How to agree without giving in

A few weeks ago I was invited to run a workshop on negotiating skills for a group of senior engineers who sell capital goods for a well-known European multinational, and it took me back to the last century when I was an account manager offering large IT solutions using mainframe computers.

It reminded me of my library, where I knew I had some material on the subject. I found more books than I expected, including some which I don’t remember ever reading!

Undoubtedly the best known among them is Getting to Yes – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher, William Ury, together with Bruce Patton of the Harvard Negotiation Project. The second edition, the one I have, was published in 1991, and I strongly recommend this classic.

Here’s the essence of the “principled” negotiating laid out there, which has you neither too soft nor too hard. If you are too soft you end up the exploited loser, while if you are too hard you fail to develop a relationship and are likely to restrict yourself to a one-off transaction, as the other party won’t wish to deal with you again.

(This was the case with Trump, during his time as a wheeler-dealer in the New York real estate business, as we learned in “his” book, The Art of the Deal.)

Principled negotiators are in between: reasonable and fair, aiming at mutual benefit. They build and preserve relationships, assuming the other party is a partner and not an opponent. Put briefly, it’s a win-win approach to interacting, the one I adopted right from when I launched into the capital goods marketing business in the late 1960s.

What kind of attitude makes for an effective negotiator? Here, let me turn to another of the books I pulled down from my shelf, The Negotiator – A Manual for Winners, by Royce Coffin. It was published in 1973, and I inherited it from my father, who in those days was a management consultant as I am now.

Coffin advises us to be self-confident and optimistic, so we can be relaxed, creative and bold. He then suggests not rushing at talks.

Rather, be patient, and take time to understand and to build trusting ties. And do so by being friendly and cheerful, and applying a light touch. If necessary, pause to review and reflect, and consult with others.

From The Negotiating Game – How to Get What You Want, by Chester Karrass (published in 1970, and also inherited from my father), I learned about the “negotiator trait clusters”.

First is task performance, involving planning, problem-solving, initiative, product knowledge, reliability and stamina. Next comes aggression (or, as I would prefer to call it, assertiveness). Here he identifies power exploitation, competitiveness, team leadership, persistence, risk-taking, courage and defensiveness.

To a softer trait now, socialising, meaning personal integrity, being open-minded, tactful, patient, compromising and trustworthy, plus displaying an acceptable appearance.

Being an effective communicator is also key, with verbal clarity and good body language, focusing on listening, generating warm rapport, plus skills in debating, role-playing and coordinating.

A final duo: first self-worth, involving self-control, self-esteem and dignity, enabling one to gain the other party’s respect – and even to risk being disliked; and possessing high ethical standards. Plus gaining the boss’s respect, and being identified with a sufficiently senior organisational rank.

Last but not least, one’s thought processes: general practical intelligence, education, insight, analytical ability, decisiveness, negotiating experience, broad perspective, and clear thinking under stress.

The last publication I’ll refer to is my Summer 2008 edition of the Harvard Business Review, whose theme was Great Deal Making – The Art and Science of Negotiating, and rereading it vividly reminded me of the lessons I learned when I was in the game, ones I now share as a consultant.

I can’t resist ending by saying that I was recently with one of the workshop participants and I asked him if what we covered had made a difference. He confirmed it had with the recent signing of a major order.

Five reasons teams are dysfunctional

I was recently asked to run a team-building workshop based on the 2002 book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Let me summarise what author Patrick Lencioni laid out in his gripping fable about how Kathryn Petersen, DecisionTech’s newly installed CEO, faced the ultimate leadership crisis: uniting a team in such disarray that it threatened to bring down the entire company.

For most of the book it is uncertain as to whether she would succeed, but her experience from elsewhere allowed her to work with the awkward set of characters who made up the senior management team, and against all odds the company survived.

Lencioni is of the view that teams are inherently dysfunctional, made up of imperfect individuals who suffer from inflated egos and pursue selfish goals. Here’s how the book opens: “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

I’ll comment later on that view, but let me continue with his valid conclusion that strong and deliberate steps must be taken to facilitate teamwork. The fictional book shows how a skilled team leader can do a great deal to make their team effective, and it takes us through Kathryn’s manoeuvres to rescue the dysfunctional group of characters the board had hired her to sort out.

