Experimental Leader

30 Nov

As a child at the age of three years old, I saw hens sitting on the eggs and later on the eggs hatching into chicks. I decided to place my dad’s car keys with the eggs hoping that it would hatch into my own car. That did not happen, and my dad had to take the bus to the office for 4 days after failing to find his car keys, after turning the house upside down trying to find them. They were only able to solve the puzzle after they noticed that I kept on hanging around the not so friendly mother hen. I did try to plant a double decker toy bus at 9 years but that did not yield any results either and that was the end of my experiment with trying to hatch or grow a car. This interest in experimenting did surface later as I chose to do subjects that involved work in the laboratory and mixing all sorts of chemicals.

This year of pandemic caused a shift and change in plans that had been made for the year. The leaders in different organizations had to start experimenting with different ideas and strategies to keep their organizations moving forward in period of uncertainty. The business landscape also shifted before their eyes and this affected all the sectors of society.

As people especially leaders toy with experimentation, there are a few skills and practices that can help it create a better chance to yield positive results. Some of these include

  • Failure is a part of the process – Embrace failure and create a culture around safe-to-fail experimentation where small failures are analyzed without apprehension and the groups learnings serve only in conceiving the next iteration. The main purpose is to learn quickly about what works or doesn’t work.
  • Iterate more – Keep the experiments required small, shorten the timelines, assess assumptions and build momentum.
  • Avoid reactivity – Leaders sometimes display reactive behaviors when they are faced with uncertainty. They need to keep calm and be methodical in their approach.

Operating as an experimental leader will help engage the ideas and thinking of all the people in the organization. It also helps create space for safe-to-fail experimentation, iteration, and change that are very relevant for todays shifting business climate and world.

Unwinding in the National Park

27 Nov

During the period when many Ugandans take their vacation or time out from work either in August or December, many wonder what to do as they spend quality time with their families as they recharge their batteries. One of the activities that one can do is to visit any one of the different parks and sanctuaries in Uganda. The Uganda Wildlife Authority, (UWA) manages 10 National Parks; 12 Wildlife reserves; 5 Community Wildlife Management Areas; and 13 Wildlife Sanctuaries.

The parks I have visited so far include Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison Falls National Park and the Ziwa Ranch that is a sanctuary for the white Rhino. The next park I intend to visit that has been said to match the Masai Mara is the Kidepo Valley national park.  In all the cases I drove with my family to the park, in one instance at the Queen Elizabeth NP I hired a guide to take us out while I drove the car. For Murchison, I hired a car with a guide to take us to see the animals.

Each of the parks are unique in their own ways, with clean air and the possibility to take the boat cruises and see the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo). The origin of the big 5 is that these five large African mammal species were known to be dangerous and it was considered a feat by trophy hunters to bring them home.

As much as I have made several visits to Queen Elizabeth NP, my current favorite is the Murchison Falls NP that I have visited once. What struck me was the variety of animals there including lions, giraffes, elephants, buffalos amongst other species. The park is divided into the southern bank and the northern bank with different types of animals.

How to prepare for your trip to the park

  • Rest well before travelling to the park
  • Learn from what you see, it is a good idea to do background research before you visit a particular park. They have different rules, conditions for each park so be very clear on what these are.
  • Depending on your budget and what you want to do there are different options for how you get to the park and move around while there. The vehicle and the type of guide is a game changer
  • The best time to catch the animals is very early in the morning, this is especially for the lions as this is their feeding time.

Besides the benefits a country gets from you visiting the national park in terms of money to fund its activities, visiting a national park is good for your health and has great scenery. A national park visit offers you the chance to be active if you take advantage of the many hiking, walking and other active travel opportunities that are available catering to different levels of fitness. During this December consider going to visit one of the parks in the country.

Standing on the shoulder of a Giant

23 Nov

If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”

Isaac Newton

As we progress in life there is need to remember and acknowledge the effort of the people who came before us to make us be who we are and achieve what we can achieve today. These giants include our parents, grandparents, teachers, Sunday school teachers, former bosses, reverends in the churches we have attended, authors to books that we read amongst many others. The phrase standing on the shoulders of giants can mean using the understanding gained by major thinkers who have gone before in order to make intellectual progress.

