September 10, 2012
N is for Nurture Community. The vision for community is a place where people trust each other work together toward a common goal; the stronger the community, the stronger the organization. When people are on the same team, obstacles do not become roadblocks. People are able to work effectively and comfortably together. I have found that community is a breeding ground for innovation and dedication. Ideas are shared and people learn to be creative. They also feel a sense of worth and identity, which leads to stronger dedication to the team and organization. Community is one of the best methods of connecting with people. However, it is also one of the most difficult things to do.
I use the word nurture because community cannot be faked or forced. It must come naturally, as well as be intentional. The strategy of a leader must be to nurture it, by encouraging and allowing it to grow. Starting with oneself, it means being open and honest with others to create trust. It also means sharing life with others, in and out of work. Finally, it means balancing grace and truth. Grace is being constructive, involving encouragement and forgiveness which builds people up. Truth means being critical when necessary, being honest even if the truth hurts. A good community will have both balanced equally.
One fun traditions that was started in the office last year was surprise birthday parties. I realize this may not be a novel idea. Some of my best memories growing up are surprise birthday parties. However, it’s not normal for Kenyans to celebrate birthdays, and even less normal to plan surprises for them. It’s become a special tradition, one that never gets old! Each birthday, somehow, someway, we find a way to surprise the person, or “dang” them as the staff here now say. Sometimes we hide in another room with the lights off, waiting with candles, cake and drinks. We have even gone so far as to plan a “danging” at another house and lured the unsuspecting birthday person into the living room, only to jump out and scare them. It is not a long celebration, usually singing “Happy Birthday”, eating cake, and giving the person a card. Then we sit around laughing at how surprised the person was!
E is for Exemplify Integrity.
In every culture, character is important. Integrity is more than just telling the truth. Its having a character that is put together, well rounded, complete and strong. In some ways it is a metric that measures the fullness of character. It does involve doing the right thing, but it also involves wisdom, strength, grace, perseverance, and discipline. People with a strong and stable character have good integrity. Those with integrity can handle circumstances better. They are the ones who earn respect because of how they live. If you can gain respect, you will be able to influence others.
I say exemplify Integrity, because it must be seen. Integrity that others don’t notice You I earlier wrote about how you should observe and adapt to culture. I don’t want to confuse these two ideas, but there is a balance. You must maintain your own integrity and character, while adapting to where you are.
I have been put in several situations overseas that have tested and built my integrity. Since March, my wife and I have struggled fighting with mechanics all over Kisumu and Nairobi, trying to get our car fixed. We have been overcharged, ripped off, and down right stolen from. Its been a growing experience to say the least. Unfortunately I can not say I have passed the test every time. I have learned a lot about character