Through his story, Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the heart of why teams struggle so badly. At the base of his pyramid of dysfunctions lies the absence of trust, which prevents team members from showing vulnerability within their group.

In the context of building a team, trust enables team members to be confident that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. Teammates must become comfortable being vulnerable with one another.

Above mistrust comes fear of conflict, where those involved seek artificial harmony over constructive, passionate debate. Next, and again as a result of the lower dysfunction, is lack of commitment, merely pretending to buy in to group decisions, thereby creating ambiguity and lack of clarity.

All this sees team members avoid holding each other accountable, with low standards the consequence. And finally there’s lack of focus on results, as status and ego interfere with harmonised action.

To conclude, therefore, Lencioni urges us to find people who can demonstrate trust, engage in conflict, commit to group decisions, hold their peers accountable, and focus on the results of the team and not on own egos.

While the book is certainly exciting to read, full of breakthroughs and setbacks, I emerged less than convinced by Lencioni’s pessimistic view of human nature, and I also had reservations about his exclusive focus on overcoming the negative dysfunctions while insufficiently nurturing their positive counterparts.

Lencioni has his CEO relish conflict as a means of resolving issues, and while where there are conflicts they should indeed not be avoided, I am not convinced that she need have taken her team on such a painful journey.

Indeed in my workshop I had the team focus on how to build on the positive aspects within their team of the five functions of trust, dealing with conflict, commitment, accountability and focus on results.

It’s a great quintet of team factors, but my approach of working with “Appreciative Inquiry” would have me guide Kathryne differently. Also, my experience is different from Lencioni’s in that I have not found teamwork to be “so rare”.

However, I strongly recommend that you read the book, since it will stimulate you – as it did me – to reflect deeply on how people behave and what drives them, and then to assess whether the approach Lencioni advocates is the one you as a leader would feel is the one to adopt. It’s a book you won’t want to put down.

Before the workshop, the team members were also invited to watch a TED talk by Harvard Professor Amy Edmonson that nicely complemented the Lencioni book.

Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhoLuui9gX8 The essence of her talk was that where there is complexity, uncertainty and interdependence, one should promote curiosity and experimentation, accept fallibility, and so deliver psychological safety. Sounds like good advice.

The personal drivers to success

I recently facilitated a very interesting workshop that brought together Africa region’s leaders of a long-established multinational. Thanks to Covid, this was the first time they were meeting physically, and this under their recently installed president.

As we were preparing the workshop he told me he wanted to share with his team what he described as his “personal success drivers”, his “rules for himself”.

Having come up with this thought, and looking back on other teams he had led, he regretted not having shared such thoughts with them, as a result of which he realised they weren’t sure what his expectations would be, either of himself or of them.

While fully accepting that it’s not how he always behaves, it is how he knows he should. “I am sharing these thoughts with you so that you get to know me better,” he explained, adding “I know that if I state my intentions publicly you will hold me accountable to do as I say.” All so impressive.

The first of his big three drivers, taken from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, is getting the right people on the bus, and in the right position. Addressing performance issues decisively is uniquely challenging work, he acknowledged, and tolerating second best has a very negative impact, resulting in unfairness, toxicity and lethargy.

Job number two, he continued, is creating a winning culture where everyone is operating at their best. “Do my manager, my team, my work environment, my business make me feel like I’m all-in?” they need to ask.

Thirdly, he believes it’s the biggest current businesses and the biggest opportunities that must always get most of his attention: the 80:20 rule.

He then listed his remaining seven drivers, all to do with empowering the best talent relative to the biggest priorities. When it matters, he likes understanding business issues and business plans “in data-based depth”, appreciating that questioning assumptions is a great way to learn, as is history.

“If we are not defensive about past mistakes, weaknesses, unmet needs and gaps with others, then each gap becomes an opportunity to grow our business,” he declared.

He wants to talk about the business the way it is, not the way people want it to be. “Face the brutal facts so we can do something about them,” he urged, acknowledging that balancing communication is an art form and separates good leadership from bad.

Trust is key to this, and rating performance on results, analysing what is working and what is not.

