Catherine Bertini. “Managing Conflict While Leading change”

Catherine Bertini. “Managing Conflict While Leading change”


(bell chimes) – I’m Catherine, thank you. Professor Gerard was so
helpful to me in this paper we’re gonna talk a little bit about, I’m most appreciative. And I’m also really thrilled to see Professor Christberg, Professor Carriere, Professor Hyder and so many others, including my friend Mary
Susan who just happened to be in town for a conference,
so thanks for coming. Kevin asked me to talk about
conflict in leading change, so I’m basing a lot of
what I have to talk to you about today on this paper
about leading change in UN organizations. Now, people who have read it have said this is nice about the UN but really so many of these principles are useful in any kind of leadership role. And I’m sure that that is true
but we were really focused when we wrote this on leading
change in UN organizations. And what happened was, I was a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation, I was recruited while I
was still here at Maxwell but leaving Maxwell, and one of the things that I was asked to look at was looking at the broader reform
of the humanitarian system. But early on, after a lot of interviews, I reported back that
there wasn’t any appetite for broad reform, at least
from a governance perspective, but that a lot of us actually reformed and changed our organizations from inside. And so I was going to look into that as one piece of my fellowship. And this paper is a result of that. So, it said in the announcement, it wasn’t just my own experiences
but a couple dozen others who participated in a dialogue to put together some principles. Now, when we think about
conflict in particular and thinking about it from the perspective of leading an agency or
leading a department, there are a lot of
different groups of people or entities where the conflict might come. And some of them are
staff of the organization, sometimes even the senior staff, the governments or the people
who are on a governing body, peers and colleagues elsewhere, governments who, in the UN
case, with whom you work, but not necessarily people
who are on governing bodies. And then others like
non-governmental organizations and others who are partners
of the organizations. A lot of the conflict
developed has to do also with the different power bases
that each of these had. Monday I was in New York
and went to a side meeting of the UN General Assembly
and the discussion about humanitarianism was
where does the power lie? Sue teaches a courses
on humanitarian action but the discussion was what
governments have the most power in the system? And the least people with the least power are the ones who are really trying to help and in between there is a
pecking order of who has control and who’s not and of course
there’s a lot of conflict between all of them. I’ll give you an example
that was cited on Monday is that there’s a lot more
emphasis on using cash in the humanitarian system
and so for instance, in Syria, the Syrian
refugees who went to Jordan had access to grocery stores built near or in the camps and then they had, it was almost like the US
concept of food stamps or SNAP, where you could go with a
certain designated amount that you could spend for
food and use it in the store. So it was really a cash
rather than a food delivery, the old fashioned food delivery. There’s a lot more of that now, there’s a lot more places
where someone can get cash and then use it for
whatever she or he wants, even if the thought was
they needed it for food or they need for shelter or whatever. So the discussion in
New York for instance, was well MasterCard’s
in this business now, so why do we need all of you? Because all of you humanitarians, ’cause MasterCard can just go, the government can give
MasterCard their money and then the beneficiary
can have MasterCard and then they can go and get their cash or whatever else they’re going to get. But then some guy raised his hand from the head of the
Islamic Relief Organization, and he said, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, “yeah MasterCard’s in
Jordan, but we’re in Yemen, “and we’re putting our
staff at risk in Yemen “and we’re dealing with a
lot of difficult situations “in Yemen, but we can’t get
into the market in Jordan “because MasterCard’s in Jordan.” It’s a good thing that the
private sector’s getting involved but he was making the point
that there’s conflicts over who can do what and
who can get paid for what and who takes the risk and
all of those sorts of things. So it’s really hard in this business not to find places where there’s gonna be automatic conflicts and sometimes we even
create the conflicts. But thinking about change, trying to change the organization, in any UN entity, staff
are really a high priority, they are in any organization, at the Maxwell School or at a corporation or anywhere else, but in the UN, since such a big part of
the budget is for staff, no matter what the agency, and since staff are absolutely critical to ensuring the success of the agency, a leader has to put a much higher priority on the staff interactions,
the staff support, the staff opportunities, than perhaps in another organization. And so it is kind of automatic that there’s gonna be conflicts especially when you wanna change. There is a consultant
