Control your temper and be happy

Recently I had a talk, it was a rather informal yet very memorable one. Throughout the talk, the speaker was stressing about the importance of “anger” and “happiness”. So my first impression was “okay it’s probably going to be how we should control our temper and derive happiness from our work”. And yes, indeed it was, but it was slightly different. The speaker differentiated these two into “selfishness” and “selflessness”. And after the talk, I thought I really would like to share this, it was inspiring for me, I hope it does for you too.

Just a short summary of the talk. Firstly, we need to control our temper, regardless who we are working with, how close we are and how much power we have. Getting angry and controlling anger are two different matters. It is completely normal to get angry as a healthy and normal human being, but controlling anger is yet another management we need to learn. It defines how you express your emotions or your angry feelings. Lashing out during a meeting simply leads to tension and annoyance within the situation, and triggers your fellow colleagues to dismiss your explanations and possibly rule that you lack the rationale to continue the discussion. Being angry at others can distort your thinking process and result in misjudgment. It can even effectively ruin relationship.

So why not control it? Calm down and take a breather. Settle down your thoughts and think it through once again. It is not asking you to hide your feelings, which may of course lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behaviour. It is asking you to comprehend the reasons why you get angry, and find a solution for that. It is asking you to explain why you are angry in an appropriate manner to get things done. It is asking you to keep your poise and think carefully and patiently. Provide reasons why you are angry, and not use words to describe how angry you are. Certainly, it is more effective to get your messages across.

Take a step back, clam down, maybe things aren’t the bad as what you see?

Secondly, he talked about happiness. Getting happiness can be a two way thing. You can get happiness at the expense of others, and you can get it too by bringing it to others. He mentioned that personally he feels that bringing happiness to others last longer, and I agree. Happiness derived from selfishness is lonely and isolated. You are happy while someone else is suffering from your action. While on the other hand, bringing happiness to others allow both parties to benefit from it. Doing well makes your feel good, trust me on this and try it. The sense of satisfaction is beyond words. And doing good things can be really simple: words of encouragement to a colleague, helping someone to pack food when she’s busy. Such simple yet nice gestures easily lead to happiness.

So control your temper and be happy. In the future, if you have the power to change the environment of your working place. Perhaps try a workplace that is of no high-tension, high-pressure and governed by screamers. Cultivate a culture of helpfulness, and good working etiquettes which colleagues don’t vent anger at each other. Even if you don’t have the autonomy to change, do your part still. Control your anger and do good things. You never know someone is learning from you and spreading this around. It is always your move. (:

Three practical steps that companies can follow to reduce illegitimate sick leave

In my second blog post I want to talk about the implications that absenteeism of workers has on companies, and suggest three practical steps that companies can follow to avoid high rates of sick leave. According to Wikipedia sick leave is defined as “time off from work that workers can use to stay home to address their health and safety needs without losing pay”.

 

Unfortunately, the rules of sick leave are also misused. Imagine yourself being in a senior management position in a big multinational company. Would you ever get frustrated with workers who call in sick too often? Or would you be more concerned about sick people who do not stay at home, and spread illness to other colleagues?

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Sick leave for companies, whether it happens for legitimate or illegitimate reasons, constitute a major problem for many organizations. It imposes huge costs on companies every year, however, what do all of these sick days really cost a company?

 

First of all, sick days delay work that might cause projects to fall behind in schedule. In addition, they create stress for colleagues, who try to make up for a missing person. These colleagues might need to work overtime, hours that add to overtime bills paid by a company. In contrast, some workers do not receive sick pay and, hence, try to avoid missing work. If they come to work ill, they may pass their illness to their colleagues causing even more people to become sick. As we can see some people use sick pay policies to their advantage. I will suggest three practical steps that companies can follow to reduce illegitimate absenteeism.

 

When doing my research I stumbled upon a very interesting fact. According to the Telegraph “public sector workers are 60% more likely to take sick days than their private sector counterparts”. This statement really caught my curiosity and I started to think about the reasons for this fact. Eventually, I came up with three fundamental actions, which in my opinion every company should follow to reduce absenteeism (and to increase performance).

 

Firstly, companies should try to increase job satisfaction.

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Of course this is a lot easier said than done and the question really is what actions companies can take to achieve this. I believe that there are many ways in which job satisfaction can be reached; such as being appreciated for your work, having a great relationship with your colleagues, or enjoying a great work-life balance.

However, I want to focus on one specific point, which I personally believe to be the most important one. A great job should be fun and if you are working your tail off without deriving any enjoyment something is most probably wrong. One defining mark of a fun culture is that the fun comes from everywhere. The key is to set the boundaries of what is permissible as broadly as possible. One company that manages this very well is Google. In 2010 two Google engineers launched an internal site called Memegen, which lets Googlers create memes. One of the pictures of former CEO Eric Schmidt can be seen below.

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Secondly, companies have to ensure that employees feel like they are working for a purpose.

 

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There are many people that enter the office, drop their briefcase with a thud that sounds like prison cell doors closing behind them, and wonder what it might be like to enjoy what they do rather than just moving papers around on their desk. Therefore, it is extremely important that companies bring more meaning to each and everyone’s career. However, giving each employee a purpose is very difficult because usually for most companies the ultimate goal boils down to profit maximization. Hence, I encourage companies to promote social work, which employees can do next to doing their “real work”. For example, next to the many chemicals that BASF is producing, it recently started producing mosquito nets for African countries. In addition, companies should incentivize their employees and give out rewards (e.g. top 5% performing employees).

The third action that I encourage companies to pursue is the promotion of work engagement.

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As I was the expert of the day about this topic, I know that especially promoting task variety and task significance is important to foster work engagement. Providing employees with different tasks, and making them understand the significance of their job for the organization are simple actions that companies can follow, which have significant positive consequences on work engagement and consequently also on sick leave (and job performance).

 

All in all I found the discussion about sick leave we had in class very interesting. Therefore, I conducted some research and personally came up with three practical steps that companies should follow to reduce illegitimate sick leave: job satisfaction, working for a purpose, and work engagement.

 

 

Links and references:

 

http://www.engageforsuccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/wellbeing-and-engagement-04June2014-Final.pdf

 

http://www.beanmanaged.com/doc/pdf/arnoldbakker/articles/articles_arnold_bakker_189.pdf

 

http://www.fiskarsgroup.com/careers/investing-people/employee-engagement-and-wellbeing

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/hr-news/9266687/Public-sector-workers-more-likely-to-take-sickies.html

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sick_leave

 

Schmidt, E.; Rosenberg, J. (2014). How Google Works.

 

Interesting TEDx Talk about work engagement and work-life balance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OkzozrUEHY

Leadership Charisma and Modern Organizations

In this blog-post I discuss about the modern leadership and provide my opinion what type of leaders are appreciated in modern organizations.

Leadership can be described as a behavior where a person, called as leader, directs some other person’s or people’s as behavior. Leadership pursues an outcome where one or more people can operate better and more efficient than without leadership guidance. Mary Parker Follett (1868–1933) defined leadership as “the art of getting things done through people”.  The principles of leadership have shifted within time, as there has been a significant increase in human intellectual development as well as the structure of organizations have become more complex which also has required different leadership. Before the industrial revolution and before base foundation of modern day organization, people acquired skills through apprenticeship and so they did not need people to teach them how to plan, organize and control. However, after modern pioneers like Adam Smith, Frederick Taylor and Elton Mayo, the structure and definition of modern day companies has changed. Along with this change, have the theories changed as well. Leaders traditionally were mainly interested in preserving legal status, quality of performance and motivating employees by providing basic intrinsic rewards. However, we are now living in a post-modern era where among the traditionally appreciated attributes, leaders are required to possess charismatic behavior in their leadership methods.

In modern days, charismatic leaders are actually appreciated more than qualified leaders. This might be due to the introduction of public stock markets, the necessity of charismatic and confident leaders is remarkable. Charismatic leaders are capable of providing confidence for stockholders, but also are capable to extract extraordinary performance levels from its staff.  An example of a charismatic leader, could be Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple whose charisma in product annunciation events was well-known throughout the world. Therefore, each time Apple had a new product annunciation, the company’s stock price always had a significant increase. Furthermore, Steve Jobs was known to be rather eccentrically strict with the employees but was also able to motivate people through his charisma in a way that they often exceeded their expectations. However, there are also certain factors which make charismatic leadership troubling. Majority of the academic literature appear to not yield any support for the positive linkage between charismatic leaders and organizational behavior. In fact, a Harvard Business Review article “The Curse of the Superstar” claims that this misguided view of charismatic leaders are all-powerful is the reason why modern business leaders tenure as CEO is shorter than before.

As my blog-debate proposes, there are many pros and cons for the usage of charismatic leaders. It is clear that the modern society needs them. However, it is important to acknowledge that an organization cannot only rely on charisma, they also need competence. The importance of competence is nowadays even more important than before, as companies grow in size and become more complex as they operate globally as well. Therefore, a leader equipped with a balance of several competence factors is a good leader in a modern day company.

 

https://hbr.org/2002/09/the-curse-of-the-superstar-ceo

Leadership behind Organizational Culture

As a final year student at the job-hunting stage, I often ponder on the type of environment that I would love to work in. After some research and self-analysis using OB materials, I came to realize that an open and people-centred culture is what I feel most attracted to.

I am sure we were all impressed by the ordinary heroes of the Taj discussed in class earlier this semester. As mentioned in class, culture is a set of values, norms, guiding beliefs and understandings that is shared by members of an organization and taught to new members as the correct way to think, feel and behave. It is the unwritten, feeling of the organization. When new recruits join an organization to be part of the family, they discover, observe, pick up, and imitate – I would say culture emerges out of social interactions and is adapted through experiential learning. Hence, it may have variation no matter how hard a company strive to achieve homogeneity, due to different interpretation and culture diffusion.

This links to my next favorite topic – leadership. In my opinion, a strong culture is often built by a leader who has great charisma, possesses empathy, and is able to relate to people’s emotions – regardless of the vision that is being articulated. For example, one of the most influential political leaders of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler, who was able to preach nationalism, change the mentality of Germans back then and shape the entire nation. The success of building such strong nation culture was due to his exertion of transformational leadership. Despite his ruthless behaviour, Hitler was no doubt a great orator who was able to deliver powerful speeches and capture the emotions of his audience, even at the national level.

In the present, one of my favourite leaders is Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, who practices servant leadership. Southwest Airlines is almost a replicate of Taj hotel but in different industry, with executives and employees constantly striving to improve their service, culture, and to generate greater customer loyalty. During his tenure as CEO of Southwest, Kelleher’s colourful personality built a corporate culture that made Southwest employees “well known for taking themselves lightly – often singing in-flight announcements to the tune of popular theme songs – but their jobs seriously”. Kelleher gained much respect in the company – and in the industry itself – as an empathetic leader who had made Southwest the major U.S. airline it is today with a people-centred culture. The values, beliefs and norms still exist even today as according to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, “Southwest is a great place to work and brings the greatest joy because we have such meaningful purpose.”

Here’s a speech by Kelleher on people as the business of people 🙂

 

This concludes my link between culture and leadership – I believe that a decent pay might be enough to get people to work on time, but beyond the pay it is the inspiring purpose communicated to people that encourages them to go the extra mile.  A person leading a business, an organization, or even a country needs to emphasize not just on nuts and bolts, techniques and standards, but on culture.

A culture can be created formally using symbols, rules, songs, uniforms, slogans, etc., but true leaders would be able to transcend his vision to the people around and make it felt deep down their hearts. Employees who are inspired and driven will possess desired behaviour, regardless of management’s presence. Case study on the Taj incident is a good demonstration on how employees react towards unplanned situations under the influence of strong company culture. Formal system may collapse due when chaos occur, and this is when the informal side of culture steps up to guide employees’ response and drive them towards the company’s ultimate direction.

To add in a little bit more since formal structure of culture was mentioned…

I think companies should take note of culture and emotions when implementing changes in the organizations. Emotions are triggered as employees go through the processes of organizational transformation. Attitudes to existing culture also affects their responses towards change. If values throughout the organization are congruent, employees tend to react to change more positively. People become more engaged with the change when empathy is shown.

I was blessed with the opportunity to work in a start-up whereby the culture is immensely strong. I could feel it on my first day of work – the CEO gathered everyone for a pep talk, everyone was super committed and had strong beliefs in the company’s vision, etc. I think this is why my CEO had faith in us and was able to leave us on our own so often for business trips. And I hope that I would be able to work in a company with similar culture too!

Employee Engagement: Why It Matters and How to Build It

Employee Engagement: Why It Matters and How to Build It

If you’ve been around business schools or even around organizations, you’re probably no stranger to the new organizational behavior buzzword – employee engagement. But does it even really matter or is it just one of those short-lived trends that are so popular these days?

It turns out that employee engagement is gaining popular support for a reason. A study by SRHM Research Quarterly showed that employee engagement promotes retention of talent, increased customer loyalty, and improve organizational performance. Gallup conducted research on employee engagement and the results are shocking: 87% of the global workforce is unengaged. So how does an organizational develop employee engagement? It turns out it can be developed through leadership, culture, voice, and integrity.

