I came across the term Imposter Syndrome and Dunning-Kruger Effect quite by accident. I was so focussed on how to understand the psychology of a philantrophist who hold leadership roles and why and what makes them tick to donate soon that I came across the Imposter Syndrome and the Dunning-Krugger effect. Both these are psychological phenomena’s that only recently were discovered in the late 1990s.

The Imposter Syndrome relates to personalities who despite all they have done, still believe that their success is not deserved or has not been legitimately achieved as a result of their own efforts or skills. Thus, a person can continue to show a certain behavior simply because they think it is not enough. Although this behavior is referred to as a syndrome, it is not a disease or abnormality. It is not about showing traits of humility or being modest. It is all about a private doubt about themselves. The term importer syndrome was earlier referred to as imposter phenomenon and was introduced in 1978 in the article "The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention" by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes. At its core, the imposter syndrome occurs in situations where ones belief in their knowledge, skills, and abilities is generally lower than what the people around them see. One is registered as an imposter if they think their abilities don't match the abilities of the rest of the group. 

Albert Einstein apparently did fall in this category and often referred to himself as an involuntary swindler by stating he didn’t deserve that much of attention as he had received.

Interestingly research has shown that there is a relationship between the impostor syndrome and the following factors:

·       Family expectations

·       Overprotective parent(s) or legal guardian(s) 

·       Graduate-level coursework

·       Racial identities

·       Attribution style

·       Anxiety

·       Depression

·       Low trait self-esteem

·       Perfectionism

·       Excessive self-monitoring, with an emphasis on self-worth

One way to overcome this syndrome is to just talk about it.  There is a general feeling that if the person does ask about their performance their fears will be confirmed which is why having mentors or advisors can remove those feelings. Just talking about their experiences and being frank about it can overcome these feelings by building their confidence.

Now, the opposite of the Imposter Syndrome is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is a false belief where the person tends to over-estimate their ability. In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. This effect is not about their ego which blinds oneself from one’s own weaknesses, it is all about inaccurate self perceptions. Research has demonstrated that because they are unskilled or not knowledgable they cannot see their own faults which is why they tend to overestimate themselves. However when they are competent, they do not perceive how unusual their abilities are, thus offering a lower rating of themselves.

The psychological phenomenon of illusory superiority was identified as a form of cognitive bias in Kruger and Dunning's 1999 study, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments". The identification was derived from evidence in the criminal case of McArthur Wheeler, who robbed banks while his face was covered with lemon juice, which he believed would make it invisible to the surveillance cameras. This belief was based on his misunderstanding of the chemical properties of lemon juice as an invisable ink.   

Other investigations of the syndrome, such as "Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence" (2003), indicate that much incorrect self-assessment of competence derives from the person's own ignorance of a given activity's standards of performance. Dunning and Kruger's research also indicated that training in a task, such as solving a logic puzzle, increases the person’s ability to accurately evaluate how good they are at it. 

So, if there are leaders who over-estimate themselves because they are suffering from the Dunning-Kruger Effect then what will this do to the organisation and the moral of the staff. Firstly, one of the ways to overcome this effect is to offer feedback even if it is hard for the person to hear and secondly, the person has to keep learning and developing themselves otherwise they will fall into the trap of thinking they are competent when they are actually not.


I think it is becoming more and more necessary for organisations to have their leaders who hold significant positions that impact people and planet to go through a mental health medical examination and be monitored regularly. I cannot fanthom what kind of consequence and challenges an organisation or staff will bear should their leader suffer from a psychological phenomena that is not treated. 



  1. Clance, Pauline R.; Imes, Suzanne A. (Fall 1978). "The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention" (PDF). Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practice. 15 (3): 241–247. 

  2. Sakulku, J.; Alexander, J. (2011). "The Impostor Phenomenon". International Journal of Behavioral Science. 6: 73–92. 

  3. Hoang, Queena (January 2013). "The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming Internalized Barriers and Recognizing Achievements". The Vermont Connection. 34, Article 6.

  4. Royse Roskowki, Jane C. (2010). "Impostor Phenomenon and Counselling Self-Efficacy: The Impact of Impostor Feelings". Ball State University.

  5. Kruger, JustinDunning, David (1999). "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 77 (6): 1121–1134.

  6. David Dunning (2011). "The Dunning–Kruger Effect: On Being Ignorant of One's Own Ignorance". 44. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology: 247–296.

  7. David Dunning og Erik G. Helzer (2014). "Beyond the Correlation Coefficient in Studies of Self-Assessment Accuracy: Commentary on Zell & Krizan (2014)". Perspectives on Psychological Science. 9 (2): 126–130.

  8. "Why losers have delusions of grandeur". New York Post. 23 May 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2014.


This article was written based on the author’s own research from notable references cited as well as his views. Let us take this opportunity to address and not forget Mental Health is a serious matter. Thursday, 10 October, 2019 was declared as International Mental Health Day.


It is intended that the reader receives benefit from understanding the authors perspective associated with The Imposter Syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger Effect and is now able to form an argument for or against the notion if the author does add value to the nonprofit management and boards thinking in todays’ context. 


Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder/Managing Director of I First International (



Promises & Blessings: A Forgotten Management and Board Trait

Promises and Blessings is a phenomena that is eroding away from management. The management of the very distant past used to work without legal papers to make decisions on a case. The deal was often based on an agreement or discussion that was sealed by a promise or a blessing. If ever there was an issue to the deal it was highly likely the complainant was most disturb that the promise from an individual was not genuine or the blessing from management to proceed a task was insincere.

A PROMISE is a simple declaration of assurance that one will do something or that a thing will happen. It is the WORD that brings actually about accountability and can impact one emotionally if the promise if not obeyed or implemented accordingly. By offering a promise orally or in writing it sets an expectation from the receiver and binds the maker of the promise to the receiver. A promise given allows the receiver to set expectations and make the maker responsible and forever guilty as charged. A promise can set the premise for a commitment or a vow by enshrining a trust between parties that all will be well. Promises give hope.

A promise given by an organisation to a customer can create a uniqueness to their brand thereby setting a brand loyalty.  This promise drives an emotive force that can form a high value and belief which will place those who work for purpose based organisations for example, nonprofits, foundations and social enterprises on the high moral ground. A promise to management and board is a pledge the maker makes to satisfy the concerns of the customer (within or outside the organisation).  For any promise to deliver, the maker of the promise must make the commitment as long as the receiver has delivered.

Promises help management and board to engage and retain employees who are of high potential. Management and board must understand that the promise they make is what will motivate their team and organisation to corporate.  The maker must understand that when a promise is made it is understood that there is an alignment to an objective and that there is no thought of an assumption. A fragmented workforce can be created to be more engaging and initiative by offering reliable and relevant promises that will create a sense of community empowerment and ownership thereby creating impact on the ground.

More often promises in today’s terms are seen in a legalistic perspective, for instance having specific clauses in a contract instead of the actual content of the discussion that has a life of its own. A derailed promise is seen to be something not honoured based on what was expressed in writing.

 There are three things indicated below that management and the board should know when making a promise:

 1.     The Commitment

This phase typically starts when the customer requests something from the provider. The two parties will have different takes on what should be done to fulfil the request, why, how quickly it can be done, and which resources should be used. Because of divergent views—across divisions, companies, countries, and languages—people often end up talking past one another. The customer and the provider must therefore sit down and explore the fundamental questions of coordinated effort for example, What do you mean? Do you understand what I mean? What should I do? What will you do? Who else should we talk to?

2. The Execution

The maker executes on the promise. Conversations between parties is more critical than ever during the time of execution. Even well-crafted promises can be fragile, susceptible to change or in the broader business context can prompt a reshuffle of priorities and allocation of resources. In light of such shifts, the customer and the maker must continue to interpret and reinterpret the promise. Indeed, if the maker then realises he/she cannot satisfy the promise made to the customer, an immediate renegotiation to the terms of delivery is critical. Likewise, the customer is obliged to initiate renegotiations if the priorities or circumstances have changed in ways that affect what was expected by the maker. This phase ends when the maker declares the promise executed.

3. Making the loop

The customer publicly declares that the maker has delivered the goods (or failed to do so). Closing the loop gives the customer and maker a chance to offer each other feedback on how they could work more effectively in the future, thereby building continuous improvement into the quality of other promises they make.

Note that the customer and the receiver must come not only to a meeting of minds but also to a common purpose. A maker may be reluctant to enter into a commitment for good reasons—by keeping options open. It’s critical that conversations about what to do go hand in hand with discussions about why it matters for both sides. 


BLESSINGS on the other hand is connoted with benediction, an invocation or even a consecration.  There is an implication that a blessing is an offer of sanction and support from a supreme force. However if we actually look at it from a board perspective it can be viewed very differently. A simple blessing from the superiors of a team before one embarks on a difficult task is seen to be a form of sanction or support.  It transects a sense of mercy and devotion to the customer such the link becomes special and the power to execute is emotive and from the heart. 

Issues arise when a blessing if requested or given is then seen to be a curse. When this happens one looks at the event or activity as a bad omen evoked onto oneself. In any case those who are executing the job do seek the blessings of their superiors because the strong view that it gives a sanction and support to the execution of the work through trouble times. This is the connection.  To overcome the trials and tribulation of one’s work can be seen to have been a blessing. This is a powerful phenomena that will impact the customer who has received a promise from the maker.

Being grateful is a measure of ones idea that they have received blessings. A grateful heart can recognise blessings in everything and an ungrateful heart never recognises any blessing. Gratitude is one of the most essential human virtues for real inner prosperity and inner happiness and especially when management and board wants to gel the workforce together to be formidable within an organisation. 

To seek blessings from your seniors is to receive a shower of respect and thereby management and board must know that giving their blessing will transform the inner strength, wisdom, hope and desire for success for an individual in the team.  Whatever comes from the offering of management and board as blessings must be a conscious intention such the result will be impactful to people and planet positively. 



I often wonder why we look at our fellow human beings as robots when it comes offering advise of how to solve problems. Where is the thinking that will tune us differently from a robot. I recognise we do need a reboot and recharge but not in the same manner a computer or mobile phone needs it. We are human beings and we must care for people and planet. Where is the subtle elements to management being discussed these days. Much is being discussed about what to do to get the result but little is done to talk about what we can for another person. I am guilty as charged myself. Everything seems so mechanical. Therefore, writing this article was a huge relearn for me as I wanted to illustrate the power of the Promises and Blessings in whatever form it takes and why just saying, “I wish you well with all my heart” can make someone transform to be the person and something more. 


1.    Scott Deming (Wiley 2007) [

2.    Harvard Business Review, April 2017. []

3.    Radhanath Swami, Power of Blessing by HH Radhanath, HG Shyamsundar Prabhu and HG Mahamaya Mataji. []



This article was written based on his own views and from several notable authors cited in the bibliography. The trigger to write this article stemmed from an episode when Dr Sudeep realised that the relationship between the superior and the staff can only achieve greatness if one talks to the heart – this gave me meaning to why promises and blessings which is enshrined in Eastern work culture and ethics is vital to any organisations success especially for those who are working for people and planet.



It is intended that the reader receives benefit from understanding the authors perspective associated with Promises and Blessings: A Forgotten Management and Board Trait and is now able to form an argument for or against the notion if the author does add value to the management and boards thinking in todays’ context. 



Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder/Managing Director of I First International (



The most effective way to bring down the cost of humanitarian aid is to reduce the necessity to resort to it.

Everyday many people are being displaced by violence and conflict,while more people per day are forced from their homes by natural disasters, of which majority are because of weather related events. Today, with violent extremism and climate change those figures are get higher as will the costs to respond.  There is a need to scale up the humanitarian financing.

Humanitarian financing, in its current form, is not equipped to address the number and scale of prolonged emergencies that the world is facing. Reforms are crucial to maximise limited funds for field programs, to ensure funding for crucial early action and to tackle longer-term goals.

 The daunting scale of the humanitarian funding gap is because of the enormous challenges to sustain the impact under the changing environment. There is a need for new instruments of measure as well as understanding what success means. 

 While, the need for more finance is clear, there is an issue that is seldom discussed or often set aside as not part of the conversation or debate. These issues or concerns is commonly referred to as the “elephant in the room”. The issue to financial challenges will continue to perpetuity until and unless we adress what has not been spoken.  

 So the set the scene in perspective below are some of those issues/concern which do need serious discussion in make this a better place to live and eventually stop the perpetual issue off the lack of funds.

1.    There will always be an insufficient amount of funds– so the question to the Nongovernmental Organisation (NGO), Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and the nonprofit organisations (NPO) is how can they become financially independent and ensure they can raise their own income instead of depending on external sources. 

2.    The human population will only grow– If we collectively do not take any concerted effort to reduce the world human population we will only bring downfall to the next generation and the one after that. Climate change, enviromental disasters, food shortage, water shortage, job unemployment,  immigration control,  health and diseases, lack of education, poverty will continue to escalate with the rate og population growth and will only continue to bring great suffereing to the young.  A time can may come when the planet cannot cope anymore and we could find conflicts, invasions and war simply for for water, food and oxygen. This is when the human war for survival could start. Countries may regulate impose a fine or enforce criminal charges for families that have more than their actual stipulated number of children as per regulation. The days of the one child per family policy could happen again but globally just like what happened in China in 1979.

3.    Do we really care? Do our leaders who have been bestowed the role to make decisions for the benefit of society do really care. If they did and were serious about it then why are we still having such issues happening. The core universal values of  respect, honesty, trust and compassion does not seem to have been instilled to all leaders and yet many of them sit in the room to make decisions of what is best for mankind or for the benefit of people and planet. If we really are a society of great values, why do we need a budget to buy defence material and why do we need to invest so much into the 17 Sustainable Development Goals? 


To the pragmatist the elephant in the room brings little value to solving the present problem. It only raises more discusisons and more time and money wasting because there is an immediate urgency to act now and the general belief is that nothing will change.  But the point is can we not discuss the elephant in the room, it is important to also focus on the long term gain so that future efforts to raise capital and resources will be manageable. 



Efforts to reform government are often dependent on a small group of actors, ranging from CSOs, professional associations, media, government institutions, and international donor agencies. We need reforms that will help tackle the Humanitarian Financing dilemma. 

Below are some examples of possible reforms necessary (this list is non-exhaustive).

  • Security Reform

  • Legislation Review

  • Maritime Patrol

  • Laws Against Marginalized Groups 

  • Media Reform

  • Investigative Journalism 

  • Access to Information 

  • Freedom of the Press 

  • Freedom of Expression 

  • Good Governance

  • Accountability Transparency

  • Check & Balances Mechanisms

  • Zero Tolerance on Corruption-Integrity Declaration of Assets

  • Investigate Criminal Breach of Trust Cases 

  • Institutional Reform

  • Separations of Power Independence of Judiciary

  • Fair Appointments (to Key Government Positions) 

  • Empowerment of Constitution

  • Consultative Policy-Making

  • Free & Fair Elections 

  • Reform of Environment and Climate Change

  • Sustainable Development

  • Access to Basic Utilities


To address these reforms effectively would require research. The Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a method that has been proven is a method that can provide a perspective to help determine the state of cooperation among organizations (Business, Nonprofits, and Foundations etc.) dedicated to government or nation reform issues in each country or as a globe. The SNA approach to research can examine both the content and pattern of relationships in order to identify the impact of these relationships on the functioning of individual actors and the entire network. 

The findings from the SNA research is useful in determining many issues of importance ranging from levels of engagement, shared interest and obstacles to collaboration. SNA can also offer on what could be most influential for government reforms. This is what is needed in today’s governance especially when most humanitarian matters do have a strong interconnectedness between countries and do not recognize political borders.  If this can be addressed, we could reduce our need for financials.


So, what do we do to fill the gap right now? Although the global philanthropic funds, when combined with the development or aid budgets of governments, add up to billions of dollars, it is still not enough as the cost of solving the world’s most critical problems run into the trillions. 

To attract more private capital, Foundations/Organisations/Individuals must pursue innovative financial solutions that will use financing mechanisms to mobilize private sector capital in a new and more efficient and scalable way to solve social, economic, and environmental problems globally. 

 To make this happen:

a.              The Return of Investment (ROI) must be even more attractive

b.             Risk management to the untap investments must be mitigated effectively and proactively

c.              The investor confidence must be built by offering the financial analyst a know-how of how to assess or rank social, environment, and governance matters.

 Thus it is so vital to have better forms of measurement in order to satisfy the investor or donor.


The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF,) which measures social value through a process of six stages developed a modal that can help bring a form of measure through assessment. It is called SROI. SROI is the acronym for Social Return of Investment. 

SROI = Value of Social Benefits – Value Social Costs / Value Social Investment

The above formulae is based on the cost-benefit analysis modal. From the data calculated we can obtain a SROI ratio. The data will be expressed in financial figures. This ratio can form the basis of what will trigger or indicate if there is a need for further investment or to track if things are moving. 


Supposing we replace this formula to a Humanitarian ROI by calling it HROI.  Would this work? See below:


HROI = Value of Humanitarian Benefits – Value Humanitarian Costs/ Value Humanitarian Investment

The challenge now would in knowing how do we measure or calculate humanitarian benefits? How does one put a score or value in terms of monetary currency to benefits such as dignity, security, safety, reduction of suffering, or alleviation of poverty. Until we can measure the humanitarian benefits the constant challenge is to convince the investors/funders and to innovate. 

As Peter Druker once said “if we cannot measure it, we cannot improve it.” In other words, it is hard to define success if one cannot define and track.



  1. Innovative Finance for Development Solutions initiatives of the World Bank group. Pp1-30.

  2. High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing Report to the Secretary-General -Too important to Fail—addressing the humanitarian financing gap. Jan 2016.  Pp1-31.

  3. Innovative Financing For Development: Scalable Business models that produce economic, Social, and environmental outcomes. September 2014. Pp1-31.

  4. Human rights Impact Assessment Guidance and Toolbox. Nora Götzmann, Tulika Bansal, Elin Wrzoncki, Cathrine Poulsen-Hansen, Jacqueline Tedaldi and Roya Høvsgaard. 2016 The Danish Institute for Human Rights Denmark’s National Human Rights Institution. Pp1-30

  5. Malaysian Reform Initiative (MARI). Networks of Government Reform by Erich Sommerfeldt, PhD. IMAN Research. July 2019.

  6. From promise to delivery: Overcoming the strategy problem in the public sector. Daniel Cramer, Johanna Hirscher, Gundbert Scherf, and Sven Smit. McKinsey & Company. July 2019.

  7. Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick: People, Probabilities and the Big Moves to Beat the Odds. McKinsey and Company. Wiley, February 2018.

  8. Social Ventures Australia Consulting, 2012. Social Return on Investment:’ Lessons learned in Australia’ [pdf] Social Ventures Australia Consulting. Available at:  <>[Accessed 8 August 2019]. 



It is intended that the reader receives some benefit from understanding the issues associated with Humanitarian Financing. The other purpose is to provide an avenue for the nonprofit sector to debate and challenge this article with arguments based on critical thinking thereby elevating the conversation and making change for the better.



Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of I First International, a company that provides professional management consultancy to the Nonprofits (NGO, Social Enterprise and Cause based organisations). He is the author of two books on nonprofit management and has written many articles and shared management tips over videos related to the sector. He can be reached at Visit


When we speak of the Facilitator and Facilitation we often refer to the Merriam–Webster definition as a way to introduce the person and process. Here in this definition it states that the Facilitator’s role is to promote the resolution of conflict or to enhance a response towards a decision. Facilitation on the other hand, refers to the context of management especially in organisational development (OD), as the actual design and running of a successful session (meeting, discussion) by using a consensus based method in an impartial environment. There are many kinds of facilitations but in essence, it often refers to having the session in groups, which is a process where an individual acceptable to be part of a group intervenes to assist the group in solving problems and making decisions to improve productivity and efficiency but who has no authority to make decisions.

Very frequently we see good facilitators are able to close the gap between meetings that are ho-hum, clueless or misdirected by producing a high performance team that can make transformational change.  They can also make the difference between meetings that are status quo and those that produce high performance groups and transformational change.

Facilitators are responsible for "how" the meeting goes and this is often referred to as the "process." The process is categorized into two parts: tasks and relationships.  They are:-

Task responsibilities:

·                Agenda setting

·                Regulating time frames

·                Establishing behavioural guidelines

·                Idea generation techniques

·                Decision-making methods

·                Problem-solving steps

·                Reaching agreement


Relationship responsibilities:

·                Participation

·                Inclusion

·                Power dynamics

·                Influence factors

·                Dysfunctional behaviours

·                Problem members and

·                Anger management

The Facilitator

The effectiveness of a facilitator relies on his/her knowledge skills, and individual characteristics or behavioural competencies. It’s not enough to simply make a good presentation. Expert facilitators have a full complement of competencies, and these are grouped by major category, knowledge, skills, and behaviours.

In Liana Downey’s book “Mission Control, How Nonprofits and Governments Can Focus, Achieve More, and Change the World,” she presents a list of questions about what to look for in a facilitator:

§  Does the person have experience?

