Leader's Digest #39 (May 2020)

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MAY 2020







Photo by Rachel Moenning on Unsplash




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

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

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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

the B dimension Volatile: its driving forces are unpredictable, and no accurate measurements are possible Uncertainty: it can emerge anytime – don’t know when, how and where Complex: its comprehension is beyond our capabilities (not necessarily by others, too) Ambiguous: no clear definition of shape, content, structure or intention – fuzzy

Stable Certain Simple Clear

Behaviour - the B dimension – will remain the core of and essence for leadership. When Captain James T. Kirk of the Star Ship Enterprise goes on a mission (Star Trek), the prime directive also known as General Order 1 - a ‘non- interference directive’ – is the guiding principle of Starfleet, prohibiting its members from interfering with the internal and natural development of alien civilizations. One of the Captain’s leadership take-aways creates an appropriate perspective: We need to understand the psychology of people and also learn to radically change course when circumstances dictate. Throughout and within every minute of Captain Kirk’s exposure to the unknown universe he is hyper- vigilant on VUCA situations within and outside his spaceship. He does it through his VUCA-opposite characteristics: being STABLE, CERTAIN, SIMPLE and CLEAR (SCSC). Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsqCf4K190w This highlights that behaviour is what gives VUCA its shape, its power and its life-span. So, while VUCA happens repeatedly, it is up to the behavioural standards of a leader that defines not only what is to be done, but more importantly how to get it done with and through others. Taking a look at a behaviour inventory, the following valuable elements are needed: SELF-CONTROL Starting with oneself, the ability to separate emotions from the thinking process allows us to focus and stay objectively alert and ready to act. Then, instilling it in others.

REFLECTIVE REALIZATION Beyond understanding, comprehending, by analyzing the ‘what happened’ – ‘what did we do’ against ‘what would we have done, if we knew it before it happened’ becomes the deep learning that converts itself into insight, expertise. Go back to January 2020. What would you have done differently if you knew then all you know today (COVID19 included)? What would you have done if you knew last year November? CORRECTNESS & OPENNESS VUCA vulnerability increases when a leader makes decisions to please rather than to serve improvement, recovery and stability. Doing what is correct may defy the system, be unacceptable, even unauthorized, yet those who have such an impetus take away the VUCAthreat, define leadership. Being open is about inviting the minds of others and leading the creation of robust options for solutions; whereby arrogance and the illusion of subject matter depth compromises it all. The more we confront VUCA situations – maybe even create our own as part of a controlled disruptive strategy – the leader in us will be driven by experience-based acting rather than just managing ‘think-tanks’. To measure the leadership standard from a VUCA perspective, one can just list down how many surprises happen in a day. Anticipating a surprise reflects if and how we have fine-tuned our behavioural radar vis-à-vis a changing VUCA environment and are willing and ready to deal with the new, unexpected and unknown – a state of being pre-active! The followers (leaders-to-be) are watching. The process of learning from imitation becomes the foundation for how the next leader deals with VUCA. Can the Star Ship Enterprise crew’s behaviour handle a VUCA situation satisfactorily in the Captain’s absence? If, yes, then leadership behaviour is growing in the followers mindset becoming the talent and potential for the likely success of any mission! Maybe it can be all synthesized into: DARE TO CARE BEYOND THE SELF!

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A typical workday is full of distractions from email notifications, chatty co-workers, and even our inability to focus. For most of us, we flip back and forth between projects, convinced we’re productive and maybe even multi-tasking. It’s how we get through the day, chiselling away at our to-dos all at the same time.

• Increase productivity Organising your day by task reduces the time you spend switching focus and improves your workflow efficiency. Plus, when you schedule by task you can more effectively take into account when you’re most and least productive, making the most of your time.

In reality, you’re not accomplishing nearly as much as you think you are. Instead of multi-tasking, you’re rapidly switching between tasks — which breaks your focus and exhausts your brain as it tries to play catch up. This is where task batching comes in to help alleviate the stress and keep you engaged.


WHAT IS TASK BATCHING Task batching is a scheduling system that organises your day by the kinds of tasks you’re performing. The idea is to dedicate a block of time to checking emails and making client calls and only performing those tasks once or twice, instead of checking emails and making calls throughout the day. Performing these tasks at the same time prevents them from interrupting your workflow and allows you to focus on two similar, low-effort tasks at the same time. This is particularly beneficial when you’re grouping high effort work, like analysing sales reports and budgeting. It takes your brain some time to adjust to a new task and focus, so staying in the zone and eliminating disturbances allows you to get more done and with less stress.

BENEFITS OF TASK BATCHING • Improve your focus The average person switches tasks 300 times a day, which helps make distractions a habit. The ability to focus is a skill that task batching helps develop so you can dedicate more time to your to-dos and less time to emails and trying to multitask. • Reduce your stress To task batch effectively, you have to begin by breaking large projects down into specific tasks. This way large tasks are less intimidating, and you can more accurately plan the time it will take you to complete each smaller task. Knowing what your plan is for a week helps keep you on track and allows you to clock-out at the end of the day.

1. List your to-dos The first step to building any schedule is knowing what needs to be on it. List everything you want to get done that week, including smaller daily items like responding to emails and organising your files. 2. Simplify large projects Break projects down into specific tasks, and then you can see every step and accurately plan the time and resources needed. It also helps to reduce the stress a looming project can cause and prevents you from procrastinating. 3. Label each task by function Go through the tasks and begin to build categories like communicative, meeting, high-focus, brainstorming, and more. Then you can begin to assign these categories to each of your tasks so you know what kind of effort and thought processes they require to complete. 4. Group your tasks Now that you have your tasks labelled, it’s time to group them by their function. Low effort tasks like emails and organisation will go together, then high-effort tasks like research and writing will match. Colour coding these tasks can be a bonus for your organisation. 5. Build your schedule Now it’s time to consider when you’re super productive and when you tend to get distracted. Prioritise your most important and high-focus tasks to the hours you work best, and save cleaning your office for the afternoon slump. It’s also a good idea to let your team know not to contact you during your high-focus hours. Task batching is a great productivity tool for bringing organisation and structure to your day, but it is a skill that needs practice. As you get into the habit of focusing for longer periods and you get a better grasp of time costs, you’ll see an improvement in your efficiency, and you’ll reduce daily fatigue and stress.

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Briana Marvell Briana is a content creator with interests in finance and career development. When she’s not at her desk, you can find her out with her rescue dog, Miko, or reading in her garden.

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Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Design A Powerful Start to a Great Leadership Day BY SCOTT COCHRANE

If you’ve found that as you lead from home, you feel like you’re swimming in peanut butter, you’re not alone.

If you are suddenly having to lead from home instead of from the office, you might be finding it challenging to establish a rhythm to your leadership day.

Watch the most effective leaders. You’ll find that they hit the ground running each morning, and that early momentum continues throughout the day.

Whether leading from the office, or from home, the principle is the same: What you accomplish in your day is largely driven by the momentum you have when you start the day.

The ‘secret sauce’ of that momentum often found in the decluttering of their pre-work morning routine.


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3. Prepare Your Mind Like a Leader

Here’s how:

1. Sleep Like a Leader

When some leaders talk about sleep, often they will focus on how little sleep they need in order to “function”.

Many years ago, I used to check email on my smartphone before I even rolled out of bed. Therefore, the first thoughts that would enter my mind in the morning were the problems, questions and pressures that had flowed into my inbox overnight. No more. I do not check email in the morning. Nor do I look at social media. Nor any news sources. All of these can wait until I’m settled into my home office and ready to work. The result? By the time I am in my home office, my mind is fresh, sharp and raring to go. If you’ve found that as you lead from home, you feel like you’re swimming in peanut butter, you’re not alone.

The problem is, aiming to merely “function” is setting the leadership bar far too low. Leaders should aim to thrive, and to bolt out of the starting blocks in your morning routine. And for that, you need to have slept like a leader. A decluttered start to the day involves 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep. Always.

2. Pace Your Morning Like a Leader

A decluttered morning has a measured cadence. It is not frantic. For people of faith, that can mean spending time in prayer. It can mean a leisurely breakfast or coffee with your spouse and family. It can mean exercise. In other words, a decluttered start to the day means filling your emotional, relational and spiritual tanks. As you do, you are preparing yourself for a strong start to the leadership day to come.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. All it takes is a little decluttering.

Scott Cochrane Scott Cochrane is the vice president-international of the Global Leadership Network. He is skilled in preaching, nonprofit management, organisational development, stewardship, and volunteer management. His passions include leadership, football and hockey!

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DIGEST Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

Thriving in a VUCA World: Acceleration at the Speed of Change BY BERNARD LEE

Change Leadership is critical

You can’t manage your way through a crisis. You need to lead the way to get out of a crisis

– John Maxwell.


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In my early days of consulting, I was introduced to Kurt Lewin’s model of change – ‘unfreeze, change, refreeze’. Unfreezing speaks about the burning platform for change, essentially asking the question – why change? Change speaks about moving toward the desired behaviours. Refreezing is about setting these new behaviours as the new norm. Looking at the current situation around the world, it is obvious why we need to change. There are many things we need to unlearn. Simply put, we need to do things differently from before. As you read this, millions of people are reconsidering how their work and families have been impacted. In fact, billions are thinking about what they must do differently.

with the team cannot remain the same. We need to talk about our experiences and re-orientate our behaviours. The ‘new normal’ is never going to be the same as the old one. Change leadership allows us to transform our organisations as a whole, while sustainability ensures the transformation impact lasts over an extended period of time. In short, change leadership provides a structured framework to navigate in times of uncertainty.

Acceleration is pivotal Not only must we change, but we must change quickly. Yes, life is a marathon, not a sprint. But even in marathons, there are moments where we must accelerate strategically. And in order to accelerate, we are bound to the rules of matter as described by Newton’s Second Law of Motion: Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. Therefore, acceleration equals force divided by mass. In other words, to increase acceleration, we need to increase force or reduce mass.

How do we increase force? 1. Enhance employee engagement That….might be too different.

Unlearning is good, but we need to relearn. The strategies and plans of yesterday will need to be revisited, and for some, re-crafted. New behaviours, knowledge, skills, and competencies. Regardless, there will be a void (unlearn), and we need to fill that void (relearn) to help us navigate through this spell. Change leadership engages with the hearts and minds of the people. At a recent webinar, Dr Deepika Gupta, Director of Leadership and Learning SBU at Human Dynamic, spoke about having to manage the re-entry when things return to ‘normal’. Our engagement and expectations

A recent Forbes article reported that highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability. Apart from a reduction in absenteeism and turnover, engaged employees show up every day with passion, purpose, presence, and energy. If that doesn’t convince you, I’m not sure what would. I urge you to (re)consider engaging your people. I don’t just mean have a tool that measures engagement (that’s important too!), but have it ingrained in your leadership and DNA of the organisation to see people as people, and not a resource to be utilised. When you take care of your people, your people will take care of your business.

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2. Build capacity Capacity can be described as the size of your ‘container’. The larger your container, the more you can pour into it. Building capacity requires learning agility – the transition from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. A safe environment and culture that promotes such learning includes a healthy coaching culture, knowledge sharing initiatives and stretching job assignments.

Workspaces have been reorganised to facilitate collaboration. Nevertheless, these physical changes do not confirm collaboration will take place. Collaboration requires intentional effort to come together and share ideas. A common desire to see something good coming out of the interaction of ideas. It’s a culture thing.

How do we reduce mass? 1. Workforce Optimisation The key-word here being optimise. Workforce optimisation looks at identifying critical roles, core roles and pivotal roles. What are essential services (a term we’re all familiar with during this time!) and the roles needed to deliver them? Can the jobs be reconstructed? Are there opportunities to automate? Can we retain and retrain our people to do other things? What are roles that will be core to our business regardless of how innovative we become? What are roles that we can reshape because they have the potential to pivot our business?

Formal and informal learning interventions can help create a growth mindset. These initiatives enable learning to take place anytime anywhere. Structured and unstructured learning create unending opportunities for people to be lifelong learners.

3. Seek opportunities to co-create Co-creation presents a wide range of opportunities for innovation and creativity to flourish. It also allows participation and engagement, leading to greater buy-in. This translates into more effective outcomes. Imagine (some already happening) a college professor developing curriculum with a graduate student; new hires creating an onboarding experience for other future new hires; frequent travellers participating in curating a new ‘Frequent Guest programme’ etc. the opportunities are endless.


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Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau (Reinventing Jobs) explore what the future of work will really look like, its impact on organisations as they adapt and adopt new ways of working. To reconstruct and reframe our work, and integrate advances in technology and



2. Digital Transformation

what we have? How fast can we deploy them? Etc. This applies to financial and non-financial resources alike. You must know what you have, else you won’t be able to do the planning.

It’s the ongoing buzz today. Everyone talks about it. Everyone wants it. (Not) Everyone is prepared to do it. We all (should) know that there is a stark difference between digitising and digitalisation. In simplified terms, digitising is about converting physical data/ information into electronic, while digitalisation is about transforming the business.

The world has been through many crises. I have not been through as many as some of you have, but the world has always come out better in times of crisis. In such times, are you repositioning yourself and your organisation for a relaunch? Have you shifted gears and are you getting ready for acceleration? If you have, great. If you haven’t, it’s never too late to begin now.

This is the second in a two-part series on how to Thrive in a VUCA world. In the previous series, I addressed two more factors: vision and focus.

artificial intelligence to reshape and repurpose the traditional job.

Everyone talks about it. Everyone wants it. Not Everyone is prepared to do it.

Digital transformation requires investments into hardware and software, technology applications etc. It also requires engagement with the hearts and minds of people. In other words, it’s a culture transformation, not merely a process change.

3. Resource Planning Like workforce optimisation, the key-word is planning. How do we deploy resources in a way that gives us the greatest impact for acceleration and return on investment? How should we allocate our budgets? It was heartening to read the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) study related to where people would spend their learning and development budgets during this global crisis. The article speaks for itself. Resource planning also requires us to know our resources. How much do we have? What can we do with

Bernard Lee Bernard Lee is the Managing Director of Invigorate Consulting, a firm that aligns organisations with their purpose. Bernard is passionate about helping people realise their dreams. He enjoys travelling and is excited about the second half of life.

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Ways to Maximise your Productivity at Home and Work BY KATE CHRISTIE

Are you time poor? Sick of the frustration, guilt, stress and sheer exhaustion that comes with trying to juggle your work, life, family and other commitments? It’s time to start thinking about your time the way you think about your money: as a precious, enormously valuable and limited resource that needs to be consciously invested for the greatest possible return. There are dozens of ways you can maximise your productivity at home and work, and here are some of my favourites.


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1. Don’t be busy You look busy. You sound busy. You act busy. When you bump into a friend or colleague and they ask you how you are, and you respond — “I’m so busy!” And they respond — “Oh! I’m so busy too!” Have you ever thought about the impression you create with this simple response? It’s essentially the same as responding, “I’m so unproductive!” And that’s not a great impression to leave. It’s time to lose being busy. It’s time to find a new line, “I’m terrific”, or “I’m happy”, or “I’m moving at pace”.

A positive response sounds a lot better than I’m busy, it will lift your mood, and it will leave the right impression. 2. Hourly rate yourself

Your time is money. Work out your hourly rate. If you have a job or business where you charge clients by the hour, this is the value you should put on your time, all the time. For example, if your hourly rate is $50 and you spend an hour a day on social media, that is costing you $18,250 of your time a year. Is this the best use of your time?

3. Outsource and insource You can’t wear every hat at home and at work all the time – just how many of you do you think there are? To outsource, identify the tasks that you are prepared to pay an expert to do for you. Think of the tasks you don’t like or that you are not good at – tasks that an expert can complete faster, better and cheaper than you (you now know your hourly rate). Outsourcing frees you up to spend more time on what you absolutely love to do. Insourcing is the exact opposite of outsourcing. Identify everything you do around your home for others that they can do for themselves and you don’t have to pay them for!

Think of tasks like tidying up, unloading the dishwasher, feeding the pets. Regardless of your kids’ age, if they can walk, there are tasks they can do around the house. If your 2-year-old can tidy away his/her toys then I’m confident that your 40-year-old partner is capable of the same.

4. Don’t do list

We all know about ‘To Do’ Lists. A great way to become more productive is to keep a list of the old habits and behaviours you no longer want to maintain.

5. Batch


Batching is the process of grouping similar tasks together and then blocking out slabs of time in your calendar to complete these tasks. This allows you to have one long, concentrated period allocated to dealing with tasks as opposed to jumping in and out of smaller tasks repeatedly throughout the day. Batching also enables a clean and structured calendar, and hence day, as opposed to a hectic and disorganised one. Batch your high energy periods for your hardest, most important tasks.

BRING IT ALL TOGETHER We are all creatures of habit. The way you managed today was generally the same as you managed yesterday, last week, and last month. From tomorrow you will have a new mindset – one of smart time investment. Tomorrow you will start maximising your productivity. It’s all about having the right mindset – just how badly do you want it? Kate Christie Kate Christie is a time management specialist, bestselling author, global speaker and the founder and CEO of Time Stylers. Her fourth book, Me First: The Guilt-Free Guide to Prioritising You (Wiley), is available in select bookstores.

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In the 19th Century, the Great Man Theory of leadership posited the idea that leaders were born, not made, and naturally possessed superior intelligence and heroic courage. Great leaders were also male, and, according to some, guided by divine inspiration. When thinking about great leaders, the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, and Nelson Mandela spring to mind more often than Catherine the Great, Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. We also continue to believe (in practice if not theory) that leaders should make most or all major decisions, be followed without much question, and – the most commonly held belief – have all the answers to their organisation’s problems.

“ There

is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your ― Ernest Hemingway former self.


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Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash



The Great Man Theory might have been the preferred style over centuries passed; and, yet, despite the wealth of research contradicting the theory in terms of its effectiveness, many of us continue to unconsciously buy into this outdated perspective. To a degree, it’s understandable. Particularly in Asian culture, we tend to respect hierarchies and defer to those in positions of authority. Universally, humans have always looked to those who are in charge for answers to problems.

“ It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own

wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err. ― Mahatma Gandhi

Predictably, this gives rise to ego in leadership: when in a position of authority, a leader often feels like they have all the answers, and so they make decisions that go unchallenged.

According to H. Irving Grousbeck – an adjunct professor of management at Stanford Graduate School of Business – if leaders wish to mould themselves and be seen as authentic and credible, they should work on eradicating any sense of being a great, know-it-all leader. Instead, they should demonstrate that, while they may be captain of the ship for a while, they’re far from infallible in their knowledge or their judgements. As a leader, says Grousbeck, if someone asks us a question to which we don’t know the answer, then we should be honest and say, “I don’t know.” For a lot of people, it’s sometimes a difficult response, because we want to be seen as intelligent and in-theknow, and so we might attempt a rough answer that hopefully fits the question. However, in doing that, we risk damaging our credibility as leaders.

In truth, many of these ‘answers’ are currently projections or assumptions. This isn’t a time for the standalone maverick who solves problems: the solution to overcoming this unique problem is community and collaboration. While some leaders might succumb to the temptation of being seen as the ‘Great (Wo)man’, in today’s world, it’s those who are able to show humility and vulnerability who tend to garner the most respect from their followers. These leaders have little interest in having power over people; instead, they prefer to master themselves while serving others.

As an added bonus, I might get the chance to connect people who previously didn’t know each other well. In the past, it’s led to some great collaborations as people discover shared interests or challenges they’d like to overcome.

“ To

share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.

We feel comforted in having someone in charge who knows what to do when things aren’t going according to plan. Especially in challenging times, as we now find ourselves in, dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, many people seek out whoever they feel has the most comforting and convincing answers to the problem we face.

There’s no shame in not knowing everything, even about our own organisations, which tend to evolve and grow over time as we juggle a thousand tasks on a daily basis. If ever I’m asked a question I’m not sure of, I tend to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but let me ask so-and-so – they know about that area much better than I do.”

― Criss Jami

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In leadership, we often get the notion of strength the wrong way around. If we think about school bullies, what do they usually do? Try to show their strength and control each situation often at the expense of others. And yet, bullies tend to be insecure and afraid – being seen to be vulnerable is the last thing they desire.

All these iconic leaders recognised the nature of kindness in motivating and uplifting others. As Grousbeck advises, top performers never want to leave bosses who show a personal interest in them, adding, “Money and stock are in finite supply, while praise and thanks are in abundance and can be even more powerful.”

On the other hand, people who are secure don’t need to show their strength; it simply comes out through their example, and part of that strength is not being afraid of vulnerability. That’s why we tend to gravitate toward people who are authentic because they’re exactly the kind of people we want to emulate and follow.

Even with average or low-performing employees, it’s amazing just how much difference can be made when leaders show an interest in who they are beyond the job. In my experience, many ‘low performers’ aren’t bad at the job; instead, there’s usually a lack of selfconfidence or feelings of insecurity underpinning their demotivation. It could also be the case that something personal is going in their lives.

Be careful not to mistake insecurity and inadequacy for humility! Humility has nothing to do with the insecure and inadequate! Just like arrogance has nothing to do with greatness! ― C. JoyBell C.

As well as having the humility to say, “I don’t know”, Grousbeck also highlights another powerful quality of authentic leadership: kindness. Interestingly, while this trait is rarely associated with the Great Man Theory of leadership, accounts of leaders such as Lincoln, Mandela, and Alexander the Great are replete with tales of kindness toward their followers.

Whatever the reason, leaders never get to find out what’s wrong and how they can help if there’s no personal connection. It might seem counter-intuitive that humility and kindness are the keys to great leadership; however, for centuries, these have often driven the successful campaigns of many great men and women leaders. To move anyone to do anything, connection is crucial and, while certain internal strengths can reinforce the spirit of leadership, nothing can be achieved without the people by our side who work hard to make things happen. Not even Alexander the Great could conquer the world on his own.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Roshan Thiran

Roshan is the founder and CEO of the Leaderonomics Group. He believes that everyone can be a leader and make a dent in the universe, in their own special ways.


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Clever or Tender? Four Types of Active Listening BY SASHE KANAPATHI

Image source: http://y2u.be/cJX1REQB12o

Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth? – Chris Tucker

We hear, but do we listen with purpose? The quote above was from Chris Tucker’s character in the movie Rush Hour (by the way, highly recommended if you haven’t seen it yet). It’s also very apt for what I would like to discuss today: Active Listening. The speaker is often given a lot of attention and focus when it comes to the act of communicating. But as we all know, the listener has an important part to play as well. Although active listening is well discussed and understood, I want to share some different perspectives on this. In this article, I’d like to discuss the role of the listener. Traditionally, in effective listening, we are taught several things: paying attention, presenting positive body language, being open, not interrupting, giving feedback through questions or paraphrasing, looking at nonverbal cues, etc. These are all valuable, and I believe at some point or other we are taught this in our careers.

However, I believe the key to effective listening is not in the accumulation of these skills. They are of course necessary. But the power lies in understanding the role you are playing as a listener, which I can summarise into four broad areas. As listeners, we seek to fulfil one of these four purposes: • To solve • To soothe • To set • To solicit The role you play has a lot to do with the role that the other party expects you to play as well. Therefore, this has to be aligned. Each of these roles requires a different approach. The key techniques of effective listening apply to all, but how you use them, and to what degree, will differ. In summary, you are going to use a combination of tenderness and cleverness. The key is to know how much of each to use. Issue 39 I May 2020 19



Let’s look at each situation separately:

To soothe

To solve

We may also find ourselves in a situation where people come to us to seek solace. They would like to share some misfortune, or injustice, or unhappiness. This is a very different situation for you as a listener. Here, the techniques require you to use more tenderness than cleverness.

Here the speaker is expecting you to solve their problems. What is then expected of you is one of two things: mentoring or coaching. Each has their own techniques, but both rely mainly on cleverness as opposed to tenderness. As a coach, your active listening will need to be on identifying the hurdles that are stopping this person, then getting them to discover it themselves. You do this with a lot of open-ended questioning techniques. You are in a process of discovery, so don’t let your own thoughts or conclusions cloud your mind. As a mentor, you are trying to listen to find a parallel in your bank of knowledge and wisdom that can relate to the situation being conveyed to you. Therefore you are not relying on open-ended questions so much as taking turns to speak. They share something – you then digest it and share an example from your own life that can relate and present a solution to theirs. Or you tell them exactly what to do. The key differences in technique here are: •

As a coach, interject the narrative with short openended questions. Your job is not to share as a listener, but probe.

As a mentor, take turns speaking and listening. Share openly.

In both instances, you need to focus on your ‘cleverness’.


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This person is sharing with you not with the intention of you solving their problems; instead it’s for you to empathise with them. As a listener your job is to be fully attentive, both in mind and body language. You are not expected to speak much in this situation, but as for good active listening, you must continue to engage the speaker with words of encouragement and acknowledgement. The purpose is to make sure that the listener is able to share everything with you. If you are a good listener, that act alone will ease the burden resting on their shoulders. All you have to do is express that you care with your listening skills.

To set

…your job here is to validate what you’ve heard and ensure clarity and accuracy.

We may find ourselves in a situation where people come to us to seek resolution to a problem. Especially if you are an expert of some sort, or in a position of authority, this may be the most common situation you find yourself in.

This may be the easiest of situations you find yourself in. Despite that, most get this wrong as well. This is a situation where someone is expecting you as a listener to record everything that’s being said. I find this situation most often in a meeting situation where there are multiple parties and one person is expected to take down minutes or notes.



Active listening comes into play here as well. This is probably the easiest situation for you to get lost in, especially with multiple conversations going on and possibly not involving you most of the time. The key skills here revolve around focus – you must keep your mind on the task. You must also practice paraphrasing as a listener to ensure that the points captured are accurate and that the interpretations are accurate. Both require practicing your ‘cleverness’ more than your ‘tenderness’. It is important that you are not just a passive recorder, but an active one. As a listener, your job here is to validate what you’ve heard and ensure clarity and accuracy.

To seek Finally, we come to probably the hardest situation – where you are requesting something of others.

Hence you will need to focus on bringing the other person into the conversation and not keep them out of it. You do this through a combination of tenderness and cleverness and using the full arsenal of your active listening skills.

In summary My key insight for you is to understand what your role is as a listener. Which one of the four situations applies to you? It’s very likely that there is more than one situation at play at the same time. Be clear of your expectations and thus know if you are expected to be clever or tender or both? Keep that in mind throughout the interaction. As I started with a movie quote, I will end with one as well. There’s a great line in another favourite movie of mine, ‘White Men Can’t Jump’, where Wesley Snipes’s character says “You all listen but you supposed to hear it”.

Now, you may think it’s counter-intuitive to talk about ‘listening’ when the situation is to seek. Of course, seeking requires you to be eloquent in your request. But I put forth that active listening is just as important when you find yourself seeking the help or services of someone else. If you start off by spending more time listening to your audience, you will achieve three things: 1. Firstly, you are prioritising them and trying to build a bond with them, before you make your request. The simple act of listening creates an opportunity to connect and break down barriers. 2. Secondly, you will be able to gain information that will help guide how your request should be positioned. Understanding their viewpoints and pain points before you even start will only be to your advantage to make your request more targeted. 3. Finally, you will learn to ‘listen’ to how people are reacting to your request. Instinctively, you can observe and interpret body language, choice of words being used, arguments that are resonating, etc. Then be agile enough to pivot as needed. Your objective is to achieve something. This doesn’t happen by forcefully demanding it from someone. It comes from understanding what’s in it for that other person or what their grievances are. These barriers may be logical and/or emotional. Until and unless you overcome these, you will not be successful in your request.

When Wesley Snipes speaks, you listen Let that sink in for a bit. As listeners, our job isn’t to just use our ears to take in the words and just ‘listen’ or ‘be present’. That’s necessary but not sufficient. To ‘hear’ means that you need to know what your expectations are as a listener and you need to achieve that. Someone’s communicating to you with a purpose – we need to play a part to ‘hear that and act accordingly.

Sashe Kanapathi Sashe is certain that his 18-year career in IT was about leadership and not technology. He is currently the head of Leaderonomics Digital and ponders the use of technology in his free time.

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Making Remote Working Work BY DR ARUL ARULESWARAN

Recently, a colleague reached out a few days after an important board meeting, requesting a written piece on making remote working effective, in the context of managing change.

The one great constant

As a member of a regional management team, we are experiencing an unprecedented need to change within the organisation. The emphasis on change isn’t about the decrease of manufacturing outputs impacting the supply chain and logistics industry. On the contrary, the demand for essential supplies has surpassed usual needs and many supply chain and logistics service providers are working hard to ensure services are effectively rendered, as in the current circumstances it could mean saving lives. In the midst of this, we must also take precautionary measures to ensure our topmost priority is achieved at all costs – keeping our employees safe. At the time of writing this article, many events have taken place. Many countries in the Asia Pacific region have gone into lockdown mode, e.g. Malaysia, New Zealand, India and Thailand. Many other countries 22

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have enacted strict border control policies such as Singapore, Australia and China. Additional policies restricting gatherings in a particular location or venue have been put in place, enforcing what is popularly known as ‘social distancing’. Having experienced the start of COVID-19 whilst in China in January 2020 and being one of the first few in the regional management team to be quarantined for 14 days provided a sense of urgency regarding the potential impact this pandemic could have. However, the true impact is never felt until one is informed of a family member succumbing to this virus. The reality of change truly sinks in the moment one is informed about the loss, yet is unable to effectively grieve or say a final goodbye. The only way forward from that grief is to focus on what is important. For many governments and employers, it is to keep its people and employees safe from infection. In times of crisis, we are fortunate that we are in an industry that can contribute to alleviating the distress faced by the world.



Many organisations are scrambling to ensure that operations can continue effectively with teams working remotely. These are examples of the many changes that have been put in place in the space of four to six weeks, and will continue to evolve as time goes on. In Malaysia, many are experiencing this as the country goes into its second week of Movement Control Order.

The science of management

As governments and employers are forced to manage crisis in times of great change, managers and leaders need to become key executioners. This is a challenge in itself as traditional managers are used to being in control of their subordinates, giving instructions and directions rather than executing tasks themselves. More often than not, this can only be done effectively when employees and employers are in the same working space. This drastically changes in a situation where everyone is forced to work from home. Furthermore, the cost of resources doesn’t change. In the fall of 1992, Harvard Business Review interviewed legendary management consultant Peter Drucker. The essence of the conversation was captured and published in his book Managing In a Time of Great Change. One quote from that book stands out as worth reflecting on:

It is not so very difficult to predict the future. It is only pointless… what is always far more important are fundamental changes that happened though no one could possibly have predicted them.

Many countries battling COVID-19 have designated supply chain and logistics as essential services, prioritising the transport of essential supplies. Accordingly, many logistics service providers are working tirelessly to ensure that services are provided with minimal disruption. IT teams across the world have ensured that staff are provided with mobile devices and digital tools so that they are able to operate remotely while carrying out their Emergency Response Plans.

Highlights from that interview that remain relevant today are: 1. Managers need to move away from hierarchies and focus on information and the quality of information to drive productivity. Functions and tasks need to be thoroughly defined and outcomes need to be clearly specified 2. The conventional organisation structure, and therefore the information structure, traditionally seen as rungs on a ladder need to be considered obsolete. Instead it needs to be seen as veins (or in today’s terms – a neural network) where information can effectively flow to wherever the execution is required; execution may be at an office, external premises or even at home 3. Focus on the flow of information instead on the flow of tasks. Organisations need to manage how the work is done based on information input for the specific task and the employee and customer interaction that’s required to get the work done. 4. Individual strengths of employees executing the tasks need to be evaluated, understood and developed to be effective. The workforce as a whole needs to know what to do instead of waiting for the manager’s instructions. To successfully implement these changes, communication is key. The old adage of ‘knowledge is power’ can be seen as arrogance on the part of

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As we communicate and prepare ourselves with business continuity plans, every employee will go through the following emotions:

management. The message of change must be communicated and articulated clearly. Not only that, every opportunity of converting knowledge into information must be seized as it enables employees to be productive. This places the organisation at the forefront of opportunities during times of great change.

• • • • • •

To be more specific, information is not just technology and knowledge is not just data. The change demands the interaction of knowledge and information in unison and both in the qualitative and quantitative dimensions – to put it simply, the managers and the employees need to work as a team. This is a change that both parties need to work out.

Anxiety – can I cope? Fear – what impact will the change have on me? Threat – the problem is bigger than I thought. Guilt – are the past failings down to me? Disillusionment – this is not for me so I’m leaving. Acceptance – maybe things won’t be so bad.

As management, we have a responsibility to ensure that communication is done effectively, that it will assist our employees in clearing their doubts, and that channels for clarification with HR and BE remain open.

Emotional and psychological change

There are two main aspects to this change that immediately come to mind, the first being emotional and the second psychological. While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are distinct from one another. However, in order to achieve a positive impact, both need to work together concurrently.

At APAC, we have seen this take place successfully when China went into lockdown from January 22 until the 2nd of March, as HR and BE played the role of internal communicator and regularly updated employees on the current situation, as well as managing challenges that arose during that time.

5. A simple way to explain the difference between them in the context of change is that emotions relate to an individual’s reaction to information received whereas psychological is the ability to process the information. During times of change, both aspects must work in harmony.

On the psychological side of things, I am fortunate enough to have the advice of Professor George Kohlrieser, who coincidentally released his video on how to provide leadership during this time of crisis. When overwhelmed by various emotions, particularly fear, we can be rendered unable to effectively carry out our duties. This leads to us becoming psychological hostages.

Morale and Competence

A good change model to adopt is the KÜBLER-ROSS model. This well model, as shown below, characterises the emotional changes that one goes through when change is introduced. As we are on an accelerated course of change, driven by the need to ensure employee safety, every employee will experience these stages at a rapid pace.

To overcome this, his advice to us is to focus on the present and understand our perceptions versus the reality of the situation. The perception of COVID-19 has been amplified tremendously by the media, news channels, government actions and inactions to the point it has created fear and confusion amongst people.

The KÜBLER-ROSS Change Curve denial disbelief: looking for evidence it isn’t true shock surprise at the event

frustration recognition that things are different, sometimes angry

integration changes integrated: a renewed individual

decision learning to work in the new situation: feeling experiment more positive initial engagement with the new situation

Time 24

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While being in this state of flux, it is important to stay calm, manage our perceptions, focus on the present reality and avoid denial. This way one can have better control of one’s emotions and effectively process incoming information. This ability to manage emotions well offers individuals opportunities in the future beyond this crisis.

Newton’s Theory

Leadership during periods of change begins with selfleadership. Through self-leadership, one will be able to find meaning and purpose during unexpected changes, as one is always driven to discover and learn. To learn to adapt to a remote working environment, with minimum supervision and maintaining or even surpassing the desired objectives and performances. To learn to lead and manage through difficult situations and coming out stronger.

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger – Friedrich Nietzsche

It is important to understand the difference between perception and reality and decide which is which.

Renowned physicist Sir Isacc Newton discovered the laws of gravity when University of Cambridge had to close its doors to the bubonic plaque in the 17th century and he had to work from his family home in Woolsthorpe Manor. His best work was done while having to work from home!

The Science of Peter F. Drucker

Peter Ferdinand Drucker was an Austrian born American management consultant. His many teachings, wisdoms and publications have made considerable contributions to the theoretical and practical approaches of modern day entrepreneurship. This article is the first in a series of write-ups that explore the ideas of Drucker and how they can be applied to contemporary business models.

Dr Arul Aruleswaran

Dr Arul currently works for GEODIS Asia Pacific as the Director of Transformation, embarking on the regional transformation with the Asia Pacific team to leapfrog disruption in the supply chain industry by creating customer value proposition, reliable services and providing accurate information to the customers. The author has in the past driven transformation initiatives for government services and also assisted various Malaysian and Multi National Organisation in solving successfully their business problem using the Lean Six Sigma methodology.

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The Rise of Human Economy Post COVID-19 Pandemic BY DR RASHIDAH KAMARULZAMAN


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The year 2020 started with the COVID-19 pandemic. All over the globe, people were affected with the virus, which have caused several countries to opt for serious preventive measures such as total lockdown and movement restrictions. Amongst the top strict measures taken by most countries that were severely hit by the pandemic include the banning of travels abroad, closing nonessential businesses or services, and selfisolation. On one hand, the positive impact caused by the measures above-mentioned is breaking the chain of the virus to spread further. On the other part however, the pandemic is potentially the beginning of a global economic fallout. Ever since there were major lockdowns in the affected areas, share markets around the world have tremendously dropped, unemployment rates have increased, and oil prices have dropped. Furthermore, the transportation industry, specifically the airline sector is at stake due to the closing down of factories and businesses. Other industries which are affected include the food, tourism and manufacturing industries. With the ban on travelling and lockdown, the food supply chain is heavily interrupted. There are major disruptions on imports and exports of foods whether they are processed or fresh food. Travelling is no longer an option to consumers as most of the countries are closing their doors to tourists. As most of the employees are under strict movement, most manufacturing companies have no other choice but to close down their business. At times like this, a huge transformation of economy is much needed. One thing the COVID-19 has taught most of us is that, economy greed is getting to an end. The solution for the economic downfall is to have a more humanistic economy.

TRANSFORMATION TO HUMAN ECONOMY The world has never seen anything worse than the COVID-19 pandemic. The new coronavirus greatly impacts the global social, economic and health crisis. In terms of health, most countries are doing their utmost best to flatten the virus from spreading. However, this move will undeniably deteriorate the economic situation further especially when it involves the developing countries. In Malaysia, the Prime Minister has announced the Economic Stimulus Package (PRIHATIN) in order to curb the economic crisis. However, this will not be a long-term answer towards improving the nation’s economy. It is therefore the right time to transform Knowledge Economy into Human Economy. What then, is Human Economy? The simplest definition of Human Economy is the economy which is made and remade by the people. There is democracy in human economy which makes it unique. Human Economy bridges the gap between human beings and the humanity. What is important in Human Economy is value, i.e. doing the right thing is what counts. In understanding the Human Economy, we take the example of Makcik Kiah who has recently been forced to take unpaid leave from her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a single mother, she has to pay for all the necessities for her family which includes rental, utilities, education, and to provide food for her children. On top of that, Makcik Kiah also needs to care for her parents whereby her mother requires dialysis on a monthly basis and her father, who is a heart patient, requires extra care for his heart problems. As the bills continue to increase and with no pay leave, Makcik Kiah has to resort to selling ‘pisang goreng’ to pay her bills. She also does a part-time job as a personal shopper for the people in her neighbourhood. Knowing that she has to pay for a lot of things, the owner of the Petronas petrol station in her neighbourhood was willing to give her credit to pay for her daily fuel. The owner has gone beyond the norms of his business because he knows that what he is doing is the right thing to do. He believes that by giving the customer credit, is adds values to his business and builds a good image to his company. Caring for customers is a human factor.

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Humans have desires and needs. An example of this would be the desire and need to become a part of society. In view of this, Human Economy is about the sharing of economy or the collaboration of economy. Capitalism is no longer in control in the human economic theory. Organisations do business not merely for the purpose of increasing their wealth in terms of profit but more towards contributing to the society at large. The drives of doing business in the Human Economy has shifted towards doing things ethically right and with added value in consideration of human and society. Businesses are no longer bound by rules but the move towards sharing of responsibility. Good values such as truth, trust, moral authority and passion are among the foundations of Human Economy. Organisations such as Air BnB, pitchIn, Mystatr, Uber and MyCar are among those that promote these values. The existence of these organisations is due to the need to resolve the problems of human in dealing with their daily life activities. By humanising the economy, problems such as corruption, bribery, inequality and cronyism can be reduced. No longer will people be getting business

Dr Rashidah Kamarulzaman

opportunities based on whom they know, instead, the opportunity is based on what they know. This is the time to get rid of cronyism among multimillion organisations. By humanising the economy, it will promote innovation and creativity among the businesses to stay ahead of their competitors, usage of optimisation, sharing of technology and sustaining nature.

WHAT REALLY MATTERS Critical times such as the current COVID-19 pandemic have and aare still affecting all businesses in Malaysia. The answer towards this critical situation is Human Economy. Human Economy is about the people and for the people. It will benefit everyone regardless of the race and religion. This is the answer to the economic problems that have been created by the COVID- 19 pandemic. Malaysia should set an example to the world that not only has it dealt successfully with the health crisis by taking specific and necessary measures, but that it has also dealt with the economic crisis following the said pandemic.

Dr Rashidah Kamarulzaman is currently attached to the University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS) as the Head of Programme, Bachelor of Technology Management, School of Business and Management. Prior to UCTS, she has worked in various industries for 17 years, both locally and abroad.


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i v re •

Photo by Alif Caesar Rizqi Pratama on Unsplash

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Michelle Obama Says One Decision Separates People Who Achieve Success from The Rest BY JEFF HADEN

According to Michelle Obama, that decision is simple — yet it makes all the difference. Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming was released last November and sold over 700,000 copies in one day. If that’s not impressive enough, almost 10 million copies have been sold to date. And if that’s not impressive enough, Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe said, “We believe this could become the most successful memoir ever.” (Bertelsmann owns Penguin Random House, Michelle’s publisher.) None of which is surprising. She’s extremely smart, extremely accomplished, and extremely successful.


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This is what Michelle Obama believes sets successful people apart: I’ve been lucky enough now in my life to meet all sorts of extraordinary and accomplished people — world leaders, inventors, musicians, astronauts, athletes, professors, entrepreneurs, artists and writers, pioneering doctors and researchers. Some (though not enough) of them are women. Some (though not enough) are black or of colour. Some were born poor or have lives that to many of us would appear to have been unfairly heaped with adversity, and yet still they seem to operate as if they’ve had every advantage in the world.



What I’ve learned is this: All of them have had doubters. Some continue to have a roaring, stadium-sized collection of critics and naysayers who will shout “I told you so” at every little misstep or mistake.

The noise doesn’t go away, but the most successful people I know have figured out how to live with it, to lean on the people who believe in them, and to push onward with their goals.

Read stories about successful people and it’s easy to think they possess some intangible something — talent, ideas, inspiration, connections, etc. — that you don’t have. But that is rarely the case. While it’s easy to look back on a path to success and assume that every vision was clear, every plan was perfect, every step was executed flawlessly, and tremendous success was a foregone conclusion, it wasn’t. Each successful person had their doubters. Each had their naysayers. Each had their critics.

Success is never assured. Only when you look back does it appear that way. If you’re willing to work hard, persevere, and take a

chance on yourself, who you are is more than enough. Even if you’re on the extreme downside of advantage. Even if you feel you have nothing going for you. You no longer have to wait: to be accepted, to be promoted, to be selected, to somehow be “chosen.” Now, as Seth Godin says, you can choose yourself. You can do almost anything you want. And you don’t need to wait for someone else to discover your talents. The only thing holding you back is you. And your willingness to try. You may not become the next Michelle Obama. And that’s OK. That’s more than OK. Because you can be the first you.

Jeff Haden Jeff Haden is a speaker, ghostwriter, and author of The Motivation Myth: How Highly Successful People Really Set Themselves Up to Win.

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NEW NORMAL Are we ready?

To prevent and control the spread of Covid 19 at the workplace, Steps to Avoid 3C and Practice 3W are essential to break the Covid 19 chain.

Remember! The fight against Covid 19 is not over yet. AVOID 3C

• Avoid Crowded Places • Avoid Confined Spaces • Avoid Close Conversation


• Wash Hands Regularly • Wear a Face Mask • Warn others on - Practice Social Distancing - No Handshake Policy - Clean and Disinfect workplace - Stay Home if you feel unwell - See a doctor if you show symptoms




Health & Fitness






Photo by Ir-One M on Unsplash

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