Parenting and leadership – Different context, similar lessons?

Having to balance parenting and career (and many other aspects of life), I must admit that I am obsessed with efficiency. One of my approach to efficiency is to connect and cross-implement the lessons I learnt between these two seemingly disparate worlds. Of course, these are two completely different context, you may say. But there is a common parameter in these two – humans. When it comes to humans and emotions, the dynamics that accompany these interactions can get rather unpredictable (recall a time when you ask your son to clean his bed, and he still does not do it despite the ‘friendly reminder’? Or to motivate your team to stretch their capability, only to find he/ she is chasing the wrong initiative, very efficiently?)

I thought about some of these key lessons and quickly eliminated the hard, technical aspects of it. This is also because primarily, there are so many classes and experts out there to help us on “strategic leadership” or “parenting” (ala tiger mom). Let’s talk about ‘heart matters’ (some of my friends jokingly call this fluff, but I have to say that this soft/fluffy thing is the hardest to do!)

Lesson 1: Start with a good intention and clear purpose

As a first-time mother, I used to lament on why babies did not come with manuals. I freaked out a lot during the first 3 years of our eldest son (sorry son, you are our guinea pig and you know that!), trying really hard to read every parenting books and talking to other parents.

However, like magic, when our second son came, it changed my perspective on the purpose and our role as parents. I quickly realized, it is more important to be joyful and to be supportive in this parenting journey, rather than be perfect.

How does that tie to good intention and clear purpose?

This realization that I am here to support (as a parent, and as a leader) to the people that matter, helped me to set my intention to help my kids and my team to uncover their potential and to support the things that will make them better.

For example, if one child has inclination on dinosaurs, or animals, we will consciously plan our activities and program to help grow their interest. If he/she is introvert and needs some nudging on working with people, then we will use any teachable moments to build their confidence and chip away anxiety.

The same principle applies to leading the team. Knowing the intention of supporting the team, it is much more joyful experience, rather than strictly chasing the KPIs (of which some are undeniably still very important!).

Lesson 2: Useful feedback and clear expectations

Not all feedback are created equal – there is such a thing as useful feedback.

What is useful feedback? It is a feedback, when given, will actually enhance the person’s performance and/or increase confidence level that made them interested to improve.

I admit that I made many mistakes on providing useful feedback (and still do!).

But let’s dissect the key elements of useful feedback:

⁃ They are specific, and targeted on behavior (and not personal)

⁃ They invite reflections and create sense of ownership and accountability. For our kids, I usually tie back to our ‘agreed family values’. At work, it can be tied to the mission and goals.

⁃ They have some sense of hope and motivate the recipient to actually improve the situation. For example, yes, we acknowledge the situation but therein the opportunity to improve.

When in doubt, I find that the pre-requisite of giving useful feedback is making sure my intention is to help the recipient to grow (see Lesson 1).

Lesson 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate

How many times could we have avoided conflict if we communicate? I can recall many occasion that I could have prevented if I had been more purposeful in communicating.

What I have also learnt about communication is there is no such thing as over-communicate. I am constantly surprised at the feedback I get from my children or my team, when I actually ask their opinion about certain things. (And I know, I don’t do enough…)

Most importantly, I have learnt that communication is not only during good times, but also during bad times. My husband has this fascinating approach with our children that we will take every opportunity of “teachable moments” to communicate our family values and lessons learnt at the most (sometimes I feel) difficult moments. The”teachable moments” are the moments of breakdown or disappointment – those that allow us to process our feelings, and also to use these to build stronger connections. At work, it could be when your team member did not deliver, or did not pre-empt you sufficiently. Or it could well be something out of hunch that somethings is amiss.

In summary, these three lessons are applicable, whether it is for parenting or leading a team. Above all, the overarching foundation for all these three lessons is genuine care.

On a final note, I must admit that it is very much work in progress for me at work – let’s say that it is easier to love your children as a mother!

Three Lessons from the Holy City

I have to admit that I have been putting this story for a while since our visit to the Holy City, Mecca, last December. But, today’s casual chat with a friend at work urged me to pen the thoughts down before I lose these insights. My intention is really to share the three powerful lessons with hope they may facilitate you to find your own AHA moment from something simple in life.

For those who may not be familiar of the Umrah rituals (or mini Hajj / pilgrimage for the Muslims), Tawaf is one of the pillars and mandatory ritual as part of the Umrah. This involves circling the Kaaba seven times counterclockwise, which seems to be quite simple on the surface – yet the flash of insights from that ritual are not that trivial (at least to me).

