Perseverance, vision and virtual leadership with ResMed Sweden AB’s Managing Director, Pernilla Medson
"I know it's going to be okay!"
When the pandemic hit the world last year, it also affected the medical technology company ResMed. But Pernilla Medson, responsible for the Swedish operations, is used to lead in challenging situations.
ResMed is a global leader in digital health for connected close care of patients with respiratory chronic diseases such as obstructive sleep apnea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Listed ResMed has over 7,500 employees spread across 140 countries. The business idea is to offer connected close care in different ways, a care that means that the patient's treatment can be followed and adjusted remotely by the healthcare provider.
In Sweden, the company has 21 employees and when Pernilla Medson, head of the Swedish operations, took over the job in 2017, she stepped into what is perhaps the company's biggest change ever. At the time, it was about switching from delivering products to also delivering connected solutions, which changed the entire organization and their way of working.
When the pandemic unexpectedly hit at the beginning of last year, ResMed was quick to change and adapt its operations.
"When the pandemic hit, demand for our respiratory care product range increased significantly, so we quickly switched to support healthcare and started producing significantly more ventilators and masks."
During the first half of 2020, their production of ventilators increased more than threefold, and the number of breathing masks increased tenfold.
"For us in Sweden, this meant that we quickly could communicate with our customers in the regions to get an idea of what the need was and to be able to secure deliveries."
What new demands did the pandemic place on you as a leader?
"Communication, both internally and externally, became mostly digital. We had to switch from being out in the healthcare system, close to our customers, to communicating and helping remotely. Tender presentations, management training and product displays all had to go digital."
"During the pandemic, it also became important for us to focus on those patients who were not affected by the virus, but who were still in need of care. Here we were also quick to implement digital tools to ensure that this part of the healthcare chain could continue", says Pernilla Medson. They also organized webinars where healthcare employees could quickly share their knowledge with other regions.
What have been your biggest personal challenges as a leader during this period?
"I am already used to leading most of my employees remotely, but all the 'ordinary' physical contact surfaces disappeared overnight. Today, my leadership is completely digital, and the challenge is very much about when we meet in digital meetings, to still manage to connect. To try to create meetings where the participants feel that they are energized, that they can continue to keep up the good work and that they can endure."
So, what are your best tricks to keep your energy up when people can only meet digitally?
"One way is to also arrange digital meetings where you don't talk about work! A regular coffee break with colleagues where you get to talk about everything else that doesn’t concern the work. I also think that small and simple ways of showing appreciation are very important, such as sending flowers, a greeting through a postcard, posting some chocolate or why not singing a birthday song over Zoom. That creates joy in the team.
But at the same time, it is difficult to read people through a small screen, the whole person is not visible, and the body language sometimes becomes unclear", admits Pernilla Medson.
"It has been a challenge for me where I have had to think a little extra about how we can keep the energy up in everyday life."
A new situation for many is also a completely changed working environment, where the home has become the new office. Which means, for example, that the family is much more present "at work" than before.
Now the change in your company is a fact, would you have done something different today?
"No, but I would have felt more confident knowing that conditions can change frequently over a longer period of time, but as long as we are creative and stick it out, the result will be good!"
"The team did a fantastic job of testing new things and creating new information material based on the current need in healthcare. Activities that might otherwise take a long time to complete in an international company. Now we just pushed on, there is a need here and we can solve it!"
In many ways, the pandemic enabled a faster process of change than what has been possible in the past, she believes. The employees were strengthened in stepping outside their comfort zones and taking the initiative.
Now the transition is in a slightly calmer phase for you, what are your learnings as a leader, based on the rapid change that has taken place?
"Above all, the feeling that we have become more confident in operating in an uncertain and changing environment. For me as a leader, I have also started to think more about when I need to coach and when I need to take control and manage."
"It is important to be vey clear in your leadership, to highlight what is difficult, and simply to dare to be honest. There are no ready-made answers, but let's find a good solution. And be confident that things will be alright."