My personal mission in my professional life is very clear: I want to create a professional environment, where people can be aligned successfully and are able to perform to the best of their ability. To achieve that, I need to give my management team, and their teams, the tools to make that happen. To help my people have everything they need to succeed, here at AirPlus we train them intensively, so that they can acquire the knowledge and skills to become successful sales- and customer agents. So, when we noticed that our people couldn’t fully unleash their potential, we were wondering: How did we fail them?

For instance, we agreed that someone would make 40 ‘cold calls’ per day to generate new business. By the end of the week it turned out that person had not made those calls. After talking to them, we learned that if the person knew how to make the call and what to do to get a new client on board, there still were obstacles to make these calls. The fear of rejection – something that happens a lot with these kind of calls – caused people not to make them.

This shows that personal behaviour, or in this case ‘to deal with fear’, is extremely important to succeed in business. But it also showed us that we did not quite know how to tackle these obstacles that were created. So we needed to find someone who could. Our Global Excellence Director Olaf Knijn suggested Authentiek Leiderschap. We asked them to come up with a proposition, as we did with two others. From the first moment, I was impressed with Authentiek Leiderschap. It really struck me how the type of questions they asked us on how we could change things, put me on the edge of my comfort zone. For me it was immediately clear: I wanted to work with them to help us and our people.

Because we are an international company, we opted to have a first training in London. During the training we got to know each other extremely well, in part thanks to the Ego Scan. We learned about each other’s personal missions, our barriers and learned not just to ask questions, but also how to really listen to each other. I can say that it was a success, not only for me personally, but for all attendees. The view on coaching your staff, looking from the inside out and make people aware of this; it felt natural to me.

In fact, it was such a success, we wanted all our 450 commercial staff to benefit from this. The thing is though with trainings, that it often feels like a ‘one-off’; we do a training, keep it in mind for a while and then continue as before. I didn’t want that. I wanted my teams to make Authentic leadership’s philosophy their own, so they could use it not just for themselves, but also spread it to their teams.

Authentiek Leiderschap was excited about our idea. Together we created a way to make this possible. And even though this was the first time for them to do this internationally, it went brilliantly. Two months later we started with a ‘train the trainer’ program: trainers from AL and ‘would be’ trainers from AirPlus, gave the course together. Meanwhile, Olaf and his team worked together with Carina and Lidwine to create a program that fits perfectly with AirPlus. He talks about how he experienced that in the next blog.

We are now in full swing to spread the philosophy to our colleagues in Germany, Italy, U.S.A, China, Australia, to name just a few countries. And I can say that I am thrilled about the perceived success and enormous energy I receive from it! Right after the first training, I could see that it was helping my staff and myself during the course of our day. We still have a long way to go, but I feel that I can now give my people an even better working environment especially in times of big changes, which can happen within AirPlus International. We are taking away as many barriers as possible, so that our staff can fulfil their personal missions and fully unleash their potential! This gives them the strength to believe in themselves and bring out their best in order to collectively make AirPlus International even more successful than it is today.

Michiel Verhaagen is Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Board Member at AirPlus, an international provider of payment solutions for the day-to-day management of business travel. Michiel is dedicated to support and push his team to become even more successful than they are today.

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.