Top 5 Morning Activities that Successful Leaders Do While Still in Bed

awoman-meditating-white-bed

Do you reach for your smart phone as soon as you wake up? If you answered ‘yes’, you’re not alone. According to a 2013 study by IDC and Facebook, 4 out of 5 people reach for their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up. However, most of the world’s successful leaders are not just waking up super-early, but are spending their time on very different morning rituals.

Successful leaders, such as Tim Cook (Apple), Bob Iger (Disney), David Cush (Virgin) and plenty of others are all up and ready to go by 4:30 in the morning! So just what morning activities do successful leaders do during the pre-dawn hours that provides them with such pep? Here are my favorite top 5 morning rituals to do before you even get out of bed:

1.    Center your Thoughts
The power and benefits of meditation (or prayer or affirmations) have been promulgated extensively. Spend a few minutes to quieting your brain chatter and then visualize how you want to feel. Take this time to consciously feel grateful, blessed, empowered, confident and at peace. End with focusing on what success might look like for you today – I promise you that your day will rock!

2. Start your Day with a Dopamine Rush
Exercising early in the morning gives you a sense of achievement, gets the ‘be happy’ hormones (endorphin and dopamine) in your system, and readies you to conquer anything that life can throw at you. But wait, are you wondering what exercises you can do without even getting up from bed? Look no further than yoga! Some basic yoga stretches are all you need to build strength, relieve stress and have a happier disposition. Try out these yoga in bed poses for inspiration.

3. Wipe the Slate Clean
Your REM sleep is essential in restoring mental functions. The information consolidation theory of sleep is based on cognitive research that people sleep in order to process information that has been acquired during the day.  Sufficient sleep cleans your slate and allows you to start the day generally mentally sharper and gives you an opportunity to plan your day with greater clarity. And the good thing is that you get to wipe the slate and start anew every day!

4. Slay your Big Fear
One of the benefits of waking up early is that you have undisturbed quality time to slay your biggest fears and insecurities. We all have concerns that hold us back and make us procrastinate and doubt ourselves. Can you imagine how good your day is going to be if in those first few minutes of wake time you can conquer your fear and start your day with a firm resolve? Your day is already a success before it has even started for your colleagues!

5. Spend Time with Whoever or Whatever is Important to You
The best thing about being an early riser is that you get some quality time to be with someone important or spend time on something that is important for you. Starting early, visualizing and planning your day will give you tons of reward time. It will allow you to connect with your loved ones or take the time to leisurely think about all the stuff that keeps you charged.

Of course all of this only works if you still make your sleeping hours. Waking up early also means going to bed early. Do clock your 7 – 8 hours of sleep, as lack of sleep will reduce your emotional intelligence, increase cortisol levels, reduce your ability to learn and deal with stress and therefore, reduce your ability to lead. Successful leaders wake up early and then use that time to gain an advantage!

Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do share your morning ritual in the comments below and tell me what works for you and why.

– Paul Keijzer

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How HSBC Middle East Forces SME’s Out Of Business

HSBC

No this is not a bank bashing story. This is simply a personal experience on how my (ex-) bank, HSBC Middle East, treats its customers.

As a customer, banks are not my favorite destination. Luckily they have over the last decade tried to limit my personal exposure of having to deal with them directly (ATM’s, internet banking, phone banking, and mobile banking). Although at the end we are still dependent on them as we give them control over something that is very important and dear to us, our money!

My aversion towards banks reached a new peak last month, when upon checking my account information online, I was confronted with the fact that my account balance of my company account was zero and the notification read “account closed as per August 25”. My 2 years of company savings had magically disappeared in thin air. A strange sensation crept down my spine realizing that my money was gone.

To give you a bit of a background I have been a happy HSBC customer for the past 10 years with a number of personal and company accounts in a number of different countries. When I opened my company in Dubai I had no second thoughts other than to open my company account with HSBC expecting that my being a premier customer in other parts of the world it would help them in their ‘Know Your Customer’ requirements to facilitate the relation. How wrong could I have been? Yes pretty wrong!

