Leader's Digest #44 (October 2020)

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LEADERS ISSUE 44

OCTOBER 2020

DIGEST

Pathway to

Mastery


LEADERS

DIGEST

Publication Team EDITORIAL

Editor-in-Chief Ismail Said Assistant Editor Diana Marie Capel Graphic Designer Awang Ismail bin Awang Hambali Abdul Rani Haji Adenan

* Read our online version to access the hyperlinks to other reference articles made by the author.

Contents

ISSUE 44 I OCTOBER 2020

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IDENTIFYING LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL DURING TIMES OF CRISIS

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LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY IN LEADERSHIP

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EMPLOYEE COMMITMENT: THE MISSING INGREDIENT TO SUCCESSFUL TEAM BUILDING

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WE’VE BEEN JUST IN TIME LEARNING OUR WHOLE LIVES

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WHY SMART PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO ASK ‘STUPID QUESTIONS’

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MASTERY

Read this issue and past issues online at leadinstitute.com.my/ leaders-digest Scan the QR code below for quicker access:

LET US KNOW If you are encouraged or provoked by any item in the LEADERS DIGEST, we would appreciate if you share your thoughts with us. Here’s how to reach us: Email: diana@leadinstitute.com.my Content Partners:

Leader’s Digest is a monthly publication by the Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service, dedicated to advancing civil service leadership and to inspire our Sarawak Civil Service (SCS) leaders with contemporary leadership principles. It features a range of content contributed by our strategic partners and panel of advisors from renowned global institutions as well as established corporations that we are affiliated with. Occasionally, we have guest contributions from our pool of subject matter experts as well as from our own employees. The views expressed in the articles published are not necessarily those of Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service Sdn. Bhd. (292980-T). No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the publisher’s permission in writing.

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From the

Editorial Desk

............... I wish ............... Unconscious capability may be the most common defini-tion of mastery. It is when a person performs amazingly, naturally. Their end of the path to mastery is the end of life itself. It is a continuous fulfilment of fulfilment. Let’s move the philosophical perspective to the logical reality.

UNCONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE:

One can keep on learning from others who are better than oneself and always improve, yet each improvement is in regard to the others’ level. We have then outperformed and outachieved another person’s level, yet individual mastery is when one not just improves linearly but adds very personal aspects in a non-linear fashion.

CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE:

We all have seen movies where a martial arts ‘guru’ – a master – is the one who has a number of disciples who in a very dedicated, disciplined manner learn, practice, achieve and keep on discovering hidden, very unique styles that are a one-and-only type created by that master. And here is the first sign that shows if somebody has it in themselves of wanting to go on the path to mastery: daring to experiment.

CONSCIOUS COMPETENCE:

Children have a natural tendency for mastery. They create their own way to play a game, to paint their ideas, to write stories, etc. until an adult, brings that natural tendency to experiment to a halt with logical explanations of how a game should be played, how the sun and the ocean should be painted and which words should be used to write their story. We call it education. A linear approach to meet performance objectives and reach acceptable achievements, yet mastery needs elements of adventure, risk and additions that are not obvious, outside the norm, even unacceptable to most.

I have aligned behavioural elements to bring the theoretical (competence) to a behaviour-guided pre-active, self-motivated development. I can stand up to negative criticism, social separation (psycho-emotional pressures) and keep on the path (many times alone) to mastery.

When non-linearity takes place ‘cool’ inventions happen. Let’s go technical.

I don’t know what I don’t know. To find out what you would you like to learn that is new and/or delved deeper into the subjects you know.

I know what I don’t know. The moment of a clear and logical opportunity to go to the next level and bring it into your personal ‘operating system’ – learn, practice, improve, and so on.

I know my level of expertise in comparison to the best in class. One chooses to rise to the challenge of the best in class in towards comparable excellence.

CONSCIOUS CAPABILITY:

Being a master and coaching the development of a potential master is very different. While having only oneself to guide requiring self-awareness, self-discipline, …, character, etc., developing another person requires the ability to accurately understand what motivates that person. Also, their fears, their challenges and current limitations. The master who sees the potential next master is a master in an even higher category. As you look inside of you, around you, surely you have met or seen a master in action. Interestingly, a master incorporates the leader as the main aspect of expecting by example is the essence of it all. Mastery is not measurable. We can’t copy it. It is up to us to create a new ‘mastery model’ – any time before our opportunity is over!

UNCONSCIOUS CAPABILITY: I just do it without having to think, nor plan for it. I invest my time, energy and resources in what I believe in. I talk about it with passion, with my heart, and defend it as if I am defending a person I love and protect it as if it was a critical part of my me.

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IDENTIFYING

LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL DURING TIMES OF CRISIS

DIAMONDS ARE MADE UNDER PRESSURE While plenty of challenges arise in the midst of a crisis, there are also culture-defining opportunities to be found if you look for them. One of the opportunities available to all organisations, regardless of industry, is an enhanced ability to identify leadership potential in existing team members. In an environment of rapid change and increased pressure, certain behaviours that signal strong leadership potential can be amplified. Let’s explore some of the behaviours to look out for in your teams so that you can begin to support and develop the next generation of leaders within your organisation.

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BY DARREN HILL

THEY PRIORITISE PRINCIPLES RATHER THAN PERSONAL VALUES Leading through significant challenges or even crisis requires principled leadership. You’re looking for individuals who exhibit behaviours that align to time-honoured principles of leadership such as confidentiality, conflict of interest, and ethical decision making. In the midst of opportunity, with new approaches up for grabs, motivated individuals can cut corners or prioritise their own ambitions in front of others and even the company. If you can identify people who hold true to principles (even when they’re hard) through a crisis, you might just uncover your next generation of leaders.


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THEY HAVE A GROWTH MINDSET

THEY SHOW STRONG SELF-LEADERSHIP

With global uncertainty looming and the constant barrage of largely negative news updates, it’s normal for people to slip into a negative mindset with lowered motivation levels. However, during times of crisis, you can identify leadership potential in the way that your team members show up to brainstorming sessions and collaborative meetings.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic many organisations have shifted to remote working, and with it, have created a more autonomous workforce. With workday schedules and routines largely being left up the individual, it is now easier than ever to identify strong self-leadership skills.

If there’s someone embracing a growth mindset and actively working to raise the energy of the team through exploring alternative options, you may have a potential leader on your hands. Now, this shouldn’t be confused with a positivity mindset. Pollyanna-type thinking isn‘t what we’re coveting, but rather a possibility. Is there another or different or better way? The ability to see opportunity amongst uncertainty is a quality that’s much needed in the current environment and amplifying this through leadership development opportunities is a worthy investment.

THEY REGULARLY TAKE INITIATIVE In a work environment filled with rapid change, it’s easy for projects to fall by the wayside and for mistakes to become a more regular occurrence. Those with leadership potential in your teams will be quick to rectify errors and take the initiative to ensure that projects get back on track and stay on track going forward. Your future leaders may need guidance, for sure, but they’ll also be the ones taking the initiative to add additional value and streamline existing processes.

THEY SUPPORT THEIR TEAM MEMBERS With many organisations facing restructures in times of crisis, it’s likely that the workload of remaining team members will increase. Those with leadership potential will be the ones stepping up to do what they can to support their team members through the transition. This might look like taking on a self-appointed mentoring role to junior team members or coordinating collaboration between teams to ensure that information is being shared across the organisation.

Self-leadership in a remote working context usually involves setting and actively working towards achieving goals, effectively prioritising workload and knowing when to reach out for help.

THEY ARE STRONG COMMUNICATORS Whether they’re communicating with the team over a virtual meeting or providing an update on a project, strong potential leaders set a high standard of communication. They’re clear in their explanations and aren’t afraid to ask questions or share an alternative perspective.

After reading through these points has your mind gone to certain members of your team?

During times of crisis, you can identify leadership potential in the way that your team members show up to brainstorming sessions and collaborative meetings.

When they need assistance or are facing a challenge they’re quick to communicate their roadblocks and seek out the help they need. They’re active in all digital communication channels when working in a remote environment and encourage other team members to do the same.

BEGINNING TO SEE LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL ANYWHERE? After reading through these points has your mind gone to certain members of your team? If so, make a note of their names and consider how you can further support their leadership development over the coming months. Whether it’s through providing virtual training opportunities or by offering mentoring sessions with experienced organisational leaders, taking the steps to foster internal leadership talent is always a worthwhile investment.

DARREN HILL As a behavioural scientist and best-selling author of ‘Dealing with the Tough Stuff’, Darren Hill knows first hand what’s required to build high-performance workplace cultures. With a clientbook of Fortune 500 and ASX 200 companies, Darren is the co-founder of Australia’s premier Behaviour and Motivation Strategy company, Pragmatic Thinking.

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The instructor tells the group to breathe in, and like tiny hot air balloons, twenty chests rise in unison. After an eternity. the call comes to breathe out. The twenty chests slowly deflate. This repeats a few more times. It brings clarity and alignment to the group as they search deep within themselves and all begin thinking the exact same thing:

“THIS IS STUPID.” So much for yoga as the annual teambuilding activity. It looked so promising on the brochure, though.

A GOOD IDEA GONE WRONG

EMPLOYEE COMMITMENT:

THE MISSING INGREDIENT TO SUCCESSFUL TEAM BUILDING BY ASHRAF FARID

Make no mistake, the value offered by team building is crucial to maintaining employee alignment and engagement, especially as a company grows. Even smaller outfits can benefit from well thought out team building activities. Knowing the benefits, it’s no surprise that many companies do invest in team building for their employees. Around the world, companies spent 370 million USD on corporate training in 2019, and that figure is expected only to rise in the coming years. Remember though: If you want your team building sessions to truly work, you had better win over your most important stakeholders: your employees. This means avoiding team building pitfalls that fill staff with dread and apathy.

IT STARTS AND STOPS WITH ‘FUN’ Somewhere down the line, corporate team building became synonymous with group outings. Take normal activities you’d do with friends after work, but replace them with colleagues (sadly, also after work). Cue team building versions of bowling and every other hobby under the sun. Bonus points if the activity is a team sport like basketball. Shoot some hoops for an hour, go home, and watch productivity soar. Except not quite.

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The issue is that these sessions are usually done without any real purpose behind them - and are therefore self-defeating. No one activity will appeal to everyone just because it is ‘fun’. Even at the best of times, what you get is a bunch of people who don’t really know each other doing an activity they don’t really like. There’s nothing wrong with scheduling outings as part of team building, but there should be other activities that are more intentional. After all, do employees work ‘for fun’?

ADDRESS REAL NEEDS, OFFER REAL VALUE No, employees work for financial reward. In ideal situations, employees find their work both financially rewarding and purposeful. Employees also understand that better teamwork means better productivity, which translates to more financial rewards and fulfilment. Convince them that the activity will directly improve how they function in a team, and they are much more likely to invest real effort. The idea is not to choose activities that are ‘fun’, but those that offer value. Do that, and engagement will naturally follow. This means identifying specific constraint(s) a team is facing. Companies can be made up of multiple teams, each with their own internal struggles. There can also be overarching constraints between teams or systemic issues plaguing the organisation as a whole. HR must earn its pay by making informed decisions (or more bluntly, correct guesses). Luckily, many digital tools available today do a pretty good job of data collection to help drive smart decision-making. There is also no shame in a company admitting it may not have the internal capability to diagnose gaps in teamwork. Hiring a good external consultant is not cheap, but can be an eyeopening experience.

IT CURES THE SYMPTOM, NOT THE SICKNESS, AND THEY KNOW IT When teams are well and truly disengaged from work, they don’t exactly tell the leadership. The reason is simple: the leaders are often the reason for the disengagement in the first place. Exactly what is wrong with the ecosystem, and what interventions are needed to restore teamwork is what good HR does. Sometimes, this means having the courage to admit that the best solutions may need to come from the outside. When there is a flaw in the system, can those running it be trusted to see and fix the problems? The answer is obviously yes, it’s just harder. Emotional attachment, tunnel vision, and a host of other factors can lead to faulty judgement. It’s not as bad as it sounds, really, so long as we have the self-awareness to see our limitations. That’s when we reach out for help. Otherwise, this can lead to team building sessions that employees see as only addressing surface-level issues, or worse, no issue at all. Who can blame them for then dragging their heels?

MAKE YOUR TEAM LOVE TEAM BUILDING Hopefully the article doesn’t give the impression that it’s all doom and gloom. Team building activities are one of the best ways to restore trust, open lines of communication and facilitate productive brainstorming in teams. Unfortunately, how they’re often carried out has given them a bad reputation among employees. Be mindful of what team building has always been about: interventions to fix real problems and drive group performance. If that really does mean holding a company yoga day, then so be it!

ASHRAF FARID Ashraf Farid had been happily teaching English until one day a student challenged him to ‘get a real job and prove he could make it outside the classroom’. He is currently a part of the Leaderonomics Editorial Team. His passion includes singing in the shower and fighting neighbourhood cats. During his free time he writes wicked bass lines he secretly knows are ripped off from Muse songs.

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Why Smart People Are Willing to Ask

‘Stupid Questions’ BY ROB WYSE

“What a stupid question that is. But I watch you a lot, you ask a lot of stupid questions.” That quote is from Donald Trump chastising reporter Abby Phillip of CNN, when she asked Trump if he wanted new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to rein in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in 2018. The fact that Trump labeled her question as ‘stupid’ underscores her intellectual firepower. To understand why, I cite examples from my own experience. A week ago, I was on a phone meeting with two brilliant people. One is a Chief Technical Officer of a cloud company… clearly at the cutting edge of technology. The other is a renowned economist who has held significant positions in the US government. Both possess deep expertise in their respective fields.

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Both also belong to professions steeped in acronyms. The tech guru mentioned the acronym ‘SLA’. Now, some of you reading this might not know that SLA means ‘service level agreement’. It defines the level of service expected by a buyer from a vendor. While it is a common acronym in the tech world, it’s not exactly a household word in the world of economics. So, the question came from the economist: “What is an SLA?” The quick definition came, and we moved on. That SLA question may be interpreted as ‘stupid’ – by those who are, in fact, ignorant. However it was a clarifying question, so all terms and definitions were understood to ensure a continued and fruitful conversation.


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The point is that it is the smartest people who ask these ‘stupid questions.’ They do not let a conversation move forward without knowing. Because knowledge is powerful and enlightening. Just ask any 3-year old, or 93-year old. Each is likely willing to ask anything. The fact is, I have found there is one stupid question – “Can I ask a stupid question?” Asking that question is based on insecurity. The people who are inquisitive and secure just ask without the preamble. Questions are in fact the lifeblood of what drives humanity to the next level. It also stops us to correct mistakes that can lead to fatal flaws. Another friend I am lucky to know is Nicholas Allard. He has an intellectual pedigree that could rival almost anyone’s. He is a Rhodes Scholar, was the administrative assistant and chief of staff to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and staff counsel to the Senate Committee on the judiciary, where he served as legal counsel to the late Senator Edward Kennedy. He also served as Dean (2012-2018) and President (2014-2018) of Brooklyn Law School. From Nicholas, I learned a powerful question: “Why are we doing this?” But few people have the clarity or guts to ask that question. The reason? Most of us are so busy getting the job done that we cannot see the forest for the trees. And we are afraid. What if that question stops an initiative that teams have been working on for years? Or worse yet, what if I am wrong, or get shot down? Why are we doing this?” is the ultimate whistle-blower question. It is asking those running an initiative if they are making the right decisions. And most of us are afraid to say it. One issue is that we are innately conditioned to obey authority and rank. In fact, corroboration of extreme obedience to authority was shown by a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. The study was called The Milgram Experiment and is chronicled in his book, Obedience to Authority. His experiment revealed that humans are willing to perform acts conflicting with their conscience. The study explained how humans could carry out orders by superiors to commit heinous acts like genocide. It underscores the power of the ‘Why are we doing this’ question.

