Leader's Digest #49 (March 2021)

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MARCH 2021





Publication Team EDITORIAL

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

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















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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.


Issue 47 I January 2021



From the

Editorial Desk

An eye for an eye! Why? When a certain guideline is established, when rules and regulations are designed, when an agreement becomes the formal commitment to abide to, then the possibility of retribution exists. Other than paper formats, there are also societal, cultural and religious standards that fall within this subject. If the expectations, the deliverables are not clear and/ or not understood, then retribution becomes one sided. It is therefore the onus on all parties involved to be on the same page and comprehend the subject, that if not attained to it in its strict direct terms or in its spirit may lead to retribution. In other words, clarity, congruency and acceptance will avoid a subjective counter-action, including a counter-attack. If we make a differentiation between perspectives: feeling, thinking versus acting, we may realize that revenge seems to be more the action performed by many when retribution was the appropriate way. Further, retribution is mostly attributed to negative situations, i.e.: dispensing or receiving a punishment. But retribution could also be the dispensing or receiving of a reward. Therefore, praising also falls under retribution. I only found this out when researching the word to write this article.

Interestingly the verb for it that is mostly used is ‘pay back’. There is no verb directly shaped from the word itself. ‘I will retribute you!’ doesn’t work. Let’s say that it is part of our daily vocabulary and that we are clear about its definition and application. Let’s assume that all know what the main difference between retribution and revenge is: retribution as an objective act of justice, very specific and measurable; revenge: a personal emotional justice with no clear boundaries. Does the cultural and emotionality aspect play a role? Cultures where people easily take any form of criticism, detailed observation about how they do or not do something or get intellectually challenged, can easily fall into the ‘revenge-club’ category. It is not about their education standard; it is not about their age nor experience in life. It is about their emotional threshold, their emotional vulnerability or their instinctive eagerness not to upset somebody. As much as they may not act out the revenge feeling in a direct, obvious manner, covert approaches are used to represent those. These include using silence when their input is valuable and necessary, delaying a decision to stress out the other party, avoiding being in the same space as the so-called’ offender, etc.

Retribution is used in British English, while the US English calls it reprisal. Whichever the language we are using, the fact remains that most people could need a realignment vis-à-vis the word revenge. Do you feel that people around you act more in revenge or retribution? Keep your answer in memory and answer the question again after reading this article. More precisely, can it be that it all depends on the emotionality standard of a person as the guiding and deciding underlying element? Hmmmm!

On the other hand, those programmed in less emotional environments like those in Nordic countries (yes!!, less sun, slower emotional reactivity) will have a tendency to act retribution rather than revenge, even if their inner monologue has a hint of revenge.

From the linguistic dimension within our daily communication, be it at home or at work, when was the last time you heard somebody use the word retribution.

Will you change your answer from the fourth paragraph?

It is likely that we have a mix of both aspects and through coaching we will learn and inspire not to engage in vengeance, persecution, intimidation or isolation but resort to forgiveness, sympathy and arbitration.

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Coping With Uncertainty in 2021 BY SIN EU CHEAH

Can we shift our perceptions to deal with the certainty of uncertainty? ONE YEAR LATER


It’s almost the first anniversary of the new normal for many of us. So far, we have gone through countless Movement Control Orders (MCO) and its variations, hit new highs and lows in the number of cases, and shimmied through new working SOPs.

In this unsettling period, everything seems to be an uncertainty. From your job security, health, household, workload, to the economy and daily Covid cases, it all just feels so random. At such times, it is crucial that we categorise things that we can and cannot control.

As veterans of the ‘new normal’, we should be pretty welladapted to the lifestyle and embracing it with ease and comfort, right? On the contrary, we may find ourselves heading towards more uncertainty. At this very moment, questions and concerns may resurface; What is the next incoming lockdown version? Are we getting vaccinated? When will the curve flatten? Am I guaranteed my job as time goes on? What would I do if I lost my job? Should I go to the office if I feel unsafe? The questions that pop up can leave us drained, because quite frankly, we don’t have the answers. It does feel like we are living in an unpredictable, post-apocalyptic world with things seemingly out of control. With the unpredictable environment, rapid policy changes and backtracking, what can we do to cope with the constant change? Here are five steps we can take to cultivate a disruption-proof mindset:


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For instance, we won’t be able to control the number of cases that are happening, but we can protect ourselves with the recommended guidelines like always wearing a mask and maintaining appropriate social distance. Similarly, we can’t single-handedly ‘jolt’ the economy back to life, but we can keep our heads down on our own work, create back-up plans, and strategise multiple avenues of income to create financial stability. Establishing the two categories provides us with clarity. Now we know the things we can control, we can enact strategies and actions towards what can be realistically accomplished. As for things we can’t control, we can acknowledge it as it is, regulate our emotions and perceptions towards the situation and manage our anxiety about it. Accepting that we have no control over something may not magically give us control over it, but it allows us to better manage our reactions.



PLAN FOR POSSIBILITIES Following establishing the circle of control, we need to prepare contingencies. For example, by acknowledging that job security is a concern, managing the risk of becoming jobless is something that we are able to control (whilst worrying about the day that we might get the boot is not). Things we can do at this time include searching for work online as a backup, establishing a network with others and learning new skills that we can use to increase our value and options. The WEF recently released a survey in which they interviewed employers about in-demand skills. By equipping yourself with the right kind of knowledge and skills, you can become what the market wants.

Often, we set expectations for ourselves and think of how things ‘should’ be. For example, I should be able to travel by the beginning of next year, or the government should be giving the vaccines by the end of the month, or we should be able to gather with friends and family during festive seasons like previous years. This can cause a lot of unhappiness and unnecessary stress as things are ever-changing during uncertain times. So, do away with the ‘should’ and ‘should nots’, as worrying about what should have happened will actually worsen our feelings of denial, panic and even depression. As suggested above, plan for contingencies and adopt a more flexible mindset to face the incoming change that is upon us.


BE FLEXIBLE That includes both mentally and behaviour-wise. A flexible mindset grants the ability to respond accordingly to everchanging circumstances and differing needs. One of the ways is to adopt the growth mindset, coined by Carol Dweck.

“ Rather than feel stuck and fixed in the same situation, the agile mind provides us with the opportunity to break out of the vicious cycle and move onto contingency plans. ” This mindset, when adopted, allows us to see setbacks (e.g. getting infected by Covid) as a challenge that can be overcome instead of an end-of-the-world doomsday situation. Rather than feel stuck and fixed in the same situation, the agile mind provides us with the opportunity to break out of the vicious cycle and move onto contingency plans.

ADOPTING SELF-CARE Uncertain environments and situations cause us to feel anxiety and stress, sometimes building on top of what was already our baseline stress levels. As such, taking care of our wellbeing is essential during this challenging time.

Whoops, wrong face mask.

At the end of the day, we need to recognise and accept uncertainty as it is, focus on things we can control, manage our stress, adopt a more flexible mindset and prepare ourselves for a range of possible outcomes. These steps will ensure that we are able to determine our outcome in this pandemic and maintain sanity during times of such uncertainty.

Here are some recommendations: • Exercise: at least 150 minutes per week, managed across 3 - 4 days at 30 minutes minimum per day. • Sharpen mental prowess through activities such as meditation, guided imagery and mindfulness activities • Sleep and naps: 7-8 hours of sleep per day • Build social connections and sharing activities • Practice self-compassion and evaluate our self-worth

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS It is good to set goals for our life in general and work towards those goals. However, during such demanding circumstances, there is a need to be agile and be ready to go with Plan B (or C, D, Z).

SIN EU CHEAH Sin Eu is a sports, exercise, and performance psychologist. He is experienced in training and coaching a variety of people, including professional athletes, gym-goers, corporate employees, and children on learning mental skills and promoting personal growth. He is involved in wellness coaching that includes mindfulness, personal development, stress management, and motivation. Issue 49 I March 2021




6 Key Steps to Overcome Fear in the C-Suite BY AMY SILVER

Have you seen the latest horror blockbuster? It's called 'Our Fourth Quarter Review'. 6

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Fear has been a prevalent emotion over the past year thanks to the sudden impact of COVID-19. But fear does not always manifest as the fright we feel watching a horror movie. In the C-Suite, fear often presents itself as a lack of sharing, combat, indecision, tension, boring meetings or dependence on the CEO for management of disagreements or decision making. The impact of fear in the C-Suite is enormous and the impact that trickles down is profound. We now have undeniable proof that when team members feel safe to be who they are, say what they think and feel, and know they will not be attacked or judged, their team performance is remarkable. It is essential that C-suite teams understand how to manage their fear individually and collectively. By doing so they will enable the safety that is essential for strong teamplay, courageous behaviour and communication. Here are six key steps to conquering fear at the highest levels in the organisation:



The first step is to understand where fear is holding the Executive team back. Scan the C-suite leaders for courage, willingness to be vulnerable, humility, openness, sharing and asking for help, good listening and contribution across the board, fun meetings, ability to change direction or adopt new ideas. These are all key lag indicators of a group of people who are managing their fear.

We don’t want to be fearless as fear has many positive qualities. However, when fear gets in control it can dominate the agenda, our behaviour or the decisions we make. It is like having a loud guest present at all interactions and steering the conversation in a direction of avoidance or conflict. The team can learn to develop the skill of working out when the guest of fear is telling the truth and whether it is helpful or unhelpful.



How capable are the individuals of having kind and clear conversations that show compassion towards each other? How able are the individuals and the group to acknowledge and accept mistakes, own their emotions and create the safe space required to hold each other accountable or drive each other’s best selves?

Separation leads to a moment to reflect and prevent our reactions controlling our responses. We can make decisions that are thorough rather than biased by ego or group think. As collectives, teams need to capitalise on each other’s capabilities, learning how to explicitly support each other to use fear as a guide but not a director.



Perceived threats – real or not – lead us to either flight, fight or freeze. While essential for our survival, it often gets triggered unnecessarily. Therefore, we do not always need to listen to our fear. Understanding that our fearful reaction wants us to behave in one way (avoid, attack or go mute) means we can notice when it is happening and call it out so that we can separate the fear from our action.

On the other side of fear is growth. For some it will be stretching into vulnerability or trust, taking risks and pushing to continue learning. For others it will be about taking space, staying agile, leading with firmness, taking responsibility, and being a thought or community leader. Using a hierarchy of increasingly different scenarios, we can experiment our way towards the behaviours we know we want to have, experiment with moving through fear safely.

If C-suite teams understand how to manage their fear they can help the rest of the organisation manage theirs. All of us need to experiment with being bolder, always. It is essential if we are to help the organisation reach its potential. Don’t let fear stand in the way of what you could be.

AMY SILVER Dr Amy Silver is a psychologist, speaker and author on the management of our emotions for high performance through courage and courageous conversations. She is the founder of The Courage Club, the place to outgrow your fears. Her new book, The Loudest Guest: How to control and change your relationship with fear is a game-changer for those ready to play a bigger game.

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THE FINAL INSTALLMENT OF OUR SIX-PART SCIENCE OF DRUCKER SERIES. The fifth article in this series discussed the need for organisational change or transformation during turbulent times. References to changes that were forced to take place due to the COVID19 pandemic were made. The four constraints of transformation introduced by Roshan Thiran were discussed and the A.C.I.D.© test for transformation was introduced. The topic of change and transformation is an interesting one because change is certain to happen to everyone throughout their career. In fact, without such changes, one would not be able to survive in any role for a sustained period of time. As change or transformation will happen and it is certain to happen, any organisation embarking on this journey needs to reflect on its purpose for existence.


For those of you that have read or seen videos on Start with Why by Simon Sinek would be familiar with the concept of golden circles. The idea is to start from the inner circle to the outer one. A business and the organisation that manages the business need to understand why it does what it does. Peter Drucker, since his earliest publications, held that the purpose of a business was not to create profit (contrary to popular belief) but to create customers (why). A business exists to satisfy a customer’s need through the products or services it offers. Without a customer there is no market and therefore there is no demand, and hence what remains is only the potential. Converting the potential into an effective demand and the sale (how) is only possible when the value to the customer is realised and thereafter wealth is created by the business (what). Drucker goes on to say that it is the customer who determines what a business is, from their willingness to pay for goods or services. What the customer buys and considers worthwhile is never just a product or a service but it is what a product or service does for him. Only from that purchase are economic resources converted into wealth, and resources into goods and services. To emphasise the purpose of value creation further, in his book The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organisation, three out of the five questions are centred around the customer and what the customer values. These five questions are:

Pictured: The Golden Circle


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1. What is our mission? A business’s mission needs to take advantage of the opportunity, resources and processes that will satisfy the need of a customer. 2. Who is our customer? The primary stakeholder whose problem or opportunity that your business addresses. 3. What does the customer value? What is the value proposition and the value creation for the customer (and in turn the wealth for the business). 4. What are our results? Identifying the key metrics and measures to assess the progress towards achieving the mission and opportunity. 5. What is our plan? – Starting with the mission and followed through with the execution and action steps. Again, from these five questions and also starting with why, it is clear that the sole purpose of a business is its customer.

for good and reliable automobiles at a competitive price. The value on offer was the shorter lead time.

