On leadership, teamwork, organizations, and the like.

4 lessons in pursuing my version of CSR—a Career of Sustainability and Responsibility

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity in trying many things in terms of internships and jobs, spanning from my college years up to this day where I am finishing my Master in Business Administration degree.  I have tried working for multinational companies, nonprofit organizations, a startup, and currently as a member of the higher education academic community.

 

Viewed in the traditional perspective, this smorgasbord of experiences may raise red flags from seasoned HR practitioners.  They might say this is typical Gen Y or Millienial mentality—fickle, selfish, and to some extent disloyal to an organization.  However, the overarching theme emerging from these career decisions revolve around picking the best aspects of each stint and reconciling them with my goal of living a holistic career, imbued with money, mission, and passion harmonizing with the way I think life should be lived.  I believe that the key to living a career featuring sustainability and responsibility is how a person is able to reconcile these aspects with minimal tradeoffs.  Below are four initial lessons or reflections I would like to share.

 

Point 1: Desire for flexibility

 

I acknowledge that I do not have the most concrete ideas on what the ideal “CSR” career will look like.  Hence, I have this great desire for flexibility that allows for inflection points and shaping my vision as it emerges.

 

This is what I found challenging in highly structured organizations with concrete goals and visions, usually prevalent in multinational corporations.  There are set goals to be met – quotas, number of projects, maintaining clients, etc.  Your performance and rewards are basically measured by how well you execute these mandated goals, and if one executes and even exceeds these targets, usually big rewards await.

 

However, the flipside is critical: one must be fully dedicated to the company goals or else he cannot maximize his productivity and will be stuck in a conundrum of always second guessing one’s self.  Ideally, one’s personal vision should be tightly aligned with the company goals.  If one should pursue a CSR career in highly structured organizations, it is vital to integrate your personal CSR goals with the company’s mechanisms.

 

In my personal experience, this is hard.  A corporate career with great personal flexibility is like capturing a lightning in a bottle.  It will take tremendous alignment between your immediate stakeholders to make things work.  Hence, I found it beneficial for me right now to work in an organization that allows me to be a kind of “intrapreneur”—leveraging resources of the organization while aligning it with my personal and emerging visions of what an ideal personal CSR could be.

 

Point 2: Maximizing opportunities

 

The environment or context we live in is very dynamic and eternally changing in a very fast pace.  As a result of this, I think gone are the days where personal and organizational visions should be fixed; rather, they must be agile enough to maximize whatever opportunities may arise along the way.

 

Since personal CSR is somewhat relative and can be changed, it is vital for person to somewhat design his life that exposes him to many opportunities that allow for tinkering money, mission, and passion.  In my personal experience, after I attained my undergraduate degree, I was fixated on being very deliberate with my choices.  A leads to B leads to C leads to D. I failed to recognize that truly, only change is constant, and the happenings in my surroundings will undoubtedly influence my options.

 

Hence, I am now biased for positions and roles which allow many kinds of opportunities arising.  I am still not very comfortable with uncertainty, but I take peace in the fact that with uncertainty comes opportunity—steps that allow for better designing of a career that truly reconciles money, mission, and passion.

 

Point 3: Sticking to my key strengths

 

The challenge in trying many things is the danger of confusing one’s self in terms of answering the question: “Where am I good at?  What do I want to be known as great at?”  I have tried managing an organization’s social media, executing marketing activations, implementing various projects and events, designing paraphernalia, and improving operations and processes.  The fear was real – I did not want to be a jack of all trades, master of none.  At best, I wanted to be a jack of all trades, master of one or even some (because mastering everything is difficult, if not impossible).

 

And that pursuit of mastery of one, for me, turned to be writing.  Sometimes creative writing, in forms of simple songs, poetry, and blogging; sometimes technical writing, in forms of documents, formal letters, and scholarly research articles.  I wished to be competent in many areas concerning management of organizations, but I know that I am in my element when my activities involve writing.  I am not yet the best creative or technical writer I could be; and that is okay.  I will continue to grow and I can confidently improve because I know what my key strength is.

 

For this, I am grateful for my high school English mentor and my current research mentors.  Through them, I was able to affirm something that I know I have the potential at, and this allows me to frame sustainability and social responsibility in terms of my key strength.

 

 

Point 4: Staying loyal to my personal values and purpose – “personal legend”

 

Currently, what I really value is the ability to reconcile idealism and being practical, mission and money, dreams of what could be grounded on what can really be.  It seems that in all my previous stints in various organizations, I always challenge myself to think in terms of proving idealism need not be mere naivete, rather, it allows for ideas that help us make reality a much better place to live in.

 

Have I crafted already that ideal career that integrates money and mission, sustainability and social responsibility?  Not yet.  I dare say I am still far from it.  That is where faith comes in – a belief that every struggle is every knock that persistently opens that door.  “Knock and the door will be opened.”  And by all means, let us knock hard, bang hard, because the career we desire will not be given; it shall be earned.  And though God loves us, He will not open the doors just because He pities us.  He knows we deserve better than that.

 

We will knock.  We will shout.  Once He deems us as deserving, then the door will be opened to us.

You Gotta Bleed to Lead

I write this blog post in response to Alexis Collado’s blog post found at this link: http://acstudios.asia/2013/08/21/to-be-a-leader/

 


Reading about student leadership from a Lourdesian perspective compelled me to look back on how I yearned to grow as a person and as a leader.  Nostalgia is such a bittersweet pill to take during this time when I just finished my college degree… yet it feels that high school is just weeks away.

What Alexis wrote in his blog brought my psyche back to my high school times, but this time I am armed by experience and wisdom.  To give structure to this blog post, I’d like to dwell on Alexis’s “3 Types of Student Leaders”.

Onto the first point!

I’d like to believe that I am an introverted leader.

After reading Susan Cain’s “Quiet”, I came to appreciate the gifts of being an introvert.  Funny thing is, most people would think that “leadership” and “introvert” should never be joined in a sentence.  Who would blame them for thinking that way?

When we speak of leaders, we think of the charismatic communicators, the politicians, the debaters.  “The Extrovert Ideal”, as Susan Cain expounded.

But as we know, dogs who bark the loudest do not automatically mean they bite the strongest.

No disrespect to the natural, charismatic, and inspiring extroverts but the glorification of having to be greatly great at public speaking led to the proliferation of know-it-alls eager to show the world how they’re better than anyone.  How their confidence and way with words can lead to “wingin’ it” and still managing to impress.

As MarkProfers would harshly say to those know-it-alls, especially during group case studies wherein only a select few will be chosen among the team, “Know when to speak up and know when to shut up.

That elated the introvert in me, once I heard my MarkProf seniors say those! I was happy that somehow, amidst the glorification of the “Extrovert Ideal”, there are people who recognize sugarcoated nonsense versus flavorful delivery of authentic content.

As a student leader then, especially back in high school, I admit that I thought I lacked the guts to always speak up and be the ruthless autocrat.  Then I realized, I just preferred to let my actions do the talking.

My most memorable high school leadership moments were revolved on I being the captain ball of our basketball varsity team, once leading the juniors, and the other time leading the seniors.

Leading a basketball team is hard, because pressure is on the leader to deliver.  To make things worse, I am not as athletic as my teammates and was really not the best player on the team.  I felt inadequate for the role, and I attempted to give up the position.  I talked to my coach.  After some days, he talked to me again and said that I am doing just fine, and thus he would not allow me to give up the position.

I was confused then.  What am I supposed to do?  As an introvert, I did not want to be the “bossy” kind of captain or the disciplinarian. Then I realized, all along, the answer was there.  No need for facades or masks.  Just work hard.  Or work harder than anyone.  I knew that I am in no way the best player in my team, but as the captain, I should be the last one to give up or disobey the coach’s instructions.

Lead the conditioning everyday, lead the stretching, surpass my limits, but most importantly, let my teammates, who I knew were better than me, shine.  I need not score, we had plenty of slashers and scorers in the group.  Focus on the little things, dying for the loose ball, not backing down, and most of all, just trying to live and speak through examples.

Onto the next point!

Alexis mentions cocky leadership in his blog post, while I reframe it as “inner hubris”.

There were select unfortunate times, wherein I felt I was better doing things alone than in the group, especially if the group I belonged with were full of the dreaded free-loaders. But hubris is such a powerful negative trait to have, even if I did not dare display such arrogance.  It was a double-edged sword: I had the belief that as long as I poured my effort and focus on something, I did not need to have teammates at all.

But God is such a good God.  He made me realize that in college, everything’s a whole new level.  Standards are much higher, and workloads are much heavier.  In the vernacular, binatukan Niya ako.  I said hellos to accounting and quantitative subjects I almost failed, if not for the mercy of teachers or the miracles of God.

Since then, I knew I gotta recognize my limits.  Since then, the “inner hubris” transformed into a prayer.  Asking God, or if possible forcing God to smack me in the head and pull me back hard to the ground the moment I think that I’m greater than anyone.  Because at the end of the day, the most sincere way to lead is to recognize that one is a flawed being needing the help of others as well – granting them permissions to shine so as to create a culture of interdependence pushing each other up instead of pulling each other down.

And it all boils down to the last point, knowing one’s self; being at peace with one’s self.

There’s no such as thing as the absolutely perfect leader; there’s only the relatively perfect leader.  Contexts change, and times change.  I realized that introverts can lead in their own way, and need not force one’s self to become the overly-glorified “extrovert ideal”.

We are in the eternal journey towards perfection, each representing a particular fragment of image and likeness of God.  We traverse different roads, yet leading to the same destination.

One must bleed to lead, bathe in his own blood and discover one’s own leadership style.  Masks and cookie-cutter prescriptions are supposed to be just guides, not to be dogmas to be forced to anyone’s throat.

Blood, sweat, and tears are the prices one pay to truly experience the essence of servant leadership.  We will all have our own versions, our own stories, our own hero’s journeys.   We will be followers, we will be leaders.

But we gotta bleed often, and instead of cursing God for the pain, thank Him instead.

Bleeding while leading is a sign that we’re following the footsteps of the true leaders who literally died for our sake.

History’s ink in writing our legacies will be the blood we offer in pursuit of true, authentic, servant leadership.

Dreamlist – The Gifts of a Quarter-life Crisis

Courtesy of Dreamlist.ph

This was the article I have written for Dreamlist.ph.  You can also access the article here.

 


Away from the sound of the partying bass, the tipsiness from the booze, and the good side of the typical college rollercoaster ride comes the inevitable hangover.  Suddenly, after living it up while chanting YOLO one realizes that yes, we all live once, but a lifetime is a one long period to live.   This realization creeps in a metaphorical hangover that leads asking basic, but hard questions to answer.

What am I to do with my life?  What is my niche in this society, or this world even?  How will my love life be in the future? Will I continue to depend on my family for me to live?  Will I get my dream job or dream career?  Welcome to the quarter-life crisis.

Most people, when hearing the word crisis, think how it seems to be a big, scary word that no rational person would want to take part of.  Contrary to intuition, a quarter-life crisis at the soonest possible time is one of the greatest blessings in disguise we can have.  Here are gifts we can personally receive as we tackle our personal crises.

 

The gift of clarity and vision

It can make us continuously re-question where we want to be decades from now, and consider our desires to leave legacies.  In my case, I envisioned a world where business persons and entrepreneurs become stewards not just of economic prosperity, but creating social value through innovation.  However, to get there, I decided that ditching the traditional corporate track and aspiring career involvements in education, research, and eventually social entrepreneurship is the fit for my personal agendas.

 

The gift of defining priorities

I do not want to give up precious time with family, friends, and loved ones.  Yes, I definitely want to be rich, but not at the expense of society and my family.  This gift forces us to stay true to what prices we are willing to pay for the visions we want to achieve.  We should never give up the greatest yet priceless commodities we have – values.

 

The gift of mission, purpose, and advocacies

We all want money, fame, glory and power.  I do not see anything wrong about that as long it doesn’t harm anyone.  What makes life worth living is doing something for a personal mission.  Nothing beats doing concrete things to make the world a better place.

 

The gift of “innovative idealism” with the guts to take a leap of faith

The greatest disservice one can do to one’s self is to forsake realizing dreams for financial security.  However, forsaking financial security for the pursuit of dreams is just as unfair.  Tackling a quarter-life crisis forces one to stay true to ideals and personal missions, while recognizing the need for money and material things.  It takes guts to innovate, take a leap of faith, and pursue both material wealth and creating good for society.  This is hard, but not impossible.  The sweet spot between being practical and ideal is being innovative.

I firmly believe that those who will embrace this crisis will find the freedom to fulfill one’s biggest dreams and goals.  Because running away just leads to settling and leading a life filled with regret; while resolving personal crises lead to the path of guts and eventually, glory.

Embrace your personal quarter-life crisis and receive its gifts worth treasuring forever. The fulfillment of dreams is only reserved for those who have the guts to pursue them.

 

At the Convergence of Dualistic Natures

Courtesy of Google Images

This blog post is directly lifted from one of my reflections on a paper I have read.

Perhaps the insight that struck me the most is that managers, whether under business, academe, public, or any organizations, have complex motivations, goals, and objectives.  After all, managers are human beings with different wants and needs.

Stripping down the titles and labels, human beings at their core already have complex and conflicting desires.  When at their lowest and the need for survival is imminent, we recognize the mentality of the needy called “kapit sa patalim”, wherein they will do almost, if not, everything for themselves and the betterment of their family, even at the expense of others.  Ironically, when people are at their highest and as you quoted in your paper, people with power tend to be corrupted.  Maybe these people’s characteristics revolve more on self-preservation at all costs.

There are also human beings, such as genuine public servants and social entrepreneurs who truly practice the Christian “servant leadership”.  Perhaps these people value selflessness more and giving value to society.

I have always pondered on the complexity of human behavior, particularly on the dualistic natures that exist in us.  To cite a few examples, idealism vs pragmatism, helping society vs making profits, subjective vs objective.  The easy way for these things is to isolate a half, and use them as exclusive lenses in viewing the world.  We create assumptions that disregard the other half of the “dualistic nature”.  This has advantages and disadvantages, but I’d like to focus on the disadvantages.

By constricting ourselves too much within one frame of mind or assumption, we commit the error of disregarding the whole truth – dualistic natures need NOT be mutually exclusive; there are plenty of overlaps.  I remember my Unilever internship wherein my supervisor told us in the culminating presentation that ethics IS black and white; but until now I respectfully disagree.  There are always gray areas, and there will always be because human beings are innately relative, innately subjective.

Tying all of these thoughts to your paper, I can sense multiple hats in you that compelled you to do action – both as a “rational” and “irrational” manager, and as a compassionate human being.

Rational, in the sense that a manager or chair must do what is best to reach the bottom-line (in this case, to serve students at the least cost possible), compelled you to act perhaps due to the fact that the inefficiencies of the predicament of secretaries affected faculty workflow and serving the needs of the students.  If I may rightfully borrow economics thinking, solving this problem is the logical thing to do to smoothen out inefficiencies and help the department “serve its customers better”.  You eliminated the “cost” of inefficiencies by acting on this manner.  Moreover, this stayed true to the dept’s thrust of “Bridging Faith and Management Practice”.

