Sharing Vulnerability – Naji Gehchan

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Sharing Vulnerability - Naji Gehchan

36 episodes later, we are closing the year and our first season with a unique episode.
Going from the principle that everyone has a story worth telling, Jill Donahue hijacked the mic and turned the table… and the host became the guest.

“Everyone has a story to tell.”

Naji Gehchan

MEET OUR GUEST Naji Gehchan or your host for the past 35 episodes.

Passion and Profession for Purpose – Patrick Youssef

SpreadLove In Organizations
SpreadLove In Organizations
Passion and Profession for Purpose - Patrick Youssef

His passion is his purpose and goes beyond the duty. Patrick is a leader in Humanitarian, risking his life and leading his teams in the most challenging but most in-need communities in the world. He shares his experiences from Irak to African countries, leading with his heart and striving daily to make health a simple right accessible for everyone.

“Purpose is not how much you deliver, but how you deliver and lead.”

MEET OUR GUEST Patrick Youssef Director and leader for Africa in the International Committee of the Red Cross. In January 2016, he was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. He sits in the International Council of Advisors of Global Dignity.

Patrick Youssef joined the ICRC in 2005 and completed different missions in Sudan, Chad, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. Between 2010 & 2013, he was the deputy head of operations for the Near and Middle East covering Yemen, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Mr. Youssef was the Head of the delegation in Iraq for more than 2 years, before taking the role of Deputy Regional Director for Africa, where he managed ICRC operations in the Maghreb, the Sahel region, the Lake Chad Basin, and West Africa.

In addition to his field experience, Mr. Youssef worked on specific topics related to the respect of International Humanitarian Law such as the treatment and judicial guarantees of persons deprived of freedom, the recruitment of children in the armed forces, and Transitional Justice.

Prior to joining the ICRC, Patrick worked in the private sector in Lebanon & the Levant.

Born in 1978, Patrick Youssef has a bachelor’s degree in public law, a Master’s degree in Diplomacy and Strategic Negotiations from Paris Sud XI, an LLM in International Law in armed conflicts from Geneva University, a certificate of completion of an Executive Education on Global Leadership and Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School as well as a training certificate from the Oxford Said Business School on ‘’Transformational Leadership’’

Great Job! For Real?

While every single day, I live the fact that nothing works without TRUST, here is my last experience on “feedback” sessions when true trust is missing…

How many times in a corporate world while driving a project, you just felt like stopping it because of internal hurdles. How many times the project was so painful that teams even lost the essence of why it started and were just happy it ended… Moreover, the aftermath usually looks like a simple mail with “great fantastic job all”! Along this, as leaders we usually feel this urgent need “to recognize the group and celebrate” rather than dig into what happened to make it better.

How many times then have we tried, as good leaders, to do a “post-action feedback review”? Usual result: instead of a string of congrats emails, a beautiful meeting room filled with individuals and leaders congratulating each other. Those untrue feedbacks and enrobed thoughts kill teams, make things so slow in organizations and never put people into a trustworthy relationship to improve continuously.

Thinking through this corporate “politeness”, I remembered my lifetime experience in the Lebanese Red Cross. Basis is trust for sure. True trust between people and the leaders who show daily their trust for their teams and their radical empathy. In this safe environment, everything is possible. A simple exercise we used to do back then was an “evaluation”. Every single mission we did would end – whatever time it was – by an evaluation. Always. No one would go out of the ambulance without this true, sometimes tough, evaluation. Let me detail what this was: During an emergency, you just do not have time to say “sorry” or leave someone do a mistake or risk patient’s life; you just do. Therefore, what was key for teams to learn and grow their capabilities was to discuss after each action how things went, where someone went wrong, when someone did great, if someone put others at risk or patient at risk etc… With emotions and adrenaline, some of those evaluations would go into tough discussions, true talks, real words but they would always end in the ambulance with the mission done. When out of the car, we would go back to normal, back to a real team whatever happened and said there; nevertheless individually and as a team grown.

Three learnings from this experience:

– If trust is there, you can talk true because people really believe that the feedbacks given are not personal. The feedback is given on the work performed, how to improve it and make the individuals and team learn continuously.

– Do an after-action review on every single important project because you can always learn from great things and the day it goes bad you can talk true. If you only do an after-action review when things go wrong, people will always try to find out ways to say that in fact it went great…

– The ambulance… Do the review directly within the action and not in a meeting room after a while… Have a “safe place” environment where people can express everything they want, and when out of the session, things stayed in and only learnings went out with them.

Finally, real trust here is important for a simple aspect: people should know that this is not a performance management process and that as a leader you deeply believe they are doing a good job – otherwise you would have treated this separately. The only reason of the “evaluation” is to grow as individuals by learning and as teams by co-working honestly. Only then, you will start to move fast as an organization and make things better for the people and customers you serve.

The most important humanitarian leadership lesson

Googling “leader” or “leadership” gives us great definitions and different perspectives. It goes from command and control to creating a vision and inspiring people. Leadership skills has definitely evolved since the last century and constantly change. We can read a lot about leader vs manager and all that goes with this from command and control to inspire and empower. Nevertheless, in corporations, reality is that a leader (former manager) is a hierarchical position given to a “talent” (many times a technical performer) to command, perform, control and report to a “bigger” leader. But even in this model, we have what people would call a “real leader”, and through my different experiences and talking to teams, it spontaneously goes to a simple sentence: “she/he is someone I would follow no matter what”.

It was tough for me to evaluate in the business world and current organizations how true the “no matter what” is. It might be easier in flat liberated organizations to do so but still…

Thinking through this, took me to my humanitarian experience in the Lebanese Red Cross where I served several years during moments of tensions, war, crisis and terrorism that hit Lebanon. The Lebanese arm of this international humanitarian organization is practically the only emergency medical system in the country taking in charge all “human” emergencies. The team in the Red Cross is extremely diverse; different ages, backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, studies, etc. Nevertheless, we all – truly and deeply – shared the same values, the exact same vision and mission, the same “why”: to help and serve people in need. Being a leader in this organization suddenly looks simple no need to create a vision or inspire for teams to follow you: people come for the same “why”, volunteer, perform, grow and have a real social impact as a team… It’s thus all about coaching them, teaching them emergency techniques, managing them not to perform errors when in an emergency, commanding them to perform the right moves when on the field with a patient and making sure they keep this “flame” and this “why” to keep on volunteering and coming day after day… Easy!

Let’s dig a little deeper though: war, bombing, real life-threatening risks, not only in your community… Would you really follow the leader “no matter what”?

Why would your team follow you in the ambulance? Why would they litterally risk their lives, hear what you say, and execute what you ask? Why would they go into a risky war zone and follow your commands on the field? Because of the “why”? Because of the “adrenaline”? The “heroic act”? The nice “story to tell their kids”? Probably all of that, but the single foundation for me stands to the TRUST you created as a leader… The trust that you won’t let them go, that you would risk your life for them, that you’d go save them if anything touches them, that you’ll back them up, that you’ll run for them as they would do for you, that you’ll care not only for them but for their families and community too… But is this enough? Certainly not… It’s also the trust you create as a leader in the organization they work for and serve. We were out in war zones with no fear because we trusted each other, we trusted our organization and believed that “it” will protect us no matter what, that the leaders will be there, the community will stand for us, the country… We were maybe naive but it taught me this single leadership principle: BUILD TRUST (honest true trust). Without trust, without this “safe” environment, without a real genuine caring community, without love, you can manage, decide and command by hierarchy but will you be leading teams willing to follow you “no matter what”? The “why”, the vision, the mission and the values are the basis of success in any business or organization, but all those without TRUST might bring performance and growth BUT in moments of tensions, moving risky environments and stress would people stay here with you and follow the leader “no matter what”?