§  Does the person ask good questions? Look for intelligent, thoughtful questions that generate insight or signal a real interest.

§  Does the person “get to you”? Does the prospective consultant recognize the unique things about the team or organization?

§  Does the person speak in clear language?

§  Will the person plan with you or for you?

§  Do previous clients speak highly of the person?

§  Does the person have long standing relationships with clients?

A lot of what the facilitator does or does not do, is dependent on their knowledge and skills.  Such knowledge is observed by how they demonstrate and test assumptions, concepts, principles, procedures, and processes. As for their skills, it can be seen by how they demonstrate their observation to the process or evaluation and eventually the outcome. Some of these observations can be tested by how they do the following:

o  Verbally communicate

o  Nonverbal communications, such as body posture, gestures, and facial expressions

o  Thinking in terms of systems, so as to see interrelationships among participants’ input by recognising the connecting patterns

o  How they planning learning activities

o  The operating equipment used in training

o  What they write on the flip charts and what they record in terms of  participants’ comments

o  How they listen actively and effectively

o  Their ability to summarise and paraphrase participants input

o  When they provide coaching and feedback.

Thus, a facilitator that is often regarded as good it’s because of how they were able to make things look easy during the session. The skill is in making things connect and seem comprehensible. In truth, there is a lot of planning that goes on behind the scenes and a lot of thinking on their feet. 


 1. []

2. Liana Downey’s book “Mission Control, How Nonprofits and Governments Can Focus, Achieve More, and Change the World. 2016.


The rationale behind writing this article is to create an awareness among the NGO/Nonprofit Sector about the value of Facilitation and the Facilitator.



It is intended that the reader receives benefit from understanding what it takes to be a good facilitator and will be able to assess and ask specific questions pertaining to the Facilitator and Facilitation.



Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder/Managing Director of I First International (


In the sixties, the eminent Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz used the English term ‘mobbing’ to describe the behaviour that animals use to scare away a stronger, preying enemy. The word mob means a disorderly crowd engaged in lawless violence. It is derived from the Latin mobile vulgus meaning “vacillating crowd.” The verb to mob means “to crowd about, attack or annoy.”

Today, mobbing is a particular type of bullying that is defined as "an emotional assault”. It begins when an individual becomes the target of disrespectful and harmful behavior. “Mobbing” is a type of systematic psychological harassment in the workplace that happens every time an employee is being harassed and stigmatized by his colleagues or superiors through gossip, intimidation, humiliation, discrediting and isolation, endangering his emotional wellbeing as well as his professional competence.

There are different schools of thought when it comes to mobbing. One view is that mobbing is often found in work environments that have poorly organised working methods or incapable or inattentive management. The mobbing victims are usually "exceptional individuals who have demonstrated intelligence, competence, creativity, integrity, accomplishment and dedication". Another view is when mobbing is found in organisations where there is limited opportunity for employees to exit, whether through tenure systems or contracts that make it difficult to terminate an employee (such as universities or unionised organisations), and/or where finding comparable work in the same community makes it difficult for the employee to voluntarily leave (such as academic positions, religious institutions, or military). 

In both situations, efforts to eliminate the employee will intensify to push the person out against his or her will through shunning, sabotage, false accusations and a series of investigations and poor reviews. Organizations that have limited opportunities for advancement can be prone to mobbing because those who do advance are more likely to view challenges to their leadership as threats to their precarious positions. While it is known that there are cruel and damaging consequences to mobbing, the behaviour itself, termed as workplace aggression, is grounded in group psychology, rather than individual psychosis—even when the mobbing is initiated due to a leader's personal psychosis.

This mobbing phenomenon has been studied intensively in the 1990s in countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark, Great Britain, France, Italy and Spain. Mobbing today is basically referred to as actions of intense psychological abuse carried out against an employee with the purpose of making him/her resign from his/her job, where firing or relocating the employee would lead to legal troubles for the employer. 

The psychological pressure from mobbing can affect one’s health. Mobbing, as it is known now always starts with a conflict. If the conflict is not resolved, it can evolve into mobbing. One should not confuse mobbing with bullying. Bullying starts with a conflict, however, it is not necessary that every conflict ends with bullying. If a conflict is not resolved and the bullying increases in magnitude, the first conflict becomes meaningless. In contrast to conflicts, mobbing is always negative. “Psychological terror” or “mobbing in work life.” means hostile and unethical communication which is directed in a systematic way by one person or a number of people mainly towards one individual adds that mobbing can take place occasionally or every day for a long period of time. 

Mobbing at the workplace relates to issues related to institutional recognition, or valuing of differences across individuals and social groups. These issues are categorised as a phenomenon of diversity, which can be further differentiated, based on race, sex, disability, age and other civil rights-based group definitions. Some proponents broaden the diversity to include differences in life experiences, personalities and professional disciplines. Inherent in these diversity approaches is that these differences are seen to be positive and will strengthen a culture, at the workplace or in society. However, at times these differences do create tension that leads to conflict. 


Individual Personality Traits

Mobbing could stem from the simple view of how the individual differs in view in terms of what respect means thereby expressing a differing attitude to their victim.

Incivility is a phenomenon used interchangeably with mobbing. People behaving in an uncivil manner are often rude, boorish and non-normative. They violate norms of respect and regard for others. The common view is that they do not do things the “way we do things here.” Such personalities make attempts to bring uncivil workers into group discussions and try to ensure individuals accept operational norms of conduct.

 When it comes to mobbing at the workplace the individual will demonstratedisrespect that can bemore negative than incivility. Such a behavior is a personalized contempt for other persons. People disrespecting others believe they are superior, suggesting narcissistic tendencies. They disregard the opinions, qualifications, status, reputation and experience of others. They believe that respect granted by them to others must be earned. To them, respect and dignity are not inherent rights of persons. 


Four Stages of the Mobbing Process

The act of mobbing at the workplace does not happen instantly. It is a gradual process which is categorized into 4 stages, (i) preparation, (ii) slow or precipitated evolution, (iii) maturisation and (iv) persistent action. 

The first stage manifests itself through diverging views, differences in opinion or competitiveness, which is a normal phenomenon and sometimes even beneficial for the progress of an organization. 

The second stage is when elements from the first stage happen so often or repeatedly that they can or might trigger the occurrence of mobbing. The psychological balance of a person is somehow threatened, self-confidence is jeopardized, and stress and anxiety become a problem. 

The third stage is when management should get involved but most of the time management does not intervene resulting in it becoming too late and the victim has already been decided to be removed or has been removed. Such instances do lead to legal repercussions. 

The final stage leads to the incident being a precedent where the victim can be stigmatised or the victim is socially isolated leading to his/her removal or departure from the organisation.



Employers wishing to reduce or eliminate mobbing have to create a set of behavioral standards. Those standards will act as a “line in the sand” across which employees must not cross. After the standards are communicated as expectations for employees, no one has the right to feign ignorance of the new rules. 

One of the first decisions is whether to write a stand-alone, mobbing-specific policy or to meld it with existing policies that can provide avenue for potential mobbing to occur. Two policies that could incorporate mobbing at the workplace are the nondiscrimination and anti-violence at the workplace. 

Employers must view mobbing differently than they do discrimination or harassment. They must state that they view mobbing as seriously as an illegal misconduct. Mobbing complaints must be handled with impartiality indifference, non-prejudicial and non-biasness. To devise such a culture management must be allowed to innovate ways that can protect the individuals from retaliation by the mobber for merely seeking help. 



 It is time for management to seriously understand and look deeply into their own organisations work culture, whether it does promote or enable an environment of mobbing.  The best way to do this is to look at the trends and behavior patterns of how group dynamics at their workplace. Having groups off individuals hound oneself at the workplace can be very stressful and in many cases a torcher.

Attitudes and behavior of managers at workplace are highly important to ensure a peaceful and safe work environment. Managers should be aware of the mobbing behavior exhibited at the workplace and should display the attitudes and behaviors which will prevent mobbing.



This article was written by compiling information from several notable authors cited in the bibliography. The trigger to write this article stemmed from a recent Mental Health Conference @the Workplace held in Kuala Lumpur recently where Dr. Sudeep was moderator to one of the sessions. 



It is intended that the reader receives some benefit from understanding the issues associated with Mobbing and is now able to form an argument for or against the notion if Mobbing is a matter to be addressed at the workplace. 



Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder/Managing Director of I First International (



1.             Mobbing in a Non-Profit Organisation, May 2017. Andrej Kovacic, Nevenka Podgornik, Zorica Pristov, Andrej Raspo. Organizacija. Vol 50. No. 2. Pp178-186.


2.             Understanding inappropriate behaviour: harassment, bullying and mobbing at work in Malaysia. 2014. Yuzana Mohd.Yusop, Martin Dempster, Clifford Stevenson. Social and Behaviorial Sciences 127, pp179-183.


3.             MOBBING: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace. 1999. Noa Zanolli Davenport, Ruth Distler Schwartz Gail Pursell Elliott.  Published by Civil Society Publishing.


4.             The Role of the Consultant in Assessing and Preventing Workplace Bullying and Mobbing. 2018.  Gary Namie, and Ruth Namie. Workplace Bullying Institute. [


How recent changes to funding approaches highlight the importance of organisational structure in non-profit organisations, by Dr Sudeep Mohandas  

Disruption to typical business models has made a drastic imprint on the non-profit organisation (NPO) sector in the Asia Pacific region. With the increase of social enterprises and philanthropists creating their own foundations, the type of conversations happening in the third sector has changed over the last decade, and this is particularly true in Malaysia.  

This greater focus on philanthropy is especially prevalent within the context of Islamic religious giving (zakat),[1] environmental, and educational issues. The ‘next generation’ is also asking more of the boards and management of NPOs, when it comes to managing their organisations. 

By fixing their own organisational infrastructures, NPO boards and management can help raise their philanthropic impact further; but, crucially, without compromising on their effectiveness. This is a significant alteration to the typical business model most NPO are accustomed to, and many NPO, particularly those that work with the community, have shifted to a ‘social enterprise’-based model.  

Organisational structure

An organisation with a robust structure can demonstrate and instil confidence and control: with decision-making that allows the operations of an organisation to produce effective and efficient results. 

Many NPOs go through a process that is referred to as a ‘starvation cycle’.[2] This is where an NPO is in need of funds and is vulnerable to funders dictating their own terms of how they wish the NPO should be structured, to see it achieve its goals. Such decisions, although made at the management and board level, affect the staff and organisational culture. If such a situation continues for extended periods, it results in a situation known as ‘mission drift’,[3] where the organisation drifts away from its original mission set by its founders. 

