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Building Leaders through Volunteering

Nordic Business Forum is all about building leaders who change the world. Our yearly business seminars are the key forum for this, bringing together thousands of leaders who wish to grow and make an impact.

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Nordic Business Forum 2016 Volunteer Team Leaders in this picture with their teams. First row, from second left: Kaisa-Maria Hänninen, Laura Toukolehto, Anni Piispanen, Charlotte Sinkari, Elli Kantanen, Sari Saviranta, Väinö Seiro, Toni Sakselin, Dani Nukarinen, Anni Piispanen, Annika Mäkelä, Hanna Kakko, Camilla Karhukorpi and Rosa Koivisto. Far right of the same row: Mikko Jaatinen.

What may be less known to many is that we also execute our Nordic Business Forum mission in more concrete terms, providing young leaders with an opportunity to grow into leadership roles through our own leadership training program.

Over the years, hundreds of volunteers – most of them students – have become an integral part of Nordic Business Forum’s seminar customer service operations. In 2016, there were more than 200 volunteers serving our 5,700 seminar guests and speakers.

The seminar volunteers are led by a group of Volunteer Team Leaders. This year there were 14 of them, aged 21 to 28. All of them had previously worked as Nordic Business Forum volunteers themselves, which was a necessary prerequisite for getting involved in the leadership program in the first place. Another common denominator for this year’s Team Leaders was their passion for learning, growing and making a difference.

The Volunteer Team Leaders got to participate in a tailored leadership and coaching journey during the eight months preceding the seminar. With their respective volunteer teams across the multiple customer service functions, they played a key role in delivering the widely praised Nordic Business Forum customer experience.

We had a chat with this year’s Volunteer Team Leaders about their experience. What did they gain from participating in the training and working as Team Leaders in one of Europe’s most significant business seminars?

Here are some of their thoughts.

“We learned first-hand the huge importance of building and nurturing the right kind of culture: that leadership is about creating an environment in which your team members can grow and reach their full potential. Leadership is about serving your team members instead of them serving you”, summarized Anni Piispanen and Dani Nukarinen, who together led the Check-in services team consisting of nearly 60 volunteers.

Building the right work culture and a strong, united team were among the most important enablers for achieving great results, all the Volunteer Team Leaders emphasized.

”It was very rewarding to build a team and coach them to meet and exceed our seminar customers’ expectations. It felt wonderful to witness our team members learning new things, gaining courage and working as one big united team”, said Rosa Koivisto, who was heading up the Host services team with Toni Sakselin. Their volunteer team took care of around 40 larger company groups throughout the event. Toni added: ”I discovered that leadership is all about building your people and helping them to become the best versions of themselves while having fun at the same time. After that, everything else falls into place.”

The importance of inspiring others emerged repeatedly in the Team Leaders’ comments. Sari Saviranta and Aino Pursiainen were in charge of the Cloakroom services team. “I definitely gained confidence in leading a team. And realized that success is measured by the number of team members you are able to impact positively”, Sari explained. ”I also learned the importance of team dynamics – and of having fun!”, she added, laughing. Aino continued: ”This training was an amazing experience. I had the privilege to learn, work and spend time with wonderful people and grow as a person. I now truly understand the meaning of the saying: “Teamwork makes the dreamwork”.”

Charlotte Sinkari and Elli Kantanen, team leaders of the overall Customer Service, emphasized the learning opportunity: ”We were able to develop and enhance many important leadership skills, including self-expression and presentation skills, teamwork, listening, giving and receiving feedback and the ability – and courage – to set high goals and define the needed steps for achieving them.”

Camilla Karhukorpi, head of the First Class host services team, summarized what many of her fellow Team Leaders found valuable about the whole experience: ”In our training program we learned about leadership from experts such as Esa Saarinen and also had a chance to put our learnings into practice. With this exceptional combination of theory and practice, we learned to recognize our own key strengths and development areas as leaders. Knowing yourself is essential for any leader who wants to grow and help their team members to grow”.

Väinö Seiro, who co-led the Seminar hall services team, continued on the theme: ”During this experience, I learned more than I could have ever imagined – and definitely laughed more, too! I gained knowledge in leadership, but even more importantly, I got to know myself better. For me, the best part of being a team leader was the moment you realized that your team ”had got it” – that they felt empowered to give their best also without your presence.” Väinö’s Team Leader peer Laura Toukolehto added: ”To me, the Nordic Business Forum leadership journey was about the people and growing together. For the first time, I was able to use all my energy to motivate others. That felt very good. I never thought my team could make me feel so proud!”.

For many, the Volunteer Team Leader journey was genuinely ground-breaking also in terms of their career aspirations. Kaisa-Maria Hänninen, one of the team leaders for the Guidance services team, stated: ”I found out what true leadership is all about: it’s about trusting, believing and lifting people around you. Having had a chance to experience that has helped me determine what I want to do in the future myself.”

Mikko Jaatinen is the founder of the Nordic Business Forum leadership program and developed and run it himself in 2010-2016: ”My job has always been to create a culture that helps these amazing young people become better leaders. Every year it strikes me how much potential these people have! As leaders, I think it’s our obligation to help bring the best out of our people. It´s about growing, helping each other, being present, working your butt off – and having fun!”

 

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