“Would you rather have a money tree in the front yard or the fountain of youth in the backyard, and why?”

This was this year’s Georgia Toastmasters spring conference table topics contest question, a great reflective question that was created by the district P.R. officer, Luis Camacho, whom I regard as my mentor in TM.

When the question was given out to contestants, everyone in the audience was also making their own choices. My heart was screaming “the fountain of youth, the fountain of youth!” After all, self perseverance is the most dominant instinct of life. As I reassured myself of my choice, I started to contempt the choice of the money tree: I already labeled it as materialistic and superficial. You see, in my young mind, it’s so tempting to make a quick judgment to rid my soul of the suffering of uncertainty.

One by one, contestants chose the fountain of youth…it was not until much later that a contestant chose the money tree. Her answer not only changed my understanding of the question completely, but it has also awakened something deep in my heart. Her name is Pam. Pam started “I would choose the money tree! The fountain of youth may be able to rejuvenate me and my families and friends, but with the tree, oh with the tree, I can do so much more! There are so many people in the world who need help – some of them are so helpless that they don’t even know that they need help…” Her words were like the Moon that drew tidal waves of empathy and compassion in me – I have been so closed minded! My choice for the fountain was solely self-centered, but the concern for humanity is second nature to Pam! The eyes of my mind became wide open. It was a transforming moment of life.


The Ed among us

In Warren Bennis’ book “On Becoming a Leader”, he introduced a man named Ed. Ed is a self-made man. He grew up on the tough side of Brooklyn. Ed gets things done. He’s a workaholic who has no patience for people who don’t work as hard as he does. Overall, Ed is ambitious, motivated, extremely hard working and intimidating. He reached to VP at the place he started. He saw no more growth potential and took a career jump.

He was hired by the CEO at the new place, located in a much milder city than Brooklyn, as the next CEO-to-be. A year later, Ed has again proven capable. And more, he has proven to be Ed – people referred to him as the “Brooklyn Bomb” behind his back. When the CEO nominated Ed as his successor at the company board meeting, doubts were raised. Board members looked for people skills, character and vision, but saw none in Ed. They know Ed is a driven man, but will he be driving? Is Ed a man defined by his later success, or his early deprivation? Is he a man of fear? Their doubts in Ed were much like the Jedi consul’s in Anakin Skywalker – they saw a past, a broken man and a fear.

Warren Bennis, well known in his study in leadership, was hired by the CEO to help Ed. His job was to help Ed acquire the qualities the board was looking for. He shadowed Ed at the company and interviewed people whom he worked with. He understood the concerns about Ed. However at the end, after his effort and Ed’s, he had to advise the CEO that Ed was not fit for the position. He might be able to help Ed with his people skills, but he couldn’t do anything to bring character and vision.

We all know one Ed or another in our life. He’s the tough boss. He’s the get’er done guy. He’s the manager who couldn’t care less unless you start talking about numbers. Ed is a manager, not a leader. A true leader inspires passion and devotion, not fear and obedience.

Chioma Isiadinso’s “The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets: A Former Harvard Business School Admission Board Member Reveals the Insider Keys to Getting In” is a motivating and inspiring read. If you plan to attend one of the top 10 MBA schools, then probably you’ll want to start with the book 2 years before, as the book points out that the MBA application process is a marathon, not a sprint. To set up convincing track records in your target school’s admission criteria, some preparations should start as early as possible. For example, participating in community service only in the year of your application has a harder time to convince the admission board members of your community leadership.

Applying to business school is a marketing process. You are your own brand manager in this case. The book recommends a self brand assessment before starting the application – identify your particular strength. Trying to be everything to everyone will not win an admission. Many of the top schools encourage learning from peers; therefore what one brings uniquely to the classroom becomes particularly emphasized. Bear in mind that each MBA program also has its own brand – it’s important to do one’s due diligent and research the fit program.

From her experience on the admission board, Isiadinso points out to readers that there are 3 main areas which the selection criteria focus on: academic ability/intellectual aptitude, leadership impact/managerial potential and uniqueness (diverse experiences/perspectives and differentiated personal characteristics). Besides transcripts and resume, another extremely important media through which you can convey your competitiveness in those areas is through the admission essays. A good essay has the PGII factors: passion, guts, insight and impact. For examples, leadership is more convincingly displayed through the impact of your work more than the title of your position. The Author introduces the Expartus SOARS model to help applicants organizing their thoughts in writing: Situation, Obstacle, Action, Results and So What!

The book also has helpful suggestions on refining resume, championing recommendations and it concludes with tips on funding the expensive MBA study. It’s a must have for MBA seekers and I’d even recommend it for non seekers but who have an eye on an upward business trajectory.


“April 13th, NY MET’s 100th birthday”

“April 14th, Titanic sank this day in 1912”

Bing intrigues me with its mosaic gems of history, culture and art. There is an understated elegance in each imagery whose subtle hint of a world bigger than oneself can not be overstated.

“When life gives you a bowl of compressed volcanic ash, don’t complain. Make art.”

“It’s easy to forget that life is still full of mystery and magic.”

It continues on…Impressed, I let the mosaic take me to Easter Island, where I learned about the long-eared and short-eared people and how any inequality even in the most remote corner of the world will cause inevitable revolution.

Just as I was planning a trip to NY, Bing brings me the grand bird eye view of Bolt Castle. I also learned that the hopelessly romantic George Bolt named it Heart Island to dedicate the place to his wife. I added this destination to my trip plan.

…MS has done something quite neat.

The recent recession-like economy has created a great need for job-search coaching. Every week I get a message from one of my LinkedIn groups informing me a job search webinar or blogtalkradio session. This week I participated in two and took some helpful notes.

10 keys to job search success:

  1. Goal imagery – get focused
    • Know your target position
  2. Creating job search action plan
    • Give yourself a deadline and your brain will have a way to fulfill it
  3. Present the best you possible
  4. Access the hidden job market
    • 80% jobs are not advertised
  5. Harness the power of social media
    • LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
    • Still use job boards to find leads
  6. Market your potential, not your past
    • Focus on what you can do for them: ask essentially how can I help you
  7. Overcome phone phobia
    • Call to ask about the job before sending out your resume; make employers sell the job to you – great way to make an impression
  8. Present yourself effectively for networking and interviews
    • People evaluate you more on the questions you ask than the statements that you make – ask powerful questions that show business intellect
    • Prepare a closing question (e.g., Mr. interviewer, based on our interview today, what would be the single most important attribute I need to have for this role?)
  9. Interview like a superstar
  10. Negotiate your next employment offer
    • Negotiate before the written offer

6 parts of job searching strategy:

  1. Have a clear job target
  2. Have target companies
  3. Formulate job search tactics: e.g., Research target companies
  4. Prepare a profile of documents: Documents need to match target companies; They should speak to the needs of the employer; Have both online/offline documents
  5. Pursue job opportunities: LinkedIn; Needs w/in the company that have not opened to the mass public
  6. Participate in networking events, conferences

Daniel Goleman’s article “What makes a leader?” from Harvard Business Review makes an interesting impression. In the article he proposes five components of emotional intelligence, especially at work place:

Self-Awareness: it is defined as the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others. Its hallmarks are self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, self-deprecating sense of humor.

Self-Regulation: it is defined as the ability to control and or redirect disruptive impulses and moods and the propensity to suspend judgment – to think before acting. Its hallmarks are trustworthiness and integrity, comfort with ambiguity, openness to change.

Motivation: it’s defined as a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money and status and a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Its hallmarks are strong drive to achieve, optimism (even in the face of failure), organizational commitment.

Empathy: it’s defined as the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people and skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. Its hallmarks are expertise in building and retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity, service to clients and customers.

Social skill: it’s defined as the proficiency in managing relationships and building networks and an ability to find common ground and build rapport. Its hallmarks are effectiveness in leading change, persuasiveness, expertise in building and leading teams.

I’ve read a good part of Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence”, an interesting and educational read despite the fact that the book gets into technical details that can be a bit much at times. This article applies his theories from the book in evaluating organizational leadership. It asks the powerful question of “can emotional intelligence be learned?” The answer is yes with persistence and good effort.

Copied from http://wistechnology.com/articles/2854/

Competing in a “flat world”, a term popularized by columnist Tom Friedman, requires (well) rounded people. Becoming a well rounded talent requires continuous learning and development of knowledge and skills. Organizations that want to succeed in flat world competition better be creating enriching workplace experiences if they wish to attract and retain the high-caliber talent they need.

How can you create an enriching workplace? It isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight. But with some planning, a lot of persistence and adept execution of seven key practices, any organization can create an enriching workplace.

1. Job Stretch and Mobility

Feel like you’re stuck in a box at work? If you do you’ve got plenty of company. Many organizations define jobs narrowly and allow little or no movement across organizational boundaries or even within them. But to grow, talented people need to be constantly challenged and stretched. This means the ability to take risks, to try new things, and yes, even to fail – whether by doing something differently in an existing job or tackling an entirely new one. If experience is indeed the best teacher how much are we learning if what we do rarely changes?

SEI Investments, a leading global provider of outsourced investment business solutions, has created an environment that provides continual challenge to staff and enables them to regularly move around the organization and to frequently take on new tasks and responsibilities.

2. Mentoring Not Just Managing

Nothing speeds up the transfer of knowledge and know-how or enhances individual development more than a quality one-to-one dialogue between an experienced person and an up-and-comer.

W.L. Gore, creator of Gore-Tex fabrics, is a mentoring-intensive organization. Managers are called “Sponsors” and act as advocates for their assigned staff. They commit to being knowledgeable about their activities, well being, progress, accomplishments, personal concerns and ambitions. Each associate has at least one sponsor and some have more than one.

3. Freedom and Stimulation

Often the environment in which people work can make a huge difference to the speed and quality of people development. Two ingredients essential to making a workplace conducive to learning are stimulation – through frequent exposure to a wide variety people and ideas and the freedom to explore and pursue individual ideas and passions.

Google is a nirvana for the best and brightest technical talent in the world. The company’s commitment to human capital is strong and was a core principle expressed in its now famous IPO filing in 2004. Staff are given huge amounts of freedom to determine when, where, how and on what they work. Each is allowed to spend 20% of their time each week working on personally initiated projects.

4. Deep Immersion

Nothing frustrates talented people, particularly young up-and-comers, more than being asked to wait their turn before getting the opportunity to contribute to important projects or initiatives. This is not only demotivating to people but counter-productive to performance as opportunities to contribute depend more on tenure and pecking order than merit.

Trilogy, a software company based in Austin Texas not only avoids this problem, but has created a fast- track, merit-based process that starts with every new hire. Its induction program is on steroids – goals are not only cultural induction, bonding and skill development but to create the company’s next generation of ideas, products and leaders. The program is led and run by Trilogy’s top executives, including its CEO.

5. Teaching and Coaching

This means having people in the organization – both managers and specialists – whose role it is to help others to grow, learn and realize their potential. Many organizations have de-emphasized this key task as pressure to meet quarterly performance targets have cascaded down to every level of the organization.

Schools provide an inspiration and model from which other organizations can learn. They have teachers whose only job is to develop their student’s skills and learning. While few organizations are positioned to employ full-time teachers, many should encourage and help managers and staff to take on this role. They can do this by explicitly acknowledging the value of teaching and coaching and including these responsibilities in the expectations and measures of performance set for managers and staff.

6. Diversity of Talents and Personalities

The value of diversity in business seems obvious to most observers, but few leaders really know how to leverage the differences that people bring to the workplace. As Ricardo Semler, head of the innovative Brazilian conglomerate Semco puts it – “I prefer Coq-au-Vin to Chicken McNuggets”. He is not talking about food but rather cultures that blend diverse talents and perspectives (like the ingredients in a slow-cooked Coq-au-Vin) versus those that impose numbing conformity on their people (like the industrial-style sameness of Chicken McNuggets). And believe me, many companies have Chicken McNugget talent – mass produced, standardized and consistently mediocre. Far better to blend diverse ingredients into a rich and unique tasting stew – ala coq au vin!

Semco backs up its words with actions. It regularly pairs younger and older workers together. Its “Lost in Space” program affords young staff the opportunity to move around the company on a regular basis during their first few years. This helps them to both develop new perspectives are well as inject their own fresh ideas throughout the business. Their “Trading Places” initiative let’s people trade jobs as a way of gaining new experience and skills.

7. Horizontal Growth Paths

Flattening of hierarchies in recent years has severely curtailed growth paths in many organizations. But growth shouldn’t just be up the ladder or depend purely on acquiring managerial skills. Another productive growth path is horizontal and progressive organizations have created lateral paths that allow people to broaden their skills and knowledge within their disciplines and jobs.

Companies like IBM, Texas Instruments and Intel have instituted technical mastery programs to allow individual contributors and specialists to develop their knowledge and learning and to be paid and recognized for it. This means talent can advance based on their learning pace rather than have to change jobs or be promoted to get ahead.