No single individual has influenced my leadership paradigm and praxis like Dr. John C. Maxwell. I started reading and understudying John in the late 1990s and have been teaching his materials ever since, both as a bonafide EQUIP trainer and a certified Maxwell coach/speaker/trainer on the John Maxwell Team (JMT).
Meet John Maxwell–my mentor emeritus–the #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 30 million books. John has been identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association® and the world’s most influential leadership expert by Business Insider and Inc. magazines.
Dr. Maxwell has also received the Horatio Alger Award, as well as the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network. His organizations—The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation—have trained millions of leaders from every nation in the world.
The annual Live2Lead conference is John’s brainchild, and he always opens and closes, with other phenomenal faculty sandwiched in between. I have been privileged to host it on both sides of the Atlantic, in Montreal, Canada as well as Accra, Ghana.
LAWS OF COMMUNICATION AND LIMITS-BLOWING CONTENT
At Live2Lead this year, John C. Maxwell will be sharing new content from his upcoming book on the 16 Laws of Communication. Maxwell explains how to identify, grow, and apply your critical capacities. Once you’ve blow the “cap” of your capacities, you’ll find yourself more successful in your daily life.
We are absolutely convinced at YAW PERBI Executive Leadership Education that leadership (including communication) is taught; not just caught. Join John and the stellar faculty he’s put together for this year’s Live2Lead conference and up your leadership game. Register now through this link. Impress upon your organization to join the movement that will transform society by becoming a Patron of Live2Lead. A Patron company or individual is one that sends at least 10 leaders to Live2Lead. Together we can change our world for the better!
Register HERE, NOW.
I just arrived at my room in Cape Town after three flights from Accra to Nairobi, Nairobi to Johannesburg and Jo’burg to Cape Town. A question on my mind as l flew here far above sea level, sometimes as high as 38,000 feet, has been, “How high is your leadership lid?”
THE FIRST OF THE IRREFUTABLE LAWS OF LEADERSHIP
Of course you know what a lid is, the cover of a container. How high your lid is determines the quality of the leadership that you provide for those you lead. I learnt this a long time ago, some 20-25 years ago from John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. It was the very first of the principles of leadership he espoused in that bestseller and my life has never been the same since.
As John challenged me then from the written word—and many years later in-person—I must always endeavour to lift my leadership lid because no family, organization, church, community or country would ever grow past their leader. The leader is the lid over those (s)he leads. Sometimes when training leaders I ask, “are you a leader or ‘lidder’? because a leader is literally the lid on the progress and prosperity of their constituency. In a sense, every leader is a lidder; the question is “how high?”
IMAGINE THIS PRESIDENTIAL LID
You probably have heard me tell the story of a certain African president that a group of us, Maxwell certified leaders, were trying to connect in-person to John C. Maxwell for a national transformation process and programme. This president had never heard of John. In all probability, he hadn’t read any other contemporary leadership experts but hopefully he has digested at the very minimum some of the leadership classics like Plato’s, ‘The Republic’. It is a scary thought that this African nation—and by extension every family, organization, corporation, community, church etc. within her—would be constrained by the tightness of this head of state’s lid. I almost added, “through no fault of theirs,” but I guess they voted him into power.
HOW TO LIFT YOURS
While we educate a new generation that should be too enlightened to allow such tight lidders to lead African nations in the next decade, let me ask you, let’s get personal: how high is your lid? We forget, many of us (or we might even not know), that leadership is not just caught, it must be taught. And that’s why I love the opportunity, come October 07, for us all to be part of a life-altering, lid-lifting Live2Lead virtual experience with local faculty and global ones beaming all the way from Atlanta, Georgia.
We are gunning for 2,000 leaders—from emerging (youth) leaders, through leaders in the establishment (i.e. government/public sector leaders) to established leaders in the private sector, including executives from the corporate space. We will be taught in word and deed by powerful speakers and shakers like John C. Maxwell himself, two Patricks (Lencioni of the USA and Awuah of Ghana) and a Patricia (CEO of Vodafone, Ghana).
RAISE THE ROOF!
One of the most powerful discoveries in psychology over the last generation has been that people can learn and grow and change! So wherever your lid is today, if you learn to lead better you provide more room for those you lead. John will be the first to tell you that “your capacity determines your impact.”
Perhaps, some of the conflicts you are experiencing right now in your organization, church or wherever you lead is because your lid is too low and so people keep hitting it. And there is going to be continued tension and banging (conflict) till at some either you leave the stage or your people take their exit. As you have probably heard it said, people join organizations but they leave people (managers/leaders). It’s time to make room, lift your lid, raise the roof!
I have been part of things l left because the lid was too low. It just wasn’t life giving and l know people have also left my leadership when my lid was low because it was just too tight. Learn to lead. Each one of us can learn to lead better. Blow off the lid so that all of a sudden the people under your leadership feel this space and freedom because you lifted your lid and now they can breathe and create and innovate and… live again.
Join us at Live2Lead Ghana 2022, on October 7, and let’s all learn to lead better so that the people following our leadership can live better. If leading is your purpose on earth—that you live2lead—then you might as well as learn2lead, and do it well. As Donewell Insurance puts it, “If it must be done, it must be done well.” If we must lead, then we must lead well. Let’s blow off some lids and see our constituents blessed beyond measure, growing great and strong.