called Pierce Campbell who is a wonderful global consultant on international organizations and change and leadership, and he says you have to
think about the 25, 50, 25, in terms of the percentages of people who will like what you
might wanna do in change, who will be ambivalent and
have a wait and see attitude about what you might wanna do to change, and then not here, not
now, not me, not ever. So 25% right there with
you from the beginning, 50% are weighing in,
25 are forget about it. So his advice for instance,
was roll with the first 25, convince the next 50 and don’t even bother with the other 25. I mean you know figure
out a way for buy outs or for movements to other
organizations or retirements or other kinds of things because
you may spend so much time on that 25 that you’re
gonna lose your objective of where you wanted to go. So all of these kind of
entities are gonna wonder what you might do in change, whether or not they might
be losing some power in what you’re doing in change, whether or not they might be having to do something different that they’re not sure they want to do after you change, and how is their life gonna differ? So part of the change process
is not only setting the goal about where you wanna go
but convincing other people that it really works for them too. So one of the slides
I’ll get to eventually is about women, we hired a lot more women, I’ll show you the difference
but I wanna use this as a change discussion. Because when we looked at what we did we decided that we had to work not just on moving food around but making sure we’re
getting the right food to the right people at the right time. And when we realized if we
were gonna have a dialogue with the beneficiaries it
was gonna be with the cooks and the cooks were women, then we started partnering with women. Well, it was a much different
discussion with people, Sue can remember, when we’re
talking about our mission to end hunger, therefore
working with women, then if we start a conversation and say, “Well, women should
have half the resources “and just on general principles,
we should work for 50/50 “or women’s empowerment or anything else,” those are not necessarily
the words that are gonna move the issue forward and they words that are gonna push more conflict into the situation. But if people understand the best way to reach people
is to reach through the cooks who happen to be women and
therefore we have to listen to women and get more food to women, guess what, it worked a lot better, ’cause we took some of
that natural conflict out. Now as an aside, has anybody
read Malinda Gates’ book that she just published in April? It’s called A Moment Of
Lift, and she talks about how she learned about women’s empowerment and she talks about different, she has a chapter on different
topics of how she learned. And she quotes different people or talks about different
people who helped her and in some cases, Bill, learning about things that were important about women’s empowerment. Often the people are women
with whom she stayed overnight in Kenya or Bangladesh or
women who she learned from because the Gates foundation
was trying to help. She’s gotta chapter how
important girl’s education is, a chapter on birth control,
a chapter on child marriage, she’s gotta chapter on agriculture, and in the chapter on
agriculture, I’m proud to say, she refers to some of my
advice to the Gates Foundation on the topic of gender. But she says correctly, that a meeting that I
attended with the co-chairs, meaning her and her husband, when the issue of women
and gender came up, immediately he said, “I
don’t wanna hear about this, “PC women’s empowerment stuff, “and I’m just worried
about effectiveness.” Well I was pretty taken
aback at this table where I thought that’s what
I was supposed to talk about. So I said, “Yeah, that’s
exactly what this story is, “if you’re gonna spend a lot of resources “helping to improve poor
farmer’s productivity, “helping them be able to
have the better skillsets “that they need in order to do it, “you really need to pay attention
to who the farmers are.” And there’s a lot of
gender differentiations and who does what in farming and virtually every community
in the developing world, and if you don’t pay attention to that you’ll waste a lot of money
and then the thing is that when you go to a town for a meeting, you’ll meet with the men
’cause that’s their job and the women will be
working in the field. So the next time that
you travel to Africa, please while you’re being
briefed in your Land Rover, moving from point A to point B, look out the window and see who’s working. So as she also says in her book, she recites this in her book
and she says in the book, “So Catherine was driving on the highway, “sometime after that,” which was true I was driving
up 81 on the way here to Maxwell and I was listening to NPR and they were interviewing
Bill Gates, and he said, “You know not very many people know it, “but most of the farmers
in Africa are women.” (audience laughs) So point is sometimes you have
to pay attention to the way in which you present
what you want to achieve and do it but you always have to do it in a way that the listener, it’s gonna make sense to the listener, and it’s gonna be productive and important for the
listener to be able to do it, otherwise you sometimes have conflicts that you don’t need to have. Now some of the things
that came out of our paper are first of all, that’s it’s
important for decision making, but everybody here, it’s
important to make decisions for a decision maker. I bet everybody here’s
been in an organization where you wish a decision was made but it takes a long time
for a decision to be made or there’s just so much
angst over making decisions and everything else. But yet, in order to move on, the boss has to make decisions. He or she may be empowered
to make decisions but they may not like it, but it’s important to do
it to keep things moving. We talked in the paper about courage and you know I thought
about courage in the past as Joan of Arc courage, kind of courage or maybe Greta courage, but not the courage of
leadership within an organization and the decision making. But that is really a
courageous thing as well, because you have to have
the courage to stand up for what you think is right, you have to have set
your strategic direction and then make decisions accordingly. And when you’re in an UN organization, you get so many pulls and tugs and pushes from other places. From a donor government
who wants you to hire their special person for a job that may not fit into that job, for a country where you’re
working that may want your work to be in one town where
really you know the poorest, hungriest people are in another town, but you have to tell the
government you’re not going to their preferred town. There’s all sorts of times
when you have to be strong and courageous and if you wimp out, then you’ve opened the door
for lots of other problems because you’ve already set the
precedent that your position or the broader goal really doesn’t matter. So it’s an interesting concept
for me to think about courage as it relates to leadership. Of course listening and communications are really important but I
wrote down managing yourself, I don’t call it that exactly in the paper, but Kevin and I went back and forth talking about what we mean by this, how do you present yourself, the words that you used,
the clothes you wear, the anger that you keep into yourself if you’re upset about something, and how you actually present yourself from the moment that
you walk into the door of your new place and the
whole time that you’re there because again, you can be
impacting or creating conflict that you don’t even know
exists, if you’re not careful. And then I’m not going through
each one of these pieces but the lasting change, when you’re trying to
change an organization, how can you be sure it lasts? And usually you can’t
really be sure it lasts, but some things are going to
be strategically important for the organization,
they’re going to stay. I give the example from our
time at the World Food Program, of deciding to move the regional offices from the headquarters
which was in Rome, Italy, to the areas where we
were actually working. And this was one of those
times when people said, “I don’t want my region to
move, or my management to move,” and so we started with the areas where there was less conflict in terms of the
humanitarian work going on, and then finally got to for
instance, the African regions and moving the operations to Africa. But when I left, my predecessor immediately
moved a couple of places where I put a regional office, moved it to a different place, obviously some staff
didn’t like where it was and got moved right away, but I decided that I wasn’t
going to care about that, because the important issue was that they’re not at headquarters, that they’re somewhere close to where actually they’re working
and the feeling for me, that was the lasting change, not the city that we happen to choose. So just a few little examples
and then we’ll talk and chat. One is our headquarters move
and I keep looking at Masood ’cause we were working
on a lot of these things even though he was in North Korea or Sudan or Washington or other
places in our postings. When I got to the World Food Program, we had a really awful headquarters, I walked through it, my
first day on the payroll, which was a Sunday, so I asked
if I could see the inside, I’ve been there for meetings but I wanted to see what
it really looked like. People were crammed more in offices than they are in Washington
in congressional staff rooms, they were really crammed into this place, it seemed dirty and kind of sooty, and there wasn’t a lot of parking and it was in a city area in Rome. As it turned out I learned later that it didn’t get very,
in Rome it doesn’t get cold like it gets here, but it still gets cold and there really wasn’t
heat in a lot of the places. Secretaries, and assistants
were called secretaries, would wear gloves with the fingers cut out so that they could type. And then I found that my office was the only office that
was air conditioned. I decided the first day
that it was not a good place to really develop the
camaraderie and the spirit that I wanted for the program. So I wasn’t there too long before I proposed a change and a move, we had looked into it on the senior staff when we proposed the move and the staff, I did not do my homework with the staff. And we had a meeting and people just said, “No, I don’t wanna move,
I don’t wanna move, “I chose this school for my child “to be near where I come to work,” or, “My spouse works near
here and we go together,” or whatever, almost everybody had reason
why they didn’t wanna move. And I thought this dirty dingy place but people don’t wanna
move and I’m not gonna say, “Okay, we have to move,” and have even more conflict. So we hired an engineering
firm to do an analysis of the status of our building from a health and safety perspective and they found out that the vents, the air vents were so dirty
that it was gonna take, I don’t know, x millions dollars
to clean the vents properly and they found out that they
used to be a petrol station in front of our building
so there were some kind of, mostly but not totally empty
tanks underneath the building and they found out
several different things, but bam the minute the
staff heard about that, “When do we move?” So it was one of my learning experiences but again, you had to figure out a way to convince your clients I’ll say, but the staff that this was
an important thing to do. So the next thing was where? And we looked at the zip
codes of where everybody lived and so we said, okay we’re only going to look central and south in Rome, we’re
not gonna look north because not enough people live there, it’ll be too much of a commute. So there’s another thing I learned, when you say, this is where it’s gonna be, which is this great new building, if anybody goes to Rome,
has anybody seen it in Rome? Hello professor, how are you? After you’ve seen the headquarters, if you leave the airport,
Fiumicino, drive towards the city, you’ll see it on the left,
you almost can’t miss it, but it’s a little bit out of town, so it’s a little bit out of town. So here’s another thing I learned, the people that really like it, the guy who’s now gonna
have a 10 minute commute who used to have an hour commute, you don’t hear from him, you’ll
still hear from the people who live further away that are gonna, but nonetheless, everybody loved it, there’s parking for everybody at the time, it was a beautiful office and it worked. But it was really managing
the conflict of change. Staff selections, these were my two senior
people in the organization, my deputy, Namanga Ngongi from Cameroon, and then number three,
Jean-Jacques Graisse from Belgium. It took a while to get,
especially Jean-Jacques in place, but talking about conflict, boy I ended up creating lot of conflict. I said the number three
should be a European because the number, because
since I’m an American, the UN does this, it
drives some people nuts, but I think it works. So number one’s an American, the number two ought to be a
developing country national, the number three ought to be a European, because we’re voluntarily funded. So I had 12 male candidates from Europe and I, I didn’t choose one from one country and his minister cut us by 20%
because I didn’t choose him. The Italians I didn’t
choose and they were upset, I’ll come back to that in a minute, so you create new conflict
that you then have to manage just by the personnel situation. Jean-Jacques Graisse
wrote a book in French about his time in the UN ’cause he served a long time in the UN and he talked about my selection of him and he said, “The Belgians
didn’t give anymore “because she chose me
and the Danes cut by 20% “because she didn’t choose them, “and even the thank you
note from the Belgians “got lost in the mail.” Anyway there are issues
that you have to deal with and sometimes people
even at senior levels, this happened for me too, decided they don’t like
things that you’re doing or decisions you’re
making and then they start posturing too and you
have to figure out a way to move through that. Another personnel, it
wasn’t any of these guys, I found this in my old files, from Southern Africa, there was a big drought in
Southern Africa, in 1992, it was my first year at WFP, and we had to figure out how
to reach landlocked countries in Southern Africa. And Apartheid was still in place, but the only way to reach
landlocked countries was to go through the ports
and the railroad systems in South Africa in order
to reach the countries. So what do you do about that? Well first diplomatically we approached the people in New York
about why we would do this, and we wouldn’t work with the government but we would work with the
ports and the railroad system, and you’ve gotta get political clearance, be really under the radar, low key, and that we would invite one person from each of those land locked countries to come sit in Johannesburg, in our office, none of them are here, but it’s the only picture I had, so that the guy from Zambia
could see exactly when the food was coming that goes to Zambia and track it and help negotiate
moving it across the border and all those sorts of things. So it was really quite complicated. When I took this trip and this was the chairman of our board, a guy from Mexico, this
was a staff guy there, telling us how they were doing this. The head of the regional operation there for WFP, who’s not pictured here, he had been on vacation for six weeks, and this was in September
and I was mortified when he was briefing me
because he really didn’t know all the things that were going on, because he had been on
vacation for six weeks. So when I asked him about that he said, “Oh yeah, well Europeans go
on vacation for six weeks, “this is what they do, “and don’t let your
