Cristina Stenbeck, is a Swedish American business woman, currently leading Kinnevik, a Swedish family-controlled company focused on building digital consumer brands in growth markets. Together with this all-encompassing career Cristina is also the mother of young children and manages her professional and family life with the help two talented Assistants, one is business focussed that is shared with the Board of Directors and CEO and the other is a Private PA for the family. The Q&A to follow focuses on the latter:
What educational qualifications do you insist on / Do you require your PA to have a degree?
No a degree is not required. I value most of all the approach and attitude of a highly professional, experienced individual who exercises integrity, judgement and takes initiative over improving standards and convenience all while in a polite, efficient and relaxed manner acts as an extension of myself and my family to progress matters.
Would you agree that behind every great business leader is a great PA?
Yes, absolutely. A skilled PA knows that part of the role is to make their Principal look good in whatever form that needs to take.
What makes a great PA over a competent PA?
Commitment and loyalty and a sense of pride over his/ her career as a professional in a people business. And of course the communications skills are a key differentiator in contact with the outside world.
Do you think the importance of emotional intelligence in a PA is sometimes overlooked for a strong skill set?
Yes, it can be but it is extremely important. And equally it is hard to assess situational awareness during the interview process as it only comes through a trial and extensive referencing.
I value most of all the approach and attitude of a highly professional, experienced individual who exercises integrity, judgement and takes initiative over improving standards…
Would you agree that chemistry is the key ‘ingredient’ for a successful long term working relationship between the PA & Principal?
It really depends on the role, but a sense of partnership with Principal and equally spouse and rest of household. A team leader in my case is critical to the smooth running of the domestic household.
What key attributes, traits and skills do you look for above all others when employing a PA?
Bright and optimistic demeanour and solutions orientated attitude while upholding the highest discretion.
Is your PA a confidante and sounding board for you?
Not currently, perhaps this is something I could implement to further develop and engender confidence in their own abilities and encourage a stronger sense of belonging. Definitely one for me to think about.
A skilled PA knows that part of the role is to make their Principal look good in whatever form that needs to take.
Do you empower your PA by allowing autonomous decision making in any key areas?
Yes I do try as she has excellent direction once she has been given the brief and a good steer.
How do you keep your PA motivated?
By being appreciative and showing respect and trying to delegate as much as she will assume as her own. I need to improve on the communications side and take more time to write thank you and develop my thoughts on email and phone.
Do you encourage ambition in your PA by offering a structured career path into an alternative role within your organisation?
This is not applicable to the role as sole PA for a family but a conversation could be had now after 18 months about overall ambitions. Staying engaged and in dialogue is the most important.
Would the lack of a PA impede your everyday output?
Yes absolutely and I am very grateful to her.
Are you conscious of boundaries where a task may be classified as beyond the call of duty?
I hope that I am and I also wish that she would express when the task is just too much or not do-able for any variety of reasons.
Is your PA an external ambassador for you and your office by representing you at meetings or events?
Not applicable or currently part of the remit. But she is on the other hand an integral part of the family and household and is valued highly by everyone from my husband to my children