Period: 2022 – 2024
Hi! My name is Pia and I am an F15 from the 2022 batch, which means I just finished my first rotation in Aarhus and attended the second training week surrounding Arla’s Leadership behaviors. For this training week, both the PMGPs and F15s travelled to Stockholm. This time, there was a particular focus on the ‘engage’ part; meaning we focused on our ability to inspire and lead others.
The training week included an introduction to the Swedish market, a store visit to discover different Arla products, a session on presentation skills, a visit to Kallhäll dairy, different leadership stories from the Swedish LT, an introduction to Change Management, and lastly a full day focusing on our personal development using our Hogan profiles.
The second training week was thus again a busy event with a packed schedule and lots of input (which partly led to a mental overload), BUT it was also again full of inspiration, collaboration, and many fun moments. Both F15s and PMGPs were more relaxed compared to the first training week, as we knew each other by now, which in turn led to an atmosphere that can at all times be described as supportive, positive, and even very emotional on our fourth day when we were to give one another feedback on our personality and application of Arla’s Leadership behaviors surrounding the engage part. But more about that later 😊
We started the week with an introduction to the Swedish Market given by VP of Sweden Sales, Jens Olsson, who showed how important and traditional the Swedish Market is for Arla. We got to know more about the retailers, other farmer cooperatives in Sweden, and market disruptions, as well as changing consumer trends, highly driven by inflation. Later in the week we also visited two large retail stores and had a deeper look into Arla products, how they are presented and who the competitors are. As I lived in Sweden for 5 years, before moving to Denmark for the start of the F15 program, I expected to know most of the products already - but the diversity of the Arla products was a surprise to me and made me realize that I never fully got to understand how many products Arla really has on the Swedish market (incl. the ones under different brands!)
We continued the training week by working on our presentation skills in a session hosted by Kristian Koch. Here, we were reminded of the difficulties people have when it comes to remembering information in a presentation; we thus learned to be as short and precise as possible and that we should not shy away from repeating ourselves several times when presenting (even if this might seem weird to us). Another key learning was to use your arms correctly when presenting – and here the fun began. We learned about the importance to make bigger movements and to hold the movement for a few seconds, which felt very unnatural to me when I tried it myself. But, we could see the results immediately when we watched the other graduates! Nonetheless, not all of us could keep a straight face when practicing, especially after Kristian introduced the ‘professional smile’, which we ALL struggled to implement. The session therefore contained many laughs when we looked a bit robotic with our arm movements and partly very interesting face expressions. A key learning here is therefore to always consider your body language when presenting!
We also visited Kallhäll dairy, which I, to be very honest had low expectations to, due to a lack of professional connection to the dairies and supply chain. But I have to admit that seeing a dairy in action is a very fascinating event. To me, the many different types of familiar fresh milk packages that were brought into cartons on lines that were running above your head and next to your head, in addition to the speed of the whole process, reminded me a bit of a Christmas market, where the miniature train runs above your head while you are drinking hot wine. Thus, a very positive surprise to me!
Separated across several days, we also got to listen to different leadership stories from the Swedish Leadership team – reaching from Supply Chain to Marketing and over to Foodservice. All speakers brought many different aspects on leadership; some mixed their professional and personal story, some focused more on improving their weaknesses whilst some spoke mainly about building on their strengths. At the same time, all speakers remained relatable, very positive and kind. Key learnings for me were that (1) positive energy and your ability to inspire others can bring you very far in your career, (2) that you should own your mistakes and remain honest towards your team, as failing is a normal part of the process, and (3) that you learn most during rainy days, thus, we should always try to see them as learnings (and that we of course we should also enjoy our sunny days!).
We then also had nearly two days focusing on Change Management, which was presented to us by a previous manager of one of the F15s: Christina Juel Hegaard. The entire session was bringing me so much insight into the many ways of handling my different stakeholders – I think my brain was most active in this session as I could not stop thinking about how I acted in my first rotation towards my stakeholders – all of a sudden I saw them and their reactions in a different light and I also came up with some direct examples on things I could have done a bit differently in my first rotation! We discussed the general refusal people feel towards change, and even got to see that we ourselves may not be as open to change as we think we are – when we were for example asked to change our seats, many of us were not too happy about it. Thus, it is important to try to keep a so-called growth mindset and be open to changing your habits and ways of working – but we of course also need to understand that every stakeholder can at first be unwilling to change and also that everyone reacts differently! A clear key learning was here that humans are steered by their emotions, and thus not always thinking rationally (even in the workplace and when discussing project matters, for example). We later also discussed diversity and inclusion, which became a more personal discussion when we shared our own stories and experiences that may have changed our thinking about the topic, and we then also learned a bit more about our own unconscious bias and how we perceive others.
My favorite session, in both the first and this second training week was the Hogan session hosted by Tom Cook. Learning about yourself, your character and how you might derail, meaning how you might react to stressful or challenging situations is of extreme interest to me and I think I already learnt so much about myself and partly also about my fellow graduates (which is always super interesting!) 😊 During the session, we did a feedback round, where we were split into groups of 4 -6 people. Here, we were to ‘gossip’ about a person, but of course not in the traditional way. The person we talked about was to sit in the same room, while facing away from the group - meaning there is no face-to-face contact and the person is not allowed to engage in the discussion. Both positive and negative attributes of the person’s behavior in relation to Arla’s leadership behaviors on engage are then to be discussed. The whole experience can be described as intense but in a very positive way, even leading to some tears (happy ones and not due to any critical feedback!) and was later described as a very wholesome experience bringing the group more closely together. The whole atmosphere was very calm and peaceful after the feedback session.
We of course also got to see some great restaurants in Stockholm, where Frida and Karen picked some great and exciting food options that can partly also be described as food events! It was at least the first time for me that I ate raw meat... But one of my personal highlights was the desert at the Arla Unika restaurant, which I recommend you try if you are ever in Stockholm!
That is it from me!