I run a small consultancy firm in the UAE and my banking needs are very limited, I only require basic checking account transactions and online access. All my interactions with the bank were channeled through an anonymous customer service email account that responded generally within 48 hours to my questions. Interesting thing was that at no point would an employee of HSBC identify himself as the responses were always signed ‘yours sincerely HSBC Bank Middle East’. This was never an issue as the queries were always small. But as all my money had suddenly disappeared this became a huge issue because I had no one to turn to.

So the only option I had was to write an emergency email on August 26 to the anonymous email address and ask what has happened to my money. I received the following email response the next day:

“Dear Sir,
We thank you for your email.
We hereby take this opportunity to advise that we have sent you the attached important and official communication by registered post with regards to your account held with us.
In accordance with the attached communication, we advise that your account remains closed as of 25 August 2013 and the final balances shall be dispatched by way of a Managers Cheque to the company’s registered address as held in our records.
Should you have any queries or need assistance feel free to contact us.
Assuring you of our best services at all times.

Yours Sincerely,
HSBC Bank Middle East Limited
Corporate Services”

With this mail was the attachment that was sent on June 2 by Mr Rana El-Emam, Head of Business Banking U.A.E. that read:

“Following a strategic review of our business customers, we will now be providing a personal relationship manager in all cases but subject to qualifying criteria…..based on the above, I am sorry to advise that you will no longer qualify for business banking services from HSBC and we will need to close your account with us”

Despite the fact that the bank was instructed and till then had always sent all documents, cheque books and other stuff to my home address, they sent the most important document to my company licensed office address that they knew I only visited once a year. Completely unaware of this notification I continued using my account, intimating the details to my clients for payments and using it to pay my suppliers. The simple fact that I had not approached the bank to move my account  should have lit up warning signals triggering someone to think that ‘hey maybe this client is not aware of our decision to close his account, let me call him’. None of this happened and HSBC continued to close my account.

Let me be clear. I have no problem in the decision that HSBC has made, that is their prerogative. They can decide whom they want as a client and whom they don’t. I can certainly be disappointed about their decision in the light of all my other banking relations with HSBC, but that is not the point.

What completely baffles me is how they went about executing this decision with no respect to their clients and just shutting down accounts. They completely ignored my pleas to either speak to a human (other than the anonymous email) or to re-open my account for a short period so I could continue my business and move my account to another bank. Basically leaving me with no bank account for my business and thereby shutting down my business.

To be honest the customer service I have received from HSBC Singapore has been outstanding. It shows that customer service is personal, no matter how hard you try to institutionalize it.  It differs from one person to another, from one leader to another and proves how difficult it is for a global concern to make sure that each and every operation in every part of the world lives their self proclaimed values (taking directly from HSBC website):

“Our values describe the character of HSBC and reflect the best aspects of our heritage. They define who we are as an organization and what makes us distinctive. By operating in accordance with our values we are: Connected to customers, communities, regulators and each other, caring about individuals and their progress, showing respect, being supportive and responsive”.

HSBC Middle East should read up on that statement again if they want to retain customers as I am moving on, taking my banking business somewhere else.

– Paul Keijzer

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Managing Office Gossip

gossip-webAs an HR Director I was once the gatekeeper for a lot of sensitive information and was always amazed at how fast, widespread and accurately gossip spreads. Studies from the 60s (although I don’t know whether this is still relevant as that sounds like a lifetime ago) show that more than 75% of the details in gossip are correct.

