Naomi would still be alive if a Samba band had taken her call!

Saturday May 19th, 2018 0 comments

On December 29th 2017, Naomi Musenga was suddenly paralyzed by an excruciating pain in her stomach. The 22 year old, mother of a baby child, called the emergencies in Strasbourg where she lived… The pain was unbearable as she was being passed from one service to another. The transcript of her agonizing and last discussion is terrifying:

  • “Allo yes!
  • Allo… Madam, please help me…
  • Yeah, so what’s going on?
  • Please help me…
  • Right if you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’ll hang up…
  • Madam, I am suffering very badly… I…
  • Yeah right, well then call a Doctor OK? Yeah, call SOS Medics ! (This woman works for… the emergencies and Naomi is sent to her by SOS Medics)
  • I am unable to…
  • Huh, unable? So you can call the emergencies but can’t call the…
  • I am about to die…
  • For sure you’ll die, one day, like anybody else. Call SOS Medics on 03 88 75 75 75, OK
  • Please Madam help me…
  • I can’t help you; I don’t know what you have.
  • I am hurting, hurting very, very badly
  • Where?
  • In my stomach (…) and everywhere.
  • Yeah right so call SOS Medics on 03 88 75 75 75, as this is something I can’t do at your place. You should be seen by a medical doctor, otherwise call your own!
  • OK [hardly audible]
  • Good bye.”

And young Naomi died 5 hours later from a general visceral infection. For those of you speaking French, here is the whole call included the discussion between the two operators mocking the patient calling in despair…

Now that she has become “the shame of the Nation”, the woman who treated Naomi Musenga so inhumanely claims to be a scapegoat, denies any responsibility and “blames the system”…

When Jimmy Pontes explains how Brazilian samba masters engage, for a whole year, 4’000 to 8’000 volunteers to produce the sort of show displayed below, he also invites the audience to reflect on why, in the same country, the same people can be fired-up, responsible, dedicated from 6 to 10pm just to become “victims of the system” when back work on the following day.

What 25 years of work with engagement and transformational efforts have taught me is that three themes are critical in creating living organisms instead of brain-dead organizations:

  • A shared Purpose: Remember the clip of the Turkish basketball players? They do not see the purpose of being summoned to an… opera in order to celebrate their national title. Look at their faces, the energy and engagement (it is hilarious)… and, suddenly, the purpose becomes clear, “the penny drops” and a completely different energy, commitment and pride level surfaces. They fully live a shared purpose with the audience! What shared and lived Purpose do we offer to our teams and organization?

  • A sense of Community: I link it to several of the themes we work on, such as Psychological Safety, lower Power Distance or unconditional support. A strong observation of my partners and I, working with successful and less happy organizations is that, leaders who behave in a High Support/High Challenge way, succeed in creating a powerful and safe culture, providing all with the much looked for Inclusion (Please forget the politically correct “diversity” as it is a statistical result not a state of mind!). A great example of such a Benevolent (High Support) and Demanding (High Challenge) leader is Archbishop Desmond Tutu in this stunning moment. How much time and energy do we devote, as leaders, to create that sense of Community? Leaders of the 21st Century understand this is part of their agenda and act on it, personally!

  • A relational way to connect, not just a transactional one: I will never forget this organization we worked with for a long time. The custom there was that people would stay together at the table, discussing, laughing and connecting with each other (they were coming from all over the World) for hours after dinner. The table I sat with was engaged into a discussion about their frustration not to be able to produce something by the lack of technical design. Later on, when many people had, wisely, decided to go to bed at other tables, “my guys” noisily invited some two or three people left behind  to join “for a last drink”. One of these, a Brazilian, shared his frustration not to find any project team courageous enough to test his new device design which was… exactly what the others were looking for… A huge incredulity (“wait… this is too good to be true”), followed by loud laughing and they all disappeared (it was 2 am…) in the classroom. When I came back to prepare for the start at 8.00 am, they were all… still working and the walls were full of drawings. They estimated this random connection would net €. 50 million for the firm. When I asked: “Don’t you have an intranet where these things, on supply and demand sides, are shared?” (the transactional way), the reply was: “Yes, but quite frankly nobody goes there…” Creating a relations-based culture is not about Peace and Love or being nice, it is about creating Collective Intelligence! Systems and technology don’t create Collective Intelligence. People do!!!

