Mid Year Review

I have wanted to write something about my goals for quite some time, but I have never gotten myself down to actually doing it. Today, I looked back at my notes in Evernote, and I saw that I had listed many books which I wanted to read but I didn’t. I had also stumbled upon the 2014 and 2015 list of books I read. I clocked my monthly book goal in 2015 and failed miserably in 2015. What is worse is that I did not record anything for 2016, and it was hard trying to figure out what I had actually read.

So it’s the month of July and it is timely to review what I had promised, sort of, at the start of the year. So here are the goals:

  1. One book a month
  2. Sit ups and push ups daily
  3. Continue to read The Edge magazine and read up on companies

First, the one book a month. I completed a book, “Smarter, Better, Faster” by Charles Duhigg during my honeymoon. It was the perfect time to relax and read books. I made use of my time well. I had also recorded key snippets, though I have yet to do my review to refresh myself of its contents. I had also begun reading two books, one on networking for introverts and the second titled “Superbosses”. I am not sure whether I did read anything in the first few months of the year, though I recall giving myself a break for Jan and Feb as I had to read extensively for an essay. Well, not books but still reading materials. I should really be more consistent. I think my goals were measurable (part of the SMART goal methodology) as I specifically said to read 20 mins a day. The problem was, I wrote it and forgot about it. There must be an accessible way to have a daily reminder of my goals.

The second, I failed. There is nothing to explain. I was lazy. I did abs exercises enthusiastically but I did not continue. Shame on me.

The third, I did. I missed a few copies of The Edge when I was on holiday as I focused on reading my books. But other than that, I read the weekly magazine about 95% of the time. I had also read up more on companies this year. I had set up a template last year to record down financial information whenever I go through the five year annual reports, and I stuck to it. So far, I had read up on Capitaland, a little on Keppel Corp, Cogent Holdings and started on Dairy Farm.I have a list of stocks to read up on but it wasn’t being clocked as consistently as I would have.

As a whole, there are two key mistakes. First, not having daily reminders of what I need to do. Second, not planning my time well. I might have been setting myself up for failures when I bunch too many things together.

Aside from my 2016 goals, I also thought about the goals I had in previous years. One of which that stuck on me was my desire to write a book. I had begun writing a chapter but that’s about it. And that was a year or two ago. The plan was to write a book and try to sell it online. Then I thought about making it into a platform for people to come together and share ideas on several important topics such as Productivity, Leadership etc. It was all very appealing to me, but I need to take the first step.

And I need to be more exact.

Daily Goals

  1. Read my book (End Goal: One book a month)
  2. Exercise (Sit Ups and Push Ups)
  3. Clear my Financial News emails

Weekly Goals

  1. One++ annual report (End Goal: One company with five years worth of annual report a month)
  2. