One of American Homebuilders of West Africa‘s goals is to transfer technology to the places where we build our homes and to the members of our local teams. This happens in a number of ways but one of my favorite techniques is to challenge our teams to train themselves. One shortcoming we identified throughout our team in Guinea was a lack of skill in using spreadsheet formulas and shortcuts. Weak spreadsheet skills create two kinds of problems: they leads to inefficiency in effort and inaccuracy in results. This is particularly a problem in our accounting and engineering teams.

Our Global CFO recently challenged the Guinea accounting team to present a new skill they learned in Excel every week at the start of their accounting review meeting. Making the skill presentation as the first agenda item showed it was important. By challenging the team to decide which spreadsheet formulas and shortcuts to focus on – and refusing to tell them, despite their request, what formulas and shortcuts they should target – Bob empowered them to find the most important skills they needed to develop. They decided to focus first on those tasks that take the most time and have the most potential for human error.

While empowering teams to help themselves is good practice anywhere in the world, it can be a particularly profound lesson in places with a culture of top-down, bureaucratic “big man” management styles. In such cultures underlings typically function in a state of near paralysis, always waiting for the next specific instruction from on high – as is the case in many parts of #WestAfrica.

Our accounting manager in Guinea wisely delegated the process of figuring out which skills to learn to our accounting intern. She then developed a spreadsheet to show the new skill and document it with a new tab for each weekly meeting. Because we primarily use shared spreadsheets in Google Cloud | G Suite, we are then able to share the information throughout the team and spread learning collaboratively to a broader audience in the organization.

The Internet has empowered millions around the world to develop skills on their own. GSuite tutorials were a great starting point for our team in their effort to improve spreadsheet skills. Our goal is to develop an accounting team that can run spreadsheet circles around the US-based team. To us, the key to achieving that is to help our team to help themselves.  And by the way, in Week 6 of the process, Bob learned a new spreadsheet trick from the Guinea team…

At American Homebuilders of West Africa, we are making the home buying process easier for the African diaspora and local residents. To learn more about our company and how you can get involved visit: