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Opinion

Finnish bosses prefer cabins to cocktail parties

"Quite often, you can count on Finns being no-nonsense and true to their word," says Christina Dahlblom from Miltton Sparks in this week's column.

“You must be from Finland.” These were the first words a friend of mine heard when he entered an acting school in London. How did they know, before he spoke a word? They saw it from his cheek muscles – well-developed, quite tense.

I sometimes think about this story when I start a new leadership programme and meet a room full of Finnish managers. Anyone who has given presentations in Finland knows that engaging the audience can be hard work. “You talk, we pay” a well-known consultant has claimed was the answer he got once when he tried to activate the audience by asking questions.

Are Finnish managers different than other nationalities? Recently, we had the chance to explore this question through the lens of personality profiles, comparing over 800 Finnish managers to a global sample. Does the difference we notice in the room show when measured through personality surveys? It does.

Not very surprisingly, Finnish managers are less extroverted than their global peers. They are also more harmony-seeking, in other words, less keen on challenging and engaging in debates. These two dimensions may explain why it is sometimes hard to get the discussion going. In addition, Finnish managers are more oriented to the here and now, and less interested in high-scope visioning than their international peers. The good news? Quite often, you can count on Finns being no-nonsense and true to their word.

Operating in an international context, a typical Finnish manager might need to make some conscious decisions to practise behaviours that will help him or her keep up with the sociality, debating and openness to change of their international peers. Finns are quite good at applying sisu and getting things done – so once aware of what is needed, it is highly likely that they will succeed. For those whose personality doesn’t support the mingling, debating and chit-chatting, it will, however, take a lot of energy.

Many Finnish managers regularly retreat to a fishing cabin or cottage to recharge their batteries. Once you have gained their trust, you will find that behind the sometimes silent, stern-looking face is usually a trustworthy, hard-working, friendly and loyal person. If you become friends, you may well receive an invitation to join a trip to the cabin.

Published on 18.01.2018