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How do you groom your next generation of local leaders
in your company?

An interview with Sverre Stoje, CEO of Stoje Dual by Mr. Ibrahim Abdullah.

Mr. Stoje, what is Stoje Dual?
-We are in a group of former CEOs and global leaders who help other CEOs and leaders through
One – to – One coaching and mentoring within
    Improvement in Personal development,
    Improvement in Performance of the person’s leadership and capabilities
             and through this an
    Improvement of the company’s Profit.
And what is the implication of “Dual”?
We are two operational persons in Stoje Dual who do the coaching and mentoring and that is my wife and myself, and we do it together with the client.
My wife is a psychologist and psycho therapist and I have a background as a lawyer, diplomat, HR Group Executive and Global Commercial Director for a shipping company.
So in the sessions my wife will take care of the “soft” personal/relational areas and I will focus more in the “hard” business topics. Maybe it can be characterized as a ying and yang experience for our clients.
Who are your main clients?
We have CEOs, emerging CEOs, and the next generation of business leaders of subsidiaries, divisions and country operations in a wide variety of global organisations.
So simply put it is the CEOs and the leaders at the second and third level we focus on, and especially the local leaders.
What do you do with your clients?
First of all the client must want to improve her/his development as a person and also the performance in the company.
Leaders and managers have usually three types of needs:

  1. They want to be heard.
  2. They want to be understood.
  3. They want to find meaning in what they do.

We therefore start by taking them away for two full days.
Two full days…?? Do they have time for that? I thought they were very busy people?
Yes, they are usually very busy people and some of them will question the need for two full days and how the two days could ever be filled. But you could just ask yourself: “When was the last time you dedicated two full days only to yourself and your own personal development?” The answer is usually: “I don’t remember!”
Okay, so how do you fill these two days?
The first day we spend all the time with you as a person: Your vision, where do you want to be 3 years from now, your values, beliefs, passions and how you are using your energy.
Everybody has heard of time management. We believe that it is also very important how you use your energy to be fully charged. So we spend time on how you can be mentally focused, physically energized, emotionally connected and sometimes spiritually aligned to something outside yourself.
So the first day is about me as person, and the next day?
The second day is used to improve your leadership performance in your organisation. We will go through issues like:

  1. Strategic direction of the company.
  2. Operations – How are the actions and internal systems aligned with the strategies?
  3. Political – How is the competition of influence? And here is a question for you to think about: “Who in your organisation works hard for you to become a success?”

And since both my wife and I have some experiences in these fields from previous corporate positions we usually know how the situation is for our clients and can share some insights in this matter. If we cannot help the client there and then we use our international network of some 500 persons around the world, both clients, past and present and colleagues.
So you are member of international networks?
Yes, after being in the business for over 20 years we have networks both here in Asia, Europe and USA.
But what happens after the two days retreat?
After the two days usually all are amazed about all the issues they have covered and sometimes they have more they would like to talk about, so we ask the client to make her/his own personal action plan.
Then we meet in a follow-up session of one day approximately a month after the two days retreat where we go through the action plan and discuss new inputs and challenges.
There are three follow-up sessions of one day each after the two days retreat, and on the last follow-up session we go through an evaluation of the whole program. Usually the client wants to continue and we have at present clients we have coached and mentored for several years.
What are the benefits your clients get out of this kind of coaching and mentoring?
Usually it blows on the tops, so our clients get a 100% open and confidential space to talk about whatever is on her/his mind which sometimes can be difficult to do in an internal company structure.
Our clients will also experience input from us without fear and favour and we will highlight the critical issues necessary to achieving success. He or she will get increased awareness of own leadership style, capacity and capability and how she/he better can give support to the rest of the organisation concerning vital commercial and relational issues. We will add value to the clients’ own clarity about present and future roles and their own “life strategy”.
We also focus on internal and external challenges facing the client in the present position and sometimes the next – and how to deal with them.
So we are a combination of being consultants, coaches, mentors and confidants towards the client.
It sounds that you have many CEOs as clients?
Yes, but we also coach and mentor leaders on lower level as it is extremely important for a company to be aware of 1)Who is the next generation of local leaders and also 2)How to groom them and make them ready to take over. We live in Kuala Lumpur and at present we work with local leaders on second and third level in companies in Malaysia, Singapore and in the Philippines where the top management is very clear of the importance to identify and groom the next generations of local leaders.
What are the challenges you see when you groom the next generation of local leaders?
That is a sensitive question and I have to be general here. What we sometimes see is that it might be a little difficult to find leaders who really want to take the step up and take the responsibility required for a higher position in an organisation. In some places it looks like that people are satisfied with the position they have and are not that keen on shouldering a bigger role.
They might have undertaken leadership courses and been sent to seminars and conferences, but still the top management might experience a reluctance to really go for a new and higher position.
In these cases our coaching and mentoring have worked really well. Since we are in a one-to-one situation and nothing leaves the room during our sessions, the usual “anxiety/uncomfortable” zone will diminish and the comfort zone will expand quite fast. As you know this is the basis for learning. You learn better when you are at ease. And since both my wife and I have worked several years in this region we have also a good understanding of the cultural dimensions between for instance the Asian and Western behavior, beliefs and attitudes. 
What are the challenges you see concerning Asians and Westerners working together in the same company?
The way of thinking, acting and feeling are quite different, and it can lead to undesirable situations between the two. Usually the reason for this is lack of understanding the other part and even worse sometimes it is a lack of willingness to understand.
For instance we Westerners are among other things focused on task, control, being individualistic and we are time limit-driven. People from this region might be more focused on harmony, relationships, religious aspects, group orientation and hierarchy. If you don’t get yourself into this and do your best to understand and accept that there are these differences and know how to deal with them it will be very challenging for you to succeed as a leader.
That is why, among other important areas as mentioned above, cultural dimensions are included in our one-to-one coaching and mentoring of both foreign and local leaders. And it has proven quite successful for them after we have helped them navigate issues that have driven themselves and their company forward. Some of the “level 2”-leaders  have even taken over the rudder and are now enjoying the role as the captain of their organisation.