I love coffee. It is only after a sip of coffee in the morning that I am certain that I am awake for the rest of the day. As my week is over, I usually savour the best moments, count my blessings and realize that many of my best moments, especially engaging conversations unfolded “over a cup of coffee”. I treasure these best moments engaged in meaningful conversations in the workplace “over a cup of coffee” while at office pantry or at a nearby coffee shop. Meaningful conversations “over a cup of coffee” reveal a lot about the inner person that we are and what matters most to us. Leaders and Managers may provide these packets of time for meaningful conversations, buying a staff member a cup of coffee, tea, or latte, initiating the conversation with even one interesting question leading to meaningful exchange of stories. These are highlights of the day that our staff members usually remember and treasure. Conversations on what matters most in our life…the on-goings like family, childhood memories, birthdays and celebrations, their child, the drive home, the weekend getaway, pet peeves, arts and crafts, the latest sale in town , or our LOL moments . Deeper conversations may deal with life purpose, wish list, bucket list, inspirations, lessons learned …what one fully treasures and truly really matters within that drives them. Generative forces. Life forces. All these are significant so that sharing them in conversations makes them even more meaningful. Trust develops. All these shared “over a cup of coffee” often turns out to be the shining moments so well appreciated in the workplace. And this isn’t about a Q&A type (boss and employee) conversation, but engaging and generative conversations that nurture trust in the workplace. It is priceless… and about Trust — it is a very effective feedback. Trust brings out the best in persons and elevates the level of engagement, both for the employee and the leader/manager. In Linked In, I saw this interesting equation for Employee Motivation and Engagement: Motivation= Compensation + X For leaders and managers, we have to creatively seek out and leverage that X-factor, especially if we so desire to keep our talents be more motivated and engaged in the workplace. Bring in the choicest brew, then! It is one of life’s perks!
Handling one’s emotion in the workplace is essential to business growth and success on company’s performance. Gautama Buddha once said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Many of us get frustrated from work and are seeking for a way to get rid of our anger. How do we cope with anger? Do you feel irritated when you are hungry? My husband could experience mood swing when he becomes hungry! So my quick solution to keep him happy is to provide food for him as soon as I know he needs to eat, to prevent him from getting angry. Later I found out that there are neurobiological reasons behind one’s irritation. When you are hungry, the stomach produces the appetite hormone ghrelin, which stimulates feelings of hunger and triggers an anxiety response — both of which disappear as soon as you eat. Hunger also creates fluctuations in the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps regulate behaviour — making it harder to control anger. I always recall the movie “Anger Management” by Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson when talking about Anger Management. We sometimes express our feeling and anger through unfiltered words and actions. Uncontrolled acts that were said and done could lead to consequences and problems. Anger Management is a process of self improvement, self help, or self development. Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion but it’s important to deal with anger in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships. Consider these 10 anger management tips that might help you perform better in the workplace: No. 1: Pause or take a timeout Before reacting to a situation, it is important to ‘pause’ for a while to defuse your temper. Do not react right away. No. 2: Express your anger when you are calm As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them. No. 3: Get some exercise Physical activity can provide an outlet for your emotions. In my case, I could walk several kilometres on my treadmill while listening to music. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that can leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. No. 4: Think before you speak Never say things that you will later regret. Compose your thoughts before saying anything! No. 5: Identify possible solutions Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything, and might only make it worse. No. 6: Be understanding To avoid criticizing or placing blame which might only increase tension — use “I” statements instead of “You” to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. No. 7: Stay positive! Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation. No. 8: Use humor to release tension Avoid sarcasm, it can hurt feelings and make things worse. No. 9: Practice relaxation skills Practice deep-breathing exercises: inhale (fill air in stomach=rounded tummy) counting 1-2-3, then exhale (removed air from stomach=flat tummy) counting 1-2-3-4 No. 10: Know when to seek help Learning to control anger especially at the workplace is a challenge. Consider seeking help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you. One may seek advice from his/her family, close friends, or teachers/mentors. You might explore local anger management classes or anger management counselling. With professional help, you can: 1) Learn what anger is 2) Identify what triggers your anger 3) Recognize signs that you’re becoming angry 4) Learn to respond to frustration and anger in a controlled, healthy way 5) Explore underlying feelings, such as sadness or depression For those interested, anger management classes and counseling can be done individually, with your partner or other family members, or in a group. Request a referral from your doctor to a counselor specializing in anger management. I believe it is important to address the anger issues. Once one has learned and understood the principles of anger management, he/she could deal smoothly with everyday’s problem, family and work related issues, and above all, the SELF issues. As Lao Tzu said― “The best fighter is never angry.”
