Annika Mohlin, Coach and Consultant, GrowU

Annika Mohlin is a leadership coach and communications consultant based in Malmö, Sweden. She has 25 years of experience in leading communication teams and projects, and supporting managers to grow their leadership skills as well as communication skills. Before starting GrowU, she held the role as global Media Relations manager at IKEA (Ingka Group), and she’s also worked within the food industry and at a few PR-agencies. In her business GrowU she supports corporate and private clients to professional and personal growth. Annika is also active as a fitness instructor at a gym in Malmö, giving body pump classes twice a week.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Annika shared her professional trajectory, what makes self-leadership so important and the top 3 tips to develop it, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Annika. Tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to the world of leadership coaching?

I’ve worked in communication and leadership roles for 25 years at corporates and agencies. Some 7-8 years ago, someone asked if I could come on as a facilitator for one of IKEA’s Leadership programs – and I said yes. I found a real passion there: helping others to grow. I could use my talents, strengths and gifts to impact others in a positive way. So, I decided to take a solid coaching training, practice and certify with International Coaching Federation (ICF). At the end of the training, I had already made up my mind to go and pursue this passion as a profession and leave the corporate world behind.

How do you define self-leadership and what makes it so important?

Self-leadership is about intentionally steering your thoughts and behaviours in order to lead yourself towards what you want to achieve personally and professionally. It’s about self-awareness and self-regulation, to consciously be in control of your choices, responses and actions.

A strong self-leadership gives confidence and empowers people to be in charge of their lives and careers. It also helps in being resilient, navigating challenges and setbacks with a positive and proactive mindset.

Tell us about GrowU app. What makes it unique?

The GrowU app is a support for my self-leadership program “Own your Journey”. It holds all videos, worksheets, exercises and resources and is a handy way of having everything – including me as your coach – just at your fingertips. At the moment it’s available in the App Store, free, and it’s on its way to Android soon as well.

As a seasoned leadership coach and consultant, what would be your top 3 tips when it comes to developing self-leadership?

First, get to know yourself. Who you are, what you stand for, what you value. That knowledge will serve as an inner compass and help you make life-affirming decisions for yourself.

Second, create healthy routines and habits. Eating, sleeping and moving are three cornerstones and you need to take care of those; always, to be able to show up as your best self – both for yourself and for others. Self-care is not a luxury, it is essential.

Third, spend time on reflection and setting intentions. Reflect to learn from the past and set intentions to have a direction of what you want to do and who you want to be. Creating that awareness for oneself is key for making conscious choices.

You are passionate about empowering women and helping them grow and expand themselves beyond what they thought possible – and succeed. What are some challenges that women often face in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, and how do you support them in overcoming these challenges to thrive in their careers?

Many women have demanding jobs with lots of responsibilities, and they also have high demands on themselves when it comes to their private lives. Their families, homes, friends and activities also need much of their attention: kids might need help with homework, parents are ageing, they want nice and tidy homes, healthy homecooked meals and so on. In all of this, they risk losing themselves along the way and to neglect their own needs in their effort to deliver towards everyone else, both at work and at home.

What I can support with is helping them to get clarity on their priorities; what matters most, to set boundaries and dare saying no without feeling selfish and to realize that they have to look after themselves first, and take their self-care seriously, if they want to last in the long run – and enjoy life as they want it.

Is there a particular female leader you look up to or take inspiration from that you would like to spotlight?

There are a few, but if I were to spotlight one that would be a manager from my early career, Helene. She taught me the power of intention and manifestation. I was seen as a ‘young high potential’ and got to attend various development programs at IKEA. At one time I said to her that I was tired of being the high potential and when was I going to be the leader we were aiming at? Her reply has stuck with me: “Start acting as that leader, and people will see you as that too”. Act as if you’re already there. Be who you want to be, don’t wait for permission or an invitation.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work in promoting female empowerment, leadership development, and creating positive impacts?

I hope for more women feeling that they live and lead a life that they have designed themselves. That they are in charge of shaping their journeys, and that they have all the tools and resources they need to do so. Both professionally and personally.

If you could change anything about business today, what would that be?

A very concrete thing actually: I’d love to find a nice office space and move downtown. I thrive around people and get lots of inspiration from social interactions. I would like to invite more of that into my workday. So that’s one thing I’ll design for myself during the fall.

Where would you like to be in the next 5 years?

I’m hoping to do the same as I do today actually, continue to inspire and empower people to be who they are meant to be, and do what they are meant to do. This is a life-long passion of mine and I will do it in also in 10 or 15 years.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders looking to make a positive impact in their organizations and communities?

Start by getting to know yourself. When you know yourself, that’s when you can be more conscious and intentional: about how you talk and behave, how you relate and respond to things – effectively in how you lead others.

The other thing is to remember that you lead people.  Yes, maybe you lead a business, but a business is made up of people. So, see your people, listen to them, talk to them. Understand what their dreams are, drivers, needs and wishes. They will not be the same as yours. Meet them where they are and trust that everyone will want to contribute to the best of their abilities.

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