Visiting Mind Valley

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Wow… it’s quite an office they have at Mind Valley. And such a cool and diverse group of people. Bright colours, super heroes everywhere, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bean bags in one place at one time.

Amazing.

They have the “Wall of Three Questions” (I hope I got the name right), where every employee shares their goals (career or personal) on the board, visible to everyone. So if you wanted to know any of your colleagues a bit better, just hop over to the wall and have a look at what’s most important to them. Very powerful, open culture, and creates a very strong sense of community.

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Also spotted their “Code of Awesomeness”, which every new employee would recite out loud in front of the entire office when they first come onboard. Talk about being a cool culture.

We want more companies like Mind Valley!!

How to choose the right company culture for you

IMG_1970Some people under estimate the importance of choosing the right company culture for you. Yet I’ve seen many very bright individuals “not fitting in”, ultimately resulting in their careers made stagnant, or worse still, damaged and short-lived.

John Kotter (best selling author) defined culture in his book Leading Change as “….norm of behaviours and shared values among a group of people.” So even with all the right skills, if your values and behaviours do not fit in with the majority of the people in a company, you are probably going to have a difficult time progressing within the organisation.

So what should you be looking out for when assessing a company’s culture?

According to Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, there are four types of organizational culture: Clan, Adhocracy, Market, and Hierarchy.

1) Clan oriented cultures are family-like, with a focus on mentoring, nurturing, and “doing things together.”
2) Adhocracy oriented cultures are dynamic and entrepreneurial, with a focus on risk-taking, innovation, and “doing things first.”
3) Market oriented cultures are results oriented, with a focus on competition, achievement, and “getting the job done.”
4) Hierarchy oriented cultures are structured and controlled, with a focus on efficiency, stability and “doing things right.”

What culture is your organisation, and which one would you prefer to be in?

Visit to Pixsell

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Caught up with Joel from Pixsell today, was happy to hear that they continue to expand into different areas and it’s quite an exciting time for them. Pixsell is the official training partner for Google Apps for Education, and they’ve got a pretty cool office!

Very young and vibrant, bright colours and even grass (it’s not real, but wow!).

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They’ve got some pretty interesting HR policies such as unlimited leave which I understand is still being perfected, and it’s great to see more and more of these cool companies sprout in Malaysia! Hope to see more soon.

How to retain your best talent, and attract more

Very often, smaller companies with limited resources dedicate most of the their efforts at core business activities (i.e. the money generating stuff), and forget to look after their employees who are making this happen.

Training and development of employees is sometimes seen as a luxury, and perhaps something companies will start doing when they become MORE successful.

But that concept is wrong, especially if you want to be a modern progressive company that attracts and retains their best people. In fact, to be MORE successful, you really need to develop your people.

One advantage big corporations have over smaller ones is that employees believe that if they join a big corporation, they will leave it better than when they started. Whether it’s because that good name on their CV can increase their chances of an even better job in future, or maybe because the companies invest in developing people so their value increases as they stay with the company.

So even if you are struggling to attract the best people now, invest in developing them, make them better, so you will have competitive workforce. And employees will tell other people how fulfilling it is working at your company, and over time, you will have a brand name yourself.

Here’s something I read recently (can’t remember the source!):

CFO asked CEO : What happens if we invest in developing people & they leave us?

CEO : What happens if we don’t & they stay ?

Have a good week ahead guys!

Our first shoot @ Milkadeal!!

We are shooting Milkadeal right now! It’s quite fun interviewing people, all unscripted and can see what people enjoy about being in the company.

It’s a young company that has very young and energetic people, and that’s what being part of a startup is about.

Watch this space, we will be launching soon!!!

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Why hiring the “perfect candidate” is a bad idea

If you have ever done recruitment or even applied to a job, you’ve seen the job specification. This little document that basically lists all the ideal qualities of the “perfect candidate”. This perfect candidate will already have all the skills and experience you need to hit the ground running. Basically someone who has all the experience performing the role you need them to do. No training required, no need to figure out if they can or cannot do certain things. They’ve done the exact same role before.

Hiring this “perfect candidate” is actually a very bad idea.

A recent worldwide study by Gallup shows that only 12% of employees in Southeast Asia are engaged at work. Only 12%. That’s quite an alarming number.

If you look at the top reasons for employees to get demotivated, two of them are lack of progression and boredom.

And that’s precisely what that perfect hire is going to feel coming into the job. You see, when a candidate takes up a job that he or she can already do, with little progression, then the reason is likely to be purely money. And that is a very short term reason.

However, if you hire what I call the “80% candidate”, this person can do many of the things required, but not everything. Or they have a strong foundation to perform the new role but perhaps have not actually performed the role before. THIS candidate is the one that’s going to come into the role fully charged and motivated to learn. Why? Because it’s a progression for them. It’s the next step, its career development.

So if you ever come across a situation where the “perfect candidate” is sitting in front of you, ask yourself “Will this person be motivated to perform this role?”.

Hiring by purely looking at skills may be a good short term answer, but to build high performing teams, it’s also about attitudes, motivation and long term potential.

How to negotiate a high salary in Malaysia

Before I launch into this, I would like to say that I do not advocate people working purely for money. You have to choose a job that you can actually do, a job you will enjoy, and a company that you can fit into culturally. That’s always the first step, and when you have all this, you will find that you will excel in your role, and the money will come naturally. Having said that, I do want people to take up new jobs to make sure they are not shortchanged and paid fairly.

Here’s some context to what salary negotiations are like in Malaysia:

It does not matter what role you will take up, your salary offer is almost ALWAYS based on an increment on your previous salary. And this increment is typically anything between 10% to 30% on your previous salary. What do I mean by this? Say if a company wants to hire an IT Manager for RM10,000pm, but if they make you an offer, and your previous salary was RM5,000pm, the maximum offer you will get is RM6,500pm (30% higher). Not always the case, but generally this happens. Even though you are doing a job that pays RM10,000pm.

Rightly or wrongly, it’s what’s practised, and it’s important to understand this because when you start to negotiate salary, you need to know what the other party is thinking (think Sun Tzu’s Art of War!).

So here’s what you do:

1) Never bring up salary discussions, you want to focus on two things: make sure they like you and that they understand that you are interviewing because you want the role, not because you want money.

2) Once they bring up salary, let them know that you are more focused on seeing if they find you to be the right person for the role (this has to be true, of course). Humble, and easy to deal with. You are side-stepping the question for now, and it’s always a good idea to avoid salary discussions until you are sure that they want to make you an offer.

3) I’ve read that you should wait for companies to propose a number first, so you use that number as the starting point and negotiate upwards. That’s standard negotiation technique, and it may work in certain countries, but I REALLY discourage you from doing this when it comes to salary in Malaysia. Why? Because if you start pushing back and asking for more money then, it leaves a negative impression, it’s not consistent with what you said earlier and employers may question if you are that interested in the position.

4) Here’s a better way. They are going to make you an offer, and want to know your expected salary. Ask for a 30% increment (if you believe you should have more, you should have a strong justification for this, but generally anything above 30% puts you at risk of even landing the job). Then tell them that BECAUSE you do like the job very much, you are very open to consider a lower offer, but the closer they are to 30%, the happier you will be, makes your decision easier, and gives you more reassurance that it would be the right decision to take up the role.

That’s it. By doing this, you would encourage employers to offer the highest salary they believe to be your value, and also doesn’t close the door on you straight away if they think your initial expected salary is too high.

Good luck job hunting, and I hope you get a high salary in your next job.

Why is everyone asking you to “Tell your story?”

Recently I have noticed a bit of a trend when it comes to communication. When I was researching on how to construct a good elevator pitch, I was asked to “Tell your story”.  Want to attract and hire the brightest employees in the market? “Tell your story”. Need to pitch for funding? Yeap, you guessed it, “Tell your story”.

But are people really that interested in my story? I was curious and started to do a little digging, and it turns out that the answer is “Yes”. People are interested to hear your story. But not because they really want to. It’s because biologically the brain has been wired to “switch on” when it realises it’s listening to a story.

I found this article on lifehacker about how our brains react to stories.

Some of my own thoughts on storytelling:

1) Build stories into your presentations or pitches. A presentation with lots of bullet points and too much data is boring and will result in your audience realising that they have an opportunity to catch up on their email.

2) Stories should have an emotional element to really capture someone’s attention. Think movies. Is it a Jurassic Park or Bridget Jones Diary? Think about how these stories are told, you will find many of them follow the same structure (I might write about this more in future).

3) Ultimately you are using the story to convey an idea, so make sure you do have a point at the end of the story, and it’s clear to the people who are listening.

4) Have a sense of humour, if appropriate.

5) Don’t be boring. The brain likes novelty, surprise them throughout the story.

6) Don’t be boring. Seriously.

I really want to point out, that just because you are telling a story, doesn’t automatically mean that your ideas will get through. For anyone who recently watched a film about giant robots, I hope you would agree that there is such a thing as a BAD story!

For now, I will leave you with this TED talk about the typical hero’s journey, and hopefully it will inspire you to tell a good story the next time you have to.

 

The SLOWEST fast food place in Malaysia

On a quiet Saturday night, I decided to visit a fast food place, a place I went to as a child, just to relive some old memories.

When I got there I was very surprised that the queue outside the place was really long, but I decided to wait anyway. There were about 10 customers in front of me, but I thought “hey, it’s a fast food place”, maybe I will wait 10 to 15 mins.

I ended up waiting for more than an ENTIRE HOUR.

How did this happen? I wasn’t sure until I got a bit closer to the counter. There were three counters open, and behind each counter, was one staff. And as I watched them work, it finally dawned on me why the queue was barely moving.

In front of one of the staff were four cups of soft drinks. In order to put the cups onto the tray, he used ONE hand (his right) four times, with his left hand resting by the side. And it was done really slowly, like he really did not want to spill a single drop. I looked around and the other two staff were more or less working like they didn’t care.

Staff walking to the kitchen, disappearing for 30 seconds and coming out with one small box of food. And then walking back into the kitchen again for another box.

Having motivated staff is really really important. Doesn’t matter how good your product is, or how much you spend on marketing, companies need to have a think about the quality of their people who interact with the external world. Because in an age where everyone is trying to bombard consumers with all kinds of advertising (and we obviously start ignoring stuff), its the moments that consumers interact with your people that really leave a lasting impression on your brand.

 

 

 

An interesting view on what leadership is really about

I came across this interesting short video about how to start a movement by Derek Sivers. The video shows us how leadership is all about taking risks, being the first, and to be courageous even though you may be ridiculed.

But the coolest thing about the video, is that it explains the role of the follower.

Here’s the key message:

1)   Your first followers transform you from a crazy person into a leader

2)   It’s them, not the leader, that suddenly make it easy for others to follow, because its now less risky

3)   Treat your first followers as equals and embrace them

Remember, leadership is about having people who will follow you. If you know someone who is currently in a senior role in an organization, and their people listen to them because they have to, not because they want to, then they are just an authority figure. They are a boss, but not a leader.

The role of your followers should never be underestimated in leadership.