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Leadership is about creating team spirit

Petra Barkeby

Petra Barkeby – Head of Digital Workplace, IT Automation, and Quality – loves technology and sees sport as an inspiration for her leadership style. She has an M.Sc. in Engineering and is a technician at heart, having worked for many years as a developer of financial trading systems and a leader for Technology Trading before her current role.

As the Head of Digital Workplace, IT Automation, and Quality, what do you do and how did you get here?

“Previously, I was working with the tech side of trading, which was exciting but also narrower in scope than what I’m doing now. DWAQ is a wide-ranging business area and pretty much everything we do affects all employees in SEB!

In essence, I am ultimately responsible for our Employee IT Support desks, our control centre that handles 24/7 monitoring of all our applications and data centres and for incident, problem and change management. In addition, we deliver user-related services to SEB employees, which includes physical equipment such as telephones, computers, printers, and meeting room equipment, but also digital work tools such as Teams, Microsoft 365, OneDrive, Sharepoint, and Jira to name a few. One other cool part of the business area is the AIOps, Automation and monitoring teams that handle our digital assistant as well as develop proactive models to help detect problems before they occur, for example.

Things move fast within our area, so we must in front to keep up the pace of innovation and meet the expectations of our stakeholders and customers. I get a kick out of this intensity!”

As a leader now for some time, how would you describe your style?

“I have a strong connection with sport, as I was a football player in my past and a coach for children. I draw inspiration from that. In sport, you win and lose together. But you also learn a lot from your losses and work to create safety within the team. I think building a team spirit and making your team feel safe is critical for good leadership and for business results.

At SEB, there is a genuine interest in the soft issues within leadership and very good tools with which managers can create a safe and stimulating working environment. It’s important to take advantage of those resources to learn how to build trust in amongst your team.”

Authenticity is also very important to me and being true to myself in all situations.

Why is trust so important?

“Trust allows employees to test new approaches. It creates an atmosphere in which failure doesn’t feel so dangerous – and this means employees dare to take risks and innovate.

Within leadership today there is a lot of talk about psychological safety – that every team member should feel safe enough to dare to say what they think.

We need to be out ahead and on our toes to meet competition in the market. In order to be innovative, we need to continually improve and say what we think. One key task for me as a manager is therefore to strengthen and inspire my colleagues to accept new challenges.”

What advice do you have about becoming a leader?

“My career was influenced by former managers who inspired, pushed and supported me. Being a manager was not really on my career agenda but some years ago, an opportunity arose by chance to obtain my first managerial position. I took that chance, largely thanks to the support from my manager at the time who believed in me. So look for people who believe in you and take chances when they come.

You can start by taking on an informal leadership role to try it out, as a scrum master or team lead for example. Managers should obviously be leaders, but leadership is not confined to managers alone. There are so many opportunities to be informal leaders. These days, being a manager is about coaching, supporting, developing and removing obstacles. It’s not so much telling people how to work or what to do. That happens in the agile context where there are many roles that play such a huge role in leading without being managers. I know my team is much more expert than I am, so it cannot be my role to micromanage. It is better to trust the ones who know what they are doing and offer more of a sounding board.

When I start in a new role as a leader, I start out listening first. I feel out the room and learn from others. Do not try to change everything right away. Observe and create psychological safety, and then you will find the best way to make your mark.”