Schuitema Colloquiums

Client Testimonies on the Schuitema Care and Growth™ Leadership

Dr. François Hugo, Management Consultant and Executive Coach to senior management of the FirstRand Group, the MMI Group, and former psychologist for the Proteas, delivers a client testimony of the Schuitema Care and Growth Model at the Schuitema Colloquium on 16th of September 2013.

The older you get, you realise, the less you know. So I’m just going to share some stories and see where we get to in regard to their meaning.

We (the Proteas cricket team) were in Perth for the 2007 World Cup series. Perth has the Swan River and next to it, the Swan Boulevard, which has palm trees, etc. One Sunday morning at about 6am, when the team was asleep, I went for a Sunday morning run along the Swan River. I was minding my own business and a guy with an old Mazda passed me. I didn’t really notice him until he lost control of the car which went right up one of these palm trees and flipped over. That’s not something I see often on my Sunday morning runs. The car was in front of me on its roof, with the wheels still turning.

I thought to myself that I must do something. The window on the passenger side was open. I crawled down and stuck my head in and I smelled serious alcohol. Then I looked upwards and the driver was hanging from his straps - a young guy, stocky, eyes a bit red. He looked down at me. He had a scratch on his cheek but he was fine. I’m a psychologist, so I was thinking about something profound to say to him. But while I was thinking, he looked at me and he asked, “Are you all right, mate?”

Fortunately, shortly after that, people more knowledgeable than me on how to handle these situations arrived. So maybe you could think about what that meant to me.

Another story: We (the Proteas cricket team) were playing in Centurion (South Africa) and we were losing badly. The then-coach was sitting at the desk and he was very tense; when he was tense, his leg would vibrate. At tea time, the guys came to me and said they had noticed that the coach was very stressed again. Later, as the day progressed, they did worse and worse.

Then I want to talk to you about the coach Gary Kirsten (a former coach for the Indian team). When he took over the Indian team, he had never coached anyone. He was interviewed and suddenly he was appointed. He met the team, and then he gave them a PowerPoint presentation of his vision. He had worked hard on his vision and was very proud of it. And as he walked out, he asked the team “kopdokter” (psychologist), “How did that go?” The reply was that it had gone down like a lead balloon.

Gary realised that a vision without building a relationship beforehand was plainly arrogant. How can you come to a new team which you don’t know, with a new vision? So he tore up his presentation. Later he told the team that, all that he could offer was himself. And then he asked a question “Who am I?”

I want to link that with Etsko Schuitema’s work and “What is your intent?” In other words, am I here to take or am I here to make a contribution?

So Gary Kirsten went through a lot of soul-searching in terms of what he stood for and what his role was really about, which brings me to the following question: “What is the role of a CEO, or a coach, really?”

These days, I do executive coaching. Somewhere, maybe through osmosis, I learnt that the role of the CEO is, firstly, to vest the culture and the values of the organisation; then it is to determine the strategy; and then to allocate the resources; and then to spend time with clients; and then to run the business. I often ask CEOs to show me their diaries. If you are there to vest the culture, what culture and values are you vesting? You can’t get a consultant in to decide on your values.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins said at some stage: “Don’t even think about the role of the CEO, because it’s overrated and overused.” People often say the CEO determines everything, but, he said, forget about the CEO. He used the comparison that in the past, to explain anything, we said God was the reason for it - so science didn’t develop because we didn’t think or research further about the phenomenon. The same happens with the CEO - if we view him as the answer to everything But then Collins’ people came back to him and said, “Eventually, the CEO is accountable”.

I say, “What the CEO thinks, sits in the walls … you can’t fake the values thing and the integrity thing.” I have seen CEOs who say all the right things, but I’ve seen racist jokes on their SMSes and I know what they really think, and that’s what comes out eventually in the organisation. So as a CEO or a leader, it’s all about self-knowledge. In the Johari window, there’s a part that is unknown to others and to the self. That’s our dark side, our shadow side, our unconscious side.

I have found, working with people, that the darker the side, the more closed it is, the more people project - the more that what they say of other people actually says more of themselves, but the more the windows open, the more you see the world as it is. Otherwise you label people as black people or white people or lazy people, or gay people – because it comes from your stuff.

So Gary Kirsten introspected and asked “Who am I?” and “What will I stand for?” and “What are my values?” Because all you can offer as a leader is yourself, your biggest responsibility is to understand who you are. For instance, a senior guy who is very fit told me how he practices in the gym with his iPhone. I was interested so I asked him whether his wife also gyms, and he confirmed that she did. And then I wondered what it was about – about him or his wife? And in his head it was about his wife - he said he was concerned about her health and well-being. But I realised that, actually, he wants a beautiful wife.

Often we don’t understand what we’re doing and what we’re saying. We may believe that we are here to give, but we are actually here to get; it’s actually about ourselves. So Gary Kirsten sat down, and what was his intent? His intent was to create an environment in which people could become the best they could be. And that is why we are all here.

He said, “If we get that right, then the performance and the results will take care of themselves.” So to come back to story about the coach at Centurion, he was stressed about the results. And his team saw it; and they saw he was more interested in the results than in them as people. They were the means to the end, the end being the results - ultimately so that he could retain his contract.

So what do they do? They lost interest and it didn’t go well. But Gary Kirsten asked: “Who am I to teach these guys who are the best in the world? I am here to create a context where they can grow.” For instance, after the batsmen had gone out for a duck or for five, another coach might say “It was actually a stupid shot”. But Gary would later sit down next to the guy and say, “Listen, if you had that shot again, what would you have done?”

So he constantly used the game as a way to grow and help people. When Tendulkar wasn’t doing well and everyone wrote him off, Gary was in a conflicted situation because there was pressure on him to drop him from the team him the next day. Tendulkar himself expected to be dropped.

When Gary went to Tendulkar’s room, Tendulkar said, “I expected you to come and tell me that I’m not playing”. But Gary said, “No, I am not here to tell you that you’re not playing. You must tell me whether you are not playing.” Tendulkar said. “But do you trust me to play?” and Gary said, “If you trust yourself to play, then I trust you.” The next day Tendulkar hit a century.

The thing with sport is that good sports people go onto autopilot. Golfers know that when you practice, you think about technique, but when you play you don’t think about technique. In cricket, if you walk on the field and you think about technique, you’re dead. You must go onto autopilot, and you can only go onto autopilot if you have a good self-image - if, at that moment, you feel comfortable. So the role of the coach is to make you relax. Can you imagine the results if, before a guy goes onto the pitch, the coach tells him, “just watch the ball” or gives him some other advice?

Gary also never said to people what they should do. And he never made practices mandatory. He said, “I’ll be there from the morning to evening and you’re welcome”. In the end, all the people went.

I do some work for a fantastic little technology company in Stellenbosch called Fire ID. Malan is the leader there. When he was in standard four, on Friday afternoons he would go to the physics department of the university and he would ask the lecturers to teach him something. They found him a bit irritating, but one professor eventually started to teach him. He eventually became an engineer but in his second year already, he had started his own company, which was later bought by the Ruperts. But then he didn’t enjoy the corporate world so he started Fire ID.

Today they are about 30 guys, all under 30, in Fire ID. They come to work in shorts and whatever they have. They have a rock climbing wall there, and they talk, etc. But you have never seen a more committed bunch. You can underestimate them. Malan is leaving tomorrow morning for Palo Alto, they are very involved at the moment in the US - just watch them.

The way they structure their salaries – they don’t worry about them. They are just passionate about what they do. In their mission statement, they say they want to learn and to have fun and make this a better world.

I sat in once when they wanted to sell something to someone, and they sold it immediately. Afterwards, Malan said he was disappointed because he had not learnt anything, because they say that they are there to learn and to grow and if they do that, the results will look after themselves.

I love going there and I love working with them. I’ve asked the guys there about Malan (who doesn’t want to be CEO, but he has to be). They say he works extremely hard, he puts everything in, and he really cares about his people, and it is more important for him that they are happy than that they make money. But he also sets the bar extremely high. And they constantly ask each other, “What have you learnt?” Even to me, he asks, after a session, “Did you enjoy being here? And is there anything that you take with you?” They don’t even talk about the results because they will look after themselves.

Then I just want to talk about Momentum. When I joined Momentum, I came from the University of Johannesburg, where I had been a lecturer in psychology; after that I joined the Chamber of Mines where I was involved with transcultural psychology (because I was born in Malawi, and I have a big interest in Africa). In the chamber, I was shocked by the bureaucracy of the system.

When I went to Momentum, I didn’t know anything about HR. They had a huge HR department and HR was very important, and the leaders were very important. The CEO had his own toilet. I was always worried about that. Well I suppose if you, as a man, you are standing in the toilet and suddenly the CEO appears next to you, then maybe you can’t complete what you came to do.

But the people at the top and the HR department were very important. HR went away on strategic sessions and came back with answers to questions that the company never had. Industrial relations were fantastic, because they had all the answers.

Momentum took over Lifegro, which also had an industrial relations department of note! There were plenty of secrets – you know how people speak softly when they want to indicate that they have access to a source that you don’t have. I realised that these soft talkers actually enjoyed it because it made them important, but I realised there that often support functions start justifying their own existences.

So then we decided that we should dismantle HR and some other functions. In those days HR would decide on your career development and your share allocation. So when you got up in the morning, you knew that you have to impress the HR guy because he was the important person. But we had asked the question “Who must stay awake at night and worry about people?”

