It was during a coaching session, like the one Karen mentioned in the previous blog, that I discovered the three events in my life that drive my thinking. From those, I know why I have become an analyst, why I’m driven to work internationally and why I am driven to share my knowledge. Important decisions I made throughout my life can be brought back to these events.
The first event occurred when I was about six years old. The school I was attending had been closed. At the new school, the teacher asked us to read something. I was the only one who could not read. Just as Karen did in a similar situation, I made an unconscious decision: “This is a situation I do not want to be in again!”
With this identified, it became clear why, prior to a meeting, I was driven to have answers readily available to any questions that might be asked. It also became clear why, when there was a tough problem, I was driven to analyse it, identify its root causes and fix it once and for all. This turned out to be a pretty effective way to prevent myself from winding up in situations I would never want to be in again. It also points to why learning mathematics was easy and why I made the decision to study mathematics: With mathematics, things become predictable.
The second event occurred when I was about 12 years old. I was in a class where those who had low grades in German got extra training (I grew up in Germany). Being in this class had one consequence: I was not able to take an English class. One day, the head teacher, who was also my math teacher, came into my remedial German class. He said “Why are you here?” This told me I did not belong in that particular class.
With this identified, it became clear why I took English classes as soon as I could and booked vacations that required me to speak English. When I met my wife and the question arose where we would live—in Germany or in her country, The Netherlands—this drove me to move to The Netherlands, where I had to speak English and learn Dutch. It didn’t take long and I was working internationally. English was the business language.
The third event occurred when I was about 16 years old. I was working in my father’s vineyard. With hundreds of plants to go and a most boring task assigned to me, I asked myself, “How can I explain to others what I do so they can take it over?” With multiple vineyards and multiple such tasks, this was an event that reoccurred many times.
Many years later, I became the main inventor for and had a leading role in a knowledge management solution that collected available knowledge, transferred knowledge into high-impact directives and guidelines, and drove the environment to use that knowledge.
The three events combined. The three events explain how I became the person I am. Throughout my life, important decisions can be brought back to these three events. When what I do aligns with any of these events, it gives me the energy and drives me to go the extra mile.
How you can use this? The next time you take leadership training or when you seek leadership coaching, ask whether this will identify the three main events in your life that drive your thinking. When this is part of the training, then you have an indicator that this training or coaching is part of a new generation of leadership training, designed for all sorts of situations you can find yourself in.
Another type of new generation leadership training is designed for specific settings. It makes a difference where the results of traditional leadership classes are disappointing. How to find those? Follow introduction sessions or listen to experiences of those who went through such training.