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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.

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Searching For A Deeper Purpose In Your Work

April 28, 2012 5 comments

A story was told about three bricklayers working side by side. When asked, “What are you doing?”, the first bricklayer replied: “I’m laying bricks.” The second bricklayer was asked. He answered, “Feeding my family.” The third bricklayer when asked the question, “What are you doing?”, responded, “I’m building a cathedral.”


Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net 

These past few months I have been tied up and so busy with a large SharePoint 2010 migration and upgrade project for a Fortune 500 company. Working as the main consultant for this project, majority of the tasks are assigned to me which required working alone, sometimes coordinating work and meeting deadlines. Now, I don’t have any problems managing and taking on larger responsibilities but even with that kind of attitude towards accomplishing the tasks at hand, we can’t avoid feeling overwhelmed (we’re still humans.) Back in January, when things weren’t working out as planned, I felt so overwhelmed with the feeling of being alone and not getting any traction. I thought about giving up and just throwing in the towel. That same feeling crept up on me last week as we were nearing the schedule when the entire system was scheduled to be released to the end-users. You see, I was down with flu, coughing like crazy and couldn’t even keep my head up. Despite that, I still needed to attend conference calls and deliver on the goods to make sure we meet the deadlines. The project is literally sucking the life out of me. I was on the verge of giving up.  Have you ever felt the same way before?

Bill Barnett recently wrote about Making Your Job More Meaningful in the Harvard Business Review blog. He describes three different attitudes toward our day-to-day job and how they define our satisfaction in the workplace. But even when you consider your work as your calling, the feeling of exhaustion and being alone still creeps in that it sometimes makes you want to give up. It’s natural and there is no sure fire way of dealing with that kind of feeling. It’s when I searched for a deeper purpose in what I was doing – something much higher than my own. I always tell my clients that my work is guided by my personal mission statement – “To help people and organizations grow and develop their full potential as God has planned for them.” Even when they don’t understand why I am doing things, it gives them a sense of security knowing that I am working to fulfill a much higher purpose. And that’s exactly what I did.

From the tangible to the intangible

Most technology consultants get hyped up with the latest and greatest hardware and software. I’m no different from most of them. And there is nothing wrong with that simply because the IT industry is in a never ending cycle of introducing new innovations and products that will help address the current issues that organizations face. But this tends to overlook how technology consultants need to approach addressing and solving problems thru technology. Overall, it’s all about the people and their stories. With this SharePoint 2010 migration and upgrade project I was working on, I tapped into a much deeper purpose and searched for the stories that affected people’s lives. I found one that resonates deep within me. You see, I fall under the category of an Overseas Filipino Worker(OFW). And there are millions of us worldwide. While I may be blessed in my career as a technology consultant, there are those who work as caregivers, healthcare workers, construction workers, seamen, etc. On a regular basis, they send money back home to make sure that their families have their basic needs met – food, shelter, clothing, education. Every time I get an opportunity to do so, I listen to their stories and engage them in a conversation. We talk about the challenges we had back home, the loneliness of being away from your family and the hope of a better and brighter future. They talk about the sacrifices that they have to make just to earn a living. I see how their eyes well up in tears when they talk about how they miss their children and looking forward to the day when they can be together again as a family. While I do not have the same challenges as they do (I’ve got my entire family with me when we left home,) I totally understand how they are feeling – I’m one of them, a Filipino by heart. And that’s when hit me. These people use the services of the company I was consulting with. I saw the project from one that dealt with newer version of SharePoint, hardware with 64GB of memory and large SAN storage to one that made sure that the families of OFWs had their basic needs met. I saw faces and stories in the midst of technology. And I’m sure not to give up on my fellow Filipino nor my country – ever.

I was still experiencing mild fever last weekend when we finally turned on the switch for the new SharePoint system. As we did so, I couldn’t help but be thankful that I didn’t give up. It made all the efforts and sacrifices worthwhile.

When was the last time you had to search for a deeper purpose in your work? Did you have to do it because you felt like giving up? I’d like to hear about your story. Post your comments here.   


Be Remarkable And Turn Your Customers To Marketers


Image courtesy of http://boboling.com/

We were at The Works with the kids for some burgers last weekend. If you know me, I’m not a big fan of burgers especially that my wife is awesome at cooking (I may end up managing a restaurant if I quit being a tech geek one day.) When you’re in a restaurant, you’re the customer. You reserve the right to a good experience and a great service. But as we were preparing to leave, I’ve decided to teach my kids a simple lesson on being remarkable.

My 7-year-old is fond of origami, the Japanese art of folding paper. He would spend time watching YouTube videos to try and learn how to make those pieces of scrap paper into works of art. As the waitress started packing up our leftovers, I asked my son to create a paper swan from the pieces of paper that the restaurant used as table mats. and gave it to her. What started out as a gesture of appreciation for the waitress ended up as a simple example of word-of-mouth marketing. There are several lessons to be learned from this simple experience that would help transform your customers to marketers:

  1. Be remarkable. Most restaurant patrons would simply say thank you, leave a tip to the waiter/waitress and smile on their way out.  That’s because it’s what most people do. My son did something remarkable – created a paper swan and wrote a “thank you” note together with it. When we deal with our customers, are we just concerned about delivering the goods and services we promised or do we go out of our way to create an experience worth “making a remark about?”
  2. Give something away. A tip for the waiter/waitress in a restaurant would be enough. But that’s standard nowadays. What’s not is giving a paper swan and teaching the recipient how to make one.  Delivering goods and services promised and contracted would be enough. We give our customers what they paid for and nothing more. But giving them our precious time and attention on things that matter to them? A thank you note after a service engagement or a hand-written birthday card would make your customers feel special
  3. Provide tools to spread the word. A paper swan was not enough, my son created two more – one big and another small – coupled with a story of the “swan family.” With three paper swans on her hand, the waitress started telling all the other patrons about her experience and displayed the works of art for everyone to see. People started gathering around the paper swans and started talking about them.  When your customers start telling others about you and your products or services, you need to provide them with tools to make it easy to spread the word – email attachments, samples, discount codes, etc. Anything to keep the conversation going.

Our family is not in the business of turning paper into works of art. We were just having fun while turning a simple gesture of appreciation into a lesson in marketing. Do you have a story to tell about turning your customers into marketers? Post your comments here. I’d like to hear from you.

The Customer is King vs Doing the Right Thing




Most of the service-oriented businesses these days know that the customer is always the king. This means doing everything they can at their disposal to make sure that their customers would be more than satisfied with their goods and services even to the extent of simply yielding to the customers’ irrational requests. Having worked for service-oriented organizations where customers pay by man-hours or man-days (even man-minutes), I’ve heard of customers’ requests to cut corners just to save time on projects and implementations which, of course, saves on consulting fees. Anybody who’d like to keep the customer happy would simply yield to such requests without thinking of the repercussions in the long run. As service providers, customers expect us to provide a high level of service and trusts us to make decisions for them. While saving the customer a few thousand dollars might make them happy for now, imagine what could happen down the road. For example, imagine you’re a security consultant that charges on a per-man-day rate and that the customer saw the breakdown of your quote. Since they want to cut down on cost, they figured they can simply drop some of the services you are offering and just go with the “least” acceptable proposal. Now, as a security consultant, you know the risks of not implementing your entire suite of solutions but wouldn’t want the customer to simply walk away without signing the contract. What would you do?

Categories: customer service