The good news is that many funders who are aware of this dilemma have taken pro-active steps to mitigate this risk. For example, many foundations in Asia are now establishing pre-agreements with the NPOs they work with, agreeing contributions of no more than 30 per cent, for example, of the total revenue. This is called a ‘dependency metric’. Although high dependence does not always signify a problem, it can impact the NPO’s operational structure. 

Funders must therefore find ways to proactively engage with their chosen non-profits to agree on the transition plan. For example, dependency metric that will reduce over time, moving from 45 to 30 percent over a time period so that the non-profit will achieve their impact, and be able to drop their the NPOs ‘dependency’. Other foundations are up scaling their investment and structural change to the non-profit such they can be sustainable and relevant in future. 



As more philanthropic organisations are created, the non-profit sector has redefined itself by restructuring to manage larger investments, referred to in the industry as ‘big bets’.[4] These organisations invest huge sums to do social impact work, and pose wider organisational challenges, as funders offering substantial sums generally want to solve or significantly ameliorate a problem. Such aspirations require considerable human resources, financial management and legal advice, which will impose operational structural changes that can either shift work culture or board direction. 



It is highly desirable for NPOs in Malaysia to realise that the philanthropic community will embrace the change rapidly and thus, will expect the NPOs to follow suit. The NPOs in the region must be prepared for an overhaul, while consciously guarding the relevance of their mission.

[1]Suzanne Reisman and Diana Hamade, ‘Articles of faith’, STEP Journal, (Vol27 Iss1), pp50-51

[2]Ann Goggins Gregory and Don Howard, ‘The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle’,Standard Social Innovation Review(August 2009)

[3]Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches, Chris Horst and Peter Greer Bethany House Publishers (2014)

[4]William Foster, ‘Introduction to Unleashing Philanthropy’s Big Bets for Social Change’, Standard Social Innovation Review, Spring 2019


Is having a shift in allegiance from ensuring the boss-is-happy to ensuring the organisation’s-purpose-is-achieved a wrong thing? Probably not – depending on the situation or type of job responsibility. We often do find ourselves in a rut especially when we are constantly unhappy at work. Sometimes it could be because of our constant asking of where is my allegiance; to- my superiors or to the organisation?

When I say, allegiance, I am basically referring to loyalty. Who or what are we really loyal to? Which is it? Is it instruction/guidance from the superiors or the words from the purpose which sanctifies the organisation existence? This is a subtle change in mental thinking but the impact to one’s own zeal and motivation at work is enormous.

There are two kinds of talent I have categorised based on my observations on  a typical working adultscareer life. The first kind are the ones who have been working for an organisation for years, who then decide to move on mid-stream in their careers by either taking on a job with a nonprofit or during their spare time commit to being a volunteer with a nonprofit. I think this predicament happens to most of us as we look to solve this allegiance shift within. I recognise the fact that not everyone can move out of their current jobs, so finding a solution to fulfil that shift in allegiance can translate to many ways.

The second kind of talent are those who continue to pursue their allegiance to their superiors throughout their career and this continues even after retirement or when they change jobs. This kind of talent often find themselves suited to certain jobs for example, the army, hospital, manufacturing, etc.

The talents that do not shift their allegiance generally find it very challenging to work in an environment that is mission oriented, or, if there is an inherent expectation to challenge their superiors who have derailed from the goals and objectives of the mission.

Nonprofits in my opinion must find a way during the recruitment process or during their appraisal process to pinpoint or identify this particular characteristic of allegiance. I am sure it can help avoid issues of why certain talents behave in a certain manner. It will also help in ensuring the right behaviour fits nicely into the right job role.  Thus, issues that give rise of conflict within a workplace can be reduced.

It is important the Nonprofit Leaders know who their allegiance is to.  While being loyal and faithful is the duty of all leaders, especially the Board members, but this sometimes has to be translated to also an undivided allegiance when making decisions that can affect the organisation. The Board and Management must always remember their collective impact is to have that special ability to be an independent group of thinkers representing their purpose of mission such they will serve allegiance always to the mission of the organisation. 




How does an organisation benefit from someone staying in her/his job forever?

For a long time, working for one employer for over twenty years, marked one as a stable and reliable employee. Now, it's the opposite. Employers are wary of job candidates who have held one position in the same company for ten years or more.

Having been in the “same job forever”, these applicants are (ironically) seen today as a community of talent that has not developed professionally in their careers. The general view today from the employer is based on several common perceptions that are listed below:

1. Staying in one job forever does not show the breadth of new experiences that a person accumulates with changing jobs every few years.

2. Staying in one job forever will not provide as many professional contacts and reference-givers as a person who's worked in several places.

3. Staying in one job forever naturally causes a person to fall out of practice in job-hunting.

4. Staying in one job forever does not get the wide range of experiences that frequent job-changers would obtain.

5. Staying in one job forever will deafen a person to activity outside their cubicle walls.

6. Other employers (or clients) and headhunters would have forgotten about you because you have been off the market for so long.

7. Staying in one job forever can impact one’s self-esteem should the person lose their job.

8. Staying in one job forever can make a person contented with too little and miss potential opportunities that could have resulted in career growth beyond the routine.


Many organisations have realised that keeping a talent in one position for too long can have an impact to the future employability of their talent, and have moved towards setting their jobs on a long-term contractual basis as opposed to a permanent position. Although this adds a level of insecurity, it does keep the talent on their toes, alert and focused on looking for opportunities to improve himself/herself and make a significant impact at work. Many organisations are adopting a tenure model for senior leadership roles. It helps to ensure good governance, ethical and transparent behaviour and avoid corruption.

But, is an employee’s length of stay really inversely proportional to performance of an organisation or the performance of the employee? Does experience garnered over twenty years mean nothing unless the talent was in different roles and had different responsibilities throughout the twenty years?

Many stories demonstrate the value of long-term career. Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager-coach for the Manchester United Football Club (MUFC) for 26 years, is heralded as one of the greatest and most successful managers of all time in Britain. He continued to win trophies up to his last year with the Club, winning the Premier League title in 2013. Interestingly, ten years before his retirement in 2013, he had announced his intentions to leave the club in 2001. But, he made a U-turn in 2002 and continued to win trophies for the Club for the next decade.

Since the end of the Ferguson era, MUFC has not found a comparable replacement. Much has changed – MUFC’s organizational culture, the type of board members, the owners, expectations to succeed and the attitude of current players. Can Ferguson accomplish as much if he was MUFC’s manager today? Debatable. Although Ferguson handpicked his successor – the result has been a down trend. This year (2018/19), things appear to be moving well as MUFC seem to be going through a purple patch after several manager-coaches later.

On the flipside, look at the Arsenal Football Club. As a club, they recently saw the departure of Arsene Wenger, manager-coach of 22 years. Although he brought many trophies, his departure was less celebrated. There was a clear divide among the Arsenal fans that wanted to see Wenger leave the club. His glory days were waning away and the fans were being impatient because the club was not bringing in trophies and no longer in the top four of the English Premier League table. Although there were the Wenger supporters who recognized his past achievements, the pressure even from them to consider a re-set to the old days was beginning to be seen. This season, 2018/19 marks the new season of a new manager-coach in charge of Arsenal.  Already Unai Emery is realizing that it is not as easy to be the manager-coach of a successful organisation under the leadership of one man, who was at the helm for 22 years.

So why do people hold on to their positions for so long?

A Gallup report (2013) on employee satisfaction poll (Gallup has been measuring employee satisfaction for over 20 years) found that there are twice as many “actively disengaged” workers in the world as there are “engaged” workers who like their jobs. Out of 230,000 full-time and part-time workers in 142 countries, Gallup found that only 13% of workers felt engaged to their jobs. These 13% felt a sense of passion for their work as they spend their days helping to move their organisations forward. In other words, the remaining 87% found themselves doing jobs they would rather not be doing and at places they would rather not be.

The 13% of people who find themselves engaged to their work are the ones who stay at their jobs forever. Of this 13%, some of them could fall in to the following categories of general personality traits as described below:



They are brilliant visionaries who believe that they are the one person on earth who is truly indispensable to their companies. These leaders are driven by an elusive quest for an immortal, lasting legacy, as well as for the heroic stature that comes with the position. They want the world in which they live in to be different but can be blinded by their visions.



These leaders are like great Generals of the World Wars. They bring the glory back to the organisation and ensure the organisation overcomes the crisis they are in. They have the credibility to make major changes and sometimes-in doing so, they have the advantage to engineer their stay period in the organisation.


These people will stay for long periods despite being challenged to step down because they see possible new opportunities and challenges. These new opportunities are what keeps them focused but often it diverts them from the reality on the ground.


These personalities often have excellent relationships with their vendors, partners, stakeholders and community. Often it is their strong partnership and networks, that push for them to stay in their roles. The challenge is that networkers can be easily cajoled into making decisions that are unpopular.

Ultimately, the person should and must feel satisfied on the job and in the job. Satisfaction in the job context has to be boxed into three compartments:

1.     To be satisfied, they must feel that they are in charge. Their work day offers them a measure of autonomy and discretion. They will use that autonomy and discretion to achieve a level of mastery or expertise by learning and developing themselves constantly.

2.     To be satisfied also means to be socially engaged. They are often working on their task as part of a team and even when they are working alone, there are opportunities for social interaction during the quiet moments.

3.     They find what they do meaningful because their work makes a difference to the world. It makes other people’s lives significantly better.

Whether having someone stay in the role forever or not, is something to be encouraged, is up for debate. The examples and the discussion in this article only touch the surface of whether it is best for an organisation if a person stays forever or not.

What was not addressed but can be alluded to, from what is shared here, is that every organisation must seriously consider succession planning. It has to be designed in a way that it understands and appreciates the subtleties and nuances of what could happen, if a staff who has been in the job forever leaves, and the repercussions to the organisation, especially if the person was holding a senior role.



1.              Ten Ways It Hurts You To Stay In One Job Too Long. Liz Ryan. August 30. 2016. []

2.              CEO exit schedules: A season to stay, a season to go: JEFFREY SONNENFELD May 6, 2015.  []

3.              Long CEO Tenure Can Hurt Performance. Xue Ming Luo, Vamsi K. Kanuri and Michelle Andrews. March 2013. []

4.              Why work? A psychologist explains the deeper meaning of your daily grind. Anne Quito. September 15, 2015 []

5.              Why We Work. Barry Schwartz. (September 2015) is published by Simon & Schuster/TED Books.

6.              The Shifting Paradigm: Permanent to Contractual Recruitment.  Dinesh Goel. October 2016. [ 14231?utm_source=peoplematters&utm_medium=interstitial&utm_campaign=learnings-of-the-day] 



Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the co-author of What Influences the Generation Y to join a Nonprofit Organisation and Nonprofit Management: Trials and Tribulations. He is the co-founder and managing director of I First International, an organisation that offers consultancy services to nonprofit organisations by professionalizing the Board and Management.