Now that the facts have been brought to the public, justice will follow its course and decide on the fate of those who abandoned Naomi Musenga to a inhumane death. And, without colluding with the “victims of the system” seeking to blame it for their own, criminal shortcomings, I can’t help asking myself what kind of a culture and leadership they were surrounded with to behave in such atrocious manners.

  • Empowerment and waterline

    Wednesday May 9th, 2018 4 comments

    Empowerment is the basis for trust, simplified procedures and processes, daring organizations and customer obsession. These new directions are followed by those taking on the Disruption Economy. It suggests that the shift from traditional, vertical, siloed and hierarchical organizations, towards self-led, flatter, purpose-driven and agile organisms has started. But when comes the time to empower their people, many leaders find…

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  • To be invincible… be vulnerable

    Sunday April 29th, 2018 6 comments

    “These last days had quite some impact on my life. You and your team opened up my eyes, helping to explain why some of my team members are not fulfilling my expectations. I had to realize that I am more part of the problem than I ever expected. Changing myself and my style will be a challenging adventure…” This is…

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  • Why “Bonobo Cultures” won’t survive

    Sunday February 11th, 2018 2 comments

    Recently, I was puzzled by an article claiming that Duke University researchers, Christopher Krupenye and Brian Hare had found that Bonobos (a type of monkey frequently studied for their social behaviours thought comparable to those of humans) “preferred Tyrants”. Although not qualified to judge, I was quite skeptical about their experimentations and remain unconvinced that what they measured (which piece…

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  • It is about time you protect your Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Colin Kaepernick

    Friday February 2nd, 2018 2 comments

    The battle between Good and Bad, Loyalty and Toadying, Progress and Immobility, Past and Future, Courage and Conformism has accompanied Mankind since its beginning. And always, prior to Victory, courageous whistle blowers and change agents have paid, with their lives sometimes, and more often, with their jobs, with lawsuits, with humiliation, their determination to help their Nation, Organization or Tribe…

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  • Cautiousness kills

    Wednesday January 24th, 2018 4 comments

    Year after year Helen Fisher (Chief Scientific Officer for the Dating website, holds a Survey with a large sample of US members. This year, she found out that 67% of the single US members who were engaged into a long-term relationship had not married because they are terrified at the idea of… divorcing! Recently, I was observing an executive…

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  • Hope, Faith and Bravery

    Tuesday January 16th, 2018 2 comments

    As most of you know by now, I have decided to dedicate part of my time to validate/invalidate my theory that, if we frequently use the sports metaphor in the Business World, in fact, business has a lot to teach to the Sports Community. I therefore work 20% of my time with FC Lausanne Sport, a 1st Division Team, both…

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  • Closing 2017: Leaders take a stand!

    Friday December 29th, 2017 0 comments

    Leaders make a difference! My grandfather was a Judge. He was part of the gentry in his town, a classical right wing, catholic bourgeois. But, during the IInd World War, something was increasingly disturbing the peace of mind which sounded natural for this farmers’ grandson: “Even though the news and other credible source of information remain silent, I can’t ignore…

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  • Forget “team-building” and other rafting or bungee jumping exercises! Are you ready to put yourself in danger for your team?

    Saturday October 28th, 2017 0 comments

    “I know that the game tonight is crucial, but I have decided to put myself in danger! If I truly believe in your stuff of unconditional support, in the fact that the bench should be as highly considered as the “star players” and because I do not want a team with “players and substitutes” but a team where we are…

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  • “This is a man’s World”: If you wish to create a challenging culture… start by supporting each other!

    Saturday October 7th, 2017 0 comments

    Too often, James Brown’s greatest hit, plays in my head when facilitating sophisticated senior teams during a delicate working session of theirs. Generally speaking those teams, rightly so, seek to raise the level of their collective game by challenging each other, calling on each other to do a better job. This is healthy and I have sufficiently expressed my concerns…

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  • Corporate Activism & Leadership Transformation

    Saturday September 30th, 2017 3 comments

    I have had the privilege to meet an amazing woman in July, taking advantage of one of her visits in Lyon (she now lives in the US). Céline Schillinger works for Sanofi Pasteur, has an impressive academic education and an even more amazing life story, a true Heroin’s Journey. But what fascinated me even more, in this discussion which could…

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