Do You Want To Go Fast or Far?

Once in a while it happens, you meet a CEO that blows you away. Azhar Ali Syed, the departing Managing Director of Tetra Pak Pakistan is such a leader. He is not your stereotypical CEO. No, just someone that delivers outrageous results, develops and stands by his people, is as demanding on himself as he is to others and above all is an example of integrity and professionalism.

Over the last 5 years he has truly transformed Tetra Pak Pakistan. He not only convinced his global board to invest USD 120 million to build a state of the art manufacturing facility in Pakistan, but then his team went on to set the record for the best ‘factory start up’ in Tetra Pak’s history, by having their facility built within the limits of time and budget. They did this not by a small margin, no, they out did the previous Tetra Pak record by a whopping 250%.

When asked, Azhar identifies building partnerships as probably the most important element to Tetra Pak’s success. According to him successful business partnerships are all about:

(1) co-creating a shared vision
(2) understanding each others perspective and
(3) delivering win-win results.

Being born out of a very successful partnership between Tetra Pak and Packages, collaboration comes naturally.

His methods work, as the results speak for themselves. They have doubled their business in the last 5 years and their customers love them (97% of their customers are ‘truly loyal’ – according to an external customer satisfaction survey). Now they want to take this partnership to the next level. They are talking to their customers to help them develop their strategy by creating a joint future and working on the essence of a partnership; that way both sides win.

Investing in relations never ends. As Azhar says, “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”. He is now going to join a growing number of Pakistani Tetra Pak expats who are working across the world.

Azhar is a great example of the talent that Pakistan has to offer.

– Paul Keijzer

Desi Gora

I will soon be celebrating the start of my 10 years here in Pakistan. I have enjoyed all the highs and lows possible and Pakistan would not be Pakistan if these highs were not unscalable, 25,000 feet mountains, and lows of ocean grade depths.

Over the last several years, many people have asked me why I have chosen to stay on. My answer to that has always been that Pakistan is my home. I have my family here, my business here and my life here. The simple thing is, I would never have been able to achieve what I have achieved here any where else in the world. Here, everything is possible; and with that I truly mean everything is possible. There are no boundaries, just your passion, your ideas, your hard work and of course a little bit of luck. As the saying goes, “meri kismat, mere haath mein” (if it is to be, it is up to me)

I love this country I so proudly call home. Its landscapes, its culture and above all, I love its people. These heart wrenching, emotional, utterly impulsive, ‘minimize effort and maximize reward’ seekers, conspiracy theorists, intensely optimistic, kick-us-down-and-we-come-out-on-top resilient, ever hospitable, fun and food loving Pakistani’s.

I guess nobody has been able to articulate my status better then the driver who picked me up from Islamabad airport. After interrogating me in “Urdu-English” he came to his conclusion “Haan, ab mein samjha, you are a Desi Gora”

… and I have been wearing this title with pride ever since!

Pakistan Zindabad! Happy Pakistan Day.

– Paul Keijzer

Teach Yourself by Teaching Others

I have this happen to me all the time; I go to a conference with the intention to learn all the best practices of other companies only to realize the next day that I can’t remember what was being said. If you know the feeling I’m talking about, then know you are not the only one.

Research by David A. Sousa suggests that the average retention of information after 24 hours of a lecture is only 5%. He also observes that the retention of information significantly increases if you use other audiovisuals (10% retention), demonstration (30% retention) or involve people in the topic through discussions (50% retention).

The second best retention method is to practice by doing (75% retention). This is the main reason I design my interventions in a way that participants get their ‘hands dirty’ and actually practice the content through role-play, simulation and/or applying it to an actual work situation.

However, if you want to teach yourself and want to remember what you have learned, the best way to do this is by teaching others (95% retention). So next time you read a book, make a mind map of the book’s content and share it with your colleagues, or following your next conference, spend 20 minutes in a team meeting to share the best practices you picked up from other companies. Or when you visit a supplier, present industry trends that you have picked up from your discussions with him/her. I’m sure you get the picture! The key is to share your knowledge with others; teach them and you teach yourself.

Good luck teaching!

– Paul Keijzer

I Am A Feminist

I have a confession to make: I am a feminist. I realized this because I strongly believe in creating equal opportunities for women in all aspects of life, especially in areas of education and employment which, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is the definition of feminism.

I don’t know when I became a feminist or what exactly turned me into one. Maybe it is because I have lived in matriarchal societies such as Vietnam where it was rare to find a man who worked, as almost all the work was being done by women. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I can’t believe organizations waste the opportunity that 50% of the country could bring to their team. Maybe it is because in my experience, women have an edge as they feel they simply have to try harder. Or maybe it is to do with my belief that a work environment in which both women and men work is just more fun and creative. Whatever it is, I prefer to work in an environment where both women and men coexist without any prejudices and preconceptions. Such environments drive both sexes to give it their best and to recognize and give opportunities to the person that best delivers and lives the company values, as opposed to encouraging gender discrimination.

I believe we have crossed many bridges with regards to education in Pakistan. 45%of all students enrolled in higher educational institutions are now women. The bridge that we haven’t seen yet, is in the area of employment. Women have to work harder, prove more and still get fewer opportunities. I know that many of you will disagree with this statement and I am sure you can point to more than one example that proves that I am wrong, which is great! However, I, and the women that I speak with, can come up with numerous examples to support the fact that there are many obstacles that prevent women from obtaining equal employment opportunities. Yes, some women are to blame for not influencing their social environment enough and yes women do postpone their career to focus on bringing up their kids. However the simple fact is that for any company to maximize its potential you can’t ignore 50% of the population.

If you still don’t believe me, believe this: A McKinsey study, called ‘Women Matter’ (2007) demonstrated that companies with a higher proportion of women in their top management have a 10% higher return equity and have 48% more profit. (See graph.)

For more information, visit McKinsey&Company and read more about how "Women Matter"

I would like to salute all the women that have been trailblazers. Those that have entered the corporate world, have made it to senior positions against the odds and have battled it out to show that women can not only do a fantastic job but have the results to prove it. To honor all these trailblazers of Pakistan; Engage Consulting is launching a study to determine what makes female corporate leaders successful. We are looking to identify best company practices, to promote gender diversity and highlight how companies can be successful in attracting, developing and retaining female talent to accelerate them to future corporate leaders.

If you are interested in this study and would like to participate or nominate a person or company to participate in our Corporate Women Leaders of Pakistan Study, then please contact Sanober Ahmad – Keijzer at and become a part of the movement to support women in the corporate world.

As Sharmeen Obaid – Chinoy, a role model that has made a tremendous impact on Pakistani women said during her 2012 Oscar acceptance speech, “To all the women in Pakistan who are working for change, don’t give up on your dreams”

– Paul Keijzer

Busting The Training Myth Part II

Ask yourself as a professional, what do you want to be remembered by? As the manager that always achieved his numbers or as the manager who was singled out by others as the person they learned most from during their career. Of course it is never a choice and you find that a person who is recognized by others as a great developer of talent is also probably the person who always achieves his numbers.

Investing time and energy in an individual’s development reaps dividends of increased loyalty, motivation and of course, performance. So if you haven’t done this already, spend some quality time talking to your team members and identify areas for them to develop and grow.

From my experience, bosses find it relatively easy to recognize areas where a team member should develop and learn. However the most difficult part is often translating development needs into an actionable development plan. As a result we often revert to a shortcut and nominate our subordinates to a formal training course, hoping that this will do the trick.

Unfortunately chances are that these training courses wont make much of a difference and it is more likely that you are just pouring company money down the drain. As mentioned in my previous blog (Busting The Training Myth) there is now a large body of evidence that suggests formal class-room training as the least effective form of developing people’s leadership competencies and that the majority of organizational learning comes from ‘on the job experiences’. This causes a problem, because sending subordinates on a training course has, in the past, been the easiest way to resolve your subordinates development needs as he/she loved the status that goes with a paid day away from the office, along with getting a certificate and a free lunch on top of it.

So what are the alternatives? What other development actions can you design in order to create a more impactful and lasting learning experience to develop leadership skills for your subordinates? To help you I have come up with 34 different development ideas as seen in the figure above. Some are simple, some are more difficult to apply, some might make more sense than others, but each one has its different functions.

I am sure that you have used other ways of developing your team. Let me know what they are so we can build an expanding repository of development interventions and ideas.

And don’t forget, keep on teaching others, because by teaching others you learn even more yourself.

– Paul Keijzer