Batenborch International talks with Lennart Sigterman

“The most important thing in realizing change, is doing it with speed.”
We had the pleasure of meeting Lennart Sigterman, Commercial Leader at Signify. As an experienced leader, Lennart will share his insights on the industry, market developments and his personal growth throughout the years.

Which aspects of your job give you the most energy?

At Signify, we can combine head and heart. I’m a performance guy: I love to use data, reviews and dashboarding for optimizing performance for our customers. But on the other hand, it truly amazes me to make an impact on people. If you look at my career by Signify until today, the first five years were mainly focused on developing myself to be a better sales rep, a better professional. If you start working you don’t know what to do. You just start. After five years I was convinced that I wanted to develop not only my functional sales competencies to my 65th. The dimension of ‘people’ and their development was the perfect fit.

After some years at Signify, I could use personal development myself. With help of Signify, I invested in development courses and coaching. This helped me a lot. When finished, I was so excited about these learnings, that I would love to share that with new talent. Signify was open to discuss the idea of running a leadership program for our new future leaders. This resulted in a yearly budget and time investment for a 10 top talents program within Signify. From that moment on, when I could focus on customer performance, while helping talented and ambitious people with leadership development , I was at the place I wanted to be. The combination of a responsibility of a business with its great opportunities and challenges and work with a group of good people around me to challenge, help and endorse: that is what I love about my job at Signify.

What were the main contributors that led to your success today?

One of the coolest things of working at a company like Signify is you get everyday the opportunity to learn, to improve and get inspired by fantastic leaders. The main contributor of my development is the help and lessons I have received from other Signify colleagues.

As an example I’d like to share 3 stories about my first, second and third manager:

  1. The first manager I had was a sales manager. He learned me to embrace the head wings of execution. Be the king in your region, do the job, focused on the customer and be an entrepreneur. Very empowered, very focused on that entrepreneurship. When you start a new job, it’s all fun and exciting. There are always new challenges in sales and a plan can always be more ambitious. Choose for the headwinds! In the moment the headwinds are too easy and things are getting comfortable, you should look for a next step. This learning helped me to embrace the hard times. Don’t stop and move on too quickly.
  2. In my next role in the consumer business, I had to opportunity to work with a true business manager. My new manager was one of the marketing master minds of great Philips innovations. At first I was kind of scared, working with this marketing professional, which was a great leader. In my first one-on-ones with him, he said: “Welcome in my team, I am very happy that you’re here! But – what’s next? When are you going to move to your next role and what’s the plan?” I had no idea, didn’t think yet at all about a new step. I was just really excited I got that job (my first leadership role), and then he directly started with the end. The end-point, and what it would take to get there, became the development building block of my role. We included this building block in my job goals. As a result, I was fully committed to make our team and the company successful. It was a partnership, a win-win.
  3. After a couple of years I got a new manager, a totally different professional who’s mantra was: ‘hard and heart’. He challenged me well, as I was leading a larger team with more different seasoned professionals. Main point learning: start from yourself and trust on your own authenticity. Be true to yourself and do good. A colleague stated lately “We are human, beings not human doings”. In the office it’s exactly like that as well. In my first roles I was focused to be a human doing, as I was so eager to deliver & execute. In a leadership role that is not enough, the impact will slow down. If you want to develop a team performance and inspire other people, people must trust you. It’s necessary to be open, honest and truly yourself.

 Which mistake did you make along the way?

Once, a colleague asked me: are you open about your own mistakes? I said: I think I am. He gave me feedback and said in my role I could do better. He was right when he said: “When you cycled harder – and focus on your results – the impact on your team was lower than when you slowed down and knew what was going on in the kitchen.” Ultimately, it’s all about the balance between ‘is it about me’ or ‘is it about others’. Leadership is especially about others too. As a young leader it is sometimes hard to be in balance focusing on self-development and your real job: taking care of others so they can develop and do the best job possible. The fun thing is that a strong focus on the development of a team accelerated my own development even more.

How do you find the balance between your professional and private life?

Finding balance between my professional and private life is probably one of my biggest challenges. I have a young family and my wife and I both have ambitious career goals. Raising two young kids means for me that I am very focused on work things at work and private things at home. My base attitude is that I keep work and private life as much separated, so I can change my mind and enjoy other things in life, also to my team. I see many young professionals acting differently, more often they enjoy longer breaks or do sports during work and working more hours during the evening. I don’t have a problem with that (I used to do the same without kids), but now it doesn’t work for me. In the end it is about the performance. When it’s necessary to work outside working hours, I try to save tasks that I most love to do.

What are challenges that Signify is facing?

There are several developments that Signify is currently dealing with. One you’ll probably hear a lot about is business transformation. Signify is no longer just about light products, but about light as a data collector. With smart, sustainable light innovations we help consumers, cities and companies to save energy, reduce CO2, reduce corona and create opportunities for sustainable agriculture. Changing the business model is a great opportunity for Signify from selling lamps, to selling light and using data, collected by LED lighting systems for more efficiency or new applications. Light brings value!

An example is LiFi, a kind of WiFi, but spread by light waves through LED lighting. LiFi is faster and safer because it doesn’t go through doors or windows. Important for companies who are involved in cybersecurity. You need other competencies in your company to be successful. Changing the business model is a great opportunity for Signify from selling lamps, to selling light and using data, collected by LED lighting systems for more efficiency or new applications. Light brings value!

Which key elements are crucial to succeed in this challenge?

In today’s society it’s all about digital connectivity and sustainability. Digital competency is also extremely important in how we do our business. It’s not only about sales, but also about processes.  For example, we are digitalizing our supply chain to be more accurate in predicting what our customers need. We work with a team who build great models predicting the forecast. It requires different skills. If you want to realize change, the most important thing is speed. If you want to do something differently, do it in small steps, so that you have the first results within a month. Keep it simple and just start.

“The most important thing in realizing change, is doing it with speed.”

Another key element is being able to adapt to the changing world. We’re seeing a shift in how products are consumed and where they are produced. At the same time we see that customers want to be served faster, better or differently. Also, they’re more sustainably minded. They want to know how our raw materials are built up and where they come from. At Signify, we know how complex this change is. In 2020 we succeeded in making our worldwide activities CO2 neutral with components such as circular solutions, no more plastic packaging and we use 100% electricity from renewable sources. These processes make the difference in materials, logistics and people.

What makes Signify so attractive as an employer?

I don’t know where to start to be honest. Signify is Sustainable innovations, the product brand Philips, our IoT systems and of course our people. We have more than hundred partnerships with universities. Thousand collaborations with startups. We are the number 1 lighting company in the world with technology incl. light bulbs, luminaires, systems and services. We are saving energy for consumers at home and for companies and cities, but we are also creating light recipes with LED lighting to grow plants and vegetables in lighthouses. It is very cool to be part of this journey.

What is your general piece of advice for young professionals that are eager to climb the ladder?

First, dare to be a human being, rather than a human doing. Second, dare to be vulnerable. Be honest if you make a mistake, as long as you learn from it to improve. Third, look for the partnership. Our new ambitious talents who dare to be themselves, show their vulnerability (and that is not always easy) and look for the win-win, will succeed. Your own development should match the development of your team and ultimately the company. If you make this deal in every role, you will climb the ladder in the most fun (and probably effective) way. It’s give and take, a partnership, just like a strong partnership with our customers.