Right outside my hotel room window is the breathtaking view of the majestic, towering Table Mountain at 3,500 feet above sea level with no real ‘peak’ per se. No lid! So in the meantime, while you contemplate your lid, I will enjoy Cape Town on your behalf.
Register and join LivetoLead here.
The world is not in a good place. Leadership is the cause. And when it comes to Ghana’s situation in particular, I have personally been shocked at the number of C-level leaders I have interacted with that have either completely lost hope in the future of the country or nearly have. “How did we get here???” one CEO of a major bank asked me (yes, with three question marks).
If “everything rises and falls on leadership” and “leadership is cause, everything else is effect,” then there is no other way than to attribute the politico-socio-economic state of our nation to leadership (or the lack thereof). In the same way, if there is any one thing that will elevate the conversation, and the nation with it, it is leadership.
DO OR DIE TRYING
As one belonging to the tribe of eternal optimists, I have sworn that in my lifetime I will either see the flourishing Ghana that our forebears anticipated on 6th March, 1957 when the modern state was born, or die trying. When the nascent nation was named ‘Ghana,’ our great grandparents were hopeful it would reflect the prosperity of the old Ghana empire, hence our new name (from Gold Coast). Oh, it bears repeating: our tribe of eternal optimists will see to a prosperous Ghana in our lifetime or die trying.
“I HAVE A DREAM, I HAVE A DREAM…”
Every true leader has a dream they passionately pursue with their people. I realize there is a day dedicated to almost every cause under the sun and Sustainable Development Goal—women’s day, water day, literacy day, friendship day, founders day … even toilet day. Yet the one thing that makes each of these causes to rise and fall has no such day dedicated to it to elevate and emphasize it. Is a day enough? Surely not; but it is a good catalyst for the remaining three hundred and sixty four or five days.
My fellow Maxwell-trained and certified collaborators in Ghana and I have a dream that ultimately the first Friday of October each year will become universally known as LEADER DAY. There is nothing special about the first Friday in October per se except that consistently for about a decade now, our mentor and leadership expert, John C Maxwell, has been gathering some of the best leadership minds and hearts on the planet to speak to the issue, and we might as well leverage the opportunity rather than reinvent the wheel. Live2Lead is the name of that event. The name says it all, that’s our purpose on earth: We live to lead.
Gwen Addo, the pulchritudinous CEO of the Hair Centre and speaker at Live2Lead Ghana ‘22 affirms this vision: “I also pray your dream comes true and October 7 becomes a “leadership day” or perhaps October becomes a “leadership month.”” She continues, “leadership is close to my heart … and why not dream it bigger than just a day.”
You and I know the dearth of leadership in our country. We Maxwell certified trainers who are Ghanaian are aiming to get 2,000 leaders at all levels to benefit from the LIVE simulcast from Atlanta. We will organize local content for our context first, sandwiching the global feed. You would want to be with Patrick Awuah (Founder & CEO, Ashesi University), Patricia Obo-Nai (CEO, Vodafone), Uncle Ebo Whyte (CEO, Roverman Productions), Gwen Gyimah Addo (CEO, The Hair Senta), Kathleen Addo (Chairperson, National Council for Civic Education) and Kwamina Asomaning (CEO, Stanbic Bank). The core issue on the table this time, or shall I say by the fireside, is “Leading with Integrity & Inspiring Hope, for the Common Good.”
On October 7, we shall convene 2,000 Ghanaian leaders online. At least half of them will be from 100 companies, institutions and organizations which would send 10 of their leaders to Live2Lead as their investment in themselves as well as boldly staking their claim in the prosperity of Ghana by raising the leadership lid in the country, one company at a time. All these companies will be listed as patrons in the event handbook, website and social media (in alphabetical order).
The other half will be made up of executive leaders from the private sector, the establishment leaders (public service) and emerging leaders from our schools and universities, representing the next generation. Companies, institutions and organizations which want to go beyond patron status will be given opportunity to sponsor the establishment and emerging leaders in exchange for significant air time and eyeballs.
This 2,000 is only starters; we shall double in 2023; and double again and again till at least 2% of all leaders in Ghana are connected to this Live2Lead tribe of learners who lead and leaders who learn. That is the exact critical mass need to see a self-propagating movement of leaders worth following in Ghana.
The feedback from the ground as I’ve gone around is damning. Ruinous to the extent that although the theme we initially chose for our local content is ‘Leading with Integrity for the Common Good,’ we’ve had to come up with a conjoint theme of HOPE. Our people need hope. Leaders are brokers of hope, thus when they themselves are broken to the extent that they have no hope, what shall the rest of the people do?
Arise Ghanaian leaders!, established and emerging ones alike. We are better than this. Yet perhaps we are expecting leadership behaviours, values and attitudes that we haven’t first trained into people. Since we Live2Lead (that’s our purpose) let’s then Live2Learn (that’s the process) so we can all lead better and all make our nation great and strong. When the leader gets better, everyone and everything else does too. So let’s all show up!
One day in October, for starters. Just one day but who knows? Perhaps ‘October Day’ will in my grandchildren’s day be as well-known as ‘May Day’ is today. And for even better reasons, leadership-wise.
An event is not enough for sustained transformation thus there are leadership development and training pathways that will later be shared as a follow-up process between October 7 and the next Leader Day a year hence.
Trust is the foundation of all leadership. Earning the trust and respect of the people you lead may take years but can be lost overnight.
Sometimes people endure the pain and discomfort of a leader because they need the salary and have nowhere else to go. Or they may choose to respect your position but distrust you as a person. That’s sad. That is particularly sad because pure leadership emanates from the personal power of the person of a leader, not their positional power.
It’s even sadder to go about your daily tasks as a leader without an awareness of what the people you lead think and feel about you. That’s because a time of crisis will strike one day and you’ll behold, for the first time, the true colours of the people who have been smiling and bowing before you in the corridors of your organization.
In times of crisis, leaders who are not trusted and respected are left to hang. The led leave without notice and never look back. Unfortunately, some leaders still fail to read the signs and instead blame everything and everyone else except themselves.
What kind of legacy do you want to build as a leader? Do trust and respect matter to you and are you intentional about building them?
Here are five reasons why trust and respect are important:
- When followers trust you, they’re more likely to do what you ask and even go the extra mile to help you succeed.
- When followers trust you, they’ll freely share ideas, feedback and solutions that will help the organization achieve its goals.
- When followers trust and respect you, they’ll consult you anytime even after they stop working for you.
- When followers trust you, they’ll recommend you to other people.
- When followers trust you, they’ll warn you when you’re in danger and stick by you even in times of crisis.
At YAW PERBI we conduct Trust, Respect & Reputation Surveys for organizations. This concise, confidential and customized survey will give you a clear picture of what your staff think about you as a leader, your board and managers.
This is what Kenneth Magembe, the Managing Director of Armstrong Consulting Engineers, said after conducting this survey in his company, “Never take things for granted. Small things easily affect the trust of my staff. Integrity and fulfilling promises are key drivers for improving employees’ trust.”
The survey will measure your;
- Fairness when dealing with staff
- Response to staff’s ideas, suggestions and requests
- Listening skills
- Display of integrity in your character, conduct and conversations
- Delivery of promises
- Confidentially of staff’s personal information
- Staff’s confidence in your qualifications, skills and experience
- Staff’s sense of loyalty to you
- Concern for the well-being of your staff
- Modelling of company’s core values
Once the staff has completed the survey, we’ll deliver a comprehensive report of the results, interpret them and provide concrete and practical suggestions for building, reinforcing or restoring trust, respect and great reputation in your leadership in the organization.
You’ll also get a free one-hour coaching session with one of our certified professional coaches to set smart goals in this important aspect of your leadership.
To access this survey contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As one of the Pan African Cohort facilitators of BCA Leadership, I just got off a scintillating Zoom call with amazing African C-level leaders from across the continent—East Africa (like Kenya and Uganda), West Africa (I recall Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana), North Africa (Egypt) and Southern Africa (Malawi, South Africa). We talked about Emotional Intelligence and the whole idea of VUCA. The goal of this blog is to summarize the essentials of the topic, which most participants described as ‘intriguing’: “So you think you can lead effectively without EQ in a VUCA world?” Really, this is a rhetorical question because no one in their right senses would say, “Yes, I can lead effectively without Emotional Intelligence (EQ)” in the first place, let alone in a world that’s described as VUCA.
WHAT ON EARTH IS VUCA?
VUCA is a term that came from the military space, especially at the end of the cold world war when without the two clear polarizing forces the whole world was described as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Guess what? If the end of the last century was said to be VUCA then imagine just how much more VUCA it is now. Look at the volatility of the world today, look at the speed of transformation, the dizzying digital economy. Consider the uncertainty with COVID-19 and this post-pandemic world. Is it even a post-pandemic or rather para-pandemic world as in some places it seems over and in others, COVID is still raging? Look at the complexity of the world. How could a microscopic virus emerge in a small place in some corner of the world called Wuhan, China, and the whole world gets grabbed into this? Some things are just ambiguous right now. It’s a VUCA world. There wouldn’t be enough space to write out all the feelings these VUCA times have generated in people, especially anxiety.
HOW ABOUT EQ?
Even before the VUCAness of the world, Emotional Intelligence had been identified as the key thing for succeeding in leadership. It is archaic 20th century thinking that IQ (intelligence quotient) makes a good leader for a total leader not only has IQ, in terms of book smarts or cognitive intelligence, but also Emotional Intelligence (EI/EQ) in terms of being intelligent about feelings and Global Intelligence (GQ). Humans like to think we are rational people but at the end of the day we are emotional beings. The term was first coined in 1990 by researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey, but was later popularized by psychologist Daniel Goleman five years later.
We now know that 80-90% of success in Executive Leadership depends on Emotional Intelligence and not cognitive intelligence. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dumb. I am a medical doctor for crying out loud. Intelligence is important but guess what? When it comes to Executive Leadership, IQ only gets you into the door, it takes EQ to play the game. And win. After about 128, IQ doesn’t matter anymore! Given the same level of IQ, technical skills, and competence, it’s EQ that would make all the difference in how much one succeeds (or not).
Emotional intelligence, according to Psychology Today, is “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” It is thus made up of the following four blocks:
BUT THERE’S PROBLEM
So being the amazing leaders we are, we figured out we cannot just sit idly twiddling our thumbs and watch VUCA happen without responding. In 2007, one Robert Johansen (a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future), came up with a behavioral leadership model he called VUCA Prime to counteract each of the four elements of VUCA with a specific positive response which starts with the same four letters. VUCA Prime then is to have Vision over Volatility, to overcome Uncertainty let’s have Understanding, then Clarity over Complexity and to overcome Ambiguity let there be Agility.