Why People Love To Gossip
According to Frederick Koenig, a sociologist and author of Rumor in the Marketplace: The Social Psychology of Commercial Hearsay, people listen to and pass on a rumor because it satisfies an inner need. This is why understanding the nature of the people involved is key. According to Koenig, different people have different needs that lead to their reasons behind passing along gossip.
Rumors …

  1. … can circulate because the topic is interesting or a source of diversion.
  2. … can pull together events and fill in the gaps to make sense and provide explanations for what is going on.
  3. … can validate and support a point of view.
  4. …can reconcile one’s psychological state with what one sees as actually going on. (Studies show people who have high anxiety frequently participate more in the rumor process and groups in stressful situations have more rumor activity.)
  5. … are a means of getting attention.
  6. … are ways of manipulating situations. The idea of individuals or groups deliberately starting a rumor to serve selfish ends is frequently suggested.

The Grapevine Is On 24/7
It is the informal communication highway and it works 24/7; in company buses, cafeterias, hallways, meeting rooms, bathrooms and water coolers. But don’t think it stops when the office closes down. Nowadays, more often than not the grapevine really comes to life through Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network platform. It never stops and most of the time it is much faster and more direct than the organized formal communication methods that companies rely on. (You won’t see anything scandalous written in an office memo, but what employees communicate from desk to desk would shock you.)

Benefits of Gossip
Of course gossip and the infamous grapevine that carries the gossip can have both positive and negative consequences for the organization. The negative is that the grapevine can carry all kinds of misinformation and create insecurity in individuals. There are, however, also a number of benefits. The simple fact that people are talking about the organization shows that they are interested in what is going on with the company (as a leader you should get worried if employees stop discussing the company as it shows that they are not engaged). The benefit is that gossiping allows employees to express their feelings (both positive and negative) rather than keeping it bottled up.

How to Manage the Downside of Gossip
Of course, when the going gets tough and difficult messages have to be communicated (for example: downsizing, re-locations, or organizational changes) the grapevine works at its best and the consequences are most likely the most detrimental. In these cases as a leader you have two options (1) share as much as possible as soon as possible, even if not everything is clear and decided or (2) share information once when everything is decided and clear. The advantage of the “ASAP approach’ is that you let people in on what is happening with the downside being that things can change over time and you might be increasing their insecurities (as not everything is clear). Telling people when everything is clear is of course the flip side of the same coin. Although here, the biggest negative is that you are unable to formally influence the grapevine as you have not communicated anything and have left it up to others to exaggerate or downplay (as any piece of gossip can turn). Both approaches have their time and place.

How To Manage The Grapevine
First and foremost is accepting that the grapevine is always on and can’t be stopped. You can try to ‘kill’ it in one situation, but I bet you it pops its head into another soon. The best way to manage the grapevine is to:

  1. Make sure you inform employees as quickly and fully as possible of what is going on in the company. Use social media and the formal communication channels available to you. Remember the key mantra in communicating to employees is: Communicate, then communicate more and if you think that you have communicated enough, double your efforts.
  2. Listen to the rumors and decide what are facts and what is biases. If, as a leader, you are in tune with the grapevine you get a feel of what is really happening in the company and you can use this as influence.
  3. Act fast. If rumors are wildly incorrect then make sure you come out ASAP to set the record straight by proactively communicating to all employees. Otherwise, distorted half-truths will make the rounds — so nip these destructive rumors in the bud.

Learn to love the grapevine. Don’t get jumpy if ‘secret’ information is out there. Simply accept and try to use it to your benefit.

– Paul Keijzer

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Follow Your Heart And Do What You Want

k4604027One of my favorite questions to ask participants in a team session is “What is the one thing you would do with your life if you didn’t have any other commitments?” The answers people give are very interesting as many say they want to give back. Recognizing that they are ‘privileged’ these individuals would want to use their skills, resources and time to give back to their community by helping educate children, helping poor women develop skills to build a livelihood or supporting hospitals in impoverished areas. Others have long standing dreams they were never able to fulfill. I met a Managing Director who always wanted to be a pilot, an HR Director who dreamed of being a pediatric doctor, a CEO who wanted to write a cookbook and a Finance Manager who wanted to be an anthropologist and publish his own coffee-table-photo-books that would cover his journeys.

These are all fantastic dreams and amazing insights into the souls of individuals. Of course the next tough question is always: If that is your dream, then why are you not pursuing it?

The reasons I get for not following ones dreams range from:

  • I don’t have the time
  • I am scared
  • I don’t know how to do it
  • I need to have a stable income to look after my financial commitments
  • My daughter is getting married in 5 years
  • It is too late now
  • I don’t know where to start
  • I can’t take the risk
  • It’s too difficult to do
  • What if I fail
  • I would let my parents down if I make this change and throw away the important position that I have created

All true. All these are good enough reasons not to follow your dreams…right?
So what to do? How can you follow your dreams right now without giving up everything you have worked for? I would suggest you:

1. Start By Taking Small Steps
As Dr. Gregory House, from the TV shows says; “Doing things changes things. Not doing things leaves things exactly as they were”. It is all about starting to approach things differently. So if you want to become a writer, start a blog or publish an e-book. If you want to become a musician, upload a video on YouTube and shamelessly promote it as much as you can. If you want to help educate people, associate yourself with an NGO and on Saturdays you can give back to the community by teaching underprivileged kids to read and write. If you always wanted to be a doctor, then take a first aid or CPR training class.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

2. Stay focused
Look at all the people that you admire in this world. What is the one thing they have in common? It’s their laser like clarity and focus on achieving their dream. Steve Jobs was not distracted by the million other things he could have sold, Mandela’s only focus was to bring down apartheid, Jake Welch’s sole aim was to make GE number 1 or 2 in every market.

It is all about knowing what you want and staying away from distractions. As they say, you know a company’s (or person’s) strategy on the basis of what they spend their time on. The same applies for achieving your dream. Spend time on one specific goal and stay away from the numerous distractions that come your way.

3. Persevere
The definition of perseverance is “to continue in a course of action, even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.” Some steps in achieving your dream will lead to dead ends while others will get you closer to your goal. The only option you don’t have is to stop trying and give up. Don’t give up too easy…it’s your dream we are talking about!

– Paul Keijzer

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How To Make Brainstorming Much More Effective

brainstormingRecently I tried out a new approach to brainstorming. A couple of weeks ago I read an article discussing what is wrong with brainstorming, on Eric Barker’s blog; Barking Up The Wrong Tree. I adopted some of the learnings, experimented with them and found that it really worked! While no single method of approach is perfect, the results were significantly better than what I had seen before.

The way I implemented brainstorming techniques in the past was similar to the way Alex F. Osborn, known as the “father of brainstorming” invented it in 1958. Put people in a group together and collectively write as many individual ideas down as possible, whether they are crazy, funny, ridiculous, innovative or clever. Don’t criticize anything and allow people to make links and associations as they go along. When you have all the ideas on one list, bring them down to the best few and then expand on them. Sounds familiar?

More often than not, the problem with this approach is that the ideas that you get are either ‘spiked up’ versions of ideas that have gone around for ages or ideas so wild that they will never see the light of day.

So I decided to experiment and organized a brainstorming activity for a client in which they wanted to come up with new initiatives to grow their business, taking into account the new research findings that:

  • Smaller teams are more effective than larger teams (also see this article in HBR explaining that smaller, more homogenous, research groups are more effective per researcher)
  • Less is More
  • Criticizing and debating ideas will improve the quality of the idea

The brainstorming session was not only aimed at coming up with new ideas but also to translate those ideas into initial action plans. To do this we used the following 5 steps:

1. Individual Ideas
The night before the brainstorming session, every participant was briefed on the objective of the next day (to come up with innovative ideas to grow business). Each individual was requested to come up with one, two or maximum three ideas that he / she thought would grow their business. The next day each participant was given a flip chart in which they had to put down their ideas by answering three questions (1) What is the problem you are trying to solve? (2) What is your proposed solution? and (3) How will it work?

