We are looking forward to our Friisberg Spring Conference in The Hague and what will be an incredibly busy few days.

Maarten van de Sande and his team, from our office in The Netherlands, are hosting this conference with Partners from our local offices are travelling from all over the world to participate in the event.

Our Conference is not only about learning and development, but also about reflecting on what we have all, individually and collectively, achieved over the past 6 months, and taking some time to enjoy the experience, socialise with friends and meet new ones.

It is fabulous to be a part of the FPI team.

We are very grateful to have spent time with Sonia Deasy, Co-founder of Pestle & Mortar, from Kilkenny, Ireland.

Pestle & Mortar continues to enjoy phenomenal success globally for more than 10 years.  A family business,  built on Indian traditions and heritage, Sonia shares her story here as an entrepreneur and an advocate for following what she believes in.

How would you describe your business?

Simple, effective skincare.

How would you describe the values and culture of Pestle & Mortar, and what’s important when adding to your team?

 At Pestle & Mortar, we blend the ancient wisdoms of Indian natural healing with cutting-edge science to create simple solutions for beautiful skin. The belief that skincare shouldn’t be complicated drives us to create and innovate simple solutions for beautiful skin, so that everyone can look and feel their best.

To this end, we invite people into a culture that values creativity, community, customer-centricity, and authenticity. Pestle & Mortar began in 2014 with just two people and one skincare product. We’ve grown to a team of 30 and we’re represented in over 21 countries across 5 continents. That didn’t happen by accident or luck. It happened because we intentionally hire people who share our values.

Looking ahead, how do you plan to develop your company culture and leadership structure as you grow?

As we grow, our focus will be on fostering a constructive communication style between leaders and team members, and ensuring that our foundational values are embedded in every aspect of our operations. We plan to invest in leadership development programs that empower our team members to take on new challenges and responsibilities. We are committed to prioritising leadership development, coaching and culture, especially through challenges and transitions, so that our team remains resilient and motivated. Our goal is to foster an environment where every team member feels valued, heard, and motivated to contribute to our collective success, so that Pestle & Mortar continues to thrive as a leader in the skincare industry.

Can you share a memorable story or milestone in your journey?

A major milestone for Pestle and Mortar is what I call my ‘New York’ story!

Less than 1 year after we launched the brand with our Pure Hyaluronic Serum, we got an opportunity to do a Skype interview with Courtney Rubin, a freelance journalist who regularly gets published in the New York Times. She wanted to write specifically about Hyaluronic Acid as an ingredient in skincare. She was particularly interested in the science behind Hyaluronic Acid, which occurs naturally in the body, and is responsible for creating fullness of appearance and maintaining skin hydration. Her piece in The New York Times was to be called ‘The Second Coming of Hyaluronic Acid’.

So, at 10pm on a Saturday night in May 2015, I found myself on a Skype interview with Courtney Rubin. I had prepared extensively, because I knew this interview was potentially a New York Times piece, which could lead to a sizable slice of the New York market. The interview went well, I thought, so I sat back and waited to see what would come of it.

That was May 2015. Nothing was published in the subsequent six months. I was so disappointed and disillusioned. Padraic urged me to chalk the whole thing down to experience, but inside, I was frustrated and my confidence was knocked. I wanted the US to happen for us, and this interview was the springboard. I decided to stop thinking about it.

Life went on as normal until lunchtime on December 30th, when Courtney’s article was published in the New York Times!

 That day alone, we sold thousands of units of Pure Hyaluronic Serum across the US, and sales from that one article continued for the next 20 days – we sold out worldwide!

 It was a significant milestone for us very early on in the journey.

Thank you Sonia, it’s great to see how Pestle and Mortar are growing while staying true to what your beliefs.

Are You One Person at Work and Another at Home?

It occurred to me that all too often we find ourselves navigating the delicate balance between our different roles and identities. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the dichotomy between our professional and personal lives. For many, the transition from the workplace to the comfort of home represents a shift not only in physical location but also in demeanor, values, and identity.

The phenomenon of being one person at work and another at home is often part of modern life, impacting individuals across diverse cultures and professions. This duality can manifest in various ways, from differences in behaviour and communication styles to distinct sets of values and priorities. I believe that understanding and reconciling these dual identities is essential for maintaining authenticity and well-being in both spheres of life.

At Work: The Professional Persona

At work, we often adopt a persona shaped by the demands of our role, organizational culture, and societal expectations; this persona is typically characterized by traits such as confidence, competence, and professionalism. We often adhere to workplace norms, protocols, and hierarchies, striving to present ourselves in a manner that aligns with perceived standards of success and professionalism.

The professional persona is often marked by a focus on performance, achievement, and the pursuit of career goals and so we often choose to emphasize traits and behaviours conducive to success in our respective fields, such as assertiveness, decisiveness, and strategic thinking. This compartmentalization of identity allows us to navigate the complexities of the professional world effectively, leveraging our skills and expertise to excel in our chosen professions.

At Home: The Authentic Self?

Conversely, at home we are often our authentic self, free from the constraints of the workplace. Here, we have the freedom to express our true thoughts, emotions, and vulnerabilities without fear of judgment or repercussion.

At home, we may exhibit a different set of traits and behaviours compared to our professional persona. We may prioritize qualities such as empathy and vulnerability, nurturing our relationships with loved ones and fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance. The home becomes a sanctuary where we can recharge and unwind.

Navigating the Interplay

While the distinction between professional and personal identities can be necessary, the interplay between these two spheres can present challenges and conflicts. Striking a balance between professional obligations and personal well-being requires conscious effort and self-awareness. We must navigate the boundaries between work and home, ensuring that neither domain encroaches upon the other at the expense of our overall happiness and fulfillment.

Moreover, the pressure to maintain disparate identities in different contexts can contribute to feelings of dissonance, imposter syndrome, and burnout. The disparity between one's professional and personal selves may give rise to feelings of inauthenticity or alienation, leading us to question our true identity and purpose. In such instances, fostering alignment between our values, aspirations, and actions becomes paramount in achieving a sense of wholeness and authenticity.

Embracing Authenticity

Ultimately, the journey towards integration and authenticity involves embracing the full spectrum of one's identity, encompassing both professional and personal dimensions. Rather than compartmentalizing different aspects of the self, we should strive to cultivate coherence and congruence across various domains of life.

Ideally we should honour our values, passions, and aspirations in both professional and personal contexts, fostering a sense of integrity and authenticity in all endeavors.

Moreover, organizations can play a pivotal role in supporting employees' holistic well-being by promoting workplace cultures that value authenticity, work-life balance, and psychological safety. By fostering environments where we feel empowered to bring our whole selves to work, organizations can enhance employee engagement, productivity, and overall satisfaction.

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

Are you ready to capitalize on it?

The workforce now consists of three generations of employees which is something previously unseen in the corporate world.

Older generations are impacted by increasing pension age, oftentimes delaying retirement, meanwhile the millennials continue to enter the workforce; in fact, they already make up a significant chunk of it. To make things more complex, COVID made its mark on values and expectations of different generations - not to mention the technology-centric environment that is here to stay.

This 'new normal' affects recruitment options and opens new opportunities to capitalize on age diversity.

Various studies have noted that leaders of different ages bring different skill sets and know-how to the table. Diversity helps to improve discussions, foster innovation and facilitate creative problem solving. And it's not just skills but also networks and viewpoints that are complementary. As a result, age diverse teams can better reflect the needs of larger consumer segments.   

The strengths and weaknesses of different generations clearly offset each other.  

Perceived receptiveness towards innovation, high energy and eagerness to learn mean younger leaders often prevail over the perceived lower energy, often fixed attitudes and questionable technological literacy of their older counterparts.  

It seems obvious that knowledge of experienced generations combined with a fresh take of younger ones produces better results. But how to get the mix right?

Different attitudes towards remote work, preferred styles of communication, respect of hierarchy (or absence of it) are the key pitfalls faced by the age diverse teams.  It can lead to serious trust, collaboration and miscommunication issues which then result in lower productivity.

Inclusive leadership is the future.

Every organization is unique, so are the markets in which the organizations operate. For example, Central and Eastern European companies usually have rather young management boards and need to attract older talent from the West.

The way forward may lie in embracing the culture which celebrates the strengths of different generations. The challenge is to find a formula that employs generational differences for the benefit of the organization. For example, adopting a decision making approach where the preference for very fast and reactive decisions is combined with well thought, double checked, experience based attitude.  Also, embedding training and mentorship programs to ensure the knowledge transfer becomes a necessity.  

Friisberg & Partners can help your company by encouraging age diversity through implementing inclusive hiring practices.

We work with you to create an environment where individuals of all ages feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and experiences.

In the realm of leadership, technical skills and strategic thinking often take center stage. However, there's a crucial yet often overlooked aspect that separates good leaders from great ones: Emotional Intelligence (EQ). In this article, we explore why EQ is indispensable for effective leadership and how it can transform workplace dynamics.

At its core, EQ encompasses the ability to recognize, understand, and manage both our own emotions and those of others. In a professional setting, this translates into improved communication, stronger relationships, and better decision-making.

Here's why EQ matters:

In conclusion, Emotional Intelligence is not just a nice-to-have skill for leaders—it's a must-have. It underpins effective communication, builds trust and rapport, facilitates conflict resolution, cultivates resilience, and empowers others to thrive. As we navigate the complexities of the modern workplace, let's remember that true leadership begins with understanding ourselves and others on a deeper emotional level.

