The core and the challenge

Phew, this week’s readings were intense. Between the Prompt, the Movement Ecology, the (old) Feasibility Plans and the 2 pager, I have to say I’m pouring A LOT of info into my (coffee and Cheetos-powered) head. But it has been great food for thought and will definitely help guide conversations moving forward.

So this week’s prompt is all about relationship building. I’m tempted to do a retrospect of the meetings that I’ve already had, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m cheating by not scheduling new meetings. I also have to be realistic and acknowledge I won’t have 3 such meetings this week (just a little overworked at the moment), but I will have many next week in D.C at the CPA conference and will soon have a way to set up many more through my extended networks (ie: my amazingly well-connected boss who needs just a little prodding 😅).

The relational meetings I’ve already had in the context of this project have been with:

  • Sheila M., Professor of Social Work at Barry University, who has since joined this incubator (Hi Sheila! 🤩).
  • Santra D., Programs Officer at the biggest anti-poverty foundation in Miami and her two new team members incubating coops in Miami.
  • Dale H., Professor of the School of Business at Barry University, introduced to me by Sheila and I’m now building a relationship with him and his entrepreneurship lab.
  • Mike R., from the City of Miami, who leads community partnerships.
  • Ibon Z., Social impact manager for Mondragon Spain’s consulting arm.
  • Michael P., Co-founder of 1worker1vote, major activist group pushing for (unionized) co-ops nationwide.
  • Ines H., Community Development manager at Citi Bank

Next up, I’m planning meeting with:

  • Mike R., from City of Miami to follow up and zoom out to have a more relational conversation (tomorrow). He’s offered me introductions to other people so we may hone in on those next.
  • Follow up with Santra D.’s team, since I want to get to know them better. They’re incubating a co-op that a CPA Miami could help grow.
  • Also, organized a meeting for Sheila with Patrick H. on Friday. He is my direct supervisor and partner at the firm I work for. This one will be crucial since I’ll be needing her support to keep him motivated in supporting me/us while I/we do this work! 🙂
  • Juan S., one of the lead organizers for PACT (People Acting for Community Together) which aggregates faith based institutions, through which I hope to have several intros (Last week of October, Introduction by Patrick H.) .

I realize that almost all of these relationships are not with people who do purchasing themselves or even have that much purchasing influence within their organizations BUT they have or can develop access to purchasing folks and other even more influential actors in their organizations, which I think is better in the longer-more strategic term as we try and build out a membership base. OK, so now for the questions:

  • What information or stories from your background do you plan to share with the person you’re meeting with so your meeting feels relational, rather than transactional?  

OK, this one will obviously vary with each meeting, so I’ll have to reflect on this point for each of them. As a general framework, I tend to share my lived in experience that draws me to this work in a somewhat chronological way.

  • The fact that I’ve lived in Miami in my early childhood
  • Wrestling with being an engineer but seeing and wanting to solve injustice all around me, but feeling like my training fell short
  • Working in hardcore corporate sectors to learn and grow but longing to do work that was more aligned to my values.
  • Working with former Obama administration officials to create economic development in communities of color (always an eye-opener)
  • Moving to Miami to be closer to family and reconnect with a community that always felt like home
  • Where will you take a risk? How you will you model vulnerability in a way that invites a deeper more meaningful sharing from the other person? 

OK, for this one, depending on my audience, will involve different versions of my story of self.

  • Feeling unfulfilled at work that was not aligned to my values
  • My family splitting up when I was a child and then my mother struggling to find work after having to return to the workforce
  • The massive High-school and college student marches 2006, 2011, 2013 in Chile.
  • Being gay, the process of coming out in a conservative society, and not having any kind of role model and then becoming one through my activism work (maybe not the best one for houses of worship, but could work great for charter schools).
  • stories of my everyday work trying to create economic access and opportunity for firms owned by ethnic minorities.
  • People like to talk about themselves. What questions about their background do you plan to ask? What are you genuinely curious to know? How will you move on if they’re talking too long? 

