It’s not necessarily true that people are an organization's greatest assets. If that were true, the organization with the biggest head count would automatically win.
Your real assets are people who know how to solve problems… and solve them better than your competitors!
When you think about it, practically every business issue is a problem to be solved. It can be about hiring talent, increasing sales, maximizing cash flow, reducing defects, or leading innovation.
Usually, the problem-solver is the executive, the manager, the technology supplier, or the consultant.
But what if everyone in that organization pitches in?
What if the machine operator, the lobby receptionist, or the accounting clerk can see the problem with fresh eyes and offer solutions that no one has thought of before? Instead of people doing the same old thing or, worse, saying something can’t be done, they are saying
“We can do it. Here’s how…”
Early when I took over my first plant, I had this maintenance technician who came to me and said, “Sir Nelson, we have a problem in Machine X”. Then he described the problem, paused, and waited for me to give him the answer from Mount Sinai.
Instead, I replied, “So?”
I think he was a bit taken aback. As he kept on explaining, I kept pushing back with “So?” At some point, he ran out of words about the problem and began drifting to solutions. “Maybe, Sir, we should try out…”
I asked him, “That’s a good idea. What else can we do?” As the technician expressed his ideas, I kept encouraging him with “What else?” until I am satisfied. Finally, I patted him on the shoulder and said, “Good! Go ahead!”
After that first encounter, whenever that technician came to me with a problem, he also brought along recommendations.
Guess what? Five years later, he has been promoted to Production Head. When an operator went to him with a technical problem, he replied “So what do you think can be done?”
Hmmm… sounds familiar.
If I were to solve every problem at the plant, I would quickly burn out. And that’s assuming I have all the answers! But you don’t need to have all the answers. You need to know where to find the best answers.
I believe that most people have great ideas just waiting to come out. Therefore, an often overlooked role of the leader is to help his followers come up with solutions better than his.
Within an industry, it is likely that the players make commodity products, have access to roughly the same technology, and beat each other on price and promotions. If you are one of those players, you will want to be different, innovative, or cost-efficient. In today’s red-ocean environment, a can-do workforce is your true competitive advantage.
In the end, it’s about having people to solve problems, rather than solving them all by yourself. Now that’s a solution worth pursuing!
Note: This article is excerpted from my signature module Creating a Problem-Solving Culture, which seeks to empower both leaders and followers tap their reservoir of creativity and wisdom. For queries, please feel free to message me.
Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash
Remember Frozen? Time was when people were belting Let It Go, be it off-key videoke or professional cover. But I would disagree with Queen Elsa. There are things we really can’t let go.
Take our past, for instance. Motivational speakers and counselors would tell us to “let go” of what we don’t like about our personal histories.
Has someone hurt us? Let it go.
Are we regretting over a certain career choice? Let it go.
Did we lose our shirt because the pandemic ruined our business? Let it go.
But we really cannot let them go, because our present flows from our past. We are where we are now due to a complex flux of choice and circumstances. We cannot escape cause and effect. Unless we have a time machine and start over, the past won’t let us go.
We still wince from the hurt.
We’re still unhappy at work.
We’re still broke.
So what do we do? Let me suggest three steps.
1. Make peace with your yesterday.
Since we can’t let go of our past, we will have to live with our past. The real question is how? With blessing or bitterness? With gratitude or grumbling? With redemption or regret?
In my book Regret No More, I teach that we make a peace pact with ourselves. Think of it as being at war with guilt, anxiety, or sorrow. The irony is that we raise these enemies within ourselves, for example, the inner critic. We declare a cessation of hostilities. We may even write down a literal treaty, if we want to.
The next time we sense the enemy creeping back, we hold up the treaty and tell the negative emotion “Hold it right there. This says you will stop.” Then imagine the enemy, shamed, slinking away.
2. Become a better person today.
We are not the same people we were five, ten, or twenty years ago. That’s because life continues to shape our personalities, perceptions and priorities. Ideally, we grow in love and wisdom as the years roll by. Yes, that includes the past.
Therefore, leverage the past for your maturity.
Did the hurt deepen your empathy?
Has the career mistake revealed what you really want in life?
Will the failed business train you how to bounce back?
There are priceless lessons that can be learned only through the college of hard knocks. Don’t waste the tuition.
3. Create an exciting tomorrow.
We cannot change what happened before. But we can decide what happens next. So take the best pieces of your past and match them with the opportunities of the present.
The hurt can open doors to unparalleled service.
The career mistake may be a detour that leads you to your true calling.
The failed venture will remind you that purpose is more important than profit.
It is not really true that January 1st is New Year’s Day. Every morning heralds the next 365 days of your life. As we would do with the literal January 1st, be brimming with hope.
Dream again. Dream big. Take the calculated risk. Explore the untrodden path. Forge strong relationships. In so doing, you have made the past your friend.
You really cannot let it go. But you have successfully lived with it.
God bless you.
This article was first published on LinkedIn in two parts. Connect with me for the latest articles.
Want to discover an insight about happiness that will only cost you forty pesos?
Don’t worry. Half of that amount will go back to you. No, I won’t be getting the other half.
Here’s the thing: Spend twenty pesos to buy your favorite ice cream and eat it. Feels heavenly, right? Especially if it’s chocolate.
Now get another twenty pesos. Only this time, use it for an act of kindness to a total stranger. For example, when you see a street kid selling sampaguita flowers, buy all his stock. Then let him keep the flowers so he can sell them to someone else.
Guess which one will put a wider smile on your face?
The insight is that happiness is a by-product.
Chase happiness itself and it will elude you. Do something meaningful for others and happiness will embrace you.
Are you groaning (again) at the prospect of going to work? Is your job something you are enduring rather than enjoying? Perhaps your mantra is “If only I have the right job, I will be happy.”
This is the paradox of job happiness.
Don’t expect your job to make you happy. Rather, do your job to give value to others and happiness will follow.
Focus on excellence and satisfaction will well up within you.
Go an extra mile for your boss or client and his delight will be yours as well.
Learn skills beyond your job description and you will unleash the thrill of exploration.
Today, survey your workplace with a fresh pair of eyes. There is a gold mine of joy waiting for you. You just need to know where to dig. Emotional treasures will soon yield themselves to you.
This article was first published on LinkedIn. Connect with me for the latest articles.
He could have lost me as a customer. But instead, he won me over as a follower.
Kyle (not his real name) was offering training videos which I can watch on-line for a modest fee. So I gave one a try and enjoyed the learning… until the video kept on buffering in the middle. It remained stuck half-way no matter how many times I refreshed my device.
I told him of my frustration through private messaging. From the seen icon, I knew he read my complaint. He could have ignored me. Worse, he could have blamed my device or internet connection. Instead, he did something I never thought he would. He gave me a link through which I can download that video… free!
If Kyle were to offer me another product, would I buy from him again? You bet! That’s because Kyle did not see me as a peso sign, but as a person. He took his mission to help seriously. In short, he cared.
The paradigm is that, in selling, don’t look for customers. Create followers who will buy from you even when there is a better deal elsewhere. Here are three principles to do just that.
Don’t: Expect loyalty.
Do: Earn loyalty.
When I was in sales and marketing, I used to tell my people: "It’s easy to get the first sale. The challenge is to get the repeat order."
Loyalty is rarely bestowed upon you when your product or service is at par with your competitors. That’s why the passive order-taker will usually resort to gimmicks such as discounts and promos. The superior tactic is to do something pro-active and unexpected that touches the customer’s heart. Create an emotional bond with your client that your competitor will find hard to dislodge.
Don’t: Keep your customers waiting.
Do: Keep your followers raving.
A seen zone is a kill zone for future business. What if Kyle had seen my PM’s complaint and ignored it? I would have lost all appetite to buy from him again. But when he gave me that link, that was a WOW! moment for me.
It wasn’t about the video. It was about trust. He took a risk that I won’t spread that video around and hurt his future sales. I won’t, of course, but I felt honored which I will happily reciprocate by buying from him again.
Don’t: Think one-time.
Do: Think big-picture.
Imagine again had Kyle thought like these:
Conversely, that downloadable video was a modest investment that not only rewarded him with my wholehearted testimonial, but my interested peers as well.
With buyers bombarded by all sorts of offers and deals through digital channels, you need to stand out. When you do something wonderful and unexpected, you will make them ask you “What else do you have?”
This article was first published on LinkedIn. Connect with me for the latest articles.
Photo by Sebastian Hermann, Unsplash
No good deed ever goes unpunished. I chewed on that bitter irony as I had to deal with an irresponsible employee.
On a Thursday morning, I chaired a department meeting and, knowing that it will spill over to our lunch break, ordered plated meals for everyone. That employee was assigned for night shift duty, so he wasn’t in the meeting. But I included him in the order, anyway. After the meeting concluded, I asked his colleagues to pack his meal and give it to him later that evening.
Friday morning gave me a rude awakening. That employee shut down a piece of equipment that caused about four hours of downtime in our operations. The reasons are too lengthy to share here, but his act was inexcusably reckless. Yes, it was that same employee to whom I showed kindness through that packed meal.
I always believe that if you treat your people well, they will respond in kind. I am not so naïve that there won’t be any laggard, resister, or even saboteur. I had my share of people letting me down, but never in the form of a work stoppage equivalent to almost a million pesos in opportunity costs. Until now.
I never rant in Facebook, except maybe about a terrible movie. But in my disappointment, I posted a “feeling sad” emoji and the cryptic words “Why do I even bother?”
Comments from my Facebook friends poured in. I appreciated the queries of concern: “Are you all right?” “What happened?” “What’s wrong?” I liked one fellow’s attempt to psychoanalyze me: “Because you care.” I received a good share of virtual hugs. I was touched by those who reached out via Private Messenger, offering help and their shoulders to cry on. (I rarely cry, by the way.)
Then I realized the answer. Why do I even bother? Because there are people who bothered to reach out to me. Yes, that one person had shaken my faith in human nature. But one community reminded me that compassion and service still reign supreme in the grand scheme of things.
