This interview is part of a new series where leaders in influential positions share their leadership journey – how they got to where they are today. I believe we all have a lot to learn from our stories of where we started, our successes and struggles, and important lessons learned on the way.

This interview is with Erno Hannink. He helps entrepreneurs to accomplish their goals on time. He is a business coach, the independent external sparring and accountability partner for innovation in your company. He is a referee with KNVB, runs on plants, and says he is a stoic. He is also a podcast host of the Erno Hannink Show and The Entrepreneurs Bookcast. You can find Erno on LinkedIn here.

Share your backstory and how you got where you are today. Can you share one or two events (positive or negative) in life that shaped who you are as a person and leader?

How did I get to where I am today? At the age of 53, I have just gotten a clear picture of what the meaning of my life is. Maybe I am just at the beginning of my life, we will see. It is easy to look back and find the red thread in your life, but making long-term decisions that will have a big impact on your future is difficult. Sometimes this turned out a lot better than I expected and sometimes a lot worse. 

A few moments in my life that I am grateful for today are my exec-MBA study, spending time with my children, the trip to Las Vegas, and starting a podcast. 

Erno Hannink
Erno Hannink

During the executive MBA, I have learned to be curious, research, and share my findings. I still use this today in my blog, in the coaching, and for my podcast.

One of the activities with my kids when they were younger was being an assistant referee at their soccer matches. Today this means that I am a referee on Sunday for the KNVB, which keeps me fit and gives me the confidence to speak up, I go watch games of my daughter and visit games of BVB with my son.

The trip to CES in Las Vegas was a dream that I had for a long time. A project in 2008/2009 gave me the opportunity to do this. It resulted in meeting friends that I knew from social media. The trip was also the start of co-organizing the Social Media Club in the Netherlands and the first Dutch WordCamp. It also was the spark for my first published book and many more to follow.

Starting my podcast in 2015 was out of curiosity and it resulted in more than 300 conversations with entrepreneurs. Through the interviews, I learned to listen and ask better questions. Today I see this as an important part of the foundation of my business coaching.

What do you like about the work you do? What do you find most challenging?

The coaching of entrepreneurs is just great. Learning what they want to accomplish, finding the goals and tactics to get better results. Using what I have learned over the years to sharpen the ideas of the entrepreneur and ask tough questions. Being a sparring partner and having great conversations is what I like to do. Most challenging for me in this work is attracting more good entrepreneurs that want coaching.

What are you passionate about? (or what dreams keep you up at night?)

Social and ecological inequality is what keeps me up at night. Why do we ruin the planet just to make cheaper products and strive for more profit? I don’t understand why we underpay women and minorities all over the world and let other people work in circumstances that we would not do, just for a cheaper product so we can buy more. In the Western world, we already have so much.

How do you manage pressure and overwhelm?

To manage pressure and overwhelm I use a number of stoic tactics on a daily basis. 

  • Journal
  • Write down 10 things that I am grateful for.
  • Understand that I can only control how I respond to things.
  • Improve my wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance by 1% every day.

To remove the noise:

  • My day starts with writing down a list of 3 goals that I want to accomplish today. When I work on one of the goals I focus just on that goal.
  • No notifications from apps on my phone, tablet, or computer. My phone is most of the time set to silent.
  • I don’t read newspapers, listen, or watch the news.

Who has had the most influence on your leadership? Share a story to illustrate your point.

Pieter van Osch had the most influence on my leadership. We are good friends, and we were in a study program in 2010 and a mastermind for 10 years together, we visited events together, he was my daily buddy for a few years, we take long walks every year and brainstorm. Today we are working together to bring the Rhineland way of working back to Dutch companies. He is a great trainer that doesn’t want to coach. I am a good business coach that doesn’t want to train. I have learned a lot from Pieter and love working with him.

What are your goals or aspirations for this year?

My goal for the coming year is to follow the process, like last year. Get 7-8 hours of sleep, get up early, read at least one page in a book, write and publish an article, run four times per week, interview entrepreneurs for my weekly podcast, publish a newsletter each month, publish a pocketbook each quarter, and coach entrepreneurs. For 2022 I have one extra goal, publish a book on impact decision making for entrepreneurs.

I do all this in order to increase awareness of social and ecological inequality and reduce it together with entrepreneurs.