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To Be Humble

Susanne Björkqvist is one of Stora Enso’s GROW Global Trainees, who started their journey in September 2015. The GROW Global Trainee Programme is a unique opportunity to work full time at Stora Enso in a permanent position while attending world-class strategy and leadership modules at IMD Business School. Trainees also engage in real-life transformation projects in the company to support top management. The Programme ends in December 2016, and the next Programme will begin in September 2017.  Read Susanne's blog post To Be Humble below.
One thing I have reflected upon after our first trainee module in Helsinki is the differences in our everyday lives as trainees. Some of my trainee colleagues work at mills, and some of them work at offices around the world. If I take myself as an example, I work at Skoghall mill outside the city of Karlstad in Sweden as a process engineer. I have the production site as my workplace. The fact that Skoghall mill is up and running is most important for me every day.
My trainee colleagues at the offices don't know so much about cartonboard production, but they know a lot about other things like sales, taxes, marketing and sourcing, words that sound like Latin to me. The fact that we can all be humble towards each other and each other's work allows us to learn a lot.  If we dare to ask one question about what we don't know, and somebody answers it without judging, we have achieved a culture that is open for learning. That is what I call a winning culture! Achieving that culture can be quite hard, especially in a group of confused, ambitious and newly graduated young trainees.  All of us want to give the impression that we have the situation under control, that we know what we are doing, that we are well informed about the subject. But how could we? None of us have worked with this before.
So we have to dare to be humble and swallow our pride and start to ask questions, from each other, from our managers, from the Group Leadership Team and of course from the operators at the mills. And the people receiving the question must be humble in answering it. Perhaps we should appoint a competition where the one that asks the week's dumbest question wins?
As an example I did an e-learning course in finance today. The course started with Seppo Parvi, our CFO, talking about why it is important to understand some basic finance. Finance was not my favorite subject in school but I gathered courage and said to myself as the tough engineer I thought I was: "How hard can it be? It is just some finance!"
I started the course and in the beginning it was stated that the course should take approximately 60 minutes. I did it in 120 minutes… I have studied some finance but that was in Swedish and the words sounded like Latin even then! This course was held in English and I can reveal that Google translate was my best friend for these 120 minutes. One big learning from the course is that finance is complicated and now I'm even more humble towards my colleagues who are working with this every day!
What I want to convey with this post is that I think humility is an underestimated characteristic of us humans, especially as leaders. I think that the ability to put down your guard and dare to say "I don't have the answer to that question, but I will find out and get back to you" shows the strength of a leader, not a weakness. No one can know everything, but together we can know a lot.
To be humble and ask questions do not only apply for us trainees, it applies to Stora Enso as a whole. You never stop learning and if you just dare to let down your guard you will learn a lot just in one day.
That was all from me for now.  Follow our journey at Instagram "@storaensoworld" and "#storaensoGROW"!
#youaretheopportunity #storaensoworld #storaensoGROW #trainee #humble