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Keep It Fun and Simple in 2017

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It is that time of the year again. Time to come up with New Year resolutions – to do things differently in order to achieve a better outcome.
I have decided to adopt a motto of keeping it fun and simple in 2017. It is about having one overarching big goal with a fun and simple way of achieving it.
5 steps to keep it fun and simple in 2017 are:
1) Establish THE big goal. 
Think of one big goal challenging enough that you are passionate about. In my case, it would be to run a full marathon. I see it as the next step after a few successful completion of half marathons the past year.
2) Treat IT like a new hobby
Once you have decided on the big goal, treat it like a new hobby — something that you are very excited about to invest time and effort to get better at. In my situation, I have created a 16 week program schedule of training to be integrated with my daily schedule. That way, I can smoothly adopt the so called ‘program tasks’ within my daily activities.
3) Get a reliable support system
Get yourself a buddy for your new hobby. What really matters is your execution. You will need some inspiration and motivation to sustain yourself in the pursuit of your goal. Get your most trusted friend who shares the same interest with you to be involved in your activities. Of course, the involvement is relative and you have to be clear on the type of involvement that you need. For instance, I specifically request that my ‘buddy’ runs with me every Sunday. Other days I am pretty much running and training on my own. The more valuable contribution is the conversations that you can have with your buddy — reflecting on current progress and things that you can do differently to improve yourself.
4) Celebrate progress continuously 
Reward great execution. It matters.
Whenever you accomplish specific tasks or certain milestones, reward yourself. It is great to feel good. It helps to keep you motivated to continue doing the next steps in the long pursuit of your new hobby.
5) Complete what you start
In simple words – get the job done!
Be accountable. Stay focus, execute your daily tasks/activities as scheduled one step at a time. Continue progressing, sustain your motivation until completion. Don’t stop until you achieve what you want.
Whatever it is, the foundation is based on executing simple daily activities. One at a time.
What’s your motto for the New Year? What would you do differently?

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4 Things to Think Of In Your Pursuit to Provide The Best Customer Experience

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customer experience

“Every company’s greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company.” – Michael Leboeuf

Obviously, businesses exist because of their customers. They need to keep their customers happy – anytime, every time and all the time. Otherwise, they stand the risk of losing the customers to other competitors that can provide better products and services.

In order to be relevant, businesses must keep on retaining their current customers and winning new customers at the same time. They have to be innovative to continually create something new that would differentiate them from their competitors and appeal to their customers.

In doing so, here are 4 things to think of:

  • How do you engage with your customers?

This is about creating a compelling relationship with your customers – understanding their deep aspirations and delivering on those aspirations.
I remember participating in a Focus Group of a local cosmeceutical company, Style Fusion Sdn Bhd, which manufactures and distributes its flagship product, the RA8 Facial Skin Care and Regenerative Serum. A professional facilitator facilitated a group of 20 people seeking direct feedback on our experience with the RA8 products, our perceptions of the company, the kind of decision tree that we typically go through when planning to purchase cosmetic products and the type of improvement that we would like to see in RA8 offering.

From the customer’s perspective, I applaud such effort as I realize that Style Fusion cares about me. They listened to what I had to say, took the feedback and acted on it. RA8 Pour Homme, a skin care for men was one of the key outcomes of that Focus Group.

  • What type of image and reputation are you representing?

 Among the many fast food chains, Pret a Manger has a long lasting impression on me. I love the sandwiches, the soup, the salad and everything that it represents. The price is very affordable. The food is fresh, healthy and delicious.

Pret a Manger prides itself in freshly prepared good natural food. In meeting such image and reputation, it has to function like a restaurant by having its own kitchen. All of their ingredients get delivered early each morning and there is no expiry date to any one of their sandwiches, salads and baguettes. All unsold food are offered to charity at the end of each day.

Pret a Manger has innovated extensively – from the design of their stores, packaging of their products, selecting their suppliers and communicating their brand effectively – in its pursuit to project the image and reputation of the leading provider of freshly prepared good natural fast food.

