Observations on self-leadership in Mozambique

Observations on self-leadership in Mozambique

Around the table a group of social workers, youth leaders, educators and project leaders are gathered. The attention is high, focus is sharp; people are keenly listening to the speaker of the moment. The discipline in attention, despite several days of learning, is impressive and quite unusual.

Looking out the window I can spot some of the children coming home from school, playing and chatting. The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue – both which are a welcome change from the torrential rains of a day ago.

I’m in SOS Children’s Village in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. “SOS Children’s Villages International is active in 134 countries and territories around the world, helping hundreds of thousands of children each year through family-based alternative care, schools, health centres, family strengthening programmes, and other community-based work” (from http://www.sos-childrensvillages.org/)

The reason I find myself here for the second time is that I am currently supporting a pilot initiative in Mozambique, sponsored by SOS in Sweden. The initiative is aimed at teaching and coaching the children to become active participants in their lives, where they can contribute and have input in their lives, and build empowering self-esteem to be able to create a good and happy future for themselves, with good relationships and work opportunities.

This is a great initiative and so very needed. The children who are living in SOS’s villages have it quite good, they are taken care of into a family environment when their own parents for whatever reason can no longer care for them. It goes without saying that it’s not easy to know that you are not with your biological family. The children are for example sometimes teased at school for this reason. It’s likely to impact a child emotionally and potentially also mentally (and the two are of course linked). What SOS as an organisation is doing through their initiative is going beyond just caring for a child through a home, food, and a “family” around them. They want to also proactively “feed” the child’s self-esteem, his/her mind and heart, to build them from the inside out, to believe in themselves so that they can become great leaders of themselves as a grown-up. It’s a brilliant initiative and so needed – this is what all children and adults need. And early indications from this initiative are very encouraging – it really seems to be working.

I have had the privilege of working with the subject of effective self-leadership (leading oneself effectively in all aspects of one’s life) for 20 years now and this is, without a doubt, a key contributing factor for success and happiness for all people, regardless of their situation, role, age, gender, location etc.

My role in supporting SOS is to help the village adults, particularly the Mums, to become good self-leaders themselves so that they can be role models who can coach the children and teenagers to high self-esteem and effective, respectful and responsible self-leadership.

Organisations can learn a lot from this initiative too.

Effective self-leadership is rarely taught in such a way that self awareness and social awareness becomes empowering and success-creating.

And there may be valid reasons for this, such as not realising the potential of it, dismissing the notion as something vague and “fluffy” or simply not knowing how to approach it. Yes, it may be easier to focus on what’s going on outside of people; adjusting actions and behaviours, adding or changing processes and procedures – to try to achieve better results. But given that we are human beings, our actions and behaviours are driven by what’s going on inside – how we think and feel, and how we see ourselves and others. And as such, to be able to know ourselves and lead and manage ourselves is a deciding factor in the results we get.

Yes, to lead ourselves effectively is the responsibility of each of us, and one worth taking seriously. It’s a life-long journey and one definitely worth taking. With it we can make better decisions and feel happier about the choices we make. We can communicate more effectively with others, collaborating better – which we all need as no-one is an islands – to get better, more sustainable results.

The best leaders are great self-leaders:

  • They know what stresses and energises them (and manage those factors)
  • They know and understand their impact on others (and manage that)
  • They are not in any way perfect (no-one is) but they admit when things go wrong (as they are aware of what’s going on around them) and proactively look for new solutions

I am inspired by the spirit of the family and village leaders in Mozambique who so intuitively and open-heartedly understand the importance of self-leadership and self-esteem for the future of their children, and themselves. It brings much hope for the future.

Be curious

Be curious

Always keep an open mind.

What we know compared to what there is to know is minute – and that’s OK, there’s no way we could know it all. Especially not when considering the speed of change we experience around us. What we knew before is likely to have changed.

And the only way to prosper in a changing world must be to keep a curious, open mind – to be humble and realise that we don’t know it all. To be brave and strong enough to say that we don’t know. It’s OK.

There’s no need to “be right” about things.

With an open mind, we can explore new ideas and create better solutions – together with others. With a curious mind we look with genuine interest at change and see the opportunities that present themselves – and we see and appreciate the value that other people bring.

I reckon it’s our main success strategy – to keep an open, curious mind – and it’s fun too. What do you think?

Go on, have an attitude!

Attitude is everything.

Attitude, outlook, perspective, approach – whatever we call it – it affects or changes everything.

What if something unexpected or unwanted happens? You lose your job, you “fail” at something, you don’t meet your goal? Well, it is what it is – we can’t control everything. But we can of course change our attitude, our outlook on what has happened.

I know it sounds simple and obvious, but yet, when we really need that attitude, we don’t always look for it – we get stuck in the “automatic” reaction of anger, disappointment, sadness, sense of failure. And the key word here is of course to go LOOK for the attitude. It’s a choice and it can be made at any time, in any situation.

And an easy way to LOOK for it and FIND it is to be ready with an attitude, a thought, a mantra if you like, which quickly gets you on the right path to take the next step to progress, success, results.

I have two favourites, which I always call on as a way to get me back on track – they were both used by the late Susan Jeffers PhD, author of the bestseller “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” – a master of great attitude. The second one is of course also an old proverb.

It’s all happening perfectly

This too shall pass

And I’ve added my own: I will find out what good this will lead to

Because pretty much everything leads to something good – especially when we look for the good and expect it.

