The Columbia Connection

Up until today the only Columbia I have experienced was the goddess of...

Up until today the only Columbia I have experienced was the goddess of liberty, also known to most as the Statue of Liberty. It was the one that Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer, discovered back in 1492. In the same way as the American Columbia represents the personification of one of the most talked about countries in the world, Columbia Ship Management (CSM), which has its Head Offices in the beautiful island of Cyprus, and with a reach, that extends to almost all over the world with 13,000 employees under her sails, represents the personification of excellence in the provision of world-class ship management services. Such is the reputation of CSM for being market leaders in their field of expertise, placing utmost emphasis and value on their human capital, that it comes as no surprise that I wanted to work with them for quite some time and although I had extended a number of offers to their Management through the years, such did not come to fruition.

The business relationship with CSM, that came to fruition, started on Valentine’s Day 2018. Still in pursuit of the Columbia Connection; the one that would present me with the coveted opportunity to work with one of the ship management industry’s finest. Remember that saying from the Alchemist, that, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”? Well, it couldn't be farther from the truth in this case! On that day, I found myself delivering a keynote speech to 500+ delegates during the 2nd Capital Link Conference, which lasted exactly six minutes and fifty-two seconds. Upon finishing, I stepped off the stage and a few minutes after, Mr. Heinrich Schoeller, Chairman of CSM, who I was fortunate enough to be amongst the delegates, approached me, extended his right hand and while applying a firm handshake, he uttered six English words in his heavy German accent: “We will speak soon. Well done!”

Finally, I got a sense that I had my Columbia Connection, right then and there. And it made me realize that the keynote speech that I had just delivered was warmly embraced by Mr. Schoeller.

Six days later, I was in Mr. Schoeller’s office and, before I knew it, I was being hired to run a Management workshop for his top-tier team (the team responsible for all three global locations, that is Cyprus, Germany and Singapore) as well as to deliver three keynote speeches to the CSM employees in Cyprus.

Talk about the universe plotting and carrying out a full-fledged conspiracy on my account.

As I am writing this blog post, vivid memories from my time with CSM personnel come rushing back to me, reminding me of many things that I have learned in the process, but mostly three.

These are:

  1. To get a job, you need to influence one person; the right person. To do this, you need to be the best version of yourself. Presenting yourself in person is not the same as presenting it in writing, for example through an offer letter. Written words can move mountains; spoken words even more so. And it is not the quantity of the words that you utter that will get your foot in the door, but the quality of them; the essence that they carry across. After all my speech was delivered in less than seven minutes.
  2. Once you get the job, you need to be fully prepared to deliver on what you have promised; and then some more (the added value). Your aim is to exceed expectations, not just meet them. This is a fail-safe way of ensuring that you are in for an encore, courtesy of the people that hired you. In my case, I took time to interview one-to-one all the Management team of CSM (some of them through Skype since they were in physical locations thousands of miles away from Cyprus i.e. in Hamburg, Germany). The information and feedback gathered through all these interviews was the real source of direction and inspiration to make the Management workshop and the three keynote speeches engaging and eventually successful.
  3. After you are finished with the ‘job’, you need to make sure that you follow up on what you have just delivered, so as to forge into your audience’s minds and hearts the positive memory that you left behind and make sure they will be implementing what was agreed. My proudest moment during my Columbia engagement was when I was asked, at the end of the workshop: “What’s next?”, “What are our next steps?”, “Where do we go from here?”, “Can you please prepare a report for us?” To my eyes and ears, this was the culmination of all the blood, sweat and tears that I’d put into my work with Columbia’s Management team. Needless to say, I drafted the report, and I released it over to them for further action, an action that they asked for. And, since I live by the motto “The truth will set you free”, I decided to state the truth (‘my truth’ because it is mainly subjective) regarding the workshop’s findings in its intact form so as to help CSM’s Management to reach their goals and improve first and foremost their performance and then that of their respective teams. Hearing ‘the truth’ (or reading about it) may feel uncomfortable at first, but in the end, it does set you free, enabling you in this way to see clearly what needs to be done.

On the Statue of Liberty, it is written: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. While the Columbia people are certainly not poor nor, I believe, tired, I am ever so grateful for the opportunity given to me by Mr. Heinrich Schoeller, to facilitate sessions aimed at enabling the Columbia teams to breathe free(r) whist reaching for their true potential.

So, thank you Columbia Ship Management. In the same way as the lady that goes by the same name represents the personification of America, for me you were (and still are, and will be) the personification of one of my career’s most important milestones.