Nov. 10, 2022

How to assess a potential CEO or leader with Marian Temelkov

How to assess a potential CEO or leader with Marian Temelkov

No matter how talented a leader is, they aren’t going to go far if they don’t have a good team. This is the wisdom that Marian Temelkov, founder of Executive search firm Dynamis, shares with us in this conversation about the most powerful strengths a leader can have, and how to assess it. We discuss how he assesses a potential leader and what are the most important values a leader can have. 

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Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.


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#55 Yannik Veys - From creating the Uber for service professionals to growing Hypefury

#53 Tzvete Doncheva - Overcoming barriers to get into a VC with Tzvete Doncheva

#50 Vidmantas Šiugždinis - Personalized Approach to Employee Benefits with MELP


Tune in to every conversation about exciting European Startups and Innovators on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon! Leave a rating and review so we can keep making amazing interviews!

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Innovators Can Laugh in your favorite podcast player.

Connect with Eric:
Visit his website:

For the Innovators Can Laugh newsletter in your inbox every week, subscribe at

Past Guests:
Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.
Additional episodes you might enjoy:
#55 Yannik Veys - From creating the Uber for service professionals to growing Hypefury
#53 Tzvete Doncheva - Overcoming barriers to get into a VC with Tzvete Doncheva
#50 V...


Hey, you're listening to Innovators Can Laugh, The Fun Startup Podcast. I'm your host, Eric Notcher on ico. We interview an innovative entrepreneur in the European tech startup scene every week. My goal is to have my guests share their wisdom or having the little fun in the process. Now, let's dive in. No matter how talented a leader is, they aren't going to go far if they don't have a good team.

This is the wisdom that Marion Tim Gul, founder of Executive Search Firm Dynamics, shares with us and this conversation about the most powerful strengths a leader can have and how to assess it. Let's dive in. So Myriad, you talked about how a leader, no matter how talented that leader is, they're not gonna go far.

Unless they have a really good team, and so I'd like you to expand on that further. What methods or what research do you do in order to to, to make that assessment? Whether or not the team is actually good. Fantastic questionnaire. In fact, the assessment is key here and you could really go wrong and you might, you know, mislead really some, Sometimes it's, it's, I've seen a lot of assessments, you know, there's so many, but every human is unique and to be honest, the brain, you know, has so many differences.

Sort of neurodiversity aspect is also important because if you assess some people with a. Strengths, finer or another bras brick, you know, Myers brick, you know, it's, it's going to be, it could be one sided because some people may have dyslexia. They may not be able to read the question so quick. So it's very important to have a real interest in the people.

So whenever you do assessment, whenever you talk, go down to human level is not just, is it fit, ticking a box, and is it just making a placement or you know, really kind of getting the, getting them from one place to another. So for us is several things. The the fundamentals we look at is, first of all, we, we wanna understand what are the strengths of this leader or individual, what they excel at.

The other thing is what says their heart on fire, What's they're passionate about? If there was no limits of any sort, and also you wanna find out. What do they like as human being? What are their values? Because that's so, so you can look at this in terms of the professional strengths, but also you can look at the strengths in terms of their character.

And the two things that are essential. When I look into a character of, of individual or leader, and I can tell you what makes a, whether they could make it or not in a specific environment. Number one is their integrity. In other words, are they changing every day? You know, what does people say? You know, for me, what's a good measurement for leadership?

What does people talk about you when you're not around them? This, to me, is good indicator, and the other thing is humility. The moment I see arrogance and disrespect and people that are just so I can help those people if they want. But if they are not, that's gonna be a problem. I can tell you. Yeah. After a certain age, I think it's really hard to to help those people or get them to change.

I disagree, at least in my, I have, I have, I have actually on, on with somebody 60, and she's fantastic, you know, in terms of attracting and deal making, but hot tempered, very arrogant in that, in, in a p. She's changed. She's changed. I've, I've personally contributed help and she's changed. When you have tens of millions at stake, you will change.

Eric, you can change anything if you have anyone, if they want. So there's two things here. You'll change because you need to, and you are forced or you want to, that change will happen. And I tell you if in, you know, investors and leaders, if, if they actually do not recognize that they may have a lot of funds behind, but they will burn a lot of cash.