Leadership

A study in the African Journal of Business Management, which surveyed over 270 employees and managers across the telecom sector, showed that transformational leadership had a significant effect on employee engagement. In order to build employee engagement it’s important to practice transformational leadership. One way to practice transformational leadership is to have a compelling vision that goes beyond maximizing profit. This vision should be depicted by the senior leaders and be visible whenever employees are likely to see it.

Culture

Corporate culture is another necessary element for fostering employee engagement. Companies like Apple and Google are recognized worldwide for their products and their culture, which values innovation, creativity, and teamwork. These companies spend a great deal of resources hiring new employees to ensure that they fit with the corporate culture. To increase work engagement via corporate culture, its important to take stock of the current culture in the organization and actively seek candidates that depict a strong fit with those values.

Voice

When employees feel like they have a voice, not only are employees more engaged, but also are more dedicated to the company and less likely to leave.  A study by Daniel Spencer, a leading researcher in the field of employee absenteeism, found a positive relationship between the degree of voice an employee felt he/she had and retention rates. Given the costs associated with hiring and training and training employees due to turnover can be $75 Million dollars for the midsized company, an employer can go a long way by giving voice to employees. One way this can be achieved is by actively seeking employees’ feedback on various standard procedures and making changes based on that feedback.When a change is made, posters, website content, and other media material should be displayed that gives credit to the employee for the feedback. A name and picture tied with a specific action management has taken, will go a long way in building employee engagement in an organization.

Integrity

The last element an organization needs to build employee engagement is integrity. If an employee feels that the organization does what it says, he/she is more likely to reciprocate by engaging deeper with the tasks at hand. Research from the Ethics Research Center shows that one of the best ways to build integrity is through decomposing the existing organizational schemas. The most effective way of building integrity, then can be through communicating stories through various intracompany media of employees who have stood for the values of the company the company upholds.

As it turns out, employee engagement is more than a buzzword and can drive a competitive advantage for almost any organization. Through leadership, culture, voice, and integrity, an organization can implement small changes that may result in surprising improvements in employee engagement.

Shareholder versus Stakeholder Theory

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Introduction

The unethical business practices of Enron and Worldcom have sparked off debates as to which of the two theories – shareholder or stakeholder theory – should prevail. These are two competing corporate governance theories on what the objective of organisations should be. Shareholder theory asserts that the overriding duty of an organisation is to maximise shareholder returns (Friedman, 1962). Stakeholder theory broadens the first perspective, recognising that managers have a duty to not only its shareholders, but also its customers, employees, suppliers and the community (Freeman, 1994). This blogpost aims to review existing literature and argue on why stakeholder theory is preferred to shareholder theory in promoting business ethics.

Misguided Use of the Shareholder Theory Results in Unethical Behaviour

Business ethicists have argued that the shareholder theory promotes unethical behaviour as it focuses on the myopic pursuit towards earnings. The temptation to maximise short-term returns and distortion of the truth, results in unethical means. As cited in the Financial Times (2009), Jack Welch labelled shareholder theory as the “dumbest idea in the world.” However, I believe that the shareholder theory is in itself a sound theory, but the problem lies with the misguided use of the theory.

Investors do not always act rationally. Their expectations may drive short-term share prices to deviate from a firm’s intrinsic value, serving as a poor measurement for long-term shareholder value. As managers are typically paid according to short-term movements in share prices, they will pursue short-term activities that will push share prices up quickly. The 2008 financial crisis epitomises the problem. Lehman Brothers engaged in risky ventures like mortgage securities, resulting in a high debt-to-equity ratio of 60 to 1, in 2008 (Lehman Brothers Annual Report, 2008). As Milton Friedman (1962) wrote, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it … engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud.” Thus, the theory dictates that the pursuit of profits should be conducted legally and ethically. The financial crisis is evidence of the misuse of the shareholder framework, whereby managers abused the model and behaved unethically through the excessive use of leverage to maximise short-term profits.

Stakeholder Theory Promotes Ethical Behaviour and Creates Shared Value

According to stakeholder theory, managers need to ensure that the ethical rights of the stakeholders are not infringed upon, as well as balance stakeholders’ interests during the decision-making process. Given the negative social repercussions of the financial meltdown, policymakers and business leaders need to promote ethical behaviour through the use of stakeholder theory. In shareholder theory, managers were compensated for generating stellar returns, but when the firm performed poorly, managers did not have to compensate for the losses. These compensation schemes rewarded risk taking for high returns, but did not punish for losses. Hence, by taking into consideration the interest of various stakeholders like depositors and bondholders, it will promote ethical behaviour and mitigate excessive risk-taking. Thus, possibly preventing the next financial crisis.

Critics of the stakeholder theory argue that the pursuit of business ethics by managing multiple stakeholders’ interests reduces profitability, which is in turn detrimental to shareholders (Laffer, 2005). This has been true for corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, which have often remained on the periphery of business strategy and functioned as a cost center for organisations (Ethical Corporation, 2005). However, I believe that Porter and Kramer’s (2011) concept of creating shared value (CSV) will enable companies to balance multiple stakeholders’ interests while achieving profitability. In contrast to CSR, CSV involves creating economic value in a way that also creates social value by addressing social needs.

Unilever’s Project Shakti is a CSV initiative that allows low-income women in rural India to sell Unilever’s products. With more than 50,000 Shakti entrepreneurs covering over 100,000 villages in rural India, Unilever has redesigned its distribution strategy to reach previously inaccessible areas. The model has increased the household incomes of these entrepreneurs and enhanced living standards through Unilever’s hygiene products. Sales from Project Shakti contributes to 5% of the company’s total revenue in India, and it also serves as replicable distribution model to penetrate other emerging markets (Unilever, 2015). In addition, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, commented “I don’t drive this business model by shareholder value … I work for the customers” (Financial Times, 2010). Nonetheless, Unilever’s share price has appreciated significantly under Polman’s leadership since 2009, achieving an annualised return of 8.23% (Yahoo Finance, 2015). Evidently, embracing stakeholder theory allows companies to increase shareholder value as well.

Conclusion

Shareholder theory is in itself a sound theory, but the problem lies in its execution. The model has been abused by focusing on the myopic pursuit of earnings, at the expense of business ethics. Hence, I believe that organisations should adopt the stakeholder model to promote business ethics and create shared value.


References

Friedman, M. (1962). Capitalism and Freedom, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Freeman. (1994). Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach.

Financial Times. (2009) Welch condemns share price focus. Retrieved from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/294ff1f2-0f27-11de-ba10-0000779fd2ac.html#axzz3WE1ntYSk

Lehman Brothers Annual Report. (2008).

Laffer, A. (2005). Corporate Social Responsibility Detrimental to Stockholders.

Ethical Corporation. (2005). Noted economist says corporate social responsibility is irresponsible. Retrieved from http://www.ethicalcorp.com/ content.asp?ContentID=3415

Unilever. (2015). Project Shakti. Retrieved from http://www.hul.co.in/sustainable-living-2014/casestudies/Casecategory/Project-Shakti.aspx

Financial Times. (2010). Unilever chief backs criticism of shareholder primacy.

Yahoo Finance. (2015). Retrieved from http://finance.yahoo.com/

 

I lead my men by example.

“I am an officer of the Singapore Armed Forces. 

My Duty is to lead, to excel and to overcome.

I lead my men by example.
I answer for their training, morale and discipline.

I must excel in everything I do.

I serve with pride, honour and integrity.

I will overcome adversity with courage, fortitude and determination.

I dedicate my life to Singapore.”

Above is the Officer’s Creed, a pledge recited by the officers of the Singapore Armed Forces during their commissioning parade. In the 9 months of vigorous training before rising to the rank of 2nd lieutenant, cadets had to recite the Officer’s Creed daily during their water parade, before they turn in for the night. As an aspiring officer cadet, we were inculcated with three fundamental values; leadership, excellence, and tenacity.

In this blogpost, I will reflect on my leadership style during my time in the army, and evaluate the effectiveness of it. Throughout the 9 months of arduous and rigorous training, there were so many times when my fellow cadets and I were feeling so unmotivated and dejected, but yet we managed to persevere through ridiculous demands by our superiors. We only had one thing in our minds: we wanted to lead soldiers.

Reciting the Officer’s Creed daily, we were constantly reminded that the first duty of an officer is to lead by example, and that our soldier’s well-being was our responsibility. Yet during the training phase*, none of us were required to lead soldiers who were unmotivated or ill-disciplined. Sure, we took turns to uphold leadership position, but since we were all highly motivated cadets, our leadership capability was not fully tested as each of us played our roles.

*To provide context; officer cadets train amongst themselves for the full 9 months of training.

So when we were commissioned as officers, even with our expert knowledge in battle orders and technical knowledge in tank operations, we were still raw as leaders. The intense training only truly equipped us with two lines on leadership: ‘I lead my man by example. I answer for their training, morale, and discipline.’ With that mantra in mind, we were posted to our units with much anticipation.

