From all of us at CEGE Connection, we send out warm wishes for a Happy Valentine’s Day.
We hope you celebrate it by doing all the things you love.
From all of us at CEGE Connection, we send out warm wishes for a Happy Valentine’s Day.
We hope you celebrate it by doing all the things you love.
Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling
Delinquo ergo supero – “I have failed, therefore I will succeed” (rough translation)
Delapsus/Delapsa surrexi — “Having fallen, I have arisen.” (Delapsa for female)
Orta recens quam pura nites – “Newly risen, how brightly you shine.”
Not too long ago, I wrote a blog piece about the Human Condition and the Leadership Condition. As a refresher, the Human Condition is the interplay between the viva activa (active life) and viva contemplativa (contemplative life) – Hannah Arendt. I then went to describe the Leadership Condition, as “viva praetōrēs” (leader of life), as the cognitive stasis in the mind of the leader that lets them focus on the betterment of their followers. Here the leader is not just someone with a specific title or leadership role in an organization, but everyone, regardless of their station in life. For someone to be a leader of life, they must have needed to try, fail, overcome failure, continue to try, and whether success comes or not, they do not give up. For they are always rising, never afraid to try.
Fear is crippling. Jones, Papadakis, Orr, & Strauman (2013), writing about the cognitive
processes in response to goal failure, found that when people fail to make progress towards their personal goals (including professional ones), they get sucked into an intensifying and self-reinforcing loop of negative emotional (affective) states of anxiety and depression. Such a paralyzing state can prevent people from trying anything, let alone anything new. Is it mindset (Dweck, 2007)? Or is it something deeper, ingrained in our genetic code that prevents us from trying, so we don’t fail, and therefore we survive. The survival of the physical body, ensures that we live to fight another day or is it live to run away another day? These are questions I do not have the answers to, but can definitely postulate that early in our childhood, some conditioning (either genetic or by nurture) appears to have placed an extraordinary amount of emphasis on success and that failure has to be shunned at all costs. Despite this, there exist people who are not afraid to try, but are heavily outnumbered by most people who are afraid to try for the fear of failing.
Having set out to write about failure, the business of failure (there is a big business there on failure – self-help stuff, self-help gurus, motivational literature/gurus etc.), and the idea of failing to even try, I feel I have to touch on two connected topics – 1] Mental Health and 2] Assessment and Performance Evaluation. For the first, neither do I have the expertise nor the knowledge to comment about, other than that being aware of the impact of conditioning someone against failure and its effect on mental health or vice versa, is a first step in learning to recognize it, in oneself and others, and doing what needs to be done to help someone deal with it. For the second, while assessment and performance evaluation are expected to be objective, context driven, and bias free, they are often far from any of them. People, constantly in fear of being judged, assessed, and evaluated and expecting the outcomes of these judgements/assessments to be critical of them as people, tend to do just enough to get by and not do anything innovative, for fear of failure.
In the educational sphere, one assumes that the primary purpose of any assessment is to improve the student’s progress towards their learning outcomes, while informing the educator of the appropriate steps they would need to take to scaffold this progress. The educator provides diagnostic, summative, normative, and formative assessment on the student’s performance, part of which can be the recognition that in each of these cases, the student’s perception is that they did not “meet” or “exceed” certain criteria, laid out by the teacher, and hence are receiving that particular feedback. While teachers are trained in providing such feedback, students often are not and learning to deal with each kind of feedback needs them to become resilient and adopt different learning habits to progress towards their goals. So, if they “did not meet” the criteria, is there an explicit or implicit sense of “failure”. I believe teachers are trained not to use the term failure. Is there is a difference when people use “did not meet the criteria/expectations” or “did not pass”, or “failed”?
Cut to the workplace, performance evaluation on a job or task is conducted on a regular basis for all employees regardless of their title or position in the organization. A CEO’s performance is evaluated by the Board of Directors in quite the same way as an intern’s is by their supervisor. Performance management at the workplace, however, has had its share of issues over the years, particularly with respect to defining the metrics for success (often not aligned properly), the standards for achieving the metrics are unreasonable or too high, feedback is sparse for detailed feedback is time consuming, and follow up can appear to be micromanaging, and a host of other issues that are specific to an organization. In this context, the impact of any assessment, particularly the poor ones, good or bad, can be stressful on employees and begin to take a toll on the mental disposition of the employees.
In the effort to manage poor performance, whether at school or at work, one might need to consider the vagaries of assessment rubrics or the lack of any, how assessment criteria are set up, the impact that assessment is likely to have on an individual’s mental disposition and actual improvement on their performance, their preparedness to accept feedback and deal with setbacks when the assessment is not positive, and finally, does it mean that they succeeded or failed or whether they are themselves successes or failures.
The key, I surmise, then appears to be the ability of the assessor (educator or work place manager or even a parent) to teach their wards (students, direct reports, or children) to build some resilience to face obstacles in their progress towards an effort (learning, work task, or behaviors). If we can train people to strive for progress, while understanding that there will be times when the progress will be halted or slowed down and if they failed at a task, it is not because of lack of trying, but for probably some other underlying or overt cause, then there will be progress. Part of this training is to allow people to reflect on their efforts towards completing the task. This will allow them the space and time to figure out why they did not complete the task successfully, learn from it, and possibly overcome the obstacles the next time around. The reflection on why the effort failed or stalled, will allow them to identify the cause(s) and progress. Such an effort by educators and managers will allow people a safer way to manage their work, their own stress levels, and have a positive impact on their performance. People may then try something new, something different, or something innovative, for they are not afraid to try.
Maybe, then, failure is an option?
Binod Sundararajan, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Management and Associate Director at the Rowe School of Business teaching International & Intercultural Management for undergrads and Sustainable leadership for the MBA. He has been awarded the A. Gordon Archibald Award. His Selected Publications include “Using stakeholder role play in business cases to teach management and communication” and “Lean, Ethical Business Communication”.
Editor’s Note: We are grateful to The Dalhousie Business Review for allowing us to republish this article on CEGE Connection.
“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Every university has a legend. Dalhousie is no exception!
Every year on the first Friday of February – this year February 7, 2020 – Dalhousie closes its doors to celebrate Munro Day. And for good reason. Without George Munro, Dalhousie University would merely be a page in a history book.
George Munro, born in 1825 near the once active shipping port of Pictou, Nova Scotia, did not attend Dalhousie, nor did he follow his first career choice of becoming a Presbyterian minister. Instead, he made his way to New York City and fulfilled his destiny in the printing and publishing business, amassing great wealth in the process. Even so, his loyalty and attachment to Nova Scotia prevailed. When Dalhousie faced extinction, his gifts brought life and independence to the fledgling institution.
The man who published light fiction and an inexpensive story paper called “The Fireside Companion” recognized the power of education. He endowed Dalhousie chairs in physics, history, political economy, English literature and philosophy.
George Munro’s legacy is a reminder that individual contributions to education, even those seemingly small, generate positive outcomes for society.
“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?”
I grew up with a very popular sister. As such, I often had front row seats to some of the best/worst pick-up lines out there. My favourite was, “I’m writing a phonebook; can I get your number?”
When you are young, being asked for your number is usually a flattering experience. Being grown up and having a financial planner ask for your number is not quite the same compliment, albeit much more important.
The number in question is the number required to maintain your dignity. Financial planners and their clients alike can use this number as a basis for nearly all aspects of your financial planning.
Arriving at this number is relatively simple. One could argue that to maintain your dignity you need to ensure that you always have enough money to: stay in your home, maintain your current form of transportation, and eat.
Three simple areas to ensure that you will always be able to maintain a certain quality of life (financially).
So, for example, if the cost of carrying your home is $1,700/mth; transportation is $600/mth; groceries are $700/mth, then your number is $3,000/mth. This means that as long as you have $3,000 coming in each month, you will experience at least a basic level of comfort. No fun money, but no financial devastation.
This number can be used in all aspects of financial planning. For example, knowing this number makes it easy to determine the minimum amount of various insurances one should have. For instance: Life Insurance – Pay off debt and ensure my survivor has enough to maintain their dignity. Disability Insurance – ensure that there is at least $3,000/mth of coverage. Remember, these are minimums and very generalized examples.
In retirement, you should ensure that there is enough income coming from guaranteed sources to at least cover your dignity number. So, if you don’t have an employer pension and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) are not enough to cover your dignity number then it might be a good idea to cover this shortfall with personal investments/products that offer guarantees.
Jed Levene MBA(FS) 2013 is President, Rockwater Wealth Management Limited and Investment Representative of Quadrus Investment Services ltd. He is a Certified Financial Planner® and holds a certificate in Behavioural Finance from Duke University. His articles on financial planning appear regularly on Orillia Today, Simcoe.com, CEGE Connection is pleased to advise that Jed has graciously agreed to be a repeat contributor on CEGE Connection.
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne”.
Robert Burns, (January 25, 1759 – July 21, 1796)
Robbie Burns message “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” remains ever relevant in a world where friendships have taken on a global perspective. His words, traveling across the centuries, are a call to action. On this Robbie Burns Day 2020, let us celebrate and remember the importance of friendship and camaraderie.
“We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.”
As a proud graduate of Dalhousie University (BA ’85, BSW ’87, MPA(M) ’01) I am delighted to have the opportunity to share my perspectives of the MPA(M) program and how the School of Public Administration has shaped and influenced my professional practice and development.
Today, more than ever, I have come to appreciate and value the opportunity I had in 1999. I’ve gained extensively from the MPA(M) program and pleased to see how it has evolved to its leading stature today.
In 1999, I was a member of the first cohort of the Province of Nova Scotia sponsored MPA(M) class. The newly created MPA(M) program was a joint initiative between the Province of Nova Scotia and Dalhousie University that recognized the province’s goal of promoting and investing in advanced learning for its senior ranks. Since graduating, my learning outcomes and observations of the program have held true and remain relevant some twenty years later.
There are three key aspects that I wish to highlight: high-quality learning; benefits of the teaching model; and achieving results.
Over the years, I have promoted the value of the program to other public servants and have had the opportunity to regularly share my experiences with MPA students at the School of Public Administration. I am grateful for my learning experiences at Dalhousie University and fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to give back a little – which I will continue to do.
Albert ‘Buddy’ Walzak is the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Department of Intergovernmental Affairs. He is responsible for the general administration and operations of the department. He helps lead the coordination and advancement of the province’s interests and works to maintain productive relationships with regional, national and international partners. Through these relationships, he helps advance the province’s economic, government and international objectives.
“I know this much: that there is objective time, but also subjective time, the kind you wear on the inside of your wrist, next to where the pulse lies. And this personal time, which is the true time, is measured in your relationship to memory.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending