BOG BLOG : 11 – 17 JULY 2013


GIBSIC stacks

GIBSIC stacks

How to be a great mentor, Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes

. . .

Want to become a great mentor? Here are 9 things you’ll need to do:

  • Always play both roles. Ideally, one would never have to make the transition from mentee to mentor, Ryckman says. “We should all be learning from others (playing the mentee role) and teaching others (being the mentor) throughout our careers.”
  • Be committed.  Being a mentor is a commitment, Kahn says. “If you’re offering to help someone you need to follow through with that promise by being there for them when needed.”
  • Know that your mentee can be anyone, anywhere. “Mentoring needn’t follow the traditional ‘elder-upstart’ prescription anymore. It can be peer-to-peer across functions or industries,” Rychman says. “It’s about supplementing skill gaps and helping each person learn and grow.”
  • Listen. One of your jobs a mentor is to provide advice and encouragement, but in order to do so, you need to make the time to listen and understand the situation, Kahn says. If you ask any therapist about the power of listening, they will tell you the same thing: It is massive. Any mentor that is worth their weight spends considerably more time listening than they do speaking.”
  • Have your own mentor(s) and network.Today, the most successful people build relationships and gather intelligence from a wide variety of experts in all industries and age brackets, Rychman says. “People who are insular—who always return to the same small circle for advice and support—become closed off from opportunities.” In order to be the very best mentor, you need to continue building your network and taking advice from those you trust.
  • Be open-minded and compassionate. “If you’ve ever argued with someone, you know that they will never see your side until they’re convinced that you’ve seen theirs,” Parnell says.
  • Have patience. Much like parenting, mentoring can be a satisfying, but also long-term and trying, endeavor, Parnell says. “While the mentee needs and wants direction, often times this requires a bit of constructive criticism, which can be hard to take.  It is vital that a mentor be a patient soul, because tempers may flare, and quick fixes are few and far between.”
  • Be a role model.  As a mentor, your actions are being evaluated, so you must set the bar for yourself just as high, or higher, than you’d expect from your mentee, Kahn says. “Your goal is to not only provide direction and advice, but to get your mentee to act upon them,” Parnell adds. “And while conversations can be motivating, few things are more impactful than to lead by example. A mentor’s mantra must be: ‘Do as I do, not just as I say.’”
  • Care about the relationship. “Invest yourself in your mentee and you’ll get so much more out of the experience,” Kahn says.
  • Have your own mentor(s) and network.Today, the most successful people build relationships and gather intelligence from a wide variety of experts in all industries and age brackets, Rychman says.

10 Reasons why everyone is protesting, Steve Levine

From Egypt to Bulgaria to Brazil to Turkey, growing middle classes are pushing for greater accountability and improved services.

. ..

Observers have scrambled for an explanation in a slew of articles plumbing the possible reason for the sudden onslaught. Perusing the instant analyses, and making a few calls ourselves, we glean 10 common threads, as well as clues for the future.

It is an exceptionally combustible time …  We are watching “the summer of middle class discontent,” write the Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola and Paula Moura. Or perhaps the more apt phrase is the “age of unrest.”

… that has precedent in history  –  But this is not new. We have seen this strain of epidemic anger before

… except that a 1968 text by Samuel Huntington seems to be involved  –  Every important era has its associated theoretical text, and the one being cited the most at this point is Political Order in Changing Societies (pdf), a 1968 work by the late political scientist Samuel Huntington.

A new, better-educated middle-class …   A key factor in all the countries involved is the emergence of an educated and aspirational middle class. “Middle-class people want not just security for their families but choices and opportunities for themselves,” writes Fukuyama

… that is getting upset over surprising things  –  There seems to be a lot of last straws around the world, surprising triggering points to violent protests that spin out of control: In Chile, violent protests were ignited by high education costs. In Turkey, it was the government’s intention to raze an Istanbul park, and in Brazil it was the price of bus tickets. Chinese cities regularly erupt over shoddy construction, pollution and corruption. Most famously, the Arab Spring was triggered by Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself afire after chronic harassment by government officials.

And the trouble is not over  –  The global middle class will rise by another 2 billion members just in the next seven years. If the current trend of instability holds, that spells more trouble even for careful national leaders. After the Arab Spring, some of the world’s toughest rulers decided that the best course of action was to avoid the apparently fatal mistake of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak–who stepped down voluntarily in 2011 after resisting for awhile–and to crack down instead. But the latest rash of uprisings shows that getting harsh does not necessary intimidate the masses: Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been politically weakened after a series of brutal police attacks on protesters, and Syria’s Bashir al-Assad is in the midst of a lengthy and brutal civil war. Erdogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin face certain trouble down the road, says William Courtney, a former US ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia. “Both have been in office too long, have come to think they are indispensable and popular, but over time have come to believe their own propaganda, and become more arrogant and detached from their people,” he told Quartz.

Succor for suffering rulers: the middle class can’t pull it off alone …  Yet the middle class cannot bring about change by itself in most cases. That is because it is the minority in most of the states where the uprisings are occurring; it will succeed in bringing political change when it can find common cause with other classes. This rule has applicability in the current protests: In Turkey, Erdogan may ultimately survive despite future trouble because of his popularity in the countryside, where the Taksim masses have not penetrated. The same goes for Morsi in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood has broad appeal among the underclass that his critics lack.

… but China is a special worry …   The most significant demographic change is under way in China, whose middle class is growing the most, and national wealth–along with aspirations for a better future–surging. Barely a few days go by without another Chinese protest over social grievances.

… not to mention the Western world   –  The most important message of the uprisings is that no one is immune.


Negative emotions are key to well-being

Feeling sad, mad, critical or otherwise awful? Surprise: negative emotions are essential for mental health, Tori Rodriguez

. . .

“I’m sorry for being so negative.”   . . .   A crucial goal of therapy is to learn to acknowledge and express a full range of emotions, and here was a client apologizing for doing just that. In my psychotherapy practice, many of my clients struggle with highly distressing emotions, such as extreme anger, or with suicidal thoughts. In recent years I have noticed an increase in the number of people who also feel guilty or ashamed about what they perceive to be negativity. Such reactions undoubtedly stem from our culture’s overriding bias toward positive thinking. Although positive emotions are worth cultivating, problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time.

In fact, anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment. “Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being,” says psychologist Jonathan M. Adler of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

. . .

Accepting the Pain   –   Instead of backing away from negative emotions, accept them. Acknowledge how you are feeling without rushing to change your emotional state. Many people find it helpful to breathe slowly and deeply while learning to tolerate strong feelings or to imagine the feelings as floating clouds, as a reminder that they will pass. I often tell my clients that a thought is just a thought and a feeling just a feeling, nothing more.  If the emotion is overwhelming, you may want to express how you feel in a journal or to another person. The exercise may shift your perspective and bring a sense of closure. If the discomfort lingers, consider taking action. You may want to tell a friend her comment was hurtful or take steps to leave the job that makes you miserable.   You may also try doing mindfulness exercises to help you become aware of your present experience without passing judgment on it. One way to train yourself to adopt this state is to focus on your breathing while meditating and simply acknowledge any fleeting thoughts or feelings.

What is organizational culture? And why should we care?

by Michael  Watkins /  HBR blog network

If you want to provoke a vigorous debate, start a conversation on organizational culture. While there is universal agreement that (1) it exists, and (2) that it plays a crucial role in shaping behavior in organizations, there is little consensus on what organizational culture actually is, never mind how it influences behavior and whether it is something leaders can change.

. . .

Beginning May 1, 2013, I facilitated a discussion around this question on LinkedIn. The more than 300 responses included rich and varied perspectives and opinions on organizational culture, its meaning and importance. I include several distinctive views below, illustrated by direct quotes from the LinkedIn discussion thread — and then I offer my own synthesis of these views. (There often were multiple postings with similar themes, so these are simply early selections; unfortunately it was not possible to acknowledge everyone who made helpful contributions.)

“Culture is how organizations ‘do things’.” — Robbie Katanga

Culture is consistent, observable patterns of behavior in organizations. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” This view elevates repeated behavior or habits as the core of culture and deemphasizes what people feel, think or believe. It also focuses our attention on the forces that shape behavior in organizations, and so highlights an important question: are all those forces (including structure, processes, and incentives) “culture” or is culture simply the behavioral outputs?

“In large part, culture is a product of compensation.” — Alec Haverstick

Culture is powerfully shaped by incentives. The best predictor of what people will do is what they are incentivized to do. By incentives, we mean here the full set of incentives — monetary rewards, non-monetary rewards such as status, recognition and advancement, and sanctions — to which members of the organization are subject. But where do incentives come from? As with the previous definition, there are potential chicken-and-egg issues. Are patterns of behavior the product of incentives, or have incentives been shaped in fundamental ways by beliefs and values that underpin the culture?

. . .

“Organizational culture is civilization in the workplace.” — Alan Adler

Culture is a social control system. Here the focus is the role of culture in promoting and reinforcing “right” thinking and behaving, and sanctioning “wrong” thinking and behaving. Key in this definition of culture is the idea of behavioral “norms” that must be upheld, and associated social sanctions that are imposed on those who don’t “stay within the lines.” This view also focuses attention on how the evolution of the organization shaped the culture. That is, how have the existing norms promoted the survival of the organization in the past? Note: implicit in this evolutionary view is the idea that established cultures can become impediments to survival when there are substantial environmental changes.


Higher   purpose

Tony Schwartz, chief executive of The Energy Project, via The New York Times Dealbook:/ BI

“Higher purpose is not a common characteristic of the corporate world … I fully understand that a primary obligation of any business is to earn a profit, and that without one, nothing else is possible. But what if they believed that articulating and embracing a nobler purpose would help them to attract, inspire and retain better employees, and ultimately make their companies more profitable?”    Schwartz says that truly successful companies can maximize impact by committing to a cause through their products, practices, and services. Companies that are good examples of this mission-oriented model are Whole Foods, Patagonia, and Toms. This leads to more engaged employees, increased productivity, and increased profits.

There are three questions Schwartz recommends executives regularly ask to develop a competitive advantage:

1. What is our noblest purpose and are we fulfilling it?

2. How can we give our employees a greater sense of meaning in what they do, so they feel more enthusiastic about coming to work every morning?

3. In what practical ways can we add more value in the world (and do less harm)?

According to Schwartz, answering these three questions will clarify impact and purpose.

“In the simplest terms, a purpose defines the difference an organization is trying to make in the world. In some cases, that’s a natural and straightforward outgrowth of what the organization actually does to earn a profit.”


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