29 June 2010

Competency development through AIESEC

When I say that I learned a whole lot in AIESEC, it's really enough learning to consider myself a different person. And this is not only on practical skills (like how to manage a budget), but also in my whole behavior as a person. I act differently. This, AIESEC calls competency development.

In AIESEC you can develop 5 competencies (that we believe are the competencies that leaders need to change the world for better). We track the development of these competencies checking how frequent you have certain behaviors connected to those competencies. We score them from 0 (not shown at all) to 4 (master). The competencies are:

1. Global Mindset 
Definition: Actively seeking to encourage diversity; shows openness and respect towards other cultures, works effectively with individuals of diverse cultures, styles and abilities, making optimum use of their insights and ideas towards the fulfillment of goals.

2. Entrepreneurial Outlook
Definition: Demonstrating ability in coming up with and implementing new ideas, organizing and managing resources and opportunities, engaging and influencing others, taking risks and finding innovative solutions to increase performance.

3. Social Responsibility
Definition: Approaching social, economic, environmental issues in a sustainable manner and taking a prompt action for improvement while considering the long term consequences of actions and the involvement of others.

4. Emotional Intelligence
Definition: Showing consistency and honesty about own intentions, motives, feelings, recognizing own feelings and those of others demonstrating respect, empathy and appropriate behaviour towards others; adjusting to different situations and personalities.

5. Proactive Learning
Definition: Demonstrating self-awareness, identifying areas for development of self and others; continuously increasing own/others knowledge and skills by trying different learning methods.

Want to know how do I rank on them? See the image bellow (the orange bars are the approximate score I had when I joined AIESEC, you can see I went through quite a development):

PS: my social responsibility and global mindset probably would be higher if I went on a development exchange.

And bellow are some of the things written about me by other people when they were evaluating my competencies:

Things that Sergio is good with:

Focusing on end results and targets - I think Sergio has very clear in his mind what the final results should be and he is personally focusing on it. Sergio does not let anyone he is working with lose sight of the end results and targets either.

Staying calm when faced with difficult situations - I believe Sergio has always shown an incredible calm when dealing with challenges and unexpected situations. This calm also brought solutions to the table.

Analysing information and situations - Active analysis of information provided gives Sergio an excellent understanding of situations which enables him to quickly deal with them.

Using knowledge and expertise effectively - Sergio has an impressive "database" of knowledge, techniques, procedures etc which he uses to accomplish what he wants to do.

Delivering on promises and commitments - Sergio would never take on something that he does not deliver upon. If he says he is going to do it, you feel confident that it will be done, and it will be done good.

Managing own workload efficiently - Sergio is really a role model on this area. He always manages his workload so that he finishes well before the deadline.

You can count on Sergio to…
… generate new ideas and implement them;
… to trust his team to do what they say they should do, but at the same time follow up to make sure it's done;
… have a clear idea on what he wants and how to get there. He is excellent at communicating this and at convincing people of the logic behind.
… act as a professional when needed, to reflect upon his own learning
… to be strict when he feels it's needed.
… give you a solution when you run out of or when you are in difficult situation.
… Always show and remind the direction the organization should head towards.
… Include people in planning, organizing, decision making.
… Listen to people's feelings
… Take the commitments he make in a working situation very seriously
… always be well prepared to start a process, meeting or whatever.
…give honest feedback

PS: of course I put only the good stuff, what are you thinking about? :)

28 June 2010

15 leadership lessons learned through AIESEC

In no particular order, the lessons I learned in my AIESEC experience:

1. It’s better to have no people than the wrong people – self-explanatory, but the thing is that when you don’t have anyone, at least you know you have a problem. When you have the wrong people, you fight to make them right and this generally fails.

2. Your team is a reflection of your behavior – when a team is down or up or anything, look at yourself as team leader. Inevitably you will be in the same state, so don’t get pissed off with them. Change yourself!

3. Get out of the throne and rush to the battle, your Majesty – it’s very pretty to say you are an strategic leader and sit in your office commanding the troops. Get out there and do stuff. Be present where the things are happening, because you can impact a lot by being an example in the battlefield, not in the board room.

4. People are different, accept and act accordingly – we all like to think we are unique, except when we want people to agree with us. Accept that people are different, they value different things and need to be treated not as you would like to be treated, but as they would like/need to be treated. Some people need pushing, some people need pulling, most people need both in different times.

5. Top down looks smart, but it’s dumb – top down approach is a nice temptation, but it will work much better if you can involve the bottom and middle (or parts of it) in the change. It’s dumb to come up with solutions that considers only the upper organization ‘s viewpoint, use multiple perspectives.

6. If middle management is not onboard, your boat won’t sail – leaders and managers that make things happen are a huge bottle neck for change (or the most awesome lever). What do you want them to be? Get them onboard early.

7. Make it simple, as simple as you can – complexity looks professional, but it’s just a lame way to solve problems. Look at Google, anyone knows how to use it because it’s damn simple.

8. You can’t build Rome in a day – change takes time. Plan accordingly – or conservatively.

9. Focus, focus, focus – you know you can’t build Rome in a day, but you also can’t build it all at the same time. So choose wisely what you want your organization to be doing and focus on it as hell with consistent behavior and messages that reinforce what you want to focus on.

10. Whole human-being is not a theory, is a fact – humans are not rational machines. There is at least 3 equal parts in humans: emotion, sensation and rational. Tap into those 3 human perspectives to lead effectively.

11. Adapt the job to the people, not the other way around – use people’s strengths when allocating responsibilities and don’t be trapped in functional job descriptions. In the end, the only thing that matters is to achieve the vision while making the mission happen. Complicated organization structures and systems should help you perform, not make it harder.

12. Accept reality and act upon it – it’s very easy to get trapped in an ideal world where things should be different. Accept what things really are and act as they are, not as they hypothetically should be.

13. Simple and visible plan – Simple plan, with clear and measurable goals, clear action, responsible and deadline. Make it visible also – we’ve put our plan and scoreboard on the wall, it was simple perfect.

14. Trust the team – if you heard hint number 1, you should have only quality people. Stretch their potential by giving them more and more trust and larger and larger responsibilities. You will be 80% of the time surprised positively.

15. Have a strong vision for direction and put all your efforts in it – and then use hint number 9: focus, focus, focus, while also taking an active decision to not focus on some things, important or urgent as they might be. If you need to do many things that are not on the vision or your vision is wrong/incomplete or your work is wrong.

25 June 2010

I wouldn’t exchange my AIESEC experience for a full scholarship in London Business School

And that is 100% true. I wouldn’t exchange the experience I lived in AIESEC for anything, especially not a scholarship in any of the top ranked MBA schools in the world. This is no empty rhetoric - I had to leave attractive things to be in AIESEC. I left a career that was giving me a reasonable amount of money to get more involved in AIESEC and after I also left the business I created (and was starting to become profiting enough to put a smile on my face) to come to AIESEC Norway and get a more challenging experience.

How can this organization provide such a powerful learning experience?

It’s simple, it doesn’t use the principles practiced by most schools: instead of classrooms and teachers, AIESEC give you the opportunity to be an integral part of the business, from the very operational level to the highest leadership position. It is learn by doing. We have the opportunity to work towards ambitious goals, work alone and in teams, manage budgets, sell to students, companies, NGOs and government, solve problems, deal with crisis situations, create and execute and change process, well, basically ANYTHING that you can learn in practice in a business, we do in AIESEC. In real life. No simulation. We are out there creating value or going bankrupt.

The difference of AIESEC and a business? While in a business you would take at least 10-20 years to get to top leadership of an international organization present all around the globe, in AIESEC we do it in from the 1st year – after you learn the basics, you are pushed out of the warm nest to fly or die. How? In our 800 business units in 107 countries we change the whole leadership every year. Every single year, since 1948. Talk about learning fast, adapting and keep growing anyway. We have a saying in AIESEC that “you are never prepared to your current position. You are only prepared when you are leaving the position and going for something even more challenging”. It’s about swimming or sinking.

Example? I will summarize my own experience (ok, it’s a big summary, but it’s really only 1% of what happened):

April to November 2005 – member of AIESEC

I joined the local committee of AIESEC in Porto Alegre. I was terrible with people (I could only get things done by fighting people and threatening them). My first assignment was to explain what was AIESEC to a classroom with around 10 people. I barely knew what AIESEC was. I was so nervous I was shaking and my voice failed.

Part of the team that evaluated the students that applied to join AIESEC
At that time my local committee was in rags, there was a severe retention problem and lack of pipeline for leadership. Results were down. Randomness was everywhere. It was not pretty to see. I had 2 choices: quit as most of the people did or apply to local executive board to change that and make it happen. It was a hard decision, because if wanted to be executive board, I would have to quit my well paid job in advertising, because I couldn’t handle both. But I needed the money. What I did? I decided to apply (and I got selected to vice-president human resources of that local committee) and I also decided to open my own advertising agency with other 2 colleagues, so I could manage my own time.

Executive board selection - the people selected are pushed into the pool
December 2005 until December 2006 – first leadership role
Being executive board in AIESEC Porto Alegre (or, how we say it “@PA EB”) was my first intense team experience and probably the biggest leadership development leap I had. From a struggling local committee of 10 people, we raised AIESEC Porto Alegre to a performing LC of 60 members. In the end, we won the AIESEC-Phillips award of best local committee in Brazil. The best part is that AIESEC Porto Alegre became a sustainable local committee that today is much stronger than when we left and their results beat the crap out of our term. Well done, Porto Alegre!

The No Fluffiness executive board
AIESEC Porto Alegre, best local committee of Brazil in the year 2006
In this year my competencies had a jump: I learned a lot on results orientation, emotional intelligence, change management, building and managing a high performing team (I lead a 14 people team), focus, leading by example, coaching, training and facilitation (I was a trainer for around 100 people and I was not shaking anymore!), planning (we even used the balanced scorecard), expectation setting, well… I learned a lot. In this year I was not a common university student anymore, I knew how to get things done. During this period I also learned about finances and general management on my own advertising agency, but I can say that I much more learned in AIESEC and applied what I learned in my business than the other way around.

First time I was a trainer in a national conference

The very first team I lead
December 2006 until December 2007 – national leadership role
I got a glimpse of leadership in the previous year, I wanted more. So I applied to the amazingly fancy title of “National Strategy Leader – Brazilian People Development Framework” (or “NSL BPDF”, AIESEC has awesome titles, no?) which I translate to the non-AIESECers simply as National Learning Coordinator.
During this year as National Learning Coordinator I had basic 2 roles (each of them were 6 months):

1 – support all the AIESEC business units in Brazil to implement a development framework to increase the awesomeness of the experience lived in AIESEC
2 – lead a team responsible for creating talent management tatics and support the implementation of those in all Brazilian AIESEC business units.

And a 3rd role that was part of both roles above: design and deliver conferences/trainings. That’s where I spoke in trainings for around 600 people and I was completely fine with it. How much my comfort zone stretched.

The first national board team days

That's the amount of people I was training in national conferences

December 2007 – failing
In the end of my term as national learning coordinator, I had 2 obvious choices: 1) don’t take a new leadership role and leave the organization or go on exchange; 2) take a full-time leadership role as Vice-President in the AIESEC National Board.

I was convinced that I would take the 2nd option, but then the President of AIESEC in Brazil at the time (Mauricio, that also wrote an awesome post when he left AIESEC) asked me if I was interested for running for president of AIESEC in Brazil, not vice-president. The idea sincerely never stroke my mind until he talked to me. I gave it consideration and I decided to apply. I had faith in my skills that I could get the job done, even though it would be for sure a huge challenge. If I was elected as president of AIESEC in Brazil, I would have the role of delivering the biggest operational growth the organization ever had and also deliver the AIESEC International Congress, which is a more than 500.000 euros budget, at the same time.

3 people applied to be president of AIESEC in Brazil and none got elected. I don’t know why the others lost, but I know why I did: I was arrogant. I believed that my smarts and skills, allied to my logic would lead me to being elected. I forgot the most important lesson I learned in my first leadership experience: people don’t act/think like me, we are all different.

I learned a lot the value of emotional engagement in leadership, too bad it was late.

June 2008 until June 2009 – vice-president human resources in Norway, not exactly a fail, but feeling like a huge failure
After losing the election in Brazil, I decided I didn’t want to be a vice-president in Brazil – it wouldn’t be challenging enough for me, I had done so much in the talent management area nationally in my previous role that I wanted something different. So I decided to apply to vice-president human resources in another AIESEC country! Yes, because AIESEC is an open platform, if you are a member of AIESEC, you can apply to AIESEC anywhere in the world.

I made a list of all the countries that had open application for vice-president HR and the first earliest application deadlines were UK and Norway. I applied to both, got selected to Norway and then withdrew my application from UK. I was now a leader in the AIESEC Norway national board.

