Saturday, November 27, 2010

Performance and Leadership Success

Sometimes I think leaders need to sit down and read a good book on how to lead. In many of our work places leaders perform below the expected moral level. There are different explanations for their poor performances.

It could also be that they struggle with understanding themselves as leaders who lead through service, moral intelligence, and with clear achievable goals.

It could be that their appointment in the first place was anything, but rigged with fraud, nepotism, and misjudgment of their true character.

A leader is someone who must understand the importance of team work and must maintain an attitude of respect for every member of the team. A leader is someone who consolidates the productive spirit of the team rather than someone who divides and rule. A leader works with the team, not against the team in a company or organization.

In their book Moral Intelligence: Enhancing Business Performance and Leadership Success, Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel explain what an effective leadership is: “the best leaders are not the charismatic or heroic types lionized in years past. According to the latest research, they are ‘quiet leaders’ who accomplish great things modestly and without fanfare. Leaders at the perennially great companies all share a common trait—humility. They inspire high performance in others through their sensitivity to their followers’ needs. The best leaders think “we,” not “I.” They are, quite simply good people who consistently tap into their inborn disposition to be moral. They follow a moral compass—even when it’s tempting not to.”

A long-time friend of mine explained to me that he had left the school he was teaching in because he could not work with the headmaster and his close associates. According to my friend, the headmaster had, since his appointment, become insensitive to the views and needs of the teachers of the school. To maintain power and control the headmaster replaced subject heads of department with junior staff members who know nothing about the institutional history or the culture on which the reputation of the school was built on. Many of the replacements were teachers who accepted the imposing figure without being critical of the decisions deployed by the headmaster. The result of these decisions saw complete breakdown of cooperation and collegiality among staff. The values they held as a team no longer mattered. The headmaster’s preposterous attitude and lack of leadership qualities forced my friend to resign.

There must be a moral compass to guide a leader to achieve the desired outcomes as envisioned in the strategic plans and goals set in the beginning of their leadership. Without such a master plan, leaders tend to go astray, become aimless, and appear ruthless in their deployment of power to achieve total control. Such leadership is undemocratic. What it does reinforce is a master -servant relationship to the detriment of the cooperative spirit and morale of the work force.

Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel explain that leadership power is a double-edged sword. “Certainly, you can use power to accomplish worthy goals through others that you could not reach on your own. But there is something about power that makes it potentially dangerous as it can be helpful. Power is addictive. Using power activates brain chemicals called endorphins that create a highly enjoyable physiological state. Power can provide pleasure much like the satisfaction offered by food, sex, or vigorous physical exercise. Most people in formal leadership positions value power. But some leaders crave it. It is easy to get accustomed to the perks of the leadership role.”

Before anyone in leadership position gets carried away a reminder is in order. The power to lead is both manifests in the organizational structure and those who follow a leader. Lennick and Kiel remind us that “leadership power is not just asserted by the leader—it is given to leaders by followers. Followers allow leaders to be powerful. Because leaders have power, followers are careful about how they present information to their leaders.”

“Research has demonstrated that the higher one goes in an organization, the more distorted the information they receive. Followers provide information that they believe leaders want to hear and censor information they fear would upset or anger leaders. The more heavy-handed a leader is in his or her use of power, the more distorted the information they are given. But even benevolent leaders who are careful in their use of power have trouble establishing accurate communication channels because followers’ strong tendency to defer to the leader’s position power, independent of the leader’s actual behavior.”

Leaders need to understand such power dynamics in order for them to lead a proactive and cooperative work force. Without doing so leaders tend to hide behind the deployment of power without needing to worry about the negative consequences of its impact.

The caution issued by Lennick and Kiel is that if leaders continue along this path then they can achieve negative results: “When leaders make mistakes, it is difficult for followers to tell them so. Many organizational cultures discourage interpersonal feedback, even among peers, so imagine how reluctant most followers would be to openly criticize the actions of someone with great power. This leaves most senior leaders operating in a feedback void. Their accomplishments might be praised, but their personal flaws are not brought to their attention.”

“The absence of appropriate negative feedback,” continues Lennick and Kiel, “about our leadership behavior can leave us with the mistaken notion that we are far better leaders than we really are. Without accurate information about the business and about our own capacities, we are at risk making a big mistake that can lead to a devastating business outcome. Workaholism can reflect a subtle abuse of power. When you insist on doing everything yourself rather than delegating work, you deprive others of opportunities for development and their own share of power.”

Lennick and Kiel are right. Use power with caution: “Leverage your power to accomplish morally positive goals that also produce higher business performance.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

Change Your Responses

The kind of person I am now is because of the decisions and actions I took in the past. The kind of person I want to be in future depends on the decisions and actions I make now.

If I make the right decisions and took the appropriate action now then the outcome will be as I had visualized it. That is the kind of lesson, personal development experts like Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles. I have followed Jack Canfield’s success principles the very day I bought this book in a bookshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, 5 years ago.

I had shared one of the success principles in this column some time back in the beginning of the year. Since these principles have changed my life I would like to share at least one principle from time to time.

This week I would like to share part of Success Principle Number 1: Take 100% responsibility for your life. A friend of mine said to me one day that I needed to take control of my life instead of trying to please other people. I am successful in many areas of my life, but equally failed in many other areas of my life. I lived through life in a fast lane without taking control of it.

I listened to other people but myself. I battled through the problem of alcohol in my life. I wrote many books but I was unable to complete them for publication. That sounded more like the life of Stephen King, the one writer who had similar problems before he did something about it. I applied for higher status jobs, but found myself performing below the expectation of the prospective employers or those serving in appointment committees.

My mind was all over the place. I would do anything for anybody without worrying about where such decisions led me to.

My life then arrived at the critical junction three years ago. The next move I made would, either devastate me or save and reinvigorate me to find a new leash in life. I returned to Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles and re-read it in order to make critical decisions to change the direction I was heading. Slowly I began to make some of the changes.

First, I gave up on alcohol to the shock of many people who never thought I would do such a thing. Now I am into the third year of a sober life.

Next, I decided to focus on my family and give some quality time and attention. That was a relief for everyone in my household.

I followed through with restoring some spiritual sense in my life again. I began to renew my faith in the church and finding more strength in my personal and family life.

I soon decided to go back to school. I enrolled for the law degree program and juggled that with my job. That decision had done more good than I ever thought. Now the doors that were closed to me before began to open, revealing more opportunities in front of me.

The days when I relied on borrowed money to get me from one day to next are gone. Now I have enough coins to buy food for the house, have my betel nuts, and filling the fuel tank of my car at a respectable level.

There are many areas in my life I have made changes to since following Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles. I sometimes buy the book as a present for friends I know need some changes in their lives.

All these may sound preachy, but at least I am happy to share with the loyal followers of this column, something positive that could change their lives as well.

Here is one of the commands in Jack Canfield’s Success Principle Number 1.

“Everything you experience today is the result of choices you have made in the past…Everything you experience in life—both internally and externally—is the result of how you have responded to a previous event…You only have control over three things in your life—the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take (your behavior). How you use these three things determines everything you experience. If you don’t like what you are producing and experiencing you have to change your response.”

And then Jack Canfield reminds us again what people have been saying all along but we ignored the wisdom: “Change you negative thought to positive one. Change what you day dream about. Change your habits. Change what you read. Change your friends. Change how you talk.”

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got,” Jack Canfield continues with his advice, “If you are an alcoholic and you keep on drinking, your life is not going to get any better. Likewise, if you continue your current behaviors, your life is not going to get any better either. The day you change your responses is the day your life will begin to get better.”

Some of Jack Canfield’s commands are: First, you have to give up blaming other people for your problems. All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you—Wayne Dyer;. You will never become successful as long as you continue to blame someone or something else for your lack of success.

