The work environment at edge

edge is growing! To help more businesses grow and impact more workplaces, we’re hiring new team members!

Have you ever thought about working in talent acquisition or a business advisory firm? Ever wondered what it takes to help organizations build high performing teams and how you can make your strengths count in this mission?  If your answer to these questions is yes, we are looking for you!

You’re interested, and we know you are cautiously thinking through which work environment fits you best and brings your talents out to shine. This article should answer most of your questions, but in case you’ve got any extra ones leftover, feel free to tweet us @edge_kenya  and we’ll be happy to respond! See all open jobs on our join-us page.

So, how is edge’s work environment like?

Actually, you have to come and experience it! But since you asked, here is a three-word summary:

Fast-paced – We support entrepreneurs in building great teams! Sounds easy? At edge you will need to stretch yourself and think outside the box to come up with and use creative approaches to address our client’s needs.Strategy Conversations Sometimes we have 2 hours to build something great for a client that others may require a week for. We work with mindsets like lean and prototyping to achieve our goals and deliver great value in no time.

Constant learning – We are constantly seeking knowledge that enables us to improve our services and be our clients’ best partner. Key here is self-driven learning, being curious and inquisitive, using online resources, peers and the larger community to be at the top of new industries and trends. Together we develop specific skills that would be useful in our work. For example, we have jointly taken courses on project management and design thinking and have turned newly learned theory into new improved approaches and products immediately! (See more about how we learn in this article)

Flexible – We place more emphasis on your productivity and contribution, opposed to what time you arrive at the office. Everyone has daily and weekly outcomes set, and arranges their time in a way that works best for them. We collaborate using virtual tools and value creativity in meeting client needs. Nobody looks over each other’s shoulder. We own our stuff and strive for excellence in our work. This requires you to be highly self-motivated and self-organized.

Are you the kind of person who thrives in such an environment? Please take a look at the open jobs on our Join Us page!

Getting defensive a lot? Break the vicious cycle!

Getting defensive a lot? Break the vicious cycle!

Ever had an emotional response that was immediate, overwhelming and disproportionate to what the other person did or said?

Did the situation feel like a significant emotional threat?

As if there was a snake lurking next to your chair?snake-579682_1920

“Now you’re overreacting. I think you’re getting defensive!”

“YES!   I TOTALLY AM!!  BUT I CANNOT STOP IT! Oh, and I won’t admit it either!”

And when you think about it later, you can’t even remember or factually describe what worried you exactly! It’s like you had a total loss of brain capacity.

 

What is happening in these moments?

 

Your ego is trying to defend you! It wants the best for you and preserve you from harm. To avoid serious danger from hitting you, it uses a flight, a fight, or a freeze response.

But guess what: In 99% of cases your ego is over-reacting, seeing snakes and dangers where there are none. Then all that adrenaline comes in between you and your talents, your best self, and your success!

Here are a couple of real life examples:

  • The client says: “Oh, maybe Manuela can tell us more about XYZ topic (not related to the context of the meeting), given that should really be YOUR expertise.” My mind going into overdrive: “Oh my God, I’m not prepared for this. No matter what I say now, they’ll think I’m stupid. But how can she do that? She always puts me on the spot. In fact, why are we working with her organization in the first place?” (Black and white thinking)
  • Boss asks: “Why is this concept note late? Please make sure to get this to me by 9am tomorrow” – At 9:30am the boss will find a document full of typos in their inbox, with key sections missing that were agreed on earlier.
  • There’s a guy in the office, who naturally connects well with people and has great ideas of fun team activities. And to put the icing on the cake, he loves food! When he’s asked to organize an office chill-out for end month, he agrees, but goes quiet until the day of the event.
  • Watching colleague making a mistake, bad decision or just be really slow in solving a challenge. Thinking: “She’s been here much longer than me. If I tell her now that I have an idea for her, she might take it badly. Let me play it cool and not offer my advice.”
  • Over coffee with a colleague: “Hey! I need your advice. My manager always does a, b and c“. “I think you should try to look at it from their perspective. That day he really needed that report from you, and I imagine that he was disappointed that you didn’t….”   “No! You see the problem in that situation was actually that my computer wasn’t working and also on that day, … (Goes on with endless rationalizing until the other person gets frustrated and mentally checks out.)

Sad, right?

To make things worse, being defensive also sours your relationships over time. Here is an interesting medium post talking about how these impulsive moments (also called amygdala hijacks) create toxic workplaces.

It’s time to stop the vicious cycle!

