Tag Archives: leadership

A peek into my book list: “Winning” by Jack Welch

One of the best things in life is having the luxury of sitting (or lying down) in one corner with a good book and nice cup of tea or coffee. I cannot remember when my love affair with books actually began. As far as I can recall, I was a big fan of “Sweet Dreams” series back when I was still in high school. I was one of my school’s pocketbook “libraries”. My classmates would often borrow the latest Sweet Dreams books from me and I was just too eager to share my “goodies” with them. For me, books are meant to be enjoyed by as many people as possible because they seem to become more meaningful if their pages had been touched by countless fingers and ‘yellowed’ slowly by the passage of time.

Looking back, I think that my love for writing also developed from my love of reading. When young people ask me the question, “How can I become a writer like you?”, my initial reply would often be, “Just enjoy reading and experiencing more of life.” There is really no magic formula, I guess. However, I can say that reading helped me tremendously in my writing and analytical skills. Reading not only helped me understand the world and people around me, it also allowed me to explore my imagination and enhance my creative thinking.

Books bring us to places beyond our imagination. (Photo credits: http://www.signatureillustration.org)

As I grew older (and hopefully, wiser!), my taste on books also evolved. I began reading the classics such as those written by Jane Austen (author of Emma and Pride and Prejudice, among others), Fyodor Dostoyevski (author of Crime and Punishment), and Charles Dickens (of A Tale of Two Cities). And then, I began ‘falling in love’ with works using the magical realism approach such as those by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (of  One Hundred Years of Solitude), Isabel Allende (of The House of the Spirits), and Laura Esquivel (of Like Water for Chocolate). I hungered for more and began enjoying the philosophical-literary (if there is such a term?) approaches of Milan Kundera (of Unbearable Lightness of Being) and Marcel Proust (in Search of Lost Time). I also began reading works of Asian/Asian-American writers such as Arundhati Roy (of The God of Small Things), Amy Tan (of the Joy Luck Club), and Sun Tzu (of The Art of War).

It also became a necessity that I began reading books tackling management and leadership. One of my favorite reads in this department is Winning by Jack Welch (with his wife, Suzy Welch). It is actually a gift from a very good friend of mine so if she gets to read this post, she’d know that the book did not go to waste. :) Anyway, Winning is a good read because it gave a lot of real-life examples to   stress important points. Mr. Welch used to be the chairman and CEO of General electric (GE)–where he stayed for forty years–so you can be assured that he knows what he is talking about.

The first part of the book, under the heading, “Underneath it All,” discussed important corporate issues such as on mission and values (with emphasis on the values of candor and differentiation). I think these two values are controversial and tricky issues particularly that they require gut-level honesty and integrity. Mr. Welch, in his straightforward style of writing and speaking, said this:

Jack Welch believes in candor and differentiation. (Photo credits: Harper Collins Publisher)

“…I have come to realize that I underestimated its rarity. In fact, I would call lack of candor the biggest dirty little secret in business. What a huge problem it is. Lack of candor basically blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got…When you’ve got candor–and you’ll never completely get it, mind you–everything just operates faster and better.” (Winning, page 25)

While I do not agree in everything that he discussed in the book, this is an analysis that I had readily accepted as true in most cases. I think that people, managers, and companies should really encourage and embrace this trait or value. In the Philippine (and even Asian perhaps?) setting, I think that this is easier said than done. I do not mean this in a derogatory way but more on a situational and cultural analysis. I think many Filipino (and even Asian) managers will agree that it is simply difficult to be straightforward and candid with co-workers and colleagues. “Hiya” or the feeling of shame is just an important aspect of relationships here that it is always a consideration when making decisions in the workplace. I think many will agree that it is simply difficult to tell your subordinate that he is not doing well. It is fairly easy to praise someone’s work and outputs but telling him he messed up on his latest project is like going to the guillotine. No one looks forward to moments like that.

However, Mr. Welch is right in saying that “candor gets more people in the conversation”, generates speed, and saves the company significant resources. “Think of how candor replaces fancy PowerPoint slides and mind-numbing presentations and boring off-site conclaves with real conversations, whether they’re about company strategy, a new product introduction, or someone’s performance,” he emphasized.

These words are sources of wisdom. While it is indeed challenging to be affront and candid, I think that businesses and companies can achieve more if there is more openness and frankness in the workplace. And this openness should be practiced in both levels–in the management and rank-and-file levels–because it is not fair to to allow management to give a candid (honest) evaluation of their subordinate’s performance but not allow subordinates to enjoy the same openness when evaluating the performance of their superiors.