Lesson 1: There will be always relief – ALLOW things to unfold once you set the intention

Given the big crowd at the end of the year, I had some hesitation whether we could even have the opportunity to do the Tawaf comfortably. Even the kids openly expressed their “anxiety” before we arrived in Mecca – to which I acknowledged openly and also encouraged them to set the intention and hold a prayer to make it bearable.

We were lucky to arrive from Madinah around 10pm and started our ritual soon after. However, the crowd did not seem to subside even at midnight. Somehow, in that 2 hour window, we stuck together as a family (and as a group with the rest of the group members who are travelling with us), and somehow the 7 rounds seem to be smooth and bearable.

What was the secret?

Later only I realized that since we had set the intention that there will always be relief, we tend to see “empty spaces” (or relief) during the Tawaf. It is not any easier but the intention helped us recognize the opportunity more clearly and seize it. This just validated some of our life experiences where sometimes help seemingly come from unexpected sources – when we really set the intention and believe that God (or Universe for some) will help us. And the key is really to allow help to come.

Lesson 2: Once set in motion, let go of the outcome

On my third Tawaf a few days later, I decided that I would not worry about how long I will take to complete the 7 rounds (and this was done at noon, when it was hot and between lunch time). For an A-type person who always keep tab on KPI and timing, it was actually not an easy decision to make for myself. But I decided I am going to have fun experimenting this and see how it will turn out when I am focused on the process, but not the outcome (i.e how fast can I complete it).

It turned to be a powerful lesson on trusting the process.

The moment I let go of the outcome, I was more focused on the ritual and was more at ease. There was no expectation of when I would finish it and gave me a breather to just pace my speed and to focus on the prayers during the ritual.

This remains the hardest to implement in real-life, I admit. It did give me a glimpse of peace if I learn to focus on the task at hand, without clinging onto my own set of expectations.

Lesson 3: Your journey is yours, don’t worry about other people’s journey. It is not yours to worry.

By far, this is the most powerful insight from this ritual. You can imagine that it is very easy to get triggered when you are being pushed constantly (and sometimes for no apparent reason) in the big crowd while circling the Kaaba.

As part of the spiritual and mental preparation before this ritual, I had reminded myself that this is something that I need to learn – learning not to judge and learning to focus on my own journey.

As a result of this, my strategy was to imagine that everyone had the same good intention in this ritual and that I can choose to focus on my own reaction and behavior. It does not mean I condone to his / her untoward behavior, but I became very aware of my own feeling and quickly let the judgement pass -of course, for practical purposes, I would just step aside and let the ‘storm’ pass. (No pun intended! :))

Boy, that made the whole ritual much more peaceful. So, reminder to myself now that I am back in the daily grind – there will be storms created by other people, but let them pass and not perturb your own peace. We are capable of creating our own inner sanctuary when we focus on our journey.

To my friends who are planning for Umrah this year, may your ibadah be blessed!

Thriving in Workplace and Home

My spouse and I recently had the opportunity to share a few lessons and tools on enabling us to thrive in workplace and home as a dual-career family. The most popular question from the participants is that while they want to thrive in both environments, they wanted to know how to prioritize and juggle the conflicting priorities.

Since this seems to be quite a popular question, I thought it’d be good to share some of the key takeaways here for the benefit of the larger group.

The most foundational step when it comes to thriving in workplace and home is to have the belief that we can thrive in both. The semantic of “work-life balance” somehow gives the impression that something has to go. The reality is that our life is dynamic and that “see-saw” balancing act always oscillate from time to time. As a family, we made a conscious decision very early in our partnership that it will be “work-life integration”. By using the word integration, we are conscious of the choices and priorities that we make and we are committed to stand by our principles at all times.

With this foundation laid, as a dual-career family, we see thriving in workplace and home as running a “Life Enterprise”. This means that we approach everything as running an enterprise, we integrate both with the other life aspects, using the tools and processes to run as a unit. This includes setting the family guiding principles based on values, systems, support, and decision-making matrix. In a simpler form, it means we are mindful and intentional over the things we do, be it at work or at home.

We believe in preserving the core while being flexible in executing.

To run the “Life Enterprise”, we have observed that these “pillars” have significantly helped us set it up effectively:

1. Build your support, processes and systems: For our family, we have set-up many systems to automate, delegate and prompt our important tasks. Of course, just like any enterprise, we need to start somewhere and further refine the systems as we go along. Some examples of the systems include the morning breakfast system, laundry management system, house-cleaning support system, homework support (which is minimal except if it was Bahasa), monthly bills payment system, kids’ annual stipend system and our property management system. We even have a travel checklist and toiletries & travel essentials ready to-go whenever we decide to travel (near or far).

2. Plan and prioritize: We cannot stress enough the importance of planning and prioritization. Given that our time is finite, we have to be mindful of what gets done and what gets dropped. As a life enterprise, rather than prioritizing in silos and in isolation, we would rather look at the bigger picture and that means balancing our family, our life and our career. I can expand this topic on its own – so I will deliberate more in a different entry on time management. 🙂 Hint: Things get done when scheduled in your calendar

3. Habits and rituals: We admit that we are creatures of habits and our willpower can bring us only so far. Hence, we believe in creating daily habits and family rituals to increase the chance of success in integrating both worlds. We believe in being role model to our children, hence setting up core values and use those as our compass has helped us tremendously. We also believe in consciously creating our family identity: the family rituals will help us through this journey and bind us in a more meaningful way.

4. Create open and honest communication: This is the most interesting journey so far for us, as we build this life enterprise. We joked at the learning session that we observed that the number of “silent treatments” and “unnecessary fights” have exponentially decreased over years, as we learn how to fight well. We learnt how to be transparent and communicate our needs openly. We need to understand where the other person comes from, what is his/her motivation when expressing their stand and how we can work together in co-creating the solutions. As we learn to fight better, we created deeper bond and mutual respect for each other, as partner in this life enterprise.

In summary, a slight shift in perspective will yield completely different strategies. And above all, this fits nicely with our persona – my spouse and I find meaning in the partnership and we get the joy in growing together.

Finding Purpose – a futile search?

This quest of finding purpose feels futile to me for quite a long time. Unfortunately, the more desperate I was, the more confusing it got.

Like any other person on a quest, I searched everywhere. I journaled, I read books, I talked to people, I listened to inspiring speeches. I even Googled! But – nothing. It got more confusing.

What I forgot to do is to search in one place that I usually avoid – within me.

By grace of God, instead of avoiding, I mustered the courage last year and set the intention to start the journey of discovery. I am happy to say that there are glimpses of ‘purpose’ that I found in this journey and my intention here is to share some of the key lessons with you.

What are my three key lessons in ‘finding purpose’:

  1. Semantics is important. I have now learnt that the way I frame and define ‘purpose’ is critical. I found that purpose is not about ‘doing’ but it is about ‘being’. I have since then re-framed purpose as “what do I intend to be and how will I show up on a daily basis, using my unique gifts”. Instead of pressuring myself to be the hero and saving the world, now I define my purpose as someone who gives a voice in conscious living and positive parenting / leadership. The compass helps when making small decisions on a day-to-day life. (These decisions add up!)
  2. I did not find purpose overnight. It is indeed a continuous journey. But once I reframe it as ‘being’, it took away the expectations to find THE purpose. What is more important is to be open and curious in the journey, allowing it to unfold naturally. I have never expected that allowing myself to be curious and to play is the best way to connect the dots. It still amazes me how things unfold when I decide to be curious and take the next step (which most of the time seems ridiculous at times. This blog is one of so many examples of curious ideas that popped up.
  3. Purpose requires commitment. We all have a unique gift to express but without fierce commitment and discipline, a vision will remain a vision.

In summary, what I found in this journey is that purpose is created consciously, one at a time. It blends our strengths, our joy and our contribution. It requires commitment. It requires me ‘to be’. Sometimes, I need to let things unfold and see the magic. Yes, a departure from my expectation when I started 🙂

So, what’s yours?

Leadership Nuggets – From Peter Senge

What an honor to learn some of these leadership nuggets from Peter Senge today, at Jakarta, thank you to Cherie for the invitation and warm hospitality.

Thought of sharing my raw notes, hope we all can take some of the wisdom and practice it immediately. 🙂

On letting chaos into order

  • Life is just not orderly, life emerges. Out of that emerges, order can come but it’s different than the order that we control.
  • How hierarchy can work better, not in the absence of hierarchy.

