Monthly Archives: October 2018


Picture I took at a coffee place in Naraijuku, and the forest walk from Torii Pass to Narai Oct 2018

Ichi-go ichi-e (Japanese: 一期一会, lit. “one time, one meeting”) [it͡ɕi̥.ɡo it͡ɕi̥.e] is a Japanese four-character idiom (yojijukugo) that describes a cultural concept of treasuring meetings with people.

The term is often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a lifetime.” The term is a reminder to cherish that many meetings in life are not repeated. Even when the same group gets together again, the essence and chemistry can never be replicated. Each moment then, is unique. Wikipedia

When we treasure the meeting with someone, networking does not need to be inauthentic. Instead of busy engaging in the digital world, we value the person in front of us.

The experience, the conversation, the connection.

As a host to ensure a level of experience possible as there is no guarantee one will have the chance to entertain the guest under the same circumstances again. 

Whether giving a routine presentation, or coaching someone, an ichigo ichie experience. Put down the digital devices and appreciate the moment.

What if I cannot stand my co-workers? Treasuring the moment is about mutual respect.

It is not about being emotional or romantic or best friends forever.

It is about leaving your baggage behind and enter the moment in harmony and boundaries.

Japanese bond with colleagues after work known as nomikai. Despite being introverts, collective cultures like Japan understand the importance of strong workplace relationships. (Often the bill is paid by the boss on company expense.) Although some companies are looking at other activities to improve bonding. This is lacking in most companies today which may be the reason for poor employee engagement – a detachment from your colleague. Bomding is done at an organisation level is not enough, and certainly not the same.

One who smiles rather than rages, is stronger. Japanese proverb

Ozawa: Self assertion is perfectly normal in Europe. Its the only way to survive. In Japan though, people think and think about things until they finally take action – or take no action at all. … I am not sure which mentality is better.

Murakami: Its true in just about any field in Japan. Maybe even in writer’s circles. People cant do anything until they’ve gauged the opinions of the other people present. They look around, they absorb the atmosphere and only then do they raise their hands and say something unobjectionable. That way there’s no progress where it matters, and the status quo is set in stone. #High Context#

Absolutely on Music, conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami

A store that sells new husbands opened in New York City, where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the
instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates: You may visit this store ONLY ONCE!

There are six floors and the value of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

So, a woman goes to The Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door read:

Floor 1 – These men have Jobs and love the Lord.

The second floor sign read:

Floor 2 – These men have Jobs, love the Lord and Love Kids.

Floor 3 – These men Have Jobs, love the Lord, Love Kids, and are Extremely
Good Looking.

‘Wow,’ she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going. She goes to the fourth floor and the sign read:

Floor 4 – These men Have Jobs, love the Lord,  Love Kids, Good Looking and Help With Housework.

‘Oh, mercy me!’ she exclaims, ‘I can hardly stand it!’

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign read:
Floor 5 – These men Have Jobs, love the Lord, Love Kids, Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign read:

Floor 6 – You are visitor 4,456,012 to this floor.

There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Watch your step as you exit the building.

Thank you for shopping at The Husband Store.

Below is another version from the worldwide web told to avoid gender bias charges.

The store’s owner opened The Wife Store just across the street.

The first floor has wives that serve you daily.

The second floor has wives that serve you daily, love physical intimacy, have money and can really cook.

The third floor has wives that serve you daily, love physical intimacy, have money, can really cook, and are drop dead gorgeous.

The fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited.


Spotted at 8am, Tuesday morning, a group of employees from Tokio Marine picking up trash at Tokyo Station. Enjoying a walk, company branding or team bonding. Just do it.

Picking up trash, sorting out rubbish and tray return.

Tokyo is a clean city. Singapore employs 70,000 cleaners.

Rupp et al (2018) reported that for employees lower in individualism, external forms of regulation, managers explicit expectations on employees’ participation in CSR activities, top‐down approach to CSR management might be more effective in strengthening the CSR perceptions–work engage-ment link.

Cultural diversity of the workforce in developing strategy around the CSR context are likely to result in an engaged workforce through enhanced CSR perceptions and the culturally bound management of CSR initiatives.

These issues need to be balanced with the primary goals of CSR initiatives (e.g., to reduce pollution, support local economies, and defend human rights), as well as the perceptions of other stakeholder groups such as consumers, shareholders, Rupp; Mallory, 2015).

CSR in the Value Chain by Tokio Marine Holdings, Inc.

Deborah E. Rupp et al (2018), “Corporate social responsibility and employee engagement: The moderating role of CSR‐specific relative autonomy and

individualism”, Wiley, Journal of Organisational Behavior (Accessed: 23 Oct 2018)


When asked what languages she spoke, this young lady living in Singapore told us that she speaks Dutch, English, Malay and Singlish. Singlish being the Singapore accented English.

I was so tickled until her father said that she had no problems understanding the aunties and uncles in the neighbourhood markets and often played the role of interpreter for her parents.

Indeed this was something my European colleagues who sent their children to local schools discovered, that their children had less of a problem assimilating in local schools and picking up the local accent proudly.

“A” taught me that morning on car-free Sunday to be proud of my local culture. I shall proudly declare, I speak Singlish. Do you?

Reverse mentoring is when an older person is paired with a younger person to learn from the younger one, fresh perspectives and new technology.

I am hopeful for the iGen who are culturally versatile tearing down all superficial divides, friends without borders and generally more altruistic.

Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish. Ovid 17 BC.


At Enabling Village

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me. Carl Sandburg

‘Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out’, Art Linkletter

15% of students (postgrad or undergrad) I’ve met in universities have an idea where they are going in their career. Majority have no idea. Many feel embarrassed even, that they don’t have a passion.

How can I follow my passion, if I don’t know what it is?

I recently discovered this theory, “Planned Happenstance”, although this theory was developed in 1999 by Mitchell, Levin and Krumboltz.

Planned (having arranged the parts) + Happen (to occur by chance) + Stance (a view or attitude).

‘At the core of this theory is the fact that unpredictable social factors, chance events and environmental factors are important influences on our lives.’ John Krumboltz

Planned happenstance theory proposes that career counselors can assist clients to develop five skills to recognize, create, and use chance as career opportunities.

Happenstance opens up sources of new and non-redundant information. Our destiny can change in that one moment.

These skills are relevant for all of us.

1. Curiosity: explore new learning opportunities. Try a variety of activities, to discover what you like or dislike. A lunchtime talk ? A new sport?

This happened to one of my clients who was at a lunchtime talk at his church and sat next to a headhunter working on a project up his alley.

Or my friend AT, in her thirties, found her lifetime partner, at a friend’s wedding dinner. She nearly did not attend because of work commitments. Its not only in the movies.

2. Persistence: keep trying despite setbacks. Mistakes and failures can provide great learning experiences.

3. Flexibility: change attitudes and events. If things don’t go as planned, look for new opportunities as they crop up. Find out top 3 trends impacting your industry.

4. Optimism: believe that opportunities are within reach. Be ready for it. Pick up that skill now.

5. Risk Taking: take action, small steps even in the face of uncertain outcomes. Have lunch with a different colleague every week. Volunteer to do the next company presentation. Champion a cause at the next Townhall meeting.

In “Fail Fast, Fail Often”, the authors cite Jeff Dyer’s research that people who live in a new country for 3 months are 35% more likely to start a new business or invent a new product.

Some ideas
▪Map your luck, map areas of repetition and sameness in your life and replace with activities that bring new experience.
▪Talk to someone you don’t yet know on your course or place of work
▪Learn how to articulate your strengths and interests
▪Look for opportunities to develop new skills
▪Research a new company/ product
▪Do an internship
▪Get a LinkedIn account for networking, research and exploration
▪Keep a learning journal to help you stay motivated
▪Reward yourself, do an activity you enjoy

More ideas:

Luck Is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career. Krumboltz, J., & Levin, A.S. (2004) Impact Publishers.

Planned Happenstance: Constructing Unexpected Career Opportunities Kathleen E. Mitchell Al S. Levin John D. Krumboltz, JOURNAL OF COUNSELING & DEVELOPMENT, SPRING 1999, VOLUME 77

Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win: Ryan Babineaux, John Krumboltz

“What is your greatest weakness?”
“What is something you regret having done in the past?”

Interview questions you hope not to get. If you are not looking for a job, the feared performance appraisal meeting with the BOSS.

What exactly am I expected to say? The good news is that everyone has a weakness. No need to be defensive.

1. Use your judgment
Dont cite weakness in areas which are critical in your job. Such as “lack of attention to details” in accounting. Or something irrelevant like not being able to sing, if you are a banker.

Interviewers are also not expecting “confession box” answers. The interviewer is not a therapist, so now is not the time to talk about the skeletons in the closet. It may also reveal a candidates lack of common sense or not having done sufficient research by checking out critical competencies. I recall candidates who let their guards down to talk about feeling inadequate and not being sure if they are up for the job. Leave it out, or better still, don’t apply for the job. Maybe a recruiter appreciates your being candid? Not often.

2. A strength overplayed can become a weakness

One possibility is to talk about how our strengths can work against us. A double edged sword of sorts.

Fear your strengths“, Robert Kaplan advised. When you have too much of a good thing, it can interfere with your leadership. In his research, Kaplan cited Enron’s Schilling who was a forceful character to the extent that he would bulldoze audit checks.

Dont just understand your strengths, understand what happens when you overuse them.

Example. Steve Jobs was famous for his attention to detail and design for his products. However, if attention to details cause you to miss deadlines, that becomes a serious problem. One must be ready to ship.  

Also avoid overused labels like ‘I am a perfectionist’ which indicates lack of self awareness or condescending to others in the team.

Kaplan’s Leadership Versatility Index (LVI®) measures versatility on two major pairs of opposing but complementary leadership dimensions:

Forceful vs. enabling
Strategic vs. operational

Image result for leadership versatility index

What can I do?

3. Self Awareness and Willingness to get feedback

Show the interviewer that you are aware of this gap, and how it can interfere with your team’s productivity.

Building on the example above, show your willingness to listen to feedback or proactively sought feedback when you observed that the strength had become a weakness.

Leaders need a team to keep themselves in check.

In “Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts”, Marshall Goldsmith suggests that  getting feedback is our first step in becoming more mindful about the connection between our environment and our behavior.

4. Working on your weakness.

  • Choose small changes
  • Adopt a regimen
  • Get counterweights or people in place to remind you (deferentially) or
  • Using “triggers” like a photo or a 2×2 card as reminder
  • Accountability
  • Daily reflection question

On that note, top coach Marshall Goldsmith comes up with a list of 40 questions and pays someone to call him daily as a commitment device.

A leader who is forceful, may need to dial back, and be more enabling. Spend time listening and supporting, rather than rushing forth to take charge of a situation.

This was something Linda learned as a manager, over-talking when her subordinates remained quiet.  Something she learned, was to refrain from over-talking and using the “pause” to help her, and asking for feedback.

So what’s your strength?


Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem: Robert E. Kaplan, Robert B. Kaiser

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be
By Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter (2015).

#21st century skills#


When I first read “What got you here, won’t get you there“, I thought it was the best coaching book.

As luck would have it, Marshall Goldsmith was invited as the keynote speaker at the Singapore Management Festival. My colleague Stephen was also in the audience, and encouraged me to take a photo with Goldsmith and ask him to sign my book. Thank you Stephen. Thank you Goldsmith. I did not have the courage to sign on to be one of Goldsmith’s coaches.

Talk about Planned Unplanned.

Why is behaviour change so difficult? Even when we acknowledge the need to change what we do. Triggers examines the external factors (or ‘triggers’) – both negative and positive – that affect our behaviours.
The book also offers some simple, practical advice to help us navigate the negative and make the most of the triggers that help us to sustain positive change.

Marshall Goldsmith is a world-renowned business educator and coach, recognised in 2013 as one of the Top Ten Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World – and the top-ranked executive coach – by Thinkers 50.

A trigger is any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions. If we do not create and control our environment, our environment can control our behaviour.

1. Measure important behaviors 

To make progress toward any goal, it helps to track our behaviors. Monitoring and accountability are the keys to behavior changes, “If you want to eat more healthily, get more exercise, track your spending.”

Every evening, Goldsmith reviews a 40-item spreadsheet consisting of every important behavior he hopes to achieve, including the number of words he wrote; the distance he walked; and the number of nice things he said to his wife, daughter, and grandchildren. He reviews this list with someone he employs to phone him.

2. Ask yourself DAILY active questions on the items.

Did I do my best to …

“The [Daily Questions] announce our intention to do something and, at the risk of private disappointment or public humiliation, they commit us to doing it”.
They are a ‘commitment device” and force us to articulate what we really want to change in our lives”. After 10 consecutive days of saying “NO, I did not do it”, the question is whether we are serious in wanting to make the change?

Am I willing at this time to make an investment in a positive behaviour change? “The [Daily Questions] announce our intention to do something and, at the risk of private disappointment or public humiliation, they commit us to doing it.

Daily Questions focus us on where we need help, not where we’re doing just fine. Humility to recognise that we need a simple structure, even writing down the items every day. It helps us take action one day at a time and reduce our objectives into manageable twenty-four-hour increments”.

3.  Recognise our environment can be a trigger

Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behaviour. If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us. A simple way is to set reminders of our goal. In my case, the example he gave about how being around his mean neighbours one evening, triggered his behaviour to behave likewise.

I have willpower and won’t give in to temptation. We not only overestimate willpower, we underestimate the power of triggers in our environment that lead us astray. Especially when I am tired, I tend to eat carbohydrates or engage in mindless net-surfing to relax.

When we make plans for the future, we seldom plan on distractions, even though this may trigger our behaviour. Example, lunch with friends who turn up late and I get upset, because I don’t like such behaviour. I could have anticipated this, and plan how to effectively use the 20 mins when my friends are late.

4.  Get Accountability -we need a coach and feedback

Myth that I have the wisdom to assess my own behavior. Goldsmith is of the view that we are inaccurate at assessing ourselves. He pays someone to call him every day to hear him go through the 40 items question and answer. As a top coach, if he is willing to admit that he does not have the discipline and self control. “Self-discipline refers to achieving desirable behavior. Self-control refers to avoiding undesirable behavior”.

Feedback—both the act of giving it and taking it—is our first step in becoming more mindful about the connection between our environment and our behavior”. Sometimes we give ourselves an excuse. Today is a special day. If we really want to change we have to accept that we cannot self-exempt every time. In my case, tracking how often I eat carbs, even though I know I should not. Tracking caused me to realise its every day, and sometimes its twice a day, not just a special day.

5. Avoidance as a measure

To avoid undesirable behavior, avoid the environments where it is most likely to occur. Or as Judge Ruth Bader suggested, sometimes pretend to be a little deaf, especially when someone made an unkind remark at you.

This is not a book for the unmotivated.  His book answers the “HOW to change”. He does not attempt to answer the “What to change and WHY”. I guess I need to read it with “What got you here, won’t get you there.”

Sometimes the negative can be a positive motivator. Photo in the Book of Goldsmith in Mali with the Red Cross, where the Red Cross had to do a triage on starving children, measuring their arms. Only those between ages of 2-15 yrs old would be given food. Picture reminded him of how blessed he was, to be born in the US, and not to get upset with inconsequential stuff. The photo is a trigger for positive behaviour.

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be
By Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter (2015). Book Length: 272 pages

Other resources by Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith


I attended the 2018 Singapore Management Festival on 21 Sep 2018 with high anticipation to hear Professional Futurist Ben Hammersley, inventor of the term “podcast” speak about being Future Ready.

He titled his speel “Being Present Now“. What does he mean? That the future is contained in the today? I was hoping to learn what I can do today to prepare for the future.

Without slides, and dressed in black with black sports shoes, at one point, he sat on the floor, cross legged and just talked.

He told story after story, anecdotal account of how jobs were replaced in his little town in the UK. Like a journalist exchanging fire-side war stories.

How doctors, lawyers, bankers and accountants will get replaced. The CEO will lose his job but his secretary will stay. Transaction based jobs will be replaced by AI but not the secretary. Certificates will no longer be important. No one cares about your degree. [Claps and cheers from the student population attending.] Young people are more in tune with the future, we don’t need to worry about them.

What can we do?
1. Shrink your prediction horizon
2. Examine your activities, how much of it is high-touch?
3. How much of it is routine and can be replaced by a machine?
4. Observe what you are doing.
5. Flexible growth mindset rather than new toys.
6. Be present

Reading the interview by Michael Wolf @ Forbes gives an inkling why he would say that. Be present. He came up with the iconic word in the spur of the moment.

My own research uncovered the story of how he came up with the word.

“I was late on the deadline, and the story was a a little bit short. I was desperately trying to bulk it up for the next morning’s newspaper.” And so he threw in a few extra words to meet beef up his article, including the line:
“But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?”

And so the life lesson goes: We can spend years toiling away, but sometimes the throwaway effort we do in just a few  minutes – like adding an extra line to an article – is what we’re most remembered for.” (Michael Wolf)

Dont live in the future, Hammersley advised. Be Present. Creating new insights through observations cannot come from a robot. Your current work challenges however mundane and stressful, offers opportunities. Rethink how to improve the interaction experience. An inconsequential moment.

Ben Hammersley had certainly given hope to the young people in the audience, especially those who are hoping the disrupt can give them a second chance.

During the networking lunch, Carmen a Finance person from the Philippines reminded me that HR as a profession did not exist years ago. HR as a function comprised mainly payroll under Finance and Unions. Today, Employee Engagement, Talent Management and Wellness distinguish Excellent Employer Branding. Indeed, even as Jobs are destroyed, new ones are being created. I certainly am looking forward to the 2019 Singapore Management Festival.

#Its not enough to disrupt#, #Being Present Now#
Future Proof Yourself, Aleks Krotoski and Ben Hammersley@ BBC, Jun 2018