Being Humane: Do the unnecessary

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The proficient doctor does the necessary.

She greets the patient without shaking his hand.

Examines him from head to toe without looking him in the eye.

She is alert to the slightest abnormal physical sign but does not notice her patient shivering because the room is cold.

She writes out the medication script for the patient to get her medication.

But she does not acknowledge the fear in his eyes.

She is a competent doctor. She is efficient and some would say, good at her job.

But if the patient comes away feeling like a collection of signs and symptoms instead of a human being, is she good enough?

A great deal of our work is about doing the necessary, meeting spec and making sure the client got what they paid for.

But much of the skill and all of the joy in our work comes from doing the unnecessary, the things we are not required to do, going the extra mile.

The acts that make our work meaningful to those we serve and to ourselves.

Being Humane: The Future is Emotional

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For centuries, we rewarded prowess of the human physique.

The self-sufficiency, farming and industrial revolution rewarded hard physical brute force.

Our notion of “work” involved hard physical labor.

Then later, we began rewarding the sort of intelligence that we came to represent as “IQ.”

This was left brained and logical and focused on memory and processing power.

Over the past couple of decades, we have started rewarding the right brain, creativity is seen as a powerful asset in today’s information based economy.

Combining art and technology became the mantra that drove the new economy. Creative industries such as advertising, entertainment, design, music, publishing, architecture, film, fashion etc got more prominence, appreciation and reward.

Teaching, nurses, caring for the vulnerable are not highly rewarded, let alone seen [in terms of Sawubona].

Enter the fourth industrial revolution, what happens in a world where artificial intelligence takes over our most valuable jobs?

Aeon has an interesting essay titled: The Future is Emotional on how the future could reward emotional jobs that are currently grossly underpaid,  think teachers and geriatric care workers.

“Human jobs in the future will be the ones that require emotional labour: currently undervalued and underpaid but invaluable.”

It is a compelling read and here are the last three paragraphs:

“There’s an enormous opportunity before us, as robots and algorithms push humans out of cognitive work. As a society, we could choose to put more resources into providing better staffing, higher pay and more time off for care workers who perform the most emotionally demanding work for the smallest wages. At the same time, we could transform other parts of the economy, helping police officers, post-office workers and the rest of us learn to really engage with the people in front of us.

This isn’t something our economic system, which judges the quality of jobs by their contribution to GDP, is set up to do. In fact, some economists worry that we haven’t done enough to improve the ‘productivity’ of service jobs such as caring for the elderly the way that we have in sectors such as car manufacturing. Emotional work will probably never be a good way to make money more efficiently. The real question is whether our society is willing to direct more resources toward it regardless.

Technology-driven efficiency has achieved wonderful things. It has brought people in developed countries an astonishingly rich standard of living, and freed most of us from the work of growing the food we eat or making the products we use. But applying the metric of efficiency to the expanding field of emotional labour misses a key promise offered by technological progress — that, with routine physical and cognitive work out of the way, the jobs of the future could be opportunities for people to genuinely care for each other.”

Being humane is defined as having or showing compassion or benevolence.

Previous technology waves have never managed to align wealth and success with being humane.

In fact, you could argue that being humane actually worked against you , as a warrior, a property owner, a businessman in the nineteenth and the twentieth century, or a stock market investor.

By having machines do the many things we considered uniquely human, it is possible that the AI wave will force us to reward being “humane.”

No amount of Facebook likes can replace a hug.

It is an outcome I’m rooting for.

Being Humane: Disappointment and delight

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One day you will disappoint a customer.

Sooner or later, you will let someone down.

You will let her down by failing to do the thing you promised.

Her reality will come short of her expectation.

She will leave that day feeling like she got less than she paid for.

But more than that, she will stop trusting that you will keep your word next time around.

Things do not always go to plan. Mistakes happen.

That is why it is important to allow for them.

You are human. You won’t always get it right.

But you can find an opportunity to delight, especially when you disappoint.

A mistake does not always have to end in disappointment.

Being Humane: and Speaking Humane

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The new sign in the toilets of fast food restaurant read:

“It is our intent to provide you with the cleanest possible facility. If the room needs attention please notify a Manager.”

I stood in the mirrorless bathroom looking at it for some time wondering how this was supposed to make me feel.

There was no room, no time, no budget and no thought for a mirror, and yet someone had carved out a way to make this sign work. A ‘manager’ with a capital ‘M’.

If you go to the trouble of speaking to your customers, speak their language.

Write like you speak. Speak like you care, not like you are trying to impress.

Give them what they want, not what enables you to put a tick in a box.

If you are selling bananas, sell the bananas and do it like you mean it.

I’m not responsible for what you understand…

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I’m responsible for what I say.

Except, if you are a leader, actually you are responsible for what your team understands.

Leading people means being able to articulate the vision clearly for understanding.

Once they understand, they perform in unison.

This means what you say important, and how you say it is importanter 🙂

So, yes, you are responsible to ensure that we understand what you say.

You are responsible for ensuring that your customers understand your value proposition, that the full bench of the judges understands your case, that your constituency understands your views before casting their votes for you.

Invest some of your time to being articulate and telling stories that resonates.

Impossible: The 2 hour marathon

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The 4 minute mile was considered impossible until Roger Bannister ran it.

Up until he did it in 1954, most people thought the four-minute mark was impossible to break. They thought the human body couldn’t physically go that fast, that it would collapse under the pressure.

No-one could run a mile in less than four minutes.

It was impossible.

You were crazy to even try.

That was, until Bannister proved everyone wrong, training in his own way, often for not very long at all compared to his competitors, and believing that he could do it.

In the year after Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile in 1954, the record was broken again and again.

Once people realised it could be done, it was not an impossible task any longer.

For more than half a century, finishing a marathon in less than 2 hours was considered an insurmountable barrier.

Fast-forward to October 13, 2019, Eliud Kipchoge did a Roger Bannister and once again proved that it can be done.

This record-breaking race made me wonder about how often we limit ourselves by setting arbitrary mental limits on how much we can do.

It probably happens more often than we think.

Well done.

Book Review: Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown

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Brené has gone corporate.

Dare To Lead continues her conquest of shame, dysfunction, ego, hate, indifference, and everything else that tries to dehumanise and destroy us every day but now, she focuses her energy on vulnerability in the workplace, a place where most people spend a significant amount of our lives navigating.

Dare to Lead’s themes include what it means to be vulnerable, how shame derails us in our pursuits of greatness, and embracing a commitment to continuously growing as leaders and individuals through interpersonal communication skill building.

Brené engages these topics by providing research, sharing personal narratives, as well as offering practical advice, tips, and tools.

If you are a leader or aspire to be one, this book will speak to you on a very emotional level, particularly her chapter on “Armored Leadership.”

As I read the sixteen examples of armored leadership and the contrasting daring leadership actions, I found myself evaluating my own experiences as a leader.

There were points where I could say, “Yes, I nailed that one!” but too many times where my response was, “Yeah, I failed to realise what I was doing and fell right into the trap.”

Her chapter on “Living into Your Values,” validates my conviction that values are at the very center of what we do as leaders.

If we do not identify and act on our values, we will fail.

Brené writes: “Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about the hard things.”

Living into our values means more than articulating our values, it means that we practice them.

She explains that individuals do not have two sets of values, one personal and one professional.

We have only one set of values that we are called to practice in all areas of our lives.

This is a great book. Whatever your position is, whatever your responsibilities, please read this book and put its lessons into practice.

Rating

8/10

I truly loved this book. The book is well researched. It digs deeper and clarifies complex emotional issues into simple concepts to grasp.

You have to read this book if you lead people. But you have to read this book even when you lead no one, because even when you lead no one, you are leading yourself.

Except the few cursing and swear words, I truly believe this is an important book to have.

I must caution though, if you have read Brené’s work before, this book is not that different from her other work.

Favourite quotes

  • “We fail the minute we let someone else define success for us.”
  • “Trust is in fact earned in the smallest of moments.”
  • “No trust, no connection.”
  • “Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love. Most of us shame, belittle, and criticize ourselves in ways we’d never think of doing to others.”
  • “The difference between empathy and sympathy: feeling with and feeling for. The empathic response: I get it, I feel with you, and I’ve been there. The sympathetic response: I feel sorry for you.”
  • “Only when diverse perspectives are included, respected, and valued can we start to get a full picture of the world:”
  • “So often, when someone is in pain, we’re afraid to say, “Yes, this hurts. Yes, this is a big deal. Yes, this sucks.” We think our job is to make things better, so we minimize the pain.”
  • “Choose courage over comfort.”
  • “Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio reminds us, “We are not necessarily thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.”
  • “We avoid tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback. Some leaders attributed this to a lack of courage, others to a lack of skills, and, shockingly, more than half talked about a cultural norm of “nice and polite” that’s leveraged as an excuse to avoid tough conversations.”
  • “We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust.”
  • “As Stuart Brown says, “The opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play is depression.”

The Three Bricklayers

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The three bricklayers were asked what are you doing?

The first says: “I’m laying bricks.”

The second says: “I’m building a church.”

And the third says: “I’m building The House of God.”

The first bricklayer has a job.

The second has a career.

The third has a calling.

And, so the question is this, which bricklayer are you?

Many of us would like to be like the third bricklayer, but instead identify with the first or second.

May people view what they do as a job. They view their jobs as just a necessity of life, much like breathing or sleeping.

Many people view their jobs as a stepping stone to other jobs.

People who view what they do as a calling, consider it as an important thing in their lives.

Very few people consider what they do as a calling.

It is not that some occupations are jobs and others are careers, or others are callings, instead what matters is that the person doing the work believes that laying down the next brick is just something that has to be done, or instead it is something that will lead to further personal success or finally it is the work that connects the individual to something far greater than self.

How you see your work is more important than your job title.

This means you can go from job to career to calling, all without changing your occupation.

 

 

 

 

Sawubona: We See You

Sawubona,

Sawubona, is an ancient isiZulu greeting which means: We see you. It is equivalent to Hello or Namaste.

So when we meet and greet each other, I would humbly say: “sawubona” [we see you], and you will respond by saying “yebo, sawubona” [yes, we see you too].

Why do we say “we see you” even when it is just me, a single individual person greeting you?

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Why do you respond by the same when it is just you, a single individual person greeting me?

In isiZulu tradition, the “I” is connection to ancient lineage of my family and ancestors, which means my family and ancestors are always with me. I’m never alone.

So when I meet you, not only am I meeting you, but my lineage, my family, and ancestors whom I’m representing, meet you too. 

But sawubona is more than just a greeting, it also means: We acknowledge and recognize each other. We bring each other into existence in this space that we meet.

It is an invitation to a deep witnessing and presence. It invites us to communicate and to explore the possibilities of helping each other.

Problem with not seeing others is that you will not appreciate their existence. 

When a husband does not see his wife, he is unlikely to appreciate her.

When an employer does not see his employees, he will not pay them well.

When an entrepreneur does not see his customers, he will exploit them.

The architects of the idiotic apartheid system knew this very well.

They made sure that black people are not seen by making them live in townships that are located far away from cities.

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Even if they were to go to cities, they were limited to certain places at certain times.

Separate toilets, separate cinemas, separate tea-rooms, separate entrances to shops were made purely to ensure that they are not seen.

It was when the picture of Hector Pieterson’s body being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo and his sister, Antoinette Sithole, made international news during the June 16, 1976 Soweto Uprising, that the world saw the brutality of the apartheid system in South Africa.

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It was when the body Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish decent, whose body was washed out by the sea after he drowned as a result of Syrian refugee crisis that the world took notice.

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It becomes very difficult to ignore the plight of people when we see them.

It becomes even more difficult to understand and appreciate the hardships that people go through if you don’t see them.

Spending time with people, be it poor people, or people of a different race or culture, teaches you to see, understand, and appreciate their story.

Sawubona is about humanism. 

No one is above another. No one is chosen, we are all chosen.

What does Sawubona means for me?

There has never been a more exciting and unpredictable time to be in business.

The 4th Industrial Revolution has democratized opportunities by making it easier to find and connect with people anywhere in the world.

What I have come to realize through my work with organisations and entrepreneurs, is that this is the best time to create products for people who are ignored, and not seen.

Giving a damn is seriously underrated and caring is a huge competitive advantage.

Our job, as entrepreneurs is not to simply obsess about the features and benefits of what we are making; but it is to wonder and care about the difference it could make in the lives of people.

The mistake that a lot of entrepreneurs make is that they say:

“I have a product, my job is to look for customers for my products.”

This is inward looking approach has led lot of business into problems.

The right approach is:

“What do people want, and my job to go and look for what they want and give it to them.”

This outward looking humble approach has proven to work over and over again.

You have got to start sawubona, with the customer experience and then reverse engineer to the technology.

Let me share a couple of stories:

Examples of businesses that embraced Sawubona

Luvuyo Rani

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Firstly, having started Silulo Ulutho Technologies in 2004, Luvuyo Rani left teaching and decided that he wants to be an entrepreneur selling computers and bringing information technology to poor people in his community of Khayelitsha in Cape Town.

By the end of 2004, the year they started, Luvuyo and his brother had sold 15 computers.

By 2006, they opened their first Internet Cafe.

By 2007, they opened a Computer Skills Training Centre.

By 2017, Silulo has trained over 29,000 students of whom 60% got jobs, has 42 Internet cafes across three provinces, The Western and Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal, and employs over 200 people.

Sawubona means Luvuyo saw the plight of poor people and how they struggled to use computers, prepare CVs and apply for jobs online and decided to do something about it, and in the process creating 200 jobs.

Dirk Hartford

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Secondly, when people saw the youth of South Africa as a lost generation in 1994, Dirk Hartfort saw hope and potential.

He then started YFM, a youth radio station that grew to become one of the most popular radio stations in the country.

Within the first month of broadcasting in 1997, over 600,000 young people tuned in. By the the mid 2000s the number had grown to over 1.2 million listeners.

YFM became home to Kwaito music, South Africa’s version of Hip Hop.

YFM became the soundtrack that represented the fibre, the soul, the heartbeat and essence of young people.

Some of the hosts on YFM went on to become local and international music sensations and entrepreneurs.

Sawubona means Dirk saw the huge potential that young people in townships had, when everyone else saw a lost generation.

Sweep-South

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Lastly, about 2 million domestic workers go to work in our homes every single day, caring for our homes, our kids and maintaining sanity in our homes in our absence.

As Ai-jen Poo said:

“Domestic workers do the work that makes all other work possible.”

Their work makes it possible for all of us to go out and do what we do in the world every day, knowing that our homes and kids are in good hands.

Unfortunately these hardworking women face challenges of being under-paid, sexual harassment, racism, and exploitation.

They earn such poverty wages that they can’t take care of their own families, doing the work that takes care of our families.

After struggling to find a cleaner during the holidays, Aisha Pandor and her husband Alen Ribic started SweepSouth.

SweepSouth is a platform that links domestic workers to people seeking cleaning services via an App, it is the Uber for domestic work.

Currently SweepSouth has more than 11 000 domestic helpers on the platform and they earn more than 60% above the minimum wage in South Africa.

Sawubona is when Aisha and Alen saw the struggle of domestic workers and did something about it.

The best products and services in the world don’t simply invite people to say ‘this is awesome’; they remind people how great they themselves are.

The secret of disruptive innovations and technologies is not that they disrupt an industry, it is that they disrupt people for the better. It is about people.

Great brands of the future will be built by those who have worked hard to gain the insight that enables them to whisper: “We see you, we are for you” to their customers.

Shouting “notice us, we are the best, buy from us” just does not cut it anymore.

Sawubona, a concept borne out of Ubuntu philosophy, acknowledges that each person’s voice has value to the community.

In our humanness, we are connected to each other.

Therefore, there is an acknowledgment that there is no “I” without “We.”

Sawubona is not only limited to business people and entrepreneurs, but to political leaders who need to see their followers more, to judges who need to make judgements on behalf of people, to a civil servants to need to do theirs jobs seeing people, to church leaders who to see their congregations.