Second, you have to give up complaining. The circumstances you complain about are, by their nature, situations you can change—but you have chosen not to. So make the decision to stop complaining, to stop spending time with complainers, and get on with creating a life of your dreams.

Third, you’re complaining to the wrong person. Learn to replace complaining with making requests and taking action that will achieve your desired outcome.

The Kumuls need Jack Canfield. Hire him next time. Use this:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

USP Announces International Competition to Launch USP Press

May 2011, the University of the South Pacific will be launching its publishing arm that will be known as the USP Press.

The goal of the Press is to publish high quality research and writing on issues related to the Pacific Islands, or the islands commonly known as Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

 Toward this end, the University wishes to announce an international competition seeking manuscripts in the following categories:

USP Press Literature Prize ($3000) will be awarded to the overall winner from the following categories.

The winner in each category will receive $1,000.00

Fiction ($1,000)

Poetry ($1,000)

Drama or Screenplay ($1,000)

USP Press Non Fiction Prize ($3,000) will be awarded to the overall winner from the following categories. The winner in each category will receive $1,000.00.

History, Auto/Biography ($1,000)

Sciences ($1,000)

Social Sciences/Humanities ($1000)

Best Children’s Book ($2,000)

The competition is open to all nationalities and closes on 15 February, 2011.

The prize money will be in American dollars

Each submission must clearly indicate the category in which it is to be considered.

All submissions must be in hardcopy. Online submissions will not be accepted.

All submissions should be addressed to:

The Chair, Board of the USP Press,
Professor Vilsoni Hereniko,
Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies,
The University of the South Pacific
Private Mail Bag,
Laucala Campus, Suva, Fiji.

For enquiries, write to

The Development Dilemma

Culture and Human Resource Capital, UPNG  2010

Everywhere I go I hear the words LNG in many people’s talk. So much buzz is made on this economic promise that seems to drive a certain agenda of development. In Port Moresby and Lae there is a building boom. Lae has moved into converting old houses into multiple blocks of flats. Port Moresby has grown into a mega for multi-storied buildings. They are eye catching and startling in a way. The government is proud to see this development, quickly declaring to the people that LNG is here and Papua New Guineans have to cash into the LNG or else they stand to lose out on the benefits. The conclusion I seem to have is that the LNG excitement has also promoted an even growth in our society.

I may be slow in seeing the benefits, but I am circumspect with the use of words like development, economic independence, and cost and benefits. We have to understand some of these words are used by certain people to promote a certain kind of agenda, ideology, and notions about what they consider to be right or is the truth. This does not have to be the case for others.

In thinking about this issue I came across J.R.E Waddell’s paper “The Development Dilemma: Self-Reliance or Dependence?” published in the collection From Rhetoric to Reality? Papers from the Fifteenth Waigani Seminar on Papua New Guinea’s Eight Point Plan and National Goals After a Decade. The book was edited by Peter King, Wendy Lee, and Vincent Warakai.

“The most important quality of a word like development,” writes Waddell, “is that it means all things to all men, thus enabling people with divergent views to think that they are talking about the same things. In such a situation, the rich and powerful can impose and implement their own definition of development and at the same time convince the public that the latter’s interest are being served. They can say that development is taking place even in a country where, according to my definition, economic development plans have failed conspicuously, because they define development in terms of Gross National Product or Gross Domestic Product per head. Indeed, a glance at any text book or United Nations publications should convince one that the division of the nations of the world into categories such as ‘developed’, ‘less developed’ and ‘least developed’ is based almost exclusively on ranking by GDP per head. Other criteria have been used but have never quite replaced this basic one.”

The rich and powerful is a term that applies to the world’s rich and powerful nations, but can also be used to make reference to sectors within a politically Independent nation that another contributor to the book cited above, Peter Fitzpatrick, describes as “the national petty bourgeoisie” who have consolidated their presence in the political and economic chambers. In 1985 Fitzpatrick lamented the absence of such a social class, arguing that Papua New Guinea is certainly no banana republic.

