All entries for February 2016
February 28, 2016
On Friday, I learnt 4 new things. Firstly, the importance of mission and vision, my leading style, the importance of reflection and last but not least learning from my peers.
Mission and Vision
A firm or organisation needs to be clear on its vision and mission. Its vision and mission also have to short, succint and clear for all its employees to know. The mission and vision should be written down to allow all employess to be able to refer to them easily and understand the company's vision and mission better.
My leading style
I learnt that I tend to give too much power to the people and under time constraints, they expect me to be decisive and come up with a direction to lead the team. Thus, from the feedback from my fellow peers and after reflecting upon my actions, I felt that I need to be more assertive and perhaps allocate time for brainstorming and once its over, a decision has to be made based on the situation and my gut feeling.
Being a leader is not easy. Leaders are paid highly due to the high risks they take daily and the complexity of running an organisation. A leader has to have great soft skills, be able to have envision the future and produce results. People are drawn to great organisations, such as the Big 4 and big banks, as these organisations are known to produce quality employees due to their strong organisation structure and leadership skills. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be taught by a great leader as we can gain a lot from them. Thus, to be a great leader, I must ensure I brush up my leadership skills and though I may be paralysed by fear I have to continue practising to lead in various other modules and in life as practice makes perfect. Perseverance and courage is key to success.
Importance of reflection
I have never known the power of reflections to be so great until this module. I am glad I chose this module as Mr Roberts was a great leader and I certainly gained alot of skills and knowledge that I did not see coming. Mr Roberts tends to make me think deeper and more critically like I have never done before. I'm sure everyone has been a leader or heard of leadership at some point in their life but I have never delved into intrinsic, extrinsic motivation, psychological contracts and found myself thinking of deeper and deeper questions.
Reflections allows me to recap my learning and as a result store them in my long term memory. I remember things better and learn more through reflections as I mull over the day's events. I played out what had happend during the day and sometimes I wonder if I spoken, acted or done something differently whether the results would have been different.
Learning from my peers
Whenever I do a group work or team challenge, I always tend to scrutinise the leader more. I guess these is inherent in all of us. I check for signs such as whether the leader involves everyone in the task, whether the leader makes eye-contact with everyone in the group, as I believe having eye contact with everyone and not just one person in the group shows that everyone is important. I always ensure that when I talk to my group I am conscious about making eye-contact with every single person as I want them to feel part of the team and feel that I value them and their opinions. After attending 6 modules including Leadership and Excellence (L&E), I must say that this group of students are the most professional bunch I have ever come across in WMG. When speaking, a majority tend to have eye contact with everyone and many a times, a leader despite being under time pressure takes the time to ensure that everyone understood what was happening and if 1 person did not, the leader will take the time to explain the whole situation to the member again.
In this class, on numerous occasions during team exercises, I have realised that those students whose command of English are better, are patient to listen to their members whose command of English may not be as good and may take awhile to get their point across. This scenario played daily for 2 weeks and was deeply etched in my mind. While many may take such an incident lightly, I am sure that the member whose English may not be as good felt deeply valued and appreciated and those bystanders who are watching this scene play out (like myself!) have a new grown respect for the leader like never before. Being patient boost the employees morale and provide a warmer environment for people to work in.
I also learnt that the students in this class have gotten along very well and are respectful towards each other. Everyone greets everyone every morning and gather after classes to have meals and drinks. I have never worked full-time in an organisation before, but when I start a company, this is a culture that I would like to adopt. This is because whether we like it or not, how well staff members get along with each other affects a company's performance. The word I am referring to here is synergy. Synergy is defined as the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of individual elements. United we stand, divided we fall.
I want to work or create a company with a dynamic environment and thus upon joining this class, I learnt that while it is important to be a leader, we must not neglect to create the suitable environment for people to interact with one another. The environment to work in, is one of the pull factors for many in joining and staying in a firm. On top of creating open offices which is a physical structure, one needs to invest in the environment as well, such as creating activities that promote camaraderie and hiring the right people who not only can get the job done, but have the right attitudes and values.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I truly learnt a lot from this class and they have not only become my colleagues but are also my friends that I cherish. Mr Roberts had indeed taught me a lot of skills that I will put to good use once I graduate and this is not the end but merely the beginning. Till we meet again:)
Friday was the big day, the day of the Leadership Challenge. I raised my hand to volunteer to lead faster than my brain had processed the information. I was relieved when everyone decided to lead as more names meant a lower chance of me getting picked from a group of 17 people.
But I guess, I was wrong. I was chosen as 1 of the 3 chosen to lead. While I felt I was lucky and blessed to be given the opportunity to work with my team, the other half of me wanted to withdraw at the last minute. Leading a team in an especially challenging task is not easy and my fear of failure and getting blamed really made me contemplate my decision. The great battle within myself made me felt uneasy.
I decided to push forth and ensured that I take down every single detail of the task to relay the message to my team members later on. I was given up to 30 mins in advanced to read the briefing before returning to class. Once the challenge had begun I made sure all my instructions were relayed correctly to my members.
It was extremely nerve-wracking when you are under time pressure and have to deliver as you do not want to let your team down. Various team members were asking me for decisions to be made which made me felt a huge sense of responsibility. I realised that giving the power to the people is not easy in a time crunch. Sometimes certain decisions have to be carried out to speed up the process rather than getting everyone to come to a consensus. Our team had quite a number of disagreements and after much deliberation and contemplation, I as the leader at times have to decide on what I feel is best for the team.
For instance, back to my e.g. on Singapore, we did not progress from a 3rd world to a 1st world country in a span of 35 years by being indecisive and reaching a consensus. At the end of the day, we were lucky to have a decisive leader with ethics and values that wanted to bring our country forward. To proceed forward, a single leader is more effective in getting things done quickly and progressing quickly compared to a few different parties. For instance, when President Obama proposed the healthcare reform in 2009, it faced much opposition from the Republicans (Cohn, 2010) and the reform was only able to be up and running in 2014. Thus, having a single party in a country certainly allows policies to be passed on quickly and effectively, with less opposition, unlike in a multi-party government.
However, on the other side of the coin, on numerous occasions, a single party government has been known to abuse its power to amass its fortune for its own benefit, neglecting the people. This can be seen in Libya under the leadership of the former Muammar Gaddafi.
Thus, in my opinion, there is a trade-off between giving the power to the people and progress. Giving complete power to the people may take a longer time to come to a decision or no decision might be made at all. On the other hand, being too authoritarian may or may not bring progress to a country or organisation. I believe there should be a balance between one being decisive and one giving the power to the people for an organisation to move forward and progress swiftly. Ethics and values ingrained in a leader are of utmost importance as a leader leads its people. A leader who is blinded by greed and has no morals will certainly bring its people down and not last long. As we lead, we must never forget our conscious, ethics and values. I strongly believe in reading up and building up these areas throughout my life as a leader, so that I will always keep in touch with what is right for the people and the organisation and think of others before myself.
reference : Jonathan Cohn. 2010. What Defunding Health Reform Would Do. [ONLINE]. Available at : https://newrepublic.com/article/80411/what-defunding-health-reform-would-do. [Accessed 23 December 13]
February 26, 2016
Words are a powerful tool. I'm sure many have heard the saying that the tongue is the most powerful weapon. Should one say " You do this" instead of "Let's do this", the former gives a very authoritative and dictatorship feeling which may not be welcomed by many while the latter gives a more supportive and encouraging feeling.
Saying things such as " I completely understand how you feel" may cause one to lack credibility in the eyes of another as no one can really understand the other person completely.
Asking "Why" can come off as being too interrogative. Instead, alternative questions could be like " What do you think can be improved" which may come off as more positive and in a lighter tone.
Phrasing and choice of words are important as saying the wrong things may offend people or cause one to lose one's credibility.
One should think before one speaks
The question of how to make workers loyal to the firm and not only to the managers have been bothering me for quite some time. As a child growing up, I watched my favourite Chinese restaurant called Ta Yen in Indonesia closing down due to Yen yen.
Let me give you some background story. Ta yen was extremely popular from the day it opened. It sold extremely delicious and savoury chinese food that leaves one begging for more. It was the taste of perfection.Ta yen was the original restaurant set up by two cousins.The two cousins had a disagreement and 1 cousin left, setting up his own restaurant called Yen yen, directly opposite Ta yen. Within a few months, Yen yen had managed to recruit all Ta yen's former employees, causing Ta yen to struggle to keep up with its standards while Yen yen's standards flourished drastically. In no time, lesser customers visited Ta yen and started going to yen yen instead. Soon, Ta yen went out of business.
This incident has been deeply etched in my mind and I am happy to say that I no longer fear this problem as the seminar has given be ways and ideas and enlightened me like never before. I come to the conclusion that a company cannot and should not retain its staff forever. Loyalty can be defined as a staff member ensuring he/she gives his best to the company in the 2 or 3 years he/she works there. New staff members coming in is not a bad thing as bringing in fresh blood means more new ideas and new talents. Thus, I should not be afraid of turnovers should I run a business.
A person will also be loyal to the company should his/her personal goals be aligned with the company goals. Many other factors also produce loyalty such as job rotation, company culture that promotes team building, knowing that one can get promoted and be able to climb the corporate ladder and more.
At the end of the day, a business owner needs to ensure that skills learnt by one staff are transferable to another staff and thus should a staff leaves the firm, the skills could be easily passed on to a new staff. Linking back to the case of Ta yen, should Ta yen had made the skills of its staff transferable, it would have no problem in training its new batch of staff. The failure of Ta yen lies in the lack of structure of the business which causes its downfall.
February 25, 2016
It is important to give the power to the people in team exercises. The team exercise on hotel business demonstrates so. I was doing banking and finance in my undergrad and thus, we do not have many team exercises or many group presentations. My results are 100% exam based and I find comfort in knowing that I am in control of my results and am in-charged of my own learning.
However, in reality, this is not the case. Working in organisations, one cannot suffice on being an individual instead of a team player. Even if you are a scientist, you still have to share your findings with your teammates.
The team exercise on hotel business caused me to panic silently. This is because, firstly, I raised my hand and volunteered to be a leader as I know it is time for me to step out of my comfort zone and put myself in a leadership position. Yet, leading a group of people that I have only known for more than a week is certainly a daunting task. Thoughts of failure crossed my mind many times and the glooming fate of getting "blamed" should the task go wrong frightens me. Yet, I decided to face my obstacle and step up to the challenge.
I read through the hotel business file and made sure I did not miss out important details to brief my team on later in the exercise. I also made sure to ask each individual's opinion and have a constructive discussion, should our answers differ. I gave the power to my team members to make decisions and then mull over the final decisions together. Turns out, our team made a profit in the first two rounds while I was there and throughout the exercise. I certainly learnt more on how to interact with different people and also my own leadership style. When to push and when to pull back. Certainly a great team exercise.
February 20, 2016
Strategic CSR plays a much wider role than I previously anticipated. It can be used not only to benefit the society but also as a marketing tool to create a positive image for the firm and increase a firm's profits. CSR indeed brings about various advantages such as brand differentiation, customer engagement, employee engagement and more. CSR is indeed a great addition to a business.
However, one need to also look at the constraints and evaluate each firm's capabilities before implementing CSR. For instance, a firm who do not have enough manpower may overburden its employees with further responsibilities in handling CSR issues. This may cause the employees to feel de-motivated and thus a higher turnover in the firm which will affect the firm's profits.
Furthermore, CSR is not a solution for a failing brand or product in the long run. A firm needs to critically analyse its products such as whether the product satisfies the customers' wants and needs and learn from the feedback given before implementing CSR strategies. Money poured into CSR for a failing business will just be futile. Problems needed to be detected and solved before CSR can be implemented.
Thus, while CSR may be a good addition to a business and beneficial to the society, there are many factors and constraints that have to be evaluated and looked into before the implementation of CSR. Failure to critically analyse various factors may cause the implementation of CSR to be futile.
February 10, 2016
A variety of definitions can be found on leadership, but the gist of it is that leadership is the process of influencing the thoughts and activities of followers towards achieving a shared goal. Leadership is a function of the leader, group mates and the situation.
Today's lesson enlightened me that the way one communicates makes a difference. Choice of words and questions can be geared to generate thinking. Questions such as "are you happy with this state you are in?" and "how can I support you to reach your goals?" are pleasant on the ears rather than being instructive. Such phrases gets the job done without the need to push the employees and sets them thinking.
Always start with a positive feedback first followed by the negative as people do not like to be criticised. Today's lesson certainly has enlightened me more about leading however, I believe being a leader also requires great soft skills too. The art of knowing how to handle people and make them feel important and appreciated is definitely a boon.
However, leading people combined with running a firm is a much more complex issue. People leave because they are unhappy with the firm, or they want to climb the corporate ladder or get paid more. In many instances, managers have been known to incite unhappiness via propaganda and may then replicate a similar business of their own, using the existing staff. I have seen many firms crumble due to this effect, resulting in a brain drain in the firm. The question is how can this be prevented and to what extent is it effective?
Everyone has a certain standard of a leader but I believe hiring the right people is also vital. We all know how this can go terribly wrong in the case of apple's ex ceo, Steve Jobs, who was fired by his own firm after hiring John Sulley. Furthermore, I believe the job of a leader does not only lie in leading people but also, the leader as well as the followers have to have the same integrity as well as ethics. Many scandals such as libor scandals as well as tax evasion occurs time and time again due to people lacking in morals and ethics.
However, hiring people who have integrity and ethics on day 1 does not mean that these values will stay the same forever. The problem herein lies in the fact that people change and no one stays constant.
While some may argue that the solution to this will be to make sure employees are replaceable, thus keeping them on their feet. Yet, such a solution may be detrimental to the firm as employees do not feel loyal to the firm and thus productivity is not maximised.
This is my conundrum that I have yet to solve.
In today's world, with the advancement of technology and information readily available at your fingertips, the world has evolved into a fast-paced society. With governments solely focussed on economic growth and policies catered to allow an influx of FDIs into a country, it is to no surprise, that many firms are solely focussed on profits and results. Many a times, firms have been too blinded by the tasks, that they have neglected their most important resource, people. While, the easiest way for a leader will be to instruct his employees to carry out a certain task however, such a method employed is not an efficient one.
It is important to focus on the tasks, however, a leader must also pay attention to the individuals in the firm. A leader must learn to listen to his employees, find out what makes them tick, inspire, motivate and empower them towards a common goal. A leader must not be interested in having their own way but in finding the best way.
Leadership is a people business and helping people to grow. A leader understands that as the people grow, it helps the organisation to grow thereby creating a stronger organisation. Leadership is not about positional power but personal power.