Servant and Authentic Leadership

Happy and Blessed Pentecost!  May the fire of the Holy Spirit embolden you with renewed zeal to do the Lord’s will and fulfil God’s purpose in your lives.  I also congratulate Mrs Joan Shillingford and the Musical Melee Team for another outstanding performance.  The surprise performance by Tarina was “Simply the Best!”  Oh what a performance and gift!

 

This week, we are going to focus on “Servant and Authentic Leadership.”  I have written before on leadership, exploring the tenets of Peter Drucker’s characteristics of effective leadership.  This week, we will be looking at leadership from the servant and authentic leadership perspective.  It is fitting given that on Pentecost, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the disciples began their true ministry.  We will also remember that Jesus’ example to his disciples at the Last Supper when he washed their feet and told them that this was to send the message that they are to serve rather than being served.  This is important for Jesus did not just tell them; he led by example, and this truly sums up Servant Leadership.

 

So we see the concept of servant leadership has been with us for a very long time.  Over time however we moved away from that model thinking it was too soft, too touchy-feely and giving up of power.   Robert Greenleaf is often credited as person who advocated returning to the concept and Jim Autry may be credited with popularising the concept.

 

Servant leadership is leadership in service of others.  It is not only about what we do but who we are.  It is about being authentic; being real, being true to us.  It is about honesty and vulnerability.  It also means being people of our word, so that our word becomes our bond.   Servant leadership is about consistency.  It is about being the same person irrespective of where we are or when.  There ought not be a “Sunday self, Monday Self or Tuesday Self.  A morning self, afternoon or evening self.”

 

Autry postulates five ways of “being” that leads one to servant and authentic leadership.  They are:

  1. Be Authentic –this means being true to self.  It is about talking the talk, walking the talk and walking the walk.  It is about being genuine, meaning what we say and saying only what we mean.  It is about accepting who we are and not pretending to be someone else or not who we are.  This is not always easy for some of us do not know who we are.  It is a journey of self-discovery and some of us are still trying to find out who we are; what we believe deeply, what we stand for.  It is easy for others to recognise when fakes and disingenuous people.  Being authentic is critical in building trust and this is a key, if not the most important component in building relationships.   Authenticity is about integrity, about honesty and truthfulness.  It is also about encouraging others to be true to themselves
  2. Be Vulnerable – this means letting others know what we are feeling.  It is part of being authentic as it speaks to being authentic in our feelings to your work, employees, ideas and others.  It is being able to admit your mistakes and to apologise.  This is difficult for some.  Some of us believe that admitting our mistakes and saying sorry are signs of weakness.  As Autry says, “Being vulnerable takes a great deal of courage because it means letting go of the old notions of control, forgetting forever the illusion that you can be in control.   Vulnerability allows one to be empathetic, to understand and see the world from another’s standpoint.”
  3. Be Accepting – Acceptance is, according to Autry, more important than approval.  Acceptance does not necessarily signify that we agree; it signifies that we recognise the right of others to hold a different view.  We respect their position and concentrate on the issues and not the person.  Acceptance means we do not see situations in terms of winning and losing, as we recognise that every person’s viewpoint is valid.  Authentic people, argues Autry, accept others without judgement just as they want to be accepted without judgement or disapproval.
  4. Be Present – this speaks to being present not only in body, but very importantly in mind and spirit.  Autry posits, “Being present is not just being here and there, but having your whole self available at all times – available to yourself as you try to bring all your values to bear on the work on hand, and available to others as you respond to their problems, issues and challenges.”
  5. Be useful – this means being a resource and providing the resources needed by others.  It means facilitating the work of others, providing guidance and helping others.

 

I recently listened to an interview with John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market and servant leadership is akin to his concept, “Conscious Capitalism.”  Conscious Capitalism, he explains, is understanding the purpose of business beyond just making money.  It is understanding the higher purpose of the business and engaging business in a more conscious way.  It is he, claims, “to provide leadership that is done more consciously, to help people be fulfilled in the workplace.  Business can be a powerful force of good.”  Customers [and employees] know when a company [leader] is authentic.  When we feel somebody genuinely cares about us, we trust him or her; and if we trust him or her, we want to trade [work] with him or her.

 

Servant and authentic leadership is about love; love of the business, love of the customers, love of key stakeholders and love of the people as John Mackey says, “Love connects organisations.”

 

I can be contacted at info@vfinc.org or Tel: 767 449 9649.

 

Until we meet again, may the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

Advertisements

A MESSAGE TO THE GRADUATING CLASS OF 2014!

It is the graduating season again!  There are graduations at all levels taking place and will be taking place in the next month; from preschool all the way to university level. Congratulations to all.

 

It is a time of congratulations, proud parents and family, happiness, joy and laughter for the graduates, however there is also trepidation for some as they recognise it is time to go out and take their place in the big wide world!  It is a time for speeches and encouraging words.  And here I draw upon my letters to my nephew Pat and niece, Maralie, who graduated from Law School and High School, respectively:

 

CONGRATULATIONS!!!  For the high school graduates, this is the first of your major graduations, and this is why it is so important. As the saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”  That first step signals that you are ready to embrace the other pathways that will lead to your dreams and to the other major graduations and milestones.

 

What do I want to say to you?  I want to leave with you some of the lessons and values I was taught by my family that has kept and served me well.  Your name is the only thing that you leave this world with, so do nothing that will bring you and your name to disrepute.  My father would often say to us, that it was not our name but his that he bestowed on us, so we had to guard it well!  In guiding you to uphold this position, the litmus test is to refrain from anything that you would be ashamed of or would bring shame to you and your family if others knew about it.  This leads you to appreciate that it is your content of character that matters most.  You are a leader and not a follower; so don’t go doing things just because others are doing it.  Be prepared to stand alone and on your own, for the things that are dear to you.  Be your own person and don’t be swayed by popular things and people in doing things that do not edify you and those whose lives you touch.

 

You are to seek and listen to counsel, however you are to use it to make the decision that is right for your life.  As you continue your journey of life, there will be those, who love, care, support and protect you, and there will be detractors.  Don’t pay too much attention to your detractors; remain focused on your goals and journey.  However, listen and sift what they say, for there may be some nuggets of wisdom and truth in what they say.  Take those nuggets of wisdom and truth and use them to your good, and let go of the negative things that serve no useful purpose.

 

We did not come to this world alone, contrary to popular belief and saying.  It took two persons for us to be conceived, a mother to incubate us for nine months, doctors and midwives to receive us along with other cheering and happy family members eager for our entry into this world.  And even if your entry were not heralded with great joy and fanfare, you were born and you are here! This means that you are to always be thankful and appreciative of the people in your live.  A thankful, appreciative heart cannot be depressed; cannot give rise to a negative attitude.  A thankful, appreciative heart results in a positive attitude and a willingness and eagerness to give back.  You are to be your “brothers’ and sisters’ keeper”.     We impact people even without knowing it at times, so ensure that your encounter with others is positive.    Be a bright shining light, be a rainbow of hope to others.

 

Be generous with your time, talent and treasure.  However, be prudent with your finances and spending.  It is not so much how much you earn, but how much you spend, which determines how much you can save and build wealth.  Financial independence is the cornerstone of true independence.

 

Know that your family is always there for you, loving, caring, supporting in good and challenging times.  They are there to share your joys and lighten your load!  They are happy and proud of you and there is so much joy as they share this special moment with you.  Your family loves you unconditionally and they have made the sacrifices for you freely and willingly, and there is “no charge,” for their love.  They may not be happy with some of your decisions and actions however they will always love and support you and focus instead on the love behind the action. I want you to never take that love for granted.  You are to return that love in double portions!  And as your journey of life continues and takes you to new paths and successes; do not forget them; do not lose contact.  In today’s world staying in touch is so much easier and cheaper.  For me, I sustain myself with the love of my family, my rock and the wind beneath my wings.

 

This message would not be complete without an exhortation to keep God as and at the centre of your life.  Everything you are and have comes from God and you need to always acknowledge His presence in your life.  As Proverbs 3:6 advises, “In all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.”  With God, all things are possible.  It does not mean that you get everything you want, and that there are no worries and pain.  It means that you will always have what you need and that you will overcome all heartaches and pain.  Three quotes; my favourite, “The finger of God never points where He has not yet laid the way,” and the popular ones, “God will never bring you and leave you,” and “God’s Grace is sufficient for you,” have kept me grounded and secure that I can go boldly in the pursuit of my dreams and on the journey of life, I pass them on to you and pray that they too will serve as sustenance for your soul and an anchor of faith, hope and love for your life.

 

As I take my leave, I Congratulate You again!  I wish you God’s continued Blessings, Guidance and Protection.  I pray God continues to watch over you, bestow on you His wisdom, understanding, discernment, peace that surpasses all understanding, enlarge your territory while holding you in the Palm of His Hands.  May He always be a Light unto Your Path and a Lamp for Your Feet.

 

Your entire family joins with me to say Hip! Hip! Hooray!  You’ve Done It!  You Are on Your Way to a Bright, Prosperous and Happy Future!  Go Godward; He Has Already Laid the Path!!

 

I can be contacted at info@vfinc.org or Tel: 767 449 9649.

 

Until we meet again, may the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

A TRIBUTE TO MOTHERS

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!  May the Lord continue to bless you with love, wisdom, peace, understanding, patience, so that you can continue nurturing your children to ensure they fulfill God’s purpose for their lives and they touch others’ lives meaningfully.

 

In a few days (May 15th) we (my family) will recognise the 42nd anniversary of our mother’s death and celebrate her life.  I was six years old when my mother died and there is not a day that goes by without me recognsing and acknowledging her presence.  She is our guardian angel, who over the years has warned us of pending bad news and kept us together as a close-knit family.  Whenever anyone of us dreams of Mama, a relay goes out to all with a warning to be careful for something bad is about to happen and a reminder that we need to stay close to each other to manage and overcome the bad news.  This has never failed.  Only this morning one of my friends remarked about the closeness of our family, and my mother though absent in body for 42 years, is always present in spirit and has played a key role in maintaining that unity and love.

 

I remember as a child, my father and older siblings would respond, “Mama is in Heaven looking down on us,” when I asked, “Where is Mama?” This helped provide peace and solace.  At the Mahaut Government School, at the morning assembly, for a long time, the school principal, Mr. King would have the whole school sing, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee and Morning has Broken,” for us.  To this day, these two songs are two of my favourites and my “go to songs,” during my valley periods.   Many people rallied around us to provide love and support for my mother died leaving nine children behind, the youngest 6 and the eldest 20.  I cannot name them all however I say “Thank You” to all those who were part of our lives and while in this article I focus on some of the women, there were some men who played key roles in shaping us.  I will pay tribute to the men for Father’ Day.

 

I remember Sister Elsa who wept at Mama’s funeral and always kept an eye out for us.  She would often send me huge tins of chocolate, toffees and biscuits!  I remember Elaine who made my blue and white dress for the funeral.  I can still remember that dress! I also remember Mrs. Blanc and Maureen.  I remember my aunts, Aunty May and Nurse who took us to live with them after Mama’s death, however my brothers came for us shortly after promising my father and aunts that they would help to take care of us as they wanted our family to stay together.  And oh they did a fantastic job! I remember my mother’s friends including Ma Sherry from Salisbury, Mrs. King and Ma Lewis, Ma Marita, Ma Hogan, Ma Mavis, Ma Patrick, my mother’s goddaughter, Famie and the mothers of Mahaut who looked out for us

 

And as I reflect on Mother’s day, I pay homage to my Aunty Vonnie, who loved us unconditionally, cared for and protected us.  Aunty Vonnie had little but she gave us much.  She stepped in to ensure her sister’s children were okay though she had many children of her own.  Her children too loved us dearly.  Aunty Vonnie often cries tears of joy saying that we have not forgotten her, but how can we?  How do you forget and not honour and love a person who gave so much of her life for you, when she did not have to and even more when she had so little?  Aunty Vonnie epitomizes the thought and I take liberty to make an amendment, “With God [and with Love], a little is much.”  Thank You Aunty Vonnie!  Thank You my Cousins!

