Steve’s A Player

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

I just finished Steve Jobs biography and WOW… what a story! It certainly confirms that all geniuses have got their quirks (Mozart, Einstein, Freud, Elvis, Michael Jackson) and we mere mortals can only compensate with our ingenuity for our failings.

Here are my personal top 5 learning’s:

  1. His love for what he was doing: Never Start a Company with a Goal of Getting Rich.
  2. His amazing attention for design and making things clear: Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.
  3. His foresight in knowing what we as consumers would want: The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Invent it.
  4. His ability to focus on what was important and cut all the rest out: He Cut the Number of Products from 9600 to 4.
  5. His conviction to make sure he hired only “A-Players”: You Have to be Ruthless if You Want to Build a Team with “A-Players.”

Of course the last one is closest to my heart, but unfortunately this is not common practice. Many bosses are afraid to hire “A-Players” as they think that they might be gunning for their position; of course this breeds mediocrity over mediocrity. However, the truth is the opposite. Bosses with “A-Players” will shine more and their bosses will single them out for their ability to recognize talent and therefore keep them in mind for even higher positions. Why? Because they have built a team that will deliver results, are confident enough that they are not intimidated by their “A-Players” and because they have secured a list of possible successors in place who can take over their position and not miss a beat.

Get the best people for your team and you will find that your own career will spur into action.
Good luck finding your “A-Players!”

– Paul Keijzer

The Ultimate Question

I just finished the second edition of Fred Reicheld’s book “The Ultimate Question.” The Economist regards Reicheld as the ‘high priest of loyalty’ and this book certainly adds to this reputation.

His fundamental belief is that you can only build a great company with sustainable financial results, if you, from top to bottom, are fanatical about putting the customer center stage in your organization.

This of course is not earth shattering; however, the practical solution that he offers sets “the Ultimate Question” apart from the traditional consumer service approach that most of us are still using. The skeptics only have to look at the list of practitioners (Apple, Allianz, Charles Schwab, Intuit and many others) that are now using this approach to be swayed about its potential.

The core of his philosophy is to categorize your customers by asking them one simple question: “On a zero-to-ten scale, how likely is it that you will recommend us (brand/product/service) to a friend or a colleague?” Customers who score 9 or 10 are identified as Promoters and customers who score 6 and below as Detractors. This simple division allows you to focus on creating more Promoters and turning around Detractors.

       Net Promoter Score - The Ultimate Question by Fred Reicheld

His approach is simple and intuitive, providing easy to implement tools to rally your organization around creating an amazing customer experience for your products and brands.

-Paul Keijzer

Link to; The Ultimate Question

Waiting For The Other To Stop Talking

In my interventions I always explain that in our culture listening is more like “waiting for the other to stop talking” and the more senior we are, the more we talk.

The most effective leaders are those that talk less and ask more. The reasons for this is clear, as letting someone else come up with an answer to a insightful question will make them own the solution and more likely to make it happen. However I found an even more powerful explanation in Verne Harnish’s blog, in which he compares listening to giving and talking to taking. In his words: “Listening is giving attention; talking is taking attention. Asking questions is inviting others to participate; making statements is taking away their opportunity to contribute. If leaders can keep the give vs. take framework in their mind as they go through their everyday activities, they’ll have a values-based compass for taking the right actions and making the best long-term decisions.”

The problem of course is that listening and asking the right question is much more difficult then talking. My suggestion: bite your tongue and whilst you listen think of a question that allows the other to come up with an answer that is in line with what you were thinking.

And you know what you will find? That the answers that you get are probably more creative and insightful than what you originally wanted to tell them.

– Paul Keijzer

The Congo Test for Expats

I have come up with an ideal test to assess whether you are able to live an expat life in a tough country. I have dubbed it the ‘Congo Test for Expats’.