In normal circumstances we often find Human Resource policies associated with death set as Bereavement or Compassionate Leave Policies. In other words, the focus is on allowing paid and unpaid employee time off from work when a family member, relative, friend or pet dies. This reassures the employee that the employer cares about the needs of employees who are experiencing bereavement.

But what we do not set as a policy is or procedure is when death happens to the employee or a group of employees at the workplace. It is vital that the employees do understand this aspect of the policy and procedure because beyond just having bereavement leave or compassionate leave it will project a sense of composure and transparency to the family and kin in the event something does happen.

We must recognise the fact that a lot of the nonprofit jobs, although not high profile, are considered a risk when it comes to safety and health. For example, when working with communities that deal with a certain disease or an area that is prone to certain calamities or a neighbourhood that has a high incidence of murder or kidnapping.

There is no doubt that as a manager, one of the most difficult situations you may face in your career is managing the aftermath of the death of an employee and the multiple repercussions that may affect your work group or department. Because a critical incident of this nature may be traumatic for co-workers of the employee, it is recommended that the Human Resource personnel must be trained in how to counsel or manage a situation by knowing how to manage the problem and discuss with the family. There are times when an employee could suffer from  a stroke etc. What do you do?

Research has shown that early intervention is critical and it reduces the stressful impact of the news and the stress to the management especially when they know what to do. Effectively managing an extremely emotional situation means delegating certain duties associated with the death to those who are more detached from the situation.

Because death is an incident that can result in a traumatic stress response, it is recommended that Human Resources have a list of contacts to facilitate a debriefing session for all affected employees within 24 to 48 hours after learning of the death. Research has found that early intervention with a work group reduces the possibility of delayed stress responses and enables the work group to return to their normal level of productivity sooner. Another benefit of the debriefing is that the organisation and its management staff are viewed by employees as responsive and caring people.

Since each member of the work group may grieve the loss of their co-worker in different ways, it makes sense to recognize that need. Provide ways for these emotions to be channelled and recognised. There is a wide range of normal and appropriate reactions to grief.

 When you contact an agency or external organisation for support, they will ask to provide whatever relevant information available regarding the death of the employee and your assessment of the work group’s reaction to the situation. A one to two hour debriefing session or meeting for employees should be scheduled as soon as possible.

Listed below are areas that should be considered when trying to establish a policy and procedure that is known and available to all while they are still alive and well to read. The STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE should be customised to the culture, sensitivities and nuances of each organisation but at the same time, having the overarching values instilled.



This is a very important brainstorming process that although may appear to be morbid and dreadful it is extremely important for any nonprofit to prepare themselves for any possible eventualities and therefore this exercise to discuss and raise possibilities can sometimes be a revealing and significant moment for all those in the session. It will certainly place everyone in a mindset of planning forward and not being regretful.


No matter how one learns from the brainstorming exercise, waiting to take steps is not right and proper. It should be seen to be an immediate action as we do not know what could the possibilities be. Preparation and urgency are key and to act now will save a lot of remorse, bad vibes and misunderstandings.


It is extremely important not to assume that what you have decided as the steps to manage a death in the workplace is the right one. Make the assumption that you are the next of kin or the family member or better still the fly on the wall listening to the discussions. This is the time when management is challenged to take the high moral ground and at the same time practical and pragmatic, for the immediate to short term.


It is important to understand and study the relationship of the employee with his/her co-workers as well as with the management. Making efforts to welcome group or individual responses by having memorial bulletins with photos or videos, holding a workplace luncheon to honor the deceased or having a minute of silence before every meeting for a week will help honour the ex-colleague. In addition, developing a montage or stories and sentiments into a material form for the benefit of the family or raising some funds for the employees’ family will take the organisation far in terms of its kind gesture.


For such a matter it is important there is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that will give authorisation to the Human Resources or the Supervisor/Manager to handle the tasks of clearing the desk of the staff. Having a family member to be there is a welcome gesture as there may be personal items to be collected. The authority to clear the desk includes attending to the voice messages, office phone, emails, posts and the in-tray.


There must be an immediate and short term plan of how to organise and coordinate the work in the event of the loss. Knowledge management becomes key and systems that are in place must come into effect in order to ensure business continuity. Still, having a way to alert the customers or stakeholders of the loss and explaining to them, what will happen in the meantime, is vital. It is important to lessen the level of anxiety among staff, customers and stakeholders by having a clear, transparent and temporary plan which has clear delegation and separation of duties with timelines spelled out.


It is best not to make any abrupt moves in regard to space changes; people need time to grieve the loss of their co- worker before seeing his or her workstation is dismantled. In a month or so, there will be more acceptance of the changes which come from the loss of the co-worker. How long will this take has to be made clear. Thus, having the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) early will allow for others to understand the organisation is following a system and that nothing is personal.


Under the best of circumstances, a new employee needs to be prepared for possible negative comparisons with the deceased employee. If the deceased was particularly well-liked, the transition will be even more difficult. It is advisable to give staff notice of the new employee’s start date, relevant work background and to prepare them for the change. It is a normal part of accepting a loss to welcome someone new.


As the manager, expect the death of an employee to result in lower productivity and motivation for a brief time. The debriefing held soon after the announcement will ease the impact of loss, but it cannot be avoided entirely. Eventually, the work unit will return to its normal level of functioning.


It is important to remember that a death to an employee, student, customer or visitor at the office represents a loss. The issue for an organisation to demonstrate, it has prepared itself for such an eventuality is to respond to such an event in the best way possible that it shows it is caring and understanding. Therefore, a policy of such nature will provide direction in terms of process and procedures to be followed, including roles and responsibilities of departments and certain senior personnel.



1.     Necessary Losses, The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow, Viorst, Judith, Fireside, 1998. Section IV, Chapters 16 through 20 are particularly significant in regards to loss and grief.

2.     Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, Scribner, 1997.

3.     When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Kushner, Harold, Avon, 1997.

4.     A Death in the Workplace: A Guide for Family and Friends. Queensland Government 2018. []



Special thanks to Mr. Harikannan Ragavan from Jayadeep, Hari & Jamil (JHJ) for taking the time to read the article sharing his views.



Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the author of his second book Nonprofit Management: Trials and Tribulations. He is also the Co-Founder of I First International a consultancy firm that offers professional services to the Senior Management and Boards of nonprofits and purpose based organisations. He is an Internationally Recognised Professional Certified Facilitator (IAF) and is a Board Member to the World Institute of Action Learning (WIAL).


Conversational Narcissism - A Workplace Phenomena

Did you know that there is a term used to identify people who steer the conversation from you to themselves. It is called conversational narcissism. I don’t know about you but I face this a lot in society, community, friends and at the workplace.

Apparently the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include a grandiose sense of importance, preoccupation with unlimited success, belief that one is special and unique, exploitative of others, lack of empathy, arrogance, and jealousy of others.

So how many times have you faced this situation where you are trying to meet your boss or manager and explain your situation and suddenly the topic makes a 180 degree turn and the conversations becomes all about them.

Most of us often refer to people who think or speak a little too well of themselves and don’t have much regard for the feelings of others as either bragging, showing off or just full of ego. This kind of conversation has been studied thoroughly by psychologist. If I understand it correctly from my own reading there is a difference between someone who comes across as egoistical and someone who is just a plain conversational narcissist.

This opens an opportunity for trainers and consultants out there to review their slides and to add to the kind of behaviors leaders should be wary of an added line and that is not to be a “conversational narcissist.”

So the next time we come across someone who sees himself or herself as more important and influential than everyone else by touting his or her own accomplishments, exaggerates their importance, and elicits envy or admiration from others we will know this is not necessarily egoistical but actually having a conversation that has the narcissistic trait. That way we need not be drawn into admiring this person and wanting to orbit around him or her as a leader. 

There are many kinds of conversational narcissism traits and hopefully in time there is more awareness at the workplace among managers that can help change the way one reacts at the workplace. 

About the Author

Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder/Managing Director of I First International. They provide consultancy services to the nonprofit and purpose based organisations. He has conducted work globally, is a Board member of International Nonprofits and Strategic Advisor to Social Enterprises and Universities. He has written many articles and two books on the topic of nonprofit management.

A Nonprofit Balancing Act between the Funder, its Mission and Goals

The nature of a nonprofit when it comes to receiving funds is dependent on donations. If it is not donations then it has to be a form of monetary support of somekind. In Japan, the nonprofit sector did not exist legally until the late 1990s prior to that any form of charitable giving was supported by the government.

Today, supporting a nonprofit monetarily is a norm to its existence. The issue presently is when the donor support attaches itself to certain conditions and requests that could compromise the managements value system or even the mission of the organisation. There have been cases recorded in the United States where the donor upon making generous gifts have also made requests that that make it difficult for the nonprofit expecially when it comes to instititionalising their requests. These requests range from having a building renamed or the mission of the organisation reworded.

The fact that a donation these days is tagged to a higher goal set by the donor to fulfil their own mission sometimes makes the alignment to the beneficiary rather uncomfortable. For example, if the donor has to fulfil their mission by ensuring their donation is to have their branding on the front wall of their premise of every nonprofit office, then this could be difficult for a nonprofit who has set its priority of providing visibility to the donor on their annual report only. Changing or accepting to allow for a change can lead a nonprofit to set a precedent or even create some inconvenience in terms of answering to other donors.

So what does a nonprofit do?

There has to be a boundary established between the funder and the nonprofit. This is the inconvenient truth. Funders and donor recipients do need to understand their own authority. A perfect relationship between a funder and a nonprofit is where there the transaction of donations and expected achievables stand on the basis of professionalism and it does not lean towards misalignment of the mission

So why does this happen?

Possibly its because of two aspects: (i) a certain power imbalance between funder and nonprofit that sets a certain inappropriate behaviour. Supposing a nonprofit were to hold their donor to task this could prove to create a possible risk of losing a donation because the decision to accept the donation is decided at the nonprofit level. Chances are sometimes the nonprofit could risk loosing a sizable gift and sometimes the person who challenges the funders request could even loose their job. There does need to be a level of awareness and education to the funder and nonprofit when it comes to how far can a request be made.

Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta makes the point that funding in today’s context is based on driving the relationship with a funder by making the nonprofit continue to follow the path of nonsustainability. He says, the funders way of thinking if accepted is what nonprofits have to wrestle with when it comes to issues of ethics, morals and cultural change.

Secondly, (ii) nonprofits at times get confused what exactly is the terms from the funder that are either non-negotiable or to be insistent upon. Many times the funder makes decisions of what they want the nonprofit to execute or conduct and at times it’s the nonprofit boards that are in a state of limbo because they were either unclear as to what is or they were not involved at the early stages of discussions with the funder.

There have been cases where certain funders do decide if the nonprofit requires/does not require a certain staff, expertise or consultant to conduct a specific job. There is little the board and management can do or cannot do as the money is being sponsored. When this happens, it gives an impression that the board or management is powerless or incapable in making decisions.

Many funders often find the nonprofits unclear or uncertain of what they actually want. Therefore, funders are pushed to make certain decisions that will help the board and management of the nonprofit move forward. For example, many funders have complained that the level of proposals they receive is generally lacking in quality. Thus funders need to work with the nonprofits in improving on it. When this happens, funders get misunderstood as if they are meddling into management affairs.

Nonprofits however argue that they find the process of application quite unclear and difficult to make sense of.  They say, they are quite clear of what they want but because the process of application is not clear it does not allow them to express their request in a cohesive manner.

To make this relationship work will require certain investments from the funders and a lot of initiative from the nonprofits. For instance, the funders should have an orientation or one day education seminar to help the nonprofits understand the application process. Having an event that allows the fundseekers to come forward with their applications and in the process accept criticisms on their proposal will really fit the needs of the funder better.

It is important nonprofits know when there is a confusion when it comes to funding and how it can impact the affairs of board and management matters. This is because it denotes their own incompetence or failure to manage effectively.

To know what these signals are, here are some examples:

·      When the funder is not satisfied with the deliverables in the proposal

·      There is a frustration from the funder that they believe the nonprofit has gone about the task differently from what they discussed or expected

·      The funder starts to focus on the details and take great pride and /or pain in making corrections

·      There is a strong desire from the funder to know what the board and management is working on in detail

If a nonprofit wants to build a stronger relationship with their donor they do need to get better at management and board governance.

Below are some management tips:

Manage #1: The board and management of nonprofits must know its role in the organization. This is a simple need but it is important. The board members who are nominated into governance as volunteers and the board or council members who are elected as management are seldom educated, orientated or made aware of their role and responsibility even before accepting the post. Therefore to change this it requires a recruitment or system of election that allows for those who have accepted to hold responsibility to know their job description, level of authority and commitment in advance. They have to abide and adhere to the guidelines and instructions given and there must be a check and balance from the president/chairperson or an internal auditor.

Manage #2: The board and management must have policies or procedures delineating appropriate roles between staff and the board. This is important especially when it comes to working with the funders. Staff must not assume that just because they receive funding they can make decisions independently without the interventions from the management or board.

Manage #3: The board and management must not be motivated to accept funding just because they are desperate. The board and management has to make hard choices which could mean reengineering the organisation to ensure it can stay afloat. Such nonprofits that are able to sustain and manage themselves during difficult times will send a strong message of competent leadership and management which is what most funds want to have as a basis of reassurance.

Manage #4: Being brave to say “no” to a funder. There is nothing wrong in declining a request or stopping midway a funding proposal professionally and giving ample notice. This is an important aspect. It can happen to many organisations. Just following the flow or allowing things to happen because the organisation has got started in seeking funds and not wanting to ruffle feathers with the funder is not healthy. In the end, it will not help the funder to realise the actual issues and have a reality check. Sometimes a revisit will help the relationship as the funder could be willing to give the nonprofit a chance to review and refocus in order to make another attempt to seek funds. It is perfectly fine for a nonprofit to decline or say no to a proposal or midway through a proposal if they are finding themselves to compromise on issues or principles they adhere to strongly. Making difficult decisions would set a short term inconvenience but the long term damage is almost negligible.

Finally, every funder has a right to exercise their own desires and needs in order to align to their agenda and funding guidelines set out by regulatory bodies or through the founders principles and values. So does the nonprofit. The right to be wary of what is the motivation behind receiving the funding or why a nonprofit requires the money is vital. Ultimately funding or no funding, it’s the board and management of the nonprofit that has to face the consequences and be responsible for the nonprofits success or failure.


1.              Susan Svrluga, May 2 2016. The Washington Post, 2016 - Are conservative donors bullying this public university? Its President Says No. []

2.              Dan Pallota, March 2013, TED2013.  The Way We Think of Charity is Dead Wrong.[]

3.              Dan Pallota, Dec 8, 2010. “Micromeddling Board Undermine Progress”. Harvard Business Review. []

4.              The Grantsmanship Centre. May 2 2016. “When Application Guidelines Are Unclear”. The Nonprofit Times. []

5.              Hildy Gottlieb. 2009. Why Boards Micro-Manage: How to Get Them to Stop. Help 4Nonprofits. []

6.              Muriel Maignan Wilkins, Nov 11, 2014. “Signs that you are a micromanager.” Harvard Business Review.



The author would like to thank Mr. Pratik Bhatnagar, (Senior Advisor, Innovation and Partnerships, Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, Switzerland) for reviewing this article and sharing  his thoughts, views and insights. Without which this article would not have the impact it deserves.



Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of I First International, a nonprofit management consultancy. He can be reached at


When the Leader of a Nonprofit Organisation Has Their Authority Undermined

Nonprofit leaders in authority are generally in a mode of wariness especially when their staff or team member refuses to follow their cue or instruction.  This behavior is often recognized among leaders as someone who is undermining their authority. They are many arguments to suggest that the problem is not undermining but in fact a combination of someone’s upbringing or their cultural background. Another argument is simply that the one who claims to be undermined is actually setting the stage to disguise his/her own leadership limitations.

It is always difficult to lead a team of passionate and mission driven personalities in a nonprofit set-up especially when the leader has to have more than just having technical clout but also being able to upheld certain values, virtues and integrity that is of the highest order. Most nonprofit leader are often caught in a situation of being undermined because they have either discovered certain aspects of governance or management that are bordering around fraud, or which involves a conflict of interest, misallocation of resources, or inadequate accountability and transparency. In such situations these good nonprofit leaders have to realise the consequences of their actions and how it could potentially have an individual or team undermine them.

The consequences to undermining can be quite dire if a leader does not establish its leadership position early and nip the issue in the bud. Unfortunately, one negative personality if not managed properly can possibly destroy a leader's career or derail the organisation’s goal. Negative behavior from one person can affect the entire workplace, and undo all of the good work of the entire team. Such a person actually weakens or lessens a leaders’ effectiveness gradually. Overtime a leaders’ ability to lead the organisation to achieve its objective will be diminished.

So how does a nonprofit leader know there are such disruptive people in their working vicinity? To know who these people are, the leader must be on the look out for certain signals (list is non-exhaustive);

1.             Demonstrating negativity: The disruptive person will occasionally disagree in a negative manner. Overtime the level of disagreement will increase from a casual corridor talk of grievance to a more wide spread and intense form of disruption.

2.             Making excuses to avoid work: The disruptive person will occasionally not support the leader to move forward. This person will often give excuses and find ways to avoid work, even after being given specific instruction.

3.             Failing to complete assignments: When work is given or delegated, the disruptive person will have reasons why the work is delayed or cannot be completed.

4.             Demonstrating disrespect or abusive behavior: Being grumpy or short-tempered on occasions in your presence, which can allude to being rude and disrespectful. One can often find such behavior to be at times arrogant and abusive.

5.             Publicity stints: The disruptive person will gossip, or share information that are private and confidential. They would even send emails of detest to a leader and blind copy others just to prove their point.

Another method to know if the general feeling in terms of decision making or execution of business is steering towards undermining, is to watch the leaders own behavior and how he/she react to certain situation.

Below are some examples of a leader's behaviour when they are sensing there are being undermined (list is non-exhaustive). It is important to note that each example on its own merits be attributed to certain singular predicaments. However, these examples if viewed in totality, chances are the leader may be behaving differently because of a sense of concern that there is some undermining happening in his/her camp.

1.             Doubting Oneself – this can happen at any moment during the course of being undermined. The leader can start to wonder if their own time is up and if they are no longer as effective as before. The sense of purpose is lost. 

2.             A sense of overcompensating – Leaders who begin to give in unnecessarily to ensure the individual or the team is happy or satisfied are doing more harm to themselves and the team in the long run.  Their better judgement is being clouded by issues of not wanting to be undermined.

3.             Reading between the lines – when a leader reads into what is being said more than they should, chances are they are looking for something that sends a signal that illustrates support or a positive assurance. In such circumstances what is happening is the leader is hoping there is no backlash or criticism.

4.             Having to prove oneself – losing confidence and being doubtful of oneself. Wanting to preserve ones position often will steer the leaders behavior towards being political and diplomatic in their relationship with others. 

It is important to know that in any case of being undermined, the conduct of the nonprofit leader must be influenced through their own moral compass in a direction that will prevent themselves from being undermine. Like any compass there are four directions to look for. These are; (i) moral awareness (recognition that a situation raises ethical issues); (ii) Moral decision making (determining what course of action is ethically sound); (iii) Moral intent: (identifying which values should take priority in the decision) and (iv) Moral action: (following through on ethical decisions).

Which direction should the nonprofit leader take is completely dependent on the predicament based on how far and how much undermining has happened. Most times when a nonprofit leader is in a situation of being undermined it is best to look for a solution that maintains the leader to remain of good ethics, strong morals and high integrity.

Finally every nonprofit leader who is undermined severely has to make a tough decisions that will warrant their own resignation or for them to take legal action against their employer which will be perceived to be a sign of weakness on their part but in reality it all comes down to how far has their own authority as a nonprofit leader been undermined and how much is it being disruptive to the performance of the team and organisation now.


1.              Deborah L. Rhode & Amanda K. Packel, Summer 2009. Ethics and Nonprofits, Standford Social Innovation Review. [].

2.              M. Sandy Hershcovis, 2011. Incivility, social undermining, bullying . . .oh my! A call to reconcile constructs within workplace aggression research. Journal of Organisational Behavior, 32; 499–519.


The author would like to thank Dr. Henry Yeoh, Deputy President of the Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management (MIHRM) and Dr. Lee Vee Meng (Executive Director, Accenture) for reviewing this article and sharing very deft insights.


Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of I First International, a nonprofit management consultancy. He can be reached at

How do you motivate an elephant to move? You don’t - you ask them to leave if they can’t move by themselves.

The issue of having talent who are already in the organisation who are not wanting to improve or develop themselves or better still improve on their performance is a frustration to many managers. I consider such people dead in their head or just motionless in terms of exuberating any form of potential energy within them.

In the nonprofit world, it is a wonder why people would join an organisation after making their intention so clear at the interview that they are very passionate about the cause and wanting to make a difference only to discover they have have a dearth of drive and are expecting more from the organisation to get them to move than any effort for them to be proactive.

