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Engagement and Accountability: What Great Leaders Do [Infographic]

June 16th, 2015 by Brian Hawthorne
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While everyone is accountable for their own performance, management plays a significant role in modeling positive behaviors in the workforce, and therefore must improve their own accountability before it can increase amongst their teams. How do great leaders improve engagement and accountability within the workplace? Forum’s latest infographic based on our recent survey outlines the steps leaders can take to implement the combination in order to drive performance.

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Trust and Integrity Fumbles in Deflate-Gate

June 11th, 2015 by Claudette Chagnon
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“Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization…

some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: the result.” –Vince Lombardi

I wonder if Vince was thinking only of the score when he uttered these words of wisdom.  Like most sports fans who are listening to the deflate-gate debate, I am focused instead on the other results, the “lessons” on trust and integrity—or lack thereof—from three leaders in the football business, Roger Goodell the NFL commissioner, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots Coach and the Patriots team captain, Tom Brady.

TRUST

Deflate-Gate. NFL football deflated on the field

Trust is like a forest. It takes a long time to grow and can burn down with a just touch of carelessness.  (David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line.)

Let’s note that, prior to deflate-gate, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had already fumbled his leadership on major issues of domestic violence and player brain injuries.  So it was already hard to trust Goodell, in the wake of deflate-gate, when he said “We take seriously anything that potentially impacts integrity of the game.”

Yet, he failed to set any kind of leadership example-any fair and proper course of action– immediately following deflate-gate and before the Super Bowl started.  Was he intentionally deflating the alleged cheating scandal or intentionally ignoring the rules of the game? And then, the NFL was excruciatingly slow in reaching an investigative conclusion about whether the Patriots and their superstar, Tom Brady, cheated before they became Super Bowl champions.

Whether or not the Patriots cheated, the conspicuous failure to act and lack of leadership sent a message to the world—and importantly–to our youth, that cheating is not that important.  The “result” of the commissioner “doing his job” poorly is not only that he received widespread harsh criticism, but he lost the respect and trust of his employees and players, (not to mention the rest of us).

Lesson:  You cannot be an effective leader without trust. You can have a solid strategy, excellent interpersonal skills, and even make money for your organization, but if people don’t trust you, you will not get the results you want.

INTEGRITY   

The NFL rendered a very harsh judgment against Tom Brady for using under-inflated footballs, saying the “integrity of the NFL” is at stake. Seriously?  Is this a case of the football calling the pigskin deflated?  Let’s talk about integrity.

  • For years, the NFL repeatedly denied football causes brain injuries while fully aware of the devastating effects that playing in league could have.
  • Although Coach Belichick may not have been involved in deflating footballs, the NFL, media and public became immediately suspicious of him due to his reputation as a cheater.  In 2007, he cheated and stole the New York Jets’ signals, paid the half-million-dollar fine and moved on. Former football coach, Don Shula, has called him “Beli-cheat.”
  • The New York Post called Brady the “Pretty Little Liar” among more racy headlines and more than one person has compared him to Lance Armstrong.

Is deflate-gate an example of football arrogance justified by football brilliance?   Yes. Does a certain level of success exempt certain people from integrity?  No. Although Bellichick will retire from football as a great and winning coach and Brady as one of the all-time great quarterbacks, there will be a permanent injury to each of their legacies.

Lesson:  The size of the lie does not matter.  The deflate-gate scandal started out as a little puff of illegally escaped air.

Although it might not make a difference to the outcome, or the excuse that “everyone does it”, Rule 2, Section 1 of the NFL Rule Book states that the balls must be a certain weight, length, width and even color.  In any game with authorized equipment and rules, nobody should get away with purposely changing the elements that make the game fair and square.

Leaders with integrity are authentic, transparent, and honest, and trustworthy; they speak the truth, present themselves sincerely, and take responsibility for their actions.  Whether you are a star athlete or leading a team or business, you must commit to a set of core values, standards, and even rules that you will never compromise.

Full transparency:

Claudette Chagnon lives in Massachusetts, is an occasional New England Patriots fan, and her son wears a t-shirt that says “They hate us because they ain’t us.”

 

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A Walk in the Buyers’ Shoes

June 3rd, 2015 by Ainsley McLeod
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06.03.15-A-walk-in-the-buyers-shoes-300x200A recent research by McKinsey identified that B2B buyers would on average use six different ways to interact with potential vendors to obtain the information they need to make their purchasing decision. Alarmingly, two thirds of buyers come away frustrated with the inconsistency of the experience. ¹

To me, the most critical component of a sales role is to understand what the buyer values. Then highlight that value through the solution on offer and use that to build on the relationship.

By understanding what they value you then understand what’s important to them and what’s driving the need to buy. This is a good way to appreciate the world within which they work and to spend a moment to walk in their shoes. The things I tend to consider are:

AN EMOTIONAL AFFAIR

On a high level, business buyers are typically driven by two basic emotions – fear and aspiration. On a professional level they may fear that they will lose business or won’t be as successful as their competitors and aspire to achieve increased profits or improved efficiencies. For personal reasons, buyers are driven by the fear of loss of professional credibility and by aspirations to succeed and to be recognised within their organisations.

Naturally, business partnerships will be formed with the above in mind – most of them unknowingly. For successful sales conversations, it is essential to mirror these emotions and provide the best solutions to drive your prospective client’s professional and personal success. The objective of the partnership is to be beneficial and should not be a burden – quite the opposite. Empathy and looking at “what’s in it for the customer” will go a long way.  A good starting point is to question how your clients measure success and what is their overall business strategy. Your clients are not buying your solution’s benefits – they are buying the results. Describe how your products and services will have a quantifiable impact on your customer’s success and the company’s success as well as the impact on the customers’ customers, processes, and people.

IT’S A SOCIAL WORLD

Social networks and digital technologies are allowing for rapid progress in the area of collaboration. With the rapidly increasing number of users, the area of influence and interactions is not only widening, but also naturally increasing. With this impact in mind, internal and external collaborative networks directly impact the purchasing decisions. As a result of this shift, business buyers are becoming more consumer-like and sales executives are expected to have extensive knowledge about the business as well as the buyer’s individual profiles prior to the initial conversations. This makes the conversations much more personal, as both sides would have already reviewed the other person’s and company’s online profile prior to meeting face to face.

The decision making is also widely influenced by the brand’s online reputation and buyers often consider public opinion expressed online. They would also reach out to the online community for recommendations and feedback on their purchasing plans prior to making a decision. The increasing impact of social media is becoming a key factor in forming an opinion that is not based on what the brands themselves are presenting, but more so the voice of the wider public interacting with those brands.

Walking in the client’s shoes has a powerful impact on sales conversations as this enables a better understanding of key drivers and objectives and how to best match them. We are all people, so remembering the human side of sales will make those shoes walk much further.

¹Do you really understand how your business customers buy?, McKinsey & Company

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Forum Named a Top 20 Content Development Company For Fifth Consecutive Year

May 28th, 2015 by Brian Hawthorne
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The Forum Corporation is once again pleased to announce that we have been named a Top 20 Content Development Company by TrainingIndustry.com for a fifth consecutive year! This award would not be possible without the continued relationships of our exceptional clients and partners who work with us to help salespeople develop strategy-specific skills and improve their overall performance.

“This year’s 2015 Top 20 Content Development Companies are finding unique and effective ways to design learning programs to support employee, partner and customer development across all industries,” said Doug Harward, chief executive officer, Training Industry, Inc.

Seal_Content_ContentDevelopment_SmallTrainingIndustry.com selected us based on the following criteria:

  • Industry visibility, innovation and impact
  • Capability to develop and deliver multiple types of content
  • Company size and growth potential
  • Depth and breadth of subject matter expertise
  • Quality of clients
  • Geographic reach

In addition to our clients, we would also like to thank TrainingIndustry.com for this award.

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The Importance of Being Where Your Client Is

May 20th, 2015 by Tom Gooderham
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businessman in airport

As I prepare to embark on another business trip abroad, I have the time to reflect on why this type of activity is still relevant?

With today’s ever so progressive technology, I can be on a Skype call, WebEx, Adobe Connect, Face Time, Lync etc. So why spend my time and the company’s travel budget on this? If you travel a lot for work, I bet you ask yourself the same question. Well, one of the best pieces of advice I got when I started my career was to ‘be where the client is’ and it is fair to say that I took that on board. In fact I had enough air miles for two First Class BA tickets from London to Delhi by the age of 30! But the question is, ‘Why be where the client is’?

My point of view is that in order to sell globally one needs to understand the cultural dynamics of doing business in different regions. I work in a people business (and to that extent we all do) and in order to earn the right to engage in commercial conversations with a customer, it’s not only vital to have that inherent knowledge of how your product or service will benefit them, but also how do you position it to them.

UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS

Engaging with clients from a different country or culture requires acquainting yourself with the basics in advance – something as simple as online research will yield several web sites with information and resources to help you understand cultural norms and cautions.  When meeting customers face to face, simple gestures and body language can mean wildly different things in different cultures. For example, sitting casually with a foot resting on the opposite knee is showing one’s foot, which is a highly offensive gesture in the Middle East; and although shaking hands is common practice in the west, it may be deemed inappropriate when working in different regions.  Having sight of these differences can prevent awkward and somewhat embarrassing situations occurring just by getting the basics right.

There are also clues in what I like to call the ‘Opening Pleasantries’. Take cues from the other person’s communication style – what they say before they start talking about business is a clue about the individual’s communication preference. Remember Wolf of Wall Street? The Swiss Banker scene? ‘Excusez Moi Jorden, Swiss culture requires 10mins of ‘chit chat’ before business can be discussed!’ A comedy example, yes, but the sentiment is there. Having an understanding of how to position yourself early on in any client meeting or interaction can be quite crucial to the overall success of that meeting and any longer term relationship that you are hoping to develop. Anyone who’s seen that movie knows that particular relationship didn’t go that well!

THE IMPORTANCE OF ETIQUETTE

In addition to thinking about both your verbal on non-verbal communication, it’s also important to think about your attire and etiquette. Sounds simple, right? But that said, be prepared to dress professional when meeting people in certain regions, or specific industries. Not all business etiquette accepts the causal business attire often advocated by the US and the UK. I remember meeting with a Japanese client in London a few years ago and being advised by a manager who had worked in Asia that it’s important to always wait to be directed to your seat for a meeting, as the seating indicates the status of the meeting’s participants and that I should always wait for the leader of the meeting to finish and remain seated until the leader stands at the end of the meeting.

Respecting and understanding these types of cultural manners is something that is key to relationship building and is easy to do. There are a number of good books on the market related to communication and etiquette when working with different cultures so there is really no excuse for getting it wrong.

So in summary, in the information age it’s possible to do business wherever you want, whenever you want without ever leaving your office or home! That said, with businesses becoming more and more competitive with many products and services becoming commodity sooner, compacted by the ability for customers to use technology to identify solutions and find providers at the click of a button; being where the customer is and doing business in a way that is respectful and in line with their cultural preferences may be your differentiator when looking to generate business in the highly competitive environment.

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How Sales and MLB Managers Share the Same Winning Team Strategies

May 12th, 2015 by Russ Becker
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America’s pastime is once again in full swing: 2015 Major League Baseball has finally arrived. Even though the season is only one month old, team managers are already trying to decide how to play during the postseason by ensuring the batting order is perfect, their pitchers stay healthy and everyone is up to speed on any new rules.

It might seem to be a stretch at first to compare a sales manager to an MLB manager. Logging long nights in the ball park, managing highly paid professional athletes and worrying about how to replace injured players are worlds away from the job of a sales manager. But MLB managers—the great ones— actually share core qualities with top sales managers.

Both types of managers require expertise in number crunching, motivation and coaching. They also have to be great leaders who possess strong management qualities, including transparency, respect, motivation and communication.

One of the best of the MLB managers is San Francisco Giant’s manager Bruce Bochy, who is known for his even-keeled demeanor, hence the nickname “Captain Calm” and has more wins than any active manager in baseball today.  He’s just the tenth manager to win three World Series titles (2010, 2012 and 2014), and has more victories in the postseason than all but four managers in the history of major league baseball. 

By all accounts, the San Francisco Giants shouldn’t have won the 2014 World Series.  Going into the series, their record was underwhelming.  The Giants had played under -.500 ball from June 9, 2014 and were matched against the Kansas City Royals who were the first team to enter a Series with an 8–0 record in the 2014 postseason and only the second to enter undefeated in the postseason since the creation of the Wild Card in 1994. But what the 2014 Series proved is that a great manager can make all the difference.

Here are three lessons worth noting for the upcoming season:

1. Train and know your team’s skills, then let them do what they do best

Baseball Strategy

Bochy didn’t get where he is today because of luck.  He knows baseball strategy, and he also understands the personalities on his team and what each person is cable of delivering.

During the clutch seventh game of the 2014 World Series, Bochy had a very important decision to make — whether or not to take Madison Bumgarner’s talented arm out of the game.  There was never a doubt that the superstar pitcher would play despite having just two day’s rest. However, whether or not to leave him in after an error that put the tying run on third base with two outs in the ninth inning was another question.   

But Bochy knew what Bumgarner was made of and what he could deliver.  Unflinchingly, he made the decision to let the pitcher finish the job and the rest is history.  Bumgarner retired Salvador Perez on a foul pop ball for the final out and the Series win.

The lesson here is to train your people well and then let them do their jobs.  Of course there will be the opportunity for course correction along the way, but when people are allowed to do what they are good at, they are successful.

2.  Understand how to win with the talent you have

Many sales managers inherit their teams and may believe those teams are not staffed with the correct levels or even enough people to deliver on goals.

Bochy has a reputation for winning with whatever talent he’s given.  That may seem over simplified, because one needs some talent to succeed, but this is where Bochy’s knowledge of baseball strategy and people skills come into play.  He knows how and when to best use the talent he has, and he remains in control of every move in every game.

The team members also feel that Bochy believes in them, which is very important in building confidence.  “He always has faith in us and he shows it.  We pick up on it and it makes us play better,” said first baseman Brandon Belt in an AP Sports article. 

Research by the Gallup organization shows that salesperson performance improved 20 percent with the attention of a talented manager. Additionally, there is a longer tail to the results from a coaching investment because those who are coached are often the most loyal and reliably productive members of the team.

3.  Always have a game plan but maintain flexibility

Approaching a situation without a plan can be disastrous, and baseball, is really no different.  Bochy begins every game with a plan but is famous for his ability to think on his feet, pivoting to address just about any situation that might arise.  In this ESPN article, Bochy’s flexibility (his willingness to sometimes even start from scratch) is cited as a reason he is one of the best.

So having a plan is great but being able to adjust in the moment with and for your team is ideal.

In the end, being a great manager is about building a team, placing the right talent in the right positions, and adjusting your strategy to succeed along the way. Through this journey, whether you’re managing sales or baseball, one thing remains true for both as spoken by one of the best in the game, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” As Babe Ruth believed, the only way to win is together.

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Celebrating Women in Business – Part 3

May 8th, 2015 by Francesca DiGuglielmo
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In our “Celebrating Women in Business” series we continue to look at our very own female leaders who share their perspectives on their success and learning journey. This month we are pleased to introduce Francesca DiGuglielmo, Forum’s VP and Senior Relationship Manager who talks about her career story and the most impactful experiences which formed her professional life.

 What did you want to be when you were a kid?  

Not sure – just that I needed/wanted to have a job.  I had visions of becoming a clothing designer and working in Paris.

What, if any personal challenges did you face to get into business and a leadership role and how did you overcome these?05.08.15 - Celebrating Women in Business Part 3.jpg

I had the highest mathematics/technical scores on 8th grade aptitude tests which was perplexing to the guidance counsellor since “I’m a girl” – meaning that he was unsure what to suggest to me since usually the boys had high scores in these areas…  But, then, he said:  ‘oh, look:  you like people, so that’s good!”  I had not recalled this conversation for years – not until I became more aware of how boys/girls are provided options – based on their gender.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your career to date? 

I’m very happy with the opportunities I had and developed.  But, occasionally, I wonder what might have been different, if my Guidance Counsellor had suggested:  “oh, look – you have the top scores in math/technical areas – you should study mathematics!

Have you had a bad boss along the way and why was this person a poor leader?

Yes – indecisive and non-supportive. Focus was on own success – to the detriment of the team

What’s the hardest business conversation you have ever had and what did you learn from it?

Having had to hold an employee accountable for actions and deliverables.  After a great deal of investment in the success of the employee they had other priorities  for the most part – my generosity and support was taken for granted.

What I learned:  be clear and specific on expectations, measurements along the way, and accept that the achievements and improvements must be driven more by employees’ commitment and desire than what you want for him/her.

What lessons have you learned in your personal life which have helped in business? 

Allow time for reflection and re-grouping, thus increasing ability to take actions that are more based on logic and balance.   Also, perspectives change the farther along you are in all life’s experiences.  So, at any given time, if you stop – and look back to your experiences from when you started…your view is broader and richer – than it was at any given point early in the journey.

Do you think women make better leaders than men and what’s the reason for your answer?

Leadership is gender neutral.  I’ve had great/not so good leaders of either sex

What are the strengths of women in business and how can women maximise these and build on them to get ahead?

In some cases, women seem to be better in compartmentalizing and balancing many competing priorities – and doing well at it  – without much fuss!

What are the weaknesses and how can they overcome them? 

Being trapped in the box that others may have (inadvertently?) put you in…overcome it by:  seeing no barriers for yourself

What is the one piece of advice you would give other women in business who are aiming to be senior leaders? 

Develop a strong self-awareness; understand others’ needs, differences, and motivational drivers and make sure to know the difference and how to effectively adjust and align so that goal is to drive the business objectives.

How do you think leadership in the workplace will look different in 5 to 10 years’ time and how will this affect women?

I hope it will be common place to have outstanding women in leadership positions everywhere.

How is globalization affecting this change? 

Broadening perspectives more widely.

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Accelerating Talent in a VUCA World: Leadership in Asia Pacific

May 6th, 2015 by Grant Bosnick
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“Changes aren’t permanent, but change is.” (Neil Peart)

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami hit the coast of Japan. I was there when it happened. Now, as we’ve passed the 4th anniversary, the conditions and circumstances in the recovery became known as “The New Normal.”

And elsewhere across Asia Pacific there are not only changes, but rather there is change. And this constant change is the new normal.

With 3 of the top 5 world’s largest economies (China, India, Japan), surpassed only by US and EU; 5 of the top 10 world’s fastest growing economies; and age distribution differing radically across countries – a new generation in China, an aging population in Japan, a young one in Indonesia, and a mature one in Korea and Hong Kong, this is the landscape of Asia Pacific.

Moreover, it’s an interconnected region; what happens in one place affects the others, whether it’s a natural disaster, political event or product innovation.

This creates then a VUCA World, that is, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. A term first used by the United States military to discuss preparedness, the term was then popularised by Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future. It is, essentially, a world of constant change. And as Bob Johansen wrote, “The capacity for VUCA leadership in strategic and operating terms depends on a well-developed mindset for gauging the technical, social, political, market and economic realities of the environment in which people work.”

So, as leaders in Asia Pacific, what does this mean and what do we need to do to be able to do this?

To thrive and succeed in a VUCA World, we need to put into practice and develop ourselves on 3 levels of leadership simultaneously:

  1. Self
  2. People
  3. Thought

Self Leadership includes having a vision, integrity, consistency, and principled values. People Leadership is about managing change, leveraging diversity, delegating, engaging, coaching, building consensus and commitment, and inspiring others. And Thought Leadership focuses on analysis, strategy, decision making, and innovation.

Together the sum (and synergy) of these 3 levels will enable leaders to thrive in a VUCA World. As Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, the CEO of The Lego Group once said, “Leadership is what happens when you’re not there.” And in Asia Pacific, a constant VUCA world of change, developing all 3 levels will accelerate talent and enable this kind of leadership to flourish.

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Understanding the Five Most Important Employee Engagement Factors

April 29th, 2015 by Russ Becker
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In the past 22 years, my career has centered around overseeing employees in various managerial roles, across different industries, and with diverse groups of people coming together as part of the workflow. Through these years, and differing environments, I’ve become aware of the one obstacle no manager likes to face: having a disengaged, unmotivated team. Unfortunately, current statistics on global employee engagement confirm that many executives are living with this challenge.

According to Gallup’s most recent 142-country State of the Global Workplace report, only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. That translates to roughly one in eight employees in the countries studied being actually committed to their jobs. Most employees, the other 87 percent, are simply not engaged, feeling unhappy and unproductive according to Gallup.

Despite these seemingly bleak statistics, leaders grappling with a disengaged team are hardly helpless. I’ve come to learn certain strategies and tactics over the years which help executives focus on key predictors of how engaged their employees will be. I’ve learned most importantly that people are social animals and their surrounding colleagues, especially their managers, usually have the most significant impact on whether an employee makes an effort at work – or simply does the bare minimum required.

Through my experience, these five important employee factors have helped improve workplace engagement that other fretful executives can, too, implement.

1. Belonging

Leaders can distinguish an engaged employee if they feel integrated with their colleagues and feel confident their job is an important part of the whole. An employee who feels significant in their workplace’s community and has an emotional connection to their organization will be more engaged at work.

2. Enjoyment

Creating a positive work environment, including stimulating and fun ways for employees to interact, will greatly impact employee engagement. Employees spend most of their time in the workplace with their colleagues, in comparison to the time they spend outside with the people and things they love. The workplace culture needs to reflect a place where people can work successfully and happily through the end of the work day, rather than counting the minutes until it ends.

3. Accomplishment

A productive employee is an engaged employee. As simple as it sounds, it is important for leaders to acknowledge their teams and their efforts which benefit a greater mission or purpose at work. Employees that feel successful will continue to seek out more ways to accomplish tasks within their job roles and the ones they aim for in the future.

4. RecognitionBusiness Finish Line

Another key component to employee engagement is employee recognition. Employees want managers to take notice of their accomplishments that provide value to the organization and its community, and ultimately want to be incentivized to keep striving for better. Leaders who fail to layer in systems for acknowledging growth and success do both their companies and employees a disservice, with sinking morale on their horizons.

5. Advancement

Offering multiple opportunities for employees to build their portfolio of skills should be a priority for leaders looking to increase engagement. Talented employees don’t want to stagnate professionally – they want to develop their skills, advance, and thrive throughout their careers.

While these five employee factors may not seem new, they can definitely become overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the everyday working environment. Maintaining high engagement in today’s workplace is essential for leaders now more than ever, as demonstrated by the numbers. Even though the job market continues to improve, restless employees usually decide to move on rather than remain at a job that doesn’t stimulate them. Making employee engagement a priority within your workplace not only advances the health of your professional teams, but also the health of your bottom line and future business.

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Leadership Lessons to Draw from Lee Kuan Yew in an Era of Change

April 22nd, 2015 by Cynthia Stuckey
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“We have created this out of nothingness, from 150 souls in a minor fishing village into the biggest metropolis two degrees north of the equator.” – Singapore founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. 

Overcoming numerous challenges post-independence and moving the country forward amidst tumultuous times, the late founding father of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, devoted his entire lifetime to building what is now regarded as one of the world’s most economically strong and resilient nations.

In the weeks since Mr. Lee died, I’ve seen countless articles and reflections extolling his leadership attributes. He was respected by leaders from around the world and in business. He was loved as much as he was feared. From waking up in a cosy HDB, drinking water that runs straight from the tap, taking transportation that runs efficiently across the vibrant city state that house some of world’s most renowned brands, to walking in the streets in the dead of night without fear, Mr. Lee has indeed left a powerful legacy for generations to come.

It never ceases to amaze me at how an impactful leader can transform the city out my window from a mere developing nation that was wrecked by social divisions and poor living conditions just some decades back to one with shiny skyscrapers. What struck me as particularly significant for leaders to recognise and learn from was Mr. Lee’s extraordinary ability to lead through an era of change. After working with so many leaders in my 20+ year career, I discovered that the successful ones take the following winning approaches:

1.  Have a clear vision04.21.15 - Lee-Kuan-Yew_public.jpg

“Here we make the model multiracial society. This is not a country that belongs to any single community – it belongs to all of us. This was a mudflat, a swamp. Today, it is a modern city. And 10 years from now, it will be a metropolis – never fear!”

As a managing director of a company, I see the importance of how setting a clear vision can warrant for a great start, especially when facing unexpected changes or bracing my company for a planned change. Mr. Lee has definitely done a good job in this area. He saw the needs of fighting for self-rule from the British in 1959 and independence from Malaysia in 1965. He also saw the potential of Singapore being a business hub for worldwide investors by developing first-class infrastructure standards and recruiting worldwide talents. As a business leader, bringing the company to the next level is our key responsibility and also one of our key challenges. I always think about where I want to bring my business to a year or even a few years later. The vision of the future blueprint is what drives my action. During the transformational period, many challenges are there but we must be fearless and determined. Give confidence to employees that we are able to survive after going through all the changes.

2.  Communicate the vision

“I have been accused of many things in my life, but not even my worst enemy has ever accused me of being afraid to speak my mind.”

Weeping before the national TV to deliver the news of the separation between Malaysia and Singapore represents the toughest time of Mr. Lee in his life. He knew that Singapore had a slim chance of survival. But soon he got rid of his despair and saw it as a moment to establish a deep connection with the people by communicating the connection between his party’s goal and their circumstance. Thinking back of those hard times in my leadership journey, c-suites often struggle a while before communicating the truth to the employees. We definitely don’t want to threaten the stability of the organisation. However, that’s how to get employees to be on the same page with us, by showing up honestly and conveying our plans during this difficult period. Employees may feel insecure of their jobs at that moment. Therefore, it’s also our job to motivate them to engage with us and go through the transitional period together.

3.  Walk the talk

“I want to make sure every button works, and if it doesn’t when I happen to be around, then somebody is going to be in for a rough time, because I do not want sloppiness.”

As a resident here for over 4 years, I share the same resonance with my friends from around the world that Singapore has much to be envied for. Chief among which are a corrupt-free government, affordable healthcare, quality homes, efficient transportation and holistic education, for all. These might not have been possible if not for one who constantly kept his ears to the ground and implemented an uncompromising change mechanism that is scalable and adaptive to suit circumstantial needs.

To maintain its competitiveness and success, Singapore does not rest on its laurels. The government makes sure to constantly introduce and revise policies to seek new talents while retaining its local talents, as well as policies that can improve and change in line with current environments. They are unabashed when communicating their plans, and they stand ready to defend their plans when necessary. This should be the same for business. In order to sustain long-term business growth, businesses must be able to communicate and execute their goals with strong conviction.

4.  Build commitment

“If you can select a population and they’re educated and they’re properly brought up, then you don’t have to use too much of the stick because they would already have been trained.”

In order to create a prosperous Singapore, a pragmatic Mr. Lee saw the importance of looking out of the country for talent to help develop the capability of this country, while educating the locals to be globally competitive. To keep his people happy, he also put focus on addressing people’s needs by providing well-developed education, welfare and healthcare standards for examples. I have always seen the importance of getting a pool of talented employees to help business growth, as business success can’t happen just by one person’s effort. Therefore, aside from cultivating talent to make sure our employees are well-equipped with the necessary skills to cope with challenges during a transformational period, addressing employees’ needs also can’t be overlooked. A happy workforce will be more willing to work for the company.

5.  Pick the next better player

“If I were not the Prime Minister, he [Lee Hsien Loong] could have become Prime Minister several years earlier. It is against my interest to allow any family member, who’s incapable, to be holding an important job because that would be a disaster for Singapore and my legacy. That cannot be allowed.”

Mr. Lee recognised that he could not stay in the role forever. He sees the importance of raising up the next generation of leaders to lead the future of Singapore before he stepped down from the political stage. In an organisation, no one can sit on the business leader chair forever, including myself. And a new business leader will likely lead a transformation of the whole company. Therefore, while focusing on growing the business, we should also constantly seeking for potential candidates to be the “next top leader” who can help transform the current business success to the next legacy.

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