Take a moment to reflect and actually ‘see’ the person next you, see them beyond the physical.

By truly ‘seeing’ them you are bestowing one of the greatest honours upon another human being.

You are shedding light upon them, a light that is energising and empowering, this light brings them to life, it brings them to they existence.

Sawubona.

We see you.

PS: This is transcript to my TEDxMahikeng talk on Sawubona.

Book Review: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

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After watching her TED talk on The Power of Passion and Perseverance, I knew it was a matter of time before reading her book on the same topic.

Angela Duckworth defines grit not as “genius” but rather a combination of passion & long-term perseverance. She uses study after study to show how grit leads to success much more than talent or natural ability does.

Success is a number of things and one of those things is grit, perseverance.

Duckworth shares a study looking at why one person would grow up to be an optimist and another to be a pessimist.

An excellent read. Some takeaways:

– Why effort is important [effort can make a change to the brain structure, as the brain is remarkable adaptive].

– Why deliberate practice is a crucial part to experience the “flow” condition.

– Why we have to learn how to fail and look back to our mistakes and ask: “what did I learn, how can I make it better the next time, how to make the right kind of effort”.

– IQ is not fixed, so are other qualities.

– The circle of struggle, followed by progress, followed by trying something even harder.

– Talent is common, attitude is more important.

– How should you parent for grit. What are the “wise” type of parents?

– Character is plural. There are intrapersonal character [including grit, self-control…], interpersonal character [gratitude, social intelligence), and intellectual character (curiosity, zest].

Rating

9/10

I felt like this book was very impactful. Duckworth simplified the message, shared many examples, and showed the way to grow and cultivate grit.

The book increased my hope that I can become more gritty and to reach my most important goals. That hope by itself increases my grittiness a touch.

There was so much meat in this book. Each chapter had me thinking and reflecting about the value and necessity of trying again.

Favourite Quotes:

  • “As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”
  • “To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.”
  • “Language is one way to cultivate hope. But modeling a growth mindset — demonstrating by our actions that we truly believe people can learn to learn — may be even more important.”
  • “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”
  • “Gritty people do more deliberate practice and experience more flow.”
  • “(H)ere’s what science has to say: passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.”
  • “There’s a vast amount of research on what happens when we believe a student is especially talented. We begin to lavish extra attention on them and hold them to higher expectations. We expect them to excel, and that expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

The Making of a Genius: Re-match with Kasparov [3 of 5]

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8 years after her controversial defeat by Kasparov, Judit had another opportunity for a face-off with the legendary Grandmaster.

In the 2002 Russia vs. The Rest of the World match in Moscow, Judit faced-off against Kasparov.

The tournament was played under rapid rules with 25 minutes per game and a 10-second bonus per move.

Kasparov with black chose the Berlin Defence instead of his usual Sicilian and Polgár proceeded with a line which Kasparov has used himself.

Polgár was able to attack with her rooks on Kasparov’s king which was still in the centre of the board and when he was two pawns down, Kasparov resigned.

Polgár finally defeated Garry Kasparov in a game.

The game helped the World team win the match 52–48.

Upon resigning, Kasparov immediately left by a passageway barred to journalists and photographers.

Kasparov had once described Polgár as a “circus puppet” and asserted that women chess players should stick to having children.

Polgár called the game “one of the most remarkable moments of [her] career”.

The game was historic as it was the first time in chess history that a female player beat the world’s No. 1 player in competitive play.

Following his defeat, Kasparov revised his earlier assessment of Judit’s ability and the idea that of women competing against men at the highest level of the game.

“It was a long time ago, and I was always speaking my mind so that’s why,” said the famously belligerent Kasparov.

“I don’t believe that now,” he said.

The Polgar girls show that there are no inherent limitations to their aptitude. An idea that many male players refuse to accept until they had unceremoniously been crushed by a 12 year old with a pony tail.

Genius does not discriminate between gender, colour or creed.

With proper training, nurturing and mentorship, anyone can be a genius.

Geniuses are made.

Previous posts:

The Making of a Genius: Can anyone be a genius? [1 of 5]

The Making of a Genius: How to raise a Genius [2 of 5]