Part two of my interview with Paul ter Wal

Paul and I discuss subjects ranging from truth, politics, blind spots and job crafting.  All to lead to synergy and higher engagement in teams

Here follows a transcription of the interview word for word as talked….



PAUL:       And that’s what we try to do now is to focus on not only the job demands, because we talking a lot about work stress, and burnout and that kind of stuff. But we not talking about job resources, and personal resources that can help us to do our job, no matter what energy it will cost, because I have more energy, and that’s what is in my personal profile. Someone put it there, put it on paper for me and said, you have so much energy, where does it come from? And I had no idea. And then you start looking into it, and then you find what is the resource for, for my energy. And for me that’s partly my optimism. I’m quite naïve, I always believe in the good things that people will do to me. That gives me energy, and of course I can be disappointed, then, then my other core value comes in transparency. When I understand why they do it, I can even forgive them. And that gives me energy as well.


PAUL:       And I had it last year, that someone really hurt me, then I thought but why do you do this kind of stuff? When I noticed why he was doing it, it gave me the energy to forgive, I won’t forget, that’s something different. But I can forgive, and it makes you stronger and gives you more energy. That’s what we should be aware of, because that serves your purpose in life as well.

WILMIEN: Quickly I want to ask you, in the work that you do in companies, do you use the Gallup Strength Finder tool?

PAUL:       Ja. I, I, I use the Gallup Strength Finder and, but I also use a tool, an app made by professor Bakker, the, the Strengths and Weakness app. And it’s, it’s a little bit more intuitive. But Strength Finder is very nice to start with.


PAUL:       Because it’s easy, it’s well accepted. Engagement Multiplier has the same kind of rules like Gallup. So, there are, there are more tools. I’m not dedicated only to Gallup, or only to Engagement Multiplier. I have different kind of tools and I look into the organisation and I say hey, this is what my team is going to use within your company. So, I don’t earn money with selling tools.


PAUL:       I want them to use the tool to understand what we are discussing.

WILMIEN: I love using the Gallup

PAUL:       One of my strengths is my openness, my directness, but that’s not loved in all cultures. Because it can be confrontation.


PAUL:       And that’s what, when I go into a different country, I, I’m much more aware that I can be blunt, straight forward and that can be positive, but can be a weakness as well.

WILMIEN: I, ja I hear you, it depends on what the other person take, because being, you say it’s blunt, but I hear the transparency around that. And that means, that people always know where they stand with you. For cultures that’s not use to it, and people who do not understand who you are and where you coming from, they might see it as very critical.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: Until they get to know what it’s all about, and that you won’t hide something. Because the worst thing is, if people hide their real thoughts and you don’t have an idea, you think they like you and they don’t.

PAUL:       That’s always the point when you know your strength. That you need to be aware of the cultural environment, you have your strength thing. So being open, being direct, being straight forward, it’s nice for me, because I’m, I’m always telling the truth, but you know as well that telling the truth can be tough for other people. But I always say I can’t remember who I’m telling what lie.

WILMIEN: Ja *laugh*

PAUL:       So, if, if I talk to 5 people in a company and I tell, tell different stories, I have no idea because I forget that kind of stuff.

WILMIEN: Yes. No, I, I always say tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Because I believe the truth will set you free. But that is one of the most difficult things to do. Is to always be 100% truthful with respect for the other person, but still not, not, not to hide anything ne.

PAUL:       There is a lot of politics in, in, in organisations. I have clients now that I think this is so much politic that people aren’t really telling the truth, to one another. That you’re sometimes in between, that’s difficult for me.

WILMIEN: But part of culture is, is the milk. It’s, it’s the product that you start off with, which is our employees.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: But if there’s one drop of sour milk, in the whole batch of good milk, many times it spoils the whole culture.

PAUL:       Yep.

WILMIEN: And if you think, it’s so important even though it’s an employee. I, I listen to a lady the other day as well. She say, this employee is such a good worker, they do such good work, but they make everyone around them negative.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: And many managers will keep on with that employee, because they did good work, but the emotional impact is so negative. So, what would, what advice would you give someone in that situation? Where they say wow, good worker, um even though a negative impact but, but they still do, do what they are supposed to do.

PAUL:       Most of the time they are not aware, but they don’t like the process, then we need to help that person to look into his own brain, so to say. That he understands why he is making this kind of behaviour. Um, and you can help people and train them, in changing that behaviour, when they are aware of what their way of working is doing to other people. One of my colleagues is an expert on neuroscience, and she works a lot with that model. It’s appreciative enquiry, that helps you to understand why you do the things you do.


PAUL:       And you see a lot of people who can change, but you should first help them.

WILMIEN: Yes, that’s true, because if they have a blind spot, one can help them by if, if they are open for, for that type of feedback.

PAUL:       I, I… That’s what we see. If that’s how I changed over the years, I think that 5 years ago I would have said, well get rid of it.

WILMIEN: *laugh*

PAUL:       Because then you look into it from positive psychology, and appreciative inquiry, and you see you can still help people, even change their behaviour. And that’s, that’s one of my slogans, make your choice. I don’t mind what you do, but you are responsible for what you doing.

WILMIEN: That transforms peoples’ lives. I, I listened to a podcast of Michael Hyatt, that I’m following from the USA. Where he also said sometimes, with performance management we sometimes tell people what they do wrong, or right, that no one sometimes takes the behavioural things. And, and the person never learn if no one ever, ever tell them, or help them through that. But then I, I like what you said, sometimes certain things are non-negotiable. There’s a time where you’ve set… you opened the blind spots, you told the person all these things and you’ve given them a chance, and then they… are you going to change, or not going to change. If you’re not going to change, you’re out. If you are willing to change, we can walk such a longer road with you.

PAUL:       That should be the case, because I looked now in, in the Netherlands, we have a million new jobs that can be filled, and we have only 4, 5 hundred thousand people that don’t fit in to that job, but are favourable. Well, then you need to be much more careful and that’s what I like. Then we are taking more care of our employees. And that’s, that’s what I felt when I started in social security, we weren’t taking care of peoples’ minds, and their situation. We were providing them with money, and that’s not really helping people. Because you put them aside, give them some money and you go on. And I love Richard Branson for his quote, “I don’t take care of my customers, I only take care of my employees, they will take care of my customers”.


PAUL:       Because we are so focused on the customer experience, that we forget about the professional who are delivering the services.

WILMIEN: Ja, and that brings us back to the point you had around customer service. Because if you really listen to Richard Branson, customer service is very important to them, but he gets the wonderful outcome and result of customer service, by making sure the people who has to deliver this service are happy, and if they are happy, the customer service should follow. To be positive…

PAUL:       Absolutely, absolutely.

WILMIEN: And it’s so enlightening for an employee to start understanding what gives them energy, and what does not give them energy.

PAUL:       Absolutely.

WILMIEN: Because they can also then help management to say, you know I think I’ll be better, different job but in a slightly, slightly different direction. And that will make me more engaged and then the manager’s like, I’m so glad I knew that, because I would never have thought about it myself.

PAUL:       Yeah.

WILMIEN: So, the communication is so important.

PAUL:       Absolutely, absolutely. That, that’s why job crafting is becoming much more favourable nowadays. And that’s not big changes in your role, it just a, a slight change. For example, I hate working with excel.


PAUL:       I know how to do it, but it, I don’t like it.


PAUL:       My son works for me, loves it. So, I can give that part of my job to him, he will be happy with it, he’s really a guy for a back office. He loves to do it. And I don’t need to spend my time, because it takes away so much energy from me, and I need it to do other stuff. So, when we can help each other within a team, and say hey, what would you like to do within our task? And how can I be of help and service to you? Teams will create their own working space and will create their own jobs. And still the results will be the same or even better, I think.

WILMIEN: Yes, because when we talk about teamwork everyone say that a team is always better than the sum of their parts, that whole idea of synergy.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: But I must say, I have been in teams where there were no synergy. Where it was actually so negative that it, that it break up that the sum of the individuals were less, than the actual sum of the individuals. I think the, the, the real truth and the golden nugget, is when they can talk to each other. When they can say, I can do this better, and everyone allow them, they not jealous of that job. But then you find the other thing that you are better at and, and then when we get that type of synergy, it’s amazing what can happen in a team.

