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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.
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I asked this question because many organizational executives are comfortably in a fear mode in these difficult times.
What's the next disruption that will derail, disrupt, disembowel your organization's market positioning? or for that matter, your reason for being? what is the most existential threat likely to happen in the next five years?
If it's the fear of the uncertain/unknown that drives your executives to grind down everyday, you better back up and check that the fear is a positive fear that you can control and manage.
If it's the fear of being left out/missing out in the trend-train, check the rational behind the impulse, and fall back to where you are actually generating sustainable outcomes.
If it's survival and modest growth, plan to pivot when you can transition comfortably in the next 3 years, until such a time when you have the golden opportunity to create this new future.
If it's growing and reclaiming lost ground, there is no better time, than now. Get consensus and act on what you have existing at the moment.
"What's driving you forward?" is a better question than "What drives your executives sleepless at night?"
You need to capitalize on the dynamics of forward-motion than the idealized notions of lessons learned. And I hope you're not running around a carousel.
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If leaders are scared, they make stupid decisions.
I'm talking about cost-cutting measures in time of pandemic. If you cut everything that costs money, then you don't know what your financial (and organizational too!) values are.
Stewardship is not about being stingy and operating on costs, it's about operating on value.
Anything that involves increasing resilience and building lasting effects on your customers and constituencies should be nurtured and developed, even in climate of distress and uncertainty. Values-based organization do not operate on fear-based calculations, much less allow values creep.
The best leaders in organizations retain and protect their strongest assets, which are inimitable and very hard to reconstruct. In times of stress, these assets work like magic. They provide the rest and bounce factors for staff and customers to thrive and not just survive.
Cut everything that moves and you're cutting your oxygen source.
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I heard from an executive recently that they are crawling into the changes. This is reference to the transformation they're undergoing in the whole organization.
To justify being slow and sure, that word seems like a good description. But because they have been into the process for more than 5 years, I beg to disagree.
May I submit to you all that if you're crawling into the changes, you might as well shoot yourself in the foot. Being too slow is inimical to the progress you're trying to create, let alone, complete. There are forces that will resist and blocks these changes. Before you know it, you missed lots of opportunities to showcase the results of those changes.
The pace of change is as important as the vision for the change. Maybe your process needs a revisit. Maybe you don't have the resources or insist that what you have is enough. Maybe your stakeholders do not have a buy-in to the specifics-how their jobs and current positions will be affected. Maybe the readiness for change isn't there yet or not cultivated at all. Or maybe executives believe that to be slow guarantees success!
Crawling sounds like a defeat to me. If you feel like the changes are way too slow, you have missed an important element-the people! The people will make and break your transition. If you can, work backwards, put more time and process to getting them onboard so you can speed through and not crawl into the enemy's lair!
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In an change effort, the worst leaders can do is to ignore the emotional aspect of the change process.
Impact organizations are 'people organizations.' The people are the lifeblood of the organization for which any discussion about growth, scaling-up, or stability is generally about how the people can be nurtured, developed, managed to get to your strategic objectives.
While the change management field is filled with approaches and strategies to slay resistance and achieve a transformational change that any CEO would be proud of, in general, emotions can get the better of any leader.
In a recent local change effort that I have studied, I noticed that the President in his speech only mentioned once that they will be compassionate with the people that will be affected by the change.
Being compassionate is one thing but before they begin to determine the extent of impact that changes will have on staff, they should have the following at the back-end:
1) increased relations with every one concerned, even before the impacts will be felt, communicating what is to come and determining the best method to resolve it without accruing undue stress for staff;
2) increased trust-building; a low level of trust does not engender cooperation to find the best solutions for all parties;
3) increasing the voice of employees, whether they have a say or not, they should be informed and their voices heard;
4) build a strong follow-through in your every action; no one wants to be left behind after a decision had been made from the top;
These are not good-t0-haves but are musts when it comes to managing the emotions, defusing tension, and building a more collaborative approach to solutions-finding.
When one think that people will take a very rationale approach to changes is a very unfounded reaction. People have built in resistance to anything that could disrupt or alter their existing comforts, positions, and privileges. Moving them along towards a better state means more work on the journey where denial, resistance, and low-energy can bring your efforts to a grinding halt or slow motion.
Emotions are powerful elements if used in a positive way. In reality, a negative emotion is a fact and must be managed well.
It's risky to do all these steps after you have announced a change or about to announce one.