‘We both stood on the edge of our comfort zone’
The reason I am so passionate about the philosophy of Authentiek Leiderschap, is the fact that it is very pragmatic while maintaining depth. It is recognisable. So, when Michiel Verhaagen was looking for a way to increase sales by influencing behaviour rather than by improving skills, to make our people even better at their jobs, I knew who I wanted.
I was already familiar with Authentiek Leiderschap, before I started working at AirPlus. I knew what powerful tools are hidden in the AL approach. I was glad to see that they came out strongest in the RFP, even though some of the other agencies were big international companies with strong reputations. It was not just me who had a good feeling about this. Michiel said so himself: It really struck him how Authentiek Leiderschap put him on the edge of his comfort zone, which was something others didn’t do.
I was one of the people who attended the first training session in London. The Authentic leadership philosophy covers the whole spectrum of coaching, yet you can get started in half an hour with simple tools that have deep and lasting impact. The pragmatic way that AL makes coaching a fun, light-hearted but impactful experience was impressive. I knew and had used AL already and this training added new layers of knowledge and wisdom to what I was already doing, making it even more successful. It’s almost like second nature now; listening to colleagues, seeing what it is that holds them back and together see what we can do about it.
It was very clear that we wanted to do more with this. With the upcoming restructure to an Agile organisation and the change management required we wanted everybody in the company to benefit. But to train over four hundred people is a challenge. That is when we came up with the idea of creating a program where we want our people to become trainers themselves.
We discussed this idea with Authentiek Leiderschap. As this had not been done abroad before, it brought them to the edge of their comfort zone as well. It became a real co-creation between AirPlus and Authentiek Leiderschap: as we were developing materials, we were making continuous improvements both on material and process. Their open-mindedness, creativity and sincere willingness to help gave me a lot of energy. They were very open about sharing their knowledge and expertise. That is quite unique: most other agencies I have worked with, are very protective of their materials. It resulted in four practical workshops tailored to our needs and our business with each of the workshops going one level deeper.
The program had two goals: the AirPlus trainers (Champions) needed to become coaches using the Authentic leadership philosophy, and they needed to become trainers, able to give workshops to the other 452 employees so that they too apply the principles of Authentic leadership. Our trainers are delivering the four workshops to their colleagues in our office locations all over the world as we speak; from Europe, the Americas all the way to Asia and Australia.
The workshops are part of a bigger program, called Global (Commercial) Excellence. Besides giving our staff the knowledge and skills to be a sales agent, we are now also able to help them identifying and overcoming their barriers. People can fulfil their personal mission even better. The valuable present the AL team gave our salesforce is that they will stand a better chance of hitting their 2019 targets.
We have only been training our staff for a few months now, but already I see how the philosophy of Authentic leadership is changing our culture. I notice it in conversations I have with colleagues. It has become something natural, not forced. That to me is the true power of what we created.
Olaf Knijn is Global Excellence Director at AirPlus International. His mission is to give all 450+ AirPlus sales and service employees the environment to become the ultimate sales professional and enjoy and have fun in their role by being customer focussed, well-educated and disciplined in their pursuit of success.