Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Select Your Leaders Wisely

A Company is NOT run under the principles of democracy. And the leaders are selected top down rather than bottom up. So what is your freedom to choose your leaders, your managers or your bosses?

You freedom to choose the leaders is by the time you decide to accept a job, an assignment or a project, because at that time the leader is already appointed. But you can only choose, if you have developed valid options. And I believe you will always have options, if you are a talent.

What are your criteria to select your leaders? The most important qualities of a good leader are integrity, character and judgement. However, too often the company’s leaders are selected based on the relationship and loyalty to their bosses.

Therefore you have the responsibility to carefully select your leaders before you accept a job. This is your power to influence and your right to exercise. When enough talents are doing so, it will become a voting system for selecting leaders from bottom up, because if not enough good people like you follow the unqualified leader, then he will lose power and eventually disappear.

Every one has the ability to change the world, just by changing his thoughts, actions and behaviours. You, me and many others are able to collectively improve the leadership culture in the corporate life. We should do it, because we deserve the best leaders.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Internal Competition Can Kill Team Work

When managed well, internal competition can be used as a tool to burst sales, improve productivity and inspire innovation. This is the case, when there is NOT a zero sum game, when the rules are clear and when all the involved members buy-in the competition idea before it starts.

However, in most cases I know, internal competition can be a strong de-motivator. People start to hide the information, try to be the first to report the team progress to the boss, try to claim the credits for themselves and to blame others for errors. They do not support and tend to mistrust each other.

In other words internal competition can be a killer of team work. However, many managers still design the work such, consciously or unconsciously, that internal competition is not only possible, but encouraged, when the boundary of the tasks are overlapping for two teams, when the objectives are set unclear or not set at all. The situation is even more dramatic, when the reward system is arbitrary and when there is favouritism in place.

Therefore be careful when ever you think to introduce internal competition. Last warning: competition in the form we know is based on the consciousness that there is lack of something, it is not enough for every one so we have to fight to get our share. This is the consciousness of poverty.

A much power tool is to practice the consciousness of abundance. There is enough for every one. Our imagination is unlimited. Our ideas are unlimited. We are geniuses in some way. Our productive work loads can be unlimited. And we can give as much as we want and will be able to create even more, while we are giving.

If we focus collectively on creating a bigger pie instead of fighting for our share, then we can make internal competition irrelevant and our work more fun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Merci, 谢谢, Danke, Thanks

From the amazing book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne I learnt an important aspect of life I should never underestimate: the gratitude.

So I thought it is the right time for me to express my sincere thanks to you, my dear reader. You are not just some one from France, China, Germany, USA and many other countries. You are a very special person whom I feel connected with, not only through the internet, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually, because I am a strong believer that there is no coincidence.

I am grateful that my texts have value for you, I am grateful that the internet, google, blog, Personal Computer and telecommunications made all these possible that you and me are connected in some way. Thanks also to all those countless people who work on these technologies.

Merci, 谢谢, Danke, Thanks!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Changing Life Forever

There are two ways to change life. One of them is called life changing moments. The other is called life changing habits.

Life Changing Moments

Some of my life changing moments are

- Met a passionate mathematic teacher so I started to love mathematics
- Passed the University Entry Examination so I entered into one of the best Universities in Shanghai
- Selected to the student exchange program so I could study in German
- Fall in love with a girl secretly who is interested in philosophy so I started to be interested in philosophy, religions, success teachings
- Met my wife so I am married for 23 years
- Kids were born so I enjoy the real family life in its full abundance
- Finished the PhD so I got a job in Germany
- Moved back to Shanghai so I rediscover the whole new aspects of life

These are things that revolutionized my life. Some of those things I planned. Others just happened without slightest hints in advances.

Life Changing Habits

Some examples from my life

- Run on the treadmill twice a week, 30 minutes every time
- Do sit ups twice a week, 120 times per session
- Read books on the subway to the office 30 minutes every working day
- Meditate in the taxi or in the buss on the way to the office 20 minutes every working day
- Take the guitar lesson every Saturday, 30 minutes
- Get the hair cut every two weeks and enjoy the massage at the hair salon
- Practice guitar every day after the dinner, about 30 to 45 minutes
- Join the dinner and talk with my wife, when she is late for dinner
- Wash-up dishes at every weekend
- Write down any title ideas for blog, when ever it comes into mind
- Write blog entries twice every week
- Say thanks to the taxi drive every time, independently of his mood
- Smile to the receptionist every time I pass by the reception of our office
- Make sincere compliments to any one around when there is a good reason
- Coach regularly colleagues or friends for any professional, management issues
- Go monthly to the gathering of the German Expat Community in Shanghai

These are the things which make evolutional change of my life. Add, delete or modify any of those things will shift my life’s focus, consciously or unconsciously.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Selective Memories: Improve Your Live Instantly

Years ago I learnt a method to improve my achievements. It is called success book. It tells you to write down every success during a day, big or small. That way you are much aware of your success. You can also create a love book or happiness book.

I know a woman who is very bright. She tells every small or big positive aspect of her life to everyone she likes, when she bought new shoes, new clothes, new jewelry, when she started to learn a new language or new music instrument, when she visited a new bar or restaurant, when she tried a new spa or ate a delicious cake.

On the other side when something negative happened to her, for example a car accident, she tried to remember the good side of it, e.g. the guy was nice or fortunately the cost of the repair was all covered by the insurance.

From above two examples I realize that maybe initially what happened did not really change. But if you emphasize the positive side of the reality, the positive side will have more weight to you. You select the things to remember you like. By any time of your life, it is not what you really have experienced, but what you can remember, will make up your (subjective) reality.

At the second stage however, when you get used to focus on the bright side of your life, your mood will be better, you will have higher energy level and you will have better judgment and make better decisions which will change your quality of live, improve your efficiency and increase your level of happiness.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Motivation Factor Number ONE: Sense of Purpose

On the way to the office this morning, I observed 2 elderly people, maybe aged at 70, standing next to the traffic light, directing the flow of the walkers crossing the street. The temperature was 31 °C. Both of them wore a sign: Volunteer.

Then I observed some young, nice dressed ladies in the air-conditioned office building with the best views to the Huangpu River, got bored for what they have to do, waiting for the clock to reach 5:30pm, so they can enjoy the night life in Shanghai.

So I start to question myself what really motivate people to work, not just to do an ordinary work, but a job with passion, independently on how much one gets paid for. I reflected to my own 23 years working experiences with all the emotional ups and downs and came to the conclusion that people need strong sense of purpose to work with passion.

For me the purposes are

1) When the work has a component of personal development, either for me or for other people.

2) When the work really creates values, either for the company, other people or for myself.

If none of the above exists, I tent to switch off my light and fire. I will still do a job well. But I may not go the extra miles.

I am pretty sure that every one has his own sense of purpose. The manager’s task is to find it out and to design the job for the subordinates such that it makes sense (of purpose) to them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Good Manager and Bad Manager

On the shuttle bus back to home my human resource colleagues and I discussed about what is the definition of a good or bad manager. I offered the following definition that surprised them and also myself. See if you would agree or disagree:

Good managers make from bad employees good employees.
Bad managers make from good employees bad employees.

Let me give you an example. Some years ago I was about to hire an employee and before the final decision I called his current manager and asked, how would he rate this employee’s performance from the scale 1 to 5 with 1 the highest. He said 3 to 4 the best cases. He told me the reasons about his judgment and I listen carefully. Finally, I asked him what he would recommend me to do to make this employee grade 1 by end of this year. He hesitated and said: “You do not really want to do so.” Meaning, he is hopeless, do not even try.

At the end I trusted my instinct and hired him. First, I figured out, what he is really good at. Second, I figured out, what would motivate him. Then I called him for a meeting and told him: “I see in you great potential to grow in the organization, because you always create a positive environment. When you focus on your strengths and do the things you can do best, I see for you the possibility to take over my job, when I move on.”

During the whole year I tried to reinstall his reputation by giving him responsibilities he could handle well and he liked to do. We had constant feedback sessions about how to improve the performance and the perception of other people. By end of the year, his achievements are recognized by a lot of people, including my boss. This employee got a deserved promotion.

I remember a statement by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Treat them as they are, they will become worse. Treat them as they should be, they will become better.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

Leaders, Experts and Running Dogs

In a large company, there are three eminent ways to position yourself: leader, expert or running dog. And there are other 80% of people who positioned themselves some where in between, they can be put in any position, moved around, sent to any location and laid off, when necessary.

: one who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal.
Advantages: Leaders live up their dreams, they create constantly gaps between themselves and their followers. They are innovative, positive, full of energy. They drive themselves, others and the company to some places where they never have been before.
Risks: Some times they can drive other people crazy and themselves to get a heart attack. Another risk is described by a Chinese proverb: we can not have two tigers on one mountain. I have seen again and again: a new leader stepped in and the old one have to leave. As a leader, you often have to be prepared for new challenges.

Definition: one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject (Merriam Webster Online)
Advantages: who ever the leader is in a group, experts always have the save harbor, because all leaders need people to work, to produce results, to develop products, to create marketing materials, to sell and to deliver. And experts do not form any threats to a leader. They have no chance or ambition to replace the leader.
Risks: When market or technology shift, expertise can become obsolete. So open your eyes and mind and continuously renew and improve your expert areas.

Running dogs:
Definition: one who blindly follows someone else's orders (Merriam Webster Online)
Advantages: Running dogs are much better off than their reputation. As long as the leader is in charge, running dogs are more than save. Since they usually do not have strong characteristics, they are protected by the leaders. Running dogs have usually high level of skills. They are generalists who can do any type of works pretty well.
Risks: When the leader leaves, running dogs are likely to lose their jobs, since they did not develop skills to survive without the leader. And some times they have opportunity to be promoted, when their leader step up. In this case, there is a chance of failure, since they never know how to lead and drive others.

How are you positioned in your company, a leader, an expert or a running dog? Or some where in between? Do you want to change your positioning or do to want to strengthen your positioning? See also Your Value as Expatriate.