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


Didier Marlier

May 19, 2018

From Disruption to Engagement

We support leaders as they navigate through significant strategic and cultural changes.  We are united by our values of Expertise, Courage and Generosity. Our network operates across the world.

Mass Engagement Process


Cultural Performance Improvement


Innovative Leadership Development


Team & Individual Coaching

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.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mobile: +41 79 435 1660

Skype: didiermarlier

5 Route du Village

1884 Villars-sur-Ollon

CH - Switzerland

“Engaging Leadership” has been written for leaders who are about to engage their organisations in change."

4 + 7 =