My 80/20 Crescendo & Why The Leaf’s Are Struggling

28 Nov

The 80/20 rule in business is that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients.  The 80/20 rule for 4 month EWB overseas volunteers is that you will feel like 80% of your progress comes in the last 20% of your time.  So far this has proven true for me.  Last week was my busiest yet and next week promises to be even busier with Farmer’s Day and since it will be my last full week in my district before heading to Tamale for final debriefing and team meetings. 

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The greatest of the many highlights this week came on Wednesday.  My Director (above right) called a meeting to get everyone mobilized for the big Farmer’s Day celebration, which is coming up next Friday.

In last week’s Roller Coaster Rides post, I described the two amazing coaching conversations I had with my Director sandwiched around a really bad staff meeting.  Staff meetings have been my Director’s weakest point, exposing several bad management and leadership habits.  Drawing on examples from the bad meeting, during the coaching sessions we talked about improving his communication style, the slippery slope of excuses,  empowering employees,  and leading by example. 

After our last coaching conversation, Director had to go to Tamale for a meeting and he did not return until just before our meeting this last Wednesday.  I have to admit that I was worried about the meeting going into it, as we had not reviewed the coaching points or discussed an agenda beforehand. 

I was stunned by Director’s performance in the meeting.  It was a complete turn around from previous meetings – he was like a different man.  He improved dramatically with respect to every single point we had talked about.  He was calm.  He let other people speak before offering his opinion.  He empowered people to handle their areas for Farmer’s Day.  He led by example several times, including when it came to the sticky subject of expense allowances.  I was so happy I nearly cried!

My amazing Wednesday continued in the afternoon with a meeting in Nchanchina with the Agriculture As A Business (AAB) group that my friend Paul, who hosted me during my village stay, is a member of.  That’s him speaking at the meeting in the picture below.

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I have spent quite a bit of time talking to Paul about why it is important to view farming as a business, but I never really felt like I was fully getting through to him.  So I was ecstatic when during the group meeting he related many of the concepts we had been talking about to the whole group.  My favorite quote of his was “We must view what we do as a business, but in our own way.”  I almost cried for the second time that day!

My 80/20 crescendo week also included:

  • Two staff meetings on Wednesday and Friday, both focused on Farmer’s Day.  Director was outstanding at the second one too, proving the first was not a fluke.
  • Seven AAB meetings by four different staff members and including our first livestock group.
  • A great visit from my EWB coach Erin.  We discussed strategy and she interviewed the staff and gave me some great feedback.  She also brought me a care package that included a bottle of wine.
  • An interesting conversation about development over beers with Erin and three of the keen young National Service Volunteers who were recently posted to my office.
  • I ran a meeting one evening on Project Management skills for several community leaders.
  • A long field day (4 hours on the motorcycle) visiting the furthest reaches of the district to run two AAB meetings. 
  • A Projecting Change screening in Bladji for around 200 people on Friday night of Emmanuel’s Gift and Pray The Devil Back To Hell.  Part of the crowd is pictures below.  It went late so I stayed overnight in the village.

Last but not least, this week I also managed to locate the Maple Leafs defense wandering haplessly in the backwoods of Northern Ghana.  (Actually, if you look closely it is a jersey from the Markham Waxers, which I am assuming is a recreational team.)


Tons of second hand and surplus clothes makes its way to Africa every year.  I have seen everything from corporate promotional attire, to a T-shirt for the Scottish ballet, to Vancouver Olympic paraphernalia.  I met this guy literally in the middle of nowhere while riding back from my long field day.  I wonder if he’d still be so happy to wear the jersey if he knew more about the Leafs… 😉

2 Responses to “My 80/20 Crescendo & Why The Leaf’s Are Struggling”

  1. Penny Heaslip November 28, 2010 at 6:44 pm #


    I loved the 80-20 concept re business and how you applied it to your volunteerism. I learned something as well. Isn’t it amazing how your contribution is making a real difference. I hope you and the Director will keep in touch. You seem to have made an important connection. Tell him for me that as a Canadian I wish him every success with the work he is doing and hope that Farmer’s Day turns out to be a terrific celebration of the importance of farming for all of us.

  2. Mark Sewell November 29, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    Great post Mark. I think the people you have met will consider themselves very lucky to have had you in their community for a time.
    Kids at my school play for the Markham Waxers and wear their gear all the time. They will enjoy this photo!


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