HR & Montessori; An Interview with Marwa Rakha

 INTERVIEWER: MAHMOUD MANSI

HR Revolution Middle-East: Work-wise, how different would an employee who grew up to the Montessori education teaching methods be compared to an employee who was taught using a traditional educational method?

Marwa Rakha: An Employee who was raised and educated using the Montessori Method would be self-motivated, responsible, focused, passionate, collaborative, and accountable. They would almost automatically conserve energy and recycle paper.

HR Revolution Middle-East: Many mature people were exposed to various types of false teaching methods when they were children, whether it was from school, parents, society, or from specific kinds of cartoons. As an HR director or a GM one can be sure that he/she would deal with such sort of victimized employees in their company. Is there any way to treat or “undo” the destructive side of their childhood teachings?

Marwa Rakha: A human being’s personality is mainly formed in the first 6 to 7 years of his/her life; all the basics are planted during this very early period. From 8 to 12, we experiment with what we have learned and begin forming our early opinions and preferences. The teen years are marked with rebellion and pushing boundaries and the twenties are the first step on the road to self-actualization. Thus, Montessori has to start from childhood. It is like unleashing the potential of a human being. It is also used with very old people who are being rehabilitated. Once you have a set and steady adult you need cognitive therapy not Montessori. If you hire someone at the age of 21 who has lied, cheated, or competed all his life, how do you expect that to change? No matter how many training sessions you give a negative person, they will never be driven and self-motivated. The only way change can happen is if it comes from within the person himself. If they do not realize that they need training and that they have to change… yes, fire them. Otherwise, you will waste your money.

HR Revolution Middle-East: From a professional feminist and business perspective, what is your opinion and advice to the organizations that only hire single women, and do not accept engaged, married, and pregnant women in their work applications and recruitment panel?

Marwa Rakha: I have a few words for all those CEOs and Managing Directors out there: If a man or a woman wants to work from home, let them. If a man or woman wants to work on part-time basis, let them. If a man or a woman wants to have flexible working hours, allow them to. Most single mothers suffer because of financial pressures and most working mothers have to choose between their jobs and their children.

As a person’s work should be evaluated by goals, outcomes, and key performance indicators. Physical attendance on daily basis is a complete waste of time. If an organization is made up of five departments and there is a hierarchy of accountable and independent employees who are fully aware of their job responsibilities and what is expected of them, I do not see why 500 people have to show up at work every day.

If business owners understand this, men and women will equally enjoy work more and will manage a better quality of life for themselves and their families.

HR Revolution Middle-East: If you are an HR interviewer, what would be the most important question you would ask the interviewee, and why?

Marwa Rakha: I would ask them to give me five reasons they wake up in the morning each day. If a person really wants to wake up in the morning and is truly happy to be alive, then this person must have something of value to offer my organization.

HR Revolution Middle-East: Would you advise a CEO or Manager to attain a Montessori Teaching Diploma? How would this add benefit to their work and organization?

Marwa Rakha: Montessori education is for parents. On the same note though, getting training or certification should not be just for CEOs and Managers. Everyone in an organization should attend together any training. For example, a training course about leadership should be for a whole department because managers as well as line staff need to iron out their differences.

I have delivered many training sessions and this was a common problem. I would have the line staff in a room for four days “bitching about” their managers and the training does not add to the overall good of the organization; it is just a venting space for line staff.

I have also had managers in a room for four days who insisted that they were excellent leaders and that they were just unlucky with the caliber of employees they have.

It would have been more productive to have a manager AND his staff in the same room where they all learned about communication, delegation, and work ethics.

HR Revolution Middle-East: You have worked in many organizations, fields, and have had several job titles too. What do you think is the major HR problem in Egypt, and how do you think it can be resolved?

Marwa Rakha: There is a focus on paper as opposed to the essence of the person. I have worked only in two places that conduct in-depth personality assessments before an employee is hired, and based on that assessment, the employee is accepted because of their strengths and throughout their employment, they grow and become more experienced by capitalizing on what they do best as opposed to what they need to improve.

HR Revolution Middle-East: As a parent or a teacher, how can one raise a child in a way that helps them find their interests and become more capable, and thus become a future successful employee in society?

Marwa Rakha: By simple observation. If you spend quality time with your child, talk to them, watch them, get to know their interests, and monitor those times when their eyes shine and their face lights up; then you will know their passion. Your duty then is to help them reach their full potential and be the person they strive to be.

This sounds simple and basic but it is easier said than done.

How would you watch your child if they were always at a nursery, school, an art class, or at someone else’s house? How would you listen to them if they refuse to talk to you? How would you know your child if you are always avoiding them or hushing them up?

HR Revolution Middle-East: Who are the people who mostly need to learn more about the Montessori teaching methods? And how can one apply to take the Montessori Teaching Diploma?

Marwa Rakha: Men and women who have kids, men and women who are planning to have kids, and men and women who work with kids.

There are many ways you can get certified. I chose online certification for the sake of convenience and more time with my son.

HR Revolution Middle-East: For the HR members who seek internal and external development, what sort of articles would you recommend for them to add to their daily reading routine?

Marwa Rakha: I have no idea! I enjoyed Marcus Buckingham and Steven Covey for a while, Gallup for another while, and then I just focused on Dr. Sears – He has a great book called The Discipline Book.