  • How do you deliver your products/services to your customers?

Your ultimate goal is to enable your customers to buy what they want, when and how they want it with the least hassle and cost, yet maximum satisfaction.

Selection of the right delivery channel is highly dependent on the industry, product types and customer behaviours. Regardless, you have to continually identify potential improvements on your current delivery channel in order to stay ahead of your competition.

Dell, for instance, revolutionized the PC industry in the 1980s when it introduced the direct selling model of PCs to its customers. The direct selling model cut out the retail middleman which resulted in a competitively low price for the customers. In addition, such delivery model benefited the customers as they could custom order their PCs and received their orders within a week – a much superior service than other PC makers.

Learning from Dell, here are the areas worth looking at to consider innovating your delivery channels:

  • Can you think of a new delivery channel that is really unique which would revolutionize your respective industry?
  • Can your customers remember and tell others about their experiences in acquiring your products?
  • What are the breadth and depth of your ‘sales extensions’? Who are the parties that help sell and deliver your products and services?
  • How many types of delivery channels do you use currently? And for what purposes?

 

  • How do you add value to your products and services?

The key measurement of whether or not you are adding value to your products and services is ‘a peace of mind’.

Murad bought a Volvo XC90 which comes with a 5 year warranty last year. In the 6th month, the gearbox of the XC90 was faulty. He was very disappointed. He called Volvo Service Center complaining about the poor quality of the gear box. However, his issue was easily solved. The Volvo Service Center took his XC90 and ordered a new gearbox right away. Since the whole process of repairing took about a couple of weeks, Volvo provided Murad with a replacement car for him to use. Though the replacement car was not an XC90, Murad was happy nevertheless. He got his XC90 repaired at no cost and he could still go around anywhere conveniently.

That was ‘a peace of mind’ for Murad.

Which means that Volvo had done a superb job at adding value to its product.

Focusing on the 4 things described above will help you in determining the specific areas of innovation in relation to enhancing your customer experience.

What type of initiatives have you undertaken to enhance your customer experience?

 


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5 Steps to Execute a Strategy Exceptionally Well

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Strategy-executionWhat really matters is execution.

How many times have you heard about companies having great strategies but poor execution? The common reasons cited for failing to execute well are lack of leadership, not following through effectively, change of priorities, resistance to change and many others.

In realizing the strategy for the organization, managers play very critical role. They need to influence their team members to operate in alignment with the strategy of the organization. They must ensure that their team members are clear about what they need to do in order to fulfil the strategy aspirations. They have to create a healthy and rewarding environment to sustain the motivation of their team members to achieve what they are set out to do.

How can you prepare your team members to execute exceptionally well?

Here are 5 steps worth considering:

Dialogue with your team members.

Once strategies are set (most organizations have a top-down approach in setting strategies in which only the leadership team and/or the strategic planning team are involved), you should get together with all your team members and have an open dialogue to discuss about the strategies. Share the strategies with your team members. Discuss about what the strategies mean to your department. Highlight the key priorities of your department. Have an open discussion on what each team member needs to do. Encourage questions and spend time to address all concerns that your team members may have regarding their roles and actions that they need to take to realize the strategy aspirations. Make sure that your team members are fully involved.

Set realistic goals.

Realizing a strategy is about taking actions to make things happen. The prerequisite to taking impactful actions is to set realistic goals. Following the guidelines of setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals are a good place to start. It is extremely important for you to discuss with your team members on what you expect them to achieve, elaborate on how best to work together in order to provide the best support for them and the method on how to assess progress from the beginning until the end completion of a project or an initiative.

Constant feedback.

Many large companies such as Accenture, Adobe, Gap and Medtronic have ditched their performance ranking system, and switched to providing employees constant feedback on performance in a timely manner throughout their assignments. Such method will result in a much better outcomes as employees will have the opportunity to know exactly where they stand and what they need to improve on quickly, rather than waiting until the end of the year. The most critical point is that they are able to learn and take the relevant actions instantly to further improve their performance on an ongoing basis. This approach augurs well in realizing the organization’s strategy aspirations as you can proactively work with your team members to either stay on course or take remedial actions as you see fit to ensure that you are in alignment with the strategy of the organization.

Embrace change.

Be mindful about specific changes that need to occur in translating the strategies of your organization. You have to actively communicate the benefits of such changes to your team members. For instance, your headquarters might come up with a new approach of selling which requires resources with new skill sets in the form of vertical industry knowledge – banking, healthcare and education – which your team members are currently lacking. In such scenario, you would actively communicate the benefits of needing to have the industry knowledge, “our customers and potential customers demand that we understand their business”, “we must be able to speak the same lingo as our customers”, “we can only consult our customers effectively if we can translate the benefits that our product brings to them in terms of profit and/or service improvement that matters to them” and so on. To make it easy for your team members to embrace the new way of selling, you deliberately opt for a 3 prong approach – (1) enrol your team members in their respective vertical industries sales training (2) get your team members to prioritize their top 3 key opportunities that require deep vertical industry knowledge in order to win the business (3) develop strong partnership with your Regional Office in preparation to secure their support in providing the vertical industry knowledge needed in your key opportunities. Openly communicate the changes you expected from your team members and your approach in supporting them to succeed.

Be accountable.

Accountability is about being committed to your goal and carrying it out until you achieve the expected result. It calls for a strong sense of ownership – taking full responsibility in understanding your goals, executing them, addressing obstacles, solving problems and seeing them through until completion; while avoiding the blame game. It is imperative that you demonstrate accountability to your team members. Search for a story on accountability and tell the story to your team members every time you have the opportunity to do so – say in your weekly or monthly staff meeting. You must continually convey the message that you expect full accountability from them.

The  five  steps  above  will help  you  in turning your  strategy  into  a reality.

 

What  type  of  actions  have you taken to turn your strategy into a  reality?


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10 Steps on How To Realize Your Full Potential

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Mt KinabaluWhat separates the winners from the losers?

Maya and Aini planned to climb Mt Kinabalu. They embarked on a 12 week training program which include climbing the stairs at the Batu Caves, hiking at Forestry Research Institute and running between 10km to 15km a week. After four weeks of training, Aini told Maya that “I change my mind about climbing the Mt Kinabalu. I don’t think I can do it. I am sorry that I have to quit now…and I hope you can find another friend to go with you…” Maya was surprised to hear that but she accepted Aini’s decision. Maya continued training and successfully climbed Mt Kinabalu 10 weeks later.

What separates Maya from Aini?

Maya was committed to realize her full potential. She planned, prepared, practiced/trained and followed through on her commitments. She showed up to realize her full potential. Whereas Aini stopped believing in herself – she did not follow through on her commitments and failed to realize her God given potential.

That’s what separates the winners from the losers.

In order to be a winner, you have to realize your full potential. Here are 10 steps on how to realize your full potential:

  • Positive Mind set
    As the common saying goes – it is all in the mind – undoubtedly your mind set plays the most crucial role in setting yourself to be a winner. You need to conquer your mind, eliminate self-doubt and fully believe in yourself that you have all the right capabilities and resources to fulfil what you set out to do.
  • Know What You Want

Have you ever asked yourself whether you really know what you want? I have met a lot of people who seem to be doing a lot of things with minimal outcomes. For instance, an entrepreneur starting up in one business can easily be swayed to do many other businesses due to the freedom that he has (in comparison to the Corporate workers who are committed to their 9-5 tasks). In fact, it is pretty common to see entrepreneurs getting involved in so many businesses at the same time that they end up spreading themselves too thin, losing focus and in the end, they do not achieve ‘real’ success in the venture that they initially started.
The right thing to do is to know exactly what you want and be super focus on it for long term success.

  • High degree of self-awareness and self-management

 Self-awareness is about knowing yourself – your internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions. Are you aware of your true capabilities? How confident are you in your respective field? What are you good at? What are you poor at? Do you recognize your own limitations? Do you realize how your emotions affect others?
These are some of the questions that will help to assess your own self-awareness. The skills involved in self-awareness include emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment and self-confidence.

Self-management is about managing your internal states, impulses and resources. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, emotions, how well you adapt and manage yourself in varying situations and circumstances. Are you an angry maniac when things do not turn out as planned? Or are you calm and collected while seeking to understand what exactly goes wrong and actively working on a solution to fix the situation?

There are many skills that you need to sharpen to enhance your degree of self-management, namely emotional self-control, adaptability, transparency, achievement, initiative and optimism.

Without a doubt, the winners possess high degree of self-awareness and self-management which help them in maintaining control in their pursuit of excellence.

  • Never stop learning

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” – Brian Tracy.

Learning is a lifelong journey. In the world that we live in today, new products come out every 12 months, the rapid development in technology enables people to do better things faster within a much shorter time and the world we live in has never been smaller. Your best survival weapon is knowledge.

  • Be around ‘highly infectious’ (in a positive way) people

 Murad is an outstanding worker in his company. Everyone seems to like him. He is ‘a ball of energy’, always doing his job enthusiastically and readily offers a helping hand to those in need. He listens well and always think well about the people around him. Having him around will make your day. He has such an impact that on the day he is not around, you will feel as if something is amiss in the office.

Being around people like Murad is something that you should include in your ‘to-do list’. Being selective in who you want to hang out with is a good thing to do. As much as possible you should maintain only positive energy and influences around you.

  • Share and Collaborate

Be ready to give and take. You will achieve a lot more – satisfaction, success and great partnership – by sharing and collaborating. Gone are the days of keeping things to yourself in your pursuit of excellence.

The world that we live in today is too complex and highly interconnected. The right model to win in this interconnected world is to share and collaborate. Share your knowledge and expertise. Strike a suitable partnership strategically with the right parties to complement your niche.

Likewise, at the individual level, do the same. If you were a seasoned marathon runner for instance, share the tips on the training regimen that you adopt with the aspiring marathoners. You may even want to invite them to join you in one of your training sessions.

  • Stay Relevant

 Change is constant.

Regardless of any fields you are in, you need to adapt to the new changes that happen. Adapting to the changes will require you to constantly enhance your skills and competencies, continually update your knowledge and ready to accept the new ways of doing things.

Unless you are prepared to adapt and evolve with time, you will lose your competitiveness.

You have to stay relevant to win.

  • Renew Your Goals and Raise The Bar

 Say, you are already the best in your field – you receive a 5 star performance year in and year out. What would you do? Do you maintain the status quo? Or do you keep on looking for ways to do even better?

The key to continue winning is to keep on pushing the envelope. Set a new goal. Raise the bar and test your limit. See how far you can go.

  • Continually Improve

The ideal scenario is for you to take stock on the relevant skills and competencies critical to your job. Based on your assessment, decide on specific action items required for you to improve. Two key considerations include the following:

  • Determine specific training or learning and development activities available for you to enrol in.
  • Deliberately request for feedback from your immediate boss, your peers and colleagues on their observations of the behaviours that you want to improve on.

For instance, Kevin wants to improve his negotiation skills in order to do better in his job as a Corporate Account Manager. He rates himself at Level 3 (out of 5) which means that he is comfortable negotiating a medium size project with the support of a Contract and Procurement Manager to be present with him during the negotiation. He knows that he needs to have a Level 4 competency to move up the value chain – to be trusted to handle negotiations on strategic major projects with very complex contractual terms. In this scenario, Kevin decides to take a 2 prong approach to continually improve his negotiation skills as listed below:

  • He signs up to attend the Advanced Negotiation Skills training
  • He requests for a group of selective people who work closely with him to provide direct feedback on his negotiation skills. The direct feedback should be provided shortly after their observing Kevin’s negotiation session. The format of the feedback focuses on three key attributes – what’s working, what’s not working and what he should be doing differently. In addition, Kevin together with the giver of the feedback will need to agree on the action items to be followed through and assess the progress over time. This is a reiterative process and Kevin will continue receiving feedback from them as there is always room for improvement.

Likewise, you can apply the same approach in your respective area of improvement that you are pursuing.

  • Get The Job Done Well

 You are better off starting and completing a job rather than starting many jobs but not completing any.

I have met many people who are involved in so many projects but yet none of those are completed as planned.

Winners are those who are focused on the tasks given to them, stay on course and follow through until the job is done well. They are very clear of the milestones and the expected outcomes. They take obstacles as opportunities. They proactively anticipate the worst case scenario and work backwards to map out required resources and remove obstacles. In addition, they are honest about the challenges, pull people together to solve problems and escalate serious situations to the people in authority to make the required decision in a timely manner.

What  steps have you taken to realize your full potential?

 


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5 Key Priorities In Your First Month As a First Time Manager

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oct 8th blog imageKeith was excited of his promotion. He could not wait to start his new role as a manager. He started listing down all his to-do lists and realized that he had just too much in his plate. Remembering his father’s valuable advice – “you have only about 16 to 18 hours (minus your sleeping time) in a day, so be smart and focus on the right priorities” – Keith decided to re-evaluate his to-do lists.

His big question was “what are the 5 key things that I should be doing in the first month of my role as a new manager?”

Here are what I shared with Keith in my conversation with him:

  • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your direct boss

It is critical that you understand exactly the expectation of your direct boss. Have a conversation about the big picture in terms of what the organization (and the department) wants to achieve, the key priorities of the organization (and the department) and specific goals of your direct boss. Dig deeper and ask him about the key outcomes that he expects in the short term, say in the first quarter and the medium term. Seek his feedback on his work style to make it easy for you to work with him. Discuss about performance setting and monitoring. Get him to share his views on what he sees as the key challenges in the department from the perspectives of people, skill sets/competencies, systems and processes.

  • Get to know your subordinates/team members and your peers

You need to earn trust and respect from your subordinates/team members and your peers in order for you to be a good and/or an effective manager. While trust is something that you earn over time, first impression is equally important as people tend to form an opinion about you in the few seconds of their initial meeting – once perception is formed, it is hard to undo. Hence, it is definitely worth your while to get to know every one of your subordinates and your peers whom you will be working with closely.

Have a 1:1 meeting with each one of them. Understand their roles, their contribution, their strengths, weaknesses and the kind of impact that they have brought to the organization and their work styles. Likewise, you have to let them know how best to work with you. One thing that you must really avoid is to act as if you know it all. Be humble. Admit that in specific areas you would need their help and that you look forward to working collaboratively together.

  • Develop the ‘vision’ together

You are expected to establish your vision for the department; showing your team members on the direction that they should be pursuing. Rather than establishing the vision on your own, you are better off formulating it together with your subordinates. This will be one of the best opportunities to demonstrate that they are counted. You care about them and it is not about ‘you’. Besides, when you formulate the vision together, chances of them buying into the vision is very high. After all, they play a significant part in determining where they want to go.

  • Setting mutual expectations

The next important thing is to ensure that your subordinates know what you expect of them. Likewise, you have to let them know clearly on what they should expect of you. Have a dialogue with each one of your subordinates to discuss and determine mutual expectations that both parties will agree on. Define performance criteria and agree on the approach to measure and monitor them.

  • Introduce culture

In a nutshell, a culture is a collection of standard behaviours in a group; which means you can deliberately create a ‘culture that you want’ in your department. One way of approaching this is to introduce the ‘rules of engagement’ for your department. For instance, you aspire to create a culture of continuous improvement through direct feedback. Make it known to your subordinates and establish these rules of engagement – constant feedback is expected from every one, feedback must be two way and feedback must be acted upon. In addition, you must equip them with the right tools and capabilities for them to be able to provide feedback effectively; such as getting them to attend a customized training on giving and receiving feedback and establishing a number of interesting incentives to speed up their habits in adopting the culture of giving and receiving feedback.

Executing the above 5 priorities right will help you a great deal in setting the tone for your department.

You can share your top 5 priorities in your first month as a new manager in the comments section below.


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