• en
  • nl
  • Becoming the superfluous leader

    18/06/2015 | Zaltbommel


    The Schouten & Nelissen slogan 'A ship is only as strong as its crew' is an even better metaphor for the Volvo Ocean Race, now that the yachts are 'one design' - i.e. all exactly the same. Now it is really down to the people. And it is great that our organization has been able to use its core strengths and not only financially sponsor Team Brunel, but also provide coaching via Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel. She has made a substantial contribution (with flair!) to trust, interconnection, communication and growth, in relation to the crew and its leadership by skipper Bouwe Bekking. And, of course, many parallels can be drawn between racing crews and the teams within organizations.

    Enabling others to excel
    Flexibility is vital in our hectic world, in which so many changes occur so quickly. Flexibility increases your chances of survival enormously. So do not cling grimly to how things were and how they were always done. Be open to innovation, change and constant self-development. And keep growing!

    This demands a new style of leadership. One aimed at creating an open team culture, in which everyone trusts and learns from each other. In which the leader is not the omniscient boss, taking all the decisions and knowing everything (which is, of course, impossible) - but where the leader is more of a facilitator. Someone who supports his people and removes obstacles, so they can excel in their work. In my view this is my most important task and is the added value I bring to leadership. My ultimate goal is, in fact, to no longer be necessary - so that my team becomes entirely self-managing.  But do not expect this to happen if you do not want your people to be better than yourself! Just as in Team Brunel, everyone has a certain role, is expert in some area. Which is what I want to recognize in my team. I really do want them to be better than I.

    Learning from and with each other
    A team contains so much knowledge and talent. The trick is to make optimal use of it - sharing information with each other and continuing to learn from and with each other. Because at the end of the day, whatever you do, you are going to have to do it together. You cannot do it alone.
    As in the case of Team Brunel, my team is a mix of young and old. This is a big plus. It means you have many different perspectives available on board. The younger generation can learn from the old guard and vice versa. And learning is what leaders must stimulate in their organizations.  


    Learning takes place more or less in terms of the 70/20/10 principle. 70% of learning takes place on the job with people learning from each other, 20% takes place via coaching and 10% by means of formal interventions. This actually very much resembles the old apprenticeship model. The difference being that the apprentice 'masters' are not automatically the older people: Sometimes, indeed, older people can transfer their knowledge to younger people. And sometimes new input from the young can give old hands a refreshing perspective. It is important that people are open to new ways of looking at or dealing with things, and do not automatically follow the beaten track. 

    Creating interconnection and growth
    I am doing this in a number of ways in my own team. It starts with the creation of interconnection and trust. Working in sales can easily be a lonely job. Most of the time salespeople are with customers and not at the office or together on a boat. This makes interconnection a considerable challenge. Twice-monthly meetings with the whole team are a start: doing things together, getting to know each other better, having a good laugh, sharing good times. But also setting objectives together, celebrating successes - and certainly also sharing defeats and, above all, learning from them.

    We also use a type of buddy system, which combines people of different ages and levels of experience so that they learn from each other. For example, by coupling an analytical person with someone who specifically wants to grow his or her own analytical capability. We also have more opportunity to put questions. Whereas people previously tried to re-invent the wheel on their own, they can now put a question to the team on how to solve the problem. Which produces feedback and tips, in the line of 'Hey, have you thought of this?' or 'Perhaps try such-and-such'. There is more communication, more mutual consultation, more openness. So much knowledge is available. You progress and grow by sharing it. So what we are good at, and what we help our clients to develop, are skills which we also deploy on ourselves. We practice what we preach.



    Profile: Marieke Schouten

    Marieke Schouten has been Commercial Director of Schouten Global since March 2015.

    She was previously a director of Cirquest and has held sales leadership positions at DHL, both at national and European level. Following her studies in organizational psychology at the University of Utrecht and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, she started her career as a trainer and eventually joined the family business.

    Her mission: empower people and organizations and provide clients with added value, from Schouten & Nelissen. It matters! It is how we are becoming the player in the soft skills market, nationally and internationally.

























    For more information:


    Back to top