Leader's Digest #40 (June 2020)

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LEADERS ISSUE 40

JUNE 2020

DIGEST

Choices

Every choice you make has an end result - Zig Ziglar -

Photo by Agence Olloweb on Unsplash


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

CONTENTS

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

ISSUE 40 I JUNE 2020

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NO MATTER THE STRUGGLE, WE ALWAYS HAVE THE POWER OF CHOICE

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THE LEADERSHIP FOR DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

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DELIBERATE PRACTICE: WHAT REALLY SEPARATES WORLD-CLASS PERFORMERS FROM EVERYBODY ELSE

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DO YOU SEEK RISKS?

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FREDERICK TAYLOR: PUTTING THE SCIENCE IN MANAGEMENT

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6 LESSONS FROM LOCKDOWN

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4 WAYS ORGANISATIONS CAN INCREASE GENDER INCLUSION

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

WHO MOVED MY CHOICE?

Are you creating, giving or receiving choices? Is it simply irresistible? The position you take, defines the next stage in ‘choice leadership’. “Chicken, beef or vegetarian?!” offers the air host/ess. The choices were created by the airline. The passenger, the receiver: ‘to conform or not, that is the question’. Habits guide, almost force, a choice selection. Simplicity (conformity) makes the choice easy, previous choice experience gives us a sense of security; only after we may go to deeper levels. Yet when any plan towards deeper analysis is interrupted by the cost-factor ‘gatekeeper’, even the most valuable option is severely handicapped. Cost-driven decision-making, when first in line, reflects leadership. Linking this issue’s thematic: CHOICES to the previous guiding thematic of the Leadership Digest: ‘The Future of Work’ and ‘V.U.C.A.’, behavioural realignment is the point of focus. ‘The choice is yours’ is a powerful, subliminal way of creating anxiety, adding a subtle flavor of paradox and testing assertiveness and determination. The mental process puts our perception filters into action. The sequence of each filter plays a role in choice analysis, which is dependent upon the level of understanding, then comprehension of what each choice means. Questioning a choice reflects it all. And when intentional or non-intentional bias is engaged, whereby the selection of a choice for a greater good is undermined and compromised. Each of us has a different choice analysis threshold. In other words, the point where the number of choices lead to a certain decision-making speed or a state of being ‘frozen’. The seven, plus-minus two (7 +/-2) formula comes into play. We used to be able to deal with seven different elements at the same time. Phone numbers used to have 7 digits and we could memorize them. At that time, we had no smart phones!. Now, most brains are downgraded and can only handle a maximum of 5 different elements (many times only 3). This reduced mental analytical ability has become like a veto function: the simpler, the easier, the less stressful for most brains. The choice is made not by will, but by brain.

There is an automatic mental state that chooses which choice management system to engage. What doesn’t sound scary puts in the first gear. What is known puts in the second. What is understood, the third. Once a leader falls into this ‘auto-mode’ - this MINDSET - the mindflex option is bullied away. And no matter how logical others present the value of an alternative pilihan, the decisionmaker is stuck by his/her own MINDSET subjugation, the internal ‘dictator’. Novelty-rejection becomes the true ‘bouncer’ for wanting to enter the ‘Global Excellence Club’. Such a natural disposition against VUCA-type choices can be further be enhanced by the early ‘cost’ question. Yes, when early in the choice analysis path one asks: “And, how much does it cost?”, then, no matter how valuable and important the choice is (the future always tells), the choice creator and presenter can be seen rolling the eyes, looking down and maybe having the mental monologue: “It’s over”. By reducing it all to ‘the cost’ (not even calling it an investment), the decision-maker has the illusion of success, yet missed the reality of it. Cost-temptation, situational manipulation, the need to feel in control by only taking what is simple, shape the MINDSET. If it is not realigned, it become the blueprint for choice creation and management by those around the leader, even embedded in the organisational DNA. Not only do we need to understand the choices, but most importantly we need to first understand ourselves and the duties and responsibilities of a being a choice ‘ creator’, ‘receiver’ and ‘giver’. And if we always have to present the choice of a mango by giving it a look and taste of a durian, so that it gets, at least, taken into account, then, if we succeed, we have won the match, but the game remains the same: energy-depleting, time- consuming and, typically, costlier. How are you choosing next?

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No Matter the Struggle, We Always Have the Power of Choice BY ROSHAN THIRAN

Topping Bill Gates’ summer reading list, ‘The Choice‘ by Dr Edith Eva Eger is a timely and thought-provoking reminder that, no matter the challenges we face in life, we can always choose how we respond. The extreme challenges faced by Dr Eger are beyond anything the majority of people today could imagine. At the age of 16, Edith – a talented dancer with ambition and drive – got sent to the most notorious Nazi concentration camp along with her parents and one of her sisters. The year was 1944. The Second World War would end one year later, but the nightmare had just started for Edith and her family. Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the ‘passengers’ of the cramped train carriages stumbled onto the camp, exhausted and aching after the treacherous journey. At the entrance to Auschwitz, an iron sign above the gates reads, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – work sets you free. As Edith’s father hears music playing, he tells his daughter that this can’t be such a bad place, and that all they need do is ‘work for a while’ until the end of the war.

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The day of their arrival will be the last time Edith and her sister see their parents. As they inch toward one of the selection lines, the ‘Angel of Death’ Josef Mengele points Edith’s mother left (to the gas chambers) while she and her sister were sent right to the barracks to endure slave labour. In total, 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz. Over one million of those people were murdered.


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On the day of their capture, Edith’s mother told her that:

“We don’t know where we’re going, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but no one can take away from you what you put in your own mind.” Throughout her time at the hellish concentration camp, and during the barbaric death marches afterwards, Edith lived by her mother’s advice as a means of survival. No matter what she faced, no matter how tough the struggle, she would always choose her response, striving to move forward, and never turn away from the reality that needed to be faced. After the war, Edith and her husband moved to America where she would become a respected clinical psychologist intent on empowering people to recognise their capacity for choice. Her mentor, Viktor E. Frankl – the author of Man’s Search for Meaning – also lived through the horrifying reality at Auschwitz. He later observed that:

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” In The Choice, Dr Eger reminds us that we all face tough challenges in life and that nobody’s personal suffering is greater or less than another’s. Our mistake is to contrast and compare, divide and judge. And yet, that’s exactly the mindset that leads us all to lose out. As she says, to survive and thrive takes collaboration, not competition. Her book is a powerful story that shows, no matter the struggles we face, there are always choices in how we respond and, in choosing our response, we open ourselves up to unlikely possibilities and new opportunities, even from the most dire circumstances. Here are four key takeaways from Dr Eger’s compelling and empowering book: 1. “Our painful experiences aren’t a liability—they’re a gift. They give us perspective and meaning, an opportunity to find our unique purpose and our strength.” When we face painful experiences, we can choose to be overwhelmed and give up. On the other hand, we can dig deep and find the inner strength we have to persevere and overcome the challenge. We might not always succeed, but we can always learn, grow, and find a new way forward. That’s what resilience is all about.

