Case Study

From good to great at Heineken Romania

Our bespoke leadership team coaching intervention, designed for Heineken Romania’s specific needs and cultural context, helped the sales management team define and deliver a shared vision for a stronger, more interdependent sales function. It also created a new dynamic in the team and in the teams it leads – with more trust, transparency and appetite for constructive challenge.


By combining its own internationally-recognised brands with local acquisitions, Heineken had already taken the number-one spot in Romania, with more than 30% of the market*. But Sales Director Geert Swaanenburg still saw scope for further improvements improving the company’s position. A Heineken veteran, Geert had been in post for eighteen months. He’d already ensured he had “the right people in the right seats” and was keen to harness the full potential of the team. He asked us to help him…

  • Inspire his team to act as owners of the business
  • Encourage more open and direct communication and frequent, honest feedback
  • Help the team transmit this learning and the resulting shift in culture to the teams they led

The approach we took

Geert asked Heineken Romania’s Organisational Development Manager, Raluca Modoran, to find a team coach to support this process. She approached LeaderSpace following a recommendation from a Romanian participant on one of our leadership programmes. From our initial conversations, understanding of Romanian culture and an increasing understanding of Heineken’s own culture, it was clear that we needed an approach that blended energy, fun and interaction with respect, insight and self-reflection. Geert and his team were experienced leaders who’d worked for other well-known brands. We knew they had taken part in a range of leadership development activities in the past, were well-educated on the topic of leadership and would have high expectations.

We worked with Geert and Raluca to develop a deeper understanding of the team and its environment. A mixture of dialogue and data from the LeaderSpace High-Performing Teams Questionnaire helped shape the intervention and our joint communications with the rest of Geert’s team.

The intervention itself was a blend of planned sessions and emergent discussion. Together, the team looked at its history and the impact of past events on the present. They shared their views on themselves and each other as leaders. We established a vision for the team and each individual’s leadership of their own teams: a collective definition of what “great” actually meant in reality. In part, this meant committing to building a single shared Sales “empire”, rather than silos – or smaller “kingdoms”.

We tackled the things that really got in the way of achieving that vision, including people’s concerns that helping peers would cause them to lose focus on their own work, or that asking for input from one’s colleagues might be seen as a sign of weakness. We debated matters of trust and commitment, challenge and support, interdependence and accountability. And we sat by the fire on a snowy winter night in a forest full of bears, listening to each other’s stories – often with laughter in our eyes but sometimes with heavier hearts.

It was a pleasure to work with Richard. He is a pleasant and knowledgeable team coach who was able to not only bring a good amount of team insights to the table, but was also able to open up deeper layers of the team dynamics that really helped us bring our team objective alive.
Geert Swaanenburg, Sales Director, Heineken Romania
Now, several months after the training, I feel comfortable to say that with the support of LeaderSpace we truly created a new dynamic to the team that resulted in a structural change. It’s a dynamic with more trust, more transparency and, most important, greater willingness to get out of the comfort zone.
Geert Swaanenburg, Sales Director, Heineken Romania

The impact we had

Heineken Romania’s work with LeaderSpace helped shift the team’s mind-set. They renamed and rebranded themselves around a core, shared identity. This helped them present themselves more effectively and connectedly to the rest of the business and to the people they collectively led. “The empire is getting better aligned by the day,” Geert says, referring to the team’s commitment to create a stronger, interdependent Sales “empire”. “They have truly started acting as an empire in line with the vision we defined together, by sharing information with each other and challenging each other in a respectful manner, with the purpose to continually improve ourselves and deliver more as a team. I also see my team members driving their new insights and behaviours towards their own team members. This was one of the objectives set and I’m happy to see this is effectively materialising.

“Finally the coaching with LeaderSpace also supported the further development of trust within my team, and this improved the strength of all team-members being open for more challenging interactions with each other. We are much more comfortable giving each other open and honest feedback, and the team members are receiving this with a constructive mind-set. The team is willing to step more easily out of the comfort zone, the area where improvements are being made.”