He will be transparent, and he does not like filtering information from his team, while trusting that everyone will to do the same. They must all “question, challenge, confront and clarify”. He then admitted to “overcommunicating”, repeating himself so as to ensure the full absorption of his messages.

And he called for “good sense email practice”. His organisation has recently introduced a matrix structure, and this is always a challenging environment within which to communicate and coordinate. But the team must get used to working within the matrix.

Don’t surprise him, he requested, and he won’t surprise them. He is accountable to his people, he readily accepted, for handling interactions with his seniors on “the tough stuff”.

And he cares deeply about how happy they feel working with each other. If something he’s doing is not working for them, he wants them to tell him. He will do the same, but as trust is being built, a go-between may be helpful.

The junior most person who is qualified to lead the way should do so, he continued, challenging such people to present proposed solutions with every challenge. For this to work well they must be empowered.

And asking the right questions will provide the path to such empowerment and hence enable the people to deliver success. “This is always better than telling people what to do,” he concluded, asking the team to help him avoid the “it’s faster if I do it” trap.

Finally, he insisted that “it is not ‘OR’, it’s ‘AND’.”, as lazy choices must be avoided. It is not, for instance, a choice between focusing on financial results or on people, or between short and long-term results. It is both.

The softer side of Kaizen

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the Kaizen Institute recently held their 17th Annual Congress, and I’m writing about it as I was one of the keynote speakers at the event. I have for long been an admirer of Kaizen, which is all about waste reduction and continuous improvement.

It was first largely applied in the manufacturing environment, but it soon spread to other sectors – for who doesn’t want to do away with waste, and shouldn’t we all be focused on continuous improvement?

The reason I was asked to contribute to the congress is because however necessary the technical aspects of Kaizen are, the waste reduction and improvement cannot be actualised unless the non-technical, or human, aspects are also taken care of. This is what takes an organisation from doing the necessary to thinking through to the sufficient.

These non-technical aspects require a significant investment of time and resources, but many technically-focused and task-focused people complain that this just takes away from efficiency, delaying the completion of tasks. Yet what they do not appreciate is the consequence of not investing time in aligning those involved in the tasks with each other.

It is this kind of neglect that sees people confined in their narrow functional or geographical silos; focused on short-term sub-optimisation at the expense of long-term sustainability; witnesses them indulging in conflicts that lead to stalemates and prevent timely or appropriate decision-making.

When attention is not paid to how well people communicate with one another, some will stay silent without contributing their thoughts, some will be too assertive, and poor listeners.

So my presentation urged the participants not be so “efficient” that it prevents them from being “effective”, suggesting they should invest time in building high-trust relationships, that then enable collaboration and consensus building.

They should also invest time in building a coaching mindset in their organisations, so their people develop and where personal goals align with organisational ones.

The return on this investment is that the staff will offer superior contributions, and good people will be attracted and retained, as they learn and they grow.

By taking time to develop both their technical and non-technical skills, and within a high-trust culture, leaders will feel comfortable empowering others and delegating to them, freeing them up for more strategic activity.

Another “inefficient” use of time is holding back from the default position of telling others what to do, but rather taking time to understand before seeking to be understood. For we must accept that we don’t know what we don’t know.

The speaker before me was the Kaizen Institute’s Joint Managing Director Jayanth Murthy, who proposed that we all pray for “Better, More, Faster”, for quality, growth and speed – which is what Kaizen delivers.

He reminded us that most strategies fail because of poor execution, and showed us a cartoon of a pair of exhausted fellows pushing a cart with square wheels… while within the cart are round ones!

He then gave examples of how this is manifested in real life, quoting Charles Darwin’s observation that “it is not the strongest of the species who survive, or the most intelligent, but those who are most adaptable to change”.

After me came another confident optimist, Jas Bedi, the Chairman of KEPROBA, the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Authority, who talked about the huge potential in Kenya for import substitution and exports, and about the need to have a borderless EAC and for the continent as a whole. We must add value, and consolidate imports as a regional redistribution hub, he also insisted.