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Finally, we were going to be commissioned as officers!

In the first month or so, as a newly commissioned officer, I was still raw to the culture in an operational combat unit. However, under the guidance of a senior officer, I quickly learnt the ropes. It was easy for me to lead the soldiers who were under my charge, simply because I held the rank of a 2nd lieutenant. The legitimate power which I was ascribed based on 9 months of training gained the respect of my soldiers, even if they did not know me personally. Soldiers I met for the first time saluted me.  While I was highly respected in my new unit, it was due to the formal power structure and the hierarchical system that was already in place within the organisation. This was not the type of leader that I had aspired to be.

Luckily for me, I was tasked to organize the National Day Parade in 2010, and this gave me the opportunity to exhibit and hone my leadership capabilities. Without exposure to formal leadership lectures and people management classes, I only had one line to guide me. I lead my men by example.

As we held rehearsals over the weekends, many soldiers held grievances and were reluctant to burn their weekends for something that they did not believe to be beneficial to them. Over the months building up to NDP2010, I believe that I exhibited signs of transformational leadership, stated as follows:

Idealised Influence: Leading by example, I was always the first person to reach the rehersal site, and the last to leave. I ensured that my soldiers were all accounted for before I left the rehearsal site. I believe that this gained the respect of my soldiers.

Individualised Consideration: In order to motivate my soldiers, which was not an easy task, I allowed them to bring along books and devices to entertain themselves during their breaks. This was a decision which I made, which was against usual guidelines. Also, I made an effort to speak to each and every soldier under my charge during each rehearsal.

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Checking in on my soldiers was something I did every rehearsal.

Inspirational Motivation: Before every rehearsal, I would gather my soldiers for a pre-rehearsal pep talk. I told them how they are doing the nation proud, by being part of the NDP which showcases the independence of Singapore. I made them feel proud of burning the weekends to be part of something big.

Intellectual Stimulation: At the end of each rehearsal, I would allow my soldiers to provide feedback and submit their complaints to me. However, I would also seek their suggestions so that the next rehearsal could be conducted in a better manner.

I was grateful for the rare opportunity to hone my leadership capabilities, and I believe that organizing NDP2010 helped me grow to be a better leader. I have learnt that good leaders emerge from circumstances which require someone to step up, and dare to be different from the others. If not for organizing the NDP, I perhaps would not be able to gain these set of skills, which certainly cannot be learnt just from books and classes.

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Organising the NDP rehearsals was certainly no mean feat.

 

Epilogue

Just a couple months back, as I was walking along the streets at Clementi, I heard a voice shout out to me,

‘Lieutenant Louis Sir! How have you been?’

Much to my surprise, it was one of my recruits under my charge when I was organizing the national day parade in 2010. I had not been addressed as sir for a long time, and it certainly made me smile. To be honest, I could not even remember the guy’s name, yet he still remembers me, and still respects me by addressing me as ‘Sir’. We exchanged a few words and a firm handshake.

‘It was nice to see you again after so long, I hope to see you in camp sometime,’ he said to me as we parted ways.

This incident truly made me felt proud. I must have done something right as a leader. Although I was not a true transformational leader to the core, I believe that I did exhibit traits of it. This made me realise that transformational leadership can indeed motivate followers, and garner their respect, for a long time to come.

The Future Leader

This video covers the leadership challenges of the 21st century due to a multitude of macro changes. Because of the fast changing business environment, Barton proposes three general recommendations for leadership which are important and relevant. However, I feel that those alone are not enough, and there are additional ways future leaders can adapt to the multiple changes faced. As such, what exactly is needed of future leaders?

The first recommendation of needing a long term view is good in that the leadership ability to create an effective vision, and hold on to it through short term volatile changes, is vital for an organisation’s survival. Disruptive technologies are getting increasingly prevalent. As such, an effective leader needs to look to the future, and visualise how the business can value-add to society and its customers in a sustainable way. An exemplary leader with a strong future outlook and vision is Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, who has the vision for environmentally friendly electric cars for sustainable transportation.

However, is not this trait one that is important in the past as well? Besides, I believe that global thinking in leaders is as equally critical in today’s interconnected world as well; rarely does business not involve any global aspect to it. With the exception of really small businesses that are inappropriate for overseas activities, even leaders of SMEs are feeling the increasing pressure for overseas related activities, including nearby regional expansion. This is due to extensive e-commerce and increasing competition from foreign firms, especially in emerging economies for the latter. Not to mention that leaders of MNCs also need to better understand multi-country trade and formulate their role in the global supply chain management, in order to gain competitive advantages. These point to the need for a greater global perspective in future leaders.

