A Conversation with Francis Van Steenberge About Role Models & Work – Life Balance

Francis Van Steenberge has been a senior finance professional with fifteen years of demonstrated accomplishments in financial leadership, strategic planning, and accounting at General Electric. He has strong track record of improving business and financial performance through leading process improvement initiatives, driving performance management, and strengthening organizational effectiveness. After moving his family to Dublin so […]

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Francis Van Steenberge has been a senior finance professional with fifteen years of demonstrated accomplishments in financial leadership, strategic planning, and accounting at General Electric. He has strong track record of improving business and financial performance through leading process improvement initiatives, driving performance management, and strengthening organizational effectiveness.

After moving his family to Dublin so his wife could take advantage of the opportunity to work for Google, Francis decided this change of location would give him the chance to begin his own coaching business and share his passion for self-improvement with others.  Francis enjoys coaching individuals in various industries, such as technology, finance, and academia, and helping them navigate through the various turns on their leadership journey to success. 

What do you love most about the industry you are in?

Coaching is all about continuous learning. One cannot coach others without coaching oneself. I find the self-learning aspect of the job exhilarating. Constantly looking into oneself, understanding your sources of motivations and frustrations, determining one’s needs, and understanding one’s limits is a critical aspect of development.

What does a typical day consist of for you?

Prior to any professional obligations, I carve out time for family and myself. I start each day with a walk. I use this time to meditate, self-reflect and stay healthy. Afterwards, I organize the school day of my children. Only after this do I start my professional activities. My professional day is split between research, networking, and spending time counseling my customers.

What keeps you motivated?

My motivation comes from the impact I have on my customers. Watching them progress is clearly a source of motivation. Helping them self-reflect, identify, and understand their trigger points, and sources of motivation is like solving a puzzle. Being available when a customer is challenged by a particular situation and help them navigate towards an optimal solution is so rewarding!

How do you motivate others?

One cannot motivate others without creating an environment conducive to success. Individuals want to know that you will be treated fairly and that you have their interest in mind. They also want to know that their contribution is relevant and will be acknowledged and rewarded. To motivate others, one needs to understand what success looks like for them, how they will be compensated, and that the process all along will be fair. 

How has your company grown from its early days to now?

In the coaching world, no better advertisement than testimonials and word-of-mouth. In the beginning, I spent more time searching for prospective clients, but I have now obtained sufficient success with a large enough cohort of people that they have referred others to me.  Now I am in a position where I have had to refer some potential customers to others.  

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My wife has really been a role model for me.  She adds is a very logical thinker with a very mathematical background which gives her a different perspective that helps me tremendously.  She is always a great sounding board for me and a great advisor.  Before I met her, I used to talk more than I listened.  She is a great listener and I learned through her the importance of listening.  I learned to listen to the cues that people give when they speak so that I could communicate better.  There is always a little cue, or a clue, you could say, in what people are saying that motivates them, and focusing on what people say is something she does extremely well, and it has helped me to learn from her.  I really hit the jackpot with my wife. 

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

Long-term success is obtained only by maintaining a solid work/life balance. One needs to carve out time for yourself and family. However, everyone is different, so it is part of your leadership journey to understand what a good life balance looks like for yourself. In my situation, it starts by carving out time each day for meditation and reflection. It also includes quality time with family members. Furthermore, in my opinion, one can enhance one’s performance by also maintaining a daily regimen of physical activity and by a healthy diet.

What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

I believe I am a good listener. Listening is key to understanding. I like to say one cannot learn as much and as quick from oneself than you can from others. I have an ability to translate problems into actions towards solutions and an ability to lean on others with different skills and perspectives than myself.  I am not afraid nor reluctant to change. I enjoy breaking down objectives into tangible goals and putting structure and actions together in order to obtain these goals. 

What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?

I would encourage anyone to take the opportunity to live in other countries if you can.  When I was growing up my family was able to travel because of my father’s job and we enjoyed being exposed to different cultures, different languages, and different foods.  My father would make a point of traveling locally so we would learn about the culture wherever we were.  He would take us to visit different temples and cultural locations.  My father spoke four languages and my mom spoke five languages at home.  It was just a great way to grow up.  It was a great way to grow up. 

My wife and I have tried to give our children a bit of the same experience by leaving the US and having a life now in Dublin.  We originally planned to be here for just two years, but we have enjoyed it so much that we have stayed on because it has been so fantastic for our kids.  We did not want them to have to move again during high school.  We are so close to the rest of Europe, and we were able to travel very easily in the pre-COVID world.  We have tried to visit all of the different countries with our kids, and they have spent summers in Spain and France. 

What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?

I fundamentally believe one is the result of one’s past experiences. Therefore, make these experiences as wide and enriching as possible. Don’t be afraid to put yourself into challenging situations.  Failing is ok as long as you learn from the experience. Lastly, open your heart and soul to others and you will harvest the dividends of your investment. 

Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

Since moving to Dublin, I have found a way to stay busy and active by volunteering with several sailing associations for children and disabled adults.  I am a junior sailing committee member at the NYC yacht club in Dublin, a committee member for Optimist sailing at The Optimist Dinghy Sailing Association of Ireland (IODAI), and a volunteer for Sailability, a sailing organization for disabled children and adults.

My children are both very accomplished sailors, so this was a good way for me to also be involved with their sport. My daughter is the 2020 female national champion in Optimist sailing.  In addition to being a national champion, she was 11th overall at the European championships is sailing.  My son is the national champion in the 29er sailing class.  It is a different fleet of boat, but highly competitive, and it was a big honor for him to qualify to represent the country of Ireland.  I gain a lot of satisfaction helping my children develop to their utmost potential.

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