Well, I have been studying this since the pandemic began and was thinking recently how good VUCA Prime is but how so very cognitive it is! Why is VUCA Prime so cognitive and does not take enough emotions into cognizance especially when we know 90% of success will depend on a leader’s emotional awareness (of self and others) and responses?
WHAT IS VUCA EQ THEN?
Consequently, I have designed something called VUCA EQ to provide a more comprehensive and potent leadership response to VUCA beyond the cognitive, one that significantly takes emotional intelligence into consideration. Like VUCA Prime, each of the VUCA EQ responses also begins with the same four letters.
Firstly, V is Verification: we need to be able to decipher what our emotions are and label them correctly. Then we need to be able to do the same for others as well so we can respond rather than just react, and we can manage our emotions and that of others instead of just trying to control them. The world of command and control is gone!
Secondly, instead of Uncertainty and just responding with the cognitive Understanding that VUCA Prime proposes, we rather respond in Unison. What I mean by Unison is to respond with our three brains. You have the cognitive brain but you also have your emotional brain called the limbic system. EQ is not just a ‘heart’ kind of thing, no! Emotional Intelligence has to do with the brain too. Or even more annoying, called ‘soft skills.’ EQ produces hard results on the balance sheet and cashflow statements! There is the Cognitive brain, Emotional brain, and Instinctive brain and VUCA EQ is about responding with all three in unison.
For Complexity, not only overcome with clarity but with Conveyance. Powerfully transmit emotional then logical information and carry across values and perspectives, considering emotional data and communicating emotions first. Remember to start with emotional data when decision-making and communicating eg. I feel vexxed about this decision and I’m aware most people in the company feel anxious…. Connect with emotions and convey them in response to complexity.
Then finally, for Ambiguity, not only thrive with agility but by Automotivity. In other words, learn to move people’s emotions or move people emotionally. Automotivity means containing within itself the means of propulsion or movement. Mobilize people in such consonance and resonance with what they want (motives) and how they want (motivations) that they move in a self-propelling manner. After all, why do you suppose feelings are called e-motions? Feelings move us, they move the world. We may not like to acknowledge it but they do. How do you learn to know people’s motives and their motivations so that you can ride on that to send them (better still, travel with them) to a place where they ought to go?
Leadership is in the transportation business. We move people from here to there and without the power of Emotional Intelligence to move people (think e-motions) towards a shared, noble purpose, we are going nowhere ourselves in the first place and taking no one with us for that matter. Don’t you ever think you can successfully lead, especially in this VUCA world, without Emotional Intelligence.
Marketplace leaders of faith, it’s time to align. Since returning to Ghana, after several years mainly in Canada, that is a word I’ve heard a lot in my re-orientation: align. “Let’s align, let’s align,” I hear this quite often! CEOs want to align with their boards, other C-level executives need to align with their various teams, sales and marketing must be congruent, and everyone needs to align with the company’s vision, mission and values. All well and good.
Let’s elevate this alignment conversation as I dedicate this particular blog to marketplace leaders who are Christ-followers. The Christ-following marketplace leader does not, and indeed cannot, have the same motives and bottom line as someone who isn’t a Christ-follower. This week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of emerging leaders on “Man with a Vision on a Mission,” which was essentially about the purpose of life. Dr. Myles Munroe of blessed memory once put it so poignantly, “The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.” Purpose is when you know and understand what you were born to be and accomplish, what something was made for. Or as they say in the French city of Montreal my family and I have been domiciled in for over a decade, raison d’être (reason for being). I’ve also held discussions with some of the C-level executives in the Ghana Club 100 from mining to fintech about purpose. (Ghana has christened the top 100 companies as the Ghana Club 100, akin to the Fortune 500 in the United States). These premium companies have profit, for sure, but how about purpose?
WHY WE ‘GO TO MARKET’
We are in business for profit, that’s the bottomline—or so we thought until a couple of decades ago, the concept of ‘Triple Bottom Line’ arose (thank you John Elkington) as a result of people pursuing profit at the expense of human well-being and the sustainability of our earth. The bottomline has since been triadized as Profit, People, and the Planet. That’s the triple bottomline. All three come together for holistic prosperity and complete sustainability.
Profit, is about acing financial performance, generating dollars for shareholders. By People we mean a focus on a business’s societal impact, or its commitment to human beings—within and without the company or organization. People are the other stakeholders beyond the shareholders (who are taken care of largely by profit). We mean people impacted by business decisions from customers and employees to community members. With all the talk about climate change and the like, companies are now tasked to also aim at making a positive impact on the Planet as they seek to capitalize on it to make profit.
Yet while all three are important to everyone in the market—of all faiths, little faith or no faith—I refer to the above treble as the temporal bottom line. There is a timeless triple bottom line, which is what I want to draw the attention of marketplace leaders of faith to.
MISSION IN THE MARKET
I’ve realized that we need a reorientation of why we’re in the marketplace, and what our mission is, as Christ-followers. I often tell people that if they don’t have a personal purpose statement, they wouldn’t know which company to work with or for because they won’t know if they are aligned. Your values must be compatible with theirs. Similarly, if you are a Christ-follower, your mission in the marketplace must be aligned with God’s mission.
What exactly is God’s mission? That’s the timeless triple bottom line I refer to. God is on a three-fold mission in the world:
1. Towards Himself—to bring glory to Himself. God gets glory when we reflect His good nature in our being and doing. He desires, and deserves, to receive glory also from the obedience, service and worship of all nations and peoples in every sphere of life, from Archaeology to Zoology. Are your life, leadership and work God-glorifying?
2. Towards creation—to bring a blessing to all created things. God is on a mission to bless all of creation, not just people. People, first and foremost, but all of creation is a candidate for God’s blessing. While the blessing would include the temporal financial profit, people’s prosperity and the planet’s care (triple bottom line), the greatest of blessing is all creation being freed from the penalty, power and presence of sin to be God’s friend once more, to worship and serve Him and reflect His nature lost once-upon-an-Eden again. So, the second-fold mission of God in blessing creation comes through in the 3BL of business, but there is a redemptive element that I dare to say is the most important. I say this because that will outlast how long profit, this planet and this life will endure. Are your life, leadership and work creation-blessing?
3. Against evil—to vanquish evil and establish His Kingdom on earth. Yes, your mission as part of God’s grand mission is to pillage evil to establish God’s righteous, just, and equitable Kingdom on earth forever and ever, as it is in heaven. Are your life, leadership and work evil-crushing and Kingdom-establishing?
PRAYER AT WORK
We see the above three-fold mission of God in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples:
1. Glory to Himself—“Our father in Heaven, Hallowed be your name… For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.”
2. Blessing to Creation—“Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts (sins), as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
3. Against Evil—“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven… And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…”
Organizing prayer at work with like-minded, same-hearted folk of faith is good but being the answer to the prayer is even better—makes it complete.
Consider this! As a person, am I aligned with God’s mission? Is this what my life, leadership and work are all about: bringing God glory, blessing creation, defeating evil and establishing God’s kingdom? Is that what my company stands for?
So being an effective agent of God in the marketplace is going for the timeless triple bottom line for God’s glory, for blessing people and the planet in general, but especially the blessing of redemption, and ultimately defeating evil to establish God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, starting with your workplace. This is the tried-and-true-and-timeless triple bottom line. Is your work and leadership redemptive?
We must all align ourselves with God’s mission because to be with God on his mission is the greatest cause of all time for all people on Earth in any and every era. Oh, that it would be done in our marketplaces as it is in heaven!
I’m very excited to begin my doctorate in global leadership this week. Having been a student of leadership for the last 25 years plus and acquired a Master’s degree in it a few years ago, I’ve felt it’s time to do the whole nine yards, not so much for the title (after all I’m already a doctor) but to go deeper and be even better-seasoned in my darling subject (or is it object?).
In going this doctorate route, I opted for a seminary environment because faith matters immensely to me, and indeed to the majority people in the world. The increased secularization of a formerly mainly ‘Christian’ Europe and certain sections of American society seems like an overwhelming flood to many only because it is a sharp deviation from the not-so-distant past when there was hardly any division between church and state; but also because the West disproportionately fills the media space. Only last week the German national broadcaster shared that a recent poll showed “most Germans find religion unimportant.” Yet the fact remains that the majority of the world has and practices a faith of sorts. In 2025, 90% of the world will be religious, my friends who run Operation World say; and by 2050, at least 87% of the world will still be religious, according to Pew Research.
The mid-twentieth-century secularization theory—that an increase in modernity means a decrease in religion— has been largely debunked by the likes of Berger (2014). According to Todd Johnson, who I just exchanged emails with, an astute associate professor of Global Christianity and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, “Despite increased modernity the world has in fact become more religious; 80.8% of the global population self-identified with a religion in 1970, rising to 88.1% in 2010 and with a projected increase to 91.5% by 2050,” higher than Pew’s projected 87% cited in the previous paragraph! Even the ‘unaffiliated’ doesn’t mean they aren’t religious; it often means they choose not to be identified with any ‘institutionalized’ religion. Just as humans have a physical, social and mental components that cannot be denied, so is there a spiritual capacity that we cannot run away from. French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal put it succinctly, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator,” and in his experience and exposure, “by God the creator made know through Jesus Christ.”
By the way, I use the world ‘religion’ generally (and maybe even generously) because as an insider of the Christian faith I wouldn’t call Christianity a religion per se. Religion connotes man in search of God while in the Christian faith it is actually God in search of man. Not only that, religion tends to paint a picture of rigorous rules and rituals while true Christianity is more of a relationship with the Divine than a set of rituals or rules per se. That being said, for the purpose of this article faith, spirituality, divine relationship and religion are all being treated as ‘religion.’
FAITH AND WORK, FAITH @ WORK
Without God, and my faith in Him, I do not have a reason for being, a raison d’être. Neither do I have sustainable passion for my doings because all of it feels like, in the words of the wisest and wealthiest monarch ever, “vanity of vanity, it’s all vanity.” I have observed with grave concern the increasing divorce of faith from the work space, treating it like the plague or some highly contagious disease. Even on work-centric social media like LinkedIn, one cannot help but get the feeling that the mention of God in posts ‘spoils the atmosphere,’ which is riddled with human achievements, of brain and brawn (mainly the former), simply singing of how great we are.
But statistically, 90% and over of the people on LinkedIn are religious. There are myriads like me who know we wouldn’t be as excellent professionally but for our faith. Meanwhile, all who have an active religious affiliation yet act at work as if they have no faith are walking on the dangerous ground of inauthenticity. It is not integrous to want to, or have to, hide such an important part of one’s life as spirituality or faith in a space that easily takes up a third to half of our waking hours: work!
This week, a Muslim mate of mine from medical school, now a neurosurgeon, posted on our year group’s WhatsApp platform a screenshot of a heartfelt social media post someone had made about Dr. Aba Folson, one of our Christian colleagues who is now a cardiologist. This person who made the post, a nurse, starts by saying, “I have been blessed in my journey in the Nursing/Healthcare space to be working with amazing, highly religious health workers. One of such awesome ladies is Dr Aba Folson. She is a Cardiologist.”
She goes on to describe “her humility, assertiveness, excellence and brilliance” and how Aba has “broken protocols to help save my very critically ill patients.” The protocols she speaks of, I believe, were put in place to save patients in the first place, but there are situations where one has to do the unusual and even unconventional at great risk, which separates humans from machines and even artificial intelligence. The wisdom and courage to make such calls, Dr. Folson will say, I know for sure, comes from above. The writer of the text seems to be enamoured by the fact that Aba is “an astute Christian and sings in the choir.”
ALL WE NEED IS RESPECT
I still remember zooming down the corridor between the ER and the blood bank to fetch blood for a critically ill child. This was during my days as a medical officer at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra. We usually had junior staff who would do that but no, this young doctor run in his white coat. The child’s mother gathered the energy to attempt to run alongside me. Barely catching up and hardly catching her breath she managed to say these words, which I shall never forget, “Doctor, doctor I can tell you are a Christian.” She must’ve known that for a Christ-follower the Pauline admonition about work is clear and strong: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
What is needed, indeed all that is needed, is for respectful co-existence in a pluralistic workplace, which is a microcosm of a really pluralistic world. The fight for diversity and inclusion in the workplace must not, and indeed cannot, be limited to ethnicity, age, gender, (dis)ability and such alone but faith as well. The majority of us wouldn’t be present at work with purpose and perform with passion and excellence without it, and none of us will be authentic in the workplace pretending we didn’t have it.
Faith works. Let your religion work at work—faith, love and hope at work. Your faith should make you a better professional; not worse. If your faith doesn’t make you better at work—which is all about service to humankind made in the image and likeness of God—it’s not worth following. Change it. Let’s see faith at work working, doing good works that bring God glory and bring about the good society—that’s the way it ought to be.
Right after I posted this blog, I came across a photo and headline on LinkedIn that said, “South African doctor: Professor “Mashudu Tshifularo” just became the first surgeon on earth to successfully perform surgery [with 3D technology] to cure deafness. He is also a pastor.” Ahem. Point nailed!
“Can you go beyond high performance?” That’s a penetrating question Jason Jaggard, founder and CEO of the executive coaching firm Novus Global, asks in his powerful and popular article that bears that title. My good friend and StrengthsFinder coach, Dan Leffelaar, who is COO and partner at Novus Global, had exposed me to the company after he joined. Later he would introduce me to one of their very competent coaches, Joseph Thompson. It was Joseph who then drew my attention to this article even before we would have our first formal coaching session. By the way, I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating, never hire a coach who doesn’t have a coach!
DIFFERENTIATION–OR WHATEVER YOU CALL IT
It is not uncommon for managers to categorize workers in the marketplace into three: low performers, performers and high performers. Over a decade ago, I remember reading about this idea from long time General Electric CEO Jack Welch’s book Winning. He called it differentiation, separating the sheep from the goats. According to Jack, differentiation is a process that requires managers to assess their employees and separate them into three categories in terms of top performance: top 20 percent, middle 70, and bottom 10. Then—and this is key—it requires managers to act on that distinction.
Whatever different percentages one uses to divide the three levels (and some just use the Pareto principle to divide the top 20% from the remaining 80%), the questions the people in each band ask themselves that result in their kind of performance are intriguing:
- Low Performers–“What is the least we can do to get by–and not get caught?”
- Performers–“How can we be good at our job?”
- High Performers–“How can we be the best?”
Often the morale of the story is “be the best,” be a high performer. Or, in the precious words of my dad’s alma mater (in Latin), Vel primus vel cum primis. To wit: either the first or with the first. But that is precisely the problem. High performers typically stop growing because they feel (or are made to feel) they are the best, or among the best, and have hit their peak when that is far from the truth! That’s the challenge of comparing ourselves to others instead of to our own potential. Don’t forget the saying that “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” What is high performance about one eye just because everyone else you’re compared with is blind?
In fact, not only does Jason point out two common mistakes of high performers here but Novus Global as a practice firmly believes “attracting and retaining high-performers is a mistake and doing so creates a predictable set of problems.” You probably have met a lot of high performers who are still unhappy. Barring greed and envy, could Abraham Maslow’s observation be the cause? “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
So “can one go beyond high performance?” remains the question. “What comes after high performance?” I’m glad you asked. “If your team doesn’t have a clear and compelling answer to the question “What comes after high performance?” then you absolutely have an unnecessary cap on the possibilities of your leadership and the impact of your organization,” says Jason. The answer lies in a word he’s coined: meta-performance. And this is “meta” is not like “meta-data” but “meta” as in “metamorphosis,” like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. A meta-performer isn’t committed to being the best (“how dull,” Jason says)… a meta-performer is committed to constantly exploring capabilities.
Unlike “What is the least we can do to get by–and not get caught?” (Low Performers), “How can we be good at our job?” (Performers) or “How can we be the best?” (High Performers), Meta-Performers ask themselves, “What are we capable of?” That is a potent question in and of itself, but to process that with a competent and caring coach is even more powerful!
I often say to people, I may not have been the best of medical students (I was a low performer) but I was a very good doctor (high performer). But as good a doctor as I was, the question of what I was capable of sent me on a totally different trajectory from my peers, from authoring books and motivational speaking through military experience and peacekeeping with the United Nations, to pastoring, restarting life as a Canadian immigrant and becoming CEO of a number of non-medicine related ventures, some with a budget of a few million dollars.
Meta-performance is akin to what my mentor John C. Maxwell calls The Law of the Rubber Band: Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension Between Where You are and Where You Could Be. The meta-performance life happens somewhere between feeling ‘just right,’ taut enough to be best at tying things up, to tearing up because we fail to embrace our God-given limits. Often times, we are poor judgers of thse book ends, and having a discerning coach to assist on this journey is vital.
“IMPOSSIBLE” ACCORDING TO WHO?
In what area(s) of your life have you lost your stretch and settled? Create some specific means for stretching in these areas of your life. Go back to your 2021 goals and ensure they’re not only S.M.A.R.T. but that they also STRETCH. Remember, “Only a mediocre person is always at his best,” saysW. Somerset Maugham, putting things in a way that hits home, hard. “Ouch,” says the best performers.
Walt Disney used to say, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” I know the feeling, a little bit. Nelson Mandela was right: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I find it not only a powerful meta-performance question to ask “What am I capable of?” but also in line with that to inquire, “What sort of person must I become to be capable of that?” Then with Almighty God’s help, “just do it,” do the “impossible.”
The first time I heard the story about the little cow, it was from the lips of a millionaire. Gathered in the conference room of some hotel in mid-town Montrèal, this man who had made his money from the financial services industry was urging us on to let go of our little cows, mainly JOBs (which people in his circle called “Just Over Broke”) and go chasing those dreams that will stretch us, pain us but in the end be most gratifying.
Recently, I decided to search online for the story and finally found it, author unknown. Here goes.
The Little Cow – Unkown Author
A master of Wisdom was traveling through the countryside with his apprentice when they came to a small, disheveled shack on a meagre piece of farmland. “See this poor family,” said the Master, “Go see if they will share with us their food.”
“But we have plenty,” said the apprentice.
The master said, “Do as I say.”
The obedient apprentice went to the home. The good farmer and his wife, surrounded by their seven children, came to the door. Their clothes were dirty and in tatters.
“Fair greetings,” said the apprentice, “My Master and I are sojourners and want for food. I’ve come to see if you have any to share.”
The farmer said, “We have little, but what we have we will share.” He walked away, and then returned with a small piece of cheese and a crust of bread. “I am sorry, but we don’t have much.” The apprentice did not want to take their food but did as he had been instructed. “Thank you. Your sacrifice is great.”
“Life is difficult,” the farmer said, “but we get by. And in spite of our poverty, we do have one great blessing.”
“What blessing is that?” asked the apprentice.
“We have a little cow. She provides us milk and cheese, which we eat or sell in the marketplace. It is not much but she provides enough for us to live on.”
The apprentice went back to his Master with the meagre rations and reported what he had learned about the farmer’s plight. The Master of Wisdom said, “I am pleased to hear of their generosity, but I am greatly sorrowed by their circumstance. Before we leave this place, I have one more task for you.”
“Return to the shack and bring back their cow.”
The apprentice did not know why, but he knew his Master to be merciful and wise, so he did as he was told. When he returned with the cow, he said to his Master, “I have done as you commanded. Now what is it that you would do with this cow?”
“See yonder cliffs? Take the cow to the highest crest and push her over.”
The apprentice was stunned. “But Master…”
“Do as I say.” The apprentice sorrowfully obeyed. When he had completed his task, the Master and his apprentice went on their way.
Over the next years, the apprentice grew in mercy and wisdom. But every time he thought back on the visit to the poor farmer’s family, he felt a pang of guilt. One day he decided to go back to the farmer and apologize for what he had done. But when he arrived at the farm, the small shack was gone.
Instead there was a large, fenced villa.
“Oh no,” he cried, “The poor family who was here was driven out by my evil deed.” Determined to learn what had become of the family, he went to the villa and pounded on its great door. A servant answered the door.
“I would like to speak to the master of the house,” the apprentice said.
“As you wish,” said the servant. A moment later a smiling, well-dressed man greeted the apprentice.
“How may I serve you?” the wealthy man asked.
“Pardon me, Sir, but could you tell me what has become of the family who once lived on this land but is no more?”
“I do not know what you speak of,” the man replied, “my family has lived on this land for three generations.”
The apprentice looked at him quizzically. “Many years ago I walked through this valley, where I met a farmer and his seven children. But they were very poor and lived in a small shack.”
