Make Leadership tangible:
Workshop experiences with CEOs from East Africa
When it comes to leadership it is not easy to analyze how a team is really organized and lead. The danger lies in having discussions that are not specific and do not get to the important points – or sometimes to the ugly truth.
For this purpose we developed the leadership canvas with which we support managers and their teams to analyze their current situation visually and to get to the essential points.
Last week we had such workshop for CEOs from East Africa. For us a new experience, as in general we work for German companies. It was really interesting to find out, if the workshop format works well for people from other cultures and if problems differ in companies from East Africa in comparison with the experiences we made in Germany.
The participants came from different industries as the financial sector, the food and fashion industry, recycling business and the manufacturing industry.
About the leadership canvas
The leadership canvas is used to analyze the leadership framework of teams and consists of several building blocks:
The team vision shows how a team wants to be perceived and in which direction it goes to. The team values reflect the existing values. Teams also have stakeholders who may have an influence on their work. Furthermore, it might be important for a team to influence specific stakeholders. Stakeholders can be among others customers or suppliers or even internal stakeholders like other teams or the CEO. In the team block, the team members, their roles and responsibilities as well as their competencies are displayed. The rules show on which basis a team works together. Here, it is important to make implicit rules transparent so that expectations are clear to all parties involved. The major focus should be on how decisions are made. In a team you have typically decisions about targets, priorities, tasks and the distribution of work, definition of done and improvements. Additionally, the communication before, during and after a typical decision is defined as well as the major KPIs showing if a team does a good job and reaching their goals.
We make the general experience that managers think about values but do not always specify the consequences in behavior, rules, communication etc. In contrast one of the participants defined one of their top values reliability. This value was drilled down into rules, behavior etc. as it is essential for the company’s business. This company delivers software for the financial industry and differentiates from their competition by delivering in time, in budget and exactly according to specification.
The first major difference was that we had the workshop outside due to incredible weather. It was the first workshop where as an instructors Nicole and I had to wear sun glasses and use sun cream.
That was a perfect start!
The maturity level of the teams was quite different. Some of the participants already worked together for quite a while, some came newly together and some were working together, but had a new constellation like change in management.
Most participants could define their team values. We went deeper into values, as we asked which actions, rules or communication proves a specific value. This led some participants to think about, if a value is not just their perspective and might be perceived differently by their team members.
But this is nothing typical for East Africa.
Differences could be seen in the building block rules. Germans are known to work by the book, but still our experience is, that in this building block managers and teams really focus on making rules for decision making explicit. This was valid for the participants, too. Additionally, there was a strong focus on rules like being punctual.
Furthermore, there was a wide range of management styles. It went from command & order to management by exceptions. None of the teams had introduced agile management. This was interesting, as in Germany there is a wide discussion about leading the Generation Y by integrating team members into decisions and empowering them. Some participants had this vision, too – but it still seems to be a longer way to go.
Still, the participants had their challenges in setting up a framework where vision, values, rules, communication are coherent and as simple as possible. In the workshop the canvas supported the participants effectively to find the inconsistencies and potential for improvement. And this is exactly why we developed this tool.
Summing it up, there were some differences comparing the experiences we made with German companies. But they were not too big. You could say: “Same, same, but different.”