It came about when I visited Kinshasa for the first time in September 2011 to advise one of the larger business groups in the D.R. Congo on how they could use HR as a strategic growth driver and build a strong local talent pipeline.

So, the Congo Test for Expats goes as follows:

  • Imagine you are flying into a country that you have never visited before and it is not known for its ‘we welcome tourists’ policies.
  • You walk down the stairs of the aircraft into the immigration building only to be met by hundreds of people waiting in front of antiquated booths of immigration officers.
  • When it’s your turn he quickly dismisses your passport and what you thought was your visa and tells you to go to the office on the side of the hall.
  • You give up your hard earned first place in line to walk to this office to be welcomed by a flurry of activity and noise around three obviously more senior immigration officials sitting on desks.
  • A young lanky chap comes to you and asks you if you are Mr. X.
  • Upon confirming your identity to him, he asks you for your passport and hands you over some forms to fill in.
  • Dutifully completing the forms, he then takes the forms from you, asks for your luggage tags and your health passport (without a valid yellow fever immunization you are not allowed into the country that invented the Congo Virus!).
  • He then starts talking to one of the immigration officials, is finally waved away and asks you to follow him.
  • You follow him past the immigration booths and are stopped by the health inspector telling you that your health certificate is not valid.
  • He then tells you to leave the health certificate with the lady and informs you that you will get a new one in the city and he will arrange for it.
  • He walks you out of the airport building puts you into a car whilst saying that he will make sure your passport and luggage will be dropped off tomorrow at the hotel.

If by that time you still haven’t freaked out and are just taking it in, assuming that your hosts will take care of you…

Then you have passed ‘The Congo Tests for Expats’

– Paul Keijzer

Make a Melody In My Heart

I just got back from an amazing Leadership Outbreak Journey in Sri Lanka. What a fascinating country and once again on its way to becoming a favorite destination for travelers as it has all the diversity (cultural, landscapes, bio diversity, weather, beaches, nightlife, shopping) you can look for in a possible holiday spot.

Anyway, I wasn’t there for a holiday. I was there to facilitate the leaders of a global textile company to build a stronger and emotional bond with each other and the company that they are leading.

And what a team it has become.

Shahbaz Group Outbreak - Sri Lanka - November 2011

The key in these journeys is to blend a number of different strands into the design of the flow of the journey. In this case it was 4 strands to create one strong yarn:

  • Giving them as many ‘first ever’ experiences,
  • Helping them understand and build their personal leadership capabilities
  • Discussing the future opportunities of the company and how to get there
  • Creating a strong bond through shared experiences

Repelling down a 45 meter waterfall - Sri Lanka

One of the memorable moments of the journey was when the team went hiking up a tea plantation to a waterfall where some of the participants gained the courage to repel down a 45 meter waterfall to end up in a small pool at the bottom of the rock! One of my key design principles for these journeys is to ‘surprise’ the participants, as it takes people out of their comfort zone. It allows me to be flexible with the program and prevents participants from having pre-conceived notions on whether they are going to like an activity or not.

The whole journey ended in a night of celebrations in which each team had organized various celebratory activities. A highlight of the night was one of the oldest male participants doing a larger than life impersonation of Indian actress Aishwarya Rai. The next day upon our farewells he confided in me that he was always an introvert and an extremely reserved man, but that the experiences of this leadership journey have made him much more comfortable and confident enough to speak his mind and do what he wants to do. He told me that you have helped me ‘come out of my shell’. It is in these little moments that I know what I am doing is all worth it.

So when was the last time you made a ‘Melody in Someone’s Heart’?

– Paul Keijzer

A Letter to Paul


In 1984, Tom Peters taught us “hoopla” in his bestseller,  “In Search Of Excellence”.  You made it happen last week with your out of the box, adventure laden, psychedelic, methods of bringing the best out of us.

We imagined that you were adventurous enough to have lived in Pakistan for several years and still live here. But it is beyond that… you are crazy enough to teach natives help develop leaders willing to swim upstream in these torrential waters.

Management Gurus are generally “Talk”…Your “Bias for Action” is built on solid fundamentals, and a sense of direction. You lure people away from their glass towers, and help them confront and overcome their fears… releasing trapped potential that would make an organization hard to beat.

None of the 15 of us, Managers of Midas Safety, a $300 Million Group, could have imagined what you had in mind to develop “Leadership Skills” in the 3 days spent in Sri-Lanka.

We ended up getting a “giddyup” of a lifetime, never having confronted the challenges that we “can” overcome, never having dared to delve beyond the limits that we impose on ourselves… and having emerged with resilient, life-long bonds of friendship that will help us propel our Group to new heights.

Shahbaz Group Leadership Outbreak - Sri Lanka

What we started with was a motley group of apprehensive individuals awaiting 3 days of monotonous humdrum, boring each other with tales of how we manage our heavy responsibilities while most gloated or slept through…

What we experienced was a relentless barrage of taxing physical and mental challenges which would absolutely have been shunned had we pre-empted what you had in store…

3 days later we are a group that was transformed into men willing to reach beyond limits of physical and mental capacity… together. The bonding achieved in the shared experiences would never happen with PPs and the drudgery of the business world.

We could never have imagined creaky, mothballed, managers on mountain bikes in treacherous terrain, whacked around in white water rafting, and then being sit down at a temple to wax spiritual gleanings on their management wisdom… happily gorging on spicy Sri-Lankan Mana laced with offensive flavors.

Shahbaz Group Leadership Outbreak - Sri Lanka

Relentless, unending, mind challenging sessions, incisive, short, sharp, sweet… being bombarded on minds jostling to reach out of battered bodies…

A once in a lifetime experience, a glimpse into the human spirit, of bonds of friendship, spiritual…

Paul we were not just bowled over… you actually…

“Make a mayloadee with muyee heart…”


Thank You Dutchman

Salman Shaikh

General Manager Shahbaz Garments (Pvt) Ltd.

A Leadership Journey

A Leadership Journey is an experience which combines physical challenge with intellectual stimulation. It creates an environment where emotions are more likely to flow and open dialogue is encouraged through a transfusion of energy and emotion.

It is a journey of mind, body, heart and soul. It helps people reconnect with themselves and others. It brings people back in touch with the community they serve and with nature. It humbles and creates strong awareness of self and others.

Camping out to the sunset - Gwadar, PK.

The difference with indoor workshops or trainings events is that whilst these events can also be impactful it most often does not produce lasting behavioral shifts in people. Most people will feel energized through workshops however it rarely leads to personal or team transformation. Outward bound training activities are different in a way that, although people enjoy the refreshing and stimulating experience, it often lacks a direct connect with the workplace and the translation to performance improvement at the workplace is frequently missing.

A Leadership Journey offers both. It is an experience that requires physically exercise, and offers intellectual stimulation and emotional richness. At the same time it has a very strong link to the vision and results that the team needs to deliver.

ICI SODA ASH Leadership Outbreak - Thandiani, PK - July 2011

One of the design elements of an Outbreak is to actually make a real journey from point A to point B and as such serves as a metaphor for our own larger leadership and team journeys. The participants will be taken on a trip of several days through an inspiring landscape and stimulating cultural experiences. Along the way, the aim is to interact with the local environment and the community, learn from the world around us and wherever possible use opportunities to give back to the communities in which we live.

A great value of this journey is the element of surprise. Participants normally are not aware of the details of the journey, nor its destination. This heightens the group dynamics and increases the power of the experience, unfolding step by step, mirroring our journey in life.

Past journeys have taken us to the most beautiful places of Pakistan; Murree hills, Gwadar / Balochistan Coast and the Cholistan Dessert as well as around the world to destinations including Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia.

ICI SODA ASH Leadership Outbreak - Thandiani, PK - July 2011