Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Future Value of Time

Every morning I share taxi with two colleagues on the way to the office. And we wait for each other on the taxi rank near the subway station at around 8:20am. When I come earlier, usually between 5 to 10 minutes, I sit down in the subway station and use the time to read business books. You could bridge 5 to 10 minutes easily by doing nothing and just wait. However here is what I have learnt about time.

The first concept about time is the famous “time is money”. Actually, most people, maybe over 90% of working adults get paid by their time. Every one may have a different hourly rate, but principally they sell their time either to their employers or to their clients and customers. People are more generous to waste their time, but they are more careful about money, even small change.

The second concept is that actually you can “invest” your time to generate future value. Learning a skill or building an expertise with your time is a great way to invest your time. By learning smartly you will be able to increase your hourly rate, because you will be capable doing a higher paid job or offer a higher value services. Think about what you could earn with 5 minutes some day and then decide, if you still want to waste it.

The third concept is that time is your life. Suppose you want to live 80 years. That is exactly 42 millions minutes. That's all the time you have and it is very limited and individual, no one can really lend you any more time. So to waste your time is equivalent to waste your life. And maybe this is the most common sin across country and culture boarders in the whole world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why Didn’t You Take More Initiatives?

Years ago a friend of mine moved to a new department within his company and got a bad boss. The boss was not really a bad person, but had no clue at all what leadership means.

My friend was very bright and highly motivated to work hard and to change the way how things were done inefficiently in the department. One example: every one kept the information for himself. There is no central data base for things with common interests. And if you need some information, you need to go to certain person to get it, again and again.

But his boss felt threatened by the dynamic guy, and stopped everything the young man initiated. The boss told him that he was not entitled to do such things, because that was the job of the boss.

Slowly the young man realized that he would go no where with his ideas, energy and initiatives and decided to imitate the way how his "good" colleagues were doing, namely just followed the orders of the boss and did exactly what was told. The relationship between him and his bosses had improved. There were no argues any more. The department was doing the same thing with the same inefficiency as before.

In the year end review however, the performance of the department was moderate and the boss got a warning from his boss. He called every one in the department afterwards and tried to motivate them to do more next year. After he called my friend in his office, he told him: “Your performance is moderate. You do everything well what was told ONLY. But you can do much more. Why didn’t you take more initiatives?”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Berger Executive Resources: A High Performance Company

Since years I am looking for real life case studies of high performance companies. Today I happened to have the chance meeting a business woman who owns such one. Her name is Chen Wei, head of Berger Executive Resources focusing on HR consulting, mainly head hunting.

What did she do differently than other average head hunters? By the way there are thousands alone in Shanghai. She runs the firm successfully without overtime and she does not request employees to do overtime as well. Why is that possible in Asia, in China, in Shanghai? Because she does not waste any time and trained her employee to have the same discipline. The results: Berger Executive Resources belongs to top 10 according to on-line polls.

Some other head hunters including some big ones try to follow any cases they can get, with 10% to 30% hit rate. So 90% to 70% time are actually wasted. Chen Wei’s style is just the opposite, she ONLY follow the cases which 100% winning chances and sign exclusive contracts with down payments.

What are the benefits? For the company there are effectively no wasted resources including time and money. The clients get 100% care and focus and absolute quality job. The candidates have better chance to land positions which best fit to their talents. The employee always works on projects for which they will get bonuses. And who would like to leave such company to other average ones? Employee royalty leads to client royalty. Client loyalty leads again to high performance of Berger Executive Resources. A truly win-win-win situation.

I wonder why do not all the companies in the whole world follow the same concept?


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Are you the Father of Wenyue Ding?

Last June I started to learn playing guitar, encouraged by a valued friend. And here is the story:

The administrator of the music school called me some times to resolve issues like paying fees or changing time etc. And the nice lady always started with the question: "Are you the father of Wenyue Ding?" To avoid the lengthy explanation, that my father actually already passed away few years ago at age of 90, I always answered: "Yes." Then we quickly resolved the issue and closed the call.

People do not really expect a person to learn some thing new and exciting at the age 48 -- by the way today is my birth day and got a CD "The Best Guitar Gems with music by F. Tarrega and J. Rodrigo" from my wife ;-) -- they expect you to burn out with hard work, get a heart attack and die.

But my plan is a different one. I want to live healthy until 120, having plenty of money, creating a training and coaching business for German Managers and write. I want to leave a spiritual heritage that will reach 120 million people. My mission is to make people at the working place including myself happy. No more and no less.

If I continue to practice guitar, one day at the age of 70 (22 years from now) I may be able to give a guitar concert.

But how can a nice lady at the music school know about all this? And how can I explain this to her? So when she will ask in the future: "Are you the father of Wenyue Ding?" I will simply answer: "Yes." and smile.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Power Of Switching Off Mobile Phone

I am not a friend of working long hours, especially for things which can be avoided or which do not add any customer values.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who has to work very long hours as a manager and is forced sometimes to come to the office at the weekend. He never switches his mobile phone off, even while sleeping or during the vacation. He would worry about missing a phone call, maybe from his boss. But one experience changed his entire life forever.

Once he took one week vacation with his family to Tokyo and had not been aware that his GSM mobile phone did not work in Japan. The first day he was very nervous, because his mobile phone did not ring. He felt that some thing could happen and he was not informed. The second day, his fear reduced and he got used into it. After all what could he do?

From the third day he started to enjoy the complete silence coming from the mobile phone and realized how nice it was to spend the quality time with his wife and kids without any disturbance.

Today he switches the mobile phone while sleeping and during the vacation. He delivered even better performance than before, because a human being can not really be always on!

Two Candles

On Valentine’s Day my wife and I went to the Jade on 36 Bar at Shangri-La Hotel in Pudong. We enjoyed the wonderful view over the Bund, ordered fruit cocktails and a colorful fruit plate. Since the candle on the table was from electrical bulb (everything is fake in Shanghai :-), I brought two small red candles and lighted them up. The atmosphere was just fantastic.

During our conversation, suddenly the fire of one candle was drowned. I then calmly lighted the candle with the burning one. We continued talking, ate fruits and drunk our fruit cocktails. And all of sudden, the one candle stopped burning again. So I took the other one and ignited it.

During the whole night this happened four, five times, we were patient and recovered the fire again and again and saved the wonderful Valentine’s evening, until the burning candle was used.

On the way back home in the subway, I was thinking what did the two candles want to tell me? And suddenly I got an idea: in relationship of romance as well as in relationship with client, as long as one party still has passion (fire), that party can ignite the other party.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Impact of Economic Crises in Shanghai

I was often asked by European colleagues: “Do you really feel the impact of economic crises?” Since my experiences are only from the news paper, radio and TV, I decided to pass the question to the people I interact with daily and here is the feedback.

A taxi driver: “Yes, absolutely. Less people come from airport. And less people go to the luxury entertainment areas.”

A breakfast seller: “Yes. My main customers are workers from the country side. Now since some factories got closed, my business dropped dramatically.” In fact I saw her often standing there waiting for customers coming, while in the past she was always extremely busy with serving the people.

A laundry provider: “No. Not really. My customers are the white color inhabitants who lived near by. I experience business as usual.”

Conclusions (even not scientifically proven due to lack of sufficient samples): the economic crises impact first the high end (business traveler, expatriates) and low end (workers from country side). It has not been impacted middle class, yet.

My wife and I went on Saturday in Super Brand Moll. It was the valentine’s day. We had difficulties to find any seats for dinner, some top restaurants are overbooked with waiting time of 2 hours. Couples carrying roses were in high mood. It was really difficult to feel the impact of economic crises. Perhaps, loved ones are always exceptional. But what does prevent us from practicing love, despite economic crises?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Two Phases in Your Career Development

There are two phases in your career development in the corporate life:

1) Make yourself in-dispensable.

In the early development stage, you start to build your area of competence, try to do as much as possible and learn every thing you can and then finally got into the stage that you can virtually not be replaced easily. What can you do with it? Every thing. You can ask for a motivation (read: salary increase), for a development plan (read: paid training courses, on the job degree, e.g. MBA), for a flexible working time (read: more day-offs). Or even career development (read: promotion): Since you can not be replaced (please make sure that this is true also in the mind of your boss), he or she would be willing to accept your requirements.

2) Make yourself dispensable

When you got promoted and have team(s) working for you, your job is to make sure that the work will be done well with less your involvement as possible. When you take three weeks vacation, you can switch off the cell phone with the absolute consciousness that when you return every thing will be fine. What should you do with your time?

a) Clarify with your manager what exactly the team should accomplish and how to measure those accomplishments.

b) Structure the work such that every one can do their work in their area of excellence.

c) Make sure that the needs of those people are made, so they feel happy to come to the office.

If your job is doing well, you will have in fact less and less to do. So what should you do next? Three things:

d) Market your organization.

f) Develop your organization to next level of challenge.

e) Prepare for the next level of the job for yourself.

By practicing “Making yourself dispensable” you indeed take a risk that your manager may think that you are irrelevant for the organization. This risk is however worth taking, because he might not be the right leader who will take you anywhere. And you should leave him and find a better place to grow anyhow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Your Values as Expatriate

Why should your company spend all the money multiple the expenses of a local hire to send you to China? Here is my view.

There must be a gap between you and a local employee, and the gap must be substantial enough to justify the difference of the pay. Here some examples:

1) Trust. This could be the top reason to send you as an Expatriate. If your manager is unable or unwilling to trust a local employee for good or no reasons at all, you are positioned strongly in his mind.

2) Technical and business expertise. Through several years working experiences in Germany, you must have gathered practical know-how and skills, which you may not be aware of, but will sharp your judgment and decision making.

3) Leadership ability. Leaders are rare anyhow. Leaders who can run an operation with multi-national work force are like diamond. In my own 18 years working experience I had more than 12 bosses. I would consider only one and half as good leaders, less than 13%. Am I overly demanding? No. Conversation with others and literatures provided similar results.

4) Motivation to work hard. Since your cost is much more than your local colleagues, you might decide to compensate this with more working hours, staying late in the office and coming in on Saturday, traveling a lot and seeing less your family, if you can maintain one.

Do I miss any thing substantial? What is the added value in your special case? And what should be your strategy to stay in contract as long as you wish to?

A) Please find the ONE key reason for your Expatriate contract. Then do everything possible to improve that key reason. Example, if you are sent because your boss can only trust you, so do what is in your power to make him to trust you even more. If you are a born leader, than develop your team and your organization to a higher performance level.

B) Improve with moderate efforts in other areas. The strategy here is to keep par with your local coworker. You could do more, but your limited resource is the time, always.

C) There is only one thing you should be careful, which is if the key reason to send you is number 4). Then you should consider changing job, because how much more time can you work to compensate your cost? Twice than your local coworker the best case, but never, ever 5 to 10 times.