On managing the golden goose

2018 marked my third year leading a team of highly intelligent people. People much better and more brilliant than myself. That really is the main objective in my view of a hiring manager, to hire people who are better than you and ensure you constantly bring out the best in them.

In my role as a manager, I have had to deal and interact with people with egos as big as my own 😊. Unfortunately for me, these people are also most times more intelligent, seen to be more innovative and more qualified sometimes for my job than I am – or so it seems.

But how do you handle the proverbial golden goose aka star player? How do you ensure that their toxic attitude and titanic ego doesn’t get in the way of work, how do you still bring out the best in them while ensuring they remain motivated just like the rest of the team?

Manage your own ego, then that of your golden goose

As a manger and leader of a team, taming my own ego has been a journey that I have had to intentionally embark on. By s doing, it not only gives me the humility to accept that I will never have all the solutions and that there are much better than me out there. Success is the main enemy of success and it is to ego what petrol is to fire. Unchecked ego is destructive, ego is the enemy. From Ryan Holidays book “Ego is the Enemy” he defines ego as “Unhealthy belief in our own importance”.

Star Payers always have blotted egos, turning their concern into obsession and Confidence into arrogance – sometimes subtle with a false humility and other time public arrogance.

For Each fighter, to become great, he needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal that they may challenge themselves against. ~ Frank Shamrock

Find their reward language and work it

Like the five languages of love, we all have our reward language. Some of us would use financial reward, others just recognition and others still opportunity to teach or coach others. In my case, I have always ensured I get knowledge on the reward language of the golden goose. Identification of reward language entails a lot of variables key to observe is the actual communication style, there are those who for instance use “I did…” as opposed to “We did…” this in most cases is a clear sign of someone who likes public recognition and accolades ensure you deliver them at every available opportunity. However, exercise some caution as this may negatively impact the rest of the team if not done the right way.

As a manager and leader of the team, it is vital that you always be quick to give credit to the team and take blame 😊 or ownership of failures that is just what it is.

Let the goose Wander Away, save the team

Sometimes the only alternative you have is to let the golden goose wander away. It is always about bringing out the best in the team, this is one lesson I have learned as a manager and a team leader. I highlighted in my earlier articles on conflict here that conflict is good for the team, however, there are levels that conflict can become toxic.

When you have tried everything, you have in your arsenal, then this is the option you are left with. Ensure that you manage the goose out in an intelligent way and communicate this clearly to the team as well. This would ensure that any wrong perceptions are eliminated and that the team understands that you would rather have a team working cohesively than sacrifice everyone else to have one shining star.

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships. ~ Michael Jordan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ouko Joseph is a Father and a Leader in the making. A passionate student of leadership

Dare to Disagree: Great Teams must not be echo chambers

Openness alone cannot drive change or transformation. Openness isn’t the end, it is the beginning. But why?

As humans, our neurobiological drive is to seek association with people who are mostly like ourselves. Those who view the world from our glasses and those with similar stands. This however cannot lead us to achieve greatness. In order to achieve greatness both as teams and as individuals, it is critical that we surround ourselves with those who challenge the way we think. those who will critically appraise our own dogmas and what we believe. What are the key elements in so doing?How can we ensure that the teams we lead are not echo chambers?

Find People Different from Us

We have to intentionally seek people with different mindset from us. This in itself requires that we commit time and energy. It is important for leaders and teams to find and incorporate people with vast ideas, this not only frees people from the danger of a single story, but also enables us to appreciate the different view points within the teams.

Mind Wide Open

Knowing how to learn is better than Knowing. Brian Herbert said “The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.”

It isn’t enough to find people who are different from us, keeping an open mind towards their views is critical if we are to obtain benefits from the diversity. Teams must not enjoy constant fights, however, individuals must be really good at defending their opinions and finding ways to challenging and improving those of the rest of the team.

Create Conflict

Conflict allows creativity, conflict when managed well has always enabled human species to progress and drive transformation. Conflict within organisations encourages open-mindedness and helps avoid the tendency toward group think that many organisations fall prey to. When mature teams or individuals in the teams have conflicts, three things can happen; strong relationships are built, minds are open thus encouraging innovation and encourages new thinking through incorporation of new ideas.

Bringing it Together

Constructive conflict requires us to find thinking team members who are not echo chambers. In order to create a thinking team and thinking organisations at large, we must encourage people to challenge our dogmas, conflict of ideas must be encouraged among team members and between different teams. In addition, team leaders themselves just like the team members need to create and encourage the challenging of ideas and allow their ideas to be challenged, an open mind and a mind open to continuous learning is not the end, it is the beginning of transformation.