Furthermore, the highly diverse marketplace also means that global leaders need strong cultural intelligence, to be able to effectively handle the company’s culturally diverse workforce, and various stakeholders of the value chain, including partners, suppliers, and customers. Being able to appreciate cultural diversity is important in leaders, who want to effectively understand and motivate employees of various cultures, as well as build closer ties with stakeholders for greater competitiveness.

Secondly, Barton’s advice that companies should develop a network of leaders to handle the various changes is commendable as no one person is able to handle the macro changes and business concerns plaguing an organisation. However, Barton’s advice of a network of leaders lies within the organisation itself, which I believe is insufficient in today’s quick-changing market. What would be a better extension of such an approach is for leaders to build partnerships and alliances with other organisation through establishing and growing an ecosystem. The benefits of this lie in preventing their offerings from becoming obsolete, achieving breakthrough innovations for partners through greater idea and technology synergies, as well as better risk management. Besides that, companies with various competencies will be able to tap on the other’s expertise, which leads to improved effectiveness. As discussed in class, the future role of leaders involve being the conductors in networks, bringing employees from different companies together to work collaboratively for the greater good of all partners involved. A relatively new term to describe this form of doing business is co-opetition, which leaders need to embrace to enable their organisations to reach their full potential.

Not only is openness to working with other companies important, a good future leader also needs to increasingly share leadership with employees. Empowering workers to be leaders in their own work is crucial for better organisation performance as the future employee is evolving as well – to become talented knowledge workers who are more skilled at what they do compared to their leaders. Similar to the above point, leaders need to adapt to being connectors – they are no longer telling their employees what and how to do something; instead they need to bring other skilled people together, to accomplish greater collaborative results. Trusting one’s employees with sharing leadership will enable employees to take work ownership, which propels them to feel a greater sense of motivation and engagement in their work.

Finally, leaders also need be technologically savvy to stay relevant in the future global market. Lots of new and upcoming technology hold the potential to revamp workplace productivity, including enterprise wearable technology. A leader being open to new innovations and enterprise solutions breakthroughs will better position the organisation to enjoy greater workflow efficiency, productivity and long-term profitability.

In all, roles and expectations of future leaders are different from that of the past. Only when future leaders step up to the plate and fulfil the new roles required out of them, will their organisations stay relevant and even thrive in the evolving world.

Money as a criterion for job choice

We have already covered this topic in week 4 and discussed the basic meaning of money and the idea that money can have much more meaning than money itself. The basic property of money is that it is an essential factor when people make decisions ranging from job choice to how much to work, and thus it enables them to maintain basic living and determines their quality of life. According to the article “When does money make money more important?” by Devoe, Pfeffer, and Lee, money shows how valuable they are in the workplace, and for this reason people place much more value on the money from their labor more than the money earned by chance. Therefore, I will first discuss the importance of money itself for satisfaction and proceed to the symbolic value of money to determine that money should be considered as an essential criterion for job choice to achieve intrinsic satisfaction in the end.

 

For most of us, making money is the primary reason for working. It enables us to maintain our living and enhance quality of life. Therefore, money immensely influences satisfaction in the workplace. Then one might assume that the more money you earn, the bigger the satisfaction. However, since there are limits to biological needs, this concept faces the idea of diminishing marginal utility of income, where the incremental change in utility from money decreases as the income increases. It means that as you get more money from the workplace, the increment of satisfaction from money itself is not as big as you have when you get lower income. Though it is true that money brings you satisfaction, satisfaction from money is variable. Thus money should not be the main criterion for choosing a job.

 

In addition to economical value, money also has symbolic value. In capitalist society, the easiest way to represent the value is using the price. For this reason, people easily believe that the amount of money shows how valuable a product or service is. Likewise, people recognize the competence of workers by the amount of income they get paid. Accordingly, money implies much more value than its economic value alone. Now money is not only the means to afford basic living cost, but also another way to express individuals’ capacity, by extension, their reputation. Usually, people who have achieved high level of living tend to pursue social recognition. Therefore, when income increase, not only lower income earners, but also higher income earners get higher increment of satisfaction than the satisfaction they get when we assume that money has only economical value.

 

However, still money cannot be the essential factor in regards to satisfaction in the workplace. Self-contentment which comes from achievement is not only described by how much they get paid. It can be substituted by promotion or recognition from people, for instance. Also, money and social recognition which higher income earners ultimately want are not necessary and sufficient conditions. There are a lot of figures admired by people, though they don’t get paid well. On the other hand, there are also people who get blamed, even though they are rich. Therefore, money should not be the main factor when we pursue the genuine satisfaction.

 

Of course, considering the fact that money gives people a satisfaction regardless how much money they earn, money is an important factor for satisfaction. However, it cannot be the main factor when to choose a job. To achieve the long lasting satisfaction, we need to find another factor not influenced by any conditions. Here is one story we can refer when we choose a job after graduation. It would be better to invest lots of time in prioritizing values to determine your job by analyzing and knowing yourself. Here is one meaningful video you can get help from.

 

Autonomy VS. Standards

One of the few readings that sparked my interest is “The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj”, where one particular sentence stood out:

 

“If you empower employees to take decisions as agents of the customer, it energizes them and makes them feel in command.”

 

This was articulated by Senior Vice President of the Taj Group, and he attributes the two consecutive wins of the Gallup’s Great Workplace Award in India to its believe in employee autonomy and empowerment. As evident from the case, the Taj Group’s favorable organizational culture is largely due to the empowerment it gives to its employees.

 

In another management course that I am currently doing, we did a case on The Ritz Carlton (Ritz). What I found surprising was how the two companies took an entirely contrasting approach in training their employees.

 

Ritz culture is one that is very formalized; its focus is primarily placed on formalized training to consolidate its position as a high quality and service hotel. However, as the key to a successful company is its ability to respond to the ever-changing needs and nuanced desires of customers, formalized training is often criticized due to its lack of relevance and transferability of these new skill sets to the realities of the workplace.

 

In Taj’s case, incidental learning is encouraged, autonomy acts as an enhanced training for their employees, by increasing their ability to respond to the unpredictable situations; such as the 2008 terrorist attack on the Taj. The question then to ask is whether Ritz would be able to handle the situation as well, if it were faced with the same scenario. Given that strict service standards are to be adhered to, would a fear of doing things differently then hamper Ritz’s employees to handle the situation equally if not better?

 

The problem about standards is that because people are so used to doing things in a routine fashion, they forget how they should react to unforeseen circumstances. They might have an idea of how to approach the situation, but the fear of doing something not in their SOP may hinder them from taking the first step. Should autonomy or standards then be given a higher priority?

 

Many companies are in favor of granting more autonomy to employees due to the numerous benefits of autonomous employees. The potential benefits are that of greater employee commitment, higher retention levels, a more motivated workforce, and most importantly happier  and more engaged employees. However, despite the numerous benefits, I feel that there are certain downsides of autonomy to be considered as well.

 

One of the main problems of autonomy would be how employees may confuse empowerment as having the authority to do whatever they want. This may result in poor or wrong decisions being made, as well as resulting in the cultivation of arrogance amongst employees. Some employees may also find autonomy mentally straining, and may prefer having a specific guideline to follow. Further, when too much autonomy is given to employees, there could be a potential sacrifice of standards. From the company side, many companies are afraid of utilizing informal learning due to the difficult in assessing the results of these training.

 

This problem is particularly important to the service industry, where while personalization is valued, basic service standards should also be of utmost priority. Therefore, when should the line be drawn? Should autonomy be given?

 

In my opinion, I do not believe that autonomy and service standards should be seen as two ends of a spectrum that cannot be reconciled. Autonomy and service standards can work hand in hand, and this is something companies should work towards. It is commendable that companies like the Taj Group seek to empower their employees by giving them a say and a voice. However, with that being said there is beauty too in Ritz’s approach, on having a structured and formalized system to ensure that their service standards are world class. Companies should therefore seek a balance between the two, to achieve the optimal outcome. For the hotel industry, I believe that setting standards should be given utmost priority. Autonomy should also be given, but at discretion. As the saying goes, with great power, comes responsibility. The same goes for autonomy. It is therefore imperative for companies to give this authority to the people who deserve and are able to handle it.

 

To conclude, companies need to incorporate the beauties of the two, whereby the use of one does not necessarily mean the forgoing of another. Instead, it is all about building an organizational culture that allows for both order and uncertainty to be managed.

 

Some food for thought… Should formalized training and informal training be seen equally? Or should one method be favored over the other? What should companies do to enhance their organisational culture?

 

Have a blessed weekend ahead!(:

Sherlyn