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The Teachers Who Influenced Me… (2/3)

Herman-Daenen-Lieven-Verbrugge
clipboard-with-pencil_16x16 We met the first time when I was still a student. The faculty of Psychology invited five experienced psychologists from different fields to share their thoughts on what it meant to be a psychologist. I must admit with some shame, that I only have a vague memory of what four of these psychologists said and who they were. However I have a very vivid memory about the fifth psychologist. He talked about a variety of topics, the market research he did in Africa, about his shoes and most importantly about societal trends. As a freshman psychology student I was impressed by his communication skill, his humor and by the interesting insights he had. At the reception after the event I had the chance to talk to him and ask him questions. He invited me for a drink in a café in Brussels that night and we spend many hours talking. I was asking questions and he was patiently listening and sharing his thoughts.

It was more than a year later before we met a second time. But his thoughts and idea’s were working somehow inside my head. I realized that on different occasions I thought back about some of the things he talked about during our first encounter. I remember that I walked into a newly opened store and realized that the way the store was designed and decorated was part of a marketing/societal trend that he predicted about a year earlier. I was fascinated about the insight that a trend spreads through society and that at the moment it reaches the “normal consumer”, it would be an indication that it was coming to an end. These thoughts and observations made that I gave him a call to ask if we could meet again. As a young student I was happy that he even remembered me and that he was willing to free some of his busy schedule to meet me. This was the beginning of what is now more that twenty years of mentorship, guidance, coaching, teachings and ultimately the start of a deep friendship.

Some argue that personal growth comes naturally. However from experience as a coachee and as a coach, I learned the value of having someone you can trust and who helps you in your personal journey to try to become a better manager, leader, teacher, craftsman, nurse or politician. Call it a mentor or coach or anything else, in essence it’s about having an neutral sounding board that is there for you, accepts you as you are and provides you with the feedback and insights that you need for your personal journey.

Through the years I learned about the multiple facets of his personality. There is the artist, the piano player, the University Professor, the specialist in consumer behavior, etc. All that is interwoven with his expertise as a psychologist. I think that this multitude of knowledge led to the insights that he so kindly shares with me and with others like me. Through the years he advised many organizations and some political parties about consumer behavior and societal trends.

Although I value deeply the patience he has with me, all his advices, his insights and often confrontational but caring feedback, there is one moment that is particular precious to me and my family. About 12 years ago my wife and I had a miscarriage. We were of course very sad and I was deeply concerned about my wife. It is obvious that this kind of experience touch woman and man differently. My boss at the time was not really of the caring kind and he urged me to come back to work just shortly after the incident. I was worried to leave my wife alone at home, so I asked my mentor if he would be so kind to check on her during the day if he would have time. In those days there were hardly mobile phones and texting didn’t exist. So I worried quite a lot that day and couldn’t wait to go home to my wife at night. I remember rushing upstairs to our apartment and when I opened the door I found my wife and my mentor sitting in the living room. She looked calm and she had a smile on her face. He had been so kind to spend almost the whole day with her and he had taken his time to listen and to talk. That particular smile has become an unforgettable memory to me and I’m eternally grateful to him for his kind and caring presents that day.

My dear friend Herman, the three of us wish you all the best for the new year and we are looking forward to spend more time with you in 2013!

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