"I have gone from intuition to structured preparation"

A CEO view on leadership, communications and the need for structured preparation.

Morten Bentzen has always prided himself on being a good communicator.

But since becoming Chief Executive Officer of Telia Denmark, he finds himself communicating in a far more structured way, and spends significantly more time on communication than before. We asked Morten about his 'CEO view' on communications. 

Interview by Anders Monrad Rendtorff

What makes a top communication leader?

I have always paid attention to my communication. To my employees, my dealers and of course, especially to customers. That is why I really thought I was well aware of that part of my new role as CEO. But over the last three years, I have learned that communication is a very specific - and actually quite difficult - discipline in the role of top leader.

It's very much through my communication that I set a clear direction and engage and motivate internally. And externally, it is quite crucial how I am perceived when I speak at a conference or am quoted in the media. It reflect the customers' and the outside world's perception of Telia. I'm less Morten, and much more a CEO, who in many ways is the face of the company.

What made you think differently?

I was a little surprised at how crucial many symbols are in a role as CEO. I'm a great advocate of being in control of my messages, but I've learned how vital it is to have a strong red thread in everything I say internally and externally and be able to adjust my messages to the individual target audience. My environment attaches great importance to what a CEO says and does, so I spend significantly more time now discussing communications and on preparation than I did before.

How do you prepare?

One could say that I have gone from intuition to structured preparation. I've always found it easy to communicate and really like to "stand on the beer crate (speaker's box)". But I realised how much of a difference it makes to be more structured and be more prepared. So I've benefited greatly from advice in communication. Together with my communications manager, we often sit and look forward to the next communication activities.

What should I do in the future, internally and externally, that requires special efforts? What is the goal, how should I communicate, what content should I focus on, etc, etc.? And we plan based on this background. I also appreciate feedback. I often tell my communications manager that she must be honest, come to me and thereby at all times help me to improve. So her feedback has been absolutely crucial.

What do you expect from your communications advisor?

The most important thing for me is that there is full confidence and honesty. It is essential that my advisor and I trust each other and that there is complete confidence. That is fundamental. In addition, my advisor must also be sharp at the business to advise on the communication part. Have the finger on the pulse a bit and know what's going on, what the atmosphere is like and where there are small or big issues.

It is important to me that my advisor sees the whole of our business and can guide me steadily. This also applies to media. To sense what is happening in my surroundings. And lastly, to be able to give me feedback and constantly push me on. I like going out of my comfort zone once in a while. It may require a little bit of courage, but I am a big fan of courage so I welcome it. Did I say that of course you should be really good at communication? It just simply cannot stand on its own.

Morten Bentzen

Morten Bentzen is chief executive officer of Telia Denmark. He joined the company in 2005 as a sales manager before working his way up to his vice president of business, which he held from 2011 until he became CEO in 2015.

Anders Monrad Rendtorff

Anders Monrad Rendtorff is head of communications at VL - The Danish Management Society and associate partner at RelationsPeople. Previously, he was senior vice president of people and communications at Coloplast. Anders has a strong background within corporate communications from Ericsson, TeliaSonera and BG Bank.