Saturday, October 14, 2017

Are you happy?

A bad marriage. That's how Bloomberg BusinessWeek describes the disintegrating union between Barcelona and Madrid.

Things are never going to be perfect, so just enjoy the moment. That quote is something I often remind myself of. It's an important reality.

There will never be an end to our problems and commitments. I have accepted this reality. We simply cannot afford to allow these things to rule our lives and close us down.

It is not easy to behave constructively in the face of negative emotions - and not easy to say a kind word when we feel angry or sad. But whether or not life is easy, our behavior determines how we live.

Extensive research has shown that people who are happier also have fewer strokes and heart attacks, have better work performance and more professional success, have more fulfilling and longer-lasting relationships, are more financially successful and live longer.

One of the central findings of this happiness research is this: We believe "once I become successful, then I'll be happy" or "once I find that relationship.....once my income is high enough.....then I'll be happy."

But that's not how it works. We think it does and we assume that's the ways things work. In fact, the research says it works exactly the opposite way. Once we raise our everyday level of happiness then we will become more successful, then we'll find that relationship.

Albert Schweitzer put it beautifully: "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success." I love that.

That really made me stop and think.

Happiness born from the achievement of success would be very short-lived. Once you have climbed that mountain, you will cast your gaze to the peak of another, higher mountain. I have met enough successful people to know that success cannot be equated with happiness. Some of them are tremendously happy, others are desperately miserable.

In every moment of our lives, we  choose happiness or misery.

Choose happiness.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Authenticity - just be yourself

Chewbacca socks. Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau wore socks with the face of Chewbacca on them last month —in New York while attending the Bloomberg Global Business Forum. It's not the first time. In May  he wore mismatched "Star Wars- themed socks while meeting with his Irish counterpart, Enda Kenny, in Montreal.

Most people will respect us far more for being real than any elegant positioning we can concoct.

Real is a two-way street. Our teams want to see us for who we are. They also want to know that we're telling them the truth. It takes real confidence to tell the truth.

Our teams would rather we show up real, and devote our energy to supporting them than to keep up a fa├žade. If your team senses you're playing games, they'll spend a lot of time to figure out the rules of that game rather than doing productive work.

To be real with my team, I first have to be real with myself. I know that I'm not perfect and I have so much value to share. I don't consider myself more valuable than my team.

Everyone who has ever lived has had weaknesses. I don't worry so much about what I can't do. I just do what I can as only I can do it.

The people around me know that I am hyper driven, and when I go into activation mode, they are there to calm me down. I may not be a details person. It's just part of who I am. I surround myself with detail-oriented people who bring me back down to earth when I'm spiraling into orbit.

If you think you're a leader and you turn around and no one is following you, then you're simply out for a walk.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Learn from mistakes. Otherwise the lessons will get harder

"Dotard" was the highest searched word on Google for a day last week. That was Kim Jong-un’s latest insult to Donald Trump after Trump referred to him as "Rocket Man."

In my experience, it is not easy to be vulnerable when people are looking to you as their leader. But I also find that sharing my story with people in ways that exposes my vulnerability connects me deeper with others and enables me to form authentic relationships.

Loss is personal for me. In my youth, I was financially illiterate and was too proud to admit it. I would make a dollar and spend a dollar and fifty cents. The more money I made, the more broke I got. Eventually I understood that life wasn't about making more money; it was about making better decisions with the money I made.

I won't sugarcoat the truth: for every stirring success, there was a crushing failure. That's my life.

We can't undo our errors, but we can learn from them. If we don't learn, the lessons get harder. Regretting our mistakes is not the same as learning the lesson.

We are not here to be perfect, but to live and learn, to fall and rise again. These painful experiences can become a blessing that transforms your life.

I hope that there is something here for you.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Dare to be vulnerable

Angelina Jolie's First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers is Cambodia's submission for the best foreign-language film Oscar at the 90th Academy Awards. It's a sensitively rendered real-life story about the brutal Khmer Rouge regime as seen through the eyes of a 5-year old girl.

Just because you are lost, doesn't mean your compass is broken.

One thing I discovered is that repeatedly in my career, there are always people showing up to help me at key times. These angels appear and most have also been willing to let me know when they thought I was wrong. 
Some people might say that opening up, admitting we aren't perfect and don't have all the answers, makes us look weak. Real leaders, however, understand that vulnerability can actually become their greatest strength.

When you open up, people open up to you. Vulnerability shows that we are humans, and all great leaders are, at their core, deeply human. That's why people follow them. They are drawn to their authenticity.