The room at Kempinski was filled with Kaizenologists from leading manufacturing companies around Kenya… all taking “inefficient” time away from their tasks back in their gemba (Kaizen terminology for the workplace), so as to learn and to share. Ah yes, the full spirit of Kaizen lived here: the best knowing they can still get better.

Taming the abuse of power

Readers of this column will have seen previous articles of mine in which I have written about Leaders Circles I have facilitated with my colleague Frank Kretzschmar. The last one was about sustainability, and the theme of our most recent one was “How we deal with power: from victim to perpetrator to victim”.

We’ve all heard that “information is power”, and as Frank and I looked up other suitable quotes before our story-telling gathering we came across some useful provocations, including “Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best,” from doomsday merchant Edward Abbe; and, also pessimistically, William Gaddis shared that “Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power.”

More upliftingly, Lao Tzu told us that “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” And Alice Walker reminded us that “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

How power is wielded lies at the centre of whether things work or don’t work, we briefed our participants as we invited them to the event. Power itself is values-neutral. So at what point does it become good or bad? Where and how does abuse begin?

Who determines that power was indeed abused? How is it even possible that power does get abused? Does it happen when moral concepts are excluded from the exercising of power? When corruption is used to distort rules of the game that had been based on a broad consensus? When individual powerful people lose all sense of self-awareness and proportion?

We are seeing that too many neurotics and egocentrics are key players in the power game. And as a result, we give up on essential issues out of comfort, thoughtlessness or anticipatory obedience. They then take advantage of the resulting vacuum. Are we not to blame for this?

So how do you tame the abuse of power? As leaders, you cannot do without power. How do you empower yourself and others? And how far may or must you go in order to gain (back) power and influence?

How do the exercise of power and ethical action coexist, for there are fewer and fewer fixed reference systems? Exercising power without stepping over the boundaries of individuals is not possible. But is it possible to exercise power while remaining innocent? It is undoubtedly a question of balance.

We were interested to hear where and how those who participated in our event have succeeded in keeping power in the good area, and this we certainly did. We learned about the challenge of leading volunteers, in business and professional organisations, and in service clubs like Rotary and Lions.

And we talked about the need to “decolonise” and spread decision-making from the over-influential Global North towards the Global South, including in how research funds are allocated.

We also heard stories of power abusers – from our own traffic police to Vladimir Putin – and of being the direct victims of more powerful and unconstrained players.

One spoke about the fragility of power, as evidenced in the Arab Spring (and more recently in Sri Lanka, and with Johnson in the UK); while another worried about the constraints faced by the UN Security Council in fulfilling its mission of holding the world together.

I reflected that rather than wanting to feel powerful, my expectation was and is that I can be of influence, and above all in bringing people together – as a mediator, an integrator, a connector.

I enjoy helping others to building their capacity so I can empower them, and hence delegate to them. I see the goodness of power-sharing, which requires openness and trust.

Here I am, deep into my third age, a time of life when most of us no longer expect to wield direct power (except, perhaps, in the political arena). One way in which I hope I am being of influence is through these columns.

A few weeks ago I published by 400th one, and this one marks fifteen years since by first contribution here. My sense has always been that I largely preach to the already converted, but my hope is that my readers will emerge reinforced in their views, and so promote them more boldly. I might even convert a few here and there, and who knows, perhaps enable them to become more powerful.

In closing, I urge you to exercise your power by voting next month for men and women who will wield power responsibly. Or else you will be their victims. But hey, I’m preaching to the converted.

Navigating national cultural differences for best outcomes

In my last article, I promised I would write further about the influence of cultures on how consultants like myself must adapt so as to engage effectively with our clients. I mentioned that beyond national cultures, sub-cultures within countries are equally diverse.

Anyone who has visited the United States will quickly see how different people are in New York (frantically energetic and brutally straightforward) from the “Deep South” (much more measured and formal) and the Mid-West (so friendly and appreciative). And that’s just three examples.

In much smaller countries like England – never mind the overall United Kingdom – regional differences in attitudes and behaviour are equally pronounced, and if one is not sensitive to such contrasting cultures one risks offending people and diminishing one’s ability to relate to them.

