President CEO of Telenor Group, Sigve Brekke and CEO of Schibsted, Kristin Skogen Lund give a refreshing insight into working at the top, from how to lead large businesses through digital change to company failure and addressing world problems.
Leading a global business comes with challenges. This article explores how Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) guarantee business success in such a disruptive, changing environment. Kristin Skogen Lund (CEO, Schibsted) and Sigve Brekke (President and CEO, Telenor Group) help answer the questions: How do CEOs empower employees? How do you lead through rapid change? And more.
Daily Challenges with Change
Both CEOs agree that it is difficult to adapt a large business in a rapidly changing environment. Brekke says that changes are almost daily, and Lund says that there are even more than four generations to manage now, because changes are accelerated and plentiful, a generation does not span over many years anymore.
Their businesses both stem from a time where tradition and hierarchy played an important role, so there are challenges to adapt and impart technological development. They both highlight that there is no easy way to manage a global business.
When asked about character traits needed to lead successfully, Skogen Lund explains that working transparently and being inquisitive are key factors to involve employees at all levels.
“You sit on the top with a lot of oversight but not the necessary insight. People in the organization have the insight but they don’t have the oversight.”
-Kristin Skogen Lund, CEO, Schibsted
He explains that rather than outlining definitive goals, a direction needs to be chosen and adjusted according to the unforeseen variables along the way. He advises that leaders of large organizations should adopt the mindset of a start-up to be able to try out new things, fail, adjust and move on.
Skogen Lund and Brekke at Oslo Business Forum speaking about being a CEO during times of change:
Learn from Failure
Lund emphasizes that even during failures people should have a voice and come out with positives for next time. Brekke reaffirms this and says that even CEOs make mistakes.
When asked how they as CEOs deal with failure, they reveal some home truths:
- Brekke says that because everything happens so much faster the only way to catch up is by embracing potential failure. You need to risk and try.
- As a leader you need to admit that a mistake has been made. He refers to a mistake when he took over the helm and implemented change that was not close to the business core.
- Lund says that courage is needed to make bold decisions, because you do not know how things will evolve and as CEO “you never have the answer.”
- She introduced a failure initiative, called retrospective, where people who are part of an unsuccessful program have a voice to advise where mistakes were made.
READ MORE: Bringing Entrepreneurial Spirit to Big Business
Make a Difference
The conversation turns to company initiatives. They both have a lot to say on that, and are working on initiatives to flow with change and do some good for the world.
- At Telenor it is all about diversity. Brekke says that this is diversity in every sense of the word on a global scale. Diversity is needed to handle challenges, and this is where the company will make a difference, he says
- Brekke often meets with stakeholders to find out how societies can be empowered and see how the company can be part of solving societal issues
- He highlights an initiative that was launched that is centered on up-skilling people to handle technological developments. Lund adds that employees should constantly be challenged in new ways with new tasks.
Two of Schibsted's key initiatives:
- Sustainability - Lund would like to put a price on carbon as an ultimate goal.
- Transparency to empower employees.
Lund highlights that new initiatives may not be profitable in the short term but they should be implemented before people start to talk about it. She has other big goals, not least eliminating the negative impact of social media platforms.
“You are a facilitator. You are not the answer.”
- Kristin Skogen Lund, CEO, Schibsted
Text by Rosanna Bueler Mount