I believe that you don’t marry a woman and then appoint someone else to love her for you; so if you start appointing people to love your people, you are in trouble. You must love them; other people can only help you in the process. Hilly Meyer, the MD of Momentum was a great guy and he said, “..but you must have some sort of HR and HR policies”. We replied that we believe that people are basically good and they will inherently take responsibility for their own objectives and for their own growth, in the right circumstances.

I also believe that, in the right circumstances, people don’t only accept responsibility, they look for it. And if you take the bureaucratic restrictions away, and they are informed of the vision of the organisation and they understand where it is going, they will do this. We also said that fun and diversity leads to creativity.

There is research with two groups of similar intelligence; one group was shown a documentary and the other a comedy. The second group did much better in the task afterwards. We also said that, the more control you impose, the less you have, because you take the accountability away from the person who does it and give it to the person who checks it. Who then is responsible, the checker or the doer? Unfortunately, with all the new legislation we have a lot of checkers; we often don’t have accountability with the person who does it. The problem is also that we want to complicate things.

I often use the analogy of a flock of birds. You see at them next to the road and they fly up, and then they suddenly change direction. You wonder if there’s one guy, a main Mac, who decides to change direction. But actually there’s no time for that and it’s very complicated – so they have only three simple rules: stay in the air, in close proximity to each other, and don’t bump into each other.

But with us, the more complicated things are, the more we want to impose complicated rules.

So what have I learnt from leaders who have really made a difference?

Great leaders influence versus control. Gary was a good example, and FirstRand was a good example. I was part of the transition from the first owners of FirstRand group. The first owners were Laurie Dippenaar, Paul Harris and GT Ferreira who had R10,000 when they started what was then Rand Consolidated Investments (RCI), then after four years, they bought RMB from Johann Rupert and now it’s the FirstRand group. I observed that it’s easier to influence owners than professional managers and leaders, where you often have controls in place.

The other aspect is that great leaders suspend their own agenda for the other. A team is effective when there is trust. But how do you get trust? Trust results when I suspend my agenda for yours. If you fall in the water and I jump in to save you, you are going to trust me unconditionally.

In the workplace, one way that you can show that you really suspend your agenda is to listen. Like Laurie Dippenaar – he listens so hard, and so totally, that you must be careful what you say. He was chairman of the merger committee when we took over Southern Life and there was a lot of conflict in that situation. But the moment Laurie walked into the room, there was total trust.

In the merger between Momentum and Metropolitan, you could see the trust in the room when he was present, because he was prepared to suspend his agenda for yours and be there for you. A more humble person you could not find. If you have a leader with high intellect and fearlessness, but he is not humble, then you have a problem.

There are people who care for people, but who unrelentingly focus on their own enjoyment and benefit – I’ve seen that many times. A question is how you allocate resources to something like Ubuntu. It was easier to allocate resources to something like innovation – FNB allocated R9,000,000 per year for people who proved to be innovative.

Zweli Manyathi was another example. He was formerly with FNB but is currently Head of Business Markets‚ Africa for Barclays and Absa. He started as a messenger at Volkskas Bank. Like many other good leaders, he referred to his mother a lot. He regularly used to visit her – an uneducated woman who lived in the rural areas. One day came he home in his Jaguar. She asked him what work he was doing and how many people he was responsible for. He said 17,000. She said, “Do you realise you can make 17,000 peoples’ lives miserable or you can add value to them?”

To take managers through the Care and Growth philosophy is a wonderful experience, and the debates we had in changing the performance culture from results to contribution based were very interesting. Research has also shown that great leaders can have crucial conversations - but within the context of humility. They say “We”, not “I”. Some leaders say you should never use the word “I”, always “we”. I would say great leaders know the difference - when to use one and when to use the other.

Sizwe Nxasana also had great courage. When the FNB advertisement debacle happened, he went to see the minister and owned up. Afterwards I asked him if any employees would have to resign as a result. He said that was not FNB’s philosophy – what was important was that they should learn from the experience.

Now I will address in-circles and triangles.

What is a triangle? A father and a mother live together and are in conflict – perhaps because the father is always at work or at golf. The mother is not getting enough attention, so she forms a strong bond, for instance, with a child - probably a child with problems like bedwetting or learning difficulties.She will attend to the child and feel she is making a contribution when the husband isn’t there.

In that family, undoubtedly someone is going to drink and someone is going to bedwet. Because it’s not a healthy family.

This is relevant to what we are talking about because when you have a problem on one level, you often try and sort it out on another level. In psychology we like to use fancy words and recall this “triangulation”. Triangulation creates pathology in any system or team. So you will get a situation where a manager and an employee are in conflict and they go to HR. And HR loves this; they hear very juicy stories. So we create the mother of triangles.

So how do you break triangles? If there is no trust in the team you start to get triangles. But again it starts with the leader. Research has found that it’s better for the kids if the parents have a good relationship, versus that the parents have a bad relationship between them but individually good relationships with the kids. In the latter case, there is distrust in the system. The kids want to see that the system is stable.

It is the same with executives. When I facilitate executive teams, I normally ask, “Which hat do you wear? Do you represent your department or your unit at the exco, or do you represent the exco at your unit?” because if you represent your department at the exco you have a problem.

The employees look for the finest messages as to how it’s going, particularly from your non-verbal behaviour. And if there is conflict there, they begin to play up. So great leaders can have crucial conversations and they don’t have in-circles (some people who are closer than others) because that breaks down the team. With crucial conversations, how do we break up the triangles?

All that you can work with is people’s behaviour. At the beginning of this event, you sussed me out - perhaps as an old guy with an Afrikaans accent. You decoded me. Then you reacted in some way - maybe you yawned. As a result, maybe I started thinking faster. It influenced my behaviour in some way.

The other day I told my wife in the morning that I would come home early, but just before I left the office, someone walked in with a serious problem. I phoned home and told my wife that I would be late, and there followed a silence. I said, “There you go again; do you think I do this for fun? It is for you and the kids!” A clash like that takes about one week to get out of the system.

But actually, my wife was thinking about the dinner dish. She had had in mind a special evening with candles and a nice dish, and she was thinking what she would do with the dish. Then I came out with my horrible thoughts.

That’s called the interpersonal gap between her intent and my decoding of her behaviour. I see that happening every day – we decode people’s behaviour incorrectly. What should we do about that? Authenticity means that in the moment, here and now, we own up to where we are at.

When you got the email about this Colloquium, you used your senses to attribute meaning to the message. Then you started thinking about it – about whether it was a good or bad idea. Then you had feelings, and then you developed a want. Then finally you acted or did something. Authentic people own up with an “I” message to where they are at the moment.

So when we had the merger with FNB, I had to facilitate a couple of sessions with the top team. In one such session, far away in a “malaria area”, we sat around in a circle. I told them that I would leave them for a few minutes to reflect where they are at about the merger. When I came back, the guys started talking and some cried about where we were going. So you find that if people are prepared to own up to where they are at this moment, then there is movement.

In the case of my wife and the dinner, if I could have given her an “I statement” (the moment you say “you”, you attack the other person and that person then attacks back) like: “I hear are you are quiet, I wonder why?” Then she would have said something like “I’m thinking about the dish” - and we would have saved a week just by doing that.

So the authentic conversations we should have are where we make it safe for the other; then we state the facts and say that this is what is happening; and then I say I think this is what’s happening and what is your story? This is to create an environment where we have people who can really, genuinely be honest with each other and say this is where I am at and this is my story.

So when I take people away, senior people, eventually I just ask them to tell their stories. And it’s just amazing what happens. That evening, the guys just started really talking. The one guy, for instance, was in the war in Angola, but Sizwe was at Fort Hare, fighting for freedom.

I will end with an analogy.

There are four levels of creativity:

  • When you drive your car and you change gear.

  • An engineer develops a product.

  • An artist creates something fantastic.

  • Where you go into a new paradigm of team creativity.

I give an analogy to explain this: researchers put a lot of clever IT people and engineers in a room and said that the door was locked, but that there was a combination for them to find out (with any computer they liked), and then they would be released. They were fed pizzas under the door, and there was a toilet. After the fourth day, they gave up.

Then they started talking to each other about whether they were married and had children, etc. After that they discovered the combination number. Because the people in the team had connected, they had shared at a higher level. That is why it is so important that we tell our stories. Because the more stories that we tell, the less we decode incorrectly. Particularly in South Africa, where we come from a huge diversity of backgrounds, we have to make ourselves vulnerable in the process.

And finally, what did I learn from the man in the car up the palm tree in Perth? It is that there is no one truth. I thought he was in trouble, but he thought I was in trouble. As we go along, we choose the lenses we want to use for the world. I have found that the Care and Growth lens means a lot to me. And at the end, it’s about the maturation of intent. It’s about eventually asking what my intent is, for instance in the situation with my wife. This is a lifelong journey. Hopefully we constantly check ourselves and we can ask “Why did that trigger me?” because it comes from something there, from the dark side of the Johari window.

Comment from the floor (Leoni van Tonder): You never reach the end of maturation. When you get to a point you push it further. So the important thing is the process. Another important thing is to play people in their right positions. You need to get to know them well and play them in the right positions; then they will show you when it’s time to move them on. Very seldom do you get to create a team from scratch, and even then you might still make mistakes. You have to play the cards you are dealt with.

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