Globalisation, Ecosystem, Holistic……

In today’s world economy, most nations have suffered the impact of global instability. The current trade talks between the US and China are having negative ripple effects on the rest of the world. Embargoes on some countries and social instability in others have triggered a sense of vulnerability amongst multinationals as their revenue model is being threatened.  When the global players get sick, the world suffers from the potential loss of jobs and tax revenues limiting economic growth in different parts of the world.

The World has come to realise that most nations are interdependent on each other. The survival of one country depends, to a large extent, on the “Rest of the World”, including those nations that they may not trust or with which they have no strategic interest…. To put it simply: as growth slows down in the developed markets such as China, US, EU, they will buy less from those export driven economies which make up most middle income and low income countries.

Globalisation has also shattered one main economic concept: economic development is measured essentially by an increase in GDP. An increase in income does not always translate into better living standards. Health, measured mainly by life expectancy and infant mortality, is also an important determinant of the living standards of a nation.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains that no one can grow and fulfil their potential if they are not well fed, do not have proper accommodation and have no sense of belonging to the community where they live. Alienation, low self esteem, loneliness all contribute to encouraging someone resorting to violence as a means to express their frustration against society as a whole.

To achieve sustainable economic success on a national level requires that the basic needs of the population is met. Only then can the country aspire to long term social and political stability. In other words, both high levels of employment and limited inequality are the prerequisites of the long term continued economic development of a country.

One of the most important resource of any nation is its people and if a large proportion of its population do not live up to their potential – the country will not live up to its potential. High levels of inequality, especially as a result of unemployment, can result in social unrest; crime is likely to increase, creating a climate that is unattractive to businesses.

The whole purpose of creating economic development has always been about transforming the lives of people, not just transforming economies. Policies for education or employment need to promote growth. It is also critical to understand how they affect individuals directly. Education is meant to open up the mind to the notion that change is possible. Great education teaches the basic elements of analytic reasoning and enhances the capability to learn. Education is important but if there are no jobs for those who are educated, there will not be development.

It is the role of any government to create a climate that allows businesses to thrive and create jobs. The economic, legal, social and political environment of a country is to be constantly revisited as society evolves and technology continues to make advances into improving our capability to handle the complexity of today’s economy. Information is always imperfect and markets are always incomplete. A mix of government intervention and “laissez faire” is fundamental for any country to thrive economically.

According to Ruchir Sharma, a long term observer of a nation’s economic success, a good understanding of economic reforms is a necessary ingredient for those who are at the helm of the economy.  No nation can ever hope again to grow as a free rider on the waves of a global economic boom as so many had been able to in the 1980’s and 1990’s. They will have to learn to row vigorously well if there is no wind….

Many nations often hope that their alliance with other countries will boost foreign investments and create jobs. Foreign investors are not only a source of additional tax revenue or the credible proof of a nation’s competitive advantage. They can become the vehicles for the transfer of technology or know how to train the local workforce.

Petronas, Malaysia’s oil and gas company, became one of the nation’s flagship thanks to the pro active stand that the government took in ensuring that the proper training was given to the local management team. If a nation was left to grow organically with no clear directives from its government, there will be too much of some things such as pollution and too little of others such as research and a well educated workforce.

Another example of great economic vision is Bengalore – India’s capital of information technology. The Indian government founded the Indian Institute of Science in 1909 and has since then continued to invest heavily in education and research which eventually paid off today.  Such long-term vision and determination from governments are rarely observed, unfortunately for us….

But multinationals have now become savvier in assessing potential investments overseas. They look at many factors including how well money is channelled into productive investment. A commitment to build and strengthen the productive investment of a country directly encourages the emergence of a strong entrepreneurial spirit generating stronger SME’s leading to more domestic jobs creation. Relatively high levels of corruption and government favouritism, if not seriously addressed, can cause social unrest as it has been the case for those nations involved in the Arab spring in late 2010. The aftermath of the Arab Spring is still painful and not fully resolved.

Development is a process that involves every aspect of society: engaging the efforts of everyone: markets, governments, NGO’s, cooperatives, not for profit institutions. Various World Bank studies have highlighted the importance of community involvement, finding that local participation in the choice and design of projects leads to a higher likelihood of success. Community involvement ensures that money is spent in creating the projects rather than in corruption.

Changing a nation’s economic pillars of growth is always tricky. Managing change becomes even more complicated with the existence of special interest groups. Those special interests often lose sight of the big picture, confusing their interests with the national interests of the country. Restructuring the economy inevitably implies loss of jobs. Most of the time, those who lose their jobs do not move on to better alternatives. They end up onto the unemployment roll and increased insecurity is the direct result.

This is why the role of trade unions is as important as a thriving business community. One cannot survive without the other. However, finding the right balance (as always!) is critical. Strong wage growth is as important as jobs creation for the whole workforce. The high level of unemployment in South Africa has been partly the result of the South African union movement (COSATU) focusing solely on strong wage growth for its own members whilst neglecting the fate of the rest of the South African working force.

To conclude, past economic history suggests that economic development is like a game of snakes and ladders, according to Ruchir Sharma. There are fewer ladders than snakes, which means that it’s much easier to fall than to climb. So, once at the top, a nation has to continuously strive hard to maintain its top ranking by investing heavily in research and development and working painstakingly to contain the kind of income inequality that can produce popular resistance to rapid growth.

Diversity – A Hype Or A Reality?

We have all experienced changes in our identity over time as we become parents, uncles, aunties, grandparents or even great grand parents. Change becomes a constant factor as our professional standing develops and sometimes as we migrate to other countries. Change/mixture/diversity, as such, has always been part of our lives, probably taken for granted. It can sometimes bring confusion. For example, in cases where we are born in a culture different from that of our parents. Growing up in that foreign culture for most of your life, fully embracing it and speaking fluently the language and then being told by your parents that you are from a different culture….so confusing….. It is true that we live in our own representation of reality.

Forty years ago, one’s cultural identity was like that of a baobab, having its roots deeply and solely in one geographical space. Today, for many people, their personal identity is no longer set in stone. Sharing a common ethnic heritage with little or no shared cultural references or experiences such as Japanese and people of Japanese ancestry is a very flimsy foundation for long term, successful and fulfilling relationships. People in similar life situations would have much more in common than any differences in their gender, racial and linguistic backgrounds might initially suggest.

Cultural identities are now a dynamic part of people’s personal identities. They are in constant flux as people strategically select and combine features by which to differentiate themselves. Their continuous interactions with others and how they perceive these experiences would regularly change the boundaries of their cultural identities.

In the age of Facebook, Snapchat, WeChat, Instagram, people are constantly being exposed to multiple cultures. Diversity can no longer be overlooked! It is people’s ability to engage constructively with each other that will allow their own cultural identities to evolve and become a personal and professional asset. In some cases, people feel frustrated with ambiguity as they are unable to navigate in between two or more cultural worlds with whom they resonate strongly with. Trying to accommodate the requirements of each of those cultures would not allow someone to be your true authentic self.

Cultures are now inevitably dynamic. As a result, some people tend to view globalization as an unwanted intrusion. They are unable to protect their cultural heritage and what used to be their comfort zone feels like uncharted territory. Cultural shock sometimes leads to alienation as one feels “visible and out of place”. One’s inability to adapt is sometimes wrongly interpreted as a refusal to embrace change. It is useful to bear in mind that people tend to classify things in categories such as family, mother, student, British, and so on. Anything or anyone that can’t be categorised automatically brings confusion, stress, fears – all the negative feelings that can lead to disagreements, conflicts and sometimes, social exclusion.

As a matter of fact, every intercultural experience needs to be contextualized as it represents a snapshot which does not necessarily represent the whole picture. Interpreting this incident as a general rule of thumb would not allow anyone to fully benefit from any new experiences and therefore, to new knowledge. Personal growth is inhibited whenever “you need to run from a mountain lion”. You cannot protect yourself if you need to expend energy on growth. Protection requires you to shut down so as to avoid any intrusion. A sustained protection mode would not allow anyone to fully enjoy life. Only a fulfilling life can stimulate personal growth.

It has also been proven that stresses in our bodies, if not released, can damage the visceral organs from doing their work of digestion, absorption, excretion – fundamental to the good health of a human physical body.  Chronic stress can, in addition, interfere with your sense of good judgement and lead to reduced intelligence.

A critical incident has always the power to make a person stop and think. It raises questions with respect to one’s beliefs, values, attitude or behaviour. How one respond to it becomes a turning point for one’s personal development and growth.  Consider the people who walk across coals without getting burned. If they allow their fears to override their mind, they end up with burned feet. A person’s beliefs act like filters on a camera, changing how she/he sees the world. And one’s behaviour adapts to those beliefs.

Every person has, at least once or if not many times, come across people who have misperceived her/his identity. They have defined your identity as something that may have deeply conflicted with your self image. If those misperceptions are allowed to override one’s sense of self, realizing your potential is sabotaged.  When individuals raise their levels of optimism and deepen their social connection, they not only raise their level of happiness, but also dramatically improve every single business and educational outcome tested for. The opposite is also true.

Success becomes within reach when you leave the old wounds behind in the past and focus on building your vision of the future, with your “two feet solidly rooted in the present”. When you have one foot in a boat towards the future and another one anchored in a boat facing your past – moving beyond your wounds is impossible. Old grudges become the very weight that stops you from achieving your potential.

When crisis hits, ripping down your old identity and rebuilding it makes you become a model of change OR scrambling to defend your existing identity makes you a symbol of status quo. Which one are you aiming at?

The Miracle Of The Gifted Quarter

I watched the documentary twice and every time I felt its message strongly. The Miracle Of The Gifted Quarter is a Japanese documentary on children with special needs based on the life and work experiences of a teacher working with a few of them.

Every form of life has its purpose. Every person brings new insights as to the meaning of life. Children with special needs looks at the deeper meaning of live as they go beyond their physical, mental and emotional challenges. They value what they have been given as being sacred, as beautiful gifts given to them by life itself.

In today’s society, there is a tendency to seek perfection. The myth of the perfect body, perfect clothing style, perfect life style coupled with the popularity of social media puts on additional pressure for young people as well as adults to race through life seeking continuously “perfection”. The beauty of who they are, their talents – everything is within themselves. And yet they continue on seeking something else that is elusive.

The miracle of gifted quarter is a beautiful reminder that we have been given everything to make our lives something worth remembering. Everything we seek is right there within our reach ready to serve us if only we have the courage to see ourselves in the most beautiful light. To see ourselves as “miracles of nature” whether we are considered by others to be “fat”, “weird”,”ugly”. We take strength, courage and confidence. It is sometimes a challenge to be who we truly are when we are faced with challenges that remind us that we are vulnerable, prone to make mistakes, unable to meet the expectations of our loved ones and finding it difficult to steer our lives in the direction we want. It takes courage, confidence and strength to listen to our true heart’s desires and create our own path amidst the expectation of our parents, family and friends.

It is sometimes important to step out of our own story to ask “Am I doing what makes my heart sing and allow me to live a comfortably?” Am I living the life that I truly want?” What makes this life mine – truly my own creation and not what I have been led to believe because of my past experiences. What I do, what I value and believe is this a true reflection of who I am?

The End Of A Culture Of Entitlement And The Beginnings Of Self Accountability.

Looking back at the history of the global economy, most nations have experienced a series of economic growth alternated with periods of economic slumps. There are a few exceptions. South Korea is the most well known amongst them.  In his book, “Breakout Nations In Pursuit of the New Economic Miracles”, Ruchir Sharma related how South Korea strove as a nation to recover from the 1998 crisis. The country was forced to contract a record loan of US$58 billion from IMF, at that time. This triggered a nationwide solidarity amongst the Koreans.  Koreans began mobilizing to pay the national debt, waiting in long lines to donate their gold jewellery to the cause.  How many nations have had such similar experiences?

We have also witnessed that size does not always provide the necessary cushion from the aftermath of natural catastrophes. Whatever the size and wealth of the country, only those with well organised logistics and strong human solidarity amongst its population stand better chances of a rapid recovery. It goes without saying that financial wealth does make a huge difference. However, money without the proper channels ends up wasted.

It can be observed that only those nations who are engaged with the world such as South Korea can continue on with their economic development and prosperity. The complexity of achieving economic progress has always been and is still the main challenge of most nations. High increase in GDP per capita does not automatically translate into continued economic growth for the future. The BRIC nations are good examples whereby their economic momentum has not turned them into strong economic powerhouses– China being the only exception, one could say

The same goes for an individual’s personal success. One is expected to regularly re invent oneself, continue on acquiring new skills and certainly not rest on one’s laurels. Attitudes such as “fake it till you make it” tend to drive people overlooking their personal flaws. Many rags to riches success stories are not achievable without their quotas of personal hurdles.

The motivation to avoid failure represses the courage needed for exploration. Boosting one’s self esteem is not the panacea to addressing all personal issues. It sometimes turns people into narcissists: people who look upon themselves as fundamentally “special, entitled and unique”. A family of successful entrepreneurs does not necessarily imply that the following generations are deemed to continue on as successful business owners.

The culture of entitlement has permeated all aspects of today’s society. It is especially true in communities which believe deeply in tradition and history. It is even more of a challenge to stand out when one lives in homogenous communities with widespread normalised behaviours. Walking one’s own path, irrespective of the family background and of societal norms, can be lonely and challenging. People imagine that there is safety in numbers. Unfortunately, people surrounded by pleasers who would never pose a challenge or a threat, does not always evolve to their full potential.

It is generally the case that, people/nations/communities undergo huge transformation when their backs are against the wall. There is also a tendency for people to defend their existing status, rank or title. It does demand a lot of courage to give it up and rebuild it differently. When one is on a winning streak, one would hardly be motivated to slow down and think ahead. Complacency gradually sets in and reduces further the motivation to think outside the box.

However, examples abound to demonstrate that living off the dividends of past successes is not an option anymore. The emergence of new political parties has disrupted the political establishment of many countries.  Iphone and Ipad came at a time when there was a need in the market for something more user friendly.  The same goes for AirBnb, Uber and their likes….

What would be most important to someone: is it about having a title or is it about the long term recognition and respect from your peers or at large, society? How can one remain loyal both to one’s roots and at the same time, be open to other possibilities? Keeping one’s balance is a centuries old universal message.

Follow The Pack Or Lead The Pack?

For every hype, there would be those who would jump in the bandwagon at first sight and those who would wait and see whether this fad is worth their attention. There is also another category: those who would start the hype. People in need of novelty would always find someone who is willing to give them what they want. Because it is out of place, “unique” and makes them stand out of the crowd, novelty lovers would fall for it. Whether this hype is a fad or is powerfully disruptive to create jobs, generate income, it would largely depend on the factors that have created the hype in the first place.

Most new trends tend to collapse once the novelty factor dies out. They disappear as fast as they came. They took shape because there were “easy money” to be made: banks giving cheap loans and people looking for the next big thing, aiming to become the next “millionaire”, like their neighbours, a few blocks down the road – showing off their new car or pictures of their new property bought in some exotic place. If your new investment depends on market values to pursue a never ending rise then prepare for the pain of the downfall. For everything that goes up must come down.

When it requires you to be part of a “select” group of people to take advantage of this “new innovative idea”, I would stay away from it… “Cozy” relationships require long term investment of one’s own energy and time. Being well connected is not about being seen with the right crowd. Joining an “in” group makes you vulnerable as you are subject to “peer pressure” and the need to feed your sense of pride that you have made the right choice.

Creative disruption comes from making wise and challenging choices that would have a long term positive impact on the future. These choices are not dictated by what the rest of the herd is doing. People’s lives and success can bring inspiration and kick start your own creative sense. Emulating them can bring you some dividends. As there is no real ownership from you and no strong personal commitment of using your own strengths, you remain in your “comfort zone” and tend to refrain from going the “extra mile”. Whatever popular idea that you borrowed loses its momentum and its value to you.

The most unfortunate denominator for all those “financial soufflé”: memories of the collapse fade over time. Also, people tend to cling to dated ideas and rules for too long, particularly notions that minimize or explain away potential risks. Generally speaking, it always painful to recount your mistakes and learn where you went wrong. It is easier to put the blame on “bad timing” or on receiving bad advice as long as your sense of pride does not take the hit. Playing “the victim” won’t help restore your self confidence.

