Trust yourself, trust others

Monday, March 7, 2022

Trust yourself, trust others

With a career history in IT, marketing, and scientific publishing, Jolijn van Eunen now occupies a people and development role at KPN, where she is lead ambassador for RightBrains. After years of working across the world and travelling to trade shows and conferences, Jolijn made a career move that reflected her passion for the purposeful work involved in professional and personal development: “After years of bringing people knowledge through books and education, I began thinking that you can have all the knowledge in the world, and you can share all of it, but if you don’t know what to do with that knowledge, then that isn’t very useful. You need skills; human skills.” Jolijn moved into career coaching and personal development, focusing on people and change management.

Creating a healthy organisation

At KPN, Jolijn is responsible for the people roadmap and lead to the coaches. “Everyone works with a coach. Working in a highly technical environment, we work on both personal and professional development, leadership development, and being a healthy organisation. There’s a strong drive amongst our technical staff to stay on track with technical trainings and innovations; they take great pride in their technical craftmanship. With personal development and leadership, some need a bit more encouragement. And a healthy organisation is something you create together. This is largely concerned with managing work pressure, and supporting staff with both their physical and mental health. We have a responsibility to create an environment that is safe enough for people to state their boundaries, to say ‘hey this is enough for me, this is something I cannot do’.” For instance, workshops are organised for both coaches and product owners to help them recognise the first signs that indicate staff aren’t feeling themselves. They learn what kind of behaviours they should look out for, and make sure teams feel the freedom to use the resources at hand to feel better. These resources include workshops, trainings, confidential meetings with psychologists, and external conversations. “The most frustrating thing is when you organise a workshop about work pressure, and people don’t feel they can attend because the work pressure is too high! So our responsibility is to work with product owners to plan the workload properly.”

We know diverse is healthy

A big part of creating a healthy organisation is encouraging diversity and inclusion. Jolijn is clear that the conversations around whether or not diversity is good for business no longer need to be had; “It’s proven. If you have a diverse team you’re more balanced, and you make better, quicker decisions.” It’s not just women and marginalised people who are rooting for more diversity; “Everyone wants to have a diverse team, to have balance, but it’s hard to achieve, and sometimes that’s frustrating. We have this majority-male workforce who do their jobs fantastically, and you don’t just get rid of people who are fantastic at their jobs to get in more women, so it’s partly about being aware of how to act when replacing somebody who leaves. We need to make a lot of effort to find women applicants, diverse applicants.” Jolijn also believes that we need to focus less on the CV, and more on the person; “Somebody is not their education; somebody is not their profession. There is a whole person behind that, and that’s the question; who are you? What drives you? What effort do you want to put in?”

Taking action

While things are moving in the right direction in terms of diversity, Jolijn believes that it’s no longer enough to simply sit back and trust the process, because that would take far too long. It’s crucial to take action now and to make conscious intervention, whether this is in terms of finding more diverse applicants, diversifying management teams, or ensuring a diverse team of recruiters. “There is already more diversity among the young talents and the next generation of employees, but this isn’t going to happen by itself. We need people from different backgrounds and genders doing the recruiting, because this reduces the likelihood of influence from unconscious bias. We have spent time and training on becoming aware, and now we are done with focusing on awareness; what we really need is action.”

Trust, courage, growth

People and team development at KPN is guided by the organisation’s three core values: trust, courage, and growth. Jolijn has learned that when you are in a trusting environment – which comes as a result of building a healthy organisation – only then do you dare to make mistakes, dare to try something new, and only then is it possible to show your courage. “People are always saying ‘get out of your comfort zone’, but first you need to have a comfort zone to get out from! We need to find trust and safety within each team, so the foundation is there for colleagues to show their courage, try something new, to learn a new programming language. Then comes the growth. You first find trust in order to show the courage that you need to grow.” Her responsibility is to help create this trusting environment. “We cannot do that alone as coaches, we need the business for that, and for everyone to know in which context they are working. We’re all small cogs in a longer chain, and we have to understand what’s happening before and after us. We share where we are in the bigger picture.”

New partnerships, new people

Part of this bigger picture – and also central to both people development and diversity and inclusion – are collaborations and partnerships, like the one with RightBrains. Jolijn explains that partnerships can be beneficial to both current employees, by offering them a new network and external education, and to potential employees, by providing a platform on which KPN can become visible to other networks and new people. “It shows that we are conscious of the need for balance, and that we are building a healthy environment where everybody feels welcome.” A company like KPN is so large that partnerships can offer much-needed external and fresh perspectives and people; “the RightBrains partnership is a platform for women at KPN to connect with people from other technical companies. It gives women the role models they need; people who they can recognise themselves in. They can learn from other women and the choices they made.”

Networks of trust

Jolijn believes sharing networks in such an active and direct way as the RightBrains platform can also be very practically beneficial: “You can reach out to someone and ask directly; ‘Hey, how did you approach this problem? How did you make that step?’” But this networking does not always come without a struggle. Many women become nervous about taking up too much time or space in a professional context, which impacts their ability to network confidently. Jolijn is an advocate for trusting not only yourself, but also trusting those you are reaching out to; “Call that person, have that talk. I always thought that I had to have a plan, had to be adding value to that person’s hour, otherwise it would be wasting their time. But I realised they can also say ‘no’. If they say ‘yes’, it’s their choice, and we should trust that they mean it. You don’t need a five-page plan before you approach someone. Just have a talk, see if you click, and build from that. You might ask ‘What’s my question? What’s my story?’ Well, as my manager told me: ‘You are your story’. Ask people for their time, their help, and if they say yes then you have made a new connection. Trust in that.”

Join Jolijn during our live Spring Event on 14 April!