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“Work on people’s strengths, not their weaknesses”

“Work on people’s strengths, not their weaknesses”
08 december 2016

Englishman and overall dairy expert Jonathan Grant has learned a lot from bad bosses. In his own leadership, he believes in building from his employees’ dominant talents.

One year ago, Jonathan Grant fell in love with Stockholm and one of its inhabitants. Today he’s Arla’s Vice President of Fresh Dairy Products.

How did you end up in Stockholm?

– I was working for Proctor & Gamble in Geneva when they sent me to work in Stockholm for what I thought would be a single assignment. But I fell in love with the city and with a Swedish girl, and just when I was thinking “How do I get a Swedish career in FMCG?” Arla reached out to me. It felt like a good fit, not least since they’re the biggest FMCG company in Sweden.

What does a Vice President of Fresh Dairy Products actually do?

– I’m responsible for the sales and marketing of Arla’s fresh products, like milk, creams, soups and sauces – basically everything short of cheese and butter. I stay on top of trends and figure out how best to develop these products, creating short, mid and long growth plans for them.

Have you always worked in a managerial position?

– Gosh no, I started as a sales rep in south London, selling laundry detergent to old folks homes.

Have you had any bad bosses?

– There is one manager still present in my nightmares. He was no fun, he cared too much about what his own boss was thinking, and even though he couldn’t set a straight direction he managed to micromanage us to the umpteenth degree. He taught me how not to lead.

You’re a trained Strength Finders coach. Does that influence your leadership?

– Absolutely. The Strength Finders method is based on the principle that you get more out of people if you work on their strengths rather than their weaknesses. It’s in the very early stages here, but I help my employees identify their five dominant talents – out of a possible 34 – and try to structure our action plan accordingly.

How does this help you stimulate employees’ creativity?

– Once I know someone’s strengths, I can create a work environment that suits them. For example, people with the talent Intellection are deep thinkers that can come up will all kinds of ideas. But they need space and time to get these gems out – in the wrong work environment everything remains in their head.

What are your own strengths?

– My five are Activation, Communication, Significance, Strategy and Woo – that last one means I’m good at winning people over.

Is there a strength you wish you had?

– That’s actually one of the questions in the survey you take to identify your strengths! And yes, I secretly wish I had Empathy – because, well, it’s kind of important in life. I love working with people who have empathy in their top 5. I learn from them every day.

Nanna Brickman
Publicerad 08 december 2016

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