Streetsmart leaders coach the business community

Maria Lindberg Howard 5 May 2017

Streetsmart leaders coach the business community

At the beginning of the year, MultiMind Bemanning, Fryshuset Stockholm and Beachfront Communications rolled out the Up & Coming Executive Program where eight well-established business leaders in the business community are coached by street smart mentors. The mentoring program is part of Fryshuset’s recruitment service called, Up & Coming, where young talents are presented to the business community.

The idea is that older business leaders who have gone through the traditional career path can learn a lot from younger business leaders who have created success in other ways.  

One of the participants is Kerstin Lindberg Göransson, CEO of Akademiska Hus, one of Sweden’s largest real estate companies. Her mentor is Sarah Åsard who operates the hair salon, Urban Hair, in Stockholm.

What are your expectations of the mentoring program?
Kerstin: That I get a good push in the right direction regarding my ability to have a more norm-critical approach, and to change my mindset patterns. Simply, I hope to create a bigger game plan.

Sarah: A link is needed between academics and “streetsmart” because there are some things you cannot learn through academics, just as we cannot learn everything on "the street." Getting together like this is magical and I’m so glad to be part of it.  

How do you define the terms streetsmart and academics?
Kerstin: “Streetsmart”, as I see it is an ability to twist and turn your thinking to deal with/solve the situation exactly where and when it arises. The academic concept for me is about being “booksmart”, which is linked to the education and training you have. Also, of course, you can be educated without formally having a degree.

Sarah: I graduated but did not have the opportunity to pursue an academic degree. While in high school I took care of the family’s finances. I learned marketing and sales by selling items at flea markets. Entrepreneurship I learned in my mother’s small hair salon in the Stockholm suburb, Sätra. But leadership, that came when people started relying on me. On the basketball court I learned to lead, coach and work as a team. “Streetsmart” is a degree you achieve on the “street”, out there in real life. So, we learn the same things but in another language. We do things a little bit differently, we start without having 100 % knowledge, we roll with the punches and learn from the mistakes.

How do you look at the concept of diversity? 
Kerstin: I see it as a multitude of differences – employees with different backgrounds, education, experience and skills result in different ways of thinking and taking on tasks in various ways. But I think it’s important to address the question in depth and in a “structured way”. And in my world, it begins by daring to challenge your norms and values.

Sarah: Something positive, something that benefits everyone. The more we are, the more we can reach out and thus, the more we can achieve.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge during the year?
Kerstin: I have worked as a mentor for more than 20 years and have two to three novices annually. As a long-term mentor, the biggest challenge is to get into the role of a novice and to really do that with an open mind.

Sarah: The ultimate goal is to make sure Kerstin feels that this was worth her time. Because today, time is most valuable in life, and I am not here to waste anyone’s time.

Name a challenge your company faces today?
Kerstin: The entire real estate industry faces major recruitment needs over the next five years, and we need to broaden our recruitment base to cope with it. Rapid digitization also contributes to the need for broad-based skills. Akademiska Hus needs to be a good employer that can attract, develop and retain employees. The insights I get here will be one of several components I will use to achieve those goals.

Sarah: For me, the salon is so personal and close to my heart. But I realize that the brand is getting bigger and in order to expand, I have to hand over certain things. So, my biggest challenge is to expand while maintaining the personal feel and high standards we have always had.