Your life will not go un-witnessed


Reblogged from: Andrea Tan LP119

Over the weekend, a group of friends and myself worked together to put up an event for children from a children’s shelter. The event involved a cookery class and mini-master chef competition, with photography sessions in between. They came for the event unsure, afraid and shut off from the world. These were kids that did not feel wanted or loved, not simply shy.

Halfway through the event, they slowly started opening up. The next thing I knew, they were talking to us, asking opinions about their cooking, checking to see what we were doing with a particular item, asking for tips on how to operate the stove or the cameras. Most importantly, they were laughing, joking and reaching out volunteering to connect to the adults around.

If you had seen how a spark came on on someone’s face, imagine that lighting up on 20 children’s faces. Children, who thought themselves that the spark had died out a long time ago. The miraculous change was breath-taking and I wondered what had come together, in this simple event, for this to happen. It certain wasn’t the event schedule, the capital outlay, the preparation time – 18 of us spent 4 weeks planning.

It could have been about:

  • The VIP welcome we gave forming two rows of cheering adults all the way to the venue
  • The volunteer professional chefs (including a celebrity chef) and professional photographers (including an award winning photographer) patiently showing the ropes and enpowering the kids
  • Calling them ‘trainee chefs and photographers’ instead of just ‘kids’
  • Empowering them with skills to that they can take away (cooking & photography)
  • Respecting them by giving them T-shirts & aprons as a ‘uniform’
  • Treating them as equals
  • The spontaneous outpour of generosity, like a volunteer chef touched at a particular child’s eagerness to cook, and ended up giving him his professional uniform to keep the child inspired
  • Authenticity

Or maybe it was just about …

Being a witness:

Susan Sarandon’s character spoke about her marriage with Richard Gere’s charater in the movie Shall We Dance: “Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.” Of course, she was speaking specifically about a marriage and why the connection matters.

Though, it struck me as essential in all human connection. That why the magic works, between friends, families, parents and children, teachers and students, colleagues, strangers – is that people want to matter. And without the theatrics, a simple act of showing, in your own way, that you will be a witness for this other person. You will be a witness to them. Because they matter.

And that, is the difference it makes.

Fighting Fit by Kanishka Sinha (AW Associate)

A team cannot perform at its peak unless its members are willing to fight with one another.
High performing teams subject their discussions to Darwininan laws of survival – only the fittest suggestions are allowed to survive. This only happens when raw, unfiltered debate is the norm.
It is rare that everybody will agree on the final answer on a complex issue. If they did it wouldn’t be complex. In a highly functioning team, team members understand this. Since they have been willing to argue their opinions and hear those of others, they are willing to commit to the final decision even if it is at odds with their own point of view. Harmony and consensus are over rated. Great team players are willing to ‘disagree and commit’.
But in order to live happily in this sort of a performance culture, the members have to have an extremely high level of trust in one another. People in these sorts of teams believe that if someone is arguing with them, it is not to make them look bad, but because they want to get to the best solution for the team. And they believe that if they challenge someone else, that person will not take it as a personal attack, but as an invitation to look deeper and check their assumptions.
The conventional view is that you can only risk being honest with people you trust. Our point of view is that the causality works the other way around – if you risk being honest with people, you create trust. And you will only be willing to take that risk if you really care.
Do you care enough about your team to learn how to fight with them?

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AsiaWorks Newletter March 2013

The Plane Truth – by Kanishka Sinha, AsiaWorks Associate, India

In his book ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell relates the case study of how Korean airlines turned around their safety record.

Between 1988 and 1998 Korean airlines had a loss rate of 4.79 per million departures – 17 times higher than a typical American carrier like United Airlines over the same period. It was one of the most infamous safety records in the world and became a source of national shame. However since 1999 its safety record is spotless and in 2006 it was given the Phoenix Award by Air Transport World in recognition of its transformation.

David Greenberg, who was hired to turn things around, made one crucial but puzzling change – he incurred huge training costs and changed the language of conversation of the pilots and crew to English. It was mandated that they speak to each other in a language they were uncomfortable with.

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