Category: AmCham News
“Be curious about people. Be interested in people. If you want to lead people, you have to be.”
– Tiago Campos Rodrigues, General Manager of AbbVie Norway
Tiago Campos Rodrigues is the General Manager of the Norway division of global biopharmaceutical company AbbVie. He joined the organization in 1999 while it operated as Abbott Laboratories. In 2013, a separation from Abbott created two companies: Abbott for medical products and AbbVie for pharmaceuticals.
In his career with Abbott and AbbVie, Tiago has held commercial leadership positions in Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, and currently Norway. AmCham met Tiago at AbbVie’s Norway HQ in Fornebu outside Oslo to discuss his international career.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you reached the position you hold today.
I’m Portuguese. I was born in Lisbon and grew up there. I did all of my junior high and high school in a German school so early on I began to have an international interest.
In 1999, I started to work for Abbott in Lisbon as a financial analyst. I had different roles from company integration when we bought another company to market research, product management, and went into commercial leadership functions.
After each move there was a certain overlap so I was able to leverage my strengths in a new position where I would also learn something.
What are some of the important decisions that you make at AbbVie?
I think the biggest decisions are first related to people, in terms of hiring and developing.
Another critical area is helping set and coordinate the affiliate strategies and linking that to our international strategies.
Then, it’s a balance between staying high-level and knowing where to go in depth and hands-on with specific topics.
As country manager, how do you increase morale and get more creativity out of your staff?
I think when everyone here goes home on Friday, they will feel that they have spent a week doing something that contributes to people’s lives. What we do helps people live better and even saves lives.
We give flexibility to employees to work when they are most productive. We focus on the outcomes, not on how long or when people are working.
Every year we also analyze the results of the Great Place to Work Survey. We develop action plans to address lower scoring items so we continuously improve our work environment.
The final aspect is innovation, which is a core value in everything we do.
Would you use the same leadership techniques in a different organization or country?
The cultural elements need to be adjusted to the organizations or countries you work in but some elements are the same.
People want to have some kind of meaning in what they do. People want to do something that is innovative and progressive. I also think people want to feel that the leadership cares about their work environment.
Work-life balance, for example, is important in Japan and Norway but what that balance means differs greatly.
Where do exciting ideas and proposals come from at AbbVie?
We actually say here that we have seventy leaders. We put a lot of focus on self-leadership because that links to innovation.
The key expectation is that everyone will drive innovation which means developing concrete actions that improve the way we work.
Has your international experience been valuable at AbbVie in Norway?
When it comes to innovation, I would say yes. I think the broader the range of experience you have to tap into, the more diverse ideas you can generate.
What do you think are important characteristics of a good leader generally? Any common mistakes?
I think one important aspect is that you walk the talk. At the basis of everything is trust. One must be consistent with what one says no matter what.
If you’re a leader that deals with different cultures, one mistake – that I too have made – is to assume that you have understood the culture and how people work very quickly and rush into decisions.
How does technology impact your leadership style?
Technology is at the heart of what we do, but locally we don’t meet the discovery component. Our products are our own technology, but those are not discovered in Norway. Here, we work on enhancing the use of that technology, which means improving how our products are implemented and finding more settings in which they can be used.
For example, we have worked a lot to help increase the usage of ultrasound as a diagnosis tool in the area of rheumatic disease. It’s not creating technology locally but seeing what kind of technology can help patients in the disease areas where we work.
Personally, how do you develop your leadership skills?
On a daily basis, I look at what other leaders are doing. When I say leaders, it is not just the people above me but also the people I work with.
Are there any other exciting projects at AbbVie that you are excited to share?
We are working with a small company outside Oslo to develop a carrying device for Parkinson’s disease patients that is more ergonomic and aesthetic. We are thinking we can help export this to other countries.
It’s an interesting example of how multinational companies in Norway contribute not only to the patients in Norway but also to the economic development of medium and small sized companies in potentially helping with internationalization.
Where do you see yourself and AbbVie in the next five years?
We will be helping a broader range of patients so it will be exciting to see not just the new products but also what new ways we can find to improve the well-being of people.
Do you have advice for young professionals hoping to reach leadership roles in their career?
Being directly exposed to different cultures and environments, both at work and privately, helps you develop and train different sets of mental muscles.
Be curious about people. Be interested in people. If you want to lead other people, you have to be.
And then be focused on improving. The first step of improving is knowing yourself.
What was the latest email you replied to last night?
The latest email I sent last night was at 18:10.
I have a good work-life balance. It comes back to walking the talk. If you want people to have a positive work balance and they see you slaving nonstop, that will not put them at ease.
Published: January 16, 2021