I have met so many people who have met disappointment and worse and have found (later on) that it was the best that could have happened to them.

People who have lost jobs and realised that it was the push they needed to take the long overdue step of doing something new that they had wanted but not dared to take.

People who have failed and realised that they never would have come up with that brilliant new idea unless they had failed and had to have a rethink.

People who have experienced conflict with their team members and realised that it forced them (in a good way) to take a new approach to teamwork, leading to much greater goal achievement and team climate.

Attitude is everything, and one of the few things completely within our own control. Completely – if we choose to take that control.

So go on, have an attitude!

3 tips for leading in an increasingly complex world

Leadership is becoming more and more complex. We can see that as a threat or an opportunity, that’s our choice. I see it as an opportunity to learn and grow, which is always more fun than any extended status quo.

Increasing complexity means that as leaders we need to manage multiple stakeholders, greater expectations of transparency and to consider sustainability as a major driving force for business ethics and success.

There are no quick answers to any of these challenges/opportunities, but that shouldn’t be a reason for doing nothing. Here are 3 tips for leading in the increasingly complex environment of business.

1. Think of ALL the resources you need to do a great job and deliver results.

The HUMAN resources = your employees, customers, suppliers, interest groups, people impacted by your actions etc (your stakeholders). Who are you dependent on to do a great job? Who’s dependent on you, who’s impacted by your actions and behaviours? What’s important to them? What do you need to do to keep them onside, have their continued support? This includes creating an awareness of differences in cultures, personalities and more.

The NATURAL resources = water, air, land, vegetation, animals etc. What resources do you need for your work? What resources do you impact? How can you plan and execute your work with minimal impact?

The FINANCIAL resources = capital, shareholder investment etc. What budget do you need? Which financial indicators do you impact? How can you best impact finances in a positive way?

2. Think of your impact.

Think about what your actions and behaviours will lead to – who/what will be impacted, in what way? And not just immediately but also over time. And even if the impact is positive for one stakeholder or one resource, it may not be for other ones – if so, you need to consider how to deal with that.

3. As you consider the points above, create “impact grids”.

Here you can map out actions and behaviours and their (positive/negative/neutral) impact on people, natural resources and finances – so that you can make the best possible decisions.

The key to complexity is to think bigger, wider, further, longer term. To not just do what seems easiest or most obvious in the moment. Everything we do has consequences, sometimes greater than we realise – unless we start making a more thorough assessment of our practices.

Simply put:

It’s not enough to think about the customer, if the long term effect on the environment is too great – sooner or later it will damage your reputation and customer loyalty will falter.

It’s not enough to think about the environment if there’s no financial reward to what your doing – sooner or later you’ll run out of money to protect the natural resources.

It’s not enough to think about shareholder payback if the business practices are unethical – sooner or later it will impact your business viability and share value will drop.

For all of us, it’s about opening up to the growing complexity of business and making it work, by seeing beyond our day-to-day actions. And once we do, it’s a pretty compelling story of business sustainability.

How to make Yourself more marketable on the Job Market

Whether you are an employee, your own boss or without a job, make sure you view and think of yourself as “your own boss”, someone who is running your own business. As “You Ltd” you are hiring out your services to an organisation when you take employment.

And if this is true, then you are also responsible for your own development, and responsible for making yourself as valuable to organisations and marketable as possible, if you’re looking for a job or a promotion.

You have your own future in your hands. And that’s a great opportunity.

Map out what you are best at, ask yourself what your unique strengths are. An excellent way of doing this is by completing the ”Strengthsfinder”, an online test which helps you identify your strengths/human talent themes. To do the test you first need to buy the book “Strengthsfinder 2.0? by Tom Rath. Or you can do the more in-depth “StrengthScope” with a certified StrengthScope coach, or use any other strengths tools out there.

You can also ask others for feedback (your manager, colleagues, employees, customers, friends) to further understand what you are good at – and what you need to improve to become more successful.

Then think of ways of maximising your strengths, really tapping into them, whatever role your are in. Tapping into your strengths can also be a a great way of working around “weaknesses” or improving development areas. Your talents and strengths are your greatest opportunities for further success.

Review your career – what trends can you see, what jobs have you had, what strengths and capabilities have you used? What have you done and achieved? We’ve all achieved loads but rarely take the time to sit down and really map it out, or make the most of it.

Practice talking about yourself, your qualities, knowledge, skills and results. Ask a friend or colleague to listen and give you feedback. Remembering that it’s always about the value you can give to others.

If you’re looking for a job, think of how you can explain and link how your particular experience makes you the right person for the job. How you can clarify how all your experience and qualities can become of value for them, the company and its results.

Invest in yourself – you are your own greatest asset. What knowledge and qualities are desired in the marketplace, now or in the future? What’s needed out there? Where can you add value? How can you keep building your value by adding knowledge, experience and qualities that you think are relevant for you, your dreams and ambitions?

Attended seminars and workshops. And if you don’t have a big development budget, not to worry – it doesn’t have to be expensive or cost more than your time. There are many shorter seminars, webinars and tele-seminars that are free of charge. Shop around!

Join relevant networks of people with similar interests, from the same industry or with other relevant connections.

Read, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, watch TED-videos, surf the net for information…..

There are endless development opportunities for continuous development and making yourself more marketable. Which ones will you take?