By The People At Work Summary: Gender diversity in the boardroom is a global conversation, and Asia is no exception. A large part of recent conversation has been about encouraging greater female representation on corporate boards—it is not disputed that board gender diversity brings a wider range of perspectives for decision-making and arguably contributes to a better bottom line. Across Asia, more nations are embracing gender quotas or targets to boost female participation on corporate boards. Controversial as they may be, quotas seem to have shown promise in breaking old behavioural patterns. Countries like Hong Kong, South Korea, and India have seen positive shifts, particularly in the short term. In a 2022 Deloitte study, Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, have recorded an average of 17.1% women in board seats, up from 14.3% in 2018. But as women gain access to boardrooms, they encounter challenges. Unconscious affinity bias can emerge in male-dominated boards, potentially side-lining female voices. Being a minority, women may struggle to assert themselves fully. There’s also the risk of being perceived as quota-fillers, which may undermine their credibility. While quotas provide an initial push, they remain a remedy for symptoms rather than the systemic issue. Achieving true gender diversity in corporations may demand a more multifaceted approach.
By The People At Work Inspired by Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” Summary: Fear, like laughter, is one of those things that unites us all as humans. Whether you’re in bustling Asia or anywhere else in the world, fear knows no boundaries. Sun Tzu’s ancient text, “The Art of War”, often associated with military tactics adapted to strategic brilliance in business and leadership, also offers unique insights into the common fears that all leaders face. Sun Tzu’s wisdom is a reminder that while fear is a universal experience, it is often also the source of empowerment and success in leadership, strategy, and life itself. And the first step to overcoming fear is acknowledging it. 1. Fear of the Unknown Just as generals confront the unknown on the battlefield, leaders at work face the uncertainty of venturing into uncharted territories. Sun Tzu’s anecdote is pragmatic: actively gather market intel, analyse trends, and devise tailored strategies. Armed with specific insights and a well-crafted plan, you’re in a better position to chart the course with better chances of success. 2. Fear of Failure Sun Tzu sheds light on this ever-present spectre in battlefields and boardrooms. In either domain, preparation and adaptability are key. Prepare by understanding your markets and competition, and be ready to seize opportunities. The act of seizing opportunities not only defies fear; it also creates momentum for success. By being decisive, you transform fear into a catalyst for growth 3. Fear of Losing Control Micromanagement, stifling of creativity, and even paralysis are symptoms of this fear. Sun Tzu’s philosophy advocates for flexibility—the ability to pivot and adjust to change. He stressed the importance of focusing on outcomes rather than being bogged down in the minutiae of daily operations. By giving your team the leeway to use their own judgement, you empower them to face their own fears and foster a collaborative environment where success is shared. 4. Fear of Conflict Conflict, whether in warfare or business, evokes apprehension. Hence, Sun Tzu’s advice for leaders was to choose their battles wisely. He emphasised that the only wars worth engaging in are the ones that contribute to your larger strategy. Be proactive and initiate action to control the situation so that every step is not a reaction to circumstances. When you dictate the terms of engagement, you mitigate the fear of getting caught off guard or being forced into a conflict on unfavourable terms. 5. Fear of Being Outsmarted Leaders often fear being outwitted by opponents or competitors. Sun Tzu encouraged anticipation and understanding of the enemy’s moves while embracing the elements of surprise. In his words, “He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not will be victorious.” By patiently studying the tactics, motivations, and patterns of your opponents, you can uncover their vulnerabilities and opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed. 6. Fear of Betrayal In the world of strategy and leadership, fear of being betrayed is a constant concern. Sun Tzu’s teachings underscore the importance of alliances, trust, and loyalty. Select capable and trustworthy individuals, and cultivate a culture of trust. Sun Tzu’s philosophy also advocates for transparency and open communication. When you maintain clear lines of dialogue with your team and allies, you can address concerns, dispel doubts, and prevent misunderstandings that might otherwise fester into betrayal. 7. Fear of Resource Scarcity When supplies and resources run low, it can impede operations, lead to competitive disadvantages, necessitate difficult decisions, threaten survival, and result in strategic vulnerabilities. Sun Tzu’s teachings emphasise resourcefulness and strategic allocation. His famous aphorism, “In war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak,” highlights the importance of astute resource allocation. Rather than confronting powerful adversaries head-on, identify and target areas of weakness or opportunity to optimise the use of your limited resources. 8. Fear of Stagnation Leaders are apprehensive about remaining static, either in strategy or innovation, as this can lead to missed opportunities and eventual decline. Sun Tzu’s wisdom advocates for continuous learning, adaptation, and the pursuit of opportunities. By challenging the status quo and facing difficult situations head-on, leaders will not only survive but thrive in evolving circumstances. Actively seek and embrace change. By confronting challenges, questioning assumptions, and being open to new possibilities, fear becomes your driving force for progress. 9. Fear of Overextension This fear arises from the recognition that committing too many resources or efforts to a single objective can lead to negative consequences. Sun Tzu’s advice for leaders is to be prudent. When an enemy pretends to flee, do not chase them blindly, as it might be a trap. Similarly, avoid picking fights with opponents simply because they are eager to fight. Instead, be smart and use your resources wisely. Don’t fall for tricks, and avoid unnecessary conflict that can drain your energy and resources. This emotion, deeply ingrained in the human experience, resonates with all levels of executives. Embracing vulnerability and nurturing growth constitutes an essential odyssey for leaders. As we explore these universal fears through the prism of Sun Tzu’s timeless wisdom, we are reminded that leaders are fundamentally human, grappling with a tapestry of emotions every day. In this recognition of our shared humanity, we extend our compassion to all leaders, acknowledging the remarkable resilience they embody and the paths they courageously tread.
By The People At Work Storytelling: Elevate Your Interview Game in 7 Steps Summary: Before claiming your coveted leadership role, you face the challenge of executive job interviews—the series that tests even the most confident. Yet interviews offer you a valuable platform to showcase your persuasion skills, convincing strangers of the value you bring to the role and securing your spot in the next round. Rather than dreading the process, embrace it by harnessing the skill of storytelling to make your journey to the top smoother and more enjoyable. Storytelling etches your uniqueness into the interviewer’s memory Sharing your achievements and experience through storytelling can offer a multitude of benefits beyond just showcasing your skills, character, and abilities. First of all, stories have a way of putting people at ease. As you narrate your experiences, you are essentially guiding both yourself and the interviewers through your achievements. It’s a process that naturally takes the edge off, creating a more relaxed and engaging atmosphere. By weaving your achievements into a narrative, it becomes less likely that you will forget key points. The structure of a story inherently prompts you to mention the challenges, the actions you took, and the outcomes achieved—a more holistic representation of your skills and abilities. Storytelling can also transform the interview from a one-way street into a dynamic two-way conversation. Rather than merely answering questions, you’re leading the discussion. This portrays you as an engaging communicator who can foster open dialogues — another critical trait for top-level positions. “Your resume showcases your experiences and achievements, but it’s your skill to relay them in a relatable manner that sets you apart.” Unlock the storyteller in you While your stories are based on your actual experiences, crafting them effectively and delivering them well is not easy. It requires thoughtful preparation and plenty of practice. Here are 7 key steps to incorporating storytelling into your interview preparation: 1. Connect with the Role Align your narrative with the specific requirements of the role you are interviewing for. Highlight anecdotes and experiences from your professional career that directly demonstrate the skills, leadership style, and problem-solving abilities desired for the position. 2. Identify Key Themes Look back on your career and find key moments that showcase your strengths such as instances of innovative solutions, collaborative teamwork, or conquering obstacles. 3. Give Structure Structuring your stories effectively can enhance their impact. Create a framework, by thinking along these lines: Challenges or opportunities facedConflict that arose or forces in oppositionMain actions takenDetails of approach and decisions madeOutcomes achievedLessons learned 4. Keep It Real Don’t shy away from sharing moments of vulnerability or setbacks in your stories. Beyond recounting events, reveal how these experiences made you feel. Authenticity can build a stronger connection with interviewers, demonstrating your capacity to adapt and learn from challenges and your knack for deep connections – all prized traits in leadership. 5. Be Culturally Aware As businesses span the globe, sharing stories on your ability to adapt and collaborate across diverse cultures can be key. For instance, if you are interviewing as a foreign candidate in Asia, share stories that underscore your ability to navigate specific cultural dynamics. Recount instances where you successfully adjusted your communication style to connect with your colleagues or led diverse teams to achieve common goals. 6. Quantify Impact Numbers speak volumes. Whenever possible, quantify the impact of your actions — whether it is revenue growth, cost savings or degree of market expansion. 7. Practise, Practise, Practise Rehearse your stories until you can convey them naturally and confidently. Storytelling can be a strong asset Learning to tell compelling stories in an authentic way is not just about acing interviews; it’s a valuable skill that will continue to serve you well throughout your career and life.
By Cesar Ginete Summary: Effective executive search typically relies on sound research, sophisticated assessment tools, in-depth interviews, and thorough background checks to support quality hiring decisions. In Asia, some companies still turn to the ancient art of feng shui to determine the best candidate for top jobs. With roots dating back thousands of years from China, feng shui aims to achieve harmony and balance in the environment as well as in personal wellbeing, relationships, and business success. In today’s business world, many multinational organisations across Asia still rely on feng shui not only to configure their workspaces (from furniture placements to colour schemes and even heights of desks) but also in their hiring practices — to assess interpersonal compatibility and the potential impact of a candidate’s flow of energy or “chi” on group dynamics and the future of the company. While few studies have been done to support its role in executive hiring, feng shui is a time-honoured art of risk management in the hearts of avid believers. During one of our executive search assignments, a candidate had successfully progressed to the final stage of the selection process, which included an interview with the business owner. While the candidate met all requirements of the executive role, the business owner unexpectedly requested a feng shui check. In feng shui, the candidate’s date and time of birth, and their Chinese zodiac birth sign are used to create a unique personal profile alongside conventional evaluations. While these aspects are generally out of the assessed individual’s control, they are used to understand the potential energy dynamics between the individual and the organisation. Even when all other proof points such as education, experience, accomplishments, and shared values point to a sound hiring decision, some decision makers want to run the feng shui analysis. Despite some scepticism, feng shui holds significant value to those who believe in its power, not just for the benefit of home and family wellness, but also for business success. As for our candidate, I’m happy to report that he passed the surprise assessment with flying colours, paving the way for a mutually successful alliance throughout his tenure with the company.