A genuine interest in people, commitment and humility are examples of the leadership qualities that have carried Maria Nicholl to the position she holds today. At Swedish Match, innovation and change come high on the agenda, and Maria works actively to encourage such a culture.
Please, describe your career at Swedish Match.
“My first job was as Global Brand Manager for our pipe tobacco brand Borkum Riff. It was not long before I became Marketing Manager, a position that I held for a couple of years before being asked to start a market research department. Since May this year, I have headed the relatively newly created function, Business Development, which comprises three rather disparate departments. Our assignment is to ensure that the organization has the requisite knowledge of our customers and consumers, that our products have optimal exposure and that we preserve our cultural heritage. Preserving our cultural heritage includes managing and operating Swedish Match’s matchstick and tobacco museum at Skansen in Stockholm.”
It sounds like a pretty straight career progression. Have you always wanted to be manager?
“I have always had a genuine interest in people coupled with a desire to lead and develop others in their work. I believe this is a prerequisite for being a good manager. I have also had the good fortune that development opportunities have always been available for me at Swedish Match.”
How would you describe yourself as a leader?
“As far as I am concerned, humility and commitment go without saying. I share information and knowledge and try to allow time for spontaneous discussions. I strive both to maintain a candid and clear dialog with my colleagues and to delegate. That is how mutual trust is built. I believe it is important to create an environment in which everyone is given space to express themselves and everyone can feel that they are seen.”
How can such an environment be created?
“By paying attention to and allowing employees to receive recognition for their ideas and initiatives. Allowing people to drive their ideas forward and present them within the organization creates commitment and motivation; it also paves the way for new ideas. Since we are a company dedicated to change, we depend on a culture that is permissive, innovative and where employees dare to present ideas and take risks.”
What else do you do to promote creativity?
“To get new angles and to encourage everyone to share their knowledge of customers, consumers, trends and production, we usually have cross-functional meetings so that we can jointly further our business. The challenge is to set aside time for creativity and deeper study.”
Published: Sep, 2012
Article from Campus
Text: Mina Sigurdson
Photo: Håkan Moberg