Archive for January, 2013

You Are A Story Waiting To Be Told

January 29, 2013 1 comment

Gen. Colin Powell, the first African American to serve as the US Secretary of State, once told of a story about the immigrant vendor selling hotdogs in the streets of New York. Being a New Yorker and an immigrant himself, he understood the challenges of being an immigrant, much so as an African American. Every time he has an opportunity to go back to New York City, he always takes time to grab a hotdog from one of the immigrant vendors in the streets of Manhattan. In the past, every one seems to recognize who he is because of all the security staff and police accompanying him anywhere he goes.  After returning to private life, he went back to New York City, this time on his own and without anyone accompanying him. As he was about to pay for his hotdog, the vendor recognized him and refused to take his money.  After which, the vendor replied, “America has already paid me and my family because I was able to have my own business and make a living.”  That statement struck Gen. Powell that he goes about telling this story every time he delivers a speech.

Whether we like it or not, the things that we do every day do make an impact whether you’re a manager leading a team or a stay-at-home mom. It’s not a question of whether or not we’re making an impact but rather how we want to make an impact. Executives and celebrities tell stories about how their parents encouraged them to pursue their dreams, teachers who didn’t give up on them,  supervisors who believed that they can accomplish far beyond what they can think of. The list goes on and on.  I get to tell the story about how my mom exemplified honorable work ethic and hard work, how my pastor friend Alfred taught me that excellence must be a lifestyle and how my wife’s wise words of “your time will come” kept me going.

How we make an impact on someone else’s life may not end up on tomorrow’s newspaper or the next New York Time’s best seller’s list. But I’m pretty sure they will end up as stories getting told by your kids, the next generation of leaders or potentially as a story embedded in a TED talk.

Question: Do you have a story about someone who made an impact in your life? What about something you did for someone that is worth sharing to others. You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Leadership By Conversation

January 22, 2013 1 comment

Connected by Conversation

Connected by Conversation by mikecogh

With all the travel that I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve learned how to pay attention to the people around me – how they talk,  act and even how they carry themselves. I’ve watched people talk to their kids, negotiate a seat on a plane, ask for favors, etc. I’ve learned a lot about people just by observing and watching them go about their life. One thing that caught my attention during my recent trip was how people like to engage in a conversation. I was on a flight from Charlotte to New York City getting ready to tighten my seat belt as I heard the flight attendant talk to one of the passengers aboard the plane (I was just a few feet away to hear their conversation.) The passenger happens to be another flight attendant who is on his way to Europe for a vacation. What’s very interesting is that their conversation evolved from the trip itinerary to the strategic approach that the airline can undertake to improve customer service and satisfaction. In a previous blog post, I’ve highlighted how merchandise staff who didn’t even go to college talked about strategic positioning of products for increased sales. This is the kind of information that leaders value. But why isn’t this kind of information making it’s way into the boardrooms? Let me tell you why. It’s because upper management have not taken that extra step of engaging their staff in conversations. Do you remember one of those conversations you’ve had with your close friends where you kept talking yet they weren’t paying any attention? I bet you stopped talking when you noticed (or maybe tried to do something to get their attention back.)

Leadership expert Dr.  John Maxwell said this in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Engaging people in conversations means more than just extracting information from individuals. It means paying attention to what matters to them. Even the small details matter. Sometimes, even as simple as listening could mean a lot. When we know that what we say matter to the listener, we’re more inclined to be open and speak more.

Leaders and managers have resorted to memos and emails to communicate their message to the organization. Unfortunately, this approach has created barriers in communication. As leaders, it is our responsibility to take that first step. Get out of your office, walk among the crowd and engage your staff in a conversation. Who knows, your next big product or service idea might come from the janitor.

Revisiting Your Past For A Better Future

The past, present and future are all interconnected

Dr. Bill Gould

I had the opportunity to spent the last Christmas and New Year in my home country, the Philippines. And every time I do get the chance to go home, I try to create memorable events for both me and my family. I blogged about my community activity with my son before the turn of the new year and it was quite an experience. However, there was one experience that really moved me, one that I didn’t have to create.

I was on my way home after delivering a presentation on SQL Server Failover Clustering to a healthcare company in Manila. As always, I try to take the public transport as much as I can when I’m in Manila.  As I got off the light rail transit, waiting for the next jeepney ride that would take me home, something caught the corner of my eye. There it was, a signage very familiar to me and my wife almost 12 years ago. It was that of a pawnshop. Within a few seconds, it was as if I was taken back in time and my past being replayed right before me.  I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed within that short span of time. Now, you might be wondering why. You see, that pawnshop has seen us more times than we could remember. I remember having to pawn several of my and my wife’s jewelries just so we have something to eat for the next couple of days, not knowing if we will ever see them again.  I remember arguing with my wife to not take her valuable possessions to the pawnshop. She, on the other hand, would always reassure me that everything’s going to be alright and that our marriage was more important than those valuables. A few blocks away from the pawnshop was where we started our family, the place that I was talking about in a previous blog post – the place where we slept in a small-sized bed with barely enough cushion to soften our backs and the buzzing sound of mosquitoes that kept us awake when we didn’t have electricity. I remember feeling a sense of self-pity about not even having any means to support my family despite having a degree from a prestigious university.  And, as supportive as she can be, my wife would always tell me that the time will come when all of our experiences will simply be stories worth telling others. And in a span of a few minutes, I was brought back into my new reality as a jeepney stopped right before me, waiting for me to hop in.

Every time I have an opportunity to do so, I tell people about our stories and our journey as a family. It’s my way of encouraging others that no matter what situation they are in, there will always be a brighter future if we simply look forward to it. More important than telling the story, I take time to revisit my past to remind myself of where I came from. The reminder keeps me grounded that even though my wife and I can now afford to have dinner at a fancy restaurant or travel anywhere we want, we must never forget our humble beginnings. It is those tough experiences that led us to where we are right now. The Bible talks about persevering under challenging circumstances and those who do so will receive the promises of God. In our experiences, that proved to be something very real and tangible. We’ve not only received what we believed God has promised us, we’ve also had the wonderful opportunity to share out stories with others.

Having gone into the first few days of 2013, let’s take stock of our past year (or even years) and revisit our experiences. Are we using those experiences to help us shape a better future?