Thank you to the 1,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading
7 Questions with Sten Andersen
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Sten Andersen
Name: Sten Andersen
Current title: Chief of Innovation & Future Affairs + Non Executive Board Member
Current organisation: ATG
Born in Denmark.Raised and lived most of my life in Sweden.
Went from University of Lund to become Unilever Trainee and Product Manager.
15 years - of which 10 years as CEO - in international advertising and web companies with clients as McDonald's, Coca-Cola, SAS Airlines, numerous FMCGs, Retailers and e-traders.
7 years as Chief of Marketing (PR resp. Communication) at ATG and OBH Nordica. Now Chief of Innovation & Future Affairs. Hold 6 Non Executive Board Memberships.
Active in sports. Have two sons that play soccer on a high youth level. Have a holiday home in Spain, which is my favorite retreat.
1. What have you found most challenging as a board member of a large enterprise?
To actually get the space, time, budget and authority to do what I can do! I think most corporations are so complex and "political" that few get the best out of their (key) people. And once you get that "space" you need to ensure that all your colleagues are onboard and can contribute and get their space too!
In the middle of all that you easily lose perspective and see the world inside-and-out, where you really should do the opposite to be a good leader.
2. How did you become a board member of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
It happened at your age when I completely changed my career from Unilever to an agency network (Leo Burnett). I was responsible for biggest client McDonald's and developed that to a degree where I both took part of the local Leo Burnett Board and in an extended McDonald's market board. Since then I more or less have stayed at a board level, nowadays accompanied by Non Executive Board Memberships as well.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
If possible I try to exercise/train in the morning, so that I know I have taken care of my body before anything else. I wake up my children and make sure they go to school. I read at least the headlines in the newspaper or watch morning news on TV. Having taken care of family and health, I can often spend as much time as I need at work without interruptions. If I don't get to work out in the morning, I try to do that during lunch or straight after work. I then get home, sometimes take my boys to soccer training and then usually attend to some kind of non executive work job as well as whatever household task that needs attention. I try to watch news and sports before I go to bed.
That would be a "normal day" although far from everyday is the same.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
That people can somehow always free extra time - now matter how occupied they are - if what you involve them in is interesting (and fun) enough! And THAT is something you and I as leaders can affect!
5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in a large enterprise?
Clear plans and budgets so that you can easily see where things have deviated and thus easily explain why something went better or worse than planned, and what to do about it.
Set a good example by acting and leading accordingly.
Make sure you have channels (formal and informal, internal and external) so that you know what is REALLY going on.
Leave room for both data and experience, and be humble towards the latter.
Make sure everybody knows their responsibilities AND authority, and why they are important.
Set a good structure and encourage good culture.
Simple and positive beats complex and self importance every day.
6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of a large enterprise?
The CEO and executive teams usually have more in depth information, which you have to handle. It is easy to become reactive and just nod to the decisions they want to have.
You need to also get into a proactive situation and a lot depends on your own degree of activity. As a board member you have the advantage of being free of internal limitations and usually a better outside in view. Use that.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member of a large enterprise so far?
This may not be a specific example, but I never stop to be surprised how learnings from a totally different line of business all of a sudden can be of use. Very often solutions exist. They just don't exist in your usual limited environment. Make therefore sure a great part of the board comes from somewhere else!