If you are a football fan, you must have followed the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This year’s event consists of 32 international football teams competing in various parts of Brazil. My new knowledge from the Netherlands vs. Mexico match is that there is such a thing called “cooling breaks”. With high temperatures in Brazil, football players are allowed to take a break after the 30th minute of the first and second half of the game at the referee’s discretion, if the temperature exceeds 32 °C (90 °F). I always believe that the learning process continues throughout our life time. You learn new things everyday, if you allow yourself to learn. As a consultant, there are quite a number of change theories to choose from. Triple Loop Learning is another interesting organization theory by Chris Argyris. source: http://www.thorsten.org/wiki/index.php?title=Triple_Loop_Learning Familiarizing you with the Single Loop, Double Loop, and Triple Loop concepts: “Single loop learning” leads to making minor fixes or adjustments where small changes are made to specific practices or behaviours, based on what has or has not worked in the past. “Double loop learning” works with major fixes or changes, like redesigning an organizational function or structure. This is the level of process analysis where people become observers. We change the way we make decisions and deepen the understanding of our assumptions. “Triple loop learning” results in enhancing ways to comprehend and change our purpose, developing better understanding of how to respond to our environment, and deepening our comprehension of why we chose to do things we do. With this we can produce new commitments and ways of learning. The theory has direct application to our very own home, our organization, and our community. This is a process of self change. This kind of ‘Change’ happens when you realize that you do not go back to who you used to be; it results in behavioural change and improving performance. Your mind changes the way you see and understand things that are going on around you. The theory works along with Appreciative Inquiry where the process of Discovery, Dream, Design, and Deliver has strong implications on the context, assumptions, action, and results of the strategic management. Practicing triple loop theory requires us to keep trying just like football games where sportsmanship is honoured. Value of discipline and teamwork plus very hard and frequent practice schedules. The team players will need a good coach who guides them with exceptional strategy as well. When you fall, you get up and start again. Aim for the goal and work your ways toward achieving your goals. “If you can’t fly then run. If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Recently, I read in a press release of the German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer AG: “In line with his own wishes, the contract of our CEO Dr. Marijn Deckers will be extended by just two years on expiration of the initial five-year period. Deckers (56) cited family reasons for extending his contract only until the end of 2016.” The announcement was a big surprise for the financial community. Bayer is doing very well under Deckers’ leadership, and with 56, he is in a great age for a CEO for such a company. Deckers had written a letter to all employees stating that his decision was purely based on family reasons. His daughters will move 2016 to the U.S. to study over there. Together with his wife, he wants to spend then plenty of time in the U.S. to be close to his daughters, but that wouldn’t be possible in his role as CEO of Bayer. Deckers emphasized: “The right balance between my career and my private life has always been important to me. And that’s the reason why I have decided that way.” Deckers had caught my eye already in 2010 when he was appointed as CEO of Bayer. Also at that time, he spoke in interviews about the topic “balancing life”. “I do not see myself as a workaholic. I have nothing against hard work, but I am trying to keep balance. Apart from that, I have a family with three children whom I want to watch growing up.” Deckers, who is already at 7.30 a.m. in the morning in the office, stated that, already many years ago, he made an agreement with his wife to be at 6.30 p.m. at home from work. In the evening, he said, he is reading stories for his daughters and he helps to bring them to bed. Deckers stated further: “It is so important that you don’t scourge your family with your business agenda.” Deckers, who lost his mother when she was only 47 years old, mentioned: “What is important? Surely that I am still there and that I can play with my kids.” Therefore, for people who know Deckers well, his decision to step down as CEO of Bayer in 2016, cannot be a surprise. I admire with which consequence and consistency Deckers is approaching the topic “life balance”. For those of you who say “It is easy to take such a decision, if you have the wealth and the financial safety net of a CEO of a big company”, let me answer: “How many business leaders who are in a similar position to Deckers regarding financial security take a decision in favour of the family? Not many!” Most business people focus very much on their career, while at the same time neglecting other key areas in their life like family, friends, health, hobbies etc. Some think let me take first care of my career during the next 3 – 5 years. Afterwards, I will spend more time on my relationships. But life doesn’t work that way. By the time, you plan to make the changes, your spouse might have left already, your kids have become emotionally distant from you, your friends have gone, and you might face health issues. Only, if we live a balanced life, we will be happy in the long run. Some of you might have heard about the famous 30 seconds speech of the former CEO of Coca Cola, Brian Dyson. It is this great advice that he gave to all of us: “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends, and spirit … and you are keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” So, how much balance do you have right now in your life? Is it time to make changes? If yes, then better don’t wait. Make them right now!