We believe that you have great talents, and that they want to come out to shine!nathan-dumlao-378988-unsplash - small

You have weak areas (sure thing, we all do) and should be developing them instead of fighting the process.

No matter if you’re 25 or 65, you can work on your ego defence mechanisms!

The first step is to recognize your signs of defensiveness: What do you do and how does your body feel, when it happens? Through self-observation, over time you become more and more aware of what triggers you. Don’t blame yourself, just observe it. Then you can transform your reactions to these triggers, by staying level-headed in the moment and asking yourself if this is really a snake, or possibly simply a colleague who’s trying to succeed on a joint project with you.

At edge we’ve been working on this topic for a few years now. We regularly sit together and reflect on our signs of defensiveness. We tell each other what happens when we get triggered, and what we want to work on. We celebrate progress and make fun of ourselves. We discuss our triggers in the team and we show support to each other when the amygdala shows up.

These conversations create truly collaborative environments, where we easily ask each other for help and ideas. Where asking for clarification is standard procedure, and making assumptions around the other person’s intentions happens less and less.

Do you think you or your team would benefit from this conversation as well?

Get in touch!

Intercultural Teams: The magic ingredients for success

Intercultural Teams: The magic ingredients for success

It is hard to imagine the social enterprise and venture capital ecosystem without cross-cultural teams. In our work with startups and organizations across East Africa we interact with multicultural teams on a daily basis: Local and foreign founders, team members from different East African countries, local and foreign investors and board members, international fellows and consultants, you get the picture!

While the day to day in the office with each other can sometimes be puzzling or draining, this diversity is an incredible opportunity to build innovative, winning and competitive models.

There are many reasons to invest into building a balanced culture and help teams leverage their diversity!

First of all, working in a multi-cultural environment is a huge selling point for this generation! Organizations that succeed in building a fun, well-functioning diverse work environment are very attractive employers and are likely to attract and retain top talent!

quoteAlso, you can increase your company’s ability to innovate and create products that last and faster and better problem solving by representing views and insights from a wide range of stakeholders into decisions. Leveraging different life and professional background improves business results in the short, mid and long-term.

There is ample research showing the business opportunity diverse teams have, but also the challenges associated with diversity, such as inconsistent norms and assumptions, which might reduce collaboration.

We asked around: How do different styles, beliefs and concepts shape workplace interaction?

We discussed this question in our session at the Sankalp Africa Summit 2019. We started the workshop by asking participants to share experiences where intercultural aspects caused tension and reduced productivity.

Communication styles always comes up: What one person calls an animated conversation, someone else might find an aggressive shouting match. Speaking loudly and talking over each other is perfectly normal and welcome in some countries but signifies lack of respect and decency to others. If contradicting the CEO in front of a group if they make a suboptimal suggestion increases your worth to the company in some places, speaking up to your boss can get you fired elsewhere. Even the preference of written vs. face-to-face communication is raised as an area of tension.

Some of these beliefs go deep to shape workplace interaction:

  • “People at my workplace tend to be more accepting of advice and guidance from expat colleagues, sometimes completely ignoring ‘local’ contribution altogether”.
  • “My boss keeps asking me to speak up. I am very soft spoken, and I know that he considers me less confident or even clever because of that. But in our culture, we believe that people who talk less are wiser! Equally, he insists on me keeping eye contact with my audience, yet when I grew up that was a sign of disrespect.”
  • “The concept of taking leave is very different here, for example, someone asking for (often immediate) compassionate leave of a family member is hard to question. Where I come from, there is an unspoken commitment to always finish work first.”
  • “Our junior team members do not ask questions to their superiors, even when specifically given the opportunities in team forums!”

It’s easy to imagine that some of these hesitations will affect an individual, a team and therefore organization performance.

Make it work through self-awareness and designing systems!

  • What on earth do you mean with systems? We think that in no fast-growing and ambitious company should decision making, communication style, information flow, and management and hiring approaches rely on any one culture or an individual’s preferences. Instead, teams should come up with agreements and build the culture and standardized approaches that will truly serve their mission.
  • Do so by pressing ‘pause’ if faced with a business challenge before jumping to action and evaluate the situation: Identify assumptions you’re using about how “things are done”, and think about what the ideal approach would be for a given situation.
  • Relying on diverse input to designing these systems might take longer in terms of initial design (imagine simply typing out a leave policy on your laptop vs. designing it in a team conversation) but is much more likely to be robust, a winning strategy AND implemented by everyone.
  • Keep it lean: Pick a pressing and contentious topic, gather input, then come up with a simple draft and agreement. Communicate that the agreement is open to change based on experience.

An illustrative example: Peter talks a lot in team meetings, to the extent that it becomes a dialogue between the boss and Peter. They take a big product decision together that pretty immediately backfires on the company. Anna takes the boss aside after a team meeting and shares her observations. She mentions that she personally prefers thinking things through before voicing her thoughts, and requests that the main discussion points be shared on email one hour to the team meeting. She also mentions that other team members may have thoughts, but feel shy to voice them in a group that’s seemingly in agreement. The boss then starts a new habit where at the end of a team meeting he invites worries, concerns and questions to be raised and reserves five minutes in the agenda for it, which results in a few moments of silence at first.  But soon, meetings become more lively, and after a few months, the five-minute rule is abandoned again, because criticism is now raised directly in the moment.

Edge Perfomance website pictures-23 square small

Another crucial piece of diverse teams is cultivating and continually growing self-awareness in every team member. With high self-awareness, you’ll be able to take a nuanced approach in situations, listen better and communicate more clearly. Therefore you contribute to better decisions that will result in action.

In developing self-awareness, lead by example: After becoming more aware of what drives you, and communicating more clearly, you can ask and inspire others to do the same.  Debrief situations with yourself through self-reflective questions:

  • Why am I feeling and acting the way I am? Which written, unwritten or self-prescribed rules am I following in this moment?
  • Which assumptions am I basing my thoughts and decisions on? Could those be wrong? What am I unaware of in this moment that ought to be considered?
  • Whenever I feel in disagreement about someone’s opinion or behaviour, how can I invite and facilitate dialogue? What do I need to share about where I am coming from? What do I need to know about where someone else is coming from and how can I show that I’m truly open to understanding them?

Self-awareness is closely linked with intercultural competence, a crucial comptence for all teams that want to succeed in business. Four aspects are linked to intercultural competence: knowledge about different cultures, an attitude of openness, readiness to interact and learn, ability to show empathy and tolerance and willingness and ability to change own perspective.culture day

To develop these in yourself and the team, tap resources like trainings, workshops, webinars, videos and online resources, conversation & self-reflection guides!

And remember to make it fun! At edge, we hosted culture day recently, where team members present a culture other than their own, values, dress and food included. (I represented Pakistan which I’ve also found fascinating and that is in stark contract to my German fatherland 😉 )

Would you like support in building your own organization culture that truly serves your mission or want trainings to increase self-awareness or intercultural competence in your team?

Reach out to us! We look forward to hearing from you!

PS: Part 2 this series is coming! Another important question raised was how to avoid bias during recruitment, especially if you’re assessing candidates across cultures. For example, a manager feels more drawn to job applicants who provide answers quickly to everything, as this is closer to behaviour expected in their own culture.

We will share more insights in another article soon!

What we love about our clients and why you should join us!

A young professional thinking of joining our team recently asked an interesting question: “What kind of clients do you work with, and which industries do you focus on?”

The most exciting part about a job in business advisory is the diversity and exposure!

Arguably, providing business growth services is the best job. The exposure you gain to a range of industries, business models and entrepreneurial journeys is just mind blowing.

To illustrate the point: Last month, the edge team handled projects with clients in the financial services industry, rural development and business acceleration space. We also supported a sales company penetrating rural areas, a philanthropic funder of African homemade innovations, a community hospital in a slum, a foreign trade organization, AND a science-focussed secondary school.Retreat

Yeah, exactly! Imagine the conversations over lunch! Being involved in several projects per quarter means intense learnings for each individual. It also means that you get to (and have to!) research and become an expert REALLY fast about new industries and realities!

We learn so much from the kind of questions our clients wrestle with!

As we network with potential clients, we have conversations to really understand their vision, model and approach. By the time we take on board a new client, we know they are inspiring leaders in their fields, entrepreneurs and risk-takers and have big dreams. Many of our clients create employment, make sure East Africans get the services and products they need, and over the years touch thousands of lives and livelyhoods.Edge Perfomance website pictures-50 - tiny

Instead of working transactionally, we build a deep, trusted and long-term relationship with our clients. Knowing that talent management is at the core of successful organizations, we get involed in their most business critical questions:

  • How can we grow sales by factor 12 this year so that we hit breakeven?
  • As I bring in new people, how do I make sure they don’t just ‘want a job’, but we shorten the time they need to understand our culture and start contributing explosively?
  • Who will help us build the right processes as we grow from 2 to 4 branches this year?
  • As I’m transitioning out as the founder after 15 years, how do I make sure the spirit lives on but doesn’t suffocate my successor as they take the organization forward?
  • To build a radically new approach to sales in rural areas, what kind of manager do we need to hire?

In short: Every day is like a very practical MBA class.

Scratch that: Every day feels like doing a PhD in entrepreneurship!

We listen when things get hard, laugh together when we a problem solves itself, answer calls late at night, and sometimes we just have a coffee or beer together, reminiscing about the journey, failures and successes.

Strategy ConversationsAha, sounds great! My last question: Do I get to choose my clients and will I have sales targets?

We work in long-term co-creative partnerships with our clients, so your first projects will most likely be with our existing clients or their close networks, who they referred because they loved the value they gained through edge.

The great news is that the longer you stay in edge, the more influence you have on the types of clients you handle. Some of us start working on our own sales already after a few months or a year with edge. Once you’ve understand our unique sales approach and our services, we’re happy for you to go and have conversations with new potential clients and partners!

In the spirit of focussing on your strengths, you will only be directly involved in client acquisition and get sales targets if you find this work energizing and exciting!

Does this kind of work and environment sound energizing to you?

Ready for the challenge? Take a look at our opportunities to join our team!

Finding leave management boring? Connect to the higher purpose!

Finding leave management boring? Connect to the higher purpose!

We recently hosted a conversation with professionals about what their workplaces could do to improve the employee experience, one line keeps coming up: Give us our leave days!

Wait, what? You’re not given leave days as per employment laws?

Whether you nurture your introvert on the couch, rediscover gardening and arts, or you are a travel junkie discovering new places, we all deserve that amazing feeling of rest, adventure and of low stress, pressure and external demands.

Yet, a large number of employees we spoke to experience negative feelings when thinking about their leave days:

“It took only two days this whole year”

“It always feels like I am begging when I ask my supervisor!”

“My leave was not approved (or first approved, then recalled)…”

Most Kenyan employers know that they are obliged to give a minimum of 21 leave days per annum within the legal frameworks (some neighbouring countries give more, so do some employers), yet in reality most employees feel fatigued in the second half of the year, and rack up many leave days at the end of the year.

We also heard from some employers that they find leave procedures frustrating and tedious: Employees don’t apply for leave until October, others hand in leave requests last minute, or staff come back from leave with even less energy.

In the knowledge economy, taking leave can feel like a double-edged sword

Without rest and recovery, you risk your biggest resource: Your ability to concentrate, be creative, strategize, have convincing conversations, draw insights and remember important things in the right situation.

On the other hand, when people go on leave, they take their networks, knowledge, insights and brain with them. We all have tales of projects that failed while the person who initiated them, was on the beach, receiving frantic calls while they should be off. Some firms are technically closed for business, if a senior employee is off.

So how can you strike a balance and build a culture where performance and restoration go hand in hand?

We advocate for regular and consistent conversations about wellness and personal effectiveness in the team.

  • For example you can strengthen people’s awareness about what helps them perform, what makes them more or less effective through self-reflection and peer circles.
  • Support the ideation and development of healthy and effectiveness habits of all types in your team, from the basics like breaks between meetings and lunch away from the laptop to home-office policies and fruit baskets.
  • If as a manager you are truly okay with someone going home an hour early because they’re tired, or prompt people to take a day off after a hectic period, you will be much more credible when you start discussing leave days (whether you end up approving or re-negotiating a leave request).

Things you can do now for a healthier and more effective 2019

  • Lead by example! Plan leave, organize yourself, and then: switch off until you experience the power of rest!
  • Don’t have someone in charge of leave management? Appoint someone! Even better: Make it a well-understood system that runs by its own and promotes people’s personal satisfaction and well-being.
  • Have employees hand in their leave requests now. Then use a well-understood system to distribute the precious weeks around mid-year between the employees: Some departments map out leave among them by consensus, others use a first come first serve policy, others reserve school holidays for parents.
  • Make sure everyone takes a real break latest at the half-year point. Make it a policy if you have to, but a meaningful conversation often does better, especially in small teams. Also discuss whether one week provides meaningful rest in your profession!
  • Talk through the responsibilities that come with taking leave. Have people prepare handover manuals and together set realistic timelines for handover procedures. This includes for example people listing , starting to hand over their work to their colleagues at least 3 days before going on leave, and briefing them at least 1 week prior.

The new year has just started, but you can never start planning for leave days in your team too early.

We want to hear your opinions and experiences!

What scares you when you think of your employees being away for long?

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