Spark of Magic With a Touch of Madness

Once upon a time, long ago in a land far, far away…

It’s a classic start of the most mesmerizing stories that once seemed so real to us. What would you have done with your three wishes had you found Aladdin’s magic lamp? Come on, I know at some point in life you thought about it.  And if not, you probably bought a lottery ticket and dreamed of the thought of winning 30 million and all your dreams that could come true.

Ringing in the New Year

A new year means 365 new chances! Many of us take the time to overthink the old year and make up the balance. What were my successes, did I make my targets, am I satisfied, and what should I do different? At the same time, we develop a plan for the year ahead of us. What are my goals and targets, how am I going to achieve them, and what can I do to help others achieve theirs? Maybe you even have dreams you always wanted to make come true but felt out of reach before now.

What does it really mean to you to make the year count or even your life count? That’s a very personal thing, of course, but I would love to take you on a quick journey through another one of my brain spins.

For me personally, it’s important to make every day count. And it’s often in the little things.  Despite the fact I’m a leader, I love the value of entertainment and humour to make everyone get a little bit closer to themselves and help them stay away from outside distractions that often ruin their happy vibes. Staying close to yourself helps to connect to others. Whether it’s dancing at the desk, playing a round of request songs, and teaching others basic dance moves at the office, or making people see that little sparkle of light in a dark and shitty day. Not passing by their true emotions but helping them stay close to themselves and changing their perspective on that rough moment or experience.

Embracing Your Inner Child

I think it’s incredibly important to hold on to your inner child and to follow your dreams! A spark of madness and a rich imagination are valuable tools to make a difference, not only for yourself, but it’s an amazing way to impact others. You only get one spark of madness in this life. It’s so easy to get lost in this world without it so you have to maintain it.  Never lose your inner child, never lose your enthusiasm, and never lose your curiosity!

One of my most favorite quotes covers it all:

“The secret of a genius is to carry the spirit of young child into old age.” –  Aldous Huxley

A child is in touch with its aliveness. There’s a level of innocence that’s hard to hold on to as we “mature”. A child will dance naked and not think “I’m fat”.  They will sing and not think, “I wonder if I’m off key”. They will love you without conditions.  Living through the eyes of a child is just pure freedom. They are so in touch with their divine, their essence, their soul. It’s something special if you can carry this into an old age, because everybody deserves a spark of magic.

Keeping that Child Alive

We often worry too much about what others think of us, inciting unnecessary fear.  It creates boundaries that block our road to give our very best,  and leads to overthinking amazing ideas and beating down great enthusiasm. Do expectations really change?   Well, I guess to some degree they do.  I think it might be frowned upon if I dance around naked through the office tomorrow, but at the same time, there is so much room to be met in the office.  I stay close to myself and, at the same time, bring others closer to their true selves.  I encourage them to enjoy every moment to the fullest and inspire them to really go for it.

In the end, all that’s going to matter is the influence that you had on other people’s lives. Having an impact and being appreciated for it is the foundation of everything we do. We are all on a separate journey! But in the end its going to be about who you where as a person, how you lived your life, how you encouraged and impacted others.

“History is being read, but it’s also being written by people with imagination.” – Les Brown

Yet another strong quote that outlines the importance of holding on to your dreams and keep that spark of magic going. Part of the magic is determined by how much you believe in yourself. Walt Disney once said, “if you can dream it, you can do it”.   There is so much truth in his words. Even if you won’t get there today, you are going to be closer than you were yesterday. Keep going step by step. You might find the first step to be the hardest, but remember that you are never alone. If I can help you to keep your spark going, know where to find me.

Don’t you ever wonder if it’s all just a dream? Make the best of it and you will live happily ever after…. Wishing you an amazing 2021.

tea cup with bag

Changing Employee-Experience One Teabag at a Time

The other day I saw a quote pop up on Linkedin, If I recall correctly, it was one from Simon Sinek, and part of it said the following “life is beautiful because of the people we meet,” and I couldn’t agree more. So I try to squeeze the wave of thoughts that reading those words released in this little blog to tickle your minds. It is the people in our lives that give it meaning, make it valuable and worth living. Who else would you learn from, and who else would you share all your amazing experiences in life with. Can you imagine being all alone?

Basic Human Needs

Human beings are incredibly complicated and predictable at the same time. That’s what fascinates me about human behavior. Even though there are exceptions, the majority of our society uses the same strategies and patterns to make their everyday moves and decisions.

We all share a need for appreciation and acknowledgment, and we want to grow and develop. In addition,  we all desire a level of certainty and security. Although people have the same basic needs, we all seek them in different ways, moments, levels, and forms. We look for them in other people or situations. In the end, we are still unique.

Appreciation and acknowledgment are something very delicate. But by saying good morning, you can never go wrong.  Saying “good morning” tells people, “I see you and respect you.”  Another common way to get appreciation and acknowledgment is the use of social media. We share parts of our personal journey through life, things that happen to us, and something we experience. In return, people share our stories, like them, or even love them. In some cases, it can lead to new jobs or opportunities.

Nothing replaces human contact. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, there is so much value in being able to look someone in the eyes or to share your smile when someone feels a little down or just as a token of appreciation.

Developing Relationships

You hear it everywhere around you, “We tend to get caught up in life” or “life goes by so fast.” It’s a summary that describes the urgency of valuable inter-human relationships. Meeting new people means getting to know new people. Something that is, of course, extra hard during the current Covid19-restrictions all over the world. Never the less we need to keep going; we need to be a little bit more creative and leave the well-worn paths.

The importance of getting to know people is very relevant to the work floor too. Knowing your staff is one of the most important things there is. Getting to know them takes time and effort. But if you are willing to invest that and you really listen to your employees, truly try to understand them, you can make a difference.  Because when you know them, you know which buttons to push to coach them and guide them to become the best version of themselves under all circumstances.

The Tea Bags

People that know me know I’m not really a coffee drinker, but I will take a good cup of tea any time of the day!  That brings me to a good story about the connecting value of a cup of tea. It was at the end of my first year working as a manager at GVB public transit in Amsterdam. Managing a team of tram drivers and service staff members in the city of Amsterdam came with challenges. My staff members were often on the road, moments of contact were often short and usually about their adventures during their rides (basically to let off some steam). These visits were important but too short to build a meaningful work relationship and to help get them out of their own heads during their busy schedules.  Then I figured out the value of a teabag!

My favorite Dutch tea brand Pickwick is not just any teabag.  They have a wide variety of amazing tea flavors, and no, I’m not (yet) sponsored for writing this in my blog. But what makes me an even bigger fan is the little label on the end of the string attached to the teabag because they contain questions. And I can hear you think what’s so exciting about those questions? Well, they make you feel; they are an amazing tool to connect to yourself and other people.

I remember putting the jar of teabag questions on my desk. I made this plan when staff members walked in to blow off some steam, ask a simple question, or just a visit, I would draw a question. The first person I asked laughed hard and told me she wasn’t going to answer the question. But she did ask me the question back.  As I was answering, I was kind of disappointed, not knowing that two hours later, she would walk back into the office to answer it anyhow. I was happy and thought I was on to something. The value of this little teabag was more significant than I could ever imagine. It changed how I connected to my staff members in a natural human way and got them out of their busy work bubble.

Ironically enough, the labels on their corporate teabags don’t have the questions and just show their plain logo. A missed opportunity if you ask me because the work floor offers such an amazing stage for some good conversations. And it gave me, as a manager, an important tool to approach leadership from a different perspective opening my eyes, allowing me to connect with my staff members on a different level.

When did you connect with your team for the last time? What do you do to get to know your staff?

girl helping up boy

Always Stay Humble & Kind

This week it struck like lightning. As I was riding the early morning train to Amsterdam and crossed the fields, the sunbeams hit my face as the music played softly in my ears.  I experienced a moment of peace when the lyrics made everything fall into place.  I’m raised in a loving family by an amazing mom and dad. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how valuable the lessons our parents teach us can be. They truly determine my blueprints more than I ever realized before, even though I always try to be aware of the things I learn in life from the interactions I have with the people that cross my many paths. Ironically enough, I needed a song to figure out the most important lesson I’ve learned from my creators and a lesson I live by every day, and it makes a difference “Always stay humble and kind.”

