Thoughts on Life & Leadership

A Junto Strategy Project

Why do many social change efforts fail in places like India? (Part 2)

Giving Meat Before Milk
IMG_1814 I work for a leadership development company, InsideOut Development, that among other things provides training to help leaders develop as coaches. During the training workshops, we often highlight one of the common mistakes a manager makes when he/she is coaching another: very often the manager coaches the employee from where the manager wants them to be, not from where the employee actually is.

I noticed this tendency in myself as we visited Mumbai, Bangalore and Dehli during our India trip. The problems weren’t hard to identify, and the solutions seemed to be starring everyone in the face. Initially, I was scratching my head wondering what was wrong with these people and why weren’t they fixing problems that seemed to have such obvious fixes.

But by the end of the trip, I found myself in a much different place. I surrendered that desire to make them like me or like America. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that in general America has gotten a lot of things right and is setting a standard for others to follow when it comes to things like women’s rights, working conditions, and environmental stewardship. But we are also getting a lot of things wrong, and we would be well served to “remove the beam” from our own eye first.


Me with an Indian Entrepreneur (the rickshaw cyclist)

In addition, I found myself taking a step back acknowledge the improvements India has made over the last 20 years and to reflect on how long it took the US to get right some of the things I mentioned above. For example it took nearly 100 years from the signing of the Declaration, where we affirmed that “all men are created equal,” to end slavery and nearly 150 years to extend the right to vote to women. Do I want things to get better in the slums of India ASAP; yes, but I want to make sure that we give them the time and space we had here to get it right. They must start (and we should let them start) from where they are, not from where we want them to be.

From what I saw, I have great hope and faith that in the coming years they are going to get a lot of things right, but if in our attempts to “do good” we step in and start to coach them from where we are, not only will we get in the way by giving them meat before milk, but we may also actually do harm to their ability to innovate and drive positive change.

Next Post: Highlights of our days in Mumbai

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This entry was posted on May 8, 2013 by in India and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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