In early August, on my way back from the USA, I checked in at the United Airlines counter in Boston for a flight to Los Angeles. The lines leading to the customer relations counters were all busy so we all waited patiently as the line was slowly moving along. For me, I was mesmerizing the past weeks events. The week was a very positive one with my eldest daughter getting married and everything went well – the rehearsal, pre-dinner among the in-laws, best man and maid of honor and close friends. The morning of the wedding, we all were gathered at the Chapel early and had time to chat with the guests as they walked in. The wedding ceremony went well and my daughter Jess chanted a soul stirring prayer. Her chanting moved everyone. So as you can see, I did not mind the long wait to reach the UA counter. I was happily observing my surroundings, with positive thoughts of the past week. Finally I reached the counter, gave the tired looking gentleman a warm smile and mentioned that I truly appreciated how pleasantly he has been dealing with the long line of customers, even though some of them were very unpleasant to him with their tone of voice. He mentioned that it was all part of his job. He looked behind me and saw that there were no other customers and so chatted more with me about where I am from and other pleasantries and at the same time checking me in for the next flight out. Then came a problem – my luggage was over weight by 1.5 kg. and mentioned that I need to pay US$100. I looked at him smiled and asked if anything can be done. He mentioned that these days the rules for overweight are followed very closely. Then he took a look at me, still smiling and pleasant, said let me see what I can do for you. He returned a few minutes later and said with a smile that all is well and that I did not have to pay any additional charges. He smiled and said I wished all my customers were as pleasant as you. I thanked him for the compliment. The point is to always try and maintain a positive attitude, show human kindness, smile and be good to others. The most important outcome is that others are happy dealing with you. Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough. – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Yesterday, I read an article in “The Nation” newspaper in Thailand titled “Job-Hopping Plaguing Companies”. According to a recent Jobstreets.com – survey, 82 % of companies are facing job-hopping problems, mostly by employees aged 21 – 30 years. The survey covered more than 500 employers and 7,800 employees. The findings revealed that many young people change jobs after less than a year looking for greener pastures and for new challenges. 65 % of employees have worked for their current firms for less than two years, and 75 % of them are already looking for new jobs. When I talk to managers, I often hear the standard answer that it is “normal” among the younger generation, especially GenerationY, that they stay in a company only for a short time. However, I feel that this is more like a welcome excuse for many managers rather than making serious efforts to retain young generation employees. In order to increase the duration of young employees in their firms, companies must do the following: – establish a professional recruitment process (hire the right applicants who want to join the company for the right reasons and who are a “cultural fit”) – develop and live an inspiring vision and mission statement combined with clear and guiding values – provide meaning and a sense of belonging to employees (frequent and all too common lay-offs in the corporate world where focus is often only on the bottom line do not help employee loyalty and trust building) – make employees aware how their job contributes to the overall success of the company Only if the above practices are firmly in place, employees will show more loyalty to their companies and job-hopping will be reduced significantly.