Even though my dad never really finished high school, he’s the most successful man I’ve ever met or even know from any other source. His work ethic is incredible, he is always positive, but most importantly, he’s always respectful and kind. It’s hard not to like him even when he corrects you. He worked himself up over the years attending courses, getting diploma’s and, more importantly, by being amazing in everything he does. As an operational manager responsible for managing his teams and customers at a decent-sized facility organization, he makes a difference for many people every day! Never feeling too good to get his own hands dirty despite his position, always stayed humble.

Way Way Back

A while ago, I had a couple of drinks with some friends from high school. They shared amazing memories of being at my house, surrounded by my warm and welcoming parents that offered us the possibility to have a good time within reason. Getting that space always made us respect the boundaries that came with it. The times I didn’t, I still truly regret and learned valuable lessons off.

I’m grateful for my dad’s wisdom and the way he can transfer that to me, mostly by example, not forcing it on me but by giving me a choice to apply.  He does the right thing using knowledge and experience to help his staff and the organization to a higher level! For being him, he’s respected by many, and that often gives him the right impact!

The Resemblance Is Striking

It might sound funny that I always compare managing my staff members with raising children. This, despite the fact, I prefer to manage on an equal level. The resemblance in behavior, however, is striking. Even though I don’t have much experience raising kids, I always love to see how parents “manage” theirs. In the end, I guess we are both managing human beings. The challenging thing about that is that no-one is exactly the same.

Everybody has different buttons that need to be pushed to get the most out of them. That’s why it’s so important to know your employees. Do they need to be disciplined, or do they need some encouragement? The key is to always treat people with admiration and respect. If you are humble and kind, it’s easier to value other people and make people feel valued. That automatically makes it easier to find common ground, and that’s the foundation to grow your relationship and get things done weather in your personal or business life.

Shocking – Development Is Reversible

There aren’t very many people that master the skill of staying humble and kind. Over the many years of meeting people in different labor settings, markets, and industries, I noticed that a high number of people didn’t feel appreciated and respected by their manager or employer in general. Last week I read a disturbing article that pointed out that 1 out of 4 of the higher educated Dutch people currently searching for another job do this because of their manager.

Our findings are that lower educated, but often specialized people experience the same but stick around with their employer longer. Especially the older staff members.  As the current markets show, there is a shortage of technical staff members. Mainly younger employees often switch companies for a little extra money at the competition, often because there is simply not much more to stay for. Little appreciation, high work pressure, no social benefits, or incentives do not encourage employee retention. If companies focus on positive and appreciative leadership a little more, they can connect to their employees on a better level and make them feel valuable, appreciated, and needed, resulting in a more durable collaboration.

We Can All Relate!

So it wasn’t until my epiphany moment in the early morning train that I realized this is the very core of Oteos. I started the company because I want the world to be a little more humble and kind. It would make work a better place to be. Because in our core, we are all the same. We share the need for appreciation, acknowledgment, and we all want to grow in some way. We all have moments of high and moments of low. Even though we all cope with things in different ways, deep inside, we can relate. Embracing this knowledge, we offer businesses support and inspiration on many levels.

Sometimes it’s good to be a bit more conscious of our lives. To really be aware of the impact others have on us and how we can impact them. Which valuable lessons have you learned?  What are your blueprints? How do you impact others?


cherry tree and water

Embrace The Good

For years now, I’ve been intrigued by a short article I read about an African tribe and how they deal with each other’s mistakes. I took a screenshot of it and have kept it on my phone ever since.

In this African tribe, when someone broke a rule or made a mistake, they take the person to the center of the village where the whole tribe comes and surrounds them. For two days, they will tell them all the good that he did over the past years. The tribe believes that each human being comes into the world as good. In the beginning, everyone desires safety, love, peace, and happiness.  But sometimes, in the pursuit of these things, people make mistakes.

The community sees those mistakes as a cry for help. They then unite to lift man up, to reconnect him with his true nature, and to remind him who he really is, until he fully remembers the truth of which he had been temporarily disconnected: “I am good.”  (May 17, 2014, the good men project)

Dealing with Difficult Employees

Not until recently, I actively connected this article to leadership and managers dealing with difficult employees. Difficult employees are often a challenge for management. Some situations like a violation of company rules such as stealing are less difficult to deal with than unpleasant behavior between or towards colleagues. In the last situation, it might seem tempting to wait and see how it develops. Inaction, however, can harm those involved, general workplace morale, and productivity. It might become a reason for other valued members of the team to leave the department or even the company. Management needs to intervene; it’s their responsibility. So don’t brush people away, take them seriously. Make sure there is confidentiality. Address the employee in question immediately so that the situation is still fresh in their memories!


So when employees misbehave, do you punish them? If you do, keep in mind that it only has a short term effect and stops a specific action. It won’t change people’s behavior in general. It only teaches people how to avoid punishment. Think of a police camera that stops you from speeding as you pass it, after which you start to speed again. You want your employees to develop and have a sustainable and effective contribution to the team and its results. Not only when you are around but as a standard bar. To reach that state of collaboration, it’s better to create an environment where people want to do their job and feel safe to do so. That way, the need for punishment is way less.


But how do you create that environment where people feel safe, appreciated, and empowered to develop? Your three basic golden rules come close to Skinner’s behaviorism theory:

  1. Embrace the good, give compliments for positive behavior;
  2. Ignore little everyday mistakes and incidents unless you see a concerning pattern;
  3. Only punish excessive behavior that needs to stop immediately.

I’m a firm believer in a complete focus on positive behavior. If you give three compliments and punish once, you have made a tiny step forward in building a relationship. Can you imagine what would happen if you gave more compliments?  Even though at times it is so tempting to focus on the mistakes of others, you don’t want to feel like a cop, do you?  And honestly ask yourself the question if that “cop behavior” would work on you! You want to give your team what they deserve, your full attention, constructive feedback, and coaching.  Don’t lose your eye for the good in the members of your team, embrace it, and give them compliments!

Compliments are so powerful because they make people happy. When someone feels appreciated, they are willing to work harder to keep others happy.  The happier someone is, the more meaningful their life gets. It confirms that you are seen, accepted, and loved by others!  It will make them give their very best.

What do you do to inspire your team to develop and grow?

Dog - loyaltly

The Essence of Loyalty

“Being a leader means creating a safe environment for staff to be who they truly are and give their best.”

 Staff Commitment

In my career, I have received a lot or commitment from my staff. They were determined to give all of themselves to me as a person instead of to the business. The fact that people point out that detail felt quite overwhelming at first, but as time passed by, I started to appreciate that gesture more and more as I ground to realize what made them give me their loyalty. I spent many hours overthinking how this loyalty thing worked. I had to stay close to who I am as a person to figure it out. I did what made me who I am, I communicated and simply asked them, “Why?” The number one answer:

“Because you are good to me and you are always there for me whenever I need you!”

I couldn’t really wrap my head around it at the beginning because I thought I was always very aware of my actions and the effect they have on others. I really missed this higher level bringing me closer to the essence of leadership.

I can hear you think, “we found ourselves a yes man”, however, nothing is farther from the truth. Giving your very best doesn’t mean you can’t say no or have a decent discussion. But before I give an answer, I ask and listen. Then I try my very best for my staff! Because don’t we all just love to give that yes and help them to get that day off or make the next step in their career and see them grow! And if something isn’t possible or doesn’t seem to work out, I give an honest explanation and some free advice! After all, that would be what I would have wanted from my manager

Rowing teamwork

What did I really do to get their loyalty? I always gave them my very best;

  • They knew what I expected of them;
  • I treated them with respect;
  • I offered them a listening ear;
  • I treated them as human beings;
  • Even when the chances of giving them a yes were smart to none I tried;
  • When they walked in for the same time for the same concern, I would still take them seriously but tried to manage their expectations.

Leadership means taking care of your people by creating ideal circumstances for them so they can give their very best to your customers, your business, and If you are lucky enough, to you. To manage your expectations, when people give you their very best, it doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes or never call in sick.

Mistakes make people human and offer a valuable opportunity to grow. Mistakes happening; taking responsibility is a choice! A very wise choice as people tend to forgive you and your mistakes more easily if you take responsibility, apologize, and offer solutions to prevent this from happening in the future. To reach that stage of cooperation is amazing, not common, and worth embracing.

Turning Point

It’s not always easy, and I believe there is a turning point. Because it’s not always just you and your staff members, there are colleague managers, there is your manager or your director, and they have expectations, targets, and they rely on you and your team to meet those! I figured it is hard at times to find that balance and pick to put what first. But if you treat your employees as proper adults, take them seriously, inform them right and treat them with respect, 99% of the time they will give you their loyalty and their very best. Lead with trust and respect!

What triggers your loyalty?

Lion Pride

How To Be A Great Leader

Have you always wanted to know how to become a great leader? For many years people assumed that effective leaders were born with certain traits. Therefore, the majority of research focused on trying to answer the question “what is an effective leader”? Maybe it was height, physical strength, or perhaps dominance or intelligence. Researchers like Stogdill (1974) and Lord a.o. (1986) demonstrated conflicting outcomes proving that there was no such thing as a shared set of traits as a predictive factor for effective leadership. Researchers then started to focus on the leader’s behavior, showing what they did became more important than who they were. I can already hear you “here’s hoping” because that means that anyone can learn how to become a good leader.

That, in fact, is very true! If you look at the underlying meaning of the word in a dictionary, it means “a person who leads”. There are so many types of leadership. And the basic foundation of leadership is the ability to influence. But what makes a leader a great leader? Throughout the years, many leadership styles have been reviewed. Let’s go through some of the most important ones before I come to the secret of great leadership.

Effective Leadership

Models that try to define leadership focus on the leader’s behavior. Researchers approach leadership by task focused, and person / relationship focused activities. Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid (Blake and Mouton, 1964) is one of the many models that can be used to define types of leadership and what’s most effective, including that “a participating way of leadership is the most effective.” But what does that mean? It means that an effective leader should be able to:

  • delegate decisions
  • give employees a chance to develop
  • communicate accurately with all people in the organization.

Situational Leadership

Let’s say a participating style is the best way to lead your employees. Would you be able to handle any situation holding on to just that style? I think the answer to that is no! Every situation is different. What does your team look like, how are the dynamics in it, what’s your relationship with your team, what’s the environment, what’s the task, and who are you as a person? Those are just a number of the essential factors that can have a significant influence on the effectiveness of a leadership style. Leadership seems to be precision work.

The model for situational leadership (Hersey & Blanchard, 1992) suggests that the best leaders need to be flexible in the style they choose, adapting to the stage of maturity of their staff members. Task maturity is very much a matter of wanting and being able to, in which confidence is an essential factor. To make situational leadership a success, leaders really need to know their staff members and how they work under a variety of circumstances and what they need to get the job done.

Charismatic Leadership

The most modern approach to leadership is the one focusing on the emotional effects of leadership behavior and the appreciation of staff members. Leaders need to share their vision and motivate their employees passionately, making sure they truly feel connected with the organization and its targets. Those that reach this state of leadership are referred to as charismatic leaders, a catching conclusion defined by Bloemers and Hagendoorn (2006).

Great Leadership

Becoming a great leader is very much about who you are and, more importantly, about who you want to be!  Great leadership means giving your very best in every situation and having an eye for individual needs and achievements in your team under all circumstances! Although to remain successful, you, at times, have to be hard and make decisions that won’t be easy and that affect your team. You can still do it with respect and empathy. Empathy is one of the essential skills to possess as a leader. It’s not just a matter of being cold or warm; it is the ability to understand another person’s experience, perspective, and feelings.

If I have to be honest, aside from the great enthusiasm, doing my work with empathy brings me closest to my definition of great leadership. What’s your secret to great leadership?

KLM cabin hospitality

Lost and not found: Hospitality at KLM

KLM Hospitality customer experienceTraveling the world, my wife and I often use KLM, especially for specific destinations. Dutch pride, good service, decent food, value for your money and at the same time they often fly us non-stop to where we need to be! Unfortunately, we have seen an interesting and rather disappointing/concerning/ uninspiring development.

