Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2017

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Visioning

If you cannot imagine achieving a difficult far goal, imagine the goal anyway, and achieve an easy, close one.

Keep doing so until you can imagine achieving the difficult goal.

The 4 Components of Strategic Thinking & Management


Where living a successful life is concerned, there are two pieces of advice that are often given: "Chase your dreams" and "Keep your eye on the ball". Unfortunately, most of the time, they aren't offered together.

In the discipline of Strategic Thinking & Management, it is important to have both the Outcome and the Plan to function well together. To have both the Big Picture and the Small Picture in view at all times.

As the modern world careers uncontrollably into the future and become more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) better ways of handling it is needed.

Taken from the theatre of war, the terms Strategy and Tactics are often used in sports and business. However, it has applications in all aspects of human life, whether it be personal, professional or organisational.

The challenge that many individuals and organisations face whether it be in losing weight or selling more, is that while they have a very clear vision of what they want to achieve, they might not be able to change the plan according to emergent changes. This is being Tactically Blind.

Others face an opposite challenge. While they know exactly what to do on a daily basis, fighting fires, reacting to challenges and winning one battle at a time, but they lack an overarching goal that governs these actions. This is being Strategically Blind.

Ironically, while they might have both Outcome and Plan documented, they are missing two intangible components, forcing them to focus on only one or the other. These two components link and drive those documents. They are Awareness and Will.

Awareness is the constant sensitivity to how well the long term outcome guides the short term plan and how much it is allowed to change according to the situation without losing sight of the end.

Will is the passion, energy and trust that pushes the plan through short-term downturns in the belief that an upswing is coming in the future.

All four are connected in a mutual feedback loop that informs, modifies and nurtures each other. A strong Plan takes into account downturns and stockpiles resources to keep the Will strong (think keeping salaries and benefits running even during dry years).

The strength of Will allows us to keep an eye on the goal which allows us to stay Aware of and adapt to constant changes. In very rare cases, Will and Awareness force a redefinition of the Outcome.

When Fujifilm found that increasing digital camera sales began to wipe out their film production business, they decided to redefine their Outcome from a successful film company to a successful cosmetics company. They looked at the chemical processes they had mastered and adapted them to making skin cream under the Astalift brand. They trusted that the change would work.

Their Awareness and Will caused a change in their Outcome and Plan which continues to feed back into the loop. They are now aware that the future isn't set and look forward to innovate further.

On the other hand, Nokia might have had an amazing Outcome and Plan, but the lack of Awareness slowly diminished their Will to proceed and by the time they realised they had to change, it was too late.

The oft-repeated quote says: Fail to plan and you plan to fail. That's nice but the plan is only one part of it. I propose we add in the other three.

See your dreams, take the ball, mark the other players and chase it all the way.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Speak Up or Forever Be Damned


The modern workplace requires both technical and social skills. A worker can find it challenging to advance in their career or even to fulfill the most basic of requirements of their job if they only possess one without the other.

Technical skills can be defined as the ability to fathom and interact with systems, whether they be natural or man-made.

Thus, farming, engineering, computer programming, finance and medicine can be categorised as technical skills, because they are used to interact with complex systems like biology, physics, machines, markets and physiology.

With many of these skills, there is a clear science behind them and many of their outcomes are predictable to a fault.

However, when it comes to social skills, what works for one human being with a particular set of values, who grew up in a particular culture, undergoing particular situations might not work for another.

Because these systems vary from person to person and live inside their heads, away from scientific rigor.

Thus, many people believe that social skills, the ability to communicate with another human being, to build a relationship, to convey exact information, to persuade for trust or to provide instruction, is difficult.

Recently, a licensed electrician who had just graduated and was in his first month on the job asked me for advice.

The factory he worked at had a lax attitude towards safety. His immediate superior insisted on cost-cutting to the extent of not using proper protective equipment during repairs.

He worried that he or someone else would die of electrocution one day.

He received a job offer at another factory. They had slightly better safety considerations. Should he stay here or should he go?

I asked him if he had voiced his concerns to his superior. He said that he worried that his superior wouldn't listen.

Yet, when pressed for evidence that his superior would actually react that way, he finally admitted that it was his own assumption.

He also worried that his elder colleagues would think that he was showing off, or trying to step over their heads.

I pressed him for evidence. Again, assumption.

These assumptions, including worrying that he would sound rude to his superior had nothing to do with his technical skill.

He just didn't know how to say it. And it was impeding the quality of his work.

I asked him to imagine, what would happen if he moved to the new factory, and his present supervisor moved too and supervised him there. Would he move again?

He looked stunned.

If he did not improve his ability to communicate, he would be doomed to land in the same situations again and again and again. He would wonder why everywhere we went, things were the same.

The answer, of course, is that while his workplace changed, he remained the same.

I proceeded to take every situation he had an excuse for, and gave him sample phrases and interactions that would promote favourable responses from his supervisor and colleagues.

He was surprised by the simplicity of it. I countered that it was actually quite complex, but nothing that a can-do attitude, willingness to learn and opportunities to practice can't help with.

They call communication a soft skill. That's ridiculous. It's a hard skill. When you master communication, you can interact with and master the most complex system in the universe: the human being.

Learn. Now.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Thinking & Living With The Martial Arts


When you join a martial arts class, and you fully apply yourself to understanding, practicing and applying its teachings, you will find strong parallels with non-combat activities in the rest of your life.

Ancient sages often speak of fighting the battle within to win the battle without. This shouldn't be surprising as the common factor between martial arts and 'life' is the human brain.

How the brain processes information in a highly-stressed physical combat situation is also how it processes it in a highly-stressed social situation, financial situation or romantic situation. Basically every situation you can find yourself in your life.

Therefore, martial arts, sports, dance, theatre and any complex physical activity that activates the kinesthetic sense of the body, is in actual fact, developing the brain.

Having trained in primarily silat styles from my youth, I have found that almost everything taught is useful in either a philosophical, principle, strategic or technical domain.

Philosophically, I have found that it helps me keep a positive mindset during long-haul troubling times, understanding that there are cycles of ups and downs and that I should just keep efforting intelligently and an opportunity will be created. My favourite philosophy is Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9's "Kita buat dia".

Principle-wise, I have applied many frameworks that help me analyse the foundation of a problem and determine the best way to solve it. My current favourite is 7 Petua Gerak from Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 and Silat Abjad's Unsur Nan Empat.

Strategically, I have managed to calm my emotions in situations where smart instead of quick decisions have to be made. This has saved me time, money and trouble in the future. I owe this to the sheer analyticalness of Silat Bongsu.

Technically, I have found my cognitive reflexes up to par in avoiding road accidents, especially when a situation demands a fast decision. In hindsight, I owe most of my reflexive training to Silat Cekak and Silat Sendeng.

While my current physical prowess in martial arts is severely lacking, I have found unlimited use for its application everywhere else. It's my dream to be able to share this with as many people as possible.

So, find a class and start learning.

Friday, 28 April 2017

There is no such thing as Public Speaking

Speaking to 5000 students at Universiti Malaya during their orientation week in 2016.

The human brain is built with sensitivity to certain things. Three of the most important are questions, stories and faces.

Faces allow us to access empathy. Research shows that infantry have greater willingness to kill the enemy wearing a face-covering helmet than if they could see their facial expressions. When they see a face, the mirror neurons attempt to understand the enemy's emotions and replicate them in the observer. They observe and adapt.

This is why, when we speak to a large group of people, our brains get confused by the sea of faces and switches back and forth between what emotion to feel. Why? Because the brain was never built for public speaking. It was built for interpersonal speaking. That's why we are more comfortable speaking one-to-one.

Here's the interesting part. Even when you're "public" speaking, you can only ever look at one person at a time. Technically, that's one-to-one speaking. Treat your "public" talk as no more than having a hundred individual conversations and your brain will adapt to one face at a time and reduce your stress and stage fright.

Look at one person in the crowd and speak with them one sentence. Send that message to only them. Everyone else listening is only incidental. Then, move on to another person and deliver one sentence and so on and so forth.

The trick is to avoid looking at more than one face in one time or scanning from left to right in one quick motion. That confuses the brain as it recognises too many faces and is attempting to adapt to all of them as they pass by. This is why most people tend to look down or away from other people when they are in public places or on the train, to avoid facial recognition overload.

Look for the friendly faces first. Switch from one person to another quickly and you will be fine. Later, when you are confident, look for the unfriendly ones.

At the end however, when you finish your speech and you finally look at all 1000 as a mass, you might get an anxiety attack.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Communication is Relationship

My Professor in Anthropology, Dr Mohd Aris Othman once asked us in class if we interacted with the people in the cars surrounding us in a traffic jam. We said no.

"If you don't interact with them, then why do you drive fast on an empty highway? Why don't you inch forward instead as if there were cars around you?" he sneered.

"Interacting doesn't mean talking. Acknowledging the other's existence, and behaving accordingly IS interaction".

"As long as you are interacting, you are communicating. As long as you are communicating, you are in a relationship with each other."

It is only when you do not notice the other car coming towards you that you do not acknowledge and interact with it. And that is when there is no communication.

Until the car slams into you, causing you to acknowledge, interact, communicate and now have a relationship.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Coaching Questions for Clarity


A coach who works with a coachee has the task to clarify the conversation in order to be effective. In essence, it isn't for the coach to know, but for the coachee to be clear on their own situation, goals and methods.

As part of a coach's ethics, we do not seek out coachees, nor do we ask point blank what a coachee's problems are. This, in fact, puts them on the defensive as not many would admit to a busybody that they have problems.

The truth is, we all have problems. We just seek out the most trusted people to share them with.
When a coachee comes to you, the coach, the three most powerful questions you can ask are What, How, and When (WHW) in relation to their solution (not the problem). Thus, while the coachee may be problem-focused, the coach is solution-focused.

For the WHW to be effective, the coach must apply the APA: Acknowledge, Pause and Ask.

Take for example, a coachee who says to you, "I have a problem". Instead of finding the root cause of the problem, you immediately say the following:
  • Acknowledge: "I hear that you are facing a problem that is ..."
  • Pause: Allow for the realisation that you are listening and understand that they are willing to let you help them.
  • Ask: Ask the following WHW in any form necessary:
  1. Q1: "What do you want to achieve?"
  2. Q2: "How do you want to achieve it?"
  3. Q3: "When do you want to achieve it?"
(Repeat the APA at every level of Q1-Q3)

These basic questions are less to get accurate answers and more to get the coachee primed to begin thinking of these answers in a structured manner.

However, each question has a clarifying follow-up that will explore their convictions, motivations, options and planning.

For Q1, sample clarifiers could be:
  • "What do you mean by that?", and
  • "Why is it important that you achieve this?".
For Q2, sample clarifiers could be:
  • "What else?" (to provoke more options) and keep going until the coachee has nothing left to add.
  • Follow this up with a choice: "Out of all these options of how you want to achieve your goal, which one do you want to start with?" and wait for them to choose one.
For Q3, sample clarifiers can be:
  • "When do you want to achieve this", or
  • "When do you want to start doing this option?" depending on the situation and the conviction of the coachee.
  • Follow this up with "How do you know that you have acted on the above?", or
  • "What will be the evidence that you have achieved your goal?"
When you have navigated this conversation towards a solution, close it up with this question: "How do you feel now that we've had this talk?"

If the answer comes with an emotional response: "[Deep breath][Exhale] Wow... I feel a lot better. It's like a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders," this indicates a genuine change.

However, if the answer is non-committal, "Yeah, I guess... Can't say for sure," then the coaching process did not make a desired impact on the coachee for various reasons.

Continue the process when it's convenient until you see evidence of a positive change in commitment or you detect that the person is uncoachable. This requires a different approach that we won't cover here.

In short, coachees require a coach not to provide solutions, but to facilitate their own thought processes to clarify and commit to the options they choose. This preserves their independence and also allows them to be responsible and accountable for their own actions.

Coaching is a skill all leaders and managers must have in order to keep their workforce motivated and committed. Learn how to coach today, and help the people around you achieve their potential.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Building Rapport and Listening to Coach


A good coach must have the ability to do two things well: Build Rapport and Listen. Among others, these two skills are paramount as it is the foundation upon which all other skills are built.

G.E.M.P.A.K.

Where Building Rapport is concerned, ONE Coaching methodology founder Coach Jamil Wahab offers a simple acronym to remember what needs to be done during this process: GEMPAK.
Each letter stands for a particular activity that helps to improve trust and closeness with the coachee.

G - Greet + Name

A name is a personal object that is tied to one's identity. Therefore, to quickly establish rapport, welcome the coachee warmly and say their name in the most respectful and friendly manner possible. Care for their name as you would your own.

E - Excite the Senses

The human brain gathers data from the outside world through the five senses. When speaking to the coachee, use visual words like "I see", auditory words like "I hear you" or kinesthetic words like "I feel like" to connect with the coachee's mind by accessing anchored key words related to each sense.

M - Matching

Find similarities in terms of the content of their speech. Trust is built very quickly when they believe that you share their values, positions or even experiences. Discovering that you share a hobby or the same hometown or support the same sports team goes a long way towards breaking down barriers with the coachee.


P - Persuade

Find something positive in the coachee's speech or actions and provide sincere praise to give them a sense of achievement and being on the right track as well as showing that you focus on the good and are not primed to criticise. Avoid praising outcomes directly. For example, praise a muscular person's time and effort spent in the gym instead of saying how big their muscles are.

A - Attention

A coachee deserves your full attention. Thus, when they speak, set the phone aside, face them square, drop everything else and make them feel appreciated.

K - Keep Aware & Alert

As much you focus, stay aware and alert to the content, facial expressions, body language and changes in the coachee. Also, be aware of your own internal conversations and responses, lest your coachee assume you are judging them from your body language.


LISTENING

In listening to the coachee, four actions must be practiced iteratively throughout the process of building rapport: 1. Eye contact 2. Head nodding 3. Minimal encouragement 4. Paraphrasing

1. Eye Contact

Some people prefer direct eye contact while others, indirect eye contact. Manage your own style to match the coachee and set them at ease.

2. Head nodding

While listening, nod casually and naturally at parts of the coachee's sharing that you feel require acknowledgement. This visual cue confirms for them that you are paying attention.

3. Minimal encouragement

Your vocal cues help the coachee to continue the flow of their sharing. Things like a positive "Hmmm!", a surprising "Ohhhh" or a request of "Really?" helps encourage them to continue talking without fear of judgment.

4. Paraphrasing

Completing the visual and vocal cues is the verbal cue, where you respond to what the coachee has shared by repeating it in your own words. This makes them confident that not only were you listening, but that you understand it the same way.

Get Ready For What's Next

Master these two skills, Building Rapport and Listening, and you would have cemented the foundation for the next step in your development as a coach.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Habits & Elements of Coaching


Coaching is a highly-involved, highly-conscious conversation between a coach and their coachee to allow for a resolution of a coachee's issues.

For a conversation to be productive, a coach must have the following habits:

1. Highly-conscious

In order to help the coachee become conscious of their issues, the coach must first be conscious of themselves.

2. Stay neutral

A coach must be impartial to the issue and not frame it according to their values or the deeper causes of the issue will be difficult to uncover.

3. Mirror

A good coach is a figurative mirror for their client to reflect on their own thoughts and actions. The clearer this mirror is, the easier it is for the coachee to see the real issue.

According to the founder of the ONE Coaching Practitioner methodology, PLF Coach Jamil Wahab, there are four pillars upon which effective coaching is built. Without any one of these, the process cannot logically be called coaching:

1. Rapport building

Building rapport creates trust and facilitates the coaching relationship. Finding similarities, matching & mirroring behaviour or even just chilling allows the relationship to deepen.

2. Asking questions

There are specific ways of asking questions to induce thinking, create solutions and generate commitment. All are geared toward getting the coachee to be open and willing to share and eventually, act.

3. Listening

A coach who doesn't listen is a coach who is pushing their own agendum. Whatever comes from the coachee is to be appreciated, acknowledged and understood.

4. Action plan

At the end of every coaching session, the coachee is led to commit to an achievable action that they chose, to further their goal.

There are many useable models and frameworks to structure the questioning. These include the classical GROW, Start-Stop-Continue, Plus-Minus-Interesting and more.

However, when time isn't a luxury, the coach can focus on the two most important questions to ask are: What Do You Want and How Will You Achieve It.

We have many opportunities daily to help people declutter their thoughts. Learn how to coach and you will be of greater benefit to the people around you.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Mapping Functions to Different Parts of the Brain

(c) Prof Peggy Mason, The University of Chicago
The physical human brain can be thought of as separate parts, even though technically, they work together as a whole.

Most of the top of the structure is what is called the forebrain. The forebrain is made up of the diencephalon (Fd) and telencephalon (Ft).

Beneath the forebrain is the brain stem consisting of the midbrain (M) and hindbrain, which is made up of the pons (Hp), cerebellum (Hc) and medulla (Hm).

Connected to the brainstem is the spinal cord.

The forebrain and brainstem are contained within the skull, and is connected to the spinal cord through an opening called the foramen magnum. The spinal cord is housed in the vertebral column.

Each of the four brain functions of Voluntary movement, Perception, Homeostasis, Higher abstract functions can be mapped to the physical anatomy of the brain.

