YOUR QUALIFICATIONS DON’T LIMIT YOU
Lone Mortensen, COO of Danmarks Nationalbank, has always had a love for mathematics and the financial world. However, it was political science that she studied for five years.
“I have never let my qualifications limit me. Nor did I think I couldn’t do anything financial because I’d studied political science. When I think about it, it worked out better for me because it was a broader qualification than, for example, actuarial mathematics. It’s important you study something that can keep you interested for five years.”
As the Chief Operating Officer of Danmarks Nationalbank, Lone is the head of 150 employees who work with areas including compliance, law, risk management, HR, IT, strategy, accounting and facility management internally within the organisation.
EXPRESS YOUR WISHES
Honesty and decency are valued highly by Lone Mortensen, who has never been afraid to express her own wishes. She has been a manager, employee, project manager and then manager again. Even though she was advised not to take a step backwards on her CV.
“I always chose what I thought was interesting and never what it would look like on my CV. When, after being a manager for a period of time, I wanted to be an employee again, it was because it suited me best at the time. I think that it’s important you should also enjoy going to work.”
Honesty is also about preparing others for change and being honest about what you want and where you want to go.
“I think it’s important to speak up. To speak openly about what you’d like. I have already had the conversation at Danmarks Nationalbank. They are well aware that I won’t be here for the rest of my working life. I love what I’m doing here, but I also know that at some point I will need new challenges. I think you should say that out loud. Especially for your own sake, because no one can do anything to help if you don’t express your wishes.”
“It’s important to recognise people’s feelings so that they feel seen. This will also make it easier for them to accept and listen, for example, when you have to tell them about changes that affect them.”
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND PURSUE THE SOLUTION
Lone’s first managerial position was offered without her asking for it. When she reflects on it now, her sense of responsibility and focus on solutions probably played a role in her then-manager’s decision.
“I was younger and hadn’t been there as long as some of the others when I was offered a position as manager. I thought very briefly about – because why wouldn’t I say yes? My position has always been that the issues a business must solve are only solved if someone grabs hold of them. So I’ve always had a sense of responsibility for the whole and not just for my own responsibilities.”
Taking responsibility wasn’t something completely foreign to her. Lone’s father was a school inspector and she remembers being taken to school several times after work hours if challenges arose outside normal working hours. But Lone has also learned a lot about herself by being a leader, while at the same time becoming wiser about what’s important in being a good leader.
“I’m genuinely interested in people, and I try to do a lot to ask my colleagues how they feel. And I can accommodate someone if they have challenges we need to address. I think it’s important to feel secure where you work. It’s important to recognise people’s feelings so that they feel seen. This will also make it easier for them to accept and listen, for example, when you have to tell them about changes that affect them.”
Although Lone has 150 employees she has to keep track of, she holds coffee meetings every year with all the employees. Here they sit in smaller groups and talk about how they think things are going, what could be done better and what they are happy about. It’s an important part of Lone’s work to make the workplace a secure place.
BE OPEN ABOUT MISTAKES
Mistakes can be learned from and can benefit the whole company. But it requires honesty about one’s mistakes.
“I think it’s important to discuss internally what the goal of the company is. It doesn’t have to be 110% every time. But if you’ve easily done a task, and things are 80% better than before it was done, that still means it hasn’t been done well enough.”
In an organization like Danmarks Nationalbank, which has overall responsibility for financial stability in Denmark, there are many calculations, challenges and estimates which must be absolutely accurate.
“Of course, it’s a balance in an organisation like ours. There are some things that just can’t go wrong, and then there are other things where we can have an idea and try it out to see how it goes. There must be room for both, and if we are to get better and be creative, it requires us to dare to talk about our mistakes.”