Wednesday, September 30, 2009

8 Ways To Recognise Your Staff

Recognition is a precursor of rapport. Rapport is that set of skills that connects people on an interpersonal way. Too often, staff tend to equate recognition with monetary rewards. Although, on a pragmatic level, employees highly value money (as it is a certain motivator) it is temporal in its effect. After you have blown the whole pile, what happens to your motivation level? Does it wane off?

So, I decided to poll my audience about their thoughts and experience with non-monetary forms of recognition. I thank my Facebook respondents for their recommendations and observations.

1. Public recognition

2. Gen Y would like you to give them an all expense paid Ironman race. Generation X would like you to finish an Ironman race in their name.

3. Give them a simple note of appreciation, done in front of the other staff.

4. On simple praise - it goes a long way!

5. A simple thank you. It’s really appalling that some patients don’t say thank you after seeing their doctors nowadays.

6. Compliments: direct and indirect. Who doesn’t enjoy the occasional compliment?

7. Send them a handwritten note, or e-mail with your appreciation of a job well done.

8. Give publicity of your high-performance team in your corporate newsletter and online newsletter.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In the News

This is a personality profile feature (27 September 2009, Saturday, The New Paper) about 60-year-old triathlete Joseph Ong. Read his amazing story of resilience, defying injuries and disappointments, and rebounding to do his next big race. He recently qualified (in The Philippines) for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida; he will join Singaporeans Ling Choo Er and Enrico Varella. Three expatriates Craig Slattery, Marco Dittrich and James Middleditch will also join the trio for the 14 November event.

My comments appeared at the end of the feature.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Age Before Beauty

The title above comes from Rocky 2, which was uttered by Apollo Creed to Rocky Balboa as he invited the latter into the boxing-ring. These two variables are dipolar opposites, and have an inverse relationship to each other. Age increase, while beauty diminishes.

I have observed that in endurance sports, older competitors have beaten older ones – often by a large margin. Mind you, the older body does not recover as fast as a younger one. That is nature’s way of saying: Time is running out. Mid-life crisis, as is lived by most middle-aged men seems to be the point where men plunge into extreme lifestyle changes. It is not surprising that endurance sports like triathlons, marathons and fast-car driving are popular with that stratum of the population.

Does one get better with age? Comparing wine to people is one analogy. Yet, not all wines age gracefully, especially in a hot and humid climate. Vinegar is one by-product of aging (and oxidation).

In which ways do we age, with benefits?

1. Acquisition of wisdom (although it is finite)

2. Wider breadth of experience

3. Depth of knowledge in more subjects

4. More frames of references

5. Skillfulness (levels that are near mastery)

6. Aerobic fitness (ability to last physically longer, until fatigue sets in)

7. Maturity of thought

8. Enhanced reputation as a role model

Do you dispute with any of these?

By the way, congratulations to Joseph Ong who will represent Singapore in the 60-64 years age group for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida on 14 November. We wish him all the best!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

10 Ways To Blow Your Own Horn

No, this is not a plea for you to pick up a musical instrument! Blowing your horn is a figure of speech that calls for expressing yourself in public through your performance and track record. Today, the buzzword is personal branding; how do you position yourself as a brand of distinction? What do you stand up for? How do others perceive you? Either you get noticed or, or you will fall on the wayside of obscurity.

1) Achieve your agreed upon Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Key Results Areas (KRAs), and exceed them

2) Be likeable, and like others

3) Strive for the three-pronged approach: what you know, who you know, and who knows you

4) Get involved in volunteer work and lead in key initiatives (national sports association, Singapore Youth Olympic Games, charity organizations, hospice care)

5) Get onto committees where your skills and competencies may add value to the team

6) Be known within other non-professional circles such as your community, hobbyist groups, and social groups

7) Earn recognition and distinction for an area of expertise (start a triathlon club, organise Toastmasters sessions, coach your colleagues to their first marathon, lead in a weekend beach clean-up)

8) Be respectful to others, recognize them for their abilities, and reassure them when they are doubtful

9) Use social media tools to enhance your presence, and actively build your networks (blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook, reviews)

10) Be involved in corporate events (writing minutes of meeting, be on the editorial board, organizing the company’s Family Day/Dinner & Dance, or be a office-bearer in your company’s sports and recreation club)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Every Event is an Audition

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances;
 And one man in his time plays many parts. His acts being seven ages…so wrote William Shakespeare in his play As You Like It.

