The boss is not the best at everything

Series of articles on management: In all companies and organizations, large and small, the management discipline takes up a lot of space and has a significant impact on an organization's performance as well as employee well-being, motivation, and development. In this series of articles, we focus on KMD's top management. In this interview, we meet Jannich Lund, CFO in KMD.

What are the qualities of a good team?

It is a team that has many different skills and can work together despite difference. I also think it's important that you can have fun together when you spend so many hours in each other's company.

In terms of diversity, I have worked a lot with the Whole Brain model and think that it is good at illustrating the different strengths and competencies that a team benefits from having gathered. I myself am very analytical and benefit from being supplemented with some of the other parameters. If we are very similar people in the team, then we quickly get some blind spots.

Of course, it is important to say that we are not just one type of person, but we all have the different characteristics – but someone just has some preferences that are good to know and use actively as part of the team.

What are the most important management skills when it comes to getting results from your team?

It is 'empowerment' and a clear direction and objectives. The latter can be very concrete and simple at times.

For example, it may be a specific date for when a new internal ERP system must be implemented. I look at the people who have been given the task, and then it is up to them to solve it so that we can achieve our goals. I don't understand the details. They're much better at getting a handle on those than I am.

In addition to trust in your people, it's also about understanding that you're not the best at everything. As a boss, you sometimes get that perception, but it's 100% wrong. That's one of the things I've learned over the course of my executive career, especially when I have a number of areas in my portfolio that don't belong to the financial world where I got my training.

Can you manage a field, in which you yourself are not an expert?

In general, I believe that you have to have a certain professionalism. One of the things employees look for is feedback from the boss, and you have to be able to contribute to that. But you don't have to be a professional expert in a specific field to be able to contribute as a boss.

If you are the head of managers, then of course it is something a little different than if you are the head of some strong specialists in an area, e.g. IT security. If you are not a specialist in that field yourself, it takes a lot from you to acquire enough knowledge about what is important and why people do what they do. You have to have an overall understanding.

What is the most important attribute of a manager?

It's that you're human. As a leader, you are dealing with people, and it is important that you behave properly. That's not to say you don't have to make the right decisions. Being a leader is also about taking on responsibility.

We are all responsible in a company for moving in the right direction – but as a boss you have to take it on board that the decisions we make can also be negative for individual people. It's important that you don't sit around waiting for someone else to come and make those decisions for you.

Is that also one of the hardest things about being a leader? The difficult decisions with consequences for individuals?

Yes, that is clearly the case. And being a boss is more lonely than being part of an employee team. As a leader, there are decisions that you can't openly share or discuss. And the decision lies with oneself.

In terms of the difficult decisions involving people and their work lives, I know from myself that I have put off getting started on something that I knew was the right thing. You try to see if it's going in a better direction, but you know deep down that it's not going to happen. But I also think it's very human to act like that – and that's a balance. But in the end, you are the one sat in the boss’s chair, because you need to be able to make such decisions.

Can all people become leaders?

It's first and foremost about asking yourself if you want to do it at all. The leadership path is certainly not the only right path to make a career. There are many other avenues that are at least as valuable to a business.

But if you then become a leader, it is important that you build a network with which you can discuss issues and where you can share your experiences. It's good to have a home other than just your department.

What's the most important piece of advice you've ever had from a boss? 

I've gained a lot of good things along the way from my bosses. One of the things I remember best is someone who said to me that you have to remind yourself that the boss position is a role and not a person.

Even though we spend a lot of time on our work and we're really committed to it, it's just a job. So, for example, if things go bad for a period of time, then of course it bothers me, but I also have to be able to put it aside. It is important to remind yourself that your family and friends are 1000 times more important than some specific company project.  And that has changed over time. I've gotten better at being able to put things down than when I was very young, where I could lie sleepless if something wasn't working at work.

Have you met a bad leader in your working life and what was the hallmark of the poor leadership? 

I've seen bosses who didn't thrive in the role. I come from the finance sector where there were many bosses who had become bosses because they were the most talented – but they didn't make good leaders. They were typically very detail-oriented and really wanted to solve the tasks themselves.

Employees became dissatisfied because they were not allowed to solve the tasks in their own way, and the bosses ended up becoming bottlenecks. In the end, it becomes problematic for the deliverables and results if, as a leader, you want to have the full overview and influence on the solving of all tasks.

What drives you as a leader? 

It's the responsibility and the influence you get. In my early years, I worked abroad as a UN soldier, and initially I had a role as a team leader, and towards the end I got a role where I didn't really have to do much. I actually thought it would be super cool to have less to do, but 14 days went by and then I was about to go out of my mind with boredom. I didn't have enough to do and I didn't have any influence on anything I think that getting the opportunity to influence a direction is what drives a lot of leaders.

What's the hardest thing about being a leader?

These are the times when things don't go the way they should. This will create a lot of focus on the leadership team. This creates considerable pressure, and it also creates situations where some of the decisions that affect individual employees' time with the company have to be made. Like when things go bad for a football team, there's a lot of focus on the coach, and it can be gruelling at times to be in this position.

Has leadership changed since you first became a leader?

When I started being a leader, we typically sat right alongside our employees. It's radically different today. Both because we work more internationally but also because a lot of work has become virtual.

Among other things, it means we have to gain an understanding of what drives people in other countries. And have an eye for the fact that the Danish way of doing things is not the only right way.

In relation to the virtual, Covid-19 has shown us that being in the office every day, now belongs to a bygone era. Employees want to deliver –as they have always wanted to – but now we've opened up the possibilities for us to be flexible. We have created space for you to be at home, among other things, if you have a task that, for example, requires extra focus. It is important that we support employees in getting the best framework for delivering, including flexibly in relation to where it takes place.

However, the leadership part is also about holding on to the fact that there is still a part that is about meeting in person. Both in the team but also between leader and employee. And it is also about being aware that when we are in the office together as a team, we also spend time together. After all, it's worth nothing if we sit all day in different meeting rooms with other people.

What, do you think, will be important for leadership in the years to come?

There will be an even greater focus on your team functioning as a team. This is where diversity comes into play, and I believe that it will become more prominent in the years to come. That we don't just hire people who look like us.

I think we should measure it but be careful with objectives for individual parameters. It should preferably be culture-borne rather than goal-driven. If people understand that it's important, then it makes a real impact. If people just get it as a KPI, then it doesn't become embedded

Has the MeToo wave changed your view of leadership?

Being human as a leader is central. And being human is also about behaving properly. I have always given this high priority in relation to being at work but also as a private person – but where I have changed a little is my view of how different cultures can perceive things such as humour and irony. You can't assume that everyone has the same approach, and you have to pay special attention to that when you're the boss of a lot of people.

Has leadership also changed when it comes to being the boss of the younger generation?

Now, not everyone is the same, not even the generation that has just entered the labour market or is coming into companies. But my experience is that the view of career has changed in relation to the individual workplace. We no longer see the fixed career paths within the same company we start in. It's all about professional and personal development, and if it requires frequent shifts between workplaces, you do it. This approach requires more feedback from managers and focus on how employees improve their skills while they are with you.