Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Leading Change Towards A Better Tomorrow!

If the initial task of the language of leadership is to spark energy and initiate forward motion, its never-ending task is to ensure that the change idea continues to be pursued with sustained élan, spirit, and passion (Denning, 2007; p.199).

A United Goal and Historic Achievement

In an era when global economics and establishing universal social reforms have become common concerns to all, world leaders find themselves governing from a central fishbowl as the world’s audience peers into every facet of the programs and policies they enact.   Vladimir Putin of Russia, knows this all too well since terrorism threats and social concerns about Russia’s gay rights law became center-stage news.  The 2014 Winter Olympics (in Sochi) provided a stage, established a set of common interest and concerns, the purpose, and months of world media coverage on which the world’s audience could arbitrate for their values.  Similarly, the political and social unrest occurring in nations such as Syria, now also in Ukraine, have been top news, particularly as human rights violations and the consensus that senseless slaughtering of protestors have become alarming events (The New York Times).
An ongoing concern for global leadership has been economics, both domestic and global, and how to strengthen and restore the economies of developed nations while working to address—among several major issues--poverty while also developing new, sustainable economies in the world’s poorest nations.   In 2000, the solution that 189 (UN) nations agreed to was dubbed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  And, with a goal to target eight specific areas of global concern, the MDGs deadline of 2015 is less than 1,000 days away, says John Podesta, Chair of the Center for American Progress.   As a member of the High Level Panel, a group formed to oversee and encourage the ongoing pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, John is one of many global leadership voices representing the United Nation’ 2000 initiatives, but also a global panel mission to look into post-2015 work of nations towards eradicating each of the eight MDGs.
At the Millennium Summit in September 2000 the largest gathering of world leaders in history adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets, with a deadline of 2015, which have become known as the Millennium Development Goals.  (Source: MDG Success:  Accelerating Action, Partnering for Impact (23Sep.2013)

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Targeted for 2015 are to:

1.      Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger (halve the poverty of the world’s population between 1990-2015)
2.      Achieve Universal Primary Education
3.      Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
4.      Reduce Child Mortality
5.      Improve Maternal Health
6.      Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases
7.      Ensure Environmental Sustainability
8.      Global Partnership for Development

Setting the Stage for Accelerated, Measured and Supportive Leadership

The Secretary-General’s event replaced multiple single issue events with one coherent day-long event that drew lessons across issue areas and mobilized support for the full range of MDGs. This provided a platform for progress on the Secretary-General’s initiatives and validated his vision for strengthening strategic partnership across the UN system.
In September 2013, the Secretary-General hosted a high-level forum to catalyze and accelerate further action to achieve the [eight] MDGs. The event focused on concrete examples of scaling up success and identifying opportunities for more. The emphasis will be on the “how” – bringing together examples from partnerships across the spectrum of MDGs and Secretary-General’s initiatives. It is intended that the outcomes of the forum will enrich the deliberations of the General Assembly...  (Source: Speech by the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – Jul. 1, 2013 (in Switzerland)
Given how little time remains to accomplish these eight goals, immediate, strategic alliances and networking are critically needed.  As Denning (2007) says, The first steps aim at creating the spark; once that’s happened, the flames need to be fanned and turned into an unstoppable conflagration (p.199).   In fact, in speeches by both the Secretary-General and John Podesta, there are clear undertones of trying to encourage the 189 nations of the world to remain vigilant in the quest to achieve the MDGs, but also to envision moving beyond them to a new development era on connectedness and engagement.  In other words, a consistent energizing and unifying voice is needed, particularly in light of the economic pressures so many nations have faced this past decade.   This begs the question:  Are the world’s leaders still onboard with the MDGs Initiatives, or have some—even the most prominent, like the U.S. and Great Britain—backed off to address more domestic-oriented but pressing issues?   And, if so, what must the UN and Podesta’ High Level Panel do to stimulate all nations—to the original agreement—to continue their support and engagement?
Global leadership communicators [such as the Secretary-General and Podesta, must] strive to reach both head and heart, according to Baldoni (2013) p.129.   Each must develop a narrative that allows them to connect with the[ir] audience by:  1) stimulating the intellect,  2) appealing to their emotions, and 3) encouraging [continued] physical engagement (p.129).  Denning posits that conversations are crucial to leadership because leadership entails the co-creation of innovation (p.206).  He recommends that leaders who attempt to stimulate desires in others “use a springboard or factual story to relate to the substance in an attentive, sympathetic way . . . [that] with the story, the listeners begin to imagine the future, and so it became credible” (p.225).  This is important since not every MDG co-signer is onboard or even stimulated to do anything about the goals.   According to Podesta, the American public hates foreign aid.  Polls show it is the least popular item in the budget and the only area where people consistently support spending cuts (Center for American Progress).
But not all nations feel like Americans about global relief efforts. A few key the Millennium Development Goals have shown impressive progress, such as reducing by half the number of those who live on less than $1.25 per day.  But as Podesta notes in his April 8, 2013 speech to the Center for American Progress, “moving more than 600 million people out of extreme poverty in the process—we must not let up on pushing this target forward” (Center for American Progress).  This will demand the participation and resources of every nation if the goals stand any chance of being achieved.

Global Agenda(s) Require Global Partnerships

Hackman and Johnson (2013) offer a strategy designed to organize a global effort involving leadership from all nations.  They term it Global Team Charter (p.233).  Specifically, they recommend 5 keys to forming and operating a global team charter:
1.      Charter- should list both task and process goals in clear, specific, and measurable terms.
2.      Expectations-  at list of 5-6 specific goals should be identified and established
3.      Policies and Procedures-  boundaries are needed for evaluating team behavior
4.      Timeline and Project Plan-  charter should divide project into tasks with appropriate timelines and completion dates
5.      Rules-  ensure that both task and process roles are clearly assigned
These keys are a foundation upon which differences created by language, socio-economic, ideological and cultural barriers might be bridged.   Notable leaders, Hackman and Johnson assert, “Pay close attention to assumptions, values and symbols that create and reflect organizational culture” (p.239).  Given the many other issues governments are focused upon today, such as GDP, annual budgets, human rights and terrorism, it is critical to find a narrative for common global initiatives.  As Christian leaders who recognize the convergences of economic, social and cultural changes that are taking place globally, it is important to remember, as Os Hillman notes, “The world is looking for a solution, not necessarily a Christian solution.”  Eliminating poverty and the underlying cause is a moral and humanitarian mission that should stimulate all nations back to the MDGs table.


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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Count the Cost" - Do You Know What You Owe?

Well, it is now February 2014, and those holiday shopping expenses have begun showing up on your monthly credit card bills. Or, if you are like some cash-buyers, perhaps you deferred paying certain bills in order to buy Christmas gifts, attend parties and eat out with friends; or, perhaps you took that special holiday trip you’ve always wanted to take.

Either way, it is time to pay the piper. The day of reckoning has come, and I’d guess it is not very welcomed right now. According to a study by the American Research Group, the average American planned to spend about $801 on holiday shopping in 2013, which is down from $854 in 2012. You can read their report at the: American Research Group website.

Do You Know What You Owe

Knowing this, just how ready are you to face the bill paying process this month? More to the point, do you even know what you really owe in 2014? Not just what your holiday debt may be, but what new expenses you might be facing in 2014?

At an average credit card annual rate holding between 14% (Fixed) and 16.5% (Variable) in 2013, Americans paid $12 billion in credit card penalty fees alone, this according to R.K. Hammer/Card Knowledge Factory, and

Ironically, that amount is down from $17.8 billion in credit card penalty fees paid in 2012, the only bright light in this story.

And with many Americans planning to make the mere minimum required monthly payment—ranging between $30 and $50—paying down your 2013 holiday shopping alone could take an average of five years once you discount each minimum payment by the total of fees, charges, interest and possible penalties. Yes. It is conceivable that as much as 10% of each minimum payment you submit actually gets applied to the principal balance owed. So, if you spent and charged the average $801 on holiday gifts, you will be repaying for the privilege of using credit (and incurring debt) for years and not months.

So, again I ask, “Do you really know what you owe in 2014?” And, even if you think you do, are you prepared to address your total budgetary needs in 2014?

Budgets Are More than Spending Limiters

A few days ago, my 22-year old son’s car broke down in a recent snow storm in Virginia.  Rather than just having to install a new battery (for $109), he ended up incurring—but not paying for—a towing charge and mechanical work adding up to the tune of $828.  That is a total of $937 that he needed just for 1 auto repair incident.  And it would have been more if I did not have Emergency Roadside Service in my auto insurance policy.

That point set aside, my son was now in a predicament where he had to choose from one-of-three available options:  1) to pay out-of-pocket from savings set aside for another goal,  2) establish and incur conventional credit to cover this unexpected expense;  or,  3) borrow the money from dad rather than through some merchant credit program charging usury rates of interest.  In effect, these were his immediate options for addressing this pressing need.

Without option 1 being actionable, and not wanting to incur a hefty credit account charge for a few years, my son did as most would elect:  borrow from their parents at a zero to modest interest rate.  Of course, making the expense an outright gift would certainly be preferable to any borrower, but what would be the object lesson learned?  Here was an ordinary occurrence that many face in life every single day, and therefore it is a great opportunity to help someone young learn in the process.

For my son, his proverbial straw is an unexpected automobile expense.   Have you stopped to determine what, if anything might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in your financial plan?

LifePlanning Is a Solution

While debt should be avoided at all cost, the reality is that most people will rely upon it at some stage of their life.  It is possible to buy your first car or home or even attend college without ever incurring debt and it may not.  More realistically, we should plan our normal life events and anticipate—and plan for—the unexpected events which could severely cripple any momentum we make towards getting ahead in life.
This means plan your spending around the goals that you intend to pursue and achieve, and revisit your overall plan at least twice per year.   Click here to see how the LifePlanning Institute can help you establish a unique plan.

My son is fortunate that dad chose to help.  Not all situations offer the same remedies.  So, if you are pressed into choosing from other options:

  1. Try to keep the length and interest rate you may incur to a minimum.
  2. Revisit your Spending Plan and adjust it to make higher monthly payments
  3. See whether family or friends might help without charging interest
  4. Expect, on the other hand, that even family and friends have the right to say No!
  5. Don’t beat yourself up over these situations. They happen to the best of us!

May The Lord Bless You!


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