Surrounding with the right people


Rallying the Troops - Organization ChartGrowing up, I remember the days in which I got to sneak out and play basketball with the children living in the same apartment building.   I say sneak because my parents didn’t want me to waste my time on unproductive things; my time was best spent helping at our convenience store.   While I liked helping my parents, I did enjoy the camaraderie and the friendly competition.

Back then a game of basketball started with the top two players picking their teammates.   What a great feeling to be picked first, but that’s not my luck as I’m not the best player and usually play a backup role.   There were times I was the last two picked and I dreaded being picked last.   I don’t remember being the last one standing, but I remember vividly that the team leader picked players he deemed could help his team win the game.   That is my early recollection of team formation.   As I grew up, I got to pick players and I often asked myself the question: Who is the best rebounder, excellent ball handler, great low-post player, etc.?

I’ve played on many team sports and for the most part the coaches do employ a certain rationale as to how they form their team.  Throughout my career, I’ve observed how my manager would hire certain people with certain skillsets to help us achieve our goal.

So, what’s my point for this post?   My point for this post is that, while this strategy of hiring people with different skillsets to help strengthen your team is important, it is equally important that you create your own inner circle that can collectively help everyone in your inner circle. By doing so, you can enable others and help them help you achieve your goal.    As you go through your career, keep an eye on people who specialize in things that you’re not really good at.   Connect with them and bring them along to your next opportunity to make things happen.   Remember that you don’t need to do it alone; collectively you can make things happen and take care of each other and help achieve the company’s goal.

Developing Talent Around Us - One at a time

I’ll leave you with a quote by Derek Jeter, “Surround yourself with good people. People who are going to be honest with you and look out for your best interests”

101th Blog – Unlearning to move forward


learn1Life is a journey in which progress is made as we learn something new and internalize that learning, and insight that’s learned becomes part of the foundation.   That foundation grows over time and becomes the cornerstone of my life that expands my overall capabilities.

Take for example my educational journey. From pre-K and elementary I moved on and subsequently reached high school. Later on I progressed to college.   During each phase I learned something that helped serve as a building block for the next step.   Just like a puzzle, I picked up the pieces along the way until I completed the initial puzzle, which formed my foundation.

As I entered the workforce, the same principles applied, absorbing all the things to learn and adding something new. Learning new programming language, process/methodology, business functions and models contributed to my success.   My goal back then was to learn something new and build on that to show my employer how I could add value to others.   This has contributed to my success.   What followed were events that I never thought or planned, but rather it happened as I continued to stick to my belief that continuous learning is key to my progress. As a result I worked in Singapore as a consultant and later on came to the U.S. in 1993.   I’ve had a fairly good career. Through those times, here is what I learned that help me:

  • Aim to learn something new every day – invest in yourself and focus on continuous learning.   Remember that you can only harvest if you plant the seeds for a better tomorrow.
  • Focus on the business – the business evolved slower than technology. In order to develop better solutions, you need to learn the business of how things work.   Have a laser-sharp focus on learning the business.
  • Add value to others – when you can offer help, lend a helping hand.   Seek to help others in need. Let your teammates know that you care.   By doing so, when you need their help, they will also be there for you.
  • Sometimes you need to unlearn something to learn new things – as you move up the management ranks, what you learned that made you successful at your prior level might not help you to be successful at your new level. Take for example as a junior developer, being a team player and focusing on heads down coding and developing quality product can help you be recognize and promoted, but once you’re promoted, you need to learn to manage others. Communication and dealing with conflicts will be essential to your success and at the same time you need to unlearn the habit of just heads-down coding and broaden your focus.
  • Offer and volunteer your time – to succeed you need to give back to the community.   To grow we need to learn to give back to the community that we belong to.   Help grow the community and enable others.
  • Changing your mindset – what you learned in the past pertains to fact at that point in time.   As time goes by, things evolve. Therefore, you need to adjust what you learn and adapt to the new things around the same concept. By doing so, you can maximize your experience and growth.
  • Challenge the status quo – You need to challenge the status quo and keep from doing the same thing over and over. Ask the right questions and make others think through the problems and make it happen.
  • Find a mentor – this is the most important one. Seek a mentor who can help you learn the lay of the land and teach you how to navigate the sea of challenges.   Make sure to let your mentor know how much you appreciate their help and make sure to put in the effort to apply what you learn from them.

The world around us has evolved. Existing things evolved into something better, or at time worse. By changing your mindset and unlearning the old things and replacing them with new thing we can then adapt to the new environment and be successful.   Remember that to achieve something, you cannot negotiate the sacrifice you need to undertake to achieve it.


#100th Blog – Motivating Employees (5WeekStreak)


happy-employeesKeeping your employees engaged is the key to a company’s success. In order to engage your employees you need to show them you care.   When your employees are happy with their jobs, your customers will share that experience through their interactions with your employees.   Remember that a delighted customer can be turned into a loyal customer through consistent service.   In addition, an employee that is engaged creates a loyal workforce that can help differentiate your company.

What is the key to engaging your employees? How do we best engage our employees?   What is the key to making that connection?   Here are some of the tips:

  1. Listen to your employees – it sounds simple but we often ignore the fact that in order for us to connect with our employees to we need to listen to their viewpoints.
  2. Improve communication – communicate, communicate, communicate…there is no such thing as over communication, but there is a downside of not communicating with them at all.
  3. Timely communication – when communicating, the timeliness of the message is crucial to the effectiveness of the message.
  4. Money is not always the answer – while money is a great way of recognizing your employees, it is best to realize that there are other means of recognizing them.   Recognition does not have to be expensive.   Saying thank you, buying gift cards, and awarding them with certificates are some the ways to show you care.
  5. Share their cause – you might have an employee who is passionate about a specific charity. In that case adopt that charity and help your employee raise funds for that cause.
  6. Invite your employee to participate in brainstorming sessions – in certain cases, involve your key employees and allow them to come up with ways to address a specific work problem that your business is dealing with. This is a way to recognize them.
  7. Be flexible with your employee – provide your employees the flexibility to choose to telecommute and allow them to manage their affairs. This is not for everyone, as obviously some will take advantage of this.   The key is trusted employees.
  8. Challenge your employees to come up with a new solution to an existing problem – allow them to apply creative thinking to help address a problem.   Allot a couple of hours each week for them to work on special projects that they are interested in.
  9. Be accessible – the worst form of leadership is one that thinks that they reached the top of the tower and everyone is beneath them.   Don’t stay in your office. Walk the hall and mingle with your people in their workspace.   Be there, not to police, but rather to get to know them.
  10. Ask questions – be aware that sometimes people will not tell you anything unless you ask questions.   Connect with them by asking questions that engage your employees.
  11. Last but not least, be authentic and don’t fake it, like you care when you don’t.   Because your employees will sense that you’re not sincere. Remember, trust is the foundation of your relationship.

customerWhile the above mentioned tips can help engage your employees, the key to engaging your employees is being a servant leader and being there for them.   When you’re there for them, they will be there for you too. Let me know your thoughts on my post.



Accessible Leader


analazing market situationEarlier in my career, I worked for firms in which the middle and senior management folks are in nice corner offices and not accessible for their constituents.   This created a sense of mystique that when you made it to that level you have your privacy.   In the years that I’ve worked there, I’ve seen the owner of the company a few times, but never had any interaction with him.   Back then I would not dare to set up an appointment, because I didn’t think that he would meet with me, not to mention I’d not seen any of my peers meeting with him.   When I wandered down the executive side of the building, the secretary often asked, “Why are you here?”

In my over 23 years of experience in the Information Technology field, I spent almost seven years in consulting. During that period, I had the same experience in which senior management folks were not accessible.   In fact, they did not acknowledge their constituents when they walked the hallway.   It led me to believe that is the way things are when you make it to the top. In my opinion, it looked lonely up there.

When I joined Prudential in 2000, my experience changed, as our Senior Vice President would walked the hall and talked to their constituents.   He would stop by to ask how you’re doing and talk to people.   He showed interest in his people and was accessible, a huge departure from my many years of experience.   Because of the dot net boom, I was located in the hallway. One day he stopped by and spoke to me. I was surprised by that experience and was not sure what to make of it.   Over the next few years I worked for him and blossomed in every role that he assigned me to work in.   It is indeed the best 7 years of my career.

What I learned was that leaders who are in tune with their constituents are able to motivate and mobilize their people.   It shows they care about their people; therefore their people are willing to go above and beyond.   We are challenged like any other firm that I worked for, but I felt a sense of allegiance and connection to our overall vision.   In many ways, I model my leadership style from him.   He is a mentor to many people in the organization and always in developing people around him.   He challenged everyone, but also provides you with the help and support to enable you to succeed.

Having experienced both types of leaders, I can say that it is better to be an accessible leader.   Your constituents need to see that you are there for them and support them no matter the situation.   I’ve made it a point to let my folks know that I have an open-door policy and that I’m there for them.   The reality is that I cannot address all their challenges or issues, but I can guarantee that I’ll be there to listen. I apply active listening to let them know I’m there for them.   Thank you to Bob, who made a difference in my career.   I would not be where I am without his influence. It is the very reason that I dedicate my career to help others as my way of paying it forward.

Do you believe that an accessible leader is better in leading an organization? Let me know your thoughts.

Customer Service :-)


customerWhen I think of customer service, the company that comes to mind is Amazon. I’ve been a customer of Amazon and they always meet my expectations.   As I write this post, I remember Jeff Bezos quote: “If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” That is indeed true. The same is true when a customer is unhappy with your service; they tend to tell 10 more of their friends than when they are happy with your service. So bad service experience is shared 10 times faster than good experience.

The key to good customer service is company management. If the management takes good care of their people, their employees will be happy and their customers will ultimately benefit by having a more engaged and meaningful experience. Their employees will be committed in servicing their customers and attend to the customers’ needs.

On April 18, I visited a Japanese restaurant in Allendale. This restaurant was recommended to me by a co-worker of mine.   I was excited to tell my nephew who is a big fan of Japanese restaurants.   There were 7 of us as my sister-in-law was here for the Easter weekend.   As we entered the restaurant, we noticed that it was packed.   We decided that we would wait, because we want to see how good their food was.   The lady asked how many people were in our party. My wife said “7”.   She looked at the back of the restaurant and told my wife that they didn’t have a table for 7. My wife countered that they could separate us and the lady said, “No, because that’s too hard”. We all walked away disappointed with the way they interacted with us. Who in their right mind would turn away 7 paying customers?   Not to let her ruin our night, we decided to head to our favorite Japanese restaurant, Kumo, in Ridgewood.

Upon arrival at Kumo, we were greeted and ask how many in the party.   We waited for about 15 minutes as they prepared the table.   As always Kumo’s staff gave us a great experience, not to mention that the food is great. As my daughters said, it is our favorite restaurant.   The key difference between the two restaurants is that one tries to accommodate the customer while the other thinks about their own convenience before their customers.   Ultimately it left a bad experience with us and we will not be returning anytime soon.

It does not take a lot to keep your customers happy.   Listening and taking care of them are key. If you do put yourself in your customer’s position and think how you want to be served, you will always make the right decision.   Delighting your customer will go a long way.   It will also help promote your business through word of mouth.     As Jeffrey Gitomer said, “Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.”

customerserviceWe all have customers in our life. The people we interact with at work are our customers.   Our family or children are our customers.   It is essential that we learn the right way of engaging our customers, because it is essential to our success.   The next time you don’t feel like it and are having a bad day, just think of how you want to be treated and let that be the way you treat others.   Remember, those who master customer service will ultimately have a great career and achieve success, while the rest will continue to wonder what happened to them.   I’ll close this post with Stew Leonard (CEO) quote, “Rule 1: The customer is always right. Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, re-read Rule 1.”