Many people before us in the different areas have done work in terms of thinking and actions. There is no need to start from scratch and we can build on the work they have done.  We therefore do not need to reinvent the wheel and make many errors through trial and error, thereby wasting mental capacity on what has been done and the foundation that has already been set. The more practical and pragmatic thing to do is to look for role models and experts from whom to learn from to advance and develop ourselves.

I do believe that everyone can benefit from standing on the shoulders of giants especially those with a growth mindset and would like to contribute to make the world in which we live a better place. The young people who have just started working in organizations would benefit by finding people in those organizations who believe in them and on whose shoulders they can stand.

The role models and experts we can look to learn from and develop oneself include the following

  • Reading books
  • Finding mentors who can invest their time in you
  • Following works created by other people

People who are proud of their contribution to the world would do well to note that they would have been unable to make that contribution if it were not for those people who have preceded them. We should all strive to be the type of person who learn from others and on whose shoulder’s, others can be lifted on to do more. We can and should see further by standing on the shoulders of giants.

We have always done it that way

21 Nov

These words have been touted as the most dangerous words in business, organizations and even families, as it stifles innovation and opportunity. When one scratches a little bit beneath the surface it is normally as a result of resistance to change. It comes from the “if it is not broken don’t fix it” kind of culture or mentality. This issue is more common than you may think, in our homes, offices, businesses and even churches. If you find someone towing this line, it is not always with bad reason. Some people may need a little more time to think things through before embracing something new. As a leader it would do you a lot of good to create a culture where risk taking, and new ideas are genuinely given space and not immediately shot down.

During the year, I remembered the concept of home schooling that came up a few years ago in Uganda. A few friends of mine tried out homeschooling where children were taught from home with materials shipped from overseas at the time, while the majority were totally fixated with the traditional schooling where children went to school and studied from there as has always been. Fast forward we now seem to have a blend of the two and homeschooling principles has in one way or the other been mainstreamed into our lives and how school is being done.

There are a few reasons why staff in an organization may default to the “we have always done it that way” mode.

Competence – This may occur when a staff has achieved a certain level of competency and mastery in a way of doing something or using a particular technology\computer software. Changing the software that is being used in the organization may erode the expertise and require the staff to relearn the system.

Loss of sense of Control – For some people, resistance to the change may be due to fear of losing their sense of control and sense of being irreplaceable in the organization. This has been more visible in organizations during changes to IT systems. In many organization there may have been some staff who were good at the legacy IT systems and changing this would mean that there are now more people who can do their jobs.

There is the category of staff or people who are simply not bothered to learn anything new. These are the most difficult to deal with and may just need to be let go if they do not step up after being given ample opportunity to retool.

It is important to communicate and explain the changes clearly to all the staff and stakeholders to allow them think through and see the benefits of doing things in a new way. It is also crucial for the sponsors of the change and the leader not to attempt to make changes for the sake of changing, the changes should always be well thought out and bring added benefit to the organization. This would lead to less instances of “we have always done it that way” and embed a culture of innovation.

Challenge Your self

13 Nov

“Challenge yourself every day to do better and be better. Remember, growth starts with a decision to move beyond your present circumstances.” Robert Tew

A good friend sent out an invite to a group of friends in a WhatsApp group to join a challenge that involved walking or running a total distance of 120 kilometers (Km) over some days. This was to be tracked using the Nike Run app that each participant had to install on their smartphones. I checked this out and thought it would be a good idea since I am usually motivated to exercise if I have company whether physically or virtually, so I opted in. There was a total of fifteen participants taking part in the challenge who are friends based in different countries, continents and time zones across the world. My initial strategy was just to try and be consistent and walk 4 Km per day (close to my comfort level) and I would be able to complete in the stipulated time. After the first day, I saw from the app that some of the friends were covering a distance of  10 Km per day, the competitive spirit in me creeped in and I abandoned my plan and decided to challenge myself and up my game to 7 km per day and then eventually 10 Km per day. On one good day I walked 18km which was beyond my comfort zone, this was on the last phase as I was completing the challenge.

Change and growth can happen when we challenge ourselves and rise to the occasion. We can improve ourselves, achieve great things and get better as individuals or employees in the process. One can challenge themselves physically by walking long distances, riding a bicycle to different towns in the country or even climbing Mount Rwenzori, the other way to challenge oneself is intellectually by learning a new language, mentoring someone or taking a course.

When we challenge ourselves, it causes us to be uncomfortable since we are not sure of meeting the challenge, but we still should boldly go for it and do it. The challenges we set for ourselves can help one to:

  • Improve themselves;
  • Define or redefine themselves;
  • Grow beyond their comfort zone;
  • Live life to the fullest as it becomes a source of energy and motivation;
  • Fulfil a desire for adventure.

We should all aspire to develop and live a life where we challenge ourselves to make the most of it and achieve our highest potential. A challenge brings different emotions in us, at the same time it causes anxiety and also brings out the courage to continue.

What challenge will you be setting for yourself in the remaining days of the year and in 2021?

Making Choices

6 Nov
CCO

When my children were younger, by that, I mean from when they were about six years old. My wife would always ask them what they wanted to eat when we took them out to a restaurant, I on the other hand had a standard menu which I thought should work for them which was something to do with chips and sausage or chicken.  They would take their time and come up with interesting choices depending on the type of restaurant. Later when they were about 8 years old, they got to choose the clothes and shoes they wanted. This was different from the world we had grown in where food you ate and the cloths you wore were chosen for you. At 14-year, my daughter made choices for the optional subjects she wanted to take at school. In this case both my wife and I did a little bit of dictating or let me say, we encouraged her to do certain subjects that she has now enjoys. I encouraged her to do Economics, while my wife encouraged her to do French.

Recently my kids, now in their teens, were working on their room make over and they made choices on the color of their rooms, the type of furniture they wanted. A few days after this, I asked them if they have had any benefits by making their own choices and they told me that yes, they got what they preferred to eat and the cloths they preferred. They mentioned that it has also helped them in team setting at school as they lead projects in their class work.

The last few weeks and possibly for the next few months as a country, we will be making choices for our leaders who will help this entity called Uganda be a more prosperous and viable entity. At an individual level, a few weeks ago, a gentleman on one of my teams got married, he did have to make a choice about his spouse. This that shows that if we have life, we will have to make choices.

So how does one make choices or better decisions? We can either flip a coin which I would advise against, use your gut feeling or intuition or weigh in on the options.

When presented with an issue you need to ask a few questions to make the best possible choice with the given information

  • What’s the issue that I’m trying to solve?
  • What do I know? – In this case you need to make sure you know enough about the situation and that it is the right time for the action
  • What are my alternatives? – You want to determine the alternatives to choose from and get the best option with the facts availed to you.
  • What are the consequences?
  • How will I ascertain the things that I don’t know right now?
  • How much risk can I tolerate?

Like our muscles that get more developed by using them or training. The ability to have children or adults who are good decision makers is by letting them practice decision making. The idea is start small and eventually making decisions will become second nature. Where an individual or organization is at today is the outcome of all the decisions that the individual or leaders of the organization have made prior to today. Making choices or decisions should be intentional and should not be taken lightly.

Giving back to the Community

28 Oct

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”Audrey Hepburn.

CC0

One morning in 2013, my spouse suggested that we needed to clear space in the house and our closets by collecting all the cloths for children and adults that had not been worn in a while and box them. She also asked the children to place all the toys they were not using in boxes. I though that we would be putting this in storage or taking them to the village. She had other plans and told me would take the items to Katalemwa Cheshire home. She had called and already talked to them and they were expecting us. On the appointed date, we went along with our children who were 7 and 10 years old, took the items along that had been packed in boxes and large polythene bags. We spent an illuminating day with the children and adults at the home and sat with the sisters who run the home.

As we get to the end of the year, this has been the period in the past that the spirit of giving to those in need is on the increase. On the different social media groups or email lists, we start receiving communication about planning for organizations\charities to support at the end of the year. My alma mater has been good at this and normally organize for charity activities.  Charity involves the voluntary giving of help to the community, typically in the form of money, to those in need. In Uganda this mainly takes the form of giving of food stuff, used cloths, toys for the children. The target organizations as recipients for the gifts tend to be organization that support children, women and orphans. Examples of these organizations across Uganda include Sanyu Babies home, Ngetta babies’ home in Lira, Katalemwa Cheshire home, 40 days and 40 Smiles to mention but a few. Giving to those in need is a good thing to do from different perspectives and is good both for those giving and those receiving the items and support.

There are different reasons for giving, the benefit of bettering a difficult situation for those in need is good. There reasons associated with giving to worthy causes in the eyes of those giving include:  

  • good feeling about giving, and this has been known to improve the health of the person giving;
  • makes you feel happier and more fulfilled,
  • introduces your children to the importance of generosity if you do this with them,
  • sense of duty to give back to society, feeling of social conscience.