THE HOW OF CREATING AND DELIVERING VALUE It is worth reflecting upon the third and fourth parts of this article series that covered the topics of Theory of Business and the Spirit of Performance, two key areas of focus that require an executive to effectively organise its business to focus on delivering the value to its customers. When one looks at an organisation from the highest level, it becomes quite clear that these internal and external respective points of view are important to determine the how of creating and delivering value.

It is the customer that defines the business, as it’s the value that a customer gets when a product or services is procured.

An effective executive will use his acquired skills and practices to focus the organisation’s resources on tasks that create significant economic value. One of the first tasks is to identify the products and services that meet the customer’s needs and are generating the most value to the customer and wealth for the organisation.

As customers are only concerned with their own values, requirements and reality, the answers to the first three questions need to reflect these beliefs. When an executive defines a business’s mission, care should be taken to not define the mission-based technology, or cost or retail pricing, but instead on the value it creates for its customer.

The executive will have all the facts in the form of data and analysis of strength, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Analysis of sales performance, productivity, cost of products and services, contributions from the resources and cost centres are all important facts that need to be analysed before the Theory of Business can be developed.

Clarity of the mission will help an organisation define the customer and the business itself. The customer is the primary stakeholder of the business as the customer is the one that actually procures the products or services. Management also needs to acknowledge the types of customers, more than often multiple personas instead of a single type. Different personas have different expectations and needs to be satisfied, and therefore buy different things.

In addition to that, the state of product and services portfolio need to be analysed. The executive needs to critically evaluate the state of the production or services infrastructure as well as the competency and capability of the resources that are delivering the portfolio. A clear baseline needs to be established, then evaluated against acceptable or targeted levels of performances, with customers’ expectations as the key performance indicator.

Then the question is to answer what exactly does the customer value? A customer actually buys the value that is on offer. This value is very often a customer’s problem that is being solved. For example, the value that is offered by Amazon.com or Alibaba.com to its customer is the seamless marketplace platform that connects a producer to the consumer. Therefore, value is created to both types of customers (the producer and the consumer) and in turn wealth is generated to the organisation. Both Amazon’s or Alibaba’s purpose of existence wasn’t profit, but the value it could create defined its purpose. This concept of value creation isn’t something that existed since the 1900s.

Using the baseline and the targeted performance levels, gaps in terms of weakness and opportunities need to be identified. The differences between efficiencies and effectiveness also need to be established, and the corresponding resources allocated to the tasks and activities that create and deliver the products and services also need to be clearly known. It would be absolutely pointless to have highly efficient teams on products or services that are ineffective in terms of value creation for the customer.

For example, the Ford Motor Company produced automobiles in a shorter lead time by innovating the just-in-time production line. Its ability to do so enabled it to meet the rising demand

These need to be identified and acknowledged by the management and the executive. The executive needs to know and accept the current state in terms of the Spirit of Performance, as this is a reflection of the external factors of the organisation, and most importantly a reflection on how much value has been created for the customers.

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time teams of internal ‘entrepreneurs’ or ‘innovators’ that are given the time and resources to focus on the future through innovation and improvement. At times, overcoming the 4 constraints of transformation becomes a necessity, as the internal aspects that impede managers, entrepreneurs and innovators from changing or transforming will not enable an organisation to create value. Peter Drucker alluded to this in his book iii; executives assuming that the future is an extension of the present will not result in the necessary change that would lead an organisation out from a challenging economic or business climate. Taking the Theory of Business and Spirit of Performance at heart, executive are recommended to conduct the A.C.I.D.© test for transformation. Finally, using facts from the analysis and the allocation, the executive would need to look internally and review the existing Theory of Business by asking “what needs to be done right now?” The Theory of Business, if regularly reviewed (annually or once in two to five years), will enable an organisation to identify what products or services are creating and adding value to the customers. Using the facts that are established from the baseline analysis, the efficiency of allocation and the effectiveness of the productions and services, a decision can be made if the existing Theory of Business has to be changed. If it is not achieving its original purpose of creating customers and delivering value to them, then this is inevitable. Thereafter the executive needs to lead an organisation by clearly communicating the new theory of business and emphasising the spirit of performance, with a priority on results that impact the customers. At the same time the executive must decide if the organisation needs to reestablish its structure, processes and culture. This can be done by reviewing the 4 Constraints model established by Leaderonomics as explained in the previous article.

THE WHAT OF CREATING AND DELIVERING VALUE If the ‘how’ looks at the effectiveness of an organisation when the Theory of Business is used as the foundation to execute the tasks that delivers customers’ value, enabled by the skills and knowledge that can be acquired, applied and practiced, then the ‘what’ focuses on the execution based on the Spirit of Performance. Tasks and activities will need to be executed by teams of managers and employees that ensures the performance of the current products and services are delivered and at the same 10

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Therefore, what are the principles for the A.C.I.D.© test for transformation (A.C.I.D. being the acronym for four different tests that an organisation should carry out)? These are the tests for Abandonment, Continuous Improvement, Innovation and Decision. The change in the business needs is a result of the changing need of the market, consumers and the customer. These changes are not distributed in a Gaussian Normal Distribution, and therefore the change is not easily predicted or anticipated. However, if an organisation continuously measures its customer satisfaction and the level of value creation, empirically they should be able to identify the 10% to 20% of products and services that account for the 80% to 90% of the results. An executive’s main task is to deliver the results. The A.C.I.D.© test for transformation is ‘what’ the executive needs to do. In times of change and transformation, the tests will help with the early diagnosis, preventive care and the cure that an organisation needs. The testing begins with Abandonment, where the existing Theory of Business is tested and evaluated. Should the existing theory result in negative growth or loss in market share, rethinking the theory will become essential! Hard and tough actions need to be made to change the existing products and services, policies and practices. The executive will need to bring the entire organisation into alignment to face the new realities of business, the new market and the new environment. Nowadays, it’s termed the ‘new normal’. The organisation will need to change its behaviour to be aligned with the newly defined mission. From the early diagnosis, the tests for continuous improvements can be easily done. There are various established techniques and methodologies such as Lean Management, Kaizen or Lean Six Sigma, that an organisation



can adopt to address and drive the behaviour of continuous improvement. A good executive will use the empirical analysis of 10%-20% that is delivering the results and inculcate the culture of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement can be applied across all types of organisations and with today’s knowledge-based workforce, it can be easily adopted. It starts by looking at systems and processes and asking of each and every task: What does it do? What value does it create? Who benefits and is it really needed? It is the preventive care that an organisation needs, ensuring that products and services that deliver value to the customers are made available faster, better and cheaper!

the greatest opportunity for creating value and delivering result, whereby the organisation agrees to overcome the four constraints by changing the business model, aligning and agreeing to decisions, establishing the right structure and providing the best systems to support the resources and leading with the Spirit of performance to ensure that a culture of change and transformation is established. Decisions should be prioritised based on: • • •

Products and services that will create value and results Products and services that require innovation Products and services that can be improved by adding value

With these decisions, executives need to focus on execution and are recommended to adopt concepts such as ‘management by objectives’ and ‘management by means’ to direct employees and resources toward achieving specific outcomes that enable the organisation to perform efficiently and effectively during a challenging period. • •

Management by objectives (mbo) is a method whereby managers and employees define goals for every department, project and person to monitor performance. Management by means (mbm) is a method that focuses attention on the methods and processes used to achieve goals, key performance indicators and deliverables.


Next would be to think about the cure. This means tests for innovation. To be an innovative organisation doesn’t mean that it needs to hire geniuses or highly decorated scientists or PhDs. Innovativeness can be taught and learnt. Resources should be trained with techniques and methodology such as ideation, design thinking, AGILE, SCRUM or TRIZ and many others to be innovative. If continuous improvement is focusing on existing products and processes (the preventive care), innovation is focusing on developing new products and processes (the cure). Both tests have the common task of solving a customer’s problem. Threats that an organisation faces during its turbulent time should be converted into opportunities, focusing on the present and planning for the future. Creating value through innovation can be done by identifying incongruities, inefficiencies, market trends, changes in perception and knowledge on products and services. Finally, the test of the executive are the decisions that can and will be executed. Decisions have to be made based on

As a final word, it is apt to remind everyone that “Practices, though seemingly humdrum, can always be practiced, whatever a person’s aptitudes, personality, or attitudes. Practices require no genius – only application. They are things to do rather than to talk about.” Quoting Peter Drucker:

Organisations need to start by thinking through what should be strengthened and built. They do not start by trying to save money. They start by trying to build performance. All of these are practices. They can be taught, learnt, applied and practiced up til the highest level of perfection is achieved. DR ARUL ARULESWARAN Dr Arul currently works for GEODIS Asia Pacific as the Director of Transformation, embarking on 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 customers. He has driven transformation initiatives for government services and also assisted various Malaysian and Multi-National Organisations using the Lean Six Sigma methodology. Issue 49 I March 2021




The 5 Types of Brand Stories You Need to Tell BY GABRIELLE DOLAN

In a world where every company is screaming “buy mine!”, brand stories are what sells. ONCE UPON A TIME Growing up, I was never really into dolls, preferring to play football and cricket with my brothers. Needless to say, I never owned a Barbie and decades later, when Barbie was being shamed as not being a good role model for girls, I happily went along with this and refused to buy my two daughters a Barbie Recently, however, I heard the backstory to Barbie and it completely changed my opinion about the Barbie Brand.

“Hearing this story changed my view of the Barbie brand and will influence my future buying decisions.” The creator of Barbie was Ruth Handler, the wife of Mattel cofounder


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Elliot Handler. She noticed that when her daughter, Barbara and son Ken (and yes Ken and Barbie were named after her children) played together, they would pretend to be adults. She also noticed that while Barbara only had dolls that had her playing the role of caregiver, Ken had dolls that encouraged him to imagine himself as a doctor, firefighter or astronaut. So, Ruth set to work to produce a three-dimensional plastic doll with an adult body and a wardrobe of fabric clothing. Her husband and other executives at Mattel did not think it was a good idea, assuming parents would be reluctant to buy their child a doll with a voluptuous figure. However, Ruth persisted and in 1959 Barbie was born. When you look at the early years of the career Barbies created in the 60s’ and 70’s they were very progressive. For example, Executive Barbie, Astronaut Barbie and Surgeon Barbie.



Sometimes, a story will fall into multiple categories. For example, in 2020, Sydney-based distillery Archie Rose had to adapt their business or its 15-strong bar staff would potentially lose their jobs due to Coronavirus restrictions. That, combined with the national shortage of hand sanitiser, resulted in them making an almost immediate decision that they would switch production from spirits to hand sanitiser.

“Sometimes, a story will fall into multiple categories.” Within three days they had sourced bottles for the hand sanitisers, reconfigured their production line, created and printed labels, amended their insurance policies, and obtained additional federal production licences. Plus, they were abiding by all the legal and health requirements for the hand sanitisers and coronavirus work restrictions, to produce 7500 units in just three days! They would go on to employ another 15 local hospitality workers that had lost their jobs. Ruth is quoted as saying, “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.” Hearing this story changed my view of the Barbie brand and will influence my future buying decisions. I never bought my children a Barbie, but I just might buy my future grandchildren one.

The story had an instant connection with people and immediately received local and worldwide attention. You could easily classify this story as a community story, a challenge story and a culture story. The switch to producing hand santiser could even demonstrate a creation story.

That is what a magnetic story can do for your brand. They can create a connection and influence future purchasing decisions.

THE FIVE TYPES OF BRAND STORIES COMPANIES SHOULD FOCUS ON: 1. Creation stories are either why the company started or show how a product was created, e.g., the story of Barbie’s creation. 2. Culture stories demonstrate how employees are living the company values or what those values mean to them. 5. Customer stories can showcase your customers or what your employees are doing for customers. 3. Challenge stories show how the company has responded to both internal and external challenges … big or small. 4. Community stories of how the company is fulfilling its corporate responsibility and doing good things to help the community

When it comes to brand storytelling, the most important thing is to not focus on one story but to consider all the different types of brand stories you can share. What’s more, you should regularly add new examples to your collection. These magnetic brand stories can create an instant connection with your customers that create long lasting brand loyalty. GABRIELLE DOLAN Gabrielle Dolan is a global expert on business storytelling and real communication. Her latest book ‘Magnetic Stories: Connect with Customers and Engage Employees with Brand Storytelling’ is available now.

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Listen to Neuroscience to Build a Healthy Workplace BY MICHELLE BIHARY

It's all in your head, but as it turns out that's where it really counts. An innovative, creative, financially thriving workplace that supports excellent teamwork and workforce wellbeing is critical and yet can be elusive. Recent advances in technology have changed our understanding of the brain, giving us practical insights into ways to elevate performance, productivity, workplace learning, culture and the wellbeing of employees, all necessary ingredients for building a thriving workplace. Neuroscientists have proven that our brain is continually shaped by and adapting to our thoughts, interactions, experiences, and environment. The responsiveness of the brain, called ‘neuroplasticity’, can be intentionally optimised to support organisational success and a healthy workplace. Understanding a little about the brain can be game-changing in achieving organisational success. The executive brain, located behind our forehead, is the source of our best thinking and psychological functioning. It enables us to be proactive, strategic, reflective, creative, make our best decisions and be mentally and psychologically agile. The executive brain is more available to us when we feel physically and psychologically safe, valued, connected and fulfilled.


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The more primitive, or reptilian, parts of our brain are vital for survival, continually scanning our environment to protect us from threats. When we feel unsafe, disconnected, devalued, or invalidated, the reptilian brain takes over, making it harder to access our best thinking. At these times we operate in self-protection mode, which can be through being reactive, aggressive, competitive or withdrawn. We’re generally less considered in our actions and words.

How can neuroscience guide us to a healthy workplace? If we want to build a healthy workplace, neuroscience clearly directs us to feed the executive brain, rather than the reptilian brain of employees. This is achieved through our daily workplace interactions and behaviours, which can have a profound impact on brain functioning. Behaviours that are positive and feed the executive brain are above the line, while negative behaviours feed the reptilian brain, and are below the line.



Above-the-line behaviours are acceptable, healthy and responsible from a human, psychological and interpersonal perspective. They feed the executive brain, are good for people, bringing out employees’ capacity to think, learn and relate effectively. Above-the-line behaviours generate positivity, kindness, appreciation, goodwill, respect, openness to learning, authenticity, trust and connection. Below-the-line behaviours are not acceptable, healthy or responsible from a psychological and human perspective. They feed the reptilian brain, are not in the best interests of people, diminish performance, productivity and employees’ mental health. Incivility, sarcasm, defensiveness, shaming, excluding, ignoring, bitching (editor: I’ll allow it), unnecessary criticism, bullying, harassment and discrimination are examples of below-the-line behaviours. If we listen to the neuroscience and feed the executive brain and not the reptilian brain, we’re far more likely to achieve

1. Peak performance You’ll significantly enhance the performance of your employees through enabling their capacity for strategic thinking, innovation, creativity, decision-making and using their best skills and strength

2. Psychological safety When employees are operating from the executive brain in a workplace, they feel safe to trust their leaders and colleagues, they are also open to learning – the most vital factors for highperformance in teamwork.

3. Effective learning A workforce that has the ability to adapt, change and learn is critical in these extremely uncertain, challenging and complex times. When employees are functioning from their reptilian brain, they have lost the cognitive and psychological agility to adapt and learn, and become fixed and rigid in their thinking and behaviours.

4. Wellbeing and mental health From a health perspective, we know that employees’ wellbeing and mental health will be optimised if they are functioning from their executive brain. It is exhausting trying to work cognitively while in self-protective mode, potential will be squandered, and their mental health and wellbeing will be diminished.

5. Interpersonal relationships The emerging area of interpersonal neurobiology highlights the profound correlation between the way we relate to each other and the brain. Executive brain functioning fuels our ability to deeply listen, absorb ideas and views that are different from our own and is critical for teamwork and healthy workplace culture. Recent advances in neuroscience challenge us to critically evaluate how interpersonal behaviours directly influence workplace functioning and on building a healthy workplace.

MICHELLE BIHARY Michelle Bihary is a people leadership and workplace resilience expert, author of ‘Leading Above the Line’ – applying neuroscience to build psychologically safe and thriving teams. She applies neuroscience in her work with leaders and teams to help them build thriving workplaces to achieve organisational success.

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RECIPROCITY: L e a d e r s h i p G i v e a n d Ta k e BY DIANA MARIE

The first time I witnessed the ‘Adat Jerukan Atap’, a customary practice amongst the Ibans in Sarawak was at a long house in Sibu more than a decade ago. I am almost embarrassed to say how impressed I was. You see..., although I am determined to embrace customs within the Iban ethnic of which I am half, I have to confess that I know almost nothing about them other than the stories my grandfather told me. Cut the story short, this particular custom is about the presentation of gifts to someone’s child, usually a friend or relative’s, brought to your home as an official introduction to you and your family. Ideally the introduction should be done before the child grows his/ her first tooth. The child would be given a gift, consisting of a ceramic plate, filled with rice, chili pepper, money and salt. Each item symbolises wishes for wisdom, prosperity and abundance in the child’s future.

