Monday, August 31, 2009

Concert for the Masses

I attended Aimee Mann’s concert tonight; I was lucky I won two tickets from an online contest this week. Mann is an American singer-songwriter who plays guitar and bass guitar. A veteran in the music business, she is famous for having eight songs featured on the film, Magnolia (with a star-studded ensemble cast, including Tom Cruise as a motivational guru, Julianne Moore, and Oscar-winner, Philip Seymour Hoffman).

In 1999, her song Save Me was nominated for an Academy Award for Best song, which lost to You’ll Be in My Heart from the Disney-animated film, Tarzan. At her introduction to this song this evening, Mann stated: ‘This is the song that lost an Oscar to Phil Collins. I hear he is retiring, and I’m glad.’

Two hours of songs, including taking requests (from her audience) showed her comfortableness with her guitars and recorder, as her songs. What better praise for a singer than recognition for the songs which she wrote over a span of about 27 years?

As a modeler of leadership, I appreciated these values that Ms Mann projected: professionalism, performance, endurance, synergy and collaboration. She worked well with her two musicians, and at times allowed them to take the lead. Their actions were purposeful, with not a note wasted. In athletic performance terms, the band was ‘in the zone’. She was sporty, and gave her partners ‘a sporting chance’. Despite being unwell, she chose songs that maximised her voice, and delivered on verbal requests for her songs. Her graciousness and openness did not go unnoticed, for we rewarded her with a standing ovation. How often does that happen?

Even professional entertainers can demonstrate their leadership qualities on-stage, yet be as human as any one of us watching the show.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Presenting with Influence

I interviewed several presenters and speakers and asked them the $1,000,000 question: How do you prepare for a presentation? How do you stay cool? After all, public speaking has been identified as one of the top-3 fears of humans.

Canadian International Trainer, Michael Hartley-Robinson, offered additional thoughts for a formal presentation:

Preparation and Organisation: Focus on your goals and objectives. Socialise, if possible, beforehand. I walk about, and breathe deeply. Others may sit and focus/breathe. Be early and double-check everything.

Preparation and Organisation: Take your time, concentrate and making yourself heard and understood. Never try to speak a second language at the same speed as your first. Don’t worry about grammar in your speech (on your visual-aids – yes!). Instead, focus on being clear and understood. Of course, you can also practice your diction/enunciation, between presentations. Never during! Remember, this is business, not a speech festival. It’s the benefits they are there for, not a speech/diction demonstration.

Be prepared, organised, and enthusiastic. Know and set your objectives, and tailor your content, and visual aids to achieve them. Learn about and use structure and audience psychology to assist you further. You must have excellent product knowledge, and know your audience. Practise your 6W/H in preparation: Who, What, When, Where, Why, Which and How. Then make sure that you give your audience WHAT they want/need. WHEN they want/need and HOW they want/need it. And, always follow up. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

OD Consultant, Douglas O’Loughlin shared another perspective:

How do you manage to stay calm before a business presentation?

“Me calm? You must be joking. I am breaking out in hives just thinking about it. Well, I have had a couple of things that have helped me: I have used the following mantra many times:

‘I am glad I'm here, I'm glad you're here.

I know what I know and I care about you.

Let's learn and have some fun!’

(Usually best to say it a few times while waiting to start)”

As with the few busy speakers and trainers I interviewed, Douglas also uses prayers and statements like this:

"I am Receptive to today being a transformational session for everyone here, with lots of learning and insights." After saying this I tap my breastbone a few times to stimulate the energy flow*.

What contributes to a/n successful/effective presentation?

“It feels to me that what's most important is to be passionate about the subject, knowledgeable in its nuances, and able to engage people at many levels. For me, it starts with passion for the topic and how useful it can be for people. When I know that the tools/concepts/skills can add to a person's quality of life, then my only challenge is designing the session in a way that people can really experience and assimilate the power of the tools/concepts/skills. With that in place the delivery sort of takes care of itself,” said Douglas.

Different strokes for different folks - to each, his own. Find your own style. Suit your temperament if you are not the chest-thumping (Tony Robbins) type*.

* This is an effective way of staying alert during long, laborious meetings. Gorillas work up into frenzy by thumping their chests. Remember King Kong?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Creating Luck

Do you believe in luck? Can you create luck?

Luck has been described as ‘when opportunity meets preparation’. The windows of opportunity open when one creates pathways of possibility.

Once, I had a colleague in Production who taught me about luck (after I asked him about his betting habit): ‘Enrico. If you buy the lottery, you have a chance. If you don’t buy, you have no chance!’ That was my tacit knowledge and wisdom rolled into one. Since that fateful day, I occasionally make a few, albeit small bets annually. I would be closer to being a millionaire if I bought a few betting slips, then if I didn’t. It is also my scientific approach to test statistical probability, intuition and the notion of luck.

Applying this theory of luck, I participated in an online quiz a few days ago. As (my) luck would have it, I was informed by e-mail today that I won a pair of tickets to a concert this evening. This is my second time winning concert-tickets within a year. Luck? If I had not decided to participate, my odds would have been zero. Upon signing up, my chances increased. By the way, I have not been successful on a few previous occasions, too. Win some, lose some?

Is luck an important component of leadership? Perhaps, we are lucky when we inherit a team of people who are collaborative, diligent, and determined to perform well. Then again, we cannot leave it to luck by developing the collective value and potential of our team. It is great to feel lucky, however when things smoothly go our way, we can enjoy a sense of luck and fortune. Fortune favours the bold. So, be bold and decide and make things happen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Moments That Matter

I was at the Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport; it was the day of my departure from a great vacation. The security staff smilingly asks me: Have you watched The Fly?” I replied in the affirmative as he loaded my luggage into the huge X-Ray machine.

“You look like the guy in The Fly!” he said cheerfully. “Do you get that a lot?” He was referring to the tall Jeff Goldblum.

He seemed pleased. So was I. This was a first for me, i.e. Mr Goldblum. I have been told in the past that I resembled some actors. Really. Anyway, since I did not get a troublesome time with my luggage, I flowed along in this interesting conversation.

It was a moment: A moment that meant nothing, or something. I added some value in that person’s life because I reminded him of a celebrity. I am very sure he has met many celebrities (and impersonators) in his profession. Come on – it was Las Vegas.

In the last ten years of my life, I have been told that I am a dead-ringer for celebrities. Those were my moments. These were special moments for me because I meant something to somebody. I love these moments – however strange, surreal or special - and I look forward to more of them.

Consider: How often do we create ‘moments of value’? What can we deliberately do to create a ‘moment’? When was the last time you did something special for a colleague, team-member or family? Create your Kodak Moment.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Quotes from the Cockpit

This is an extract of quotations I compiled in 2003, when I produced 30 issues of a weekly, online magazine called The Inner Pilot. I reproduced them here because they reflect two leadership qualities: a sense of humour, and a keen eye for observing the human condition.

Conversation is an art in which a man has all mankind for his competitors, for it is that which all are practising every day while they live. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire. ~ Aristotle

Eighty percent of success is showing up. ~ Woody Allen

His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy. ~ Woody Allen

My idea of an agreeable person is a person who agrees with me. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut. ~ Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), Observer, Jan. 15, 1950

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Developing Bounce

When I teach juggling, I have noticed consistently that students are afraid to drop the balls. I have improvised balls with crumpled paper, although with plastic balls my students are just as hesitant to release them from their grasp.

One portion of the first ball practice is: Toss the ball across to the other hand however let the ball fall to the floor. Focus on throwing the ball across!

Why are my students concerned about dropping the ball? Their response: it is a mistake. Or, that was my failure. Actually, I want them to aim for accuracy, yet they assume the worst based on their experiences and impaired assumptions. This includes: Perfect practice makes perfect. Wrong practice becomes permanent!

In actuality, jugglers use silicon balls. These bounce! And they bounce back to the same height they were dropped. There is a pattern in juggling where we deliberately drop the ball, and then it bounces back into our hand, and we continue the juggling.

How well do you bounce back after making a mistake? How well do you recover from disappointment? How long do you grief over a loss? How long do you commit to denial and resistance? How well do you take receiving constructive feedback?

Bounce – that is the quality of elastic material. Human resilience is about ‘bounce’. How do you spring back into shape quickly? How well do you stretch under pressure? How malleable are your opinions and thoughts?

Note to students: My friend, Matthew illustrates this very well in his insightful reflection. This is a fine example of writing an honest journal of a prolonged learning experience. Enjoy it.

Managing Conflict as a Professional


Sharon Osbourne

This book gives the reader a better feel and look behind The Osbournes – the first, reality TV series about one of England’s most dysfunctional family (that also spawned a plethora of reality television series thereafter, many of which are shocking). Yes, she is the charismatic wife of Ozzie Osbourne of Black Sabbath. Sharon is a clever businesswoman who was first to initiate the reality TV series - not to say that she has not made some not so useful career and personal decisions. She spills some insight (not direct) about dramatic feuds and tirades with fellow colleagues including Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff ad Jerry Springer. The main thread sewn through this book is about her coming to terms with an estranged relationship with her volatile father, and the tragic impact of his death on her. So, is blood thicker than water?

She expresses herself clearly, and shows her character. She is, like her favorite pet dog, Minnie – she will be bite back if anyone attacks her family. In other words, she is a real and incendiary firecracker. And the main theme of her second biography is how she maintains a semblance of sanity in a highly chaotic public life, while lovingly managing the business side of things. She successfully managed her husband’s sustained career, and running the annual OzzFest tour. I like the part when Ozzy announces that the rock concert would be free; what was the impact and consequence of giving away something for free? In marketing terms, this contrarian thinking may seem suicidal; however in this case, it was pure marketing brilliance. ‘Free’ may be the new pricing index.

The main takeaway I got from this ‘next chapter’ of Ms Osbourne’s biography are her values about family and work, how she manages her grief, and how she deals with conflict (egotistical colleagues, overzealous fans, family and the media). She assumes all five positions of the Thomas Kilmann conflict modes instrument. She is a clear case of let sleeping dogs lie, as she is decisive and clear about when to protect and nurture her brood.

She writes in an honest and witty style. It is funny, and her frankness is not malicious – she writes as she thinks (celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay comes to mind, complete with the F*** word). Hopefully, a biography is a calculated attempt to set the record straight thus far, until another one comes along.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Diagnostics of Normality

When I was a student of applied psychology, I had to read a book called the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). In it was outlined a vast collection of mental conditions, categorized under Abnormal Psychology. Unfortunately, I never found or read a book nearly as thick that described normal psychology, or normal mental conditions. Thus, this manual has been criticized for its shortcomings. The next revised version is slated for 2012.

Having given the book a mild brickbat, the value of this manual is still its intent: to diagnose for dis-ease. Disease is the state of ‘dis-ease’.

SOAP is a model for diagnosing dis-ease. It is an acronym for Subjective, Objective, Analysis and Prescription.

Essentially, the physician will ask Subjective questions such as: ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘How may I help?’ The Objective questions come as a result of a battery of tests, including Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT), heart and lung. The physician then analyses the information he has collected, and then proposes a likely condition. I say, likely, as the body is highly complex and it would be hard to be exact about the conditions. ‘The symptoms point to…’ , or ‘It is highly likely that you have caught the flu.’ The prescription is the intervention that comes about from the diagnosis. However, you may hear ‘Complete the course of antibiotics, and we’ll see if you need a stronger type if you don’t respond to it.’

Before you carry out an intervention, how well do you diagnose the situation? The more disciplined you are, the less likely are we to make inaccurate diagnoses. In human interactions, our carelessness to explore and investigate deeply can cause us to jump to conclusions.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Leading By Experience

Matthew shares with us how he was thoroughly tested as a field-leader over the past fortnight. He made several astute observations and identified with many leadership qualities and models.

He summarized the following leadership lessons on his blog:

1. Leadership by example

2. Personal competencies

3. Listen and learn

My interpretation of these salient points is such: There are many things you can bring to your professional table. For instance, as an expert in your hobby, you can bring your confidence and Expert Power into your leadership. Like it, or like it more we have to regularly demonstrate our competence, clarity and confidence into our profession. It is not always about how much you know, but also how much you know of your team. Know-how should meet know-who to make sense and meaning for others.

A manager of a celebrity performer-husband can also wield her leadership through her ability to organize a large-scale event while reassuring the star (Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne). Both men and women can develop acute listening skills, and show empathy and sensitivity to people around them. Award-winning educator, Ron Clark (2001 Disney Teacher of the Year) suggested in one of his 55 rules: ‘If you are asked a question in a conversation, ask a question in return.’

