a company as if it is a car, you perceive it as a car and then you act in that way. This kind of language makes your employees nuts and bolts. Only 16% of people emotionally engage with their employer around the world – it’s appalling and it’s an indictment of modern leaders. This kind of program is resisting that mindset, especially for women reaching up to the top level.

How have you seen the participants in your module improve over the two days?

The improvement is phenomenal. I love seeing what happens on these courses and, since the very first one, absolute breakthroughs have taken place. So many people are terrified of public speaking, it’s so rewarding to help people overcome it.

There are such simple techniques that you can use. It’s back to basics, and that is what good communication is. Most business school stuff uses overcomplicated, contorted constructs that people never have a hope of remembering. This is a refreshing and reassuring way of thinking about communication.

A more abstract question, given the focus of our program, do you have an opinion about why we have a problem getting more female top leaders?

My first speechwriting gig was back in the UK, writing for Patricia Hewitt, she was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and later Minister for Women. I was writing speeches about equality for her back in the late nineties. In the 20 years since, and with my female clients now, I’ve witnessed such a change in the way that women can present themselves and be perceived as leaders. During the late 90s, the main model for a woman leader was Margaret Thatcher. She was embodying male behaviours and most women leaders who followed her would try to emulate her. Now, there are many great women leaders who are quite comfortable to present themselves as women. They are not adopting a different voice or pretending to be men.

We’ve made incredible progress, but in answer to the question, the bottom line is still parenting. The conclusion for so many couples, still, when they have children is that the woman will stay at home, and the man will go out and work.

When my wife and I had our first baby, both of us went part time at the same time. But while I was being celebrated for taking time out as a father, she was being condemned, with critical meetings unnecessarily scheduled when she was out the office. Both of us would rather have maintained a balanced approach to parenting, but as a result, I spend less time with our girls, and she spends less time intellectually challenging herself. It’s a pain for both of us. Hopefully by the time my daughters grow up it will have changed.

We often hear about the different between men and women in terms of communication or leadership style, do you have a take on this?

There are generalizations about the way that men and women speak that are borne out by statistics. James Pennebaker is one of the greatest linguists in the world and the author of ‘The Secret Life of Pronouns’. He’s developed software that predicts, to a very high percentage, if the author of some text is male or female. Some of the indicators are for instance – unsurprisingly – the use of conditionals, where women will more often say ‘I think’ or ‘I suspect’, and the use of pronouns – counterintuitively – where men are more likely than women to use first person plural, ‘we’ rather than ‘I’.

Of course, there is crossover. The speeches of Barack Obama or David Cameron were analysed, and they, linguistically, sound like women. In my experience, a lot of my male clients are now much happier going into traditionally female linguistic territory: being much more empathetic and using storytelling. In contrast, women can now be a bit more resistant to going into that space because they don’t want to reinforce the perception that as a woman they are “too emotional”.

What do you find most interesting when teaching this program, and the female talents?

The big breakthrough for me is always when people start telling their stories. It’s so easy on any program, or in any work situation, to keep it analytical and cerebral. On this course, there was a breakthrough moment when one of the participants told a story about something that had hurt her but shaped her. As soon as she did, the whole mood in the room changed and we had this incredible atmosphere of openness, where people were prepared to share and take risks. That’s why stories matter.

It’s almost like overcoming a taboo, because so many of us are taught not to bring the personal into work. If you have the CEO of the company with 300,000 employees working for them, if they start telling their stories they can transform that company.

In light of your final comment of the second day about disengagement with leaders, and the need for connection and human relations, how can female talents harness the language of leadership to fulfil their potential?

There are heaps of studies that show that when we have an emotional connection with something we will work harder. This is my personal experience. If I’m working for someone who I have an emotional connection with, I will go the extra mile, I’ll work many more hours because I want them to do well. For the participants in my program I want to show the importance of the emotional connection, and that all comes back to treating people like human beings.