‘I want our people to fully unleash their potential’

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.