As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Charlotte Kure Juul.
Charlotte Kure Juul is a human resources professional with over 20 years of experience, currently serving as executive vice president/chief human resources officer at Adform. She has spent the last 10 years in executive leadership roles within the tech industry, where she has assumed responsibility for global communication strategies and training academies for customers. She believes that organizational success is amplified when leaders respect and celebrate their employees’ differences and strive to approach challenges with a wide array of perspectives in mind. Charlotte is a mother of four and enjoys trail running and swimming in her spare time.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
When studying to be a psychologist and working part time with both children and adults experiencing severe challenges, I found myself always asking why things were organized the way they were and why leaders acted the way they did. This led me to the path of organizational psychology and human resources. After about five years, I really felt that I could contribute even more if I could take the lead, set the direction, and facilitate the power of people working together by leading the way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When I started at Adform, the company was suffering from low motivation in some areas of the organization. We started measuring the motivation on monthly pulse surveys and trained leaders to discuss the results with their teams. We now see much higher motivation throughout most of our organization. I have had several employees come up to me and say, “I’m a big fan of what you do.” That really made me think how important it is to be a role model. When working at the C-level, people will look at you and be inspired by what you do — for good or for bad.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I apologize, but I can’t seem to think of a specific instance for this one.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband is my inspiration and my rock. Anyone looking for success at the C-level needs to have someone else who believes in them and supports them. That goes for both men and women.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
An important part of my life is to exercise. My husband and I train together four times a week and participate in trail running and swimming races two to three times a year. It clears my head and makes me strong. I also take my sleep very seriously and enjoy napping on weekends.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
It’s quite simple. The world is very complex, and we need different perspectives every time we face a challenge to make a great solution. Diversity automatically builds diverse and enhanced perspectives. The FT just included Adform in its top 100 companies on diversity, so we are very proud of that!
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
Most important is a respectful environment, as well as evaluations, recruitment and promotions based on objective criteria. We have introduced personality testing in the promotion process, which makes it easy to see who matches the job profile the best. We also need to help those sectors and industries that are not yet there — for example, with women in tech.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
We are constantly dealing with complex, difficult decisions with no clear answer. We have good people who have already solved all the simpler challenges.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
People tend to forget that we are normal people with dreams, fears, challenges, successes, and failures. But we are like everyone else. And when we act like the normal human beings that we are, it can sometimes be interpreted very differently. For example, someone at the C-level trying to make a joke can sometimes be taken very seriously.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The support needed at home is much more rare to find for a woman. And some men feel threatened by having a spouse with a more successful career than they do.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I have learned that there will never be a point when I can lean back and say, “The job is now done.” Every time I have tried, suddenly the rules of the game change.
Is everyone cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
You need a special drive and robustness to be an executive. You will bump into challenges, roadblocks, and even mean people along the way. When I hire executives, I have a few things I am looking for: A fast-paced mindset, willingness to learn, and decency. Courage is also important. But most important is to be a fast learner and to be open to listen and learn every day from the people you work with, from the market, from competitors, even from your kids.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
See your people as human beings as well as professional contributors. And make sure to take their growth and development very seriously. Having a bit of fun also helps.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I try to be an inspiration to other women. I try to help them out wherever I can. I encourage women to go for their dreams. At the moment, we are paying for college for 2 young women in Tanzania.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You cannot be friends with everyone. One of my traits as a young woman was that I got really sad if people did not like me — so I tried not to state any opinions. I did not even reflect on whether I actually liked the other people or whether they were important to me. But when you have an opinion some will like it and others will not.
- Rude people are often camouflaged as nice people. I had colleagues who did their best to seem really nice and helpful, but would then step on me to reach their goals.
- Success is always a match of a role and a person. I have worked in organizations where I would never be an executive as I did not have what it takes in that organization (fight, step on others). So what I learned is that I need to be careful in selecting the right place for me to show my full potential.
- You need to prioritize — all the time. Balancing private life and work is a constant challenge, and you can only navigate it if you know what your true values and priorities are. For me, my relationships with my family members are always the most important. Then work comes next.
- Make time for yourself. I’ve realized how easy it is for work to eat up all my waking hours. I tend to forget my own needs sometimes — but my husband helps me reflect on that on a daily basis with his comments and actions.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Always look for ways you can help others. Keep it small, but do it every day. Believe they will then be inspired and help someone else — let’s create a positive spiral of being helpful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I am an “Even better if”’ person. I really enjoy making things better all the time. Building off new ideas, improving, cleaning up things. I also have a saying that I use with my employees when they become afraid of failing: ”‘Did anybody die? If not, we will be OK.” No matter what happens, we can learn from it.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. She’s a very smart and charismatic woman, she has made difficult decisions (such as her response to COVID-19) and balances being a mother and an executive extremely well — all while showing it off to the world.