Tragedy has a way of getting people united. During the middle of quarter 1, 2015, the Cape Peninsula was gripped by extensive wild fires. Like dominos, it started initially on a part of Table Mountain range, then Lion’s Head and one part of the mountain range followed after another until the whole area was just thick in smoke.
During this time, my family lived in an area that epitomised Cape Town: just below the Silvermine mountain range but almost on the beach. In our street, we had organized ourselves exactly as we did back in the township in the early 90’s. We patrolled the street and monitored all movement with constant by the minute communication using instant messaging mobile apps. Nothing passed through our street without our knowledge and our leader (more like street commander), James would go as far as tell us Chapman’s open for traffic – which made sense given the level of closures during that period. It was this level of organization that made me personally experience a different side of Cape people and in the process left me grateful to live among this lot on that little street on the southern tip of the African continent.
When the fire finally reached our neck of the woods, it had been going for about three weeks. As such, nothing was shocking anymore. By this time, we also received news of two houses that were burnt to the ground (no lives lost). One of these houses was a few streets away from our house and therefore as the young people like to say, “it got real”. The whole neighborhood was on high alert. I’m talking day and night with constant news feed on where the fire is, incidents (big or small) and do’s and don’t ‘s from the street patrol team.
Two days before @bpesa’s Annual BPM Summit (#BPO2SA), our neighbour Gerry frantically rang the bell at our gate at 1h15 in the morning. I casually walked to the intercom and answered (almost half asleep) wondering who it could be that time of the night. “I saw your lights are off and you are not responding on WhatsApp group, so I was wondering if you are almost done to vacate? Everyone is gone and I was just getting my dogs”. I know what you are thinking, right? My thoughts exactly that early morning! It turns out, James (our street commander) had been mornitoring the fire the whole night and had been issuing instructions to all families in the street. The last one instruction, issued an hour earlier was “evacuate immediately. Take essentials and drive to the beach or the sports ground. Drive slowly as visibility is very poor.” In 15 minutes, we had worked out what we would let burn with house and what would fit into two cars on which we can survive until a plan is hashed out. A wake up call! Apparently my trusted top end imported stereo sound system is not as valuable as an external hard drive with my family pictures. Who knew!
Despite the drama of the Cape fires, we managed to pull off one of the most succeful industry Summits with a cross section of Business Process Management (BPM) encompassing public sector, private sector, domestic, international, operators, vendors, analysts and the media. It was here that I took the first public role as facilitating a panel talking capacity in terms skills pipeline to enable BPM to scale nationally.
Please see more here from the Summit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2iuSeP7Z20. From conversations had afterwards, the panelists had as much a great time as I had.
The following tweets capture the sense of how the market received the Summit globally.
When I was still engaged in corporates in a conventional sort of way, i would open the year with a nice wrap up of the previous year followed by a sense of what is coming in the current year and most importantly first Quarter. I always assumed every leader did this sort of thing though my experience has been some of the people i worked with/ worked for did not bother.
So, without letting out too much around my own views of the space i occupy now versus those days, i will attempt to do the same combining my official, personal, social activities and moments in between to review 2015 as well as what is to come in 2016. These will be shared over a series of posts themed #2015Reminiscence to thread the various moments together.
Enjoy as you share in my my journey.
“If there is any one axiom that I have tried to live up to in trying to become successful in business, it is the fact that I have tried to surround myself with associates that know more about business than I do. This policy has always been very successful and is still working for me.” -Monte L. Bea
In his classic, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Harvey asserts that proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern–things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive.
Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.
According to Collins et al, there are five attributes that typify a true Leader:
They are self-confident enough to set up their successors for success.
They are humble and modest.
They have “unwavering resolve.”
They display a “workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse.”
They give credit to others for their success and take full responsibility for poor results.
They “attribute much of their success to ‘good luck’ rather than personal greatness.”
It is my wish that the dangerously risky task of leading humanity continues to draw on the strength that is heart leadership and all efforts will be expended to cultivate and nurture such through this medium.
As often mentioned, I am firm a believer in leadership being a state of being rather than what we do. In other words who we are comes before what we do. It is in the moments when the formal power layers have been taken off that we see the real person. Sometimes the titles we are formally given make us not be who we are and thus rob the world of an opportunity to experience the greatness we are.
One thing I have come to appreciate is that leadership begins with the heart. A heart that is consistent in allowing the leader to live steadily while moving among the team. A heart that is contrite enough to allow humility and willingness to show humanity regardless of who witnesses it. A type of heart that is courageous enough to chart the right path without shrinking from doing the right thing.
A leader should be able to communicate his/her convictions regardless of what the implications. We have many great examples of those who led with conviction (our very own Madiba, Ghandi, Marcus Garvey, Patrice Lumumba, Martin Luther King and others are often referred to in this context).
They are committed to a course regardless of how unpopular that may be. And finally they are totally captivated by what they believe in so much so that it matters not if that survives them (being ready to die for an idea that will live than live for an idea that will die).
The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
To add value to others, one must first value others. – John Maxwell
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already. John Buchan
The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it. Theodore Roosevelt
I think leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity. Scott Berkun
The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done. Peter Drucker
This saying is trustworthy: “If someone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a goodwork.” The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. He must manage his own householdwell and keep his children in control without losing his dignity. But if someone does notknow how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God? He must not be a recent convert or he may become arrogant and fall into the punishment that the devilwill exact. And he must be well thought of by those outside the faith, so that he may notfall into disgrace and be caught by the devil’s trap. 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person.1 Corinthians 10:24
Culture in the context of an organisation should be understood in the perspective of the setting it's in. In order to understand organisational context, it's important to see the organisations as communities. Using classical sociology as basis, there are two key cultural relationships in communities:sociability and solidarity. Sociability refers to effective relations between individuals who are likely to see each other's friends. They share ideas and values and associate with each other on equal terms. This represents relationships valued for their own sake. No real conditions are attached.
Solidarity on the other hand, describes task focused cooperation between individuals and groups. It does not depend on close friendship or even personal acquaintance nor does it needs to be continuous. A perception of shared interest is enough to spark it which once in place solidarity can produce high levels of focus. To bring this home, if we were to ask someone to describe their ideal family, their would typically go straight to one where members like and love one another (sociability) and one that pulls together when times get tough (solidarity).
Thus, where there is high levels of sociability with low solidarity we find highly networked cultures. Most organizations fall into this category hence exhibiting such negative manifestations as clique formation, informal information exchanges that generally degenerate into dangerous rumour and gossip machines; friendly meetings that produce of talk but little action; and most importantly, considerable energy, especially among senior managers, that goes into organizational politics and making the right impression. There is more often than not managing upward rather than managing outcomes.
Most of us know or have read about these symptoms. Seeming perfect is the holy grail, with leaders seeking that out of their people which constantly makes people strive to impress the boss regardless of the consequences to individual relationships or team dynamics.
It is crucial for organisations to seek to have Hugh levels of solidarity and sociability. This keeps the team focused on common purpose while relating on a high trust basis.
Leadership focuses on an envisioned tomorrow while enlisting others towards it through conviction and commitment. The art of leading others therefore also means if I forget the ultimate, I will be enslaved by the immediate. The old adage of focusing on important things in order to avoid being driven by urgent ones holds true in leading people.
If we accept that the art of leading others is about them rather than us, therefore it follows that leadership also means we lose our right to be selfish. A selfish leader is a misnomer indeed! When we abandon our highest priority, we lose our way and people suffer.
As such those of us that are entrusted with the custody of the leadership office need to always:
- Consider our actions and take care to avoid contradiction with the vision we champion
- That we work smart to ensure results in key areas of the business/organisation
- Spend funds wisely and in areas that bring the best return
- Always feel dissatisfied in our production and thereby constantly challenge ourselves to do better at all times
When leaders and people fail to maintain proper priorities, disappointment always results. Remember the paretto principle which says 80% of all output come from 20% of input. With the right priorities, 20% of our efforts will get 80% of the desired results. But with the wrong priorities, 80% of our effort will get 20% of the desired results.Priorities in leading people are not about working harder, but smarter. Getting the best out of your people and getting the best out of investment that has gone into the business, leading to happy stakeholders (colleagues, community and shareholders) is a very smart undertaking. In fact if anything, this is a responsibility that ought to be approached as a calling, the very purpose for leaders’ existence.