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Stuart White

A colleague of mine has been a football enthusiast forever and with an almost religious dedication he commits and supports his English team with fervor. There isn’t a match he would miss, developments he would not follow and his general knowledge of his team and the game is considerable. Following, supporting and learning about his team are effortless activities. On the local front he is doing some great stuff to further the cause. With altruistic intentions he coaches soccer to teenage boys from diverse social and economic backgrounds and is achieving fantastic results.

What he is doing is not just about the soccer however as there are other things going on which contribute to the development of these young people: creating experiences and memories; crafting opportunities etc.  Some days, especially during tournaments, he can be on his feet for 12 hours, organizing, encouraging and, as he says, experiencing task absorption to the extent that time simply flies past. He becomes immersed, free of any aches, pains, fatigue or discomfort that might arise from a long day of graft. When he talks of his local team his passion ignites, he becomes animated and enthusiastic about his labour of love. Such is his enjoyment that that he can be said to be in flow.

Coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow is a “state of deep, effortless involvement”. It happens most frequently when we concentrate our undivided attention on activities that are moderately challenging to us. When a person is in flow, it often happens that their sense of self vanishes and time stops. One of the things about flow, according to psychologist Martin Seligman, is that in order to achieve it, you must identify your signature strengths, or strengths that are deeply characteristic of yourself, and learn how to practice them and this is what contributes to us leading the good life.

We achieve the good life by discovering our unique virtues and strengths, and employing them creatively to enhance our lives. Surely life is only truly satisfying when we are aware and realise value within ourselves and one of the ways of doing this is by nurturing our unique strengths in contributing to the happiness of our fellow humans. This is precisely what my colleague does with his local team.

I am struck with the realization that in the 12 or so years that I have worked alongside him I have only witnessed a generally happy person and, on further reflection, he could be a text book example of happy. If we consider that there are, three ‘orientations’(from the book ‘Authentic Happiness’) or three kinds of happiness, we can say that the first is pleasure and a person living a life of pleasure is evinced by exerting mostly positive emotions such as enjoyment, happiness, joy and interest and  displaying minimal negative emotions.

In all the years I have worked with him I have only seen these positive characteristics. It’s quite incredible really that I can’t recall EVER seeing him sad or unhappy. The second is engagement – a person living a life of engagement consistently seeks out activities which allow him/her to be in flow. The third is meaning – and leading a life of meaning is belonging  to and serving something that is bigger than him and these larger entities could be community or religion for example and my colleague’s  dual example in soccer and as a very devout spiritual person illustrates this perfectly.

I can easily contrast his experiences with mine this week where I have been forced to engage in an activity which doesn’t play to my strengths. I am attempting to schedule a complex series of activities which are truly wholly beyond my capability. So I hate the task, am doing it very badly and time has been going slower than a snail’s pace. Such is the space when you are not in flow.

It’s clear then that the more people you have in flow in your organization, the more happiness you will have; and happiness is money; and I as I have said countless times there is enough evidence, by now, to support the belief that happy people are more productive. In fact, in a  Gallup-Healthways study and Well-Being Index it estimates that unhappiness among workers in the U.S. is costing a whopping $300 billion per year in lost productivity. In a study by Andrew J. Oswald and his team they provided evidence that happiness positively impacts productivity. An unbelievably simple experiment to demonstrate this was done when subjects had their happiness levels increased by being shown a clip of comedy routines and the participants who had watched the clip showed a 12 percent increase in productivity than those who had watched a dull or neutral “placebo" clip.

If you are interested in developing insights into yourself or gauging where you or your staff might place on the happiness, flow or engagement continuum a good place to start would be to visit a website of Penn State University which has a number of questionnaires to measure everything related to being happy, from strengths to positive emotions, happiness and depression. They are very quick to do and are free, and all you need to do is register. Here you can get a measure on how your staff is doing, in flow or not and if ‘not’ you could always try screening a funny video clip every morning.  At least that way, when your staff say ‘This place is a joke’, it could actually be meant as a compliment.

STUART WHITE is a business and personal development coach and Managing Director of HRMC

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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