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A few months ago, a CEO told me that it seemed, 'everything is in order.' They are moving into a new building, operations have been reconfigured to accommodate an enlarged mandate, expanded personnel, and with secured funding, it is looking promising.
When everything is in order, is it not the best opportune time to plan your next steps?
Here are eight issues that CEOs of social purpose organizations spend their time on:
-Board Leadership and Governance
-Communications and Reputational Issues
-Innovations, Adaptation and Resilience
Which of these eight issues are focused on putting out fires and which are for innovation and building capacity for the future?
They are all areas to look for innovation, adaptation, and resilience. Let your managers and staff know that they can lead to innovate in their departments. These are systems and they all overlap for the organization. Wherever you are in the chart, change happens when people and systems change.
Anticipate that something will come up when you're putting things in order as a cause and consequences of those actions. Growth requires vigilance to outcomes and the resoluteness to continue in the direction of change. Ultimate, it's about minds, hearts, and systems in complete synergy and harmony.
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Provocation, as I heard from a Rotary Club member after my presentation, was something very negative to him. He was fed up by the polarization in our politics and culture, those that always demanding something and always looking for ways to tell someone should reform or else global destruction is at hand, instead of just aiming for common good.
While I recognize the current woke and cancel culture climate which we operate, I digress that positive provocation is more about not pushing, but encouraging, not forcing someone to change their views even with the word Provocateur or Provocation. Provocation means you're not settled with the status quo, however long it has served your purpose. It's always for positive growth, more relevance for the upliftment of all. It's about challenging norms that are no longer useful, thus, we can take some lessons learned from others, and adapt accordingly.
The woke culture of today denigrates everyone who is not in conformity, kills dissension and creative expression, and polices everyone's thoughts and feelings, making one feel ashamed and guilty of one's roots and privileges. Hitler's campaign was successful because it tackled the identity of German culture and ascribed a higher sense of importance over other races, ethnicities, and identities and loyalties of the German people.
Positive provocation is an antidote to the complacency in many organized systems around the world. Innovation, as Schumpeter defined is about 'creative destruction.' Taken in extreme literal way robs it of its substance. Innovation is doing and making things differently, whether it's a product, service, system, network, or process.
Positive provocation in the world of charity, development, humanitarian, and philanthropy requires a healthy dose of passion, purpose, provision, practice, and the right paradigm (5Ps). That to me is the philosophy of being a provocateur or a positive instigator.
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As the year winds down, you can finish strong even in matters of few weeks.
2022 is full of challenges and opportunities. But these challenges shouldn't define your organization.
Your organization should be defined by what you have done in spite/despite the challenge and pressures facing every on-purpose organization
Are you ready .....
To think about what could be in 2023, in terms of restructuring and governance changes?
To think about a strategy that you could use in the next 2-3 years?
To set aside time for reflexivity within your team and Board?
To integrate lessons learned to new practices?
To improve your leadership and resiliency so you can model what it takes to lead without having all the answers?
To innovate next year as opposed to putting out fires and reacting?
You can finish well and in advance. Life is a series of starts and stops. Of continuities and discontinuities. Whether you believe this or not, next year starts now.
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The vast majority of the population is sleep walking through opportunities.
The rest is hustling without ceasing. They can't simply be bothered.
While this is the case, you can begin to do WOW!
Working while waiting for the right opportunity to come along.
WOW assumes that you're open-minded and adaptive to changes.
You can quickly pivot and adjust your course without incurring so much time and effort.
Your system should be ruthlessly aware. It should tell you when and where to go next and when to slow down and breathe new air.
Opportunities should not be chased. Be still. Learn to read the times and see that everywhere there are many micro-opportunities waiting to be revealed.
Are you working while waiting (WOW)? Are you opportunity-ready?
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Since the death of the Queen Elizabeth the Second, people from all over the world felt a profound sadness for her passing. Some people had a visceral, unexpected feeling of grief, not in a way expected.
This seemingly unexplained feeling is not something that I currently hold. Although I recognized that for some people, the Queen and the British Monarchy and its colonial legacies are very hard to erase in the memory of individuals, nations, and institutions. The Queen is very much loved. Imperialist expansions were not.
I sincerely think that the world should celebrate that Queen Elizabeth had the fullest life as a reigning monarch. It is now the end of her era. A new era and hopefully a monarchy should be established.
The old is gone and the new dispensation heralds new ideas, thinking, and actions.
As Canada is part of the Commonwealth, I can only sincerely hope that a 'slimmed down' monarchy will contribute to a more vibrant commonwealth of nations where legacies of colonialism and imperialism are addressed and that new ties based on equality are tried. These issues are not going to go away soon.
It's hard to predict how the institution of monarchy unfolds, it could very well be the last. We should continue to question its relevancy today, tomorrow, and in the next decade. Only in questioning, we can find real answers.
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I have always tried to champion taking a closer look at many definitions we find our ourselves and our organizations in constant encounter. As a rule, as a leader, define this very well internally, because the danger lies in the unexamined, ill-suited paradigms like oversized coats that do not fit well with perceived reality.
Disruption- what does disruption mean to your social business, on-purpose organization, or cause-based advocacy?
Innovation- what does innovation look like, feel like at your level of operation?
Effectiveness- what drives effectiveness? is this a long-term purposive aim or an operational value?
Impact- whose impact are we talking about here? do they know that you're contributing to that pie? is this measured across the organization?
Sustainability- what sustainability lens do you subscribe to? are your actions guided by global, local, and community goals?
Success- what success brings about? is this a desirable path or a mini-breakthroughs would be enough?
Seek out clarity and intentional discussion on these issues on a regular basis. Meanings change as people change and institutions grow. Your past reviews may not hold more weight now than 5 years ago. It could look very different as you move forward with your short-term plans.
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Implementing much needed change in your organization is not a sprint, it's a marathon. It should not be a slow crawl or should be trapped in an office politics unable to move an inch.
Usually, what happens is that you have a desired outcome for that change. But what you get is the realistic outcome, the difference lies in your execution, obviously.
You cannot wait for the right tools, apps, research, evaluations, assessments, and agency-wide consultations and town halls. There will be naysayers that will tell you to postpone at a better time, when staff have acclimatized, when the new Board sets a new direction, or when the donors/funders are on-board and their perspectives well-integrated.
You can begin now. It's not going to be a matter of months, maybe years. Each month and each year needs a recalibration. You will know the difference of a calculated change sooner than later.
Your velocity depends on your mindset, confidence, and the application of the right strategy for the kind of change you're trying to institute. No matter what happens, you will not be where you where 12 months ago. You can always have a break, a pause, a time to recharge and boost-up. But when you stall, you will never get back that momentum.
It starts with you. So start now, and start smart.
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We all know that success doesn't come from improving your weakness but by working on your strengths.
Your organization should know exactly where you're good at, where you're mediocre at, and where you are failing miserably.
As mission-based, mandate-driven organizations, your whole DNA is predisposed towards your mission, supported by your values systems. This should be immune to the latest fads, trends, dogmas, and presentism.
I have known an organization who started working on many areas in their programming apart from their core service: climate mitigation, disaster risks reduction, violence against women, microfinance, sustainable livelihoods, forestry, fair trade ventures, among other things. They found out that none of these make sense if their core service needs are not fully met. In the end, they focused on what they're good at and their main reason for being: poverty reduction and education for women and girls.
Do not allow other people to tell you what to do, simply because the rest of your peers started doing it. Simply put, if knitting is your thing, stay knitting happy!
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Leaders of on-purpose organizations are trying hard to diagnose their own problems. They may get to symptoms but it will be way off from the mark in terms of what's the cause of their miseries or wasting the opportunities they should be claiming. In short, value left on the table.
It's like trying to be a doctor and treating your own illness. Or doing your own surgery for which you're not trained or even qualified to do. They want to get the cheapest doctor or specialist. They think they can do it themselves. They look for commodities as against the right resource for the right kind of value-increasing proposition facing them.
This is not a question of money or the question of time or competency of staff, Board, or executive to undertake. This is about the political will and the right measure for risks.
This represents the overabundance of caution based on a fear-based leadership.
Are you leading based on fear by being afraid to expose your own truths to yourself? Change readiness is the attitude, motivation, and drive to change. It starts with you, now, and not tomorrow.
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You must have heard this from somewhere, that in any change initiatives, there will always be losers and winners. But this is not as clear-cut as we think this to be. With varying degrees of complexity, everyone can be in the same page on issues but with different positions approaching solutions.
Problem-centric people try to diagnose the problem and beat it until it's blue in the face.
Solutions-centric people deny the magnitude of the problem and want to jump straight to solutions.
Radical change leaders want to overthrow the whole organization from bottom to top.
While the incrementalists are taking their sweet time to effect changes.
These are stereotypes and the binary of losers and winners, if you still have that perspective in your organization is very 60s. Champion a win-win approach to any substantial changes in the organization. Yes, there will be groups that will be mostly affected and mitigation should be front-and-centre and not an afterthought.
I just recently observed a massive transformation in a large organization. When asked, middle managers don't know what's actually going on. The top executives will gladly do a rodeo on each unit/department, taking the most expensive, yet direct route to engagement. What about these middle managers who can act as natural bridge between those at the top and those at the bottom? What about these natural spokespersons and representatives of specific groups, are they engaged in a way that ensures change outcomes are retained in the best way?
People will believe in the change based on what they see, not on what your Townhall proclaims.