“Oh,” the man said smiling, “that was my family. But my children have all grown now and have their own estates.”
The apprentice was astonished. “But you are no longer poor. What happened?”
“God works in mysterious ways,” the man said, smiling. “We had this little cow that provided us with the slimmest of necessities, enough to survive but little more. We suffered but expected no more from life. Then, one day, our little cow wandered off and fell over a cliff. We knew that we would be ruined without her, so we did everything we could to survive. Only then did we discover that we had greater power and abilities than we possibly imagined and never would have found as long as we relied on that cow. What a great blessing from Heaven to have lost our little cow.”
COW & COIN CONCLUSION
Everyone of us has a little cow that stands in the way of fulfilling our full potential. So what’s your little cow? Now imagine a little child who remains tight-fisted over a quarter, a 25-cent coin, when you are eager to give them a $100 bill you’re hiding behind you and encouraging them to ‘open up’ and ‘let go’ of the quarter to receive. They aren’t able to receive the $100 because they would rather keep the little that’s surely in hand than open their palm and risk losing the quarter, although they might very well know that what they could gain might be way better.
You probably have heard it said that often the enemy of the best is the good. What is your little coin or little cow. Let it go; kill it!
The story is told of an anthropologist who introduced a game to the children of an African tribe. He placed a basket of delicious fruits near a tree trunk and told them: “The first child to reach the tree will get the basket.”
When he gave them the start signal, to his astonishment they were walking together, holding hands, until they all reached the tree. They simply shared the fruits and happily ate them! So baffled, with a furrowed brow he asked them, “Why did you do that when any one of you could get the basket only for yourself?”
They answered with glee, and to his amazement, “Ubuntu!”
“How can one of us be happy if all the rest are miserable?”
“Ubuntu” in their civilization means “I am because we are.” It is Xhosa from the African continent. The venerable Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains: “Africans have a thing called ubuntu. It is about the essence of being human, it is part of the gift that Africa will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person through other persons, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanize you, I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”
TEAMS THEME LIKE A BROKEN RECORD
Together Everyone Achieves Most Success. The theme of teamwork just won’t go away! To those around me, I must’ve sounded like a broken record over the period. Ah! But broken record will soon take on another important meaning. Read on. It began a couple of weeks ago as I was finishing a write-up for our 4D assessment (image above) at YAW PERBI. The TEAMS portion of the assessment posits that TEAMS should consist of at least one each of a Theorizer, Executor, Analyzer, Manager and Strategist, that idea itself also forming another acronym for TEAMS. No one has all six. Even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to function optimally when all are needed simultaneously. Whatever you don’t have, the Creator has put in someone next to you in your ecosystem. A network is about nextwork, basically a net of next workers.
This became very apparent to me when over these same couple of weeks I happened to be reading the old jewish book of Nehemiah, the guy in diaspora who returned to Jerusalem to lead a rebuilding campaign. The dominant word in the text about the rebuilding is “next.” An array of people, from priests to perfume-makers, male and female, built the next session of the broken walls of the city, some right in front of their house, until walls that had been down for over a century were rebuilt in only fifty-two days! Indeed, teamwork makes the dream work!
Former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson put it another way, “There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.” Going east, the Chinese have a proverb too that says, “Behind an able man there are always other able men.”
BETTER TOGETHER, FOR SURE!
Again over these same couple of weeks, my mother-in-law forwarded a video to me, featuring a passionate speaker who was emphasizing the power of building together. Incidentally, I happened to know the man–pastor Forbes of The Gambia, whose church in Banjul I had the privilege of speaking at about a decade ago. I quickly sent him word that he was trending. And he was. Forbes made a terrific point about how the fastest man in the world remains Usain Bolt of Jamaica, with a 2009 world record he set at 9.58 seconds remaining unbroken by any other human being for a dozen years now. Yet the 4 x 100m relay record by Bolt and three others stands at 36.84s, meaning an average of 9.21 seconds per runner. Get that? That’s a whole 37 seconds better than the best man in the world! That’s the power of team work, of synergy. All of us together, are better than any one of us, even the best of us, any day!
Take the game of soccer too. It doesn’t matter what a great goalkeeper one is, no one wins the game without good strikers who score goals (not to talk of the rest the complimentary forwards and midfielders). In the same way, one may be the best goalscorer in the world but without a strong defence, including goalkeeping, you will be outscored and lose the game. Great leadership assembles a great team of diverse people in gender, ethnicity, age etc. but especially in thinking styles and task orientation.
Every team member has a place where they add the most value. You don’t want to put the best goalscorer as a goalkeeper or vice-versa. You’ve got to know yourself and where you have most value, in order to know where you lack and who to bring on board. Likewise, everyone else on the team should know their niche. In The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, John Maxwell puts this essential need to have the right people in the right places well on TEAMS as follows:
- The Wrong Person in the Wrong place = Regression
- The Wrong Person in the Right Place = Frustration
- The Right Person in the Wrong Place = Confusion
- The Right Person in the Right Place = Progression
- The Right People in the Right Places = Multiplication
IN THE END…
All of us together are better than the best of us, any day, every time! Even better than a Usain Bolt! Ubuntu! I am because we are. What is the Theorist without an Executor? What would an Analyzer do without a Manager or Strategist? TEAMS is the way to go. The children of Africa know it. Do we? Together Everyone Achieves Most Success!