Exceptional EA showcases Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share the benefit of their experience. We’ve made virtual trips to 23 countries to date: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates , the United States of America and Wales. Today, we make a return visit to Sweden.
Else-Britt Lundgren is Executive Assistant & Office Manager at Eli Lilly Sweden AB, and Executive Chairman for the global network IMA – International Management Assistants. Here’s a look at her world.
An Avid Walker
I wake up most mornings at 6:30 for a short shower and then breakfast of yogurt and muesli. I often take the bus to the office; that takes approximately 25 minutes, depending on the morning traffic. In the summertime I love to walk to my job. This is good daily exercise and takes 40 minutes. Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I use Spotify and listen to classic, jazz or just pop – it depends on the mood of the day.
At the Office
Primary Responsibilities: I support the GM and the management team. I coordinate meetings, conferences and events, and book travel. I’m their gatekeeper and manage calendars. The management team is more or less virtual, working elsewhere, which requires me to take the initiative, seek contact when needed and be able to work independently. I am also often given the lead on different administrative projects.
I serve as Editor for the region’s intranet. As Travel Manager, I work closely with our travel agency to monitor the statistics and ensure that we are compliant with the travel policy. In my role as Office Manager, I am responsible for the office budget and for ensuring that the office offers a good work environment for our employees. I am the key contact for all our office service contracts, and am the primary contact with the landlord.
Morning Routines: The first thing I do when I arrive around 8:00 is to start up my computer. I get a cup of coffee and a big glass of water, and then I am ready to meet the day! I look through my to-do list for the day to check my first priorities. I might also reach out to my boss or other stakeholders in different countries to follow up on any questions or issues.
How many hours do you typically spend at work each day? An ordinary work day will be around eight hours, but I can also work from home if needed. I have my work email on my iPhone, which my company provides. This make it much easier to be flexible, which suits me very well. I remember in the past, in the mid 90s when I had small kids, I needed to leave work early to pick them up from the kindergarten. That sometimes led to me needing to go back to work in the evening when my husband came home – since we did not have laptops or smartphones at that point in time. So, the development the office resources has changed a lot since then, and continues to evolve.
We have had adjustable desks in our office since 2003
Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you or your employer adopted any steps to support good health? We have had adjustable desks in our office since 2003. I think that my employer was an early adopter, investing in such desks. Also, if you standing up, we have small ergonomic carpets to help provide more balance for your body; you won’t wear high heels if you use these carpets.
I am very proud that my employer offers financial support to access an optional fitness centre; this encourages employees to exercise. Over the years, and on a global level, the company has invested in a Health and Safety-friendly environment. For example, we have optional training in heart and lung rescue, and we have a heart starter in the office.
What might be a typical lunch? Some days, I buy lunch from an inhouse restaurant and bring it to our office canteen. Other days, I go out with workmates for lunch at one of the area restaurants. I like to get out from the office to get some fresh air. Lunch could be sushi, salad or a warm dish such as pasta.
Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? I lead the admin group across the Nordic countries to find synergies and to work more efficiently, so we can avoid reinventing the wheel. I am part of the European Travel Council, where we share statistics and vendor information. We also discuss different travel policy items which could be improved.
Service as National Chairman of IMA Sweden and IMA Executive Chairman also benefits Else-Britt’s work life
Challenges and Opportunities
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Communication – you can never be to clear, open or do it too much. What do you most enjoy about your career? Meeting people – employees, customers, suppliers – to reach my goals and the company’s.
On Saying “No”
How often do you say “no”? Quite often these days, as we work in a fast changing business environment. Instead of just stating “no”, though, I try to use the coaching way, so to say – to help the person to do it by themselves if that is the meaning. Another way is to seek a deadline and explain when you can have it done. But our job includes a lot of ad hoc tasks, too, which I like – and if you don’t, the profession might not be the one for you.
Coaching instead of just stating “no” can help the person to do something themself
I was born in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, and live in Solna, which is 10 minutes from Stockholm. At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I am a city mouse but need the scenery of the countryside to get new energy from the woods, the sea and the fields.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? Together with my family and friends, we visit art exhibitions. We listen to live classical music as well as opera and jazz, and we like to enjoy a good dinner.
How long have you been an admin. professional? For more than 35 years What was your first such role? It was as a medical secretary in the Department of Clinical Chemistry at the Karolinska University Hospital. The main responsibility was to type methods and articles for the researchers.
