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People problem in an organization

People problem in an organization might be due to simply ‘out of habitat’ situation. And this usually a symptom of system disconnections.  Continue reading People problem in an organization

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Authentic Leadership Framework

Every leader has his or her own style and approach. But all true leaders share the courage to be genuine, the confidence to lead, and the ability to collaborate for success.

How do courage, confidence, and collaboration work together in great leaders?

(1) Courage

Courage starts with the ability to be authentic and to lead by example. It is essential to have the conviction to stay the course, as any decision and its subsequent execution will involve many sets of complex and confusing issues. Dealing with all these complexities and inspiring a team to believe in the mission and execute the plan requires conviction. Further, you need the courage to lead through failures and to learn from them. You must stand up for your team and see that they will succeed.

” Courage is ultimately the ability to lead without a title. “

Continue reading Authentic Leadership Framework

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Paradox : Sometimes just being yourself is the worst thing to do

The Leadership versus Authenticity Paradox

The paradox of leadership versus authenticity. Doing what feels natural to you can seriously backfire especially when you move to new leadership role with new challenges.

Leadership Problem #1 : Feeling Fake versus Failing

  • Feeling fake versus failing: for example, humbleness & humility in a company where you had to sell yourself.
  • Authenticity isn’t about being rigid & unchanging and sticking with what feels safe. As we advances in our career, we all have to move out of our comfort zone.
  • Therefore, it would be a lot wiser if I view myself as a work in progress (WIP).
  • Using trial & error approach would or could serve as a useful tool to develop the best version of yourself.
  • Instead of applying your sense of self in holding you back, use it instead to move you forward.

Continue reading Paradox : Sometimes just being yourself is the worst thing to do

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How People Learn to Become Managers

What involved in becoming a new manager?

Becoming a manager would means coming to terms with the difference between the myth of management and the reality, the difference between your ideals and the way things actually are. One of my friends once said “ Not my circus, not my monkey” when asked about the prospect of becoming my manager. I would honestly admit, I’m rather difficult to handle or manage, but I believe I’m efficient at getting things done. Beside, nowadays, leadership is more about how you would be able to influence people rather than one’s position of authority. Influence is the new modern definition of leadership.

Based on my study (most of them from observations and books), when someone first became managers, they were very focused on their level of authority (their rights) and privileges which come with the promotion. But they son discovered that their formal authority is a very limited source of power, and if that the only power they wield, they are in for a tough time. Why? Because their subordinates won’t necessarily listen to them. And peers and bosses, over whom new managers have no formal authority, play an important role in whether or not managers succeed either in form of mentoring or empowerment. Regardless, the new manager would need to gain the trust and loyalty of his subordinates, or in other words, he or she needs to ensure his/her influence over his subordinates.

Two sets of responsibility that a new manager need to adapt to:

  1. Managing your team
  2. Manage the context within you teams resides. That is managing your boundaries of relationship between your team and other stakeholders of your organization (other teams or people inside and outside of your organization)

Therefore, a new manager shouldn’t only focus only on your team, look up and around manage the context. Don’t make your teams go with “It’s us against them” mentality. That would hurt yourself, your team and also your organization in the long run.

Psychological transformation of a new Manager

  1. You go from being an individual contributor whom main focus is your own sustainability and performance, who is relatively independent, to being a network builder.
  2. You go from being very technically oriented–fairly narrowly focused–to being someone who’s responsible for setting the agenda for the group. Or setting the course for your group.

Changes takes time, and as same as me, we need to keep on learning and improving ourselves.

Well, that’s it for now, will share more once I learnt more. And hopefully we all can improve on daily basis, even 1% daily improvement in the long run would be extremely monumental.

Till then, assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.

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The Prince

Today is not a good day, early in the morning and my relatively young blood already boiling, the feeling of being lied to, hurts.

This somehow remind me about the book by Niccolò Machiavelli, which in my humble view can be seem as truly controversial book, but makes sense nevertheless. I need to re-read this since I am in dire need to learn politics just not end in hot waters.

After all, I am still a work in progress. The goal is always to be the best version of me. And today, I just refuse to race with dogs.

I simply refused. Just like this particular cheetah.

Just a recap on the book main lessons learn, Machiavelli suggest that:

  • Niccolò Machiavelli’s classic treatise instructs rulers to focus on political reality, not moral ideals. Although moral compass still play a huge role in my decision making, but usually I relate it to reality and practicality of the situation. 
  • Two forms of rule exist: free states, such as republics, and principalities, such as autocracies.
  • The ruler must do everything to secure his power, even if he has to use force.
  • He can secure his power either by using foul play or by gaining his subjects’ loyalty through good deeds.
  • As a ruler, it is better to be feared than loved.
  • The prince must make his subjects happy, facilitate trade and, at all costs, avoid becoming hated by the people. Which in my view is hardest of all, a simple at time innocent lie could spark these hatred and ill-feeling.
  • A leader should always appreciate the art of war. And we need to understand that it is okay to lose the battle as long as you win the war.
  • After conquering a region, rulers must assure their power. Retaining power is harder than gaining it.
  • The best methods of securing power are to destroy the captured capital city, establish a residence and set up a loyal local government.
  • A private army recruited from the people is more reliable than mercenary troops. Since it is easier to be sure of their loyalty.