OK this one is easier. I like to ask them: how they got into their work, how their field and organizations have evolved since they started, where do they see it going and how would they like to shape it.

With community-oriented issues like this one, I also want to hear their thoughts on the big troubles of the community and how they think the needle should be moved (and then subtly plug that into the vision for CPA).

If they’re talking too long, I’ll just use my go-to “oh! that’s fascinating! Building on that point, for (project) we could see that working like A,B,C. What do you think?” and then just casually steer away in another direction.

  • How do you balance the relational versus transactional nature of your work today? When are you good at this? When do you struggle with it? What would you like to get better at?

So, in these first meetings, I want to be entirely relational and enroll into the big vision and what could be. I generally don’t like to enter transactional conversations without the other party knowing there will be a transactional component, and I wouldn’t even feel comfortable nowadays going into the transactional side without building solid rapport. I guess that would be a point of struggle, but if this work is so relational in nature, I’m inclined to believe this approach is more cautious and slower but bound to be more effective.

Luckily, in my time as a corporate consultant, I’ve grown very good at getting information and numbers from people in a very conversational way, so I doubt that will be an issue once the other side knows, accepts and expects the conversation to head in this direction.

I guess the transition between relational and transactional needs to be careful. Fortunately, I think it can be handled well once the relationship feels solid. I recall times where I’ve said “Alright, then let’s get to the part where I concretely help you save/earn/learn/add value. What would you say your spend with X is? Since when? Why them? etc.

  • Are there any people in your life who are really good at this? People with whom meeting feels more like a joy than a chore? What do they do well? How could you emulate them?

Hmm. This is an interesting question just because the people I work with do this well in general and the joy I feel when they’re at the meetings is actually the relief of not having to facilitate and manage the meeting myself (an introvert who plays extrovert all day gets tired, you know 😤). I get to just poke holes, fact check, take notes and stick to the details.

I understand this can be a little lazy on my part, but it basically means that the people in my life who are good at this stick to the strategic, aspirational side, actively look for something in common with the other person and are looking to keep the doors open for additional conversations. What they are NOT that good at, in my opinion, is leading to closure or extracting key quantitative information.

The way to emulate them, while still keeping sight of the fact that there will be a strong transactional component to these meetings at a later stage, is recognizing the need to be strategic, aspirational and relational at first and then peppering in the transactional side that they’re more averse to later.

Yeah, this prompt was hard work, but it was extremely valuable to pre-think these meetings. I see a lot of value doing this pre-thinking in a line of work that is 99% relationships. Note to self: Gotta grow comfortable in this new skin.

I realize how nervousness builds in my chest while thinking about these meetings. Somehow, I also have the feeling that this vision is compelling, my passion is palpable, and nobody wants to see me or this fail. Everything will be alright. OK, its go-time!

Reflection Script

So for this week, a lot of the comments and my own reflection in the following days has had to do with leveraging perceived weaknesses or areas of development as strengths.

As I prepare to write the elaborate reflection I had prepared, I’m tugged at my heartstrings with what’s going on in Chile right now.

For those who don’t know, There have been huge protests in Chile since yesterday that, on the surface, appear to be about a rise in public transport fares. It takes only a little bit of reflection to notice this is just the tip of the iceberg.

For those who don’t understand Spanish, let me translate:

  • It is not about the subway
  • its about health
  • education
  • pensions
  • housing
  • politicians’ salaries
  • electricity prices surging
  • gas prices surging
  • the robbing done by the military
  • the carte Blanche for the business elite.

Sound familiar? It doesn’t take a lot to notice that almost all of these points apply to the U.S and that we too face severe inequality issues where the less affluent communities (at, around or under the median income levels) are being, little by little, getting the life squeezed out of them.

In Chile, this has reached a tipping point más massive protests have evolved into destruction of public and private property. I could only watch in awe yesterday of a video of the building of Chile’s largest energy generation and distribution company completely engulfed in flames (I worked there for over a year while in college).

