Top 5 Morning Activities that Successful Leaders Do While Still in Bed

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Do you reach for your smart phone as soon as you wake up? If you answered ‘yes’, you’re not alone. According to a 2013 study by IDC and Facebook, 4 out of 5 people reach for their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up. However, most of the world’s successful leaders are not just waking up super-early, but are spending their time on very different morning rituals.

Successful leaders, such as Tim Cook (Apple), Bob Iger (Disney), David Cush (Virgin) and plenty of others are all up and ready to go by 4:30 in the morning! So just what morning activities do successful leaders do during the pre-dawn hours that provides them with such pep? Here are my favorite top 5 morning rituals to do before you even get out of bed:

1.    Center your Thoughts
The power and benefits of meditation (or prayer or affirmations) have been promulgated extensively. Spend a few minutes to quieting your brain chatter and then visualize how you want to feel. Take this time to consciously feel grateful, blessed, empowered, confident and at peace. End with focusing on what success might look like for you today – I promise you that your day will rock!

2. Start your Day with a Dopamine Rush
Exercising early in the morning gives you a sense of achievement, gets the ‘be happy’ hormones (endorphin and dopamine) in your system, and readies you to conquer anything that life can throw at you. But wait, are you wondering what exercises you can do without even getting up from bed? Look no further than yoga! Some basic yoga stretches are all you need to build strength, relieve stress and have a happier disposition. Try out these yoga in bed poses for inspiration.

3. Wipe the Slate Clean
Your REM sleep is essential in restoring mental functions. The information consolidation theory of sleep is based on cognitive research that people sleep in order to process information that has been acquired during the day.  Sufficient sleep cleans your slate and allows you to start the day generally mentally sharper and gives you an opportunity to plan your day with greater clarity. And the good thing is that you get to wipe the slate and start anew every day!

4. Slay your Big Fear
One of the benefits of waking up early is that you have undisturbed quality time to slay your biggest fears and insecurities. We all have concerns that hold us back and make us procrastinate and doubt ourselves. Can you imagine how good your day is going to be if in those first few minutes of wake time you can conquer your fear and start your day with a firm resolve? Your day is already a success before it has even started for your colleagues!

5. Spend Time with Whoever or Whatever is Important to You
The best thing about being an early riser is that you get some quality time to be with someone important or spend time on something that is important for you. Starting early, visualizing and planning your day will give you tons of reward time. It will allow you to connect with your loved ones or take the time to leisurely think about all the stuff that keeps you charged.

Of course all of this only works if you still make your sleeping hours. Waking up early also means going to bed early. Do clock your 7 – 8 hours of sleep, as lack of sleep will reduce your emotional intelligence, increase cortisol levels, reduce your ability to learn and deal with stress and therefore, reduce your ability to lead. Successful leaders wake up early and then use that time to gain an advantage!

Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do share your morning ritual in the comments below and tell me what works for you and why.

– Paul Keijzer

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What Women Can Do To Succeed in the Pakistani Workplace

1.3This is the last blog on my Women@Work special. Over the past weeks I shared with you a number of insights on the state of gender diversity in corporate Pakistan; what female employees want from their employers, how Pakistani companies are living up to their expectations and how they can create more female friendly workplaces. In my last edition, I focus on what women can do to succeed in the Pakistani workplace. Can’t wait? Find out now by reading our full report or watch our 4 minute summary presentation.

As part of our Women @ Work study we also interviewed 30+ successful female managers and executives across all participating companies. Although each story is different there were some striking similarities. Some highlights:

Family Support is the Cornerstone of a Female Career
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Almost all women mention that support from their spouse and family is the key to their success. Spouses have to be progressive enough not only to support them in their endeavors but also to make a larger than normal contribution to the household and in some cases take over looking after the kids to facilitate their wives to travel and fulfill the sometimes required long hours.
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Mentors Help Navigate Tricky Waters
Every woman no matter how successful she has been has landed in situations that needed careful maneuvering. Mentors, either from within the company or sometimes from previous companies have been instrumental in managing these situations. All successful women interviewed could identify a person who they regard as a mentor and who have helped them through difficult career patches.

4.1Building a Network
Being able to build a strong network in the company of both female and male colleagues has paid successful women strong dividends. Networks are there to support, ask for advice, help to step in and create a larger support structure for a person to succeed. Successful female executives have stressed the importance of not letting the man run the “old boys’ network” but to go out and build a strong network in the company.

Focus on Delivering Results5.1
The most striking discovery was that all these successful women we interviewed condemned women who conformed to pre- conceived notions of a man’s view of a woman! Pakistani society cultivates strong opinions and biases towards working women and it is only your own performance that can change these views. Women should not be distracted by difficulties and should be willing to get out of their comfort zones and work in situations and jobs that make them uncomfortable and blow off everyone with their superb performance. Because at the end of the day it is only your performance that matters, not gender!

Women @ Work: What’s Next
Having completed the first ever gender diversity study in Pakistan you might be thinking ‘what next’?  We would love to hear your ideas as this is what we plan to do:

  1. We want to support companies in creating female friendly workplaces,
  2. Support women in maximizing their potential, and
  3. Understand drivers of gender diversity in more detail.

We do so because we believe that the world will become more tolerant and fair if more women have executive and leadership positions. But more importantly we do this because it just makes business sense! How so?? Read our full W@W report and find out! Or watch our 4 minute summary presentation.

– Paul Keijzer

How To Become A Female Friendly Workplace

Today is the third blog of the Women @ Work series. We spoke about how Pakistan has a long way to go in driving gender diversity, what women are looking for and how Pakistani companies are scoring against these expectations. Today, it is all about how organizations can create a Female Friendly Workplace, a workplace that genuinely believes in the value of a more gender diverse workforce and is committed towards creating it. Our research, backed by findings from all over the world, has provided us with a clear 5 step recipe:

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Step 1: Visible and Genuine Executive Commitment
The first step is for the organization’s leadership team to be convinced that having a more gender-balanced organization is simply smart business. It is not about being politically correct, or morally doing the right thing. It gives better returns.

In doing so the executive team has to be able to focus on the long-term benefits and not be swayed by the ‘naysayers’ that focus on short term issues such as maternity leaves and all kind of other gender related performance biases. The stronger position it takes on this the more successful any gender diversity initiative will have.

The executive team has to build a business case for gender diversity, set themselves an audacious goal (like doubling the number of women in 3 years at management level), come up with a solid actionable plan with key performance indicators and then go public. The last element is important as public commitment increases personal commitment levels, as well as it creates a platform for change in the organization.

Step 2: Setting the Foundation
As soon as the executive team has made a public and genuine commitment to enhance the participation of women in their organization, the company has to set its foundations. This includes:

  • Creating policies on matters such as equal opportunities, reward and sexual harassment to solidify their commitment
  • Adjusting HR processes on hiring, development, promotions and succession planning to ensure at a minimum that gender bias is reduced and possibly that women candidates are at least included in people decisions
  • Creating a safe and female friend work place by providing facilities that ensure the safety of female staff at all times and enables them to perform to their ability
  • Helping male colleagues and specifically male line managers to become aware of specific gender related barriers and how to create a supportive and female friendly work place

Step 3: Enabling Female Employees to Combine Work and Home
Pakistani society has not progressed to a point where it is acceptable for a woman not to be a home maker. As a result she always has to be able to manage the pressures that come with managing both home and work. For companies in Pakistan to be successful in their gender diversity initiatives it is important for them to extend their support in enabling women to do so and not make it a reason for women to leave after they have gotten married or have had children.

Companies should as much as possible create flexible work arrangements and allow, if required, employees to work from home allowing them to fulfill personal commitments. This flexibility should not only be offered to women but to all employees alike as to not create a visible distinction between gender in the organisation.

This approach also applies for the matter of maternity. The more a company is able to support women during their maternity leave and upon their return to the workplace the more women will stay. Providing child care facilities will not only support women in focusing on their work and therefore be more productive upon their return it will also create a tremendous loyalty from working mothers and be a ‘attraction magnet for other working mums.

Step 4: Maximizing potential
With the foundations and enablers in place it is time to focus on providing high performing women with specific support and opportunities. This can be done in the form of:

  • Assigning executive mentors and coaches
  • Nominating women for specific training and development opportunities
  • Creating networking occasions (with other women) in the company
  • Omen talent review sessions in which the senior leadership team reviews and agrees development interventions for high performing female talent

Step 5: Influencing the Outside World
The final step is to come out in the open and use the traction and success that you have generated inside the company to influence other companies and society. This can be done through:

  • Sponsoring of gender diversity initiatives and events,
  • Specific female candidate outreach and sponsoring programs,
  • Taking ownership of specific female friendly initiatives such as:
    o– Supporting women to came back to work after a long maternity break
    o– Launching part-time work or job-sharing initiatives

By publically supporting gender diversity initiatives you will not only position yourselves as the employer of choice for female talent and positively influence your company’s reputation, but you will also be able to influence society and more specifically spouses whose support is essential for any talented woman to go out there and join the workforce.

However, be aware, you can only do this if your house is in order and females in your company are indeed recognizing you as a female friendly workplace. Based on our survey of 14 leading companies in Pakistan only two companies would be able to do that at the moment. Others still have some way to go in creating the environment where women unequivocally will recommend their company as a female friendly workplace.

Read more about our Women @ Work Study 2013 or watch the 4 minute summary presentation.

Next week is the last blog in our Women @ Work series. In this we will focus on how women can drive their own success in managing their career. Keep on sharing your views and comments!

– Paul Keijzer

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Moving Your Mentoring Relationship To A Whole New Level

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Having spoken about how to choose a mentor, why somebody should become a mentor and meeting your mentor for the first time, it’s now time to move your mentoring relation to a whole new level.

Your relation with your mentor or mentee is like any other important relationship. It’s built on trust, shared experiences, reciprocity, respecting boundaries and being genuinely interested in the other person. Eric Barker from Barking Up The Wrong Tree made some great suggestions on how to build trust in a relationship:

  • Act with discretion. Keep secrets secret.
  • Communicate often and well. The more you know about each other, the more you are willing to help each other.
  • Match words and deeds. Remember all the promises you make and set realistic expectations so you can meet all of your commitments.
  • Highlight knowledge domain boundaries. If you don’t know something, be willing to admit your lack of knowledge.
  • Hold people accountable for trustworthy behavior. If someone does well, let them know. If they disappoint you, let them know because they will not respect you if you let them walk over you.

For a mentoring relationship to really blossom it has to evolve into an intimate relationship. It is a relation in which both parties are able to disclose their inner most thoughts and concerns, and where both mentor and mentee become interdependent. This of course can’t be hurried, although specific defining moments can certainly accelerate this process. Who doesn’t remember the bond that was created with your best friend when both of you went through that ‘once in a life time experience’.

Ellen Esher and Susan Murphy in their book: Power Mentoring, mention that to deepen the mentoring relationship you need to:

  • Develop a deep understanding of each other’s work and issues
  • Develop a mutual admiration
  • Treat each others as confidants
  • Be open to ideas
  • Help each other focus on solving issues you can influence
  • Create mutual wins

Not all mentoring relations end up in a powerful and highly successful partnership. Sometimes the chemistry or the intent is not there or simply the circumstances are not right. In those cases you have to have the guts to call it a day and move on. Maybe find another moment or maybe find another mentor. Don’t give up, the support you can get from a mentor makes it a worthwhile pursuit and hopefully at some time you can turn the tables and mentor others.

– Paul Keijzer

P.S. If you are interested in being mentored by me, send me a short email (paulkeijzer@engageconsulting.biz) with the reasons why I should chose you as my mentee. I can’t promise I will choose you but I do promise I will respond! 

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Meeting Your Mentor For The First Time

Mentor meetingSo now you have identified your mentor, he or she has said yes and you have agreed to meet for the first time. Now 5 minutes before the first meeting you are getting a bit nervous as you know how important this first meeting is going to be. You ask yourself how do I make sure I set a good foundation for this relationship to flourish. A great question and the simple fact that you ask this question means that you are on the right track.

