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THE EVIL VILLAIN
Some people believe that there's always some one or something that should be blamed for world miseries.
The non-profits and social sector are rife with criticisms of the capitalist economy and government. Yet, they have to work hand-in-hand with the two.
For the conspiracy theorists, there is a global network of villains and ego-maniacal entities, ala the James Bond villains that are planning, hatching their next global destruction ventures.
For the poor and illiterate, it's the rich and ultra-wealthy that are sucking all the resources that they need to survive. And the corrupt government that's feeding this greedy landed gentry.
For the owners, it's the labor unions and their goons and strategies that keep the business from thriving and the government's bribery schemes wrapped up neatly in certain fees for here and there.
For the middle-class tired of pretending that they are more well-off, abhors the poor for creating the conditions of pallor, dirt, and insecurity in many communities. These people are considered lazy, worthless, and can't be saved.
The big business are blaming the environmentalists and climate-change crazies for wrecking their plans and making it harder to conduct business. The auditors are blaming the government for lax regulations. The consumers are blaming the government for run-away inflation for which the energy producers are caught in the quagmire. The masses are suffering and that the world is coming to an end unless climate change is addressed.
The elite, educated ones are blaming the fringe sectors and the fringe sectors are blaming the elite, educated majority.
Do you see where this is going?
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I heard this term a few weeks ago. It is mostly akin to 'green washing' but this time its about how organizations proclaim impact when in fact it's a false, misleading or unproven claim. It's also impact washing when the impact declared or reported did not grow out of the interventions claimed but other causal factors or intervening factors are present, thus other contesting views of explanation exist.
The extent of impact washing is hard to measure but just take for example, how organizations paddle up the numbers or massage the situations in order to meet donor standards or comply with requirements, without truly addressing the complexities of the unintended consequences their actions can impact or effected.
In my book Provocateurs not Philanthropists, I problematize the issue of short-term breakthroughs over the obsession for large-scale, massive, dramatic impacts and successes on the ground. Listening to a keynote last week from a multilateral global innovation facility programme, I can't help but feel more alienated. The search for a "major scalable project" is such that new, grassroots, or micro-projects will not be able to meet this. The logics are miles apart.
Given the 'innovation plus humility' mantra, I wonder how many of these innovations are actually taken up by the government or private sector to grow after being cocooned by grants and innovation finance so that national development owners take charge of this growth? Are they concerned with eco-systems development, taking a holistic role, rather than a project piece on
the economic development pie or with national priorities? I hope that humility culture goes down to the partners and grantees as well, because success without integrity is untenable and deceptive.
Impact washing happens at both micro and macro levels. It's not only the outcomes that matter but how do you get to these outcomes and what happens on the way.
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THE HELICOPTER VIEW
Problem-solving with a helicopter view is better for critical thinking and analysis. As you go higher and higher, you see the problem at much-bigger picture. You see more areas adjacent to the problem, requiring you to think big-picture, lose sight of specificities for a while, and get down to building a synergy and integrative frame of mind while constructing solutions. Your horizon becomes wide and your frame of reference expands. Your curiosity is released.
Specifically, the helicopter view helps you:
1. Separate the wheat from the chaff
Take all the noise out of the problem and focused on top two things that needed solution. Keep your values and priorities behind any solution. Sometimes, it is just staring at your face because you're unable to see the big picture.
2. Connect the dots to opportunities and long-term issues
Big picture thinking doesn't just solve the obvious problem. It also presents opportunities to be cultivated and grown in-house. That means that you're looking at a larger scope beyond the upsides and downsides of your actions. Aside from opportunities, learn to look at what's coming out in the corner as you analyze relationships and dynamic forces that are impacting your work in your industry. Find patterns from connections and interplay of moves and countermoves of the actors.
3. Generate solutions you're team can own and be proud of
Big picture thinking helps everyone in the team have a holistic, integrative, and interconnected frame of mind when discussing options, alternatives, and possibilities. Your team is not siloed from other teams in the organization, weaving new discoveries into what's existing in terms of processes and systems. People can navigate solutions without overhauling what works or reinventing the wheel.
Take a helicopter view when things are starting to look too messy and unclear. The best frame of mind is to take a step out of the nitty gritty and concentrate on what this problem presents in the larger scheme of things and what possibilities await the solver.
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Feeling down, low, sad, distracted, depressed, or anxious.
Feelings are feelings.
You have the power to detract these negative emotions and convert them to powerful feelings of self-esteem and energy.
Everyday if you find yourself with those feelings, quickly cut it down but focusing on positive, empowering, energizing, and renewing thoughts.
Think about last challenge you overcame despite the odds against you.
Think about the last problem you solved in your organization.
Think about a difficult situation when you were able to navigate carefully.
Think about the daily wins you completed as against your goals.
Think about the love, support, and devotion you receive daily from your loved ones.
Take back the mental space out of negativity. Clear this up every time a negative thought peeps out and disrupt your momentum.
Stop consuming content that does not support your mental health. Recognize what is good and what should be abolished in your content diet.
As an experiment, I stop reading my daily news on my phone. After a week, I felt more centered, less distracted, and more energized. I can quickly settle down at night and have a good night sleep.
There is nothing that should permeate in the mind when it's not even worth a thought or two.
Try this and the positive self-talk maintenance and you will know the difference.
The quality of your work and life starts with the quality of your psychological life.
Guard it and defend it ruthlessly.
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TEND TO YOUR GARDEN
Last year, I went to our community library and found stacks of books for sale, almost for nothing. I paid $ 50 cents for two books. The first book was a classic and timeless read, The Long Road to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. I thought that I was a few decades late on this and had to quickly brush up on gems found in his life, political career, struggles, and experiences in prison and beyond. What struck me was the clear and unassuming way he wrote down his some of his poignant thoughts.
This is when he enjoyed gardening in prison: “In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. A leader must tend to his garden; he, too, plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the results. Like the gardener, the leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work; try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.”
One time, his cell was moved to cell 18, the farthest from the entrance where visitors come. The authorities wanted him not to be able to talk to visitors to voice out their concerns. For the sake of unity, everyone agreed that visitors should talk to cell 18 for their complaints, when asked.
As a leader in your home, workspaces, networks, groups, and communities, tend to your garden and diligently bring it up to the level of competence. Watch it grow and increase. When things fail and you have done everything in your power to grow it, let it go. Take care of what you can preserve and move forward.
The lessons of Mandela are evergreen. Note that Mandela represents the thousands of people who sacrificed and fought apartheid for decades in South Africa and in other places. Mandela is the icon, not the individual. Mandela's win is the win for the 21st century.
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Every year, we enjoy the agricultural show in our community. A small club of mighty volunteer assemble this event annually with little or no external support but with much passion and dedication. Next year, we heard that there will be no more shows forthcoming.
In-fighting within the club members had stalled any meaningful action. The conflict teared the organization apart.
I heard that politics is the main cause of the conflict. If politics is the culprit, then what can we do? Separate the politics from the real issues. In this case, inclusion issues- how new entrants can join without the barriers imposed by the incumbents? Explore a win-win solution to those who are saying no and those who want to expand the criteria for membership. Negotiation is key. Active listening is a must. Get parties to talk on real issues and stop the personality fights.
Politics can never be avoided because there's people. If there's people, there's always politics. But politics should not be negative and detrimental. By justifying that politics is it, it sounded like it's unmanageable and completely out of resolution. This is further from the truth and practice.
As a Rotary Peace Fellows, we study how politics and entrenched perspectives dilute real efforts to genuine peace and reconciliation. Sovereignty, equity, autonomy, justice from past wrongs, claims to resources, among others are the larger concerns for which violence and conflicts are just mere conduits for action, unfortunately.
If we only set aside politics and let valid issues become the center of the discussion, we can begin to break down the seemingly intractable positions and let people begin to embrace a more rationale direction.
Politics is that ugly justification for anything that breaks down in organization. Although, sometimes it is really politics for which an executive must separate the chaff from the wheat, most of the time, the real issues are the heart of the matter.
Discern wisely and then you can decide the best course of action to take.
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ON BECOMING DIFFERENT
So many people want to make a difference but very few are capable of being different from the rest.
By now, people should understand that there is no Big Brother, somebody to validate their every move, approves them, and tell them they are on the right path. It's an imagination.
Besides, the vast majority of the Earth's population are dreaming with their eyes wide open. Instead of living for a purpose, they live based on what's comes to them. If you're life is performative, who needs an audience?
With the current Ukraine crisis, we know that this didn't happen overnight. Many years of hostility preceded this and both sides are guilty of violating the trust and blatantly eroding any civilized manner of diplomacy. The road to peace is littered with good intentions but bad consequences.
Independent thinking is a breath of fresh air in an environment where conformity is more favored than an inquisitive mind. Standing up against the mob is an active protest in itself. But you need a better strategy than just a moral action.
Whether you're in the Board room or in your shop or working in the on-purpose sector, becoming different is not pushing hard on certain agenda or being rough on others. It means standing for your values and principles, standing up for your organizational values, and standing up for purpose-driven impact. The consequences of doing these actions can be great but being compliant without understanding has dreadful effects too. Know what you are capable of doing. Act with integrity.
That's the way to making a difference in your cubicle (or home-office).
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THE POWER OF THE INDIVIDUAL
There's no denying that what we are seeing in Ukraine is the unleashing of brute force by the very few who thinks that they can subvert the modern world order without consequences. Here again, we see that the West and rest have combined forces again in a matter of days. Unprecedented.
But the best thing I see in this first online war was the power of ordinary individuals in full force. From donating online, going to the war zone as a choice, buying Ukrainian products, crowdfunding, fighting disinformation, fact-checking propaganda, reserving AirBNB, donating crypto, among others, these activities are decisive.
There are no limits to what ordinary Canadians and citizens of other states can do to support a country in great need. My book on global impact leadership focuses on the role of individuals, not institutions, in transforming their communities and acting based their values and principles.
I have no doubt that a hyper-globalized and interconnected world, normative forces usually enforced by states and institutions are no longer their purview. As more and more individuals are connected on a grand scale, they can not just vote, but take up moral stances and register their voices without leaving their homes. Before mobilizing for a cause takes time. Now, you can build a pipeline system in a matter of hours or days.
The challenge for us is to differentiate rationality with demagoguery, popularity versus principled action. Not every time that you will stand with thousands. To make a difference, you need to be different.
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THE ART OF OVERLOOK
I hope you had a great festive time during this holiday season. We can make this season an expansive time of the year when the holidays can give us the time to pause, relax, and have the quietness we need amidst the celebration and feasting.
William James said that "the art of being wise is knowing what to overlook."
In this season, embracing the new year and letting go of 2021, my wish for all of you is to find what to overlook quickly so that your new year becomes fresh, not an extension of the past, whether good or bad.
To do this requires not just the usual introspection but the consider elements that had to be eschewed for the lack of its value to your life and to what you hold dear. As I heard many times, we need to travel light.
Anything that seems like a burden that is unquestioned or underexamined must become our current inquiry.
To translate this with on-purpose leaders whose organizations' survival (or viability) might be at stake next year. Learn not to insist on certainty. Don't sell out your capacity to give and be of service even when you're experiencing your own challenges. And don't give in to the apathy and despair that are easily tempting to succumb to.
With great wishes for 2022, let's hope for better times. Comfort to those who are afflicted, and challenges to those comfortable. Most of all, peace and strength in the new year.
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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!