I gave birth to my third and last child in early June 2013. As a mom of two little girls, we were expecting a baby boy. However, through several ultrasounds we didn’t have a clear picture of our baby. Uncertain between two genders, I sought for old wives tale; symptoms seem to be pointing to the possibility of having a boy. When I gave birth to our little girl, I have proven that all believes, cravings preference, belly shapes, or even mommy’s gut feel were wrong. Isn’t that we were expecting too much? Yes, I did. I had a year of pregnancy preparation to alkaline myself, eating less fatty food,took vitamins causing myself weight gain, keep up to doctors appointment and all medical requirements. I even consulted the Chinese calendar and all beliefs that could make our expectation come true. Yet, above all, there is a supreme being, the universe that creates life and here comes a “gift” that is given to me and my family, a cute healthy little girl to complete us. In organization setting, managers and CEOs have great expectations from their employees. The question is how to measure your success? In reality, it is not only the scope of work or even the performance criteria, but also your employees’ expectations. What matters is the process with which you and your employees arrive there. Expectations drive all of your employees’ actions and decisions. The three components to managing expectations are: Setting expectations, Monitoring expectations, and Influencing expectations. Parenting a child and managing a business has some similarities when it comes to expectations: 1) Employees and children have fear from failure. Parents and managers who expressed their disappointment or anger could drive their children or employees away from them. They should instead be there to listen and provide guidance. 2) Bring out the best in your employees or your children by supporting their talent and encourage what they are good at. Be happy and satisfied with the outcome instead of criticizing their flaws or to discourage them. 3) Parents and Managers who have high expectations focus too much on the results and tend to neglect the “process” , how far they have come and the rules. Great disappointment occurs when performance of the child or employee does not reach 100% and Parents/Managers overlooked their child’s or employee’s capacity, how hard they have tried, and their achievement. 4) Do not spoon feed or transfer your idea to your child or employee wishing they would think and behave like you. Leaving them no room to think by themselves would result to high stress and negative behaviour. An old management saying is: “You cannot manage what you don’t measure.” Common measurement tools are e.g. sales targets, league standings, satisfaction surveys, click-through rates, and in project work, e.g. “percentage complete”, “estimate to completion”. You cannot manage expectations unless you monitor them. That requires listening, hearing, and understanding your employees. Managed expectations drive your success!
On the very few times I checked my Facebook page, I noticed that I have been receiving a lot of requests to play some online games with my friends. It is so interesting to know that most of my busiest friends could spend some time out for games and also connect with friends this way. Some of them tell me it is their way of balancing the corporate stress that most of us are challenged with every day. We often hear our colleagues complain how much overtime they had to spend at the workplace or work from home after office hours with teleconferencing or work to catch up in time for tomorrow’s deadlines or meetings; answering calls while in the grocery or finalizing a report over breakfast, etc. These scenarios are part of our daily experiences. All these makes us think whether we are actually spending most of our time for work-related tasks or roles rather than for matters relating to family, leisure, health, fun and friendship, etc. While most think that the phenomenon of interconnectivity we have right now makes this altogether impossible, it is worthwhile to re-think and consider that the most sought after “work-life balance” is actually personal lifestyle choice. The degree or intensity of the choice depends on one’s priorities which then sets the sense and quality of “fulfilment “each one personally desires for. It is basically grounded in the sense of meaning and purpose of our life. The myth is that Work-life balance is a privilege or opportunity afforded to anyone. The reality is that work-life balance is all about prioritizing and asking some basic questions: “What matters most?”, and “Why?”, then the “How? . Simply said, Work Life balance is truly a matter of choice. “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.” Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Two weeks ago, one of my daughters showed me her Grade Point Average score for three accumulated years of university education. Her results were impressive. This meant a great deal for my wife and me because over the past couple of years, we did not get to see her results because of delays from her faculty and when she did get the results, it was usually given to us verbally. So we would listen to her and give her some encouraging pat on the back and off she went. So this piece of paper, detailing all her three years of studies, showing every subject and credits earned for each, were pleasing to see and brought delight to our hearts and mind. I set down with her and mentioned how delighted mom and I were with her results. Let her know how much we appreciated her diligence and working through her studies for a job of her choice when she graduates next year after finishing year four. I could see how happy she was feeling. Appreciation is always forthcoming both within my family circle and beyond. As a leader, it is important to give appreciation because it enhances self-esteem for both giver and receiver and creates a human connection. Leaders find it awkward to give appreciation or recognition and I believe it gets to be easier with practice. The point is that we need to develop an attitude of giving honest and sincere appreciation when we know that someone in our family or at our workplace deserves it. When we do so the heart is delighted, a connection takes place, more understanding develops and if working in teams, the spirit shows enthusiasm.
I was astonished when recently my eleven years old son Jomar shouted: “Yeeeaaahhh, tomorrow school starts!” It was on the day before his school in Manila was re-opening after a two months summer break. I have to admit that when I went to school, I and my classmates were never feeling like this. The disappointment that the school holidays were over was clearly dominating our thoughts in our school days. I give full credit to my son’s teachers and the school administrators for being able to create such a great atmosphere that the students are looking forward to go back to school. If we transfer that now to a business context: how many of your subordinates would shout , let us say after a one month leave period, “Great! Tomorrow, I am going back to work!”. Not many, I guess. And still, engaged employees are the ultimate goal for companies. A study in 2012 among 1,500 employees in the U.S. by MSW Research in cooperation with Dale Carnegie Co. about the functional and emotional elements that affect employee engagement revealed that there are three key drivers: Relationship with immediate supervisor Belief in senior leadership Pride in working for the company Employees say that it is the attitude and actions of their immediate supervisor that is key. A “caring” manager that is not only interested in work issues, but takes also interest in his subordinates’ personal lives, their development, their health and well-being has a major impact on his employees’ engagement and thus their performance (and, ultimately, the department’s and the company’s performance). Committed and dedicated employees also have a positive impact on customer engagement, resulting in higher customer loyalty which again leads to a better company performance. So, creating an engaging environment to enable top performances of employees and students is a crucial challenge for supervisors and companies as well as for teachers and schools.
