Category Archives: community

VUCA: How companies can reap the rewards

VUCA

Rediscovering VUCA

VUCA is an acronym that most in the business world have become familiar with. It is the result of an ever-increasing flow of data and information in conjunction with increasing distrust of data and information.  This duality not only impacts economies and politics. It fundamentally affects how we interact and treat each other. I recently learned of the VUCA acronym at a presentation by Google’s Country Manager Adriatic Region, Joško Mrndže.  Here is the irony. The acronym was unfamiliar to me, however, as Mrndže continued talking about VUCA, the hairs on my arms straightened. As he spoke I was transported back to the almost two decades I had dedicated transforming extreme manifestations of VUCA.

Clarifying VUCA

vuca
(source: knowledgehut.com)

Volatility – the quality or state of being like to change suddenly, especially by becoming worse.

Uncertainty – a situation in which something is not known, or something that is not known or certain.

Complexity – the state of having many parts and being difficult to understand or find an answer to.

Ambiguity – the quality of being open to more than one interpretation; inexactness.

What the VUCA is going on

Left unchecked VUCA can wreak havoc on any community, organization, team, or individual. For most of my years in social work, I was responsible for managing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in the lives of hundreds of young men in conflict with the law. Our job was to transform VUCA into positive energy and outcomes. We were tasked with ensuring that its devastating impact did not harm anyone, overrun the program’s culture, or spill into the neighboring community. One can imagine how the life of a young person coming from a home of domestic violence, abuse, and/or neglect can result in VUCA. Add to that any of the following pre-existing conditions: trauma, alcohol/drug addiction, gangs, learning disabilities, truancy, emotional dysregulation, poverty, and psychiatric illness.

Psychological safety transforms VUCA

The importance of psychological safety in companies is a coping mechanism for VUCA. This is a top priority for leaders.  Work environments are psychologically safe when:

A code of conduct exists and is practiced
Physical/Environmental safety is assured
Employees are entrusted to do their job
Systems and procedures  promote fair treatment
A mentoring culture exists
Employees are supported in times of need
Good work is recognized
An open feedback culture exists
Personal and professional development is encouraged
Employees feel a sense of belonging

As the director of a group home, I could not control what was happening outside the walls of my program. My energy went to influencing the staff and residents inside by fostering a trusting and caring environment. A safe haven in a sea of uncertainty allows people to harness VUCA’s creative and innovative potential.

Living la Vida VUCA

Vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity are not always unwanted conditions. Moreover, they can never be fully eradicated, nor should they be. When a safe haven to deal with such incalculable conditions exists, VUCA promotes creativity and innovation. Some of the most out of the box thinkers I have met were the young men under my care.  Living a VUCA life creates an agile mind. People comfortable with instability are flexible and adaptable. As VUCA increases in a digital world so does the need for societies and organizations to create conditions for humans to effectively and efficiently deal with it. Ensuring psychological safety permits people to have the peace of mind to learn and grow from incalculable and unknown variables.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

How IoT reflects IoLT: the interconnectedness of living things

IoT
The symbiotic relationship between a crocodile and plover for the benefit of both species (smallscience.hbcse.tief.res.in)

IoT – What is the internet of things?

The Internet of things (IoT) is a system of interconnected computing sensors able to transfer data over a network. IoT does not require direct human involvement to function. Chips implanted in devices or machinery combine operational technology (OT) with information systems (IT). Real-time data exchange through IoT allows for interoperability, enhancing efficiency and performance of a device,  product, or service.

IoT in the workplace and beyond

In 2016, the top three industries in IoT spending were manufacturing, transportation, and utilities. Global spending on IoT is projected to reach $1.3 Trillion in 2020 (IDC). According to Statista.com, a leading provider of market and consumer data,  the number of connected devices will increase six-fold from 15 billion devices in 2015 to 75 billion in 2025.

Not only will IoT be the standard in the workplace, but it will also be pervasive in our private lives, from personal belongings to inside our bodies. According to a 2018 article from Business Insider, thousands of Swedes are having microchips implanted in their bodies, no longer requiring them to carry keys or IDs. A simple wave of the hand unlocks the house door or identifies who you are.

IoLT – The interconnectedness of living things

The interconnectedness of living things is the interdependence of all organisms. For millions of years, the animal and plant kingdom has been developing and evolving a complex and intricate system of interdependency that benefits all species. Humans are becoming more cognizant of the need to care for the natural resources that all living organisms, humans included, are dependent upon.

Nature’s interconnectedness is as astonishing and complex of a system as there is. Nonetheless, it works rather effectively and efficiently through the use of six varying symbiotic relationships. Interdependence requires each stakeholder to uphold a degree of responsibility regardless of status or position. A system overcomes challenges and effectively deals with setbacks when all stakeholders fulfill their role. A breakdown at any point impacts the entire system. It is not a coincidence that the IoLT and IoT diagrams share similar patterns. What can we learn from nature as human interconnectedness and complexity increases as a result of IoT?

IoT
The interconnectedness of living things (Science Bob)

IoT
Internet of Things

The importance of IoLT

Just as industry and technology sectors see the value of the internet of things, so too are we becoming more aware of the importance of the interconnectedness of all things living. IoLT has the answers to cope with the potential threats of IoT. It is imperative we look after nature. How we care for nature will reflect how we cope with digitalization. Maintaining the quality of air, soil, and water, and minimizing our ecological footprint is more noticeable with the increase in air pollution, water contamination, deforestation, and global warming. What societal changes are we noticing from digitalization?

Nature not only ensures our survival, but it also helps us solve complex human problems. Studying photosynthesis to improve solar energy. Using snake venom to help find cures for cancer and diabetes. Kingfisher bird anatomy inspiring the design of bullet trains. These are but a few examples of biomimetics or biomimicry. Naturally occurring elements and structures greatly help us in taking the next evolutionary step. We still have more to learn.

Remaining human for the sake of posterity

As IoT results in the continued digitalization of work and home, interactions with technological devices are on the rise. Practicing pro-social skills and maintaining human connectedness will be paramount in adhering to a moral and ethical framework as digitalization becomes more predominant in everyday life. It should come to no surprise that political, economic, and social divisiveness becomes even more hazardous to our overall safety and security in a digitalized world. The use of IoT for ill intention or for the sake of taking advantage of certain stakeholders is a real and existing threat.

Empathy, compassion, listening, and understanding are all vital human traits that require continuous practice. A machine needs only to be programmed once to learn a task. In contrast, humans need to continuously train skills in order to maintain proficiency. If we don’t, we risk losing the ability to remain human in a world that becomes more capable of widespread harm with each passing day.

 Trust and transparency in a digital world

The breadth of challenges posed by IoT seems to span as wide as the potential benefits. What data is being collected? For what purpose is it being collected? Who has access to the data?  What impact does IoT have on security and personal privacy? These are just a few of the crucial and complex moral questions arising from data collection and use arising from the internet of things.

Creative cooperation and information sharing lead to survival and prosperity for all. IoT must be used with the common good of all in mind to reap large-scale rewards and avoid large-scale catastrophe. Similar to the delicate relationship between the plover enjoying a free meal and the crocodile a dental cleaning, trust, intention, collaboration, and transparency are paramount when dealing with complexity.  In a millisecond, a quick snap of the jaws is all that is needed to end the mutual benefits of this symbiotic relationship. The 200 million-year-old wise crocodile knows better. Do we?

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is an Executive Coach, Youth Expert, Human Systems Facilitator, Author, and Speaker. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom.

Small leader gestures have big follower impact

Leader Gestures – The basics of decency and respect

Within a period of three days, on two of the world’s biggest stages, millions of viewers observed two slights of basic human decency and respect by two of the most influential people towards other prominent world figures. The first faux pas coincidently occurred on Friday, July 13, 2018, at Windsor Palace between Queen Elizabeth II and President Donald Trump. The second occurred on Sunday, July 15, 2018, at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow between Presidents Vladimir Putin, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, and Emmanuel Macron. Fortunately for all of us, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia was modeling desperately needed pro-social leader gestures.

The Queen is somewhere around here

leader gesture
President Trump walking ahead of Queen Elizabeth II during his visit to Windsor Castle. Photos by Richard Pohle

The procedure seems straightforward. Walk side-by-side through a column of honor guards. How difficult can it be? Even with what appeared to be instruction from the Queen, Trump either did not listen and/or did not care about the procedure. Leaving the Queen momentarily in his shadow, he gave the impression that the ceremony was only to honor his presence. During the short promenade, Trump not once looked at the Queen.

Put aside for a moment their titles and all the pomp and circumstance. An older man (72) is walking with an even older woman (92). As fit as Queen Elisabeth II is she is elderly and walking on an uneven surface. Wouldn’t it be proper and kind for the man to walk by her side? That is at a minimum. The extra step would be to offer his arm. The picture below offers a striking contrast to what easily could have been. The facial expressions in each picture say it all.

leader gestures
A young man accompanying an elderly woman on a walk Photo credit: Bcbits.com

Raining? Really, I’m hardly wet.

As French and Croatian players in the World Cup finals were awarded their medals and congratulated by FIFA president Gianni Infantoni, Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, it began to rain then pour. As weather conditions worsened, the first to receive an umbrella was Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. No, not exactly. The first to receive protection from the elements was the host, Vladimir Putin. As Putin was sheltered by a large umbrella he did not even have to hold, Grabar-Kitarović, Macron, and Infantoni stood in elements jubilantly embracing players and coaches.

leader gestures
Presidents Macron and Grabar-Kitarović congratulate players and coaches in the pouring rain while President Putin takes cover under the first umbrella. Photo by Reuters.

Let us again put aside the titles and the significance of the ceremony. You are hosting three people at your house in your backyard. Suddenly the clouds roll in and it begins to rain then downpour. What do you do? You find an umbrella for yourself. No. This is not an airplane emergency where you are instructed to put your mask on first, then attend to others. You attend to the needs of your guests first.

Trump does not fair better with umbrella courtesy. He also ensured his well-being first under an oversized golf umbrella while Barron and Melanie handled the elements sans parapluie. Maybe the Queen could arrange a lesson in umbrella etiquette for them both.

Leader gestures
Trump making sure he is protected from the elements.
Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik

Leader gestures and their impact on followers

Small gestures say a lot about a leader’s character. A leader is the model of the behavior she wants her followers to emulate. Some followers do in fact imitate what their leader says and does. What messages are Presidents Trump and Putin sending their constituents on how to treat the elderly, family members, countries hosting you, or foreigners visiting your country?

Remember playing Follow-the-leader as a child?  A very empowering feeling for a young person knowing every one must pay attention to her every step and action. These simple leader gestures, however, are not a game and need to be taken seriously.  Followers can become emboldened by a leader’s irresponsible and anti-social gestures or language. Depending on the leader’s influence and intention, he can incite followers to either bring communities together or have them tear apart the social fabric that keeps us treating one another humanely. I explore the dangers of phony leadership in a previous blog.

A responsible leader gesture

On July 1st, when the Round of 16 of the World Cup was underway, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović flew economy class to Russia with other Croatian fans to support their national team. What impact did her small gesture have on her constituents and the team? See for yourself.  The Croatian national team deserves full credit for reaching the World Cup Finals. One begs to ask, however, if such pro-social behaviors becoming of a president also contributed to their team’s national and international success?

Leader gestures
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic flying economy with passengers to Russia. Facebook/Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

About the author

Jean-Pierre is a Human Systems Expert, Process Facilitator, Youth Specialist, and Speaker. He optimizes employee engagement and leadership potential by counseling leaders and enhancing group dynamics. He is the creator of the EPIC Model of development and the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

Youth leadership cannot wait until the future. It is needed today.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” -Malala Jousafzai

Youth Leadership
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25, 2018. Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP

The right for youth to speak about injustice

On October 9,  2012, at the age of 15, Malala Jousafzai and two other girls were riding in a bus when a Taliban hitman came on board. After asking Malala to identify herself or everyone would be shot, she did so. Although making a full recovery, with one bullet she was shot through the head, neck, and shoulder. Malala’s assassination attempt was in retaliation for her activism. Her crime. Malala wanted an education.

What had Malala remained fearful and silent?  What had she not told her story? And what had she not advocated for female rights to an education? Who if not Malala would speak up and act? Six years later and halfway across the world, high school students in Florida would be asking themselves the same question.

On February 14, 2018, 17 students and faculty of Parkland High School were maliciously gunned down during school hours. This had not been the first mass school shooting in recent US history, but it was the first time students, young people, like Malala, had had enough of condolences and empty promises. Like with previous school shootings, adults with the authority to take action paid mostly lip service to an, unfortunately, more common phenomenon in American society. Enough was enough.

Youth leadership in action

Similar to Malala’s courage to advocate in the face of harm, the Parkland student-led rally in Washington D.C. is a mind-blowing example of how youth leadership can influence current social and political conditions.  In the past, a young social or political activist had hurdles to climb regarding accessibility to media, funding, and networking. Today, it may very well be advantageous to be young and an activist.  Through the use of social media, the media, a GoFundMe account, and with the help of private donations from well-connected sympathizers, Parkland students raised $5.5 Million, of which $1.7 Million was raised in just three days.

As impressive, on March 24th, 2018, a mere five weeks after the devasting Parkland high school shooting, roughly 1.2 Million people marched world-wide for gun control. It was the biggest youth protest since the Vietnam War. Both times young Americans organized to this extent was to protest the senseless deaths of young people from weapons and from policymakers doing very little to advocate for their safety and lives.

What accounted for the swift actions of young people who before Parkland were neither fundraisers, event organizers, nor political and social activists? Led not by lobbyists and special interests this youth leadership operated on intention, social media savvy, networking, and everything fundamentally meant to be human. The clarity and precision of their actions rivaled anything any political organization or event planner could execute.

The role basic needs play in mobilizing youth leadership

Regardless of the system (family, organization, or community), harmful patterns can repeat themselves until the system collapses or the cycle is broken. Subsequent reoccurrences can increase in intensity until one of two things occurs. Either one accepts the dysfunction as normal or one takes a stand to change it. Malala and students at Parkland High School both chose the later.

All behavior is for the sake of fulfilling at least one of the basic needs (Survival, Belonging, Freedom, Fun, and Power). The more needs being fulfilled through a behavior, the more significant that behavior becomes. One basic need that mobilizes action regardless of age, gender, race, or religion, is the need for survival. Fight or flight. Sadly, the threat to safety and security in schools is a palatable one felt by too many communities across the United States. In addition to survival, the needs for power (feeling worthwhile to self and others), belonging, freedom, and fun were also jeopardized by the shootings. The response from Parkland High School students (see picture below) is a clear example of how the threat to all five basic needs, mobilized young people to take swift and historic action.

Organizers of the March For Our Lives fulfilled the need for power, satiating a strong desire to not remain a victim. They took meaningful action to improve not only their community but the nation as a whole. The need to belong to a group i.e., the school, was triggered by the shootings. Their community came under attack and the need to protect it and those of students across the US  gave clear purpose for the organizers. Like Malala, students everywhere want to have the freedom to an education and have fun in the process without having to worry about losing their lives.

What can we learn from youth leadership today?

Young people are more informed and engaged than any other previous generation.  When students no longer feel safe in school and adults are seen as doing too little to significantly address the most basic of basic needs, is it really a surprise to see articulate, well-intended, and technologically savvy young people taking matters into their own hands?  As a result, they are shaping public opinion through their response to events. This trend will likely continue.

The deleterious impact of social, corporate, political, and environmental irresponsibility currently transpiring is not a future young people desire. Why wait to do something about it? Young people, with the help of technology and social media, have leveled the playing field in their ability to take action, speak up, organize, and most importantly influence social, political, and environmental change. Young people are more transparent, capturing events in picture or video and broadcasting them globally through social media.

Youth leadership skills are currently needed. Young people are listening, showing empathy, and actively responding to injustices and policies affecting them and their future. Authoritative and dictatorial leadership caters to self-interest and special interest rather than to the common good. Forms of leadership embraced by young people place emphasis on purpose, authenticity, community, and the environment. They are replacing the idiom ‘the end justifies the means’ with ‘the means need to justify the end.’

Youth Leadership
Jacqueline Coren, Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, and Alex Wind. Photo: YouTube / Face The Nation

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

The numerous benefits of barefoot running

Barefoot running
Half Marathon Barefoot run

Barefoot running background

Barefoot running occurs naturally as a child. As an adult, it usually begins once you have read “Born to Run”, by Christopher McDougall. At least it did for me. One late summer day in 2010, while reading McDougall’s book about the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon in Mexico, I decided to do something I had yet to even consider. 

Overcoming the anxiety of what the neighbors would think, I jogged about 100 meters barefoot up the road and quickly went inside. The sensation I felt connecting with the pavement was amazing. I was no longer running. Every step was one of sensation. Like electricity running through my body, what I felt with every step–through the over 200,000 nerve endings in the soles of my feet–was instantaneously felt throughout my body to the ends of the hairs on my head.

After this unforgettable experience, there was no turning back to running shoes. Barefoot running gave the movement a whole new meaning. It became fun and not a chore. It became a want and not a must. Running became explorative and not exercise. For the next several months I slowly and impatiently transitioned from shod to bare, using my running shoes as hand weights when not in use.

Can you get injured from barefoot running?

Running injuries occur with or without shoes. Other factors to consider are previous injury history, overtraining, fatigue, and technique. Most of my injuries resulted from simply overdoing it. I enjoyed it too much. Eventually, my body forced me to listen. Blood blisters, calf strains, and the worst was a hairline fracture in my left fibula sustained during a 10K race. I still managed to hobble across the finish line.

The most frequently asked questions are ‘Doesn’t it hurt?’ and ’Don’t your feet get cold?’ The answer to both is rarely. Occasionally I step on something sharp. However, after seven years and 2,000 miles of barefoot running, only three small objects penetrated my skin and all were removed with tweezers–a must have. Unlike shoes whose soles wear down over time, the soles of your feet thicken with use, making objects more difficult to penetrate.

Regarding cold weather, as long as my feet are warm from the start, they usually stay warm. It can become a game of mind over matter and where I focus my mental energy. I use my “heat to feet” mantra and actively think about transferring the heat from my upper torso to my lower extremities when running in cold weather. Your body also adapts over time.

Physical benefits of barefoot running

Toenail fungus and runner’s toe are not an issue for me. There are more sweat glands in your feet per square inch than in any other part of your body: 250,000 glands per foot! Barefooting naturally allows your feet to breathe, sweat, and air dry while running. It helps get rid of sock tan lines! Splashing in puddles is also great for cooling off and having fun too.

Barefoot running has built-in anti-injury mechanisms. First, I run shorter distances as it is more physically and mentally demanding. The longest races I have run are half marathons. Second, my pads generally need a day to repair, so I rarely run back to back days. Third, the more I listen to my body, the more I am able to slow down and stop before an injury happens. Fourth, is the benefit of earthing, also known as grounding.

Finally, barefoot running lessens the impact on your knees and hips. Leg stride is shorter and your feet naturally fall underneath your body. Cadence is quicker making foot impact lighter. The entire foot and lower leg are engaged like a shock absorber (Photos 1 & 2). The toes act as stabilizers ensuring balance (Photo 3). A heel strike impact goes directly from your heel bone to your knee and hip joints (Photo 4).

Barefoot running
Photo 1: Foot muscles, ligaments, and tendons fully engaged, absorbing shock upon impact.

barefoot running
Photo 2: Lower leg muscles, ligaments, and tendons fully engaged, absorbing shock upon impact.

Barefoot running
Photo 3: Toes splayed for balance and grip

Barefoot running
Photo 4: Heel bone directly impacting the surface. No use of foot or lower leg. Ouch!

For more information on running economy and technique, watch the short video from Dr. Mark Cucuzzella on Principles of Natural Running

Heel versus forefoot impact experiment

Heel strike: Stand barefoot on a hard surface.  Strike one foot on the floor with just your heel 10 times with some force. How did it feel? Where did you feel the impact?

Forefoot strike: Using your other foot and with the same force, strike the ball of your foot 10 times. Have your heel gently touch the floor and bounce up again. How did it feel? Where did you feel the impact?

Body and Mind Transformation

Before barefoot running, my feet had little to no arch. I have now developed an arch as my feet flex and strengthen with every step. This realignment naturally autocorrects the body from the ground up–remember the hairline fracture–impacting how I stand and walk. I even welcomed the slight gain in height due to a few millimeters with new footpad growth!

Barefoot running involves body and mind. I never run with headphones. Most of my attention goes towards running form and scanning the ground for potential hazards. It is like playing a video game. Look away for too long and…Gotcha! A 30-minute run averaging 180 steps a minute translates to about 5,400 decisions of where to place your feet. That requires some attention.

I had to learn how to run before I could walk

Watch an infant walk without shoes. What do you notice? The child is on her toes. The gait looks more like a cross between walking and running. The child leans slightly forward and she is off! In essence that is running. Watch a toddler with shoes learning to walk. What do you notice? Little Frankenstein. Stiff, awkward, and clumsy movement.  The thousands of foot nerve endings are no longer sending her brain the feedback needed for coordination. Her feet are in boxes, making it unnecessarily more complicated to learn how to maintain balance.

After four years of barefoot running, it dawned on me that I might be walking incorrectly! So one day I tried walking with a midfoot/forefoot strike. I was hooked. I call it “active walking” in comparison to “passive walking” or heel striking. With active walking, all foot and lower leg muscles, ligaments, and tendons are activated. A 40-year habit is hard to break. I still catch myself heel striking, especially when I’m in a hurry or wearing shoes with a heel.

Go ahead. Take off your shoes. Let your feet breathe and reconnect with the Earth! Your mind, body, and soles will thank you! If interested you can read another post on Barefoot running and Leadership.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre is a Human Systems Accelerator specializing in conflict resolution,  intergenerational dialogue, and team interdependence. He is also a Youth Coach, Author, and Speaker. As the creator of the EPIC Model, Jean-Pierre brings out the expertise in groups by revealing patterns and refining human systems in real-time!

 

The mistrust of leadership, the rise of self organization, and the need for facilitation

Facilitation

The mistrust of leadership

In a time of increasing mistrust in leadership, the need to use facilitation is on the rise. Corruption comes in many shapes and colors. Nepotism, deceit, secrecy, abuse of power, finger-pointing, data manipulation, bribery, blackmail, lack of transparency, intimidation, bullying, and all forms of discrimination are many of the behaviors used to artificially control a system. These self-serving tactics cause undo harm and distracts individuals, groups, departments, organizations, or even a country from fulfilling its mission, achieving its goals, and developing. The result is a squandering of valuable resources to plan, implement, monitor, and sustain a culture of chaos and deceit.

Prolonged and unchecked abusive behaviors are destructive in many ways. First, they erode trust in the leader. Second, people begin to lose faith in systems and institutions afflicted with leaders who act with apparent impunity. Third, unethical tactics used to perpetuate an unjust system are usually illegal and/or violate human rights. Fourth, a culture of abuse becomes the norm. Finally, on-going dysfunction takes an enormous physical, emotional, financial, and psychological toll on human resources.

Look at the news headlines. Be it in the financial, government, industry, or social sector, the unmasking of criminal and scandalous behaviors at high levels of organization is rising as is the mistrust of leaders promising to champion constituent interests. In today’s world of technology and visibility, it is easier to manipulate information and take advantage of others. It is also easier to be revealed as a fraud or perpetrator. Leaders are being called to show their authenticity, be transparent about their intention, and be accountable to the collective. And so it should be.

The rise of self-organization

As faith in leadership diminishes, self-organization is taking hold of management structures. Although processes and tools of flat and decentralized forms of management are useful, they are not the panacea to all management and leadership woes. Hierarchy alone is not inherently unhealthy. Incompetence and abuse in hierarchical structures are.

Human interactions and processes determine outcomes. Abandoning structures without examining root causes of its failure and adopting self-organization can lead to similar problems. Self-organization naturally results even in hierarchical settings when trust, clear intention, and transparency are apparent and space is given for people to be authentic. Although self-organization can be triggered by poor leadership, it is not the only reason.

People use their profession to fully realize their potential. More popularly referred to as self-actualization, I refer to this need as power or feeling worthwhile to self and others. Authenticity, purpose, and posterity are becoming more important with each subsequent generation.  Collectively we are realizing there is more to life than working to survive and counting down the days to retirement. People are actively taking steps to fulfill the need for power in professional settings and proper facilitation in self-organized structures is a sustainable means to that end. 

The need for facilitation

Human systems include both hierarchical and flat structures. Both usually occur simultaneously and both include the human element. We are social animals. Our first introduction to human systems and the most influential is our family of origin. We are literally born into it, no voting, no interview, no choice. Your relationship with your parents and elders is one of hierarchy. Your relationship with your siblings and cousins is flat. Another important system in the formative years is the educational system. There too exists the dual organizational structures. A student’s relationship with her teachers and administration is hierarchical and that to her peers is flat.

Self-organization is what should occur under true leadership. True leaders create environments of exchange and learning where departments and teams can make decisions and act interdependently with other counterparts. Facilitation is successful when individuals feel safe and can share their ideas. Facilitators create a culture where disagreements are not seen as personal attacks and feedback is not taken as negative criticism.

Facilitation is more than creating an agenda and keeping time. Group facilitation requires an advanced set of social skills. True facilitation lies in the facilitator’s ability to ensure the group’s psychological well-being. They create space for all to participate and feel appreciated. Facilitators can mediate differences and help the group find common ground to move forward. Facilitators have the ability to listen to the real message. They assess group dynamics, knowing when to check-in, slow down, suggest a break, or move the conversation along. Learn more about facilitation in a recent blog by Susan M. Heathfield.

One person doesn’t need to have all the answers. There are plenty of well educated and experienced people looking to join others in fulfilling their shared need for power. There needs, however, to be at least one person who can hold the space for intention, authenticity, and the collective to manifest. Facilitation skills are workplace competencies of the future. Organizations emphasizing process facilitation are wise as they will naturally produce highly functioning and innovative self-organized teams.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

The dangers of phony leaders and why authentic leaders are desperately needed

Quotes from leaders
Source: www.leanleader.org

Phony leadership and its consequences

Phony leadership arises when those feeling neglected are used for the sake of the leader’s need to be in a position of power for self-serving reasons. Tricksters in leadership roles play on fears and focus their attention on emotionally charging their fanbase. This creates a level of fanaticism, jeopardizing the cohesiveness of all compatriots. Authentic leaders play down fears and focus their attention on emotionally discharging all stakeholders. This creates a level of security and fosters cohesiveness.

Authentic leadership seeks common ground amid differences. They view differences as opportunities for creation and innovation. For the authentic leader, new possibilities abound. Phony leadership, in contrast, views diversity as something to contend with, a threat to be defeated. A phony leader uses divisive tactics that create an “us versus them” mentality. Primitive methods using conflict and chaos are used to rule, not to serve.

The longer an unfit leader remains in power, the more likely respect for the position itself diminishes. Worse is the loss of faith in the institution for which the position is responsible. A group of people losing faith in a person is sad. A group of people losing faith in an institution vital to their livelihood is tragic and catastrophic. Therein lies the true danger of phony leadership.

When egos lead, phony leaders follow

Phony leadership is cowardly leadership disguised as brave leadership mainly to protect the leader’s fragile ego. Poor leadership is visible to all, except usually to the phony leader. The ostensible reason one assumes a position of leadership is for the sake of serving others. It quickly becomes evident that the phony leader is in the role to sustain his ego and self-interest.

As long as phony leaders maintain a loyal and demonstrative fanbase–even if through falsehoods and rhetoric–a cult-like following results. A phony leader creates a self-centered culture by making only a certain group believe someone is listening to just them. It is the equivalent of a parent showing extreme favoritism to one child while completely neglecting the others.

Such manipulative tactics create a “me first” mentality, mirroring the ego-driven persona of the phony leader. This dynamic creates a classic codependent relationship between the phony leader and his followers. All the while the neglected rest become disenchanted. This is the paradox of phony leadership. A phony leader rises to power by taking advantage of the unmet needs of those who feel neglected, only to use them again to sustain his control of power.

The courage to step down

When transparency and truth reveal a leader’s incompetence, it is not time to denounce, deflect, and counterattack. It is time to face the truth and step down. Leaders serve all, not just their most loyal fanbase. If stepping down is how to best serve everyone, then that is the decision to make. Not doing so only confirms how unfit the person truly is to unite all. Those being led will appreciate the leader’s respect for the position’s duties, the title itself, and the institution he represents.

An ineffective leader who steps down shows moral intention. The leader wanted to lead a group and not let her ego lead her. It didn’t work out. Yes, this can happen to leaders too.

Authentic leaders understand the importance of having the right person in the job. Fake it until you become it may have its place in the world, however, not in positions of leadership where the livelihoods of a community, organization, or nation are at stake. In a world that operates and responds in real-time, fabrication of information, impulsive reactions, and emotional instability (just to name a few) can have a significant impact, up to and including global implications. It is in everyone’s best interest that a leader not fit for the position step down rather than continue and put others at risk.

Authentic leadership in action

Authentic leadership is without pretense. Their role is to invite, not exclude. Given the multitude of information transmitted each minute from various sources around the globe, it becomes even more critical for leaders to be able to hold the space for all truths. Authentic leaders are not only containers but also colanders. Taking in information is just the first step. The second step is sifting through it all to find common ground amidst the multiple voices.

Finally, it is the leader’s role to create a culture where the themes that matter most can be addressed by those most affected. This is once again holding space for differing opinions and conversations to safely take place. It is like hosting a party whereby all guests feel welcomed, are focused on a purpose, and can speak openly and listen carefully.

With a focus on the prestige of being a leader and the benefits associated with it, many are interested in playing the part. How many are actually fit to fully embrace the role? Authentic leaders take pride in their title, but this is not why they assume leadership roles. Serving others and responsibly fulfilling their duties keeps the authentic leader’s ego in check. Phony leaders create a platform for themselves to be the top performer. Authentic leaders create platforms for others to be top performers.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

North Korea Solution – Step back and demilitarize

North Korea

In the shoes of North Korea

In June 2009, I participated in a Negotiation training at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC. North Korea had just pulled out of the Six-party Talks two months prior and one of our exercises was to bring North Korea back to the negotiation table. Sound familiar?

One by one participants volunteered to represent the United States, China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan. When it came to North Korea the room went silent. At this point in my career, I was managing a group home for youth in conflict with the law and had been in the counseling psychology field for over a decade. I sat for a moment and thought about it. North Korea now had an eager representative.

I do not remember the exact details of the negotiation process, other than it ended quickly and without an agreement. The frustration in the room was palpable. I was in control because there was nothing to negotiate. They wanted something from me (at least a few did), but I didn’t need anything from them. I said what I wanted and no one could do anything about it. My sense of perceived power was immense. The greater their frustration, the more emboldened I became. Sound familiar?

How the US could deal with North Korea – A Case Study

Fast forward several years later. I was still the director of the group home and in came a referral from Boston. “Jerry” was short and stocky in stature and was as tough as they come. He was heavily gang-involved and had recently survived multiple gunshot wounds. His gang allegiance was so strong, that he’d rather return to be with his crew and possibly get killed than stay in the program. He didn’t care. He wanted out and started behaving accordingly.

Jerry immediately began threatening and posturing towards staff. I went to have a look. It did not go well. My presence escalated the situation. Jerry felt more threatened and as a result, he started threatening me. I had to keep my ego in check and depersonalize the situation. Had I taken a similar threatening approach, having over 600 pounds of combined staff weight near me, it would have ended in an ugly and potentially dangerous physical restraint. The risk of injury to either Jerry or my staff was extremely high. No one wanted that.

I could sense Jerry’s rational state was deteriorating and his desperation was increasing. This young man had everything to fight for and nothing to lose. A physical intervention would have only condoned an old pattern of using threats and violence as a method to fulfill needs. Such a response would have been at a physical and psychological cost, as well as a potential financial and legal cost. Furthermore, how as role models could we help Jerry if we behave exactly as he does? Sound familiar?

Jerry needed to feel safe and assured that we were doing our best to de-escalate the situation. So what did I do? I left. As the director, my responsibility was to ensure everyone’s safety and doing so required me to step back and withdraw. My job was to build trust and model the behavior I was asking of Jerry. Before leaving, I told Jerry that we would do our best to work with him and that his cooperation would be appreciated. Jerry left the next day to another program which he ended up completing. Win-win.

Although a different situation, there are some similarities and key takeaways for how the US could choose to deal with North Korea. As this is a multi-party affair, let’s look briefly at the five other countries to better understand their perspective and consider alternative peaceful solutions.

North Korea

What does North Korea really want? Ostensibly to become a nuclear power equal to the US and not be threatened by potential US military action. Why does North Korea feel so threatened by the US? First, the United States and South Korea have had a military alliance since 1953. Second, nearly 30,000 US troops are in South Korea, regularly conducting extensive military drills on North Korea’s doorstep. Third, Japan, which is only 600 miles away, hosts the largest number of US military in a foreign country–nearly 40,000 troops–and hosts the Seventh Fleet, the largest of US navy’s sea forces. Lastly, is the island of Guam, which hosts a US military base of about 4,000 personnel and is about 2,000 miles from Pyongyang.