Talk is cheap, well, not for a Leader

A “friend” of mine recently made this comment in the middle of a discussion we were having with him. It got me thinking, “as Managers and Leaders, is talk really cheap? or is it priceless and premium?”

In the Management positions that people hold in the organisations, most can be considered as also requiring the said individuals to provide Leadership. I say this because I am fully aware that Management and Leadership are two different concepts. One of the key things thus that Leaders and by extension effective managers must hold very dear is “talk” aka words. Those we lead in addition to following what we do keenly, what we say to them and the emotional effect that our words have on them cannot be understated.

In my position as a manager, and indeed as a life long student of leadership, I have always held dear that which I tell both those in my team, and those outside of it. Primarily, I pay keen attention to what I say to my team members and as such, talk to me is not cheap, Talk is actually Premium.

In “Talk Is (Not!) Cheap”, Jim McCann illustrates how the art of conversation leadership—the process he developed to engage others and create forward momentum in the workplace—can be used to inspire, innovate, and win. This and other books on the importance of conversational leadership (Using words and constant talk and deep listening) serve to show us the importance of the gift of the gab to leaders.

Ask yourself these three questions: abbreviated as KTN

Is it KIND

Simply put “If you can’t be Kind, be quiet.” I had this printed out and put on my work station for almost the whole of 2017. If there was something that I recognised early in my management and by extension leadership journey is that being able to practice empathic listening and talking is one of the most critical things as I needed to learn.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)/Emotional Quotient (EQ) is a critical skill of Leaders. When we are emotionally intelligent, then one of the things we are able to practice is Empathy. Kindness, and Compassion work together with Empathy to enable leaders not only be able to understand their team, but also inspire and influence them.

Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” –  Bob Kerrey  

We need to ensure that every word we utter and speak is kind and doesn’t serve to heart or put down those we relate with and in particular those we lead and work with in our teams. Being kind must not be confused with not being firm, in-fact when we are kind, we are able to put across our views in a more objective and by extension firm way as opposed to when we are not kind which only serves to show how inconsiderate and may be even uncouth we are in character.

Is it TRUE

Simply put “Speak the truth and it shall set you free.” Integrity is key if not the greatest virtue of any employee and indeed every leader. After evaluating if what we are about to say is kind, it is critical that we “fact check it” to ensure it is the Truth or that it is true. Remember, something could be true but how we say it may not be Kind, this is why as leaders, we need to ensure that how we say something is just as critical as to what we are saying – content of the message.

“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Managers (and Leaders) need to ensure that they constantly speak the truth. Truth in itself must not be confused with Fact – this is a debate we will have some other day :), for now, ensure that everything you speak is both kind and true. Be careful not to “stretch the truth” as that serves only to negate being kind and may actually move you towards the realm of lying.

Is It NECESSARY

In my MBA course, one of the cases we looked into (in Management Communications) dealt with how to deal with crisis as an organisation in the age of social media. In this case, we looked at how an organisational leader may need to communicate in a time of crisis choosing carefully what information is necessary to be shared with the public, under-pining how leaders need to carefully and without altering the truth pick the necessary content of their messages. Same applies to leaders and teams, it is important that what we talk about or say to those in our teams is necessary and serves to grow, inspire and motivate or make them better people.

After evaluating if what we want to say is Kind and True, it is important to weigh it on the scale of necessity. Not everything that is Kind and true should be said, and it must not be said to everyone, evaluate the impact and why or if it is necessary at that time or can be deferred.

Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid. ― Bernard Meltzer

Bringing it Together

Communication is transfer of meaning. Ensure you transfer the right and correct meaning as a leader. Evaluate what you want to say using KTN among other criteria before you say it. Your “talk” or words as a leader or someone in authority go a long way and have the power to not only impact the direction of the unit or organisation, but also impact forever or a very long time the lives of those you are leading.

Do not be like my friend and kill visions and dreams by just one comment :).

Africa must rise above self-Pity and get to work

Recently, Jacob Zuma was “removed” as president of South Africa (still ongoing). The issue of South Africa is quite an emotive and subjective matter. As a country where black people suffered in the hands of an oppressive regime, the wound of apartheid is ever so sour. Indeed many Africans lost their lives and went through unimaginable pain and sacrifice for the little freedom enjoyed today. Much work still needs to be done in South Africa and Africa as a whole.

In a discussion recently with fellow MBA Students in my class, which actually has black South African students, the discourse was as emotive as has always been. The discussion started with a post from one of us posting this message “Dear Kenya, It is possible to remove a sitting President. Sincerely, #ZumaExit.” As expected from a Kenyan, a quick response came in “Abeg, own your country first before giving us advice” This began a long discussion that revolved around various issues, top of which was that the removal of Zuma was simply a replacement of a corrupt man with one who was involved in Marikana Massacre (sic) which took place in August 2012 where black miners were killed while fighting for justice. The shootings were a massacre and comparison by the South African media was made to Sharpville in the 1960s. In addition, Zuma’s resignation according to my classmate was a reminder that white people still own and run the land of Shaka. In the discussion trail, on the one hand there was a submission that Zuma is largely anti-white but that he was not pro-black enough, whatever that means was left to imagination and debate. On the other hand, Ramaphosa was painted as a pro-white who was part of Mandela’s negotiating team that accepted political power and left white people with land and economic power.

In all this, I asked myself, what really is this discourse about? The discussion around South Africa in particular and Africa as a whole is one that goes back in history. The question that crossed my mind at this point is that do we as Africans want Justice or is it that as black people we feel entitled to the land and its economic fruits? Indeed as pointed out in the debate having power over your own land cannot be seen as entitlement but how must we engage in our ever so elusive quest to have power? Do we want people who are unapologetically pro black or do we want what I call conscious Leadership? It is my submission that as Africans we indeed must strive for firstly, execution excellence and Leadership that is full of virtue. In this regard, I am reminded of Alexander Harvard. , author of a book titled Virtuous Leadership. This is leadership founded on Character and virtue Professor Harvard argues that Leadership is a concept based on Philosophy and not a psychological discourse, I agree to large extent. African leadership needs to be Value based, yes but the higher level is virtue based leadership. His thesis is drawn from the old literature of Aristotle, Plato et.al who spent time contemplating what human nature is about. Four fundamental basic virtues – Practical wisdom, form the foundation of his submission. As Africa, we must hold these true and our leaders must practice the same. First, Prudence, basically the ability to make the right decision, every time. The right decision is not the correct decision, it is the right decision. Prudence gives leaders the capacity to make the right decision. Africans we must develop capacity through various actions. Secondly, Fortitude, also known as Courage. Africans must have the courage to move. This is fundamentally capacity to stay the course. We must arise and be angry enough as Africans to stay the course, we must make the right decisions and follow them through no matter the cost. Thirdly, Self-Control. The ideal of the greatness of Africa must be a conscious course that our leaders and indeed every African must follow. Last but not least, Africa like all humans is a social being. Justice must prevail. Leaders must be Just in their engagements. In a very simplistic way, justice simply means giving each person her due. With these three pillars – Self-Control, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice, African leaders both in the political and corporate fields can emerge as visionary and bring the much needed transformation in the continent. In general, African Leadership must rise and embrace Magnanimity and Humility.

Secondly, Africans must realize that history will judge those of us who lived in this time very harshly. As pointed out by Martin Luther King Jnr,

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it

 

As Africans, we must realize that in one way or another, our fates are tied together and that we must all stand up to be counted in the liberation of Africa. When one shouted in the group “WAKANDA FOREVA” it dawned on me that we truly do not understand even our own history. For start, Wakanda is a Marvel Comic invention of the white man so to speak, and for us to purport to use it as a rallying call for Africa, it shows that we as Africans do not appreciate our own history and identity.

We must realize that history is written to suite the person who writes it, it is our duty therefore to ensure that we write our own history as a people and that that history is one of greatness.

Really as Africans we must stop and pause and ask ourselves the difficult question of whether we are angry enough and how much we really want to determine our destiny. We must then strive and work towards that common goal starting with ensuring we have the right leadership in place not individuals who are greedy and full of filth. Each of us must realize that any of us suffering affects us and rise to the occasion, from South Africa to Sudan, Kenya to Congo, we must realize that we are one and only by coming together and stopping the self-pity narrative fix our own systems.

We must purpose to have leaders and people of convictions and the required tenacity to fight on until we liberate the mother land. I remember one person in the group pointed it out to me that .”… If it was closer home, and the differences as tangible as it was for the current and previous generation in south Africa would you feel the same..”  my answer is a resounding YES, I would feel the same, we must fix the leadership of the continent.

We must take ownership of our own destiny. We can shout the WAKANDA and lift a fist all we want, but tangible action must be taken. It starts with you and I, It starts with ME! Let us write our own history ladies and gentlemen, the time for pity party is over, it is time to act and act now! Let us LEAD!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Is a Father and a Leader in the making. A passionate student of leadership.

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The Leadership Prayer 

Lord let my actions INSPIRE others to DREAM more, LEARN more, DO more and BECOME more. 
Let my FAITH answer the Door Each Time Fear Knocks.

Let My LIFE be a TESTAMENT of your goodness and Faithfulness.

Let me show MERCY and KINDNESS to all. 

Teach me to Number my Days aright, That in the fullness of time I may gain a Heart of WISDOM.

Let my EARS be quick to Listen and My Mouth SLOW to answer.