On Innovations:

  • The deep principle of innovation is collaboration: At MIT and its successful innovations, the heart of it is collaboration. Innovations emerge through working in teams.
  • All innovations come from someone who praised someone for stepping ahead, by taking risks.
  • Technology is meant to connect but now unfortunately has fragmented the society. Online communities tend to stick to the similar group because of zero-cost of exit. Real communities can only happen when you are stuck with each other and embrace diversity.
  • Diversity creates innovation. Solidarity is not uniformity but commitment to shared vision.
  • Harmony only exists because of diversity. The beauty of orchestra is diversity. This is deep old problem.
  • Technology is neutral and only an enabler. Technology does not define Industry 4.0.
  • The unintended consequence (such as terrorism) accelerated by technologies – it is not technology but really the human dimension (ie. motivation/intention) underlying behind it.

On Revolution:

  • The journey for IR4.0 is understanding our past and then create the future. The very first question: Will we still be a country with Industry 4.0. It is a question about identity and root.
  • Movement requires deeper sense of security. To take courage and step ahead, it is paradoxical that there has to have a sense of deeper sense of security.
  • Similar to biology, the process of evolution is transformation through conservation – it is rather paradoxical.
  • So, the important part for revolution is two-part: (i) what do we want to create and (ii) what identity do we want to conserve. But who are “we”? Whose identity?

On Leadership:

  • Do not confuse rank / formal authority with leadership. Just because you have a title, does not mean you are a leader. Most organizational leaders do not have titles.
  • The job of the CEO is to patiently listen to what’s being said and then forcefully communicate and execute.
  • In combat, it is easy to find a good leader, finding those that people whose team are willing to fight and die because of trust.
  • Masculine and feminine leadership – balance of leadership. The challenge we are facing in the leadership in this decade is re-balancing because the past has been fully-dominated by masculine power. That’s why yin and yang together are so important. With one-eye we don’t see the depth, only with two-eyes can we see the depth and the truth.
  • The deeper problem is how do I find myself something to appreciate when we see someone of different political view.
  • If we don’t like what we see, hold a brighter mirror. Of course, it is about changing society, but it starts with holding a mirror in front of us.
  • The real work of a leader is always external and external impact but the process is very reflective. “How do I keep discovering the flaw of my own ego, where my own fear takes over, when I don’t listen..”
  • To become a leader, you must be a human being. – Confucious
  • We can have respectful authority and challenging authority in the army. It is about balance. That’s what Innovation 4.0 is leading to. Hence, the chaos…. but we need to get comfortable with chaos..
  • It is not enough to have ideas and vision, but we have to practice. If we want to change, we need to create new practices. The leadership practice is about deep reflective practices AND execute simple daily actions.

Roots of words

  • “To lead”- indo-european is lithe which means, to step across the threshold. Leadership is stepping ahead. Leadership is from the edge.
  • Leadership is uncertain, you may fail. You will need courage to step ahead.
  • Willingness to be vulnerable (yet the images in the society that leaders are perfect, always right), hence why innovations are stalled.
  • It doesn’t matter because we are all human, we are imperfect yet we step ahead.
  • Leadership is the ability to clarify your goal and mobilize people.
  • Most effective leaders are deep listeners.
  • Courage means “opening of the heart”

9-Months Journey: A Reflection

As we closed our 9-month Mastery program yesterday with the closing call with my circle sisters, my heart just overflowed with such gratitude and wonder on how it has transformed me in this journey of fully embracing myself.

If I were to say what is that single shift – it is really the ability to create a deeper and more compassionate connection with myself, which in turn creates more compassion on others. With that shift, I had been able to hold multiple perspectives and get to the generative mode especially in times of conflict. The key that unlocks this is really to observe our old patterns and to name the limiting belief – and at the same time, extending compassion and radical self-responsibility to go there, to reframe and to question the belief.

I know the shift is subtle but at the same time significant. In one of the meditation practices, I was so surprised by my own observation that I did not know how to react to that wounded, small-Self, which is primarily the cause of my fear of getting to the bottom of it. This understanding alone has allowed me to give the space to re-learn and re-connect.

Of course, this is not without much commitment and relentless efforts. In all the three power centers we learnt, I felt I still had a long way to go in developing the second power center – which is really to trust my intuition and co-create with the Universe. However, I have learnt to surrender and to actually ask for help from the Universe (or God, whichever you believe in). What I have also learned is to embrace the imperfection, and at that exact moment, set my intention and clear my energy before I ask for guidance – it feels much more doable then expecting it to be perfect. I have also learned to remind myself to continue “giving” despite all my worries and the world will give back in unexpected little ways I could not imagine (and they do a lot of times!). Some of these blessings manifested not in the external success definitions, but really those definitions that really matter – it is indeed a blessing.

