- Management teams need a 'devil's advocate'

As an experienced interim manager with international service, Lene Holstad has a few reflections about communication and practical management, from which she thinks many Norwegian management teams could derive great benefit.

"All management teams would benefit from bringing in an interim manager to play the role of "devil's advocate'" she says and dwells for a moment over her choice of words. 

Lene, who is also a painter when she is not working with management, likes to speak figuratively. 

"A person like that ought to come from outside the organisation and not have any historical ties to the undertaking or any need to promote his/her career there. It is not as risky to speak openly to them, and it will be much easier for them to take the pulse of the organisation. They may convey a picture of reality that the rest of the management team does not necessarily see clearly enough, and they may ask the honest, challenging questions that would not otherwise be asked," reflects Holstad.

”Speak your mind”

The fact that people do not always speak their minds in meetings is something that Holstad regards as a challenging aspect of Norwegian modesty:

"It is important to have an opinion when you go into a meeting. But don't be afraid of a debate that allows room for disagreement, and be open enough to change your opinion if you are given new information. Many people choose to keep still out of fear of hurting somebody's feelings, so that they continue to work toward a different goal from the one that was decided upon in the meeting. That benefits no one. Managers ought to create a culture where it is acceptable to have different opinions that create involvement and give rise to constructive discussions in order to achieve a common goal and still be good friends afterwards. Speak your mind!”

Introverts vs. extroverts

As a manager, Lene Holstad is especially concerned with eliciting the opinions of those who do not speak loudest, but who still have long experience and considerable competence. 

"The extroverts always get time to speak. But as a manager, I make considerable effort to get the introverted employees to speak. I regard myself as a director. The audience is sitting in the room – the clients – and they have great expectations. In order to meet those expectations, I have to get my team to do its best on the stage. If something unexpected occurs, I have to step in and offer assistance. If someone needs extra assistance in order to be secure in his/her role, I have to use my abilities to make them good. In that case, I have done my job," says Holstad.   

Interim manager

Over the years, the business economist has carried out many interim manager assignments and in some cases, the contracts have been extended: 

"I am very satisfied with the professionalism of InterimLeder and the standing they have in the market. The first assignment I did through them was for Trelleborg Offshore Norway. At that time, the company had 350 employees, and I was hired in as director in order to further develop an HSE and quality department. Our work was very process-oriented with the focus on health, safety, environment and quality, and it was not something a department can do alone. The project was extended from six months to one year, and when the new manager was in place, I went over to a role as an adviser to the team and as a coach to the new manager," says Holstad. 

Lene Holstad is a business economist from the Norwegian School of Management with corporate management as her specialisation, but she is also very interested in technology.

"I am without doubt a techno-freak, so understanding technical gadgets, not to mention products, turns me on. I have to work with innovative challenges that enable me to also build my own competence. To sum it all up, there is nothing I like better than to be where the market, people and technology intersect," concludes Holstad.