These people's motivation is driven by a certain form of expectation that sets them to think that only and until they receive, or hear or benefit from something or someone, then they will move. They are like a tree, motionless and expecting the wind, an animal or a human being to exert pressure on them before their leaves or fruit will fall.

The question is how do we ever motivate such people to believe in the cause and to work for the organisation. The answer lies in understanding them but most of all being prepared to let them move to another organisation. Let us be frank - we do not have the luxury of time or money to make so much commitment we have to mother the staff to the point only when we advise or instruct they do.

The moment we as managers realise we have such a person with a certain personality that is dead, we have to institute a system of purging. People who are not driven to change for the better should not be in your organisation. 

The process of purging such people needs to be done very carefully and within the framework and legal requirements of the land. Purging will help set a certain culture that emphasis that nothing is certain and that if we do not work hard and make every effort to help the nonprofit beneficiaries - we wasting the time and money of our donors.

Here are some simple steps to help people realise what purging could do to them:

Step 1: Let them know that being pro-active and setting their own direction and demonstrating they can achieve their goals by themselves is what counts - they should be given a stipulated time frame to buck up. This is important as it could be many valid reasons for sometime to be motionless.

Step 2: If they fail to meet Step 1 - they have automatically opted for the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) or a clear cut non-satisfactory performance exit (all within the laws, regulations and best practises of the country).

If they pass Step 1: They should then be subjected to a team work display. They must show they are a team player by demonstrating commitment to the deliverables. The output from the team and the evaluation from the team of their performance will prove to be a decider for their future with the organisation. If they do well, they can move to Step 3., otherwise they move to Step 2. It is important at this point to understand if the job they are carrying out requires from them a top performance as an individual or as a team. This requirement will decide if they are subject to Step 2.

Step 3: They need to demonstrate they are consistent and not faltering in their drive. As a bonus they will be sent for training session to work on their own areas of development. These areas could consider things like, building self-confidence, time-management, learning a new skill etc. Rewards for their effort and accomplishments is important as every organisation does need to celebrate their effort.

How these individuals are monitored should be by the direct supervisor, a stakeholder and the personnel (or someone in charge).

Note: It is at this juncture I have to state that the success of this process falls entirely in how serious the supervisor and organisation is towards the talent development. A Supervisor who is not positive or motivating will find this exercise hopeless and a waste of time at the

If there is no improvement from the staff - the process leads us back to Step 2.

Step 4: Sustaining the drive is critical and it is important to see the person maintain the drive such it talent now believes in themselves and has developed a character of being more pro-active and has a zeal and desire to out-perform .

Such a process does require a review to the steps 1-3 as the process must be aligned to the culture and direction of the organisation.

Sometimes during the process, the talent’s wisdom will prevail and they will make their way automatically to the exit door without any advice or instruction given.

Leadership by showing off how much you know...

"Speak your truth quietly & clearly; and listen to others, even the dull & ignorant; they too have their story." 
Max Ehrmann, from Desiderata

Ever come across people who are so articulate that you almost wonder how is it they know so much and are so well versed in the topic or issue at hand. They are able to quote, reference or even provide evidence with such ease.

Well, maybe just maybe it is because these people have picked up a skill that not many of us have mastered.....the skill of copying, editing and improvising.

What do I mean? Well it is simple. Suppose, what they say was something they read from somewhere or heard from someone, is it possible they could have just regurgitated what they picked up but have it modified and spinned such it looks original and true. It is possible right?

There are many such people in our society who have mastered this art so much so they have been so good at it that it almost seems as if the idea, experience or they were the original authors to the stories.

If only intellectual property rights covered this aspect, many people would have gone home bankrupt.

It is not so easy to spot these kind of people especially if you have met them for the first time. They can press the right buttons in front of you such you can be moved as if they are the next best thing on a hot day to shaved ice.

......over my years of working in different roles, I have found people who do this are the ones who sit in positions of perceived power and have no clue of what is happening on the ground but pretend to know. They simply articulate their thoughts as if they were there, as if they had first hand knowledge and with little acknowledgement to those who actually did go through the trauma, torture, suffering or bliss.

These personalities have a great competence to use others sound bites or stories. They must be applauded. I am not so sure if they are generally insecure to share their own personal journey and tribulations. The fact they have a parasitic view to leech on others stories and learnings as if it was theirs baffles me.

Here are some tips I have picked up from my experience of how to spot these kind of people.

1. Relevance - at times you will find the topic for discussion or an intervention have no relevance or just does not seem to register as if it was their own story......when you feel like this, test the story by asking if the person was there or ask for more details and you will find the subject matter will shift away to something else - a smart display of "Tai Chi" by avoiding your question. 

2. Timing - how recent was the episode. In most cases, the person will share something they had just learned or picked up from a cocktail conversation or an article or a story which was related very recently. To find out if the story was recent, you can spot it in the context of how the person delivers their story, was it timed based and was it referenced to something that had happened recently....

3. Manner of presentation - in most cases the way the subject was presented would be to show the person had significant business intelligence or is aware of the trends and the pulse on the is a way to show that the person knows more than others...check it out using the internet or asking a friend who you know may be able to vouch for the information.

4. Reliability - almost most of the time these kind of personalities will state their sources of information as reliable without asking. For example, “its true - if you don’t believe me go an ask?” They will give details as if you asked for it and they will go as far as saying they got the news from the horse’s mouth. They want to establish authenticity.

5. They like to listen to their voice - what you say does not matter but what they say matters. The more they speak and listen to themselves the more they can reassure themselves they are doing justice to their narrative. It is a sense of false reflection.

So the next time someone you meet for the first time sweeps you off your feet, take some time to hold yourself to the ground and ask yourself some pertinent questions if this person is real?

.....after all from my experience the person who has a lot to share is sometimes the one who has little to speak about...

 Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Co-Founder/Managing Director of I First International (IFI).

At IFI our mission is ensure the nonprofits, foundations, and social enterprise sector are able to enjoy and afford the benefits of top quality professional consultative services, thereby being able to scale up their impact on the ground. We focus our expertise on the Management and the Board. We help organisations be impactful, sustainable and resilient.

Wait a minute! I thought you hired me for something else?

The issues of recruitment have become so difficult that nowadays the job description (JD) or terms of reference (TOR) to a job can change in a matter of 24 hours. So much so, what was the initial hiring purpose can shift overnight. When that happens the reason why the prospect candidate joining your organisation in the first place can almost instantaneously vanish. They could be walking into a very different job or worse still they could be walking into a space of no turning back ( a bit of drama here).

Why does this happen? To understand and explain this phenomena we must understand the internal mechanisms that are in built into recruitment, the hiring and the evaluation of the performance of the new staff process in an organisation.

For Example:

1. The Job Advertisement - on average it could take between 2 weeks to 1 month before a concept or review becomes eventually public domain in the form of a JD. Once the advert is up and running, the due date to response can be from 1 week to 3 months... A LOT CAN CHANGE during that time....

Let us not disregard the interview time which can last from the moment of submission of the resume to the final offer letter which can be anything between 2 weeks to 3 months. 

Then there is the issue of walking into the office after receiving the offer. The time from the offer letter to actually date of joining is another time factor that can range between 1 week to 3 months (depending on the notice period the incumbent has to give his previous employer in lieu of notice).

2. The Probation Period - some organisation have it as 2 weeks and some go as long 6 months. During that time, the new employee will learn the ropes but also will be expected to take on areas that were not in the JD originally. This is because after the long wait the changes in the team, office or in the job per se may have shifted because the project could have been completed, the function may have varied or the budget may have been cut (many other things could have happened). This is when the new staff who joins begins to really understand the job. He or she will ask themselves if they are in the job they thought they had applied for....suddenly recollection of the interview and the discussion will surface very vividly. 

3. Performance Appraisal - Communication, transparency and results all happening at this moment in a discussion which is being documented. The new staff will begin to realise they were not either informed of the earlier targets set which was documented from the appraisal or if there are new ones being set, in any case chances are it was never discussed. This creates an atmosphere of "hey! I thought I was hired to do this? how come I am expected to that?"

And if you look at the time frame between when a new staff joins and the appraisal meeting, it can range from 6 months to 12 months before a serious conversation between supervisor and staff ever happens....LOTS CAN CHANGE...

So the next time, we hire people, please understand sometimes it is not the performance or the attitude of the new staff that is always delivering poor alignment or results to the needs of the organisation, but it could just be the internal systems in place that is actually breeding a misplaced identity.....and if you think about it, it all because a lot of time had passed by.....

Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Managing Director of I First International (IFI).

At IFI our mission is ensure the nonprofits, foundations, and social enterprise sector is able to enjoy and afford the benefits of top quality professional consultative services, thereby being able to scale up their impact on the ground. We focus on the Management and the Board. We help you help others.



Behind the Name

It will be one year come August 28th 2015 since the name of the company, I First International was first conceptualised. 


The name I First was actually coined as a phrase by my youngest brother who is mentally disadvantaged during our school days. 

The phrase I First came about because my brother wanted to demonstrate when he was in his early teens that he was ahead of us. He knew he was disadvantaged and yet still told himself he had to be first. He made it his mantra to put any task assigned to him directly or indirectly that he would be the first and all of us other siblings and parent would be last (anything lesser than first was last to him). After accomplishing his feat, he would savour the moment by looking at us as if we were just not good enough. Something like the Mr. Bean movie, where Mr. Bean would look at those who make a mess-up and go tut! tut! tut! moving his head from left to right in utter dismay. 

Over time, the phrase I First grew into something much more than just being ahead of the pack but also a demonstration that one was able to achieve many things against the odds.  Eventually, I First to me as a person became more than just a phrase. It had an intense meaning. It became a phrase which meant putting others who are lesser or disadvantage ahead of us. For example, the marginalised, the abused, the homeless, the disadvantaged, the minority etc.

Then in 2014 came the turning point where I was at a crossroads where my passion for change to the nonprofit sector had to be harnessed and focussed towards a was at that time I was looking for a name for my company. One day, while talking to my youngest brother, he used the phrase on me because of something that to me at that moment seemed really trivial but to him was an issue. It took a while but suddenly, I realised like a jolt of electricity what I should name my company.

In a very strange way, the phrase which meant so much to my brother for so long was now equally important to me as it gave me a sense of motivation and a meaning.

Memories of being with my brother in his element of competition between siblings, looking at his achievement and watching him relish the moment of being ahead, "I First he used to say", was beckoning me in my mind.

It dawned upon me to turn what was a simple phrase to a mission of change. A mission to put the I First stamp to those who are behind and will probably never be heard.