American bias get in here,” I said, “This is not American bias, “we have a drought, go on vacation later.” So I moved him and so I created conflict because he was a well regarded officer and did really well in his
career before and after that, but I moved him, I created conflict, with people saying, “Who
does she think she is?” But to me it was important
to make the statement that we’re here, we’re
an humanitarian operation and we have to make our
work around the problems not around our traditions. This guy is a different example, he was Ghanaian and he served in Somalia and so when he finished with Somalia, he had been in Iraq and somewhere else in a difficult duty station before that and he served in Somalia in ’92, ’93 really difficult times in Somalia. And he was a fairly junior officer so I promoted him early and I said, “You pick where you wanna go next, “it’s not gonna be a
committee that decides, “here, these are your choices,” and again, I wanted to send a message so that added a little bit of conflict, “Oh, is she treating him differently?” Yeah, darn right I am, because I also want to send the message within the organization that if you do go into
these tough duty stations and if you do take these kind of risks that there’s a reward on
the other side as well. So gender at WFP, I promised
I was coming back to this, the picture on the left are
the women in senior roles at WFP when I arrived, I’m in the middle. This is P5 and above,
if you know UN systems and if you know US systems
that’s like a GS15 and above. The picture on the right
are the women P5 and above when I left, so it was 10 times more, we did have more staff overall, but it was still 10 times more women, but this was a conflict too. Now when I started, and we
wrote this is the report, I asked my senior colleagues,
all of whom were men, ’cause these women were
not at the top levels of the organization, I said, “Why is it that according
to UN statistics, “we have 17% female professionals at WFP?” The refugee agency and
the children’s agency have 30 something percent
aren’t we like them, why don’t we have statistics
that are more like them? And they said, well yeah,
we do guy things here. (audience laughs) Oh, what are guy things? Well trucks and trains
and planes and ships. You know women don’t do those things. I said, “I think by the time I leave “we’ll find women that do those things.” And in fact, me mentioned in the report, that Fatma Samoura, does anybody know what Fatma
Samoura’s job is right now? She’s the secretary general of FIFA, everybody knows what FIFA is. So she’s the secretary general of FIFA, she was one of our first logistics, female logistics officers that
we hired at WFP in the ’90s. So yeah, we found
obviously a lot more women, but that was a conflict
too and these women here, went through a lot of difficulties just because they were women. I mean they did just in general in their careers at that time of our history, but they
also did after I got there. I made a point that we were
going to look for more women and give more women opportunities and then people gave them
a really extra hard time in that context. So again, it was a decision and a direction that caused conflict that you then have to find ways to manage. Okay I’m shifting to
when I worked at the UN as under-secretary general,
you can’t read this, I just put it up as an example, it’s a bulletin for the secretary general, January 2004. Now I started there January 2003. That summer probably, a head
of HR came to me and said, “We have a problem, there is
a woman from the Netherlands “who is a staff member of the UN “and she’s married to a
woman from the Netherlands “and she has a valid marriage certificate “from the Netherlands “and she wants benefits for her spouse.” And I said, “Yeah so what’s the problem?” And she said, “I can’t give them to her “because the general council’s
office says I can’t.” Okay well, have you
raised it to the big boss? No I can’t get through to him because the chief of staff is blocking it. So I went to see the chief of staff of the secretary general, what’s the story here? It’s against natural law. Okay, then I went to
see the general council and he said, “No, it’s gotta be passed
by the general assembly “and the secretary general
doesn’t have the authority,” I said, “Come on, this is a staff issue, “it’s not an issue for
the general assembly. No, that’s the only way you can do it. So I went to see the boss and I raised it to him, he said, “Oh, we have that issue here? “Oh, okay” Remember this is 2003, right, so the Netherlands was the only country, the only country at that time that legally recognized
same sex marriages, Massachusets did. And there were other countries that were getting ready to do it. So we convened a meeting
and we made the argument, the HR director and I, that
we acknowledge marriages that are official, proved
officially by governments. I was married, I had to
present my marriage certificate to the HR office when I
joined the program or the UN because then my spouse got the benefits. So why should we care
if the government says this is a sanctioned marriage,
it’s a sanctioned marriage. So he agreed fully and
also then it was suggested by somebody else why don’t we
also consider partnerships? Like at the time France had partnerships that were the same as being
married except not married, you could be same sex or different sex and be a partner in France,
so we included that. But it was all based on the
national government’s role. And then so we said what happens if somebody from Massachusets comes and says I’m married
officially in my state, even though my government at
the time doesn’t recognize it. We said well then HR’s got some discretion to go back to the government and say is this person legally married? So that’s what we agreed to do. So the process is I send a memo through the
general council’s office of the secretary general, and after three times the general council’s
sending it back to me with all the reasons
why we couldn’t do it. I went to see the secretary
general and I said, “I know that you believe
that you’re the elected “secretary general of the United Nations, “but I want to tell you that really “the general council
is running this place.” I’ll take care of it says he, and we put out this very simple, it does what we said, a
marriage recognized as valid under the law of the country
of the nationality of the staff will quality the staff
to receive benefits. Okay, so January 2004, well guess what? The general council
didn’t keep it a secret, perhaps the chief of
staff too I don’t know that they didn’t like this. So now we have a political
issue in the general assembly and the Egyptians and the
Indian representatives ran a campaign to try
to get this overturned. They said that they did it because the secretary general
doesn’t have the authority, the same argument that
the general council used. And they recruited the Vatican, they recruited Catholic
countries, Islamic countries, but there were enough other countries who thought that this was a valid decision on the part of the secretary general, that the policy held. But there’s another paper
that looks like this except it’s dated September 2004, and it’s called personal status, ’cause that was the compromise, don’t call it a family, call
it personal and then it’s okay. So conflict, big time, but
management both within the house and outside the house
was an important process. And finally, one other
point on this issue, ten years later, Ban Ki-moon, it was raised again by
activists to Ban Ki-moon, okay it’s about time to broaden this and not just have it be
around the government but any valid marriage license. So that’s what the UN did in 2014, and once again the general
assembly debated it that this time led by the Russians, to try to overturn it
which they did not do. So just to cover it quickly, because we’re running out of time in Afghanistan we had
conflicts with the Taliban, but we had brave women staff
members who convinced them that we had to put bakeries in place to serve widows and we did. In North Korea we had a lot of conflicts, I didn’t know Fred was gonna be here, but with the country sometimes, one time I withheld a ship, I told the ship it couldn’t go into port because we were still trying
to negotiate some issues that were important for
the delivery of food. And then finally, there’s a thing called
a headquarters agreement that every agency has with the government and it allows you all the proper protocols and everything for your staff. Since WFP didn’t have one
for a variety of reasons, we needed one and the Italian
ambassador tried to connect it to my hiring a senior Italian and they had an Italian candidate when I was a candidate for
the head of the organization. So afterwards, he wanted
me to hire that guy to be my number three, the
job I hired the Belgian for. So he says, he’s about my height, then he says, “Now Catherine, “I told you we want you
to hire the ambassador,” I said, “Yes, I understand
that,” and he said, “And you want us to approve
the headquarters agreement?” I said, “Yes,” well the
way things work here is you hire our guy, you get
the headquarters agreement, you don’t hire our guy, you don’t get the headquarters agreement. And I just poked him right
in the chest and said, “I don’t accept that, “I’m not even going to accept
those words that you said.” He said, “But it came
from the highest levels “of the Italian government.” Believe me I know the
difference between Italy and the Vatican but I said to him, “I don’t care if it came from the Pope, “send him back and tell
him I won’t pay attention,” well can you believe I
had a conflict after that with the Italian government? Mm hmm. Do you believe that we didn’t
get the headquarters agreement for a long time? Mm hmm. And when did we get the
headquarters agreement? One year when parliament was doing nothing and the government was doing nothing and they were just shifting
all these old bills they had stacked away to get them
passed so that they can show that they were doing something, boom we got our headquarters agreement. And that’s the only reason why, but guess what, before I left, they decorated me with their
highest honor for non-Italians, they kinda forget about
the headquarters agreement. So I tell this story that
for one, do the right thing, but two, two, keep where you’re going, I had caved, the whole
world would know she’s easy, and that would’ve been awful but I had to tough it out because there was gonna be
consequences and there were, but ultimately in the end it was right.

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