Aliz KoszaFrom: Miercurea Ciuc Born on: 31 May Occupation: Business mentor & strategist
I hear her voice as I climb the stairs of the Cărturești Verona bookstore. She talks on the phone while she is browsing a book, then another one, while she goes around the table full of volumes. At 3:10 pm the place is quieter than ever and the footsteps of the wandering like us touch the floor more discreetly. It seems an act of respect. She doesn’t speak loud. Not at all. But, the particularities of her voice are easy to recognize once they have reached your ears. Alisz Kosza transmits through her voice, as every human does if you pay enough attention, information about her own way of being and where she is on the life axes.
The voice is a given, but also a construct – like us.
And I think few people know this as well as Aliz. In fact, she also says often that she’s a builder. She has built organizations, shaped brands and polished people, because her professional activity has meant over 40 years of “performance in 17 different industries”, having a CEO role for 4 times. Since 2012 she has decided to go on her own way, becoming a business mentor for all those in need, entrepreneurs or managers.
At first glance her philologist studies and her special connection with nature cannot be associated with words like: business diagnosis, business strategy or leadership.
She was born in Transylvania and she remembers that as a young child she was sleeping on the edge of the forest in the Harghita mountains on a blanket, near the fir trees. She searched something from this experience when she started to build a holiday house in Bradetu (Argeş). “There I retreat and I write, paint, read, talk to nature. l also work, but not so much. There you sleep better and you feel better, but only if you enjoy the silence.”, confesses Aliz. She adds: “I function synchronously, I go with the flow, I listen to my intuition.” In this way she became a resident of Brădetu, although even her family was surprised by her decision. “How did you find your place there?”, they asked.
Aliz has always listened to her inner voice and I tend to believe that her achievements are strongly related to her interior dialogue. “What we always can do is to look inside. Intelligence shows us the direction, but intuition shows us the path. That’s your way. That’s it. If you manage to use your intuition not only in existential crisis, you win.”, she leaned back in her chair, smiled and looked at the entire library terrace as if she knew a secret, at first glance, available to all.
I truly discovered the beginning of my life when I turned 50 years old.
I remember how I rented 3 hot air balloons at Clinceni Aerodrome and celebrated by flying. Although I would have liked to be higher, there – a few hundred meters altitude I realized 2 very important things for me. First – home is the place where you feel good. And second – that we carry within us the energy of the places where we are born. Even if it seems like a story, it is reality. I really think that this is the reason why certain emotions arise in us when we go to our native places. Somehow, our inner and quiet energies become loud.
I was born laughing. (a.n: She smiles and shrugs.) My mother told me that I mobilized the entire maternity and that everyone was curious to see what was going on, who is this little loud laughing baby. I’m sure the laughter saved me. The inner child saved me. When I will cease to be a child, I will cease to exist.
Then, another significant start in my life took place at the age of 4, when I decided my own life. It was happening in Brașov because my parents decided to leave Miercurea Ciuc when I was 2 years old. Here my father had made a good friend – Arpi. He was an actor and we went to see him playing at the Dramatic Theater. And because at the end of a performance I insisted on going on stage, Arpi took me in his arms and helped me to fulfill my wish. “Lights on!”, I probably said with my voice of a child dressed in a velvet dress and shining shoes – as parents put on their kids in ’64. Arpi told me that I am so beautiful that he will wait for me to grow up and to be his wife. I think I was reluctant and took a few steps backwards, only to realize that the scene had become a privileged space for me. There I felt protected and untouchable. “Arpi, do you think this scene is big enough for me?”, I asked.
I do not know what answer I received, but then – at the age of 4, I realized that I would be a free and independent woman and this is what I have done and I continue to do so. I knew that I will eventually leave Brașov to do great things because that scene was too small for me.
You know, it is scientifically proven that in life we crave our destiny quite early, somewhere up to 5 years. You see, the child feels, he doesn’t think. Unfortunately, we deviate from this way, either because our parents want something else for us or because we are influenced by society or friends.
Photo: Aliz Kosza, personal archive
I’m a builder.
Although it sounds arrogant, I was born a visionary. I have a strategic thinking, and if you ask me to implement my own strategy, I’m bored. I like to do strategy, to close the circle. As Hippocrates said, everything works seamlessly integrated, and organizations are no exception. Also here things are linked, the hard and soft components of a company are interconnected, interdependent and work together. For nothing I have production procedures, advanced systems or other crazy systems, if I haven’t a leader who can drive people to work properly and efficiently with these tools. Or the other way around: for nothing I have leadership, vision, values, if the hard elements are missing.
