In this episode Josh speaks with Sjoerd de Waal, and they are having a fascinating conversation about leadership.

Sjoerd de Waal is the founder of Trainnovation, an innovative training and coaching firm in the Netherlands. He is the author of two books on leadership, Lead Between the Lines and The Whole Brain Leader.
By linking his creative thinking preferences to his logical and critical thinking capabilities, he has developed the perfect blend for applying Whole Brain Thinking in a variety of business processes. Despite his critical thinking, Sjoerd is highly approachable.
Recently he got certified for Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching.

In today’s episode you will learn:

  • The journey of one leader
  • Why so many people are terrible leaders
  • The impact you make as a leader and the consequences of this impact
  • How to become a great leader instead of a dictator


Narrator:             Welcome to “Cracking the Cash Flow Code”, where you’ll learn what it takes to create enough cash to fill the four buckets of profit. You’ll learn what it takes to have enough cash for a great lifestyle, have enough cash for when an emergency strikes, fully fund a growth program and fund your retirement program.

When you do this, you’ll have a sale ready company that will allow you to keep or sell your business. This allows you to do what you want with your business, when you want in the way you want. In Cracking the Cash Flow code, we focus on the four areas of business that let you take your successful business and make it economically and personally sustainable.

Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning,   and   thinking   about   what   it   takes   to   make   a   successful   business sustainable and allow you to be free of cash flow worries.

Josh:                      Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Today, our guest is Sjoerd de Waal. I hope I got that right. He is with Marshall Goldsmith group. I always love to have somebody on who’s with Marshall Goldsmith group because we I know, we’re going to have a fascinating conversation about leadership. So instead of me yammering on forever, which I have this bad habit of doing, let’s bring Sjoerd on, and we’ll get started.

Hey, how are you today?

Sjoerd:                  I’m feeling great. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me in your show.

Josh:                      It’s my pleasure. So you’ve written a couple of books, and you have an interesting story on your journey. Frankly, your journey is not completely dissimilar to mine. We both were cancer survivors. We could talk about that, but let’s talk about leadership, which I think is a much more interesting topic.

Sjoerd:                  Yes, let’s leave the bad parts behind. It’s also part of how you’re formed in your life, of course. Well, looking at leadership, then I have to go back for quite a few years. My first leadership job was on board of a cruise ship with the old America Line. I was suddenly confronted with 10 people that were my team. So I was literally thrown into the deep with leadership, and how do you work with that?

Because, well, you’re an expert in something and suddenly you have to lead a group and where you go from there. That was more or less the start of my leadership career. Also, the reason why in fast forward to 2014, I wrote my first book on leadership “Lead between the lines” and that was especially for people that dealt with the same big jump from being an expert, being a professional to becoming a leader. That helps the starting leaders with their leadership.

Josh:                      So let’s talk about that for a second. Because I think a lot of people who own businesses, they go into business because they’re an expert at something in their business. And before they know it, they have four or five people on their team. Instead of becoming great leaders, they become dictators.

Sjoerd:                  You noted up, yeah, that’s true. You can compare that with that situation, indeed. Because when you start your own business, and you have never let other people in the past, but you are an experts, it’s very hard to share all that you have. Also, well inspire other people to work on to give their best to engage them. Since you are the owner, since you are the one who knows it all, you can have a really bad time.

Josh:                      I find that almost universally, people start off in their business career being really bad on the leadership side. I think there’s a whole variety of reasons behind that but it’ll be interested to see what your thoughts are. Why is that true? Why are people such bad leaders? Here’s the second part of this question is, do you think leaders are born are leaders made?

Sjoerd:                  Yeah, well, let’s start with the first part. The reason I think that most beginning leaders find difficulties is that starts with our education. We learn to be experts in something. We don’t learn the so called soft skills. I recently read something from Seth Godin about the real skills because the soft skills are underestimated and they make quite a difference in how successful you can be as a leader going from that to the second part of your question.