This culture should be practiced in all aspects of management including human resources management, such as when evaluating and closing the files of employees who decided to move on to other companies or pursuits. For example, there is an industry practice of doing background check on prospective employees before they are hired. This procedure should be critically evaluated because it summarily (and unfairly?) puts the prospective employee in a “no-win” situation because it often leads to a one-sided judgement. An employee who had been candid enough to his bosses and may have good and valid reasons for leaving a company can still be misconstrued as a “bad” employee simply because the HR personnel or manager who answered the phone call from the prospective employer had an axe to grind against him (who, for example, had been candid enough to express that there was something wrong with their department’s strategy). Who gets to validate such judgements? Oftentimes, prospective employees are not even given the chance to explain their side. Their CVs automatically go to the trash bin. This, I think, reeks of too much injustice. If I am an HR Manager, the more should I call this type of prospective employee to an interview because I would definitely be curious as to what really happened in the company that he left and more importantly, how he learned from his experiences, which may sound negative at first (particularly if heard from the former HR Manager’s perspective). I am sure that I would also learn insights from his experiences and maybe, motivate me to avoid the same errors in judgement or pitfalls.

Mr. Welch may have not really expounded so much on other HR concerns but the book covers many other facets of the corporate life and even offers advice on career and time management. For instance, he devoted a whole chapter on work-life balance (Chapter 19). There is a lot of honesty in this chapter because he himself admitted that he had oftentimes relegated the tasks associated with family life to his wife. Such candid approach makes him more credible. He offered these bite-sized knowledge and counsel:

  • Work-life balance is a swap–a deal you’ve made with yourself about what you keep and what you give up.
  • It is not that bosses want you to give up your family or your hobbies. They’re just driven by the desire to capture all of your energy and harness it for the company.
  • If you want real work-life balance, find a company that accommodates it as part of its everyday business.

(Direct quotes from the book, pages 318, 321,and 328.)

In one of his parting words, he said that “…leadership is helping other people grow and succeed. To repeat myself, leadership is not just about you. It’s about them.”

I think this is indeed a reminder that a true leader does not prioritize his achievement but is fired up by the passion to motivate people to grow, succeed, and also become genuine leaders for the sake of people whom he serves. I enjoin you to lead with both the heart and the mind!

___________

(For more details about the book, you may want to visit this link. This is not a paid blog.)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Shortlisting the Presidentiables

We have watched the “Halalan” presidentiables’ forum aired over ABS-CBN last night and here are my top three choices, my reasons for choosing them, and why the others did not even pass my ‘shortlisting.’ :)

Let me first discuss my top three choices and why I think they deserve my vote.

1. Mr. Nick Perlas. He is my favorite because he has a strong platform anchored on a clear vision how to address corruption, environmental problems (such as climate change), and poverty (i.e. promoting domestic industries and agriculture). Among all the candidates, he seems to be the only one who understands structural problems and how to address them vis-a-vis poverty and inequity. More importantly, since he is not a “trapo”, I would assume that he will not be indebted to anyone nor be pushed into a situation when he would allow the growth (and even presence!) of private armies just so he can have the needed votes come election day. (Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ay huwag magagalit.)

However, I also think that Mr. Nick Perlas’ main weakness is on communicating his views well. I am pretty sure he has great ideas (and track record to support the ideas) but he doesn’t seem to have the so-called “gift of gab” of say, Mr. Eddie Villanueva, or even, Sen. Dick Gordon. He has the tendency to go in circles or say too many ideas all at once instead of focusing on key ideas. He probably needs to learn how to speak more in “bullet points” particularly in public forums like that.

He also says “Po” or “Opo” too much to the detriment of the message he is trying to put forward. In situations like that, a clear delivery of message is more important particularly that he is running an alternative campaign. Lesser “Po” or “Opo” will not harm his candidacy. He needs those precious hours of media exposure in order for people to know him more. His lack in machinery may be compensated by adequate media coverage but in order to be an effective communicator, he should be clear and concise in his delivery.

One may say that a President does not need to be a good public speaker and that the most important part is to have the intelligence and the heart to govern with fairness and wisdom. True. But I also believe that communications make or break any campaign. You may be the best candidate but if you fail to deliver the reasons why people should vote you, then there lies the unfortunate irony. Sadly, we still live in a world that heavily relies on advertising, marketing campaigns, surveys and public opinion. Show the people the same products with the same price and they would likely buy the one whose endorser was clearer or wittier with his message (or maybe, cuter?).

Albeit the said ‘weaknesses’, Mr. Perlas is still the guy who tops my shortlist (at least, for now). I know he will not even win against an “Aquino” surname (unless a divine intervention happens between now and May 2010). That is another unfortunate side story. Nothing personal against Senator Aquino but I think even he himself will admit that his popularity is mainly because of his parents. He does not have the brilliance and solid platforms of Mr. Perlas or Mr. Villanueva. He does not have the political will and guts of Bayani Fernando. He does not have the solid track record of his father. Admittedly, he seems to be a nice and honest guy. But honesty is not the main requirement for sound leadership. Clearly, Mr. Perlas has the right mind and heart to enable him to lead this country towards genuine recovery but, unfortunately, he does not have the machinery, money and popularity to win an election that is mostly fueled by ‘mainstream’ ingredients: showbiz endorsements, TV ads, popular surnames, and of course, it does not hurt to have a sister /close kin who is seen on national TV every day. My unsolicited advice to Mr. Perlas? Run for a lower office such as a local executive (Mayor or Governor), or even as a Congressman, immerse himself in the ‘real’ world of Philippine politics, and then when the time is right and when the voters are really ‘awakened’ enough to understand the difference between a trapo and non-trapo, run for President.

My fearless prediction is that he will not win. I will definitely vote for him but sadly, the majority of the Filipinos will vote for Senators Aquino and Villar, and former President Estrada. But then again, miracles still happen, right? :)

2. Mr. Eddie Villanueva. Among all the participants, I think that he is the best communicator. His ideas are clear and he can deliver his messages in a very organized manner. Like Mr. Perlas, he also has a strong platform and more importantly, it is based on the importance of spirituality and faith in God. I can only agree with him. I think that we need spiritual renewal and a leader who can motivate us towards this path is probably what this country needs right now. However, and perhaps, ironically, his being a Church leader also gives me some hesitation and this is probably my main reason why he is just No. 2 in my list. I cannot put the exact words to it but I would have some hesitation voting for a parish priest, pastor or evangelist to become a President. Nothing personal against them. It is just that I think that it is better if they remain in their main vocation and do their public service through the vows that they already made. I know that people should have the right to change their minds but then again, I would also be quite uncomfortable with the idea of a religious leader who suddenly craves for political power.

But then again, our state of the nation may already need some kind of ‘divine intervention’ so that we can truly prosper? Can a religious leader be the answer?

3. Senator Dick Gordon. I have no direct knowledge of the Senator so my thoughts here will be mostly based on the few things that I know about him and how he performed in the Halalan Forum. I liked his thoughts on ‘enabling the Filipinos to believe in themselves.’ Like him, I also do not believe in “dole-out” mentality. I kind of get uncomfortable when candidates say things like, “Para sa mahihirap” or something like that. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-poor. But you see, we should stop this culture that when people are poor, they must have more rights or more leeway. No, I don’t think so. We give equal rights  to all–whether rich or poor. (Please do visit my old post, “Circumstantial Culture” if you want to read more about this.)

The problem on poverty is not going to be solved by “taking care of the poor as if they are helpless babies.” Let us draw the line there. We should create jobs, we should make hospitalization more affordable, we should give free education up to high school (or even college if we can afford it), etc. but it is not the same as condoning squatting, allowing sidewalk vendors, and giving dole-out money (subsidies?) when electricity or rice prices go up. Let us stop acting as if we are the savior of the poor. We are not. We should address the root of the problems and not the symptoms. Let us empower the poor and not forever treat them as ‘helpless’ people who so badly needs our charity. Our upbringing definitely requires us to lend a helping hand to those in need but we should remember the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

And so, I saw this kind of thinking in Sen. Gordon and yes, his running mate, MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando. They believe in hard labor. They believe in instilling discipline. They believe in decency and the rule of law. I think our country needs those things and much much more.

My only problem with Sen. Gordon is that he is not strong-willed enough. Sometimes I have doubts about his political will. To me, he is still a trapo. Well, maybe a better trapo, but still, he sometimes chooses to be quiet when going otherwise will inconvenience him or his party.

Oh, if only we can combine the strengths of these presidentiables and emerge with a candidate who has the wisdom and strong platform of Mr. Perlas, the spiritual grounding of Mr. Villanueva, the discipline and love for labor of Senator Gordon, and yes, the popularity of Senator Aquino. Ahhh, if only we can!

Now that I have given you my Top Three choices, I would give you the one who ended up last in my shortlist. He is no other than -

Secretary Gilbert Teodoro. It is obvious that he is intelligent and a savvy communicator (he deserves some cheers here). However, I will definitely not vote for him for the following reasons:

1. He always says he values “loyalty” and that is why he is sticking it out with Lakas-Kampi. Can someone ask him this question, please, “Is loyalty greater and more important than integrity?” If your boss and his family are obviously associated with a lot of issues such as on corruption, over-spending, over-traveling, vote-rigging, allowing of private armies (which led to a horrible massacre of innocent lives), and so on and so forth, would you still be proud that you are “loyal” to him? When should loyalty end? Must we draw a line somewhere?

2. He is clearly a trapo. It does not mean he is terribly nightmarish-bad but it is sad that he cannot even leave the party because of another thing (I may be wrong here, of course) – the machinery it offers. There lies the brutal fact that despite the endless issues hurled against his ‘masters’, he dare not leave them…and maybe because of the ease and comfort of having a nationwide machinery for his presidential aspirations? We can only guess. To a traditional politician, a party support is still a party support. However, Mr. Teodoro should also remember that a good party is not the same as a bad party. No more debate.

3. He is  a product of political dynasty, the very same thing that eventually becomes the ‘fertility bed’ for abuses. I remember his interview with Ms. Cheche Lazaro (in “Profiles”) when he said that he went back to the Philippines after staying in the US because he was convinced by his politico-relative (if I remember correctly, Mr. Danding Cojuangco) to run for public office. As if running for public office is a DNA thing. As if having relatives in politics gives one the ‘moral’ reason to also run for public office. Why do we have this penchant for husbands and wives, fathers (and mothers!) and sons, sisters and brothers, running for public office? Can we finally put a stop to these weird habit of believing that public service runs in the blood? Sure, it’s probably ok to have two politicos in the family (although I still think that a husband-and-wife team of politicos leaves a bad after-taste) but having 3, 4, 5 and even more politicians within the same surname or lineage is definitely a sign of lack of ‘delicadeza’ or shall we say, a familial addiction to power? Again, I may be wrong but let us look at things squarely; there is no need for complicated analysis.

4. His platform does  not seem anchored on a genuine understanding of the structural problems inherent in our national woes. For example, he actually believes that we need more military and police personnel! That was how he replied when he was asked something about the huge presence of CVOs in Mindanao. Oh dear, it is as if our problems are military in nature and that the solutions also require a militaristic framework. He must talk to his former subordinates in the AFP/DND and find out more about how many of the Generals now think that our society does not need more guns but more participation in nationwide building and environmental protection. Yes, Mr. Teodoro, I have personally met Generals and Lieutenant Colonels in the AFP who are now talking about social transformation that is anchored on building communities and not on creating more private armies. Does he really think that we need more militia men to cover our 7,100++ islands instead of jobs, food security, and environmental integrity?

I still have No. 5 as a reason but this has become a very long post already so I must stop now. I hope this shortlist will help you as you ponder about our future as a nation. Let us vote wisely and not give up on this country.

Saludo pa rin ako sa Pinoy! Kaya natin ito!

Vote wisely. The future is in our hands.

 

 

 

 

 

This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

The privilege of being a leader

Aga Muhlach’s latest interview which was posted in Facebook inspired me to write this blog.

As I posted in my Facebook -

Hubby and I were just recently discussing this thought – “Being a President is a huge privilege because you have that POWER to make meaningful changes. Why waste that once-in-a-lifetime chance? Not everyone can be President. Mrs. President, you have that POWER in your hands, why squander it? And to all our government leaders – please do not waste that once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a great IMPACT to the lives of the Filipino people! Stop corruption! Stop selfishness! Stop politicking!” Go, Aga, you just expressed the sentiments of many people!

And so Aga’s outpouring of frustration reflects how most of us must probably be feeling. We are all frustrated. Some may feel helplessness. Or resignation.

For how can we change the way things are going? How loud must our voices be in order to be heard? I am sure our President and government leaders have been hearing us loud and clear. Haven’t we shouted enough? Haven’t we written enough?

When will our so-called leaders really deserve the title “Leader”? Haven’t they forgotten that the word carries a power so encompassing that it can make this country rise again? They have that one chance to lead this country towards greatness! They have the privilege to touch many lives! They have the authority to make the laws work!

But what are they doing? They travel first-class and dine in fine restaurants while millions cannot even afford three square meals a day. They launder money. They smuggle goods. They receive kickbacks in government projects. They allow tax evaders to go scot-free for a fee. They shamelessly stay in power by ensuring their sons and daughters will ‘inherit’ the positions they are leaving behind (as if they hold the exclusive rights to those positions). They plaster their names on billboards and every space available in the community after they ‘sponsored’ the construction of a basketball court or a barangay hall. They pay millions of pesos on TV ads while the country’s disaster team doesn’t even have enough rubber boats to save people during strong typhoons and floods. The list is endless.

It saddens me because they have that ONE chance to make this country great again and yet, they are squandering this chance. It saddens me because even if we shout on top of our voices, they don’t seem to be bothered anymore. They call for unity. They call for cooperation. But how can we even take their calls seriously if what we see are their corrupt practices, incompetence and lack of concern?

Wake up, Mrs. President! Wake up, Senators and Congressmen! Wake up, Governors, Mayors and Barangay Chairmen! Wake up, Cabinet Members! Wake up, appointed and promoted leaders in government! You have that CHANCE to make this country rise again! You hold in your hands that very rare chance, in fact, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a genuine difference.

We, the Filipino people, are reminding you of that great privilege in your hands. Please do not squander it.

The clock is ticking. Every minute wasted could be one more life lost, one more tree fallen, one more river dead.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin