Celebrating the Month of LOVE, February 2014 inspired me to write about the “HEART”. Managing organizations today, you need to let your heart speak up and show your employees that you care about them and the company’s well being. My example of leadership with the heart is the story of women. The role of female managers and leaders were not quite significant in the past. We now see women managers, prime ministers, senators, supreme court judges, and many other careers that were meant only for men. In the business world, women currently hold only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and the same percentage of Fortune 1000 CEO positions. This is because our society used to be dominated by men. Getting the work done and reaching the sales quota were enough. Does this mean women are leading the organization beyond its norm? It might be, from a women’s touch and her ability to see the big picture, women can fulfill what is lacking in men’s dominated organizations. What are the unique abilities that women managers contribute and perform? Based on research and my encounter with numbers of women leaders including myself, I must say that many female leaders surprisingly have the ability to run the household and the family businesses at the same time! The woman’s instincts and emotional intelligence became an in born ability they possessed. They managed crisis and change by sensing and neutralizing as if they know in advance what could possibly happen to the organization and to their family. Women leaders are well-organized, loving and caring, spiritually guided and have a well-balanced life. Women leaders are multitasking people who think and make decisions using the whole brain, not just the left brain or the extremely right brain. They are practical and strategic. These came from their ability of being such a keen observer on things that are happening around them. The women leader are passionate entrepreneurs and are purpose driven. In Thailand, wives are considered a “Chang Tao Lang” meaning the follower. Literally, it means the elephant’s back feet. The roles of Thai women are similar to other cultures where the wife and as a mother to her children, is considered a pillar of the family. As it goes, “behind every successful man, there is a woman”. I believe it works well for a woman’s role. Putting a man upfront and considering him head of the family who makes final and major decisions also shows that women can be a good partner whom you can seek for advice, support, and, someone to listen to your problems. What proves women leaders to have a BIG heart is that they are good listeners, good problem solvers who consider various options. A woman leader is open to possibilities; she is forgiving, and could project the soft side of the organization. She believes in team building and the enforcement of mission, goals and values to assure that everyone is tuned in to the same level. Working as a team ensures the sense of continuity of the employment and the business. Loving and giving unconditionally, caring for individual sensitivity and understanding of human nature making it easier for employees to have each other’s backs, while working along side to fulfill the organization’s goal. The woman’s ability to adapt and her flexibility on change, allows her to assume more management and leadership roles in family owned businesses, corporations, and, government offices. These days, women leaders are highly respected and well received in society. Salute to women leaders! “Love is the greatest power on Earth. It conquers all things.” Peace Pilgrim
During a recent workshop that I conducted, many of the managers present wanted to discuss ways to control stress caused by the present situation in Bangkok (political demonstrations and resulting traffic jams etc.) which is now taking its toll on their job performance. These managers wanted advice on how to create an environment that reduces stress and promotes productivity. In a workplace environment like this, managers will be more apt to reach their full potential and drive results. Here are eight tips that were discussed during the workshop to help them control stress and worry in tough situations: 1. Live in a compartment of the present. Managers need to seal off each stress situation so that negative experiences don’t poison future interactions. Don’t allow past successes or failures or future anticipated success or difficulties influence your current performance. When it comes being better, live in the moment. 2. Don’t fuss about trifles. A “trifle” is something that is insignificant in comparison to other things in a manager’s life. When they focus on trifles, they lose perspective. Keep the big picture in mind. Doing so will help them objectively sort out the small stuff from the important issues. 3. Cooperate with the inevitable. Realize when a situation is inevitable. If managers can learn to recognize situations where they have no control, they can gain some control over the emotional aspects of the situation. By cooperating with the outcome, they are making a conscious choice about how to respond to an inevitable situation. 4. Decide just how much anxiety a situation is worth and refuse to give it any more of your energy. Once managers make this decision, it is easier to find ways they can improve on the situation or let it go and move on. 5. Create happiness for others. It is difficult to sustain a negative attitude when managers are doing something good or helpful for someone else. Simply put: Doing good for others makes manager feel better. 6. Expect ingratitude. In a manager’s job, they are expected to provide many diverse services. When they do so, they probably expect in return some signal of gratitude for their assistance. This expectation is rarely met. If they do receive heartfelt thanks from someone, they should count themselves lucky; they are dealing with a grateful person. Most people are simply not accustomed to being grateful, even when the managers provide them with excellent service. They shouldn’t let ingratitude deter them from providing top-quality service. 7. Put enthusiasm into their work. Enthusiasm is the positive energy and sustained effort that keeps managers driving towards their goals. Making a decision to have a positive outlook can be critical in enjoying their job and working with their internal and external customers. 8. Managers should do the very best they can. It can be difficult to deal with criticism, especially if managers feel it is undeserved or if it hurts their self-esteem. One way to put criticism in perspective is to ask themselves if they are doing the very best they can with what they know and are able to do. If they are, then they can avoid taking the criticism personally. If there is room for improvement in their performance, they can look at the criticism objectively and take responsibility for improving their performance. Today to put stress into its proper perspective needs our individual effort.Take action and results will follow.
CEOs worldwide will focus in 2014 on people issues as route to growth. The results of a survey by “The Conference Board” among more than 1,000 CEOs, presidents and chairpersons around the world have been published on January 10, 2014. According to the study that was conducted from September to October 2013, increasing employee engagement and better leadership are the top priorities. The results don’t really surprise me. Nevertheless, it took business leaders quite some time to realize that, in order to maximize future growth, they need to focus more on their greatest resource – their employees and those who will lead them. We still have to wait whether leaders will live up to their new found insight and will follow through on it or whether it will remain just lip service. After all, surveys by various organizations have shown that employee engagement globally is since decades on a downward trend, particularly in the Western world. The rising employee dissatisfaction is well known. Nevertheless, top executives either haven’t addressed it or went for the wrong measures. Concerning the other issue “better leadership”, it is obvious that something needs to be done considering that since quite a few years business leaders find themselves always at the end of rankings of “most respected professions”. In this context, it is also easy to see why CEOs have ranked in the above study integrity all over the world as number one among the leadership attributes most critical for future success. There were a few ethical scandals too many involving high calibre CEOs. The other top ranked critical leadership attributes in the study were leading change, managing complexity, an entrepreneurial mindset, and the ability to develop and retain talent. All of us, no matter where we are ranked hierarchically in our organization, can contribute to a better workplace culture and to an improved image for leaders. Let us join hands and go for it!
Happy New Year 2014! Have you gotten yourself a New Year resolution? I reflected during New Years Eve about the lessons that I have learned from the year 2013, recalling the best moments I cherished and many reasons to be thankful for. Several times in our lives, we thought that we can dictate the outcome of our consequences and expecting a favorable result from our decisions. Many received what they asked for but some people never get what they really wanted. Is God, a Supreme Being, or the Universe picking and selecting whose wish is to be granted? The Bible also mentioned Abide, Ask, Believe, and Receive. Jesus promises in Matthew 21:22, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Believing is at the heart of answered prayer. But how do you get this faith to believe? God does not require you to have great faith. You simply are to have faith in a great God. Nothing will be impossible for you. “Ask in faith without any doubting” for the double-minded person cannot expect God to answer His prayers. You see, it’s the quality not the quantity of the faith that is important. If you want to receive something you are visualizing, the process you must follow is Ask (you must ASK for something), Believe ( you must BELIEVE it is yours) and Receive (you will RECEIVE it). Each of us has different beliefs. We have different religions, different sects, some believe in the Supreme Being, some prefer not to believe in any gods, but above all these we know that there is a Force above us which can be referred to as the Universe. Simple steps to Ask, Believe, Receive: 1. Ask – you must form a CLEAR INTENTION as to what you want. Visualize the same thing every day. Be consistent and as detailed as possible! 2. Believe – to increase your self-belief and faith is to REPEATEDLY visualize yourself as having already achieved your goal as much in detail as you can. The more you visualize your success, the more you will begin to believe at a conscious and unconscious level. 3. Receive – merely asking and believing will NOT get you the results you want. You have to learn how to GENERATE THE SAME FEELINGS you would have if you had ALREADY achieved your goals. You must take action, and action comes easy when you are in the Ask Believe Receive mindset. This increases your chances of success with visualization. I believe Yes People Matter!’s first blog of the year 2014 would inspire all of you to create and live the dream you want. May this year bring you and your family peace, joy, and love! A blessed and successful year to all of you!
How do you deal with an extroverted aggressive behaviour? That’s the question I asked myself on Saturday, December 7th, while I was sitting at a business launch at the Bayan Lepas International Airport, Penang, Malaysia. It was about 7 am and there was commotion at the entrance which was just a passenger talking loudly for no apparent reason. He then walked up to the seating area and ordered a latte for himself by explaining to the barista how to make his cup of tasteful Latte. I could observe the discomfort that the barista was going through. He picked up his latte and proceeded to have a phone conversation, using vulgar language in public, without any care for ladies present. Later in the plane, he was seated two seats to my back. I had a feeling that this 1.5-hour flight home would be interesting. The minute he sat down, he called one of the stewards and ordered him to prepare two sandwiches for his children who are at home. The steward complied. His sandwiches were delivered to him before we landed. He was very grateful and gracious about it. He then called the same steward again and requested two cans for beers during that early morning flight. I noticed that everyone he dealt with kind of gave in to his demands. He had a couple of friends on the same flight who from my observation were trying to avoid him for some good reasons. This loud-mouthed passenger is a classic attention getter. His over assertiveness came across as being aggressive. I kind of like the way he communicated – firm, precise and short. The point here is that in life we come across people of different attitudinal behaviour – extroverted or introverted. Some of us find it easier to deal with the introverts due to their passiveness. So when we come across these different types let us take a step back to understand them and learn to get along. There is always something we can learn from each other. So during these upcoming festive season be more understanding of each other. Wishing all a very Merry Christmas and welcome a Happy New Year 2014. Joy to the World.
