With extensive experience organising corporate events and delivering custom incentive journeys for global companies, Shirley Janssen was surely destined to join forces with Luxury Hospitality.
As partnership development and specialist trainer, Shirley is responsible for working with teams and leaders on their transformations, while organising events and creating relationships, so it’s safe to say she’s a busy woman.
Here Shirley talks to us about the most defining experiences of her career, her life during the Covid pandemic, and what she believes makes a truly great leader.
Let’s start with your background – where did you grow up?
I grew up on a very conservative island in the south of Holland. My father was a doctor in a village of 3,000 people with lots of farmers, so you could say that I was dragged up from lumps of clay. I think this has helped me stay grounded over my lifetime, even in ungrounded times. This is also the place where my love for animals and the sea started.
Prior to joining LH, you spent years organising global corporate events – what are some of your favourite memories from this time?
It all started with guiding incentive trips for trendy companies. Visiting Carnival in Rio, parachute diving in Argentina, snowboarding in Canada etc. There was so much fun and laughter with so many different people and cultures. After many trips like this I started to realise what impact you can make with taking people to other surroundings. Instead of having the focus on fun and pampering guests, I started to focus more on the goals of the company and the management. The place became just a tool, helping to reach goals faster and in a very nice way.
Out of the 45 countries you have worked in, which is your favourite?
For leadership trips, a destination with lots of nature. I have organized amazing events in places like Iceland and Lapland, and also Rwanda and Indonesia. Also don’t underestimate places close by with a rich background like Malta, they have so much to offer. Then there’s the Island of the Knights, or Rhodes. A knight must be fast, noble, and a team player, but also take care of him or herself, and there needs to be action. These are lovely topics to build competition and a new company culture around.
What is the secret to navigating so many different cultures?
I think to respect the person in front of you, no judgment, and to never accept no as an answer straight away. My clients were always expecting the same service level, even though it was much easier for me to organize an event in Germany then in Sicily. For the former I would need to work harder and be on top of everything, checking every single detail.
When did you join LH and how did it come about?
While I was organising my team building and leadership journeys, I worked together with a lot of speakers and coaches, and really enjoyed their contribution to the journeys we developed. I wanted to know more about this and to learn methods to use as a basis for my trips. All the experiences I gained from travelling with groups gave me an enormous advantage when I became a trainer.
Working with different leaders, company cultures, changes within the companies, etc. gave me a step up. Not only was I able to connect and gain trust quickly, I could also motivate and connect the guests to each other, and understand the leaders.
After giving birth to my first child, Covid hit. Instead of travelling with teams, I realized that using my trainer skills would be more efficient. I also wanted to work together with an expert in the luxury industry to create the method behind my trips, and that’s when I approached Peter Vogel. Funnily enough he was also looking for a leadership trainer who was able to organise events. That’s how it all started, and now we are developing a lot together.
What does your role entail?
As a leadership trainer I work with teams and leaders on their transformations, both large and small. I am also involved in the development of the programs and partnership development.
I’m used to building partnerships with many different people (and in many different countries), and that is what was happening automatically within LH as well - seeing gaps and trends and trying to dive into those areas with a win-win mentality for all the players. Thanks to my background I have expertise in executing programs to grow organisational change management as a strategic business competency.
What scope of events do you plan for clients?
Honestly, we haven’t focused on that part too much yet because of Covid, however we are looking to organize some lovely events soon where we can bring people together. The biggest goal for the events is to help the individual to grow. Wellbeing is the biggest topic, as well as growing and realising a sustainable future. Most of our guests are already very happy and healthy, but we want to help them reach their full potential and become even more successful.
How do you juggle partnership development with being a trainer?
I won’t lie, it can be a struggle! If I am training, I focus 100% on that during the day, as well as the day before and the day after. All other days are open for both.
Which courses do you deliver?
I deliver our homemade leadership program and the Covey training, as well as communication.
How would you define good leadership?
Good leadership is gathering the right people around you and supporting them the best you can. Giving them trust and autonomy, a future perspective based on their purpose and the purpose of the company, being there for them and treating everyone the way you want to be treated. It’s also important to know where you want to go to and never lose sight of the finances. And, for the entrepreneurs, focus 60% of your time on sales and partnerships, be progressive in your industry, and don’t be afraid of taking risks.
What are some of the biggest barriers to change within an organisation?
In my opinion, the company culture. Lots of people don’t like change, so it can take time.
What’s your favourite thing about working for LH?
I love the industry. The guest-centricity mentality on board, the laid-back ambiance at the shipyard, and the fast action of the management companies. It’s a blessing to be able to work with so many special people at LH – they are all unique and well developed. It’s a place where you can learn every single day.
Your Talent Dynamics profile is Dynamo/Blaze Energy, which means vibrant, inspiring and passionate – is this how you would describe your personality?
I am afraid so, yes! Sometimes I think, why does everything always have to be an adventure? Boring but nice is also possible. Sadly, I simply can’t live that way.
What’s the most important lesson you have learnt in your career so far?
Sometimes things are out of your control. It might not seem fair, but it’s simply not the right moment. Embrace this and learn from it. Never become a victim.
What have you found most challenging during the Covid pandemic?
Working closely together with colleagues for 1.5 years without ever seeing them. Especially in the beginning when we just had online gatherings, it meant putting in more effort to build trust.
Tell us a lesser-known fact about yourself that would surprise your colleagues?
I love kitesurfing and used to go on a lot of kitesurf trips to Brazil. We once travelled 1,000 kilometers over the water in 10 days. Those were lovely times.
Where do you see yourself in five years? And 10?
In five years I hope we have made a big impact on the life of a lot of yachties, helping them to build the future of their dreams. I also believe we will have influenced the working environment of the superyacht industry by professionalising the companies, and hopefully we will have reached the stage within LH where I can coach professionals to start or grow their own companies.
In 10 years I see myself with people off the beaten track, taking them on adventure and creating twinkles in their eyes. Helping them fly to new heights. Oh, and doing something good for animals.