To be a serious trend setter requires that you are able to bounce back from all previous failures and embrace the lessons learnt.  To leave the past where it is and focus on what matters in the present requires personal resilience and pragmatism. When things start to go badly, keeping your own inner compass intact is necessary if you want to come out in one single piece.

Most well known trend setters went through a major personal ordeal before raising from the “ashes” to make a stronger comeback. Their personal fortitude makes them all the more determined to strive. A few well known examples are Maya Angelou and Steve Jobs.  It does take a lot to be a trend setter and what matters to most people is to have their own place in the sunshine, at the end of the day.

Whether you are a trend setter or a follower actually does not matter as long as you are aware of your core assets and mindful of your personal challenges. Everyone has the right to one’s own place in the sunshine. Taking a consistent approach of understanding whether the hype is moving in a productive direction is most important. The “herdlike” mentality of having to catch up to the Joneses can be highly risky and lead to nowhere other than pain, disappointment and loss in self confidence.

Stability in growing your own wealth is what makes your life enjoyable. It helps you to focus on the essentials – investing your resources in productive assets, setting the right priorities, managing your sense of pride so that it does not cloud your judgment, hanging out with people who inspires you, stands up to you when there is need to and truly supports you. It is all about balance: a strength taken too far can become a liability or ignoring your personal challenges is a huge risk.

To follow your own path to success is doing what is necessary: engaging deeply with yourself so as to learn how to deal with your personal challenges. Exploiting your strengths is easier as people tend to be more at ease with themselves in times of success. No one can hope to succeed as a free rider on the tailwinds of fortuitous circumstances. Complacency in dealing with yourself can only lead to stagnation. No one can continue on to be successful by using their sense of pride to mask their personal challenges. Living beyond one’s means intellectually or financially is the fast express route to doom! “If there is no wind, row”.

Checklist, Priorities and Time

Time management has always been the subject of many books, studies and talks.  One of the most well known is the book:“The 7 habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. In short, there will always be urgent things amongst which are stuff that you definitely need to respond to and those that you would probably respond at some point in time.

With experience, you have learnt not to allow yourself to be dictated by the tyranny of the urgent. Each person views the world differently and, therefore, what is considered as urgent varies according to each person. Your boundaries have sometimes been “invaded” by people who have tried to forge bonds to create a sense of solidarity in an effort to gain your support for their personal challenges. Attempts at highlighting what you both have in common: shared ethnic identities or common passions have been used to encourage you to view the world from their point of view. Your strong sense of self have finally helped you regain control of your boundaries and push back any further attempt of influencing your agenda for today’s work.

On the other hand, developing your own list of priorities at work is actually not only about your own sense of urgency. It also needs to take into account the diverse expectations of the people making up your working environment.  Decoding what would actually work for you and for your colleagues/team members sometimes require that you probe further to develop a better understanding of the inner workings of your environment. Asking the right questions, using the right approach to enquire and probably verifying that you have well understood takes valuable time but worth you putting the effort.  Making a checklist for today that is actually very different from the expectations of your team members or co workers may be sending the wrong message – “I want to be left alone and I don’t need you…”. You may be reminded of that single mindedness at a time when it matters for you to rely on the valuable contributions of your colleagues.

Determining your work priorities correctly require a working understanding of the different boundaries which permeates your workplace.  These boundaries can only be determined through your various interactions with your co workers.  Respecting those boundaries sometimes lead to vain efforts of complying to conflicting priorities. Your efforts to perform at your best are completely undermined by the dynamic power structures at work. Maneuvering the margins of your workplace require you to take an active role. Choosing to negotiate the boundaries would actually add value to your work brand. It is through these social negotiations that your work brand is constantly being moulded giving you opportunities to grow professionally and personally. Your ability to deal with both complexity and ambiguity and at the same time, managing your sense of confusion is crucial for you to successfully navigate your workplace.

