Negative feedback

For Asians, it’s potentially more difficult to give than to receive direct negative feedback. And as I mentioned before, giving feedback should be a course. I have also suggested tips and ideas.

The problem is we don’t remember them because culturally, it’s just such a taboo; we don’t want to “hurt” others. It just reflects how feedback have been weaponised before in our culture so often and far too much. Whether in the form of “advice” from elders, or just unsolicited statements from distant family members.

The thing is, negative feedback can only hurt us to the extent we allow them to. If we don’t take advice from someone, why should we be taking their criticism?

Admiring the boss II

What do you ask of your boss? And are you where you would like to be as a boss? Or have you fully embraced your identity as the boss and realised you can’t understand why the staff reporting to you simpy cannot understand the constraints you are under?

Every choice you take boils down to 2 different directions: you are either reinforcing the status quo or trying to change it.

Which choice are you tending towards?

Who are we to college admissions?

What is your positioning? What is your strategy in this application? I asked my intern who was applying to certain colleges. I’ve been called upon to put up a reference for this young colleague and I really wanted to help, as best as I can.

So me being the strategy consultant I am, asked those questions. It drew a blank. And of course, it was a little confusing for someone fresh out of A Levels to think of “strategies” around college applications. Or maybe not if you’ve so much help and advice from those who have gone before you. That, I feel, is exactly what those families with resources are able to equip their younger ones with.

Maybe I was wrong, that we need a strategy or positioning because the only positioning should be to be ourselves. It will take more excavation of ourselves and asking who exactly are we rather than artificially creating a persona we must fit into. In being able to “position” our application as much as possible as being true to ourselves, might be the most precious thing you can give to the college admissions office.

Decarbonising the economy

Lifeforms on earth are mostly about carbon; mostly made up of it. The problem with our economy is not that we need carbon to get things going but that carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as “value” in the economy is created. That is only natural to the extent that we as humans burn similar fuels and produce the similar byproduct. It almost seem like we cannot really escape from that.

We have been moving energy around from one form to another in order to get work done since prehistoric times. In some sense, the fact that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at higher concentrations really cause so much potential catastrophic harm to life on earth is a demonstration that perhaps the “work done” by humans is too much.

Perhaps it is time for us all to just pause, and recognise how much we truly really need in this world. Have we recognised that our attempts at relentlessness in the wrong direction can turn really disastrous?

Learning vs certificates

So you attended a course or workshop, finished all the work and participated in all the discussions. Did you learn anything new? Did you make the best of it? Supposing you did. Now they forgot about your participation, your attendance wasn’t on the record and you did not receive your certificate for attending/participating.

Did you actually took part? Was there a point in you attending it when all records says you didn’t? Does it make a difference if it was a requirement by someone else that you attended it? What if it wasn’t? If you attended by your own volition, would you care more or care less about the certificate?

What is the most important thing you would take away? The learning, or the certificate and the evidence of you being there? Were you showing up for yourself? Or was it something else?

Feeling the tension

You need to say something but you couldn’t. The body begins to feel the tension of those words and thoughts stuck in you mouth. At first they were words unexpressed, then they become thoughts suppressed. And finally when they are pushed out of your consciousness, they just stay in your body as the tension. This tension stresses your system and if sufficiently severe, causes pain.

So that is how your body spoke on your behalf. Are you ignoring any pain? What was the body speaking, perhaps on your behalf?

Human resources 2.0

I’ve been writing random thoughts about HR for a long time now. The traditional HR was about stewardship of company policy, complying with labour laws; and we all know it is broken, in need of change. Recently, I considered a few building blocks; on the labour side, desire to work is changing quite a bit. And then there’s an alternative way of thinking about our work identities in the form of projects rather than employers and roles.

On the supply side, I think it is important to note that the traditional HR is actually absolutely unnecessary. Long ago, I’ve noticed how Octopus Energy did away with their HR function and the truth is that people can organise themselves pretty well without too much fuss. Do we really need to standardise some of these things? Like working hours, like dress code, etc.? Aren’t these relics of the factory age? If you’re able to hire for a combination of capabilities and fit, why would you still need to constrain your people?

From my experience, the capabilities and progressiveness of the HR can really make a difference in terms of how strong your staff can be in terms of delivering on the objectives of your organisation. For most part, the policies of a company can undermine the work of staff severely; and often during these times, we lose sight of what those policies were for to begin with. HR 2.0 should be combating that urge to introduce more constraints whenever there are abuses. In fact, the hiring decisions are really what needs to be improved when these things happen.

Admiring the boss

How many of you admire and aspire to be in your boss’ place? For most in this generation, that no longer is something that happens; we don’t really want our boss’ jobs, their responsibilities or their challenges. The idea is to find one’s own path to walk on. The shift in labour markets and the corporate world away from lifelong employment and traditional corporate careers will continue to shift. I foresee that within the next decade, corporate structures will continue to break down further such that work becomes increasingly like freelance type arrangements.

Rather than having departments, managers and traditional ways of splitting up firms, the corporate environment becomes a mini marketplace in itself where the employees goes around looking for others with the right set of skills and experience to take on projects together. This is especially the case for more creative and innovative industries.

The value of working for a company then is no longer the corporate or career ladders to climb. Companies can no longer pay someone low in exchange for the promise of nurturing them towards their potential; they will simply have to pay for the work they require. This is because the labour force is no longer interested in scaling in an organisation; rather, it is about contributing in the manner that suits them, in the interest of the organisation, with a fair value and wage being paid to them.

Context matters III

When an employee makes a mistake due to a wrong decision he made, could it be due to his own misjudgment? Or his boss’ judgment of him? Or the lack of good context set by the bosses?

During my time in public service I recognised how important context-alignment was and we did it extremely frequently, and at all levels. Giving and exchanging contexts allowed us to function in highly coordinated ways that were lacking in many other governments.

As a junior officer, I was often frustrated because a lot of time were spent on such alignment. And practically everyone had to know many things at once even when it had not that much to do with you. Yet as I matured, I realise how important it was in helping one make strategic information and decide on myraid of matters which have seemingly nothing to do with one another.

The challenge is to try and match responsibilities with empowerment. Despite high amount of context provided, and people given loads of responsibilities, empowerment was kind of limited. People would still rather defer to bosses and managers keen on asserting their views top-down. Context was used to seek buy-in to get the ground to do more work rather than a source of empowerment for decentralised decision-making.

Or maybe that is the next step we have to get to. But for now, we have to deal with a culture where context is said to matter, but control even more.

Thinking of projects

The old way of thinking about your work experience is to use job titles and roles or positions as your buckets to demonstrate your abilities, and what you have gone through.

I suggest we change that. I suggest we think about our work in the form of projects. Projects we take on and play a role in. Some can be sequential, some may be concurrent. But think through the projects you’ve been involved, in which organisation, what capacity. What were the objectives and how did you achieve them? What did you learn along the process? How would you do better? What would you have done differently?

Consider every performance review or evaluation in this manner; and prepare well for them. This is how you keep yourself relevant in the job market, and continually prepare to seek new jobs and opportunities, and how you maintain a strong ability to position yourself, to take charge of your work and be driver of your own development.