Let each time I open my Mouth to speak, That every word may Edify, ENCOURAGE and MOTIVATE.

Yours Truly, 

JO 

The Controversial Leader | Finding Comfort in Controversy

Martin Luther King Jr said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I agree.

Over the years as I have stepped up to take different Positions of Leadership, either on Voluntary basis or in elected position, work related, in school et.al, one thing i have learned for sure is that in all cases I courted Controversy – be it in a positive or negative way.

Controversy is good for a leader. Why? First, because it shows that he or she stands for or has stood for something
. Secondly, the more influence – Leadership is about INFLUENCE you have the more exposure and criticism.

If you are familiar with the biblical stories, one of the greatest leaders in my view, Jesus, the people who were most against Him were the religious folks. A story is told of Him healing someone on the Sabbath, he did the right thing but on the wrong day (sic). Some people no matter what you do will never be for you – Accept that fact. If you are going to reach your highest potential as a leader, be comfortable in being controversial. See, this guy Jesus, over 2000 years later, people still argue over Him – So cool!

Critics are a distraction in most cases. As you court controversy, be cautious of dis-tractors. Always remember that as a leader your Vision and Mission is valuable, keep the focus. Your real fight is to stay focused, ask yourself – If I prove my point or win this argument, will I have furthered my vision or just fed my ego? Keep on the high road, do not come down to the critics. Anytime you start answering critics, you have to lower yourself.

The people you lead are always watching you, especially in moments of controversy – how you deal with controversy even among your team members is a key element in your leadership legacy. It will always be easy to say and do the right things when the going is safe and comfortable, it is much harder when you may suffer and even lose your life – Leadership is a matter of “life and death”.

A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. – John Maxwell

Growing In Character

Character

Proverbs 22:1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. This verse shows the importance of character in ones life. Especially a christian. It is on this verse that our mission to Kahuho Uhuru High School was hinged on.

In reviewing the message, I will base my writing in three sections; WHY is Character important to me as a follower of Christ? HOW do I develop my Character as a christian to be Christ like? – Which is the actual meaning of the word Christian. Finally, WHAT do I do to reflect Christ?

THE WHY: When God Speaks about me, what does He say? Can the Almighty boast about me like Job?

This question is addressed in reference to Job’s story, a man whom God was so proud of and well pleased with. Job stands out in God’s sight and He says; Job 1:8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”  So WHY? Because our Character distinguishes us. It is our walk in righteousness and obedience to God’s word that He takes pride in. As Christians, our Character ought to reflect the teachings of Christ. We must therefore strive to reflect and live the teachings of Christ. In so doing, when our heavenly father looks down, He is indeed well pleased.

Quote: When you have a good name, it sets you up for riches. A bad name on the contrary would result in loss of even what you have – Paul Wafula

Consider Job, the richest man in his time, yet his humility stands out both in the face of good and prosperous times and in the times of great tribulation. In his suffering, Job’s  Character is brought out as a man whose hope and trust is deeply rooted in the eternal God. Romans 5:1-5 Paul asserts that our faith and hope makes us glory in suffering for we know that our suffering produces Perseverance, and perseverance Character and Character Hope.

Quote: Through Pain, Character is developed-Paul Wafula 

Character2THE HOW: As a Christian, by what means do I develop Christ like Character? Does the Bible offer me any help?

Colossians 3:5-11 By putting to death whatever belongs to my earthly nature, and canal mind, my character is developed. The best way to exhibit good character is to behave to others as I would them behave to me, this is what love is about. When our hearts are full of love for one another, then our behavior, our character is informed by love as it is what dwells in our hearts.

Quote: Christian Character is not informed by Outward compulsion, but by inward conviction – Paul Wafula

By constantly filing our hearts with love, we ultimately express it in our daily character. It is a heart and mind full of love that will inform how we behave and act. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. So both our actions and words will be informed by love.

THE WHAT: As a Christian, what are my action points? After knowing WHY and HOW, so?

Galatians 5:22-26 When we belong to Christ, we crucify our flesh and its desires and passions. Since we now live by the spirit, we ought to keep in step with the spirit. The moment we as Christians realize WHY we need to be Christ like in our character, then the Holy Spirit would inform HOW we behave and treat others as well as situations and circumstances through WHAT we do.

It is WHAT we eventually do that shows who we really are deep down.

Quote: The Ultimate Good Character is exhibited when we love – Paul Wafula

Character4

In Summary, as Christians we:

  1. Always and Constantly examine ourselves against God’s standard
  2. Realize that some times Good Character Comes out of suffering and pain. That through difficulties we develop character.
  3. Need to realize that the Key To Christian Productivity is Character
  4. Must realize that we live for eternity.

QUOTE: If you live just for life, you are the most pitied person on earth. – Paul Wafula