Dolf van den Brink (president and chief executive of Heineken USA) in “The Corner Office”

van den BrinkAdam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Dolf van den Brink, president and chief executive of Heineken USA. By making the company’s office space more compact and installing a big indoor window, Dolf van den Brink, president and chief executive of Heineken USA, says he helped employee engagement go “through the roof.”

To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

Photo credit: Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

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Bryant: What was your career plan coming out of college?

van den Brink: I was on my way to becoming a banker. I had three offers, and then I realized I wasn’t sure it was the kind of work I wanted to do. Just making money was never a motivation for me. I ran into a recruiter for Heineken, and he struck a chord with me. I had a feeling that I could grow into leadership roles there. I started at the bottom of the ladder, doing sales and marketing.

My first real leadership role was when I was sent to the Congo. I was 32. I was going to be managing 700 people in a division that was losing market share and money.

Bryant: So what did you do?

van den Brink: I was able to travel the country for three weeks before being announced as the new leader, and I was able to develop a sense of what was going on with the business and with the people. On my first day, I called everyone together. I took a beer crate, stood on top of it and for an hour talked about five cultural values that popped up after three weeks of travel.

Bryant: And what were they?

van den Brink: One was fighting spirit. Two was speed. Three was communication. Four was be smart and nimble. And the last one was pride.

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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.comthat he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here.

His next book, Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation, will also be published by Times Books (January 2014). To contact him, please click here.

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