It can be so tempting to think that everything we’re doing is trying to solve or move the needle on the inequality issues here in the U.S. But I also fear we may be part of the problem. By actively trying to use the tools of this flawed economic model to try to create prosperity, we may be just stretching the life span Of this dying and corrupt system when, in reality, it should collapse and disappear as soon as possible (I guess Anand Ghiridharatas mixed with the Joker (2019)).

I’ve been under a lot of distress these past couple of days. I can’t help but be on the verge of tears as I see all the videos, posts on social media and recounts by all of my friends and family still there.

What should we do? Should we mobilize and, with the same pitchforks, rise and seek to topple the system? Or should we keep working within its bounds, trying to find the best technical solution?

I guess I have much more to think about and this probably goes beyond the bounds of CPA. Maybe the introvert in me can find conciliation within this Internal conflict?

5 thoughts on “The core and the challenge”

  1. Hey, Juan! Thanks for this thoughtful post. Two quick thoughts:

    1. Love your a) use of emojis and b) specific choices of emojis. No huge commentary here. They made me laugh and felt relatable. 😛

    2. Really appreciated your mindfulness moment at the end there of noticing the nervousness in your chest. Yeaahhhh I know that feeling! I heard a number of years back that physiologically nervousness and excitement are very similar. Sometimes helps me reframe my nervousness as an expression of my own “palpable passion” (your words. love that).

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    1. At a recent leadership training, I learned about a similar technique for redirecting nervousness. As you feel your heart thumping in your chest, say out loud, “I’m excited!” Or “I get to…!” 🙂

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  2. First off, Juan Francisco, you continue to amaze me with how much you can digest so quickly in the readings, then truly integrate, re-interpret for your own context and synthesize for what that means for you.

    “recognizing the need to be strategic, aspirational and relational at first and then peppering in the transactional side that they’re more averse to later.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. The interesting thing is that some of the leaders I hope you start relating with (especially the ones that live in the transactional contract signing details of their institutions every day) may not be averse to the transactional side. They may enjoy talking with you about what they spend on various facility services, how great some of their vendors are and then when they here you talking about other instituitons and what they’ve said and how much they’re spending — it could actually turn into a very interesting conversation.

    I think your intellectual abilities to synthesize lots of information from lots of places and make it interesting and useful to folks will make you an invaluable resource to dozens of CFOs and COOs in Miami much sooner than you think.

    Two other things stuck out to me:
    “an introvert who plays extrovert all day gets tired, you know 😤”
    “Note to self: Gotta grow comfortable in this new skin.”

    Can you think of one small way you can lean into your introvert advantage instead of having to play extrovert all day and tire yourself out?

    What’s one re-creative / re-juvenating activity (or silence or breathing or 3-min of alone time / journalling) for you that you might be able to integrate just a few minutes of into your life to help you feel more grounded and authentically you?

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Juan Francisco,

    First, thank you for voicing the intense reading list. At one point, I remember thinking, “I thought Felipe said that it would only be about ten hours of work per week”. Then I also remembered that much for this information came from my questions. So, my apologies :-)!

    The list of people you have already interviewed looks very impressive. What’s the next step?

    As an introvert, how do you re-energize and take care of yourself after every meeting?

    What aspect of these meetings makes you nervous? Is that feeling productive? If not, What do you think can help alleviate that feeling?

    I look forward to hearing how the rest of the meetings went.

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  4. Hi Juan Fransisco! Once again, I’ve enjoyed reading your post :).

    Are you able to articulate how you hope each of the relationships that you’re establishing through your relational meetings will/could advance a specific goal or sub goal connected to the CPA that you’re looking to build? Not sure if you’ve already thought about mapping or listing this out. Would you find value in that?

    If you’re working with others who are also building relationships for the cause, you could incorporate them into the mapping as well.

    Did you learn anything new about yourself, e.g. identifying strengths or growth opportunities through your initial meetings?

    Finally, I LOVE that you have a go-to technique for redirecting runaway speakers! LOL.

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