The most important step in making your first mentor session the start of a powerful relationship is to be clear in your own mind on the following questions:

  • What do I want to get out of this relationship?
  • What can I bring to this meeting that is of value to my mentor?
  • Am I coach-able?
  • Can I take the responsibility for this mentoring relationship? and
  • What can I do to cultivate this relationship?

Don’t expect to get big revelations from your first interaction with your mentor. The first meeting is all about setting the tone and spending the majority of your time at your first meeting in getting to know each other, align expectations and setting the ‘ground rules’ for an effective mentoring relationship.

Getting to know each other
I am sure that when you look at any of the important relations you have in your life, one of the biggest similarities across all these relations is that you know a great deal about this individual and that this individual knows a lot about you. To establish a strong mentoring bond you have to create the same foundation. Be as open as you can, share experiences, look for commonalities and build rapport by asking questions, be humble, listen intently, learn and be appreciative.

Align expectations
Explore, share, discuss and agree what you are looking to get out of this relationship and of course make sure you understand and commit to the mentor getting his share out of the relation. In addition there are many other areas that you need to align yourselves on:

  • What are the boundaries of the relation?
  • What topics are off-limits?
  • Confidentiality of the discussions
  • What behavioral standards you expect from each other?
  • How can you contact each other outside the formal meetings?
  • How long you can commit yourself to the relationship and when it will end?
  • How you will evaluate the relationship?
  • What are the ways out of the relationship if it is not working out?
  • Any possible conflicts of interest?

Meeting practicalities
Then of course there are the logistics you need to agree on:

  • How often do you meet?
  • Who takes responsibility for setting up the meeting?
  • Where will you meet?
  • How long can you meet for?

If you are able to cover all the above you have had a tremendous first meeting and you can be proud that you have set the right foundation for an impactful follow up conversation. Do make sure that at the end of the conversation of course you agree when the next meeting is and that you appreciate the mentor for his/her time, effort and guidance. A sincere thank you always goes a long way!

Enjoy your first mentor meeting and let me know how it went!

– Paul Keijzer

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How Do I Find A Mentor?

mentorA couple of weeks ago, a friend came up to me and said Paul I really want to find a mentor. I need someone, whom I can trust and help me navigate through the organizational politics, put a perspective on the challenges and opportunities I am facing and help connect me to other people inside and outside the organization. He asked me how to go about this.

A great question, as I have met many people who had similar needs but didn’t know whom to or how to approach a potential mentor due to the fear of being rejected. Whatever the reason here are a number of steps for getting a mentor:

Step 1: Know What You Want
My favorite Stephen Covey habit is “Start with The End In Mind”. The same applies when finding a mentor. Know yourself and know what you are looking for. What do you want a mentor to help you with? Is it networking, office politics, feedback, new ideas on that project you are working on, work – life balance questions, career  counseling or all of those above. The more specific you are, the easier it is to identify an individual that can help you. 

Health warning: only use a mentor for personal learning, growth and reflection. Don’t use a mentor as a shortcut for promotion, as it will surely come back flying in your face. 

Step 2: Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
Knowing what you want from the mentor relation will help you identify the expertise, relations and experiences you are looking for in a mentor. If for example you are a mechanical engineer working in a fertilizer plant who has the ambition and skill to move to general management but you lack specific financial or business-2-business experience, you should find a person in the company who can guide you and give you insight in your area of interest , how to move in that role and aspects to consider when trying to transit.

Don’t restrict yourself to your own department/company. Look outside, who are role models in your field of work, who are the leading experts. Check your LinkedIn network, talk to friends, senior colleagues, executives in your company. Ask them who they think could be the best person to help you in your quest to become better and grow. Or better yet approach the person who you have always looked up to.

Be bold go outside your comfort zone and pick the best there is. 

Step 3: Get Introduced
If you have zeroed in on a potential mentor who you don’t know yourself then the best way to get connected is by being introduced. Approach someone who can help you get introduced to the individual you are inclined towards speaking with. The change of getting a positive answer by cold calling in my experience is close to ‘zero’. I personally have never ever been successful in pitching to a person who I have not been introduced to, or who has heard about me. I also don’t react on any approaches I get from people that I don’t know. 

Work the network and get people to introduce you to your ideal mentor. 

Step 4: Be Interesting and Give Back
As much as you want to learn from a mentor, you have to make it worthwhile for the mentor to be willing to invest in the relation. I personally would never be able to mentor a person who is mundane and dull. Make it interesting, give back to the mentor, and help him with experiences or skills that he doesn’t have. You have to create a relationship that is worthwhile for both. 

In the late 90’s the CEO of a global company took it upon himself to mentor a number of young trainees who recently joined the company. Of course the trainees were delighted to be mentored by the global CEO, but it was not his altruistic motives that were at play here. He had a clear intention to gain as well from the relationship as he wanted to understand how young people interacted and used new technology (this was the height of the dotcom area for those of you who remember). 

Step 5: You Are Responsible
Finally don’t forget the number one rule of the mentor – mentee relationship: the mentee is responsible! He/she is responsible for making sure the meetings are organized and taking place, actions are being followed up and in general make sure the relation continues to flourish. If you do this well the relationship will surely last a career and be ‘priceless’. 

Next week: Why Should You Become A Mentor?

– Paul Keijzer

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Breaking Bad Habits

good-bad-habits-300x263We all have bad habits. Some people bite their nails, some smoke, some can’t resist that last cupcake and some just can’t get out of bed in time. Some bad habits are small nuisances (mostly to others) while others can be detrimental to our own, and other peoples, happiness (addictions of any kind). We often try to break them, but the majority of people fail to kick their bad habit to the curb. Only 5% of people that join Weight Watchers achieve and sustain their target weight for 2 years!

What are habits, how do they come about, how do you recognize them, and if you know what they are, can you change them? These were some of the questions that New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg tried to answer in his new book; The Power of Habit.

According to Duhigg, habits are powerful things. They prevent you from having to make millions of decisions every day; from how you brush your teeth, to what you eat for breakfast, how you drive to work or to what you do first when you open your computer (read the sports page, check your Facebook page or dive right into those big tasks that you have to complete today). When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in any decision-making and your behavioral pattern unfolds automatically.

The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between good and bad habits and as a result, whenever a behavior has become a habit, your brain just waits for the cue and then simply executes it.

So what is a habit? A habit is a loop in which a specific action is triggered by a cue and followed by a reward. Whether it is a sugar rush from eating that chocolate bar, the caffeine kick from your morning coffee or the endorphins that get released by regular exercise, your mind becomes trained to expect the same certain reaction to your actions.

As a habit is a simple cue, action, reward loop, you can actually go about to change it. Duhigg offers a four-step framework to change a habit:

Step 1: Identify the routine
Step 2: Experiment with rewards
Step 3: Isolate the cue
Step 4: Have a plan

At the end of his book, Duhigg himself concludes, “All patterns that exist in our lives are habits that we know exist. Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom -and the responsibility- to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the only option left is to get to work and change them.”

Today I started trying to create a new habit for myself. Instead of waking up lazily at 7:30am to check the sports pages, my blog counts and my emails, today I woke up at 6:00am, had 90 minutes more to get in some exercise, meditate and start the day with my writing. This blog is a result of my first day! My cue was my desire to get more out of my day with the personal insight that I am most productive early in the morning. My reward; exercising and writing gives me the discipline that I crave and producing something early in the day gives me that feeling that, no matter what happens later in the day, I have still achieved something.

Will keep you all posted on whether I am able to translate this intention into a good habit! Good luck changing your bad habits!

– Paul Keijzer

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How To Make Brainstorming Much More Effective

brainstormingRecently I tried out a new approach to brainstorming. A couple of weeks ago I read an article discussing what is wrong with brainstorming, on Eric Barker’s blog; Barking Up The Wrong Tree. I adopted some of the learnings, experimented with them and found that it really worked! While no single method of approach is perfect, the results were significantly better than what I had seen before.

The way I implemented brainstorming techniques in the past was similar to the way Alex F. Osborn, known as the “father of brainstorming” invented it in 1958. Put people in a group together and collectively write as many individual ideas down as possible, whether they are crazy, funny, ridiculous, innovative or clever. Don’t criticize anything and allow people to make links and associations as they go along. When you have all the ideas on one list, bring them down to the best few and then expand on them. Sounds familiar?

More often than not, the problem with this approach is that the ideas that you get are either ‘spiked up’ versions of ideas that have gone around for ages or ideas so wild that they will never see the light of day.

So I decided to experiment and organized a brainstorming activity for a client in which they wanted to come up with new initiatives to grow their business, taking into account the new research findings that:

  • Smaller teams are more effective than larger teams (also see this article in HBR explaining that smaller, more homogenous, research groups are more effective per researcher)
  • Less is More
  • Criticizing and debating ideas will improve the quality of the idea

The brainstorming session was not only aimed at coming up with new ideas but also to translate those ideas into initial action plans. To do this we used the following 5 steps:

1. Individual Ideas
The night before the brainstorming session, every participant was briefed on the objective of the next day (to come up with innovative ideas to grow business). Each individual was requested to come up with one, two or maximum three ideas that he / she thought would grow their business. The next day each participant was given a flip chart in which they had to put down their ideas by answering three questions (1) What is the problem you are trying to solve? (2) What is your proposed solution? and (3) How will it work?

2. Share Judge and Select
Then, seated in groups of 5, each individual was asked to present his/her ideas to the other members of their group. During the presentation other members were encouraged to ask questions for clarification, make suggestions on how to improve the idea or use the idea in a different context. Next, the group was asked to rate all of the presented ideas on the criteria of uniqueness and potential value. All ideas were plotted on a matrix and the groups were asked to select their top three concepts.

3. Present and Pick
Each group then presented their top 3 ideas in a standardized format to the larger group (50 people in this case). The groups were then asked to give three votes to three ideas that according to them was the most unique and had the most value for the company. A ranking of ideas emerged and the top 10 of these ideas were taken into the next round.

4. Praise and Criticize
Having selected the 10 innovative ideas that were both unique and had significant value to the organization, it was then time to start moving into action. But, before I asked individual groups to start writing action plans, i wanted to galvanize the collective wisdom of all 50 people in the room to improve the idea. The concept that we used was “Praise and Criticize.” Each group was given a random idea and had 5 minutes to list as many reasons why this was a great idea along with why this idea was not going to work. After 5 minutes the list of praises and critiques was moved to the next group and they are asked to do the same. If you do this 4/5 times you get a pretty exhaustive list of good and bad qualities for every idea.

5. Action!
The list of praise and criticism was then given to the group that originally came up with the idea, so that they could take their colleagues comments into account when they started working on their action plan. You can imagine that the action plan that was created was significantly richer in content as already 50 people had been able to review it and make suggestions.

The end result for the team I worked with was 8 fantastic ideas that already had a meaty action plan linked to them. A project lead was appointed and a first review date was set. And the amazing thing is it only took 4 hours to go through this session. 4 hours with 50 people leading to 8 brilliant business innovation ideas. Not a bad investment in my book!

So, whenever you are planning to do your next brainstorming session, let people come up with their own ideas first. Let them share their ideas, fight over what the best ideas are and then use the collective wisdom of the group to praise and criticize those ideas to strengthen their overall action plan.

– Paul Keijzer

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If You Want People To Collaborate – Put Them Next To Each Other!

collaboration“Change is the only constant” is a mantra that has been engrained in almost every professional I have met. However, when you ask a leader how to help employees change, the response is often pin drop silence, but after some time, people often refer to the tested ‘carrot or stick’ approach. Reward the people that change and ignore or kick out the people that don’t. Philip Kotler, the change management guru, famously stated that only 30% of all change initiatives succeed. Few betting men would take these odds…

Almost all change initiatives require people to alter their behaviors. Taking action is the most difficult as we all know from our experience in trying to lose weight, exercise regularly, influence our teenagers to clean their rooms or even change the shopping habits of our spouse. Research into people trying to quit smoking, shows that only 17% are successful and never smoke again. And to prove that old habits die hard: even if people are confronted with a major physical crisis (e.g. a heart attack) less than one out of two are able to kick the habit.

We are creatures of habit. It gives us comfort, confidence and much needed stability to make sense of this fast changing world. Two books I recently read have helped me become better in advising companies on how to change behaviors. The most recent book “The Power of Habit” is written by New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg. He helps you understand how habits work and how you can change them, not only at an individual level but also on an organizational and societal level. So far, it is Amazon’s book of the year, so check it out.

However, my current favorite read is “Influencer: The Power To Change Anything” from Kerry Patterson. In this Patterson shares a very simple model on how you can influence behavior. Firstly. Patterson distinguishes two components that stop people from changing. They either don’t want it (motivation) or they don’t know how to (ability). Through powerful real life examples, Patterson helps you understand how you can influence behavior on a personal, social and structural level.

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My personal favorite insight is the impact of distance on collaboration and where by changing the environment in which people operate you ‘force’ them to change their behavior. Bell Labs was interested in understanding what was the best predictor for scientist to work effectively and collectively, smash ideas together and build on each others concepts. The answer? Distance. Scientist who worked next to each other where 3 times more likely to discuss technical topics that lead to collaboration versus scientists sitting only 30 feet from one another. With a distance of only 90 feet, the collaboration dropped to levels similar as if they were working several miles away.

Many clients often complain about different functions within the company that don’t work well enough together. Using Patterson’s example I always advise them to make people, who need to accomplish something together, simply sit together. Companies like P&G and Unilever have taken this concept even further by making their cross-functional teams sit at their client premises. If you want to change behavior, don’t forget to think about changing your physical environment.

– Paul Keijzer

3 Reasons Why You Can Get Things Done Faster In Asia Than Anywhere Else

FastBizmanOne of the things I love about working in Asia is the speed at which you get things done. Of course, there are many situations in which the bureaucracies and intricacies of doing business in Asia is daunting for the first timer, but when you know your way around you can get things done in no-time and significantly faster than many other parts of the world.

Over the past few weeks I was involved in an initiative to pro-actively identify and develop Myanmar’s Talent as part of an organizations bid to obtain a telecom license and enter Myanmar (see also Myanmar Talent Gold Rush.) Within 7 days this team was ready to launch a press conference, advertising campaign, and build a social media presence and job portal from scratch. This was all in a country that has been isolated from the international business world for the last decade. I would say that is a high achievement!

Speed is Asia’s salient feature. Why, I ask myself, is it possible to get things done here in 7 days that would take 3 months in many other parts of the world? Over the past 15 years having worked everywhere from China to Riyadh and everything in between I have realized that 3 specific features drive the ability to get things done fast in Asia:

1. Hunger for Success
Asia is hungry for success. The continent wants to move and move fast. They realize its their time to take the center stage in the world and they don’t want to waste this opportunity. They are willing to make the extra efforts, sacrifice and still have that zeal to work and push themselves hard, because they want to create a better life for their children. Asians are self-reliant and know that they can’t depend on the government to bail them out (there is no social safety net other than your extended family). They have to do it themselves and will find any way to create a better future for their families, their communities and at the end their countries.

2. It’s All About People
In the developed world, work is organized around processes and systems. The advantage of this is that you can get things done no matter who you are or who you know. Everything is standardized and delivered against certain parameters. Speed, flexibility and customization however are not something that go hand-in-hand easily with a process and systems driven approach. In Asia work is organized around people. Things get done because of who you know and if you have built the right relationship with the right people, things can move faster than anywhere else in the world.

3. Driven From The Top
The last reason is that the power in Asian organizations still reside solidly at the top of the organizational pyramid. The acceptance of power and authority allows the entrepreneurial business owner to push decisions through and ensure implementation with lightening speed.

Of course all of these elements have their downside and I am sure that as the Asian economies and businesses develop the call to transform from people to process driven / regulated societies will increase. However, for the time being, if you want to get things done fast, get it done in Asia.

– Paul Keijzer

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