Do Not Do List – What is holding you back?

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Last week, I was teaching part three of the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth to our constituents at our company.   As I was presenting, one topic, what came to mind is the “Do Not Do List.”   Like anyone, I often struggle as I work at overcoming some of my weaknesses in life.   This is a daily challenge and I persevere to keep at it.   So I thought it would be appropriate for me to write my blog on this topic.

What is a do not do list? It is a list of things that are holding you back.   It could be habits, practice or behaviors that prevent you from making progress.   On my list procrastinating is number one. I have the tendency to put things off because I think that I can get it done tomorrow.   This habit has caused me a lot of trouble because I failed to accomplish the things that I need to do, therefore I cannot move to the next step.

Here is how you create your list

  • On a piece of paper, fold it in the middle.   Write weaknesses on the top left section and action item on the right side
  • List your weaknesses – these are habits, behaviors and practices that are holding you back
  • For each weakness – write it on the left side of the paper and on the right side list action items that you need to do to improve or eliminate your weakness.  More importantly, state when you will work on it.
  • List the impact of each item to your life – how much impact does it have in your life? Does it hold you back?   Mark it as High—very impactful, Mid— impactful, Minor—little impact, that holds you back
  • Prioritize – do this by marking the most impactful first. High impact to minor impact.
  • Start now – don’t wait another day. Start now and make it happen.
  • Persevere and be persistent – do not stop and be persistent.   Consistency is the key to your success.

Once you have the list, you need to change your habit and the things that you do in your life. In order to make progress, we must change our habits.     There will be days we don’t feel like working on our weaknesses, but a day wasted means we are day away from achieving our goal.   I advise that you keep at it and be persistent.

Writing is a labor of love, share this to people you now will benefit from reading it. Let me know if it works for you by commenting on my post.

 

Leader must give up

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give upA leader is often the person that helps a team reach a goal that they otherwise thought they could not achieve.   They inspire everyone around them to act and persevere until the goal is achieved.   In many ways, their constituents look to the leader for encouragement and direction. Their guidance is what helps the team overcome adversity.

At times, people think that the leader has all the answers and is knowledgeable or a subject matter expert. If a leader falls into the trap of being all for everyone, they will not be successful.   In order for a leader to be effective and efficient, they need to give up and let go certain things.

Here are some of the things a leader must give up:

  • Making all decisions – leaders must empower their people that are closest to the problem to come up with solutions or recommendations, because they are the domain experts.
  • Let go – at times we are tempted to do everything ourselves, because we can get it done faster.   Also we deemed that the times spent on teaching someone can best be served addressing the issue. But that is a false expectation. If we don’t teach everyone around us to fish, they will always expect us to give them the fish.   It is best to invest the time to teach someone; this way they can help in the future.
  • Talking at all times – it is important to communicate, but it is equally important to listen.   By listening to your constituents, you will learn more about your audience and understand their challenges and identify opportunities.
  • Control – extend the ropes for your people to prove to you that they can get it done. However, always be there to support and nurture them. Be there to catch them when they fall, but let them learn the lesson before they move on.
  • Assuming perfection – you can try to be on top of the situation at all times, but you don’t have to be. You need to surround yourself with the right people to get things done. Knowing who to seek help from or tap to get things done is more important than trying to be the expert.

 

At times it is okay to give up; a leader must give up for the right reason. Empowering their constituents and investing the time to develop them will be key to the overall success of the organization.

Writing is a labor of love. If you like my post shares it with your friends or share your perspective, because it will help me grow and develop.

Who is your client?

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client-relationshipsIn Mirriam-Webster’s a client is defined as a person who engages the professional advice or services of another. Another definition of client is customer.   In my early twenties I often thought of the client as the end client. By that I mean, if a company is a bank, the clients are the people who do business with the bank.

In my thirties, as I spent more time in the workforce, I started to shift the concept of client to people I interacted with or served on a daily basis. What this meant was that in the various departments that I interacted with my business partners, operations partners, are my clients.

In my mid to late thirties as I embarked on my leadership journey, my concept of client was everyone that I interacted with, including those people who worked in my organization.   As a servant leader, you aim to add value to others. In order to achieve that you need to shift your focus from self to others.   It is a difficult process, because in the age of instant gratification, the focus is often on self.   However, in order to achieve the shift, you need to slowly transform yourself by improving your awareness.   This process is difficult, but the reward is great.

Each year after that, I made progress in shifting my focus.   I start my day by thinking how I can add value to people around me.  Realizing that everyone is my client, I need to ensure that I do my best in servicing them. However, does that mean that I will be stretched in 10 different directions? Of course the answer is “NO”.

Here are some of my suggestions on how to ensure you’re providing a good service:

Be accountable – be accountable for your actions. Make sure to take ownership of your process and ensure that you see things through, that it gets done.

Focus on relationship – be aware of people’s needs and how you can help them.   Be a partner and don’t push people around.   If you have the bandwidth to help, help one or offer to help.

Priorities is key – while the need to serve everyone is crucial, you need to understand the priorities. Not all requests are alike; some are more important than others.

Focus on the end result – putting a smile on people’s faces is ultimately what we want to achieve. Focus on doing your best to delight your customer. When we enable our immediate customers, they can in turn help their customers.

Differentiation is the key – the key to market movement is differentiation. How can you differentiate yourself from everyone else? Do you want to be known for better service, best price, etc.?

If you keep in mind that the people you interact with are your customers, chances are you’ll do your best to delight them.   Remember that if you help them, they in turn can help someone else.   Go ahead and delight your customer. Put a smile on their face.

101th Blog – Unlearning to move forward

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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.

 

Children Learning – Lego – Master Builder or Emmet

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On February 8th, my family went and watched the Lego movie.  As we were watching the movie, I learned about the Master Builder and people who are like Emmet.   I pondered on what I just learned and I can’t help but draw a parallel as to how we learn when we’re growing up.    By that I mean, the education method that was used to help us be productive citizens someday.

I’ll start by describing Master Builders and how they are different from Emmet.  Master Builders are creative people who can create anything from any Lego parts.  They use their creativity to create new things without following instructions.   In a way, we can say that Master Builders hold no boundaries.  They can make anything that they imagine.   On the other hand, an Emmet lives life by following instructions.   They can create anything thing as long as it comes with an instruction.   They strive by being a great follower and can apply the precision needed to create things when an instruction is provided.   With instructions everything is possible.

As I look back at the educational system, I remembered that I had to memorize stuff after stuff with the purpose of either reciting it back or taking a test.    You’re given a grade based on your ability to repeat back what was asked of you to read and remember.   The challenge is: the retention of what you learn is rarely good if memorized.   The best lessons are those we experience and learn from.  Those are the ones that are committed to memory.   Later you’re asked to select a topic, but there are often strict guidelines.

While I appreciate the value the education system brings and the outcome it produces, I often ponder what else can be done to enhance the overall education experience.   Just like applying disruptive thought in technology to create new ideas or solutions,  I started to shift my mind set on how I want my children to learn going forward.    When my eldest was 2 years old, I decided that I would let her make certain decisions by giving her choices.   I continue to change that as she grows up with the intent of letting her expand her horizon and learn to make decisions based on the value and opportunity or possibilities.   Each year, I give her more opportunity to own the decision.     In the last year, she will select the courses that she likes with the gifted child program.   I often ask her why the course piques her interest and what she expects to learn from it.   The same decision-making opportunity was also extended to my little one, who is now 8 years old.    I often look at the little one as having to grow earlier as she gained a similar experience as the older one.

There was one scene on the Lego movie that caught my attention.  When Emmet fell into the hole and ended up in a place that he was not familiar with, he indicated that he did not know what to do, because there were no instructions available to guide him.    That scene reminds me of the education system that aims to practice memorization versus decision-based learning, which would be more impactful.    I believe the future will be better if the children of the next generation are given more creative opportunity to expand their horizon beyond traditional method of teaching.

I know that many people who will read this blog will not share my observation.

Do we want the leader of tomorrow to be a Master Builder Master Builder,

Emmet Emmet , or a combination?   Let me know your thoughts.   By looking at another angle of the equation, we can compare and contrast our experience.

2013 Year in Review

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Year In Review

Change is the big word for 2013.   It is about the only thing that was constant throughout the year.   As I reflect on what transpired during the year, I break it down in three areas:  Work, Personal and Personal interest.

At work, 2013 was a year of changes that challenged my ability to cope and keep abreast of the changes.   From team composition changes to new partnership ventures to changes in technology then moving on to another technology when the prior adoption has not been completed.   On the flip side, I welcome the opportunity to be a part of Human Capital Group committee, which aimed to deal with tough issues like employee engagement and improving communications between management and its constituents.   I learned a lot by staying put and dealing with the challenges.  It stretched and helped me grow and develop.   The growth and development came with a huge price in terms of stress, but I was able to lead by example and be there for my team.  I ensure that I recognize them and let senior management know their accomplishments.   I continue to mentor my mentees and led the Stevens campus recruiting as Team Captain for UBS.  This is the third year in a row in which we hired at least 9 GTPs from said school.  I take pride in the work and process we put in place to enable us to recruit the best talent to join our firm.

From a personal perspective, I cherish the memories created of the great run we had as St. Elizabeth 4th Grade basketball team and eventually winning the championship.     I had the opportunity to bond with my daughter and work with a great group of players.   I instilled principles of teamwork, sportsmanship and respecting others.  At the same time, I taught them never to give up.   We had numerous come-from-behind wins by staying in the moment and chipping at the lead that our opponents had.     During the golf season, Faith participated in US Kids Golf.  She participated in three tournaments and I caddied for her.  Each tournament she improved and showed patience and poise in handling pressure.  I truly enjoy being out there with her.    Maddy’s soccer season was also great to watch the team finished in the middle of pack.   Maddy had her great moments, especially her winning goal at the Columbus Day weekend tournament.  In November, Faith made the TGA B team and played three other clubs to win first place overall.    Take a step back for a moment, winner of a basketball championship and then a golf team champion, that is an awesome year that will be hard to replicate.    In March, both Maddy and Faith received their piano excellence trophies.   Maddy had three years of superior rating, while Faith had six years of superior rating, her second trophy.   Faith also had her trophy for her duet.   Outside of sports and other activities, we spent a lot of time together playing card games, goofing and horsing around and getting to know one another.  It has been an awesome year in this area.

With regards to my pursuit of my personal interest, I found my passion for teaching leadership to others.   Since joining the John Maxwell Team to secure my certification, I led three mastermind groups and I enjoyed each of them.  The highlight of the year was attending the John Maxwell Live event.  Being taught by John Maxwell, Nick Vujicic and Les Brown is the most amazing experience.   Learning from the best and being in the same room, you can feel the energy and their passion.   I also met some great people that I belong to as an international accountability partner.    I made some great progress and then I fell off the horse as work took up more of my time.    In 2014, I commit to get back in the saddle and pursue my dream of being part of the John Maxwell Team by focusing on learning the lessons that will enable me to be effective as an instructor.

In spite of all the challenges and adversity, I learned a lot about myself and my ability to cope and handle stress.   I believe that Will of 2013 is better than Will of 2012. With that said, I’m really glad with my progress.    But more importantly I’m proud of playing an active role in my daughters’ lives, which in my mind is the most important thing in life.   In life, we only pass through this road once. I’m making sure I do my best and be in the moment and make it happen.    I look forward to 2014 with much enthusiasm and excitement that it will be better than 2013.

Gamification of Performance Measurement

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CheckedTwo weeks ago when I came home from work, my daughter Maddy declared to me that she now has five stickers for reading five books to date.   She proceeded to explain that they are required to read 50 books for the school year.   I praised her for progress made and encourage her to keep up the good work.

Coincidentally this is the time of the year when we review objectives and evaluate ourselves for the work we did for the year.    Each year, we’re faced with the same challenge on how to better evaluate ourselves and our people consistently.    This is not an easy task.    Sometimes I’ve done a great job being objective with my evaluation then all of a sudden you see other managers being too lenient on their evaluation and your folks end up at the short end the stick.   This challenge of lack of consistency exists in every industry and is experienced by many firms.

So that night, as I proceeded with my nightly learning session, I pondered on my discussion with Maddy.    Back in the early days in school, I remember that our teachers would reward us with stickers or stars for things that we accomplished that, coupled with our test scores, were used to calculate our grades for each of the grading periods and eventually our final grades.    That form of performance and reward system was more accurate, because you clearly get what you put in.   However it is hard to implement that in the real world when there is no consistency in the work that everyone does.

The lack of consistency as to what everyone works on in the workplace did not stop me from stretching the limits of my imagination.  Drawing a parallel between video games and work performance measurement, I suggest gamifying performance measurement.  Here is the guideline:

  • For each project worked on that is completed successful, meaning on time and on budget, you’ll get a badge One.                    .
  • If your project missed its deadline, you’ll in turn get this badge Negative .
  • If you performed a role that helped the team get out of tough situation, you’ll get ½ of the badge as additional recognition on top of your accomplishment on the project.
  • After collecting 10 badges , it will be converted to an 1X badge 1X .
  • If you work on a project that is above and beyond your responsibility, like representing the firm in recruiting or facilitating change in the organization, you’ll earn an extra badge One .
  • The the badge is applicable to all levels in the organization from non-officers to senior managements.
  • At the end of the year, you’ll tally the number of 1X1X  + One  –  Negative = your rating.  You’ll then be ranked amongst your peers for your level.

The advantage of this system is that people will know where they stand throughout the year.   A slight differentiation needs to be applied to folks who are in support positions versus new development.  However, the measurement is the same.    Just like a game, there is a way to show the badges earned and let other people know where they stand throughout the year.

Sometimes when we simplify the challenge, we see an alternate solution amidst chaos.  Would this work?  I believe there is a chance it will.   It will also help improve transparency and promote a spirit of cooperation amongst everyone on the team, because the success of the team is measured against the funding provided for the project.

Let me know what you think.  I’ll be interested to know your thoughts on my suggested approach.