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An organization that identified a huge gap in their operational talked to a consultant recently. They are willing to confront the pain and are willing to take steps to immediately reset their efforts. Then silence, silence, silence.
What's happening behind the scenes would be telling? When managers have no strategic confidence to make decisions on the basis of information acquired and in the best intentions, paralysis-analysis occurs. They like bring too many people in the analysis of the problem, the prognosis, and the actions to be taken. They want to be told what to do. In short, they want to avoid failing at all costs.
When this happens, failure-avoidance leads to very smart but all too narrow gains. What can you lose with that investment? Reputation loss, money, staff time, and opportunity costs?
Think hard, are you losing all of them right now as we speak by doing the paralysis-analysis and failure-avoidance techniques.
If you're too afraid, shut the doors and windows, and stay under the covers.
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I just ran an article of the same title in my January e-newsletter.
In a matter of five years, a dozen of executives I met at the mid-level positions in various on-purpose organizations had moved on, either had taken up their own businesses or transferred to careers they want to explore. Now that we're close to an emergence from the pandemic scenario, this shifting will be accelerated.
Some call it pivot, some redesign, and some heeding that second calling. If you're like me that went from a full-time employee to self-employed, you know that this is not a hobby or just a gig (as some would call it to downplay its serious requirements).
The great redesign or simply reinvention is a response to challenging economic shifts that are happening even before COVID19, the global fuel crisis, and the worldwide inflation. We are beginning to see a generational shift to the concept of work, not as drudgery but as an extension of personal and professional identity and fulfillment, with more individual choice as main driver than the need for status, wealth accumulation, or security.
In tough times, the opposite happens. People are resigning in jobs they previously would hold on tight until the storm calms down and allows them to figure out their long-term goals. Highly individualized lifestyle choices, the ubiquity of technology and infrastructures and enablement created a wider menu of options available right for a global talent are immense. My friend from Nigeria has chosen to call Edmonton home despite the lure of Silicon Valley, and other innovation hubspots in the world.
Leaping to another career, job, or lifestyle choice is an act of bravery in a world of ambiguity.
When times are great, or when you feel like you're thriving despite and inspite of circumstances, that is the perfect time to sit still and figure out your next pivot.
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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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A year ago, in a course seminar, one of my learners told me that their organization does not have a strategy. They, in practice, have what we call an emergent strategy.
Emergent strategies do not come up from strategy retreats or top-down planning process of their leaders.
It comes from continuous patterns of behaviors, inclinations, and moves that stem from an adaptive understanding of the competitive field and the resultant effects to products, services, and priorities. Smaller organizations rely on their yearly assessment to generate the kind of strategic knowledge they need to maintain their ordered disorder. More of a 'gut thinking' than a reliance to a formal systematic cognitive process.
However, emergent does not mean not being able to define, articulate, and leverage your strategy to be able to win against competition or survive in tough times. A strategy is like an arrow in a skilled marksman. It's sharp, unyielding, and produces the intended impact, whether to defend oneself or make a ruckus. Be intentional with your target, because as "the arrow chases the target, the target chases the arrow." - Paolo Coelho.
You can be precise but completely wrong, instead adjust as you build.
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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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In 2002, I got a rejection from a fellowship program which would have enabled me to have an international education.
Nevertheless, the same organization accepted me into their fellowship program in 2015 besting 500 other applicants vying for the prestigious placement.
In 2010, I got a rejection from a job application, noting that I was the second best but they had to choose a more qualified, Canadian-born applicant.
In less than three months, the Director got back to me and inquired if I found the job already and would like to offer a better position.
In 2015, I got an offer for a consultancy with a firm knowing that I have both two senior associates /contacts invoking my name into the project. In less than a month, I got the contract. Six months, I made the connections not knowing where these may lead.
In 2019, I got another offer after an exploratory conversation with the head officer of an organization.
In 2020, I got two offers of publishing contract after three months of selling the book idea.
You cannot second guess your next move as an impact leader. You have a set of information in your hand that you can use to move forward with confidence. Use your best judgement knowing that things may come around, or may not.
The test for this is: were you all in or half-heartedly into the game?
This year, be all in and see what happens. Uncertainty is the mother of ingenuity.
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Yesterday, I presented a special lecture with Prairie College Business Management students on Fair Trade. As I have been updating myself about this topic, a few headlines grab my attention:
Kitkat withdrawing from Fair Trade
Fairtrade : Is it really fair?
Shocked but not surprised: Fairtrade responds to report of widespread child labor in West African cocoa industry
The system is not perfect but it is working for a lot of farmers, artisans, and producers in the South. The current labelling and certification process for fairtrade has become a million dollar industry. Ethical consumers are beginning to vote with their purchases and this trend will be going to continue in the next 10 years. The question for the actors is that how can we prevent consumer confusion with all these competing claims in the marketplace?
The fairtrade sector is growing at an accelerated rate from $ 1.5M in 2005 to $9.8B in 2018. Yet, fragmenting in many ways due to the crowding of claims within and outside of the ethical/fair markets.
There has been tremendous harmonization of fairtrade. All actors understand, agree, and commit to its principles and standards. In the future, actors must as well agree and commit to growing and evolving fairtrade without compromising its foundational principles but at the same time, honoring its commitments to the broader marketplace.
The heart of true fairtrade lies in the producers and farmers. If they're not benefitted from these initiatives, why would fairtrade exists?
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Tired of wearing mask? I hear you.
I was talking to a colleague from Australia last week.
She said that in her country, they are required to wear mask everywhere at a 250+ rate of new infections a day. While I said, I was driving by a lake last week for a presentation, people are enjoying every inch of the beach space. No mask at all.
There is a dissonance between what the public health authorities are asking everyone to do and what people are doing otherwise. People go to the beaches, enjoy public events and restaurants, avail of health services, and outdoor sports and recreations, like they used to.
The fatigue in keeping the rules of social distancing and wearing masks is a social phenomenon. There is a certain limit to how far the public can keep up with restrictions in the name of collective public safety, health, and well-being. The social deviance is a response to this but there are deeper factors at play.
It is beginning to show that individual registers to risks and rewards are very different and sometimes, antithetical to the establishment. In fact, I would surmise that instead of being able to curb out deviant behaviors through fines and penalties, it will rise up as force to reckon with.
How much of what is perceived are purveyors of real risks? How much is pure fluff and can be dismissed as overreaction?
Perception is reality. Perception is the only real thing.
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There are two kinds of risks: risks you can take and risks that you can't and shouldn't.
We are prone to face risks everyday.
When we drive to work everyday, we face risks because bad drivers are out in the road too.
When we go to the dentist or massage therapists, we take the necessary risks of getting a bad fill or getting an achy spot.
In any decision, it has its own attendant risks. Risks can be mitigated, can be reduced to mere nuisance or annoyance, and can be completely subverted, that there is no way that it becomes an obstacle or a hindrance to an action.
We take daily precautions in our COVID-19 life nowadays, actually over-precaution-bordering on paranoia and panic.
Organizations must be clear about what risks they can take, risks they can't and shouldn't and risks that are not actually risks-just part of doing business in this new climate. Anything that is described as risks these days are not really risks at all.
It is likely fear.
The sad fact is that many have been prone to close their doors and windows, turn off their lights and cover themselves with blankets. They treat experts as outsiders that can be carriers. I understand that we live in a litigious society and in this pandemic, everyone is a suspect. But the world continues to move forward. If you don't want to do business, just close the shop instead of making double messages.
Where exactly is the danger in remote activities?
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As you might have received in your inboxes, restaurants, businesses, organizations, government agencies have sent their own crisis mitigation policy statements on COVID-19.
In those statements, they have succumbed into the overabundance of caution, to suspend their events or ask their staff to work from home.
While these measures are meant to "flatten the curve" of the virus spread, we are also bombarded by all sorts of misinformation from social media and even our well-meaning friends and relatives who resort to more panic-driven actions than anything of rational mindset and objectivity.
Caution based out of solid evidence is a good parameter but once it borders on panic, fear-mongering, and delusional thinking of doomsday scenarios, it becomes a vehicle for more social unrest and collective fright.
Let us be mindful that we need to be calm, level-headed, and objective about the virus as much as we can so we don't spread more fear and heighten the level of insecurity that people feel while they are self-isolating and social distancing from other people.
For those of us who are healthy and able to navigate the closing spaces in our community due to the pandemic, we need to show compassion, understanding, and care for those that are actually sick or feeling symptomatic. We do this not by buying more supplies that we can need for 14-days self-isolation or by refusing to let fear control our lives.