Are leaders being made or are they born leaders? Well, the science says that it is being made. You learn to become a leader. That’s also my experience. You may have some talent to become a leader, but you still have to work hard to really become a good or great leader. That’s where I’ll help.

Josh:                      So let’s say I’m starting a business. I know I’m going to have five to 10 people working with me relatively quickly. What do I need to do to become a great leader?

Sjoerd:                  What you have to do to become a great leader is to first be aware of where you are in your development and your personal development. What is your character? What are your skills already? What do you have to deal with? What are the things you have in mind to grow your business?

So you have to first select the right people for your business, then you have to look at what is the way of thinking you prefer to use. That is what I use the brain preferences. You can see that as the Myers Briggs type indication. The MBTI is to look at, what kind of thinking do I prefer to use in my work?

Try to find people with other kinds of thinking so that you will have a diverse mindset and be open to the ideas of the others. Don’t try to do everything on your own.

Josh:                      I want to step in here because you just said something really, really, really important. Which is being open to the mindset of your other people in your organization, even though they have a brain preferences different than yours. My experience between great organizations and toxic organizations is the great organizations do a really good job of respecting the differences in their organization. The toxic ones don’t.

Sjoerd:                  Exactly, exactly yeah.

Josh:                      For me, that was a huge and very difficult and actually painful if you continue to learn.

Sjoerd:                  Well, let’s go into that a bit more, when I started my own company Train Ovation, which is training and coaching company in 2011. I was interested in how the brain works, but I didn’t follow any quarters or that or something. So I went to a course to become a licensed grain preference coach. In 2012, I did my own test and found out my way of thinking. Then immediately, I saw why I had so much trouble working with my direct leader because my way of thinking was completely different from his way of thinking. We both had enormous egos. So we had to clash.

Josh:                      [Laughs] Yeah, I understand how that is.

Sjoerd:                  That’s the next point is also be careful with your ego. Leave him at the doorstep when you want to lead a group of people, be open and leave your ego at the door.

Josh:                      That is so important. I actually call that leading from the back. If you can take a step back and not be at the head of the table, you’re probably going to become a much more effective leader.

Sjoerd:                 Yes, yes, absolutely. Don’t sit on the opposite side of the table, but sit next to the other person.

Josh:                      Right. That’s also a good thing to do. I find that great leaders often ask really penetrating great questions and don’t pontificate very much.

Sjoerd:                  Yeah, it’s about asking the right questions and that is very important as well in leadership. It’s not telling, but asking. Then after that, listen to what they have to say. I’m quite fond of reading books. One of the nice books I read recently was Quiet Leadership by David Rock. There he also said, you don’t want to have all the answers. You have to ask good questions. Ask the questions to the guys that are following you, guys or girls.

Josh:                      Yes, that makes perfectly good sense to me. So when you train someone for leadership, what do you do?

Sjoerd:                  Training is mostly done in groups. So then I go to the company. I mostly do in company trainings. I get an idea of what the company is about. I want to ask what are the real questions, what are the problems you face, and then go with a group of 10 to 20 people.

We go through the steps that I use in Leads Between the Lines. I go in about four sessions or half a day and between every session two weeks to get us them use those things that we talked about in the training sessions.

Josh:                      So tell me a little about Leadership Between the Lines. What’s the premise of the book? I liked the title, by the way.

Sjoerd:                  Lead Between the Lines. The main thing is I use the metaphor of the house of leadership where I have a foundation called Awareness. That is the basis for leadership, being aware of where you are, who you have to deal with, what are your stakeholders? What are the goals of the organizations, etc. Then you have the communication part.

We have four pillars: communication, goal setting, learning, and also execution. Those are the four pillars that I discussed in the trainings. Also on top of it, there’s your roof of trust. So, it is building your house of leadership. So you build up your leadership by being aware, being good at the four pillars: communication, goal setting, execution, learning and be trustworthy and trust giving.

Josh:                      My experiences that most businesses and most employees I run across. There’s not a high level of trust between the employees and the company.

Sjoerd:                  That’s true. Yeah.

Josh:                      What can we do to build more trust?

Sjoerd:                  First to trust, start with trust yourself. Each and every leader when you find an issue in your company, look at yourself.

Josh:                      What do you mean by look at yourself? I sort of get the idea of I say you better look in the mirror before you do anything else. But what do you mean by look at yourself?

Sjoerd:                  Try to find out how you are being seen by the people you lead. Because most of the time you have a wrong picture of yourself in the way you lead. That can be found by involving the people you lead and ask them, “Okay, what is it that makes me perform well, and what is it that doesn’t make me perform well.” I know that’s very, very difficult to ask to the people you lead because they have got an agenda as well.

Josh:                      Well, the challenge I have with that, and I think that asking that is perfectly fine to do. There’s another step you have to go to, at least in my experience is that the people who report to you whether you’re a gigantic corporation or you own a small little business almost never tell you the truth.

They will say what they think you want to hear. How do we get past that?

Sjoerd:                  You really have to open up and you have to build trust. You cannot do it just like that. It’s something that comes slowly people have to repeatedly see that you’re doing your best, that you’re trying to make things better for each and every one. And when you look at engagement worldwide, because that’s also what you’re talking about is people are not engaged in a work. Large group is not engaged.

Josh:                      I think there’s so something like 60%, if I’m not mistaken.

Sjoerd:                  To engage people is about 15% or 16% worldwide.

Josh:                      Wow, that’s pretty low.

Sjoerd:                  That’s pretty low, and I think the states slightly higher, but Europe, it’s a mess. In the Netherlands, despite our wealth and health and what have you, real engagement on the work floor is at about 13% 14%. Then you have the disengaged and actively disengaged so that’s a problem. But I think when you want to start with getting people involved, you have to involve them.

Get people engaged, you have to engage them. Ask them for their opinion and really work with opinion. Ask them for their facts. Ask them for their expertise and really reward them for what they bring to the table. That’s where Marshall Goldsmith also comes in, is there are some ineffective behaviors of leaders.

He ranked about 20 of them in effective habits of leaders. So many leaders are successful because of certain habits, but also despite certain habits. Despite certain habits, that makes that trust goes down, that they are less effective.

Josh:                      So what might be some of those habits?

Sjoerd:                  He categorizes in two of four categories. One is promoting my value so always having the final saying, always having a better idea. Also, when ideas come in know that however and things like that. So you really bring motivation down to zero. Making destructive comments about ideas of other people when they come in, those are promoting your own values stuff, overusing emotions, reacting when angry or using your emotional intelligence to more or less influence the situation in a bad way, clinging to the past.

We always did it like that. When people come with new ideas, kill the ideas or empowering their own ego because I’m the best and let me show you how smart I am. I am, you’ve got a brilliant idea, but I thought of it long before you if you use those kinds of things. Yeah, well, what happens with trust? People don’t feel valued. They don’t feel enthusiastic anymore. They don’t come with new ideas.

Josh:                      When you do that sort of stuff, what comes to mind with me is that you are actually demeaning their competence.

Sjoerd:                  Yeah, that’s true.

Josh:                      There’s a great book called the Trusted Advisor. I don’t know if you’ve ever run across it. In there, there’s a really good little formula, which I think is the whole book, which is how you build or destroy trust and its competence plus intimacy plus reliability divided by self interest.

Sjoerd:                  Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen that formula.

Josh:                      In my experience, any time trust is not established or is killed is because one of those four things is out of whack.

Sjoerd:                  Yeah, absolutely.

Josh:                      For example, if I tell you, I’m going to do something, and I don’t, my reliability index with you has just gone way down.

Sjoerd:                  Yep, absolutely.

Josh:                      That’s a problem I see private business owners do all the time. They make stupid promises that they know they’re not going to keep. As a result, the motivation, the people working with him goes way down because they’re not seen as being reliable.

Sjoerd:                  Yeah and they also give unconscious promises. They don’t see what they have promised. They say, “Yeah, well, maybe I will look into it.” That is regarded as I will look into it, not as it may be. So, you must be so careful with what you’re saying, as a leader because every works is weighed on a gold scale.

Josh:                      I used to have a client that used to always sell take that under advisement. I finally said one day to say, “You got to stop saying that because all it means is screw you.”

Sjoerd:                  Please be direct to me and tell me what you what you have on mind. Don’t give me that BS.

Josh:                      That didn’t do much for me to say, “Well, I know what she’s going do with that idea.”

Sjoerd:                  Yes. One of the things some leaders have is really they think the people they lead are stupid and they are not.

Josh:                      Especially with blue collar businesses. When you own a blue collar business, if you don’t respect the people on the line, they know it. They’re not dumb.

Sjoerd:                  I’ve been a business unit manager on a refinery leading 150 people in all different educational levels from school until the high schools and university. They all have asked a different approach. You have to respect what they bring to the table because you, as a leader of 150 people, you don’t have all those qualities. They bring that to you and you have the ears and eyes outside.

Josh:                      Absolutely. I used to have a food service company with 90 employees. One of the things I used to always say to folks is that, “You’re the expert on your job. It’s our job to listen to you and ask what you think is correct. Not us to tell you what to do.”

Sjoerd:                  Exactly. That’s about leadership.

Josh:                      If you can actually do that, make that into a pillar in your company, you’re likely to have a much more engaged workforce.

Sjoerd:                   Absolutely. Everyone wants to be appreciated for what he or she brings to the table.

Josh:                      Yes. I found that out too, because I was walking through my office one day. My controller said to me, said congratulate me so okay, great for what? He says my anniversary. I said, “Well, that’s cool. How long have you been married?” I said, “No, you idiot is my anniversary here.”

Sjoerd:                  Okay, as a leader, you’re also entitled to have some flaws, I think.

Josh:                      Well that was back when I had many faults. I wasn’t just something that was me. That was when I was on my metamorphosis from being the worst marriage or who ever lived to being relatively competent.

Sjoerd:                  So something opened your eyes was that this moment? Was this the–?

Josh:                      That was one of the moments but it was actually a new age seminar I went to. They got me to look in the mirror and said, “Well, maybe it’s my fault, not their fault.”

Sjoerd:                  It often is.

Josh:                      Well, I would say almost always, yes. Sjoerd, unfortunately, we are out of time.

Sjoerd:                  Oh, wow.

Josh:                      I have a huge amount of respect for the work you do and the work that Marshall Goldsmith group does. So can you tell people how to get in touch with you if they’d be interested? I hope they are.

Sjoerd:                  Yes, I hope so too. Well, I think the best way is to find me up on LinkedIn and send me a direct message. That is the easiest way. They can also send me an email on my direct email address. I will give another one with my name in it because pronouncing and writing it down will be a problem. That will be and if they send a message to that, I will immediately respond to it and make a contact.

Josh:                      That sounds great. I’ve been playing around with this idea which I call the Financial Freedom Project, which is how you as a private business owner become financially free from your business. The first step you need to know is where you are on the stage. I built this little tool years and years and years ago. I finally made it into a program and it’s called The Four boxes of Financial Freedom.

It’s a seven-minute quiz that you put some numbers in and it’ll spit out whether you’re on the road to financial freedom or not. It’s free. All you have to go to is That’s all one word. Spend seven minutes you’ll find out whether you’re on the road to financial freedom for your business or not. So this is Josh Patrick, and he was short the wall. I hope I got that sort of close. We’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Thanks for a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator:             You’ve been listening to the “Cracking the Cash Flow Code” where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at   802-846-1264   extension   102.   Or visit us on our website at   Or you can send   Josh an email at   Thanks for listening and we hope to see you at Cracking the Cash Flow Code in the near future.

Topics: leadership, sustainable business podcast, Sustainable Business, leadership competency, the journey of leader, great leader, sjoerd de waal, making an impact

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