What might we find in your desk drawer? I work in an activity work place, which means that no one has their own desk. After each day, I make my work place clean and put everything in my personal small cupboard – or in the team cupboard, depending on what I have been working on. Most of the material, though, is something I’ve done from my computer and different systems, such as shared areas. In the beginning, the activity work place might have felt a bit non-personal, but today I love it. When you go home from work with an empty desk, you feel that you are done for the day even if you still have things to do.
How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? When working as a medical secretary at the hospital, I felt that I wanted to take the step into the pharma business and that choice has given me so much great experiences. I was headhunted and it has been a true life journey with great supervisors who have believed in me and encouraged me to take on different challenges.
It has been a true life journey, with great supervisors who have believed in me and encouraged me to take on different challenges
My company has been very supportive of my engagement in the IMA network – International Management Assistants – and supportive of my two most important assignments within IMA. I was National Chairman of IMA Sweden from 2008-2012, and have been the IMA Executive Chairman since 2013. I am now holding my third and last term as the Executive Chairman and will step down in 2019. I can just be grateful for this chance in life to develop my leadership skills and encourage cooperation cross countries and cultures, which also benefits my work.
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? The best way is to exercise, which I try to do two or three times per week. One of my favourites is Zumba, as you cannot think of anything else other than doing the Zumba!
A dream holiday or travel adventure? That is to fly to one town, as we did last summer to Milan, without any hotel or a route planned ahead. At the train station in Milan, we decided to take the train up to Como Lake. Then, we planned our next stop afterwards, and we finally ended up in the magical and beautiful Venice. I love travelling this way and staying at nice hotels where I eat and enjoy great meals and culture together with my husband.
Education and Professional Development …
Education: In early 2000, I felt that I needed to advance my secondary competencies with higher education and so I went to the university to read courses in Organization Knowledge, Media and Communication and Juridical Overview. Today, I try to keep up my knowledge by reading a lot of business articles and books to follow what is new and trending.
I try to keep up my knowledge by reading a lot of business articles and books to follow what is new and trending
Peer and Professional Association: IMA – International Management Assistants How has IMA, and networking through IMA, helped you and your employer? It has helped a lot, I must say. IMA is a unique network; you have the national as well as the international network, in which you develop a better understanding of different countries and cultures – which is so necessary in our global business world. I have definitely benefitted from improving my leadership skills. This is the case, too, with my project management skills and having gained a better understanding of different businesses. Through networking at our events, you keep pace with trends in our profession and you can often create your own contacts with whom you share ideas, experiences and learning.
Tell us about your leadership roles within IMA: I served as the National Chairman for IMA Sweden from 2008 to 2012, and my current role is Executive Chairman for IMA. How have these national and international Chair roles impacted your career? I have used the leadership skills to take on different projects and, in my role as Office Manager, to negotiate and be a better listener. I have also improved my communication skills.
IMA: You develop a better understanding of different countries and cultures, which is so necessary in our global business world
What are the primary means of communication for members of your network(s)/professional association(s)? We have a regular newsletter to reach out to our members in 20 member countries. We’ve used videos, which give a personal touch to my messages, and our website is another important channel.
Inspirational reads? Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In! This book is for many an eye opener in many ways. It is an inspirational source for women – but also for men!
Recruitment is often competency-based. Which of the competencies you bring to the role are most relevant to success in your current position? Communication, project management and negotiation skills
I lead the admin group across the Nordic countries to find synergies and to work more efficiently
Role models or mentors? When I was new in my role as an EA, I joined the IMA Sweden mentor and mentee program in 2002. I had a fantastic mentor; she really believed in me and encouraged me to take on assignments for the network. She also encouraged me to be a speaker.
My former boss, whom I was lucky enough to work with for seven years at my current company, is that kind of leader you might come across just once in your lifetime – a person who sees you and believes in you. I have learned a lot from him on how to be a better leader myself.
Have you received any awards or recognition as an admin. professional? Yes; I have received an Excellent Leadership award twice from my employer. One award recognised my management of the company conferences, and the other was for excellent project management of an office move.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. I’ve been Project Lead for several office move/reconstructions. The most recent one was in 2015. We consolidated our meetings through procurement of one vendor, enabling the management team’s prolonged arm to lead company conferences for up to 250 people coming from different countries, and to reach the common goal on budget.
What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? I jump into it as I like to take on challenges; that is how I develop. Of course, I check if I know someone who can give me some tips; this person could be someone at work or from my network.
What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? For 2018, I want to look into how a company board works. Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? For right now, I am focused on my assignment as the Executive Chairman for IMA, which ends in 2019.
