PMI’s International Development CoP Member Spotlight – Afif Tabsh, PMP, CBAP

Dear Friends,

I’m glad to share with you the below interview/article written about me and published in Project Management Institute (PMI’s) International Development Community of Practice. Link to the official article on PMI’s website for PMI Members is here.

Enjoy the below and let me know what you think,

Afif

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International Development CoP Member Spotlight

Afif Tabsh, PMP, CBAP
Consultant & Trainer at CMCS – Cofounder & President at Aie Serve
Lebanon

About Afif
As a management consultant and trainer at CMCS Lebanon I assist corporations and NGOs in Strategic Planning, Process Improvement, Human Capital Management, Project & Program Management and Leadership. 

I’m especially interested in the fields of Youth Empowerment, Diversity & Acceptance, Leadership, NGO & SME Management, Social Entrepreneurship, Coaching & Consultancy, and Training Techniques.

I’ve participated, organized, trained and was a guest speaker in numerous conferences, camps, workshops, conventions and seminars under Aie Serve, PMI, UNDP, UNESCO, Rotary, Youth Economic Forum, AUB Alumni Council, Arab Economic Form, LAU Peace & Justice Institute among others.

What Does International Development Mean to You?
With our growing interconnected world, global diversity is becoming a key topic on discussion panels as people from all walks of life are becoming interconnected with each other, do business together, volunteer for similar causes, even though they might be thousands of miles away.

Thus respecting differences and accepting the other has become a crucial factor of successful projects, programs and organizations at large, worldwide.

What Are You Most Passionate About?
I’m very passionate about professional volunteering, this has been reflected through the NGOs and clubs I have founded and others that I’m engaged in at the Board level.

Who Is Your Hero & Why?
My biggest hero so far has been my father who was able to balance a very busy life as a doctor with his passion for serving the community and promoting active citizenship along with taking care of his family and private life.

What Is One Strategy for Inclusion that You Can Share?
One of my best strategies is believing in the potential of individuals and focusing on respecting the differences, accepting the other and loving them for their humanity. Every person has a lot of potential to give, it’s just a matter of taking your time to understand them and see things from their perspective, know what they are good at and put it to work. When working in teams, it proves to be the best tool to really utilize the full potential of the team, as you don’t point fingers at them or have a prejudgment that they are incapable, but rather start from the preposition that they have the potential and you’re just there to uncover it.

What Exciting Projects, Programs or Portfolios Are Your Working On? 
I’m currently working on 4 very exciting programs in the volunteer youth NGO I’m leading called Aie Serve (www.AieServe.org – http://www.Facebook.com/AieServe). The programs are:

  • Aie Power – Platform for Youth to Transfer Project Ideas into Reality
  • Aie Consult – Incubator & Consultancy Program for Youth Led NGOs
  • Aie Skills – Training Program to Empower Youth with Soft, Life and Managerial skills
  • Aie Clubs – Network of Youth Lead Clubs in Universities and Local Areas that do Community Development, Service and Awareness Activities

What Is Your Favorite Book & Author?
I have 3 favorite books:

  • Who Moved My Cheese
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us 

What Have You Done to Change the World? What Will Your Legacy Be?
One of my proudest achievements is Aie Serve, I cannot say enough about it. I co-founded the organization 6 years ago with a group of friends from all walks of life, different countries, different majors, different ethnicity and different interests but with a shared vision: Serving The Community. From there it grew from a group of friends, to a team and an organization.

The true value of Aie Serve is not just what it does, but the fact that it is run completely by volunteers and the way it is managed internally. The core values of the organization drive it, and drive its programs and way of work. Those core values are simple, yet powerful as they make the way to move forward simple and straight forward.

Our values are: Respect, Acceptance & Love. 

Respecting others’ point of views and beliefs no matter what, accepting differences and considering them the seeds of diversity and finally, loving others for who they are, and not for their background, ethnicity, beliefs, colour or economic status.

If You Weren’t In Project Management, What Would You Be Doing?
If I wasn’t in project management I would be in the field of talent or human capital management. I believe working with, developing, empowering, and supporting people is absolutely crucial for everything we do in this world. Human potential is infinite, thus those who know how to tap into it, grow it and sustain it, will lead success.