That was not an easy year and it made me learn as hell. Besides cultural shock of the country, I discovered that also the organization mentality was very different. AIESEC Norway was ill: severe cash flow problems, underperforming in every area, uncommitted members, huge retention rate problems, etc. It was not the strong AIESEC in Brazil that I had just left.
The 2008-2009 AIESEC Norway executive board
It was so hard (and our leadership was not exactly awesome) that by around January (half a year of our term) the team had a huge break down. With this I learned the importance of the right selection and also building the team early, because if you don’t build it, the team will build itself – without any control and the results might be bad, as they were.

Again in January I had another choice: leave AIESEC Norway, defeated, or rise up once again and apply to President of AIESEC Norway. I took the steeper route, applied to President. And I got selected – this time I didn’t forget the importance of emotional engagement in the vision. What I wanted for AIESEC Norway is to turn it to be AIESEC everyday. Generating the kind of experience that got me until here, every single day. At that point of time, it was only a bold statement. We were far away from it, poor AIESEC Norway.

On my president candidacy speech

Selected the 2009-2010 president of AIESEC Norway

June 2009 until June 2010 – The Big Bang Team, big success!
I am still a bit shy when people talk to me and mention that fact that I am a president. It somehow doesn’t feel right. But besides being uncomfortable with the title, I must say that I never had a better, more challenging and pleasant job than being the leader of AIESEC Norway (or, how we would say it here, AIESEC Norge daglig leder).

I was lucky to selected the most hardcore and resilient team I ever saw. We started also with cash flow problems (only 15.000 in the drift account and average monthly cost of around 100.000), people quitting, lack of performance, uninterested members, etc. In the first 6 months, I think it was the hardest time of my life so far. But my team was simply awesome, we were far far more than the sum of our individualities. We managed to use our strengths, be flexible, put ourselves together and change AIESEC Norway from down to up.

The first team days of the Big Bang team
The things that we did as a team:
  •           Break the record of outgoing exchanges raises (previous year was 40+- and in our year was 70+-)
  •           Break the 20 years performance record of 40-55 exchanges per term
  •           Starting with 15.000 NOK in the drift account and finishing it with 350.000
  •           Having operational profit! (thanks to a diversification of revenues and innovative products)
  •           Had a major culture change in the organization (a problem that was there for 15-20 years). Today we only have performing members that are in AIESEC for the right reasons and working hard. (2 of the main things here were to fire the underperforming half of our membership and change the financial model.)
  •           Had elected better executive boards elected than previous term
  •      Exchange happening EVERYDAY (the dream came true!)
Our first national conference - in the DnB Nor Leadership Development Day
AIESEC Norway today is a different organization. Much better. Still with a long way to go to be strong, but we started it. The Big Bang Team name was prophetic - we were indeed the beginning for a new AIESEC Norway.

The first time I felt like leading a country - Fyru Fyru!
It was a pleasure to serve AIESEC Norway, but now it’s time to leave the stage to the new generation, because they also need to learn and take AIESEC to the next level. I know, looking to the new National Executive Board and the Local Committees Presidents that AIESEC Norway 2010-2011 will kick the ass of my Big Bang team in terms of results.

Most awesome team ever
Thanks you so much for my whole experience, I can only be grateful to AIESEC for all those years. They were the best in my life until now.

As musicians, we are very good leaders
Fyru! Fyru! The sound of achievement!

I am leaving AIESEC series

30th of June 2010 is my last day in AIESEC (that is a bit more than 5 years in the organization). Since I decided to leave, lots of thoughts crossed my mind about this amazing organization that gave me experiences that changed me and my whole life.
But one post with everything I wanted to say about AIESEC would be impossibly long and unpractical to read in a screen (even if you had a fancy iPad), so I will make a series of post the coming days about it.
I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing about these 5 years of leadership development, challenge and peak experiences.
If you still don’t know what is AIESEC (which world do you live?), here is a brief about it:

What is AIESEC?
AIESEC is amazing” was one of the best answers I heard in reply to this question. But I can say it in a more understandable way: AIESEC is a platform for youth leadership development. It offers young people the opportunity to be global citizens, to change the world, and to get experience and skills that matter today. AIESEC is quite large: present in over 107 countries and territories and with over 45,000 members, AIESEC is the world's largest student‐run organisation.

Our product:
It's what we call "the AIESEC experience", which is compromise of leadership opportunities inside the organization and professional exchange experiences.

What kind of exchange?
We offer students of higher education and recent graduates to go on professional exchanges that can be on 1) management/business, 2) engineering/IT/technical and 3) social development/NGOs/educational.