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!

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

Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

Have you been disappointed lately? I have. A lot. Especially this past week.

The streaks of disappointments prompted me to reflect a little bit more on what were the triggers and effectively learn how to get out of my disappointed mode. That curiosity led me to this equation that I discovered a while back through a book by Chip Conlay: Emotional Equations.

Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

As an analytical person, I love the wisdom in this equation (and it is a linear equation!) yet it speaks to my sensitive soul, as well. Why is that? I love it because it has only 1 degree of freedom and we have a direct control over that variable – it is our expectations.

The key in this one variable is that we know that we can tweak our expectations to minimize the disappointment. Here are the 3 examples of the scenarios that might demonstrate the simple, yet powerful variable.

1. At work: In several occasions, I was disappointed with my team member(s), so it is important that I step back and ask myself if my expectation for this person is reasonable. Did I question his / her intent, or his / her competency? Did I expect reciprocity when I extended help to someone? What did I expect for someone in a senior position to do – is that my own projection of a high (sometimes unreasonable) standard that I impose to myself? What would be a reasonable expectation, taking into account all context and the background?

2. Relationship: I have to admit that I stopped expecting my spouse to read my mind on the day I decided I would get married to him. So, I will be very upfront about expressing my needs or my dissatisfaction. It has removed most frictions that would have occurred otherwise.

3. Parenting: I might expect that our children to ‘behave’ all the time. If we, as a family, spend a little bit more time to define on what really matter to us (i.e for me, they are safety and our core values), can I then choose and prioritize those that are in the highest priorities and let go of the lower ones?

Also, since this is an equation, I love the way that I can “measure” the disappointment and mentally “rank” the disappointment based on a matrix. Those that have larger magnitude will probably need more attention and the smaller ones will be quickly acknowledged.

[Disclaimer: This disappointment equation analysis is post-facto, and I have to admit that while I was stuck in the web of disappointments, I did have an amygdala hi-jack and was not able to quantify appropriately. :)] But hey, it is fun to make it light and fun!

Celebrating Wholeness

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week and as I celebrate my newfound shift in thinking, I thought of writing something around celebrating wholeness.

What is wholeness?

To me, wholeness is embracing the full spectrum of myself: the planner, the go-getter, the loyal sergeant, the creator, the empath, the artist and the carefree child.

As I learnt the new possibilities of creativity, I found it extremely difficult to integrate this playful side of me with the serious, practical side of me. At times, I felt like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde – one moment, I would immerse myself in intense work and drive, and at the other, I would be perfectly happy contemplating for days, not worrying about those work backlogs and wish I could be on vacation forever. It was quite a confusing phase (thank God it is quite short!) for me. For a while, I was living in an EITHER/OR world – I thought I had to choose which way do I prefer to live – to be carefree or to be driven. It was draining to put a serious, professional face all the time, but equally, I have no idea how to show up as that carefree, sensitive artist in my life. In short, it was confusing and counter-productive.

Then, I stumbled upon a book about life in spectrum that changed my perspective – “SWITCH ON” by Nick Seneca Jankel.

Instead of EITHER/OR, I found the concept of BOTH/AND very intriguing.

I have heard the term “Creative Tension” few times before, but the chart below (from “Switch On” book) illustrates the concept beautifully.

How it applies to me is the ability to recognize that it is okay to operate in a dynamic mode and to learn to move through this spectrum – oscillating from the thinkerMe to the playfulMe. Have you experienced the blissful moment and then in the next cycle, you became so determined and committed to step into the next action? That is creative tension dynamic at play.

What is most important about this shift in thinking is that I can now embrace the spectrum, ride the waves and enjoy it at the same time, without feeling confused. I can send the cues to my body to let go after I am in the fifth gear mode. I can remind myself to play and relax, after working so hard. And the most beautiful revelation is that I can be a driver and be a carefree person. It is through embracing the kaleidoscope of these moments that I become richer and more whole.

For mothers, it might mean that it is okay to be playful with your child and at other appropriate time, be the discipliner.

For leaders, it might mean that it is okay to be sensitive to your team’s needs, and also be firm on the principles.

For achievers, it might mean that it is okay to give the best shot in your project, and at the same time let go of the outcomes.

For some women, it might mean that it is okay to show up in the world in a practical way, and also embracing the sensitive and nurturing side of us, in order to make a better world.

For me, it means embracing all the pieces that define me: a mother, a professional, a friend, an artist and a carefree woman.

That is how I want to celebrate the IWD this week 🙂 Happy International Women’s Day!