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I have been receiving requests for partnership and as always, I ask: "Where's the beef?"
Collaboration for on-purpose organizations takes more than you and the other party. Because you're in the business of purpose, your metrics are totally different. You can enlarge the pie for the sector if it becomes a system-generating activity than just for mere propagation of your programs, projects, or products. In a systems- approach to collaboration, 1+5 is not 6 but 60. To leverage the vast benefits of collaboration with the eye to a larger social good is really about:
1) Showing others (your peers, your stakeholders, your audience/customers, and policy-makers) the way towards better practices, mindsets, and tools for success;
2) Benefiting the ecosystem where you operate, the collaboration has public value and could be supported at scale;
3) Creating innovation at a smaller scale than can be replicated with enough infrastructure and technology and leveraged outcomes;
4) Doing the 'impossible' in the sector by having the 'no-regrets policy.'
Do you see collaboration as a means to pursue your strategic ends as an organization? Or there is more to it than what gets approved in the annual cycle of budgets and operational plans? If yes, to collaboration, when the benefits outweigh the risks and challenges, why not get the biggest sectoral obstacle and induce solutions through a collaborative arrangement where all the actors can be involved.
The question then on 'where's the beef?' becomes moot and academic.
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I have seen first-hand how on-purpose organizations refuse to get help when they should, not when it's too late to do so.
That moment is like the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOM) when executives have to make the decision to get good and fast help in the hope to turn the tides for their benefit. As the saying goes: "In moments of weakness, don't make a decision. In moments of strength, take the best decision."
I would like to add to that. The real value is asking and admitting that you need help. That is the first sign of courageous leadership. Knowing when to do is a sign of better sense-making. And taking action by talking to able and wise mentors, coaches, and advisers or even with peers, is a sign of prudence and wisdom.
What's preventing them from seeking help? It's not the lack of resources, budget, or capacity to take new things or learn new things. It's the ego that's preventing leaders from taking new ideas because they think that theirs is the greatest, or they have nothing to learn or they can never fail. Sometimes, they just don't want people to know their issues. Most of the time, it's the low risk appetite.
If your working in organization that refuse to look themselves in the mirror and ask difficult questions, don't enable this and don't go with the flow. You can start asking for help and getting the help you need!
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A lot of executives and managers in on-purpose organizations are too much of a care-taker to become real leaders in their organizations and networks. As Drucker said, too much fire-fighting and problem-solving will elide your impact as a leader to become more strategic and effective.
This care-taking habit stems from their personal and organizational ideation that to be a great leader is to be all at all costs. When pressure mounts. the care-taking role is inadequate, at best palliative. Great leaders are able to bring out diverse skills, competencies, and responses that correspond best to diverse situations.
How do you transfer all your talents, skills, and empathy from a care-taking role to successfully leading your team?
1. Delegate and empower your team to make effective judgement calls and be accountable for them.
2. Say no to being the fount of all knowledge pertaining to your organization and its day-to-day functioning. Share all the information and go home on time.
3. Elevate to leading by demonstrating effective management techniques and influencing and building a good company culture. Stay off from the mundane and other practical issues that's not worthy of your executive time nor energy.
You will never be regarded as a leader if you will remain in a care-taking capacity with all your steam lost in the labyrinth of everyday issues. Being a leader, is leading now and taking charge with the future with strategic thinking and managing. Don't be the superhero that's not needed at all!
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As I wrote in my recent Strategy article for CSAE, long-termism is over. Look hard around you. Rules and instructions change quickly and contradict all the time.
"Focus your executives’ time on discerning where the pressure points and opportunities will be in the coming years, and identifying the most proactive approach. Review your plan every six months to a year, and be prepared to revise as driving forces (i.e. technology, regulations, consumer preferences, social mores) change rapidly without warning."
Key to this are three mindsets: agility in strategy (not just in operations and pouncing on opportunities), strategizing on the strategy, and the discipline to follow-through.
Agility in strategy is about absolutely turning conventional wisdom on long-term planning. It's about learning as you and improvising your subsequent steps rather than preoccupied with planning as if every ducks are in the row. Strategizing on strategy is ensuring that optimal use of resources of doing, measuring, and implementing your new strategy. Forget the 3-day strategy retreat in a nice resort or vacation destination. Try remote strategizing once a week for the next 3 months or so and be surprised as to how much you can accomplish with so little! And third, discipline is the modern-day effectiveness and efficiency combined as measures. Without the discipline and laser-focus commitment, your strategy becomes just a strategy, not a reality.
Consider this when you think about long-termism using a short-term perspective for the future- the post-pandemic future, that is.
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Leaders and managers, stop auditioning and lead boldly.
There will not be an announcement saying, "You're next to promotions, here's the baton." It is up to you to figure it out. At the end of the day, the best leaders and managers do not wait for an external green light signal. Most often, I find in my 20+ years of career in jobs and consulting, that it's always too late.
Waiting for the green signal from others leave you more vulnerable to external validation and external success metrics imposed on you. It is better to trust your judgement and keep on building your competencies. The right opportunity will come and when it comes, you're ready for it.
In matters of decision-making, the same principle follows. Don't explore a certain future with the intention to seek out certainty. Explore your organization's future with the intention of embracing ambiguity and being effective at cruising along such complexities in your strategic environment. Ambiguity is a friend, not an enemy to curse or throw rocks at!