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The Many Faces of the Teacher 2009 [Presentation Thursdays] July 29, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Presentations, The Daily Grind.
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If you’ve looked through the work-related presentations I’ve posted on this blog, you’d have noticed that Bato Balani Foundation has an advocacy campaign called “The Many Faces of the Teacher” that we’ve been staging every year since 2004. In broad strokes, it’s a campaign where we seek to find exemplary educators in the Philippines, individuals who are not simply good at teaching but role models for future educators because of their devotion to their calling.

It turns out that tomorrow we’ll be convening our advocacy review board to select the 2010 batch of honorees for the campaign. Since I have to make a presentation for that session, I thought it appropriate to post here the slide deck that I prepared last year introducing the 2009 batch of honorees (actually, for tomorrow I’ll just be modifying this presentation slightly to make my life a little easier):


View this presentation on Slideshare.

It might interest some of you to know that at the press conference this was prepared for, I never got to use the presentation. There was a mix-up with the arrangements and the staff at the technical booth ended up loading a backup slide deck that was prepared in case I didn’t have one ready. Such things happen, of course, so at the very least I get to post this deck here for posterity.

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Trust July 26, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Show and Tell, The Daily Grind.
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Dad likes to say that when it comes to placing his trust in the people he hires, he does so either completely or not at all.

That’s it. Either a person is trusted or (s)he’s not. There’s no in between, no such thing as “I trust them seventy percent of the time”, no room for “I trust you, but…”

He’s right of course.

I came up with the graphic above while thinking about this. No particular reason; I just thought it captured the concept succinctly.

Would also look good on a T-shirt, methinks.

Balanced Budget July 23, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Show and Tell, The Daily Grind.
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Or to put it simply:

  1. Don’t spend, if you can avoid it.
  2. Spend within your means, if you must spend at all.
  3. Spend wisely by spending on what you need.

Easy in theory, but often hard to do in practice.

GTD July 20, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews, The Daily Grind.
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Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free ProductivityFor a while, a running joke between the wife and me involved my asking her, “Are you finished with Getting Things Done?”

The wife had picked up David Allen’s book at the mall while killing time a few months back, and when she did I was excited. I knew of the book. I was aware that it espoused a productivity system that was in vogue and that many people swear by. As such, I wanted to read it.

Yet she could never find the time to finish reading the book.

Of course, this amused me to no end. I understood, though: between all the things the wife take cares of when she’s at home, she could only devote so much time to the book. But as a joke, it’s priceless. Can’t finish reading GTD? Epic fail!

Then came my turn with the book, and the wife’s revenge: I got through even less of the book than she did before giving up in frustration.

I realize that GTD can be (and has been!) helpful to a lot of people. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t read particularly well. It has about as much personality as a strip of cardboard and lacks a fundamental characteristic that would immediately create buy-in among it’s readers: it isn’t sticky. The Heath brothers hit the nail on the head that messages work best because they are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, have emotion and are told with stories. Getting Things Done — the book — has hardly any of these elements, and one would think that the best way to describe how to implement the system would be to tell vivid success stories. Alas, there are hardly any. I’d argue that this makes all the difference.

Thus things stand. Is GTD a good system? Yes. Is the book particularly helpful? Maybe — if you’ve the patience and it’s your thing, or perhaps if there were a seminar to accompany it. Otherwise, be prepared for something that reads like a manual, if not a shopping list.

But should you take the plunge, and feel the same way I do, remember my words: “Epic fail!”

Rework July 11, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews, The Daily Grind.
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ReworkMy copy of Rework has the subtitle “Change the Way You Work Forever”. An audacious claim, to be sure, and one I feel authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have fallen short of — but not for lack of trying.

It’s an interesting enough book, suited to casual reading on a short airplane trip given its length and subject matter (I bought mine at the airport). Yet I hesitate to agree that it’s as groundbreaking as some of its adherents say. Granted, some thoughts in the book caught my attention and put into perspective how we do things at the office. Notwithstanding this, I felt mostly lukewarm about Rework, finding it without nearly as much wit or insight to offer as its authors intended.

For some strange reason, it seems to me that Ignore Everybody is the book that Rework was trying to be but couldn’t. Admittedly the comparison is unfair, but that was the thought going through my head while reading it.

Change This has a condensed version of the book in manifesto format. It’s worth having a gander, and owing to its brevity may even be better than the book, particularly for those unsure about adding Rework to their shelves.

Life Is July 8, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Ramblings, The Daily Grind.
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Life is good.

Life is hard.

Life is cruel.

Life is unfair.

Life is complicated.

Life is a mystery.

Life is messy.

Life is sweet.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

Life is about the journey, not the destination.

(Life is about the destination, too, actually.)

Life is what happens while you’re making plans.

Life is what you make of it.

Life is a grand adventure.

Life is all the colors of the rainbow.

Life is a gift.

Life is fragile.

Life is delicate.

Life is precious.

Life is sacred.

Life is beautiful.

Life is.

CSR Presentation (BBFI) [Presentation Thursdays] June 17, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Presentations, The Daily Grind.
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Lately, I’ve had to do talks about corporate social responsibility (CSR) on behalf of the Bato Balani Foundation (BBFI). Here’s the presentation I put together for this purpose:


View this presentation on Slideshare.

The idea was to get the audience’s attention with a much more visual presentation, and talk about CSR using what BBFI does by way of example. Overall, I think it’s a better way for people to get to know the Foundation than, say, a straightforward corporate presentation, even if this meant I ended up reusing some photos for this slide deck.

Some notes:

  • Slides 2-7 make the case that perspectives on CSR have changed, using Milton Friedman’s (disputed) quote from Capitalism and Freedom as a jumping off point. In the interest of fair disclosure, I found the image of Friedman using Google image search (apparently, many versions have made the rounds on the internet). Obviously, the design on a couple of these slides have been repurposed from my dissertation proposal presentation.
  • Slides 10-13: BBFI was founded in 1991 and was named after Bato Balani for Science and Technology, the bestselling high school science magazine published by Diwa Learning Systems. Having said that, BBFI is actually the corporate foundation of a family of corporations, of which Diwa is part.
  • Slide 20: Collaterals for BBFI’s The Many Faces of the Teacher advocacy. I actually prepared a presentation for this that was never used. But that’s another story.
  • Slides 27-30: A tree planting project of Diwa, arising from the awareness that the company uses up a lot of paper as a publisher of printed material.
  • Slides 31-37: Following typhoon Ondoy (a.k.a. Ketsana), our balikbayan box forwarding company AFreight got involved in the relief efforts of the Filipino community in Hong Kong and Singapore. In Hong Kong, AFreight shipped relief goods to the Philippines on behalf of the Bayanihan Trust at no cost. Meanwhile, in Singapore, AFreight was designated a center by the Philippine Ambassador, and also shipped donations to DSWD and ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya at no cost. In each case, I believe that this amounted to one container of relief goods.
  • Slides 39-43: Here’s a story about months after the typhoon. Realizing that for many of its client schools teachers still hadn’t received enough relief goods, Diwa and BBFI put together bags of rice and canned goods to be distributed to teachers. These were delivered using our distribution network, and in the end made it to the hands of 1,125 teachers from 61 schools (many of whom were so happy that they made it a point to pose for pictures with the bags!)
  • Slide 44: BBFI will celebrate its 20th year anniversary in 2011. My how time flies!

[About Presentation Thursdays: Every now and then, on a Thursday, I post a presentation from my archives and include some accompanying commentary not just about the content but also my thoughts on designing it. The presentations can also be viewed and downloaded from my Slideshare page]

Avoid Failure #2 May 24, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in The Daily Grind.
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There are two kinds of failure.

The first we’re all familiar with: you try, you fail. Maybe the idea was inane. Maybe you tried your hardest but luck wasn’t on your side. Maybe the deck was really stacked against you. Regardless, it stings to have stuck your neck out that way, to leave yourself vulnerable like that, to open the door for people to laugh at you, and ultimately fail.

The second we’re also familiar with. It’s when we think about all that could go wrong when faced with a new opportunity that we’re blinded to what can go right. It’s when we’re prodded to get out of our comfort zones and in the process see crisis, calamity and disaster. It’s when you decide against running because you imagine how hard the course is going to be. It’s when you forego sending in your resume because you decide you don’t have a shot. It’s when you opt not to bet on your business idea because in your mind’s eye that business you haven’t even started has already gone bankrupt.

The former hurts but it’s the latter that’s really fatal: failure before you’ve even tried. Its nothing more than anxiety, which Seth Godin acutely describes as merely failure experienced in advance. It’s self-defeating: give in to anxiety and it will suck out your very will to succeed.

Nobody likes to fail. But worse than failure is never having even tried.

Life Balance Sheet May 21, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Ramblings, Show and Tell, The Daily Grind.
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Click the image to embiggen. Just a little something that came to mind. I’d say it’s worth thinking about.

I’m not an accountant, so if anyone has suggestions how to improve it (besides working on my handwriting), let me know.

Willing and Able May 3, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Show and Tell, The Daily Grind.
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My dad likes to use the above diagram when he gets philosophical about hiring and working with people. It’s not too hard to figure out, but it is a helpful framework for businesses.

Strictly speaking, dad has only two criteria for hiring: a.) he must like the candidate in question and b.) the candidate must be capable of doing the job. After all, there’s no point hiring someone you don’t want to work with, and if the person can’t get the job done anyway, pretty soon you won’t much like him/her.

Having said that, evaluating a person’s performance boils down to both attitude and aptitude; that is to say, their willingness and ability to do what they were hired to do. As the diagram describes, people tend to fall into any one of the four categories:

  • Willing and Able. These are the best people to work with and, by definition, are or can be assets to the organization, and thus are very much worth keeping. (Top-left box.)
  • Unwilling and Unable. Yes, there are such people. Let’s face it: sometimes people apply for a job they don’t particularly want or aren’t even qualified for. Whatever the reason, these kinds of people should be avoided at all costs; but if they happen to make their way into an organization, odds are they won’t last for long. (Bottom-right box.)
  • Able yet Unwilling. Some people are very talented and quite qualified, yet just don’t have the motivation to do a job well, if at all. (Top-right box.)
  • Willing yet Unable. On the other hand, there are those who simply do not have the skill set required to get the job done, yet are deeply committed to trying as hard as they can.

Of the four, the first two are the easiest to pass judgment on. Managers should hire and work to keep people that are willing and able; meanwhile, it’s inevitable that anyone unwilling and unable will fall by their own weight at some point.

However, the hardest to pass judgment on are the “yets”: the able yet unwilling and the willing yet unable. Consider the former: it’s tempting to think that with the right attitude adjustment or the right incentives (carrot or stick), such individuals might still be useful to an organization. This may work for a time. But at some point it will be much more attractive to simply look for persons willing and able to do the job rather than pull teeth working with someone able yet unwilling.

On the other hand, willing yet unable people are a conundrum. Such individuals can be the most committed and the most motivated to the organization but have are unfortunately outclassed (or Peter-principled) and fumble the tasks they’re assigned. Can they be trained to be better? Maybe, or at least up to a point. They’re like the walking wounded (as dad calls them): though raring for battle, sometimes it’s for their own good to stay on the sidelines.

Of course, there’s a larger point to all this. Inasmuch as the above is a useful framework for managers to evaluate staff or job candidates, it is equally useful to ask ourselves the question: in which box do we belong?