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10 Questions with Christoffer Ellehuus—Market Leader, HR North America

3 March, 2016

One of my favorite activities here at CEB is connecting with colleagues and finding out what’s happening in other parts of our business. I recently sat down with Christoffer Ellehuus, a CEBer since 2002, who shared his perspective on what makes CEB stand out from other companies in the market, and discussed professional experiences and learning opportunities for aspiring leaders with me.

CEB Ellehuus

Can you tell me about your role?

I’m the North America Market Leader for CEB’s HR and Talent Management businesses. My job is to oversee the commercial organization that engages with our members across all of our HR membership and talent management products. A big part of my focus this year is to structure our go-to-market approach in a more integrated way, so we can more holistically support our members and clients across our HR and talent management products and services.

What makes CEB stand out from other companies in the market?
Firstly, all our advice and solutions are anchored in our insights into best practices from our research and membership business. We start from a conversation with our members about their challenges, identify best practices in our network, and then build a solution that has the highest impact on performance, as opposed to creating a generic solution for every client.

Secondly, CEB focuses on building the capability of teams at our members’ organizations. The research, tools and training available with our memberships allows our clients to be smarter about the decisions they make or the strategies they deploy. In short, our focus is on teaching our members how to fish; not doing the fishing for them.

What is your favorite CEB moment?
One notable memory was when I worked with a major toy company in Europe to define what their integrated talent management strategy should look like, which allowed the company to better manage its global pipeline of talent and ultimately create a stronger bench of successors. I noticed some years ago that the CEO from that company attributed their stronger talent management strategies as a major component of their significant market success. It made me proud to see the impact we can have in the market with one of Europe’s most innovative and fast-growing companies.

What was your biggest professional challenge, and how did you overcome it?
It would have to be my experience in launching new products that leverage capabilities across our acquired entities. The ultimate outcome always seemed clear to me, but I had to overcome differences in cultures, operating styles, and incentives. It taught me a lot about not taking anything for granted—particularly the importance of taking a step back and making sure stakeholders agree on goals, resources, timelines, and even basic things like terminology and language!

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?
Have courage to take on new challenges; push yourself to always be on the look out for new experiences that you can learn from. Be in the business of maximizing experiences; worry less about the title of your job or how big your team is.

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
You often sit in meetings with senior people who make decisions that they are so confident about, but which sometimes may not make sense in your mind. I’d tell my younger self to have the guts to be the person who speaks up with that same self-assurance. You probably have more knowledge than you think; you just don’t have as much confidence to make those statements. Have more confidence to have well-grounded opinions, and engage in arguments early on.

Who do you most admire and why?
If you have been to my office you would probably be able to guess this one as you will see a framed (and signed!) picture of Margaret Thatcher —the iconic British Prime Minister during the 1980’s. Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister in the UK, who took some of hardest political battles with the trade unions and reforming an economic system in decline.

She set the stage for free market economic and political reform across Europe and stood up to the Soviet Union like no other European leader. I was fortunate to meet her during my studies at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium and she left a big impression on me.

What’s your favorite film and why?
Office Space—it’s just such a great description of the smaller elements of US corporate life (over-characterized, of course). It’s so good in so many angles because it is so accurate. I love that movie, it’s just genius.

What is one destination everyone should add to his or her travel bucket list?
Everybody should go visit my home country Denmark and spend some time in our beautiful capital city, Copenhagen. I would encourage you to visit at the end of June, when the Danes celebrate “Sankt Hans“. It’s the Midsummer fest, with bonfires on the beaches all along the coastline. The sun sets around 11 pm and rises again around 4 am.

What is your favorite “life hack” – in balancing your personal or professional life – which you would recommend to others?
My wife and I both have very demanding careers. One of the things that makes our personal and professional life work well is simple: we send invitations to each other’s work calendars for the things we do in our personal life, and we make sure to include clear details around who is on point to do what. It sounds very business-oriented, but it’s the only way we can manage a family with three kids and two busy careers.

Special thanks to Laurie Josephson and Marie Africa for their support and assistance with this article.

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