”We already consider ourselves to be the best in forestry issues. Our next aim is to be in the vanguard of leading people as well,” says Mr. Ilari Pirttilä, Chief Executive of the Metsämiesten Säätiö Foundation.
The Forest Forum on Leadership did not appear out of nowhere. Its roots lie in the Foundation’s long-term financial commitment to projects that promote well-being at work. The projects have highlighted the crucial importance of leadership for well-being at work.
Pirttilä freely acknowledges the importance of forest management and forest economy know-how. Nevertheless, without motivated people the know-how will not be utilized to the full. And, to create motivation, good leadership is essential.
The Forest Forum on Leadership is based on ideas that largely resemble those behind the Forest Academy for Decision-Makers: the Forum’s steering group invites the participants on the basis of proposals from the sector and previous participants, each person can only participate once, and people from outside the forest sector are also invited, in order to ”broaden the participants’ minds.”
The first of the three-day courses was organised last spring. Twenty more will be arranged annually by the end of 2017, each with 20 participants, so that 120 leaders will have attended.
The practical arrangements for the forums are managed by Mr. Arto Kariniemi, the Forum leader and Senior Researcher at the research company Metsäteho, and Ms. Tuija Tähtinen from the Valmennuksen Vire company, specialising in human resources training.
Leadership is part of strategic know-how
Pirttilä says that the participants of the first two or three courses will consist of the top leaders from the forest sector. The purpose of this is to bring home the significance of leadership to those shaping the strategies at workplaces.
In the future and especially after 2017, thought must be taken about who else would benefit from training of this kind: middle management, young and emerging talents or somebody else.
Each course selects a ”messenger” from among the participants to bring their experiences to the next course. The messenger of the first course is Ms. Eliisa Kallioniemi, Editor-in-Chief of the Metsälehti periodical.
Kallioniemi says that she has participated in several courses in leadership and consequently had fairly low expectations about this one. ”Though I must say that the list of participants had me sitting up,” she says.
Kallioniemi does not stint with praise for the course. ”Normally I meet these people as a journalist, which means I ask them questions on production figures or the like. This time, we talked about people, which really was very interesting,” says Kallioniemi.
Kallioniemi learned something new: maybe we should also ask about human resources when talking about production. For isn’t the well-being of employees as important for the employer’s success as exchange rates?
”Personally, I find it important and a very good thing that these issues are taken up,” Kallioniemi says.
”We are not lagging behind”
Pirttilä points out that the Forum was not set up because the forest sector’s leadership performance is weaker than in other sectors. Kallioniemi agrees that this was not her impression, either, during the course.
”Some of the participants came from outside the forest sector. After listening to us for a while they said that in their eyes, the forest sector looks like a kind of Shangri-La, where committed people carry out work that really matters, and with renewable resources,” says Kallioniemi.
”It might actually be the case that good leaders find the forestry sector attractive,” Kallioniemi ponders, casting her mind back to the 45th-anniversary celebrations of Ponsse, the world’s leading forestry machine constructor: ”I chatted with quite a number of logging entrepreneurs. I have rarely seen so many skilled young persons with such a sense of responsibility,” says Kallioniemi.
According to Pirttilä, the very first forum proved that activity like this tends to take on a life of its own. ”You could see many participants agreeing about how they would continue the work. This is precisely our objective, to create new, self-steered activity that takes us in the right direction,” says Pirttilä.