Being In Control – Who Really Call The Shots?

 

In my previous post “To Always Be In Control”, I shared about the need to be in control over things which we have control over, and also what might happen if we do not, i.e. leaving things to chance. However, if we ponder deeper, have we thought about this – “who” really call the shots in controlling? Is it our HEADS (rational and logical, with reasoning and analysis) or is it our HEARTS (emotional and might be irrational at times).  

I reckon (but stand to be corrected) that most of the times, we choose to believe we are rational folks and think with our heads. Simple example. If we are driving down the highway, we would choose to control our vehicle in a certain logical, sensical and safe way, in one lane at a presumably right speed and to overtake safely. A no-brainer there…

Time management – same thing. We would be controlling and managing our time based on the required things that need to be completed and by when, and in the priority we accorded to them based on logical reasoning. I am sure that here, some levels of emotional nudges do try to sneak in at times, in the form of maybe you trying to coax yourself it is alright to catch up on dramas you are following; but by and large, I believe that we are all driven by the logical sensical heads here. It would be quite bad if otherwise, that’s call procrastination! 🙂

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And here’s a gray area, let me share a fictitious example. Final graduating exam is looming in 2 months – full schedule has just been shared by the professor and we should start preparing for it. Here, there are probably 2 camps of folks in this respect.

 

The first: better-off scholastic folks who confidently know they can do well, but still tell themselves that they should plan meticulously, which they did. They would put in every single thing they deem as important. Studying (of course!), eating, sleeping, exercising, some TV and entertainment downtime, etc. They would also probably go down to the level of details on which chunk of activities will get how much time and when. Or even which subject should get more time slot i.e. they should pay more attention to this round. So we can probably say that this camp is using a more rational and logical mind to methodically control their schedules such that they will get the desired results post-exams –> driven by the positive outcomes; that “I want to get good results”

Now for the other camp, the second: they probably approach this preparation period in the opposite fashion. Why and how? They are worried that they won’t do well, because their previous results were not as good as they expected. Hence, they may lack the confidence in themselves this time around, but deep down they still want to do well. What’s in their mind as they prepare – “Oh! I am scare that I may not do well again, and hence, I will push myself to plan my schedule better this time. Previously I was playing more than studying, I will not this time!” So, are they now using their heads more or their hearts? They are in fact actually planning and preparing based on their emotional worries and scare feeling that they might not do well. End results might be the same as the first group (that they get good results), but the core motivations for both the groups came from two very different sources, isn’t it? –> driven by the negative outcomes; that “I don’t want to get bad results”

 

Same exam, same results desired, but two very different motivations driving two different groups of people.

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Next, let’s look at a situation where I thought people used their hearts more than their heads.

In the recent first MCO announcement on 16th March 2020 which was to commence 18th Mar to 31st Mar, what happened? After the announcement was made, two major things happened and we see a lot of people choosing to use their HEARTS to control their actions:

1) They immediately rushed out to buy and stock up on things that they deem as important, regardless of whether these items REALLY are important and must-have items. For example: people chose to stock up on toilet rolls, which when we analyse and rationalize deeper, we really do not see any usage of toilet rolls in our daily lives as we live out this MCO period, do we? Are there anyone who wants to convince us otherwise, especially for those who did stock up on this item?! VERDICT: Hearts over Heads.

2) They immediately decided to “balik kampung” (going back to their homtowns) late that night itself; very oblivious of what this action would be bringing. Eleven days later, take a look at the pictorial representations below.

This was the number of cases on 16th Mar itself, and note the “ranking” at that point.

Credit: The Star

Look at the explosion of cases in the other states 11 days later, because of the “balik kampung” decisions they made.

Credit: The Star

With the exception of Putrajaya (not being a kampung that is), the highlighted ones were states that were nowhere close to the top on 16th Mar. 

The sharp spike is really telling of how their “heart-driven” actions have actually spread this virus far-and-wide to other areas in less than 2 weeks!

Why would they do that? Your guess is as good as mine, but I am guessing perhaps they thought this was a never-to-happen-again good time for a long holiday break (2 weeks of paid leave is quite unheard of in Malaysia) and it also coincided with school holidays then. They also wanted to be filial sons and daughters to visit their aged parents on a holiday and hence, they did what they did. VERDICT: Hearts over Heads. 

They were not rationalizing with their HEADS on these counts:

1) The possibility of an extension of MCO after 31st Mar – do they have enough clothing packed, do they have good connectivity and bandwidth in their hometowns to be working-from-home (unless they decided not to work during that 2 weeks to begin with).

2) There is a heightened possibility of them bringing this dreaded virus to their aged folks at home who, many reports have now stated and statistics showed, are most susceptible to COVID-19. What more with their pre-existing conditions for most of them!

3) If anything untoward really happened, were they able to get required and sufficient healthcare facilities and care in their kampungs?

I can go further also to describe how during the MCO period so far, there are defiant folks who still go out in droves to wet markets and not maintaining social distancing at all. Again this begs the question, why are they doing this??? Their hearts are probably telling them that they need to continue their normal way-of-lives, what MCO? What virus? It won’t get to me la!

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In conclusion, do we have an answer as to who really call the shots? I am struggling to decide on an answer myself, but I feel that we use both at different times, perhaps depending on such criteria as criticality of a situation, who are involved, cost factors, and others

I do not think there is really a right or wrong answer to it, but end day, let’s pray that whatever we decide to do, hopefully, we would not look back later and regret our actions. And that we are at peace with ourselves……..

As usual, stay home and stay safe. May God bless us all!

Personal Journey #12 – Speaking @ FutureHR Event organized by BMI

Personal Journey #11 – Building More Collaborations in APSS Singapore @ Raise Your Game 2019 Event

Spent 2 days in Singapore, attending an APSS event, named Raise Your Game 2019 – Ideas in Action. Was literally “blown away” being up close and personal with so many world renowned Speakers, and made many new connections and friends in the process. 

To Always Be In Control

In situations like this, when we are surfing, full control and full focus is needed in order for us to complete the surf safely and successfully. If not, the result may be quite hazardous otherwise.


Many moons ago, I had a “tough question” from my kids on the topic of “passing on”, in the form of whether I would be scare of it. I thought deeply on this for a while and surmised this “Yes, I think I would be but actually not so much of that fact per se, but more so on the circumstances through which it happened,” I said. 

They looked confused and so I explained further. If it was something that happened beyond our control, beyond what we have already done to ensure our safety and well-being, then it is an accident and no one could have prevented it. However, if it happened because of my own lackadaisical attitude towards safety and “no worries, it won’t happen to me!”, then I would not be able to forgive myself afterwards (not that I can do that anymore anyway, right?!). 

I shared an example with them – if I tried to catch the best selfie sunset photo, standing precariously at the edge of a cliff, and really “pushing the boundaries” in spite knowing the immense danger, that would be one good example of blatant ignorance even to the point of stupidity! And I had the chance of reminding them on such situation again recently, when a new wave of stupidity came about in the form of the “tripping jump challenge” on social media. Something that really serve no purpose other than making the perpetrators giggle and laugh happily? Think about it – it is your dad’s birthday soon and you wish to record and upload to social media on how he made a fool of himself tripping and falling. Something you thought your family can view, giggle and have some light-hearted moments over a piece of birthday cake? Innocent enough…but what if it culminated into something that you are not prepared for? Are you able to handle the guilt of this for the rest of your lives? 

Now this, I said, is what I would be scare of. For myself, and for each of my family member. I shared further with them: for whatever that we are able to control in our daily and life journey, we need to take full control of them and not let ourselves regret of our actions (or perhaps inactions). Or do not relinquish that control to someone else too.

The whole world is now on its edge, getting really up close and personal with COVID-19. What began with something initially like “no worries, it is too far away from us, we will be safe”, has turned into something that changes our very ways-of-work (many companies are trudging into the unfamiliar norms of working from home, activating certain Business Continuity Plans, etc) and ways-of-life (previously unheard and alien word of social distancing, online grocery shopping, etc).

Mar 16, 2020 – Malaysia has just announced further measures to curb COVID-19 in the form of restricted movements for its populations. But yet, I am wondering aloud, would the entire population of Malaysians (at least the 24 million individuals who can independently think and rationalize for themselves) really have the same understanding of this situation and of this nationwide restricted movement measures? How many would still think it is alright to go out for a teh-tarik just because it has been a long time since his last cuppa, with friends?! Or with the “extended school holidays”, let’s go for a picnic?!

But really, this following simple picture illustrate this measure, and the need for some self restrictions, very well.

This is really apt – everyone of us has the control within us to make a difference now, to control and to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Credit: Unknown

It is the time now, where we need to be exercising full control for ourselves, for our families and loved ones and for the community and our countries at large. It is not the time to surrender that control foolishly, ignoring the repercussions for the quick and short-term perceived happiness. Whatever planned can, and should, wait until we weather through this critical moment safely. It would be no use at all to regret our actions (or inactions) later, right?

I pray that when everyone in every country exercise full control, COVID-19 will quickly pass us by, and we will get back to our normal ways of life safely and without any regrets. Cheers and stay safe!

Maturity and Taking Responsibility

Once upon a time, when we were young, our parents were the ones whom we were dependent on – for all things from our survival & safety (food, protection from the sun, cold, and diseases, and all), to our learning & development (to talk, to walk, to recognize things and the world at large) and to basically, take care of our basic needs (recognition of wanting to eat, sleep, rest, play, s***, etc.) This was the typical and basic cycle when we grew up.

Now, fast forward to many years later, when we already knew all of the above and more, and have already formed opinions and have our own stands in life – where and how we want to live our lives. At this stage, there are two “best friends” that should tag along in our life journey too. What do I mean by that? Let me elaborate…

Maturity is the “first best friend” that we need to identify early and really be good friends with. Gone are the days when someone else would be thinking for you, what you should be doing and when, but now, you should in turn show that you are capable of thinking hopefully not just for yourselves, but also more importantly, for the people around us. I still remember a rather funny situation many years ago when I was trying to get bread for my 2nd daughter’s breakfast the next day. I knew she loved chocolate-flavoured bread, but I needed to ask her just in case, “What if chocolate bread is no longer available, what would you want? She really thought about it, but for a short while only and said “I want chocolate bread woh”. Tried and tried again, her answer remained the same. Fixated on her favourite!

When she was older, we had the opportunity of being in the same situation, but this time to the same question, she thought for a wee bit longer and told us, “It is OK if no chocolate bread, then I shall have the sweet corn flavour please”. Now, that is being able to think, analyze, rationalize and come up with alternatives, and not be fixated on one thing that might not be available. Won’t you agree that it represent a level of maturity, albeit on a smaller scheme of things in life! 🙂

Next friend up is taking responsibility, a very close second best friend really – why? If you know how to think and rationalize and all of the above, BUT decide NOT to take the actions required, everything is really back to square one! Think about it…you are feeling unwell, you know the signs, the prolonged lethargic feeling and the joint pains that you know all so well. However, you chose to ignore these signs or too lazy to even go and seek medical attention. One thing led to another and it developed into something more serious? Now that is lack of taking responsibility, as well as not being too matured, isn’t it? You are really doing disjustice for yourselves.

At times, I felt that perhaps some folks may have a sense of respect for elders and hence want to seek for their second opinions, thoughts and comments before doing anything. Even if this might be true, let me twist things around and say this, when do you think you should start thinking and deciding for yourselves. Would they be around forever, for you to bounce off ideas and thoughts?

Likewise, if you are parents yourselves, until when should you continue thinking and acting for them? Why don’t you try “to let it go” at a point in time when you are still not senile and can see for yourselves that whatever decisions and thinking that they moot out are results of your parenting and upbringing? That, my friends, is much more fulfilling than seeing them following your instructions to the Ts. As long as they are not in life-threatening situations, let them be, and they will slowly but surely begin to figure things out for themselves.

Lastly, maturity and taking responsibility for ourselves on our own behalf. 

Let me explain: for those of us (like yours truly) who are no longer young but still have the energy, the best thing we can for ourselves is this – get ourselves into a fitter and better physique as much as our body conditions allow so that when we are older and less energetic, we are still capable of taking care of ourselves, body, mind and soul. Personally, I believe that growing into old age with the independence and capability of doing things for and by ourselves is the way to go; no longer needing to be dependent on our children. They have their own ups-and-downs in lives, frustrations, jubilations, and all. If we manage their upbringing well, they should be a near replica of how we handle things and situations anyway – with maturity and taking responsibility of course.

Happy Sunday, y’all, and stay safe amid COVID-19!

P/S Don’t get me wrong – I am all for being a closely-knitted and family camaraderie, but not at the expense of us being a regular in HOW THEY RUN their lives. We should be a feature in the REST of their live activities instead…trials and jubilations and all…

Personal Journey #10 – My Third Toastmasters Meeting

Time Management: Stretch Your Day (S-Y-D)

As a follow-up to my thoughts on the SUCCESS Formula last week (which was Success = T+T+P and where the first T was in fact Time Management), I would like to share a simple but difficult to adhere-to recipe for “better” time management. Whether it is really better, I guess it is rather subjective. I shall let you be decide on this, but let me explain.

Do you know who was the highest-paid Hollywood actor for 2019? He is none other than the indefatigable, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I read somewhere online that back in early 2019, he had something like 12 movies that were upcoming back then, in 2019 alone! That worked out to be 1 movie in-the-making per month! And apparently, the minimal length of actual principal photography (i.e. main shoot with actors/actresses) of a typical Hollywood movie is slightly above 80 days (there are way longer ones of course, but we shall not go there). Even at 80 days, you don’t seem to be able to work out the maths correctly on how this one person can manage his time to such an extent, isn’t it?!

That’s only on the movie front peeps, but wait, he needs time to workout too, and to stay the way he is, doesn’t he? Yes, and his recipe: he is one of many successful Hollywood artistes who believes in waking up before the sun is up. His strict regimented morning routine would involve him waking up like 4.30am for at least 2 hours of me-time where he does a few things – planning for his day, meditating and working out – now that’s really stretching your day! And not only that, because of his regimented workout routine, he is able to give his mind, body and soul the vitamins he needs to sustain himself. Of course, on top of that, he has the heartiest, but healthiest, of meals each day after each workout…

Now, you may say, yeah, it is OK for him to do it; he is NOT on a 9-to-5 routine like most of us who are working. Nah, you might not be quite right on that either. There are many corporate 9-to-5 successful senior executives who also stretch their days in pretty much the same way – hitting bed early, and waking up equally early as well for their own morning regimented routine before they then leave for the office 7 or 8ish. And again because they start their days “fresh and filled” (with exercises and healthy breakfasts) they tend not to have sluggish starts to their days like the rest of us (yes, yours truly included here too – “work-in-progress” now)! And it is no surprise that these morning-inclined executives tend to be most productive in the morning! And of course more successful than most.

So peeps, something to ponder and to try out, especially, if you are one of those who perpetually complain that you wish there are more hours to your day to complete your many tasks and work on hand. You might just give yourself a pleasant surprise perhaps in a month or two? Happy Testing! 

Have a great and productive week ahead, y’all!

Ready to Step Up as a Manager?

Picture this, it is year end and you just completed your appraisal with your reporting manager. You have had a solid year as an individual contributor, and you know it. You put in solid efforts through-and-through and over-delivered what you needed in your Key Results Areas (KRAs)/Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). 

And outcome of the appraisal – you have earned yourself a promotion to be a Manager. You are confident that with all your accumulated knowledge, know-how and prior results, you have what it takes for the Manager role – but are you really ready? Here are top three key traits of a good people manager that you should have first and foremost. 


1) LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Literally, this means: “Don’t expect your team members to be doing what you are not prepared to do yourself.” Let me share an example. 

There is a huge backlog of work at the office and you know that overtime is needed; for at least 2 full days, Saturday and Sunday this weekend. You decided hence that you are going to ask the team to clock in the hours to ensure that all tasks are completed clean by Monday next week. Now, the deal is: are you also going to be working WITH them, or are you going to clock in as-and-when you wish, or half-day for each day or worse still, never show up at all (with or without reasons).

You do any of the above, except the first and you are going spiralling down the rabbit hole; faster than you can say “ready, GO”! Your words, your reputation, your integrity, whatever initial trust that they had in you, everything – these do not hold anymore meaning to the team. And if you do this often enough, and at some point in time, you would just have no more team to manage – staff turnover.

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Challenge:  Remember this, as a Manager, first become a leader who grooms and inspires and not instruct. Have you ever seen successful generals in history fighting battles where they say “CHARGE!” and they don’t move, expecting only their army to move? NO! They are the first to move, right up there in front. One of the best example I have come across on this topic is this (quoting from TEDx Vienna blog page):  

Have you ever heard of US Army Captain William D. Swenson? He recently received the Medal of Honor from US president Barack Obama for putting his life at risk to rescue other soldiers on a battlefield in Afghanistan. Not only did he run into the fire without a helmet on to pull his camarades out of the scene, he also got caught on camera giving one of his wounded guys a kiss on the forehead.

Management theorist and leadership expert Simon Sinek, who also gave the extremely popular TED talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, has looked into the dynamics of organizations that continuously evince loyal, motivated members. He has asked some of these “heroes” why they do such things, and they all responded with the same reason: Because they would have done it for me.

Now, that’s leading by example, folks!


 2) EMPOWERMENT

I believe that one of the biggest step-up for a new Manager is this: empowerment. With her inherent maturity and the official remit assigned to the role, does she feels she is empowered to discharge her duties properly? Is she going to be seeking for her manager’s instructions (or worse still, waiting for them) before she go ahead to execute the task(s) on hand. Mind you, this was a previous individual contributor (IC) who may have thrived in receiving and executing instructions and hence, her prior successes.

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Challenge:  Hence, as a new Manager, she first need to know her boundaries of authority and given her KRAs/KPIs, she now need to exercise DISCRETION in her role. Definitely a new vocabulary in her repertoire as ICs are mostly (simplistically speaking only – don’t get me wrong) about taking in and executing on instructions.

Meaning given a tough situation on hand, she needs to figure out what is the best course of action(s), given the time frame, headcount resources, tools, etc that the team has, plus the authority level she has. In a fast-moving critical customer complaining situation, she needs to draw upon other skills too – customer engagement, negotiation, situation diffuser skills, etc and to then use her discretion to resolve the situation on a WIN-WIN basis. 

Really, without the art of wanting to execute discretion, she would tend to want to shy away from taking the responsibility herself and rather seek further instructions from the boss. Definitely not what a Manager should be doing (with a red-faced customer in front of you)?!


 3) INSPIRE AND BUILD YOUR TEAM TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Now, you may be all gung-ho moving into the new role, and wanting to step up as the best Manager for your team and to have their best future interests in mind. That would mean ensuring that the team grow together, maturity, capabilities and all.

However, it is totally another point of view from your team’s perspective. They may be happy and contented where they are now, maybe doing just enough to get a middle point in their appraisals and to leave on-time every day.

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Challenge:  are you able to inspire your team to perform to the next level? Question on their minds is WIIFM – “What’s in it for me” mentality. Do you have an answer to that for them. What will the destination look like if they were to take the road less travel in a month’s time, 6 months’ time, end of this year? If you can help them paint that picture, and they are inspired to follow you on this journey (even if it was one inspired team member for that year), you would have succeeded in this respect – you have inspired and built.

The whole idea to this is “succession planning”. You are building your team so that they are able to step up into your role in X period of time – which then ideally elevate you for the next level of growth in the hierarchy of your team/your organization.

But guess what, many Managers tend to do the opposite! They are overly protective of their “own turf” worried that their team member might one day replace her as Manager. Now, can you kill this thought – “let go of this baggage”? If you can, you are definitely in a better position to succeed as a Manager, more than ever before.

 

ALL THE BEST TO YOU, MANAGER!

Success = T+T+P

Today, the 5th Mar – morning – was an eventful morning for many parents and children in Malaysia. SPM 2019 results release date! A date we have been waiting for since end Nov 2019. After a lengthy wait, the results were released, to the shouts of joy (and tribulations) of students. Kudos to all students, who have done well, my daughter J too. We are all proud of you, our future leaders of Malaysia! 

As I was standing there, capturing the photo above, listening to the results, accolades and number of As these top students achieved, I found myself reminiscing on my own experiences back in school day, university and career as well. A thought came up – is there a formula for success, whether it is academic success, sports, career, anything.

And in the end, I surmised this formula to be rather consistently true: 

SUCCESS = T+T+P


T – Time Management; 

T – Technique; 

P – Practise, practise, practise!

T – Time Management: Everyone has 24 hours at our disposal, but yet, why is it that some feel that they do not have enough time to do what they want to do? However, others flourish in the same span of 24 hours, getting good results in their studies, nail their favourite sports as a competitive sports representative perhaps, and many more other activities. 

The difference is that this latter group has learned the essence of time management. Aggregate all activities that they have/wish to do in that 24 hours, for the week, for the month, and manage their time accordingly and diligently. Sure they may be tired at times (and hence they do chill out whenever needed), but using self-discipline, they would consistently and persistently stick to a fixed schedule – knowing the prize awaiting them at the end of that rainbow (journey). And they also do not forget to include chill-out time as must-have blocks of time in their schedule. TIME & EFFORT NEEDED: Minimal, one-time effort (for school-going folks, just need to differentiate between normal schedules and pre-exam schedules). Do comment below and reach out, if you wish to get more insights on difference between normal and pre-exam schedules. 

T – Technique: Now you may have a schedule planned nicely, but if in your endeavour, you do not master its technique (quickly), you are really throwing away your time and effort. Technique here depends on what you are trying to achieve – if you want to learn how to swim, you have got to learn how to float first and foremost, before moving on to breathing for example. Here technique also involves the timing for each step; you cannot just jump to the next step without first learning floating. Cycling is another simple but classic example. You have got to learn how to balance the bicycle before even thinking of actually cycling and moving ahead, right? 

Hence, what you need to do at this stage is this: capture and master its technique in the shortest time possible, and to move into the final Practice phase quickly. No one is born being omniscience so if in doubt, continually ask questions to seek clarifications until you have a full understanding for the task(s) on hand. Remember this – shortest possible time to master its Technique. TIME & EFFORT NEEDED: As minimized as possible 

P – Practise, practise, practise: And thereafter, it is all about putting the techniques into practice. Essentially, it is really about making use of your planned TIME, and using the TECHNIQUE learned, to take super massive actions to PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE! Be it shooting hoops, running 100m dash, soccer set-pieces, Geography, History, Sciences, Maths, you get the drill – anything! Practice makes perfect. Practice, with feedback, makes perfect. TIME & EFFORT NEEDED: As MAXIMIZED as possible

So back to all these SPM students, CONGRATULATIONS y’all! Your journey is really just beginning. The long-winding and uncertain road ahead is awaiting each and everyone of you. The “what, where, why, when, who and how” questions are beckoning you; take the bulls by the horn and strive forward in this next phase of your life. Hopefully with the SUCCESS formula above, there will be abundance of successes awaiting for you at the end of your rainbow!

Personal Journey #9 – Building Smart Business, The Entrepreneurs Forum

Attended Building Smart Business – The Entrepreneurs Forum; am an HR Coach for this session/forum.