I have always wondered why some people are more successful than other (I mean, most other) people. It is probably a combination of personal charm, smartness, a lot of hard-work, and some luck. But when it comes to leadership the qualities are probably the same, and it’s really less about what you do but more about who you are (as a person): passionate, visionary, engaging, motivating. Think about any leader around you. When a great leader speaks, you listen with all ears, you can’t wait to learn more, you are inspired to think, you can identify with his/her stories, and you want to follow, and you want to take actions.
Our Vice Chairman spoke at a town hall earlier this week on where we stand with our business today and what we will need to do in Q4 in order to meet our targets for 2011. He is a native British with a great deal of humor and personal charisma. When he was highlighting our significant sales performance back in April (best month of the year) he mentioned he “posted the chart on his bathroom door” and “his wife has the same chart tattooed on her back”. It was a joke obviously. Everyone laughed. But the important thing is, guaranteed, there is no way you will forget about this bar chart from April and it will haunt you and drive you for better performance for the rest of the year.
Personally I have always loved leaders who have this “sense of urgency”, which gets reflected in the way they think and the way they talk. I recently watched an interview with Meg Whitman, one of the Fortune top 50 most powerful women in business, the new CEO for HP, former CEO for eBay, and the candidate for Governor of California in 2009-2010, where she commented that politics is tougher than business because politics is very personal (think about personal attacks/no privacy etc). However she goes on to explain that when answering questions in politics, you get away with the so-called “political spin”, which is both expected and accepted by the public; however if you do the same with your employees in a business environment, you will be walked out of the door!
Previously I wrote several articles on job hunting and career advancement but today I would like to share with you a couple of new insights that I have gathered over the past few months that particularly address HOW NOT TO FALL INTO THE TRAPS of so-called job hunting tips. You probably know many of these already, or you may be doing exactly the opposite of these, but it’s okay. These ideas should become common sense to you after you finish reading this piece, so bear with me.
Recruiters are only helpful when they need you, not when you need them!
The No.1 myth about job hunting is that “headhunters are angels and they will help you to land your next dream job”. Not exactly. First you need to understand how they actually profit from their job. They don’t earn any money from you directly but if the firm decides to hire you then they get paid by the firm. Which means, they will ONLY WANT TO HELP YOU if they think (or better yet, are certain) that you have a very good chance of getting the job! So if you are desperately in need of a job or you don’t necessarily have a strong profile or you behave as if you are hesitant, insecure, and not-that-confident, then the recruiters have absolutely no incentive to help you get connected (it’s sad but that’s the hard truth). This is exactly why you will ALWAYS get the most headhunter calls when you are still at your CURRENT JOB. If you already have a job, which means you are hirable, it immediately makes you more attractive. Does that make sense?
So if you have quitted your previous job or that you just graduated from b-school, you should honestly focus your time, as much as you can, away from recruiters. The only exception is that, i.e. on your LinkedIn profile you have already exhibited a proven strong track record of consistent top performance at multiple big firms, then whether or not you are currently employed is less of an issue.
One of my girlfriends is visiting NY for meetings and she asked me to help her to pick up her wedding gown from Vera Wang the day before. I am so happy for her. You know there are times when you say “good for you” you actually feel “gosh it’s so unfair I cannot believe she is getting this while I didn’t!” But that kind of feeling is not in my dictionary anymore. I am lucky to be surrounded by both guys and girls who are as ambitious, capable, observant, insightful and FUN as myself (sorry I’m complimenting myself again), if not more, and they complement me as a human being, and they inspire me every day to give back more with passion and love.
Ultimately it’s not about a competition after all. It’s about inviting someone to join the life journey with you, to learn, to share, to enjoy; or sometimes, just to sit quietly together while looking out of the window, and maybe laugh, and sing.
Treat people right, any people
When I was in Hong Kong I went to this Portuguese restaurant once and ordered some baked pork and rice dish. I asked the waiter some standard question on what kind of sauce he recommends, how long it will take, and how big the portion is etc. Apparently he was relatively new and he couldn’t answer half of the questions. I got very impatient. I unintentionally raised my voice and I was at the edge of asking to be served by another waiter. He was embarrassed obviously, and my friend who went with me gave me a very disturbed stare, which I couldn’t quite figure out why at the moment. Read more…
I know I have been away for a while. I have been traveling for business (and leisure) in Asia for the past 4 months. I was in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Macau, and multiple places in Mainland China. I met many interesting people, faced many challenging situations, and there are things that I like and not like about this whole experience, which I will gradually share with you later on. I am also in the process of building a brand new website that will EXPAND the topics of my writing, the bandwidth of knowledge that I am sharing, the broader audience I can reach out to, and the ways how I can communicate to each one of you. I look to launch my new website in the near future by which time my wordpress articles will be migrated. So please stay tuned and I would love to celebrate together with you when that becomes official.
But one thing that has been on my mind for the longest time is: Why am I not relocating back to Asia? I had multiple conversations with senior managers from different teams in our Asian offices, and one of the really senior guys gave me this look when I told him I was born and raised up in China, went to college in the US and have been working in NY ever since, and he almost started yelling at me:
What the hell are you still doing in New York?!
BEING AN ASSOCIATE is an awkward stage in your professional life; and I think you would agree with me on this. It’s like being a sophomore in college: All of a sudden you don’t receive as much attention as those excited-about-everything Freshmen anymore; at the same time you are still not “experienced” or “qualified” enough to apply to those internships/programs specifically designed for Junior and Seniors.
A couple of examples in line with this:
- In Objective Settings you are expected to use language like “take a leadership role in this project”, but you should be very cautious with language like “managing the project or the team” – Right, if you (being an Associate) are managing the team, why do they need a Director?
- The VP who used to be your supervisor now reports to the same boss as you do. But while the VP is participating in management training programs, you are left behind doing the VP’s job.
- You are responsible for the quality of the work done by your Analyst but he/she doesn’t report to you, so most of the times, he/she doesn’t give a sh** of what you say or intend to have him/her do.
- Let me STRESS that all the above don’t happen often at all in my own case, but nevertheless I guarantee you this is quite universal otherwise.
I consider myself as lucky to be on this assignment overseas. Read more…
Let’s get started, and if you miss anything else on my blog, this is a MUST READ for 2011!
1. Success is a by-product.
Very few people start off their career knowing what they really want to do. But those who eventually become wildly successful are usually the ones who started off “having fun” with what they do. Having a genuine interest to “play with it” makes it so much easier for you to put passion and efforts into it, and gradually you build up your expertise along the way and naturally you become successful in due time.
2. It’s all about reactions.
Sometimes it may have to do with luck, but it’s very rare and almost impossible that luck is always on your side. I know it’s been several years, but Stay Hungry Stay Foolish by Steve Jobs is a must read. You don’t need to get cancer yourself to realize what’s important in life.
I once had a banker friend who told me about his three magic words on his characteristics and qualifications for a banking position:
1. Good Attitude
2. Attention to details
3. Team player
And the next day, I randomly found a blog post by Investment Banking Interview Prep coming up with EXACTLY the same three qualities.
I was amazed but at the same time very disturbed. I wonder if these are really the answers an interviewer would be looking for; I wonder if it’s just for banking; I wonder if it’s THAT typical, and I wonder if these are really convincing enough, because I had a hard time being convinced!
I never held a position in banking, so I am not in a position to comment on this but a few of my close friends who claimed to excel in all the three above qualities have either left banking already, or have constantly complained about the long hours, the hierarchy, the shitty work they were dumped upon, and the criticism they got from their Associates/VPs. Yes, maybe as Seth nicely put it in his recent blog post: It’s unreasonable to treat your colleagues and competitors with respect given the pressure you’re under.
People still kill to get into banking, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong about that; but this is not a situation in which I want to put myself, and although I believe I am decently good with the three above qualities, I don’t think they really differentiate myself from anyone else and to some extent these three qualities don’t really address the fundamental issue of who I am as a person. So I came up with the three words below and let me explain why they are profoundly more powerful: