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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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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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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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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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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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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!
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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.
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I just said today that ethics trumps talent in a class.
One said, "so it's okay to hire mediocre but good people in your organization.'
Talent is so overrated and that hiring managers are beginning to look at not just the 'soft side' of competence but the overall adaptability and mindset of the person they are looking to hire.
At the end of the day, the worst corporate scandals are committed by people who are have no qualms circumventing the laws of the land to suit their motives and agenda.
This is not a zero-sum game either. There has been a shift towards hiring employees who do not have the perfect CV or educational background but have the right mental, emotional, and intellectual fitness for long-term growth. Good enough is better than someone that can't be trusted to make major decisions for the company, whose integrity is questionable or consistency suspect.
At the end of the day, when ethical dilemmas arise in the workplace, which always happen, in micro or macro way, we hope and pray that the one making the decision has the moral and ethical code he/she lives by daily. We hope that our HR managers can stand up for what's right in a given situation. We hope that our executives truly exhibit transformative leadership.
Ethics is the cornerstone in our businesses and organizations. It's the rudder in a turbulent, volatile and ambiguous world we live in. It's the compass, without which we will become a civilization without a heart and soul.
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I was teaching a Management Course for the last four weeks now and everyone agreed that we could do better in the area of active listening.
Listening is a under-developed skill for the majority of professionals and managers.
We always have to have a say when simply the answer can be found in listening with intentions.
80% of conflicts and misunderstandings can be prevented and resolved by simply listening with the heart and mind together.
We do not have to win every argument or be the last one to say something marvelous. We don't need to be 'the smartest person' in the room either.
We don't need to boost our ego for senseless showmanship.
I heard one person talked about using 'verbal judo' in dealing with difficult people.
I would say, try the active listening jujitsu first and see the difference.