Archive for November, 2011

Before and After: A Way To Measure Your Growth

I’m a big fan of personal development and growth. Which is why I am dedicated to lifelong learning and continuous growth and help individuals and organizations do the same thing. But in order to validate growth, we need to measure our progress. William Thomson, more commonly known as Lord Kelvin, was famous not only for the unit of measurement for temperature he came up with but also from the quote that I commonly hear from a lot of process-oriented professionals.

 “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.

The problem with personal growth is that we don’t intentionally measure it.  So, we end up guessing if there was indeed some improvement or not. And if we do see some improvement, we wonder how it came about.

A few years ago, while helping my brother-in-law look for a wedding photographer, my wife and I got in touch with the pastor-friend of ours who took up photography as a hobby. He actually was our “official” photographer during our wedding  but, back then, it was just simply that – a hobby.  Now, imagine that this has been about 3 years after he shot our wedding so he had almost forgotten about what he did. He specifically asked for our wedding photos to refresh his memory about what camera and, probably, the techniques he used. He was surprised when he saw our wedding photos. In fact, he started criticizing the lighting, the composition  and anything he could possibly bash at (he didn’t physically assaulted the photos). Strikingly, it led him to say, “Did I actually take these photos?Obviously, he saw the difference between what he did back then and what he was doing now. But definitely not before seeing our now 3-year-old wedding photos.

I was in the same boat as our pastor-friend was these past few days as I was preparing for a presentation. I do a lot of research and preparation before I deliver a presentation and, surprisingly while searching for a sample PowerPoint slide online, I stumbled upon a slide deck that got uploaded for reference. It was mine and it was about 4 years old. And, I did ask the same question, “Did I actually create and deliver this presentation?” To prove my point, I took a slide from that deck and a similar one from a more recent deck. You be the judge.



It’s pretty obvious that there is indeed a big difference. But that also comes as a result of a 4-year difference. A better way to measure growth is to do a before-and-after comparison even as you take small, simple steps. Here’s how you may want to do it.

  1. Build a growth plan. This is a must. You can never measure your growth if you didn’t have anything in the first place. It’s like building a house without a blueprint. Your growth plan has to be specific because every goal is different. For example, I have a growth plan for developing my technical skills. That is relatively different from my growth plan to develop my leadership skills and my presentation skills. Software Engineer and author Sid Savara has outlined how you can come up with a personal development plan. The key word here is personal. It has to be your own and not someone else’s.
  2. Create milestones on your plan. Once you have a growth plan going, you need to set up milestones on those plans. We use milestones on the road to tell us how far we’ve gone on our travel. Same thing with our growth plan. You can break down your growth plan into sections and define a milestone after completing a section. Those milestones will definitely tell you how far you’ve gone into your growth plan. Trust me when I tell you that they prove to be great motivators.
  3. Do the measurement yourself. You’ve got a plan and you’ve created milestones on your plan. Now you work though it and measure your progress – even how small they seem to be. You’d see fitness professionals tell you to hop on to that weighing scale every day and record what you see.  Measurement is a great way to tell you that what you’re doing is indeed making sense because you’re getting results. I measure the amount of time it takes to deliver a presentation by rehearsing to make sure I don’t go beyond the allotted time. I measure how many leadership and business books I read to see if I’m hitting my goal. And since you defined the metrics, you know what to measure. However, be careful in choosing the right metrics. Most people just measure without understanding the right metrics. If I’m just counting the number of books I read, they’ll just be that – numbers. Aside from that metric, I measure the impact of the book in my life by applying key principles I’ve learned. And there is a separate metric for that. That’s why it is important to define the proper and relevant metric so that you don’t end up just recording numbers.
  4. Let others measure. This is a scary one. Most people don’t even want others to know that they have a growth plan, let alone asking to be evaluated or criticized. That’s why you need to carefully choose the right people to enlist in your growth plan. This not only gives you the support you need to keep going but also the right perspective when measuring your growth. Being too close to your growth plan sometimes gives you too much familiarity that you tend to lose sight of other perspectives. When I started measuring how I was doing when it comes to preparing and delivering presentations, I thought I was going nowhere. I kept looking at previous presentations while working on a current one and end up getting frustrated because I don’t see any progress. That’s because I’m way too familiar with what I’m doing. Only when I started asking for feedback from others that I got the sense that I was indeed making progress. I wasn’t seeing what they saw and they did provide the right perspective. But it wasn’t easy doing it the first time.

As you’re on your way to growing on a regular basis, remember to take measurements along the way. You’ll be surprised at how far you’ve gone. I’d like to hear how you’re measuring your growth. You can leave a comment below.


How Do You Pick Your Leaders?

As your organization grows, you need more competent people placed in the right positions. This applies to both rank-and-file staff and managers. Nowadays, most organizations outsource their staff selection to recruitment and staffing firms. They provide a list of required skills and the recruitment firms run with it, using tools like software resume parser to make it easy to sift thru tons of submission. But if you want your organization to go to the next level of growth, strategic staff selection is key, more important when it comes to management and leadership positions. While studying the marketing secrets of Jesus, I was inspired by reading Matthew 4:12-25 to write a blog post about his staff selection process, noting that He wasn’t just selecting rank-and-file staff but leaders who will eventually take His cause to the next level. Here are key things to note about his selection process that organizations can use as a template when selecting leaders.

  1.  He walked among the crowd (Matt. 4:18). He found Simon and Andrew while walking by the Sea of Galilee. The fact of the matter is, Jesus was a native Galilean. This means He knows people within the community – their lifestyle, their jobs, where their kids go to school, etc. Sometimes I wonder if He just sat there during His leisure time to watch how people go about their day or talk to them at the end of their day. My dad, being a fishing hobbyist, usually spends time with the other fishing fanatics along the State Beach of Pacifica, CA. He can tell you everything there is to know about those people. The problem with most executives and managers nowadays is that they don’t even know what project their staff is working on unless some issue arises. Ken Blanchard, in his book with Don Shula entitled The Little Book Of Coaching,  calls this the “seagull management” (in a previous blog post, I talked about how positive reinforcement is a great management and leadership strategy.)   The challenge with large organizations nowadays is that having too many staff becomes a very good excuse not to know every one of them. Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, was known for visiting stores and asking employees how they feel about the store and asking for suggestions to improve operations. I bet Jesus knows the fishing techniques used by Simon and Andrew that He managed to strike a conversation with them. If you want to find the next leader within the organization, try “walking among the crowd.”
  2. He recruited them personally (Matt 4:19). James D. Jameson, Member of Global Advisory Board of Trilantic Capital Management LLC, writes that he “does a lot of the recruiting himself and often find that his picks are people already in the company.” Successful leaders know that they have to take responsibility for selecting their key staff. Culture is one indicator of how somebody will fit within the organization and, more often than not, is defined by the leader. A good case study for this is Nike’s former CEO Bill Perez who was let go because “he didn’t fit the culture.“Jesus knew how He wanted his top personnel to function because He defined the culture. That’s why He personally recruited them – Simon and Andrew first, then, James and John (Matt 4:21). Trying to fully understand an outsider during the hiring process is a challenging task and, most of the times, is an exercise in futility. Leaders need to have a hand in selecting key people who will run with them and grow the organization. And this is why walking among the crowd helps them know people who already fit the culture and have leadership potential – it’s easier to recruit them personally.
  3. He spoke their language (Matt 4:19). We are all guilty of communicating in a more complex way, and the same is true with leaders – the revenue targets for next year, the problem with customer retention and high turnover, etc. But if I’m the guy in-charge  of inventory, how will I understand the issues that the organization face if all the business jargons are wrapped around the key message? It makes me feel that the leader just wants to communicate how smart he or she is by using all of these buzzwords that only executives understand. Jesus knew how to communicate using our language. We know Him as a carpenter or, as some may say, a skilled craftsman. There’s a big difference between a fisherman and a craftsman. Both of them use different sets of tools, different jargons in their daily communication, different industry news,  different stories to tell. Yet He used words that Simon and Andrew understood – “I will make you fishers of men.” It’s a leader’s attempt to be one of his subordinates.  Great leaders know that they need to communicate about what people care about. And that means speaking their language.

You might think that Jesus was advocating leader selection from within the organization rather than bringing in an outsider. But that is mainly because He was preparing for the growth of His organization, not trying to revive a dying one. What about you? How do you or your organization select leaders and managers? I’d like to hear from you.

I Wish They Taught These In School

If you’ve gone thru college or university, chances are that you’ve spent at least an average of fifteen years of formal education (probably more if you’ve gone thru postgraduate programs). Having completed my engineering degree from our nation’s premier state university, I was under the impression that I would have learned the most important life skills within the five years I spent completing my degree. I was wrong. I was only taught the skills necessary to pursue a career but not those that are essential for living. Engineers were taught how to use mathematics to perform the tasks that they needed to do. Same is true with accountants and other related careers that require an understanding of mathematics. Unfortunately, these important life skills are not being taught in schools.

  1. Leadership. Management is being taught in business schools but this is totally different from leadership. Most people think that they are one and the same. Management is a title, leadership is influence. I can go on and list a number of differences between the two. But in order to be really successful in life, one has to learn (and continuously improve) leadership skills as the concepts apply to just about any aspect of life.
  2. Relationship Management. And I don’t mean customer relationship management here. What I mean is human relationship management – the art and science of engaging and maintaining valuable relationships. How often have we had failed relationships in the past, whether personal or in business, wishing that we should have been taught the skills to make it right? Relationship management would be relatively different when you’re dealing with a spouse, a customer, a business partner or an employee.
  3. Financial Management. Got credit? How much do you owe? Savings? While financial accounting is being taught in business schools, it has always been in the context of business. What about that monthly grocery budget? Or the bills that need to get paid every month? Are we even looking at how we can reduce our “expenditures” while increasing our “revenues” in the context of our household budget?
  4. Communication. “Why am I always being misunderstood? Why can’t I get the message across? Does that have anything to do with the way I say things? Maybe I just wasn’t listening. I really don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” I have had this type of conversation with myself in the past. I bet you have too. Communication is indeed a very important skill that we all need to learn and develop.
  5. Parenting. If you’re a parent, you would definitely understand this. You wonder why kids don’t come with handbooks or manuals. And I believe you would definitely agree with me on this if I say most of the times, parents are clueless as to what to do with kids.
This is just my list. You can have a longer one depending on your perspective and how much you have learned when you were in school. But if you look at the list above, what do you notice? All of them have something to do with people and human relationships. Managing your finances require managing yourself. Parenting requires developing a good relationship with your kids. And while I hope that the current educational system would start introducing these lessons in the curriculum, I doubt that it will happen soon. What I do know is that I can start learning about these life skills NOW – thru reading books, attending seminars and conferences, and finding a mentor. Newer careers will come up in the future and some will become extinct (have you ever thought about a career in social media marketing some 15 years ago?). But these important life skills will always be relevant.
What about you, which life skills do you think are very relevant and timeless? I’d like to hear your thoughts by posting them here. And, yes, I really wished these were taught in schools.