In society, we also continuously deal with rank, whether it be a caste system or any system of entitlement based on wealth. Asking the tough questions means standing up to authority and asking it to justify the status quo. Further, in our own work and lives, we have biases. Three of the key biases that cloud our ability to ask tough questions include the following: 1. Confirmation bias: When we would like a certain idea or concept to be true, we end up believing it to be true. 2. Conformity bias is our tendency to take cues for proper behavior in most contexts from the actions of others rather than exercise our own independent judgment. 3. Authority bias (per Milgram reference above) makes people predisposed to believe authority figures and obey their orders. They are literally blinders where we do not see what is happening around us. The greatest question right now is “Are we working on the right solutions for COVID-19?”. We all wish we had the definitive answer. This leads me to Nicholas Allard’s follow-up question: “Can we do this better?” If you answer ‘no’, then you have signaled defeat. However, in most cases the question is win-win. It stimulates new ideas and openness to change for the better. Again, there are no stupid questions. But there are people waiting to say your question is stupid just to prop themselves up. So, if anyone ever says to you “That was a stupid question”, you now know that to ask it, you overcame fear and bias. Unbeknownst to them, they are paying you the ultimate compliment.

ROB WYSE Rob Wyse is an expert in brand storytelling and president, North America of Berkeley Communications. For thirty years, he has guided senior leaders in creating compelling story arcs that connect brands to customers. At the heart of his storytelling has been the management of issues/policy to drive market opportunity. Issues include AI, climate change, the future of work, diversity, and healthcare.really want to belong to. Her first book, ‘Rules of Belonging – change your organisational culture, delight your people and turbo-charge your results’, is published by Major Street Publishing.

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LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY IN

LEADERSHIP BY SANDY CLARKE

Over the past 30 years, technology has shaped our lives in ways that influence us across every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s ordering cinema tickets or conducting business across continents, tech has been at the forefront of everything that we do. What’s more, it shows no sign of slowing. In 1990, the number of mobile phone owners worldwide was in the lower millions. Today, it’s estimated that five billion people own mobile phone devices. In 2004, a geeky social networking site was designed initially to connect students across colleges. Today, Facebook boasts an active usership of 1.5 billion active monthly users around the world, as well as an annual advertising revenue that stretches into tens of billions of dollars.

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In leadership, technology plays a crucial role in helping leaders to communicate, establish relationships, manage relationships and broker deals across several borders. To understand new technologies and to maximise their potential is to be granted access to entire new markets throughout the world, and strengthen an organisation’s brand and mission in the digital space. Arguably, technology is – and always has been – the driving force behind modern leadership, because it forces us to embrace change or get left behind. It also opens up our eyes to new challenges and ways to overcome them; how we can use it to expand and benefit from diversity; and enhance the ways in which we communicate, share and implement ideas. As the former CEO of Cisco, John Chambers put it, “If you don’t innovate fast, disrupt your industry, disrupt yourself, you’ll be left behind.” The job of today’s leaders no longer stops at managing people, but to anticipate and prepare for evolving challenges and opportunities by keeping on top of tech trends and how to implement them at an organisational level.


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1. Turn to tech to measure performance As an effective leader, you’ll want to have the most accurate and up-to-date data at your fingertips – especially when it comes to tracking performance. Using paper-based methods is time-consuming, often costly, and just plain unnecessary in today’s world. There are various free analytic tools available online to choose from, which can help you to keep an eye on business and employee performance and help improve efficiency and productivity.

2. Make use of online learning Organisations are constantly looking for ways to maintain their competitive edge, and one of the best ways to do this is making sure your employees’ skills are kept sharp. Making use of online courses can help your business to keep up with what’s relevant today.

Looking ahead, leaders must scrap the attitude of ‘This is the way we’ve always done it’ and realise that embracing new technology isn’t something to be dismissed or feared. Rather, it should be used as a means to propel business to greater heights and lasting successes. It’s now becoming increasingly difficult to think about business without reflecting on the impact of technology. As Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates said, “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.” Business leaders today are faced with a vista of amazing opportunity if they learn to use technology in the ways that suit their organisations best. There are so many tools, resources, apps and other software available that it leaves us with no excuse to deploy tech solutions to the grander challenges we face today compared to 30 years ago. With that in mind, here are four ways that leaders can begin to think of technology as a means to provide leverage and get the best out of their teams and business potential… SANDY CLARKE Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.

Whether it’s Big Data, Communication, Problem-solving, or Sales, online courses – whether you deliver them in-house or utilise a third-party platform – are a convenient way to ensure your organisation stays ahead of the curve.

3. Dive into digital tools The world of work is constantly evolving and yet we still seem to be using the same old tools to meet modern job demands. From face-to-face meetings to paper planners, there’s a cost and time-efficient digital alternative. By giving employees access to digital tools, they’ll be able to work faster, produce higher quality results, and less time will be wasted. All of this translates to a happy ending for your company’s bottom line and the customers that you work to serve.

4. Social, social, social In 2019, the importance of having a social media brand presence can’t be over-stressed. The advent of social media started around 15 years ago, and yet business leaders in Malaysia are still lagging behind in realising the potential of communicating with existing and potential customers online. A good online presence creates trust and loyalty between business and customers who feel like they can be a part of the brand experience. What’s more, it’s a highly cost-efficient way to reach out to a wide target market if platforms and their tools are put to good use.

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We’ve Been Just In Time Learning Our Whole Lives BY ASHRAF FARID

All knowledge is useless until suddenly essential.

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Back in secondary school, the one subject I dreaded more than any other was History. I had absolutely no interest in it. Unless I was a Jedi, why should I care about the rise and fall of empires? Oh, right. Because the final exam was tomorrow. Without fail, I would spend the day before my History final combing through the chapters, taking notes, and doing practice questions as I went along. And I wasn’t the only one. Until exam week, everyone (including the teacher) used our History periods for naps or completing other assignments. Then we would sign out from reality to clock in some eleventh-hour revision. And it worked. I can’t speak for the rest of my class, but I used to ace my history tests. What became of all this short term information I’d memorised, though? Like turds in a toilet bowl, I would flush it all away and make room for the next round of curry. I’m now ten years older, and my process hasn’t changed much. The main difference is that exams have been replaced by job assignments and promotions. When a gap in my knowledge or skillset is what separates me from completing my work or demonstrating my worth, that’s when it’s time to start learning. It’s not exactly fun, but who the heck learns Microsoft Excel for fun? I’ve also come to know that what my teachers used to call being ‘insufferably lazy’ actually has a proper term: ‘Just In Time Learning’. It’s got a fair bit of psychology to back it up, too. Basically, you only learn what you need when you need it. To the dismay of my teachers, just in time learning has been embraced as the preferred method of the modern-day workforce. When daily tasks seem to never end, just in time learning is a hell of a lot more practical than all the time learning. Employers have also warmed up to just in time learning as a way of addressing the job versus experience vicious cycle. No experience? No problem, can you learn just in time? ‘Just in time learning’ does not mean ‘reading the fire extinguisher manual while the house is burning down’. I’ve had a few close calls, and it’s forced me to be more thoughtful about my approach. Even if you want to be ‘insufferably lazy’, it’s worth knowing how to do it properly.

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1.

You need to know what you need to know

3.

Use tools to make your life easier

No one practices just in time learning for the thrill of it (if you do, get help). There is usually a goal you’d like to achieve and to do that, you’ll need to master or at least be familiar with a certain competency, or competencies.

There’s a reason most education systems don’t really get students to write out their own syllabuses. Well, sometimes they do, but those tend to be negotiated by the students and teachers.

Before you set out to learn them, it would be wise to make sure that these competencies are indeed the stepping stones towards your goal. Then there is the issue of depth, so can you stop at a surface level or do you need more?

As adults, just in time learning becomes tremendously easier when you have a valid and reliable plan to follow. The question is, without being that well versed in the topics ourselves, how much faith do you have in the learning plans you come up with?

Ask relevant parties, do research, and then cross-check for extra credit. Going one step further is to look at the sequence in which the competencies should be learned. Will learning one skill make learning another easier? Will it be a waste of time to learn this skill without prior knowledge of some other? Essentially, what you need is to create your own just in time syllabus. Hey, I never said this was just in time planning, did I?

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Recognise good just in time learning content

You did a commendable amount of research, or you decided to wing it. Either way, you have your list of competencies, and you have them in your desired sequence. Time to look for learning content. Here’s where Google will be your best friend and worst enemy. It’s like going shopping for a jar of peanut butter and seeing hundreds of brands in front of you. Surely there can’t be that many ways to make peanut butter - but what if there are? You’re no peanut butter expert. Why did you waste your time in uni doing law? You should have taken a degree in peanut butter. Now you’ll never know what it means to be truly chunky. Okay, it’s not that bad, but in general, it can be pretty daunting to decide on learning content when there’s so much out there. Keeping in mind that it’s for just in time learning, here’s a list. • • • • •

Keep it short Use reliable sources Use multiple mediums Test yourself (huge one here) Examples and analogies

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Does this mean they won’t work? Of course not. When we start from zero, any plan will deliver progress. But is the progress slower than it could be? Have you left out anything important that could come back to bite you later? Do you think your time might be better spent actually learning instead of planning and organising learning? Is the risk of making a mistake worth the experience of creating your own syllabus? Remember, self-learning doesn’t mean learning by yourself, it means taking charge of your learning and making smart decisions. If just in time learning is about saving time, then you might want to check out Learning Experience Platforms. They help determine the competencies, curate and organise content into bite-sized chunks, and basically do everything for you except make your bed. All that’s left for you to do is learn, just in time.


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Make it a social activity

I’ve left this last because it’s really not for everyone. Some people need to study alone. Some people need a study partner. After a while, some people like to mix it up and try something new. What should stay constant in all this is the quality of the learning session. Personally, I enjoy studying in small groups, but only after I’ve had time by myself to go over the basics and really remember them. I save the group sessions for more in-depth discussions and fact-checking. There is also an undeniable competitive element when I learn in a group: I want to be the best out of everyone there, and so do they.

Creating more productive last minutes It’s in my nature to seek last minutes. In fact, daresay it’s in everyone’s nature. They are powerful motivators that make us truly focus. Rather than going against it, I’ve come to embrace it, with the condition that I don’t allow last minutes to catch me with my pants down. I’m currently finishing this article up, and it’s an hour from the publishing deadline. Gotta practice what I preach.

This leads to challenging and holding each other accountable for completing the content and truly internalising it. There’s nothing quite like having to tell my study partner that I ‘didn’t have time’ to read a few 5-minute articles, and then they give me a look that says they know I ate a tub of ice cream and passed out on the sofa again.

ASHRAF FARID Ashraf Farid had been happily teaching English until one day a student challenged him to ‘get a real job and prove he could make it outside the classroom’. He is currently a part of the Leaderonomics Editorial Team. His passion includes singing in the shower and fighting neighbourhood cats. During his free time he writes wicked bass lines he secretly knows are ripped off from Muse songs.

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Mastery BY DIANA MARIE

In his book, Mastery, Robert Greene makes this distinction clear:

Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge.

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The path to mastery is available to all of us, with enough effort and persistence, in the chosen field. Yet it is not a quick route to fame or fortune. It is a level of expertise that could take a decade or more to achieve because any kind of development is a process of continuous learning and the effort of continuously improving that particular skill or knowledge; often enough we would hear a famous MasterChef say that about baking a good piece of cake. Katsshika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” took the artist 30 years to paint and he was 72 when he finished it. Describing the progress, what kept changing throughout the 30 years was his dedication and the control of the medium. Reviewers of paintings described the intangible quality behind his painting was mastery. When your focus is on the mastery of something which you feel a genuine connection to; where its progression automatically leads you to purpose and contentment; you’ll feel compelled to continue and eventually see extrinsic rewards. I recently visited a friend’s new born grandchild and everyone gathered as I took the opportunity to give the one-month old child a bath. It’s been at least 10 years since I last held a baby in a tub and if anyone has ever done it before, you could imagine that it would be a combination of many skills that included balancing the hand so the child don’t fall, no fluid or soap gets into the baby’s eyes and keeping a close tab on the water temperature because if it gets cold you might just hear the baby screaming. I realized at that moment that we do ‘run out of practice’. This may mean we that knowledge or skills we once mastered; we may not be very good at anymore once we stop doing it. Mastery is the years and decades of learning, practice, failure and improvements. Mastery is one who stays on the path year after year and I would summarize them to these five little phrases of advice.

Draw on your strengths. Most musicians master a single genre or play one instrument, whilst not many authors successfully master writing both fiction and non-fiction. Focus on the one thing that is very important to you which you would excel in. A strength is the ability to provide consistent, near perfect performance in a given task. Overlook your weaknesses. Focus your energies on where you’re already strong and can truly be the best. Your success from your strengths will make up for any weaknesses that you have. Explore widely. Measure your own skills and interests against your roles and consider if it’s a path worth pursuing. Consider formal education. Attending educational institutions can be helpful in getting a broad overview of different fields. University can also be a strong venue for meeting future collaborators and discovering mentors. Set a consistent routine. Mastery is not accidental. You need to develop habits that refine your skills. While the importance of a strict routine is obvious, it shouldn’t be understated if you plan to achieve some of your deliberate practice at work. The more I contemplate on the matter, the more I understand that the road towards mastery is really a journey. One that evolves around mastering yourself, your relationship with others and also the intensity of how much you enjoy the journey. It is important to recognize that mastery is not the same as genius.

The road to mastery requires patience. You will have to keep your focus on five or ten years down the road, when you will reap the rewards of your efforts.

The famous English writer Charles Dickens grew up without a formal education, but went on to write acclaimed novels like Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, and A Tale of Two Cities. According to Dickens, he kept a regimented writing schedule and produced 2,000 words per day, with the exception of Sundays. If you are wondering why writers like Charles Dickens, JK Rowling and even every one of us have a varying level of accomplishment, I had that thought for years too. A few years ago, I asked a senior engineer whether his success had anything to do with luck or fate, his reply was that it was purely ‘hard work’. What did he worked hard at to master his field of work? What do you think?

Robert Greene

DIANA MARIE Diana Marie is a team member at the Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service attached with Corporate Affairs who found love in reading and writing whilst discovering inspiration in Leadership that Makes a Difference.

Issue 44 I October 2020

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LEADERS

DIGEST

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Issue 44 I October 2020


LEADERS

DIGEST

A GOOD OBJECTIVE OF LEADERSHIP IS TO HELP THOSE WHO ARE DOING POORLY TO DO WELL AND TO HELP THOSE WHO ARE DOING WELL TO DO EVEN BETTER.

Jim Rohn

Issue 44 I October 2020

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Building Leaders of Excellence

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