Thursday, April 30, 2009

Emotional Write Offs

Are you an investor? Do you feel some times that you hold an investment too long, an investment which gets you nowhere, but you can’t just get rid of it, because it cost you already too much money, time and energy?

The same can happen with your emotional reality. Here an example. Let say you fall in love with some one who has absolutely no bridge to your emotional world. You tried to date with her, make presents, send flowers, send letters, emails, sms, make phone calls, say nice words, make compliments, take care of her where ever possible. But there is absolutely no response and no return. You get mad and can not concentrate on your work, but have to think of her, knowing with the certainty that it will get you nowhere.

What would you do? You say to yourself: “Stop. I made a terrible mistake in this emotional investment. And now I have to write off this investment.”

Close your eyes and start to imagine, that every thing from her is getting out from your body, your heart, your mind, slowly, but surely, away from you, to a far destination, that you do not know and do not care. Imagine that you can absolutely live in peace and harmony with the remaining pure YOU.

Say to her in your mind: “Good bye and good luck.”

Practice this more times, until nothing of her is left. Then you completed the write-off of your emotional investment. It is really as easy as like that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to Negotiate Salary with Your Boss?

The toughest negotiators will hesitate, when they need to negotiate the salary with their boss. Why? Because negotiation has always two goals simultaneously: 1) achieving your negotiating target and 2) keep the negotiation partner fairly happy. Have you ever tried to negotiate your salary increase with your boss? It is tough. But there is a way to make it easier. Here is how.

1) Increase your negotiation power

Prepare your negotiation long before it happened. Build your negotiation power during this time period. There are four different type of negotiation power.

Relationship power
If you have bad relationship with your boss, don’t even think to negotiate. The best way is to leave him as soon as possible. Find a boss who appreciates your talents and your contributions. Try to build as good relation as possible with him by communicating frequently, by finding ways to be more useful to him, by being a positive and likeable person, so that your boss enjoys your presence.

Performance power
Get things done and get things done quickly with high quality. Do everything possible to exceed your annual goals. Do not just stop when you hit your goal. Set new goals, but communicate this with your boss often. He might not know what you are doing exactly.

Knowledge power
Get the knowledge from human resource department about the salary band for your position. Get the benchmarking from the market. Understand the process exactly of the salary increase from human resource department. Understand the average and the maximum of the salary increase. Not all the information is available to you. But please try to get as much information as possible.

Argumentation power
Prepare arguments why you should get salary increase. Articulate your value to the company is far greater than the average. Articulate that you are underpaid compared to the market and compare internally.

2) Ask for what you want

Some people enter into the office of their boss just to ask a salary increase. This is not enough. You have to ask the salary increase of x % or y € per month. And tell the boss your reason for asking exactly that amount.

3) Develop well your options

I believe here is the key for success. Always start a negotiation with an option in your bag, an alternative offer or other career possibilities. The option should be real, which means you really would consider the option, if your negotiation fails. But there is no need to mention it during the negotiation. If you decide to take the option, just take it. Do not use it as threat. No one likes that. To have an option is the way to build your confidence and inner strengths in your negotiation process.

Do not start any negotiation, if you did not prepare a walk away position.

5) Focus on the benefits for your boss

Try to understand the benefits of your boss, when you are successful with your negotiation. The cardinal reason for the boss to increase your salary is to keep you motivated in the future, so you can perform at the same level or better. But there are other reasons such as fairness, willingness to support and develop others or building stronger employee relationship. Find out his red button you can push to make him move.

Last remark
during the economic down turn, negotiating salary with your boss may become obsolete. You might be happy to keep your job and to keep your current salary level. But this is an excellent time to start preparing to increase your negotiation power. It takes time, maybe one year. And hopefully the economy will start to grow again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fair Workload Distribution

There are people overloaded with work of 12 to 16 hours a day. And there are people who are actively looking for jobs, opportunities to contribute, ways to use their talents and to actualize themselves.

Why can’t the busy people pass on some tasks to the work-seeking people? There are basically two reasons: willingness and ability.

Willingness: some people love to work so much that they just want to keep the current situation; Some would feel insecure, losing power and control, if they would give away some work to others; Few unconsciously want to destroy their health, because they do not love themselves enough.

Ability: some people are lack of ability to delegate. But vast majority of hard-working people are lack of ability to find others with the right skill sets to delegate the work to. Those free people might exist within the company or somewhere in the world. But they are just not accessible for the busy people.

What if we can create a web based workload distribution platform. It could exist in corporate intranet or in the internet. People can trade the work items like they trade books, furniture or cars at eBay. And they can bid the work by using a auction system. Organizational barrier would be reduced to a minimum.

Two main obstacles need to be removed. One is to standardize tradable work items and the other is to standardize qualifications to those tradable work items. Most likely the knowledge work will be on the internet first, consulting, writing presentations, writing reports, teaching and training works, etc.

I would predict that by 2050 there is a growing population of freelancers who are making a life with this type of work, in every corner of the globe. And there will be focused small and medium size company who will provide only services at the internet. Multi-Nationals may still exist. But they will have small amount of fixed staffs to keep the company competitive and flexible enough for changes. They will manager those freelancers and small companies dynamically online to run their company.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Enjoy as Long as You Can

When I moved from Research to Sales Department during my earlier career, I was so worried because there was not much to do for me. I could not withstand the psychological pressure, so I went to my boss and told him: “I see that other people are so busy, but I do not really have much to do.”

He smiled and answered in a very soft ton I can still remember today: “Wenyue, enjoy the time as long as you can.” After few weeks the situation was getting better and better. I was busy and happy to be able to contribute.

One or two years later I was more experienced. The work flowing to me was much more than I could actually handle, even with hours of over time. And I went to my boss again and protested that it was just too much. He smiled: “Enjoy, as long as you can.”

Three years later, there was a deregulation in the telecom industry and our company made loss and it was acquired by other firm. In the phase of transition my working time became idle. I remembered the words of my boss, enjoyed the time and started to learn English.

During the years, there were ups and downs in the economy, in the telecom industry and in our company. I developed a strategy to balance the extreme busy time and extreme free time.

When I got too much to do, I just tried to focus on those things, which only I could do myself and tried to delegate what others could do as well. I was not always successful, but it certainly helped.

When I got not much to do, I treid to help other people, to build some new skills such as public speaking, creative writing which would be beneficial to my future professional life.

In a large organization, there are always people who are extremely busy and there are always people who are extremely free. For an individual professional there are times he is very busy and there are also times he is free. How too manage the fluctuation is an art which not every one can master. But please remember the advice of my boss:

Enjoy as long as you can :-).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Worst and Best Case Strategy for Any Change

There is a strategy you can apply as a manager for any change in your professional and private life. I called this Worst and Best Case Strategy. It starts like this:

1) Ask yourself, what would be the worst case in this situation. Then find a person whom you know as the most negative, pessimistic one. Ask his/her view. Also a negative person has a great value here.

2) Accept that the worst case can really happen. When it happened, in which way can you accept it and re-organize your professional/private life in peace with it? How can you get out the most from this case?

3) Then use all your imaginations to define the best case. Talk with a most positive, creative, dreaming friend you know. Ask his/her view. Ask what all you can do to achieve the best case.

4) Your job is to do everything to improve the worst case and do everything to get as close as possible to the best case.

5) What finally comes out by your efforts might be some where between the worst and the best case. So you can be happy that the worst case did not happen and you are motivated to continue your efforts, because you have still room for improvements.

6) The best thing here is that you always focus on the actions and do not worry about uncertainties and possibilities.

A smart strategy, isn’t it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What Are Your Employees Really Looking For Most?

I meet weekly a manager for lunch to discuss management issues we face. And here is the conversation once we had:

I: “What do you think is the most important thing all employees are looking for?”

He: “hmmm...”

I: “They are all desperately looking for recognition.”

He: “How do you come to that conclusion?”

I: “Why do you think they work hard until late night? Why do you think they come to ask for promotion or salary increase? Why do you think they are sometimes lack of motivation?”

He: “They want to earn recognition, claim for recognition and strike for recognition.”

I: “But why do we pay so little attention to giving recognition?”

He: “Because we do not get enough recognition ourselves, so why should we give to others? We are more often beaten up than recognized.”

I: “Yes. This is the turning point. Even we do not get enough recognition, there are no logical reasons why we should not give it freely and generously to others. It is for free in most cases and there is immediate return. The more you give recognitions to others, the more you will receive from others. It is similar like love.”

He: “This is really a great conversation. Thanks.” :-)

I: “You are a quick learner.” :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If Daimler cannot do it, nobody can do it.

For all Germans, cars are important. When Daimler acquired Chrysler, deeply inside me I thought "well, that doesn't sound good to me. How such a brilliant company, who already has a strong presence in the US, can take the risk to acquire a complete ruin?"

Nevertheless, under a German management in Detroit, Daimler sent over the Atlantic, the best car engineers of the world to fix Chrysler. The response from our fellow American friends from Chrysler has been: "We know our business, we know our customers, we have an excellent American management, we have world-class processes, we master the technology. We are just facing a temporary financial issue. Structurally, we are solid."

32 billions (German) Euros later, Daimler admitted that Chrysler cannot be fixed and they drop Chrysler. Let's face it, Chrysler cannot be fixed because Chrysler does not want to be fixed. The issue is elsewhere: in the pension funds, in the trade unions and in an American logic full of complacency and condescension that European companies cannot understand the American customers through a merger or an acquisition of an American company. Upfront, Chrysler never wanted the acquisition by Daimler to be successful. Chrysler wanted the Euros desperately and not the inherent responsibilities and duties. And let's admit it, on a strictly business point of view, from a Chrysler perspective, the deal has been extraordinary. Chrysler stole 32 billions (German) Euros, avoided the bankruptcy, enjoyed the same standard of living as before, continued to pay the pension funds and continued to exist as a brand and an icon of American car technology. Chrysler survived. Danke schon Daimler.

When the deal was over, Chrysler still needed the same amount of cash to burn. And they found the US government. Few billions (American) dollars later, Chrysler is the same disastrous company with the same desperate need of cash. Obama said "stop". Let's find another victim...

The Italians! not a bad idea. FIAT has just re-engineered entirely the company after having drop the disastrous partnership with GM. Fiat reinvented its cars, its spirit, its design, its segmentation and today, FIAT flies with an Italian furia with a clear positioning for each of its brands (Fiat, Alfa-Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia). It looks like a good deal for FIAT. The reality will be different. Let's be honest with our lovely and magic italian friends: If Daimler cannot do it, nobody can do it. NOBODY.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Effective Working Time

Last Saturday I had lunch with some friends and their families, most of them had studied at RWTH Aachen during the same time I studied there. Few of them were very successful and became the heads of China operations of large/medium German or other foreign companies.

I had an interest to understand how hard they work and threw a question on the round table: “How many effective hours do you guys work per day in average?”

One friend asked back: “How do you define effectiveness?”

“Adding value to your company.” I answered.

He smiled and responded: “I am happy, if my work does not destroy values.”

And another friend said: “Maximum three to four hours.”

That is exactly the phenomena I observed by discussions with other professionals. The higher you climb to the corporate latter, the un-clearer is it to determine the value of your work and therefore your effectiveness. Most people, yes, most people are focusing to protect their current positions. The best way to do it is to orientate to what the bosses require. And it is important too.

But is that all a leader like you should do? Obviously not.

You have an obligation to continuously increase the assets of your team, organization or your company, e.g. hire the best people, let the low performers to find other opportunities, develop your people as a team and as individuals, improve the working process, make sure that your team to stop doing things that either destroy value or do not create values.

If you have done all these perfectly, then the next step is for you to extend the responsibility of the team or create new business scope. As a leader you have always to move a step ahead for others to follow.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bosses are made, leaders are born

For a long time, I admit that I have been wondering what we are born with and what is the result of our education. Father of 2 boys, I educate them the same way and nevertheless, both of them have two very different personalities. As a father, I have concluded that what is taught and understood is a consequence of our personalities.

Look at young children in a sandbox. They play, they have fun, they create groups. Take a large group of 40 kids playing in a sandbox in a public garden.

Suddenly, one child, surrounded by 5 other kids, starts to scream:" I want this, don't do this, play like that, come with me". Tears, complaints, candies, fight sometimes, and then the child plays again, going back to normal.
Ten minutes later, at another angle of the sandbox, a child is playing with a group of children, everything he/she does, the children play with him/her, the child smiles, talks clearly, look at the others in the eye, moves his hand and whatever he proposes, he actually commands, the others follow by magic.

The first one is a future boss, the second one is a future leader.

The first one, for the rest of his life, will learn that compelling desire, solid belief, action plan and determination will be key to his success. He will fight. With hard work, conviction, some intelligence and a zest of chance, he will be able to escalate the ladder of success and make a life. That will make him a boss and eventually a good boss.

The second one, has all of the above but he is born with an additional 5th element: charm. And charm is the supreme power. Charm is what pleases, fascinates and attracts. It is the ultimate spark which creates emotions, presence, impact, applause and fundamental leadership. It takes a second to know if someone has charm. It is our animal instinct which will make us follow this person. Or not.

As ordinary people, we follow bosses by duty, we follow leaders by heart.

Don't try: you have it or not.

Dress Code: FREE

Generally people tend to see the draw backs in the company they work for and overlook the nice aspects. Today I would like to present one advantage of the company I work for, just for a change, with the full awareness that this is not the only advantage. I am talking about the dress code.

A colleague and friend comes to the office always with suit and tie with perfect color combination and cuff links. When I asked him why he dresses always that formal, he answered: “Because I respect you, my friend, and because I respect myself.” Bone.

Another colleague and friend, a woman, does not wear formal, but constantly fashionable, sexy, some times with jeans, sometimes miniskirt. She likes to dress that way and it looks wonderful.

Our CEO wears business casual, no ties, unless there are customer meetings. His direct reports certainly adapted his style, no ties, even before they wore ties. Our leadership is at least flexible in styling.

I am much more flexible, sometimes I come with jeans and sweater, sometimes with suit, including tie and cuff links. A colleague was confused with the inconsistency and asked me: “Why do you dress that formal today?”

I smiled and told him: “Between you and me, here is my secret. When I stand up early in the morning, I took shower and wear nicely, because I like to give good impression. But when I stand up late, I just grasp the nearest clothes and hurry up to the office.”

Fortunately, my company allows it. People are absolutely divers in dress code, namely FREE.

11 Leadership Challenges in China for Westerner

In his book “Business Leadership in China” Frank T. Gallo listed 11 key differences between leadership in China and in Western. Here is a short summary:

1) Truth versus Courtesy
Both Chinese and Western cultures are truthful and courteous. However, Chinese people are more likely to favor courtesy over truth if this approach allows every one to save face.

2) Trust
China is a low trust society in the business world. Chinese people tend to trust people within the family or long term friends, with whom they went school or university. It takes longer time for them to trust their leaders.

3) Empowerment
Chinese employees usually do not feel comfortable to be empowered. They need hierarchy and guidance from their leaders. They understand that responsibility is the job of the leaders.

4) Individualism versus Collectivism
Chinese culture breeds collectivists. But it is changing towards individualism, especially for young generation. Public praise for individuals may not be a good idea.

5) The Rule of Man versus the Rule of Law
The business law in China is still immature. Chinese people do not consider a contract as final documents, but rather letter of intend. When issues arise, they tend to try to renegotiate the contract terms or try to find ways to resolve the issues flexibly.

6) Innovation and Risk-Taking
Chinese employees in a company are low risk taker in order to avoid mistakes. Therefore they are generally less innovative.

7) Decision-Making
The approach of decision making is more holistic rather than linear. Chinese people do not follow a decision making process, but rather discuss the whole issue back- and forward. They are likely to be consensus builder than westerners.

8) Influencing Employee Motivation
The best way to motivate Chinese people is to become real friends of them. Leaders can easily ask a favor in China than in Western. But leaders must be very sincere to their very specific and individual needs, taking care to resolve their problems.

9) Teamwork
Chinese teams are very strong. Team members are committed and loyal. However, there is little cross-team collaboration. They consider other teams more as competitors.

10) Reward Program Management
Reward program in China is very difficult to manage, because Chinese talk about every details of their package to their close colleagues. They use income as social status. Leaders should be very careful, if they try to motivate high performance individuals.

11) Executive Coaching
Coaching culture as leadership development tool is still not well established in China. People are ordered to go coaching, usually because they have problems.

“Business Leadership in China” is a very valuable book for any German Manager working in China. However, the author is from US and may have American lens in his investigations.

Overall the statements about Chinese employees and managers are generally valid and based on cultural background, author’s own leadership experience in China and interviews with top executives in China, both from China and Western. A must read.