PAUL:       Absolutely. I, I think we should… and, and we going that way. Because with the use of Gallup, with the use of Engagement Multiplier, um with all that kind of tools, it helps us to make clear, not only to ourselves, but to our managers and leaders, and colleagues, that we’re all different. That we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. And then we need to work together to make a whole out of it. That, that’s the point, that’s the traditional leadership, they tell you what to do, and if you don’t fit in, you’re out. And now we say, hey, this is our role, this is our task, how can we work together? And I don’t think all the managers, leaders are there yet. Still a lot of managers and… Managers are ticking boxes. And leaders take care of people, That’s my difference between those two.


PAUL:       I can tell you not every manager loves it, when I say it, but it makes it much more clear. When you really leading, and supporting the professionals in your organisation, they will perform much better. Because they feel the support they are getting.

WILMIEN: Yes. Especially that term that we talk about, the knowledge worker. The knowledge worker can give you so much more, if they are treated appropriately.

PAUL:       Oh absolutely.

WILMIEN: And I’m not talking about babying them, and just put honey around their mouths.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: I, I, I talk about the honest feedback, but also that freedom to use that intellect, to use the knowledge that they have, in a way that make them special and different.

PAUL:       It takes so much energy, for example, if they have a sick mother or father, child or, they have financial problems.


PAUL:       I train companies to support those people, in those fields as well. Because you can’t differ the private life from the working life. It’s not that I go to my work, put off my rucksack in the locker and say, hey, now my problems are gone.


PAUL:       And I have all the energy I need, and tonight when I go home, I put on my rucksack and I am stressed again. No, you, you take it with you. So, if they call in sick, they will be much, will cost you much more, than when you help them. Not by taking away their sorrows, or paying their bills, but by helping them to deal with it.


PAUL:       To make them more adults in that way as well. We even offer 24-7 coaches to people.


PAUL:       So, they can call whatever time of the day, whatever day. If they are in stress, they can call a coach, and that coach will help them. Whatever, and we don’t want to know what they are doing, we just want to know that they are being helped. And the people are so grateful for it.


PAUL:       Because they don’t need to explain that they had to go to a coach or a psychologist. They just go there, they are helped, they come back to work and they feel the energy that you are taking care of them.


PAUL:       I always have the discussion with financials within organisations, oh, that costs so much money. And then I say, oh no, it saves so much money. Your profitability goes up.

WILMIEN: Ab… absolutely. I can remember, I went through surgery with my eyes. I had two corneal transplants. One year the one eye, and the other year the other eye. And I was so grateful for the managers at that time, and they said, I can’t work on the manufacturing plant anymore, because I was a safety risk, not seeing that well. And they, they just slightly changed the direction. And we’ve put other things in place, for someone else to go on the, on the factory floor if it needs to, and me more managing the, the engineers that were under me, and some of the document controllers. And that made such an impact for me. That I could still come with my disability to work for that period.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: And I was still very, um active, and I gave back. But just that slight change, and that they were willing to understand what I’m going through.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: I still gave everything while I was there, rather than to not do the work, and, and to, to be all depressed at home. So, I can definitely vouch for that. That is a very positive way of dealing with these things.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: But the person must still do their part ne. It’s no use to just do all this thing and, and the person is not putting in their, their part. It’s, we give you all this wonderful support, so that you are performing at work. So that you can bring more in to work and it doesn’t drag you down.

PAUL:       Absolutely and, and it sound that easy, that people take care of you in, in a situation like you describe. It’s not, not that common I see. Not even in our country…


PAUL:       Not in the West, and it’s silly. Because when you look at Gallup and other researchers you, you know that it’s true.


PAUL:       That when you help, people are grateful. Not because you give them money or whatever, but that you were really there. And we social beings, so we need that social support. And if we are given that support in a true way, our energy goes up. And we much more productive. And we more active.

WILMIEN: I totally agree. And I think it takes a very brave m… leader. Maybe I shouldn’t say brave manager, but even the brave managers out there, show wonderful leadership, if they go against status quo and look at these things.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: And their teams just do so much better.

PAUL:       Absolutely, and it’s sometimes silly that we know it, and it’s proven…


PAUL:       That people who can’t handle the stress call in sick.

WILMIEN: Ja, that’s what I wanted to tell you, we might not call it a sickness, we call it stress. But I’ve seen over and over the impact that stress physically have on peoples’ bodies. And that is actually an illness. To be stressed, especially a longer-term thing, not a initial thing, and not a spike in your stress levels. But constant stress levels, make people sick.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: And if we, if we can’t change the environment, people will have more sick leave. But if we can change the environment with very practical ideas and changes, people will not be so stressed, and they will not get so sick and they will perform better at the end of the day. So, it totally makes sense.

