It has been a while since I last posted an update. Even though the Netherlands has lost the finals, Mise en Place has gained a lot! To me, one of the greatest things about the World Cup was meeting Willem de Liefde, the writer of African Leadership. We had dinner with him, during which he presented ideas from Botswana in a very interesting way. He was so impressed by the values of Mise en Place, that he asked me to write the preface of his new book. Enthousiastic as I am, I started writing a draft right away, which I would like to share with you. The book will be in stores in October.
In the year 2000, one of my former professors at the hotel management school in Maastricht gave me a book called “African leadership”, by Willem de Liefde. He told me that I had to read it, as it was very similar to what we were doing at Mise en Place, the company I founded in 1994. I finished the book in one evening and became so enthusiastic about it that I immediately bought 10 copies, which I handed out during our annual management meeting between Christmas and New Years Eve (our powerplay). I asked the management to start reading it right away. At that time, our company existed of five offices in two countries, with a team of 25 driven and passionate fulltime employees and a turnover of around 5 million euro.
DETERMINED PEOPLE WORKING TOGETHER CAN DO ANYTHING
From then on, we called our meetings “Kgotla’s”. We wrote a few basic rules from the book on the tablecloth of the hotel where we were staying (the truth will be shared, we will let each other finish talking, a decision will always be made and storytelling will be our number one tool). Today, 12 years later, that specific tablecloth is still on the wall of one of our regularly used meeting rooms.
We determined that within Mise en Place, there would be no hierarchy. The so-called hierarchic 0-line was implemented, and after a mission/vision weekend in the Belgian Ardennes we made the big decision: “Together we proudly put energy in making friends and creating synergy”. The vision would be supported by our values, such as responsibility, positive energy and trust.
PEOPLE CREATE GROWTH, COMPANIES REPORT IT
Today I am writing this preface, right after our firm took care of the hospitality-staff for all 10 stadiums during the past FIFA World Soccer Championship. The project was a great success, and over the past three years we have had the chance to train over 9,000 South-African students for this job. For a large part, we owe this success to the concepts and ideas of UBUNTU. The South-Africans truly have “hospitality inside”, and it is part of their culture to be hospitable and helpful.
THE BEST VISION IS INSIGHT
After 16 years of Mise en Place, we are active in six countries on three continents, with 40 offices, 300 fulltime and 7500 part-time employees and a turnover of around 50 million Euro. Our base is still the same as 16 years ago: friendship, the desire to be innovative and the firm belief that we can help people develop. Matters as profitability, revenue targeting or ROI are subordinate to the goal of Mise en Place.
Each month, the city managers –of each country- come together to inspire each other through storytelling and to share the recent developments within their office. They tell stories about the past or coming month, about private or business matters. The next day, the Kgotla takes place, where we come to conclusions and make agreements.
WE HIRE CHARACTER, AND WE TRAIN SKILL
We nourish our collective consciousness by regularly organizing internal events. An example is the Summer 6 Camp, where over 600 jobpers come together for three days of sports, socializing and partying. We also organize an annual skiing trip with over 200 participants, which embeds our company culture even more.
If people have been on the job for over 1,000 hours, they join the ‘Silver Circle’. At that point, we are getting close to where we want to be: in their heart and not in their head. That way, they continue to work for us and remain a part of the Mise en Place family, even after their studies. Even though we are not blood relatives, we have a very firm bond and we believe in co-existence between ourselves, our environment and our planet.
STANDING UP IS A CHALLENGE, FALLING DOWN DEPENDS ON YOUR EGO
By intuition, experience and trust, our organization is starting a transformation. The desire for change and new experiences takes us to many places in the world and therefore creates many chances for reflection and development. We pay a high price for the lessons we learn, and see this as a necessary step to eventually become an organic growth-firm, whose foundation consists of its employees. We laugh a lot about the things that don’t work out, and keep looking ahead by sharing our dreams with each other.
EXCELLENT FIRMS DON’T BELIEVE IN EXCELLENCE, ONLY IN CONSTANT IMPROVEMENT AND CONSTANT CHANGE
In order to select new people we developed the ‘Mise en Scan’, a personal behavioural-model. This model focuses on the talents which can still be developed. Therefore, the year 2010 was the year of 20Talent for Mise en Place. With as little bureaucracy and management as possible, we are working together and taking decisions in “open space”. Each voice is equal (it is not the percentage of shares that matters) and by getting our people into a state of trust and involvement, they are putting in the extra effort that is necessary. During the past crisis, we asked our fulltime employees the following question: “Should we fire 20% of you, or should everyone (including shareholders) get a 20% lower wage?” They unanimously chose for the second option. Reciprocity and Ubuntu is in our DNA!
THERE IS NO ELEVATOR TO SUCCESS, YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE STAIRS
The fact that I met Willem de Liefde in Johannesburg, is te proof that we are on the right path with our company. It strengthens my belief that leading an organisation has nothing to do with managerial models, hierarchy or pay checks. The leadership of the future consists of understanding, empathy and intuition, in combination with the laws of nature, experience and sharing knowledge. Therefore, it is a huge honour to be able to write this preface. I will definitely place this new book on the booklist for our employees.
A GREAT LEADER WON’T OUTSPRINT HIS TEAM
The final thing for me to do, is wish you a lot of happiness while reading this very inspiring book. Take time, listen to some classical music and apply the concepts. Before you know it, you will be organizing the FIFA World Soccer Championships in Brazil, 2014!
Charles van Goch
CEO Mise en Place Group
LEADERS GROW, THEY ARE NOT MADE