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Archive for July, 2007

Insights from Obama and Clinton Camps: How to handle conflict

Posted by Herman Najoli on July 27, 2007

Over the past couple of days, we have all been held spell-bound by the friction taking place between the Obama camp and the Clinton camp in the race for President of the United States. The truth is that friction takes place everwhere – it occurs inside our organizations, it occurs between different organizations, it occurs on sports teams, it occurs in the family, it occurs in Churches, it occurs between countries and many other areas of life. At one point or another, we will all encounter friction in life. Friction between human systems is defined as conflict. Understanding how to manage conflict is therefore essential.

There are two kinds of conflict: functional conflict and dysfunctional conflict.

Functional conflict is a confrontation between groups that benefits all groups that are involved equally. Functional conflict brings about greater awareness and solutions which allow for change. Functional conflict actually leads to a mutual understanding between groups. For example, the research team at Better Life Company that it’s time to release a new product onto the market. The marketing team on the other hand feels like the company has too many products that are yet to be well-positioned in the market. This conflict brings in the strategy team and after lengthy discussions, they reach a consensus. That is functional conflict. 

Dysfunctional conflict is any conflict between groups that creates an environment that is not conducive to progress. This kind of conlict leads to stress and results in terrible losses for any groups that are involved in it. Those of you who are avid football fans may remember the surprise firing of Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer was fired because of dysfunctional conflict between him and the team manager, AJ Smith. For almost 3 years, the two of them had been at logger-heads over personnel decisions.  The conflict between the two of them led to the chargers losing many good coordinators.

Now, there are five approaches that can be utilized in the management of conflict:

1. Accomodating – This is where one group places emphasis on the needs of the other group while minimizing it’s own concerns. In essence, one group allows the other to win – a win-lose situation. While it may seem as if the group is giving in, it might be a beneficial approach when the other group has a huge stake in the matter at hand.

2. Dominating – This is when one group focuses completely on it’s own cares and concerns and closes the door to the other group. The dominating group “forces” it’s power and resolutions on the other group. This again is a win-lose situation.The group with the higher balance of power wins over the other group.

3. Avoiding – It’s unfortunate that this happens but there are times when one group may avoid another. This may not be the best strategy but it sometimes helps to cool the situation so that the time may be used to gather additional information.

4. Compromising – When two groups compromise, none of them emerges as a winner. There must be some giving up of value in order for compromising to be effective. Compromise can lead to more conflict later because teh groups might still harbour a feeling that their needs were never met.

5. Collaboration – When groups collaborate, both of them come out of the conflict situation as winners. Collaboration is solution-centered thinking. By working together to solve the conflict the two groups demonstrate immense respect for each other.

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Lessons from the Alexander Vinokourov and Astana: Reputation precedes performance but character outlasts the results

Posted by Herman Najoli on July 24, 2007

The cycling world was rocked today (again) by news that one of the most popular riders at the Tour de France has tested positive of banned substances. As a result of this, the entire team was asked to leave the Tour de France, with two key riders in the top ten who had great chances of winning the entire race. This particular rider, Alexandre Vinokourov, and the entire team had already built quit a reputation for themselves at this year’s tour. He won saturday’s time trial and Monday’s stage 15. The team was leading in the team standings. Sadly, all their hard work and reputation has amounted to nothing due to the doping discovery.

Reputation is simply what people think about a thing or person. Character is what the thing or person really is. When it comes to human performance therefore, character is the bedrock of achievement. Reputation is what precedes a person or thing while character is what outlasts the person or thing. Astana and Vinokourov had a great opportunity to stamp a positive mark on the Tour this year but instead they have left in disgrace. Had they focused on developing character more than reputation, things might have been very different now. Reputation changes but character does not. Reputation is like the shadow of a building. It moves in different directions throughout the day. Character on the other hand is like the building itself. It forever stays the same. 

Today, I’d like to encourage you to be more focused on your character rather than your reputation. Your character will outlast your reputation. 

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Slowing down our fast paced lives

Posted by Herman Najoli on July 23, 2007

We live in a world that is increasingly becoming faster and faster. This is evidenced in many areas of life ranging from business to family and social events. Bill Gates has been a proponent of faster business in his book, Business at the Speed of Thought. Many other authors have been proponents of ideas like out-smarting and out-thinking. Basically, there have been many voices calling for faster processes, faster thinking, faster living and faster everything.

This quest for faster and faster has in many ways ended up hurting society. Stress levels have increased and a lot of damage has been done to people, organizations and institutions in society. We have a saying back home that ”we operate on African time”. In America people say that time is money. These two sayings depict two different paradigms on the idea of time. There are advantages and disadvantages to both paradigms but I believe there is a lot that the West can learn from “African time” in terms of time management and slowing down the pace of life. I am in the process of writing down some thoughts, but of course I’m working on “African time”. 