Another dimension of diverse cultures is revealed in multinational organisations, whether corporates, NGOs or multilateral agencies such as the UN and the World Bank. Let me tell you about an experience in Ethiopia, where in 2012 I facilitated a culture integration retreat for the staff of a multilateral development agency, a mix of over a hundred local and international staff.

The local staff felt disrespected by their expatriate colleagues, but their culture held them back from expressing such feelings. Meanwhile, the international staff felt frustrated that if they criticised an Ethiopian colleague the reaction would be negative, thanks to their pride being hurt. So they just held back too.

On the second morning of the workshop by Lake Awasa I felt the participants were sufficiently relaxed to engage in an open conversation about the subject and to launch the session I read them a pair of poems I had written the night before which laid out the feelings of each group – one from the perspective of an Ethiopian and one from that of an expatriate.

I’m happy to report that as a result of the two-hour conversation I facilitated, those in the room not only obtained a good sense of the nature of the problem and its root cause of differing cultures, but that it enabled the issue to fade away – indeed for people to laugh about it. Here are my two poems…

An Ethiopian reflection

I am a proud Ethiopian.

I respect others, and I respect myself.

I respect quiet too, for we are told that it is gold.

But quietness and respect need a little time,

time for elegance, politeness and refinement,

time not everyone feels they need to make.

Some rush through life in different ways,

ways I find uncomfortable.

So to protect my feelings I withdraw somewhat,

not wishing confrontation, not wanting stress.

How can we make life better for us all?

What if you invest a little time, just a little,

to honour how we Ethiopians expect to interact?

And in return I’ll try to be less sensitive

to your more Western style of frantic rush.

Reflections of a visitor

It’s sometimes very hard for me, frustrating actually.

I’ve never felt like this before,

never thought of me as harsh or disrespectful.

I see myself as just a straightforward kind of character,

demanding yes, but not unreasonable.

Yet here in Ethiopia I often find myself in trouble.

I wish I could be freer with what is on my mind,

but I know I must be really careful with how I speak

for fear of giving grave offence.

I often anguish over how to make things better,

wish my work to help, improve and strengthen others

would be received in better spirit.

But as I’ve observed reactions to my initiatives

I’ve learned to be unusually restrained,

holding back from offering what otherwise I could.

Please, therefore, my Ethiopian friends,

help me to engage more easily with you.

I certainly don’t seek to give offence,

but know I sometimes end up doing so.

I love my life in this most gracious place of yours;

I love your culture and its oh-so noble traditions;

I want to love my interactions with you just as much.

There are so many other factors that define an organisational culture: ah, those PhD dominated ones, where complexity is the order of the day; those government ones, where smiling is prohibited and protocol rules the roost; those family businesses, where the founder’s every wish must be indulged. These are the territories into which we consultants enter and seek to influence.

How people adapt to national cultures

In my last article I wrote about the four elements that, according to the Adizes Institute, make a fully functional manager or, more likely, a functional management team: Producer, Administrator, Entrepreneur and Integrator (PAEI).

Today I follow up with an article I was sent by Rufat Jahangirov, a senior member of the Adizes Institute team, in which he reflected on the influence of national cultures in designing and delivering their programmes on organisational transformation in ways that are compatible with countries’ national values.

It led me to think about how and to what extent I adapt the way I engage with organisations depending on where I am doing so.

I am privileged to have been exposed to a wide variety of cultures, from my Jewish Romanian background to my upbringing in London, with time in France and the US, to my life here in Kenya since 1977. Plus my travels to many other countries around the world, usually as a tourist but sometimes also as a consultant.

Jahangirov refers to the work of Geert Hofstede on the interactions between national and organisational cultures. Hofstede first examines Vertical Power Distance, the extent to which the less powerful members of organisations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.

He then looks at Horizontal Distance, the degree to which people in a society have an independent versus interdependent concept of self.

In societies with high Horizontal Distance – individualistic societies – people’s goals are generally independent from their ingroups; their social behaviours are driven by attitudes, values and beliefs; and they emphasise rationality in evaluating and choosing their social relationships.

On the other hand, in low Horizontal Distance – collectivistic – societies, people are born into extended families or kinship systems that protect them in exchange for giving them loyalty.

Hofstede also studies Uncertainty Avoidance, which defines the degree to which people in society feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations.

Not to be confused with risk avoidance, members of an Uncertainty Avoiding culture take risks as long as they believe they know them. People in Uncertainty Avoidance societies usually prefer clear rules as to how one should behave.

Next Hofstede examines Masculinity versus Femininity. Masculine cultures are ones where men should be assertive, competitive, tough and focused on material success, while women should be focused on the quality of life, maintaining warm personal relationships, offering service, and caring for the weak. Feminine cultures are ones in which emotional gender roles overlap.

Finally, he contrasts Long-term versus Short-term orientation.

Jahangirov notes that it is easier to generate “energy for change” in countries with low vertical distance, high horizontal distance, low uncertainty avoidance and high long-term orientation. He also correlates Hofstede’s culture differentiators with the values and characteristics of the PAEI Adizes management roles and styles.

P and A are short-term oriented roles, whereas E and I are long-term oriented, they have found. Additionally, P and A are the attributes of autocratic management, displaying high Vertical Distance, while E and I preferences lead to more egalitarian decision-making, which suggests low Vertical Distance.

P and E are both independent and individualistic styles, typified by high Horizontal Distance, whereas A is mechanically collectivistic and I is organically collectivistic, reflected in low Horizontal Distance. The A style is characterised as Uncertainty Avoiding, while E is its opposite: Uncertainty Accepting… actually, seeking.

There appears to be no correlation of Uncertainty Avoidance with either P or I management styles. And finally, P is a predominant characteristic of a Masculine culture, while I is the one of a Feminine culture. Both E and A can be either Masculine or Feminine.

It’s hard enough to change cultures even in one’s own back yard, Jahangirov has found, and reflecting on his wonderfully thought-provoking article has filled me with further ways of describing cultures and helping them develop to better places.

What is my experience with how different cultures have led me to adapt my interactions with others? Like Jahangirov, I am at least as aware of sub-cultures, within both countries and organisations, requiring yet more sensitivity on the part of consultants. But you’ll have to wait for another fortnight before reading more about that.

Before closing, let me mention that this is my 400th Business Daily column, and that next month will mark the 15th anniversary of my first one. More later on that too.

Management roles that shape top performers

Each of us as a manager enjoys aspects of our roles where we feel more comfortable, with others we’d rather have someone else handle. But the more senior and cross-functional we become the more we need to reach adequacy all round.

And yet very few of us ever expand our comfort zones to take us from the necessary to the sufficient. So which are these different aspects?

I was recently exposed to a categorisation of the needed components that I found made a lot of sense. It is based on the work by Ichak Adizes, the founder of the Adizes Institute, and the four roles he identified that management must fulfill are the Provider, whose voice tells us “Just get the job done, nothing else matters”; the Administrator, who wants us to “Follow the rules, pay attention to the details, and heed the process”; the Entrepreneur, who wants to “Make it exciting, creative, provocative”; and the Integrator, who helps us “Create harmony and respect the social norms, while making people happy”.

In every organisation all four must be performed well. And yet, Prof Adizes has observed, none of us can or does reach the highest levels of competence in the complete quartet. Indeed being really strong in one makes it more unlikely that we’ll do so well elsewhere – or even get on well with those who do.

If a person is unable to perform one or more roles the deficit must be filled by others. If they perform all roles to at least a satisfactory level, they’re an OK manager.

If a manager copes brilliantly with integration and at least one more role, and all other roles are performed at a satisfactory level, we can say that the person is not just a manager, but a leader.

And if all the roles are well covered among the management members, then we have a high performing team.

The book I read by Prof Adizes was Leading the Leaders – How to Enrich Your Style of Management and Handle People Whose Style Is Different from Yours”, one of 20 authored by him. I also completed the Adizes Institute’s Management Style Indicator” questionnaire, where the profile of me that emerged came as no surprise.

My top style is that of Integrator, then Entrepreneur, followed by Producer, with Administrator lagging quite far behind. So I am described as a “PaEI”, with capital letters for the styles where I am at ease.

I’m sure that as you have been reading this you will have been reflecting on how you rate on each of Prof Adizes’ four components of management, even without taking the assessment questionnaire. And you will also have been smiling (and groaning) as you have been contemplating your peers, your superiors and your subordinates.

You will have concluded who complements whom; and who clashes with whom, thanks to the incompatibility of their over-focused styles.

You will also have noted which teams cover all four components well, and which find the going tough thanks to too many individualistic entrepreneurs and no integrators, say.

So where are the gaps, at the personal and team levels, and how to fill them? For such gaps are everywhere, and the higher we rise in an organisation the more of a handicap they become. What’s your next career step, and the ones thereafter? What muscles will you need to develop that till now were not so important to enable you to perform well?

Too often it’s the most brilliant techie (a Producer) who’s promoted to becoming the supervisor of other techies (as an Integrator) but lacks the personality, skills, or even interest, to play such a role.

They never developed the non-technical skills needed for management – or for interacting with team-mates, customers etc. – to complement their technical ones. Do they have the potential to transform an “i” into an “I”?

Who does your organisation seek and attract among the P, A, E, I types? Do you look for those with more than one capital letter, so they can develop a career with you, beyond the immediate job for which they are being recruited?

We are always going to feel more at ease with some of the four styles than with others. But be very aware of what each job requires, and either reach adequacy wherever that is needed, or make sure there’s someone else in the team to play that role.

Preparing the youth to be responsible leaders

The Institute for Responsible Leadership (where I am a co-founder) recently partnered with UNITAR (the United Nations Institute for Training and Research) with whom IRL collaborates closely) to broadcast a webinar on youth and responsible leadership.

Keynote speaker Sebastian Hofbauer talked about how youth have become significant “influencers” through the use of social media – some positive, but many not so. The latter are primarily in it for the size of their following and the revenue they therefore generate.

So we need government regulation, he suggested, but also self-regulation, this in partnership with the private sector and including through the UN Global Compact. Much helpful food for thought.

In my contribution as a panelist, I focused on two youth organisations with which I have been closely involved since the late 1970s. Both have been spectacularly successful at developing highly responsible young leaders – many of whom have gone on to occupy the highest positions of leadership in Kenya and way beyond.

The first one I spoke about was Rotaract, the young persons’ Rotary, where young adults aged 18 and over join – as in Rotary itself – to offer service while enjoying each other’s friendship, and where they also develop their leadership skills, not least through learning by doing.

There’s no better way of accelerating one’s development and one’s career than by joining such volunteer organisations, and the earlier one does so the better.

For here one is exposed to projects and committees, to managing people and funds, while learning about policies and programmes, meetings and minutes, and so much more about leadership.

Rotaracters apply Rotary’s “4-Way Test”, so in everything they think, say or do, they ask: “Is it the truth?” “Is it fair to all concerned?” “Will it build goodwill and better friendships?” and “Is it beneficial to all?” It is young adults who practice such values as honesty and fairness that are attracted to this organisation, and their membership there reinforces these further.

The first Rotaracter I met was in 1979, a young man called Stephen Musyoka, whom the Rotary Club of Nairobi where I was a member selected to benefit from a post-graduate scholarship at the Mediterranean Institute of Management in Cyprus. Now better known as Kalonzo Musyoka, he went on to develop a very successful career in politics, where practicing the 4-Way Test is so challenging!

In 1986, when I became the President of our Rotary Club, one of my main goals was to relaunch our Rotaract Club, that had meanwhile faded away.

I challenged two young professionals in the IT company of which I was CEO, Henry Njoroge and David Muiruri, to gather together a group of suitable people to form one, and indeed before my year was done the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central was launched.

Since then it has continued to thrive, a permanent source for developing responsible leaders. Indeed the current President of our Rotary Cub, Gideon Akwabi, became a Rotaracter in 1989 and emerged as a leader there before joining our Rotary Club in 2012.

The second example I chose was AIESEC, which was launched in 1948 as an international association of students of economics and commerce, enabling them to be exposed to other European countries and cultures in the aftermath of the Second World War.

When I was an undergraduate in the mid-sixties I undertook AIESEC internships in France and America, and they were life-transforming exposures for me.