Professional actors go for auditions. Each audition is an opportunity to flaunt our talent, skills and abilities. A role, commercial, or part is bagged when one is successful in crossing the hurdles found in each audition.

What is an audition? It is a trial hearing given to a singer, actor, or other performer to test his/her suitability for employment, professional training, or competition (think of America’s Got Talent). It is usually a reading or other simplified rendering of a theatrical work, performed before a potential backer or producer.

In other words, it is a test. It is also a selection and recruitment process. Can you recall the job interview you last had, where you landed your current job?

Do you face each day as an audition?

Master-coin magician David Roth shared that he once got into a Burger King television commercial despite having small hands. In his hands, the burger looked much larger. So, size does not matter – talent does. Roth has beautiful hands, as he performs wonderful magic with coins.

So, how do you audition each day when you are work? Do you know your lines as a customer-service professional? Do you look you best when you arrive at work? Are you the consummate professional? Do you fully express your capabilities at work? Can you imagine that it is your first day at work?

Friday, September 25, 2009


‘The changing of sunlight to moonlight. Reflections of my life.’ ~ Marmalade

Reflection is about looking back at what has happened, and assessing what went well, and what did not. It is an internal, mental process where memory meets comparisons and personal judgement.

Matthew Wong wrote, two days ago, a sensitive piece (Little Things Count) about his life and soul mate, and his fondness for challenging sports. I urge you to read it for it is an insightful and reflective piece.

It is like what Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was a time of wisdom, it was a time of foolishness…’

Learning from experience is about not making the same mistakes, and taking more risk the next time. It is about knowing what else to do should a similar situation arise. When we reflect, it is analogous to looking into our inner pool of experiences, memories, opinions, beliefs, relationships, and feelings. Trouble is, sometimes the learning takes a while to sink in.

When I reflect upon my endurance sports journey, I consider the following facts:

1) I started participating in biathlons, triathlons and marathons in 2004

2) It has been a long and arduous journey

3) It is so easy to get injured if we get careless with technique and use faulty equipment

4) Technique is a primary aspect of enhanced performance

5) Improvements are a form of personal fulfillment

6) Each finish in a race prepares me for a harder one in the future

7) I did not achieve my successes alone, but with a team of close supporters

8) My coach has been instrumental in my progress and sustaining my continued interest

9) I have yet to realize my physical and mental limits

10) Celebration is best shared with your loved ones

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Choose your Metaphor (Part 2)

‘The headlines describes the failures of mankind. The sports page describes the success of mankind.’ ~ Unknown


Everybody loves a good story, and Hollywood and filmmakers have endeavored to do just that – create stories that filmgoers connect with. Most of us enjoy a happy ending, unless it is a biopic. They say that art imitates life. Many films use the device ‘based on a true story’ or ‘inspired from actual events’. Conspiracy theories are also popular in a post-Orwellian and post-X-Files era. Whodunits have their fan-base, as do Disney-funded stories of underdogs.

Many great leadership lines can be spouted from films, especially treatises of famous people. Most biographical epics (biopics) can extend as long as 3 hours, and more. You will need patience and a good night’s sleep to fully immerse yourself in the story.

Language patterns derived from film include: acting- (as in acting-manager), play a part, roles, cast, directed, staged, main players, scripts, scripted, rehearsals, and audiences. These terms are used in management science, human resource and marketing.


The core of all of us is our family, and what’s familiar to us. Founder of Conjoint-Family Therapy, Virginia Satir said that our biggest instinct is that for/of the familiar. We need to know. Not knowing can be threatening. Of course, humankind’s second instinct is survival.

Family values are highly valued for they form the foundation of character building. Moral education and ethics are founded on the family unit, its dysfunctionality, customs and tradition.

Language of family that has penetrated our working vocabulary includes: care, concern, consideration, generosity, morals, relationships, family dynamics, family, sibling rivalry, politics, and expectations.

Previous interviews with parents in this blog involved these language patterns and values. Do read them for insights.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Choose your Leadership Metaphor (Part 1)

Leadership gurus have advocated the use of stories, metaphors, analogies and lessons to develop their people. To this end, I’d like to address some of these devices and how to be more discerning when applying them. Some may not go down well with your audience, if overdone.

On War

War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Not exactly, although the song with infectious tune does suggest the insanity of escalated conflict. Too often, we may read and hear of lessons drawn from military warfare and how these can be extracted and reconstructed into our business or corporate leadership strategies. Even the word strategy draws upon historical references like:

Apply battle-proven leadership to achieving victory; establishing objectives; getting the facts; coordinating your activities; daring to advance; concentrating on one’s forces; leaders and followers; conserving resources; the person in charge; targeted planning; fields of commerce and business.

Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and The 36 Strategies may still be relevant, yet it is focused on values that are self-preserving and border on paranoia (specific to that period in history). Even the world of marketing shifts adroitly from polished phraseology like battle of the minds, positioning, strategies, tactics, battlefield, entrenched in tradition; cutting losses.

On Sports

Leadership Lessons from Triathlons focuses on the terminology, trials and tribulations experienced from sports and sporting activities. Weekend athletes, competitive athletes and their spectators can share in the ‘thrill of victory, and agony of defeat’. Myriad values are engaged in sports, including endurance, tenacity, persistence, perseverance, patience, determination, courage and passion. In sports, we release blood, sweat and tears. There is drama in athletic competition, so that we root for the champion or the underdog. Sports express the Olympics motto of ‘altius, fortius and citius’ (higher, stronger and swifter). The endurance athlete (triathlete, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, X-Terra) can draw upon many valuable lessons from their training, racing and supporting and apply these to their leadership practices.

Tomorrow, we will explore the metaphors of Family and Film.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do We Want to Preserve Records?

Isn’t it great to have a record unbroken? Bob Beamon’s long-jump record (8.90m) set in Mexico City in 1968 stood the test of time for more than three decades. Baseball Hall of Fame, ‘Babe’ Ruth record of 60 home runs was unbroken until in 1961, baseball player Roger Maris hit 61 yet had it recognized only as a new category. In the film 61*, the asterisk suggested that it was not accomplished within a specific number of seasons, as Ruth did.

In 1961, baseball expanded its season from 154 games to 162, allowing weaker pitching into the major leagues and two New York Yankees teammates - Maris, and Mickey Mantle - to make an assault on the sport's ultimate record: Babe Ruth's 60 home runs. To raise the stakes, baseball commissioner Ford Frick announced any record set in the last eight games of the season wouldn't count toward the official record; records had to be achieved in 154 games; thus, Maris's record was 61*. Maris's record was fully acknowledged, ironically after his death, and his record was broken only about 37 years later.

Now, this is totally different from having an unblemished, winning streak. Streaks are a pattern of consecutive wins, and they can last for a sustained period until fatigue, stress, injury, or a stronger competitor beats you. Contrast the recent performance of tennis powerhouse Serena Williams, uber-sprinter Usain Bolt, and hurdler-king Liu Xiang. One lost her cool and her match; one has a highway named after him, and another is redeeming his grace after pulling out of the Olympic Games because of injury.

Singapore coach for weightlifting, Tan Howe Liang said that his biggest regret was that nobody had earned an Olympic medal for about 40 years since he bagged the nation’s only silver medal in Rome in 1964.

Recognition is a powerful tool of raising a person’s esteem. It validates what they have accomplished and encourages them to, perhaps, do more. In sports, recognition includes medals, finisher t-shirts, personal bests timings, podium-finishers, trophies, qualifying slots, pats on the back, congratulatory notes, handshakes, and interviews by the press. Breaking records is, ultimately, one of the highest forms of recognition one can receive for shifting the focus of attention.

In the celebrity world, biographies and bio-epics mark the arrival of one’s achievements and accomplishments, despite of one’s youth or maturity. Recently, The Beatles and their music were immortalized on a video game- is that preserving records of one of the most successful bands in music history? Dignitaries have flowers named after them. Having your face immortalised on a stamp is recognition. If you qualified for the Ironman triathlon world championships in Kona, Hawaii it means that you have broken your personal record to race with the best internationally.

Leadership Lessons: How do you crack records? What do you do to express your recognition of others? How can you break your own, records?

Monday, September 21, 2009

The D Word – Uncut and Untouched

Just got back from a 100km ride at Desaru, Malaysia. It was quite busy with at least three distinct groups riding: Triathlon Family, Crazy 2Tri and a rag-tag team of enthusiastic mountain-bikers and roadies.

I was reflecting on the occurrence of discipline around me today. The obvious demonstration of it was punctuality, and everyone arrived without fanfare at the immigration-counter on time. Thereupon, we briskly cleared checkpoint, and loaded our bikes on the sturdy bumboat. The human chain exercised extreme caution when loading these costly and treasured iron horses on board. No bicycles were harmed in any way during both passage of way.

My riding mates Clifford Lee and Matthew Wong took turns to be sweepers for our new riders. This required that they deliberately slow down enough to allow the struggling riders to gather enough momentum to mount a new slope ahead. The discipline in riding long is to ensure that you keep to a manageable heart rate, while attending to your nutritional needs: power-gels, power-bars, water, sports-drink. An ill-disciplined rider who tests his energy system may run into a red-flag situation whereby he will experience fatigue rapidly.

Our road discipline also included that we stayed alert to the holiday traffic. We kept close to the shoulder of the road, whilst accommodating to the urgent speeding of overtaking vehicles. It also meant that we held back our anger when an impatient motorist drove his car precariously close to us, or horned at us incessantly. Flipping the bird was an option we chose not to exercise. Staying close as a group also offered the benefit of safety in numbers. Sure, we had to be disciplined in our actions for the consequences may be ugly if we flout basic traffic rules, and basic human nature.

Just in case you are wondering, television celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay wrote a book called ‘The F Word’, which of course refers to food, and not his preference for using the commonly associated expletive.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The D Word - Redux

There is such a thing known as road discipline. Sticking to one’s lane, not tail gating, not over-taking without warning, and no reckless endangerment to motorists and cyclists.

Seems like once the driver’s licence is awarded, all caution is thrown to the wind. I like to describe defensive driving as being patient, and taking it as it comes. Offensive driving is when the driver flips you the ‘bird’.

It is the same with cyclists; some may display behaviors that are dangerous to others. Just this morning, as I was cycling alongside a road that parallels the airport runway, I had several road hogs (riding shotgun) and a cyclist who suddenly stopped to look behind. They were simply not aware of their surroundings.

Having the discipline to scan your environment, and respond to it quickly can enhance one’s sense of safety. It is also about observing rules and conventions that are meant to be ‘common sense’. As clichéd as it may sound, common sense just isn’t common. It takes uncommon sense to deliver on the deliberate, decisive and discerning.

Lead with open eyes, and not just follow blindly. Follow the rules, and lead with your head. Disregard the rules, and live with the consequences of your carelessness. Integrate fellowship with followership.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The D Word

What makes a group of people rise early so as to swim in a lagoon, even though it is drizzling? It would be so easy to stay in bed. Grinding it out on the road, alone, on a bike for three to four hours – it is so easy to just ride into the nearest drive-in, convenience food store to have a hot, hearty breakfast. Running at dusk, with repetitious footsteps pounding on the stiff asphalt – it is so tempting to just sprint down to the nearest pub for happy hours, and chuck down a beer with no regret.

But we didn’t. Now, what gives?

Discipline. Now, that’s a word. Often associated with uniformed groups such as the police and armed forces, discipline is more ubiquitous than we think. It is ingrained in the heart of excellence, for without it chaos may ensue in any profession, busienss or industry.

Discipline is about conformity, uniformity and identity. It is about compliance, not defiance. It involves documenting work processes, as you initiate and sustain work processes that deliver on results. Auditors – those seemingly annoying colleagues – they thrive on the discipline of measurement. Measuring supports the scientific approach. Peter Drucker said: ‘Measure, measure, and measure. What you can measure you can manage!’

Discipline is also about not throwing in the towel. It is about staying steadfast to a sense of purpose. It is about stubbornness (or rebellion) with a cause. It is about demanding the best out of your performance and efforts. As punishing as discipline may sound, the consequence of being ill-disciplined may lead to carelessness, inconsistency, and superficiality. It takes discipline to stick to a plan and schedule. It takes discipline to stay actively in touch with friends on Facebook, Twitter or text messaging.

Discipline is about followership. Sometimes you lead. Sometimes you follow. That is much more to discipline than we think.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Art of Compliments

Do you enjoy compliments? Are you comfortable with giving compliments?

Compliments have a way of enhancing someone’s day. It seems to rejuvenate and embolden them. Steven Demaio wrote a good article for the Harvard Business Publishing blog called ‘The Art of Giving Praise’. Read it!

A few years, I had the privilege of emceeing for a conference for Solutions Focused practitioners. The late-co-founder of Solutions Focused Brief Therapy, Insoo Kim Berg taught us the value of compliments. Essentially, she encouraged us to apply:

1) Direct Compliments

2) Indirect Compliments

3) Self-Compliments

Which of these are you most comfortable with? Which of these are Asians most comfortable with: direct, or indirect compliment? The initial belief did not match the practice. Time and time again, I get to dispel these false assumptions and theories.

Give somebody a compliment today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Featured on the Local Dailies

11 September 2009, Singapore Press Holdings Auditorium.

After I delivered a 30-minute presentation for budding amateur magicians, I was interviewed by the local Chinese newspapers, Zao Bao (for their zbCOMMA section). Local professional magician, Bob Chua performed for the enthusiastic audience, and was thereafter interviewed, too. Our thoughts and impressions about the future of magic was the focus of the interview.

Secondary school-teacher, Soo Chan Hua a.k.a. Shade led the magic course for an audience of about 70 students and some parents. It was the term break, and student-leaders from the top secondary schools and junior colleges facilitated the day-long course as magic-coaches. It was deeply satisfying for me to experience students-as-leaders in a healthy, teaching environment. The future of magic as a hobby and performance art seems secure, for now.

Stealing the Limelight

What kind of values drives a leading male singer-musician to embarrass a young colleague who is receiving her first industry award?

Even the Chief Executive was reported as saying that the singer–in-question was inappropriate – well, in more colourful language.

The male singer’s intention was, probably, good – to openly acknowledge the other female nominee who he believed, rightfully, deserved the award; she was ambushed by his gesture, and explicitly stunned. However, his domineering behavior (of snatching the microphone) put the recipient of the award in a very bad spot. How dare he steal her limelight? She was gracious, and kept passive as he thundered through with his short harangue. The male singer stated on his blog that he was being honest. Is there a clash of values: Honesty versus graciousness?

Thankfully, when the other female singer won her MTV award she invited the stunned and sad one an opportunity to give her acceptance speech. What a leader! Doing the right thing.

Leaders should be more magnanimous than that. They know when to give credit where credit is due. We can share the credit. They know how to recognize a person’s performance. Stealing somebody’s thunder is still stealing – it is not on.

My prediction: Bad Boy singer with the attitude, and poor judgment will lose a section of his fan-base. Bad Boys, passing off as leaders, will become passé. The consumer community will realize that its tolerance for unacceptable behavior will be moderated by their personal values.

As Forrest Gump said: ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Role Playing or Playing a Role?

No, this is not about RPG, or Role Playing Games. This is a learning methodology where experienced and skillful actors assume functional positions in a company.

Traditionally, role-plays are used extensively in sales training. As a sales trainer, I have learnt to accept that many of my clients expect their sales professionals to undergo lots of hands-on, role-playing exercises. The conventional way to approach these, face-to-face exercises is to have three participants (students) in a three-way (triad) learning group: Customer, Salesperson, and Observer/Coach.

Impromptu is one such company, based in the UK that provides experienced role-players for corporate training. They also write scripts based on the client’s requirements, industry, and nature of business. The key selling points of this company are credibility, flexibility, and feedback. Having worked with them, I appreciate how the actors add value with their feedback on how well the students approach their ‘target audience’. These role-players (who study and research the industry they work in) also know when to stretch the students, or ease back on the realism and level of difficulty.

As a methodology, a well-executed role-playing session can be a great simulation before a major sales presentation, performance appraisal interview, executive-coaching session, and mentoring session. On a business perspective, role-playing can help strategic selling teams prepare for a diversity of scenarios. Sometimes, you get professional role-players who are real-life executives in major corporations, or even business-owners and entrepreneurs. Role-plays can be useful devices for leadership training and development, as well as people-orientated management.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spirit of the Marathon

This film captures the passion, drama and essence of the famed Chicago Marathon. The intimate, fascinating portraits of six runners from all walks of life unfold as the film follows seasoned athletes and amateurs alike in their preparation for the big race. You will feel the experience as Deena Kastor attempts to defend her title, and a Kenyan runner aspires to, finally, win this race after two near misses. The final sprint towards the finishing-tape, after a blistering 42.195km may be so close as mere seconds!

In many ways, The Spirit of the Marathon is similar to the annual Ironman Triathlon World Championships (in Kona, Hawaii) where the producers transpose the race coverage with profiles of age-group qualifiers. What is different is that you will watch the progress of each athlete months leading up to the Chicago Marathon. You will feel their concerns, anticipation, excitement and eagerness to run. You will feel the disappointment when one of the runners is sidelined by a serious injury.

The bonus for me was to watch the interview segments with the greats of the marathon including Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Frank Shorter, Grete Waitz, and Alberto Salazar.

Whether you run or walk part of the way through the marathon, it will bring out your awareness and appreciation of your body’s limits, and the spirit of the marathon. This film may inspire you to train for your next marathon, or just go out for a fun jog. Have a drink, lace up, and enjoy your run!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Endurance Game

This morning, I raced in an Olympic Distance triathlon. It was my first, fast race for some months since I completed two Ironman triathlons. Endurance sports can be hard on your body, especially when your limbs feel like lead weights attached to them. This morning was no different; the first 2.5km of the 10km run was laborious and challenging. I was pleased to meet many new triathletes, and I hope that they will be motivated to pursue this sport further rather than be horrified by it.

How do you embark on an active lifestyle that includes endurance sports?

1) Walk and Run

2) Run up to 10km

3) Swim in multiples of 10 laps in any stroke (progressing to the front crawl)

4) Cycle in multiples of 10km

5) Run your first half-marathon

6) Run your first marathon

7) Do your first biathlon

8) Do your first triathlon (Olympic Distance)

9) Complete your first half-Ironman race

10)Complete your first Ironman triathlon

11) Do more than one Ironman triathlon

My friend, Mitch Thrower is a serial entrepreneur and has completed at least 17 such races.

12) Do a cross-terrain marathon

13) Do a cross-terrain Ironman (such as Norseman)

14) Do back-to-back Ironman triathlons

15) You are on your own after this…

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stop the Press

Yesterday, I delivered a 30-minute presentation on ‘Magic for Beginners’. It was part of the Mandarin newspapers’ Zao Bao’s supplementary tabloid, called zbCOMMA. This 24-page, Mandarin tabloid reaches out to 80,000 secondary students in Singapore. For several weeks, its Page 22 features a magic trick, and its accompanying principle. Over the weeks, students were featured as guest-performer in this instructional section.

Youth favourites like computer graphics, blogs, magic shows and entertainment news are also featured to enhance reading interest. Its website, includes online discussions and interactions with youth on topics featured in the paper. Teachers can download questions set by experts on news and articles in the paper through the eClassroom. As a newly launched paper, zbCOMMA is gaining popularity among students and teachers have started to use it as teaching material during Chinese lessons.

Mr Soo Chan Hua, a secondary-school teacher from an independent school volunteered his services during the one-week school holidays. He rounded up a team of students as magic coaches to perform and teach the audience how to learn the syllabus of tricks. A large turnout of 50 students and parents participated in this unique one-day event where they learnt simple, but effective magic tricks.

My presentation focused briefly on magic history, magic etiquette, magic tips, and a performance of my three favourite tricks. Singapore veteran magician, Bob Chua also performed after my segment to an enthusiastic audience. Both of us were interviewed after our respective segments on our opinions on the future of magic, popularity and its next trend.

The highlight for Bob and I was when we spent lunch with the editorial team, and then had a guided tour from the editor, Ms Lim of the production facility (spanning three buildings). We met journalists, editors, and viewed the gallery of old newspapers. An extensive length of walls was dedicated to the framed, headlines of the earliest Chinese newspapers published in Singapore. Bob and I agreed that it was an edifying and educational experience. We thank Ms Lim, and her colleagues for attending to use us so closely and respectfully. She took great pride in giving us the tour and introducing her colleagues.

Leadership Lessons: Leaders lead by enthusiasm and pride. Punctuate your sentence with a comma, as it allows a more purposeful verbal delivery instead of a hurried and aimless pace. Leaders punctuate moments of the mundane with useful questions, and sharing of observations and perspective.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Shaken Bottles

Bottle Shock (2008) is a story based on the 1976 entry of Californian wines to worldwide prominence, after being accepted by the French wine-experts. Bottle shock is a term to describe what can happen to wine as it travels from one place to another.

Napa Valley’s Château Montelena won the top nods of wine sommeliers and viticulturists, when the son of a Napa Valley vineyard, submitted two bottles of brown Chardonnay for a blind taste-test in Paris. The discoloration was considered anathema, although the flavour and taste of the wine was exquisite. Apparently, it is possible to make a too perfect wine. That said it is a wine that has almost no oxygen present during the fermentation and bottling processes. That was Napa valley’s Jim Barrett’s problem when his great-tasting chardonnay looked unpalatable. Yet, his problem cleared up, in time to be assessed in the ‘Judgement of Paris’ where French wines were pit against the much-maligned Californian wines.

Can you be too perfect? Is perfection unattainable?

To reiterate the scientist, inventor and artist Leonardo Da Vinci, ‘Details make for perfection, but perfection is no detail.’

If you are a perfectionist, how do others perceive and relate to you? Some may perceive perfectionists as being anal-retentive. Others may find them annoying, and nitpicking. Yet, perfectionism is about aspiring to higher standards, even excellence. How do you initiate changes without shocking the system you are in? Can change be as subtle as the myriad and complex flavours in a bottle of wine?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who Made You Leader?

‘The evil leader is he who men fear. The good leader is he who is revered. The great leader leader is he who the men say ‘We did it ourselves!’’ ~ A 2,000-year-old saying.

When do you rise to the fore? When do you emerge as a leader?

If people do not regard you as a leader, then how do you proceed? If your team of followers expects you to be present, and represent yourself then your relative absence becomes noticeable. What an irony! To be noticed, when you are not around.

As Seth Godin suggested, to initiate change we will need a tribe that rallies itself behind a common cause, and communicates this cause throughout. Your effectiveness, and subsequent success, as a leader will be dependent on your availability. That is what personal branding is about: make yourself available, accessible, attractive and amiable. Few people appreciate those who incite fear and discord within a team, or community.

Lead with your head, and heart.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another Brick in the Wall

Alright - so I may have baited you with Pink Floyd's anthemic song title, yet in triathlons a 'brick' means something else altogether.

This evening, I rode about 55km then followed up shortly with a moderately-paced, 11km run. It was tough towards the end of the run as I began to cramp mildly one thigh. Bricks are activities performed, consecutively, so as to accustom your body to the rigors of actual competition. A brick can be a duet, or trio of activities in any combination and sequence. However, sticking to the process, a brick can be a swim-ride, or ride-run. A swim-run is fine for those doing biathlons. A run followed by a swim is much more challenging to the body, and you may not do it that often due to safety reasons. After close to 3 hours, my body is as knackered as workhorse - not that I've ever been a horse, or worked that hard before.

The remarkable thing about our bodies is, that given adequate rest and nutrition, our bodies will cope with the exacting stimuli and adapt by becoming fitter. Certainly, since bricks demand that we operate at a higher threshold of discomfort and resources, we can only do it occasionally.

When marathoners start to fatigue badly, usually after the 30km-mark we call this condition hitting the wall. I once mentioned to my friends after an exhausting marathon that I hit the wall, and an eavesdropping medical-attendant thought I actually ran into a brick wall!

In our daily lives, what can we do to brick it? Can we brick meetings back-to-back? What about conducting performance appraisal interviews one after the other? What would be the consequence of performing too many bricks? Can we brick a more diverse portfolio of duties and responsibilities?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are You a Triple Threat?

In Broadway terms, a 'triple threat' is a person versatile in three major skills, mainly singing, dancing, acting and directing. My good friend, Bob Fitch is a triple threat and has won major awards on Broadway, and acted in films in his 40 years career. He is a skillful and highly regarded magician and, also, a magic consultant to David Copperfield and David Blaine. He is much sought after for his mentoring sessions.

In triathlon, when you are a triple threat it means that you swim, ride and run very well. In other words, you have few weak links. Most triathletes have an imbalance, thus possessing a severe weakness contrasted against strengths - and this can threaten your overall performance. Consider the decathlete (Bruce Jenner and Daley Thompson) who trains for ten events, and knows his strengths and weaknesses. If he is a very good sprinter, he may be an average 1,500m runner. He may throw well, yet jump poorly. Yet, there is little space for ignoring weaknesses. You keep working at your weaknesses and trust that your coaching and training strategies and efforts pay off handsomely in the end.

So, when you are not a triple threat what are your options? Do you focus on your strengths and compensate? Do you focus on your weakness and over-compensate? Or, do you leave things as they are because there is not much you can do about such tipping points? If you tip in the right direction, you may leverage on your weakness.

If you are ignorant, learn. If you have bad fashion sense, change. If you cannot run fast, walk faster. We have choices to improve or stay the same.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Breaking Away from the Past?

I just watched the film, Breaking Away on DVD. I first watched it in the early-1980’s and, subsequently, on video release. Steve Tesich wrote this poignant yet inspiring Peter Yates film that won it an Oscar for Best Screenplay in 1979.

This film is about four childhood friends who grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. They belong to the working class known as cutters. Cutters is a derogatory reference to quarry-workers and their blue-collar families, and who are looked down on by the uppity students of nearby Indiana University. This is about the rite of passage for the four, who are to become adults. So, they spend their remaining days, avoiding responsibilities and swimming in their private quarry pool.

Dennis Quaid makes his appearance in this film as the former high-school football player, and his youthful and muscular build positions him well for his role as the quasi-leader of the team.

David Stohl (Dennis Christopher) believes strongly that the best riders are Italian, and he picks up the lingo, jargon and accent. As talented as the Italian riders are, he eventually realizes that things are not what they seem to be. After a bad bike fall, incurred by the nasty Italian riders who did not want him to overtake them, he wises up. It is interesting that some of the best realizations we experience have to occur after an accident or trauma. The team then has to test themselves after a rare invitation to race with the varsity teams in a track cycling race. Will they live up to the day as the underdogs?

Breaking Away is part Rocky, part Chariots of Fire – which were definitive films that also won the Oscar for best films. The similarities may be coincidental, yet who does not root for the underprivileged and unfortunate?

Do you really want to be an imitation of whom you idolize, or do you want to be the best ‘you can be’?