Engaging African Talent

applauseI just flew back from Nairobi, where I had the pleasure to facilitate a group of 125 leaders from across 20 different African countries. This was the first step of their journey to become apart of an organization that is driven by purpose and strong values. It was a tremendous success, and although participants had low expectations, we had everybody dancing by the end of the conference. It was an amazing and gratifying experience.

Engaging African talent is the same as engaging Asian talent. It is all about how you create and maintain energy flows, how you touch on the design and flow of the conference to come to a desired outcome and how you make people part of the process. Most importantly, it is about how you guide them to follow the philosophy that the answer for any problem is (for 99 out of 100 situations) already present within the knowledge of the group as a whole.

My secret recipe for success in facilitating large-scale conferences is:

Every good cook knows that the success of a well-cooked dish is in the recipe. It is essential to think through which tools to use, in which order to deploy them and to ensure that you have got the venue and logistics set up to support your program. For me, if I get the flow right, everything else will go by itself.

Start the conference with an exercise that requires people to get off their feet and meet as many other people as possible. Do something that requires them to get to know others, that gets them interacting. The energy that this creates is tremendous and will keep the conference flowing for a couple of hours.

The worst thing you can do is to organize a conference where people just have to sit and watch a dry and lengthy PowerPoint presentation. If presentations are needed, keep the slides to an absolute minimum, let the presenters share stories and talk from the heart, involve and engage in issues that are important to the audience and ask the participants to answer their own questions. Ensure you cross-fertilize and people can build on each other views to create alignment.

Have you ever been to these conferences where on the fifth and final day “that guy” is still sitting on the same table in the same chair. It’s as if he has not moved once. He has only viewed the world from that perspective and limited his interaction and learning to the few people on the same table. Don’t let people get comfortable, keep them on their feet and mobile. Let them move to a different table / chair / position after a couple of exercises. It gets people to mingle, share different experiences, learn from others and it creates energy.

No matter how well prepared you are, there will always be moments and/or topics that the group wants to spend more time on. Let them! Don’t worry about your own agenda and whether you are able to finish the topics that you thought were important. They are not. What the group wants to talk about is important. At some point you can make an intervention and ask the group whether they want to continue talking about it or whether they want to move onto the agenda that they had agreed before. Let them focus on what issues they feel most passionate about. Stay flexible, stay in the energy, and as facilitator, adjust where necessary.

Most of the time participants will remember the beginning or the end, so make sure you make it an end to remember. It can be an emotional and powerful story, it can be an activity that brings all the discussion together or it can be something physical. This week, the groups and I ended with a combination of the two; a real powerful story that laid bare the authenticity, vision, aspiration and commitment of the leader to the team he is leading and a chant / dance that we had been practicing over the last two days. I promise you that the participants shared the power of that story and dance with their families that evening.

– Paul Keijzer

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Celebrating Ten Awesome Years In Pakistan

9167664-business-man-showing-pakistan-flag-shirtIt has been ten awesome years since I started working and living in Karachi, Pakistan. It’s a strange realization that I have never lived longer in any other place my whole life.

I arrived in March of 2003. It was the start of the Iraq war and one can only imagine the concern my parents felt when I told them I was moving to Pakistan. Their apprehension has not faded (they get daily reminders of the horrors that Pakistan is exposed to) but they have now accepted that this is my home. Obviously I was also quite uneasy at first, and to make matters worse in June 2003 Time Magazine ran a front cover story with the headline: “Karachi: the worlds most dangerous city”. The interview inside quoted one of Karachi’s most infamous hit-men. Surprisingly, it was not the interview or the murder statistics that blew me away, it was the fact that even Karachi’s most notorious hit man had a number of body guards for his own protection.

When I first moved here, driving on M.T. Khan road was a short and excruciating version of the Paris – Dakar race. The city would get completely swamped and immobile for days following a refreshing summer rainstorms, and there was just McDonalds at Park Towers for entertainment.

Ten years is a long time and Karachi is a different city now. Despite all our complaints, the infrastructure of the city has completely transformed and life in Karachi has moved on. It remains a city of extremes, with the newest and most expensive imported cars trading places with camel carts. With high-flying socialites enjoying coffee at the newest hot spot in town and millions of people living from day to day, if not hour to hour, fighting for survival.

However, as a Dutch man I strongly believe in an equitable society where people have similar opportunities and chances, and where success is based on merit. We live in a country where 100 million people are under the age of 25, all who dream to acquire a branded life style. Sadly, only a small percentage of them have the abilities to do so (50% of the population under 25 can’t read or write). It is a wonder that this social time bomb has not gone off yet.

Ten years living here and I have learned to love this country. Pakistan is an absolutely amazing place with amazing people No other country in the world would be able to get back on its feet after the numerous mortal blows it has received. An example that will always stay in my heart was the reaction to the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. In a time of great need, it was humbling to witness the compassion and commitment to help fellow citizens.

I am very optimistic about our future. With our resources, our resourcefulness, the desire to build a better life for our families, our compassion and our love for the country, we will get it right and prosper. We will elect the right leaders that will sort out our governance issues. We will come together and unite, showing the world how magical Pakistan can be, the place that I so dearly call home.

Happy Pakistan Day – Pakistan Zindabad!

– Paul Keijzer

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Find Me A Job Now!!!

find-job-key-250x250The job market in Pakistan is, and has been for some time now, completely flat. On a yearly basis, my team and I survey the Pakistani talent market and assess its turbulence. Well, at the moment we are stuck in the ‘doldrums’ (a low-pressure area around the equator where there is almost no wind and sailors are stuck for days trying to get through). There is no movement whatsoever as companies are very reluctant to hire. Managers are holding on to their seats with all their might and if someone moves, companies often decide not to replace them, and do without the position.

A lot of people are looking for jobs and trust me, times are tough. The number of resumes that we as headhunters receive from hopeful candidates is overwhelming. Some of them we can help, some of them we advice and quite a few of them we have to disappoint.

Being in the headhunting business you sometimes get the strangest requests. I am bombarded with emails that start with “Hello Sir, please give me a job in Dubai. I am ready to start next week’. It’s unbelievable the expectations that people have (as if I am running a butcher shop from which people want to choose which piece of meat they want.) I understand their bluntness, but instead of people making an effort trying to understand what it takes to land them a job in their favorite destination, they just demand it be done.

However, it is not something that can be achieved with a simple click of a button. So here are five tips to fast-track your career when there is no clear career opportunities on the horizon:

1. Know where you want to go: Be clear on what you love to do, where you can be the best in the world, where and how you can perform the job you love to do, how you can add value to companies, how you position yourself and what differentiates you from others. As the Alice in Wonderland saying goes “if you don’t know where you are going, every road will take you there.”
2. Take ownership of your own career: If you can’t find an immediate opportunity, prepare yourself and start learning for the job you want to do tomorrow. As the saying goes ‘luck is where opportunity meets preparation’. (Tomorrow Is Here Today)
3. Take initiative: suggest to your boss that you want to become responsible for this specific project. Don’t expect more money or a promotion, just do it for your own development.
4. Read, study and learn: Read a book a month, make summaries of what you read and share it with your colleagues. The best way to retain information is by teaching others. (Teach Yourself By Teaching Others)
5. Network, Network, Network: People that are able to land jobs are people who have a tremendous network and know how to use it. Don’t abuse it, use it.

Hopefully the economy will turn, companies and foreign investors will gain confidence and start investing and opportunities will come. But until that moment, get yourself in shape and be ready to ride that wave.

– Paul Keijzer

Hong Kong Is In A Hurry!

hong-kong-2I just came back from a couple of days in one of my favorite Asian cities: Hong Kong. I love the hustle and bustle, the high rises, the crowded streets, the mid-level escalators, the cosmopolitan outlook and of course the majestic Hong Kong Island itself.

One thing that is clear when you are there is that Hong Kong is always in a hurry. Everything has to happen fast and happen quick. Whether it is moving from one place to another, trying to close a deal, making money or moving up the corporate ladder, Hong Kong is capitalism in overdrive.

Engaging talent in such a situation requires a very different approach. There is opportunity to make big money if you work your butt off and create value. You might say that this is not much different other countries / cities. These factors apply to other markets as well, but globally, elements such as work/life balance, development opportunities and relationships, are as, or even more, important. This certainly works well for the finance industry which Hong Kong is famous for. What I am not sure of is how this works for the service focused industries; retail, hospitality businesses etc. How do you instill a service focused mindset in which employees genuinely want to care for their customers? In their advertising, Cathay Pacific claim that they have accomplished that, but having flown with them a couple of times over the last few months, I have not met those employees that fit such a description.

In contrast, the service industry in Thailand is legendary for its “service with a smile.” I personally experienced this as I was spending a couple of relaxing days at a Phuket resort directly after my Hong Kong trip. An interesting thought is how different country cultures impact employee behaviors to excel in different industries. Are there specific industries that fit better with different cultures?

Let me know what you think.

– Paul Keijzer