I had a fantastic mentor; she really believed in me and encouraged me
Digital Disruption: AI, the IOT and Evolution of the Role
What are your preferred forms of social media? For my profession, I prefer Twitter and LinkedIn. I post in both but, more importantly, I read a lot of articles related to business life. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are more for my private life. Do you publish to, or monitor social media or a website as part of your professional responsibilities? No.
What apps do you make use of in your professional life? CWT To Go, Concur, Skype for Business, and several company apps
Tell us about any impacts social media has had on the role you hold within your organisation. I follow different business trends and have seen how the profile as management support professionals develops over time.
Listen in order to understand the company culture – and adapt
Do you have an employer-provided smartphone? Yes. Tell us about the impacts that such 24:7 availability has on your quality of life. I think this gives you flexibility, but it is also important to discuss how available each person should be. We have had discussions and also put up some short guidelines that we follow as much as possible. For example, don’t send emails in the evening or on weekends – and, if you do, don’t expect to get an answer until the work day.
Are the meetings you coordinate or attend primarily digital or paper-based? We use SharePoint to share documents, etc. It is very useful to have material all in one place for the team members. Does your organisation make use of an intranet/SharePoint or other web portals? I was asked to create an intranet and to use SharePoint for the region in which I worked. The purpose was to ensure that everyone had the news at the same time, as we worked in different countries and business units.
One important decision was taken at the same time we launched the site; this was to minimise use of email, and we included instructions and information on how to instead use the intranet. Here I was reaching out to the people who kept sending out emails that this should have been posted on the intranet. I explained why we were doing this, and got very good results as the information you have on the intranet is easier to go back to. You can also use it to remind people of information rather than adding to the volume of email we receive these days.
You need to make your job visible; your contributions to the company need to be clear
Let’s talk about the pace of change in the admin. world in general. Do you see variations in how people adapt to change? It all has to do with how well the change is communicated, so that people understand the purpose, and how much time people have to adapt.
It’s not unusual to read that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will increasingly impact employment prospects across a range of occupations. What forms of professional development would you recommend to assistants who want to ensure their roles remain relevant and rewarding in this digital age? I cannot say this too often; first you need to make your job visible. This does not mean that you are in the front in the company – you are there to support and lead different project/tasks, but it needs to be clear what you contribute to the company/business.
In the end, and especially today, each company considers their staff and what each person is contributing. If what you contribute isn’t clear, you might be the one they don’t see as necessary for the company. Also identify your key human competencies/skills, as with AI this will be crucial for the business.
What positive impact(s) do you think AI (artificial intelligence), Digital Assistants and IOT (the Internet of Things) will have on the admin. professional of 2020? You will be able to use it for your routine tasks – the ones you today consider to be easy, but they still need to be done. AI will free up time which you can use for projects and on other higher level tasks for your executives.
AI will free up time which you can use for projects and on other higher level tasks for your executives
What apps or programs do you and your principal find useful for travelling and for tracking expenses? At my company, we use CWT-To-Go. This is a very good tool for tracking your flights and booking hotel accommodation. We also have a very good self-booking tool which is easy for travellers to use themselves. It gives a clear picture of flight and hotel costs in comparison with other options.
What are a couple of suggestions you’d offer that new assistant on the block, in terms of how to build effective business relationships within the office? Be available. Listen in order to understand the company culture, and adapt. Network to exchange knowledge and experiences; you have something to add, too, even if you are new.
Your most effective time management strategy? Categorise your to-do items; distinguish what is most important and what needs to be done first. With ad hoc tasks, ask for the deadline so that you can determine where to fit it in.
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Discuss the preferred communication tool, and the company/department goals for the year so that you can understand what is important for your executive.
Goals: Colour code them in separate Excel sheets
For those interested in promotion: Set up your goals at the beginning of the year, together with your supervisor. Then, keep track of them and add any new items which certainly will come up during the year.
Schedule a meeting halfway through the year, to track progress on your goals together with your supervisor. I use Excel, with one sheet for each goal/task. For example, I have the annual conference as a major item and it includes many milestones. For those, I establish deadlines and I use traffic lights – things which I have not yet started show up in red. I use yellow for tasks I’ve begun, and green for those I’ve done. This is very good to have when ending the year; you have a good picture of what you have really contributed, and it can be used in your performance appraisal.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Else-Britt mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.
- IMA Sweden (website)
- IMA – International Management Assistants (website)
- IMA- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IMA-International-Management-Assistants-929822753697038/
- IMA – Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ima.global
- IMA – LinkedIn: IMA – International Management Assistants
- IMA – Twitter: @IMA_Global
- Sandberg, Sheryl – Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead