Category: <span>Intrinsic Change</span>

Last month, I read with dismay in the papers that The Orchard Road Business Association of Singapore has decided not to participate in Black Friday sales.

The main reasons cited were that Black Friday “is a mostly e-commerce festival” and that physical retailers cannot compete with online stores. The Association also stated that Black Friday will clash with stores’ Christmas promotions. The newspaper report then went to quote a Polytechnic lecturer who echoed the same sentiments, lending credence to the Association’s views, rendering its decision “legitimate” and credible, hence acceptable to those who agree with its stance.

This is precisely the thinking that will sink companies eventually. Company bosses who refuse to think unconventionally and who insist on sticking to age-old dogmas are unable to transcend outworn habits, increasingly antiquated modes of operations and out-of-date beliefs to deal with the realities of a changing world. Retailers missed a golden opportunity by writing off Black Friday without giving a serious thought on the impact of their decisions; decisions based on misinformation, fallacy and utter lack of true understanding of the buying behavior of today’s generation of shoppers.

Anyone who is not out of touch will know that nowadays Black Friday is far from just an online event to dump cheap electronics. And while it is indisputable that brick-and-mortar stores have higher overheads compared to online ones, this is precisely the catalyst for retailers to think “out of the box” and use creativity to overcome these perceived roadblocks. Look at Uber, the world’s largest ride-hailing company that doesn’t own a single vehicle, or Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider that doesn’t own a single hotel room – their founders refused to accept status quo, challenged the norms, and creatively disrupted centuries-old tradition to triumph.

Retail is in the doldrums, it is believed, though the same newspaper also made reference to year-end travel bookings increasing despite a seeming decrease in retail spending. There appears to be a dichotomy here that perhaps someone beyond a polytechnic lecturer should seriously research further. Some may argue that the data indeed shows a reduction in retail spending but just as every pollster who used data to forecast a Hillary Clinton win has proven themselves so dreadfully wrong, retailers must pound the pavement, feel the heartbeat of the retail landscape, talk to shoppers, and respond to what shoppers want, in order to overcome their lowered takings. And all shoppers want a bargain, it doesn’t matter when. If retailers stop worrying about how Black Friday is clashing with their Christmas promotions, therefore messing up their neat and tidy calendars, and start thinking by walking in the shoes of shoppers, see things from shoppers’ point of view, that will be a laudable first step to saving themselves from ultimate ruin. Stores who ignore the Association’s decision to proceed with Black Friday events deserve my salute for being visionary and innovative.

Intrinsic Change

Singaporeans have the habit of “reserving” tables at foodcourts before going to buy their food. Items used to do this range from packs of tissues to newspapers to small foldable umbrellas.

Recently, however, I was flabbergasted to see several security tags belonging to employees of a major American technology company being placed on a table at the foodcourt of a local mall.

These security tags allow users to gain entry to the company’s premises. I had assumed that employees from this company would be more security-minded than to leave the tags on an unguarded table during a busy lunch period. The irony is that this company’s products and services center around security, including cyber security.

This is also a reminder that cyber attacks today, according to numerous studies, cost the global economy about US$400 billion a year.

It’s not going to get better – a research firm estimates that this figure will quintuple to US$2.1 trillion by 2019.

Earlier this year, the central bank of Bangladesh lost US$81 million to hackers over the course of several hours from its account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And it could have been worse: The attackers had tried to withdraw more than US$900 million.

Another study found that organizations in the region face a 45% higher risk of a targeted cyber attack than the global average, with one in four such attacks aimed at governments.

And companies in this region take an average of 17 months to find out they had been attacked, more than twice as long as the global average, said yet another study. So, please, plan on using more iron-clad passwords for a start!

Those of us from Singapore live, for the most part, in a relatively safe environment.

Living in a low-risk environment, personal security is something that is generally taken for granted; unwatched and unminded, where everything miraculously sort of takes care of itself.

After a few years of living and working overseas, it occurred to me that a gunshot wound was never any further than a small misunderstanding away.

I don’t go to concerts, soccer games, or engage in any indoor activity that has orders of magnitude more people than the building has exits.

That might sound silly to you but I’ve seen way too many crazy things in my life.

I never sit in a restaurant with my back facing the entrance.

And you’ll never see me using a ferry in the Philippines. Year after year, these under-maintained, overcrowded ferries sink killing hundreds of people each time. (And year after year, the authorities allow it to happen – but that’s another story for another post.) Inter-island ferries are one of the main forms of transport for millions of Filipinos across the archipelago, mainly because they are cheaper than air travel but you would have to put a gun to my head to make me go on one of these rickety boats. Well, I may be persuaded to squat on the top deck! There is no way I am going below deck with 300 other people and their farm animals on a vessel that has only 2 exit doors that are either locked or blocked by people. If that boat ever rolls over I plan on being able to make a dive for it, even though I am no Joseph Schooling.

Thankfully, no untoward incident has happened here in Singapore in recent times, as they have in other countries. But we have been warned that it is not a matter of “if” but “when” we will suffer terrorist attacks.

Incidents like the unattended security tags, as well as the countless times I have seen people leave their bags at tables in cafes to go and buy drinks, worry me.

In other countries, these bags would have been quickly removed by security forces. My wife and I were dining in a restaurant in Israel when her handbag, as always, placed on a separate chair near her, was nearly removed by heavily-armed soldiers who suddenly appeared seemingly out of nowhere. She was advised to make sure that her handbag sits in her lap at all times.

Here in Singapore, despite the threat of terrorism looming in the background, we have become careless, and our biggest enemy is our complacency.

All it takes is one explosion to erode investor and visitor confidence, and our economy will fall into a downward spiral. This is not to mention the loss of innocent lives.

I am not being alarmist, but it behoves us all to take security more seriously.

Situational awareness is our single greatest defense in staying safe.

It enables us to live to fight another day against those who live to do us harm.

Intrinsic Change

Through tattered clothes great vices do appear;
Robes and furred growns hide all. – Shakespeare

If you attend a few classes and get a certificate does it make you an expert in anything?

That is, versus someone who spent years practicing the craft, doing post-doctoral studies and possesses deep understanding of human psychology.

If you are able to stand in front of an audience and spout regurgitated, plagiarized homilies, does that qualify you as a priest?

Versus someone who have devoted years in theological studies and training how to be a shepherd?

Are unmarried marriage counselors any good? If you cross the line into territories you should not have ventured into, how does that make you look?

The world is full of nobodies with fierce, impressive titles but these same charlatans have probably never managed any endeavor of any significance and size. Yes, anyone can use PowerPoint charts to dazzle even when they have no proven track records to speak of.

Sure, you may have all the external trappings of what you imagine is a picture of “success” and you could even hire ghostwriters to write you a book, but if you have not the character, experience and values, how professional are you?

And even if you have the proper – that is real – qualifications, how do you conduct yourself?

Are journalists reporters of news or do they themselves become the story?

Following a devastating earthquake in Nepal, CNN crew filmed its own chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta, on-site, as he performed emergency brain surgery on an eight-year-old girl and resuscitated another victim of the quake. This was not the first time Gupta practiced medicine on a patient in front of the camera. He treated a two-year-old boy on assignment in the Middle East, and examined patients on camera after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

In doing so, Gupta violates both medical and journalism ethics. As a doctor, he is obligated to protect client confidentiality. He may not show the procedures being performed on them without their informed consent, and in a foreign setting under emergency conditions, informed consent by patients is almost never possible 100% of the time. In the US, doing what Gupta did in Nepal on camera would be against the law. That means it is unethical anywhere, even in places like Nepal.

But Gupta is a new breed of television doctor who has a medical degree and thus must be a health authority. And gullible viewers suck it up.

People trust doctors, that’s the problem.

Gupta has repeatedly endorsed Merck’s controversial vaccine Gardasil as a means of preventing cervical cancer on the air and on his CNN blog, but the fact of the matter is that Gardasil’s clinical trials never tested for preventing cervical cancer. The vaccine was tested for preventing pre-cancerous lesions associated with two strains of HPV (Human Papillomavirus), a sexually transmitted disease.

And since these lesions can take 12 to 20 years to develop into cervical cancer and the clinical trials lasted less than five years, medical experts warn that the jury is still out on what impact this vaccine might have on cervical cancer rates, so for Gupta to endorse it is an act of not only sheer unprofessionalism but also an act of gross irresponsibility.

Further, his credibility as a journalist has gone to the dogs when he rubbished a medical report on Donald Trump but gave a rather muted response over Hillary Clinton’s fainting episode last month. Clearly he was demonstrating his political preferences, something no professional journalist should be involved in. Dr Gupta, your slip is showing!

And don’t get me started on Dr Mehmet Oz.

He made a name for himself touting miracle cures on TV, but Oz was strongly criticized for his claims about weight-loss supplements in a Senate hearing in June 2014. Following that, 10 doctors from around the United States have called for Oz to be removed the faculty of Columbia University in New York. They accused Oz of “an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”

Some actually asked for his doctor’s license to be revoked.

And his response? “Freedom of speech is the most fundamental right we have as Americans. And these 10 doctors are trying to silence that right.”

Well, I leave you to draw your own conclusions about people who talk like that.

And you know what?

Oz wasn’t removed by Columbia. Those ten were voted down.

You see, doctors take care of their own kind.

And that to me, is the most insidious aspect of the medical profession.

It’s time we change our views about these “healers” who seem to have forgotten The Hippocratic Oath.

Intrinsic Change

I was apoplectic when a friend remarked that the president of a certain country did “nothing” during the president’s entire term.

To me that is an unfair sweeping statement.

Sweeping statements are never beneficial. They are imprecise and often send mistaken messages. They seed uncertainty and distrust and are usually intended to make an imposing point about how right the person making the statement might be. They tend to be narcissistic and self-serving and are often sanctimonious. In other words, people with weak foundations for hard facts make sweeping statements because they want to make a point that makes them look correct and therefore look moral and righteous in the stance they are taking.

On August 21st, there was an article in The Sunday Times, entitled Blindedsided by Dirty Old Man, written by Sharon Loh. In it she recalled a couple of incidents experienced by her daughters.

She first recounted how a man in his 50s asked her teenage daughter for her name when jogging. Loh accused the man of “hitting” on her daughter.

She also wrote: My daughters were lounging by the condominium pool when they were invited by some boys to a movie. “Wow,” I told anyone who would listen, “Singaporean men are buayas.” (“Buaya” is the Malay word for “crocodile” but is also a colloquial term for “lecher.”)

Now, that’s a sweeping statement for sure!

Loh, who calls the US her home now, then went on to make another sweeping statement:

“In our home town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, men do not make a habit of staring openly or passing remarks on women in the street.”

In one fell swoop, Loh insulted all the men in Singapore – including her own father and husband – just because from her experience, men in North Carolina “do not make a habit of staring openly or passing remarks on women in the street.”

(As an aside, despite the presence of perverts and sickos, not all men who talk to teenage girls are sexual deviants, and if my teenage daughters don’t get movie invites from other boys, I would be very worried.)

Another example of a sweeping statement would be “You ALWAYS stay late at work, making those of us who leave on time look bad.”

Any leader worth his salt would have long learned that to make an effective point in communication, we must use the three-part assertion message, a technique to communicate a message when others are doing something on which you want to comment.

This is how it works:

  1. Describe behavior
  2. Describe how you feel
  3. Show the broader impact of their behavior

So instead of saying “You ALWAYS stay late at work, making those of us who leave on time look bad” say “When you stay on after hours, I find it annoying, because there’s a chance that people might get the impression that the rest of us are not working as hard.”

Many are often not sensitive enough to realize the effect of their actions on others. Disclosing how you feel can be quite a surprise – and eye-opening – for many. It is also impossible for them to deny this: only you can describe how you feel. Taking the risk to describe how you feel helps the other person to accept the impact of what they have done, beyond having affected your emotions.

Have the courage to “confront” the person one on one, not deploy a whole host of others to carry your message. If you feel slighted because of what someone said, go and meet the person face to face, describe his behavior, describe how you feel and show him the broader impact of his behavior. Do this yourself instead of making use of a whole bunch of other people, emissaries, to do this for you. A non-intimidating chat over coffee would have resolve the issue there and then.

Above all, care enough to get your facts right; if you have solid, documentable and verified evidence that the particular president has done “nothing” in his entire term, present those facts and not just bits and pieces of information taken out of context. There is a phenomenon called “confirmation bias” where you turn everything you see into a nail just because all you have is a hammer.

As a leader, you are responsible for communicating clearly and succinctly at all times and to do it well. And I can’t stress this enough: It is also always, always your own responsibility to communicate on your own behalf, not make use of mouthpieces who will do the job for you.

If you lack the courage to speak the truth, who can trust you to have the courage to lead?

Intrinsic Change

In every organization, there is a group of people who are the untouchables.

Their jobs are always safe.

The company may be suffering numerous consecutive quarters of negative growth and even those who performed and delivered and who have labored for the organization for decades had to be laid off to minimize operating costs, but this group of insiders will continue to keep their jobs.

It’s basically cronyism pure and simple.

These are protected members of the boss’ inner sanctum – the company mafia, its seat of power.

In good times and bad, this unholy alliance can do no wrong.

They run the company as they see fit.

They think they are the only ones that are right.

Even the best and brightest are being ousted.

In fact, anyone that outshines any member of the inner sanctum will be put down.

Worse, this insidious group panders to their toadies and bootlickers, protecting them and shielding them from harm’s way.

Lots of talented resources had their capabilities suppressed so that this mafia could gain eminence – all at the expense of the organization and the constituents it is meant to serve.

But every story has a closing chapter.

As the Chinese say, there is no never ending banquet under the sun. All good things must come to an end.

That is the fate of a mafia group in an organization that I am familiar with.

With the control of the untouchables, the organization continued to be weakened until a coup was mounted and the mutiny resulted in the disposal of boss and his grovelers.

One sees many similar parallels in history –  from Lenin and Stalin to Saddam and Gaddafi, despots were eventually disposed.

There are lessons for us all here.

First, people have eyes. They are not blind. It is said that “when you are in it, you don’t see it” but those on the outside of the inner sanctum can see your shenanigans quite clearly.

Second, everyone has a boss – the mafia met their downfall when disgruntled employees and shareholders petitioned head office. Usually, leaders at head office are protective of those they appoint to run the local offices, but when the level of disgruntlement reaches epic proportions, head office had no choice but to act.

Third, you may enjoy being at the top, but it’s a law of nature and a matter of time before you will be brought low and humbled, if not totally humiliated and annihilated. Like they say, “every dog has its day” and you will get your comeuppance, eventually. You will be crushed.

Leaders come and leaders go, one day you’re cock of the walk, the next you’re a feather duster.

The rest of the people have all the time in the world to wait you out.

So if you are in a position leadership, do a sanity check on yourself every once in a while.

Intrinsic Change

A company chairman recently engaged me to review and investigate the credentials of someone who has sold coaching services to the CEO of his company’s Asia Pacific operations.

Coaching is the practice of supporting an individual through the process of achieving a specific personal, professional or sporting result.

The term “coaching” is sometimes used interchangeably with “mentoring.”

Actually there is a difference.

The term “mentoring” takes its name from the Greek classic, The Odyssey, in which the character Mentor becomes responsible for guiding Odysseus’ son, as the father goes off to war. The presence of an older, and possibly even parent-like, figure as an advisor in a persons’ life is often traditionally referred to as having a mentor.

Whatever it is, like training, it appears that anyone can set himself up as a coach or mentor and come into companies, charge tens of thousands of dollars and make suckers of everyone. This is exactly what happened to the Asia Pacific office of the multinational corporation. This is the reason why the chairman of the company, based in Scandinavia, engaged me to assess the credentials of a particular “coach” and her entire “coaching program” which she managed to sell to the head of the corporation’s Asia Pacific operations.

My counsel has always been this: Before engaging a coach or mentor, ask some hard questions and ask to see certifiable results. If possible, ask to speak to the people being coached by the coach. Also ask to speak to the bosses of those being coached. Has the coaching made a significant, measurable difference to the company’s performance?

Most coaches I come across here are former athletes, management consultants, retrenched executives and failed entrepreneurs. Some are none of these things – just self-styled gurus who managed to sweet-talk some clueless company bosses into engaging their services for the whole company. (Didn’t someone once say that “guru” is easier to spell than “charlatan”?) Undoubtedly some executives do get help from such individuals, but in an alarming number of situations, coaches who lack rigorous psychological training do more harm than good. Indeed, when an executive’s problems stem from undetected or ignored psychological difficulties, coaching can actually make a bad situation worse. I’ve not met any coach here who hails from the world of psychiatry or psychology.

My misgivings about coaching are not a clarion call for psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. I am psychology-trained professionally yet I believe seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist, in particular, does not – and never will – suit everybody. Nor is it up to company bosses to ensure that all employees deal with their personal demons or receive coaching to “realize their full potential.”

I just want to heighten awareness of the difference between a “problem executive” who can be coached to contribute positively to a company’s bottom line and an “executive with a problem” who can best be helped by seeing a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

These are the issues: First, many coaches sell themselves as purveyors of simple answers and nippy solutions. Second, even coaches who accept that an executive’s problems may require time to address still tend to rely solely on behavioral solutions. Third, coaches unschooled in the dynamics of psychotherapy often exploit and abuse the powerful hold they develop over the people they coach. Unfortunately, if allowed to careen off like a runaway train, coaches ignore – and even create – deep-rooted psychological problems that often only psychologists can fix.  I know – if I deposit a ten-cent coin into my bank account every time I am asked to go into a company to do damage control after a coach has left behind a trail of devastation I would be a millionaire many times over by now.

Remember the creepy and revolting Grima Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings who had Theoden, King of Rohan eating out of his hands? (Wormtongue was the king’s counselor when in truth he was the servant of Saruman.) Coaches are at their most destructive when they win the CEO’s ear. This puts them in a position to wield great power over an entire organization, a scenario that occurs with disturbing frequency.

When I was working for a HR consultancy many years ago, the young managing director was virtually being manipulated by a seasoned, older subordinate who has wormed his way into the managing director’s heart, becoming his personal advisor on everything ranging from which restaurants to eat to which employees to get rid of.

I know someone here who bills himself as an “outplacement consultant and coach” and he has confessed to me that one of the secrets of his success is that he always wears a suit to impress. Imagine that!

Coaches gain a Svengali-like hold over both the executives they help and the company bosses they report to, often with catastrophic consequences. When a person increases his reliance on his coach’s advice, he becomes a victim of what, in the language of psychiatry, is called “transference” – a dynamic that gives the coach extraordinary psychological power over the person he oversees. Most people understand transference, as “falling in love” with one’s therapist and the outcome can be very destructive.

To best help their executives, companies must draw on the expertise of psychiatrists, psychologists and coaches with legitimate skills. At a minimum, every executive slated to receive coaching should first receive a psychological evaluation. By screening out those not psychologically prepared or predisposed to benefit from the process, companies avoid putting executives in unnerving – even destructive and demotivating – positions.

Equally important, companies should hire independent mental health professionals to review coaching results. This helps to ensure that coaches are not ignoring underlying problems or becoming part of the problem themselves.

In medicine, pathology is central to learning about disease but in management we don’t perform enough autopsies on people who call themselves coaches to determine their true worth. If these parasites and fraudsters prove unworthy, like malignant tumors; they should immediately be excised and flushed down the gutter.

I am sick of hearing about coaches who take companies for a ride. They get in the way of the real pros who are trying to do their job.

Thinking of getting some coaching? Tread carefully.

A wrong move could cost you a lot of grief.

Intrinsic Change

Paper qualification is often used to gauge a person’s capability.

A degree earned shows the world that you have had academic training on the subject for which you were awarded the degree.

Due to the emphasis on paper qualification, people strive to earn as many degrees as possible and also to get themselves certified in as many areas of expertise as they possibly can.

Studying for a degree, spending time on campus, interacting with professors also give a person the experience of co-existing with others, a process which, hopefully, also eventually contributes to a person’s social skills and build up his EQ.

It is therefore important that people attend the right schools.

What’s the point of going to a sub-standard institution and ending up with some qualification that’s not worth the paper it is printed on?

Equally important would be the certification that people acquire to enhance their competency.

The thing is, people jump on bandwagons and suddenly experts emerge from everywhere.

If big data analytics is now the flavor of the month, all of a sudden, you’ll see experts in that field emerging from God knows where, each clutching a piece of paper declaring them to be experts. Big data is more hype that its proponents care to admit. Among other flaws, spurious correlations – associations that are statistically robust but happen only by chance – increases with more data and can lead to completely wrong conclusions or prognostication. I would caution all those big data evangelists to pay heed to what The Economist calls “the classic hype cycle, in which a technology’s early proponents make overly grandiose claims, people sling arrows when those promises fall flat, but the technology eventually transforms the world, though not necessarily in ways the pundits expected. It happened with the web, and television, radio, motion pictures and the telegraph before it.”

When it rains it pours, and when it rains big data hype it quickly turns into a monsoon of mass hysteria, basically, mob psychology in action! I enjoy spotting and scoffing at big data BS promoters on places like LinkedIn, half of whom not sure of what they’re babbling about. They’re just on the big data bandwagon just as they’ve jumped headlong on the Japanese single malt bandwagon, suckers for flavor of the month.

It’s the same with change management.

Change management may appear commonsensical, but the fact of the matter is that most change is resisted because it’s corporate-centered and then repackaged to try to coerce employees to embrace the change. Now, why would employees embrace change if it means more work, more stress, more KPIs to achieve and less personal time for themselves? No wonder people fight change.

Unless you have the appropriate rigorous training and the relevant experience, you cannot possibly possess a deep understanding of psychological principles and research methodologies that are at the intersection of theory and practice in organizational settings. The strength of a real expert on change management lies in his ability to identify key psychological theories and applying them successfully to a wide variety of challenges facing contemporary organizations.

Work backwards starting with the fear of the people who will be impacted by the change and change will get embraced but you need the pertinent training and experience to do that. Attending courses and paying for a certificate doesn’t make you an expert in anything.

But as with big data – the latest buzzword – suddenly everyone is an expert in change management, never mind the fact that many of these self-styled experts are brandishing certification of one kind or another from dubious organizations who claim to know enough about the subject that they have the nerve to go around certifying people and making them change management experts overnight.

Seriously with no background even in psychology, can these so-called experts or organizations that declare them to be experts claim to know anything deep about change?

Let me reiterate: you don’t become an expert by paying a fee, sitting in a classroom, and then take a test that result in you being rewarded with a piece of paper, a piece of paper that allows you to hang up your shingle and set up shop.

Ditto trainers. I have seen jokers with multiple certification declaring them to be training experts and what do they do? In front of a class, behind PowerPoint slides, they stand there blinking and twitching and trying to look intelligent.

Pathetic, really.

It’s the same with coaching as well.

Everyone is a coach nowadays.

I’ve had people bragging about the millions they’re making from coaching.

Well, I supposed if Angelina Jolie can be a professor at London School of Economics I guess there’s hope for everyone. I am not aware of Ms Jolie having acquired a single academic qualification in her 40 narcissistic years upon this earth – let alone the qualifications to earn the title of “professor.” What next? Desmond Kuek of the problem-plagued SMRT being appointed professor and asked to teach a course on how to run a breakdown-free mass rapid transit system?

If you read the book Conversations with a Maestro, you know how I feel about coaching and coaches and all those other snake oil peddlers. (You may get more information on the book elsewhere on this very web site.)

I hate to sound negative, but most of these self-proclaimed coaches are unemployed losers who cannot go around stating on their CVs that they are jobless, so they call themselves coaches.

So the next time you declare yourself to be a certified expert on whatever, do yourself a favor and ask “Will I become a butt of jokes?”

And the next time someone claims to be an expert, be sure to check his credentials, get a real expert to test his understanding of the expertise area he claims to possess, investigate his track record thoroughly by conducting background checks and take everything presented to you with a large pinch of salt.

No real expert will resist scrutiny by anyone and provable track record determines the difference between a person’s head knowledge versus what he has actually been able to deliver.

Knowing is not the same as doing.

Rid the world of charlatans!

There are already too many.

Intrinsic Change

From The Spectator, I learned that Pembroke College, Cambridge has cancelled a fancy dress party with the theme on Around the World in Eighty Days to avoid the potential for offence. One college has objected to the serving of sushi as “cultural appropriation” and another cancelled yoga lessons for the same reason.

James Bond fans will remember Felix Leiter telling 007 in Diamonds are Forever: “People are so damn sensitive about color around here that you can’t even ask a barman for a jigger of rum. You have to ask for a jegro.” That was from Ian Fleming’s book published in 1956. (Of course now the term “negro” has since being considered taboo as well.)

Cecil Rhodes’ statue at Oxford’s Oriel College risks being removed because he was an “imperialist.”

And in the US, if I so much as compliment a female colleague on her dressing, I can be sued for sexual harassment.

And the country’s 7th president was removed from the 20-dollar note because he was a slave owner.

To me this is political correctness gone mad.

One reason for Donald Trump’s popularity is that he doesn’t care about being politically correct – he just says what he thinks and of course, in the process, has insulted just about everyone.

I’m not condoning Donald Trump but his loudmouth has verbalized what many have not dared to say in public and his words resonated with lots of people. He articulates what people think. His bravado also feeds well into people’s idea of a hero – swashbuckling, swaggering butt kicker who will takes no enemies and go where no one has gone before.

It’s all good entertainment for the general public and the rest of us who are not Americans.

A certain measure of restraint is of paramount importance when voicing one’s opinions.

That applies to wannabe Trumps too, like Rodrigo Duterte, the Davao mayor who’s running for the Filipino presidency.

How you communicate with words is a measure of your maturity and your EQ.

Lies are a no no but if one bothers to think things through, a message of impact – if well crafted – can still be delivered in a most graceful manner.

Any other way would have come across as crude and uncouth.

It’s one thing to be frank but quite another to be rude.

Nobody should shirk from speaking the truth in the name of political correctness.

But there’s no need to have a gutter mouth either.

Please engage brain before putting mouth in gear.

Change the way you talk!

Intrinsic Change

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Two incidents happened recently in an organization I am associated with, one was a case of blatant dishonesty (someone claimed that I agreed to something) the other had to do with gross incompetency (someone ignored my request for certain specifications to be met.)

In both cases, the leader did not have the courage to confront the persons responsible, he just “let things go.”


Because he wants to remain “a nice guy.”

That’s one of the worst traits of a leader – someone who would rather let the ship sink rather than stepping in to right the wrongs, to put things in order, someone who is more concerned about his own acceptance and popularity than for the good of the organization.

Leadership is not a popularity contest, neither is it a beauty contest.

It has nothing to do about being well-liked and it is not about looking good.

Roosevelt said that in any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, well, I beg to differ. The right thing is the ONLY thing you should do.

But doing the right thing requires courage, it puts you at risk, it may alienate some people.

But leadership is a risky proposition anyway, and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Nobody said it’s going to be easy. Nobody said you have to be an alpha either.

Just do what is right!

Leadership comes with great responsibilities and a lot of the so-called, self-proclaimed leaders have to really man up if they are serious about being leaders.

To be blamed are also decision makers who place the wrong people into positions of leadership.

Just because someone has an advanced degree, just because someone’s job title makes him sound like the natural leader of whatever outfit he’s in, doesn’t mean that person must play the leader role.

The world is full of PhDs with head knowledge but zero EQ, book scholars who can’t even run a village store and they now run huge government ministries or even an entire country’s transportation system.

And when they can’t express themselves, they yell and throw tantrums.

Or they keep quiet and let things slide.

Intrinsic Change

A history lesson: Two years after Fidel Castro came to power in an armed revolt, the United States government dispatched a paramilitary group to Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the new regime and establish a non-communist government friendly to the United States. But the armada, which consisted almost exclusively of Cuban exiles, was grossly outnumbered and poorly supported, resulting in a resounding failure after just three days.

The 1,400-strong invasion force landed at the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) on April 17th, 1961. The Cuban military was expecting them. The armada came under heavy fire. Cuban planes strafed the invading force, sank a pair of escort ships, and quashed its air support. By the next day, some 20,000 Cuban troops were advancing towards the beach. In response, the US dispatched a half-dozen support aircraft, but they were quickly shot down.

The invasion was crushed. Some 1,200 from the US side surrendered and more than 100 were killed. After 20 months of captivity, the US government negotiated for their release by offering Castro US$53 million worth of merchandise and medicine in exchange for the prisoners.

What went wrong?

Oh don’t get me started, but for starters, basically a dearth of quality intel, poor planning and groupthink.

A dearth of good intelligence – without credible and accurate information, there isn’t a detailed roadmap or a blueprint going forward. Intent and desire may be there, but these alone are inadequate to get anyone anywhere. Going for a trip? Where’s the itinerary?

Poor planning is almost a consequence of having bad facts and figures. Insufficient info will lead to bad planning. And bad planning will lead to dismal results, if not utter failure. Heard of the 7ps? Isn’t it ironic that the 7 Ps is a US Marine Corps adage for “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”? Poor planning is also manifestation of being poor stewards of precious resources. An invasion trip like that isn’t a jaunt to the playground!

Groupthink – when the leader exercises poor judgment yet thinks that he can do no wrong and when the entire decision group thinks that it is absolutely correct in its thinking and in its actions, and it acts to defend those actions, and refuses to apologize, failure looms. It’s almost guaranteed. There were a couple of senior people in the Kennedy administration who harbored doubts about the mission, but for the sake of harmony and cohesion, they kept their mouths shut. Well, now we know the consequences of that. For example, presidential advisor Arthur Schlesinger objected vehemently to the invasion but president John F Kennedy’s brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, privately admonished Schlesinger and told him to support the president’s decision to invade. Cronyism, nepotism, call it what you want. Ultimately, the accountability should still be that of president Kennedy himself. Leaders cannot be fact-resistent and reason-impervious, with eyes unpeeled to the truth, which is precisely what happened.

The rest, as they say, is history.

If we forget the lessons of history, we may rob ourselves of our future. It doesn’t matter if you are a Harvard grad; paper qualifications mean nothing, as the Bay of Pigs debacle has shown.

“Good judgment is exercised through training, years of experience, and assumption of accountability,” said Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung in Parliament recently.

Sadly for me, 2016 has gotten off on a rocky start in certain areas of my life, one of which is caused by ineffectual planning by certain individuals plus inadequate facts, undergirded by overall incompetence and an unwillingness to apologize and assume accountability.

Failure to plan on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part, please understand that.

Unfortunately in this case, it indeed became a crisis on my part.

Bad planning by some people have cost me great loss. What a fiasco. Thank goodness I was able to make lemonade out of lemons.

But for the most part, I just had to bite my tongue because I was trying to be gracious. (Yes, when dealing with some people in my life, I have to bite my tongue until it is scarred.)

Moreover, I’ve discovered that arguing or discussing anything with morons is pointless. They won’t listen to what you have to say because their mind was already made up on whatever it was that they never really had the intellectual firepower to properly think through.

So having discourse with such an individual is a lot like stepping in cat feces, (which to my limited knowledge, the foulest smelling animal excrement one can find). You end up fouling yourself and you can never manage to extricate yourself from that last vestige of stink.

But at the end of the day, though oblivious to the perpetrators, the loss to them and their organization – as far as I am concerned – is far greater.

So do consider how you make decisions and question if you are a victim of groupthink.

And use your brains, for your own sake.

You don’t want to look like an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing (thanks, Shakespeare) in front of the real experts with proven track records, do you?

Intrinsic Change