Here are a few ways to give to charity

  • Donate your time – This can be volunteering to paint a school in your neighborhood, visiting a children’s home to help take care of the babies or evening mentoring youth.
  • Donate your skills – The medical professionals have been very good at this by supporting community during medical clinics. The Doctors from my old school go back and offer to man the sick bay once a week and once a year they run a medical camp for the community around the school. All profession can find a way to volunteer their time.
  • Donate your things that you don’t need – Almost every home has electrical, cloths, books and toys that they don’t need. This can be collected and taken to the appropriate charity
  • Donating your blood – Giving blood is a simple process and it can help save lives. When you give blood, it is collected so it can be used to treat someone else.

As a member or leader in the community, it helps to set an example by giving back to the community in which ever way that you are comfortable with. Identify a specific cause that you may passionate towards and support it.

When Mother Nature comes to collect

24 Oct

Over the last few months, the city of Kampala has had plenty of rainfall which has resulted in floods especially in the low-lying areas of Kampala. This has caused submerging of homes and roads especially in the low-lying areas and untold suffering to lots of people who have lost their homes and livelihood. A recent video that was shared on social media showed areas near the Serena hotel (next to Lake Victoria) submerged by water and the people on social media referred to this as nature coming to collect its dues. Another video shared on WhatsApp showed a young lady walking in Nakawa in the outskirts of Kampala city and falling into an open manhole\drainage and was washed away by fast running water during a heavy downpour.

A few people in Uganda do not listen to the environmental authorities when they say they should not be encroaching and building around the waterbodies. People keep on ignoring this advice and this has resulted in loss of property and livelihood when the forces of nature like the water from the lake ends up going to the places where people have built especially around the water banks as a result of nonstop rain such that the drainage of the water out of the city is slower than the amount of rain that is coming in. This scene is not only limited to Kampala but across the country where there are water bodies especially around Lake Victoria basin and Lake Kyoga.

The floods are therefore caused as a result of undisciplined human activity around the water bodies like building houses around the water bodies, sand mining and farming around the wetlands and waterbodies. In order to prevent flooding, people need to adhere to the activities as advised by the national environmental authority (NEMA) for the case of Uganda or other environmental authorities in the different countries. Zones within embankments and river and lakes should be a no development zone and preventing encroachment near rivers and lakes is essential. Those who had already built around the wet land areas need to be assisted to move away from there to more suitable locations.

Flood waters may pose risks, including drowning, injuries, and hazards from chemicals, sewage, or bacteria that may be in the water.

Since floods are now occurring more frequently the do’s and don’ts to follow during floods to keep safe are briefly covered here

What not to do in case of floods

  • Floods can be dangerous and do not enter them even when in a car, remember to turn around, to avoid drowning;
  • Don’t drive through flooded streets or parking lots;
  • Do not enter flood waters, if you must wear gumboots and use a stick to gauge depth of the water, stay away from drainages, gutters, sewers; Stay away from electric poles and fallen powerlines

Things to do during floods

  • Get to safety at an elevated point by moving to an upper floor if available
  • Before evacuating turn off power at the main switch
  • Place furniture and other foods at elevated points in the house like shelves
  • Use disinfectants when you get home to clean the household items that may have come in contact with the flood water.
  • Clean surrounding areas to prevent diseases

As the rainy season comes to an end and the flood waters recede, some people are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases. Floods need to be viewed as an example of mother nature’s answer to people’s tendency to overexploit natural resources. We therefore need to collectively take issues of climate change and environment issues seriously as it could impact one directly or indirectly.

Refresh: Recharge your battery

28 Sep
Icon Reload Refresh - Free image on Pixabay
Creative Commons

For several organizations, every number of years they perform what in the IT world is called a PC Refresh which involves replacing all the computers that they have had and used after a few years with a new one. This does not mean that the old computers do not work, it is just that as one uses these computers and keeps installing new programs they slow down. It is also the case that the manufacturers of the computers bring newer versions into the market that may be lighter, sturdier to meet the new demands of the customers in the market.

The word refresh is not only used in relation to the computer world, some use cases in our day to day life with different meanings include

  • Refresh our Memories
  • It is so refreshing
  • Refresher training
  • Refresh the page (Internet)
  • Refresh your settings (Computer)

The definition that we want to work with here is “to restore strength and animation to someone”, another phrase that is close to this in meaning is the term recharge your batteries.