There are businesses that have worked for 25 years without any harmony between hard and soft, they have worked far from maximum efficiency, but they have worked. The problem is that, inevitably, they will collapse at some point in time. And my role is to help them. I manage to see the vulnerabilities and the causes behind the vulnerabilities, to see this gap between hard & soft and to give the solution. I balance. The longer the distance between the hard and the soft, the longer the re-balancing takes, and is most often done through strategy. It is a process that lasts on average up to 2 or 3 years.
Problems arise because people starts wrong a business or they skip stages. This jump is interesting, because you meet it not only in business, but also in personal life. You cannot skip over childhood or adolescence. You cannot. And even if you could, it wouldn’t be ok. You want to become an adult ahead of time and lose sight of the stages of growing. In order to reach maturity, you have to go through being a baby, living a childhood and an adolescence, each with its own specific behaviors, and only then you start to become aware and you start to do things. But you have to go through the experience of each period of life.
Entrepreneurs or managers have ideas after ideas, apply them, lose the focus and the reins, and eventually give up and contact a person like me. “Help me!”, they say, as calling a doctor, and they ask: “What did I do wrong?”. “You didn’t do anything wrong, but you skipped steps”, I tell them.
It’s a tendency now to mature as early as possible. The same is in business. As if you put on fertilizer and force the growth of vegetables hoping that people will buy your product endlessly. And they only do it until they find it tasteless and unworthy. You cannot accelerate maturation.
Aliz speaks and I listen while I imagine how from the hot air balloon from Clinceni she looks at businesses and makes plans because this is how her ability manifests: she rises above the problems, she sees the overall image, she identifies the difficulties, she zooms in and then gives solutions. She says always liked Nightwish’s Walking in the Air song.
MS: What exactly is needed to build lasting things?
Good faith, responsibility, leadership. If you have leadership, you can build a team, and if you develop people, they are relaxed, they follow their intuition and eventually innovate. Strategic thinking is also needed, but first of all, you have to avoid the selfish fascination with which a high position comes. You have to use it to do good.
Photo: Aliz Kosza, personal archive
MS: You said at one point that everything you proposed was accomplished. How so? Often, things don’t depend 100% on us.
I don’t know if it is something that can be explained, but most likely I desired achievable things. For example, I have been planning since I was a teenager (somewhere between 10 and 14 years old) to go to India and it has only happened at the age of 40. In March I decided, I formed a group of people, and in June I was in Tibet.
How long did it took? Over 30 years to get there. It was a dream and I never gave up on it. I had a passion for the esoteric philosophy of India since I was very young and I corresponded (penfriend) with a boy from there. At 10 years old I was reading Mircea Eliade’s works, at 16 Maitreyi (a reference exotic novel, published in 1933), and in high school I also learned the Hindu language. I was interested in everything related to India.
At that time, I was the CEO at Orkla Foods and when I came back after a month my colleagues said to me “Alice, something has changed in you.” It wasn’t a spiritual journey at all, but there is the vortex of humanity. In Nepal, in Kathmandu, you do nothing, you just listen to the silence. And even though I in hotels with high comfort levels, I returned with vital energy. It’s not something extrasensory, although it tends toward it. It can’t be explained or described, you just feel it.
Somehow, a silence settled in and from that moment I transformed. I took another mandate, but after that I retired and I didn’t want to be anyone’s CEO anymore.
MS: And you chose to work independently with people. You became a business mentor. How do you talk to the entrepreneur and what do you learn from him?
Depends; I could say that I have a gentle firmness. A push-pull. As you act with a child: you caress him when he is doing well, you “shake” him a little or guide him to learn something new, you make him aware of the risks. You guide him no matter his age.
Mentoring is a long-term, voluntary, assumed, mutual friendship. I’m a friend. But when you need one. (a.n: Aliz underlines in the end, raising her eyebrows and smiling complicity.) Like in any relationship, everyone has something to learn, and the fact that I interact with various industries helps me understand many technical issues. One strategy that I have applied in many different businesses, I now apply to another. Each business is a distinct entity, with its own DNA, with its own challenges, although some are the same, such as those of the management model, business model or efficiency and productivity. Of course, even in the case of low productivity, the causes behind it are quite different.
I have had projects and performed in over 17 different industries and I am a philologist. I shocked everyone who holds an MBA. I am convinced that theory has its purpose, but I am an example of self-made. I learned things by making them vocational. This is my Ikigay. After all, this is how things have worked since the beginning of mankind, except that industrialization has made us forget about humanity.