2. Share Judge and Select
Then, seated in groups of 5, each individual was asked to present his/her ideas to the other members of their group. During the presentation other members were encouraged to ask questions for clarification, make suggestions on how to improve the idea or use the idea in a different context. Next, the group was asked to rate all of the presented ideas on the criteria of uniqueness and potential value. All ideas were plotted on a matrix and the groups were asked to select their top three concepts.

3. Present and Pick
Each group then presented their top 3 ideas in a standardized format to the larger group (50 people in this case). The groups were then asked to give three votes to three ideas that according to them was the most unique and had the most value for the company. A ranking of ideas emerged and the top 10 of these ideas were taken into the next round.

4. Praise and Criticize
Having selected the 10 innovative ideas that were both unique and had significant value to the organization, it was then time to start moving into action. But, before I asked individual groups to start writing action plans, i wanted to galvanize the collective wisdom of all 50 people in the room to improve the idea. The concept that we used was “Praise and Criticize.” Each group was given a random idea and had 5 minutes to list as many reasons why this was a great idea along with why this idea was not going to work. After 5 minutes the list of praises and critiques was moved to the next group and they are asked to do the same. If you do this 4/5 times you get a pretty exhaustive list of good and bad qualities for every idea.

5. Action!
The list of praise and criticism was then given to the group that originally came up with the idea, so that they could take their colleagues comments into account when they started working on their action plan. You can imagine that the action plan that was created was significantly richer in content as already 50 people had been able to review it and make suggestions.

The end result for the team I worked with was 8 fantastic ideas that already had a meaty action plan linked to them. A project lead was appointed and a first review date was set. And the amazing thing is it only took 4 hours to go through this session. 4 hours with 50 people leading to 8 brilliant business innovation ideas. Not a bad investment in my book!

So, whenever you are planning to do your next brainstorming session, let people come up with their own ideas first. Let them share their ideas, fight over what the best ideas are and then use the collective wisdom of the group to praise and criticize those ideas to strengthen their overall action plan.

– Paul Keijzer

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3 Reasons Why You Can Get Things Done Faster In Asia Than Anywhere Else

FastBizmanOne of the things I love about working in Asia is the speed at which you get things done. Of course, there are many situations in which the bureaucracies and intricacies of doing business in Asia is daunting for the first timer, but when you know your way around you can get things done in no-time and significantly faster than many other parts of the world.

Over the past few weeks I was involved in an initiative to pro-actively identify and develop Myanmar’s Talent as part of an organizations bid to obtain a telecom license and enter Myanmar (see also Myanmar Talent Gold Rush.) Within 7 days this team was ready to launch a press conference, advertising campaign, and build a social media presence and job portal from scratch. This was all in a country that has been isolated from the international business world for the last decade. I would say that is a high achievement!

Speed is Asia’s salient feature. Why, I ask myself, is it possible to get things done here in 7 days that would take 3 months in many other parts of the world? Over the past 15 years having worked everywhere from China to Riyadh and everything in between I have realized that 3 specific features drive the ability to get things done fast in Asia:

1. Hunger for Success
Asia is hungry for success. The continent wants to move and move fast. They realize its their time to take the center stage in the world and they don’t want to waste this opportunity. They are willing to make the extra efforts, sacrifice and still have that zeal to work and push themselves hard, because they want to create a better life for their children. Asians are self-reliant and know that they can’t depend on the government to bail them out (there is no social safety net other than your extended family). They have to do it themselves and will find any way to create a better future for their families, their communities and at the end their countries.

2. It’s All About People
In the developed world, work is organized around processes and systems. The advantage of this is that you can get things done no matter who you are or who you know. Everything is standardized and delivered against certain parameters. Speed, flexibility and customization however are not something that go hand-in-hand easily with a process and systems driven approach. In Asia work is organized around people. Things get done because of who you know and if you have built the right relationship with the right people, things can move faster than anywhere else in the world.

3. Driven From The Top
The last reason is that the power in Asian organizations still reside solidly at the top of the organizational pyramid. The acceptance of power and authority allows the entrepreneurial business owner to push decisions through and ensure implementation with lightening speed.

Of course all of these elements have their downside and I am sure that as the Asian economies and businesses develop the call to transform from people to process driven / regulated societies will increase. However, for the time being, if you want to get things done fast, get it done in Asia.

– Paul Keijzer

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Myanmar’s Talent Gold Rush

title-Gold-RushI got to spend a fantastic couple of days in Myanmar last week and had a really wonderful experience. Having been isolated by economic sanctions for more than a decade, Myanmar is shaking off its shackles, focusing on the future and booming. The international business world is descending on Myanmar, as it is one of the last white spaces, and is hungry to capitalize on the desire of 55 million people who rightfully believe their time has come.

Infrastructure, FMCG, Automotive, Pharma, Energy Companies and recently, Telecom Operators, are all knocking on Myanmar’s door. Some companies had come prepared, moved in the moment the sanctions were removed and now have a significantly successful head start in running their businesses.

Setting up shop in Myanmar is not for the faint hearted. It has many challenges, but probably the most difficult is finding, developing and retaining Burmese talent. Myanmar’s underinvestment in education, its isolation and the brain drain of Burmese talent to other part of the world has created a super storm, almost wiping out the availability of Burmese talent capable of running an international business.

This high demand and low supply of talent has created a Talent Gold Rush (like the situation I witnessed in China in the 90’s and Vietnam in the early 00’s) where new entrants are going all out to spot talent and are trying to lure them away from existing companies. Existing businesses are introducing all kinds of golden handcuffs in order to retain their staff. The few Burmese who are lucky enough to have the required skill set, fare well by this situation, as their salaries are destined to multiply of the next years. But, an ever-increasing salary spiral for the happy few is not a solution for Myanmar and those companies that are trying to build a successful and sustainable business.

For companies to succeed and for the government to ensure the economic boom trickles down to other parts of the society, both need to design a creative and holistic talent strategy. This strategy should combine casting the recruitment net wide and far, an all out effort to bring people up the skill curve in the shortest possible time and creating a heartfelt connection that binds people with the company.

The companies that prevail in Myanmar will be those that make the achievements of the country and its people their success. That success needs to be earned “Inch-by-Inch” through hard work, being smart, moving fast and a long-term focus.

The enthusiasm, energy and excitement in Myanmar is palpable; It is their time and I am sure they will capitalize on this to the fullest. Lets hope it lifts as many boats as possible and that the past decade has not created a lost generation.

– Paul Keijzer

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Democratic Enterprise

ballot_box_my_vote_ssk_37571284There are two things that I love about elections. Firstly, everybody is equal. Everybody has one vote, no matter how rich, poor, educated or illiterate they are. Whether they are from the north or south, male or female, everybody has only one vote.

The second thing I love about elections is that it is an opportunity for people to vote for the person that they believe will help them build a better future. For people to believe in political leaders, the candidates have to rise tall in front of the nation, explain what they stand for and what they will do to make those changes happen. They are criticized, scrutinized, challenged and pushed to the limit. However, as a result of all this, people get to know the candidate and how he or she may or may not be their best representative.

Although I think there are some interesting similarities that you can draw with companies (one I have touched upon earlier in CEO Elections), one parallel that I wish leaders of companies would learn from is the communication aspect of elections. Can you imagine the engagement of the whole company, from senior managers to the peon, if leaders in the organization spent the same amount of time as political leaders, in explaining their vision and strategy of the company. If leaders were to allow themselves to be challenged and analyzed then they can come up with a blueprint of the future that everybody in the company strongly believes in and is committed towards.

I have only met a few leaders who actually do this. Safaraz Siddiqui, Managing Director of DHL Pakistan, has spent a lot of time discussing and jointly agreeing with colleagues the way forward for his company, and through this was able to transform DHL (and became the Best Place to Work in Pakistan in the process.) Lynda Gratton, the London Business School Professor wrote one of my favorite books called the Democratic Enterprise in which she “built a roadmap for companies to Liberate their Business with Freedom, Flexibility and Commitment. It delivers the blueprint for a business built on choice and commitment, a business people would choose to work for”.

What do you think? Can you set your company on the path of becoming a Democratic Enterprise?

– Paul Keijzer

Change From The Inside Out

Mind-Set-Pieces1The Women@Work Study aims to understand what would help enhance female participation in the Pakistani workforce. Apart from the survey, in which we will ask female employees of participating companies to fill in a questionnaire as well as HR departments to share their best practices, we will also conduct one-on-one interviews with working women. The power of these interviews is to understand real life scenarios that you can’t always capture through surveys and focus groups.

I have come to understand that all the following things are important to working women: commitment from the top, supporting gender diversity, organizational support in the form of specific facilities, coaching and networking, ability to manage your work timings and support from family and the society. However, one thing has also become clear and that is the importance of the mindset and bias that leaders, line managers and colleagues have. All the policy papers and communication material can look fantastic, but if the person you work with is not able to understand and empathize with what is required for a woman to work in Pakistan, then you will still end up with the shorter end of the stick.

A woman who recently left a ‘what we thought was a progressive and female friendly workplace’ shared with us that although all the facilities were there and she really needed to work, she could not take her working environment anymore. Ever since she had become a mother, her line manager had taken away all the ‘exciting assignments’ and given it to young and upcoming trainees. She was given mundane tasks far below her capability as a line manager and after two years she has decided to resign.

It is one thing to have a biased male boss but it is even worse if, as a woman, you have a biased female boss. An example of this is a woman, who in line with the company policies, has reduced her work timings but her female line manager is not agreeing to this stating that “I have been able to do it, so you should be able to do it as well.”

Improving the gender balance and retaining women in the workforce will require more than good intentions, a few role models, beautiful statements and the right policies. At the end it requires people to change from the inside out, men and women alike.

What is your story? Have you seen the need for change?

– Paul Keijzer

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Help Us Pull Unilever Over The Line

tug_of_warTwo weeks ago, Engage Women (an initiative of Engage Consulting) launched the Women@Work Study. We invited 20 companies to participate, in hopes to get better understandings and insights into what enables the participation of working women in Pakistan. To date; Pepsi, Engro, GSK, Nestle, Shell, Phillip Morris, Mobilink, Ufone, PTC, Novartis, ICI, Reckitt Benckiser and Telenor have all confirmed their participation. That’s a pretty good result! 6 companies still have to come back to us and only one company has declined…

Strangely, Unilever was the one that decided not to participate. I am surprised as I was always under the impression that gender diversity is really important to them. They were role models and pioneers, with Musharaf Hai being the first female CEO and Chairman of a multinational company in Pakistan. Even now, they have two high potential female leaders in their management team.

I know from their HR Director, Ali Zia, that they have implemented a number of work-life balance initiatives in order to support female participation and career progression within the company. Not only do they promote gender diversity in the boardroom, but are also constantly working to find a gender balance internally. They provide security-guard staffed housing for female engineers that work near their remote facilities, promote flexible working hours to benefit all managers and even have a day care center to help working mothers.

So, I am not sure what their reason is, but maybe with your help I can pull them over the line! If you are interested in understanding Unilever’s position and best practices on enhancing gender diversity in Pakistan then email me at paulkeijzer@engageconsulting.biz to sign my petition. I will collect all the responses and present them to Ehsan Malik, Unilever’s highly successful Chairman and CEO. I will try my best to convince him of Unilever’s social responsibility in this matter and to share their experience and heritage in driving the participation of women in leadership positions.

– Paul Keijzer