At the beginning of my business career I was negotiating my biggest market research contract to date, with a Dutch lady representing the biggest potential client. Competition was though, we were all at the beginnings and we needed that client like air. She new it and she was pushing further requests at every new meeting. I was accepting many of them in order to stay in the game. Up to a point, when I firmly told her “no, from here on I cannot deliver what you need at a lower price and in a shorter time” and I explained her why. I was risking the data quality itself and I was not willing to do that. I left the meeting disappointed by myself and convinced I was out of the negotiation. I kept thinking I was supposed to find even more manoeuvring space. But I didn’t.
Next day she called me to meet again. She told me I won the contract. I asked her why. She answered, serenely: “Because you said no; its the first time here when someone is telling me no and explains convincingly why. Usually people say yes, it will be done, and it’s not done.”. The idea that I can get a yes by saying no did not cross my mind till then.
In the meantime many things have changed around but Antje – this was her name – taught me one of the most important lessons: to be clear about what I can do and what I cannot do while keeping my mind open for new perspectives.
Clarity of what they want to achieve and the motivations behind their choices. The strategic discussions, both at personal and organizational level, are especially hard, but they are also the most useful ones before applying any action plan.
Then comes the relevance each action has for success and why. A goal can be achieved in many ways, but in an environment where the pressure of time and tasks is huge, these choices become crucial.
The focus is the most difficult benefit to maintain, but which also matters the most. I would say that, in Romania, it is the most important competitive advantage one can have, because it separates fast and sustainable the winners from the crowd.
In the same time I was always keen to help my clients to better understand the human nature and relationships. Because no matter how well prepared and valid are the plans and numbers, unless people make them part of their own story, nothing goes as well as it could.
strategic planning (internal and external actions, roles and responsibilities)
communication planning, monitoring and feedback.
Using the same approach, but adapted to their specific contexts, I helped few entrepreneurs with small and medium-sized business to develop a strategy aimed at propelling them to the next level.
The cultural transformation projects that I was part of were always aimed at delivering the businesses’ strategic objectives. The key steps we followed were concentrated on:
aligning the top management team to common vision, mission, values and objectives
identifying, by the top management, of the desired organizational culture, the one that will be able to deliver the required business results
organizational culture diagnosis
identifying most relevant interventions for transforming the current culture into the desired one
for cases when the top management wants to develop or implement a values-driven leadership as a way to deliver best business results, we created, through Wanted Transformation Consultancy, a fully customized tool to transfer the values of a company into the day-to-day behavior of all employees – LiveTheValues.com.
Occasionally, I’m invited to deliver key-note speeches at companies’ internal gatherings. The subjects cover, usually, the need for reflection and new ideas on internal or external matters, change initiatives or values implementation. When the objectives are ambitious and the required effort is alike, a fresh perspective may help create new energies and solutions.
The speeches below are from public events, not from companies’ internal ones.
Within the Executive MBA Program of Maastricht School of Management from Bucharest I teach the “Leading with a Story” course.
In the workshop format I have been asked to deliver it to companies, too. Leadership and storytelling are two still separate skills in the business culture of organizations in Romania. Through this workshop I blend them together and help participants illustrate the truth that a good story well told motivates people to perform in a better way than any memo, excel, powerpoint or pdf.
Beiersdorf, Electronic Arts, eMAG, Gebruder Weiss, GfK, GMP, IKEA Trading South East Europe, ING Asigurări de viață și Pensii, Mondelez, Pfizer, Philip Morris, Ponderas, Propaganda, Tradeville, Vodafone.