We have a chat with Hessiëlle Kerkhoff about her career, education, and her recently published “Signature in Healthcare – The road to leadership with a positive impact”. Hessiëlle completed her MBA at Business School Nederland in 2011 and is now the owner of De Waerdmeester.

Business Leader in Action: Hessiëlle Kerkhof MBAHessiëlle once started her career in education, but after being in the classroom for a year, she knew she would not do this all her life. She started studying pedagogy and began working in childcare to start a childminder company. The entrepreneurship which forms a part of her home finally got the lead. She then performed different roles within the same growing childcare organization, including that of quality manager, and eventually became the deputy director. Her professional development went hand in hand with that of the organization. During that period, the company grew from 15 to 135 locations. At the end of that period she did her MBA. She wanted to speak the language of the board and find out more about leadership.

What did you do after your MBA?
“The MBA taught me that every answer raises new questions. I wanted to retain the eagerness to learn which was developed during the training. That is why I chose to change sectors. It had to be a working environment where that eagerness would be essential. I became the director of a care institution, even though it was unusual to bring in people from outside of the care sector. I noticed that it was a challenge to keep all the balls in the air. Paying attention to clients and staff, paying attention to the future of the organization, and at the same time putting enough energy into consolidating plans. A turbulent home situation with parents with health problems and young children, in combination with a busy and demanding job, made me decide to quit that position in 2016. The entrepreneurial spirit crawls where it can’t go and after a short rest period, the plans soon started to bubble again.
I wanted to contribute to the changes in care and education via a supporting role, while keeping enough room to be able to pay attention to my parents and children. This situation led to what then became “De Waerdmeester”. That name is about a forgotten profession, the assignment to let the river flow while the hinterland remains protected against flooding.
I focus on healthcare and education with my advice, training and coaching. All activities and assignments carried out by De Waerdmeester are aimed at (further) developing leadership. To make it flow (again).

How did you come up with the idea for your book?
“In the assignments that I carried out from De Waerdmeester, I saw a number of directors who did very well by shifting the focus from measuring quality to experiencing quality. I was curious about the secret formula. I then started interviewing 14 directors and senior managers to find out. I asked personal questions to find out what drives them. What kind of background are you from? How do you deal with your intuition? What keeps you awake?

It was often about how they deal with polarity. For example, with the needs for solidification and renewal. Attention to healthy financial management and sufficient attention for patients and clients. The answer almost always lay in the retention of individuality and attention to one’s own signature.

Know yourself well and be aware of your own ego. Be aware of what you don’t know. Situations are often too complex to be able to manage strictly from one point. If you keep coming back to the middle, where your own signature can be found, you’ll have the guts to look into the future and bring your people along, even if that goes against expectations of, for example, financiers or society.
If I am being honest, I learned to return to my own middle during the MBA course. That did not happen deliberately, but in retrospect I can say that through the studying and sharing opinions with fellow students, the image of who I am and what I find has developed. That gives me confidence. I dared to think and do bigger.

Who will be interested in the book?
“This book was originally written to inspire healthcare administrators. I was writing and reflecting with people in the healthcare sector, when I discovered that it is also very interesting to middle managers in healthcare. How can they grow and become the leaders of the future? It now appears that regulators are also showing interest. Similar to the MBA where I worked in groups with people from other industries and I noticed how inspiring this was, I would imagine that this book is also inspiring for people outside of healthcare. We all have to deal with the healthcare sector to a greater or lesser extent. That is why there are so many opinions about it, just like the many national coaches at an important game of our national football team. The book can be read from multiple perspectives, but the overtones focus on leadership. ”

Why is good leadership needed specifically in healthcare?
“In addition to the need for any change in leadership with regards to the increased complexity of the world, healthcare is about people and how you can improve their quality of life. Only focusing on financial management and efficient processes is not an option. You cannot lose sight of the human side in healthcare, because then it means nothing. It is important to keep returning to yourself and to listen to your inner compass. The book consists of stories from 14 directors / leaders, but it also contains a model that you can use as a benchmark to hold up a mirror to yourself. How do I deal with my individuality, ego etc. Knowing your signature helps you with everyday dilemmas and issues.

For more information on our Action Learning MBA and Management Programmes, send an email to international@bsn.eu.

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