Later, I also realised I could put I First to my learnings when dealing with management. I First was going to make the difference where others sought to provide guidance and support, by bringing the organisations that focus on their mission to stay ahead and be the I First

Today I First is pushing the agenda to the social enterprise. The mission is to make sure the nonprofit and social enterprise sector management are on equal par as the corporate and are able to reach their goal first.

I First will not focus the mission just to one nation, one race or one religion, it will focus beyond one and be International in its outlook. It will be the multiracial organisation, multinational and multi religious organisation with an outlook and competency to focus internationally. 

I First International would not stop and watch, it will continue to "do something about it". This is our first year, we are charting our second year and we want to see the world change for the better. 

We need to "do something about it!"

Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Managing Director of I First International (IFI).

At IFI our mission is ensure the nonprofit and social enterprise sector is able to enjoy and afford the benefits of top quality professional consultative services, thereby being able to scale up their impact on the ground. We focus on the Management and the Board. We help you help others.


"Let us not talk about the past......!"

The culture of looking back and reflecting is not happening enough during discussions at the management meeting. The management behaviour that one should not cry over spilt milk has gone too far to the point that people don't want to indulge a conversation on past mistakes or lessons learnt.  

These days management consider a discussion about the past to be going backwards. It is seen to be digressing and not progressing. In other words, there is no value in having that conversation.

The art of effectively retrospecting is not practised. What is happening is that people are worried that if such a discussion did happen the tone or mood of the room will shift to a blame game, people will tai-chi issues or be openly defensive or offensive. All these negative elements do not help the conversation. I agree, it will not help but not not mean being retrospective is not important.

Do we not recap the days events before we go to sleep and take cognisance of our own efforts and limitations and at times do we tell ourselves not to repeat such things again. So if we can do it at the self level, why can't we do it at the team or organisational level?

An effective retrospection will help develop a sense of ownership to the event or activity. It will help the organisation save cost, save time and make corrective action almost instantaneously. The person who manages the retrospection need not worry about the negative tone of the discussion and debate but will help steer a focussed debate outcome of the issues.

Post-mortems, feedback sessions or lesson learnt discussions are still being practised but that activity is eroding. The intention and objective to it is similar to retrospection. The only difference is that in a retrospection hard and tough questions must be asked, just like we ask ourselves when we are all alone with just ourselves.

Another reason for not wanting to go down the retrospect road is because its common behaviour for people who hold top management roles not wanting to be queried on their actions or inaction. This cannot happen anymore. Gen Y and Gen Z will not tolerate such kind of leaders. Hence, the level of accountability and transparency will drop over time if this mentality perpetuates. In other words, the past will haunt the organisation if corrective action is not addressed. 

I have listed down four very important areas all managers must adopt in order to be more effective in retrospecting. This is my little remedy - :-). I call it DEEP. Design, Evolve, Evaluate and Project.

1. Design - This is the opening session. The conversation piece must be staged or designed. "Always ask even if we did our best or were successful. Could we have done things better or differently?" Someone will have something to say. Let them say it and let them pour their issues. In the end analyse what they are really saying. For all you know, what they are saying could be really fundamental to how the organisational culture and behaviour is in your department or team.

2. Evolve - Grow the conversation from what it started to something more complex and difficult. "Who or what was the obstacle or stumbling block?" I know many management gurus will say this is not proper to ask but I will tell you from my own experience, if you don't ask, you will never know if the corrective matters if a process, procedure or a human experience. Over time, your team or organisation will know how to get their message across that they are unhappy and over time, no one would want to here themselves singled out as being difficult, the cultural shift will be the team will try to resolve the matter quickly and surely before it gets to your ears.

3. Evaluate - This is the process of really reflecting and doing a contrast and compare. "What was something new that was introduced to the thinking, process or activity that led to our failure or success?" This is always a good way to get people to appreciate variations, the differentiation factor and the influence that could or may have made the big change. Sometimes that change could be more than an idea, it could be because we had sat down together for lunch.

4.  Project - This is where the leader must be open to hearing what others have to say. Sometimes during the earlier sessions, the leader would have noticed or understood that his or her own presence or lack of presence may have resulted in the outcome. This is the time to acknowledge and identify to the team what you have realised. An example of how to ask: "Did I as your leader hold you back or contribute to the success of the project? If so, what was it specifically did I do or not do?" 

No news is bad news!

Two weeks, one month, 6 months, one year and still no answer if the proposal has been approved or the money will come in. Sounds familiar?

Did you ever feel this way after submitting your proposal to a potential donor or an interested party? I am not sure what is the ethics behind the donor or funder's role upon receiving a proposal but I for sure know that a proposal sent from a nonprofit organisation is a proposal with an expectation to receive an acknowledgement of receipt as well as information of the outcome (good or bad news).

I am not sure why nonprofit organisations have to wait for months and sometimes over a year for something to happen. Remember! as much as time is money to the company or donor, time is also loss of serious or urgent help on the ground which could translate to lives, hunger, loss of jobs etc.

Remaining silent as if to avoid the nonprofit ask does not portray professionalism. Donor's or funders must recognise that to write a proposal is not about cut and paste  (although I do know that happens as well) as there is a lot ding-dong between potential funder and nonprofit, extensive discussions, meetings, reviews and approvals at the Board level even before the proposal is sent out.

Unless something is so significantly flawed in the proposal then I find it a wonder to think that if someone has the money and the clear need to do something and there is a proposal ready to be implemented, why does it take so long?

I think there is perhaps a level of insufficient talent in the funding organisations who know what they want from the nonprofit or for that matter know how to guide or picking out the better proposals from the great proposals. To make sound decisions the person or committee must have prior knowledge or broad experience on the subject matter and how to manage projects of a certain magnitude.

I guess this is why most companies these days are taking on ex-non profiteers with significant experience to sit in the committee or to lead or even project manage the projects on the ground on behalf of them.

At the end of the day, the nonprofit sector take a lot of trouble to prepare the proposal. A lot of their resources which involves time, money and human capacity is involved in putting together something that would fit to the requirements set out. So to completely keep them hanging with no apparent idea of what the outcome is rather distasteful.

After all, when the request for a proposal is asked, the next thing the funder says is that they would want the proposal asap or yesterday but when the proposal is sent, the waiting time does not fit proportionately with the urgency for the proposal. It appears suddenly the asap or urgency suddenly vanished! 

I really want to see more guidelines from the donor or funder in terms of what their commitment is to the nonprofit when it comes to giving an answer within time and with clear reasons behind the delay. I know things can be expedited rapidly. It can happen, we saw how fast money got spent with, no proposals for the Typhoon Haiyan, Floods in Kelantan, and the recent Nepali Earthquake.

Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Managing Director of I First International (IFI). At IFI our mission is ensure the nonprofit sector is able to enjoy and afford the benefits and top quality professional consultative services, thereby being able to scale up their impact on the ground. We focus on the Management the Board. We help you help others.

It's there, you did not see it!

Imagine yourself on a rainy night looking for the closest petrol station. Your fuel gauge has indicated an amber sign of low petrol available in your petrol tank. You kind of estimated you probably can go another 20 minutes before the car will come to a complete halt. The road is wet, there are no streetlights and your vision is where your car lights are projecting itself. You can see on either side some faint light indicating there are people staying on both sides of the road. There is not a single car coming your way or behind you.

You drive on. And on. You are panicking. Your mind is 90% focussed on the fuel left in your car and 10% on finding the next available petrol station. You reach out for your mobile only to find it is low on battery and your car charger is not working.

You call home and there is no answer. Your call goes to voicemail. 

Just then you see something ahead and it looks like a petrol station. You get closer, only to realise IT IS a petrol station. But something is not right. You soon discover, it's not a 24/7 petrol station. You drive pass, this time you can only pray.

Ever faced this kind of consequence in your work life?

You know what is even more interesting, when you relate this episode to your office mates, as if you were asking for help there and then, you are suddenly barraged with comments or advice such as, "why didn't you at least stop at the station, maybe the electricity was cut-off then", or "there was actually a 7eleven only a few metres away which could have helped you grab a taxi to buy petrol close by".

In the nonprofit world, everyone outside your cause is an expert in what you do and they can advise you to be better and be smarter at how you do it. This is the reality. They will never know what it is like to be the driver driving alone on a rainy night looking for help. Only you will know.

So what do we need to do on those rainy nights. My suggestion is to "Prepare, Prepare and Prepare".

We need an umbrella, our phone needs to work and we should have a charger, some food, a blanket, first aid kit, GPS, and a canister of petrol that carries 1/3 to 1/2  a tank of petrol. But here's the scenario. 

Most nonprofits can't afford or even even have a SOP of what the should or should not do. So how do they enforce. A lot of what happens, happens all too suddenly or without any notion.

So how does an organisation ensure it is prepared and ready and most of all able to cope.

The management needs to trained, educated, groomed and most of all be among those who have experienced such situations. There should be a space for a chance for dialogue or sharing of one's issues. There are such opportunities to learn how to prepare, prepare and prepare.

Only someone or some organisation from the outside can set this space and allow one to learn. 

Nonprofit Workshops - somethings have to just stop

Why do we have so much food for tea breaks? What is the objective of this? Who is really benefiting from this? I thought breaks between sessions was meant to relax the mind, have something light and refreshing to drink or to freshen up by visiting the WC.

It is time the nonprofit sector stop following or aligning to what the norm is and set a new way forward of reducing food wastage and thereby reducing health issues and saving costs.

I can just imagine how much money would be saved and how much more time will be available for the workshop and how much less time would be in slouching on the chair or falling asleep.

Another observation is this common protocol of having a keynote speaker to open the ceremony. To me, it is a waste of time. In most cases the key note speaker would not not have prepared themselves or the speech was prepared by someone else. All this is productive time wasting. Why can't we just go straight to the top topics of the day to be presented or have the panel of speakers as the opening, giving a bit of a teaser to their topics for the evening session.

It is time we do things differently. I can almost predict how every programme workshop will be that is worrying.

Finally, why do we always make it a custom to make the giving of a token of our appreciation as a ceremony in itself. Do I really care if you give something or not? Why do we need to publicise the giving. I am not against presenting a token or souvenir of appreciation but why do it during a workshop. What is the significance? This is not a farewell gift or an appreciation gift for someone who has a gone great things for your organisation, this is a workshop. Hey, after all you invited them and maybe you are even paying them to present their paper.

I am sure I will get a barrage of responses from people saying I am being totally unrealistic and even not Malaysian enough to appreciate how we do things in this country, but hey, I think, if you are a nonprofit organisation, what you want to get across at the end of the day is our mission and really that should be our top priority.

I recall Steve Jobs saying, we should always ensure the organisation is bigger than us and not the other way around. I think there is much to take from what he said moving forward.