Review of the book (In short, Its awesome, albeit a bit dark for me)

Machiavelli suggest that the end justifies the means, although Muslim on the other end believe that the means is almost as important as the end. With regards to the book, this simple, pragmatic maxim underpins this Niccolò Machiavelli’s classic work, The Prince.

Written in 1513, when Machiavelli was a former Florentine registry official, this handbook of political power provoked controversy like no other. Its central theme is how Renaissance rulers should act if they want to prevail in gaining and retaining power. According to the author, a strong state requires a leader who is able to defend his power at all costs. Machiavelli maintains that a ruler may opt for deception, trickery, oppression and even murder his opponents, as long as his misdeeds serve the state’s stability.

Without question, this short treatise offers enough material to demonize its author. However, Machiavelli does not actually suggest that we resort to unlimited ruthlessness and violence. Nor does he justify any objectives that seem to warrant violence. However, he also does not try to align his work to any religion’s morals as he examines the practice of statecraft and leadership. As his work is purely from his own view and personal experience. Maybe in the future we could discuss more on Islamic, Christianity and other major religion view on power.

Back to our topic, the term “Machiavellian” emerged in the 16th century to describe a devious, cruel tyrant, who uses any means to achieve his goals. When 20th century dictators praised Machiavelli’s masterpiece, it came into disrepute, but in contemporary thought, its literary foresight makes it a classic. Modern readers will be able to understand the book’s significance thanks to the accessible translation and annotations by Peter Bondanella. Kudos to him, for his wonderful effort in preserving such classic.

To put the treatise in context, Maurizio Viroli explains in his introduction, “For Machiavelli, the old way of building and preserving a regime had to be abandoned in order to embrace a new conception based on the principle that no state is a true dominion unless it is sustained by an army composed of citizens or subjects.”

Machiavelli’s The Prince, for all the controversies that it sparks, and all the bad reputation is earned, still there’s still some lessons in it which we all can learn from, regardless.

Lesson 1: Forms of Rule

People live under two types of governance: Either they are citizens of

  1. A free state, such as a republic; or
  2. A principality, such as an autocracy.

In both type, a leader can achieve sole rule through inheritance or through obtaining new territories. The leader can be the founder of new entities, as was the case in Milan, or he can conquer existing towns and regions.

A leader who inherits his kingdom will encounter fewer problems in both ruling and retaining it. First, the people accept and respect his power because he comes from a long tradition of leadership in which the term ‘rightful ruler’  could be seen to be used freely. And second, any potential opponents would be at a disadvantage since they would have to turn to cruelty to gain respect, thus losing the support of the people.

Lesson 2: The Correct Form of Conquest

Language plays a large role in the successful annexing of states. When the new, added territory uses the same tongue as the existing territory, the ruler can take over by ousting the former ruling family and keeping the existing laws. I would use the analogy of ruling parties in our modern days, people would expect greener posture under the new leadership of the ruling parties, although in actually they could be worse. It would be a task for the ruling party to maintain its power thru mass popularity or thru sheer force.

In most such cases, the subjects will pose no problem. However, to assert his authority and make his presence known, a head of state should always erect an official residence. Creating colonies is a cheap, effective way to increase your power, and it is easier than conquering whole countries. With colonies, a ruler needs to dispossess only a few powerful inhabitants and render them too poor to pose any meaningful threat thereafter. Drive them away and settle your followers on their land.

In general, aim to strip the powerful of their power and make the less powerful your allies.

Lesson 3: Retaining Power

There are a few struggles in retaining power due to the difference in geopolitical landscapes. Take kingdoms, such as Turkey, are more difficult to take over since they have sole, supreme leaders who are hard to depose or eliminate. If you do manage to dethrone a king, leading subsequently will prove relatively easy since the land had only one ruler, so you won’t have to tackle territorial lords pushing their own agendas. In states such as France, seizing power is simple, but holding it is difficult. A number of power-hungry princes and barons surround the king and so forging alliances is easy. Should you defeat the king, but fail to dispossess the other barons, maintaining power will become a miserable, Sisyphean undertaking.

Once you conquer a territory, Machiavelli’s suggest to take three necessary steps to secure your governance:

  1. Destroy the capital city. This is the safest thing to do.
  2. Establish a residence in the region.
  3. Create a government from loyal locals. This way, the state may retain its own laws, but it will still heed your authority.

Examples of this could easily be seen by looking at our history.

Lesson 4: Conquest Through Ability and Luck: Cesare Borgia

A ruler who takes over an empire by conquest must use his forces to maintain his dominance. However, an individual who rises from citizen to ruler generally has no private army and thus must proceed with caution. If he acquired power with someone else’s help, he must act cleverly, so as not to lose his position too quickly.

For example, to gain power, Cesare Borgia relied too heavily on his father, Rodrigo Borgia, elected in 1492 as Pope Alexander VI. Cesare Borgia saw his chance to take over Romagna, Italy, when the pope granted the French king dissolution of his marriage, and the monarch expressed his gratitude by sending troops to the pope. With that might, Borgia soon appointed himself duke. The new ruler used every means to consolidate his rule. He murdered his political opponents and chose a new governor, Remirro Del Orco, a Spaniard known for cruelty. At the time, Romagna was overrun by lawlessness and debauchery, and Del Orco restored order using an iron fist. However, his harsh methods made the new governor hugely unpopular. To distance himself from Del Orco’s actions and to get the public back on his side, Borgia had the governor executed, putting his remains on display to satisfy the masses.

To eliminate the threat of a new pope, who would have been dangerous to him and his father, Borgia ousted the entire ruling family, and won over the nobles of Rome and the majority of the College of Cardinals. As an extra measure, he strove to broaden his power with further conquests. However, before he succeeded, his father died and he himself became deathly sick. In the end, he was unable to fight off the attacking Spanish and French armies.

Lesson 5: Other Forms of Acquisition

A private citizen can become the ruler in two other ways.

First, he can use foul play to gain power. Luck plays no role in exercising this option. The individual secures control independently and ruthlessly, and relies on no one for help.

Agathocles of Syracuse used underhandedness to gain command in 300 B.C. The son of a potter, he rose through the military ranks and eventually sought the title of prince. One day, he organized a gathering of the state’s wealthy citizens and Senate members. Once the city’s most powerful inhabitants had assembled, his guards sealed the doors of the meeting room and every attendee soon met a grisly end. After this, no one dared to challenge Agathocles’ rule.

This method of seizing power is cowardly, however, and Agathocles will never count among the greats because of it. Should atrocities be necessary to acquire power, a would-be ruler should carry them out quickly and in bouts. Once he has achieved the desired result, he must rein in his actions. Under no circumstances should he continue using force. Those who expose their subjects to increasing degrees of violence soon lose dominance.

Second, citizens can rise to power either with the assistance of the public or with the help of the powerful. The latter is difficult because each of these “mighty men” feels that he himself should rule, and as a group, these powerful individuals seek to oppress the public.

However, leaders who are true men of the people bolster their rule by securing the support of their subjects. If the public anticipates that their ruler will be cruel, he can use good deeds to encourage their loyalty.

Lesson 6: Under Siege

A strong ruler generally needs a private army so that he can compete well on the battlefield. However, if a ruler with no army comes under siege, his only recourse is to retreat to a fortress. For this plan to work, the city must be prepared in advance. The imperial urban areas in Germany are the prototypes of such “free” cities. They are so well protected and own so many supplies that they can withstand siege easily for a year. This long period leaves attackers vulnerable to the changing seasons, and in most cases, they are forced to retreat shamefully.

Another weapon in a ruler’s arsenal is popularity. If the people cherish him, they will remain loyal, and a foreign attacker will have an even harder time penetrating the land’s defenses.

Finally, spiritual leadership is a useful tool: If the ruler promotes religion, tradition and God, his citizens will not dare rebel against these powerful forces.

Lesson 7: Mercenary Forces

Whoever seeks to consolidate his rule needs good laws and good armies. Those who must rely on mercenary soldiers will eventually encounter betrayal and treachery. These soldiers serve their masters out of greed, not honor or duty. They are generally dishonest and steal from the public in times of peace.

In wartime, mercenaries often become cowardly and can even switch sides. Mercenary leaders are especially dangerous: If they are masters of their craft, they seek to draw power to themselves. Amateur mercenary leaders, on the other hand, damage the country through poor management.

Auxiliary troops, which might arrive thanks to a powerful ally, usually do more harm than good. Only those states that possess their own locally recruited forces, such as Switzerland, can really call themselves free. For this reason it is important that they remain especially well fortified.

Lesson 8: The Art of War

A ruler should never neglect the art of war since he is expected to excel in warfare and defense above all other things. Many citizens rose to power by perfecting their wartime skills and battle techniques. The opposite is also true: Many rulers have been relieved of their power because they avoided going to war. Even during times of peace, leaders should keep their armies ready for battle. Preparation is the key to victory. A prince must also know his territories inside and out, since he does not want to falter in his own marshes when trying to outsmart the enemy. The wise ruler should study the lessons of others who succeeded in battle using guile and skill.

