When Henrik Wellejus, Head of Audit & Assurance at Deloitte, talks about the last 27 years at Deloitte, it is not a straightforward journey. On the contrary, he says that the job is ever-changing, it’s never been the same long enough for him to feel that the pace and growth has stopped.
Looking back, there are two things he would have done differently. Firstly, he would have grabbed the chance to work and live abroad. Something that’s a rewarding opportunity within Deloittes global network, but which for many reasons, he just never came around to do. And secondly, he would have liked to have found the balance between being a professional and a human much sooner.
“Finding the personal balance in life is super important,” says Henrik Wellejus.
When Henrik Wellejus started in Deloitte in 1995, the organization had a strong focus on how many hours one could deliver. The more hours, the bigger a “hero” you were. And there was no actual formal leadership but instead a form of master teaching.
“The goal was to become just like the partner you were associated with. And that was it. If you happened to get a bad ‘teacher’, your career wouldn’t be a great experience,” he explains.
Because of this, Henrik Wellejus considers Deloitte’s current processes for performance management and leadership development two very positive and quote necessary organizational objectives.
“At the same time, we have a flatter hierarchy and more openness across the organisation than ever before.”
Be the change you want to see
Henrik Wellejus has played his part in this since his first year at Deloitte. He was actually the first to appoint himself as “head of department” with a special focus on leadership.
“I introduced employee interviews before there was a concept for development interviews, and I introduced departmental magazines and social events,” he recalls.
To Henrik Wellejus, these initiatives were an attempt to discard a perception of employees as “production machines”. But not everyone was on board with these new initiatives.
“It was really exciting to see how a very traditional organization like ours reacted to this. Most of the employees thought it was cool, while some partners considered it a waste of time.”
Room for new ideas
Going upstream is obviously not a new thing to Henrik Wellejus. That’s part of who he is. But he also gives a lot of credit to Deloitte.
“If you have good ideas, you should just throw yourself at them. It took me a while to find out that there is room anything. Because in reality, we aren’t that uniform or corporate in our approach,” Henrik Wellejus states.
However, that has not always been the case. Henrik Wellejus recalls an experience from his first year at Deloitte in 1995, where a younger employee initiated an after-work meeting where they could hear about The Internet.
“Only the IT nerds had heard about it at this time,” he explains with a smile.
About 30 people gathered that late afternoon when the Director barged in.
“He was completely gas-blue in his face and yelled at us to shut down the meeting immediately. Because this “internet” was totally overrated and would never really turn into something.”
Professionalism vs. Humanism
According to Henrik Wellejus, although a lot has changed over the years, there is still some way to go. He explains the ongoing challenge of balancing professionalism and humanism, as a consequence of the increased focus on specialization and technology.
But this is something that Deloitte is now trying to change.
“After all, we live by building trust. Trust in our advice and our data. And trust cannot be created solely through professionalism. It has to be created using personality. And we’ve probably not worked on that personality enough,” he explains.
And right here, a paradox emerges in Henrik Wellejus’ retrospective of the last 27 years in Deloitte. For a while, there was more of a focus on working hard, than on leadership and life balance. Saying that, there was more room for the personal aspects in other areas.
“Basically, you were chosen by clients depending on whether you were a nice person. And it hardly mattered if you were the most capable. Today we have to be the best, but I don’t doubt that clients are choosing us as well because we are good people to be around.”
Henrik Wellejus learned very early in his career that the personal touch creates the trust. He found this to be true when he, unexpectedly, had the opportunity to talk with the CEO of one of Deloittes clients, just the two of them.
“We talked about some very personal matters, and ever since that conversation I have been involved in pretty much every strategic decision their company has made. I’m pretty sure that would never have happened if I’d just kept to my profession,” he concludes.
And the close and personal relationship with customers is not only for the sake of the clients and Deloitte.
“We must never compromise the fact that we are the public representative and supervisor. But I still think that we do best if we are allowed to have a close, honest dialogue with our clients. That way we can challenge them on the questions where we can really make a difference.”