The voluntary movement function is controlled through motor neurons contained in the brainstem (facial and head movement) and spinal cord (limbs and trunk movement).

There are fewer than 100,000 of these neurons, compared to the total approximate 85 billion neurons in the body. If one of these motor neurons dies, the movement it controls becomes disabled.

Perception is processed in the cerebral cortex which covers the outside, squiggly surface of the forebrain.

Homeostasis is a distributed process and happens in the forebrain, which is responsibile for hormonal changes and the brain stem and spinal cord, both controlling automatic and conscious movements.

Higher abstract functions or cognition, depends fully on the forebrain. It is said that if only the forebrain were kept alive, cognition would still occur without the brainstem or spinal cord. While perception is an abstract function, it can also be viewed separately.

Knowing these differences can help us protect the brain better from damage. Any impacts to the spinal cord and brain stem can affect motor movement and cause disablement or paralysis while impacts to the forebrain can affect cognition.

People who are active in high-risk sports should take extra care to wear safety gear to ensure they avoid damage to these sensitive areas. Parents, guardians or educators who work with children also have to be aware of activities that pose a risk to the head or spine and take precautions to reduce potential for accidents.

Let's take good care of our brains. We still need them.

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Four Functions of the Brain


The human brain has four functions: Voluntary movement, Perception, Homeostasis and Abstract functions.

Voluntary movement refers to any motor movement that a human being does, whether it be intentional such as closing a door, or an emotional response, such as wincing when you stub your toe on the door.

Perception is the ability to be aware of sensory input and know its measure in real terms. There are sensory inputs that we can perceive and others we can't. For example, we can perceive the dimming of light, but we cannot perceive the change in level of carbon dioxide in in our blood.

Homeostasis is everything related to keeping the body alive. The brain regulates the levels of water, sugar, oxygen and other resources and ensures that its person is functioning as well as it can by returning it to its operational norm.

Abstract functions deals with the 'higher-functioning' aspects of thinking. This is where we do calculations, determine where to have lunch and daydream of our lives together.

Understanding these functions allows us to better care for the only organ that works overtime to save us from the outside world and prosper in it.

Working on your coordination improves the voluntary connection and will lead into long-term usability into old age. Involve yourself in activities such as martial arts, sports or dance.

Working on your mindfulness will help you connect with your surroundings, notice previously unnoticed stimuli and allow you to stop and smell the roses. Slow down your daily pace and being aware of changes.

Knowing that your brain maintains the sensitive balance within your body, therefore nourish it, bathe it, clothe it and treat it with resources that are beneficial for maintenance, healing and growth. Eat well, breathe well, exercise and keep your surroundings hygienic.

Knowing that your brain only thinks when it has something to think about, constantly challenge it with puzzles and problems that will allow it to build new connections. Watch tv shows with complex storylines or movies which get you thinking.

How are you treating your brain?

Friday, 3 March 2017

Move From Training To Learning, And Never Go Back


Have you ever heard of the role of Chief Training Officer? Not yet? Well, you won’t hear it anytime soon either.

No self-respecting C-level officer of even a moderately-sized organisation would be caught dead wearing this title.

For good reason: most companies want to be seen to be on the leading, if not bleeding edge of Human Resource trends. Not the one being left behind.

As more and more strategic decisions are made in the C-suite, new specialist roles are created to align an organisation’s goals with its operations. Thus, after the ultimate title of CEO (Chief Executive Officer), comes the COO (Chief Operating Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and then CIO (Chief Information Officer).

For a very long time, the C-suite of many companies, both small and large have viewed training as a cost. A nice to have rather than a must have. It became a trend for any and all training decisions to be made at the Training Manager level, to fulfill employee training days requirements, to meet the quota.

How do you tell when an organisation views it this way? Simple. Any organisation that asks you if you can do training for them in December because they want to finish up their budget, is probably one that lacks the foresight and planning to ensure that training is effective. It’s just money to give away.

Another clue is when they ask you to provide team building services, and they quietly slip in, “Can it just be lots of fun? We don’t want it to be too heavy on the talking”. They’re not looking for training. They just want to holiday on the shareholders’ investment. This is a company with no vision.

Here is the danger. If you have a client who is like this, when the chips are down, the first thing they will dump is services. All services. That includes you, the training provider. You are a cost. So, cost-cutting means cutting you out.

Rise of the CLO

The good news is, if your client has formally instituted its newest C-level role, the Chief Learning Officer (CLO), you can certainly bet that they don’t view training as a cost. They view it as an investment. And investments must be planned, protected, measured and returned.

When any organisation establishes this role, it takes on a fundamental shift in thinking as well. The old concept of Training comes from the idea of Human Resources. Tagging a human being as a resource implies that if you can’t generate money for the company, you are therefore not a resource and must be trained or ejected.

An issue arises when the concept of training is introduced. Training was originally executed to impart knowledge and skills to operational employees who required to know exactly how to follow a standard operating procedure. It was, in essence, an exercise in forcing compliance by carrot or stick.

The ones who subjected to it, were retained. Those who questioned it, were removed. It was the trainer’s way or the highway. It was a military regime in making money and it worked, because the blue collar workers needed the jobs and were used to being told what to do anyway.

The professionals never actually needed training because they had graduated from business or law schools into middle-management apprenticeship. This was pretty much the norm for English and American vocational education up until the turn of the 21 century.

From control to collaboration

Then, from out of the blue, Americans began to take notice of a worrying trend. The Japanese were getting better. At a lot of things. So, western management gurus began to wonder what the secret sauce was. It was something they had never seen before.

Where American management philosophy takes decisions out of the worker’s hands and provide orders down through the chain, the Japanese workers were actually suggesting improvements upwards. Buzzwords like Kaizen, 5 Whys, TQM flooded the collective management consciousness.

But to work like the Japanese, they had to fundamentally change the way they did business and treated their employees. No longer could they drive people to perform. No longer could they control. They had to help develop them and provide the means for them to grow.

Thus, the culture of control became the culture of collaboration. And training, that stuffy, one-way street of imparting skills, took a back seat to a bigger, higher concept: Learning.

Academic and professional debates burned on whether one was a subset of the other with many schools of thought being born and dying out almost as quickly. But there was no denying it. More and more firms became convinced that this was the way to go. Training departments morphed into Learning departments.

Train vs Learn

Here’s where the debate gets interesting. If you were to attend training, would you say you were doing all the work or was the trainer doing it? Well, if training is you sitting on a chair for eight hours scribbling notes, yawning and later storing your binder of materials in your cubicle shelf next to many, never-again opened training binders, the answer is, you did nothing.

But if you were engaged by everything the trainers said or did, and ended up saying more than them, contributing your own opinions and experience to the discussion and if everyone, even the trainers themselves, came out of it learning from each other, then congratulations. That was a learning session, not a training one.

The argument for adopting the paradigm of learning vs training is simple. Training is an event. It’s a series of events. It’s organised by someone else to tell you exactly what they want you to know, and ensuring you stick to doing what you know.

Learning, on the other hand, isn’t an event. It is a fully engaging process of organic and personal experience and one that happens automatically, without any control from the trainer. It is enjoyable, desirable, lifelong and goes far beyond the classroom. Epiphanies never come through training, which are only meant to elicit a specific response. They come only when all the pieces of the puzzle are in place.

Since Learning is more far-reaching, it just makes sense that training, an event, be a subset of the whole learning experience. This is why companies are racing each other to shift their approach, and the names of their departments. So, CLOs run learning organisations, in which there are learning & development departments, in which there are, possibly still, training units.

The next problem is then, how do we give up control of the learning process to the learners and still get the change of behaviour and compliance desired? The answer lies in empowering the learners to accept that on their own.

It is said, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Human beings can be far more stubborn than horses. Just telling them the benefits of a training session isn’t enough to make them believe in something, nor is telling them the detriment of not paying attention in class.

The trainers themselves must undergo a paradigm shift. They must go from Tell to Sell. As every salesman knows, the final decision to believe, buy-in and champion lies with the buyer, the learner and the woman they proposed to.

As such, trainers can no longer afford to browbeat their learners into believing everything they say. Nor can they preach from the pulpit and expect people to practice it.

Trainers must move from being trainer-oriented to being learner-oriented, which means, doing everything necessary to engage them on a peer level, understand what they need and give it to them, at the same time, fulfilling the objectives of the training in the first place.

When a learner decides to become aware of what you teach, is willing to try it out and accepts the benefits of it, that is when retention increases. All because they decided to retain it. All because, instead of training them, you facilitated their learning.

Trainer vs Learning Facilitator

The corollary of that is now what do we call the trainer? A coach? An instructor? This is a choice that every training certification, association and company faces today. What do we call these people? The global trend is moving faster, and if they remain steadfast in insistence, they might get run over.

Well, to each his own choice. In Malaysia, however, about 800 (as of January 2015) people have already made that choice. They are part of a growing community called the PLF Family, a gathering of like-minded, learner-oriented individuals who don’t control the learning process as trainers do, but facilitate it, enabling people to be independent and responsible for their own development. We call them Professional Learning Facilitators (PLF).

Granted, the concept of learner-orientation and focus isn’t new, but the development of a multiskilled, highly responsive and adaptable facilitator of learning is. As part of their development, PLFs are run through a gamut of possible learning scenarios while dealing with difficult audiences and getting the best learning out of them, all the while keeping their eye on the learning objectives that the client requires.

Since 2011, the PLF certification program has seen huge success in developing brand new talent and converting even the most experienced of trainers to this new approach. PLFs from every walk of life have attended and been certified to deliver learning programs of all types to all ages, all sections of society and all educational and professional levels.

Does this mean that training is discarded for good? Far from it, training still exists as a useful approach in delivering exact information. But understanding whether the learner can apply it under varying conditions and whether they fathom where their role sits in the larger organisation, that takes learning facilitation to suss out.

If all other arguments fail, this should convince you. Imagine that you meet the CLO of your client. Would you prefer to introduce yourself as a Trainer or as a peer who shares an approach and function with them?

“Pleasure to meet you. I’m Nadzrin and I’m a Professional Learning Facilitator”

I don’t know about you, but it sure sounds good to me.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Learning From The Trainer-Motivator-Inspirator Dilemma


Being a Professional Learning Facilitator, I found it easy to introduce myself to clients because the certification and the system it was based on allowed me to ride on its promise of quality.

However, for other learning professionals, one of the biggest challenges they face is what to call themselves. Depending on the role, it could be trainer, instructor, coach, facilitator, mentor, motivator, or dozens more.

The good news in choosing from this list is that no one actually owns these terms and anyone is free to name themselves if they have enough credibility to carry it. The bad news is also that no one owns these terms; they are infinitely open to abuse.

Malaysia has seen many examples in the past. The term Trainer has had its ups and downs in the 1990s. Because there is no one standard certification for a Trainer that everyone can agree on, Human Resource (HR) professionals have experienced a variety in the quality of training delivery, both good and bad.

In response, HR now resort to asking for evidence of a Trainer's experience and not simply rely on their certifications. Trainers have a slow climb to build individual brand credibility to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Later, around the new millennium, we saw the rise of the Motivator when productivity and quality were issues in the workforce. Newly-minted Motivators, many of them trainers themselves, created a niche market that everyone, public and private alike, were willing to pay for. They were good at what they did, and they earned well.

The niche grew, and again, Motivators, with dubious credentials began crawling out of the woodwork. If you were presentable, humorous and had public-speaking skills, you could motivate. The industry got very crowded very fast.

The public soon saw that these people weren't the heroes they had envisioned. They saw instances of bad behaviour, profiteering and long-term ineffectiveness of their cheer-leading in the long term. This damaged the term Motivator. People who once called themselves motivators became defensive, sometimes even ashamed to use the term, because of the action of a few show-boaters.

In response to that, recently, an archaic term was discovered as its replacement: the Inspirator. It is so ancient, even spell-check software don't recognise it. More and more people are becoming comfortable using this instead of Motivator, and have various justifications for doing so.

Unfortunately, the problem remains. No one owns it, no one can control it, and all it takes is for some rotten apple Inspirators to spoil the barrel. Once the Inspirator becomes inevitably soiled, what alternative dictionary will supply their new term?

Thus, the Professional Learning Facilitator (PLF) realises that while the PLF is a new concept, it was coined based on a complete system with checks and balances to ensure that what happened to their friends, the Trainers and Motivators doesn't happen to them.

The term PLF itself, is generic enough to be used to cover the roles of trainer, facilitator, mentor, coach, motivator and inspirator. However, the legal registration of the term and specificity of its definition ensures that a PLFs actions are accountable.

When someone becomes a PLF, they take upon themselves the principles enshrined in the Take Charge! Learning Facilitator System® (established by Mohd Rizal Hassan). They commit to live up to a set of standards and give and receive developmental feedback within the PLF Family.

The Mastery level practitioners coach and audit the new PLFs and keep them honest to the system's tenets. Like the scientific and medical professions, it is peer-regulated, or at least, that's the long term goal.

The PLF Family is, in all senses of the word, a professional community that collectively takes it upon itself to maintain standards and safeguard the good brand name of the Professional Learning Facilitator. By doing this, they assure clients and the public of the quality and productivity of a PLF, as well as their openness to improve.

Any deficiency on the PLF Family's part to continue this effort will certainly lead us along the same path that our Trainer and Motivator siblings have trod.

If we don't protect and defend the PLF brand name, sooner or later, we will need to leaf through an old dictionary to find something else to call ourselves.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

EnSync Learning Conferred Prestigious Award


KUALA LUMPUR, 1 Mar 2017 - EnSync Learning's founder, Mohd Nadzrin Wahab was conferred the Global Training & Development Leadership Award by the World Training & Development Congress in Mumbai, India on the 15th of February 2017.

Nadzrin, who was not in attendance, was represented by YH Soo Hoo, a decorated Malaysian trainer who was himself conferred an award in the same category.

The award recognised EnSync Learning's uniqueness in delivering value to clients by focusing in four key areas: ultimate modularity, which allows for quick customisation and bite-sized learning, effective delivery via a highly engaging design and delivery system, learning support by providing relevant pre-and post-course online resources and free online coaching to assist retention and behavioural change.

It also recognised the company's efforts in propagating a necessary change in the local learning & development landscape towards more efficient and effective planning and delivery methodologies.

Chief among the company's push is the Professional Learning Facilitator program, which imparts cutting-edge facilitation skills for trainers who want to upgade their classroom engagement and management methods.

The program is based on the Take Charge! Learning Facilitator System founded by Mohd Rizal Hassan, an NLP and Hypnosis Master Practitioner who began his career in L&D in the 1990s. Today, this system is practiced by more than 1200 practitioners globally.

When asked about the importance of the award, Nadzrin replied, "It's definitely an honour to be recognised alongside great names. It also serves as a reminder for me to continue delivering value to and making a positive impact on my clients".

"In reality, this honour belongs to everyone who has taught, coached and mentored me to this point in my life. Thank you for helping me and thank you for the World HRD Congress for allowing me to be part of something bigger," he added.

EnSync Learning is a Malaysian-based learning services provider. Their website is www.ensynclearning.com

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

2017 Learning & Development Trends


LinkedIn recently released its 2017 Workplace Learning Report which outlines how Learning & Development (L&D) professionals are tackling their top challenges.

The happiest outcome of this report is the No. 1 trend, which is: Organizations are investing more in talent development. Almost 70% of professionals say that talent is the number one priority in their organisations and over a quarter of them are expecting a budget increase in 2017.

While this is good news for the external learning consulting industry, a new challenge will soon become apparent.

Once upon a time, companies were happy to receive Level 1 Kirkpatrick results (a.k.a. Happy Sheets) that justified their training budgets. However, now that the C-suite is keenly aware that L&D is an investment and not a cost, they will begin demanding more evidence of returns on that investment.

Thus, learning consultants must begin developing how to tie their methodologies to measurable results, and above all, prove it.

Secondly, while everyone seems to want to rush onto the e-learning bandwagon, there is often a mismatch between what technology can do and what we want it to do. Across the board, we find that while technology assists, but in-person classroom learning remains the most preferred option.
The report indicates that face-to-face is still da bomb.
This means that learning consultants must select the right tools to increase efficiency of learning, not just to display that they have the capacity for it.

Thirdly, as the audience gets smarter and has immediate and wide access to information, the classroom environment must also change, which means the trainer can no longer dictate or control the learners to one particular outcome.

In fact, it is when learners collaborate and take ownership, if not stewardship of their learning process, that they retain more knowledge and maintain change for longer. Thus, the best method is to shift away from training into learning facilitation.

Above all, learning consultants must always remember why they joined the industry in the first place, to promote growth and innovation in L&D.

Now that businesses are catching up to trends sparked a decade ago, it is time L&D professionals made the next quantum leap into the future. Why wait? Start now.

 Click here to download the report
 Click here to download the report

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Wickedness: Blazing from the fires of Joy


Wickedness comes from the addiction to Joy.

Joy, like Sadness, Anger and Fear serve survival functions.

When these emotions detract from beneficial thought and social functions is when they become the norm instead of the exception.

People who are addicted to joy will uncontrollably seek out exciting, and often dangerous activities, to get the rush.

Individually, they love to listen to and tell over-the-top jokes, especially those that involve illogical punchlines which require lateral thought connections.

"What kind of bus can stand on a sidewalk? A busker"

Many of the individual activities are harmless to others whole providing pleasure to only the Joyeur.
Unfortunately, when a small percentage get bored of them, they resort to getting their rushes elsewhere, more commonly practical jokes or pranks. This is when the Joy becomes Wickedness instead.

Pranks have very little upside for the prankee, which embarrasses and in some cases, even injures them. Conversely, there is always an upside for the Wicked.

Most Joyeurs won't cross this line. But the Wicked will demolish it.

Children, at early ages, learn it from family and friends, laughing at minor accidents at home or at school.

Also, watching cartoons where the heroes laugh at the villains' boss berating his henchmen for once again causing his failure.

Parents might find this behaviour cute, but unclarified, uncorrected and unguided, it could lead into an addiction that lasts a lifetime and affects many other people in the years to come.

It could even lead to the dreaded output of wickedness: bullying.

Wickedness is not funny.

Nip it in the bud. Fast.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Preparing the Mind for Innovative Thinking


Innovative Thinking as a skill requires a proper platform for it to function properly. This platform needs to be built well to prepare the mind to think well.

A prepared mind notices things an unprepared mind doesn't and is ready to process new ideas objectively and purposefully.

As the old saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

According to Prof Jeanne Liedtka, there are three characteristics of preparedness of the mind:

  1. Learning vs Losing Mindset
  2. Broad Repertoire vs Limited
  3. People empathy vs People apathy

The Learning Mindset is a must to ensure that the mind is ready to make and accept mistakes, learn from them and innovate to prevent them happening again. Whereas the Losing mindset only shies away from challenges and prefers to do things the way it always has.

A Broad Repertoire of skills, knowledge and experiences also allows easy access to helpful information. Working only in one area for a long time does not allow the variety of input that helps the mind stay open to possibilities. A limited repertoire will only breed thinking based on outdated or untested beliefs.

People empathy, while surprising as a thinking characteristic, actually makes sense considering any innovation will impact people. Thus, the gathering of information from others, the design of deliverables and its implementation must include human input and consideration. To be blind to human needs is to forget who actually keeps everything running.

Prof Liedtka calls people with these three characteristics Catalysts, because they can innovate wherever they are with limited resources, and their influence is far-reaching and sparks organic growth at exponential rates.

Want to be a Catalyst? Prepare your mind with them.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Only Certainty Is Uncertainty


The volatile global economy has caused many businesses to invest in predictability. They hire people with strong track records, people who can control every variable of processes and people who can reduce variation and waste.

As they say, variation is the mother of waste. Standard Operating Procedures, policies, policing, management, job aids, training, all of these terms allude to the reduction of waste and the improvement of efficiency.

Very rarely do these terms inspire joy and love of or for the organisation. However, the numbers don't lie. The tighter the ship, the greater the execution.

These are the physics of Execution. Laws like gravity that govern how to get the most out of the least.
Unfortunately, when we talk about Innovation, it's as if we're talking about quantum mechanics. The laws underlying Innovation are totally different from the laws underlying Execution.

"The most fundamental natural law of innovation, is that the only certainty is uncertainty," Prof Jeanne Liedtka, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.

Therefore, to be innovative, you have to be comfortable with unpredictability, and master synergising all the variables into an iterative design instead of controlling them.

Design itself, as a word, doesn't indicate control, but of acknowledging, adapting to and collaborating with various variables.

We have seen, again and again, where garage startups, with no control structure (but guided by design) grow organically faster than and are far more agile than their long-established behemoth cousins.

The difference doesn't lie in age nor size, it lies in allowing high-variance in innovation activities. Innovation is fragile, not like the robust processes that have been stripped of non-value activities. Ironically, the stronger you grip, the easier it breaks.

The question we should be asking then is, are we controlling our innovation or are we designing it?

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Design Thinking by Prof Jeanne Liedtka

(c) Jeanne Liedtka
When you face a complex problem that involves a lot of people and perceptions, Analytical and Critical Thinking might not be able to deal with it.

When your team can't even decide on the definition of the problem, then an option you want to choose is Design Thinking.

Design Thinking (DT) is a strategy to solve problems using a guided, yet unstructured approach. While there are many definitions as there are many design thinkers, a useful path is outlined by Prof Jeanne Liedtka of the University of Virginia.

In her model, she unravels DT into four key phases based on questions:
1. What Is
2. What If
3. What Wows
4. What Works
There are 10 tools used iteratively at all phases:

WHAT IS

1. Visualisation - This is present at all parts of the effort. It allow the team to quickly access and assess what they are doing and how far they have come.

2. Journey Mapping - This is used to clarify the path a user takes in a routine to determine where there are pain points or opportunities for improvement.

3. Value Chain Analysis - This is used to determine where value can be added throughout the sequence of a routine towards coming up with a solution.

4. Mind Mapping - The old stalwart that clusters all of those ideas into manageable chunks of information.


WHAT IF

5. Brainstorming - This is a more guided version of the traditional tool and seeks to generate solutions by asking What If?

6. Concept Development - This is where the ideas cluster into families. They say an idea can fit a sticky note. A concept needs a poster.


WHAT WOWS

7. Assumption Testing - This is where the dream is measured against the reality, to ensure that the early assumptions that drove the concept are strong enough to survive the next stage.

8. Rapid Prototyping - This is where the abstract is given a physical form that the team can interact with, whether it be a low-fidelity version or one closer to scale.


WHAT WORKS

9. Customer Co-Creation - This is where instead getting the customer to test the final solution, the stakeholders actually come in and join the creation process, becoming both tester and designer.

10. Learning Launch - Now that the team has narrowed the solutions down to several workable ones, a few can be chosen based on the resources available to do a small scale market test.

Choose The Right Style

Design Thinking as a more informal thinking style doesn't require you to be artsy, as creativity is far more than paintings in The Louvre. All you need to start with is curiousity and passion about change.

What are you waiting for? Think with design.

#HATS
#HeuristicAdaptiveThinkingStyles

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Half Brain of the Future



Dan Pink in his book Whole New Mind talks about how we use our left and right brain. While we use both sides of our brain for everything we do, each side specialises in different tasks.

The left brain specialises in taking things apart, in sequence and is textual.

The right brain specialises in synthesising things simultaneously contextually.

Understanding this difference can help explain how the labor markets work. Once upon a time, analytical and planning abilities were very important in the workplace.

It allowed you to advance in your employment and rise in society. However, in the last few decades, especially in the USA, where a lot of jobs have been shipped to India and China, this has become a problem.

It has become a big issue and a very sensitive hot button, impacting not just economy, but also politics and social stability.

What not many people realise is that the jobs that are being shipped are essentially the structured, logical, routine work that can easily be outsourced and automated.

They can be mass-trained to a workforce or done by computer algorithms.

However, the right brain processes cannot currently be outsourced or automated. There is no software that can easily replace a graphic designer, a creative consultant, a design thinker or a mentor or coach.

Therefore, the differentiating skills of the future are no longer left-brain, but right-brain. When you want to survive and thrive in the market, you must be able to bring not only analytical abilities, but creative abilities as well.

Learn. Now.

#HATS
#HeuristicandAdaptiveThinkingStyles

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Building Rapport through Trust


Every relationship starts with a connection called Rapport and the foundation of that rapport is Trust.

There are generally two opinions on the concept of Trust.

1. Black & White - "I either trust him, or I don't. There's nothing in the middle!"
2. Gray - "I trust him a little. What he does after this will determine whether I will trust him more".

I prefer to work with the Gray concept of trust, that you can go from 0% to 100% trust.

Trust, in practical terms, is how much you feel safe with another person.

A stranger who sits next to you at a bus stop creates 0% trust.

When you have a conversation that talks about something you are both interested in, fashion, football, makeup, comics, you feel safer, thus your trust of her goes up, let's say 5%.

It's still not enough trust to hand her your handbag while you go to the ladies.

So far, I've only met one person who insists she will let her BFF take care of her husband while she is away. Now THAT's 100%.

We place different levels of trust in our family, friends, colleagues, etc based on prior experience.

One man confided in me that he trusts his friend more than he does his wife because of things she has done before.

Thus, the key to improving rapport is by creating Trust, and increasing Trust comes with consistency of action.

When you create more Trust, you improve the quality of your relationships.

Be someone people can trust.

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Trust Factor


Human beings are comfortable with people they trust.

They trust people who they believe share similarities with them.

People see similar facial expressions, body language and behaviour, and believe they share the same interests.

People hear similar speech patterns, speed, intonations and topics, and believe they share the same opinions.

People move in the same directions, towards the same things, and believe they share the same goals.

People react to the same situations with the same emotions, and they believe they share the same values.

When you are able to behave, speak, aim and emote the same way, you will have built the minimum foundation of trust.

Water in a teacup becomes the teacup. Become water, my friend.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Living the 4 Relationships


Traditional Muslim scholars classify relationships into 4 dimensions:

1. Spiritual - Me and Allah
2. Psychological - Me and Myself
3. Social - Me and Humanity
4. Environmental - Me and the Physical Universe

Within each relationship there are norms and rules of interaction, called Adab. Translated simply, they are Manners. Deeper, they refer to the quality of the relationship being navigated.

Allah has taught us, through Rasulullah SAW, the adab of interacting with Him in worship. The adab is present in the studies of Taqwa (Allah-awareness), humility and love.

The adab of me and myself is seen in how I care for my mind, body and soul. Whether I respect myself enough to take in only what benefits them and stay far away from what damages them. (Daily stuggle, for sure).

The adab of me and others is seen in my daily interactions with people. How I respect them, how I care for them, how I advise or admonish them, how I listen to them.

Finally, the adab of me and my environment is seen in how I appreciate the objects around me, how I maintain them and how I dispose of them.

The example of Rasulullah SAW provides a good blueprint and yardstick to close the gap and follow in his footsteps.

While his relationship with Allah is a given, observe how he maintains utmost discipline in his diet, hygiene, fitness and intellect.

How he treats his family, companions and enemies; with respect and fairness.

How he treats his possessions. He names his mirror, his sword, his horse and maintains them according to their rights.

These four relationships represent the daily interactions we navigate throughout our lives. When one of them suffers in quality, we aren't living a full life.

Pay attention to your relationships. Live your life through them.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The PLF as Organisational Leader


"I like what you write, but it isn't relevant for me," said a friend. "I'm not a trainer. I work with people. I manage a department".

"Then, fortunately, being a Professional Learning Facilitator is still one of the best investments for your skillset," I begin.

"How so?"

"Well, as a PLF, you practice the philosophy of Learn It, Do It, Live It. This helps you to provide instructions so that your people don't just understand and carry them out, but they become champions of the culture you're building in your organisation," I reply.

"The L.E.A.R.N. model helps you get that done by specifically appealing to how the brain processes information and how it likes to be persuaded. You can then customise your message to get it across to individuals and groups," I add.

"Sounds useful. It also doesn't sound like a train-the-trainer course," he challenged.

"That's because the approach is different. It prepares you to develop skills to interact and collaborate with people, not command and control," I smiled.

"I get it. You facilitate, not dominate," he offers.

"That's a good way to put it. We are all human beings. People respect you for how you help them, not how you demean them. So, to get the ball rolling, respect them as peers first. Then, the mutual respect will come," I conclude.

"But, what if I don't get the respect that will help me and them do our jobs?" he asked, now interested.

"Let's talk..."