Why wish well for someone else’s child? In that very modest ecosystem, this was the simplest, humble way of expressing gratitude; repeated again and again between families until it became a norm in the community because, each of them sees reciprocity as a crucial component of communal living. 16

Issue 49 I March 2021

RECIPROCITY in Leadership As such, reciprocity can be defined as “the equitable and generous exchange of value in a high-performing relationship”. You probably encounter scenarios like this all the time, where you feel obligated, indebted and duty bound to act a certain way. Why is that? The reason is because we are all human beings, governed by the human mind-set and psychology. Cultural anthropologists Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox in their book ‘The Imperial Animal’, claim that we humans live in a “web of indebtedness.” This web is how we manage the division of labour. It’s even how we have organized our society into interdependent units. In such a context, reciprocity invites the practice of appreciative inquiry, where both people in a relationship expect giftedness in the other, and also explore their deep similarities. It is about giving.

Are you a Giver? Think of someone whose career you have fundamentally improved. You don’t have to be Mother Teresa or Gandhi to be a giver, just find small ways to add value to another’s lives. But, as a leader, are you afraid to give? Can the act of giving ever be wrong? How did you feel when you were the one at the receiving end? Now think of a leader who has fundamentally improved your career.



How do you know if you are a giver, and how do you identify givers amongst your people? Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist who studies how people find motivation and meaning; in his book ‘Give and Take’ described some tips on identifying givers and takers. Takers approach every situation looking for what’s in it for them. Givers on the other hand, approach situations looking to help others. He says givers simply enjoy helping others and often do it even when it comes without any strings attached. Givers often sacrifice themselves but, they make the organisations better. A successful giver gives to benefit the greater good. Adam Grant shares several ways leaders can support givers. • • •

Encourage help-seeking. Build a culture of giving; where people ask a lot, it is okay to receive too. Make it safe for givers to ask for help while pursuing their own goals. Choose when to give. Match their giving. Knowing when to give will ensure deadlines are met and avoid falling to the bottom of the success ladder. Take the right people on the bus. Givers are generous because they don’t worry about the consequences. What are your shared values and intentions towards others? You can learn a lot by watching how someone treats a restaurant worker or cleaner or driver.

As leaders in the workplace, here is the takeaway from Adam Grant’s Give and Take book: Gating off your knowledge can frustrate and alienate employees and colleagues, but making your valuable expertise readily available with no hoops to jump through can make them feel grateful. Think about all the ways you can make your knowledge easily accessible to them. Give your time, and give first. As leaders, we should always strive to tread tactfully with employees who sincerely contribute to the organisation and its associates. Leadership’s negative and positive impacts are both as visible as the marks of a nail on the wall. They last a life time. To sum it up, I think the meaning in reciprocity for inclusive leadership is clear: When we ground our work relationships in generous and equitable exchange, we engage each individual with honour, and we live into mutually-excellent expectations with one another. Be Genuinely Generous. Don’t take the risk of mistaken judgement. Take the risk of reciprocity instead.

“Knowledge (Ilmu), even if it is not useful to you, will not harm you.” ― Khalifah Umar ibn al-Khattab

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

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You are articulate – you speak coherently about the Cluster model, and “see” the path to helping the client. You are aware of your contributions to a conversation and know how best to help the flow of dialogue.

the aspired traits You recognize the value you create - you see the big picture and the small parts that can make it better.

You are a great listener - You listen with patience, empathy and understanding. Typically, asking the right questions, and accepting opinions. You care deeply about your clients and want to help them achieve their goals, often beyond the initial scope of your engagement.

You are a high achiever “…for you always knew you were going to win; it was just a question of when and where…” You earn trust – you are genuinely interested to understand the clients underlying needs not just their wants and go about delivering them with genuine passion and enthusiasm. “Your work is only as big as you are…”.

You have an abundance mentality – you focus on possibilities and what is working. You view failure as an opportunity to grow and learn about yourself and the world. You hold a long-term vision and are a critical thinker who examines what can be done, and what has been done so far to determine the outcome of a strategy. You see the opportunity for greater success often before your client does and can see opportunities for improvement that go beyond your areas of expertise .

The Leadership Institute for Sarawak Civil Service researched from multiple sources


Issue 49 I March 2021





Women’s D A Y

8 March 2021


Issue 49 I March 2021


The paramount to all of Leadership Traits is the ability to communicate well. Clarity is a focus of which this ability emanates.

- Ismail Said CEO Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service

Building Leaders of Excellence Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service KM20, Jalan Kuching Serian, Semenggok, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak. Telephone : +6082-625166 Fax : +6082-625966 E-mail : info@leadinstitute.com.my leadershipinstitute_scs



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