By Rosana Nedelciu – iCN Journalist (Romania)
The 17th of May was a great day for the launch of a new leadership program of the Alpha Group in Romania. I realised it at the end of the first Masterclass, when interviewing both participants and organisers and after having witnessed myself the results of this very practical, solution-oriented business coaching session.
Dedicated to leaders of Small and Medium Enterprises (or the engine of a country’s economic growth, as Gerard O’Donovan, CEO, Noble Manhattan and TAG explained), the concept of this series of master classes is as natural as it is powerful: leaders come together and help each other succeed and create friendships with people alike, people who understand them, other Alpha men and women.
And so it happened.
In a small gathering at the Hilton hotel in Bucharest, complete strangers at 9 am parted as friends and idea- partners at 3 pm, refreshed, energised yet relaxed, and with at least 3 excellent solutions or ideas for a new perspective, in their pocket. Under the supervision of Viorica and Laurentiu, Regional Managers of Alpha Group, business owners learnt how to switch off from their own problems, yet continue to train their minds by focusing on other businesses and acting as consultants to the other participants. In turn, they had everyone else thinking and focusing on their problems and offering them possible solutions to ponder on.
Brilliant, isn’t it? It reminded me of those logical reasoning problems we sometimes play. You know, when you are given a situation in a few words with an outcome that doesn’t seem to be in the picture and you have to find out what exactly happened that led to that outcome. And you are trying and trying and every explanation you think of is wrong… and at some point, the moderator asks: ”Would you like a helping problem?” And your first answer is ”Why on Earth would I want another problem? I can’t even figure this one out!” But you do, you do need another problem. Because it helps you switch off from this one, but without switching off from exercising your mind. And just a few minutes after thinking about the ”helping problem”, boom! You figure out the solution to the first one, and it all seems so clear and, yes, logical! Except in this session with the Alpha Group, you do not only get to gain a fresh perspective yourself, but you benefit from the trained mind of other leaders, put to work for your benefit.
I’m in love with the concept, especially since, besides the Executive Board sessions, its format also allows for a consulting input from The Alpha Group Regional Managers on areas where leaders shouldn’t spend so much time on. That is the ”how to”. The session I attended offered the participants some excellent tips and tricks regarding the recruitment and selection of valuable candidates, and all done as a very good exercise.
All in all, not only did I enjoy sitting at this round table of Alpha minds, but I also had my own A-ha! moments and met some intelligent and passionate business owners that I will be seeing again soon.
If I were leading an SME, I would definitely want to be part of this TAG community (and no, no one is paying me to say this). For the reasons I already mentioned and because of what one of the participants so brilliantly outlined towards the end of the second Executive Board Session: „Thank you all for understanding the problem.” Because I knew it wasn’t just about someone having the intelligence to grasp complex concepts and strategies (although it is important!), but also about someone getting you, about kinship.
As an organisational development consultant, I am used to 360 degree feedback so I did the same here, talking to some of the participants, the organisers and the special guests to try and give you a more accurate view of what this program could do for you. And after you have attended one or a few sessions, and you want to share your opinion about it – or any other excellent leadership program you know -, you can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants: Maria Erzian and Dan Constantinescu
iCN: First of all, how do you feel now?
Maria Erzian (ME): I feel relaxed and I have many ideas.
Dan Constantinescu (DC): Although I should probably be very tired – because there was lots of information – I am very relaxed. I am the kind of guy who loves procedures and this meeting wasn’t about procedures (laughs), I didn’t even know how it was going to be like, or what we were going to talk about, but I liked it.
ME: I loved the fact that the format is different from all the trainings I went to, where somebody comes and gives you a solution that doesn’t actually help you and which is more of a lesson, than an open discussion. Even more, this was a confirmation of all the participants, I believe, that we are not a wrong path.
iCN: Is this is a working method you would use with your teams?
ME: Definitely, especially when you have to cover a large area with a limited number of people.
DC: As much as I stick to my procedures, it is obvious that you can only create a strategy together with people. I can’t go and tell my management team „This is the strategy”, if they don’t understand it. You have to discuss it openly with them. You have the obligation to formulate it, but not to enforce it on your team.
iCN: Will you be coming to the next sessions?
ME: Definitely yes.
DC: Yes, I will too.
iCN: One last question. What is the greatest benefit out of this session?
ME: It is no surprise to me to find out that we all have the same problems, we all fight the same mentalities and although in particular, we are all thinking of how to do things, how to solve our problems, a lot of times, because of a number of factors, we let small problems become big problems. But by becoming part of this community of managers, through sympathy and empathy with the other, we can solve them.
DC: For me, the greatest benefit is the chance to transform into visions the ideas and plans that you have, with the help of the group. This is not a professional group where people fight each other for their own ideas and inventions, nor is it an academic group where we invent theories. We simply support each other in creating our own visions about what we each have to do. I would like to meet everyone in one or two or five years from now and tell them, “You know that thing we talked about in the third session? Well, I did it and it worked out great!”. This is how I think we can measure these meetings, by saying: “I did something.” It is obvious that we haven’t lost a day, but we gained much more, in time. We are working on our future here.
Organisers: Viorica Ionita and Laurentiu Marin
iCN: Viorica and Laurentiu, you both lead this first session today. How was it and how do you feel now?
Viorica Ionita (VI): Excited to have organised an event for entrepreneurs, especially that we launched a new business concept. It was worth every minute and we are glad to see that our efforts are repaid with the gratitude we received from our participants today. It was worth every minute of it and we are looking forward for the next session.
Laurentiu Marin (LM): I think it went well, especially since Colin and Gerard were here and motivated us in a way. I am glad that everybody got something out of it. And that something is a new concept in the market, a concept we will be developing further.
iCN: What is the greatest satisfaction you get when organising such sessions and how do you measure the result?
LM: We measure the result by having constant members. This is a clear result, seeing participants coming back session after session. And the biggest satisfaction is just like the one we had today when Maria, one of the participants, told us „Yes, I have at least 3 ideas that I will immediately use” or when Dan said that many of the ideas presented today were ideas he had thought of himself. For us, these are confirmations of the fact that The Alpha Group is not a theoretical idea, but as we like to call it, a board of people who know what it is about and who can share their knowledge and experience. It’s important for Romanian entrepreneurs to sit at the same table with other entrepreneurs at the same level with them.
VI: Yes, it is a day when you step back from your business to think and see more clearly in your business. And this can lead to a new vision for the participants and even for ourselves.
iCN: What are “the practicalities” of these sessions?
VI: We hold them monthly, starting early in the morning at 8.30 and we work together until 2.30 pm.
Special Guests: Gerard O’Donovan and Colin Lindsay (Managing Director, The Alpha Group)
iCN: How was the session today?
Gerard O’Donovan (GD): I personally felt it was very motivating, very exciting. It is now the official launch of our first main Alpha Group here in Bucharest, run by Viorica and Laurentiu, and we have wonderful members, local business owners, so I am very pleased.
iCN: So this is the beginning of a beautiful new friendship? Can I say friendship? Because when you talked about The Alpha Group, you mentioned friendship.
Colin Lindsay (CL): Indeed. When people get together and they bear their souls and they gain new information and they work together to overcome the biggest challenges they have in their business, that creates friendships. And these friendships are almost carved in stone for the rest of their lives. And they will lean on each other, they will look forward to seeing each other, and they will spend time together outside of this meeting.
iCN: Today we talked about businesses differentiating themselves from other businesses doing the same thing. How does The Alpha Group do it?
CL: We like to classify ourselves as disruptors in the marketplace. It is not a new concept, other groups have been doing it for 50 or 100 years. So when we looked at what we wanted to do with TAG , we had to look at our competitors, we analysed what they were doing good and what they were not doing so good. When we built our concept of TAG, if I was to put one word into place which encompasses what we do is holding our business owners accountable for implementing changes within their business.
iCN: Is there any message that you would like to transmit to our readers who are leaders of SMEs?
CL: Sure. Most people are looking for the edge. What they can do different from their competitors. They find they can’t change their prices or products or services. So what do they do? Well, they come into rooms like this and work with other people who are experienced in business and help them to overcome some of the biggest challenged they are facing, but more so to gain clarity on how they should run their businesses. It’s a tough place in your business, there is no doubt about it. People who do not find places to almost vent their feelings and emotions, are stuck in that place, clouded and no clarity. Here they gain clarity, gain suggestions and solutions from their peers, people who have lived it, who have experienced it and are willing to share that knowledge and experience.
iCN: If there are readers who would like to join this program, can they do it at any time? And how do they get in contact with you?
CL: Sure, they can join at any time. They can approach Laurentiu or Viorica or they can approach us directly at email@example.com.