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The 15 Laws of Reciprocity: How interdependence can elevate your leadership

Posted by Herman Najoli on July 16, 2007

In his blog for February 22, 2007, Brian Tracy says, “There is a principle of reciprocity in business that is extremely powerful. It is simply this: If you do something nice for someone else, they will feel obligated to do something nice for you. You should be looking for opportunities to go the extra mile, to do more than you are paid for, to put in more than you take out.” Reciprocity basically means a relationship of mutual dependence. In other words, interdependence. I’d like to take this idea to another level by looking at the concept of interdependence, specifically, how teamwork elevates productivity. This post is simply a development of ideas that I created a few years ago when I went to Jamaica as a team leader for a group of about 35 teenagers. This was a huge project and it required that every member of the team contribute their very best. To thrive in a reciprocal relationship, you have to grasp the power of interdependence.
Here is the acronym:

Identify every aspect of the operation that requires a team effort.
Notify every member of the team of his or her role.
Team up on the basis of the group’s vision and not individual interests.
Examine your dream together and let everyone capture a passion for it.
Resolve to all be focused on the team aspects of the organization.
Divide responsibilities fairly to every member of the team.
Engage the soul of every member of the team.
Paint pictures and mental images of possibilities.
Employ a variety of people to help cast the vision.
Navigate through situations and circumstances as one unit.
Display an in-depth care and concern for one another.
Empower each other by relying on each other’s skills and abilities.
Nourish each other by equipping and elevating each other’s contribution.
Communicate at all times, making everything clear and plain to the team.
End every effort by sharing the benefits and rewards of teamwork.

Let us explore each of these individually:

1. Identify every aspect of the operation that requires a team effort
As a team, we started off by pointing out every area in which we had to work together. We build into the team an understanding of the team concept by helping them see that one would be too small a number to achieve what we had set out to do.

2. Notify every member of the team of his or her role
As team leader, I notified every member of the team of what would be expected of them. We developed consensus on the things we wanted to see achieved. Every “got on the same page” regarding what they had to accomplish individually (there is no “I” in team but there is a “me”).

3. Team up on the basis of the group’s vision and not individual interests
Our team developed a vision that had meaning to each of us. This was clearly written and displayed so that everyone had access to it. We had to ensure that everyone understood the cause. We rallied the entire team together on this one cause and it worked so well.

4. Examine your dream together and let everyone capture a passion for it
Every morning we had meetings together which greatly helped us to continually harness the vision and hold onto it. Understanding the vision and buying into it as a corporate team was essential to our success. This made all of us to run in the same direction with the same goal in mind.

5. Resolve to all be focused on the team aspects of the organization
Each day there were many obstacles and distractions that threatened our progress as a team. We had to resolve to stay focused. There were team-members who lost motivation every once in a while. We had to encourage each member of the team to stay focused.

6. Divide responsibilities fairly to every member of the team
Each member on the team had different abilities and we divided responsibilities based on their skills and willingness to serve in particular capacities. In the division of labor, we had to ensure that there was specialization in terms of the skill sets of the team member.

7. Engage the soul of every member of the team
We endeavored to “click” with our team by coaching, mentoring and communicating the vision to them every single moment we had the opportunity to do so. Those who soared as leaders within the group contributed immensely in mentoring the others.

8. Paint pictures and mental images of possibilities
Every day in the morning, we had the opportunity to cast vision to the team and we made the best use of such avenues to ensure that everyone grasped the big picture of our entire purpose of being in Jamaica.

9. Employ a variety of people to help cast the vision
We had MAs (Mission Advisors) whom we selected to work with us in binding the team together and communicating our vision to the rest of the group.

10. Navigate through situations and circumstances as one unit
We made it a primary priority to stick together as a team and travel together. The leaders would always look out for our team members to ensure that we were all on one track.

11. Display an in-depth care and concern for one another
We emphasized on the need for great relationships with each other. John Maxwell once pointed out that people go the first mile because of duty, they go the second mile because of relationship. Good relationships were a vital concern for us.

12. Empower each other by relying on each other’s skills and abilities
Interdependence is impossible unless a team learns to rely on each other. By realizing that everyone is gifted to serve, we were in fact able to empower each other.

13. Nourish each other by equipping and elevating each other’s contribution
We advocated for placing individual rights below the team’s best interest. The other person’s contribution was considered as very important and this enabled us to achieve so much progress.

14. Communicate at all times, making everything clear and plain to the team
We made it a priority to always communicate with each other and went to great lengths to keep the entire team updated on our courses of action.

15. End every effort by sharing the benefits and rewards of teamwork
Instead of taking all the praise for our achievements, we would always credit the team with having made all things happen.

Posted in Creating, Engaging, Fulfillment, Interacting, Leadership, Organization, Participating, Wisdom | 2 Comments »

The Key to Nelson Mandela’s Epic Life

Posted by Herman Najoli on July 13, 2007

No man demonstrated greater leadership in the 20th Century than Nelson Mandela – that icon of a man who was jailed for more than twenty years yet stayed focused and came out to break apartheid’s back, becoming his country’s first black president. In his book, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela has a quote that I have always enjoyed reading. He says,

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature of nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death“. (p. 377)

Leaders face many unique situations. There are times when their vision is clouded by present circumstances and it is so easy to give up and throw in the towel. There are times when even driving the process of change becomes a weary task and their motives and judgements are brought into question. All leaders experience those times when they are surrounded by situations that don’t seem to align with their purposes and plans. It is in those situations that true leaders thrive. True leadership demands an optimistic attitude. If you are going to achieve that which you set out for, you must stay focused and continue to believe in the vision. That is the key to success as a leader. 

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Leaders Must Define Reality

Posted by Herman Najoli on July 10, 2007

It’s understandable that many organizations have vision statements that attempt to define and crystalize what the future will look like for them. However, many of these organizations fail to develop a clear idea of where they currently are. The present situation is the key to a future desired vision of where and what the organization will accomplish. Great leaders take the time to define the present as well as they define the future.

Someone once said that leadership is taking a group of people from where they are to where they should be. Based on this definition, it is clear to see that an understanding of where your people currently are is critical to the journey of taking them where they should be. Defining where they currently are means looking at their present successes and failures, clarifying the obstacles in their path, reviewing their resources, assessing their capabilities in light of past accomplishments and outlining what is being done that is bringing in desired results. Every journey has a starting point and an end. By starting with where you currently are, you are able to set in motion a process of advancement to where you want to be. 

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Passion: The Most Important Ingredient in Speaking

Posted by Herman Najoli on July 6, 2007

The last couple of years have seen a mushrooming in the quest for professional speaking skills. Organizations like Toastmasters and speaking courses like Dale Carnegie’s have continued to grow immensely as more and more people realize the need to enhance their speaking skills. This is great. People are realizing that it is not just enough to have language, you need to develop mastery in it’s use. Now, the development of mastery in many speaking organizations usually focuses on the technical aspects of speaking – how to stand, use of gestures, layout of notes, etc. But then, there’s another aspect of speaking that I think is the most imporatnt ingredient. This is passion.

All the foremost speakers that we fondly remember have always demonstrated a passion that came from deep within their convictions. Martin Luther King Jr. (The greatest speaker of the 20th Century), Ronald Reagan (The Great Communicator), Zig Ziglar (The Greatest Motivational Speaker) and Les Brown (The World’s Leading Motivational Speaker) are good examples of very passionate speakers. If you will speak to change lives you must have passion. Passion elevates words from notes in ink to life-changing insights in the mind. Passion comes from conviction. You must believe in what you are saying deeply. Cultivate a deep passion and your speaking will be greatly rewarded.

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Little Things Matter

Posted by Herman Najoli on July 2, 2007

Richard Carlson contributed immensely to de-stressing the human race in his masterpiece, Don’t sweat the small stuff. I personally have benefited immensely from his work. There have been many situations when I would get close to allowing small stuff to ruin my attitude. In those moments I’ve thought of his work and the potential of stress always ended up dissipating.

But then I would also like us to consider getting serious about the little things that, if not properly handled, can derail our purposes, marriages and organizations. As I advocate for getting serious about small stuff, I’m not saying that you should sweat the small stuff. Sweat is a waste of energy (mere rearrangement of the letters) while getting serious is conservation of energy.

Think about your home, your job or your schooling. Supposing you decided not to be serious about the little things, what would happen? Would your home be successful? Would you continue working at your job for long? Would you do well in school and graduate? Little things do matter. Small stuff may not matter but little things can become big things.

Think of the nanotechnology industry. Something extremely small is rapidly becoming a big thing. Nanotechnology is simply the manipulation of atoms and molecules. The particles that are produced are a thousand times smaller than the width of hair, a hundred times smaller than a red blood cell – small stuff, huh!? Yet in the next few years nanotechnology will be driving almost everything – from computer chips to fuel cells. When the entire process of manipulating this small particles is fully understood we might have robots creating things out of nothing. Picture a car or a hamburger appear out of thin air as the molecules are arranged by nano-scale robots!

Let’s get serious about the little things. Little things become big things. Don’t sweat the small stuff but get serious about the little things.

Posted in Fulfillment, Leadership, Organization, Wisdom | 1 Comment »

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