There are times when you will feel trapped by those same boundaries that you are trying to redefine. You may then feel a looming sense of frustration and you tend to become very self conscious.  It is at this very moment that your resilience needs to kick in. Resilience is not about continued success but more about your ability to cope with crises, failures. It is an enduring process where at times you will feel vulnerable and lost but you will ultimately emerge stronger over time.

In the end, your approach to managing your priorities and defining your daily checklist is not linear. It does not necessarily follow the construct of any recommended framework. It is in constant flux imbued by the various experiences that act to enrich your time management skills.

Swapping Identities As You Journey Through Life.

Each person has multiple identities: as a sister/brother, daughter/son, colleague/boss, neighbour, alumni/teacher, friend. With globalization, the flow of people crossing borders is increasing and our interactions are not only an emotional experience. It is also about having new cultural experience shaping our view of the world. As a result, most people have “fluid” identities – moulded by life experiences, interactions with a variety of people, overseas travelling, job changes, amongst others. You also would tend to tweak your “personal brand” to fit your new personal and professional goals as you go into a new phase of your life.

Every industry or workplace or country has its own norms and values which must be understood and embraced if you hope to be considered as being “one of them”. It does not necessarily mean that you have to be a completely new person.  Remaining true to your core values and at the same time being open to new possibilities is a century old challenge to anyone who embraces change.

In integrating a new environment, you will probably choose those elements that enable you to “fit in” and that are, at the same time, aligned with your core “self”. Keeping your own sense of “balance” requires a constant management of uncomfortable emotions coming from a sense of confusion, being misunderstood, harbouring contradictory beliefs and a feeling of being “out of place”. In those times, it is important to have access to some kind of social support where you can voice out your anxieties and feel heard. This is also where your problem solving skills can help you to directly address the sources of your discomfort. Remaining open to suggestions made by people who have been in your shoes is another means to successfully achieve this transition.

As you constantly renegotiate your identity over time, your relationships tend to change as well. Most people would use their own personal experiences to make assumptions and behave accordingly. As a result, you will sometimes be perceived differently from your own self image. It is important to bear in mind that no matter how much efforts you put into setting things right, the outcome is largely to the discretion of the other person.

Using an approach characterized by dialogue can sometimes dissolve the misunderstandings. Dialogue is not about having a number of conversations. It is about being fully conscious of your own personal bias and having an understanding of what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes at the same time. It is creating the necessary space so that the parties involved can freely express themselves and be “seen” in their own personalities. Such engagement would become possible when the parties involved perceive that “the stakes are high”. Engaging into this “dance” to reach common ground requires personal commitment and a level of self confidence. Only then, the relationship can continue to flourish and evolve in a way that is both mutually beneficial to both parties.

There is always an element of risk when you go into a new career/country/workplace.  You can actually end up valuing more what you have lost. However, being curious about other people’s views and experiences can only broaden your vision and improve your interactive skills. Going out of your comfort zone is actually healthy because it is good to know what lies beyond and to test your own sense of self. No matter the age gap or difference in cultural background and/or in their career path, people, having experienced similar life situations, have much more in common. You will eventually make new friends and widen your network.

It is important to bear in mind that each encounter in your new environment is only a snapshot. People make up the very fabric of any environment and because people’s identities evolve,  making hasty conclusions can only validate your self doubts, strengthen your resistance to change and lead to self marginalization.

In the end, navigating through the twists and turns of your journey can only provide you with opportunities for personal growth and can help you develop a stronger sense of self.

Strong Resilience Equates Strong Self Worth.

As 2017 comes to an end in almost six weeks, some of you will be expected to make a review of your performance during your appraisal session by your team or by your superiors. There is nothing more exhilarating to remind yourself of all the goals you have achieved for this year. It would be perfect if you have been able to achieve 100% of the targets that you have set yourself to for 2017.

As perfection is a myth, there will be a few goals that are still not within your reach and you wonder whether you were too ambitious, not enough prepared or unforeseen circumstances turned them into moving targets. If these goals happen to have high stakes involved, this is where your resilience will be tested to the core.

Beating yourself up or blaming “others” and/or unexpected circumstances will not undo the fact that you have not achieved what mattered most: that 20% that would have made an 80% impact on your career. For some people, they will shrug it off and continue on with their lives. For others, they will mull it over and over and feel miserable. Alternatively, some people find it useful to discuss it with their friends, family members and mentors to find solace in the comforting words of the people they trust most.

Your approach to tackling challenges will largely depend upon the different “role models” you had, your underlying principles and values and what you have learnt from your past experiences. Shrugging it off is not the right approach and mulling it over is also counter productive. Any challenge has the potential for potential growth and development if you are ready to let go of false pride and learn from it. Sometimes, because of the complexity involved, it is easier to ignore it and convince yourself that this is just a streak of bad luck.

If you happen to be one of those professionals who self manage themselves, you will take this performance appraisal as an opportunity to carry out a critical self analysis. This personal review can act as a stimulus to bring about desired changes so that you are better equipped for 2018. You will allow yourself to question your existing values, beliefs and behaviour. You may initially experience mental discomfort as your commitment to your personal growth conflicts with your false pride.  True resilience is the ability to develop a productive dialogue during that performance appraisal with your superiors or team members.  A productive dialogue is when both parties are empathetic towards each other, are conscious of their personal assumptions of each other and are able to express their opinions in an equitable manner. It is also important to bear in mind that such efforts on your part is rewarded if the counter party is ready to listen and is able to create a safe zone where you feel heard and seen.

Such dialogue is facilitated if both parties consider themselves as being on the same side of the fence. If you always have that feeling of “me” and “them”, then it will be nearly impossible to create a productive dialogue. How you perceive yourself and how your superiors or your team members perceive you need to be similar for you to create strong rapport and turn this performance appraisal into a productive session for both parties. There are times when their perception of you differs from your own as relationships are fluid and evolve constantly. However, if this gap constantly exists, it implies that your values and theirs are not aligned and being part of a team who have not much in common with you is a waste of your time and energy.

Being unable to connect with your team mates or your superiors can be distressing. Such emotional stress can affect your communicative behaviours and you may perceive a lack of control which can severely undermine your performance at work. If this is the case, then your best option will be to look for another job or ask for your transfer to another team. Working for an organization or team that values your contribution is most rewarding, leads to a better atmosphere at work and reduces work related stress.

Your inability to achieve pre agreed targets does not necessarily imply lack of skills or knowledge from you. It does signal that there is a missing piece in the puzzle and it is best to identify this missing piece as part of your personal commitment to yourself. Your self worth will largely benefit from this critical self analysis.

Managing Your Personal Career Transitions

Most people have changed jobs at least once and for some, they have even changed career to start afresh in an entirely new role. For example, a number of ex military people have joined the financial services industry.  Change implies experiencing a certain level of discomfort and confusion, even though you have a successful track record in your past work experiences.

Working for a new company means meeting new faces and being part of a new team. Though you may know some of your team members professionally or personally, working with them on an almost daily basis would imply an adaptation period and learning curve to go through.  The novelty of the new workplace can be exciting and stressful at the same time. Coping with stress successfully depends on whether adequate resources are available and your coping style suits the needs of the situation.

Each company has its own culture with implied set of rules and behavioural norms. At the start, you may feel like “a stranger” learning to “fit in” with your co workers. You are hoping that, after a few months, it will no longer be “me” and “them”. It will simply be “us”. This period of adaptation comes with moments of discomfort at times when you ask yourself: “Have I made the right choice?” There are also moments of satisfaction when your personal contribution to the team is largely appreciated.

Some corporate cultures facilitate the integration of newcomers by allowing organizational boundaries to be permeable. Businesses add new people to their team in the hope that they will induce changes to the existing corporate culture. Such changes can be positive as it can lead to the emergence of new perspectives on existing challenges or innovative ideas about the business.  In this scenario, newcomers, in building rapport and trust with their fellow co workers, will perceive themselves as core organizational members over time.

At other times, you still feel like “an outsider” even after a year in the job. It may not be necessarily your lack of skills.  It can be your personal perception of things. It is also sometimes due to the corporate culture of the business that does not provide for the integration of new members.

A more challenging move for progressing your career is making a career shift.  Skills and knowledge are transferable so making career changes is doable. The perceived level of difficulty is higher as there may be no existing comparative framework in your existing repertoire of past work/life experiences. You may find many things to be challenging such as the “ways of doing things” and the “language used” in the new career you have chosen. Each industry has its own “jargon” or technical terms used.

As a result, you feel like a “Newbie” even though you have been working for a number of years. Having the status of a “beginner” can actually be an opportunity for you to bring a fresh approach and allow you to stand out. It is your choice of whether you would like to be “one of them” or being “you” and still be part of the industry community.

Perception with your set of beliefs and values sometimes determine how far you can go in your new career or in a new job.  In both cases, your successful integration relies on your behavioural flexibility, level of critical thinking, humility and openness. Your level of emotional intelligence is another determining factor. Reaching out to people who have had similar experiences or working with a mentor, whose career you would like to emulate, can help you assess whether you are on the right track or not.

It is also important to bear in mind that every culture is dynamic whether it is corporate culture or that of the industry at large. So, timing is sometimes critical and making the wrong choice once does not mean that you won’t be able to carry out the desired changes. It means that you would need to continue on looking for the opportunities that allow you to progress your career.

Gender Diversity – No Hard And Fast Rules.

Gender Diversity has been a hot topic for decades and being a woman, I must admit that I have not given much thought to it until recently. Gender biases have existed for centuries when it comes to involving more women in the workplace, in politics, in leadership roles, etc. Over the past few decades, gender diversity has taken on a new meaning. LGBTQ community, an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer are now voicing out their concerns of being not properly integrated into our society.

The reason why I have not often considered the issues surrounding gender diversity is because I think there needs to be a profound change in societal norms – something that can only be dealt with by making important changes in the school curriculum and more importantly changes in how we raise our kids.

Issuing and endorsing gender diversity policies at work or enacting laws that promotes gender diversity is rarely going to be enough for attitudes to change at work and for society at large to transform itself so that everybody feels a sense of belonging. There is also the fact that each individual has her/his own life experiences influencing personal life choices. Individual A can feel that he is respectful towards others whist Individual B believes that A does not have the right attitude. In other words, getting the right balance is complex. Bearing in mind that our laws and national policies tend to lag behind societal changes, there will always be room for improvement.

I believe that any changes start with our own personal journey. Teaching the next generation at home to be respectful of others is my personal contribution to the gender diversity agenda. The formation of the beliefs and values of an adult starts early. It has been proven that “a child’s perception of the world is directly downloaded into the subconscious during the first six years of life. The fundamental behaviours, beliefs, attitudes we observe in our parents, teachers: people in our immediate surroundings becomes hardwired as synaptic pathways in our subconscious minds.”(c.f The Biology of Belief : Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles by Bruce H Lipton). The subconscious mind always operates in the “now” whilst the conscious mind can travel in time: past, present and future.

In other words, the subconscious mind is the one who is in control. Positive affirmation can influence our behaviour and genes but only when they are in harmony with our subconscious programming. To change someone’s attitudes, there needs to be a reprogramming of the unconscious. According to Bruce Lipton, thoughts consume energy as surely as does marathon running. Rewriting programs in the subconscious mind can be achieved through the help of a number of modalities known as “energy psychology”. Some well-known modalities are hypnotherapy and body centered therapies.

However, whenever there is an opportunity to bring my personal contribution to promoting gender diversity, I would not hesitate to do so. The thing is that no matter how many policies are endorsed, it all starts with us making a conscious effort to change our own mindset. Our social culture is dynamic with people continuously making their own contributions. If we want to give a gift to our daughters or sons for Christmas 2017, we may want to give them something that will encourage less gender biases. Giving a boy something that will raise his awareness that “nurture” is as important as “winning” can make a difference in how he views the world in the next 10 – 20 years. Allowing a girl to choose her own career gives her the self worth she needs to succeed later in life.

There are no hard and fast rules as to how we can ensure that no matter who we are, we all feel that we belong to this current world. Inclusion and belonging is important for better social cohesion as past research have proven that they are critical for a human being to function optimally in terms of health, adjustment and well being. Improved social cohesion also implies less costs to society in terms of health care and social welfare benefits.