 

I pay homage to Ma Agatha, Ma Philomen and Ma Magai, who provided another home for us.  I pay homage to Rita, my uncle’s wife who was always so kind to us.  They have moved on to join Mama however I remember.  I remember spending summer holidays in Warner and to this day I cannot drink Nannee and Basilic without milk.  And those penny breads! The scent of nannee and basilic also bring back many happy childhood memories.

 

I pay homage to Shirley who became our primary caregiver, cooking, cleaning, caring and loving.  Shirley also loved us unconditionally and would do anything for our children and us.  To this day, she provides grandmother services!  Nathan loves going by “Mama”, and this is the only place that when I return from my travels, Nathan does not want to come home with me!  Shirley’s home will always be our home.  Thank You Shirley!

 

And lastly I pay homage to my two eldest sisters, Cleo and Connie, particularly Connie who stepped in as Mother for their younger siblings.  These two sisters gave selflessly and on many occasions put their lives on hold to care for us.  When Connie graduated from UWI Mona, Cleo was away at UWI Cave Hill, and she just assumed the role of mother (Cleo also considers Connie as Mother!)   Connie took on that role with such love and humility that we did not for one moment feel that we were burdens.  I remember when we were together, people would ask her whether I was her daughter, and when she would answer, “No, my sister,” I would say, “Tell them I am your daughter!”  You see, I knew she was my sister but felt that she was my mother!  A feeling I still feel!

 

After Connie got married, all of us younger sisters lived with her for sometime, and I stayed the longest (until the year of my 40th birthday – Remember I told you there were some men who played key roles in our lives.  She could not have done that without the love and support of her husband)! After Hurricane David, Cleo placed her doctoral studies on hold to come to care for us in Barbados. They made sacrifices with no complaints.  It was only as we became adults we understood the magnitude of the sacrifices our sisters made.  And they made them expecting nothing from us in return.  They not once reproached us; not once did they remind us of all they have done for us.  My sister Catherine always says, “I grew up without a mother, never feeling I did not have a mother; thanks to the love and support of my sisters and family.”  Cleo and Connie, I thank you for shaping us into the persons we became!  Know that you are the “wind beneath our wings and in our sail.”   We will always remember, give thanks and show our appreciation.  We Give Thanks.

 

Everyday we are to appreciate and give thanks for our mothers and the people in our lives who mothered us, however Mother’s Day, is a reminder for us to stop, give them their flowers while alive and let them know how they have shaped our lives.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to All Mothers and Those who Mother!

 

I can be contacted at info@vfinc.org and Tel: 767 449 9649

 

Until we meet again, may the Lord continue to Keep us in the Palm of His Hands.

A YEAR’S WORTH OF ARTICLES: WE CELEBRATE!! WE GIVE THANKS!! – ISSUE # 52

This is the 52nd issue of the “Business and Life Column.”  This means that this issue celebrates our first anniversary; we celebrate and give thanks!  We are thankful to Mr. Tim Durand, Managing Director of DNO for affording us the opportunity to be part of the DNO family.  We are thankful for you, the readers, those who post, email and/or call in with comments.   I thank my staff, family and some close friends who provide the support and encouragement to keep going, who step in to allow me the time to complete the articles.  I thank God for providing the opportunity and the gift to take advantage of the opportunity.  I give thanks and I am thankful.

 

In the past year, we covered topics ranging from governance to career resilience to customer service as well as paid tributes and gave recognition.   This Column does not generate many comments, however, I know that people read it based on feedback I received in person and via my personal email or phone calls.  I embraced the comments, and made changes where needed.  Some of the articles I expected to generate a lot of interests did not, and some I thought would not, were the ones, which generated the most interests.

 

The past year writing the Business and Life Column has been a wonderful one.  I cherish the opportunity to share my views and to be part of the discourse on a variety of topics.  Some weeks the topics came easily, others it is difficult to choose and a few times, a topic just would not come!  It is not that I had nothing to write about, but on a few weeks, I just could not settle on anything.  Some weeks the words came easily; other weeks, I struggled to get them to flow coherently.  However, I persevered.  I did not give up.  I am happy I did.

 

Even as I write this article, an article I thought where words would just flow, the words are difficult to come by!  And I marvel at that!  How can words fail me when I talking about my first anniversary as a columnist!  Incredible!

 

As I begin the second year as a Columnist, I think of new ways of making the column interesting and educational.  I hope to do some features in the second year of persons in various walks of life.  I also hope to look at some topics such as wedding preparations, interior decorating, choosing a contractor and what to look for when securing a mortgage.  I remain open to suggestions and welcome your suggestions on topics you would like covered or persons featured.

 

I never envisaged myself as a columnist, and this demonstrates that if we are open to the possibilities, we can be much more than we envisaged.  It also confirms that what God has in store for us is much more than we can ever envisaged.   It shows that we have to be able to step out of our comfort zone, and embrace the change that is beckoning.  It speaks to stepping out in faith, confident that where God’s fingers are pointing, He has already made the way, and that we have what it takes to succeed.  It speaks to being open to other’s advice and trusting your wisdom to make the right decisions for you.

 

As I end this week’s article, I say a Hearty Congratulations to the Dominica Association of Administrative Professionals on the success of Administrative Professionals’ Week.  Administrative Professionals are key players in all organsiations, often serving as the key gatekeepers to the CEO and other influential persons.  I urge them to continue striving for excellence, recognising that excellence is not a skill, it is an attitude, to embrace change and to possess the right attitude.  After all, “Attitude is Everything!”

 

Happy First Anniversary Business & Life Column!!  We pray God’s continued Blessings and wish you many more years of educating and enlightening the reading public, encouraging them to be their best selves!

 

 

I can be reached at info@vfinc.org or at Tel: 767 449 9649.