Leadership Lessons: This is a commendable leadership lesson gathered after many months for a student of contemporary leadership. The wisdom of hindsight, married with realizations and reflections can reveal many insights and even ‘Eureka’ moments. Through time, our experiences and learning may allow us to develop foresight, and the ability to identify patterns and apply systems thinking.

Featured on AllTop

Alltop, all the top stories

I take great pleasure to announce that, after 122 committed postings, our blog has made it to AllTop’s featured blogs and websites. I like to thank our loyal Followers, dedicated readers and Faculty (of consultants) for their invaluable and timely comments, suggestions and feedback. I will endeavour to add more relevant and useful content to this young blog. This is a blog about broad-based leadership, triathlons, endurance sports, free education, and reviews for our learning community. We are like a tribe with similar purpose and vastly different thinking and approaches.

Why don’t you get yourself on AllTop? You will appreciate a regular influx of contemporary and updated library of articles, essays and stories on numerous topics of interest.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Numb3rs is a television series that teams a sibling team of police detective with a mathematician. They would figure out numerical clues left behind by serial killers and the scum-of-the-universe.

I was watching Simply the Best this afternoon, which featured Canada’s Wayne Gretsky. He retired with multiple awards, hundreds of goals, and his number 99, ice hockey jersey. He also retired in 1999 and became a coach in 2005.

I was reading my friend’s Ray Koch and his blog (Lessons Whispered by Horses), which featured an article (by Sarah Robinson) on numbers. He said that a few weeks ago his friend reminded him that the time 12:34:56.789 would occur once a year. That is the time 12:34:56 on 7 August 2009. Ray pointed out that it appeared twice a day, over 24 different time zones! The Beijing Olympic Games was held on 8 August 2008; and correct me if I am wrong, at 8:08pm. The number date 8/8/2008 will not occur until a thousand years later. If you were married last year on 8/8/2008, then lucky you!

A prime number (1,2, 3, 5, 7, 11, etc) is a number, indivisible except by itself. The symbol ‘pi’ is an infinite number (3.1428571…). One is alone. Two is company (duo or duet). Three is a crowd (or a team or trio). Four is a quartet. Five is a quintuplet. Teams are collection of people. There are words to describe collective nouns: Teams, library, gaggle, bunch, string, clan, etc.

An Ironman triathlon (IM) is a trilogy of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride, and 42km run. The total distance of 226km to be completed in 17 hours of less. There are double-IM, quadruple-IM, and the deca-Ironman race (10 races over 10 days or 38km swim, then ride 1,800km, and then 420km run). Ultra-marathons work on the format of multiples of 42km; the challenge for athletes is to work with the intensity associated with the duration and distance.

These numbers may mean something, or nothing. Until the numbers have meanings then it would be irrelevant and useless.

Leadership Lessons: Which numbers are important to you? What is your optimal size for your team? How much would it be when you know you have ‘enough’?

Dealing with Abstracts

As managers and leaders, we will have to deal with the abstracts.

What are abstracts? They are the opposite of concrete thinking. Instead of actual facts and figures, and tangible things you hold abstractions are intangible. For example, abstracts will include concepts like values, beliefs, perceptions, instinct, judgments, opinions, substance, character and emotions.

Like it or not, we will need to deal with emotions when we encounter a difficult situation with a person. Some people may choose not to talk about it, while others insist on it. The difference between men and women in a relationship is that women want to talk about it before we sleep, whereas men prefer to talk about it when we awake. What we, eventually, talk about would be the abstracts – not merely behaviors, but also aspects of human relationships and the human condition.

An unpleasant service experience will be measured on abstract matters such as sense of satisfaction, ambience, sense of importance, and politeness. If you cannot measure them on an absolute way, then you will be dealing with abstractions. Abstracts are part of the how we construct the experience with others, and what we extract from each experience becomes our starting point for how we lead and manage future experiences.

As managers, we will need to explore abstracts like experiences, relationships and potential in the future.

Leadership Lessons: Abstract, construct and extract from each people interaction and transaction. Which kind of experience will you create in your next performance appraisal interview with your staff? Which abstracts will you focus on?

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Dream Team

MIRACLE (2004), 136 minutes, Disney DVD

Ice-hockey legend Wayne Gretsky said: ‘I miss 100 percent of the shots I don’t take.’ Isn’t that akin to life? It is about opportunities and missed opportunities; takes and missed-takes.

Miracle is the real story behind the triumph of the American ice-hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Coach Herb Brooks was tasked to lead 20 (out of 26) of the best, but young hockey players into the games. Through the leadership of Coach Brooks, they not only beat the then-reigning champions from the Soviet Union, they also won Olympic gold and raised hope in a downcast time for global politics.

The turning point of the film was when one young player said: ‘My name is…and I play for the USA!’ Only when the team accepted and identified itself as one, did they then progressed to the next level of their development. Teamwork, trust in each other, total focus on their purpose, and belief in themselves were some of the team’s success factors. You will appreciate how winning is infectious and builds on collective potential. There are adequate competition scenes to keep you breathless and hopeful. You need not be an ice-hockey fan, or understand the sport to enjoy this film.

This DVD set contains two discs, one of which contains the accompanying interviews with Kurt Russell, Herb Brooks and the filmmakers. Interestingly, there is a segment on how actual hockey players were turned into actors. Ironically, the determined and hopeful Brooks passed away just after principal filming began; he never saw this film.

Like Don Quixote, this team dreamt the impossible dream and achieved it. In this story, a miracle is about creating an opportunity and taking on the unexpected.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Modeling From the Best

This is a summary of the presentation I gave to staff of Singapore General Hospital this afternoon. In effect, what I proposed was a model for how we map the world. Because of our unique, personal ‘map of the world’ we tend to interpret subjective experiences and describe it differently from another. The relevance of modeling effective people is to learn how they ‘do things differently’. So, what can you do?

1) Model the effective behaviors

2) Find out what works, and learn how to do it

3) If it has been done before, we can probably do it, too

4) The eidectic (eye) movement is a model for how we may organize our time, space, memories and imagination. [Recall a time in school where your teacher asked you if you were looking for answers on the ceiling, or on the floor? It occurred inside our heads.]

5) Rapport is the essence of all human interactions [same, same]

6) Mirror, match, pace and lead the person’s behaviors

7) We have all the resources inside us to learn, develop and grow our potential

8) Read biographies as they give us a model on how the celebrity thinks, feels and responds to the world

9) Use language that makes sense [sensory]: either it is common sense or nonsense

10) Be aware of your behaviors and observe others doing their best

Running Out of Time

Four Minutes (2005), 90 minutes, ESPN

After Edmund Hillary conquered Everest in 1953 with Sherpa Tensing Norgay, the British asked themselves: what else is there left to conquer? That’s where a medical student and self-taught amateur runner, Roger Bannister stepped in.

To conquer the mile in four minutes: How outrageous can that idea be? And, to place all of Britain’s hopes onto the lanky frame of a med student! That premise and promise of a great thing, is the backdrop of this biopic that stays close to the title.

In many ways, this Charles Beeson film parallels American auteur-runner Steve Prefontaine’s biopic ‘Without Limits’ (Warner). Both films were written by highly respected sports-writers. Both films are no-frills, lower-budget, no-CGI, productions. In Four Minutes, there is only one documented race integrated into it, and interestingly it is not on Bannister. Nevertheless, the energy and excitement of the races, draws the viewer into the anxiety and hopefulness of mankind’s attempt to achieve the impossible.

The bonus features are the icing on the cake to this watchable movie. This DVD includes the original 1954 film of Bannister breaking the world record, outtakes, deleted scenes, behind the-scenes featurette, and interviews with Roger Bannister and Chris Chataway.

I hope that they do a film on Sir Sebastian Coe, who heads the London Olympic Games in 2012, soon. He was once the fastest miler in the world, too. There are some pleasant coincidences…

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taking A Dip

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Seth Godin’s book ‘The Dip’. On Sunday, I did experience a challenging yet revealing moment, during the Army Half Marathon/Sheares Bridge Run. All was well as I ran through the 10km mark well under-50 minutes – I was on target for a 1:40 run. This could have been an official personal best.

At the 16km mark, I had to do damage control as my pace slowed significantly. If I did not drop my pace, I would be destined for a painful finish. I had to pay my (oxygen) debt I incurred earlier in for my harder pace. I was glad I did drop back my pace a bit, or else my finish would have been unpleasant. I jogged through the finish line just shy of 1 hour 48 minutes – I can live with that (top-6 percent overall, and also in my category). So, I survived the Dip and emerged faster for it. On checking my previous timing, I slashed about 11 minutes. This I attributed to being nearer to the flag-off point (with the faster runners, and therefore clear pathway), and making the decision at the Dip.

In retrospect, I did not train adequately at this harder pace. Plus, I could have dropped my pace earlier, and finish earlier with much more ‘in the tank’. The clarity induced by my wisdom of hindsight - back to the drawing board.

Sometimes, it is not necessary to work off the ‘All or Nothing’ strategy. Holding back, before the Dip can spell good news. Pacing, timing, patience and faith in oneself (and one’s preparation) can be useful. Systems thinking suggests that slow can be fast. The Dip is an opportunity to rise after the fall.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Unleashing Writer’s Blog

One of the books I recommend aspiring freelance writers is ‘The Complete Book of Feature Writing’ edited by Leonard Witt (1991, Writer’s Digest Books). Despite being written before the Internet Age, it contains numerous entries by established authors, journalists and freelance writers. I picked up this book when I first worked in a publishing firm as a budding feature writer. My freelance rate was then 10-40 cents per word (and it took me about a year to climb up the higher paid limit). International magazines then paid established writers up to US$1 per word. Translate that to a 1,000-word piece and you can survive as a professional writer. To clarify, the number count is based on the final, edited piece – the finished product (sans photographs).

What is a feature story? It is, essentially, a fun-to-write story that focuses on personality profiles, travel articles, how-to guides, criticism and reviews, and human-interest stories. The guide for writing features (which means an essay) is to focus on your subject matter expertise. Write what you are most knowledgeable on. Your hobby, favourite sport, discipline, work or travel experience can matter to your potential readers.

Today, the search engines have made it absolutely easier to source for data on almost any subject. Just Wiki it up! Years ago, we spent hours getting out-dated information from books (defined as historical background) and magazines (known as recent developments). Copyright was lesser an issue then, than it is now.

I wrote professionally for several years before I decided to focus on leadership development. Writing is an intrinsic part of instructional design for workshops and keynote speaking. I, recently, submitted my film and book reviews to I hope that these submissions may help you on your reading and writing decisions. Get your writing out on your personal blog, other people’s blogs (such as Me, Myself and Tesky; Triathlon Training Diary of John Cooke; Indoor Diva), online reviews, and online forums. Pen a journal. Get scratching!

Write here. Write now.

Monday, August 17, 2009


1. A performer who makes a crowd cheer: a member of a group of uniformed performers who encourage the crowd to support a team at sports. Cheerleaders direct organized chants and songs, and often perform acrobatic routines.

2. Uncritical enthusiast: an uncritically enthusiastic.

This morning I ran the Army Half-Marathon/Sheares Bridge Run, a fixture event in my annual calendar (and that of 30,000 participants). Supporting from the flanks of the run route were numerous cheerleaders. These cheerleaders took the form of rock-bands, traditional and contemporary percussionists, soldiers, cheerleaders, bell-ringers trio, and even a belly-dancing quartet. The last group of supporters met me about two kilometers from the finishing-point and nearly took whatever breath I had left. Great eye-candy for my darn legs-like-lead!

Support is a form of commitment. Underlying it are several core values. You can factor in consideration, care, loyalty, encouragement, and faith.

I am sure the 30,000 participants who completed the race were thankful for these pleasant distractions. Cheerleaders can help make the difference between start, stop or continue. Words and energy infect us by allowing us to put our ‘foot on the gas’. Go! Go! Go!

Effective cheerleaders know what to say that is positive, sanguine and encouraging. Avoid phrases like ‘Don’t give up!’ or ‘Don’t slow down’ as they plant failure-based outcomes. Tell people what to do. Be clear. Be focused. Be there.

Come on - You can do it. You will.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Developing Your Confidence

In my extensive research on leadership over the past decade, I have found that the more effective leaders in organizations tend to exhibit the 3 ‘C’s: Commitment, Confidence and Clarity.

Confidence seems to be a magnet for attracting people and followers. Confidence is attractive and addictive. When you are mesmerized by a dynamic speaker and his/her stories, then we are attracted to the speaker’s energy and enthusiasm – part of their confidence package. Your confidence is your motivation to do more, and possibly for others. Confidence and selfishness leads to interpretations of arrogance. How would you develop your confidence? Here are some suggestions:

1) Complete a challenge

2) Learn a new skill

3) Develop the next level of mastery with an existing skill

4) Travel as often as you can

5) Read and share your knowledge

6) Challenge ideas, not people

7) Apply what you have learnt

8) Win an award, or be recognized for your talent or skill

9) Lead a team (the bigger, the better)

10) Practise, rehearse and train regularly to keep your skills and fitness intact

11)Write, and then write more

12) Speak before strangers

I learnt how to juggle from my friend, Rudy Zung in 1986 when we were young, military officers. Thanks for the precious gift, Rudy! When I teach my students to juggle, it gives me a lot of pleasure watching them learn. Some of the learning is overt, sometimes covert. I use positive reinforcement (mainly encouragement) to engage them to go one step further. I assure them that they do not need to juggle, as it is not a competency that describes their job description and job scope. Yet, they cannot disagree that having juggled three balls within 20 minutes they have progressed to a higher level of confidence. It is not about mastery; rather, it is about doing, exploring, and discovering more about your potential and your willingness to attempt something new.

Do something new.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book/Film List for the Last Quarter (May-July 2009)

  • TRIBES by Seth Godin (B)
  • ONE RED PAPER CLIP by Kyle Macdonald (B)
  • BUSINESS STRIPPED BARE by Richard Branson (B)
  • NOW - No Opportunity Wasted by Phil Koeghan (B)
  • EMERGENCY by Neil Strauss (B)
  • MY MAGIC (F) - Director Eric Khoo
  • TAKEN (F)

The Sidewalk Shuffle

When I run, I tend to assume three speeds. They are the 3 ‘M’s assumed by Ironman world-champion, Chrissy Wellington: Medium, Moderate, and Mad! Rest assured, I am nowhere (ever) near Wellington’s running prowess as she runs a sub-3 hour marathon (within an Ironman distance race), matching the top professional men. Thankfully, our top national female marathoner, Vivian Tang matches her strides and amazing speed (read Leslie Tan's accurate interview with the spritely Tang).

What I do assume differently are my choices of running surfaces; my posture is consistently Chi-Running certified (created and promoted by author and ultra-marathoner, Danny Dreyer). No, I do not run bare-foot; instead, I vary my running paths and platforms – soft and hard. Yes, I do occasionally leave the Yellow Brick Road, moving off pavements, tracks and roads. I run on concrete, dirt, grass and sand. This is as cross-terrain as it gets. My coach advised me years ago to minimize road running whenever I can, for we can risk injury from the hard ground. Newtonian laws remind us of our mortality, and insurance liability! Action and reaction: pain, or more pain. I trust my 40-something coach, as my over-40 something body does give me plenty of feedback. Or, at least I am sensitive to pain and discomfort in my body.

Fortunately, I run where I get the best scenery. I may get a glimpse of sunrise, sunset, shorts, skirts, soles and the occasional bout of pre-senility, silliness. I allow myself to be motivated by my surroundings, so I do get distracted from my ubiquitous bodily discomforts, the persistent heat and the stubborn humidity. Such are the trials and tribulations of urban life. No man is an island.

But, in the case of one lucky job interviewee one man can have an island all to himself. Talking about the road less travelled remember Ben Southall, the lad who landed the world’s best job on Heron Island? Read about his updates on his blog. The tourism board has now extended the deal to four ‘mates’ to join him as island caretaker helpers - from a lucky draw to be held on 24 August - however the fab-four will not get a paycheck. Tough call. Would YOU consider it? Love it, or leave it. It’s all about choices, and the paths we choose.

Leadership Lesson: Switch lanes. You do not have to be road hog. You can also take the fast lane. You can lead, or you can follow.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Fall Guy

In the early 1980’s, there was a TV series called ‘The Fall Guy’, with Lee Majors as a Hollywood stunt-guy. He took the fall, myriad times and helped the actors look good. Stunt-people work behind-the-scenes, and only get recognition when the credits roll. The idiom ‘pride comes before a fall’ describes the danger of complacency. ‘The bigger you are, the harder you fall’ is another cautionary note. Most times, the word ‘fall’ has many negative connotation ably assisted by the force of gravity. However, the ability to fall can have useful consequences on the actions you take.

The orientations of falling include:

Fall behind: Stragglers get abandoned when they cannot catch up. When you cannot keep up with the pace then the team has to decide on what to do with you. Sometimes, those who delay others may be helping, by managing the pace. Slower may be faster, in the systemic sense. As leaders, we should show consideration for those falling behind and get them to catch up (through skills enhancements and coaching).

Fall down: Accidents can happen. What matters most is what do you do after you fall. Pick yourself up, of course! Yet, there are those who do not full recover from having fallen. Pick yourself up, and learn from your mistakes. I have fallen off my bike many times, and each time I learn to ride safely and not take unnecessary risk. In my last accident in March, I deliberately fell to avoid running my bicycle wheels over a fallen rider. If I did not hit the road, I would have cracked his ribs rolling over him, and perhaps risked injuring myself more. Yes, it hurt! However, better me than another person. Martial artistes learn how to break fall, so as to protect themselves from injury. Accept mistakes (of your team), as these are part of the learning process. We make mistakes as leaders, don’t we?

Fall out: My friend, John Cooke (based in Perth, Australia) recently participated in the Painathon – grueling long distance run held over 10 different hills. He dropped out after the eighth hill. However, there was no shame as John covered a considerable distance and is recovering from flu and an Ironman triathlon he completed about five weeks ago. Kudos to him for even attempting this challenging course! Read more about his unique experience at his blog (

Fall-out: When your job is done, it is time to fall out. The parade falls out after completing its march-past [We had one of the best parades this year, at our 44th National Day]. In times of conflict, people can have a falling out. Arguments and arguing can lead to disagreement and emotional responses that create prejudices and discrimination. Be mindful of people’s sensitivities, their values and beliefs. We cannot violate or trespass them, for it can cause us to appear unreasonable and domineering.

Fall for: We can fall for someone, or we can we fall in love with a new idea or hobby. Beware of falling in love with your own idea, as it makes us narrow-minded. Being passionate about your profession, cause and your people can be very useful. Renowned photojournalist, Dewitt Jones describes passion as ‘falling in love with the world.’

Leadership Lessons: Consider taking up different leadership directions and orientations. Each decision you take can determine a different outcome. The next time, should you fall down – ask what you can learn, and apply the next time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Blast from the Past

Dirty Laundry, Mergers and Undercover: Plays from Theatreworks' Writers' Lab (1995)
is a collection of seven plays including Eleanor Wong’s ’Mergers and Accusations’,
Otto Fong’s ‘Cetecea’,
Tan Tarn How’s ‘Undercover’,
Enrico Varella’s ‘Others’,
Theresa Tan’s ‘Dirty Laundry’,
Lee Chee Keng’s ‘Breaking Through’, and
Robin Loon’s ‘Watching the Clouds Go By’.

Years ago, in 1994 to be exact, I wrote a play called ‘Others’, about minorities in Singapore. I was, then, part of TheatreWork’s Writer’s Laboratory. I had acted in 25 runs of Michael Chiang’s Army Daze, and was awarded a grant by the Ministry of Information and The Arts for my two plays, Conversations in the Dark, Part 1 and 2. I thought that it would help enhance my writing ability and creativity by immersing myself in a group of like-minded individuals. Within the illustrious group of writers were established writers and budding, future writers. I managed to muster enough courage to pen my thoughts down in a relatively-finished play; it is still rough around the edges when I read. Such is the clarity of the wisdom of hindsight. I enjoyed my reading of it with local television host and sports commentator, Daryl David; he helped me flesh out my virtual characters. I am grateful for being invited into this amazing group of theatre writers/social commentators.

TheatreWorks is an independent, non-profit Singaporean theatre company that develops and nurtures professional arts skills. It supports Singapore artists, and articulates the Singapore arts through its various productions and developmental programmes. It promotes and produces Singapore writing, interdisciplinary performances, collaborations with international artists. It also provides residencies for visual artists, documentary filmmakers or creative professionals working in contemporary visual culture, and new media. The distinguished theatre company recognises its responsibility in encouraging awareness of human and social issues, and is dedicated to sharing the transcendant potential of art with arts-lovers and the Singapore community.

The book is available for purchase at Select Books, Tanglin Shopping Centre (Tel: 67321515) at a retail price of SGD18 each.