I've been very candid when I make mistakes. I openly admit mistakes up-front and that I am not infallible. And most people have been forgiving in those circumstances. Once you say that, it's very hard for someone to stay angry at you.

Of course you can play it safe, but you'll never get the real richness of a relationship. Acquaintances remain acquaintances because you two have been cordial with each other. You are never really comfortable with that person. But with that best friend, you developed a deep connection where you were both vulnerable and open.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Stay on the ball

That new iPhone X sure looks nice. Although hailed as "the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone", Apple seems to be only catching up with Samsung in terms of fast charging, wireless charging, edge-to-edge displays and even facial recognition.

Leaders sometimes forget this. They let their attitudes and strategies harden in place, assuming what worked well before will always yield success. On the flip side of the coin, just because something didn't work before doesn't mean it won't work now. Don't let history hold you back.

Don't assume the experts are right too. Experts once thought humans never travel faster than 48 km per hour, the speed of a galloping horse. These days, planes exceed 900 km per hour. One music company exec passed on the Ed Sheeran because "he was slightly chubby and ginger and that wasn’t a good marketing tool." My point?  Experts sometimes get it wrong.

In the early stages of a leader's life and career, one amasses diplomas and degrees, attend conferences, read books within one's field. Promotions and raises follow. But as the leader's career surges, his/her curiosity often dips. Busy schedules doesn't allow time to read much nor attend training courses. While it is great to be interesting, it is also important to be interested. Keep learning.

When I was growing up, a lot of items we take for granted now didn't even exist. Facebook, smartphones, video streaming, Google maps, to name a few. Now they are commonplace. What will be commonplace ten or twenty five years from now? I don't have a crystal ball but what I can say is this: agile leaders who are adaptable and willing to embrace the future now will be the ones who prosper.

Inflexible things break, when stressed. Even metal will come apart if you apply enough pressure. One of the thing I consistently do is to surround myself with smarts.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

When team members thrive, leaders don't need to drive

Five of the people who were photographed in the January 22 swearing-in ceremony no longer work in the White House. The departure of Sebastian Gorka, who advised President Trump on national security issues, is the latest in a string of them in the last month.

I never liked the idea of something or someone controlling me.

At the beginning of my career, like many young sales leaders, I thought my role was to tell the sales people how to sell, and theirs was to carry out my directions. Eventually I realized that a great performance would happen only when the motivation sprang as much from them as from me. I learned to see my job as simply creating an environment where that could happen.

I eventually acknowledge that the team members own the business as much as I do. When they feel in control they will surely take ownership. We can force compliance, we can require obedience but we can't mandate enthusiasm, creativity, fresh thinking or inspiration.

People want to thrive. People thrive when they experience autonomy. Driving for results by adding pressure blocks people's creativity and ability to focus which undermines competence.

If a leader wants his people to truly own the work, then he has to be willing to let go of some control.

It has taken years for me to be more mindful. Today, my role is like a orchestra maestro, who doesn't actually make a sound. It's the musicians who owns the music.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Tackling hard times

AccuWeather forecasts that Hurricane Harvey would be the most expensive natural disaster in US history, at about $160 billion.

We all hit hard times. We all must deal with tragedies.

Life has certainly tested me and I have not always responded with the courage and determination that I'd like to claim. I don't have all the answers all the time. No one does.

If you are familiar with my background, you know that life came at me when I was a 9-months old baby when I was inflicted with asthmatic bronchitis. Other solemn years of my life were when I lacked financial resources to enrol into a university and later on I went through a tough time financially. I lived hand-to-mouth, one month at a time. It was rough.  All of us have times when we feel, "I don't know how I am going to get out of this mess."

Those were character-building years. I learned not to allow negative events in my life affect my attitude.

I have noticed that many people who do well in life carry that same ability with them. They find hope in every desperate situation. They find the positive message in negative experiences.

How do you keep going on when life knocks you down? It's one thing to be positive when things are going well. But it is something altogether different when someone you love is taken away...when a debilitating illness strikes you or a family member...when your job is suddenly downsized...when a relationship falls apart.

One way is to trust in a power greater than yourself. Also, make it a point to be around people who makes you feel good about yourself, whether friends, family or co-workers.

So you see, no matter how hard your life may become, no matter how hard it gets, you can survive and thrive if you are able to see the obstacles as opportunities to grow. I know I am ultimately much stronger and wiser after my experiences.