My Great Regeneration

On Dec 28 2022, my body turns 50. But my spirit won’t. The perfect momentum to let go to let come. Learning from the future. While the entire world is fascinated by this new post-Covid phenomenon, the Great Resignation, my great regeneration, is in full swing.

Warning: long read with exciting announcements below.

I was born for these times. I used these pivotal years to download and redirect, declutter, and unlearn. Stay curious. To detox my body, my soul and my relationships. To connect and resonate with brilliant minds in the quantum field. To jump higher, again.

Downloading

My next cycle started back in January 2020 after a Grand Cru year. The cherry on the cake back then was the redefining of the Herculean Alliance purpose. Employee Engagement Specialists, crafting powerful workforces since 1999.

By the end of 2019, I felt a massive crisis was coming, although I predicted “hyperinflation resulting in a new war with power shifting back to the Indian Ocean”. I was wrong; a virus conquered the world and changed its face forever. What a social experiment it was and still is. 

The first weeks I felt paralyzed. Like many others, I froze. My first reaction was to stay close to my family and my team. I was lucky enough to live in the perfect home working house with the best kids in the world, surrounded by an agile team who more or less was used to this way of working. I worried a lot because of the lack of perspective on the situation. 

We asked our team and our shareholders to be patient until at least the Spring of 2022 while our business would hibernate. And that now would be a good time to invest, to jump higher after this crisis, because employee engagement would become the number one priority again. Looks like we were right.

As a leader, that’s the first thing you do: give your people purpose and hope. Stay positive.

My feelings transformed into anger and frustration. I was trying to understand the essence of the problem. After a few weeks, my conclusion was: it’s a leadership crisis. In this globalised VUCA world, we collectively produce results that no one wants; education, wellbeing, ecology, wealth, just to name a few areas. 

In times of crisis, you clearly see three types of leadership(Theory U):

1. Retromovement activists

2. Defenders of the status quo

3. Advocates of collective transformational change

Society needs more leaders of the third kind. The causation, not just correlation, between strong leadership and high engagement, became crystal clear. In Europe, you can spot a lot of weak leadership with many people hitting the streets to protest and leaders not even listening to the antithesis. The polarisation and constant blaming of “the others” are petrifying and toxic. Imagine you would run a company or a hockey team in that way… 

Redirecting

For a while, I felt lonely and outnumbered. Eventually, I decided I didn’t want to fight the old through a guerrilla approach, because that’s what Sun Tzu would advise. It’s not my destiny, and it would take too much of my time/energy. The time and energy I wanted to invest in my children and my team. 

I decided to change the context. To connect with new people in a new environment, learn from the future, reflect, and pioneer once again. In a country with strong and wise leadership. In a country where more than 100 minorities work together to realise a great purpose. In a country that handled the crisis through positive dissatisfaction, not fear.

In the past, I experienced almost everything as a battle, as a competition; “me against them”. Nothing came “easy” for me, although it might look that way. Willpower, discipline and speed are my core strengths and the older I get, the clearer it becomes.

Getting through my masters in math and tech and my MBA, finding my soulmate, spending a lot of time raising 3 wonderful kids & building a home, climbing the corporate ladder, building the Hercules Trophy, the Pink Ladies Games, the Employee Engagement Awards from idea to business, helping Special Olympics, creating the Herculean Alliance, moving the family to the UAE with one daughter staying in Belgium, selling our house and resetting our business. Looking back, I can only say that every fight had its successes and has been worth it.

But every strength emphasised my downsides; I can drain my energy, I strongly react to opposing forces trying to push me off course, and I easily disconnect with people who can’t keep up.

Letting go

The crisis made the connection between the core investors of the Herculean Alliance and the belief in our purpose even more powerful. Moving to Dubai, restarting our business here, the encounters with Alain Coumont, founder of Pain Quotidien, and Robin Sharma, and the 50 years UAE Golden Jubilee Celebration by Es Devlin were pivotal moments this year. Everything happens for a reason.

Here comes my great regeneration. Letting go to let come. Every day is day one.

Inge will take over my CEO role in the Herculean Alliance EU and has exciting growth plans. To be honest, this decision was taken end of 2019, a few months before the crisis. But the virus put everything on hold for a while. We built an even stronger team around her during the pandemic and she will continue to grow the team, with an even more robust offering, including the book “Employee Engagement, what else?” and the Employee Engagement Awards. 

In September and October, we worked with organisations like Ordina, Arcadiz, Continental, Zemst, AZ Monica, Cegeka, Dubai Police, Soluz.io and many others. We empowered the Employee Engagement Awards ecosystem, raised funds for Think Pink through the Pink Ladies Games, managed the people track of the Fifth Conference, and connected hundreds of teams at Hercules Trophy. Employee engagement drives customer delight and we are building an ecosystem of experts, technology and formats.

In the years to come, I will remain a key shareholder. As President of our board of directors, I will help to further develop the strategy. Together with our key investors and directors, Kris & Marc, we will support Inge.

Yes, Inge is a different type of leader than me and we complement each other, but I believe it’s precisely the kind of leadership needed right now. It took me three years to convince her that the world needs strong role models like her. As Conny would say: “Inge is tout feu tout flamme”(and extremely smart I would add).

Within Herculean Alliance MEA, Maha is focussing on our programs and Kristina on our formats. Under the leadership of Inge, these power-ladies will build an empire in the Middle East. No doubt. Ronald takes the president’s role here. I will remain executive director, again with Marc & Kris. The smart reader could spot a trend here.

The Herculix Foundation is in the good hands of Kris, Inge, and my oldest daughter Maximme. The Pink Ladies Games will grow even more vast than ever through the partnership with Think Pink Europe and Pink Caravan in the Middle East.

Letting come

So here we are, in the UAE. Detoxed. In a new context. With plenty of new time in a connected world. I’m ready to jump higher and use my core talents on new challenges. My great regeneration is in full swing, with Herculean Alliance as a solid base, with a powerful network and a bag of fascinating experiences. I’m grateful.

As I mentioned, this move wasn’t decided in a few days. It started three years ago, and now the stars aligned. 

What’s next? Many options passed through my mind.

When Inge takes over, how can I help her and how much time will she need me and for how long? I want to give her all the space she needs because there can only be one captain on the ship.

So will I…

  • Pioneer in a new venture or a new format? Who knows. The new hot start-ups will be camels, not unicorns. And since 2017 I’m intrigued by DAO’s in the same way I was intrigued by cooperative entities in 2012. The future is about ecosystems, but how do you build a real one?
  • Help other entrepreneurs grow? I have a ton of bad and good experiences to share and I love to help people become a better version of themselves. However, as a techie, I would prefer to learn from crypto and digital natives in the months to come. I’m baffled by the speed the next generation is leading the way and I hope my kids will do the same.
  • Become a public speaker travelling the world? Inspiring large crowds is what I like.
  • Get a PhD and become a teacher? I’m still too young for that.
  • Go for a new corporate challenge? Chances are low.
  • Help Inge in coaching her team? Probably in the first months. In the first quarter I will help Kristina in Dubai to launch Hercules Trophy Dubai, Employee Engagement Awards Dubai and Pink Ladies Games Dubai.
  • Be a full-time dad, playing padel&golf, daytrading my royalties, cryptos and dividends, reading, going to the beach and taking tango classes with Jumeirah Janes? I think I would drive myself and my family crazy.

Life is about encounters and connections. I’m letting come, and I will restart writing about my journey on my blog, which is part of my legacy.

In December 2022, I hope to celebrate my 50th birthday in the desert, driving the good old Landcruiser, in a new reality, with people I love. This is our time! Inshallah.

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