Sustainable Leader: Agneta Funke

Being a Sustainable Leader at Billerud is about looking after our people and unlocking their potential, putting safety first, leading change and performance, and communicating effectively. Sustainable leadership is an essential piece of the puzzle in terms of delivering our strategy and mission. 

To find out what Sustainable Leadership means in practice for some of our leaders, this autumn you will meet five of our leaders who were named as role models for sustainable leadership in the latest employee survey. 

In this interview the topic is "Sustainable leadership - I communicate effectively".

Agneta Funke,Senior Director at Skärblacka , is one of our role models in sustainable leadership. She started out as a trainee in Frövi in 1996 and has since served in various roles in a number of different departments and at two mills within Billerud. Her role today is Manager of the Sulphate Mill at Skärblacka. The first job she had as a manager in the Group was in 1999. "I think it came naturally, I like driving improvements and being involved in influencing and leading people forward", says Agneta.

What does "I communicate effectively" mean to you in your everyday life?
"To me, it means trying to be as clear as possible when I'm giving information or having a discussion with someone. It's about making things clear both orally and in writing; for example, if there is an opportunity to explain the background to decisions, it may be easier for the person to take on board and understand the message. Then again, it may not always be possible to provide underlying information or explanations, but if that’s the case you have to be clear about it too. When giving written information, the point is to write briefly and clearly, to avoid making things too complicated. Over the years, I’ve learnt that written messages can sometimes be a tricky way to communicate. If you don't really put time into how you phrase your message, it's easy to be misunderstood. Personal contact is better if something that’s a bit more complicated is involved."

What does being a sustainable leader mean to you?
"It means to strive to provide the conditions for a sustainable way of working for both myself and my colleagues."

Being a manager is a big responsibility. What do you find challenging in your role?
"One challenge is to have employees working both daytime and shifts since the working hours are so different. During Covid times, I have to say that this has been very challenging because we have seen each other even less than before. I also find it can be a challenge to lead with many different roles and individuals in the team who have different expectations and wishes. Communication is difficult because every individual interprets messages in their own way and according to their own experiences. What may be clear to one person may be very unclear to another."

What do you do to recover and re-energise?
"What I get the most energy from is spending time with my family and friends, as well as exercising and being outdoors. I'm also interested in gardening, but I have a Golden Retriever puppy who wants to dig up all the plants we've planted, so that interest will have to be put on hold for a while." 

What is the best/most enjoyable thing about being a manager and leader?
"The best part of being a manager and leader is to see others grow, develop and take responsibility. I also find it incredibly inspiring when something is going well in my department, for example a process that works, where everyone helps each other and where all the roles dovetail together."

What is the most important thing to you in your leadership?
"To me, it’s important to be responsive. To listen and try to understand the situation of employees. I can't fulfil everyone's wishes, but it's important to listen and be clear, even if it's not always easy."  

What makes you proud of working at Billerud?
"What makes me proud is that we make sustainable products, long-term sustainable products and that we can replace plastic. I also feel proud that we have a sound set of values."

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