Closing the Year

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The end of the year means different things to many people. For a company, it means focusing on wrapping up the books and making sure they achieve the sales target for the year. For individuals, it could mean assessing the current year and planning for the next year.   It could also mean making another New Year’s resolution, which will be tackled with much enthusiasm in January through March then dropped thereafter.

To me, the year end is a time to take stock on how I did this year.   Here is what I look for:

  • What are my greatest learnings? Focus on lessons learned and avoid the same mistakes.
  • What did I do wrong that caused the most grief or trouble? Ouch! How can I prevent it?
  • What did I do well? I need to continue that next year.
  • What relationships did I establish? How can I continue to make them better?
  • How did I add value to my mentees and the people I coach?
  • What is the most important lesson that I learned this year?
  • Which member of my inner circle added value to the team?
  • Which member of my inner circle needs to be pruned? Because they no longer add value and share the same vision.

Closing the year is a time to sit down and compare things. How did the Will of 2014 stack up against the Will of 2015?   Did I grow spiritually? Did I learn and apply my knowledge? What other areas can I improve on?   My biggest win this year is learning from the people I coach and mentor.   Their different perspectives and viewpoints helped me expand my understanding.

In closing, how was your year? What made you smile? What made you cry? I hope you’re pleased with your progress.   It is time to review and plan what you want to achieve next year. Check your multi-year plan and adjust accordingly. May 2016 bring you good health and success.

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.

Teachable Moments

Will Lukang, PMP, CSM, CLDC

analazing market situationA teachable moment is defined as a time at which learning a particular topic or idea becomes possible or relevant.   What does that really mean?  It means that when something happens, it provides an opportunity to share an experience, knowledge or feedback that can help the person learn something valuable.  In most situations, that conversation ends up having a lasting effect on that person.

learn and lead

Applying the same concept at work, I called it instantaneous feedback.   For example, during a meeting, one of my directs said something that did not come across nicely.  The other party was not happy with the outcome of the meeting.  After the meeting, we returned to my office and I asked my direct what just transpired.   The person was not sure what went wrong.   I explained the situation and proceed to cite an example and gave suggestions on how we can best handle such a situation in the future.   It clarified the situation and the instantaneous feedback provided a learning opportunity.   The stickiness of the lesson has a lasting effect.

In December of last year, while coaching my daughter’s 4th grade girls basketball team against St. Anthony, we arrived at the gym surprised to see that the St. Anthony team’s players were taller than our players.  I was taken aback by what I saw, but kept my composure so as to not get my team worried.   By the time the game reached third quarter, we were ahead by 10 points.   I called a timeout and told my players that we are not going to score.  At first they were confused. I explained to them that we have a big lead and it is unsportsmanlike to try to score.  I proceeded to elaborate that we need to respect the other team; that if we were in the same situation we would not want the other team to embarrass us.    I looked at the opportunity as a teachable moment to impart a valuable lesson of sportsmanship.    Over the season, the team learned to stop scoring when we had a lead of more than 10 points.    I’m proud of my team for learning sportsmanship.   At the end of the day, the win does not mean much if they don’t learn something that they can take with them for the rest of their playing days.

As a leader in my organization, I feel that it is my job to watch out for the best interest of the people working for us.  That’s why I’m committed to coaching and mentoring.   I firmly believe that people are our most important asset.   We can have the best technology, but without the right people in the right place we cannot be successful.   A teachable moment is another vehicle to impart our knowledge and experience.    Sharing is the best way to improve our community and when our community increases its capability, the company and shareholders will benefit from it.   It will also increase our competitive advantage.