I recently participated in the international OD (=Organizational Development) – Summit 2013 of Assumption University in Bangkok. The summit was centered around SOAR, a framework which stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. Although I had previous experience in using SOAR for strategy development, I used this opportunity to learn first hand from Dr. Jacqueline Stavros, Lawrence Technological University, Michigan, the original developer of the SOAR methodology. You may be very familiar with SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) which is predominantly an analytical tool that is used in organizations all over the world. Although SWOT is a simple and widely accepted tool, there comes a certain danger with it. While doing the SWOT analysis, people often focus too much on the weaknesses and the threats leading to too much of a negative sentiment. SOAR, however, typically brings people in an uplifting mood. The SOAR framework is mainly applied for strategy development and for strategic planning. It is a strengths-based approach with appreciative inquiry (http://www.thecareguys.com/2009/12/05/developing-an-appreciative-eye/) at the heart of the process. SOAR creates widespread engagement throughout the organization. It enhances relationships, connects all stakeholders and aligns vision to action. Questions asked in the SOAR – process include: 1. What are our Strengths? What can we build on? 2. What are the Opportunities? What are our stakeholders asking for? 3. What do we Aspire to? What do we care deeply about? 4. What Results do we want? How will we know we are succeeding? SOAR is an inclusive approach. While in a traditional strategy development session often only members of the senior leadership team are involved, with SOAR all stakeholders are part of the process. Representatives from all hierarchical levels of the organization are participating along with other stakeholders like customers, suppliers and society. The result of the involvement of all stakeholders in the process are a shared vision and a shared strategy that have been co-created. Alignment across one’s organization is achieved. Getting people involved and making their voices heard creates enthusiasm and momentum in the organization. One of my favourite quotes comes from John Maxwell, the American leadership guru, who says: “Managers solve problems; leaders create momentum.” SOAR is a great approach to organizational change to create momentum, a key leadership challenge that, from my observation, leaders often struggle to master. I suggest that you give a try to SOAR in your next strategic development process. I myself will use SOAR with the NGO Raks Thai Foundation / CARE Thailand, to help them to develop their corporate strategy.
Getting myself an aromatherapy massage regularly maintains my wellness and good health. The masseuse told me that she discovered several trapped air and water retention in my body. When she laid her hands on those parts filled with retention, it hurt me a lot. The masseuse persisted that she needs to break the trapped air and fluid to make my blood circulate better. The spa recommend me to come back more often for aromatherapy treatment and yes, I did follow their advice. Come to think of the organization as a living system just like a person: organization can feel weak, it can get sick, it has problems to be solved, and it needs pampering too. So getting to the part that hurts you, is a process of facing your problem or organizational problem. That is why one has to re-visit the strategy and continue to improve the organizational performance. Problem solving is essential to leaders. The goal is to minimize the occurrence of problems – which means we must be courageous enough to be proactive and be resilient in our quest to create and sustain momentum for the organization and people we serve. I believe that the best leaders are the best problem solvers. They have the patience to step back and see the big picture as they could see around, beneath and beyond the problem itself. The most effective leaders approach problems through a lens of opportunity. They never view a problem as a distraction, but rather as a strategic enabler for continuous improvement and opportunities previously unseen. Let me share with you Glenn Llopis’ 4 Most Effective Ways Leaders Solve Problems: 1. Transparent Communication Communication is a fundamental necessity. That is why when those involved in the problem would rather not express themselves – fearing they may threaten their job and/or expose their own or someone else’s wrong-doing – the problem solving process becomes a treasure hunt. Effective communication towards problem solving happens because of a leader’s ability to facilitate an open dialogue between people who trust her intentions and feel that they are in a safe environment to share why they believe the problem happened as well as specific solutions. 2. Break Down Silos Organizational silos are the root cause of most workplace problems and are why many of them never get resolved. This is why today’s new workplace must embrace an entrepreneurial spirit where employees can freely navigate and cross-collaborate to connect the problem solving dots; where everyone can be a passionate explorer who knows their own workplace dot and its intersections. When you know your workplace dot, you have a much greater sense of your sphere of influence. This is almost impossible to gauge when you operate in silos that potentially keep you from having any influence at all. Breaking down silos allows a leader to more easily engage their employees to solve problems together. 3. Open-minded People Open-minded people see beyond the obvious details before them and view risk as their best friend. They tackle problems head-on and get on with the business of driving growth and innovation. Close-minded employees turn things around to make it more about themselves and less about what is required to convert a problem into a new opportunity. 4. A Solid Foundational Strategy A solid strategy must be implemented in order to solve any problem. Many leaders attempt to dissect a problem rather than identify the strategy for change that lies within the problem itself. Effective leaders that are comfortable with problem solving always know how to gather the right people, resources, budget and knowledge from past experiences. They inspire people to lift their game by making the problem solving process highly collaborative; for them, it’s an opportunity to bring people closer together. I’ve always believed that you don’t know the true potential and character of a person until you see the way they solve problems. Effective leaders connect the dots and map-out a realistic plan of action in advance. They have a strategy that serves as the foundation for how the problem will be approached and managed. They anticipate the unexpected and utilize the strengths of their people to assure the strategy leads to a sustainable solution. These valuable tips from Glenn Llopis are easily understood. You know that you have great leadership in your organization when problem solving becomes a seamless process that enables the people and the organization to grow and perform better. If problem solving creates chaos, you might have a leadership problem in your organization. “All life is problem solving.” Karl Popper
At a recent Problem Solving and Decision Making Workshop, while discussing and brainstorming about the challenges leaders face in finding solutions, one point that came out strongly was that of a lack of listening skills in this situation. Surprisingly, many of the leaders present requested that at some point in the workshop, time must be allocated for exercise and practice in listening skills. The exercise and practice went well with good participation. The good news is that just like anything else, we can get better at listening with effort and practice. I like to share with you some advice from an article by Michael Hoppe, a faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership, who has worked with hundreds of leaders throughout his career. He has streamlined his advice for better listening into six helpful steps: 1. Pay attention: Set aside your iPad and maintain steady eye contact. Smile or nod to show you’re fully present. Every time you sneak a peek at a text, you risk killing the conversation. If you’re having a virtual exchange, read e-mails the whole way through at least twice to make sure you’re really getting the message. 2. Suspend judgment. Hold back your own criticisms and the need to show you’re right. Let others explain how they view a situation. You don’t need to agree; just show some empathy. 3. Reflect. In person or on email, as the conversation proceeds, occasionally recap others’ points to make sure you’re really hearing them. Often it turns out that you missed something important. 4. Clarify. When you do speak, ask open-ended questions that encourage people to share more. For example: “What are your thoughts about how we might change our strategy to increase sales in this economy?” 5. Summarize. Briefly restate core themes raised by the person you’re talking with. You’re not agreeing or disagreeing; you’re simply closing the loop. 6. Share. Once you know where that person stands, introduce your own ideas and suggestions. That’s how good conversations get even better. Make a commitment to practice these six steps in at least one conversation each day, whether it’s in person, on the phone or online. Before long, your work colleagues won’t be the only ones who are grateful. Our family members and friends have probably been waiting patiently for us to become better listeners, too.
In an article in Harvard Business Review (HBR), April 2013 edition, Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed described their findings of their research what makes a company truly great. They had studied statistical data of about 25,000 companies from hundreds of industries that had been quoted at the American stock exchange between 1966 and 2010. Raynor and Ahmed identified 344 companies that produced statistically exceptional results. In that HBR article it is stated that “their strategic choices over decades of success have been consistent with three elementary rules: Better before cheaper (it’s best to compete on differentiators other than price). Revenue before cost (prioritize increasing revenue over reducing costs). There are no other rules (change anything you must to follow the first two).” Although these rules are coming across as quite simple, you can see them being violated again and again in the corporate world. How often are managers discussing about lowering the price of a product/service rather than focusing on a clear quality- or performance-related positioning of the product/service at an adequate price? Going for a “lowest price” – positioning is one of the most difficult positioning strategies, because by the time a competitor is offering a lower price than you, he will typically take away massive market share from you. This is because the customers whose purchase decisions is mainly based on lowest price will switch the product /the supplier fast and easily. The other big mistake companies often make is a focus on cutting costs rather than focusing on growing revenue. I recall numerous discussions in my previous company with controllers whose focus always was on cost cutting. They ignored the importance of a sales growth – mindset. In the long run, companies always benefit more from driving up sales rather than by driving down costs. I encourage you to keep the above three elementary rules in mind when you think next time about your company’s strategy. After all, the rules are based on research data of thousands of companies over a number of decades.