I became a member of the advisory board of AIESEC Kenya soon after arriving here in the late 1970s, and ever since I have enjoyed mentoring generations of AIESECers – the brightest and the best of responsible young leaders.

AIESEC partners with major institutions that act as hosts for internships, and these days it attracts students from all disciplines and actively supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

You can just imagine how that develops their members as responsible young leaders. Like with former Rotaracters, AIESEC alumni are consistently sought after to occupy leadership positions. (One such is Polycarp Igathe.)

I am currently involved with the inspiringly responsible leaders of the AIESEC chapter at Strathmore University, whose Vice-Chancellor Vincent Ogutu I first met when he was an undergraduate student at the University of Nairobi… as a result of him being a member of AIESEC.

So you can understand why I am such an enthusiastic advocate for young women and men joining these wonderful organisations, as they are extraordinary incubators of responsible leadership.

Making 360-degree appraisals beneficial

360-degree appraisals provide feedback to employees not just their supervisors. They can be horizontal, among colleagues who work together at the same level, and/or vertical, from those at lower levels commenting on their bosses.

Sounds like a good idea, yes? After all, each one of us can benefit from holistic feedback to become more self-aware, more in touch with reality, so as to understand where we can improve our performance. Right?

Sure. Except that many organisations that have introduced side-to-side or bottom-up assessments have suffered negative unintended consequences.

Indeed my first experience of formal 360-degree appraisals was with a global multilateral institution whose Kenya director would cry on my shoulder about his supervisor being completely disinterested in what he felt many of his staff unreasonably needed him to do and not do in order to assess him positively.

It provided an easy opportunity for disgruntled staff to get their own back on him if he had made tough – but in his view necessary – decisions about an issue. And instead of appreciating his resistance to taking the easy way out by being unduly nice to his staff merely to gain popularity and higher ratings, his boss would just condemn him for the negative reviews.

It is such risks that make me wary about recommending 360-degree feedback to all and sundry. I am more likely to if an organisation enjoys a particularly healthy culture of high trust all round, and where all levels have been prepared for handling such a sensitive subject in a constructive way.

As a first stage, I often suggest that such feedback be provided between teams rather than individually – like between levels, departments and functions.

Another question that arises is where extremely low ratings, accompanied by highly negative comments, are made about some receiving their 360-degree appraisals. Should they be shown the precise content of such feedback?

Might it lead them to have their self-confidence and self-esteem battered, and even to overfocus on the likely sources, however anonymously the responses will have been submitted?

Would it be less disruptive for whoever is discussing the feedback with them – whether their supervisor, the HR function or an external coach – to merely offer a sufficient flavour of what has been provided, before turning to how they can deal with the issues expressed by changing some of their attitudes and behaviours?

Either way, adequate reference should also be made to positive feedback that will have been provided.

If the ones who’ve received particularly harsh feedback should perhaps not be shown the whole ugly picture, is it OK to share the full story with those where more positive views were expressed about them? I don’t think so. Let there be a consistent approach.

Whether an organisation’s appraisal system includes 360-degree components or not, it is vital that all involved – everyone who appraises and all who are appraised – are engaged in sessions to help them understand the purpose of such exercises, i.e performance improvement, personal development and career planning, all within a coaching culture.

Not an occasional parental lecture to one’s children; not tick-in-the-box annual compliance with having “done” appraisals and pleasing the folks in HR; not just a way to negotiate a salary review or a promotion.

I long ago ceased being surprised by how in very few organisations do appraisal systems add value. On the contrary, too many are but a disruptive, time-consuming nuisance, harming rather than enriching relationships of mutual trust and respect.

Adding the 360-degree component requires yet more focus on purpose, yet more time to plan and implement, yet more continuous follow-up. If appraisal systems work well they are extremely valuable, making everyone feel good about contributing to each other’s learning and growth.

So I am a passionate advocate for them, including the collection and sharing of broader feedback. Plus, I should add, at the highest level, among boards of directors and with CEOs – often the ones who least dare apply such treatment to themselves.

So, does your organisation’s appraisal system help you as an individual move forward, and is this in alignment with the progress of the whole entity? And is your culture robust and honest enough to handle a 360-degree component? These are mission-critical questions that must not be avoided.