 

Until we meet again may God continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

SALUTE TO THE SANITATION WORKERS OF THE DOMINICA SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT CORPORATION

Happy Easter!  I love Easter.  I have so many happy childhood memories of Easter.  The scent of cocoa tea with Bay Leaf wafting up the stairs, “Showdoe,” new dress, shoes and bag, Easter eggs and kite flying.  I remember my brothers spending long hours building their kites and on Easter Morning and later afternoon flying those kites at Teza.   If there were one day in the year I drink cocoa tea, it is Easter Sunday.  Just like I have not attended Mass on Good Friday if “Old Rugged Cross,” were not sang, it is not Easter Sunday, if my kitchen and home are not filled with the scent of cocoa and bay leaf!  I remember once in Coventry driving to four different churches on Good Friday until I came to a Church where that song was sang!

 

Easter is a time of renewal and rebirth.  A time to commemorate our Risen Lord and give thanks; for his rising signifies victory over death and our opportunity for eternal life.  I take this opportunity to wish you, my readers, an Easter Season marked by an openness and willingness to chart new paths and pray the Lord grants you Peace, Wisdom, Prosperity and he shines His Light on you and the paths you have chosen.

 

Today, I want to stop and salute the Sanitation Workers of the Dominica Solid Waste Management Corporation, especially the ones who service the Castle Comfort area.   These workers are out in the sun or rain, holidays, Good Friday, Independence Day and even Christmas Day.  We often take them for granted and lament the many times, they have failed, however, today, I want to say a ”Special Thank You” to them.

 

I have over the years been impressed that these men come out, holiday or not on their scheduled day of collection.  I think of the sacrifices they make, leaving their families early in the morning and on holidays.  Last year, on November 5, Community Day of Service, they were there, December 25th, Christmas morning and the day after the heavy rains and flooding in the area, they were out.  This year on Good Friday, they were also out.  This is what prompted this salute.  These men, who selflessly serve, deserve to be recognized for their service.

 

This work is not easy nor is it one that many of us aspire to, yet without them, we could not live peacefully, comfortably and with good health.  They ensure that we can enjoy our homes, sit on our lawns or verandahs and enjoy the view, spend quality time with family and friends and rest easy that our homes are not breeding grounds for rats, mosquitos and other disease bearing animals or insects.  The rising cases of Chikungunya, past high incidence of dengue and a few cases of leptospirosis underscores the importance and value of the sanitation workers.

 

The men who service the Castle Comfort area clearly enjoy their work and take pride in what they do.  You may be asking how I came to this conclusion, especially when I speak of the latter.  I will tell you on what I have based my conclusions.  There is an easy y camaraderie among them, they work well as a team; it is almost like a dance: one goes ahead and places the bins close to the roadside or collects the garbage and gathers them in one area, the truck comes along and together with the others throw the garbage into the truck; they may issue an instruction to the driver, and then they happily go along.  They will wait on you if you call to say you have some additional garbage.

 

When I see these men at work, I am reminded of the Martin Luther King’s Quote, “Whatever your life work is, do it so well that no one else could do it better.   If it falls your lot to sweep streets, sweep streets as Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music.  Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper.”

 

Sanitation Workers of the Dominica Solid Waste Association, particularly those servicing the Castle Comfort area, the management , supervisors and staff of the Dominica Solid Waste Association, I salute you.  Take a Bow!  I pray God’s richest blessings on you and your families and this Easter Season may it also be one of rebirth and renewal.

 

Happy Easter All!!

 

I can be contacted at info@vfinc.org or Tel # 767 449 9649.

 

Until we meet again, May the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

GROW YOUR BUSINESS SEMINAR

There are now seven certified Grow Your Business facilitators in the Caribbean: three Trinidadians, two Barbadians, one St. Lucian and one Dominican.  The certification process took place during the period March 30 – April 11, 2014, following a Train the Trainers “Grow Your Business” Seminar in September 2013.  I was in the last group from April 7 – 11, 2014 and this week felt like a year!  It was intense with long days ranging from 7:30am to 10pm, and that excludes your personal time for preparation. Unlike, my recent trip to Montserrat where I was able to engage in some extracurricular activities imbedded in the programme, I did not get a chance to leave the hotel, much less to be able to visit friends, until it was all over! However, at the end of the exercise, like Cece Winans sings, “it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.”

 

The Grow Your Business Seminar is a project of InfoDev, a department of World Bank in partnership with the Government of Canada Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), undertaken through the Women Innovators Network in the Caribbean (WINC) as part of the “Entrepreneurship Programme for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC).

 

The aims of WINC are to:

 

  1. Assist existing Caribbean women-led businesses which have the capacity to grow substantially via the adoption of innovative practices and products;
  2. Grow the pipeline of women-led, innovative, technology businesses, specifically in the areas of climate and mobile;
  3. Strengthen networks of innovative women entrepreneurs who can support each other, share knowledge and ideas, and inspire others by showcasing their success stories

 

The Grow Your Business Seminar targets two specific groups of women:

 

  1. Women who are already managing/operating existing businesses but who want to move ahead
  2. Entrepreneurs who want to start new technology businesses especially with a mobile or environmental focus.

 

WINC conducted one “Train the Trainers” workshop in September 2013, bringing participants from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Belize, Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Dominica.  Two certification workshops were conducted in March and April 2014 and seven persons from the countries identified earlier were certified to conduct the “Grow Your Business” Seminars in the Caribbean.

 

Four “Grow Your Business” seminars were conducted in the Caribbean, two in September 2013 (Barbados and Jamaica) and two in March-April 2014 (Antigua & Barbuda and St. Lucia).    The Trainers and Assessors, Dr. Jill Sawers from South Africa and Dr. Mullika Sungsant from Thailand, who developed the training material, conducted the workshops in 2013.  Participants of the Train the Trainers workshop from Barbados and Jamaica assisted them.

 

The trainers selected for certification conducted the seminars in 2014.  Ms. Cheryl Gittens of Barbados, Ms. Alicia Charles, Ms. Nadia Ramiksson and Ms. Felicity Richards of Trinidad and Tobago conducted the seminar in Antigua and Barbuda.  Ms. Finola Prescott of St. Lucia, Dr. Wendy Hollingsworth of Barbados and I conducted the seminar in St. Lucia.   There were 22 participants at the workshop in Antigua with 4 of them coming from Dominica and 27 participants in St. Lucia with one coming from Dominica.  There were 2 participants from Dominica at the workshop held in Barbados in 2013.  This demonstrates that our small businesses are competitive for the process is highly competitive and the fact that we were able to command such high representation speaks to the potential for growth of our small businesses.

 

The feedback from the participants of the “Grow Your Business” seminar has been highly positive with many stating that it provided for them validation that they are on the right track, yet demonstrating areas of growth and critical areas where enhancement is needed.  The opportunity to network, share and learn was highly valued and the excitement and eagerness of the women to begin their connection saw the group from St. Lucia establishing the Facebook and other platforms within a day of the completion of the training.  Some of the participants from both the St. Lucia and Antiguan seminars have already posted their comments on the WINC Facebook.

 

It was for me, as well as the other facilitators, a wonderful experience working with the dynamic, innovative and brilliant group of women entrepreneurs across the Region.  It was also deeply fulfilling to be part of the process witnessing the “Aha Moments,” and listening to how the participants intended to apply the learning.  Some of the presentations were awesome and witnessing the impact on some participants brought tears of joy and pride.

 

The Grow Your Business Seminar already has some tangible success stories with one of the key stories being Ruth Spencer, Manger of Spencer’s Apartments in Antigua.  Following her attendance at the workshop in Barbados in 2013, she established a new business aimed at providing low cost solar energy to households.  In the coming months a series of “Grow Your Business “ seminars are planned, so I encourage you to follow the WINC’ Facebook page for early notification.   Notification will also be carried out on VF Inc.’s website and Facebook page as well as those of the other certified trainers.  Advertisements will also be placed using local media wherever possible.

 

For further information, please feel free to contact me at info@vfinc.org or Tel: 767 449 9649.

 

Until we meet again, may the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

 

ANOTHER SIDE TO TRAVELLING THE CARIBBEAN: ACCOMMODATION

Whenever we think or talk about travelling in the Caribbean, LIAT invariably comes up, and often it is not with positive words. We ignore the times LIAT is on time, when our luggage has arrived with us and we take for granted the safety of LIAT.  Instead we lament the many times they are late, our luggage missing and sometimes it takes weeks to resurface.  I am not making excuses for LIAT; this is one organisation I would love to get an opportunity to restructure; however I appreciate the safety of LIAT and maybe its apathy but I have learnt to manage the disruptions caused by LIAT.

 

This week I want to focus on another side of travelling the Caribbean, that often stays under the radar, but in some instances are worse than LIAT: Accommodation.   I take it for granted when I travel, especially when I am travelling on business and my accommodation arrangements are made by someone else, that the accommodation will be of a high quality; that the place is clean, linen and towels are of good quality, food is excellent and I can feel happy and content that I am safe not just from attack but from illnesses arising from the poor condition of the accommodation.   These are actually standards I set for hotel accommodations.  The majority of times, those standards are met and sometimes exceeded, however occasionally, I find that the accommodation fails to meet the standards and I am left feeling annoyed and dismayed.  Most times when I find myself in this untenable situation it is because the hotel stock on the island is limited and so with little options I have to “grin and bear it.”

 

In recent times, in two different countries, I have had the misfortune of having to stay at accommodation that fall way below minimum acceptable standards, and I found myself thinking after the most recent instance, “We complain and complain about LIAT, but where are the complaints against these accommodation entities that fall way beyond even the minimum standards established?”  The comparison is even starker when upon leaving that establishment one moves on to a high quality establishment.

 

Small hotel establishments and guesthouses often complain about low occupancy and sometimes as happened in Dominica last year, accuse higher-end establishments of underpricing.  These establishments, instead of looking inwards for the problems misguidedly look and blame external factors.  From my recent experiences, while service was okay (not excellent), I will not be returning to either establishment if ever I were to have a choice.   The following are some of the reasons for my position:

  1. Mismatched bed linen
  2. Threadbare bed linen
  3. Threadbare towels
  4. Rooms not properly cleaned
  5. Non-functioning equipment, including air conditions
  6. No ironing board or iron in one’s bedroom
  7. Soaps that cling on to wrapper suggesting it was wet or
  8. Management instead of apologizing and trying to make amends, engages you with one excuse after the next
  9. Establishment has no eating establishment and where it does, the food does not appear or in some cases, taste freshly made.

 

In my last encounter with one of these sub-standard accommodation establishments I finally found myself in the hotel laundry room when after three attempts by Housekeeping, I could not find a sheet to meet my specifications.  The sheets were so threadbare they looked dirty. Upon arrival in the Laundry Room, and examining sheet after sheet, I could find no suitable sheet and towel, that led me to conclude that in future, anytime I know I am going to be staying at one of these establishments, I will ensure I have my own sheets and towels.  I couldn’t believe that I was the first person who complained about the establishment but everyone from Manager/owner to Housekeeper were looking at me with such exasperation, that it appeared that I was the first complainant.  Well, if this were so, I did not mind for it was about time they got a wake up call.

 

I told the owner she needed to reinvest in her business and told the organisers who had booked me there, that if they wanted to enhance tourism and service delivery, they needed to start with the accommodation establishments, especially the one chosen to house its people.  This is the key advice I have for these establishments; the reinvestment in the business is critical. It is the starting point.  You cannot expect to attract customers and repeat business, if you do not take care of the basics: proper linen and towels.  Other recommendations include:

  1. Invest in training for owners, managers and employees
  2. Ensure quality control by having persons check that rooms are clean and everything is in order before a guests check –in
  3. Prepare a Check List which will serve as a prompt
  4. Marketing and promotion, however only after the establishment has been remodeled, restocked and service levels enhanced.
  5. Regular maintenance to ensure working equipment

 

 

Many of our Caribbean countries see tourism as the “savior of the economy,” however without enough quality accommodation stock, this will remain a dream and not a reality.  This means that the tourism related agencies, like our DiscoverDominica Authority, Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association and other related local organisations need to proactively manage this sector.  I am committed to work with these organisations in establishing and monitoring the standards for the accommodation establishments.  I tell you, I am sure I can be an assessor for rating these hotels for I have a test, which I apply every time I check in at a hotel, anywhere in the world.

 

I can be reached at info@vfinc.org or Tel: 449 9694

 

 

Until we meet again, May the Lord Continue to Keep Us in the Palm of your hands.