I noticed that Western countries have great interest in mindfulness. Many studies have shown that they tried to adapt the Eastern Philosophy to certain businesses, universities, government agencies, counselling centres, schools, hospitals, religious groups, law firms, prisons, the army, and other organizations by offering training in mindfulness meditation. The link between mindfulness practice and leadership development was strengthened with the introduction of Scouller’s Three Levels of Leadership model (Scouller, 2011) which emphasizes psychological self-mastery, includes mindfulness meditation as one of its main self-development techniques. The model was designed as a practical tool for developing a person’s leadership presence, know how and skill. It summarizes what leaders have to do, not only to bring leadership to their group or organization, but also to develop themselves technically and psychologically as leaders. I have so far witnessed the personal leadership in an “inner” level; these involved personal beliefs, emotions and unconscious habits. At its heart is the leader’s self-awareness, his/her progress toward self-mastery and technical competence, and his/her sense of connection with those around him/her. It is the inner core and the source of a leader’s outer leadership effectiveness. I recall the teachings of Buddha advocated that one should establish mindfulness in one’s day-to-day life maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one’s body, feelings, mind, and dhamma. I always trust that the practice of mindfulness supports analysis resulting in the arising of wisdom. It is believed that meditative stabilization must be combined with liberating discernment. To be able to understand our “self”, I believe one must acknowledge that mindfulness is a spiritual or psychological faculty that is considered to be of great importance in the path to enlightenment . It is the seventh element of the noble eightfold path. What are the results from the training of mindfulness meditation and mindful leadership? The participants will discover that enlightenment is a state of being in which greed, hatred and delusion have been overcome, abandoned and are absent from the mind. Organization will understand that mindfulness is an attentive awareness of the reality of things especially of the present moment. It is antidote to delusion and is considered as such a ‘power’. This faculty becomes a power in particular when it is paired up with clear comprehension of whatever is taking place. Benefits from mindfulness leadership at the level of public and private leadership are what the leader must do behaviourally with individuals or groups to address the “four dimensions of leadership” which are: A shared, motivating group purpose or vision; Action, progress and results; Collective unity or team spirit; and; Individual selection and motivation. The benefits at inner level also called personal leadership refers to what leaders should do to grow their leadership presence, knowhow and skill. It has three aspects: Developing one’s technical knowhow and skill; Cultivating the right attitude toward other people; and; Working on psychological self-mastery. This is to name a few companies and institutions that have provided training programs in mindfulness: University of Massachusetts Medical School Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society; Fortune 500 companies (such as Raytheon, Procter & Gamble, Monsanto, General Mills, and Comcast) and others (such as BASF Bioresearch, Bose, New Balance, Unilever, and Nortel Networks). Ford Motor Company, McKinsey & Co., Michael Rennie; and Aetna International. Sounds True (an audio recordings company) along with some newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals in fields other than management, one can find indicators of interest in mindfulness in organizations outside of business. This includes legal and law enforcement organizations as well. Harvard Law School, even many US government organizations offer mindfulness training including United States Armed Forces personnel. Children in the public and private schools are introduced to such program as well. What makes me believe that mindfulness leadership is a new trend in organizational change are testimonials from different CEOs who considered meditation as beneficial to running a corporation; including mindfulness leadership in professional development program; has mindfulness as a core value; recognizing the importance of silence, inward attention, active listening and being centred; offer mindfulness classes; uses mindfulness in coping strategies; mindfulness is also taught in prisons to reduce hostility and mood disturbance among inmates and improving their self-esteem. “Mindfulness and compassion actually develop at the same pace. The more mindful you become, the easier you’ll find it to be compassionate. And the more you open your heart to others, the more mindful you become in all your activities.”