KLM, what happened?

I still remember one of my first KLM flights from Accra, Ghana, back to Amsterdam 8 years ago. A warm welcome entering the plane, amazing atmosphere, pleasant team dynamics. When the meals were served, my nose was pleasantly surprised, an amazing meal with cauliflower and meatballs served with love and a smile.

There’s always the moment that most fall asleep, but I’m not really the type that closes an eye on a plane. I was one of the few up, but the flight attendant made sure I was taken care of with pure sincerity. Even though I was young and flew economy class, she made me feel like the king of the skies! And I’m still grateful for that treatment. I secretly hope to have an amazing experience like that again!

I fly KLM more frequently than I used to and found that the service has declined tremendously on so many levels over the past year. The entire customer experience, from the booking process, the automated baggage drop of at Schiphol, to the customer service center and the simple process of changing seats has become so user unfriendly that I have come to dread the process!

In the past on-board service compensated for the lack of service and comfort on the ground.  Staff was friendly, welcoming and demonstrated superb hospitality but lately, things are drastically changing in the sky. Take my last few flights from Amsterdam (Holland) to Calgary (Canada).

The team dynamic is nearly non-existent. The staff acts almost like robots, without common sense and an authentic sense of hospitality making the customer feel like an inconvenience rather than a valued partner. More often staff is dictated by stressed pursers, who are supposed to be the team leaders and set a positive example. Many have even lost their smiles! The odd individual puts in extra effort to make the customer truly satisfied. It’s those individuals that I applaud and try to give  personal compliments on my trips to encourage their way of working.

Besides a decreased level of service, the famous welcome almonds are no longer served, the face cloth is no longer steamed, the iconic square bottles of water are cut back to only one a flight and the refreshing snack in the form of ice cream or chips is no longer offered.  The served meals are more limited than before, and breakfast has all but disappeared. Oddly enough, the tickets got more expensive!

So much for all the reasons I once became a proud KLM customer and later a frequent flyer. Although I guess for now, we still get a free blanket and headphones.

Long story short, KLM misses out on huge opportunities to exceed the customers’ expectations and actually surprise them by creating an amazing customer experience and engagement.  The general decline of hospitality leads me to believe that staff are unhappy and dissatisfied with their current work environment.  This is another example of how staff satisfaction has a direct impact on the customer experience.

Tram Bus Amsterdam GVB customer experience

Rock the bus!

Rock the bus!

Sometimes people from unexpected angles can make your day just by simply loving their job. The other day I had a short but sweet ride on a GVB bus in Amsterdam with a bus driver that rocked the bus..

It was December 5th 2018, a children’s holiday in Holland, raining like crazy and not particularly warm outside. After a short walk from the office I got to the bus stop. Nowhere to hide from the rain, I was incredibly happy to see the trusted blue and white coming around the corner. People lined up quickly to get in the already pretty full bus. The surprisingly happy bus driver welcomed every passenger boarding the bus and we took off. Soon a little child started to cry. No one is really hoping for a crying child at the end of the day, but our driver thought different and started to sing the little girl a song using his microphone.  This amazing move created a warm feeling all over the bus. People took their headphones off and listened to the driver and I saw smiles everywhere.

Every stop we made the driver wished the leaving passengers a happy holiday. Using the dynamics of his voice and a healthy doses of humor he informed and entertained his customers. It was amazing to see what impact the driver’s behaviour had on the atmosphere and the people on the bus. He truly created an amazing customer experience. In every little thing he did he thought about the customer and made them the center of attention!

GVB can be proud!

Hospitality was truly brought up to a new level! GVB can be proud to have a pearl shining this bright working for them to make the difference for their customers every day!

Arriving late wasn’t even an issue for me after a ride as good as this. It was almost disappointing that I had to leave the bus at the end stop. I would have loved to experience more and especially to see all the other passengers be pleasantly surprised by the hospitality on this bus.

So reviewing his customer excellence from both a customers as a business perspective we can come to the conclusion that the driver ticked all the boxes!