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Photo: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

In the transition from technical role to a management role, one of the key areas for young managers to watch for is the lack of power base.

Jean Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet in MIT Sloan Review suggest 3 areas to plug this deficit:

Legitimacy
Critical resources
Networks

Legitimacy with bosses can send a signal of credibility to others which leads to a cycle of high visibility and influence which boosts your standing. Connects you to influential people and information.

Research on (LMX) Leader Member exchange indicates that bosses mentally divide their members into “in group” vs “out group”.

What can you do?
What you do in the job:
Hard work while important is exaggerated to secure credibility. LMX research suggests that one’s attitude and perceived compatibility with the boss are more powerful determinants of good relationship.

1. Understand the boss’s style and objectives. Boss’s preferences. Can be as simple as the boss’s preferences such as for email vs face to face discussions. Brevity vs depth. Adjust your communication style accordingly. Goals and interests to provide the kind of support to help boss succeed. Deliver on those objectives. May include seeking feedback as appropriate. Find subtle ways to advertise your expertise by publicly volunteering to help colleagues tackle difficult problems.

2. Accumulate credits by helping superiors get things done. Powerful people may see them as valuable allies. Kick start the virtuous cycle of reciprocity by making good faith deposits upfront.

3. Turn yourself into a resource. Gain special expertise.

What sort of expertise ?
Identify problems that nobody else has noticed or that few people are capable of resolving and then work to address them.

Consolidate your strengths. You’ve heard the 80/20 rule. To be so good you can’t be ignored. Don’t just be a generalist.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co once said, “To be a future leader, one should have a skill that everyone looks at and says X is the go-to person for that skill. Unless you’re really knownfor something, you don’t stand out from the pack.

One of the risks involved is that you’ll be locked into the position.

4. Build your own network.
A high quality relationship with a poorly connected boss may do more harm than good. Sometimes you’ve to protect yourself from bad bosses. After all you’ve to identify escape routes for yourself in the event of sudden changes and shake up.
Cultivate useful allies. Look beyond titles and formal roles to discover informal ties and actual dynamics that drive decision making in a group. Real movers and shakers.

How?

Reach out to both internal and external stakeholders. External stakeholders can include government relations, customers and analysts and institutional investors and board members. Asking customers what do you really need ?

Match-making– create forums where ideas and information can be exchanged. Sometimes it could be the organisation’s dinner and dance where you help people connect. Gain a reputation as someone who knows how to connect people.

Many of these roles contain risks, acknowledge the authors. So walk a fine line as you may be seen as using the role for your own gain.

Assess the areas of influence which you lack.

This is a joke recently told to me by a senior management leader, about the need to check our assumptions.

No harm or malice intended towards the professions mentioned below:

An engineer, a physicist, and an accountant were interviewed for position of Chief Executive officer of a large corporation.

The engineer was interviewed first. He was asked a long list of questions, finally: “How much is two plus two?” The engineer excused himself, made a series of calculations and returned to the boardroom, declaring, “Four.”

The physicist was interviewed next. He was asked the same questions for consistency. Before answering the last question, he excused himself, went to the library, and did a great deal of research. After comsulting the United States Bureau of Standards, he also announced, “Four.”

The accountant was interviewed last, and was asked the same questions. At the end of his interview, before answering the last question, he drew the blinds in the room. Closed the door, and asked the interviewer, “How much do you want it to be?”

Our world view is often shaped by the culture we are from, national culture, organisation culture and even our professional culture.

Do your old assumptions still work in dealing with a new world ?
How do you know that the person you’re dealing with; works on the same assumptions or similar standards ?

How would you navigate in the “white rapid” world of work? How do you prepare yourself?

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Photo taken at the Tongarino rapids in North Island, New Zealand.

We are all in sales now.

Says Daniel Pink.

“To sell is human – the surprising truth about moving others” by Daniel Pink

Analysing his work week, Pink realised that as a writer he spends a big portion of his time selling in a broader sense – persuading, influencing and convincing others.

Physicians sell patients on a remedy. Teachers sell students on the value of paying attention in class. We deliver presentations to fellow employees and make pitches to new clients.

We’re in the business of “moving” people to part with resources – whether it’s tangible like cash or intangible like effort or attention or support.

In a survey of 9057 respondents, he commissioned, two findings emerged:

1. People are now spending 40% of their time doing non-sales selling -persuading, influencing and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase. Across a range of profession, we are devoting roughly twenty four minutes of every hour to moving others.

2. People consider this aspect of their job crucial to their professional success – even in excess of the considerable amount of time they devote to it.

Dan Pink ask the following questions
1. Do you earn your living trying to convince others to purchase goods or services?
2. Do you work for yourself or run your own operation even on the side ?
3. Does your work require elastic skills – the ability to cross boundaries and functions, to work outside your speciality, and to do a variety of different things throughout the day?
4. Do you work in education or health care?
If you answered yes. Then you’re in sales. Because you’re in the business of moving others.

If selling is part of our work experience, what must we do?

Perspective-taking of the other person

  1. Attunement

Attune to the other person. Best way to start a conversation, he suggests: Ask – where are you from? Attune to culture differences.

Watch, wait and wane.  Mimic but don’t lose sight of your objective and do it with deftness, dont let the person think you’re imitating them. Mood map

2. Buoyancy

Before you attempt something, rehearse Interrogative Self Talk.  

Instead of positive self-talk such as “I’ll be the world’s best salesman”, take on a different tack – Ask questions.

According to researchers Ibrahim Senay and Dolores Albarracin of University of Illinois and Kenji Noguchi of University of Southern Mississippi, when given task to solve anagrams, the self-questioning group solved nearly 50% more puzzles than the self-affirming group.

Why?  Asking questions – interrogative, brings out answers which are strategies for carrying out the task. Daniel Pink suggests asking yourself “can I do that?”.  (Note: I suggest to rephrase that question to “how can I do that?”.  Unlike Pink, I have found that people with low self-efficacy sometimes answer, “no, I can’t.”

Ambivert and be positive.

After the sale: what is your Explanatory Style?

Martin Seligman found out that people who give up easily, even when they can actually do something, have a negative explanatory style.  They explain bad events as permanent, pervasive, and personal. It can diminish performance, trigger depression and turn setbacks into disasters.

Optimists instead attribute bad events as temporary and something external.

3. Clarity

Good salespeople are skilled problem-solvers. They assess prospects needs, analyze their problems and deliver the optimal solution. Or so we used to think.

Today’s world, information is abundant, so its less on problem solving than on problem finding. The Conference Board, a few years ago, asked public school administrators and private employers, what are the most important competencies required in today’s workforce.  Administrators ranked “problem solving” as number one.  Employers instead, ranked it number eight.  

Their top ranked ability was “problem identification”. [Interestingly World Economic Forum also ranked problem solving as Number One.  But Critical thinking as number two.  Nothing on problem Identification. ]

According to Haas School of Business in University of California, Berkeley, “being able to see what the problem is before you jump in to solve it” or “framing a problem in interesting ways” is very important. It triggers the ability to sort through data and presenting to others the most relevant and clarifying pieces.

Skill valued in the Past: Answering questions

Skill valued Now: Asking questions, uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues and finding unexpected problems.

How to be a better salesperson?
Identify frames of reference for the other person.

  1. Clarity depends on contrast. Frame your offerings in ways that contrast with its alternatives and thereby clarify its virtues.
  2. Everyone loves choices.  But too much choice is bad. [See Jam experiment by Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University. While more customers stopped by the jam booths with 24 choices, only 3% bought jam. At the booth with more limited selection (6 choices), 30% customers made a purchase.]
  3.  Use the experience frame.  Experiential purchases make people happier than material purchases.  Framing a sale in experiential terms is more likely to lead to satisfied customers and repeat business. If you’re selling a car, “go easy on emphasizing the rich Corinthian leather on the seats. Instead point out what the car will allow the buyer to do – see new places, visit old friends, and add to a book of memories.
  4. The label frame – in 2004, social scientists from the Interdisciplinary Centre in Israel, the US Air Force Academy and Stanford University recruited participants to play a Prisoners Dilemma game.  For one group, they called it “Wall Street Game”, and the other “Community Game”. In the Wall Street Game, 33% of participants cooperated.  In the Community Game, 66% reached the mutually beneficial results.  The label helped people put the exercise in context and hinted at what was expected. In an experiment of 5th grade students, a similar thing happened. Students who were labelled “neat” were more likely to keep their classroom clean.
  5. Clarify other’s motives
  6. Try a jolt of the unfamiliar
  7. Curate information
  8. Learn to ask better questions
  9. Find the 1%
  10. Ask 5 “Whys”

To improve your influencing skills:
Books suggested by Dan Pink

  1. Influence by Robert Cialdini
  2. Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  3. Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  4. Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
  5. Nudge: Improving decisions About health, wealth and happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. Twyla Tharp

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Not exactly art but a watercolour  painting session at today’s #carfreesundaysg# at the civic district.

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Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. – Pablo Picasso  ( quip taken from the brochure of Singapore Association for Mental Health)

The night before, I was reading  “Secrets of a creativity coach” where Eric Maisey bared his email coaching with artists, writers and others in the creative profession.

For writers, he suggested to write a few minutes day (aka 3 pages of Julia Cameron). For artists, he suggested 45 mins a day significant art.

1. List down 3 goals. (WOW goal)
2. Work on the first goal on day 1, second goal on day 2.
3. Work on the goals for 3 weeks.

For the clients who cannot find time, he advises them to list down the areas that they can do less of.

While these instructions seem easy enough, the typical goal setting plan that every self help book starts with. I realised that coaching ultimately is also about commitment to spend time on your goals and accountability to someone.

Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.

To die with one’s sword still in its sheath is the most regrettable.
Book of Five Rings

To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.
Story of the Talents, Book of Matthew Ch 25

First, what’s MOJO.

Its that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside.

I don’t like acronyms and if you hang around GEN Ys, you get that alot.

FOMO, YOLO

So when I saw a title like MOJO, especially after a colleague used that work, I had to pick up this book.

MOJO by my favourite coach Marshall Goldsmith, whose “What got you here won’t get you there”. Like his previous book, Goldsmith is an executive coach for senior executives and his examples reveal many of such insights with Scorecards and questionnaires and frameworks.

Mind the GAP
There’s a gap between how you see yourself and how others see you.
We sometimes underestimate our great moments and overestimate the impact of our bad moments.

Does anyone ever really change from leadership sessions?
In true Peter Drucker style, Goldsmith answers through a survey of 250,000 respondents.
Very few people achieve positive, lasting change without on-going follow-up.

Unless they know at the end of the day that someone is going to measure if they’re doing what they promised to do, most people fall prey to inertia. (Known as “Hawthorne effect”).

Hence, try the reputation questionnaire

  1. Name six “great” personal moments in the last 12 months at work. (You can consult your calendar and family, but Goldsmith says you can’t ask colleagues. In my opinion, if you can’t even name it, then what’s happened to your personal appraisal.. uh oh.)
  2. What made these moments “great”?
  3. In what way, if any, did these moments resemble one another?
  4. Can you identify the personal quality embodied in that resemblance? Can you give it a name?  For example, if you cite two “great” moments when you went out of your way to help a colleague with advice, you would label that personal quality as “generosity” – which feeds into a reputation for being “generous”
  5. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most well known, how well known are these “great” moments to people you work with?
  6. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most agreement, how much would the people you work with, agree with the personal qualities described in your answer to question#4.
  7. Name six “bad” personal moments in the last twelve months
  8. What made these moments “bad”?
  9. What did they have in common?
  10. Can you identify the personal quality they had in common? Can you give it a name? For example, if two “bad” moments involve episodes where you lost your temper, the personal quality could be labeled as “hot-headed”
  11. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most well known, how well known are these “bad” moments to other people you work with?
  12. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most agreement, how much would the people you work with, agree with the personal qualities described in your answer to question #10.
  13. Which answer, to question #4 or #10, is most likely your current reputation, or is it both?

If you work for a corporation, this is a useful guide to prepare for the yearly performance appraisal or performance management. Then compare it with the company values. Are you being effective or just busy.   How much do others appreciate what you’re doing?

Useful too, for interviews to get your next job

For those of us, working for ourselves, i.e. entrepreneurs or creatives. Very effective to think about the Brand or the Reputation you’re creating for #Brand You.

I’ve a rude wake-up call.

Consistency and Discipline though, is necessary.
If you’re known as a sarcastic boss, you have to bite your tongue for a long time.
Ask yourself: “Is it worth it?”

  • How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience form this activity?
  • How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience form this activity?

Change how you approach the same activity. It does not have to be with inertia.

For instance, if you’re about to attend a one-hour, mandatory meeting, your mindset is that the meeting will be a boring waste of time.

You have two options:

Option A: Attend the meeting and be miserable.
Option B: Make the meeting more meaningful and enjoyable. Observe your colleagues more closely or create a new idea to inspire others.

(Download the MOJO Meter)  http://debisilber.com/mojo-meter/

People don’t care what you know, but they know when you care. – John Maxwell

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Photo Source: Mr Kheng Huay

When the going gets tough, the tough write poetry

Before Steve Jobs, there was Thomas Edison. Of the “success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. How quickly we’ve forgotten him.

One of Edison’s most surprising tools for creativity was poetry.

Apparently, he once said “Inventors must be poets so that they may have imagination.” Aristotle noted “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. ”

Metaphors connect two different universe through similarity.

Example:
Life is like a box of chocolates.

Life is like a hand of cards. You play what you’ve been dealt with.

Those who approach life like a child playing a game, moving and pushing pieces, possess the power of kings. – Heraclitus

William Harvey looked at the heart not as an organ but as a pump. This led to his discovery of the circulation of blood.

Poetry fosters creativity because it makes connections that might not be made through theory driven process of scientific discovery.

Poetry also helps establish relationship between two previously unrelated objects – making connections. 

Poetry helps us make sense of an increasingly fragmented world by allowing us to make connections between seemingly unrelated events.

Another tool Edison adopted, was writing your own biography.  Process of reflecting on your life and writing it down will cause you to make connections between people and events that you might not have noticed before.

Edison started one although he left it to his official biographers. He even had an abandoned science fiction novel and detailed journals about his work activities. So did Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford and Mary Kay Ash. Jack Ma of Alibaba even kept video documentaries of the beginnings of his company and its various mutations.

Have you had a new experience in the last 30 days? Look for new connections that you’ve not noticed before. Write a poem describing what happened.

At work with Thomas Edison, 10 Business Lessons from America’s Greatest Innovator by Blaine McCormick