At Friisberg & Partners, we emphasize EQ while evaluating the leadership qualities of our candidates. We never forget to look beyond the CV, and consider the power of Emotional Intelligence. It could be the difference between a candidate who merely manages a team and a candidate who inspires greatness.

Thirty-three years ago I spent two years in the middle of my studies sailing in the Whitbread Round the World race on s/y UBF. It was a great experience. Then came work, family and all other priorities and duties. My friends often asked, if I would do the circumnavigating or an ocean racing leg again, should the opportunity arise? Hell yeah! I always answered but continued that no one would take a 58 year-old, grey haired and bearded office guy on-board... so not a chance.

But then luck kicked in the form of The Ocean Globe Race, a fully crewed retro race in the spirit of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race. There it was, my chance to relive my great adventure.

Sailing the Leg 3, from Auckland of New Zealand via Cape Horn to Punta Del Este of Uruguay, on a Nautor Swan 651, s/y Spirit of Helsinki was beyond great - as well as the team. 

One special element of this race is that no communication to and/or from the boat was allowed except some tweets to the organizers or in case of an emergency. So we were really 100 % offline for five weeks: no emails, no social media, no WhatsApp, no sms, no phone calls - totally disconnected from work and from families. 

During those five weeks, our universe was the boat, the ocean, the sky and the 14 team members - and being offline is inspirational.

It is possible.

You can actually live without emails, calls, news and social media for five weeks, no problem! I suppose we aren’t irreplaceable after all. My only concern was my family: was everything OK with them. That bothered me quite a lot. It was such a relief to get the phone from the sealed bag in in Punta del Este, to call home straight away and to hear that everyone was OK!

Should you have a job or a business, thorough preparation is required.

Planning of projects, managing the hand-overs to colleagues (a big thank you to my fellow colleagues at Friisberg!) and making sure that all administration eg. billing, taxes etc. are all well-planned beforehand. Nonetheless I was feeling a bit shaky when I opened my email after the five weeks offline, but fortunately there were no crisis, no big issues waiting there. My projects had gone well during and despite my absence and I had few calls from new clients waiting for my return.

Onboard we had our daily jobs and roles.

We hardly ever talked about our land based professional lives during the five weeks. The talk was around sailing, watch systems (work-schedule on board), competition, sail-trim, strategy, maneuvers, food, weather or sleep - not work. It was a time for something else for everyone. On the boat we were helmsmen, sail-trimmers, not CEOs or Executive Search Consultants. Thirty year-old Hilla, the only female on board was our most accurate and by far the fastest in celestial navigation with the traditional sextant. And our excellent second mate, 22 years old Aaro, told the four CEO's aboard what to do in the sail change.  And that worked well. Should we change our roles more often in the office work as well?

Now that I’m back online I challenge you to try being offline. Try it for a week or two at first - like on your next holiday.

The first step is to decide, then plan, and finally just to do it.

Why Humans Trump AI in Executive Search

In today's digital age, artificial intelligence (AI) has undeniably revolutionized various industries. With advanced algorithms, machine learning, and natural language processing capabilities, AI-powered recruitment tools promise efficiency, speed, and accuracy in talent acquisition.

Despite the technological advancements, we know that the human element remains indispensable in the Executive Search process - here's why:

We know that the human touch remains irreplaceable to attracting and retaining top talent.

A new challenge for Executive Search

It is normal to quantify the right salary for a position, of any level, and especially for those that are classified as C-Level. Equally daily, during interviews with candidates, we recognise those soft skills that increasingly make the difference between one profile and another.

But have we ever considered what values can be of value to a candidate? Have we ever wondered what remuneration a candidate would be willing to revise for the right job?

In light of the ‘Conscious Quitting' phenomenon that characterised 2023, the HR world will have to reflect on this question and start taking into account the importance that a personal set of values can have for a candidate.  In fact, some studies brought to the fore by major national and international media, show that with reference to ‘Conscious Quitting', the choice, the decision to leave or change jobs due to ethical conflicts, is growing significantly.

The analysis of the problem conducted by Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, and by the EIB - European Investment Bank - highlights that in an historical moment characterised by wars and massive natural disasters that threaten our stability and our future, the Z Generation are very concerned about the world they will inherit and are willing to devote their time and talent to companies that are committed to providing them with a better future. Consequently, they are willing to quit when their companies let them down'. And it is not only young people who are fuelling this trend, but also Millennials and a minority of Enlightened Boomers.

The ideal candidate, in a future that is already here, will not only be the one who demonstrates that he or she has the expertise and soft-skills needed to fill a certain role or do a certain type of work, but it will become increasingly important to understand whether their values are shared by the ethos of the firm in which they will work and vice versa.

