Gayle Rigione, Ivy Exec’s Chief Content Editor and Mentorship Program Manager, recently interviewed Albert (Bert) van den Berg, Founder of !nspiration Marketing Consultancy, a boutique marketing service. !nspiration Marketing Consultancy delivers smart marketing solutions focused on business development, customer-centricity and marketing innovation to start-ups, consumer goods companies and their marketing service providers !nspiration Marketing Consultancy . Bert honed his marketing and leadership skills in diverse roles at Philips N.V., Price Waterhouse Coopers and Friesland Dairy Foods in Asia and Europe. He brings his passion for people, brands, new technology, strategy and meaningful, enduring results to his mentoring for the Ivy Exec Mentor Network. Since Ivy Exec launched the Mentor Network in May of 2012, Bert has drawn on his wealth of experience to help protégés evaluate their career trajectories within the broader context of their personal life goals and expectations.
Gayle Rigione: What attracted you to join the Ivy Exec Mentor Network?
Bert van den Berg: I enjoy helping people find their destination and purpose in life. Mentoring helps me reach people who are open to this and trigger their thinking to a bigger, more encompassing context. I like to provoke and stimulate thinking about larger life issues and how work fits within that bigger context. Ivy Exec’s mentoring program offers me a platform to accomplish this.
Gayle Rigione: What is your mentoring philosophy?
Bert van den Berg: I love to have fun, but there is so much more to life than just that. Events in my life have taught me this. Many steps I have made in my professional career were conscious decisions taken pro-actively… decisions I embraced to broaden my horizon and keep me sharp, fresh and alert. Titles/promotions might progress more quickly if you stay in a familiar environment, but the deliberate changes I made in my career to leave my comfort zone have made me more fulfilled and connected with my purpose in life. People have free choices but many seem caught by the system they are in. When I work with protégés I ask questions to trigger reflection. I want my protégés to think through what they really value and want to accomplish in the end. With your endpoint in mind, you can make quick decisions about what’s working for you or not. I try to stimulate protégés’ thinking so they can make conscious choices, instead of just letting their lives and careers happen to them.
Gayle Rigione: What 3 words best describe your mentoring style?
Bert van den Berg: Listen. Suggest. Sincere interest. I try to listen actively to what people are saying to really understand the situation, and then put things into a bigger context — not just about work, but how it all fits together. I suggest by giving protégés an invitation to think, and then facilitate the thinking by asking questions, sharing ideas and experiences, and eliciting conclusions. And, I am sincerely interested in providing protégés an honest and safe environment for thinking through their top of mind issues.
Gayle Rigione: What do you enjoy most about mentoring?
Bert van den Berg: I am always driven to find new things because new things energize me and give me fresh perspectives. If I don’t do this I become stale. I love to be in places I don’t know and explore them – literally and figuratively. I have worked in Korea, China and Europe. I have done B2B and consumer goods marketing in big corporates, management consulting and now I am a marketing entrepreneur in China. My “next” is always something I haven’t done before, yet is related though never the same. Mentoring gives me an opportunity to figuratively explore “places I don’t know” with my protégés. It keeps me connected with what’s going on beyond my natural scope and environment.
Gayle Rigione: What do you consider when deciding whether or not to mentor a person?
Bert van den Berg: When protégés are just career focused and only desire practical, readily attainable advice – when they are focused on what they want to achieve without much notion of who they want to be – this isn’t so interesting for me from a mentoring standpoint. There are other ways to get the practical advice.
Gayle Rigione: When you meet, what are your expectations of your protégés?
Bert van den Berg: Protégés need to be prepared. They need to have thought through what they want from mentoring, and have invested some time in preparing in advance of our session.
Gayle Rigione: Where do you find inspiration in your own career?
Bert van den Berg: I gain inspiration from people who have a vision, who are really, really good at what they are doing and who stand firm — my partners, other business associates, artists, entertainers, scientists, etc.. I have great admiration for people who are skillful, passionate, beyond themselves and yet humble. I enjoy that they are filled with creativity, imagination, courage, passion and energy and find great inspiration from that. I love new ideas and new concepts. When I see something unusual – it excites me and makes me think “Wow! What can I do with that????”
Gayle Rigione: What impact has mentoring had on your career?
Bert van den Berg: You need to have a clear picture of what is important in your life. I consider my time spent at companies as a paid education – an ideal opportunity to learn from and with others. To learn from and be inspired by the experiences of my bosses, peers and reports has been invaluable for me, enabling me to make decisions that were right for me. However, at the end of the day, it is up to you to make the decisions for your own life and career. And, to make the right decisions you need to know your ultimate destination in life. Knowing that makes everything else easy.
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