Make A Difference’s co-chief executive officer (CEO) Rizwan Tayabali recognizes that creating a good workplace is crucial for achieving the end goal: improving the lives of children at shelter homes. Edited excerpts from an interview:
How is your organization’s structure different from that of other firms?
It’s an unusual structural model. The regional manager is not personally held responsible for enforcing that region’s outcomes. Instead, at every level they are enablers—and their job is to invest in the next level and build their capability. For instance, the regional manager’s role is to invest in, make time for, listen to and understand those at the city level. And then a director would invest both at the city level and the regional level.
Why did you feel the need to emphasize on collective responsibility rather than individual?
Collective open reporting, alignment and planning are among the things we do, and help us ensure we don’t end up in that trap where people work in silos. This is a common issue even in non-profits, especially when hiring from the commercial sector: people come in, their norms are in a different place, they’re not connected to the actual issue, they’re more interested in the challenge or executing their particular function regardless of whether or not they’re achieving things on a broader outcome level.
What makes your firm a great place to work in?
There are a lot of things, but, fundamentally, it’s about the culture of enabling. If you are operating in a workplace that is essentially built to enable you, it is a workplace that is built to invest in your development. And an enabling culture is kind of the opposite of a managing culture.
If your fundamental output as a manager is to enable somebody else, you can’t do it by controlling them. And one of the main reasons we changed the narrative internally is that if our work is to enable children, then we have to be culturally and systemically built to enable the people and teams that are enabling those children.
What kind of team-building measures do you adopt on a regular basis?
We invest a lot in social interaction. For true collaboration you need trust and that trust only comes if you are personally connected to people. We do a Freeze Sunday once a month where all directors will spend time together. It’s called Freeze Sunday because it’s one day where we freeze travel and other commitments a month in advance so we can keep that day free. We book a place and then we all come with our families, celebrate wins for the month, and just spend the day together to create that sense of family as a team.
We have culture meets every Thursday where we look at the broader culture of the organization, take time out in an ongoing four-week cycle to drive personal reflection, skill building, bonding and creation of team culture moving forward.
We encourage everybody to have lunch together so people have enough time to spend with each other outside of work and across teams. It’s also a strongly anti-discriminatory environment—from sexual orientation to gender to anything else. Finally, we invest in safe space behaviour, to create a fear-free environment, explicitly avoiding teasing, banter, sarcasm, gossip or any other behaviour that create conflict or dissonance at an interpersonal level.