We are delighted to announce that V.E.R.A. Consulting will become part of Friisberg & Partners in Milan, offering Executive Search, Assessment, Executive Coaching and Organisational Development Consultancy.

As part of our dynamic and forward-thinking approach, we are thrilled to announce the opening of our new office in the vibrant city of Milan, Italy. This strategic move is a testament to our commitment to global expansion, fostering innovation, and cultivating strong relationships with clients and partners worldwide.

This reaffirms our successful global strategy to develop solid partnerships based on shared values and mutual esteem, integrating diversified skills and experience to offer our clients bespoke, forward-looking and extremely effective solutions.

From our central offices located in Sant'Ambogio, Aureliana De Sanctis and Giovanni Mantica will be the Partners dedicated to Executive Search. Thanks to their extensive experience within specific sectors, we know that they will strengthen and expand the presence of Friisberg & Partners throughout national and cross-border territories.

Milan, often regarded as the financial and fashion capital of Italy, serves as an ideal location for our new office. The city boasts a rich cultural heritage, a thriving business environment, and a strategic geographical position within Europe. Renowned for its historical landmarks, world-class cuisine, and influential fashion and design industries, Milan provides a unique backdrop that aligns perfectly with our values of excellence and creativity.

Our strengthened team in Milan brings several benefits to our valued clients and partners:

Enhanced Service Delivery: Proximity to European markets allows us to provide faster and more responsive services, addressing the unique needs of clients in the region.

Cultural Understanding: A local presence ensures a deeper understanding of our clients' cultures and business landscapes, enabling us to tailor solutions that resonate with their specific requirements.

Innovative Collaboration: By engaging with Milan's innovation ecosystem, we open up opportunities for collaborative projects that drive mutual growth and foster innovation.

Our strategically important office in Milan reflects our commitment to providing exceptional services, fostering innovation, and building lasting relationships on a global scale. We look forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, confident in our ability to thrive in Milan's dynamic business landscape.

We are ready to work together as one close-knit Team!

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world leadership has taken on a new dimension. The challenges and opportunities facing organisations today require leaders to be adaptable, forward-thinking, and empathetic. As we delved into the dynamics of leadership in 2024, it became apparent that successful leaders are those who can navigate complexity, foster innovation, and build resilient and empowered teams.

Adaptability and Agility:

One of the defining features of leadership in 2024 is the need for adaptability and agility. The business landscape is constantly changing, driven by technological advancements, geopolitical shifts, and societal transformations. Leaders must be adept at sensing and responding to these changes quickly. The ability to pivot strategies, embrace new technologies, and stay ahead of the curve is crucial for organisational success.

Technology Integration:

In 2024, technology plays an even more central role in business operations. Leaders need to not only understand emerging technologies but also integrate them seamlessly into their organisations. Artificial intelligence, automation, and data analytics are no longer optional; they are essential tools for optimising processes, improving decision-making, and gaining a competitive edge. Successful leaders are those who can harness the power of technology while ensuring ethical considerations and human-centric approaches are prioritised.

Empathy and Inclusivity:

The emerging new leadership style places a significant emphasis on empathy and inclusivity. As organizations become more diverse, leaders must be more attuned to the needs and perspectives of a wide range of individuals. Cultivating a culture of inclusivity fosters creativity and innovation, as diverse teams bring varied insights to problem-solving. Additionally, empathetic leaders build strong, cohesive teams, nurturing an environment where individuals feel valued and motivated.

Remote and Hybrid Working:

The global shift towards remote and hybrid work models has reshaped the traditional understanding of workplace dynamics. Leaders in 2024 must excel in managing remote teams, ensuring effective communication, collaboration, and employee well-being. The ability to foster a sense of connection and purpose among dispersed teams is paramount for sustaining productivity and organisational cohesion.

Environment, Social and Governance:

Leadership in 2024 goes beyond profit margins and market share. Organizations are increasingly expected to operate with a commitment to sustainability and responsibility. Leaders need to champion corporate social responsibility initiatives, aligning their organizations with values that resonate with both employees and consumers. A commitment to sustainability not only enhances the organization's reputation but also contributes to long-term success in an increasingly ESG conscious marketplace.

Learning and Development:

Leaders must prioritise continuous learning and development for themselves and their teams. Staying abreast of industry trends, acquiring new skills, and fostering a culture of lifelong learning contribute to organisational agility and resilience. Leaders who encourage and invest in the growth of their teams create a dynamic environment that adapts to change and thrives on innovation.

Leadership in 2024 is a multifaceted challenge that demands a holistic approach. Successful leaders will be those who can navigate complexity, leverage technology, foster empathy and inclusivity, adapt to remote work environments, champion environmental and social responsibility, and prioritise continuous learning.

By embracing these aspects, leaders can steer their organisations through the dynamic landscape of 2024 and beyond, ensuring sustained success in an ever-evolving world.

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