Whether real or imagined, North Korea most likely interprets this robust military presence–which could easily attempt to invade a small country–as an imminent existential threat. This fear needs to be acknowledged and seen as a trigger for North Korea. Former US President Jimmy Carter said it best, “Until we’re willing to talk to them and treat them with respect as human beings, which they are, then I don’t think we’ll make any progress.”

Japan and South Korea

From the North Korean perspective, Japan and South Korea are most likely viewed as extensions of the US military arm and threat. One can assume that both Japan and South Korea want peace and security in the region. Kudos to Japan for keeping its cool and not responding in a rash way or with retaliatory comments in light of the two recent missile launches over its country. There is something to learn from their outward show of calmness in an otherwise tense situation. Japan and South Korea are wisely looking for a peaceful global response, and not solely relying on American muscle.

Russia and China

From the outside, both Russia and China hardly appear to be encouraging North Korea to stop their nuclear development and testing. According to a Chinese spokeswoman, “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive.” Is it really? It only appears complicated for the US, South Korea, and Japan. China and Russia are barely batting an eye, although they both have a better relationship with North Korea and can be most influential in bringing peace to the region. As for North Korea, their nuclear capabilities are only improving.

Both Russia and China are most likely also not pleased with America’s extensive presence in the area. It could be advantageous for Russia and China for North Korea to have nuclear capabilities. For the two superpowers, North Korea is a check and balance on the peninsula and a thorn in the side of the US.

Recommendations to De-escalate tensions with North Korea

De-militarize the area and step back

The United States must lessen its perceived threat to North Korea by stepping back from discussions and reducing its military presence in the area. Lowering fear and anxiety increases the level of safety in a crisis situation and makes the possibility of dialogue more likely. Russia and China would likely approve of such measures as well and the US could no longer be blamed for raising tensions and escalating fears.

China and Russia need to take a more active role with North Korea

US Secretary of State Tillerson aptly responded after a missile launch over Japan in 2017 when he said, “China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.” Russia has been relatively quiet stating that more sanctions are not the answer. China only states that “all parties should exercise restraint”, however, North Korea seems to be exempt from this plea. One begins to wonder what they both truly want as an outcome.

As long as the US, South Korea, and Japan continue responding in kind with threats and displays of military might, China and Russia can continue watching a game that has been playing since 2003 when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The second benefit of the US stepping back and demilitarizing the peninsula and area is that China and Russia will be put in a position to act and not just make comments about what others need to do. The international community would then soon see whether both China and Russia want peace and stability in the area or not.

Positively encourage North Korea to denuclearize

There is a third benefit of the United States taking a back seat and de-militarizing the peninsula and area. North Korea would have a difficult time justifying its reason to continue its nuclear weapons program. This increases the chances of them reducing weapons testing and manufacturing. It also increases the chances of them coming back to the discussion table. If North Korea still continues on its current path, then international consensus could put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

US and Russia need to take action on Pillar 2 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

The United States and Russia need to show the world, not just North Korea, that they are serious about global denuclearization. Why should a country disarm when the ones telling them to do so do not do it themselves? Why should some countries be allowed to have nuclear arms and others not?

The Second Pillar of NPT is Disarmament. It states “all Parties undertake to pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race, to nuclear disarmament, and to general and complete disarmament.” The second and third points of this pillar must be the focus for all nine nations in possession of nuclear weapons, especially the United States and Russia who each have a nuclear arsenal of around 7,000 capable weapons. Of these, each has around 1,800 that are operational. Next, come China and France with about 300 nuclear weapons apiece.

The North Korean nuclear weapons crisis can happen anywhere, therefore, the threat of nuclear weapons needs to be broadened beyond North Korea. Let North Korea be a reminder of what is at stake if all nations, especially those with nuclear capabilities, do not take the mandates of NPT seriously. Let North Korea be a reminder of how nuclear armament threatens regional as well as global peace and development.

Progress begins when the US does exactly what it is asking of North Korea–denuclearize. The United States, Russia and China must lead by example and fully comply with the NPT mandates. This is active leadership. This is being a leader in a nuclear world.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He optimizes employee engagement and leadership potential by counseling leaders and enhancing group dynamics. He is the creator of the youth inspired EPIC Model of development and the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

A warning about the use of labels on people

labeling
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Product labels have their place

Product labels have become increasingly important the more conscious we become about what we consume and purchase. A healthier lifestyle, environmental concerns, and social responsibility are a few reasons we search for and read labels. One ingredient, one raw material, or even a product’s origin is enough for a consumer to disregard an otherwise appealing product. This use of labeling is for both the benefit of the individual and the community. This is, however, where the benefits of labels stop.

Labeling allows us to discern information, however…

In an age of overwhelming access to information, the desire to share knowledge increases, as does skepticism around accuracy and its source. Everyone can’t be right, so who is telling the truth? There is some truth on all sides when we listen without judgment to find common ground and seek understanding.

Humans instinctually discern the goodness and value of the information we gather from our senses. From an evolutionary standpoint, a slip in judgment could have been a matter of life or death. The problem is, too often we make rash one-sided judgments of people and therein lies the danger of labels.

Labeling people leads to dehumanization

labelsOpposing views, as displayed in the political arena, are usually not resolved through inquisitive processes to further understand the other(s). Rather, people with differing viewpoints are labeled in dismissive and demeaning ways. The goal is to diminish their worth and tarnish their reputation. Dialogue under these conditions cannot take place.

Name-calling is unpresidential

Small leadership gestures have a big follower impact. On a larger scale, leadership under an umbrella of fear, threats, and verbal aggression slips into dictatorship. Such a manner of conduct breeds animosity and divisiveness. The contentiousness that results has the propensity to lead to violent behavior and clashes.

Believe it or not, Wikipedia has a “nickname” page for Donald Trump. The list is surprisingly (or not) extensive. This a dangerous political method of dealing with opposition. Labeling systemically condones an “us versus them” mentality, allowing it to become the accepted way of dealing with differences. We are witnessing the damage this divisive behavior brings to our diverse communities.

Labeling places people at risk

Once labeled, a person is reduced to several unflattering stereotypes. Once dehumanized that person is perceived as less than human. Their needs, voice, and value are diminished. Susceptibility to discrimination, mockery, oppression, neglect, and abuse (physical, verbal, and emotional) increases.

In extreme cases, significant harm and even death can result. One needs not to look too far in the distant past to see how hateful and dehumanizing language can lead to an act of genocide. The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 is a stark reminder of how the Tutsi minority for decades prior was verbally degraded and labeled as cockroaches and snakes. What does one do with cockroaches and snakes?

Read product labels, stop labeling people

Continue reading labels on products on shelves and on racks. They hopefully make you a more informed consumer.  A label on a bag of organic apples grown from a local farm helps the consumer determine the value and worthiness of the purchase.

Degrading labels on people are not accurate and only decrease a person’s value. This can become a slippery slope leading to oppression and the likelihood of injustice to arise. Use great caution before consuming a demeaning and dehumanizing label placed on a person. Rather than labeling people seek to understand and find common ground. Take the time to look into what is not on the label.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert, Process Facilitator, Youth Specialist, and Speaker. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

Human Development (HD) Can Benefit from Organizational Development (OD)

human development
Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Human development is our greatest challenge as a species no matter how technically advanced we become. Digitalization beckons our human development. How can we improve human race relations? Businesses have organization development (OD) to improve relationships and human performance within organizations. If the general human population placed as much emphasis and resources as businesses do on achieving organization development goals, human development would take giant leaps forward. Humankind would benefit and prosper.

Achievable human development goals

How wonderful would it be for humankind to achieve human appropriate OD goals? Below are generally accepted organization development goals. I replaced two words. I changed the word “employees” to humans and “organization” to humankind. Let’s have a look and see how these achievable human goals would read.

1. To increase the level of inter-personal trust among humans.
2. To increase humans’ level of satisfaction and commitment. (In the original form commitment is about the organization’s mission and values. Here it refers to the greater human good—posterity).
3. To confront problems instead of neglecting them.
4. To effectively manage conflict.
5. To increase cooperation and collaboration among humans.
6. To increase humankind’s problem-solving ability.
7. To put in place processes that will help improve the ongoing operation of humankind continuously.

Sounds good to me!

Humanship: Achieving goals that benefit humankind

How committed are we as a human race to achieve these goals? Look closely at each goal and think globally about where we stand today. What comes to mind? How would you score the world on each point? It becomes quite clear that organization development specialists could easily make a career shift to become human development specialists if such positions existed. Maybe governments should consider it. There would be high demand worldwide! A whole new job market. One that requires high emotional intelligence (EI). A job that cannot be easily replaced with artificial intelligence (AI).

I name the process of achieving these human evolutionary goals as “humanship”. You can read more about it in my blog post titled, “Relationship: How the word undermines itself”. According to the OD objectives, whether in business or society, human development is hampered by a lack of trust, funding, value, ethics, conflict resolution skills, emotional regulation, problem-solving skills, mentors, models, and social incentives to develop collectively as a human race. How are the essential human skills needed to achieve these seven goals incorporated in education and training curriculums?

Business development models hamper human development

Why do we struggle as humans to collectively achieve goals 1-7? What impedes human development in addition to what was mentioned above? We mistakingly apply the business development model—profit and market growth—to the human development model. Herein lies the problem.

Businesses achieve profit and growth when other businesses are not as successful in achieving their financial and market goals. Humans, on the other hand, do not profit and grow when other humans are not successful in achieving their goals.  That is the difference. On the contrary, social, economical, and political inequalities promote jealousy, envy, hatred, greed, corruption, crime, and conflict. Unfortunately, to the detriment of our collective well-being, we have primarily adopted the business model of growth and profit as the model for our human development.

Human evolution is not a zero-sum game

The prevalence of consumerism preached daily through media and advertisement has brainwashed us into believing that humans should develop like businesses. Here is what we are told. Humans need to build capital. Humans need to continuously enlarge their market share by amassing assets. We need to become more financially profitable. This is a zero-sum game as there is only so much land, resources, and wealth to go around. The more one acquires the fewer others have. This model may work for business development, but for humans, it can be catastrophic.  The global economy is continuously expanding. As it becomes more interconnected a business model based on the zero-sum mentality becomes even more possible. This too is dangerous when too much influence falls in the hands of a few players. Human evolution works best and is sustainable when we all collectively benefit. Businesses tend to grow at the expense of others, humans do not.

Organization development goals can and should be human development goals. If OD goals can improve human collaboration and performance in the workplace they can also do so in local, regional, and global communities. For this to happen, the terms growth and profit must be redefined for human beings. Humans must view growth and profit as a collective benefit. Businesses grow and profit by monopolizing resources and taking away sales from competitors. Humans grow and profit by sharing resources and giving to others by not seeing them as adversaries but as allies.

About the author

Jean-Pierre is a Human Systems Facilitator specializing in Conflict Resolution, Intergenerational Dialogue, and Psychological Safety. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is the creator of the EPIC Model of development and the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.