Sunday, August 13, 2017

Us and our relationships

Glen Campbell, the guitarist and singer who gave us "Rhinestone Cowboy" died last Tuesday following a six-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. In his final years, his friends and children would often spend days with him playing him his old songs.

A great benefit of letting people care for us and of us caring for them is that no matter what happens, we know we're not alone. We know someone's got our backs. Being valued makes us stronger.

Relationships affect us deeply - the state of our relationships has an impact on every aspect of our lives. A failing or struggling relationship - may it be with a spouse or a colleague, friend, child, parent or sibling that has fallen on rough times - may have a negative impact on the way we perform at work, the way we feel for ourselves, the way we spend our time. The opposite is also true. When we are thriving in our relationships, we tend to carry a very positive energy with us wherever we go and tend to be more effective and efficient in the workplace.

Top sales people don't get to where they are just because they make a lot of calls or because they know the best closing techniques. In most cases, their customers recognize that they're truly cared for, hence they show their satisfaction by buying again and again - and referring them to others.

A common thread amongst couples who have stayed together long and are as happy together as they were when they first met is this: they care for their partner's happiness more than they do about their own. And here's the truly remarkable thing - their partners seem to want the same thing.

Support is the key concept it at work or in personal life. You both can take each other further than either of you can go alone. Contrary to what you may think, you don't always have to like each other or agree. But you'll learn from one another. Two are stronger than one. You make each other better.

Soul connections don't happen every day. When you find one, be grateful. They are gifts.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mental toughness: Feel the fear, but do it anyway

Charlie Gard battled for 12 minutes after his life support was removed before dying. Charlie suffered from a rare brain disease with no cure. He had brain damage and was unable to move his limbs and breathe unaided. His parents wanted to take him to America for experimental treatment and his case ended up in the courts when doctors opposed the plan, saying the untested therapy wouldn't help Charlie and might cause him to suffer.

His life — and illness — drew us all in, from the Pope and President Trump to the man and woman in the street. Why? Because the controversies surrounding Charlie’s life — and ultimate death — encapsulated a dilemma we all find almost impossible to face: who should decide when to end a life?

It's easy to feel mentally strong when life is going well, but at times problems arise. A job loss, an illness in the family or a death of a loved one. When we're mentally strong, we're more prepared to deal with life's challenges.

The most dominant emotion today is fear. We are afraid. Afraid of losing the things we have worked hard to buy, afraid of rejection and failure, afraid of certain types of people, afraid of criticism, afraid of suffering and heartache, afraid of change, afraid to tell people how we really feel. We are afraid of so many things.

Leaders can't avoid stress, fear, pain and pressure.

The pain of realizing we're not in control, admitting we're wrong, letting go of a long and dearly held belief. Or the fear and stress of having to make a decision without having as much information as we would like to have. That all comes with the territory of leadership.

I always try to be conscious for the times I'm feeling sorry for myself, fearing risks, feeling like the world owes me something, resenting other people's success or worrying about pleasing everyone. I try to regulate these emotions.

No one is immune to making mistakes and having bad days. There are times my emotions get the better of me, and times when I engage in self-destructive or unproductive behavior. But those times are getting fewer and farther between as I actively work on increasing my mental toughness.

Although increasing mental strength is a personal journey, I don't go it completely alone. I ask for help when I need it and surround myself with supportive people. 



Sunday, July 30, 2017

Do what needs to be done even when you don't want to

World leaders in the headlines this week:
  1. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted on corruption charges.
  2. A national strike and pockets of violence erupted in Venezuela deploring the possibility that their President could gain more sweeping powers.
  3. A picture of the Kyrgyz president's youngest daughter feeding her baby dressed in her underwear has sparked a debate about breastfeeding and sexualisation.
A boss has the title. A leader has the people.

From time to time, in my younger days, I was too much of a disciplinarian, and did things that I regretted. Nowadays I very hardly have to mete out punishment for everyone to get the message. As judge, jury and chief executioner, I have plenty of different sentences at my disposal. A simple yet deadly one is silence. It did not require any public hanging. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and informed. The recipient, with his/her wings clipped knew they are in the cold storage. The severest penalties of all is the cutting loose. If, after trying as I might, I could not get someone to fit into our system, I let them go. You cannot build a team with blithe free spirits.

Once you say farewell to, you say goodbye to success and set the stage for anarchy.

Punishment is not something most management texts talk about and many texts points out that it is not a viable option for shaping behavior. I hope what you read here has provoked you to think about leadership in a new way.

After all, true leadership is not so much about what is in your head as about what is in your heart and how you use that to inspire people to greatness.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Building confidence: play to your strengths

Plans to erect a bronze statue of Margaret Thatcher in Parliament Square have been turned down, partly over fears it would be vandalized. While Lady Thatcher was widely respected, she was also controversial and divisive.

Confidence is not "they will like me." Confidence is "I'll be fine even if they don't."

Confidence is a way of thinking about ourselves and our abilities. It's a kind of thinking that powers us through the obstacles and tough times, helping us solve problems and putting us in the way of success.

I am not advising you to take a "positive thinking" seminar. When we are up against a tough competitor, a grueling day, a difficult assignment, we cannot create confidence with some kind of on-the-spot routine. Exceptional performers know what they know and go for it. Confidence is a resolute state of mind by of thinking about what is possible and how to make it possible.

"I am the greatest," proclaimed Mohammad Ali, one of my favourite examples of a supremely confident thinker. And he did become, indisputably, one of the greatest boxers in history.

Supremely confident people were confident long before they achieved anything. We tend to view confidence as a product of accomplishment rather than part of the process that leads there.

I've never met a guy who has built a business or an accomplished sales leader who has not had a great ego. If you can't build your own brand, how do you build brands or teams for people who pay you for it?

Of course, you might be misunderstood. Arrogance is thinking that you are better than other people in general. Confidence has nothing to do with your worth as a human being, or with a comparison of yourself to others.

By now you are probably asking: how can I succeed when other people seem more talented?

Confidence is not a guarantee of success, but a tenacious search for ways to make things work.

As a leader, I create confidence and show trust by believing in my team members' capabilities. I give them a big hairy project and encourage them to meet to figure it out without me. I show trust by getting out of the way. I trust them to rise to the occasion, and they will.

Don't worry so much about what you can't do. Just do what you can as only you can do it.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Compassion has an impact on the bottomline

An unprecedented  and bitter feud among the family of Singapore's prime minister over the legacy of their father has been in the headlines in recent weeks.

Everyone we meet is fighting a battle we know nothing about. Never underestimate the pain of a person because everyone is struggling. Some people are just better at hiding it than others. Sometimes the most outwardly happy people is the most damaged.

Every one of us is always in a crisis, coming out of a crisis or headed for a crisis. That's just part of being on this planet.

Silos - otherwise also known as department politics, divisional rivalry or turf war, is one of the most frustrating aspects of life in an organization. My experience suggests that over time, the feelings of frustrations turns into disappointment, which eventually becomes resentment - even hostility - toward their supposed team mates. This maddening problem exists, to different degrees, in most companies I've worked in. But the fact is, most employees have a genuine interest in working well across divisions.

The older we get, the more we get to see people - including ourselves - acting selfishly, and we have to learn to protect ourselves. Some people seem more naturally disposed to looking for goodness than others. I have to admit that I am not one of them. In our overly judgmental culture, I have been too quick to point out the negative in situations and people. Seeking the good isn't always easy, especially when things don't go how we would like them to or when people hurt us deeply.

Empathy sounds like such a simple word, yet it's actually a complicated feat to be able to understand someone else's perspective and see how different the world looks. Of all the people in my life, I hold those who taught me compassion in highest regard.

As a leader today, I understand that empathy and compassion has a bottom-line impact because it is a strong component of trust.

Many are the times when I have seethed in anger at a word or action of an unthinking or uncaring person. I have wasted valuable hours imagining confrontation. By learning how to forgive, I am no longer consumed by unproductive thoughts. I give up my bitterness.  I forgive even those who do not ask for forgiveness.

Every saint had a past and every sinner has a future. Forgiveness, it turns out, is a gift that means more to the giver than it does to the receiver.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Stop hesitating!

Alibaba's Jack Ma got US$2.8billion richer in one day when stock price of Alibaba rose 13% to a record high as the company's forecast sales growth topped analysts' estimates. "We're Not Just a Company; We're an Economy," Jack Ma proclaimed.

Every master was once a beginner.

I learned a new word recently. Decidophobia. The fear of making decisions. It's a common disease for some. They convince themselves that ok, I can't do it now, but maybe tomorrow, in a month, or next year. Today is not the right time.

There are no perfect moments to start.

Most people dream about adventure, money, happiness but they don't dare actually say yes to these opportunities. I am not saying we should say yes to everything but do make thoughtful  decisions about opportunities of real value, because they never come back. We'll never be younger than we are in this moment. We'll never feel as we do in this moment.

You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. You have to do something. There has to be a beginning.

I recall some years back when I decided to get off the couch to have a healthier lifestyle. A little moderate exercise, fifteen minutes on the stationary bike. Got my heart rate up slightly, no big deal.

When I got up the next morning, did I feel better? Not really. That is, not noticeably. Hardly seems worth the effort. But I kept up doing it. I cycled through a few stiff muscles and missed my Netflix program. Hey is this all really worth it? Maybe not. But then, I kept doing it anyway. Eventually, these days I feel like a million bucks.

Looking back, did my life change on that first day after I cycled for fifteen minutes? Probably not. And if I didn't cycle that day, will my life start to fall apart? Of course not.

But successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do - even when it doesn't look like it makes any difference. And they do it long enough for the compounding effect to start to kick in.

Whether it's your health, your happiness, your knowledge, your skills, you diet, your relationships or your financial status, turn your one day into your Day One!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trust begets trust

"Let's make June the the end of May!" The billboards read. Can a weakened Theresa May survive the inevitable storm following the remarkable British General Election? Her political gamble backfired dramatically in the surprise snap election which was unnecessary; her term in office ran until 2020.

Following the advice of Og Mandino...

...if I feel incompetent, I think of past success.
...if I become overconfident, I recall my failures.

We've all been programmed to think, believe and act the way we do. Our programming is a result of what we have been told by others, what we have told ourselves and all our life experiences.

Our programming can be changed at any time - to overcome fears and insecurities, or to reduce cockiness and narcissism.

As a leader, my role is to create confidence and momentum. I found out over time that the best way to get my team to trust me is to trust them. It isn't what we say, it's what we do that communicates trust - or the lack of it. I show trust by believing in their capabilities. I show trust by sharing the stage. I show trust by being real - admitting I don't have all the answers. I show trust by getting out of the way.

And if one of my team member screws up, I talk about it, help him learn and then move on. I show trust by letting it go.

Wasn't it Marshall Goldsmith who said, "The #1 skill of influencers is the sincere effort to make a person feel that he/she  is the most important person in the world. It's one of the skills that Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey used to become the best in their fields."

I will do this for every person I connect with!