PROCRASTINATION

Procrastination! Putting off for tomorrow what we can do today.  We reason that we have time; that we can do it later; this is easy, we have this under control.   And as we reason, the work is undone, the visit and phone call does not happen.  The urgent matter remains undone and then we find ourselves working under pressure to complete.  Some of us claim that we work best under pressure, but do we really?

 

Procrastination affects all persons and Lay in his research in 1986 concluded that procrastination was independent of the need to achieve, energy and self esteem, thus one can be self confident, energetic go-getter and still procrastinate (Mind Tools).

 

 

How do we know that we are procrastinating?  Is it just because we have left a task for another day or completed a less urgent task before an urgent task?  Completing easy less urgent tasks first as a plan of getting them out of the way quickly to be able to have more time to complete the more urgent or important tasks may be a good strategy just as taking a break when physically or mentally tired.

 

Signs of procrastination include:

  1. Inability to focus on the tasks at hand, starting the task but stopping often so the tasks drags on
  2. Taking a break shortly after commencing the tasks and taking frequent breaks to either eat or walk about
  3. Spending too much idle time, example, spending hours on Facebook, watching TV or other tasks not aligned to completing the work to be completed
  4. Excessive daydreaming or spending long hours before the work but not working
  5. Engaging in long conversations or focusing on less urgent things knowing that time is of the essence

 

Why do we procrastinate?  Why do we leave things to the last minute and then scramble to finish? Some of the reasons include:

  1. An unpleasant task – something that has to be done but we do not like doing it
  2. Difficult task – sometimes we have a task that is complex and we have not figured out how to tackle it
  3. Depression – we may be depressed or anxious about something or where we are in our lives and in some cases, we are even unaware that we are depressed
  4. Overwhelmed by many tasks to complete – multitasking is often seen as a virtue however we can get overwhelmed when we have too many things to complete and procrastinate.
  5. Indecision – the inability to make a decision, to decide on the priorities
  6. Perfectionism – the strong desire to get the job done perfectly, we may procrastinate if we think we don’t have the skills or resources to get the job done perfectly
  7. Disorganisation – we lack organisation in our approach to work or our surroundings

 

Procrastination can be costly and the impact include:

  1. Compromised quality of work
  2. Loss of an opportunity
  3. Penalties for lateness
  4. Compromised health as we work long hours to complete or under tremendous stress, we do not exercise adequately and eat properly
  5. Imbalance in work-life – working long hours to complete a task may mean that we miss out on family events and spending quality time with our loved ones

 

What are some strategies to overcome procrastination?

 

  1. Set deadlines, including multiple deadlines for an assignment.  This means breaking up the project into several milestones and setting a deadline for each.  It is like celebrating small wins and each win serves as a motivator
  2. Set time-bound deadlines.  Be as specific as possible, e.g. this is to be completed by Monday April 7, rather than saying this will be completed in April
  3. Ask for help – If we are overwhelmed or feel we don’t have the competence or resources to complete a task, we should ask for help
  4. Change how you view a particular task – if we dislike doing a task, we need to begin to tell ourselves we love it.  We need to change our frame.
  5. Music can affect our moods so we should choose music to energise or motivate us to begin and complete the tasks
  6. Prepare a “To Do List” and regularly monitor it
  7. Organise work in smaller tasks to make them more manageable
  8. Learn to say “No” to unimportant things when we know we have an important deadline or a series of deadlines to meet

 

 

Procrastination is a habit developed over time and we need to break the cycle by recognosing when we are procrastinating and employing a strategy to break it.  We must consistently do so.  This week, if you find yourself procrastinating, call it and employ a strategy to get you back on track!

 

I can be contacted at info@vfinc.org or 767 449 9649

 

Until we meet again, May the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

LONELINESS AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE ELDERLY

I express my heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Clifford Albert Mendes, better known as Man Himself, and pray they find comfort in their wonderful memories and God’s Grace.  Man Himself got a sendoff befitting the life he lived…truly a life well-lived.

 

There will be a follow-up session to discuss the “National Gender Policy on Equality and Equity,” on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at the Fort Young Hotel from 10am to 1pm.  We extend a special invitation to men to attend so we can get their contributions.  Contact us at VF Inc via info@vfinc.org or 767 449 9649.

 

This week we focus on “Loneliness and its effects on the Elderly.”  I presented the Feature address on the topic at the REACH”s “Poor Person Dinner” on March 22, 2014 and reproduce the majority of the speech here.

 

When we say that we are lonely, what are we saying?  For some of us, we are saying we are bored, for some it is we do not have enough to keep us occupied, for some of us, we are feeling unloved, uncared for and for some of us we are saying that life is not worth living, we have lost hope, we feel like we are in a dark hole and cannot find our way back to the light.  This demonstrates that loneliness is on a spectrum, with the worst cases being those have lost hope.  When we lose hope, we are no longer living.  We just exist and these are the people who often commit suicide.

 

Most people, if not all, at some point or other will experience some feelings of loneliness, often at the lower end of the spectrum, however there are some people, especially the elderly who experience loneliness at the higher ends for prolong periods and for a high percentage, this occurrence comes with age.  The findings of a Ministry of Health and Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) study on the Health and Care of the Elderly in Dominica in 2009, revealed a high percentage of depression and chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCD) among the elderly.  The table below summarises the findings of the Survey:

 

 

FINDING PERCENTAGE
Feelings of uselessness and worthlessness 73% – This compares to 43 in the USA and 33% in Trinidad
Unable to meet daily expenses and necessities 72%
Suffer from a chronic non-communicable disease (CNCD) 90%
37% of the 90% suffer from diabetes
63% of the 90% suffer from hypertension
Remembers no items 34%
Remembers three items 38%
Own Home 89%
29% of the 89% has no running water and toilet facilities
Participate in no physical activities 63%
Females having pap smears 16%
Females doing breast self-exam 14%
Men participating in prostrate cancer screening 25%

 

This data reveals a 73% rate of loneliness among our elderly.  What is your reaction to this data?  Are you comfortable with it?  We Dominicans pride ourselves on our hospitality and love, so how then do we account for 73% of our elderly feeling useless and worthless?  What leads a person to feel useless and worthless?  A lack of love is my simple answer, however this answer masks many of the issues resulting in loneliness among the elderly.

 

My research reveals that this phenomenon is not unique to Dominica but a worldwide phenomenon caused in part by the increasing ageing of society with higher percentages of the population being over 6o, than before.  Some of the reasons gleaned from my research include:

 

  1. Poverty
  2. Worry about their income and the increasing cost of living
  3. Eating alone
  4. No or infrequent visits from family
  5. Uncaring families
  6. Busy life of family members including children
  7. Health issues
  8. Race in America as racial discrimination meant many were underemployed and lived a lifetime of poverty
  9. Not spending sufficient time over their lifetime with their family, especially for men, and in old age end up outside the tight family circle.
  10. Women who were typically the caregivers are now in paid employment, away from the home
  11. Meaningless/dysfunctional relationships – Studies in the US reveal that 2/3 of the people who reported being lonely are either married or living with a partner
  12. Absence of deep meaningful communication
  13. Loneliness is contagious – the behaviours of lonely people often discourages others from wanting to spend time with them

 

Another dimension to not spending sufficient time with our children during their lifetime is the message we give tour children.  Sometimes we tell our children that they are to live their lives and focus on getting ahead in life and if this is the message they have been taught, then when their parents become elderly, they may be at the building stage of their lives and they I also believe the way we raise our children are important.  Some

 

 

What impact can this have on the elderly?

 

  1. Depression and in come cases dementia and Alzheimer.
  2. Increasing poor health as they do not eat properly and the growing rise of non communicable chronic diseases among the elderly, diabetes and hypertension
  3. Risky behavior and increase in AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.  A study in 2010 by the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America found that elderly in Harlem’s housing project are at a higher risk of getting HIV than other places (1 in 38 vs. 1 in 100), in large part due to loneliness.
  4. Self mutilation
  5. Suicide

 

So now that we know the causes and effect of loneliness on the Elderly, what are we going to do about it?  Some solutions include:

 

  1. Families to care more for their elderly family, making arrangements for the elderly to have company for the most part of the day, or hiring caregivers and/or nurses to provide love, care and company.  The Bardouilles of Mahaut formed a twenty-four hour care program whereby there was also a child, grandchild or other family member with their mother while she was sick.  This was truly remarkable for their mother was in a vegetative state for at least five years.
  2. Build relationships during our lifetime with family and friends to ensure a circle of love and support in our old age
  3. Make our visit count – When you visit the Elderly, be present, not just in body but also in spirit.  Engage them in meaningful communication or be silently present if that is what is needed.  Give the cellphones a break – does it really count for a visit if you spend the majority of the time on your cellphone, talking, texting or playing games?  Show that you are happy to be there, that you are there out of love and not obligation.  Demonstrate your love.
  4. Document their stories so we can learn from their vast experiences while at the same time giving them the opportunity to share and meaningfully contribute.
  5. Obtain their advice; place them on advisory committees or boards.  Many elderly persons are in good health, are of sound mind and have so much on events.  Elderly
  6. Associations of the Elderly to engage in programs and activities that provide stimulation for the elderly
  7. Day care centres and Homes for the elderly to provide them with activity and purpose
  8. Intergeneration communication to be encouraged so that children and young persons spend time with the elderly, providing a mentoring/caring relationship.  Natasha Jervier, one of our Youth Ambassadors, plan for the “Bridging the Generation Gap; Adopt a Grandchild” should be given support by the DCOA, REACH and the Gov’t
  9. Live-in communities whereby the elderly, who are still independent and healthy, with no one to care for them, can live in community.

 

The only commandment with a promise is “Honour your mother and father so that your days may be long.”  Let us honour our parents and show more love, respect and honour to our elderly members of society.  I commend the many persons and groups who have made it their mission to care for the elderly.  This includes REACH,

St. Vincent, The Paul Society, DCOA, Yes, We Care, DNCW, Mrs. Ignatia Pascal of Grandbay

 

Until we meet again, May the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands!

IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

Happy 8th Anniversary to VF Inc!  I give God all the thanks, praise and glory for his favour over the last eight years and pray his continued favour over us in the coming years.  I thank my employees, past and present, associate consultants, strategic partners, clients, PCWS and Youth Series participants, parents and guardians of Youth Series participants, suppliers and all those who have walked with us over the years and pray for their continued support in the coming years.  I give you Thanks!  I also say Happy Birthday to Raschida as she celebrates an important milestone.  May the Lord continue to shower her with his blessings and may she walk resolutely towards her purpose.  Raschi, Blessings, Blessings and Much Love!  Happy International Women’s Day to all women and pray for our continued economic, social and political advancement for the benefit of our nations.

Today, the topic, “In Pursuit of Excellence,” is not a review of the book of the same name by Terry Orlick, though it will draw reference from it.  Last week, the calls for King Dice to step down after winning the calypso monarchy for the seventh time to allow others the chance to win the crown disturbed me.  Instead of focusing on the feat, never before achieved by anyone in Dominica, and giving King Dice the praise and recognition due, it appeared our focus was meant on denigrating the young man.   This prompted some research on Trinidad calypso for I am sure many who are calling for him to step aside after only about eleven years in the calypso ring, are great fans of the Mighty Sparrow, Chalkdust, as well as other artists, from the region and internationally who have competed and performed over several decades.

My research revealed that Mighty Sparrow, known as “Calypso King of the World,” won the monarchy eight times, the road match crown eight times and twice “King of Kings.”  He first competed for the calypso monarchy in 1954, won his first crown in 1956 and his last crown in 1992, achieving a three-peat from 1972-1974.  This is a thirty-eight year span.  During that time, he toured extensively and produced many albums having signed with RCA records.  My research did not reveal but I am confident that during that time none called for Mighty Sparrow to step down because he had won enough, toured enough, recorded enough or was popular enough, and he should give others a chance.

Mighty Sparrow is not the only Trinidadian calypsonian to achieve eight crowns.  Chalkdust, the school principal and later university professor began singing calypso in 1967 and in 2009 earned his eighth crown, matching Mighty Sparrow’s record.  He won his first crown in 1976.  He never achieved a three-peat though he successfully defended his crown twice in 1977 and in 2005.  He won Carifesta in 1976, World Calypso King in St. Thomas eight times and Calypso King of the World in New York twice.  He has recorded over 300 calypsos.

In Trinidad and the Caribbean, these two men are celebrated.  I don’t think anyone would say it is time for them to retire to give others a chance.  Mighty Sparrow held his last performance in January 2014 in New York, after recovering from a coma late in 2013.  I know many Dominicans prayed for his recovery and mourned when it was rumoured he died last year.  The show from reports was well attended.  People were just so happy he survived.  I am confident that not all of Mighty Sparrow and Chalkdust wins were popular and there were times when they were not crowned that people felt they should have been crowned.  Once there is a competition, there will always be a segment, no matter how small, who believes someone else should have won.  However, as we all know the judges’ decision is final, and we accept and move on.

The talents and gifts of Mighty Sparrow and Chalkdust were recognized early, long before they had won seven crowns and every effort was made to provide them with regional and international exposure, hence the reason they are household names.  An oft-heard criticism is that King Dice cannot compete elsewhere, however, in all honesty, what efforts have been expended to provide King Dice with regional or international exposure?   Another criticism is that his material is limited to the Dominican context.   I have asked Pat Aaron, the writer for the lyrics of all of King’s Dice’s song so I can do an analysis and thereby determine the veracity of this claim.  An even more repeated claim is that King Dice does not write his songs, so he is not a true calypsonian.  How many of Mighty Sparrow songs did he pen?  Another criticism is about King Dice the person.  Truth is many who make these complaints do not know him personally.  And while it is true in the early years of King Dice’s entry into the ring, there were many reported cases of bad behavior, there has been a marked improvement but instead of focusing on that and encouraging him to be better, every effort is being made to bring him back to the old days.  Doesn’t he deserve a second chance?

These attacks led me to reflect on the words of Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.”  I think people are afraid of King Dice’s Light.  I say to King Dice to not be afraid of your Light, your Gift with which God has blessed you and do not let others’ fear cause you to diminish or extinguish your Light.  You must keep shining brighter, embrace the role and responsibilities that come with that gift and thus liberate others to be their best.  I say to those who want King Dice to step down, don’t fear his Light and Gift instead encourage him to be his best self, while working on being your best self.

King Dice is not invincible.  Hunter dethroned him in 2007 and denied him a four-peat.  Tasha P denied him the opportunity to regain the crown on his re-entry into the arena after a two-year hiatus when she won the crown and became Dominica’s first female monarch in 2011.   King Dice ensures the others up their game.  Karessah, Hunter, The Bobb, Webb and the others know he is a formidable competitor and they have to put their best feet forward to dethrone him, hence the reason for all the showmanship and performance we see from them, enhancing the standard of the Show.

This brings me back to my topic, “In Pursuit of Excellence,” what does it mean?  Excellence is defined as a “talent or quality that is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards,” (Wikipedia).   In other words, it is extra-ordinary, outstanding.  Terry Orlick defines it as reaching your full potential.  In other words it is being your best.   Orlick book is subdivided in four segments: 1) Envisioning Excellence; 2) Preparing the Mind for Excellence; 3) Building Towards Excellence and 4) Realising Excellence.  He writes about the Wheel of Excellence and identifies seven critical elements:

  1. Focus – This is the core.  We have to envision what we want and focus on it.  It is keeping our eyes on the prize and in so doing we determine what we need to do to achieve our goal.  We are prepared to do the work and walk the walk and walk the talk.  We are not interested in taking shortcuts.  We are prepared to do all that is needed and necessary to achieve our goal and realise our vision.
  2. Commitment – We have to be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve that goal and realise the vision.  We have to be disciplined.  This will mean having to give up something and sometimes some people who are hindrances to the attainment of our goals.  We need to look for buoys and stay away from anchors.  This also means surrounding ourselves with positive energy and people and being positive and optimistic, while being conscious of the realities.
  3. Mental Readiness – We have to be mentally prepared and mentally strong.  This will help us to discern what is needed to ensure our decisions are the right ones.  Obstacles and naysayers will not daunt us.  We will persevere in the face of opposition and challenges and see the opportunities they disguise.
  4. Positive Image – We need to not only think positive, we have to live positively so that our lives present the example for others.
  5. Confidence – Belief and confidence in God and in self are important for us to excel.  We have to know and believe that we have the abilities and gift to undertake the task at hand.  That confidence is sometimes mistaken for arrogance
  6. Distraction Control – There are so many things to distract us from our vision and our goal, to steal our focus, and we have to employ strategies to keep them at bay.  Commitment and mental readiness are key tools to control distraction.
  7. Ongoing Learning – This is critical for excellence; this is why it is often referred to as a commitment to excellence.  We recognise that the world is constantly changing and we need to stay abreast of the changes that may impact the attainment of our vision.

I think King Dice displays many of the traits above and this may hold the key to his success.  I think the Dominica Calypso Association, Dominica Festival Commission and Showdown Mas Camp need to work together to ensure that King Dice realizes his full potential in and out of Dominica, that he builds on his strengths and works toward eliminating his weaknesses, providing the support and encouragement needed to be his best self and continue his pursuit of excellence.  We, the public, need to acknowledge his gift, give him his flowers and encourage him to use his gift wisely.

King Dice, too, has a key role to play.  He has to recognise and accept that with these seven crowns come a great responsibility and to whom much is given, much is expected.  God has blessed him with a tremendous gift and he has to continue to use it wisely, be a role model for the youth of the land and to share his gift and talent with others, especially the youth.  He has to multiply his talents, shine his light brightly from the mountaintop and not hidden under the bushel, thus giving glory to God and permission to others to shine brightly in their world, so that he will be commended as “the good and faithful servant.”   I pray God’s continued blessings and favour on this young man.

I can be reached at info@vfinc.org or Tel: 767 449 9649.

Until we meet again, may God continue to hold us in the Palm of His Hands.