Leaders: Do You Even Deserve To Have A Team?

In the past, I have built a great team, in my own standards- despite a mixed bag of personalities. It is not ideal as I have not hired most of them myself. You find a lot of them completely opposite of what you want to surround yourselves with, or the talents that you’d like to hone within.

But that is the point of leadership: to be constantly challenged, confront it, and turn it around to work for you. It is just the way it is. Without this, do you really even deserve to have a team?

There will always be people working for you that are difficult, self-destructive, “emo”, whiner, gossip-monger, etcetera. It will never be perfect but it is not really all that bad. You lead, because that is part of your job. I always believe that you will always learn something from anybody in this world and this is no different. Avoiding the situation and passing the issue to others won’t do the job. You’re pushing the chance to fix your team and you lose your credibility as well.  Why not take this as a challenge? Why not get your hands dirty, get to the root of the personality and find ways to turn them around, focusing on their strengths (despite the bad attitude), empowering that portion and transform the aura of that person to meld to the mold? Too much of a job? Well then, goodbye respect!

It is presumptuous to think that you get to a high position in a company and you expect to do less of working and do more of bossing. There are so many of this around, it is a virus. Don’t be one. It is quite… what is the word… caustic.

No matter how you think you could entrust your employees to other people, you just need to trust the good. After all, we’re all adults and we all have to take our individual responsibilities. You just hope that they’d carry on no matter what with a smile on their face. It could happen, for sure. But dynamics is a tricky playmate.

Unfortunately, it is not a good ending within this story. Things crumble down for some. People do things differently and destroys utopia of ambitions. Not everyone could be a great manager. They destroy things by avoiding the situation and letting it burden the rest. It is a domino effect. You still hope for the best. You find silver linings. But having the knowledge that a situation crumbled your team down is disheartening.

It is hard not to care for something that you invested your passion in, something that you’ve built, only to learn that it is just a sandcastle.

The point is, you are given a team, face them. Stop fidgeting around saying how much you dislike them and do your job. Whoever leaves will carry your name forever – it depends how good or bad is reflective of what you’ve done for your team in the end.

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Hey, Young Startup CEO: Your title is nothing but letters unless…

Business title nowadays are overrated. As we progress and innovate, the creativity with titles go with them as well. But real professionals see right through these and focus on the people under these labels.

Youth could be the future — and they should continue to be. Let’s disregard the age but the maturity building a business. There are successes (indeed!) and pitfalls to some factors that affect a young startup leadership.

This is such a huge relevant topic for me to write as I have been digging deeper into some young startups and their shortcomings, failures, greed and the inability to understand money and virtue.

This is the dirty part of the ‘cool’ tech startup story.

Lack of Vision

This is a behemothic pitfall of anyone who wants to do something without any strategy of what the goals would be like in the next few weeks, months… days. Things change, directions could be skewed along the way but if you keep on ‘fudging it’, that means that you are not fully committed to what you want to do.

Arrogance

One of the best wisdom in this life is to learn that you do not know anything. This allows you to be open to learning: being right and wrong. If all you think that you’re so great and nothing else matters, other people of experience will see right through you.  Then, you fail to recognize your journey working on your startup and embrace the deeper value of this exercise. Some may win, being arrogant, that’s true. But you are miserably hated by everyone around you. The blindness will result to blame others if you encounter any problem. And you may have an unwanted reputation which could make you lose face along the way.

Greed

Most of startups get money from incubators, investors, angels, etcetera. These companies and people do this as business and to push technology forward. I am fortunate to get to know amazing investors who do care and will do their best to help the startups to excel higher. They would do it beyond money and would risk losing rather than doing nothing. It usually came from their own blood, sweat and tears.

So spend their cash properly! Making bold moves and braving it out there is a great key to get results. Aggressiveness in temperance pays back well. You try, they try. If all you could think about is the money that you ‘will’ earn and not to flourish your business altogether, then shame on you. Remember that you are spending other peoples’ money. It is not yours just yet. Be sensible.

I would like to make this work so we could be bought out within a year” – good luck, kid.

Finishing what you started

Commitment, perseverance and responsibility are the true virtues of being a leader. What irks me are those young startups who only think of themselves along the way and leave when the going gets tough. It is deceitful, manipulative and shameful. First of all, they asked for money, they are spending the money that they don’t fully own and at the drop of the hat, leave their own company that they’ve built. Then the reasons are shallow. Irresponsible. Worse, they still think highly of themselves without any pinch of humility.

If you really need to leave, perhaps make a graceful exit. Be helpful. Focus on managing your investors and cofounders, not on monetary means or your shares and equity terms. Show some dignity.

You only have one name. Protect it.

As you move along, your startup may become a success or a failure. If you compose yourself properly and professionally, that is never the end but the beginning of greater opportunities. You build your reputation over time, it never stops. The result of your business does not necessarily reflect on how you are perceived by your peers and the industry as a whole. That is important. So make sure that you live and work with your ethics intact because that is not trainable. It is in you. That goes a long way.

So, straighten up, young CEO. The journey is exciting. Just don’t be too annoying.

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“Your reputation is more important than your paycheck, and your integrity is worth more than your career.”

– by Angelo Sotira, deviantART Cofounder

Tricky Characters Volume 2: LinkedIn Networking or NOTworking

I am a very strong advocate of LinkedIn and the business network it brings. It is a great tool to effectively bring your networks closer with which only works upon how you use this platform.

I am a relatively early adopter of this service. I have recognized that it is something that of use to me and my contacts beyond rolodex and business cards. I could get to know more about them professionally and could connect, combine, partner, collaborate and utilize the potential relationships that evolve around different sets of experiences and talents. I’d have some chance to know the soul behind the CV and eventually figure out how to make the connection work in so many ways.

This platform helped me to work for people around the world, along with their different cultures, challenges and learnings to tackle within the expectations of what I could deliver for the clients as a consultant. LinkedIn helped to supply 85% of my income for 3 years of being on my own, exploring my career and expanding my knowledge within the industries that I could contribute in along my network, their recommendations, word-of-mouth and introductions.

This is a conscious act the way LinkedIn is being used.

It is professional. You may have family or friends within your network but keep the conversations and interactions here formal, according to business terms.

Transparency. You are what you write. Everyone has different ways to narrate, expose, cite, list their experiences and accomplishments. Just make sure that you have an objective in mind on what you write.

Be respectful. Now, this is where the point of this post really is. A sizable amount of users just do not have any idea on how they present themselves on this platform. It is just the same as how you present yourself in F2F networking or a job interview.

Be mindful on how you add people to your network. Be genuine. Write something beyond the template “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” WHY are you adding someone? Who are you? Why does it make sense to be connected? If you can’t answer these, then don’t bother adding. What for? Never take it for granted. This shows respect and value that are impressions of a ‘legit’ fellow.

Be honest if you’re really looking for a job. Stop the BS. This is one of the capacity of the platform so stop speculating that people ‘use’ people to get something. That says a lot if you’re a cynic rather than utilizing the platform for what it really is.

This is not a dating site. Go elsewhere to do this.

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Don’t trust me – if you don’t know me. Do not use the “Since you’re the person I trust…” card negligently on anyone if you’re strangers to each other. It says a lot about your EQ, and maybe IQ. Most likely that you won’t get the job if you do not have spatial and social awareness, even it’s virtual.

LinkedIn Laughs by Tom Fishburne

Get (and suggest) your facts right. Do not add someone and reveal that they’re your colleague from their certain company when you never met nor never worked together. Another one is that if you’ve not done business together, then you cannot declare that. Who are you trying to convince?

These are just some of the common pitfalls within LinkedIn. Just as any social networking responsibility and etiquette, go and internalize the basics:

Self-respect

Awareness and education

Research

Courtesy

On the other hand, it could also be our faults. We tend to carelessly accept invitations without sharing knowledge. It may come out as pompous for one, but we have some subtle ways not to tolerate, or educate our networks. We all have the responsibility to sanitize our own environments.

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“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
Keith Ferrazzi

Working Environment: Shapeshifter, Shadow and Mirror

Environment is a big influence within one’s self, memories and decisions. It creates a world that a person moves within.

A mentor told me today over Marmite on toast and hot chocolate ‘power’ lunch that “the grass is not really greener on the other side,” in terms of finding the ‘perfect’ working environment and/or job. That is indeed the reality. But what does mollify when nothing is perfect in the real world? There are some factors that meet what ‘green grass’ may mean.

Happiness. This leads to contentment, eagerness, motivation and most importantly, sanity. This feeling keeps you waking up in the morning and get to work and make things happen for yourself and your team. This propels your working environment to produce the demands of your position. This even results to loyalty and a reflection of gratefulness at work.

Respect. A mannerly work ambiance among colleagues results to this simple yet challenging principle in the workplace. This is a huge discussion on its own in which I would discuss over a few blogposts in the future. This principle is not bureaucratic but earnest guise of values and ethics. This also leads to trust that is another motivating factor. True enough, they are earned, not given. This exposes how an organization operates.

Great Leadership and Governance. I have learned at the start of my career in an American energy company from my admirable ex-boss that “everything rises and falls on leadership,” as a quote from Dr. John C. Maxwell. I live with it every single day and for more than a decade now, this keeps on proving without failure. Not everyone could lead successfully. Some are born to be, some sensibly grow and learn, some perhaps fail miserably, while others are blindly delusional. Being one is a behemothic undertaking that an individual could have and this is of an extreme importance in a working environment, reflecting how the company performs as a whole. This is the oxygen that determines the health of your organization. Domino effect.

Nothing is perfect. Reality is that you may not be compatible with everybody around you in the workplace. Not everything goes your way all the time. Some things may fail. Mistakes could happen. Something breaks. Something needs to be rebuilt. Do you sleep at night, not having to take your work home until it haunts you in your nightmares? Do you have to force yourself to go to work everyday out of fear and resentment? Is this what you really signed up for? Is this what you want?

Frustration, fear and resentment are the poison that suffocate a workplace. They kill productivity like cancer. They stop creativity. They cut through the heart and soul of everyone’s morale.

This is not even the danger. It is in its causatum.

Humans are great in adapting into their surroundings. It’s always been a proof of all civilizations. Immersion in a particular surrounding is a captive human nature. And working environment is just a particular place of practice for this.

If you go to a [insert adjective like ‘fun’ or ‘toxic’] office everyday, it could determine how you adapt over time. It evolves on how this will reflect on your being, inside and out. It will determine your principles and attitude towards life in general. It absorbs through your conscious (choice) and subconscious (feelings). Exposure and spending most of your time working vs time at home makes all of us susceptible to influence. The memory of experience is the residue that would reflect within your shadow afterwards.

This post is just a simple orientation. The biggest thing that you’d need to ask yourself now is: “Is this place worth my psyche?” Think about it.

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“Everything rises and falls on leadership, but knowing how to lead is only half the battle. Understanding leadership and actually leading are two different activities.”

Dr. John C. Maxwell

“To retain top talent in today’s competitive job market, employers need to do more than loosen their purse strings. They must create a work environment that reflects their employees’ life-stage needs and values. As the demand for experienced knowledge-workers intensifies, employers need to understand what motivates — and inspires the loyalty of — today’s high-performing employees. In most cases, it’s not the corneroffice or a large paycheck, but rather, the opportunity to work for a company that fosters strong workplace relationships and inspires a sense of balance and/or purpose.”

Maria R. Morris

 

Tricky Characters volume 1*

Career experience is not enough to judge a person’s body of work. It requires a deeper look into their perspectives and the way they learned beyond their in-the-books background. The idealism and realism are both powerful notes on how you could hire or work with the right people within your organization.

I was mistakingly judged by a younger executive that I won’t like a fast-paced working environment. Says who? My clear statement that “I easily get bored so I always have to feed fuel to my fire” may not be as clear as I thought. My problem is that I use metaphors and creativity to explain myself which usually gets lost in translation if the other party I am talking to possesses English only as their second language. From which, I have also communicated how important life-work balance for me is… to a 28 year-old young, single, restless and energetic executive. Hence, a bad conclusion. Like a mixture of bad cocktail drugs of [mis]judgment.

Beyond professional or personal factors, it is common to hear what you wanted to hear within any situation. That makes someone misjudge what is being truly said within the context of the whole conversation. Ever wonder why one negative statement could destroy the 999 positive things that you have done? Because personal opinions have not been segmented objectively. People jump quickly to conclusions without having to ask more, if uncomfortable, questions.

Emotions based on personal opinions are tricky. It clouds judgment and action. Yet they also spark the best creative ideas and passion. It is complex. Professionally (personally too), you just need to strike a balance.

– What is the objective?

– What are the major focus of this particular agenda for you to be able to come up with the right conclusion?

– Why do I feel this way, and is this feeling important to the matter?

– Did I really understand what has been discussed?

– Should I ask for more questions to reassert?

Judgment is a very strong word. But it always comes up anywhere. You can’t avoid it as much as you could try so why not just manage it? Just make sure that you won’t embarrass yourself in the process– or you should. It is, after all, a good mistake to learn from.

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Instinct is the gift of experience. The first question you have to ask yourself is, ‘On what basis am I making a judgment?’ … If you have no experience, then your instincts aren’t any good.

Malcolm Gladwell

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*This will be a series.

Affirming Validations of Seeing You In Person.

I’d like to share with you the full version of my recent published contribution http://meettoday.org/wishronquillo/

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I have attended a pop-up shop cocktail event – during Valentines – hoping to meet and say hello to one of the people in the magazine industry that I admire. I truly believe that these influencers deserve to know how great their works are, motivating and inspiring people around them. Most thrive through feedbacks and criticism, as humans who need certainty to validate their goals on why they do what they do. An encouragement from his colleague to approach him gave me a go-signal that he is what everyone think he is.

But he is not. He brushed me away without batting an eyelash saying that “he can’t”. I turned away, look at everyone around me, who kept a meter distance from him and another 2 companions despite of the small outdoor space in the pouring rain. I kept on treading my way indoors and kept on hearing the crowd conversations that “He is there…”,  “He’s great…”, “He’s near yet…”, “He is…”

I had realized that it was brave (or foolish) of me to walk through that ‘gap space’ between him and the crowd who’d wanted to come and say hello as well. He obviously did not get his own event’s theme of “good conversations.” It demystified the personality of the public figure that disappointed me severely. That 5 seconds will change me for the rest of my life.

It was rather a timing while I am collating my thoughts on what to write for @Michael Beddows for the Trendr blog, that this came about. Surely not a good experience but indeed a great ground for what my thoughts are regarding personable, face-to-face meetings. That unfortunate event armed me with substantial, but simple facts.

Senses tell your gut what and whom you are dealing with.

No man is really an island. Humans have a lot of sensory perception that guide (or misguide) their judgment of the person or situation. There are lots of apps and technologies that may simulate productivity in virtual meetings but the eye contact in real-life encounters mean as much as a real handshake. I am sure that most of us could determine a person’s demeanor through the grip of their handshakes, which virtual productivity tools cannot provide.

The sensory factors carry us through the foundation of trust, respect and familiarity. It is also an affirmation of our judgment and comfort when we apply the foundations before and after meeting in person.

It also avoids misconceptions, miscalculations and doubts. You could trust your instincts better looking right through the person you’re meeting with. As simple as a jitter, stutter, blush– that which you could say signs of insecurity will give you a better basis about the person. In my case, it made me realise how naive I was to “assume” the greatest goodness in the people that I don’t really know, mostly public figures. Lesson learned.

Reality is realized faster.

Most misunderstandings are technicalities coming from the lack of expression and tone of typed messages. “This is urgent.” and “This is urgent!” could only say so much. Is it angry? Is it demanding? Is it sarcastic? Is it excitable? Emoticons could only impose an idea of what you mean, which conceals more of the real truth behind what is genuinely being said, aside from their unprofessional usage in a business setting.

My former boss told me more than once that, “when you cannot solve a teamwork problem, book a ticket and go there!” We used a lot of virtual meetings but dealing with colleagues of different languages, and English is only their second or third spoken language, it takes your presence to make things efficient and functional. It avoids many (mis-)apprehension of one direction, skewed by different interpretations of what is being said virtually.

Body language is a sign language.

Apart from your senses dictating better judgment, communicating with eye contact, hand gestures and such give a better picture of what you are trying to say. Cannot find the right local word? Cannot express what you envision in words? Act it out, Pictionary-style, or however you know would convey what you can’t just say in words, phrases or sentences. Heck, dance if you need be to get your real message across.

Getting Involved and Demystify.

Meeting people face-to-face gives the first initiation of familiarity and trust. And it gives you a better sense of what is happening within a particular surrounding. You donate to a charity, and visit that institution eventually or do it hands-on. It gives better impact on yourself and others. You lessen blind spots and mysteriousness that may delude you into thinking of a fantasy, instead of realities of your own experience. This is my latest acquiescence.

Tighten your bonds.

With these, you form better bonds and foundations. Your perception is wider and you tend to ‘see’ things clearly. Strong bonds are in the eyes of a beholder… and the rest conclude a better basis.

From which, I carry on and hope to always experience the best business networking and meetings out there. My latest experience will just arm me with better awareness.

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“There is no such thing as a virtual beer. It is for this reason that face-to-face meetings will remain viable for the future, despite recession-induced drops in attendance.”

Corbin Ball

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VOICE-OVER: Meetings, working from home, virtual vs physical are a big ball of conversation. I will trickle down a few posts as we go along.

Bossing around: What is TOO close for comfort, teammate?

Startups, Mentors, Investors and Advisors within their setting tend to have a horizontal organization where everyone talks to everybody directly. No bureaucracy involved, everyone is reachable. Ideas float within everyone and they are all heard [well, most of the time, that’s another subject to write]. If you’re in a tech startup/biz, most likely that you are friends with your superiors on Facebook, follow each other on Twitter [or one of you does], have each other on mobile messengers, connected on LinkedIn and so on. You also tend to have casual beer/meal sessions with them.

But where do you draw the line in terms on how far you could stretch this “closeness”? How does respect play between you and your superior in both ways?

It is a common knowledge that your superiors (or your Chiefs & VPs, mostly) know more of the higher level plans, strategies, demise, challenges, wins than the rest of the team. Because they are supposed to see the bigger, wider picture to drive the entire organization to where they should be. It is not about trust but there are mechanisms within the organization that function as such. Nobody could be the coal to the train as you also need fire for its steam.

It is not a separation but a unified function of a team. With that, respect plays a big role to be working with each other.

You may be “friends” with your superiors, but you also have to leverage that they are your professional colleagues too. If you completely merge both, then you’re on your way to destruction of just and respect for others and yourself. You separate them according to the situation and setting. It is as simple as you nitpick what you may disclose to each other at that certain time that could demoralize or affect each other in the workplace, considering you may be in the middle of a big product release or you are in your boss’ wedding. There is always a danger of crossing the line and fail to get back from the way it was.

Leaders would always like to know more about their individual colleagues — professional and personal as much as they can. They do that as they already know how these are separated yet it is also their jobs to raise up, promote and develop their peoples’ skills to give them a successful career or motivation. Understanding situations from up there is a very valuable possession of a true leader. And they have, methodically, know that this knowledge is a big responsibility on its own.

What I am getting into now is that everybody, in whatever setting, has a responsibility to draw the line not to affect or put somebody else in danger, threat or disrespect. Humans are amazingly flexible in adapting, but online tends to blur that within comforts of common courtesy. Set aside hierarchy, just among your peers.

It is always this principle of going back to basics. Offline behaviour will always play within your online selfdom. They are not a separate entity at all. Your online presence is the extension of who you are offline. And that is now a huge professional consideration about a person to be hired.

So dig deep and consider respect.

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A flippant, frivolous man may ridicule others, may controvert them, scorn them; but he who has any respect for himself seems to have renounced the right of thinking meanly of others.

– Johan Wolfgang von Goethe