To lead with desire

27 September 2016

Tonje Sandberg started working for Accenture in 1991, immediately after graduating from BI. Today, she heads a team of 1 100 consultants, has a strong focus on results and makes sure her door is always open.

TONJE SANDBERG

AGE: 51
LIVES: Oslo
COMPANY: Accenture Norway
TITLE: Country Managing Director
PROGRAMME AT BI: Sivilkøkonom 1991
LIKES: Art, travelling, culture and fast cars
BEST OSLO TIP: The Henie Onstad Kunstsenter at Høvikodden outside Oslo

It takes about 30 seconds before Tonje Sandberg's face lights up with a contagious smile. The first of many.

Accenture's offices near Oslo's former Fornebu airport are modern and very quiet. We start off on a floor where customer meeting rooms dominate, lined up one after the other. Upstairs, some of the 1 100 consultants are hard at work. Sandberg, managing director of Accenture Norway explains: - There shouldn't be that many in the office today, as 90 per cent of their time should be spent with customers.

Growing up, Sandberg helped with the family business, both with figures and practical tasks. It was this business that inspired Sandberg to apply to BI.

- I already had the bigger picture and at BI I knew I would be able to focus more on the financial side. Business was my thing and at BI I was able to apply it both theoretically and practically.

After her exams, Sandberg contemplated several job offers. Both from the public sector and the private sector. She chose the one as a consultant at Accenture.

- I was impressed by Accenture. It was also a solid international company, and an exciting one at that. So the choice was easy. This was in 1990 and I was thrown right into the thick of the banking crisis. My father passed away in 1996, which meant I had to make another decision – take over the family business or carry on at Accenture. I stayed and haven't regretted a single minute.

We walk through the building and take the lift up to the consultants' level. Sandberg makes a point of saying hello, or talking to people, always with a smile at the ready.

- It's important that I'm accessible and visible. That's why I have a desk in the open-plan office just like ev-eryone else. I do have a separate office as well, and that door is always open," she says. "I'm very hands-on, take part in projects and keep my- self updated on major launches. In addition to managing Accenture, I'm responsible for health cross Nordic.

Available, dedicated, entrepreneurial and focused on results – that's how Sandberg describes her leadership style. Qualities she has always had, but that have been given room to grow at Accenture.

Being a very self-motivated leader, how do you get your staff to feel equally motivated?

- It is important that our consultants see their projects as exciting and fulfilling. Although we demand a lot from our employees, we also offer personal development no matter what stage they are at in their careers. Because we are consultants, often out and about, our time here in the office becomes extra important. We want our people to feel a sense of belonging and also to understand what Accenture is all about. That is why we pay special attention to social events, but also to training and development. The company supports sports and culture, such as running, skiing and playing in a band. When there is a balance between professional and personal development – that's when we know we have succeeded."

How do you stay up to date with 1 100 employees that are hardly ever in the office?

- One way is that I mentor a few of our employees – people on different levels of the organisation. I also have a millennium coach, who helps me understand what our youngest members of staff find important. I work very closely with the management group, based all over Norway. I encourage staff to come and talk to me. And I am very involved in many of our biggest projects.

How do you make your staff feel at ease with you?

- It's about being open and approachable. Having had several positions at Accenture Norway, I can contribute with both tips and anecdotes. I actually find it easier to be personable now that I'm a country managing director, and I share things today that I would never have told my colleagues in the past."

Seniors looking after those who are more junior is part of the Accenture culture, according to Sandberg. It is a "yes culture" that encourages good performance. Well put-together teams are essential when solving customer problems.

"Diversity is important in every way. Some of us are trained engineers and economists, others are psychologists. A total of 40 different nationalities are represented at Accenture Norway, but we can also use resources from other parts of the world. The IT expertise can come from Accenture India, the project manager from one of our US offices and the consultants from here. This creates interesting dynamics, as well as diversity."

"I'm in touch with managers from all over the world on a daily basis. At Accenture, we always respond to a request. It is a very interesting way of working."

Sandberg's predecessor now holds an international position with Accenture Europe, and there is one other Norwegian in a similar, global position.

Is there anything that distinguishes Norwegian managers?

- I think we are considered very direct, we say what we think. A kind of sobriety. We also like being a bit more personal, so that people see the person, not just the position.

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