Positive Stories: Yong Vin Kit

by Yong Vin Kit

Joining Positive X as an intern was a surprise for me. I never imagined at any time in my life that I would get to work in a startup. But here I was, learning everything from scratch, and realising that there really was a lot out there that I didn’t know.

Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense to list down everything I learned in my three months at Postive X – startups are expected to be lean right? So here are 3 of the biggest lessons I learned as an intern.

It’s about the team

We’re often told that being competitive is the way to go to succeed in life. But life isn’t just about being the best, it’s also about creating value. Working with other people is the best way to create that value. Interning in a startup made me realise that collaborating can create amazing results that will amaze you. But it can be tough to work together, especially when you’ve been told all your life that the winning team are the only ones who matter.

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it certainly wasn’t built by one person! Organising events, and brainstorming for ideas made me appreciate the value every individual can bring to the team. Nurturing that cooperative and collaborative relationship between individuals is key to sustaining a healthy, productive working environment.

Expectations, expectations, and expectations

Working life is all about managing expectations. While we’re used to meeting a list of prerequisites in order to excel in our classes, that’s not the case when you start working. One main difference between both is the kinds of expectations at stake.

In school, I studied to meet the expectations of my parents, friends, and teachers. Every effort I put in, and every mark I earned was made for their expectations of my own performance. However, my internship showed me how a change in perspective was needed. When you work for a company, every effort you make, no matter how small or big, could determine an entire project’s success or failure. Unlike school, you not only have to meet your own expectations but have to take into account the collective expectations of your colleagues and workplace as well.

But most important of all these lessons…

The only failure in making mistakes is not learning from them

The fact of the matter is that you’re bound to fail a lot when you first enter the workforce. Your knowledge and abilities are constantly challenged and under pressure, especially if you’re working in a startup that’s relatively new! You’re bound to realise that a new job or a new business can pose intense learning curves, and throw lots of obstructions in your way to success.

But the beauty of it is that you don’t have to be afraid of you’re failure. In my 3 months as an intern, I learned from my mentors at Positive X it didn’t matter how many times I failed but how many times I learned from failing. Everyone has to start learning from somewhere – true failure only occurs when you don’t stand back up at the first bump.

So don’t be scared of making mistakes, embrace them as opportunities to get better at handling the same problem next time instead!

Learning on the job is an entirely different world to learning from books. But be brave and enthusiastic about the challenges you encounter, and you’ll soon find yourself growing into a powerful team player.

 

Positive X is a people development firm that equips talents with design, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking and skills. You can know more about us at http://www.positivex.asia.

Yong Vin Kit is a 2018 Positive X Intern, who is involved in market research, and organises workshops and training regimens for Positive X’s Design Thinking programmes. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance with Honours from Sunway University. Check out his LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/yongvk/.

Want to know more about internship opportunities at Positive X? Send us your resume now at info@positivex.asia to find out more!

Edited by Ben Chong.

 

Managing Expectations in the Workplace

by Hannah Azlan

Managing expectations (and your stress levels) is the single most important skill you’ll learn in the workplace. “Back to the drawing board” and “I thought you had this covered” are two phrases you don’t want to hear from your boss, and they’ll inevitably affect your performance review, bonuses and the like. All of this causes stress, leading to emotional and physical stressors which will affect your performance at work.

Having trouble? Take these three easy steps to navigate expectations.

Clarity

Understand what is expected of you. Assuming that you and your boss are on the same page will be a huge mistake. It’s in your best interests to take responsibility for understanding – in detail – what your priorities are and what will be considered a success. Here are a few key points:

  • What specific objectives are you expected to accomplish?
  • In what timeframe(s)?
  • Are they realistic?
  • How will your progress and performance be judged or measured?
  • What are the priorities?

If you’re coming from a management role, share these expectations with your team, and filter the actions downstream accordingly. Giving others a realistic milestone of what success looks like for the team will give them the confidence to move forward.

Communication

Maintain your performance with continuous communication  to gauge progress, assess risks, and adjust actions. Keeping your boss in the loop ensures they’re aware of your progress, and lets them marshal additional resources or expertise to overcome any finicky obstacles. Here are some tips:

  • What method does your manager prefer for communications?
  • Do they prefer the summarized version, or hear the supporting evidence?
  • Does your manager reward people who solve problems on their own, or those who ask for advice and collaborate on solutions early on?
  • How will you inform them of potential issues or barriers to achieving the objectives?

If you’re a manager yourself, help your staff by letting them know your communication preferences. No one’s a mind reader – so don’t become obstacles to your own success.

Honesty

Confidence is a double-edged sword. It is crucial you speak up when expectations are unrealistic, or if your project is in jeopardy.. Forging forward in silence when there are significant risks will not end up reflecting well on you, or your manager. While the the initial discussion may feel uncomfortable, the outcome of being honest is that everything is more successful for everyone involved. Here are some key points for an honest conversation:

  • Are there areas where the expectations set for you are unrealistic?
  • What concerns do you have about being able to achieve your goals?
  • Do you need to ask for adjustments in your annual objectives, or modify timeframes?
  • How and when will you bring up concerns to be addressed?

From a management perspective, make sure that you foster an environment where your team feels comfortable sharing concerns and raising issues. Work through challenging situations with them to build trust, because that’s important for creating a cohesive team.

The expectations that go unspoken between colleagues and employers can have a huge impact on the health of an office. Without proper communication for expectations, frustration and negative emotional labor can pile up in the workplace. Take heed of these consequences today, and manage your workplace environment better by openly speaking with each other.

 

Want to learn more about how to change your workplace culture for the better? Positive X is a people development firm that equips talents with design, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking and skills. You can know more about us at http://www.positivex.asia.

Hannah is our resident copywriter and social media savant. Check out more of her on Twitter at @hannahcyanide.

Edited by Ben Chong.

 

Design Thinking To Manage Workplace Stress

by Yong Vin Kit

Taking up my first full time job was a real eye-opener. Thought that all those years of stressing yourself out from studying was the worst time of your life? Well think again! But that’s another story for another day.

So what is the best way to manage stress in the workplace? Well, a quick Google search gives you tons of ideas from exercising to tapping into your senses to even faking a smile (whaaat?).

But another great way of managing stress could be Design Thinking. Originally created by the Architecture School at Stanford, it’s a five step process that helps you understand what the people you want to help need before you create a solution.

So how can a process meant for architects help you overcome stress in the workplace?

Here’s how!!!

Step 1: Stop and think about your problem

Sometimes problems are problems because we tend to overcomplicate things, which is no surprise since you may have a dozen or more things coming at you in the office at once. Give yourself a second to really think about the problem and ask yourself: “Is the problem really as urgent as I think it is?”, “What is the most important problem I’m facing right now?”, and “Will this problem affect my other problems?”

Step 2: Write down your problems in one sentence

Once you’ve have a clearer picture of the problem, try writing it down to one sentence. For example, if you have a project that’s due next week, you can write “A project due next week is still short on data”.

Note: Do not create a to-do list now as it can reduce the number of ideas in the next step.

Step 3: Brainstorm for ideas

Stay open for ideas. Brainstorming all by yourself can be hard since there’s no one else to bounce ideas out of. So try getting a friend or colleague to help. As with all brainstorming sessions, keep an open mind and consider ideas no matter how whacky they seem at first.

Step 4: Use the simplest idea

Once you have a list of ideas you can chew on, choose the simplest. Now you can come up with a to do list or plan how you would like to use your idea in solving your problem.

Step 5: Start it small

As the saying goes, big things come in small packages. Start small when you’re using your idea. For example, you may want to schedule enough rest time for yourself to destress yourself. If it works, think about going bigger. If it doesn’t, maybe try something else on the list.

In a nutshell

There may not be one best way of managing stress for everyone, but Design Thinking can definitely play a part in helping you overcome problems that are stressing you out. So try it, and see if it fits your style of managing stress.

Positive X is a people development firm that equips talents with design, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking and skills. You can know more about is at http://www.positivex.asia.

This article was written by Yong Vin Kit, our resident 2018 intern at Positive X.

Want to know more about internship opportunities at Positive X? Send us your resume now at info@positivex.asia to find out more!

Edited by Hannah Azlan and Ben Chong.

 

How I Learnt To Take Performance Reviews In Stride

As a young professional, the very thought of going for a performance review still makes me a tad nervous – not as bad as the first few sessions early in my career life but that fleeting moments of nervousness is still there.

Our Asian culture which dictates that we must always respect our elders, seniors, or bosses, and to humbly accept their feedback and criticism for they are wiser, rich in experience, and always right; I couldn’t help but feel a small sense of doom even before I step into the meeting.

Over the years and having gone through a number of performance reviews, I realised that I do look forward to these sessions because at the end of it all, I have walked away with insightful gems.

Sheila Heen rightly said in her book Thanks for the Feedback, “It’s the receiver who decides what they’re going to let in, what sense they’re going to make of it, and whether and how they choose to change.”

However, it is not always straight-forward process because there are times when receiving and responding to feedback, my emotions have gotten in the way – clouding my rationale and ability to distil constructive feedback and actionable insights, reducing me to tears, or becoming snappish towards my superior.

Fortunately, life is a learning processes filled with kind and patient seniors and bosses who were generous enough to share their experience with me on how to make the process a positive one where everyone wins.

So here is my two cents worth on how you can manage your own performance review better:

Think Positive

Try be positive and pro-active. Instead of dreading your review, kick-start the meeting on a good note by letting you managers know that you interested to know how you performed and would like to understand what are the areas that you can improve on.

And just in case, also them know that you may need time to think about their feedback and comments as you may have more questions and thoughts. In-directly, giving them heads up that you may request for a follow-up session.

This works for me as it allows me to focus on what is being said rather than what I feel because of what is being said.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a time-out if you need it

If somewhere in the middle of your review your boss says something that you think it’s wrong or unfair and it gets you worked up you may want to request a break to “cool off” before you say or do something that may damage the relationship or your reputation. You may be a bit apprehensive to ask for a break, but trust me both parties would appreciate it.

It might also give you a few minutes to calm down, think about what triggered you, and when you return to the conversation, you’re more ready to ask specific questions.

Concentrate on clarity

It’s pretty normal impulse when someone tells you how you can improve, your first response may be to think about all the reasons why they’re wrong. However, it can be quite harmful if you cling to it and dismiss everything your boss says. Try let go of your defensiveness and focus on getting clarity from what’s being said. Understand what your boss is saying as clearly and specifically as possible and to ask a ton of questions.

If your boss tend to be vague with his statements like “We want to see more leadership from you” or “I’d love to see you get more proactive.” It’s up to you to find out what they mean.

On the other hand, if you work for an organisation or bosses that is very generous with their praise and would avoid any hint of negativity, you may want to take a different approach.

Asking your boss “Do you have any feedback for me?” is good because there’s always room for growth but it may come across unclear as to what sort of feedback you would like. Ask instead for one or two things that you can do to improve.

Take notes and ask friends to evaluate any criticism

One thing that I find which helps me maintain keep an open mind and keep my emotions in check during performance review is taking notes – not mental ones but actually writing down the feedback you’re receiving.

Not only does it helps you focus on something else other than your own feelings or the voice in your head, it acts as a reference point for further questions and clarify.

Additionally, if it still troubles you, these notes allows you to go to a trusted buddy to ask for help to sort through it. They can give you a candid feedback that you may not have been able to see yourself.

Let it go!

Some of us are harder on ourselves, so there will be times when we would take a feedback and criticism more personally. It’ll eat us up on the inside and it takes up a lot of mental space. If that sounds like you, I do suggest putting things into perspective on paper – journaling it down or drawing a chart with columns to make sense on what the feedback is about and what it is not will enable you to have a more balanced point of view.

It helps to remember that a performance review is designed to help you grow as an individual and team player in an organisation rather than merely criticism. Along with these little tips, I hope you can view your performance review in a different light and gain some insights that will help you with your career and personal growth.

Finding Your Focus In The Chaos of Juggling Multiple Projects

It is normal for most of us to find ourselves juggling the demands of many teams at once in today’s workplace because theoretically, this system of “multiteaming” offers a number of upsides: You can deploy your expertise exactly where and when it’s most needed, share your knowledge across groups, and switch projects during lull times, avoiding costly downtime.

However in a  research conducted over the last 15 years by Heidi K. Gardner and Mark Mortensen, they found that for most of us, getting pulled across several different projects is stressful and less productive than theory would suggest.

Switching attention between tasks takes time and it saps our focus and energy.

When moving between teams, you will need to adjust to different roles — you might be the boss on one but a junior member of another, for example — which changes not only your level of accountability but also your ability to juggle resources when a crunch time hits.

On top of that, you may also need to nagivate between different teams with their own unique cultures, including relationships, routines, symbols, jokes, expectations, and tolerance for ambiguity which would required energy to manage.

How can you manage your time and stress-levels if you’re on multiple teams? And how can you stay focused on what’s most important?

In their article, Gardner and Mortensen suggests to start with some up-front planning and to follow a few simple rules:

Prioritizing and Sequencing Your Work

Get the big picture. Schedule a regular status check on all your projects to note milestones. By proactively identifying crunch times when multiple projects have high demands, you can better manage your time and set expectations.

The speed and demands of your projects determine the ideal frequency of check-ins, and the management style and seniority of your stakeholders sets the tone for establishing priorities when push comes to shove.

Sequence strategically. Pick one task and focus on it intensely, rather than juggling. Start with the task that requires the greatest concentration and give it your undivided attention.

Decide on a distinct set of must-achieve outcomes, define which actions are necessary to achieve only those results, and ruthlessly stick to them.

Research shows that attention residue — thoughts held over from a project you’re transitioning from — takes up valuable mental space, so the fewer switches you can make in a given day, the better.

If you must multitask, then coordinate and group any compatible duties. For example, if you know you are going to need to answer phone calls at random intervals, work on another task that can be interrupted at any time.

Setting and Communicating Expectations

Protect yourself. When you’re focused on a high-priority task, buy yourself a mental escape from unnecessary intrusions. For example, when I’m writing — my highest-concentration task — I put an automatic reply on my email telling people I’m not checking messages till a certain time of day, and offering my mobile number in case of an emergency.

By telling people not to expect an instant reply, you buy yourself some time to focus, while reassuring them that you will pay attention — later. Including your phone number signals your willingness to respond but also makes people think twice about whether their request truly needs immediate attention.

Document and communicate progress. Seeing momentum helps your team leaders feel empowered and in control. Be up front when problems arise. The earlier you say, “I’ve got a conflict and might have trouble delivering 100%,” the more leaders will trust you.

One seasoned team member in the authors’ research shared that many of his responses to team requests are simply two words: “On it.” Even this super-brief response tells colleagues that he received their request, so they know he’ll follow up when he can provide more details.

The significant financial benefits of multiteaming mean it has become a way of life for many of us however following this simple guideline may just help us manage the stress and focus when faced with multiple projects all at once.

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” – Amelia Earhart

The Art of NOT Procrastinating

It is the start of the day and I’m ready to rock and roll!

I get up with a full list of things I want to accomplish – get started on a work project, talk to a couple of clients about a new idea, get that presentation deck ready for an up coming meeting and etc.

Oh, there’s also a few emails that I need to send out from last week, and that other document that is pending for another project with a looming deadline, ugh, but those can still wait. right?

Before I know it, there’s this little voice saying perhaps some of the “more difficult” items can wait while I focus on the “easier” work so that I can get those done faster hence giving myself a bit more time later to focus on the harder tasks.

It becomes a vicious cycle of procrastination with plenty of stress, guilt, and frustration of not getting things done which does not seem to end!

After many procrastinating cycles and even more pending items later, I realised that there is actually a very simple way out of it – just get it done. Throw in a bit of discipline (and intentional focus), soon I was getting things completed – and that felt good!

Recently, I came across an interesting article by Heidi Grant on the Harvard Business Review which sheds light on why a person procrastinate and employing the right strategy to over come it.

In short, there are 3 reasons why we are more inclined to procrastinate. By recognising them and adopting the suggested solutions, it may actually help us be more effective getting things done.

Reason #1: We put things off because most of us are afraid of messing things up.

Solution: Try adopting a “prevention focus.”

There are two ways to look at any task. One, we can do something because we see it as a way to end up better off than we are now – as an achievement or accomplishment. This is what psychologists call promotion focused.

Or two, when we are driven by anxiety or doubt, and is afraid we might mess up a project or task. These fears and anxieties may actually paralyse us from taking any action at all.

So instead of thinking about how we can end up better off, we see the task as a way to hang on to what we have already got – to avoid loss. The author calls it prevention focus.

When we are focused on avoiding loss, it becomes clear that the only way to get out of danger is to take immediate action.

Overcoming our fear of messing up is a lot easier when we realise that there are more dire consequences if we do nothing at all.

Reason #2: Because we do not “feel” like doing it.

Solution: Ignore what our “feelings” and just do it.

Oliver Burkeman, author the book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking points out that much of the time, when we say things like “I just can’t get out of bed early in the morning, ” or “I just can’t get myself to exercise,” what we really mean is that we cannot get ourselves to feel like doing these things.

To be honest, if you think about it, somehow we have been sold the idea that to be motivated and effective, we need to feel like we want to take action. To some degree, yes we need to be committed to what we are doing BUT we do not need to feel like doing it.

Afterall, successful people and top athletes get to where they are today because they rely on routines that forces them to put in a certain number of hours a day – rain or shine.

So what is stopping us? NOTHING! Because we really do not have to feel it to get things done.

Reason #3 We things off because it’s hard, boring, or otherwise unpleasant.

Solution: Use if-then planning.

We have to admit that our will power is limited and some days getting ourselves to do things we find tedious, boring, or awful can be a challenge.

This is where the if-then plan comes in handy.

Making an if-then plan helps us decide specific steps we need to take to complete a project and it also decides where and when we will take them.

For example, If I am unable to finish the report by 2pm, then I will stop what I am doing and work on the presentation that my colleague requested.

Deciding in advance what we are going to do, when and where we are going to do it, leaves us very little time to deliberate – reducing the demands placed on our willpower to decide at the critical moment because we have already made a decision way ahead.

So the next time you find yourself struggling with procrastination, take a step back to figure out why you are doing so and use one of the 3 strategies above to help you be more effective.

The Other Side Of Fear: Pushing Past Your Biggest Anxieties

In a recent article by Tim Ferriss taken from his book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, he shared that most people would choose unhappiness over uncertainty and failure no matter how brave they consider themselves to be.

Even Ferriss himself admitted that he spent years being held back by his fears and insecurities until sometime in 2004, while trying to convince himself to take a sabbatical year, he stumbled upon a very simple solution – defining his worse fears and worse-case scenarios then finding workable solutions around it.

In doing so, not only did he realise that his worse nightmare, at most, will have a temporary impact on his life but not to the extent that it is life and death. In fact, it turned out quite the opposite. Not only did he manage to that that 15-month sabbatical that he was so hesitant to take but his business flourished while he was away.

Drawing from his personal experience, Tim shares 7 questions we can ask ourselves when faced with a major or life-changing decision to help us push past our biggest fears and take that plunge!

If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100 percent certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as “the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome,” inaction is the greatest risk of all.

  1. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering.
    • Write down what doubts, fears, and “what-ifs” that pops up as you consider the big changes you are planning to make. Visualise them in detail. Would it end your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1 to 10? Is it really permanent?
  2. What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily?
    • Chances are, it’s easier than you imagine. How could you get things back under control?
  3. What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios?
    • Now that you have defined your nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal or external?  How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have other people done this before and pulled it off?
  4. If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control?
    • Imagine this scenario and run through questions 1 to 3 above. If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to?
  5. What are you putting off out of fear?
    • Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be — it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it and do it. As Tim Ferriss says, “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”
  6. What is it costing you – financially, emotionally, and physically – to postpone action? Don’t only evaluate the potential downside of action?
    • It is important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in 1 year, 5 years and 10 years? How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed 10 more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you?
  7. What are you waiting for?
    • If you cannot answer this without resorting to the BS answer of “good timing,” the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world.

Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action.