Never under-estimate the power of support

I would not do justice without mentioning the superb support from Claire, the coaches and other Mastery participants. But more importantly, the weekly circle calls with my Pod sisters.

Why is this so?

The structure enables us to cement the lessons by sharing and reflecting our own insights before going back to really practicing it in our daily lives. The greatest gift is to absorb and learn through each other’s stories and lessons. I feel that by reflecting their brilliance, I also learn how to appreciate my own brilliance. For that, I am eternally grateful (and honored) for such genuine care and compassion we displayed to each other. I also enjoyed the space we have created as a pod to speak from our heart, to stand in our center and just the loving way how each other supported our journey in their own way. (By the way, this probably deserves its own page so I should probably save it for another day :))

So, what’s next?

My commitment is to continue nurturing myself through daily practice of morning exercise, journalling, daily energy clearing and meditation. What I wish to celebrate is the depth of my being and that I am learning to recognize the ways I can contribute in a more conscious, soulful way – which is more grounded rather than external-focused.

What I want to create next is in the area of conscious leadership especially for those in the technical line and business. One more interesting area I am exploring is in the area of conscious parenting and balancing my role as a working mother. I enjoyed the conversations around thriving in workplace and home. More to come!

Integrity – how far would you go?

The global community today lauds integrity and transparency in business and government.

But today, I don’t want to talk about integrity from that perspective.

Instead, I want to talk about the integrity with ourselves – personal integrity.

What does it mean by having “personal integrity”?

I define personal integrity as an alignment with our values, clarity on what we stand for and how we embrace our weaknesses and strengths – to show up fully to be of service to others.

If you ever felt conflicted, unease or just simply frustrated without understanding why, there is a small probability that something is nudging you to realign and reclaim your self integrity.

It has been a challenging journey for me to discover this path because it has not always been easy to dig deep into the dark closet and face my own shadows. What eventually drove me to get into the uncomfortable territory and face my own shadow is the vision to be a better mother, a better leader and most importantly, to be at peace with myself.

Recognizing that this is an ever-evolving journey, I realized that it will never be complete and one can only go as far as he / she wants to go. In my own journey, these question have helped me to re-center and ground myself closer back to integrity. I hope it will help you to re-center (and remember to take a deep breath!):

If I see my compassionate Self, what would I do as the next step?

I love this most because this is the gentlest question and I usually start with this first before I ask the rest of the questions.

What part of me contributed to this situation?

I have been in many conflict situations and my habitual response would be to blame the other person or the situation (who doesn’t?). However, after much practice, zooming out to see which part of me contributed to the conflict has enabled me to stay true to myself. Owning up, instead of feeling victimized shifted the blame energy and increased my understanding why that happened. A lot of times, I have to seek God’s help for me to see it clearly and see my own shadows. As a result, it usually will dissolve the negative energy in me, which helped me to frame a much more productive and generative communication. Of course, the journey continues and I am still practicing.

Is it aligned with my values?

When I feel charged with some issues, I caught myself being so judgmental on the other person’s opinions. Again, it takes a lot of muscles to just breathe and step back. This question helps me reframe and bring me back to integrity. Most times, I know that some of my actions and my feelings probably violate my own values, so this question keeps me honest.

If I believe that the Universe supports me in staying true to myself, I wonder what would be the best option?

After having deep (and mostly painful) reflections from the earlier questions above, I like to progress with this question since it evokes wonder and play. It is really to change my state of seriousness to something more open, yet still effective.

Looking back at the so-called perceived weaknesses, are there signs of strengths and how can I use to contribute?

I use this sometime to make me feel better. Recognizing that sometimes I may be too hard on myself, so I tend to see things in a negative light, under pressure. This question challenges my assumptions and beliefs, to dig deeper and see that some of the features are my strengths, instead of “perceived” weaknesses. For example, I used to think that my emotional sensitivity is my liability at work, but now I realized that when harnessed properly, it provides a headstart to create deeper connection with people around me.

Hope this helps you (and do not forget to take a couple of deep breaths!)

So, how far would you go to have personal integrity? I would invest my time to do this since my intention is to create a deeper connection with myself and be more congruent (my 2018 goal to “create”).

The Shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance. Indeed, self-knowledge as a psychotherapuetic measure frequently requires much painstaking work extending over a long period of time.

– Carl Jung