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Biryani for the Soul (4): Yesterday’s Biryani Is Not the Same as Today’s

A day old biryani. Need I say more? Even if you refrigerated it, it will never taste the same. Microwave it, heat it, do whatever you want with it. The freshness, the aroma, the soft bite of the basmati rice is gone forever. To me, if you have leftover biryani, you have committed blasphemy.

As yesterday’s biryani will remains in the past, today’s biryani will always be fresh. Such is life. Yesterday, has gone away, irrevocably. It will never come back. But today is still fresh. You can chart what will happen today.

You might have heard, frequently or not, the saying “be better than yesterday”. Now, this is a principle that we should follow and definitely worthwhile to discuss.

The simplicity of that saying underplays the importance of the message. Being better than yesterday implies many things. One of which is that if you successfully robbed a sundry shop yesterday, you should do better today by robbing a bank. Though, technically, it is an improvement, but the message is saying for the betterment of everyone – you, your family, society and environment.

So, the correct interpretation would be thus. If you successfully robbed a sundry shop yesterday, you should do better today by regretting the action and solemnly declare never to rob again. The saying is meant to inch you towards improvement.

So, what is improvement? How do we measure it?

I won’t go into the Oxford definition of improvement. But I will share with you my thoughts.

Improvement, to me, is essentially to advance yourself every day to be a better human being. And we become better human beings when we shed our negativity, enhance our relationships and contribute to the society. It has to be wholesome.

But how do we measure improvement? Who do we compare to?

Compare yourself to no one. You measure improvement on yourself. You compare your performance yesterday with your performance today. Let me illustrate.

I go to the gym every day. I want to be healthy and build muscles. Instead of comparing my bench press weights to Arnold Schwarzenegger bench press weights, I simply measure my progress.

I started my gym with a weak 15kg bench press weight at 3 sets of 8 reps. Then, I pushed the next day with the same weight, but at 3 sets of 12 reps. Then, I increased my bench press weight to 20kg. And the cycle continued for four months, when I was at 90kg bench press weight.

The entire process was a competition between me of yesterday with me of today. I charted my “today” to do better than I did yesterday. Today’s biryani is always fresh.

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Leadership – Inspiring and Motivating (Part 4)

Inspiring and Motivating is an essential part of leadership. A pat on the shoulder, an on-the-spot recognition, a praise on a job well done resonates deeper into the human soul. We often forget that our staff and followers are humans, that require the occasional affirmation from others. It is the quintessential feeling that allows us to work as a “pack” and function as a “society”.

In sport, when the game is tied and time out is called, the coach reminds the players what is at stake – the reward that waits for the winning team that makes the effort. This is inspiring them to reach greatness by sacrificing momentary pain and putting in the maximum effort to gain the reward later.

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Another way of inspiring the team as a manager is to challenge the team members with the memory of past victories, with examples of their accomplishments, contributions and sacrifices. This helps the leader to inspire them and acknowledge their contributions at the same time. The team is motivated to surpass, not others, but themselves.

Essentially, a leader will need to enthuse, excite and encourage so that the followers believe that they can do it. Motivating and inspiring is about them, not about you. It is about their qualities. It is about instilling confidence and energy that focuses their efforts in achieving results. That is essence that will imbue the followers with ownership.

The leader needs to make the follower “own” the vision. He/She needs to inspire and motivate to an extent that followers or their team accept the vision as their own vision and strive to achieve that goal. This is how self-perpetuating motivation arises.

As people become motivated, they trust, which reinforces their abilities. This affirms their actions which, in turn, motivates them.

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Usahawan Pelabur Minda

Sepanjang pengalaman saya sebagai Coach bagi bisnes-bisnes besar dan usahawan-usahawan, saya boleh katakan dengan 100% keyakinan bahawa usahawan-usahawan yang berdaya saing adalah usahawan yang sentiasa mahu dicabar minda. Ini berdasarkan pengamatan saya terhadap usahawan-usahawan dan jualan yang mereka capai – walaupun mereka dari industri yang berbeza dan menghadapi cabaran ekonomi yang berbeza.

Usahawan yang mengikuti program-program anjuran kerajaan boleh dibahagikan kepada tiga.

Usahawan Pelabur Minda, Usahawan Geran dan Usahawan Selesa. Usahawan Pelabur Minda adalah usahawan yang bersungguh-sungguh berusaha untuk mendapatkan sebanyak mana ilmu yang mungkin dari jurulatih, Coach ataupun pendedahan yang diberikan oleh penyedia latihan. Ada dikalangan mereka yang mampu mencapai pertumbuhan jualan sehingga 25% dalam setahun.

Usahawan Geran pula ada usahawan yang dipilih untuk mengikuti program kerajaan. Namun, jiwa mereka dan hati mereka berada pada geran yang mengikuti program tersebut. Mereka mengikuti program tersebut, bukan untuk mencabar diri mereka, bahkan sebagai syarat untuk memuaskan kontraktor utama ataupun agensi kerajaan. Usahawan begini biasanya tidak mencatat pertumbuhan yang besar dan aktiviti mereka berkisar sekitar mendapatkan dana, geran dan pinjaman. Saya gelar mereka Geranpreneur. Usahawan sebegini sangat bergantung harap pada kerajaan.

Usahawan Selesa pula adalah usahawan yang yakin dengan kebolehan beliau. Keyakinan terhadap diri sendiri adalah sesuatu yang amat penting di dalam diri seorang usahawan. Tetapi Usahawan Selesa terlajak yakin terhadap diri sendiri sehingga keputusan-keputusan bisnes dilaksanakan diatas keyakinan diri, bukan diatas data dan fakta. Usahawan ini di dalam zon selesa dan yakin bahawa tidak ada perkara yang boleh mengganggu-gugat bisnes beliau dan tidak perkara yang tidak mampu beliau tangani. Berdasarkan pemerhatian saya, usahawan begini akan tersangkut dengan sedikit perubahan di dalam industri.

Ketiga-tiga kategori usahawan ini mempunyai keinginan yang tinggi, kemahiran yang jitu dan tabiat yang konsisten. Namun, hanya satu kategori usahawan yang mampu berdaya-saing – kategori Usahawan Pelabur Minda. Usahawan Peabur Minda ini mampu “adapt”, “improvise” dan “overcome” cabaran-cabaran di dalam industri dan ekonomi kerana beberapa perkara:

  1. Mereka ada Coach yang memberikan pandangan luar akan kelemahan-kelemahan organisasi
  2. Mereka terbuka menerima dan memperbaiki kelemahan-kelemahan tersebut
  3. Mereka bangkit lebih kuat di dalam industri

Malah, bagi bisnes saya, saya telah melantik seorang Coach untuk mencabar minda saya. Pada saya, kos seorang Coach adalah pelaburan minda untuk saya terus berdaya saing. Anda bagaimana?

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Leadership – Inspiring and Motivating (Part 3)

Have you ever heard someone say, “I am responsible for what I said but I am not responsible for what you understand.”?

For a leader to say that is utterly irresponsible. Leaders first ability should be able to communicate their purpose clearly.

This brings us to the topic of Clarifying and Verifying. Leaders do not shed their responsibility after they communicate. They need to go further and clarify their expectations of their followers. Leaders need to review the desired outcome, what is expected and the game plan. If you are manager, as a leader, you must clearly articulate and clarify measurements of success, instruments of motivation and accomplishments.

Once a leader has clarified, he or she needs to verify the follower’s understanding. In management, the manager will need verify this understanding by asking questions.

As a manager, I used to ask my team members to explain what was required of them. I found that, in some cases, what I instructed and clarified was very different from what my team understood. It dawned on me that I need to improve my communication skills, articulate well and explain in detail. As I improved myself, I still verified my team’s understanding.

Initially, as you mange your team, this will a hassle. You need to be consistent, to such an extent, that clarity and verification of understanding becomes a habit and second nature to your leadership style.

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Leadership – Inspiring and Motivating (Part 2)

Involvement and Trust

Rome was not built in a day. Trust cannot be built in a day.

Your overall relationship with your followers is devoted to communicating your willingness and ability to support the team – through hell and back.

I have had the opportunity to lead a team to conduct a rigorous audit process and internal investigation into a project. My team were apprehensive. What if they did find something? What if there was fraud? I had to build trust in them, not only on me, but also on the system and the audit process.

In order to understand their apprehension, fear or even the difficulties, I need to immerse myself in their activities and interests. I frequently consulted them and requested them to be involved in discussions as a way to forge trust. The decisions I make are rational, for the good of the team and the task.

As the task occur, the team members must be convinced that you are the right leader for them, even if your decisions aren’t popular. They must be convinced that you and the team are together, learning about each other, and how you can rely on each other.

Building trust is the first step towards inspiring your followers.

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Leadership – Inspiring and Motivating (Part 1)

Leadership in this age relies more on motivation and interpersonal influence than on getting other to comply through a chain of command or hierarchy. I have experienced, in more than one occasion, where the ability to motivate and interpersonal influence achieved greater results than simple instructions through a chain of command. I have also witnessed leaders with tremendous potential who failed because they ignored this very primal need.

I was reading a book by Beth Comstock, “Imagine It Forward” and she referenced Jack Welch as very charismatic individual where his presence is felt very personally by each employee, despite GE’s decentralized mega-organization. This is an example of leadership that employs motivation and interpersonal influence.

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We need to identify the key people in our organization that will help us to excel

How does this type of leadership work? It is not a set of mechanical management processes. It is not a sleeve out of a management booklet. It is human. It requires good chemistry, a huge amount of listening and observing.

I will break this topic into few parts to allow for shorter and easier reading. We will cover how this type leadership works and can be implemented.

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Ubah Minda Dahulu

Saya sering dijemput untuk menjadi konsultan kepada syarikat yang besar dan kecil untuk menyampaikan pelbagai ilmu. Dan acapkali, mereka yang diminta hadir itu sama sekali tidak bersedia untuk mengaplikasikan ilmu. Peserta, usahawan, pegawai atau staf syarikat, biasanya terpaksa hadir kerana arahan dari pihak atasan, samada syarikat atau agensi.

Kerana itu, saya akan sentiasa memulakan program saya dengan aktiviti yang mampu memecahkan tembok egois dan dinding minda yang terhalang. Aktiviti yang saya namakan Break The Barrier akan memecahkan persepsi peserta terhadap diri mereka sendiri. Ia membuka ruang untuk menilai diri sendiri dan muhasabah diri sendiri.

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Aktiviti Break The Barrier

Hanya apabila minda itu terbuka dan bersedia, barulah ilmu yang akan diturunkan mampu memberi manfaat kepada peserta. Saya beranggapan bahawa setiap detik pserta bersama dengan saya harus bermanfaat dan kerana itu, saya akan laksanakan aktiviti yang mampu membuka ruang tersebut.