Taco Roest on interaction, balance, and motivation

Rohan: This week, on RealAcad Mondays, we have an interview with Taco Roest, thanks to RealAcader Vincent Jong, a very inspiring young man who is on his way to starting up a venture incubator in Germany. I have had the opportunity to work with Vincent over the past couple of months and I’ve met few people who ‘get things done’ the way Vincent does.

Vincent got to know Taco during his work at Deloitte in the Netherlands in 2005. The service organization in which Vincent was working had to be reorganized due to structural underperformance on the Service Level Agreements (SLA’s). Taco became the Senior Manager in charge and started a major transformation project which eventually took more than 2 years to implement. When Vincent approached Taco to find a role in this project, they quickly discovered a shared strong result-orientation and a passion for getting things done.

For the next 2+ years, Vincent worked directly under Taco and was given the responsibility to design parts of the reorganization, calibrate this with senior management, and implement the changes. Taco would provide regular coaching and step in when his seniority was required.

Their efforts resulted in a successful transformation of the organization and strong performance on the SLA’s. At the end of the project Vincent moved to Austria for his Masters, but they stayed in regular contact. In 2010 they even jointly created a talent development concept called Early Bird to offer the same experiences Vincent had to other students.

About Taco

TacoRoestTaco grew up in the Amsterdam region in the Netherlands. In 1998 after finishing his study, he started to work as a Consultant at Arthur Andersen where he became global project manager within a few years. After the Enron case, Andersen in the Netherlands was taken over by Deloitte in 2002.

In the new organization, Taco became line-manager and worked his way up to a senior manager position in 2006, responsible for Portfolio & Project Management within Deloitte in the Netherlands. Apart from managing a broad team of project managers, he has been personally involved in a restructuring of the Deloitte organization and successfully led a transformation within the service area. Recently he left Deloitte to setup portfolio management at a pension fund in the Netherlands. He still lives in the Amsterdam region, is happily married and a proud father of two sons.

Interview Transcript

1. What inspires/drives you?

I’m driven by work in a changing environment with a good mix of operational and strategic tasks, getting the mandate to start new initiatives and building and developing an organization using people, process, and technology. The trust and freedom provided by an executive plays an important role in this.

Furthermore, I am inspired by developing people, especially young people that are starting their careers. What I’ve noticed is that the challenges and choices that are presented to young professionals are often not provided with the right form of guidance to help them arrive at the best decisions. I enjoy interacting with these young professionals helping them develop themselves and finding out what is best for them.

But of course, work is not everything. I get a lot from my work, however, you have to also find a balance between your private life and your career. It is important to have a healthy private life, therefore I always ask myself why I’m doing things and what I get out of it. There will be moments in your career when things don’t go well and when you are not able to influence it in any way. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that work is not the only thing in your life.

2. What has/have been the most defining moment(s) of your life so far?

After my study, I joined Arthur Andersen, which has had an important influence on my development with regards to knowledge, attitude, and my ambition level. I was allowed to travel a lot and it was the first time that I was introduced to corporate work methods, the internal rat-race e.g. up-or-out performance appraisals. Many of the things I learned there made me who I am today.

Then, getting the first opportunity to do line-management in 2002 was also an important moment which finally allowed me transfer my knowledge and experience to other people and help develop them. I would recommend everybody that gets offered the opportunity to manage or lead to take that opportunity. If you haven’t done that before you are 35, you might never be asked again.

A final defining moment I experienced was in 2006 when I realized that. if you really want to get somewhere in life, delivering good results is not enough. I attended a training on “Understanding and Influencing”, which taught me many new things on how people think and different ways you can interact with them. It also taught me to switch between process and content in interactions, which can have an immense influence on the emotional impact of discussions or confrontations.

3. What advice would you have for future leaders?

Learn how to motivate yourself and be proud of your achievements. To be a strong leader, you should not be dependent on the motivation of others to get you going. Then, start with selecting the right people and motivate them, and help them motivate themselves.

Be aware of the balance between IQ, EQ, and PQ, being respectively the intelligence, emotional, and physical quotient. The emotional and physical aspects are often overlooked. Usually people who don’t perform well at work also have something going wrong at the emotional and physical levels. Be aware of this for yourself as well as for the people you are leading.

Finally, make sure you find out what you like to do. Develop yourself independently but find time to look at yourself critically. Develop a feeling for momentum and have an eye for opportunities. Manage the expectations of your subordinates, bosses, clients, etc. and success will come over time.

I think there’s a very deep point there about the emotional and physical aspects getting overlooked. A stable and happy personal life generally has a massive impact on our work life and being physically fit goes a long way in keeping us energized during the day.

Thank you Vincent and Taco.

Real Leaders Team