I follow my gut feeling
"My mother often talked about how things should feel good and that I should do things with heart, mind and gut. I still follow her advice and these days my CFO usually asks me about my gut before big decisions”, Helen says with a smile.
Helen Blomqvist is the CEO of Sandvik Coromant with 8,500 employees worldwide. She is also the woman in the MWH suit on the cover of Chef magazine, who made Maria Seraki, founder of MWH, perform a dance of joy in the kitchen. Read more about it here.
Maria got curious, contacted Helen and we had a chat with her. The conversation was very much about Helen's belief in gut feeling, what shaped her and the role as CEO of a big company. And of course, why she likes MWH!
Photo: Alexander Lindström - Gefle Fotostudio
- It was Jessica Almenäs (ambassador for MWH, editor's note), the colors of the suits and the movement in the pictures that caught my interest, says Helen when Maria asks how she discovered MWH.
- I use up quite a few suits in my job and my MWH suits always work, she continues. Especially when you travel a lot like I do, I need to be able to curl up and sleep on a flight. And when I arrive, I can pretty much go straight from the plane to a meeting in my suit!
As a child, Helen wanted to be a doctor and everyone around her thought that was exactly the path she would take.
- I didn't become a doctor in the end, but I'm still sure today that I really belong in the emergency room. As an emergency physician, Helen says.
Instead, she went off to the Chemistry Department at Stockholm University. After four years of study and another 4.5 years as a PhD student, she left university and joined Sandvik Coromant as a development engineer. That is now 20 years ago and Helen worked with both research, development and sales before she became VP. Already after one year as VP at Sandvik Coromant, she was given the role of CEO and is now in her third year in that position.
Helen never really wanted to be a manager and has never aimed for it.
-But one of my former bosses thought I should, he said that I bring people together and that they listen to what I say. And once I listened to him, applied for a management job and got it - I thought it was fun!
Helen believes she is a good manager because she enjoys her role as CEO. The good corporate culture at Sandvik Coromant makes it easy to be a manager. She also believes that people feel they can trust her, she is transparent and has a commitment that creates commitment in others. And that's the thing about gut feeling.
- I listen to my gut a lot. Things may look good on paper, but I know it's wrong. I absolutely trust research and statistics, but sometimes I can still feel that it is not right, even if everything points in one direction. And sometimes my gut feeling can of course say the same thing as numbers and statistics.
Helen says that her mother often talked about how it should feel good and that you should do things with both Heart, Mind and Gut.
- My experience in the same company for many yearw and the fact that I have good monitoring of the world around me are the basis for my gut feeling and intuition. These days, my finance manager usually asks me about my gut feeling before big decisions, Helen says and laughs while shaking her head a little.
Photo: Alexander Lindström - Gefle Fotostudio
The conversation continued about having a good balance in life and Helen tells us that of course she works a lot, that it comes with the role of CEO and manager.
And of course we wonder how she manages to achieve balance?
- In many ways. By making room for all the parts of life that are important to me. I've gotten better at actually being free when I'm free. For example, I no longer work on weekends, although it is difficult sometimes. My family is the most central thing to me.
- Something else that is important to me is my own learning. I set aside 90 minutes a week for it and it is something I promote to everyone in the company. It is very important to me to invest in my own learning, I feel very good about it and I spend time on it even on weekends and other free time, Helen says.
We all know that taking care of yourself and moving is a prerequisite for feeling good, especially when you have a more sedentary job.
- I'm not a sports girl at all, but I'm good at moving around in everyday life. My favorites when it comes to exercise are running and the gym, and in our new house we have invested in our own little gym.
Helen has also discovered mindfulness, which has become important to her.
- I have learned from my husband, he is very good at it and can meditate for an hour when he needs to. I'm still learning but I find it’s helping me a lot. I've learned to breathe between meetings to "restart" – three breaths can be enough, Helen says. She says she has lots of energy, and with the help of mindfulness she has found a good way to channel the energy and ten minutes is often enough.
- I think it has given good results, I notice, for example, that I sleep much better.
What do you think about the future? What are your plans and dreams?
- I had death anxiety a while ago. I thought; How will I manage to do everything before I die? It is, for example, too late to become a doctor now, says Helen and smiles a little.
Helen says she wants so much. She wants to manage a hospital in the future and she has a great passion for education. She wants to help with homework or get an education and be able to work as a teacher alongside her job.
- I am passionate about so much and have a lot I want to do, I want to contribute and make a difference.
- Me and my best friends whom I got to know 18 years ago when we ended up in the same mother's group - we are on fire together.
We have had lots of business ideas over the years – we want to create better maternity care, we want to run hospitals and for a period we wanted to start a party that would only exist for one term. We would dare everything without having to be afraid of the future, laughs Helen.
- We still meet as often as we can. Sometimes we only see each other briefly and have a glass of wine, sometimes for a longer time and we have even travelled away to have time to spend time properly.
When we sum up the conversation with Helen, the outcome is a lot of laughter and a lot of inspiration, and we take away many wise thoughts about priorities in life.
We humbly thank you for the conversation and the energy injection for this time!
DE HELE COLLECTIE