2. “To be passive is to let others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself. And to trust that there is enough, that you are enough.” We all have doubts about our worth and capacity to succeed. Sometimes, our fears and anxiety can lead us to be aggressive towards ourselves and toward others. People who write angry or judgemental comments toward others on social media, for example, are not in a good place. Similarly, being passive reflects a mindset that has resigned itself to whatever might happen. By being assertive, we respectfully embrace our values and stand up for our beliefs and purpose without the need to put others down to make ourselves feel better. We lift ourselves up and, at the same time, offer a hand to anyone who needs it. 3. “It’s the first time I see that we have a choice: to pay attention to what we’ve lost or to pay attention to what we still have.” No matter how much we try, we can’t wish for a better past. When we dwell on how we suffered before or how things used to be, we take our energy from the present – the only time we have, to make a difference. As Dr Eger mentions in her book, one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to change the question, “Why me?” to “What now?” 4. ‘”…by the time I would finish school I’ll be fifty.” She smiled. “You’re going to be fifty anyhow”’ Prior to her doctoral research, Dr Eger was conscious of the fact that the war had put her life on hold for several years. She found herself middle-aged and contemplating further study that would require another few years of investment. And yet, God willing, we’re all going to have our years to live anyway. So why not invest them on doing something worthwhile, something of value that can make a difference to others? The opportunity to learn, grow, develop and give to others transcends any of our perceived limitations. If we have the drive, the will and the determination to do what matters to us, we always have the choice to step up to the plate and get it done. 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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Deliberate Practice: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else BY TM NAGARAJAN

What makes Jack Welch, Tiger Woods, Steven Spielberg, Garry Kasparov or Hilary Hahn stand out from the rest? Natural talent? Hard work? Years of experience? None of the above. Excellent performance is in our hands far more than most of us ever expected. In the past 30 years, scientists have looked into top-level performance in a wide variety of fields. The findings: • Natural talent doesn’t explain top-level performance – if talent even exists. • In fields such as chess, music, business, and medicine, high IQ doesn’t necessarily correlate with top-level performance. 6

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DELIBERATE PRACTICE IS THE KEY This is based on research by Anders Ericsson who came up with the 10,000 hours to mastery rule. But it turns out that the 10,000-hour rule isn’t a rule at all, and simply doing something for hours and hours is no guarantee that you’ll improve. Anders says that doctors who have practised for 20 years are no better than doctors who’ve been practising for five years if they feel they’ve reached a level of acceptable performance. That is why deliberate practice is necessary to push yourself out of your comfort zone and force yourself to come up with what he calls mental representations.


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He says what sets expert performers apart from everyone else is the quality and the quantity of their mental representations through years of practice that they develop highly complex and sophisticated representations of the various situation. For example, Grandmaster chess players can play an entire game of chess blindfolded. Alexander Alekhine, the world-champion from 1927 to 1935 could play 32 games of chess simultaneously while blindfolded. To do so, he visualises the chess boards in his memory and move pieces around in his mind trying out various lines of play.

SO WHAT IS DELIBERATE PRACTICE? The following definition might help us further comprehend the concept: Deliberate – ‘done consciously and intentionally’ Practice – ‘repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it’

AND WHY IS DELIBERATE PRACTICE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT? • The chief constraint is mental • The required concentration is so intense that it’s exhausting Yet why do some put themselves through it day after day, decade after decade? The passion of these individuals is related to their intrinsic motivation – whereby they simply enjoy it as an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualise their potential.

Alex Honnold, free soloing on El Capitan. Image source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au

Similarly, rock climbers are also able to visualise and experience each movement that they’re about to make before they attempt to climb up a rock face. An example is Alexander Honnold who free soloed (without ropes) by climbing the El Capitan which is about 3,000 feet from base to summit. Golfers are also able to condense an entire string of complex movements that make up the golf swing and replicate that swing with a single thought or feeling. Orchestra composers too. They know what each instrument sounds like, and when composing, they can combine the various instruments in their head to predict if the result is any good. They don’t actually have to get people to play it out. Hence why Beethoven was able to compose even when he was deaf. Experts on a subject no longer need to physically do something to see if it works – they are able to play out entire scenarios in their mind. Using their knowledge of separate pieces of information, they piece it together and play it out.

Talent is an innate ability to do something better than others. But without practice, talent alone won’t carry you far. Practice is what counts – deliberate practice, the following are some examples: • Mozart’s talent is a myth. He didn’t get great until after he had 10,000 hours of intentional practice. • Tiger Woods talented? Tiger’s father gave him a putter when he was seven months old. Before he was two he and his father were on a course practising regularly. Both father and son attribute Tiger’s success not to talent but to ‘intentional hard work’. • London Taxi Drivers – who must learn ‘the knowledge’ (all the routes/roads of London) have areas of their brains that are far more developed than an average person. We all have the gift of adaptability. The difference between an average performer and an elite performer is deliberate practice. This should be brilliant news for everybody. Why? Because it means you and I can get better at anything we want. The brain and physique don’t discriminate. When you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you will adapt and create a new normal. Issue 40 I June 2020 7


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So now that we understand what deliberate practice is, the question is where do we start?

a coach is that your goal becomes their goals too, and they expect you to ‘do what you say’.

The following is an integrated approach which I found worked extremely well for me based on research and Anders Ericsson’s methods:

4. ASK FOR FEEDBACK

1. SET WELL-DEFINED, SPECIFIC GOALS

You need to establish an overall goal for your practice, a purpose if you will. The purpose will provide you with a reason and motivation to train. With an overall goal in mind, further break that down into well-defined, specific goals. For example, an overall goal may be to climb Mount Everest. Before embarking on this monumental feat, you may instead want to break it down into smaller achievable (specific) goals, focusing on climbing the smaller peaks first (such as Mount Kinabalu in 6 months), and then work progressively by building yourself physically and technically towards a 5000m mountain, 6000m mountain…and so on in 3 years to summit the highest peak in the world.

