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.

 

Solving Problems With Empathy

By Hannah Azlan

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As we all know, Design Thinking (or DT as we like to call it) is a unique approach to solving problems.

DT solves problems with people in mind, which means we try to empathise the problems people we’re trying to help are facing before we try tinkering a solution.

Another way of putting it is that we need to understand what our stakeholders need before we actually try to help them.

Knowing Your Stakeholders

Take Uber for example. Before the age of ride-hailing apps, taking a cab can be daunting experience, if there’s one where and when you need it to start with.

That was what their founders famously found out, and realising that it’s what all cab users would face, they decided to do something about it.

Uber got around all those problems by creating an app that allows users to book their own cabs anytime they want it via a push of a button.

In short, the guys at Uber found their customers’ pain points, problem solvers can create solutions that have long-lasting impact on users and society as a whole.

Understanding the problems faced by the people you’re trying to help, whether it’s through listening to them or putting yourself in their shoes, helps you shape your own solution to their problem.

Shifting Paradigms

Besides bringing you closer to other people, empathy can change the way you see a problem.

We often forget “What’s the real issue here? Why am I trying to here to find a solution?” before diving in to find that solution. And we often end up wasting time and resources proposing ideas that do little to solve the issues of people who need help.

While in Nepal, Stanford University student Linus Liang was trying to understand why premature birth was a real serious problem.

His team thought of creating a cheaper incubator for hospitals – until he realised that many hospitals were well equipped… but empty.

To their surprise, the team realised that the problem wasn’t because Nepal didn’t have enough incubators, but that the distance between homes and hospitals was too far.

This was a paradigm shift that led to the development of the Embrace Baby Warmer – a device that would keep a newborn warm until he gets to an incubator.

Empathy helps to frame the problem from a users’ perspective. Just imagine how much time it would have taken the Stanford team, policymakers and health experts to overcome Nepal’s high newborn mortality rate if they continued framing the problem the same way?

“Humanising” the Problem

Empathy reminds us that there’s just one bottom-line on why they’re looking to solve a problem – helping people.

Malaria kills nearly 500,000 people each year in Africa. Yet, due to a lack of understanding of the issues faced by locals, Unicef-distributed mosquito nets found their way to being used as fishing nets as the need for gathering food was more urgently needed.

Unicef in Africa needed a solution, and fast. In response, it started the U-Report, a two-way messaging platform communicates life-saving info with local communities and solicits feedback.

Since then, the program has helped to reduce misuse of mosquito nets in communities where they are being distributed.

Getting users involved in the problem solving process helps reduce miscommunication and misunderstandings. The first step towards realizing the need for it is, of course, empathy.

Bottom-line: Putting People First

In a rapidly changing world, problems that are constantly evolving need solutions that can re-adapt themselves all the time.

That’s why problem solvers (and design thinkers) need to remind themselves what’s the bottom line – helping the people who need it; and empathy opens the door to understanding that need.

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

Edited by Ben Chong.

 

Call It Living

I grew up dreaming. I wanted to have my own business – a business that is on the road to world domination.

I remember vividly that I knew this is to be true on one of my trips to Singapore. I cannot remember what the speaker was expounding on – something on dreams, make your dream happen (yada yada yada) – but I felt strongly convicted that I will have my own outfit someday. It took 8 years for this vision to bear fruit. Not as bad as Noah but it was bad enough in my books.

It was not smooth sailing at the start. My first ever attempt (back in 2004) was cut short in just 6 months – quite foolishly because I quit my job and declared that I wanted to start my own gig – with no plans in hand. Quite sadly, I had to rely on someone else’s product to sell and they were not convinced that I am the right partner. As this product had a long sales cycle, my savings ran out which brought me to the decision to hop back into the job market, painfully and shamefully, with my tail between my legs. Even though it was my fault the venture failed, it was painful nonetheless.

My second start, OrangeTree was a little more promising. We sold handmade baskets sourced from the Philippines. It was by accident – we came across some pretty baskets over there, we took a liking and took the gamble of stocking up, lugging them back on the plane and selling them to families, friends and hey, at the bazaar! We quit after the second attempt at shipping in the stocks when we were clobbered with a 20% import duty – which literally ate into our margins! At that time, making a grand total of RM8,000 for a couple of months work was outstanding.

This taught me important lessons – that my wife is better than me at remembering product prices and most importantly, it taught me that I could really make money. You see, I have never sold anything in my life before this. This built my confidence.

My third attempt was PositiveLinks Asia, a boutique executive search firm, which I started late 2010.

Truthfully, if I were a betting man, I would not have wagered on myself. And to the reason why, let me share with you my life qualifications.

  • I’m of average intelligence. Really. My IQ scores suck (but not that bad). Like I mean, I can really identify with Moses when he said that he was of “slow speech and mind”. I amm toooo.
  • I’m a late bloomer. I need time to figure things out, to mentally process them. I have no witty comebacks. No insights to share or spare.
  • I’m no sales guy. Someone recently mentioned that I did not have the “killer instinct”. He’s right. After 7 years in business, I still don’t.
  • Did I tell you that I’m monolingual? I can only speaketh English. As this post is evidence itself, I can’t write for s**t.

But, with God’s grace, it has been 7 years a very fulfilling, non-linear journey. The good and the painful; of growth, of pruning and of adjustment; and of faith.

I gained and I grew. From success, mistakes and failures in a life that isn’t linear. However, I don’t intend to rabble on.

What I’m trying to express is this – that setbacks and failures shouldn’t be reasons for us to quit our dreams, to quit trying. Sure, our confidence takes a good knock, we blew off (burn, burn, burn) some serious cash, we upset people, we are mocked. But the thing is this – we experience failures only when we put ourselves out there.

I failed many times. This is what I did – I picked myself up, spend some time in solitude to lick my wounds and unwind, figure out what the learnings were and then carry on with my life.

Is PositiveLinks Asia on the path to world domination? Not even close. But I still harbour this ambition. World domination may not ever come but this doesn’t mean I should quit dreaming.

After all, is this not what we call living?

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.

One Of Life’s Most Important Questions

All of us know what we want in life that would make us happy – a great career, financial security, good looks, popularity, the list goes on. However, what we always fail to consider is how much are we willing to sacrifice for the things that we think would bring us happiness.

Mark Manson hits the nail squarely on the head when he wrote “… happiness requires struggle.”

“What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.”

When you want something, you need to realize that you need to want it enough that you are willing to go through the hard work, struggles, and risks of failure for it.

For example, if you want a great physique, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the gym sessions over social outings, and the sacrifice of giving up junk food.

If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.

In today’s world of instant gratification, we are conditioned to expect the reward without the struggle, the results without the process, instantaneously. But hey, life does not work that way.

The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life. What we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.

If you find yourself wanting something for weeks, months, or even years yet nothing is happening, you better ask yourself if it is something that you really want. Better yet, is it something you want ENOUGH?

The answer to that question will help determine what are the struggles that you are willing to through to achieve things that will make you happy. If not, perhaps what you want is just a dream and not something that you truly want.

People who enjoys the daily struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy the drudgery of long work-weeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.

They know their costs and are even willing to enjoy the struggle because they understand happiness requires struggle.

So ask yourself, “What are you willing to struggle for the happiness that you want today”?

This post was inspired by Mark Manson’s The Most Important Question Of Your Life.