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I had just released my first commercial book.
Yes, it's a big achievement. It's a cause for celebration.
Some call me lucky. Others tell me, "You had come a long way."
Some said, that I should start paying tribute to the people who helped me along the way.
They're very happy for me. I'm pleased that they're happy for me.
But this book, like any other things in life, is part of a process.
The book is a product of that long process. For me, it took me two decades of sharpening that process- the wisdom, discipline, lots of lessons learned, and eventual putting it down to bring more value out there for others to partake.
Like any other process, it was a product of other processes that came with, my consulting business founded in 2013 but operational in 2014. The business grew in 2015 and cocooned to accommodate my personal vicissitudes. Back in 2018 soft launch and massive work thereafter to grow where I am now. It followed by creating value and ensuring quality every step of the way. I means late nights work, weekend work when my baby was with the in-laws, meeting potential clients, lots of networking, pro-bono work, writing while cooking, cleaning, and chasing butterflies, and enjoying the ride. I also learned magnificently.
Life is about failing well and coming back up to straighten one's paths. To all of you creators, you know what I'm talking about.
Cheers for this first book, cheers to many more, beautiful and valuable creations.
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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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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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Do you always get a notice in the mail for your next car maintenance works? I do. Engine tune-up, wheel adjustment, tire pressure test, change oil, battery check, air filter, to name just a few. Depending on the vehicle, its age, and the uses, other more comprehensive checks are needed every year.
Ordinary people will not complain about this: they want to ensure that the car usage is extended, safety issues are addressed, and of course, avoiding paying for exorbitant repair costs when these issues are ignored.
This is the same as your organization. You might be cruising along fine. You might be focusing on some areas and delaying or ignoring other issues that beset your staff, your stakeholders, your financial health, and overall effectiveness in delivering your services. Most of the time, changes in policies, rules, and regulations, how the 'game is played' change drastically. Newer forms of public engagement, research, evaluation, policy advocacy, cross-sectoral work are now unfolding. Are you leading these change or are you playing a catch-up?
We are leaving the pandemic era in a much slower phase while considering that stronger infrastructures and systems must be put in place in organizations, communities, and systems to benefit from stress, shocks, and pressures. In reality, the on-purpose sector seems to be lagging behind in #beyondresilience.
For those who are hugely successful during the pandemic, one thing stands out. They never let a good crisis cripple them. It made them stronger and more robust. It kept them on their toes. They continue to improve and push the envelope when it comes to impact without ceasing. Regular tuning up is not an obligation but a necessary exercise to achieve excellence without breaking your wallet.
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There are many sites for strategic insights. None of these make sense if the mentalscape of leaders is confused, tentative, and cluttered.
Many distractions and wrong routes to getting this right in the minds of leaders, which include:
- muddled up ideas and process on strategy;
- political considerations and dynamics within;
- confusing strategy with program thrusts and value-driven motivations;
- pleasing all stakeholders for the sake of appeasement;
- not budgeting for monitoring, implementation and evaluation of the strategy outcomes;
- delegating the process to 'one or two people' in the organization;
- using a strategy as a a tick-box solution for other ills in the organization;
- short-term thinking;
As a leader, you better know why you're doing this and what outcomes you're seeking. Just because the old one is expiring soon, it doesn't mean that you should automatically create a new one without further introspection.
Declutter your mentalscape. Protect it from distractions and short-term mindset. When you do, the vision becomes clearer, the process is straightforward, and your budget is maximized on value.
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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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Today's news is tomorrow's archive.
If you're waiting for the right opportunity, it might pass you by without you making sense of it.
Fortunately, the world will not stop to pick you up when you're ready and willing.
I believe that opportunities are disguised as conundrum- these are confusing and difficult problems to solve. I saw with my own eyes, how purpose-driven organization turned their world upside down because they saw massive opportunities during the pandemic for their members, the least of these members. I observed how customer-driven organizations refuse to let their excellent track record be affected by the remote work during the crisis. I know personally that some small businesses are not cutting costs but instead, expanding value to their community even more.
These are opportunities. Another kind of opportunity is what you imagine and create for yourself. Waiting sucks! I have been mentoring a newcomer professional for a number of months and I can say that she's not waiting in her room. She is busy getting out there, creating opportunities to network and link up, and building her credentials so that she can land the job she dreams of! She is physically, emotionally, socially, and financially buffing up! What a great attitude can do?
It's not cosmic alignment or a question of luck or maybe a great break, it's the everyday readiness that springs you forward. When the opportunity is at hand, I get ready for the next.
What are you readying for?
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I was speaking to a group this week. We polled them if they have a positive outlook during the pandemic and less than half confirmed that they had. They also reported that their supervisor supported them a lot. This showed that even their supervisors might not be feeling positive as well.
We can only surmise.
Positivity in the age of post-pandemic emergence is a pre-requisite and it's the basic quotient to have before you can build along changes that come into your life. I know for a fact that this is not easy. But I chose to be positive, persistent, and hopeful, despite several setbacks I experienced last year.
We can never know what other people are experiencing. If you can count the people in LinkedIn that have critical illnesses, jobless, with family and personal challenges, you will know that your troubles aren't comparable to these situations.
It's better to go beyond resilience: benefit from shocks, stresses, raise the bar, and go along with changes and welcome ambiguity. Cultivate opportunities even in the midst of trying conditions and know that you're not alone. You can be in a lockdown but isolation is a choice. You can still be connected in the deepest, most humane way if you choose to be.
I can say that the distance between our efforts and what we have as external impacts is our positivity equity. Increase that positive equity now and as you move up, lift others along the path to your recovery.