You must know what you’re doing wrong and how you can improve. In other words, you need feedback, and the more immediate, the better. A coach will work with you to reframe your attitude and to expand your thinking. Coaches will be able to put you in a position by helping you to clarify your challenges, guide you in how to overcome the challenge or negative self-talk and move forward.

5. STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Deliberate practice requires getting out of one’s comfort zone. According to Ericsson, this is the most important aspect of purposeful practice. If you don’t push yourself, you won’t trigger adaptation, and you won’t get better.

IN SUMMARY There are no short cuts. To reach an expert level of performance, you have to put in the hours of practice. Anyone willing to go through enough deliberate practice can become great at what they’re doing. Perhaps you might think that you’re just naturally untalented; bad at maths; terrible at languages. The truth is none of that is true.

2. GIVE 100 PER CENT UNDIVIDED ATTENTION

You need to give 100 per cent to whatever it is you’re practising. No distractions or interruptions allowed. Full focus. High concentration. Staying on the task can be difficult, but it can be particularly challenging when you are surrounded by constant distraction. In today’s always-connected world, diversions are nothing more than a click away. To eliminate distractions, one way to deal with this is to set aside a specific time and place daily to focus on training/ practice. It helps to have a training partner who has a similar purpose and goal.

3. GET A COACH/TEACHER

A coach/teacher can provide practice activities designed to help you improve your performance. Based on research, most successful sportsperson, musician, business professionals have an army of coaches to help accelerate their success. The advantage of having 8

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Want to get better at something? Here’s a plan. Emulate best performers/players. Find out how they train and what makes them so good. Look out for a coach who can help you by implementing training techniques and programs that can propel you to perform as good as or even better than the experts. Then practice with the deliberate practice guidelines:

Set clear goals. Focus hard. Learn from feedback. And most importantly, push yourself past your comfort zone. Getting better at something isn’t rocket science. If you’re prepared to put in the time and effort, you can do it. TM Nagarajan

TM Nagarajan is the managing partner of The Renaissance Group, a company that focuses on Strategy & Leadership transformation. Rajan is passionate about inspiring and creating impact in the transformation of people/organisations. He gets his adrenaline rush from adventure sports (rock-climbing, paragliding, paddleboarding, triathlons) and on a quest to climb the highest mountain on each continent.


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Frederick Taylor:

PUTTING THE SCIENCE IN MANAGEMENT

BY DR ARUL ARULESWARAN

Frederick Winslow Taylor, an American born on March 20th, 1856, is recognised today as one of the pioneers of management consulting. He was a mechanical engineer that specialised in industrial efficiencies. His work involved applying engineering principles to work done on factory shop floors to achieve efficiencies and increase productivity. This effectively led to the development of the study on industrial engineering and also management science. His findings were immortalised in the publication of Principles of Scientific Management in 1911. Taylor’s contribution to the science of management was actually the separation of tasks between planners and executors. The planners were the managers who had the task of thinking. This included designing, planning and specifying the procedures to execute. Meanwhile, the workers were those that executed the tasks as per procedures developed by the managers.

In the implementation of this idea, a management system was developed where the individuals who were mentally alert and intelligent were made to become management and responsible for adopting standards, procedures, and delivery of work by an agreed time. Workers then were people who were physically fit, were given standardised tasks, best practices, and taught to work in cooperation to ensure the faster delivery of work. Peter Drucker in 1974 said:

Frederick W. Taylor was the first man in recorded history who deemed work deserving of systematic observation and study. On Taylor’s ‘scientific management’ rests, above all, the tremendous surge of affluence in the last seventy-five years which has lifted the working masses in the developed countries well above any recorded level.

The birth of the standard operating procedure

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Taylor’s scientific management consisted of four principles: 1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks. 2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves. 3. Provide ‘Detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker’s discrete task’ (Montgomery 1997: 250). 4. Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks. Taylor’s approach was strongly based on the science of observation and analysing the work done using a stopwatch, a technique known today as the time and motion study. He was famously known to break down tasks to its component element and promoting reward based productivity to employees that followed his recommendation. This of course only succeeded after overcoming various challenges that was brought by labour unions back in the 1910s. Even in the 1980s industries were struggling to learn and adopt his theories and management techniques.

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Taylor approach followed a methodology that can be visualised as a process flow shown below: Scientific Management

1. Examine work/task variables

2. Develop effective method

3. Identify and train workers

Performance outputs

Productivity gains

Profits and wage gains Management efficiency

Catalysts of change World Wars I and II were times of great disruption. The demand for change increased tremendously and many countries like the US and UK had to adopt the scientific management principles to meet the demands of productivity outputs. Large numbers of unskilled workers had to be trained to perform skilled tasks in a short period of time and meet productivity demands. Systematic training methods were developed to train large numbers of workers. Ford Motor famously implemented these techniques to first develop the Just-In-Time manufacturing system.


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specified and communicated. Supply chains were planned, managed, and coordinated based on production outputs, delivery lead times and customer demands.

Just as shown in the diagram above, the objective was to identify work and task variables and break them down into their components. These component tasks were then standardised and an effective method of execution was developed (in today’s terminology, one would call it as the Standard Operating Procedure or SOP). Finally, workers were trained on how to execute the standardised task as per the SOP. The urgency for change accelerated the need for effective and efficient output. Output not just from a production shop floor but from the supply chain, logistics, transportation, planning, scheduling, effective time management as well as effective cost management. Production and logistics planning construction planning evolved from Gantt charts that were used during the war times. Bookkeeping evolved to include analysis of cash flow, balance sheets and P&L statements. Production outputs were measured and quantified, and thereafter defined, diagnosed,

The need for flexibility led to the formation of functions and departments, teamwork, quality circles and communication. It created the need to effectively manage human resources. At the end of World War II, almost all organisations learned that management had to be evolved into a specialised task that needed to bring resources together in a coordinated way to achieve specific goals and tasks. Post World War II, Japan and subsequently South Korea adopted these scientific practices. Observations by Taylor and Ford were applied by Taiichi Ohno and Shingo Shengo at Toyota. Thereafter, the Japanese developed and rebranded it as the ‘Toyota Way’ in the 1930s. The problems that were encountered on the shop floor led to the development of ‘Kaizen’ or continuous improvement initiatives and the knowledge and concepts were brought together and formalised as the Toyota Production System. Further enhancements lead to the development of Lean Manufacturing and its evolution into Lean Management that many organisations, manufacturing or non-manufacturing have adopted today. The development of this management methodology was documented in the book The Machine That Changed The World. Ultimately, the methodology focused on knowing the customer, and what the customer valued.

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What is Management? Peter Drucker defines task management as ‘making people capable of joint performance, making their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant’. Essentially, management is about human beings. The critical success of an organisation strongly relies on its workforce executing and delivering output on behalf of management for its customers. The workforce today depends on management for their livelihood and their ability to contribute to the customer and society. Conceptually, what managers in various countries and organisations do is essentially the same, which is to integrate people and resources for a common venture. How it is done may differ depending on the culture of the organisation and its leadership. To integrate the people under a common venture, the organisation has to articulate and communicate a simple and clear message of its vision, mission, objectives and values. Organisations, firstly, need to evolve from a hierarchical based structure to a flexible, knowledge and information based structure where learning and development are built-in throughout the network of the organisation. Everyone in the organisation needs to have a thorough knowledge on the theory of business the organisation has adapted, its customers, its value proposition, tasks, processes and the deliverables – which establishes the key drivers of effective management.

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Secondly, organisations, need to focus on performance. Organisations need to have plans that allow them to achieve those results and know how to measure success or failure. This has to be built on the clarity of communication and the responsibility of management as well as the employees.

The value stream which connects customers to the value proposition, tasks, processes and the deliverables need to be adequately measured to reflect performance. Performance needs to be based on activities that can deliver value, continuously improved, scaled and innovated. Therefore, performance needs to be built into the organisation and the management. Lastly, organisations need to reflect on the satisfaction of their customers. This is an external measure, as the customer sits outside the organisation and can at any time switch to another organisation that better satisfies their needs. A satisfied customer of a logistics service provider is a customer that receives the deliveries on time at the right location.


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A satisfied customer of an airline is a passenger that can fly to a destination safely without any loss of time or luggage. To achieve this successfully, managers need to lead to become effective and deliver performance. These managers are also leaders of an organisation and they rely on a good management system to support them. This system can be visualised in the diagram below:

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 second in a series of writeups that explore the ideas of Drucker and how they can be applied to contemporary business models. Read the first in the series here.

Environmental trends

Theory of the Business

Effective Executive

INTERNAL EXTERNAL

Effective Executive

Practices

Tasks

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Organisational results Serving common good

Spirit of Performance

Dr Arul Aruleswaran Social impact

Environmental trends

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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Ways Organisations Can Increase Gender Inclusion The evidence shows that a masculine contest culture reduces safety, trust, learning and innovation. There are diminishing returns if everyone is not treated with care and respect. Talk about gender-balanced, inclusive cultures is now more prevalent. But talk is cheap. To increase gender-inclusion we need to change the masculinity of work cultures, and to do that we need to disrupt biases and change the way we lead.

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BY DR KAREN MORLEY


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Organisational culture is an important lever and HR Directors know that it is hard work to change it. Changing attitudes, especially subconscious ones, is even harder work. The work is made easier when organisations are clear about the cultural elements that will drive future success; the supporting behaviours and attitudes can then be defined and communicated. That includes identifying: • What we want to change, and what we aspire to. • The benefit of change; there are plenty of people who don’t see the value of diversity, so we need to keep articulating its value to organisational success. • The need for engagement, responsiveness and persistence over a three to five year period.

2. Consciously assess and act in favour of a gender-neutral culture HASSELL’s strategy was based on an analysis of where gender-balance was lacking. Their focus on a strong cultural context made the purpose of their strategy clear. What stands out is how diversity was woven through the levels of their brand and culture; threads of learning, insight, creativity, collaboration and inclusion lock diversity of thinking in as fundamental to their work. They identified areas that weren’t gender-balanced and created actions to change that. Their 80% benchmarked engagement score shows how much people appreciate clarity about what the culture is.

While there are more ways to do this, here are four priority areas HR Directors can oversee to help to organisations disrupt biases, increase gender inclusion and create a better culture for everyone:

1. Ensure clear, committed leadership messages What do leaders do and say? That’s what culture is. And that’s how people judge leaders’ commitment to achieving a gender-balanced culture. If a leader’s actions don’t match their words, people will be confused.

Clear leadership messages orient people around purpose; when diversity makes sense and they know why, people will sign on.

At international design practise HASSELL, gender breakdowns for each of their professional groups were mapped, at each level of seniority. By focusing on their pipeline and fixing its skew, they have reduced the anticipated time to reach gender balance from a century to a decade. They crunched their numbers, clarified their aspiration, and let everyone know about it. Clear leadership messages orient people around purpose; when diversity makes sense and they know why, people will sign on.

Help your leaders create clear messages, help them construct clear narratives, and provide feedback on how they can improve.

Help your leaders to understand just how much difference their behaviour can make to the culture. If they aren’t clear about what they need to do, help them become clear.

3. Support leaders to be more inclusive and do leadership well It’s in everyday behaviour that culture comes to life. This makes coaching a go-to tactic. If leaders coach, they show how to be constructive and inclusive, and help others to be the same. The evidence shows that a masculine contest culture reduces safety, trust, learning and innovation. There are diminishing returns if everyone is not treated with care and respect. Issue 40 I June 2020 15


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You can support leaders to be more inclusive by: • Helping them understand the value of diversity. • Showing them how to prioritise psychological safety. • Reorienting them away from competition and dominance. • Showing them the value of flexible styles of leading. • Developing mindsets and skills on how to lead inclusively. • Making it clear and easy to assess talent fairly. • Giving them the skills to have conversations they find uncomfortable.

Two years down the track at HASSELL, their genderbalance strategy was enabled by their culture and is now in turn an enabler of their refreshed brand. The consistency is mutually reinforcing. As what leaders say and do is core to culture, make sure they are held to account. There’s no point saying ‘This is what our culture is’, then letting transgressions go. Take a growth mindset and use bumps in the road as an opportunity to learn. You can shape organisational leaders in the challenging task of culture change by pursuing one small adaptive action each day. If you have leaders who are keen or open but don’t quite know what to do or how to do it, make them a priority. Give them one tool that they can practise each day, get feedback, practise some more, then try the next.

• Recognising their successes.

4. Provide leaders with the encouragement and tools they need. Consistency by leaders sustains change. Diversity and inclusion need to be said and done, to be kept on the agenda.

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Dr Karen Morley

Dr Karen Morley is an authority on the benefits of gender-balanced leadership and how to help women to succeed at work. She helps leaders understand the value of inclusive leadership to organisational as well as social outcomes. She is the author of Beat Gender Bias: How to play a better part in a more inclusive world; Lead like a Coach: How to Make the Most of Any Team; and Gender-Balanced Leadership: An Executive Guide.


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The Leadership for Digital Transformation BY DR A. ARULESWARAN

In my recent articles, The Millennium Disruption That Never Happened? and The Need for Business Model Innovation, they discussed the need to solve real problems and create innovative business models to be successful in digital transformation. The essence of this is a paradigm shift that has been advocated over more than 50 years ago. An ardent practitioner of problem-solving methods such as Lean Six Sigma, one could confidently state that the lessons learnt in the process of solving a problem isn’t to think of a solution on the get-go but to give room to the discovery of a solution by vigorously following the problem-solving methodology such as DMAIC (DefineMeasure-Analyse-Improve-Control).

and the challenge that he had was the source of fuel as Japan restricted the use of gasoline during the war. He went on to tackle the problem with no ready solution at hand but in the process, discovered that pine resins could be converted into suitable gasoline substitutes and with that, lightweight engines were successfully developed. Of course today, that technology has been redeveloped with gasoline engines once the embargo was lifted. The problem was eventually solved by ignoring known methods and solutions but through the discovery of a new one.

In the book Consulting Drucker by William A. Cohen, the author shares his experiences with the famous management consultant on solving problems. Surprising everyone, the approach to solving a problem is to ignore the knowledge that you already have and to approach it as if you are a new person brought into the scene. Almost like Sherlock Holmes, one is to deduce the problem based on facts, data and information gathered in the process of solving the problems. The right answer will emerge at the end. Some good examples were shared along to substantiate the considered approach and practice. First was the development of the Honda motorcycles during the Second World War. Honda was tasked to develop a lightweight engine to propel bicycles during that period

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Another example was the need for the US Navy to build World War II Freighters that can sail across the Atlantic and to deliver supplies to the regiments and battalions that were stationed in the UK and Europe at that time.

So who is suitable?

The expert shipbuilders at that time were the British, who had an enormous wealth of shipbuilding expertise with resources, materials, and equipment, and they could build a ship within a timeframe of six to eight months.

A recent article from Harvard Business Review (HBR) discussed the best type of person that should lead an organisations’ digital transformation. The article described two distinct scenarios and the possible outcomes that it led to.

The US, however, had none at that time and Henry Kaiser who was tasked to build these freighter ships approached the problem by putting aside any known knowledge of shipbuilding but instead focused on the task of solving the problem of building a ship in a short time. Henry Kaiser came up with the idea of building the ships with pre-fabricated parts and components that can be easily fitted and welded together. That led to the development of the Liberty ships that could successfully be built in a short timeframe of four to eight weeks. Again the point here is not about the speed but the approach of solving the problem. It is not in everyone’s nature to put aside what they know and develop a solution. In today’s digital era, this approach is essential. In most tech companies, many code developers or programmers may have very little knowledge of the problem that they are solving, let alone experience it, yet they can develop solutions based on facts, information and data as well as ignoring what is already known out there as a solution. To do this repeatedly, again and again, every member of the team possesses unique leadership skills and talents that allow them to solve inherent customer problems and produce solutions that are known as disruptors. 18

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In the first scenario (more typical), many CEOs decided that the best type of person they would choose would be a young expert in digital and information technology, in this case, a digital guru. The second scenario (least likely chosen), was a successful and proven leader but with limited knowledge of digital and information technology. The first scenario depicts how the digital transformation leader went about communicating the strategy and addressed the resistance to change in the organisation by establishing a new team of talents. This team, which was managed independently and separately from the business itself, went on to develop an entirely new business and solutions. Communication was poor and done selectively. At the initial stage, every digital change effort implemented showed some signs of success but it was within the new business environment. However, it also created an enormous tension with the existing stakeholders and almost started to compete internally.


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Customers eventually got frustrated with the service performance. Resistance to change grew tremendously and the older executives in the organisation refused to cooperate and the digital transformation collapsed. The digital guru, from a hero, became a zero quite quickly. To address the impact of the first scenario, the executives of the organisation elected a successful leader within the organisation who understood the business well but had little knowledge of digital transformation and technology. This candidate understood the customer problems and also the concerns that the internal stakeholders had. Through a vigorous effort of understanding customer needs and its gaps, digital solutions were then identified and implemented. The organisation was able to turn itself around from the challenges it had previously, and became successful in its digital transformation effort. The success here is not just attributed to the digital technology that solved the customer problems but the leadership and the change management effort that went in together with the transformation. Good leadership is necessary to break down internal silos, understand customer requirements and use data to make decisions and thereafter, reorganise the business to move forward successfully with the transformation. The above scenarios based on the HBR article is in line with the ideas discussed by Peter Drucker in the past, which is to approach every problem with an open mind and to put aside one’s knowledge. The adage that an expert know-it-all may not necessarily be the right solution to the problem that the business is trying to solve. To do so, good leadership is key.

Customer focus is key

Many businesses come with an understanding that digital transformation requires a radical disruption of its value proposition. This is a myth. The reality is to identify and employ the right technology that will efficiently solve customer problems. This can be achieved through competent resources and good processes in place, with scalability and cost-efficiency in mind. The article further explains how digital transformation has worked for Maersk, a global shipping container company. This supply chain business, which also suffered from a lack of transparency, propelled them to work with IBM to develop a solution that can provide accurate and timely information to its customers. The focus was on the ability to provide reliable information and improve operational workflows and communication, therefore reducing service costs and improved service levels for the customers.

Maersk did not transform itself into a technology or IT company like IBM or Google, but created a compelling value proposition for its customers. That focus on creating value for its customers stems from the leadership of the organisation and not technology experts.

Leadership lessons

Several leadership lessons can be learnt from successful digital transformation. A starting point would be to ask the five most important questions highlighted in my recent article. The leadership of the organisation should focus and built its strategy around their customers and address the problems that they have. Other key leadership lessons include: • Developing a sound business strategy that can be easily articulated and clearly communicated. • Leveraging on the internal best practices and strengths and not on past successes, external or competitors’ successes. • Enhancing customer experience by engaging with the customers, taking into account their feedback from surveys, complaints, and businesses that was lost to another service provider. • Recognising that the process of change is painful and that digital transformation begins with an employee’s fear of being replaced. • Creating an environment of change through proven practices and methodologies such as continuous improvements and problem-solving. Organisations that have successful digital transformation have leaders that are focused on the fundamentals of the organisation and the strategy that would impact their customers positively. The focus would be on changing the mindset of the people, clearly communicating the need for change, leveraging change through process improvements, cultural changes and value propositions that enhance the change in a business model.

Successful leaders don’t embark on a digital transformation for the sake of transformation. They envision, execute and experience transformation with their customers and use that to drive the technology. 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. Issue 40 I June 2020 19


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Do You Seek Risks? BY ROSHAN THIRAN

dar·ing (dâr ng) – adj. – Willing to take or seek out risks; bold and venturesome. Audacious bravery; boldness. I recently was browsing a dictionary and I just happened to chance across the word ‘daring’ and I saw the above. I have always believed ‘being daring’ and taking risks was a huge part of being a leader and so I was surprised to see that daring not only means willing to take risk but also ‘seeking’ out risks. In this current situation of COVID-19 and lock-downs, where everything is unpredictable and uncertain, many people are starting to play it safe – and play not to lose, rather than take the risk and play to win. I started recollecting key ‘success’ moments in my own life, and I soon realised that much of it was being recklessly brave and seeking out ‘danger’. In the process, success was achieved. A key moment in my life when I took a huge risk was more than 20 years ago, returning to Malaysia to run an aviation business. I knew nothing about the aviation industry, but I knew that the business needed daring leadership to take it forward. Despite it being a highly regulated industry, we managed to transform the business by proactively pushing the boundaries. Colin Powell once expressed his bold leadership as “‘You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.” Yet, in spite of a more level-playing field to be bold, daring and take risks, most young people do not take risks or even fight for what they believe in anymore. They prefer to remain in their comfort zone and preserve status quo, as long as their personal needs are met – regardless if they think differently. This passivity amongst leaders’ means there is less innovation and much more stress (as people suffer in silence).

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Leaders like Gandhi, Helen Keller, Jeff Bezos, Jack Welch and Nelson Mandela, stood out as they defied industry norms, social traditions and human beliefs and boldly fight for their ideas and causes. They stood up and the world became a better place for their brave, bold, risktaking initiatives. Our country does not need status quo leaders. We need brave leaders willing to do things better and differently to make this world a better place.

THE STATUS QUO LEADER

At the turn of the 20th century, with motorcars booming, the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine in cars began to have issues with the fuel that it ran on. The engine ‘juddering’ condition became known as ‘knock’ or ‘ping’ and no solution could be found until Thomas Midgley developed tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) which contained lead but solved the car problem. Even at that time, lead was known to cause harmful effects in human blood, bones, and brains leading to lead poisoning. Yet, TEL became part of common life and cars. For years, Midgley received numerous letters from distinguished scientists around the world, urging him to stop the ‘creeping and malicious poison’ of tetra-ethyl lead. Even in his own plant, people died and reporters started questioning General Motors (GM), the company Midgley worked for. Instead of creating a brave new world with TEL, Midgley instead held a press conference and sniffed the fluid and soaked his hands in it, proving that it was not dangerous. He loved the status quo and intended to keep it. During that time, Midgley took a prolonged vacation to cure himself of lead poisoning, writing in his journal that, “after about a year’s work in organic lead, I find that my lungs have been affected and that it is necessary to drop all work and get a large supply of fresh air.” He went to Florida for a break, yet upon his return, did not change the status quo.


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Seventeen years later, he would go on to win awards. Yet, millions of people would indirectly die because Midgley was ‘just doing his job’, so he and his bosses could retain status quo and turn in a tidy profit. Are you a leader like Midgley? Ignoring the need to change and defending the status quo to ensure maximisation of profit? Midgley did not rest with lead usage only. He later did the same thing by pushing CFCs and may have singlehandedly caused our ozone issue to be magnified many times over. But there are many leaders like Midgley who do not stand up to be counted.

John Wooden exclaimed, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” All through my life, I have made mistakes but these mistakes enabled me to come up with new ideas and breakthroughs. I read somewhere that “mistakes are not failures, they are simply the process of eliminating ways that won’t work in order to come closer to the ways that will.” We all fail. By convincing yourself that even if you fail, you will grow, your capacity to take risks and be daring will grow exponentially.

4. Be a critical thinker

TAKE RISKS, BE DARING

Do you stand up to people like Midgley or allow them to continue to destroy lives and the earth? Great leaders are bold and daring. They decide to stand up and be different. They take risks. They never let status quo stand in the way of achieving their higher calling. People tend to follow charismatic leaders. But charisma fades and it is usually the brave and daring leaders who inspire their followers to fight for the cause. These daring leaders have the courage to accept that leadership is not about them, but rather about fulfilling their calling and creating a shared purpose for all. They do not worry about their personal gains but work collectively for the achievement of this shared purpose. So, how does one become a daring leader?

DEVELOPING BOLDNESS

Learning to be daring takes time. Here are some steps you can take to learn to be daring:

1. Have a clear purpose

Be clear about your higher calling. What is the cause you are championing? Be clear about why you are leading and what you are leading. You cannot be daring if you are not clear what you are combating for. Keep this purpose seated deep within you and you will see how it makes you a much more daring person. I am usually a relatively timid person but when there is a higher calling, I have done things that would even surprise me.

2. Overcome your fear

3. Don’t be afraid to fail

James Neil Hollingworth once claimed that “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Most of us live lives of fear, trying to please everyone around us. Ask yourself if the fear you have is valid. Then ask yourself what is the worst that would happen if we were brave and did what we wish to do. You will be surprised that many times, our biggest fear is the worry of what others may think of us and not tangible “fearsome” issues.

Question everything. When I was younger, I hardly questioned what I said. Part of being brave is to know when to take action and when to remain silent. If you cannot ask the right questions and critically analyse situations, you are unlikely to be able to have an opinion and be daring enough to defend that opinion, or have the boldness to disagree with others.

5. Be a heretic. You don’t always need permission

Don’t always ask for permission. Sometimes it is better to do and then apologise if it does not materialise as planned. Saying sorry is another critical part of being a daring leader. You need to do it often. Today’s environment requires many heretics to help your business to move forward with new business models, new ways of work and new means to scale your organisation. Always admit to mistakes, apologise, be clear why you failed, fix issues that may have been created by the mistakes and go ahead and try again. Being a heretic means that you remain unreasonable in wanting to change the world.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Most babies do not walk on their first try. They all fall trying. My son was the same. Yet, he did not fear trying again and again till he succeeded. In fact, most of us learnt to walk as toddlers and there was no fear in us. We dared to walk. And we later dared to be brave enough to ride a bicycle. But why are we scared now? Why are we afraid to be the daring leader we were meant to be and ‘change the world’ in the process? COVID-19 may very well be the opportunity to disband the status quo and move to a new you. There is so much potential in each of us to make a significant difference in this world. All it takes is an ounce of bravery. Take risks. Don’t play not to lose – go on and play to win!

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. Issue 40 I June 2020 21


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Photo by Dev-Asangbam on Unsplash

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Lessons from Lockdown

What I’ve Learned About Myself and the World While

Social Distancing BY CRYSTAL CHA

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At the time of writing this, it has been eight weeks or 57 days since Finland (where I’m currently located) announced a state of emergency on March 16, 2020. In my home country of Malaysia, the Movement Control Order (MCO) began on March 18, 2020. Social distancing measures were put into place, and life as we knew it ground to a standstill. In the span of a lifetime, five weeks is a short time. But for many of us, some more than others, life over the past five weeks has been a roller coaster ride of uncertainty, anxiety, loss, grief, and fear. Under these circumstances, many would consider it wise to preserve resources and not make any sudden changes. Yet somehow I’ve found myself switching jobs, countries, and making other massive changes in the middle of all this uncertainty. It’s either: • I like to do life on hard mode, or • This global pandemic is really what many people are calling it — a wake-up call, a shift, a disruption that is forcing us to pause and reflect, and think about the kind of life we really want

Perhaps in my case, it’s a combination of both. The first few weeks were hard. My closest friends were worried about me. I struggled to fall asleep. My anxiety spiralled. Things gradually got better. It didn’t happen all at once. And some days, it felt like I was taking two steps back after a step forward. Slowly, but surely, I started sleeping better and feeling better. Even though it’s still unclear what the future holds in many ways, I’m a lot more confident that I have what it takes to face it. Although I resented the uncertainty and a gripping sense of a loss of control, I’ve come to feel grateful. These weeks have held so many valuable, life-transforming lessons for me. Prompted by a dear friend Jonathan Chu, I thought I’d take the time to write down some of these learnings and document a snapshot of this unprecedented times we are living in.

Photo by Jeff Hendricks on Unsplash

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1. THE MINDSET WE CHOOSE SHAPES OUR EXPERIENCE OF A SITUATION AND INFLUENCES THE OUTCOME

Becoming is better than being. — Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

The mindset I choose to put myself in changes everything. Challenges can equal stress, frustration, disappointment and anxiety — or they can represent opportunities to grow through the challenge. As a result of saving two hours of commuting time daily, having zero in-person social activities, and not being distracted by going out/to the movies/shopping: • My fitness has improved • My sleep patterns have been more regular • I am eating better and more consciously (because I want to stay healthy and not fall sick) • I’ve had deeper, more high-quality conversations in a month than I usually have in an entire year — and discovered that I am surrounded by people who care about me • I’ve realised I can save more money and spend less • I’m learning to let go of my need to be in control, not just by tolerating — but instead enjoy — the process of becoming better I’ve heard about the concept of the ‘growth mindset’ before, but during the lockdown, I started digging deeper and read this great book that was recommended, Carol S. Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success. As Dweck writes: “True self-confidence is the courage to be open — to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source.” (Even if that source is a devastating global pandemic.) “In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail — or if you’re not the best — it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they haven’t found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful.”

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I look back at the person I’ve become in this lockdown, how I am managing around the current uncertainties in my life, and laugh at the times in the past when I would flip over far more trivial things. I realise that I have gained a higher threshold for change, unpredictability, and discomfort. The bar has been raised. So since I’m spending less energy worrying about the things I can’t change, I have the strength to focus on solutions, alternatives, and positive ways to spend my time.

2. THAT SAID, BASIC NEEDS PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN REGULATING OUR MOODS • It’s amazing how the following can have a positive effect on our moods: • Getting enough sleep at night • Taking a warm shower • Fresh air and moving our bodies • Learning and trying something new • Reassurance that things will be okay, and • Being asked for help with something / being able to help someone with something At the end of last year, I attended a talk by a work acquaintance who had just returned from one of Tony Robbins’ events. He was so charged up with excitement about what he learned that he wanted to share it with everyone he learned — for free. At the talk, I learned about the Six Human Needs that Tony Robbins often talks about: 1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure 2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli 3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed 4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something 5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding 6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others Since then, I’ve started to see life through a different lens. I started understanding why I craved certain things more than others, and started to understand which needs I was seeking to meet in my pursuit of different things.


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On most days, my need for variety and growth/challenge is high. During lockdown, being cooped up within four walls amplifies that need further. Cue the sourdough baking, Tik Tok challenges, and Dalgona coffees (okay I didn’t do any of those things, but I did try a lot of other new things).

3. DETACHMENT IS ACCEPTING THAT WE CANNOT CONTROL EVERYTHING At the point of writing this, I’ve already had two flight bookings from Finland to Malaysia cancelled. When lockdowns were first announced in both countries, every week (and at some point, every day) brought new updates and new restrictions. At first, the unpredictability was a huge source of anxiety. But after several weeks (and the realisation that the constant act of refreshing the airlines’ websites will not change a thing) I’ve settled into a state of acceptance. Even when my flight got cancelled for the second time, with the next flight out being eight days later, I surprised myself by how calm I was.

Yet during the lockdown, the anxiety generated from reading the news or new government policies can change into its negative counterpart — uncertainty. This is where having a self-care routine is crucial. The term self-care is often overused as a synonym for shutting the world out when we feel overwhelmed, so to clarify, when I say self-care, it doesn’t necessarily involve doing it alone. A good self-care routine involves sleep hygiene, fitness, mental health, nutrition, connection, and anything that generates a few good laughs. Daily. To achieve these things during the lockdown, I needed help. This was not business-as-usual. So I took sleeping aids (there is NO shame in this, by the way!). I scheduled a minimum of one call per day to a close friend. I journalled. I also made a plan of action to adjust my usual 1–2-hour monthly session with my counsellor for the month of April (there is also no shame in asking for help!). I asked if I could have those sessions broken into a weekly 30-minute session instead (so the total face time and fees remained unchanged). I knew the weekly touch base would be critical — to help me get through this season and manage it well. Acknowledging our basic needs means we can handle them better. Instead of reacting and spiralling into our thoughts, we can take simple steps to manage them better.

I chose to see the positives from the situation — I get more time to spend with my cats, and more time to say goodbye to my friends in Finland. I also chose to see this as an opportunity to practice patience. I texted my friends: “By the time I finally reach Malaysia, I’ll have a story to tell and the patience of a saint!” I’m particularly drawn to Zen buddhism and stoicism and the concept of detachment they both share. As an INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) and Enneagram Type 4, I get easily swept away by the emotions of the moment. I also tend to gravitate towards negative emotions, and distrust positive emotions. As a result, I overthink and overreact to things. Small setbacks become amplified. Feeling like the world is caving in on me has been (for most of my life) a regularly recurring experience. Lockdown has given me an opportunity to practice detachment. Detachment is not about ‘not caring’ (although this book title – click here to reveal title by modern stoic Mark Manson may imply otherwise). Rather, it’s about not caring excessively about things out of your control. By accepting that there are things we can and can’t change, we free up our mental energy to focus on the things that we CAN change. This redirected focus allows us to come up with new alternatives, fresh solutions, and new ways out of a difficult situation that we would not have seen if we stayed laser-focused on our problems.

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4. KNOWING YOUR LOVE LANGUAGES AND PRACTISING IT IS IMPORTANT TO FEEL CONNECTED, SUPPORTED, AND NURTURED

I realised some of the things that I missed the most while being in lockdown were the tactile things: a warm hug, a hand on my shoulder, looking someone in the eyes, feeling the warmth of a freshly made cup of coffee as the barista hands it to me. To cope with the lack of touch, I had to deliberately ramp up my efforts to connect with others through other love languages that were important to me — quality time and words of affirmation. I joined virtual game sessions, told my friends more than usual how awesome I think they are, had more calls, scheduled calls into my calendar, picked up the phone and called friends impromptu. Despite the anxiety and grieving the loss of normal, the one thing I felt constantly grateful for is having a circle of friends, near and far, around me.

Lockdown confirmed to me that my main love language is touch. While I knew this to be true in my romantic relationships, I did not realise it applied to my friendships as well.

I can’t imagine having to go through these last few weeks without a community to share my ups and downs with, be frustrated, sad, and uncensored with, and to cheer each other up with silly jokes. I’ve felt many times in the past few weeks, surrounded by a ‘storm of love’.

5. GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME

In today’s post-#metoo world, discussions of consent around touch abound. In academic circles, fierce debates take place around balancing children’s need for touch to feel comforted with very real fears of schools’ reputations being damaged by accusations of improper touch. Yet positive touch has been shown to boost the immune system and heart health and be essential for a baby’s early development. In fact, there is a medical term used to describe critically unhealthy babies whose nervous systems are underdeveloped due to a lack of touch — ‘failure to thrive’. Family therapist Virginia Satir once said:

We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth. 26

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During the lockdown, I’ve learned that investing in my personal growth and taking care of my mental and physical health takes time! Even though I saved around two hours a day by not commuting, it surprised me how quickly I filled up that time with exercising, cooking, and eating. But what surprised me more was how much time I spent


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planning — planning workouts, planning meals, and planning grocery runs. It hit me how often I have overestimated how much I can do in a day. In the past, the result of overestimating my ability had led to overcommitting, burning out, and flaking out on commitments. We are conditioned to chase quick fixes, hacks and shortcuts. While I believe the pursuit of efficiency is important, I think it is equally important to recognise that to achieve a certain level of quality and excellence, it takes good ol’ fashioned TIME. Be it at work or in our personal life, from exercising to communicating online to perfecting that sourdough loaf — it all takes time. One time management habit that I’ve learned since college days (that 12 years later, I’m still striving to improve at!) is to schedule in buffer time. In almost every industry that requires complex project management, buffer time is critical to on-time delivery of a project. It allows for unexpected circumstances and delays in some areas to be mitigated. I try to apply this to my personal life as well. I avoid having meetings back to back, and I block out one-hour blocks for exercise even if I only plan to work out for 30 minutes. Interruptions happen constantly, and buffer time allows us space to ‘catch up’ when we fall behind schedule. Plus, when you have two cats, sometimes a quick ear scratch turns into 15 minutes of petting and purring, while thinking about how wonderful it is to be a cat.

6. “WE MAY BE IN THE SAME STORM, BUT WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT.” As I wrap up my reflections on some of the things I’ve learned during this global pandemic, this is a big one: being able to pursue personal development and growth during the lockdown is a clear sign of my class privilege. For a long time, growing up, I saw myself as ‘poor’ coming from a family that scraped by every month paycheck to paycheck. Being the first in my family to graduate from university, spending most of my childhood wearing hand-medowns, and studying with recycled textbooks, I’d always seen myself as having less than others.

Yet in less than one generation, thanks to the power of education, generous opportunities given to me by others, and my parents’ sacrifices — I’ve made massive leaps out of the socioeconomic bracket I was born into. A few years ago, I listened to a talk by Anna Rosling, coauthor of Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. I was shocked to discover that I fall into the top 15% of the world’s population by income (or essentially the highest of 4 levels of income). In Malaysia, we would call this the T20 (top 20%) of Malaysia’s population. This was a sobering fact and reality check for me. If we compare ourselves to others, we will always end up feeling ‘less than’ when the reality is, many of us reading this (with an internet connection, a good command of English, and a decent education) have things others only dream and pray for. I saw this line posted on Facebook (not sure who originally wrote this): “We may all be in the same storm, but we are definitely not in the same boat.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement. This lockdown reminded me that I am where I am not because I seized opportunities, but because I had opportunities to seize in the first place. This pandemic is not affecting all of us equally — the marginalised is hit much harder by this, and there are no easy answers and solutions. For those of us who can, hopefully, this is a reminder to reach out to help those with lesser opportunities than us, and a perspective check — to recognise what we have. What have you learned about yourself and the world during this lockdown? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Crystal Cha Crystal is passionate about all things marketing, storytelling, and communications. She has over 10 years of experience in inbound/ outbound marketing, paid/earned media, and offline/online activation, specialising in marketing team/ops management, social media marketing, and copywriting.

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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

PRACTICE 3W

• 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

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