Alex ten Cate
To fly the helicopter and inspire my crew to jump at the exact right spot to build a home
Alex ten Cate, Chapter Lead Daily Banking, draws inspiration for his purpose from his childhood, when he used to spend hours building huge Playmobil battlegrounds in the fields behind his parents’ farm. His purpose gives him direction, both professionally and personally. “It was fantastic to discover my purpose.”
“A couple of months after joining ING in July 2018, I took part in the Think Forward Leadership Experience (TFLE) which included the purpose training. I was very impressed that the company offers a couple of thousand people a two-day training course that’s mainly related to their personal development. I enjoyed the purpose training so much that I was keen to become involved in rolling out the programme for employees. I became a subgroup facilitator and now regularly supervise group sessions myself.”
“The purpose training is an intensive two-day crash course. I was sceptical beforehand. How can all those people possibly discover anything useful in just two days? Does it really work? But the programme is set up so well that the penny drops for everyone at some point. I had a kind of eureka moment when everything fell into place. It was great to experience that process first-hand.”
I was sceptical beforehand. How can all those people possibly discover anything useful in just two days? Does it really work?
“My purpose stems from a ‘magical memory from my childhood’, as the programme calls it. I grew up on a farm in the Friesland countryside surrounded by meadows separated by hedgerows, trees and dry ditches. As a child, I often used to put all my Playmobil in a bin bag and then head into the fields behind our house and set up a huge area where I’d act out massive battles. On the one hand it was a war game, but it was also a sense of ‘home’; there, tucked away amongst the trees, I created my own little paradise. My purpose is inspired by that memory: to ‘fly the helicopter and inspire my crew to jump at the exact right spot to build a home’.”
“My purpose is made up of three elements: 1) the ‘helicopter view’ – not losing sight of the big picture in complex situations, 2) ‘inspiration’ – the way I coach the product owners and CJEs in my team, and 3) ‘home’ – that particular thing where you’re at your very best. I’ve realised that every situation I enter into – both professionally and personally – contains those three elements.”
So that’s one situation in which I really acted on my purpose, I looked for the exact right spot for them to build a home and it worked out really well.
The right place 1
To give you an example, not long after I’d joined ING I noticed that spirits in one of the squads in my chapter were continuously low. I was convinced that the people weren’t deployed in the right area; our tribe wasn’t ‘the exact right spot’ for them. So I told my manager that I wanted to reduce my scope a little. It’s not often that a Chapter Lead asks for less responsibility, but I genuinely thought it would be better for that squad to move to a different tribe... and I was right – those people are now performing much better elsewhere. So that’s one situation in which I really acted on my purpose, I looked for the exact right spot for them to build a home and it worked out really well. I love seeing people doing the thing that they feel most at home with.”
The right place 2
“The same principle applies in your personal life. When he was younger, our eldest son was seriously ill. It caused him to miss a lot of school and he never really got back into his old routine of studying. He’s really smart and used to be very academic but his grades went into decline. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out why and eventually concluded that his passion lies in working with people and working with his hands. So he has switched from an academic course to a vocational course in healthcare and he’s now positively flourishing. It’s the exact right spot for him.”
“I’m looking forward to the day when my team members have completed the Purpose to Impact training. I’m keen to share details of our purposes so that we can achieve the best match between our team’s people and our tasks. I do the same with my lead in our Step Up meetings; I tell her where I think I can have the most impact, and she tells me how she can act on her purpose to support me. Besides that, it’s a great experience for everyone to discover they have something inside themselves that they didn’t know about or had never consciously thought about before.”