PAUL:       Yeah, but… that, that’s true that, you know it, I know it, because we practice it on a daily basis. And what I see is that, in companies people who aren’t use to this kind of thinking, still behave in the old traditional way of management.


PAUL:       Then it’s silly, and then I think you’re not taking care of yourself as well.

WILMIEN: So, Paul how are we going to change the world? *laugh*

PAUL:       Oh by, by being on stage.

WILMIEN: Yes. *laugh*

PAUL:       And that’s why I’m on stage because um… and that’s why I love to travel and, and speak all over the world. Because I learn a lot from it, because it’s different in different cultures. We use different words for things, even when we speak English.


PAUL:       So, I will have different words than you. And, and so we can learn. And when we are on stage and, and telling about purpose, and about non-negotiables, and about engagement and about results, people will listen to it. I always hope that I can change one or two lives, within my audience.


PAUL:       I’m, I’m, I’m not expected that 50% will be changed, but I, I was in a meeting Um the, the, the da… the same day I came back from South Africa. I arrived at 11 AM, and at 4 PM, I was on stage.


PAUL:       And talking about engagement. And were I think 60 people in the room, and two people came to me and said, Paul you changed our way of thinking today. And I thought, isn’t it amazing. And I’m now working with them, because they called me and said, can we talk because we want your ideas to be implemented within our organisation. And I said, well, then it need to be your ideas.

WILMIEN: *laugh* ja…

PAUL:       So, we now helping them to get that ideas.


PAUL:       But Isn’t it marvellous that we can be on stage, and that people say, you changed our way of thinking, you changed my life. And then I think wow, that’s, that’s amazing.

WILMIEN: Well done on that one. Ja, that is. That gives you energy for, for the next round of, of speaking and of engagement…

PAUL:       Absolutely, absolutely. That, that keeps us going.

WILMIEN: So, Paul, what would you say is the purpose of your life?

PAUL:       I think the purpose in my life is, to help other people to find out how they can become happy. Research has shown that, happiness has to do with 3 things. It has to do with your genes, that what you get from your parents.


PAUL:       It has to do with the circumstances you live in.


PAUL:       And it has to be… to do with the choices you make in your life.


PAUL:       And for many years, we thought that genes was the most important part. And when you look at, at the happiness monitor of the United Nations. You see that, in the top 10 are 4 countries from Southern America. Who are poor.

WILMIEN: *laugh* ja…

Paul:        Like Costa Rica. It’s not the circumstances that you live in, that you’re poor, but that you can live and deal with that situation. And now , a Dutch professor found out with new, with new computers that, 50% of your happiness has to do with the choices you make in life. Even when life is hard.


PAUL:       And that means that 40% that is given to you, and then you can only hope and pray that you have the good genes. But still 50% is making choices in your life. And I want to help people understand, and that’s really my purpose, to, to make them aware that they are in charge of their own happiness. And that’s not something, ooh! Happiness! No, that’s really true happiness. You have a fulfilment in your life.

WILMIEN: Absolutely, contentment. Because I, I’ve also seen studies around gratitude. And how they say that, just a practice, and a daily habit of having gratitude, about what you do have, already increases your happiness.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: And that’s a choice.

PAUL:       Ja.

WILMIEN: That’s why for me it means I choose to be grateful for what I have…

PAUL:       When you, when you are on stage and you show your true happiness, people will say, wow, he really lives what he’s saying. Well, then it can be fun. And that’s for me very important.

WILMIEN: So, Paul, what would be your final message for the audience that’s going to listen to this?

PAUL:       I think that, people need to find out, what their source of happiness or energy is, in their lives. So, what makes you happy? What gives you energy to go on in life? And connect that with core values. And when you say non-negotiables it’s even stronger. So, if you know why you are energised, and you connect it with your core values then, you can make right decisions. And I think that’s the most important message to give to people. Don’t give up, find your source of energy and find your happiness.

WILMIEN: Sjoe Paul, thank you so much. I’m going to put your website, in the show notes of this podcasting as well. So that if people want to reach out, it’s easy for them to get in touch with you. Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.

PAUL:       Thank you Wilmien for asking me. I love to talk with you.

You can learn more about Paul, here:


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