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IMD Impact Stories · Leadership

Breakthrough program for Senior Executives: An amazing learning experience

Interview with Frank Grootnibbelink, Global Business Director at Akzo Nobel Chemicals AG, recent BPSE participant
November 2016

IMD’s Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives was just what Frank Grootnibbelink was looking for to focus on key issues and accelerate the momentum of success. “This was an extraordinary learning experience,” says Frank.

With a post-doctoral degree from the Free University of Amsterdam, an Executive General Management Program from Harvard Business School, and 30 years of service for AkzoNobel, Frank Grootnibbelink was looking for a program to stimulate his career development and progression, and he liked the theme of breakthrough offered by IMD.

Opportunities for development within the same company have been the key to maintaining his energy and enthusiasm at AkzoNobel, where Frank Grootnibbelink has worked for five different business units in seven decentralized operating companies. Currently Global Business Director of Akzo Nobel Chemicals in Switzerland, a position he has held since 2014, he was encouraged to attend the IMD course to challenge his learning curve once again, including on what drives him.

Personal coaching and learning

Grootnibbelink discovered that working on assignments in small groups was extraordinarily valuable. BPSE, he realized, rested on a bedrock of:

  • interaction with others
  • receiving feedback about ideas and actions
  • individual coaching

On a personal level, he found it useful to receive feedback from the other participants on how they viewed him. “As a leader, you need to organize and orchestrate, so it’s important to understand how others perceive you.” By developing this method of consciousness, he discovered that he could give himself more authority in a group situation, which, in turn, made him stronger and more resilient. As for the one-to-one coaching sessions, he said that they were “spot on” and helped him immensely.

The red thread

On a professional level, the breakthrough theme helped him define his strategic challenges with conviction and relevance. “Making a breakthrough in business is not something you can do alone,” he commented.  “The theme was introduced from the very beginning and was the red thread that ran through the program… It’s fantastic to see how we went from framing first thoughts to a  very specific action plans in only 12 days.”

The obligation to fit his strategic outlook onto an A4 sheet of paper produced a high level summary which he then presented briefly, in only five to ten minutes. This allowed him to focus on the key issues and accelerate the momentum of his plan. “Interaction with people is essential, giving and receiving feedback is valuable.”

30 years in the same company and still enjoying it

Grootnibbelink sees himself continuing in a business that he regards as highly complex, but where he has an opportunity to do things differently. “I like the business environment and feel strongly rooted in the company”. He believes that he has achieved a higher degree of recognition since taking part in the IMD program: “The program helped me build confidence across the organization, and to become a better and stronger leader for the company.”

Frank Grootnibbelink’s career path

  • Global Business Director – Akzo Nobel Chemicals AG

July 2014 – present, Lucerne Area, Switzerland

  • Finance Director – Akzo Nobel Chemicals AG

2011 – June 2014, Lucerne Area, Switzerland

  • General Management Program Harvard Business School

2008, Boston

  • Finance Director – AkzoNobel Functional Chemicals AB, Sweden

2007 –2010, Sweden

  • Interim Manager – AkzoNobel Decorative Paints, Czech Republic

July-December 2006, Czech Republic

  • General Manager, Commercial Distribution Germany – AkzoNobel

2002 – 2006, Stuttgart area, Germany

Find out more about the Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives.

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