Very often in this very busy world, we keep working hard in order to fulfill the day to day tasks of putting food on the table, managing businesses and organizations that eventually one burns out. Taking the time out to refresh and recharge your batteries will help you to get back your A-game, get more creative and energetic as you continue with the journey. This allows you to bring back relevance and attraction to your brand as an individual since you will most likely come back with new perspectives and energy.

The type of refresh may happen when you take a pause and there are different thinks you can do depending on how much time you have. This could be in the evening, over the weekend or when you can take some good number of days off. Some of the activities that you can do to refresh yourself include

  • Sleep – it is recommended to have at least 8 hours of sleep every day. This improves our cognitive abilities and improves memory. People who consistently sleep less than the recommended number of hours find that they are mentally exhausted and very irritable.
  • Nature Walks -Walking especially amongst nature helps in energizing people. It also allows for creativity.
  • Meet new people and new interactions. Meeting new people helps create new perspectives that is if they have different background and experience from you. This allows you to look at how to do things in a different way.
  • New training – going through a training to learn a new skill or new knowledge that you did not know before helps to renew the mind and add excitement to your life.

As long as we are alive, we need to keep on taking a pause and refreshing ourselves so that we can recharge our batteries, gain new perspectives, learn so that we can get reenergized and continue growing. This allows the mind to keep active and protect you from different issues later in life. We all need a refresh to keep on being motivated to fulfil our purpose in life.

Sawubona (I see you)

18 Sep

 

Creative Commons

The one greeting I have been quite fascinated by, is one from one of the communities in South Africa(SA) specifically the Zulu community. Each time I have been to SA, we get a quick briefing on the security that covers where to go and not to go and the greeting. The greeting that is also found on the cover page of the South African Airways inflight magazine is Sawubona. This is one word in Zulu but when translated into English it means “I see you, you are important to me and I value you”, the response to this is Shiboka” which means “I exist for you” or “Yebo, sawubona” which means I see you seeing me . This greeting is quite rich and to an extent poetic as compared to any English greeting. Growing up, as a child whenever I visited my parents at their workplaces, they ensured that I greeted everyone from the gentleman cleaning the office to everyone we met in the building before getting to their offices. If you forgot to greet anyone you would be sent back to complete the greeting. This is something we continue to do today and are showing the next generation the importance of this

In African culture, greeting is very important as it humanizes people, especially in this world that is often see as impersonal. It is quite embedded in our way of life and sometimes may take the form of diverse rituals as seen from examples below

  • In some cultures, the women do kneel to greet as a sign of respect. This is done by some communities in Uganda and is reserved for especially one’s parents, aunties or uncles and elders in the community;
  • Others hug and the level and length of the hug depends on how long you would have taken before seeing the person. I remember my first session in my teens of Buhoro, Buhorojye Keija, Agandi from a family friends’ grandmother in Rwashamaire, Ntungamo;
  • Some culture especially in west Africa the corners of the forehead are made to touch as they greet. I get very fascinated with this and see these with people from Togo;
  • A group in South Sudan touch the shoulder as they greet as they greet;
  • Some communities in Africa also kiss on the cheeks, this is especially for those who adapted the French culture.

Greeting in itself is very important, however there are also good reasons as to why you should do this especially in the morning with a “Good morning”, Wasuze otya nno(Luganda), Iburu aber (Lango\Luo), Oraire ota (Ankole). It is important to greet friends, family, co-workers, business clients and visitors to your home or workspace and even strangers. Some of the reasons why you should greet may include.

  • It helps improve and boost your interpersonal communication skills which is very important. It is easier for you later in the day to go communicate face to face with a person that you have greeted earlier as opposed to doing this through the email
  • This is a great way to start a conversation, if someone greets you and you complete the response part you can go to the next level to discuss the business at hand. It helps to set the tone of the conversation and would lead to a positive engagement.
  • This sets for a great visitor experience especially if someone has come to your home or business premises. The way a visitor is greeted provides for a great experience about how they feel about you and your organization long after they have left. It could make them bring their business to your organization.

Greeting can be applied to all our spheres of life and with all the people we interact with. Sometimes people’s ability or willingness to greet is dependent on their moods, but It is a good and right thing to do enthusiastically. It is may things, good manners, courtesy, connection and shows care amongst other things.