Short-term and Long-term Dilemma

The biggest challenge in my career is how to balance between short-term and long-term to drive a sustainable performance.

The issue is to be sustainably profitable you need a group of true passionate customers who believe in your brand. To achieve this level, it requires a continuous, smart, strategic brand and ‘know your why’ investment. Many companies are always under a pressure to deliver a right-now performance. To deliver the right-now performance, we have to concentrate most if not all resources to short-term sales and marketing activities.

And, because you have to come up with new promotions all the time to sustain the short-term results, you wouldn’t have the time and the energy to invest in the longer-term future. Worse, the cost of doing business is getting more and more expensive because you have to target new customers all the time. It’s basically a death spiral. We would keep on doing it until it eventually ends.

If people at the top don’t understand this dilemma, it’s going to be hard to change.


The coaching habit

I attended a leadership conference last year. It was a good conference. It’s good to get out of the office and hear different perspectives from different industries. One of the sessions that I found very beneficial was the one from Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of the book “The Coaching Habit”.

He was full of energy and very funny. The most important points I took from his session on the best way to coach the team were:

  1. Can you stay curious a little longer? This question is to enforce yourself to listen intensely to a person who asks you for advice. Most of us have a habit of jumping into a conclusion in the middle of the conversation. Just stay curious, we could hear something that is different to our perception.
  2. Can you offer a solution or advice a little slower? I used to read an article that a company’s leader in China worked around his factory every morning. He talked to his staff. When someone asked him for advice, what he did was only asked questions to his staff. A series of questions helped the person who asked to think. In the end, his staff came up with a solution by himself.

I haven’t done them well, the 2 points above. I improved on point 1 but I still suffer from point 2. Leadership is an ongoing learning process. It requires great commitment and continuous practices.

I still have a lot to learn.


Intensity vs Consistency

These 2 key words will be used in a background of my strategy this year. They will be used in different context. And, they are both important.

Branding: consistency is more important. We need to be consistent in our positioning, our messages, and our content creation.

Strategic priorities: there are so many things to do. Instead of setting a priority and allocate resources the old way, we will do them all but apply intensity levels to each priority.

Staff training: I will need both intensity and consistency. Intensity alone won’t make knowledge sticks. Consistency alone won’t change their behavior.

Leadership: consistency is a key here. I have to communicate more often with the messages towards our agreed strategy.


Two types of innovation

There are 2 types of innovation:

  1. Transformational innovation – as the name suggests, this type is to transform the way thing works. You introduce a new approach to solve problems. An example is Apple introduced an iPod that transformed the music industry.
  2. Incremental innovation – this is a small step that improve the existing process. For example, you introduce a QR code to capture customer data so customers don’t have to fill a form.

The best way, for me, to be innovative is not to think about innovation. I never think that this year or this project needs to be innovative. I look at a problem that I want to solve and I come up with a solution. There is 90% chance that a solution I come up with would at least be the incremental innovation.

Just focus on your business and your customer’s problems. And, you will end up with innovations. If you “intend” to be innovative, you wouldn’t be innovative.


A go-to person

I work in a corporate environment in my entire career life. A lot of people come to work just to earn money to pay bills. Many of them have other interests outside work. However, I developed this mentality that I want to make a difference so I often go above and beyond what require in my role. There are a lot of people who think like me. However, there are 2 paths that we have to choose. We often don’t know until it’s too late.

Path 1 – become a go-to person. You earn trust from your colleagues. People always come to you asking for help because they know you know stuff and you can help. You get glory and praises because you help lots of them. The side effect of becoming a go-to person is though you are too busy helping other people and you become mediocre with your own job.

Path 2 – work to make a true difference. This is a lonely path. You learn how to say no more often. You cannot help everyone. You don’t get praises often. You spend a lot of time doing research on how to make your job or to push your company forward. You could fail and you are likely to fail. But, the potential reward is if you can make a difference, you create a history for yourself.

I used to be in path 1 5 or 6 years ago. I chose to change to path 2 because I believe my skills can do more than just what described in my job description. It requires a different mindset. It’s much harder because I am just a small piece of the whole system. But, I feel fulfilled even though I fail more than I succeed. It’s a strange feeling.


What are the pros and the cons?

Another tip for decision making, create a list of pros and cons. This applies to both the people who make a decision and those who wait for a decision to be made.