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Guest Writer: “Effective Communication: Guidelines & Tips” by Dania Dbaibo Darwish

Dear Reader,

As posted earlier, I’m hosting exceptional guest writers on my blog to share some of their experiences, knowledge and perspective that are worth shedding light on.

In this context, my second guest writer is Mrs. Dania Dbaibo Darwish a holder of a BBA & an MA in Psychology from AUB. She is an Associate Certified Professional Life & Career Coach, a Certified Master level NLP practitioner, a Certified Hypnotherapist, & a trained Counselor. She has a background career in Sales & Marketing of consumer goods; & as a Psychology instructor at AUB.  For several years now, she runs her own practice at Coaching Your 3Ps (Personal & Professional Progress) as a Coach, Counselor, Hypnotherapist, & Trainer. Dania is the founding president of the Lebanese Coach Association (LCA) & is very active in other NGOs. She’s known for her dynamic & positive personality.

To get to know her better check:  Website || Blog || LinkedIn || Twitter || YouTube || Facebook  || Pinterest

Enjoy the read!

Afif

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You all learned how to talk, but did you all learn how to communicate effectively? Effective and positive communication is an advanced skill that requires your conscious practice and effort until it is mastered. It serves living harmoniously with others, persuading, and influencing family, friends, and colleagues on the job. Once you know few secrets about proper communication, your chances of succeeding in all life domains grow up exponentially. Furthermore, your internal voice will frequently be screaming “Victoryyyy!” in major disagreements as you remain totally agreeable to your counterparts. All it takes is entering the mindset of the person(s) you’re communicating with, and then positively bringing them to your own. As a first step, here are some few guiding essentials for casual conversations, interactions, requests, arguments, or confrontations:

Build rapport: Subtly match and mirror the person you’re talking with (i.e. get in the rhythm of the way they’re speaking, body posture, use of language, etc….). Generally, people who are like each other tend to like each other, so do your best to synchronize your way with theirs.

Listen (don’t just hear): We have two ears and one mouth mainly to listen twice as much as we speak. Instead of mentally rehearsing your next argument, actively listen to what really matters to the other person. Their needs will be your guide to satisfy instead of deviating off-topic.

Words, tone, and body language: In the famous Mehrabian study, these turned out to have an effect of 8%, 37%, and 55% respectively. Never underestimate, therefore, the profound effects of the silent messages behind your unspoken words. It’s “how” you say things that gives much more meaning.

Address them by name often: You’ll be reaching out for their most prominent identity and softly caressing their ego each time. It will sound like flattery.

Maintain eye contact: This ensures you’re retaining connection. It gives the message that you’re interested in what they’re saying and that they’re heard. Remember how it feels when you’re talking to someone and they look away or roll their eyes? Yes…. Utterly disrespectful!

Empathize: Use your interpersonal intelligence and the ability to be in the other person’s shoes to identify with their feeling, ideas, and situation. Ask yourself: what is it like to be in their position. Paraphrase what they’re saying when you can. This conveys that they’re well understood.

Always ask good questions: You can always direct the flow of your conversation through asking open ended questions. This is a sure way to release your counterpart’s defensiveness and probe them to come to mutual conclusions. Avoid giving unsolicited advice till you’re asked.

Once you arm yourself with the above necessities in your interactions, you can further use the following tips to make any point you want with least resistance by your counterpart. You can disagree without being disagreeable; influence while valuing the other person’s stance; and pleasantly direct others’ behavior. Depending on the argument or the situation, you can:

Get them to agree more:  For beginning conversations, ask questions to get them to agree on, say, 3 things. This is part of building rapport. Questions like: the weather is too hot this morning, isn’t it? The traffic was unbearable today, right? You can, then, introduce your request or the point you want to make.

Focus on giving feedback: At times, you’d want to appraise a piece of work or assess a situation. Don’t criticize by just saying what’s not right. Praise the good points as well. As a whole, your opinion will be better received.

Sandwich your feedback: Whenever you have something negative to say, make sure you sandwich it between two positive statements. Start off by complimenting the other person somehow (relevant attributes, qualities, or work); give your negative opinion (in a nice way of course); and then finish up your statements by praising again. These positive statements act as a sandwich buffering any negativity sensed in between.

Feed forward: When you give feedback, you may need to state the preferred scenario for a specific outcome (e.g. behavior or way). It is an assertiveness technique used in relationships (parent to child, or in partnerships) and mentoring. Don’t remain vague about future direction. Probe them by asking questions to get to the ideal response, or suggest it when they don’t know.

Use the “agreement frame”: Nothing beats defensiveness than agreeing first. Use points in your counterpart’s view to agree with, first. Say things like: “I agree that…. And I respect that…. And I really appreciate that….” Then say: “at the same time, I think that…..” stating your disagreement. Never use the word “but” after agreeing. It negates everything you said before it.

The pleasant “no”: Don’t get caught in saying “yes” to others’ requests at your own expense. When you offer an explanation to why you can’t handle their request, you’ll be saying “yes” to yourself. You can start off by saying: “Yes, I appreciate your resorting to me to handle this. I really would like to help you out. At the same time, I have to…..” and list the reasons why you can’t while offering an alternative way or a later time to do it.

Focus on solutions:  Avoid getting sucked up in discussing the problem and rather consider the alternatives to resolving it (more on “win-win” solutions). In doing that, consider the interests and benefits to both of you (you get that through empathetic listening and asking probing questions).

The above tips are really powerful in maintaining positive interactions with others. After all, research shows that for any relationship to thrive, it is necessary to have 5 positive statements to tip off the effect of one negatively stated comment. To become a positive effective communicator requires a conscious decision. With practice, it will become second nature like all other arts to be mastered :)

NGOs, Project Management & Serendipity

NGOs play an essential and integral role in the sustainability and growth of our communities and environment. They deal with a wide spectrum of topics including but not limited to orphans, elderly, recycling, global warming, advocating rights, economic development, education, awareness…etc.

For more than 12 years, I’ve been passionately involved in NGOs and along the road I managed to create some, or be on the Board or advice & consult others. Throughout the years, most of the NGOs I’ve known have been managing projects and programs. They design projects, write proposals & budgets, implement projects, evaluate them and so on and so forth. Yet I long to see some common project management terminology, standards or methodology on how to do all this.

Years ago, the private sector has identified certain standards for project management, best practices, processes, tools, techniques..etc. These standards are helping corporations in all shapes and sizes, from the multi-nationals to the small local enterprises, in achieving their projects on time, within budget and fulfilling the necessary scope. Yet, surprisingly, and in-spite of the fact that most NGOs work on projects; we somehow missed the idea of having an agreed on, industry-wide standard, best practices and methodology . So you might ask yourself and what if we don’t have a standard, what does it really matter? The fact is, many NGOs miss essential project milestones, have projects that go over budget, short of scope and delivered their outputs behind schedule, if delivered at all. Time, effort and money spent to lead to a positive impact on the society sometimes are lost do to lack of proper project management (from planning to implementation to monitoring & evaluation)…but the question is why?

Lebanon alone hosts thousands of registered NGOs as per the Ministry of Interior. Majority of those NGOs are project and program based and depend on ongoing grants and funding to secure resources for their projects. With grants and funding summing up to millions annually, the amounts being lost on failed projects, unmet objectives and re-work is counting up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s if we’re only talking about the monetary value of things. On the other side, consider how many lives could’ve been saved with the same amount of money that has been lost or re-budgeted, how many schools could’ve been built, how many trainings would’ve been developed, campaigns launched…etc.

Many leaders of NGOs consider this as a reasonable and un-escapable price to pay due to the fact that it is a volatile and ever changing industry that becomes active in disasters and emergencies, rather than in times of peace and order. Thus adequate time for planning and assessments isn’t always available. Moreover, I’ve heard several times from people working in the NGOs industry, that it is hard to recruit enough qualified project and program managers. Mainly it is due to the short period of engagement in temporary projects, low wages with respect to private sector and lack of well-identified project management standards, training, tools and techniques.

Yet what many don’t realize is that things are much simpler than that. In most cases, there is no need to recruit highly qualified project managers, if you can build the capacity and empower those that are already there. As for the standards, trainings, tools and techniques, they do exist! The same standards that apply for the private sector, governmental sector, army and others…apply for NGOs, with minor customization. There are two internationally known standards for project management: Prince & PMP. Both of which are very popular, with the second being of a bigger base of certified professionals worldwide.

With thousands of program and project managers/coordinators and teams in NGOs… there is a considerable gap to be filled for both the organizations and the individuals working in them.

We, those passionate about NGOs and the community, should not keep on managing our projects based on serendipity. It’s about time we get our Project and Program leaders trained and certified to live up to their responsibilities and get that impact we are so passionately working for!

We owe it to ourselves, our donors & supporters and most importantly to the community we are serving…so what are we waiting for?!

 

Other Interesting Posts:

Human Capital Management in NGOs

To be honest I’ve researched for a while to get my hands on some useful material about Human Capital Management(HCM) in the NGO sector, especially in managing volunteers…not just staff. Yet I’ve failed to find substantial and relative material to build on. Therefore the following is a compilation of my personal experience in HCM in NGOs, specifically in Lebanon, through Aie Serve and other NGOs/Clubs that I train and consult.

To  make the discussion more meaningful I’ll separate HCM into 5 discussable stages, read on for the details:

Organization’s Structural Design

To truly create a Human Capital strategy for the organization, work needs to start on the Organizational Structure first. In this context, a lot of NGOs have a staff based structure, or volunteers structure, or simply committees or even no structure at all aside from the “Board”. This will need to change since adopting an HCM strategy, the structure will need to be redesigned to better fit the current needs and provide space for growth in the future.

Crucial questions to ask at this stage are:

  • What is the current structure and is it really implemented on the ground?
  • Does the structure provide space for further growth or does it need total make over?
  • Do the positions fit in and complement each other or are there gaps?
  • Is the NGO based on volunteers, staff or both? Do they know how to interact?
  • How is the decision making done and who has it in the organization? Centralized or diverse?


Setting Roles & Responsibilities

After setting the structure, its time to know what does each and every person do exactly. The interesting and surprising part here is that many if not most of the NGOs I work with have incomplete roles & responsibilities description of the team. Many people are left without clear delineation of what tasks shall they do, what are they responsible of, who do they report to, what decisions can they make …and so on and so forth.  Therefore it is essential that each person in the organization not only knows where he/she fits in the structure but also know what role do they play. Moreover, if they wish to grow..then the path they should follow need to be clear.

 Crucial questions to ask at this stage are:

  • Are there Duty Descriptions or Roles & Responsibilities documents for the positions?
  • Are people aware of each other’s role’s and responsibilities?
  • Is regular updating and upgrading for those documents done?
  • Who is involved in drafting and modifying those documents?


Setting & Implementing Recruitment Processes

Now that the structure is clear and so are the roles & responsibilities of everyone, the challenging part is how to get those people onboard. Having a consistent and clear recruitment process is essential to ensure that all potentials are tapped and the right people are recruited.  To do this a recruitment process needs to be designed in a way that it reflects the culture of the organization, the way people will be dealing with each other. The process should be clear for all those in the organization so that they understand what shall they do if they want to recruit more people.

 Crucial questions to ask at this stage are:

  • How do people apply for the NGO?
  • Does the NGO recruit volunteers or staff or ?
  • Do members of the NGO join by invitation only or do they have an entry point?
  • Is there a standard procedure of interviews and applications or ?


Training & Coaching

Once everyone is onboard and in place, the time comes where people need to better understand how to do what they’re supposed to do. At this point, training and coaching all the new recruits comes in place. So developing a clear and flexible training program and coaching process are necessary to ensure that the new recruits are empowered with the appropriate information, skills and tools to do their duties properly. Moreover, the coaching process shall allow the recruits to not only do their roles properly but also to excel and grow as a person, and perhaps suggest improvements to the process.

Crucial questions to ask at this stage are:

  • How will the new recruits know what to do and how?
  • Who will be training/coaching them?
  • Is there a training manual in place?
  • Is there a clear coaching procedure and standards?


Performance Evaluation & Enhancement

After having set everything and people are performing and excelling, it’s very important to measure the overall performance and growth of both individuals and the organization. It is important to ensure that both individual and organizational goals are synchronized for this process to work. Moreover, assessment metrics will need to be developed either at the “Roles & Responsibilities” stage or throughout the process of execution so that a clear evaluation can be done at important turning points and end of year assessments.

Crucial questions to ask at this stage are:

  • How would you know or measure that someone is doing their role properly?
  • Who is responsible of assessing/evaluating?
  • Can a follow up and training process be designed to build the skills and fill the gaps according to the results of the evaluation?

Other Interesting Posts:

Global & Local Trends…

I was skimming through some of my research material and notes from the past few months and I noticed some trends and themes that are either widespread or are emerging, both on the local and the global level.

This is no way comprehensive but I felt it is worth sharing with you so here is a selection of 7 global and 7 local trends and themes… enjoy!

Globally:

1. General widespread of trends of non-structured, non-standardized approach to education and training. The recent trends focus more on one of the following rather than on the material: Personal Relations, Arts, Sports, Values(religious, cultural, social…etc).

2. General decrease in globalization trend and a major outburst of interest in entrepreneurship, local corporations, social enterprises, SMEs and local based initiatives. This is especially true in countries that were dominated by western products/services/companies.

3. General decrease in the age group of politicians, gov officials, international organisations’ managers..etc with respect to past years. That is, we are seeing younger people take lead in positions and places that previously were solely based on seniority or are in one way or another given to senior citizens.
4. Sharp increase in promoting and empowering women in technology, governmental positions, education, and basic human rights.

5. General increase in the support of the Arab & Palestinian rights towards Israel and the understanding of the dynamics and history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This has been seen in the dwindling financial support of some countries and corporations to Israel as well as closing,in Europe and Australia, of some media outlets and PR companies that were strong supporters/followers of the Israeli State.

6. Sharp increase in Chinese and Japanese civil society activeness. This is in number of CSOs(includes NGOs, Clubs, Parties, Media Outlets…etc), the type of projects and the size of projects being initiated.

7. General increase in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Turkish, Iranian initiatives to voice out their interests and culture to their neighbouring countries and major zones of interests in the world (including Levant, MENA and GCC region)

Locally:

1. General increase in the public understanding for the need of less politicised discussions, campaigns, and talk-shows. This reflects in the major shift of many TV to start putting comedy/joke/social shows, less political talk-shows/documentaries, and thinner political sections in daily newspapers.

2. Sharp increase in the interest to go back to the mother language(Arabic). This reflects in the number of NGOs, academic institutes and media outlets that are using more Arabic, promoting Arabic or solely have started to teach/spread Arabic.

3. Sharp increase in the investments and inbound capital put in Lebanon from Lebanese diaspora, Arab states and some international companies.

4. Sharp increase in the interest and pricing of real estate in Lebanon and Beirut in specific, especially that the country has been calm on the “security” level.

5. Sharp increase in interest on banning smoking and drugs. This has been reflected in Laws that the parliament have passed, in the police/army investigations being held and the endless CSO campaigns and initiatives on the above mentioned 2 issues.

6. General increase in the interest towards being “Green” and the environmental impact of our day to day actions on the environment. Soon I expect some major campaigns to be launched on environmental awareness targeting governments,NGOs and the general public. The campaigns will probably be both local and on the Arab region.

7. Sharp increase in the number of cars sold in Lebanon in the past year and still going up. The impact reflects very negatively on the traffic jams in all over Lebanon and Beirut in specific, the pollution bill we’re paying and the deterioration of many roads faster than expected due to the volume of daily cars/buses/trucks passing on it.

I would like you to consider those themes, try to see how are they affecting your life or what is your stance on them and perhaps launch this online-discussion starting from this post….

I’m looking forward for your additions/suggestions/questions/comments.. 😀