Archive for May, 2010

From Compliance to Commitment – What’s underneath it?

May 24, 2010 // 5 Comments » // HR Insights | Leadership Infusion | Stories Retold | Team Intervention

Hierarchy of Commitment

Hierarchy of Commitment - ConversationCircles

Two recent news and current affairs got my attention.

For one, I read with interest this morning news about a man who has been arrested in connection with a power blackout at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino last Wednesday. He is believed to be a disgruntled engineer employed by a subcontractor of MBS.

The other, the passing of Dr. Goh Keng Swee. His story, past speeches, his contribution as 1st generation founding fathers, political achievements and driving many government’s nation building initiatives into the modern Singapore today, were widely reported over the past weeks. One such report quoted his last speech before he retires from politics; Dr. Goh said (quote): “You are coming into this. You are joining a holy order and your job is to build on what we have done, not treat it as a pinnacle, but as a foundation to make it better”

I thought the two reports have put both Commitment and Condemnation into perspective…

If Commitment is the pinnacle pursuit of our Human Capital work, have you ever ask what it takes to reach there? What comes before that? How do we know?

In 2005, I facilitated a teambuilding program for a group of 30 staff from a not-for-profit organization that has several establishment such as healthcare, pre-school and family-care centers. The leadership team faced tremendous challenges to embed the values of commitment and sense of ownership with the team. At the end of the two-day session, when we all sits in a circle and I drew the Hierarchy of Commitment on the floor with white-chalk and asked:

“For a question that I do not need an immediate answers but your deep reflection on where you think you are on the level of commitment to this very organization that you call home. Where are you?”

I invited the team to stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, spent about 3 minutes of silence in the circle.

We spent the next 45 minutes debrief with tears, laughter, confessions and affirmation. When I left the group, many still continue their conversation in small groups, in pairs and in self deep thoughts.

Are you ready to talk about Commitment?

How do you know that you don’t know?

May 14, 2010 // No Comments » // Change Initiation | HR Insights | Stories Retold

Picture source: Terra Kate via Flickr

Picture source: Terra Kate via Flickr

Our boy Timothy is 10 years old. We have been trying to impress upon him the benefits of oral hygiene since he has his first tooth…and these are what we have done in the past:

• Bought him the most attractive toothbrush and most enticing toothpaste when he started brushing. (HR C&B?)
• Bought him books and DVD animated series about dental hygiene. (Training & Education?)
• Showed him many times how to brush by holding his hands, forcing our way into his mouth etc. (Coaching & Mentoring?)
• Model to him every morning and night…(Leadership?)

But he still succumbed to tooth decayed, gum diseases etc…until Jan this year…

We booked an appointment with Health Promotion Board (HPB). A division that provides dental-care for the Ministry of Education school-going children. When it was Tim’s turn for the check, he walked in bravely but commented it was creepy and cold…a Dr. Ng Jing Jing attended to him and after checking realized that he has a decayed milk tooth that will need to be extracted. But due to his previous VSD condition, they will need a confirmation from the cardiologist from KK before the procedure. Dr.Ng explained patiently to us and proceed to do the routine “re-educational” with Tim, that was when it impressed upon me most…

What Dr. Ng did was a great learning for me not just about teaching Tim oral hygiene, but her approaches; she started with having Tim holding a small mirror to his mouth so that Tim are able to “SEE” what’s he’s doing when she explains…the whole process! I was dumb-founded for a moment and realised the importance “Learning and Knowing”. I realised that Tim would probably never know what’s going on ‘in his mouth’ when we taught him how to brush his teeth in the past…at least not visually knowing…but when he saw what happened, he look more convinced and confident about oral hygiene. I was totally impressed. Tim even commented after that: “I have never felt my teeth so clean in my life”.

That episode brings my reflection to a client of mine that grappled with ‘Change’ in their organization. As I shared with them about the reality of what’s happening with their processes after a ‘Change Urgency’ audit, they weren’t sure the data would be too “hard a reality” for some of the people. I explained that for change to happen, people need to “See”,“Know” and “Understand” the reality of what’s going on before they will have the motivation to change. My job then is to be as real as a mirror to reflect that back to them…

A mirror to tell the truth…but the challenge remains whether people are prepare to see what’s the reality…they still have a choice to NOT see what they are capable of seeing….hence knowing and learning…thus changing.

Are your people ready to face up to the reality? Are you ready to be the mirror to help them “SEE” the reality?

Enjoyment + Learning = Performance

May 13, 2010 // No Comments » // From The Inside Out | Stories Retold

Picture source: xyeshu via Flickr

Picture source: xyeshu via Flickr

I hit (tennis) with a friend some time ago at his lush condo in the eastern part of Singapore on a beautiful Thursday morning.

He started his stretching and pleaded with me to take it easy and claimed that he has not hit for a long while… After a few minutes of half court, he was moving to full court in earnest. In fact he was hitting the ball pretty well with good preparation and full swing…I decided to move to full court to compliment him and we started to trade forehands and backhands. We took a break after about 10 minutes and he was perspiring and catching his breath. We continued after the break and he started to make some mistakes with wild shots…I realized it could be a performance anxiety issue.

I asked: “What are you feeling when you were hitting the balls?”

He replied: “I was overwhelmed, you are like a wall…the balls keep coming back no matter how hard I am hitting!”.

“Are you aware of your breathing?” I asked to his amazement…

“You mean breathing…of course I am breathing…but yes, I think at times I am holding my breath when hitting…but no, I am not paying attention to my breathing…no…” He was collecting and reflecting his thoughts while trying to answer my question.

I suggested: “Let’s try this, the next few hits I would suggest that you pay attention to your breathing, the rhythm, the sound and everything about the breathing. And I mean really putting your focus on the breathing…try to ignore the resulting strokes.”

He appeared skeptical but nevertheless tried…after about 10 balls which lasted more than 10 minutes, this time I made most of the mistakes hitting the balls unto the net. He was hitting the ball with much more consistency, confidence and seems to really enjoying running about…

By this time he was grasping the air of awe and said: “Wow, I never realized about how I am breathing while playing tennis all my life and I really feel good about it this time!”

“…and it was quite difficult trying to ignore the resulting stroke but yes…I realized that I really enjoyed it very much! Thanks man!”, he exclaimed.

Inner Games of Work - Timothy Gallwey

When you are  Enjoying and Learning at the same time..Performance follows. Listen to your breathing the next time you are presenting, managing, negotiating, meeting…pay attention to your form…not performance…as ‘Per’ ‘Form’ – as in ‘One Form’ at a time.

“From the Inside Out” is a fun program using tennis and golf as metaphor to help you identify the ‘game’ that’s playing inside you that more often than not gets in the way of the game you play outside.

If you are exploring the issue on performance anxiety…talk to me.

The true mark of leadership – got the guts to follow?

May 10, 2010 // No Comments » // Leadership Infusion | Stories Retold

I got this interesting video clip from YouTube and thought of a similar lesson learned…some years ago.

In 2004, I facilitated a management retreat that consist of eight senior management staff and several middle managers from a healthcare organization. The kind of retreat that people gather, get to know one another, talk and discuss, plan for the year ahead and some team-building exercise to basically learn something about themselves while having fun.

For one such team-building activity, the team were given a challenge to step on a series of numbers on the ground at the quickest possible time in a certain sequences which all the number-pads were marked out with tape at a certain distance. One of the rules implied that every member in the team will have to at least step once along with some other rules which the team have to comply…if not, the team will have to go back to the re-starting line. As the team has only 6 opportunities to complete the task with the best possible score (time), each unsuccessful try was becoming very intense for them especially so for the “leader” of the group.

On the last opportunity to ‘get it right’, the COO (Chief Operation Officer) planned to be standing right beside one of the team member who was ‘considered’ the weakest link because she was always slow in stepping her number pad. True to the COO worst fear, when the time came for the ‘weak-link’ to execute her task, she was so overwhelmed by the pressure to perform that she froze momentarily (which in turn wasting precious seconds). In that split moment, what happened next became a great learning point for the team; the leader himself physically carried the petite lady by her waist and just like ‘stamping’ a gigantic rubber-stamp on a passport, forcing her both feet unto the number-pad to complete her task! That action brought laughter all around including the poor lady and what followed during the debrief was very memorable for everyone…including me.

During the sharing session, the leader was full of thoughts and admitted that the eagerness to get the ‘result’ had got the better of him. When asked “Have you observed any behavior during the activity that is congruent to the behaviors back in the workplace?”

He spoke bravely: “Yes, the very behavior of me ‘carrying’ her to make sure that she complete her task was a realization of how I am most of the time guilty of being task oriented and not able to empower others; but more importantly I have often placed result and performance over and above all other thing that matters…especially the heart of the people…”

Silence followed after his sharing and I ceased the opportunity for their learning and asked: “Within the wisdom of this team, what matters and what’s possible?”

The leader continued: “Frankly, there is a lack of situational leadership within this organization and largely due to our zero tolerance of error. In that people becoming very dependable on ‘leaders’ making all decision…We can’t and this can’t continue. We need strong followers that are able to take risk and influence others to make things happen.” Wise words from deep learning…till today, he still head that organization and is now a member of parliament.

Are you in a position of leading but are adverse to others taking risk?

Do you think that leadership has been over-glorified and that there are few ‘affective’ followers in your organization?

Not sure? Let’s have a chat…

Celebrate Life this Mother’s Day!

May 06, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Stories Retold

Never once, my mom ever did hold my hand and walk me to school…not once.

Never once, my mom ever stop nagging at me when she quarrel with my dad…

Never once, my mom ever voice her concerns over my academic progress…not once.

Never once, my mom ever spared canning me when I am ‘out-of-line’…especially when she’s really mad.

Never once, my mom ever be on my side when I am in dispute with her beloved other son – my brother…not once.

Never once, I have ever doubted my mom loves me…And I love her…Happy Mothers Day!

You must be wondering why is this blog-post here? Isn’t this personal matter? Isn’t this suppose to be a professional training website? If you did felt the same I suppose you are not alone…but before you conclude of my unprofessionalism, I urge that you listen to my mom story…the very little that I know.

My mom – Ee Khim ONG, born 2nd Feb 1944 and grew up in Penang, Malaysia, given away for adoption only days after her birth. Her adopted family which we still keep in touch took her in like one of theirs… She told me when she was small she dislike school and stop going after two years in a Catholic missionary school in Kedah, Malaysia. She spend most of her childhood years helping out at family chores, watching street ‘wayang’ and listening to Chinese popular music and hits of Elvis Presley over wired radio service. At 19, she left her hometown of Penang and work as domestic helper for a British expat family residing in Singapore in the early 1960s. She got to know my dad Frankie Lim, a part-time door-to-door pharmaceutical distributor then…She fell in love with my dad and the rest is history…
Ee Khim in 1964

Ee Khim in 1964

I could go on and on…and I am sure you will also have your story to tell. You see, this is a part of my mom life story; it is her constant companion and to some extend mine too. I also begin to realize that story humanize me, story can be the most powerful bondage between people. Christina Baldwin, the author of ‘Storycatcher’ - Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story explores three premises about story in her book:

  • How we make our experience into story determines how we live our personal lives.
  • What we emphasize and retell in our collective story determines whether we quarrel or collaborate in our community.
  • What we preserve in larger human story determines what we believes is possible in the world.

As I promised in my CC Touchpoint that in the month of May I would like to dedicate a large part of my blog to the power of story, let us learn to celebrate life using our story, sharing our story with hope and listen to story with love.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!

“Bottleneck” and “Dilly Dallying” – What do they have in common?

May 04, 2010 // No Comments » // Change Initiation | Conversational Circles | Leadership Infusion

Picture source: cscotte via Flickr

Picture source: cscotte via Flickr

Over the last weekend, labor chief Mr. Lim Swee Say and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew were at different public setting giving speech on entirely different topics and scenarios – Lim was at May Day Rally urging unions and workers-at-large to be prepared for global competition and probable economic storms ahead. While Lee was guest at Inter-Pacific Bar Association Annual Conference addressing climate change and legal practice. While reading the reports on paper, I found similarity with both sharing their thoughts on interesting terms such as “bottleneck” and “dilly dallying”. Let me explained:

Mr. Lim argued that all parties in labor movement should ride on this time of ‘upturn’ to identify “bottleneck” that limits productivity growth. He went on to emphasis that the “bottleneck” may go beyond the issues of just work processes and stages, working smarter and worker’s skills and knowledge; it is in the mind of the ‘bottleneck beholder’ that lurks within organizations that are unable to ‘see’ problems – which in itself is a “bottleneck” problem.

When asked what’s the key challenges facing the fights against climate change globally, Mr. Lee noted that the problem with fighting climate change is governments themselves. While he would not say that the Copenhagen Summit was a failure as it led to a meeting of world leaders’ minds on the issue — Mr Lee was pessimistic about future meetings securing a breakthrough in setting commitments on cuts in carbon emissions. He said: “There will be more dilly dallying internationally as every country focuses on its own internal problems.”

Both have different context, issue and scale; but I see of same problem – a problem of not ‘seeing’ I (or we) have a problem. In the same way, it could be that of ‘why not let’s hear your problem first before I tell you mine’ (in condition that the problem that you tell me is more serious than mine). Mr. Lim emphasis that the biggest “bottleneck” is in the mind of people – which is more difficult to identify than systems and processes.  Mr. Lee using the term “dilly dallying internationally” by country leaders focusing on internal problems also has a connotation of “self-preservation”.

Are you in a position to help someone ‘see’ the problem that they have but are not able to ‘see’?

Or could it be you that are not able to ‘see’ the problem? Or you that are ‘dilly dallying’ so that ‘change’ only happens when it ‘starts’ with others first?

What a weekend of learning for me!