When I need a decision to be made, I always offer options as well as a list of the pros and the cons to my supervisors. The conversation is normally like the following – we need to make this decision. We have a few options 1, 2, and 3. The pros and the cons of each option area xxxxx. What do you think?

In the above scenario, I was often asked about my opinion. I offer my thoughts. I prefer option 2 because xxx. And, if worse comes to worst, we can do yyy.

Sometimes, you have to be kind to those who have to make a call. He or she might not be close to the situation like you are. You have to be fair by offering all information you have. It works for me most of the time.


The Worst Case Scenario

How do you make tough decisions? Do you require all the information in the world before making any call? Making decisions is something that all leaders have to do. People, more specifically your subordinate, judge you based on this skill.

Some of them judge you if the outcome of that particular decision is not so good. Some of them judge you if you don’t make a decision or eventually make it but it’s too late. Decision making is an intriguing activity.

If you ask me, I make lots of decisions. I make them all quick, I don’t normally take longer than a few days to make any decisions, big or small. I am not saying that all the decisions I made were correct. Many of them were not. But, it is unforgivable for a leader not to make decisions. My tips? Very simple,

  1. I gather all information, in my brain library and other sources. Once the scale of information reaches about 80%, I am ready to make a call.
  2. I create “the worst case scenario” of what would happen if things go south. Can I accept or manage the situation? If I can, then no reason to slow down on anything.

My team or my colleagues always hear me ask “what would be the worst case scenario?” Can we handle it? What preventive actions do we need if things don’t work the way we want? Waiting for a decision to be made is super frustrating. It’s your job to make the damn decision.


Intensity vs Consistency

Which one do you think is more important between intensity and consistency? You might answer it depends on context. You are right. But, what if the context is about leadership, branding, and marketing? Which one is more important?

It’s not new but after listening to Simon Sinek’s videos, he made me think about them very seriously. In leadership, intensity looks like this – many companies think having a leadership workshop once a year would be sufficient to generate good leaders or changing culture. I attended those workshops in the past 10 years and haven’t seen much difference. Consistency is the opposite. You nurture your team about how to be a good leader every day, even a few minutes a day.

It’s like going to a gym. You cannot go to the gym twice a year and spend 10 hours each time then expect something to change. It doesn’t work like that. You have to go the the gym consistently, at least 3-4 times/week for 20-30 minutes at each time.

Being consistent is far more important than being intense, at least in the leadership, marketing, and branding areas. You have to be consistent in your messages, your designs, and your tones so customers can recognise your pieces.


What does being authentic mean?

I don’t why but I have seen this word everywhere. That word is “authentic”. It’s in the leadership books and articles that I read. It’s also in the books about branding and inbound marketing. I do not 100% what this word mean. Let’s have a look.

What does it mean by being authentic? I like the explanation from Diane Mottl“Being authentic means coming from a real place within. It is when our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be. There is no “should” in authentic.”

Being true to ourselves is difficult than it sounds. That’s why being authentic is used in many business context. In leadership, you have to be authentic. You have to walk the talk, set up a good example. Remember, good culture starts from the very top.

In branding and marketing, being authentic means earn trust from your customers. Once you get that trust, you don’t have to do those low class promotions and advertising.

But, being authentic and successful is difficult. It takes time. You won’t get quick results (maybe that’s why it’s difficult). Once you get there though, it’s worth the world.


Political systems

I am not an expert in politics. I do have opinions and I do know what causes I support. I am an immigrant from Asia. There seems to be an intense pressure from the West that Asian countries must support democracy. Is democracy the best system? Or, is a (country) leader more important than a system?

To be clear, I believe in freedom as long as we respect others. Therefore, I don’t lean towards any particular systems as long as I can do what I want to do, again with respect to others. The reason I raise the above questions is that I read a news piece about the Canadian Prime Minister and was surprised that some Canadians were disappointed about his performance. It makes me think – maybe “compromise” is the major flaw of the democratic system. If the government doesn’t get the majority of the seats, it has to compromise. On the contrary, if the government gains the majority, depending on the quality of the leader, it could be a dictator too.

I could be very shallow about this topic. However, I think the quality of a leader is more important than a system. If a leader cares greatly about his or her people (or team in a business context), any system would do the job.

What do you think?