Fitzpatrick argued that “the Eight Aims in operation present a picture of marked success and almost equally marked failure. The key to the success of the Aims is in their character as a charter for a technocracy; much of their failure lies in their not responding to the interests of the national petty bourgeoisie.”

“The conflict between the between the technocracy and the national petty bourgeoisie”, Fitzpatrick continues “has been central to the making and to the operation of the Aims. It has been the basic division in national politics. The conflict persists but it is one that the technocracy must win. The state occupies a central position which the technocracy uses to consolidate its class power. In this, it blocks any challenging advance of the national petty bourgeoisie, even at the price of tolerating and encouraging foreign domination of small-scale and middle-level enterprise. This same situation also maintains the power of the peasantry; but in its ‘natural’ state of ethnic division. Part of the centrality of the state lies in its ability to contain the peasantry.”

These observations were made 10 years after Independence in 1985. The situation 35 years on has turned out to reinforce the dilemma Waddell had in mind at that time. “How is ‘development’ to be redefined so that it accords with the needs of the have-nots rather than the haves?” Waddell asked at that time. “The most important step is to turn conventional thinking upside down and start with people rather than the economy as a whole,” was Waddell’s answer.

“If we think solely in aggregate terms,” Waddell adds, “we shall merely reinforce an inequitable and inappropriate system established by and for foreigners. If we accept the inherited economic system as datum, an unalterable given, we shall immediately be concerned with the need to generate massive amounts of foreign exchange and expand cash-cropping and the extraction of minerals and timber—activities which bring in foreign exchange and budgetary revenue but do not necessarily bring net benefits to the population at large.”

Since this observation 25 years ago our people have not done any better in area of small business developments, but rather have become mere spectators in the increased Asian domination of wholesale and retailing business. The national petty bourgeoisie has emerged as the small political and technocrat elite with millions of people’s wealth diverted into personal accounts, and political decisions have been made for the convenience of few powerful individuals defending a degree of accrued interests in business, political power, and maintenance of flawed bureaucracy based on biased appointments to senior positions that does nothing more than a show of puppetry. Instead of technocracy resisting the influence of the national petty bourgeoisie it has compromised itself as revealed in many of the Parliamentary Audit Committee reports in recent years.

In writing this I am asking myself one simple question: Why bother? The answer is not as simple as it seems. Understanding development in the academic sense is not the same as development in the lived experiences of our people.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Failure of Traditional Safety Nets

Roadside fish market at Yonki Dam area, EHP

The general sense of a failure of the traditional safety nets in PNG can contribute to an impoverished society. The traditional forms of authority no longer matters to the post-independence generation. A host of uncanny hooliganism throws its dark shadows on what remains of the traditional structures of power. It is the perfect recipe for chaos, crime, violence, and unlimited threat to life.

Traditional safety nets support social notions of care for elderly, looking out for each other through an elaborate wantok system, communities and hauslains maintaining peace, harmony, and respect for each other and their properties, and promoting sustainable communities with happy people.

Many of our young people are stranded in the crossroad between introduced ways and traditional expectations. Young people stray into alcohol and substance abuse, aggression, and violence. Violence against women and general disrespect of older people and traditions mar our everyday lives. Disruptive social behaviours have become the norm.

Subsistence farming is too hard and labourious to many people. Fast money through street vending of cheap Asian goods and betel nuts coupled with a variety of informal sector activities draw the rural population to flood into urban areas. The consequent result of this is over population, over-crowding, congestion, and suffocation to every nerve of development in our evolving democracy.

In the academic sense, our traditional idyllic village societies are no longer the same village societies we left asunder a while back to move into the modern world.
 Global trends and fluctuating economic conditions force our people into scratching deeper into the skin to make ends meet. Already the income earning Papua New Guineans are stressed out. Their social obligations to support other members of their families and communities are becoming thin. The Government tax regime without any rebate is too harsh on individuals.

What we can do, however, is to reframe, rethink, or reinvent the elements of our traditional societies that are effective as social protection safety nets. Some of these are retrievable through various programs within the ambit of community development, cultural and social advocacy networks, and through various community-based initiatives in agriculture, law and justice, literacy and knowledge transfer activities, and in health and education.

We already have in place many such activities, thriving with or without the support of government, church agencies, and international development partners and organizations. The challenge is to have them work together through an enhanced policy framework that delivers service as well as protection to all Papua New Guineans. The state can then without haste perform its democratic function of service delivery to its citizens.

The question that begs an answer now is whether our traditional safety nets of social protection and social services have failed in today’s PNG societies. That is the million Kina question.

The answer to the question is so critical in understanding the work undertaken by the Department of Community Development through the National Taskforce on Social Protection Policy and the Secretariat. Right now, PNG has no Social Protection Policy.

The Secretariat, headed by Mr. George Wrondimi, was tasked to research and report their findings on the possibility of a Social Protection Policy for PNG. The result of that report should help the National Taskforce, chaired by Secretary Joseph Klapat, to persuade NEC to set up the Social Protection Policy.

The Secretariat’s work is strengthened by a number of international organizations (World Bank, UNICEF), development partners (AUSAID, ADB), and local organizations (INA), institutions (UPNG, NRI, PNG Medical Research Institute), and various local community groups and individuals.

Department of Community Development Minister, Dame Carol Kidu, Secretary Joseph Klapat, and Mr. George Wrondimi and his team should be applauded for taking on this mammoth task with the promise of bringing positive change to our societies.

In line with their strategic plan, the Secretariat organized a workshop on the Social Protection Policy at the March Girls Resort in Gaire Village last week. The workshop involved the Focus Group and the researchers for the development of the Social Protection Policy. A report prepared by the Secretariat was the focus of the workshop. The final report will serve the foundation for developing a Social Protection Policy for Papua New Guinea.

At this stage the basic premise driving the push for a Social Protection Policy is that many Papua New Guinea societies are no longer able to buffer against the onslaught of dramatic changes sweeping through the land.

The observation that the traditional safety nets for protection against social, cultural, economic, and global political shocks on small communities is weakened to the point of being useless as a safety measure or utility to service the needs of the fragile communities. The risk is that a whole wave of negative impacts on our communities can stunt growth and cohesiveness in our societies.

The need is for the intervention of the state to use its instrumentalities in the service of its people. At the outset, the State has initiated the process through a NEC decision for the Department of Community Development to set up a Taskforce and a Secretariat to research and propose a model of social protection policy that is home-grown and relevant to Papua New Guinea.

Among several key issues considered in the workshop, there was a general feeling that the report of the research group must “stress the complementarity between core social protection provision and other policy areas, such as health, education, social services, agriculture and labour policy. Social protection programmes will be critical in supporting human and economic development outcomes across all sectors. At the same time, ongoing commitment to strengthening the quality and reach of essential services is required to ensure that social protection gains are maximised. Coordination and partnership across all sectors will ensure that social protection and other sectoral policies mutually support each other.”

Prudence tells me that caution must be exercised in the development of a Social Protection Policy for it to be realistic, do-able, and achievable. Such a policy must aim at finding a balance between successful universal models and indigenous models.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Coping with Tides of Change

Big Brother's Help is Social Protection
The big question asked now is whether Papua New Guinea needs a Social Protection Policy? I, like many others, think that after 35 years of Independence and Statehood our people have seen the tide of change swept their villages away, created a rift in the social and cultural fabrics of life, economic necessity has driven many a village folk out of town, and created an urban chaos that threatens to normalize tribal behaviors and attitudes against the ever changing, vulnerable, and fragile modernity that many have started to embrace in a reluctant way.

In the 1980s when we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of our Independence we seemed to have done so with a strong sense of assurance about ourselves as a nation, young, strong, free, and with a strong population of about 3 million people. Since then the populations has tripled and the social and cultural woes seemed to have entered the stage without us noting its double edge sword. This coupled with the fragile political and economic imperatives that drove through the eighties and nineties saw a swell in urban population, trendy urbanization, and infrastructural development that ate up what used to be ‘free land” with its hasty housing development, conspicuous commercial centres, and strengthened the resolve to crime by those deprived of social and economic equality.

I have lived through that period in Port Moresby only to reflect on it to see the need for Papua New Guinea to have a National Social Protection Policy.

The 35 years of rapid transition from stone-age through to the processes of colonization, modernization, and globalization has had significant negative impact on the traditional social safety nets and social protection systems in PNG societies.

In recent times concerns were raised on the development of macro resource projects such as the Ramu Nickel and the LNG projects. The development of these projects are widening the gap between the (few 20 %) haves and the majority (80%) have-nots. The country is becoming a wealthy nation—an experience, which in itself poses as a shock for those who are ill-prepared to encounter the surplus cash flow situation in their lives, particularly the resources owners. This is already happening to the resource owners.

If the abundance of wealth is mismanaged and distributed unequally throughout the whole spectrum of society, the poorer segments will continue to have fewer assets, savings, or opportunities to fall back on and advance in life. Such a scenario will increase the level of poverty among the majority of the country’s vulnerable population.

The rapid growth of the country, in terms of population and modernization, and the increasing demands on suppliers for basic goods and services has also increased risks associated with individual lifestyle, cultural identity, economic management, environmental dependency, good governance, and the overall impact of the development process.

The government’s efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the dreams outlined in the government’s Vision 2050 will fail if the trend described above continues.

On the 26th June 2009 the National Executive Council, based on a join submission by the Ministers for Community Development and Treasury, made a historical decision in terms of its general policy direction on human development and poverty alleviation initiatives in the country.

The NEC Decision No.97/2009 of its Meeting No.04/2009 established a National Taskforce, comprising eight key line departments to initially conduct an investigation and report on a suitable model of Social Protection policy for PNG. The recommendations contained in this report will form the basis of a new National Policy on Social Protection that will be developed in Phase Two.

The National Taskforce on Social Protection (NTSP) comprises the following economic and social sector ministries or departments:

Department for Community Development (Team Leader)

Department of National Planning and Monitoring (Deputy Team Leader)

Department of Treasury

Department of Education

Department of Health

Department of Agriculture & Livestock

Department of Labour & Industrial Relations

Department of Provincial & Local Level Government Affairs

The National Executive Council requires an investigation on a policy framework and a report submitted back to NEC with relevant recommendations on suitable forms of Social Protection Model (s) for this country.

The state has a mandated responsibility to intervene now by directly assisting families and communities in areas where their own resource capacities have been exhausted or depleted as a result of the ever-increasing demands from the poorer and disadvantaged members of their families.

Traditional social safety nets are weak in many parts of the country over time. External intervention is needed to revive it. In parts of the country where traditional social safety nets are still in practice, empowerment of the families and communities are necessary to enable them to sustain these forms of social protection models.

Safety nets are a highly recommended form of social protection model for traditional PNG societies.. Traditional safety nets have many advantages. Traditional safety nets are practiced nationwide. The basic principles, concepts, and their benefits are familiar to individuals, families, and the society at large.

The safety nets, according to the World Bank provides immediate redistribution of wealth and reduces poverty: “they allow households to invest in their children and their livelihoods, they help households manage risks, and provisions of safety nets can handle redistributive concerns thoroughly thereby enabling governments to make more efficient policy choices in other sectors.”

The decision to develop a national policy on social protection is also part of the government’s ongoing efforts towards meeting the 2015 MDG on Poverty Alleviation. It is not a one-off policy initiative, but an over-arching strategy to eventually alleviate poverty and improve quality of life for all Papua New Guineans, as spelled out in the Vision 2050 National Development Strategy.

Experiences from other countries indicate that social protection has multiple roles to play and hence contribute significantly to improving productiveness of the people and nation building. Social protection is a long-term investment on human productiveness for nation building.

We look forward to the outcome of the Task Force on Social Protection Policy in Papua New Guinea.