How to cope with change?-Adaptive leadership

Adaptive leadership is a newly developed leadership framework that allows individuals and organizations to see bigger pictures and gain a clear mindset in terms of changing environment and effectively respond to recurring problems and uncertainty. Research by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky at Harvard University formed the basis for Adaptive Leadership. More specifically, it is more about how to mobilize people to initiate change and make it thrive.

When there’s a gap between reality and aspiration, then it is time to think about starting changes as adaptive leaders. The gaps are usually the problems, the problem that impedes the way of achieving the desired result, the problem that involves the whole system that is too complex to solve. However, there are two clear kinds of problem: technical problems (that is easy for leaders to recognize and can be solved with a clear solution) and adaptive problems (that is recurring and difficult to define and it takes much more efforts to solve it), furthermore, most problems come mixed, with the technical and adaptive elements intertwined. An adaptive leader should acquire the ability to distinguish the problems and take action accordingly.

Credit to <The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World>

Being an adaptive leader in organizations required you must have strong willpower, because being adaptive means you challenging the status quo and frightening people who refused to change and even shattering other’s interest. The authority hired you and trust you to work here not to challenge them but to follow them, so they may even want to get rid of you when you rise a consciousness towards change. Regardless of fears, you need to help people tolerate the discomfort they are experiencing in terms of change, and find the balance between change and productive energy. Your goal should keep the temperature within what we call the productive zone of disequilibrium (PZD): enough heat generated by your intervention to gain attention, engagement, and forward motion, but not so much that the organization (or your part of it) explodes according to Ronald A. Heifetz and Donald L. Laurie.

Credit to <The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World>

There are three key activities in the process of adaptive leadership summarized by Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky: (1) observing events and patterns around you, and the goal is to make observing as objective as possible; (2) interpreting and guessing what you are observing (developing multiple hypotheses about what is really going on); and (3) designing interventions based on the observations and interpretations to address the adaptive challenge you have identified. Those activities help you to gain insights around your organization and stakeholders, enable you to analyze and mobilize them for the initiative you raised.

There are no absolute answers to how to deal with changing environments, so adaptive leaders need to tracing those changes and design different interventions. No one can accomplish alone, let alone the whole organization’s prosperity. Leaders need to mobilize different stakeholders and find common values in between. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Find a shared purpose and value is difficult, especially with different stakeholders when some party has to narrow their interest and make sacrifices when moving forward. Before the conversation engagement, you also need to find out their readiness and ripeness to develop different strategies, to analyze whether your stakeholders know the importance of issues and furthermore, whether they are willing to take action and their capacity.

Credit to +Acumen

Adaptivity is the key to success even in the future, Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky have explained it in their book: The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Please find more thorough information about adaptive leadership.

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Want to be a leader? then start from the presence

Everyone can be a leader somewhere, no matter while area you are. This is the biggest take-away I came up with after finished the whole book. Sometimes I feel reluctant when it comes to the thought that I can lead people, let alone the leadership development, but the awkward thing is I tried to adopt the leadership development when I was in Uganda, then started to actually read books about leadership. People need the push to realize and do things, while some person hasn’t even found the push yet.

What is leadership and what we can do to make ourselves a leader? Leadership Presence tells me that leadership is all about people, about how to connect to them, how to appreciate and inspire them, and most importantly how to be humane. It is easy but hard to maintain and apply to every single person around you. Leadership is about being present with people, so what is the presence, a state that you can be in the place where are you now, a state that you can immerse yourself with surroundings, and a state that you live livelily. As for leadership, it is an ability to connect with each other and understand the real situation, but not just sit in the office and think what you thought it could be. ‘The core of leadership is the interaction, the connection, the relationship between a leader and the people she leads.’ Have you ever encountered a situation where you are having a conversation with someone, while you are listening to them, but all of a sudden, there’s something else popped up in your mind, and you can not listen to them at all. This is the opposite of being present, and no one could appreciate it.

Photo by Christina Morillo on

A leader is not a title, and you don’t need a title to lead a group of people toward obtaining a particular result. Hence is what I pointed out that everyone can be a leader somewhere, where you are an expert, where you have the most confidence. A leader can be more than one person, a bunch of people who have the same thoughts and persistence to achieve the results. ‘Leadership Presence: the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others, in order to motivate and inspire them toward the desired outcome.’

Presence can be subdivided into 4 parts, where P stands for being present, the ability to be completely in the moment- let all of your thoughts go and fit into the moment. R stands for reaching out, the ability to build a relationship- to truly understand the people with empathy. E stands for expressiveness, the ability to express feelings and emotions appropriately by using all means, furthermore, the mindset and your expressions need to be consistent. S stands for self-knowing, the ability to accept yourself, to reflect your values- self-knowing is always tricky, but discover more and more then you will find more and more about yourself in different ways.

Everyone has the ability to be a leader and it is our responsibility as well, if we all have the ability to motivate and inspire others, then there is no outsider, who gives up on themselves, who destroys everything around them, who even hurts other people. Wake up your inner beast and become a leader where you have the passion and willingness to dedicate yourself in.

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Need to resolve problems? nonviolent communication can stop the misunderstanding

Communication or language skill is the only way to differentiate humans from animals, hence, words hold superpower, while, words can also hurt seamlessly. Normally, the same word can means differently in different regions or contexts, and we all experienced it somehow. If you interpret some words in the wrong way, then it will lead to an awful result. Nonviolent communication is the answer to those unwanted results during the interaction. Nonviolent Communication (abbreviated NVC, also called Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication) is an approach to nonviolent living developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. At its heart is a belief all human beings have the capacity for compassion and empathy. We only resort to violence or behavior harmful to others when we do not recognize more effective strategies for meeting their needs, according to Wikipedia.

I get to know NVC when I was in SINA, and it’s part of our training to learn and practice NVC. For me, NVC emphasizes facts instead of feeling, which I believe only works in certain situations. Anyway, it is necessary to know NVC and apply it to appropriate areas. So let me define the fact part of NVC first, NVC believes that when we only saying facts without feeling in between, then it will not arise any response negatively. For example, when the kid fails on his math exam, then there’s the difference between saying ‘I feel disappointed for you failing the exam’ and ‘you failed the math exam’, by the parents. The former one is full of upset feelings while the latter one is just a fact, so when we use fact expression, then there is no way to feel bad.

Based on the upper part, another essence of NVC is no judgment in the sentences. In our daily life, it is so easy to rise any judgments by only the look, accents, dress or others, and most of us will not aware of it until it happens to us. It is often be told in my professional area, while I still fall into judgment sometimes so easily. So I always feel that I am in a paradox, one way I have fallen into the judgment, but another way, my rationality drags me out of the prejudgment. But it will not always happen, I can also get too deep and unable to extricate myself, which is why we need to practice the NVC all the time, to form a habit of thinking and saying in a certain way.

Credit to EcceHomoZen

Communication is not easy, at least for me, and NVC is even harder. NVC is all about facts and empathy as I mentioned above, which is also the key to Human-centered design. Those people are close to us, the family, partners, friends are the ones who get hurt by our words mostly, so stop the violent communication and embrace nonviolent communication.

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Active listening isn’t just listening

The first lesson of SINA was active listening and I found it is very similar to some techniques of what I have been taught as a social worker, therefore, I reflect on this technique and benefit from it. I am a good listener and sometimes I could even shut my mouth for a long time while listening to others, so I wondering this is all active listening is about. However, active listening isn’t just listening, it is more than that.

Wikipedia says that active listening requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said, partially true, however, active listening is immersing yourself fully into the conversation and somehow forget yourself but not others who are talking at this moment. It allows us to be fully present but this is more and more difficult nowadays with the mobile phone and social media booming around the people.

So what does it look like to be fully present? Have you tried to listen to a fascinating story that makes you go into the scenario of this story and imagine that you are one of the characters and undergoing the story plot? It is a similar feeling when practicing active listening, during the conversation you have the eye-contact and appropriate facial expression, you let your mind go as it is and do not want to interrupt, you put yourself into other’s shoes and think from their perspective. Actually, the whole process is also part of empathy, allowing you to feel what others feeling and respond accordingly.

From the points I mentioned above, I summarized some techniques of active listening. 1. being present and immerse yourself, be fully engaging and enjoying. 2. appropriate facial expression to show that your care and understanding. 3. interruption is not allowed during the process, you have to show them respect and also the interest. 4. do not judge based on what you have heard, it is not wise and also not feasible to judge as everyone has their own unique circumstance that you have not participated in, you don’t have the right to judge as well. 5. do not think what you should respond after the talking. This is a very common mistake that people think in advance about their response during the conversation, then they can get wrong information sometimes when people are concentrating on themselves but not the talkers. 6. appropriate physical position, by saying this I mean a suitable distance between you two, not too far nor too close. 7. do not prejudge someone before you really get to know them, this is about discrimination and stereotype. Set those discriminations aside and start to have an authentic conversation then you may have a fresh perspective toward someone.

I guess you already familiar with the reason why we need active listening in your mind, then keep that in your mind cause there is no authoritative answer for this neither. According to my understanding, active listening is all about building a true and sincere relationship, therefore, achieved emotional communication to some extent. It is not easy to talk to others about the real self nowadays, so we should cherish such a chance if someone is willing to talk and share. To build a quality relationship should start with active listening and it is also a required skill of leadership.

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The basic things you need to know about project management

Project management is the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time (Extracted from Wikipedia). Maybe you have engaged with project management somehow in your work and understood the importance of it. However, it is not taught in the school (at least with my major), and mostly it is learned by only doing, so it is necessary for us to have a good understanding of it.

So I will show you a simple systematic framework below and the credit goes to Philanthropy University, where you can find the project management and other free online courses.

1 Project design and setup. This design starts by researching the community that you would like to help, to find out the community’s needs; past and existing projects in the community; the community’s strengths and assets; the stakeholders in the community. After collecting data and information, then you need to understand the problem your project wants to address. Sometimes the problem is obvious but some needed to dig enough to find the root problem. This step is giving you a context awareness and readiness. There are four main things that need to be established during the project setup phase, including establishing project governance; align on scope and requirements; authorize the start of the project; communicate the start of the project. The setup ensures that everyone is on the same page and clear on their duties and responsibilities.

2 Build a project plan. It is a guideline of the whole process and it should be detailed. Project plan at a minimum should account for: Resources: How much money will you spend? How many people will work on this project? Are there any resources you need? Schedule: How long will this project take? What is your milestone timeline? Stakeholders: Who are the stakeholders? How often will you communicate with them, and how? Risks: What are the things that could go wrong? How will you prepare? Learning and Evaluation: How to monitor the process and the results? How to do the evaluation?

3 Manage issues and people. Issues are things might go wrong, so the project manager should create a system for staff to report issues in a safe and encouraging circumstance, and this is all about the team culture. After identifying issues, it is the time to assign a single person to resolve each issue, who has the authority and also resources. To effectively manage people, project managers need a variety of skills, and most of them are soft skills, communication; motivate the team; listen and share; resolve conflict and etc.

4 Closing. Every project needs to close eventually, usually, there are several types of closing ways: Closure: The project activities end completely. Other parties may sustain the impact of the project, but the project team is not involved anymore. Extension: The schedule of the project is extended and project activities are repeated or continued. Expansion: The scope of the project expands, it may due to the big social impact. Redesign: Based on the results of the activities, the project is redesigned and re-implemented.

Those are the basic steps of project management, and it covers so many detailed phases, so I suggest you take the online course and also practice them in your work and learn from doing. No matter which field you are in, project management is a required soft skill and you will stand out from your peer once you grasp it.

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How to use storytelling to boost the energy in your presentation

The speaker is the founder of Acumen

Have you ever told a story to someone that can attract their attention? Have you ever tried to sell your stories to grasp people’s interest? Storytelling is one of the essential skills nowadays, especially in the workplace, and we may make a difference in our daily life by applying storytelling.

Storytelling is a skill that transcends
language, culture and geographical

extracted from Acumen

Why is storytelling so important? No matter you are sharing stories of yourself or others, stories make people feel connected, loved, and somehow the vulnerability in your story that makes you more “human” and real without a mask when you show the softness. Moreover, all of those can build a profound relationship between you and others, which is why storytelling makes a difference in our relationship.

So what stories can you tell? I believe there are so many things that happened in your life that motivated or ignited you somehow, so one of the storytelling resources that everyone has is their own life stories and each one is unique without a doubt. It is difficult for you to remember them all at one time, so the tool we use is to create your life map, making your stories in order to reveal how you are and what are the values or beliefs you hold. Try to map key components or stories and add other relevant contextual information to your map. You can do your life map by drawing, photo editing or simply texting, finding a way that you are comfortable with, and creative is what you need. You can take a look at the examples below.

Credit to Acumen

Credit to Acumen

Another way of collecting stories is to extract stories from books and other’s life that inspire you so much, and of course, those stories should be aligned with your topics. Whenever you read such interesting stories, you should write them down and create a story box to store those exciting stories. Those stories embody your worldview and consistent with your core values, interestingly, you won’t forget them once you utilize one of them.

Storing stories is just the first step, the next step is to use those stories, but how? There are some techniques from Acumen that equip you to be a powerful storyteller. 1. Be present: feel the moment and allow you to be emotionally connected to the moment. 2. Provide lots of sensory details: i.e. show how things tasted, smelled, looked, sounded, felt. 3. Use the present tense to draw audiences into your story. 4. Use “bullet phrases” and avoid using connecting words, as a way to keep the story, short, to the point and captivating. 5. Play different roles without lots of “she said/he said” – bring the characters into life. Each and every technique should be practiced over and over and over, anyhow, practice makes perfect.

Another important element is your expressiveness and vocal range as a storyteller, the way how you telling stories. Expressiveness is to use your body and voice to express the emotions at most. One of the good ways to practice by telling stories to a kid, as we all know that kids love stories, so you have to make sure that you express fully with your body and voice within the stories that can help children imagine the world of your story. Vocal range is to display your range of voices, it covers the pitch from high to low, volume from loud to soft, speed&rhythm from fast to slow, and sound quality form a narrow&nasal sound to a round&broad sound. Practice and rehearsal storytelling using those techniques, to become an influential storyteller.

Storytelling is a skill and also an art, if you acquire this skill then it will become too compelling to not make people want to enjoy your stories and take whatever the actions you are calling on. It is also a crucial factor for leaders to call upon support, respect and unity. Last but not least, confidence leading us to become a great storyteller, not each person is confident and there is no person born with great confidence neither. Confidence needs training, practice, and persistence, grasp a spoon and be confident.

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7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This is one of the subjects taught by SINA mentors and it took several days for students to understand it completely, in between undoubtedly that we had so many meaningful discussions and insights from those days, especially from our instructors. Those teaching materials come from a book and we were taught with the essential parts of the book, which is very grateful and interesting due to I’ve never been through this type of teaching, and this was such an eye-opening for me.

So what is effectiveness? For me, it is saying that using the limited time to achieve high demand work for a good period of time. So what we can do to achieve such results? This book has the answer to build required capacities, in the way to ensure a system that accomplishes desired results for a long time due to an effective system.

Photo by George Milton on

Mindset leads to actions, so you have to believe that habits can be changed and they can be built. People have characters and also personality, they both are showing who we are when we presenting. While characters are the fundamental elements and it’s invisible, so it’s difficult to change or aware of it. But personalities are visible and can be changed. I remember one of our instructors asked us that can you pretend to be honest? which is a very interesting question. Apparently, you can not pretend to be honest, because they both cannot exist at the same time. So here honest is working like our characters, they are the underlying factors within ourselves. While pretending is like our personalities which can be changed so easily and so does the habits.

As long as you believe that habits can be shaped in a way that aligns with your characters, then let’s get started to module your habits and bring good changes to your life. The seven habits work in order, first, you have to be self-depend, then independent and last interdependent. That means every change starts by yourself, aligned with a quote that ‘be the change you want to see first’.

1. Proactive, some people always think that others should do this to you or they should treat you like this, but this is rarely happening in reality unless you start to treat others the way you want to be treated. So you should always take the initiative to start the change and don’t wait for others. The second point has a lot to do with a person’s “circle of influence”. Focus on the things that you can control and influence, you are the one who is responsible for your own life and you have that acknowledgment.

2. End in mind, it’s about the mindset and stamina. It is difficult for us to accomplish a final game if we don’t have that passion or end in our minds when we are on the way. Life is always full of ups and downs, bear the end in your mind, then you will finally see the final line if you have the stamina and envision on your way.

3. First thing first, we have been taught a lot that we should prioritize our time on Important and urgent things, but very few people keep this habit or mindset. So classify important and urgent things and organize this exercise in regular time, until they become part of your habits.

4. Think win-win situation, we always compete with each other in our education system as we taught to be the number one, especially in the Chinese education system, where we are not taught to work together with our classmates but to compete with them most of the time, which is unhealthy and vicious. Hence, bear the win-win mindset enable you to think of others while thinking of yourself, a good relationship or negotiation always comes from a win-win mindset.

5. Seek to understand then be understood, understanding is the key to problems, and it also ensures a good relationship. People often complain that others don’t understand themselves, but they never try to understand others first. It is a reciprocal relationship, and nobody owes you.

6. Synergize, it’s the time to interact with others if you already updated yourself. We need to see the value difference between people and truly understand the difference without judgments, then we can explore the alternatives to collaborate with each other based on understanding.

7. Sharpen the saw, you can only harness so many trees unless you sharpen the saw. In our daily life, it suggests that we should renewal ourselves in terms of health, emotion, knowledge and our minds on a daily basis, to renew ourselves for a better self.

Those habits are used by those highly effective people according to the author and they practice them every day which enables them to habituate it. It is a long process and also with time and energy consumption, but change starts when the time comes. And in the end, those people work highly effectively and smooth their work and life accordingly. Practice those habits then you will also make changes in your life and work.

what are your thoughts on highly effective habits? Do you have any additional information? Share your knowledge or comments below, thanks and enjoy. This article was edited by the original author without their consent, and should not be reproduced.


Are you a social entrepreneur? you can be one

Social entrepreneurship is the use of start-up companies and other entrepreneurs to develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. ” For me, it is more than a spirit to challenge the old fashion and the courage to face difficulties. And social entrepreneurship has its own social responsibilities in terms of entrepreneurship in general.

In some books, they often ask people to think about the resources they have in order to tackle social problems to develop social entrepreneurship, but it is not always true. Social entrepreneurship has to face social problems even with limited resources and it is more about courage and not stopped by barriers. Resources are scarce, but social entrepreneur knows how to utilize them.

I remember one of the trainers in Uganda asked whether an entrepreneur is born or made, and I found it’s very interesting. Because it seems controversial on this topic. If the entrepreneur is born, then it is not entrepreneurship which requires to against the status quo and challenges the impossibilities. So I prefer the entrepreneur is made, in a way that gives people hope and dream. No matter what, if people don’t have the appropriate atmosphere to nourish the entrepreneurship, then it is impossible to become one even he or she is born to be.

I learned that entrepreneurship has three pillars when I was in Uganda. First one is personal leadership, which means grow yourself internally and externally. The second one is to engage with others, which refers to teamwork and managing people. The last one is entrepreneur thinking, which covers task-oriented thinking, human-centered thinking, and problem approach thinking. There are required skills more than this to become one and I prefer that social entrepreneurship is a process to grow yourself while achieving your social goals.

And the most important thing is to connect your skills and passion when developing social entrepreneurship. For example, my Ugandan trainer told us an interesting story that a teacher from Pakistan developed his social innovation by connecting his hobby and teaching. He created a unique way of teaching by displaying chemical knowledge on cards and play with his students, in which his students are enjoying the game while remembering that knowledge on cards and this innovation gives his great credit on teaching.

I will share with you a tool to help you get that connection as I mentioned above. We call it passion-skills- solution/problem tool. So we use three different colors on cards to define your passions, skills and solution/problem and come up with as many as cards you can, then we randomly chose three cards and see if you can combine them in ways that might spark an idea for a new social enterprise idea. I will show you below for an example.

Credit to Acumen
Credit to Acumen

Once you connected your passion, skills and social problems you want to address, then you are on the way heading to social entrepreneurship. I am already on the way, and you? If you want to learn more then click here to get this online course.

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