My daily leadership reminder list

BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

When I was young, I thought I was always right and everybody else was wrong. I tend to believe that the problem was everyone else. There is always an air of invincibility that comes with youth thinking that zeal brings with it perspicuity and wisdom. “They need to change.” “The system needs to change.” What I failed to understand was that I needed to change. Now that I am older and have had more years of leadership experience, I realize I am the problem. If I fix myself, things will continuously improve. One example is I am forgetful, and I am messy with my calendar and schedules. Had it not been for my diligent and reliable associate, Ms. April, fixing and prodding me regarding schedules and dates for travel and engagements, I would be in a deep mess. Regular clients know, so they double-check with Ms. April.

There are also some fundamental leadership things I would not want to forget, which is why I have my Daily Leadership Reminder List. These are my reminders:

Talk less, listen more

This may be a surprise to many. I can speak for almost six to seven hours the whole day in my leadership training and seminars, but when I am at home, I am mostly quiet and do not speak much. But do not get me excited on a topic, and I babble my way through as if I am giving another seminar. It happens when I speak passionately on “important” issues with my family. And then I get reminded when my kids roll their eyes, laugh, and remark. “Dad is giving another seminar.”

I do interviews for Globe Business Youtube Channel. I discuss ideas and draw out best practices from successful entrepreneurs and personalities. I tend to have an opinion on everything and have no trouble voicing it. But I have discovered that the best interviews are where I speak the least and let the guest speak more. Remembering Larry King, he says: “I never remember learning anything when I was the one doing the talking.”

The longer I lead, the more I realize that’s counterproductive. In meeting the team, if you go first with your thoughts and then blabber away passionately, you effectively shut everyone down. No one would dare disagree with the boss. Think about it. In team meetings, if you go first with your thoughts as a leader, you effectively shut everyone else down. Who’s going to disagree with the boss? If this persists, the leader produces non-thinking people who would obligingly nod their heads, pretending they understand or agree, while ignoring the fact that the team is waiting to be heard. As crass as it sounds, this reminder tells me to shut up if I want beautiful things to happen.

Ask more intelligent questions

In conversations with people, it is effortless for me to bring the entire discussion to a conclusion and move on. I can be impatient, especially if I know the subject well. Yet if I want to know deeper and engage in a more meaningful conversation, I need to ask more intelligent questions and make the discussion fruitful and engaging.

The reminder for me is to ask open-ended questions and not just questions answerable by an easy “yes” or “no.” Some helpful questions are:

“What do you think? I would like to see your point of view.”

“How would you solve it, and what would you need?”

“What else is on your mind?”

“Are there things that bother you, and would you like to let me know so I can help?”

A favorite question of mine copied from a Netflix series is “How can I help?”

There is an important thing to consider in this process because sometimes you get answers or feedback you may not like to hear and when this happens, say, “Thank you.” And when you think the opinion or the thought is erroneous and disagree, say, “That’s interesting.” And then sort out an effective way to privately converse with the person and clear out the issues.

The last reminder I have written down in Post It (In my iMac, it is called “Stickies,” and it pops up once I open the computer screen) is the most important reminder for me. It says, “Francis, live each day as if it is the last day of your life. For one day, you will be right!”

Your turn. What are the things on your Reminder List?

(Francis Kong’s podcast “Inspiring Excellence” is now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or other podcast streaming platforms.)


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