[Interview] Lex Lindeman, Founder, HR Boosters
Africa Business Communities interviews Lex Lindeman, Africa’s leading people development coach. He is the founder and talent developer at HR Boosters, a training and management culture consultancy company with huge experience in Africa. It organizes high-speed and high-impact workshops on management skills for people managers.
Tell us about yourself and your role at HR Boosters?
After my 25 years’ experience within the Heineken beer brewing company, where I occupied various HR and Training functions, I started HRBoosters 8 years ago as a one person consultancy and grew to a six persons freelance team now. I focused my attention on Africa because During a 4,5 year period in Congo I grew attached to the people.
What exactly do your trainings entail?
Most of our trainings are about improving management skills of our participants.
From team management, decision making, coaching, stress management to situational- and inclusive management and everything in between
How long have you been doing this?
I started to facilitating management and project management workshops when I was still working for HEINEKEN Breweries in the Netherlands and Congo. I trained for over 25 years
Why do businesses need leadership development training?
Every organization either public or private, mostly promote their employees on the basis of functional achievements and appraisals of reached targets. People are promoted from specialist (like a salesperson) to a more people responsible function (like a sales manager) without being prepared as a people manager. When people managers are promoted in that role they mostly manage individuals or teams with trial and error as they don’t have prior experience dealing with people. With management training we give insights into the art of getting the best out of people, to motivate people without bullying them.
What has been your reach in Africa?
I worked in 21 African Countries both in Francophone and Anglophone Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is my favourite area to work in as in this part of Africa people are more willing to embrace change.
What makes your trainings unique?
As I have attended interesting but also sometimes boring workshops, I removed from my workshops those parts. I never use PowerPoint presentations as people tend either to doze off or are waiting for the next slide to come, I use the participants’ examples instead of my own, roleplays are very effective and in this part of Africa, they learn a lot of replaying the role of the manager in certain situations. My workshops never take more than 3 days in which we handle like 15 management skills. I call this “high speed, high impact” learning with little theory and aimed at management competencies. Another element of my approach is that I discuss the content of the workshop together with hierarchy first. And another particular thing of my training: no pre-work and no post-work (homework) as the results are minimal
Are Westerners better than Africans in leadership going by dominant perception?
The major challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa is “power distance” which implies that the boss is not only the boss but in employees’ perception (and that of many bosses) she/he knows better and hence, makes decisions alone, solves problems alone and doesn’t want to be contradicted. Working (with the boss) in a team is highly effective and during the workshops, the participants get not only a flavour for this but they are eager to share problems and decisions and solutions with their respective teams
How do you measure the impact your trainings have on businesses?
The question I hoped you’d ask me! Many organizations ask me to show them the impact through inviting me to see that the competencies are practised and that gained knowledge is applied. I refuse this as the direct superiors (the bosses) should allow the former participants to experiment with the newly acquired competencies. If they (the bosses) don’t allow them to practice the impact of the training is little or none. If they allow them to practice and experiment the impact of the training is huge. Moreover, as the employee gets room to apply the knowledge they learn on-the-job which is more effective than any workshop!
What would you consider the highlight of your trainings?
Highlight of the training are mostly the educational games and roleplays in which we approach as closely as possible the reality of their challenge as well as the satisfaction that the participants indeed find another way of working and that they apply what they leant
What is the toughest thing about your job?
I wanted to reply the traveling to and from this beautiful continent. But the really tough is that some participants are sent to a workshop by the boss without informing them before what is expected to come and why they are sent. Some of them are not motivated to come at all. Fortunately, after having participated in the morning session they become enthusiastic and participate fully!
What is the largest skills gap in terms of leadership in Africa?
For managers without having had a specific training to manage people, I think it is delegation. Most managers have the impression that they can do it themselves better without fewer mistakes and faster. Result is that the manager is always busy busy busy and takes care of urgent matters alone and there is no time for important matters anymore, We give delegation much attention in my workshops
You have been a trainer for quite some time. What have these trainings taught you about Africans?
I have been training in Africa now for over 25 years and they taught me 1) how they want to be trained and I adopted that way, 2) that they have the courage to try out what they learnt, 3) the training environment I Africa is more conducive because the participants are really willing to adopt the subjects they have learnt in their daily practice and elaborate the elements into a more effective way of working.