Are you a curious leader?

Natural curiosity is about a genuine drive to understand the unknown. Curiosity may also involve rethinking the status quo, reviewing and throwing away long-held assumptions proven false by the world we live and work in.

A curious leader is someone who does not accept everything at face value, but is driven to delve beneath the surface to gain a deep level of understanding. This trait should not be confused with skepticism. Being a curious leader implies that you don’t know the answers but is willing to explore with your followers. Many in leadership roles still perceive they must be seen as having all of the answers. Yet, possessing a healthy sense of curiosity can let a leader pursue new, different, or even previously-thought impossible initiatives. In the right business environment, this curiosity leads to experimentation which becomes the foundation of innovation.

Developing curiosity can always start with asking “Why…”, “How might…” and “What if…”.

SourceArt Pretty



Learning to Inspire

Inspiring leaders are those who can use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on challenging goals.

Based on a survey designed by Bain & Company, an inspiring leader excel in one or more personal attributes that develop inner resources, connect with others, set the tone, and lead a team. Stress tolerance, self-regard, and optimism help leaders developing inner resources. Vitality, humility, and empathy help leaders connect. Openness, unselfishness, and responsibility help set the tone. Vision, focus, servanthood, and sponsorship help them lead.

That said, mindfulness is one universal trait that matters more than any other. This is perceived by followers to be a state of mindfulness that enables leaders to remain calm under stress, empathize, listen deeply, and remain present.

SourceHavard Business Review



Don’t ask a fish to climb a tree

Einstein famously made the expression to remind us that we can be great in our own way if we understand our strengths. It is often easy to be fixated on overcoming one’s weaknesses and easily ignore building up one’s strengths. In fact, focusing too much on correcting your weaknesses may actually hinder you from becoming what you can be great at.  The four rules of thumb to guide you to enhance your strengths: (1) accept your weaknesses; (2) recognize your specific strengths; (3) solve the right problem; and (4) double down on your strengths.

All of us — individuals, teams, and organizations — have weaknesses. These are weaknesses that are inherent deficiencies of capability that do not change even after aggressive efforts to improve them. As an individual, or as an enterprise, knowing the specific nature of your strengths is incredibly important. Because if you don’t know your specific strength, you can’t  develop it to full advantage. Also, consider whether the problem you are trying to solve is the right one to address, especially if it is a problem other people have diagnosed for you. Ultimately, strengths and weaknesses are often mirrors of each other; and once you recognize your strength, you can accentuate it through discipline and training.


Why TED Talks are Compelling

A lot of people would agree that TED talks are compelling but why it is so is less obvious. The talks share a common narrative that can be easily used to structure presentations to good effect. Here are the five elements:

Pique their interest – Through opening with stories, you can get attention and appeal to emotional instincts because people are naturally drawn to stories. The stories should have vivid detail and invoke clear imagery, and most importantly leave the listener in suspense as to “What’s next”. At this early stage of the talk, the specific stories are external to the listener.

Satisfy their curiosity – Next pick out the pattern or generalise the lesson of the specific story or stories. The key is to create an “aha” moment for the listener. Saying “here’s what we learned” will begin to draw the audience to becoming in-tuned with the story teller.

Appeal to logic – This is where you can back your story with data, graphs or even more facts. After appealing to the audience’s emotional side, offering numerical evidence is a powerful way to further convince the logic-minded in the group.

Setting the vision – Invite the audience to imagine their world in a different way, where they apply the foregoing external, general rule to their circumstances. This step that asks the audience to “Imagine if you …” directs the focus on the listener’s internal world and paints the potential to change for the better.

Call to action – Tell the audience a concrete action they can take to achieve the objective. It is important to give the audience a sense that they are control over the action so that they believe that they can actually do it. By this closing stage of the presentation, the talk has turned attention to an internal specific action that the listener can carry out.


Handling the four political barriers to strategy execution

Many CEOs or managers often find themselves up against organisational politics that impede strategy execution. Historical divisions and entrenched power structures can create barriers to desired change. Navigating these political domains in organisations require awareness of two important dimensions. First is the spectrum at which the political activity takes place between the individual or organisational level. The second dimension is the source of informal or formal power. Using these two dimensions, the four typical types of organisational politics can be described as “the weeds”, “the rocks”, “the high ground”, and “the woods”. Here’s how to approach these situations:

The weeds – The weeds, where individual influence and informal networks rule, can naturally form without any deliberate effort. To deal with the weeds, seek to understand the informal networks at play and identify the key influence brokers, so you can isolate them and increase your own influence.

The rocks – Navigating the terrain here, where individuals have formal sources of authority reign, consists of redirecting the energy of a dysfunctional leader, either through reasoned argument or by appealing to their interests.

The high ground – If you find yourself on the high ground, which combines formal authority embedded within organisational systems such as committees, you can suggest that a separate group or task force (e.g. Innovation Lab) needs to be set up to examine an issue or bridge silos. It can create an unconstrained ‘working space’ outside of the norms and routines of the organisation.

The woods – The woods are characterised by organisations with implicit norms, hidden assumptions and unspoken routines. The key here is to make the implicit explicit and bring those implicit routines and behaviours to the surface. Ask external stakeholders and specialist experts about their observations of the company or get information from benchmark surveys. Once the implicit assumptions are out in the open, ask your team to reflect on how those assumptions are helping or hindering the strategy.



Four Errors of Change Management

No matter what specific changes a change management program is intending to bring, those aims necessarily involve a sustained changed in the employee’s behavior. Unfortunately, change programs of many firms usually fail to bring about those new behaviours due to four errors that undermine the change efforts. These errors take the forms of neglecting employee’s individual interests, under-engaging the extended leadership team, failure to sufficiently empower the Change Management Unit, and allocating ‘fire and forget’ targets. In order to minimise the occurrence of these errors, the management should strive to make participation in the program individually rewarding. The company should closely engage the extended leadership teams in encouraging change, and empower the Change Management Unit to drive the program. Lastly, the company should also define effective metrics to track progress.



Six Ways to Make the Right Hire

Using the interview strategies outlined below may help improve your chances of making the right hire:

(1) Tour the office.  You can have a better sense of the candidates by watching how they behave when touring the office. As you’re sizing up the candidates, there are two key qualities to look out for: Is the person interested or curious in the work of the organization? Do they treat everyone they meet with respect regardless of their title?

(2) Interview over lunch.  The key part is to observe whether the candidate is considerate towards other colleagues — an essential quality of effective team players. Pay attention to behaviours such as: Do they charge into the restaurant, or let others go first; can they keep a dialogue going, or do they dominate the conversation?

(3) Ask personality questions.  Unusual questions will get candidates to open up and provide insights into what makes them tick. Do they know how they come across to others? Their answers to a question such as “What is the biggest misconception people have about you” can reveal candidates’ level of self-awareness.

(4) Discuss actual problems.  See your candidates in action by discussing an actual problem or issue you’re working on. Ask how they would tackle or break down the problem. Are they engaged in exploring the problem? Are they able to generate solutions? Walking through a short problem with the candidate will reveal how it would be like to work with this person.

(5) Get them asking questions.  Leave some time to allow candidates to ask their questions at the end of the interview. Do they ask penetrating questions about the direction of the company? Or do they want answers to questions about vacation? Or maybe they have no questions at all? The questions candidates ask will indicate their interest and whether they done any homework about the company.

(6) Seek another opinion.  As we’re often biased, it is important to get different perspectives on candidates by asking a number of potential colleagues to meet with them. After all, the person you hire is going to interact with many people in your company, so they all have an interest in ensuring the person is a someone they can work with.

SourceThe New York Times