Lesson 9: Best Behavior

No gain can come to a leader from adhering to ideals. Surrounded by unscrupulous people, the good person inevitably will suffer defeat. If a ruler possesses certain virtues – all the better. If he possesses any bad qualities, he must keep them hidden. People believe what they observe without further investigating the matter. For instance, generosity is by and large a useless characteristic in a head of state. Eventually he will have to raise taxes and in no time people far and wide will hate him. Whoever has the reputation of a miser should not try to change it. He can fall back on his thriftiness when he needs money to serve the general good, such as when the country is under attack.

A prince should be loved and feared equally. If he must choose only one or the other, he should opt for the fear of his people, but not so much so that it turns to hatred. By being charitable, he feeds anarchy, whereas by using cruelty, he keeps the peace. A kind ruler can rarely rely on his subjects’ gratitude: They are often fickle and will not repay his kindness.

If need be, the head of state may break his word. After all, everybody eventually does. However, he must have a valid reason for this breach of promise. Whoever can create the appearance of absolute virtue will be in a strong position. The populace believes what it sees and is happy to follow.

Employ capable ministers who are committed to the interests of the state. If they are confident and clever, allow them to tell you the truth rather than flatter you when unpleasant matters arise. Their insights will serve you better than their compliments.

Consider these final precautions:

  • Never interfere with citizens’ possessions or their women.
  • Protect their livelihoods and encourage their work.
  • Encourage festivals and celebrations. They increase the people’s happiness.

That’s it for now. Once I finished writing this post, it seems that my anger is subsided somehow. That’s good.

Till next time.

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Why Diversity Is About Much More Than Numbers

My notes from Wharton dean Geoffrey Garrett article’s on Why Diversity Is About Much More Than Numbers

  • Organizations is paying more attention than ever to diversity as a means of improving performance, fostering participation, a sense of belonging and mutual respect is a critical part of the equation.
  • There is considerable research which indicate that diverse organizations may enjoy a performance advantage. Diversity would improve the workplace thinking and decision making process thru better and wider diverse perspectives. But all around us today we also see instances where differences among people — be they countries of origin, educational background and social status, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, physical and mental abilities, or political ideologies — can also create polarizing frictions.

Four “should” to ensure that diversity is an asset for all organizations and for society as a whole.

  1. Diversity: Membership in your organization should reflect the rich array of diverse backgrounds and perspectives in society.

Two things are true in many organizations today. One, great efforts are continuing to be made to diversify their membership. Two, there is still a long way to go, not only in further increasing diversity itself, but also — at least as important — in creating an environment in which diversity can be leveraged for the benefit of individuals and the organizations of which they are a part.

My note:

However the diversity should reflect on the region on which the organization operates, this would ensure smooth operation and less friction with locals with respect to the organization operations. Diversity which include too many expatriate, would lead to other issues such as collision in culture and other administration constraint such as work permit or visa issues. This would hurt the organization even if there’s a slight change in geopolitics landscape of the region.

  1. Inclusion: Every member of your organization should be invited actively to participate in all aspects of your organization.

The point that recruiting a diverse organization is only the first step in realizing the full benefits of diversity was made in a way that really struck me at a panel on leading diverse organizations at last June’s Wharton Global Forum in New York. Janet Cowell, a Wharton alumna who is CEO of a great not-for-profit devoted to increasing the number of women in finance (Girls Who Invest), put it something like this: It is one thing to be invited to the party, but what really matters is being asked to dance.

It is one thing to be invited to the party, but what really matters is being asked to dance.

A somewhat more formal translation: Make sure your organization is diverse, but it is equally important that everyone in your community is invited to participate in everything you do.

My note:

Another example I can think off is one of the history of the Muslims, whereby the holy city of Madinah is going to be under attacked by non-Muslim from Makkah, whereby Muhammad SAW invited all of his companions which at the time included Salman al-Farisi from Persia. Based on his experience, Salman al-Farsi advised to dig a moat on the unprotected side of Medina and the planned worked based on his past experience in his homeland. (You can read further on this on the link below)

The Battle of Khandaq (Moat) or Ahzab

  1. Belonging: All members of your organization should have the confidence and support to contribute their unique perspectives to every aspect of your organization.

To continue the dance metaphor, when someone at a party is asked to dance, do they just shyly or reticently say, ‘No, thank you’? Or do they feel free to bust out their best moves, whatever they may be?

There is a really important point under the humor. Organizations can only really benefit from their diversity if all members in their community feel they truly belong, feel fully safe, and hence have the confidence to be themselves and say what they are thinking.

My note:

This reminds me of the Ray Dalio’s the principle, I believe the concept of brutal honesty and transparency is perfect (almost) for managing and encouraging diversity. Since, the transparency would eliminate prejudice which would improve harmony and lead to higher efficiency and better teamwork collaboration.

Step 4: Respect: All members of your organization should be respected for who they are and what they have to say, no matter who they are and what they have to say.

As my (Garrett) rewrite of Seinfeld makes clear, a precondition to one’s sense of belonging is the respect of others. When there is respect for everyone’s backgrounds, perspectives, contributions and points of view, there will be trust. Everyone can feel empowered to be their full selves.

“The full potential of diversity can only be realized when all members of an organization feel included, that they belong, and that they are respected for who they are and what they offer.”

This is the ultimate feedback loop for organizations that leverage diversity. It ensures that differences in backgrounds lead to an open sharing of the full gamut of perspectives embraced by all members of the organization, stimulating a rich diversity of contributions. Ultimately, it results in better culture, better decisions and better performance.

My note:

Here it is important to note that Garret refer to “full selves” not “true self”. I believe there is a difference, especially in the day and age where we seems to encourage authenticity as the gold standard for leadership. Yes, authenticity is important but the application and where to apply is also crucial so that you or any other leaders does not unintendedly damaged their reputation and undermine your authority. I have yet to master this, but as always there’s room for improvement which make life much more interesting.

As Nouman Ali Khan once mention, there are at least three (3) different faces we used in our life, one which we used with our family, one which we used in public setting and one which we used during our office hours. This is all our true self, but we are not 100% authentic all the time, but only a portion of our authenticity at one time.

In Summary, diversity is not so much about numbers, but in how the diversity improve our organization or team decision making approach and efficiency. Everyone has their own unique background, expertise and way of thinking which makes each of us different and that needs to be respected and appreciated. My analogy of this is that of plain water and coffee, the diversity should impact the organization as coffee impact the plain water, it need not to be in a lot quantity but rather quality is what matters.

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Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit

Below are from the original article from Lifehack by Mark Pettit , so good was the article that I would not add anything to it as of now. Just want to save it for future reference. Kudos to Mark Pettit.

I have always been an avid note taker. It has become a habit to carry my trusty moleskine and pen with me everywhere.

It helps me capture notes during client coaching sessions, write down inspiring headline I’ve seen, capture the insights from a seminar and becomes a place to write down ideas.

Taking notes helps me get things out of my mind and down on paper. It also inspires me to take action on the things I’ve written down.

These notes become my ‘creative reference point’ that I can take action from, refer back to, build ideas from and they help to improve my time management and increase my focus and productivity.

In this article, I’ll look into the importance of taking notes and how you can start to take notes, make it a habit and get closer to success.

Who are some successful note takers?

The art of note taking is a common habit among the world’s most successful people.

Taking notes can help you to organize your thoughts and record vital information in every area of your business and life.

Richard Branson believes everyone should be taking notes and carries a notebook with him everywhere. He credits note taking as one of his most important habits.[1]

“I go through dozens of notebooks every year and write down everything that occurs to me each day, an idea not written down is an idea lost. When inspiration calls, you’ve got to capture it.” – Richard Branson

Other highly successful note takers included:

  • Thomas Edison – During his life Thomas Edison captured over 5 million pages of notes. His note taking skills were developed to ensure that everything useful or important was captured and recorded so it could be referred back to as a powerful memory aid.
  • Bill Gates – According to many reports, Bill Gates is a big note taker and prefers to use a yellow notebook and pen to capture important information.
  • George Lucas – The Star Wars director kept a pocket notebook with him at all times for writing down ideas, thoughts and plot angles.
  • Tim Ferriss – Entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss’s devotion to handwritten notes allow him to remember the most important parts of his life. He is quotes as saying “I trust the weakest pen more than the strongest memory.”

Other notable note takers from past and present include Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Pablo Picasso, Sheryl Sandberg, J.K. Rowling, Bruce Springsteen and Aaron Sorkin.

Why taking notes is important

Taking notes is an essential part of success in business and life. It can help you improve how you listen, learn, visualize and create.

“The best leaders are note-takers, best askers” – Tom Peters

But for many, note taking is still not a common practice despite its many benefits.

There are several reasons why taking written notes is important:

  • Help you emphasize the key points and get them clear in your own mind.
  • Help you engage with the content at a deeper level in a meeting, lecture or event and not lose concentration.
  • Help you to make links between related thoughts and ideas.
  • Allow you illustrate your notes to suit your personal style and help recall information.
  • Help you summarize information.
  • Let you make notes of anything you want to understand further or go deeper on at a future date.
  • Help you capture simple thoughts or ideas that could be lost.

Think about it:

Are you really going to remember everything? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to simply write down what you’re hearing, learning and thinking?

The habit of note taking can be developed and has a huge upside.

Now, there are many apps that can be used for note-taking from Evernote to OneNote and many more. But the most successful people I’ve mentioned above also had another thing in common:

They used a pen or pencil and paper to write down their notes.

I, as mentioned earlier, prefer the pen and notebook method as it feels like the notes mean more, being written down. I follow a similar method when reading, even on my kindle.

I may bookmark the page but will write down key points or ideas I’ve taken from the book.

12 Benefits of note-taking

The benefits of note-taking include:

  1. Free you up from information overload

We have so many things going through our mind at any one time that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

So, write down all of your ideas, thoughts, frustrations, to do lists until they are all out of your mind and written down.

You can then spend some time putting the notes in some kind of order and deciding which thing or project will get your attention.

  1. Make you a better listener

When you engage in listening, whether in a meeting, at a seminar or meeting friends, your brain is tuned to record and remember things.

Rather than the information be something that you hope to retain in your minds “I need to remember that”, you can make notes and continue to listen.

Rather than trying to remember what you’ve heard, you can make a quick note and carry on listening.

  1. Make things feel more real

Something almost magical happens when I take notes. The words take on a new power and it helps me ensure that I take action as my brain is fully engaged.

Taking notes for the sake of taking notes isn’t really going to help you. Turning the notes into actionable ideas is what really matters.

  1. Tune your mind ito capture important information

When note-taking begins to become a habit, it will start to feel natural to make notes during meetings, networking events, seminars and workshops etc.

A simple note or idea could turn into something much bigger. Richard Branson has said that if he had never taken notes, then many of Virgin’s companies and projects would never have started.[2]

  1. Make you a more efficient reader

Whether you’re reading a book for personal or business development, note-taking can really help maintain focus and give you the ability to retain important quotes, processes or thinking techniques.

You could underline and fold back the corner of the page but pulling out key elements of the book and then referring back to them gives you the opportunity to think deeper or look at ways you could action those elements in your business and life.

  1. Improve your memory

Humans tend to lose almost 40% of new information within the first 24 hours of reading or hearing it. So, effective note taking can help you retain and retrieve almost 100% of the information you receive.

When you take handwritten notes, you are writing and organizing as you’re thinking, which forces your thoughts to process the information in a deeper way.

  1. Help you better organize your thoughts

One challenge people have with note taking is to be able to organize them in a way that you can refer back to them later.

Note taking on its own isn’t enough. You have to revisit the notes and cement the important information in your mind.

If the notes are all over the place this is hard to do. To make this process simpler, you can keep all of your notes in the same place, keep the same format and review your notes on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

  1. Improve your attention span

When you have a notebook and pen with you, you become more active and engaged in your environment.

You’ll focus more and pay more attention — a thought, quote, idea or learning experience. When you develop note-taking skills, you become more engaged, pull out and note down the information you want to capture.

You can then sift, sort and organize your notes to enhance your learning experience or pull out thoughts to develop into bigger ideas.

  1. Train you to capture only what matters

Note-taking moves us away from transcribing everything that we hear in a meeting, coaching session or classroom.

With a pen and notepad at the ready our mind begins to tune in to the things or ideas that matter. We become able to filter out the ‘noise’ and focus in on the most relevant points, or keywords or ideas that we can build on later or refer back to.

  1. Help you ask better questions

If you’re in a meeting and you’re fully engaged and taking notes, your mind can begin to open up and your thought process widens.

You begin to see connections that you might miss if you hadn’t jotted down a specific note. This helps you ask better questions as you may need something to be clarified further or it has opened up a new idea that you want to explore further.

  1. Make you become a more active learner

The physical act of writing things down can often help clarify the thoughts and ideas you have in your mind.

Once things are written down, there is a form of mental stimulation and connection in the mind.

  1. Help you achieve goals

A number of studies show that the process of taking notes helps people to boost learning and achieve their goals.

One of Brian Tracy’s core philosophies for goal achievement is writing down your goals as we are more committed to what we write down versus what we say.

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, recently studied the art and science of goal setting:

She discovered, through group research, that those who wrote down their goals and dreams on a regular basis achieved those desires at a significantly higher level than those who did not. She found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.

How to make taking notes a habit

Making note-taking a habit can make you more focused, more productive and more creative.

It can help you capture all of your thoughts, ideas and retain information that can set you up for success.

But how can we create a note-taking habit in our daily lives to ensure that it works equally well in the boardroom, meeting room, classroom or wherever you’re spending your time?

  1. Invest in a notebook

Spend a bit of time finding a notebook that you love. Notebooks come in all shapes, sizes and colors, so it’s about finding the one that works for you.

I use a mixture of moleskins and leather bound notebooks from Florence.

If you don’t want to get that notebook out and write in it, then it will stay hidden.

  1. Keep your notes in the same place

To ensure your notes are organized and easily referenced, then keep them in one place.

You may choose to have a notebook for different situations and learning experiences. One may be for ideas. You may have one for the office and for meetings. Another could be for personal development.

I personally keep all my notes in one place but they are clearly headed and indexed so I can refer back to them easily.

  1. Carry a notebook with you

The simple act of carrying a notebook with you will inspire you to take notes.

Try this:

Have a notebook with you for 21 days and see when and where you are taking notes and when you’re not.

This will ensure you have your notebook handy for the meetings, activities and opportunities that matter.

  1. Find your note-taking style

Many of us have different note taking styles, so find one that suits the way you think and that ensures you get the maximum benefit from the notes you’ve taken.

A one-word note or thought can be just as powerful as a more detailed overview of a meeting.

A few note taking styles you can explore further and try out include:

  • Mind Mapping
  • The Outline Method
  • The Charting Method
  • The Cornell Method
  • The Maria Popova Method
  • Rapid Logging Method
  1. Keep the same format

Once you’ve found a method and system that works for you, stick with it and amend it as you go along to your own personality.

If you chop and change styles, it will be more difficult to retrace and decipher your notes effectively at a later date.

One key to follow is to ensure that the notes page is dated and a headline or key topic is shown at the top of the page.

If you are creating different symbols or letters as a reference point e.g. M for Meetings, ensure this is included as well.

  1. Review your notes

You may find it hard to find the time to revisit your notes but it’s important that you do.

Set time aside to review your notes, ideally within 48 hours of making them.

If you leave your notes gathering dust for a week or so after taking them, your recall won’t be as strong and you will be less inclined to take action on them.

Some notes will bring up further questions, some will require further thinking time and others won’t be a priority right now.

By taking the time to review them, you are always being proactive rather than reactive.

  1. Take action

One of the keys to building a successful habit is that you achieve some form of success, however small.

This success builds momentum and helps you develop and grow every day. It also ensures that the habit sticks.

As Richard Branson said:

“Go through your ideas and turn them into actionable and measurable goals. If you don’t write your ideas down, they could leave your head before you even leave the room.”

The bottom line

Note-taking is one of the keys to success for many high level entrepreneurs and if you can make it a habit, you would make better decisions, solve problems better, be more creative, increase your learning and improve your productivity.

It may take a lot of discipline to make note-taking a habit in your daily life; but once you find a process that works for you, the benefits could be huge.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via


[1] Virgin: Why Everyone Should Be Taking Notes

[2] Richard Branson: The Importance Of Taking Notes


(1)Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit @ Lifehack.

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The 4 Key Elements Of Great Leadership

​Anyone in a management or supervisory role is a leader, but not everyone in those positions exhibits true leadership. Think of leadership as next level management. The best leaders take their expert management skills and combine them with people skills to become well rounded and highly successful. The difference between being a good leader and a great one is in the relationships you build with your team. These are the four key components of great leadership.

Coaching, not directing.
A great leader is a teacher and a coach, not a dictator. They help their teams develop and grow, and support them by providing training in various forms, including coaching and mentoring. They understand when they need to nurture their teams, and when they need to push them. It’s about finding the balance between giving up too much control and being too controlling. A great leader knows that there is no specific ratio to this, and that it changes depending on the situation.

To be a great coach, you must understand that everyone has different needs and that there isn’t a one size fits all solution. Learn how your team members work best, and tailor your coaching to match their work style. When you’re responsible for very large teams, it’s much more difficult to know which style will work best, so it’s best to experiment with a few styles until you find the one that gets the desired results. That ties in to the next point, being adept.

Being adept.
Great leaders are prepared for change to happen at any time. They’re able to think and make decisions quickly, and more importantly, they know how to rally their teams to make results happen. One day that could mean giving the team free reign to come up with ideas for a project and a deadline that they need to meet. The next day, the deadline could get moved up, and the leader would have to assign tasks and provide more structure.

As a leader, you have to be very aware of everything that’s happening from a process standpoint as well as a people standpoint. Paying equal attention to both is important. By ensuring that your team is performing to the best of their abilities, you’ll be better able to keep the process on track. If you ignore one, the other will suffer.

Respect is a two way street, and it must be given to be had in return. Great leaders understand this, and show their team respect through trust. No employee likes to be micromanaged, as it indicates to them that you don’t trust their abilities. In fact, it’s one of the quickest ways to lose respect. Leaders must allow their employees to take risks and accept that they will fail sometimes. If you can’t trust your employees, they won’t trust you. A sure sign of a respected and trusted leader is when employees are comfortable coming to them with questions.

The best leaders have no problem working alongside their employees and aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and jump in to help the team when necessary. Your own personal leadership style will dictate how often you do this, as will the nature of your work. Some leaders need to constantly work with their teams, whereas others are able to be more hands off. The key is to step in and put in that extra work when it’s necessary, and not leave your team struggling.

Being a master communicator.
Great leaders can tailor their communication style to meet the needs of any situation. A leader must be an excellent listener, in order to truly understand the needs of their team. Great leaders understand that different situations call for different communication styles, and are able to switch between them with ease. Without high level communication skills, no leader will truly be successful.

To master the art of communication, you simply need to practice. There are six key communication styles you should be familiar with – listening, advising, directing, motivating, teaching, and coaching. Each one has it’s own place and time to be used, and are most effective when combined. Being adept in your communication methods is absolutely necessary. By becoming a master communicator, you’re able to clearly express yourself, and therefore lead with greater clarity.

No matter what your title is, you can become a leader. Practice these skills, and you’ll be on the path to great leadership.

Source : Forbes (ARTICLE)

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A Five-Step Path to Better Disclose Yourself

1) Build a foundation of self-knowledge.

You can learn about yourself in many ways, but the best approach is to so­licit honest feedback—ideally a 360-degree review—from coworkers and follow it up with coaching. You might consider your upbringing, your work experiences, and new situations, such as volunteer opportunities, that test your comfort zone and force you to reflect on your values. You might also consider your personal management philosophy and the events and people who shaped it.

wall picture photo portrait
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2) Consider relevance to the task.

Skillful self-disclosers choose the substance, process, and timing of revelations to further the task at hand, not to promote themselves or create purely personal relationships. In fact, we found in our earlier work that team develop­ment efforts often fail because they try too hard to foster intimacy rather than focusing on task-relevant disclosure and social cohesion. Be clear that your goal in revealing yourself at work is to build trust and foster better collaboration and teamwork, not to make friends—though that may happen. So before you share per­sonal information, ask yourself whether it will help you do your job. Will your team get a bet­ter understanding of your thinking and rationale? If not, you might want to save the story for a coffee date with friends. If your goal is simply to develop rapport, you can find safer ways to accomplish that—such as bonding over a beloved sports team, a new movie, or a favorite restaurant.

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3) Keep revelations genuine.

This should be a no-brainer, but we’re amazed at how often we hear about managers who fabricate tales. Take Jacob, who recently stepped down from his position as the associate director of marketing and communications for a regional hotel chain. In both presentations and small group discussions, he would cite examples of how he had successfully used social media, video on demand, and search engine opti­mization in his prior position at a premier boutique hotel. The problem was that he held that job in the early 1980s, before those technologies were widespread. Jacob did have extensive social media marketing experience, but it had come through his volunteer church work; he fudged the de­tails in an effort to bond with his younger colleagues. Eventually they found out, and Jacob lost credibility, which ultimately led to his departure from the company. Making up stories or exaggerating parts of a narrative to fit the situation may seem like a good idea, but it is easily discovered and can do a lot of harm. Instead try to find real if less-than-perfect disclosures that still capture the emotions of the situation and convey empathy.

4) Understand the organizational and cultural context.

Considerable research has shown that people from individualistic societies, such as the United States and India, are more likely to disclose information about themselves and expect others to do the same than people from collectivist societies, such as China and Japan. Thus Roger’s Asian teammates might have been put off by his readiness to share a personal story, care agency. Exhausted after a sleepless night with her sick baby, she shared that experience in her introduction, to the discomfort of her audience. “They wanted to know about my education and industry background, and instead I spoke graphically about baby throw-up,” she recalls. “It took me a few months after that to reestablish credibility.”

This doesn’t mean you have to wait years before telling colleagues anything about your personal life. You just need to have spent enough regardless of its content. Make an effort to investigate national and organizational norms about sharing so that you’ll know when it’s best to keep quiet.

In any context, but especially one new to you that involves teammates from other countries, companies, or functions, you should talk to respected insiders about how people operate and what level of candor is expected. HR personnel and group leaders may be able to provide this information, but you can also test the waters with task-relevant self-disclosure to see how people respond. And you can look for cues such as eye contact and others’ attempts to share or solicit stories.

“talk to respected insiders about how people operate and what level of candor is expected.”

5) Delay or avoid very personal disclosures.

Intimate stories strengthen relationships; they don’t establish them. Sharing too much personal information too quickly breaks all sociocultural norms of behavior, making one appear awkward, needy, or even unstable. First develop common objectives, delineate goals and roles, and demonstrate credibility and trustworthiness through your work. Take careful note of how open others are before offering significant disclosures of your own. In some workplaces you will eventually find it safe and helpful to share; in others you’ll realize it’s extremely unwise to do so.

These five steps should help you avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve outlined and become a more effective leader.

Remember to think carefully about your motives and likelihood of success. Self-disclosure is a valuable managerial tool, but it must be used judiciously. What stories do you have to tell, and who needs to hear them?