And I can tell you some big stories, you know, that have resulted into billions, not millions, billions of losses because of. Well, I think maybe BA behavior could change for a while, but I think there's actually, I'm not sure if it's a psalm in the Bible, but it's like a, a, a tree can't bear different fruit than what it was made to bear, Right?

For long it pretend to bear something else. But what's it, what's in our human nature is, is we can't pretend to be something else for a long period of. Right? Yes. So a person who's been arrogant for 40, 50 years, yeah, they could pretend to be nice kind, maybe if it's their incentivize, but truly deep down within, they're gonna have to go back and revert to their, their natural self or because that's who, that's who they are.

It's just within a person's nature. But obviously if there's millions involved. You could probably pretend to be something else and convince a lot of other people. No, no. There's a lot. Bring it that that verse in fact is you absolutely right. You know, a good tree cannot give bad fruits and a bad tree cannot give good fruits.

I agree with you. And that very much comes down to the character. However, if a leader recognizes that, that they have hot temper issues or challenges, they can. Actually bring on board a leader who cares that can cover that blind spot, which we did in multiple of those organizations. And obviously with mentoring, with coaching and so forth, that that has happened resulting to great, great really impact.

So if the leader recognizes that, but also covers their blind spot with leaders that can make the difference and then give them the free and treat them well. Honestly, they will enjoy a journey. They will bring so much joy in them and, and peace and fulfillment that they didn't have before. So I think you are right that some things may not be able to change exactly.

However you can work on your character and you, you live. That's the only thing that stays with us. So if we can focus on our characters, we can change in any stage of our lives. As long as we want to input the efforts, it would be much harder. To change, but you can change. Yep. That's agree. 100%. Marion, how do you do these assessments typically?

Because I'm sure it's not just a survey, I'm sure it's not just a Zoom video call one time. Like what is the duration and what are some of the things that you do to make this assessment in terms of tools? No, excellent question that we have actually a five stage assessment process that we follow, and it's very important.

And when it comes down to probably some of the first thing that is very important from the first interview to. Obviously the series of interviews, sometimes you may need five to 10 encounters or interactions, interviews with the individual to really get a better understanding of them than followed by multiple referencing and so forth, because it's the first thing that I will, that is important.

When you talk to an individual leader, you wanna find out more about really what is their. Career vision, First of all, what do they, you know, get to know them about what they do, what their strengths are, and, and their expertise, of course is important. But very quickly look at. What do they wanna do? What's their vision for the next five to 10 years?

The reason I'm saying is that from the first interview is because you don't wanna waste a lot of time if the vision doesn't align with yours. And if you cannot provide that, because it will be not sustainable, be six months or 12 months placement. You don't want that to to happen in most cases unless you really need some interim help.

So that's, that is important. You need to really look at, do I connect with this well, That, that this person has what we need. Does it connect in terms of values for us? And then what's their vision? So once you get a better understanding and you say, Okay, in first glance that looks okay, then you start going into the details and saying, Okay, tell me what did you do in your previous roles.

So every role, you go deep enough till you get to know them, what percentage you spend. So give me a breakdown of your day. Ah, I did 10% here, 20% there, 50% of clients, you know, 10% of emails. What, whatever you do on a day to day basis. So when trying to understand role and say, okay, what could you have improved of that if you had a chance or freedom?

So they'll tell you how their split would be, ideally for them, what these people think about you. Do you think what went wrong? If I ask your boss, you know, how would you, how, what would they rate, What would they tell me about you, you know, from, from zero to 10? And I could, So they need to be honest in, in that, and they, you know, can break it down to different areas.

So, so this is the thing that is very important because you go deep down in everything they did to today. Okay? And then they, they need to see what they could have improved. And then of course, what you wanna make sure is that you have a system and process in place that you have other people interview that, that person, of course.

So we have several stages. Then we go through, of course, we use different tools like StrengthFinder, for example, neurodiversity assessment, depending. Where, where they are and and so forth. And then you, you start to have some sort of an anchor or benchmark and start to then compare them. Okay, they may be a great leader that may do X, Y, and Z, but how will they manage that in these circumstances?

Because a lot of great leaders may fail. In that setup and the setup could be, or entrepreneurial, when they're coming from a large corporate, they may be used to, unless they're entrepreneurial. So you gotta make that call. You also need to help them imagine what would it like for the next six to 12 months to be in that position and start thinking about what would you bring.

What, what solutions. So put them in the spot and ask them if you have full freedom, how would design your role and why? What would you bring to them that they don't have? What's unique about your experience that they need today? These are things that are so important to understand in that assessment process, and you do it.

So it's interesting because if you just ask questions that are tick boxes, a lot of people may fake the I. So they may be confident, and it's happened, you know, people, we had a case in, in a, in a country actually, that, that was not to name the, the region and so forth, but the, the person fake completely. It, it was a serial for a country country manager and he basically fake cv, fake everything, and he would interview so well.

He's a professional fake . You know, it's, I know people like that . Well, that's why you need forensic referencing and you need really good referencing people In Europe, not so much, you know, there's different things, but you really gotta go deeper. Yeah. And some regions, and I mean, we've done projects in Nigeria and Pakistan, in India, in Tokyo, in, in Japan, in Shanghai.

And often people really say, How do you do that? You know, How do you, You know, I'll tell you a story, One of the most interesting projects we did, which was a great example of how to attract an exception and gifted leader. This was many, many years ago, but it was stuck with me because it was such a profound impact because this person was running a multi several thousand people company in the oil and gas field in know this region.

That is quite high growth, let's say, and not well developed. But he managed like the whole refinery and the, you know, and he was extremely smart. He was a mathematician, solving problems by manipulating the, the variables and using mathematical equations. He was extremely smart. He also was a doer. You put him.

He will get things done. He's, he's a, a combination of strategy, combination of execution com. He was running a multi thousand people company. He even had his own army to protect all the whole thing. He was phenomenal, honestly. So I can't call him, and he was a little bit, I wouldn't say arrogant, but conf a lot of very confidence.

Say, Why should I talk to consider this opportunity? Tell me what's in there for me. And it was a bit more upfront and very mindful of his time. Put it this. So I said, Okay, well let me get to know, I wanna understand is this is the role. I think obviously comparable to what you have, so it could be there.

But you know, I personally didn't see also a big step up. But I got to know him and I started see. Even though he was in a great position, he craved for more. He had that really, and he had capacity to do more so as we'll, get to know, spend the time and to know him because there was a little bit of like an interesting, it was going from the uk.

He was in that region, you know, far was more different and. That time allowed me to get to really know this person without having the pressure. This is one thing that I'll advise you guys. Ideally, don't start executive search when you're under pressure. Do it beforehand. Have that because enables you to develop the strategic network you need, and this is what I'm gonna talk about, which is strategic succession is so important because.

Look at your, your vision, what you wanna do the next five years or 10 years. Look at where you are and look at what are the gaps you may have or need in the 6, 12, 18, 2 years. Just just that scenario, and then starting to make those connections before you need them. It's very powerful. Anyway, and so to, to that point, the, there were a few months later, a very interesting role came a zero for 130 million people region.

Mm-hmm. , including not only oil and gas, energy, healthcare, big, really kind of multiple diverse, like a conglomerates, multiple sectors to serve. . And despite all this difficult and challenge, I could say, Hey, this is much better for you. This give you much more exposure. This is, we diversify. And I knew that's gonna make the difference for him.

Put him in front of presidents of governments. Mm-hmm. , which was not so much so I knew also, I thought one day maybe you wanna have interest in politics, you can go there. And he had that interest, but I didn't know, but I was projecting my vision. So he said, How did you know that? So he, he started to connect.

When you connect to that vision, Nine months later, he accepted the job. Nine months he took me. Okay, Eric, Nine months. So here's what happened. He starts first day of work. He was evacuating people because there was a revolution in the countries he was managing. Hm. Evolution that he, however, brought certainty and uncertain time.

That's what exceptionally gifted leader can do. He brought all the different offices to get into one. He used this power he saved to be protected, and then he started to work with all the different parts of the governments and the, the parties, because an an energy crisis was, And guess what? He managed to bring and unite those people together and different oppo oppositions to solve a problem to prevent that crisis, which resulted into multibillion.

Contract signed. Okay. D was never been the case before, so he did something exceptional. He signed, he grew the business on 300 to 5 billion in five years, so I'm just telling you. And then he was about to. Also continue that with another, probably more than 10 billion of business coming over. However, they couldn't retain him.

Why? Because they don't understand how to attract, to retain exception in gifted leader. They lost. Which should he had done here, Miran. Which should they have done, what they should have done? Is, give him freedom and empower him. Listen to him and reward him accordingly. Not get in the way, not change every, because I'll tell you and okay that I have, when you get in so often and that entrepreneurs may have that, I know it's your baby, I know it's your creation, but if you wanna scale big time, and that goes from small to large organizations.

You gotta be able to develop a trust and mechanism where you don't get buting. Don't get in the way. Be grateful that you have more free time to do other things and focal, invest that time in developing your character yourself. Because if you're have insecurities of, Oh, this person's getting smarter, is gonna take over is and don't have trust.

That's your problem. You gotta work on that cuz you are no retain exception in gifted leaders like that. You need to empower and give them that trust and if they're smart and better than you, celebrate that. Take care of their blind spots that they have. You become, you care for them. Yeah. That's why, that's why I said, that's why I wanna see more leaders thriving because the leaders that thrive, they create an environment for their people.

That's, that's now mission for dynamic is to see more people thriving, not surviving at workplace. Since we spend most of our lives at work, Eric, and that's why it takes a lot more. That's a wonderful story, Marriott. It, it reminds me of, I don't know who said this, but let people surprise you by just letting them, giving them the freedom to figure out different ways to achieve the goal, you know, given the goal, but let them how, whatever freedom they need to figure out how.

Audience, just to mention and thank you for, for sharing that one tip for your audience. Your first reaction when there is a problem will define the type of business you'll become. What I mean by this, the moment you shout or snap with hot temper, when somebody makes a mistake, these business is done in terms of innovations.

Because they will not, They'll be afraid to take any steps without consulting with you. Therefore, your innovations will be halted because of your first reaction. But the moment you react and say, Okay, what happened here? Let's have a look. How can I help you get out of this situation? The moment you react with integrity, consistently, people will not be afraid to take risk and make things happen.

This is that critical. So this character, character is so important. Thank you so much Maryanne. Couple of personality questions, just so the audience can get to know a little bit more about you. What is a favorite TV show that you can watch again and again? Maryanne. You see, believe it or not, I, I don't watch TV shows.

I don't have time for TV shows to, to watch, but my favorite thing is to listen to leaders that I aspire to that bring fire. And I, I love learning. So some of my favorite, let's say, people that I listen to, that, that I follow is gentleman called Joshua Salman on spirituality. Great one on gymnastics I follow.

Chris Harrier is a, is a great, great guy. I personally get, get inspired by gymnastics. I think it's great to be in control of your body. Okay. So, yeah, it's different things that I do different, but I don't have time for, for TV shows. But I also love to watch from time to time cooking with my wife because she's, she's so passionate, so she's such a blessing.

Thank God for her, you know, for, for having. Okay. Okay. Now another question for you, and this is actually to see if you can guess the right answer, I asked Doyon consult, who you know. He's another Bulgarian speaker, entrepreneur. Great guy. I asked Doyon, Before you run for president, you must destroy all evidence with blank.

And A is awful cooking recipes. B is. Harry High School drunk stories, c as Harry Potter books and d news clippings of famous serial killers. I'll go for a awful cookie recipes. Okay, Good choice. But the, the correct answer was his high school drunk stories. Yeah. Oh, it's, anyway, it's okay. You know, it's just, We'll he, I'm sure you wouldn't mind

Yeah. Okay. Well, Maryanne, this was a pleasure. Thank you for coming on the show. For everybody's listening, this is Maryanne Tako, founder of Dynamo. I will include links to his website and, and show notes on the website and ICO newsletter. Maryanne, thanks for coming here. Eric, thank you so much and Nora and, and pleasure to be with you today and keep spreading this such a great work.

Thank you. Thank you. All right, Have a great day, Maria. Cheer.