However, in an “irrational” perspective, if I may again take the liberty to use these terms, the ff insights may surface.  It is “irrational” to “waste” time solving this problem when you could have stay put and focused on doing research and preparing lesson plans.  It is “irrational” to hire secretaries as full-time vs contractual as they add cost, in a purely economic perspective.  But still, you acted “irrationally” and had the initiative to care for your fellow even though it will cost you precious time and energy.

To conclude my reflections and synthesizing what I have realized in your example, managers and human beings are better moved to do things that are mutually beneficial for themselves and others when placed in the gray areas, where dualistic natures converge.  Perhaps there must be motivations from both an “idealistic” and “pragmatic” side that are compelling enough to move beyond the boundaries of rational thinking, beyond the boundaries of our preset defaults.

“Being Your Own Boss” is not “Having No Boss”

Courtesy of Google Images

It seems that the idea of  “being your own boss”, or starting up one’s own business is gaining more traction today.  Some people fantasize on the thought of relaxing underneath the shades of a palm tree in a white-sand beach while money  keeps on pouring in.  Some daydream of the day they would not have to answer to a micro-managing boss whose life’s purpose is to make a subordinate’s job miserable.

If your passion to pursue entrepreneurship or be your own boss is as similar as those listed above, then by all means, I believe you should find a deeper purpose.  Because being one’s own boss is not the same as having no boss at all.

The reason why it’s not “having no boss” and “being your own boss” is as explicit as that – entrepreneurship requires more self-discipline, more self-mastery, and more self-management or “self-bossing”.  Perhaps a better term is “self-leading”, or the ability to lead one’s self.

When one becomes an entrepreneur, there’s no more fixed monthly salary that one can cling on to or use in planning credit.

When one becomes an entrepreneur, it may not be an 8 to 5 job, but rather, an 8 to 8 job (and I mean 8am to 8am!).

If you are part of a corporate job, imagine this – all the benefits you receive from the company, you should be the one to prepare for yourself.  No one will withhold your income tax, no one will forcibly save money for a “retirement” fund.  You will now be the one to establish the structure of the organization and make sure the organization does not violate any laws.  You are your own boss – you should be the one in charge of doing this for yourself now.

With great power of freedom comes a great burden of responsibility.

Please rethink first the true meaning of “being your own boss”.  When an individual is capable of digesting the repercussions of being one’s own boss (vs the wrong notion of having no boss), is only when he is ready to reap the true rewards of entrepreneurship.

 

Proving Believers Right

I stumbled upon Seth Godin’s blog and he posted something about proving skeptics wrong.

For basketball fans, one might be accustomed to superstars having the mentality to prove doubters wrong – people are motivated by those who disbelieve and bash them.

As you read Seth’s blog, you will notice that he used to keep track of the skeptics, the doubters. But then he stopped, perhaps having this insight:

Why focus on proving skeptics wrong when there are true believers worth spending a greater time on?

Seth continues to state that these believers would even be the evangelizers that will spread your word and thus, it is more productive to focus on them.

I know for a fact that proving others wrong, especially the pesky doubters or even the cheapest of haters is such a very powerful motivator. I have sometimes used it in sports when playing basketball (just as how MJ and Kobe used them), and sometimes it leads to one having that sudden burst of energy. In the vernacular, I think it’s translated as “gigil”.

But come to think of it.

What then, after we prove doubters and haters wrong?

What then if one gets vindication, redemption, or even revenge?

As Seth advocates in his blog post, is it not more appropriate to prove the fans and true believers right? For those who kept the faith?

Instead of playing the ruthless god who punishes non-believers by sending them to hell, let us emulate the Christian God who focuses on rewarding the faithful and bringing the believers to heaven.

Somehow, things are more worth the time, energy, and passion.

Sure, proving doubters wrong is satisfying. But nothing compares to the euphoria of proving one’s believers right and exulting one’s success with his loved ones.

Living in the Moment – In This Life

 

“Sa buhay na ito, tayo’y manatili. Huminga ng malalim, huminga ng malalim.”

Sometimes, in life, we feel the need to force ourselves into entering a different zone, a different plane.

From men to machines.

To accomplish goals, to accomplish tasks, to prove that the ideal can happen.

But sometimes, we forget the essential.  We forget that there are times, the ideal things are not necessarily the most essential.  We forget to live in the moment.

Sometimes, the bottomline, the results, the expectations – these things are not everything that matters.

Sometimes, living in the moment is all that matters.

Living in this life is all that matters, even for a moment’s time.

Isn’t it extremely painful to be “present” in a once-in-a-lifetime moment, when one’s spirit, one’s soul, is wandering towards a completion of tasks that just pursue the “good results”?

Just as we have the self-discipline to turn ourselves to machines that efficiently and effectively produce the results that conquer the sky-high expectations, let us too have that self-discipline to return back to being mere mortals that need the warmth, the spontaneous spark, that urge to live in the moment.

“Sa buhay na ito, tayo’y manatili. Huminga ng malalim, huminga ng malalim.”

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Thank you Bamboo, for this wonderful music that somehow lifts the spirit.

Strengths Based Leadership

One of the best things in being part of the DLSU Business Management Society is the opportunity to know more about strengths based leadership.  With the mentorship of Mr. Brian Quebengco, BMS officers had the chance to know how to be in positions of strength.Enter Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.Strengths Finder 2.0 (Patch Aure)

View more documents from Patch Aure

The presentation above is the result of the Strengths Finder test I took thanks to the Strengths Finder 2.0 book.  What’s amazing is the result – it’s personalized depending on your answers in the test.  My description of my strengths differ from the textbook definition and those from my peers; thus, it gives great insights on one’s personal potentials and areas of strength.

The key insight I have learned now that I try to act based on strengths is that before, why do we keep focusing on our weaknesses and thus letting as tread the path of MOST resistance?  The beauty of acting based on strengths is it transforms you into a specialized individual that allows you to go out of your comfort zone but be confident that you are in your strength zone.  Thus, we tread the path where our strengths are put to the test and our natural gifts are honed and enhanced.

Focusing on weaknesses and eventually improving them turns people into the cliche “Jack of all trades, master of none”.  But focusing strengths and improving them transforms people into gurus, masters, and experts in their areas of strength.

In this competitive world, being average or even above average makes you a mediocre.  However, being below average in most areas but a MASTER of one domain?  The world will forgive your weakness and seemingly worship your strength.

The Accelerators of Growth

The world is a long journey towards perfection.

This is why I believe people innately pursues growth and learning. This is why there is a theory on evolution – living entities will find ways to grow and evolve.

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The Accelerators of Growth

The world is a long journey towards perfection.

This is why I believe people innately pursues growth and learning. This is why there is a theory on evolution – living entities will find ways to grow and evolve.

Now, let’s go to the main topic of this post.

What is the most efficient and effective way to accelerate growth?

I can already hear different kinds of answers – passion, internal motivation, drive, luck, circumstance, environment, etc.

But my answer to this is through mentors. Mentors are the accelerators of growth.

A mentor’s wisdom proves to be invaluable knowledge to the learner. Mentors are able to focus on the necessary learning. A great mentor does not rely too much on a textbook or a traditional set of guidelines. They provoke thought. They paint the blacks and the whites amid the gray areas of life.

Mentors help learners take the steps towards the long journey of perfection.

As I finish this rather short post, I want to leave this insight regarding perfection. People start as learners who thirst for growth and fulfillment of dreams. Through time, they age and attain wisdom. Some dreams are fulfilled, some dreams are not.

Then another generation of learners come around. The experienced now serve as mentors, and their mistakes and unfulfilled dreams are passed on to the next generation of learners. The learners exceed the mentors, then the another batch comes in… the cycle continues.

Mentorship accelerates growth. As generations of mentorships, from father to son and from mother to daughter, continue to happen, humanity will be approaching perfection in the soonest possible time.