SHE DRIVES VATTENFALL'S COMMUNICATIONS

Sweden Sale of lignite operations, quarterly report and the Annual General Meeting. It has not been an easy ride for Vattenfall's new Head of Communications, Karin Lepasoon, who is also a member of the Executive Group Management team.

During her first month at Vattenfall she concentrated on getting to know the business and its employees. One of her first tasks was to work on communications around the sale of the German lignite operations.

 "It was a bit like jumping into the deep end and just starting to swim. I didn't really have time to think. On the other hand, it was a good way of finding out about an important part of the business and getting to know a large number of people in a very short time."

Windsurfing communicator
If you search for Karin Lepasoon on the internet you'll see that she was Head of Communications, Sustainability and HR at the risk capital company Nordic Capital and Executive Vice President of the Skanska Group.

You'll also see that her father came to Sweden as a war refugee from Estonia and that her hobbies are racing and windsurfing.

"Eye-opener"
The only time during the hour or so long interview with Karin Lepasoon that she takes a while to answer a question is when she's asked what her dream car would be. Otherwise she answers all the questions we put to her immediately and in detail.

You're a qualified lawyer, so why communications?
"It all started when I got a job with the campaign organisation for the EU referendum Näringslivets EU-fakta in 1993 because I was trained in EU law. My job was to interpret EU legal issues which non-EU lawyers could use to encourage the Swedish people to vote "yes" in the referendum in 1994. We were a team of relatively young people whose job was to go out and talk to the Swedish people about the EU. And we gave the impression of being pretty laid back. We weren't industry federation directors or anything like that, but behind the scenes there was a highly sophisticated opinion-forming apparatus with campaign leaders from Tony Blair's campaign. He had recently won in the UK. I got to work pretty closely with opinion-forming and realized just how exciting it is to be involved in communications and to understand target groups and adapt the message accordingly. This was an eye-opener for me and since then I've always worked with communications in one form or another."

No glutton for punishment
Unlike her predecessor, Karin Lepasoon is a member of the Executive Group Management team.

When she was first contacted about the job at Vattenfall she was away for the weekend.

"I hadn't started thinking about a new job at that time because I'd only been with Nordic Capital for six months. But I thought, "perhaps this is what I should do". I'd worked in large companies for many years and had really enjoyed working in a complex environment with lots of different cultures and being at the heart of the business."

"I found it really amusing when I got here and people asked me if I was a glutton for punishment in taking this job. That is definitely not the case."

What expectations did you have of the new job and Vattenfall, and to what extent were they true?
"I expected that there would be a great many people with views and opinions on Vattenfall, from a wide range of perspectives, and that there would be a large number of stakeholders, target groups or interest organizations all of whom were interested in their own small part of Vattenfall. And that's exactly how it is. At Vattenfall it's exponential. It's everything multiplied by about 1,000. Consequently, it's even more important that we as a company have a very clear vision of where we are going, why we are going there and how we will get there. There are so many people who constantly want to steer our ship off course, so we must make sure we keep it on course. I believe that we have a clear direction in our strategy. All we have to do is make sure we embed it in all aspects of the business."

How can we achieve this?
"By ensuring that all operations, business areas and staff functions really understand their part of the strategy and work towards it, so we fill our direction with relevant and specific content. And by us in all the staff functions also ensuring that we understand the strategy and help the business to achieve it. We have a wealth of exciting things to communicate which support the strategy. You can't just start communicating without having relevant content."

Company's best interests

What is your greatest strength as a communicator?
"I like people, meeting people and working as part of a team. Communication helps you see how everything fits together. It's important to make sure that you don't send out too many conflicting messages, both verbally and through your actions. I think I'm pretty good both at taking a helicopter perspective and adapting the message so it's relevant to the target groups we want to talk to."

"I'm at my happiest in an environment where I know that the people who work there will come to me with suggestions which are always in the company's best interests. Not the individual's best interests, or the team's best interests, but the company's best interests. As long as you always bear that in mind it's fairly straightforward. In other words, internal politics is definitely not my thing."

Digital office
So far not much in her office on the 11th floor of Arenastaden gives much away about Karin Lepasoon's personality. A flowerpot containing a windmill, a wooden figure in the shape of Nemo and a red and white spotty box are the only things that actually indicate that the room is occupied.

"I'm really in favour of digital working and I don't want vast amounts of paper. I'm not in my office very much unless I have a meeting. I don't like spending a lot of time in this room, or at least not on my own."

Dream car
So, what about your dream car? After tapping her fingers on the desk for a while, she answers:

"I like a lot of different sports cars. The GT3RS is a fantastic Porsche, and I also like the Nissan GTR, but none of them are environmentally friendly so they're not ideal."

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