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THE OBJECTIVE OUTSIDER
Who in the world needs an objective outsider who can express and provide expert opinion that you won't need another second opinion for?
We all need one. In any stage of organizational life, an objective, impartial adviser provides a breath of fresh air. No compromises, no biases, no hidden agenda, no political dynamics. Just pure wisdom culled through experience, practice, and their own observations to serve your best interests.
Then why most Boards and Executive Committees do not anticipate and avail of an outsider perspective to help them make some of these most important decisions?
Fear of making the advisor privy to all the problems and turmoil they face which can be quickly mitigated through a confidentiality agreement and proper guarantees.
Fear of letting new ideas dominate that they haven't vetted or garnered buy-ins.
Fear of being threatened with a new person in the room.
Previous bad experience.
No experience whatsoever in this support.
Never cross their mind.
It could be a number of things. Whatever the reason, this is another missed opportunity for executives to remove themselves from the entrenched philosophies, mentalities, and positions in the organization and intentionally broaden their perspective. You have to bring in this element because amongst yourselves, the results could be a half-baked compromise which erodes any expected gains.
We all need it. You need an objective outsider regardless whether your going swimmingly well amidst turbulence or you are trying to survive. For one thing, the most value you can get from an objective outsider advisor is being truthful, identifying the 'it' that's sucking all other attempts to grow and improve to allow you to make the quickest resolution possible.
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THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING
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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How many organizations have strategies that are unimplemented? You will never know unless you get inside the cubicle.
This is not just prevalent in the profit sector, not for profit organizations are as well not implementing their strategies.
I question this: if the strategies are not implemented, why are they expending their staff time and managerial attention on something that will not be used at all? There is simply no logic to this!
When I asked an Executive Director why not? The answer I got was: "We just make this because of our funders. We have to wait for the funding cycle to begin to really create a strategy that will restructure the way we work. For now, it will be just a transitional one."
Fair enough. I get the point of transitional strategy. Emergent design is what the current climate calls. Managers and executives must adapt to the rigors and demands of modern organizations where supply chain issues, financing and sustainability, climate and diversity challenges, impact day-to-day decisions.
But non-implementation is a totally different issue. I vehemently challenge the notion of doing something for something else's and not for the benefit of the creator.
What drives this performative action is a culture of obligation, 'looking good,' and conformity.
In my book Provocateurs, I discussed how the culture of conformity creates conditions for organizations to punish early-warning signs of problems and issues, which leads to you know, failures. The same culture of conformity outlaws innovation, creativity, and simply rebellious thinking that shifts control and power.
Your donors do not know you're doing this. Probably, I bet, that this practice is not something that is generally accepted and outwardly legitimized. But because this is what's happening, I also bet that this is not a one-off deal. More organizations are acting this way despite what management books are saying.
Practice defines organizations. Tell me who's not implementing their strategy, and I will tell you there's more to the strategy than meets the eye.
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DIAGNOSING YOUR OWN PROBLEM
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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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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CRAWLING INTO CHANGE
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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FROM A CARE-TAKER TO LEADER
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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THE TYRANNY OF EVERYDAY ISSUES
The great Peter Drucker once said, " you have to feed on opportunities and starve problem-solving."
That is one great advice not heeded by a lot of organizations who is suffering from the monstrosity of the tyranny of everyday issues. They are mired and controlled by any movement that calls for their immediate and urgent attention. They found delight in solving any type of problem but did not develop, exercise, and maximize the opportunities around them, including the opportunities created by the so-called problems such as complaints, misinformation, bad publicity, ill-trained staff, overzealous volunteers, etc. The list can go on and on.
Are you bent down and worried on how to solve the next problem of your organization or are you satisfying the organization's search for opportunities? Are you defending yesterday's decisions in the altar of tomorrow's prospects? Are you spending more time fighting out fires or are you going out there and getting some long-term results?
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If organizations make decisions on the basis of what others will do, say, react (violently) against them for making those decisions, these leaders should be vacate their positions.
For one thing, their decisions should be based on facts and observable evidence. Their decisions should be guided by a rationale and logical criteria or a set of guidelines that the organizations should abide by as part of their mandate, terms of reference and business strategy.
To discuss the risks involved in decision-making, it is all about probability and impact. The probability that their constituency will be irate and will tear their door and /or the decision will cause havoc in the community should be taken in proportion. Who are these people, how serious will the impact of this decision be?
To hide under the guise that people will see this as partiality, special treatment, or favoritism is nonsense. Open your meetings, create guidelines, stick to your mandate, and weigh risks objectively, not as something to be afraid of rather than to determine if its actually an issue.
If you see ghosts everywhere, you might not want to get out of house or your room. It's the same thing as those leaders who cant and wont make a positive decision because they see things that do no exist.
Fear-based decision-making is the worst of all. The default is always a No.
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WEAK INSTITUTIONS ARE CORRUPTIBLE
This is an unfair world.
A deserving student who had no pedigree or family wealth to back him/her out cannot dream of an Ivy League education or more less get it in these times. But when wealth/power overrule merit, then this country (or any country) for that matter is on its way to ruins. With the recent scandal on school admission bribery in the US, eight universities are being investigated by the US Education Department.
When wealth, abuse of power, lack of accountability corrupt institutions such as colleges and universities, it showed two things:
That people in power and authority that are supposed to be bastions of integrity, ethics, and high moral leadership can give in to the temptations of the job. This begs the questions about the effectiveness (ineffectiveness) of the people that should be guarding the process, ensuring clear lines of reporting and accountability, supervision, and guidance. Who are they and what were they doing when these things have been going on for years?!
When institutions are weak, corruption can take its place without detection. It is allowed to be brought in by people who doesn't care about rules and equity for all. The moment greed and personal self-indulgence and selfishness rule in any place, there is no more meritocracy and respect for individual achievement through hard work and ethical performance/it is all about who can buy its own way to success and stay unscathed when the hands of justice will swing again.
It's an unfair world but this has to stop now.