Gees/Ubuntu… what I learned about leadership from the Springboks

I am a proud Panamanian who was blessed with the opportunity to live in South Africa for almost 4 years as an expat and can say that understanding their national identity was confusing in the beginning, interesting during the process and fulfilling when I felt like a South African. Nothing that you learn about South Africa and Mr. Mandela from overseas can prepare you for this magnificent experience. I have never seen any group of people with so many differences coming together for one common goal: The Rugby World Cup. After experiencing the Springboks (this is what they call the South African rugby national team) winning the 2019 World Cup, every little piece of knowledge about the country’s identity came together and taught me a great lesson about leadership.

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Grow… A story about building a personal brand

Several years ago, I was undergoing a coaching certification training course that had an important and continues to have an important impact on my continuous evolution. During this time, I was introduced to a statement that took me some years to digest: We are responsible for everything that happens to us. Then I realized that for most of my life I have been playing victim and making other people responsible for my own tragedies. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that we can control everything that happens to us, but I do believe that we have more control over our lives than we acknowledge. One crucial part of attracting good into our life is to develop a personal brand. Over the years, I have been reflecting on this and found words that are commonly associated with a good personal brand. Words like driver, leader, reliable, efficient, effective and getting things done. I would invest great effort into adding these words to my personal brand.

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Work on strengths or weaknesses?… A story about finding your passion.

I grew up in a big family and our mother worked during the day and at night she went to college.  A true example of dedication and passion for what she believed in.  So, you can imagine that there was little time for her to investigate what each of her 4 sons were passionate about. We all went to baseball summer league, boy scouts, karate and were part of the swimming team.  I did not enjoy most of them but staying at home in front of the television was not an option.  My mom believed in hard work and if you were not good at something, hard work would pay off.  And it did but I did not enjoy it. As I got older and started making my own decisions, I did not pursue any of those activities. I only realised years later the benefits of my mother pushing us to be dedicated to everything we did.

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Why Not? A story about those who dare to be different…

Over the years I have had the wonderful opportunity of facilitating brainstorming sessions.  One of my favourite tools to use, is Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats Method.  Our behaviour, not our words, is the reflection of who we are.  Six Thinking Hats is a brilliant tool to structure in an objective way to include the input from the individuals participating in the session and can give insight into the reflection of their personalities.  The method refers to six hats that when we “wear them” we are obligated to think in a specific way.  The blue hat is the leader hat that will control the discussion and the ground rules (only the facilitator will wear this hat during the entire exercise), the white hat requires pure objectivity and data driven comments, the red hat is our emotions and how we feel about the exercise, the yellow hat is for positive thinking, the black hat is for negative thinking or challenges we encounter during the solution process and the green hat is for innovative thinking or often referred to as “out of the box thinking”.

What follows are a few social conclusions that I have found in this exercise that relates to the teams’ general behaviour.

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Do Better!… A story of who you can become.

 

I am a proud Panamanian. We are happy people that generally like to have a good time.  We usually tend to disconnect from our reality by partying over the weekend.  We are in essence, positive by nature.  Recently, Panama qualified for their first FIFA World Cup.  Our performance during this tournament was more than disappointing, but we were the happiest fans in Russia!  Other countries lost in the semi-finals and it was considered a national tragedy.  This Panamanian way will definitely make our lives more enjoyable but won’t create radical changes needed to take us out of a third world mindset and stop the corruption cycle that has been the trademark of our governments going back decades.

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What You Think You Deserve vs. What You Have Earned. A Tale about Hard Work

I was resting before my next fight during my latest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament when a mother of one of the kids, who was competing in the children’s competition,  approached me, looking quite desperate, looking for feedback she told me that she needed my help.  Her son had just lost his first fight against a more skillful kid and she insisted on showing me the video of her son’s fight to see if I could give her tips on how to improve his technique.  Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a sport that does not believe in talent. One improves by training constantly. There is no secret formula for overnight improvement, just like life.  I looked at her and noticed that she was very concerned and recommended that she should have a talk with her son’s coach to understand the process and let him take care of his progress.  She replied, “I want to help him but I do not know how”.  I am also a father and completely understood her position.  We do not want our kids to go through unnecessary hardship.

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Execution and Extreme Ownership The DIG/SET/SPIKE Principle

 

Over the last 2 years, I have been blessed with the wonderful opportunity to lead an operational execution team and we have managed to put together a group of fine professionals. They combine knowledge and experience but also curiosity for improvement and a hunger for growth. It has reached a point where we need to stop and look around and reflect. The conclusion I have reached is that we dedicate ourselves to execute plans that are being handed to us… right?  More reflection is needed to find the real purpose:  We hold in our hands the service delivery promise to our clients. Suddenly a job with no apparent complexity has become one with the highest possible stakes.

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The “H” Factor

 

The Journey of Digitalization

In the last six months, I have been involved in the journey of digitalization. I am very passionate about it as there is no limit to what can be achieved when a large group of professionals get together and commit themselves to do things that have not been done before in the shipping business.  However, this journey also brings an opportunity to start thinking about the role of humans in this process.

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Never Touch a Painting when it’s Wet – A Story About Constant Care…

 

 

This article is about constant care and the maturing process. When I started working in shipping I wanted to work in operational execution.  I applied so many times and never got the opportunity.  I overheard a manager make a comment about me once: “He doesn’t have the required emotional intelligence to work in operations”.  That did not make me feel very happy.  Then I experienced the greatest motivational drive for me, that stubborn feeling when someone tells me that I cannot do something.  It took me years and several applications to finally get to where I wanted to be.  I was offered the wonderful opportunity of leading a team overseas.

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Our Imperfections Keep us Alive

 

Working as a health coach was by far one of most the most meaningful growth experiences in my life.  It gave me the opportunity to drive changes in my athletes that would have a positive impact on their lives.  For each one of them, the path would be different depending on the WHAT, the HOW and the WHY.  WHAT they wanted to accomplish, HOW they would do it and WHY they wanted to do it.  In order to move forward with the plan, the WHY has to be completely understood and to achieve this your senses have to be open for patterns and traits that are the reflection of the person.  These patterns and traits are often referred to as imperfections.  We look at these imperfections as things that are difficult to move away from but are apart of us but need to be changed.  No wonder we perceive this path as a struggle.

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