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August 17, 2022

Jim Bagnola, international speaker: ‘All laws of leadership apply to small start ups as much as the large institutions’

Jim Bagnola, an American international speaker, executive coach and consultant, is back in Romania. The expert on leadership and organizational culture who has been giving conferences and presentations everywhere in the world for the last 25 years is back to Romania for a series of training sessions in Timisoara, Cluj and Bucharest (11 June) but also to promote his book, “How to Become a Professional Human Being“, published in several countries including Romania. But also because, as he states, he feels very welcome in Romania. This time, too, Bagnola offers Romanians the opportunity to gain access to his solutions – simple and proven effective for so many companies such as Shell Oil Company, Kroger Company, U.S. Department of State, Department of the Air Force, NASA, NATO and the United Nations.


Romania is becoming, at least, in Cluj-Napoca, Europe’s Silicon Valley’


– You are an international speaker, executive coach and you’re very active in many countries, including Romania. What makes you return here so often?

– As a guest I feel very welcome in Romania. The people are warm, hospitable and enthusiastic. 99,9% of people I’ve spoken to (those include mostly the younger generation) speak fluent English. They might even surprise you, because they speak 2,3 or 4 other languages as well, including yours. And if they do, they do it well. Romanians are generally well educated and many are very well traveled. There’s a sense of love for the country here, pride, the will to improve things, and a generally positive outlook on life. I also have to mention the Romanian women. They are self-assured, intelligent, and charming. They are very attractive on average and know how to dress well. Many are stunningly beautiful. My heritage is mostly Italian. Maybe it is the Roman influence that attracts me. Being in the teaching profession, a corporate educator, I really enjoy the openness to learning here and the Romanian mastery of the English language makes it much easier to teach here as opposed to other eastern European countries. The countryside in Romania is spectacular. The Romanians have a spiritual core from the influence of the Orthodox Church and they have an appreciation for their freedoms which we in America sometimes take for granted. It seems to me If Germany is Europe’s engineering factory and France is Europe’s kitchen, then perhaps Austria is Europe’s ski-resort and England is where Europe’s humor comes from and Romania is becoming, at least, in Cluj-Napoca, Europe’s Silicon Valley. In fact, Romania is Europe’s heart. Warm and Italian-like sometimes called the Latin Island in the Balkan Sea. Besides all of the above I now, after 15 years, have people here who I consider family. For example, I am Godfather to my business partner, Petru Pacuraru, he is family. These are the things that keep me coming back.


– Your book “How to become a professional human being”, in which you talk about the powerful connection between mind/body/job, is already published in many countries and is starting to become a success all over the world. What does it bring new to this field?


– As leaders in our various organizations in the midst of an apparent worldwide meltdown, it is critical that we examine ways to assist associates to stay centered and cultivate a mastery over negativity. “Becoming a Professional Human Being” analyses the thinking patterns that structure our reactions to our environment on the job. Whether we lead a small team or an entire organization, we are the first beneficiaries of everything we think, do, and say. It’s not what happens to us; it’s what happens in us. Since we spend about 60-70% of our lives on the job, this course gives us an opportunity to examine how our approach to our work can be adjusted during these stressful times. Every choice, every thought, every word and action has physiological consequences, either health-creating or “dis-ease”-producing. The question is “Are we making a living or a dying in these unstable times?”


– In the next days, you will perform a series of training sessions about Transformational Leadership. What are the most important ideas you’re willing to share?


– The best way to understand the difference between approaches of leadership is to contrast transactional with transformational. Transactional is the most utilized approach. It is dominated by the philosophy that you have something that I want; money and I have something you want which is labor, knowledge, and expertise. The objective is exclusively results and appeals to Self-interest. One provides benefit in exchange for their effort and contribution. The focus is on extrinsic motivation; pay, promotion, and external rewards. It is top-down management. Transformational leadership appeals to intrinsic motivation. It appeals to higher values of the individual for the good of society. The transformational leader is not only interested in the individual growing as a business person but also growing as a human being. She/He is committed to something higher that is to do what is good and right for the community, employees and shareholders. The leader and the organization invests in who the people are who they are becoming as people. In addition the leaders grow themselves as people. The approach is accented by working on yourself, getting uncomfortable with the status quo, good and right intentions, responsibility and the individual being at cause, accountability, and constructive conflict. Transformational leadership removes several myths: We don’t need an individual genius at the top, we need a collaborative endeavor. Leaders are developed not born. There is no need for a charismatic extrovert, anyone can exercise influence over others. You do not need formal confirmation to lead. There are not a common set of traits among leaders you must however be adaptable to the needs of followers and the situation.


The manager is responsible for the success of their direct reports’


– Based on previous experiences gained so far with our Romanian managers, what would you advise them?


– Technologically managers are usually doing well. They know the technical aspects of the job. The biggest error is with the people who report to them. They mistakenly think that their associates work for them. The reality is the manager works for her direct reports. They must provide direction, resources and knowledge to their employees. The manager is responsible for the success of their direct reports and they themselves will not be successful unless their direct reports are. Their mindset must be that of a servant and teacher of their associates. This is an essential aspect of Transformational leadership not transactional which is top-down.


– Also, what would you advise the Romanian employees?


– Take 50% of the responsibility for the success of the teams effort. Stop giving the manager 90% of the responsibility just because they have the title and a small amount of money beyond the employees. I call it the 50/50 rule. If we use the technical term in the leadership arena it is called self- deceit. We deceive ourselves by thinking that the success of the team is not our responsibility and in addition the problems we face as we attempt to achieve goals are not my responsibility either. Stop blaming the supervisor for lack of success and for the lack of ability to solve problems. Become a Professional problem solver. We are all paid to solve problems. Shift to this mindset and the team will have more of a chance to succeed.


– What is the question you’re being asked most often in your training sessions?


– How do we improve communication?  Solution: Listen more than you talk in meetings.  Repeat what you heard back to the person who is speaking to you in your own words. Clarify expectations during each interaction. What is your expectation, this is mine. At the end of a conversation or a meeting, check the understanding of each member by asking ‘What was your understanding of what we agreed upon’. ‘What are you going to commit to do?’  The last advice is to balance being assertive, that is making your point with inquiry, asking questions about their point of view.


‘We must have a vision of success in order to get beyond the rough beginning years’


– What is the main and most frequent problem that arises between manager and employee?


– The employee does not understand where he stands with the manager and doesn’t ask. The manager doesn’t give continuous feedback on where the employee stands with regard to his or her performance.  In the end they blame each other when the desired results are not achieved. Feedback is essential to the process of leading and managing. If the manager does not give frequent and current feedback then the employee must ask for it. ‘What do you appreciate about my performance?’, ‘What should I improve?’, ‘Is there a gap between my performance and your expectation?’, ‘What score would you give me this month based on our performance appraisal system?’, ‘What should I do in the coming month to improve my score?’, ‘What else can I do to add value to the team effort?’.


– In general, you speak for managers and employees from the biggest companies. But in Romania there are many small companies who barely manage to survive after the economic crisis, led by owners who’s sole purpose is to pay their debts and make it through one month to the other. Also, in these companies the employees are under the necessity of doing more jobs in one, but for less money, and their rights are often ignored. The theories about leadership or organizational culture can be applied in these particular cases or is just a jungle out there and everybody fights for survival by all means necessary?


– Your question describes within it not only a small business following the crisis in Romania but small start-ups or small businesses all around the world including the US. In fact, including my business 25 years ago and then again after the crisis, if it indeed is over. We all start in the same way. We do multiple jobs, make less or possibly no money, if you happen to own the enterprise, the only way out is to increase revenue by serving customers so well that customers cannot resist you.  You used the phrase “employees rights are often ignored.”  This will lengthen the time it takes to be successful. All laws of leadership apply to small start ups and enterprises as much as the large institutions; even more so. The leader/follower dynamic, where employees consider themselves partners, respected, empowered, listened to, and part of a family attempting to succeed are even more important.  Even though we are feeling that we are surviving we must have a vision of success in order to get beyond the rough beginning years or to get beyond the years of the crisis. All employees who have chosen a start up or small company versus an established firm must take the same risks as any entrepreneur. We all must take risks not just the owner.  The greater the risk in attempting to grow a small business the more possibility of larger rewards and possibly more freedom.  The small team must create a culture of transformation and growth and create a partnership which is another term for leadership. Same laws apply in both cases.

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