Last week I visited the office of one of my executive coaches. I was early for the appointment so I started a conversation with his secretary. I mentioned to her that her boss must be very happy to have someone who comes to the office early and prepares items ready for him for the day. She was speechless. When was the last time you received recognition for all the good work you are doing, I asked? She looked at me for a long moment and finally said never. In my capacity as an ardent Leadership Workshop facilitator, I have asked questions about giving recognition, and leaders in the workshops have always responded with excuses for not giving recognition. Everybody strives for recognition. We want to feel that what we’re doing matters, and is more than just an idle task. Leaders need to build up courage and confidence to show and give the deserved recognition. It will always be a challenge to begin the practice, and as leaders strive they will find that recognition is an important part of teamwork and a feeling of achievement, and it can be important for anything from mentoring a newcomer, to improving relationships, to career or professional advancement. Here are some steps that leaders can take to be more open towards giving recognition. 1. Begin with Self-Recognition We need to give ourselves the respect we deserve and reward ourselves for a job well done. Only if we practice appreciating what we achieve in both our personal and professional lives will we learn the value of recognizing the efforts others put into their accomplishments. Extreme of anything in life can be harmful and thus the same with self-recognition. The end result of self-recognition should not be an increase in our ego. 2. Recognizing all the People in our Life Give honest and sincere appreciation to others. Do this with passion. It does not have to be major achievements. If we see something good being done, send a message to the recipient. Recognize others during their birthdays, anniversaries, performance excellence etc. All we need to do is to be more observant of events taking place around us. 3. Positive Reinforcement: the Key to Changing Behavior Look at peoples’ strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses. When someone fails in a task given to them, recognize what was done well and how it can be better. Instead of criticizing what someone does, only focus on what they do well, and what you want them to continue doing. Focus on peoples’ strengths and what they do well. Give others praise and recognition for the behavior you want to strengthen, and see what behavior continues to persist over time. You may be pleasantly surprised, and even feel better for the interaction. Always look for opportunities to appreciate others. Do it with sincerity. Do it with passion. It is truly fulfilling.
A mysterious news headline that captured the world’s attention in March 2014 is the story of Malaysia Airline MH370 from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing that vanished from the radar and to date (May 2014) debris has not been found. There are many theories and conspiracy theories suggesting many possible occasions that can happen to the plane, whether it has landed somewhere, was it electrical error, or plane could be shot and explode without trace, could it be pilot suicide, or as we were told in the news that the plane ended its journey in the Indian Ocean. Where is MH370? April 2014 news headline catches the world’s attention again with the South Korean Sewol Ferry heading to Jeju Island sank into the ice cold water killing mostly students who were on their field trip but never made it. Captain and majority of the crew members were the first to escape leaving passengers in their cabin. The crew instructed all passengers to stay put! Whose Responsibility is it? In chaotic situations, the group would need to pick a leader to instruct a clear command and be responsible for the task assigned. In case of MH370, the leader for search and rescue mission was the Malaysian Official (MH is Malaysia National Airline). Then came the Australian Official since the identified search area falls closest to Australia. With international collaborations and team work, many Nations lend helping hands to Malaysia, the family of passengers and crew of the missing plane, and all those involved. However, the family and relatives of the victims are not satisfied with the handling of information claiming there is no transparency on information dissemination. I believe what relatives of the victims need is “to know the real and raw information”. Management lessons learned from these sad incidents are: 1) Leader should not panic in time of chaos; 2) Leader must give a clear command and be responsible for the situation; 3) no name calling, no blaming, no finger pointing, unless you see or have the evidence to prove your information was right; 4) good leader does not abandon company in time of crisis but to help solve its problem unless he or she finds someone else who is more competent to lead the firm; 5) Leader must be conscious and be alert at all time; 6) Real time information is essential to dealing with stakeholders of the company. Mis-handling of information could stir anger to everyone involved; 7) Respect individuality and privacy of each company. You cannot expect your rival company to open their closet and let you see their dirt or their deep dark secret, isn’t it? In the case of MH370, the pilot or the commander of the aircraft is not present to explain his side of the story, not even one passenger to tell us what went wrong. The way to learn the whereabout of what happened to the missing aircraft is from the radar, the communication exchange between ground and plane, and the “black box” that would tell us what really happened in the cockpit. I felt it is not fair to keep blaming Malaysian officials for the incident, there might be other factors to consider, perhaps the raw information or findings whether it is the leads or not, can be given privately to the relatives. I believe this would ease the tension for the family members who are waiting for their loved ones to return. Clearly for the Sewol ferry case, responsibility falls on the Captain who abandoned the ship leaving hundreds trapped dead in the sunken ferry. The leader was very irresponsible and must be punished by law. These two cases glued me to the development of the search and rescue news. Can you imagine a work place without Leader? An office without a Boss? The plane without pilot and ferry without captain? That must be very scary and stressful! No direction, no driver, and therefore, lead to errors and accidents. According to Prof. Alison R. Fragale, associate professor of organizational behavior at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, “Managers and leaders often ask how do they create efficient work groups that get tasks done. The best results will come from appointing a leader at the onset because that gives the group some form of hierarchy and avoids ambiguity about who is in charge. Without a leader, a lot of time is wasted with mutual deference but eventually a hierarchy will form…While self-managed teams are fairly popular these days and hierarchies are getting flatter, it doesn’t mean it has to squish to zero. All the leader has to have is the authority to break a tie. We make hierarchies a lot taller than they need to be”. Inspired by Winston Churchill, “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”. I prayed for all survivors and lives lost in both incidents. May the plane be discovered soon and all bodies from the ship be recovered.
Two weeks ago, I held a lecture at a German university (WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management) on sustainable leadership. After having presented the business case of CSR (=Corporate Social Responsibility) and transformational leadership at my former employer, Merck Ltd., Thailand who won the CSR Leadership Award a few years ago in Singapore against competitors from all over Asia, I started a discussion with the about 110 bachelor students. I asked them: “What do you think are the key leadership traits to succeed as a sustainable business leader?” According to the “Cambridge Program for Sustainability Leadership’s report on The State of Sustainability Leadership 2011”, the key sustainability leadership traits are as follows: – systemic, interdisciplinary understanding – emotional intelligence and a caring attitude – a values orientation that shapes culture – a strong vision for making a difference – an inclusive style that genders trust – a willingness to innovate and be radical – a long term perspective on impacts The discussion with the students went very well. They were very active and sharp. It didn’t take them long to figure out the key leadership characteristics that are needed today and in future. Actually, after discussing for about 20 minutes, they were able to cover all the above stated sustainability leadership traits of the CISL’s (Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership) research report, of course, not word by word, but their meaning was the same. I was particularly impressed by one student who mentioned “empathy” as a key sustainability leadership trait. Not many business leaders would give you such an answer, and I think this student had a point. Empathy goes beyond the caring attitude that is stated in the CISL research report. It is definitely necessary, if you intend to create value and growth not only for your own company, but also for your employees, your customers and people in the society. If a group of bachelor students can find within 20 minutes the answers to the question what makes a leader for sustainability, it must make us think seriously! Leaders in business, government and society all over the world have failed massively to address our world’s most pressing and challenging issues. Obviously, many of the current leaders in charge seek mainly their own benefits and/or the benefits of their own organization rather than going for an inclusive, all stakeholders-oriented approach. And yet, we all know which type of sustainability leadership is needed. Therefore, I would like to add one more important leadership trait: COURAGE. If you don’t have the courage to implement and to live the above stated key leadership characteristics on a daily base, not much will change. In today’s resource-constrained and low trust world, business leaders that are able to restore growth (however, in an inclusive way), create jobs, increase access to products, services and livelihood opportunities and create a more just and sustainable world are in high and urgent need. Do y o u have the courage to be or to become one of them?
During one family dine out, a few weeks ago, the minute we were seated, my children immediately started putting their location in social media. I took a look around and more than 50% of the people having dinner were busy with their smartphones, android or their tablets. While they were doing this, they were also eating, and talking to others. Multi -tasking is becoming a norm in this hi-tech environment. We should really wonder what is the quality of the output that comes from multi-tasking. Take for example a crucial activity, which is part of our daily lives – communication – especially listening. What would be the result of someone who thinks he is listening while busily texting a message in the smartphone? Can we imagine the outcome? From personal experience I have witnessed projects coming up with disastrous outcomes because of poor listening skills. Can this be corrected? When I am coaching executives, attentive listening helps me to understand the executive whereby to ask the proper questions to help facilitate positive change by improving thinking. And this cannot be done while multi-tasking. Recently I came across 10 guidelines given by another coach (Eric Allenbaugh) on how to increase understanding of others as we listen (without multi-tasking). 1. Listen with a head-heart connection. 2. Listen with the intent of understanding. 3. Listen for the message and the message behind the message. 4. Listen for both content and feelings. 5. Listen with your eyes – your hearing will be improved. 6. Listen for others’ interest, not just their position. 7. Listen for what they are saying and not saying. 8. Listen with empathy and acceptance. 9. Listen for areas where they are afraid and hurt. 10. Listen as you would like to be listened to. As we learn to put ourselves in the other person’s frame of mind, our ability to understand will increase. And the greater our ability to understand, the better listener we will become.
March is in many Asian countries a month associated with graduation and leaning towards the end of the school calendar. Some who graduated in high school and decided they do not wish to go for higher education had taken their first risk of adventure to get themselves a job to support him/her and their families. Many college graduates hold a higher card in society and are confident to get a good paying job, a well deserved salary to be able to bring him/her comforts. Now come to think of it, recalling my first job ever, was a risk I took. And I have been thankful for the experiences I have learned. In the workplace, issues concern risk management rely mainly on two things: 1) leadership approach and 2) decision making. Businesses, offices, organizations, and institutions apply different mechanisms and use different dynamic approaches to managing risk in their workplace. Personally, observing and learning from great leaders, I believe that witty decisions made in times of crisis are one of the most essential parts that bring organizations success and continuous growth. My concerns for the leaders in the organization regarding risk management are: 1) Leaders who fear decision making I met a number of leaders who feared to speak up, confront issues, or make a major decision. He/she always blamed the group, the secretary, or any person involved in the project. This kind of leader wanted to have their picture perfect projection and anything negative off the record simply to cover up to be able to get their job promotion to a higher management level. 2) Learning Leader Some books suggest that you must surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, build your core team by gathering workers who will support you, and, put yourself in the position where you are the one who calls for decisions. However, in reality, it does not always work that way. My experience in some offices, I was surrounded by some incompetent people, my team was not strong, and problems went on. But I decided to continue to learn and build a strong team. Together with my boss, we were later proven to be one of the most successful management teams because we believed in continuous learning. We were able to change our environment and encourage people around us with energetic character that helped to change our work performance. 3) Open-minded Leader Sometimes your relationship with the manager or colleague is not filled with roses. It could be sour or even bitter. If you could just step forward and take a risk, I believe there is a foundation of mutual respect and trust you deserve from your workplace. Build from this foundation, being an open minded person is one way to welcome new directions or new ideas. 4) A Risk Taker! Prepare yourself for failure might be one suggestion that suit leaders who are risk takers. There are usually plan A, B, C, or D! It is a good idea to have a contingency plan. Be proactive therefore, we must be prepared for things to go wrong from not only an operational point of view, but also a leadership standpoint. Take note that risk management involves several factors such as culture, attitude, resilience, financial, political, and knowledge. Some leaders push it to the limit, some rather take a low risk, some challenge the norm, and some waste too much time calculating risks. From my point of view, the leadership role concerns risk you have to take and decision making that can make or break you. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult”.
I was first exposed to influencing people back in 1992 when I attended a Dale Carnegie Convention in California, USA. Here I learnt from Florence Littauer, the author of Personality Plusthat to influence people we need to understand and connect with their personality. In her book, she describes the four personalities inherent in people. The Four Personality Types are: Choleric: This is the dominant, strong, decisive, stubborn and even arrogant type of person. They tend to be good leaders because they are driven to get things done; however they might offend some people along the way. Cholerics are also known as the “POWERFUL” type. Melancholy: This is the mental-type. Their typical behaviour involves thinking, assessing, making lists, evaluating the positives and negatives, and general analysis of facts. They love maps, charts and graphs. They are usually the most intelligent of the four types, however they tend to dwell on details. A Melancholy is a planner, making sure things happen, although sometimes they can paralyze themselves with over-analysis. Sanguine: This is the social-type. They enjoy fun, socializing, chatting, telling stories – and are fond of promising the world, because that’s the friendly thing to do. A Sanguine gets on well with people and can get others excited about issues, but cannot always be relied upon to get things done. They love interacting with others and play the role of the entertainer or center of attention in group interactions. They have a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver. Phlegmatic: This is the flat-type. They are easy going, laid back, nonchalant, unexcitable and relaxed. Desiring a quiet and peaceful environment above all else. They tend not to actively upset people, but their indifference may frustrate people. They try not to make decisions, and generally go for the status quo. They are good as mediators because they don’t usually have many enemies. They also have a “dry” and quick sense of humor. Phlegmatics are also known as the “Peaceful” type. Being a Sanguine-Phlegmatic, people orientation came to me easily. Every behavioural assessment I have taken since 1992 all indicated the same preference. I have always been able to make use of this strength when I am facilitating a workshop, coaching, mentoring and especially when guiding my children.
When I recently flew from Bangkok to Manila, I read a report in a newspaper that only 27% of the companies that participated in a service competition in Germany have a high opinion about their companies’ customer service. Nevertheless, it seems that despite their awareness, a lot of companies fail to address their service problems. I can give you so many examples from my own experience. Lufthansa, the German airline, made me fill out a cumbersome online form to get back to me via e-mail only two and a half weeks later (with an incomplete answer). Etihad and Emirates, two leading airlines from the United Arab Emirates, have excellent services on board, but they fail to deliver on the ground. Both took three weeks to answer e-mail inquiries. That is not an acceptable standard. If you want o be a 5 star airline, you have to understand that the whole customer experience is more than just the experience in the plane. AIS, a big telecommunications company in Thailand, is struggling with their call center operations. If you need to talk to somebody in English, it might take an hour until you reach a call center agent or that someone will phone you back. When I phone my credit card companies, there is always a struggle with the automated voice response. It can happen that during one “conversation”, you have to key in your credit card number three times. Recently, I wanted to open an online trading account. I contacted two American companies. One responded after six weeks (for online trading, where a trade takes just a few seconds!), the other one got back to me within two days, but finally took almost three months to complete the opening of the account due to their complicated procedures. I am sure you have had your own fair share of bad customer service experiences. Isn’t it surprising that so many companies still don’t care about their service? After all, it is a key criteria for buying decisions and for customer loyalty. Let me share with you three tips that have worked very well for me. 1. Make customer satisfaction and customer loyalty part of the key performance indicators that you monitor regularly. You might even link part of the compensation of your employees to customer satisfaction indices. Outstanding customer service needs to be a firm part of your company’s culture. Ideally, providing outstanding customer care should be part of your company’s mission and vision statement. Everybody, from top management to lower ranks needs to be committed to provide outstanding customer services. 2. Go one step back: don’t state “Customers First!”, but rather have a philosophy where employees come first. When Vineet Nayar published in 2010 his bestselling book “Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down”, it caused quite a stir. However, companies like e.g. Southwest Airlines under the leadership of Herb Kelleher and Starbucks under Howard Schultz had implemented and lived that mantra long time ago. And also at my previous company, the “Employees First” philosophy has served the employees, the customers and the shareholders very well. 3. Divert some of your advertising budget to improvements in your customer service. A lot of companies spend high amounts on advertising, while at the same time failing to address their customer service shortcomings. Therefore, it makes sense to reduce some of the promotional spending, and rather invest in finding solutions to enhance customer service and customer loyalty. After all, we are all aware that it costs about seven times more to acquire a new customer than keeping an old one.