MS: The best things that come from being a mentor?
For me the greatest satisfaction comes from the fact that the people I work with are transformed. Although it is a long process, it takes place. I used to say that “I am not a teacher, but an awakener”. I teach them that change isn’t when you make-up yourself in the mirror and you say that you have a commercial face, but when you change from the inside. The people who change themselves are those who change humanity. Transformation is the infinite game, and to play this one, and not the limited one, requires spiritual intelligence (not in the religious sense). Everyone talks about emotional intelligence, but the most valuable is the spiritual one, because it is the fusion of the rational with the emotional. Only the fusion brings transformation.
From all the types of leadership defined internationally by psychologists (because we aren’t satisfied until we define everything, on paper, although there is infinite), transformational leadership is the strongest and the most efficient.
If a person is not ok with himself, it is hard, because being good with yourself cannot be learned, but practiced. It’s a permanent work with yourself.
Photo: Aliz Kosza, personal archive
MS: What is it like being a leader?
If you are a leader, you exist for others and then you must destroy the manifestations of the ego. A leader reaches performance through the people he inspires, because he doesn’t name himself. He is elected or recognized by the community or a group of people. Now I look at all the people in this garden and I know that everyone can be a leader. With one condition: to be the leader of his/her own life. If you cannot lead your own life, you cannot lead others. Being the leader of your own life means being in balance with yourself. And to lead people means to maintain a balance in a team, in a company, in a country, in the world. Otherwise you’re just a tension factor.
You have to be lead not by your father, mother, wife, mother-in-law, husband, children, but by you. You lead yourself. When you do this, there is harmony, because they will understand when you need to be alone to read or when you are too tired to wash the dishes and they will wash them. It’s the same the other way around. They give you space for yourself and they know that in order to be harmony in their life it must be harmony in yours. If you are stressed, they will be too. It’s so simple. People complicate them all because they do not relate to the individual and to the resonance of the individual with the environment.
In all my years of working with people I have been attentive to individual needs. For example, when a big company recruited me, they told me I had to give up on a certain manager. “It’s not ok, she doesn’t know how to do a Power Point presentation …”, they told me. And I didn’t agree. I wanted to meet that person, to see what she is like, because if I learn her to do the PPT, maybe she is a capable person. Today, in that company, my successor has been that person and for 11 years she runs the organization. A person I was told to give up.
This is what happens when you put labels on. I saw the human in that manager, the potential and the needs. You have to seek the trigger of deviant behavior and act. Don’t be absurd if he needs to leave at 3 o’clock p.m. because his child is sick. You have to know people.
For example, I had scheduled the “5 o’clock tea”, a meeting where everyone from the company came to talk to the CEO. Some were writing poems, others were singing to me, a woman told me that her husband was beating her, a man that his wife moved her football channel from the TV when he was not paying attention. So I learned a lot about the people in the factory, but also about what was going on there. The first 10 minutes were uncomfortable, after that they become relaxed. I manage to know each one.
They must see that you are a human, that you are not God even if you hold the highest position in that company. No one gives you the right to make fun of them. The leader must unite.
Photo: Aliz Kosza, personal archive
Aliz has chosen long time ago to help society and people. She has taken this decision and she says: “I cannot digest the notion of sacrifice for someone else. I’m not selfish. I am altruistic, but to an extent because there is a big difference between dedicating yourself and making a huge sacrifice. I didn’t get married because I knew that I would end up sacrificing my family for the sake of my career, because my mission is not to be a mother, a wife or a housewife, but to do something for society and people.”
In addition to her activity as a business mentor, Aliz has been also organizing charitable activities since 2013 through the events – The Conferences of the Soul in Business, which supports various associations, such as the Association for Children with Autism Ialomiţa or for the Moms’ Academy in Timisoara.
After our discussion ended, we left the terrace, then the Cărturești courtyard, going slowly on Pictor Arthur Verona street, then turning right onto Gheorghe Magheru street. Near the sidewalk, on an empty, unpaved surface, Aliz stops to caress a stray cat. “What are you doing here?”, she asks as her fingers move slowly on the cat’s head, which does NOT react with reserve to the attention offered by a stranger. The cadence in Aliz’s voice betrays the characteristic care of an empath. It is the voice of a harmonious woman, reconciled and satisfied with herself, who can, without being swallowed by her own existence, see around her. It is a voice that puts as much soul into the business as it puts into the comfort of a stray animal.