As of this writing, that employee is facing disciplinary action that can lead to summary dismissal. No, I will not give him a second chance. I will let due process take its course. Mercy has its place, but not if it will expose our operations to further harm, not to mention the morale of my crew.
But yes, I will still bother to show kindness and appreciation. In that Facebook post, I was at the receiving end. The elation is so indescribable that the only way to express it is to pay it forward.
So let’s continue to be a community. Let’s bother.
This article has been published on LinkedIn. Do check it out on LinkedIn and let me know what you think.
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
Nobody wants to be under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). But it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it. As we are about to enter Week 2, here are three tips to keep making the most out of it.
First, write down your goals.
While I am one of the blessed who work from home and still draw a paycheck (my heart goes out to the no-work, no-pay people), I expect to have more free time. Consider that I don’t have to drive to work and back home, a daily task that usually lops off three to four hours of my waking time.
As I write this, I am looking at a mini-white board where I wrote down what I want to accomplish. They include book writing, training projects and personal development. This does not mean that I don’t have recreation during ECQ. After spending a day well, I reward myself by reading a comic book.
Remember, if a goal is not written down, it does not exist. Goals that remain floating between your two ears are notorious for being forgotten. I prop up my white board on my home desk so I can decide what to tackle for a particular day and alert myself where I am slacking off.
Second, develop value-adding habits.
A wise business owner knows that when he goes through a low season, he invests in training rather than skimp on it. This is to take advantage of the downtime by instilling his people with sharper skills and attitude. Then, when business picks up again, his team is stronger than ever.
You are always in business. It so happens that the product is YOU. Therefore, like that owner, invest time, effort and perhaps money to acquire habits that you know will vastly improve your work performance. When you improve yourself, you increase your value.
It is said that it takes 14 or 21 days to build a habit. Coincidentally, that is about how long this ECQ will last. So why not leverage this period when we are less frenzied or distracted to acquire those habits? Do them daily until they become automatic when things go back to normal. You know you have successfully established a habit when you feel queasy if you had spent a day skipping that routine.
Value-adding habits would include:
Third, tackle one-time, big-time projects.
I certainly don’t want a sickening feeling that once the ECQ is over, I have little to show for it. I am sure that you don’t like that, either. So bring out your bucket list. If you don’t have a bucket list, now is also a good time to write one. Of course, there are obvious constraints. For example, now is hardly the time to go backpacking across Europe.
So prioritize the items you can do at home. Then take out your calendar and block off chunks of time to do what you’ve always been dreaming of doing.
Do you want to:
Quarantine gives us the gift of downtime. Use this gift wisely. Write down, review and implement your goals. Do incremental steps geared towards improving your value. Indulge in special projects that will give you a sense of fulfillment.
Once this is over, we will emerge stronger, happier and more productive than before.
Photo by Ryan Mendoza on Unsplash
Boredom happens when we lose our appetite for things that used to energize us such as a job or a relationship. Strangely, we can be bored even while we are busy.
Overcoming boredom is more of a process, a journey, an inner transformation. It is a golden opportunity to find out what we really value.
Most people suppose that the opposite of boredom is excitement. Personally, I have discovered that the opposite of boredom is meaning. There are people who don’t mind difficulties and drudgery as long as they know that they are making a difference in the world.
Imagine two bakers. One complains, “I do the same thing day in and day out. Buying yeast, kneading dough, operating this oven. What’s the point of it all?”
The other relishes each working day and says, “I get to feed the world. I get to help a child create memories of the yummy sandwich only his mom can make. I get to encourage family members to bond around a good breakfast.”
The second baker sees meaning beyond the physical stuff of yeast, dough and oven. Because of that, he is hardly bored.
You may be doing something repetitious, perhaps even menial. But look for meaning in whatever you do. Happiness is a by-product of a meaningful life. Pursue happiness and it will elude you.
But pursue meaning and, in due time, boredom will give way to joy!
Photo by Tonny Tran on Unsplash
Sure, a spouse can have his or her own thing. Lucy relaxes by gardening while I unwind with DC Comics. But there should be joint projects to deepen the bond. It’s a matter of balance.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t share your spouse’s interest and beg off. Lucy loves movies with wizards and dragons; me, I would rather see Bruce Willis kick behinds. But we don’t resent each other’s choice of genre.
An important task together is prayer. On mornings where I drive Lucy and myself to our respective offices, we would pray together inside the car. We beseech God’s father for our families, friends, and projects. At home, when an in-law would text us a prayer request about her business, a friend is scheduled for a court hearing, a beloved pastor had to undergo surgery, we paused to pray.
Lucy may be more of the supportive type, but her help is indispensable when I would preach at our home church, conduct a workshop, or organize a book launch. I bet that when God will distribute His rewards, Lucy will receive a larger haul of crowns than I. I won’t get jealous, because then we will have the unspeakable delight of laying our crowns before Him and falling down before Him in worship.
Now that's a marriage made in heaven!
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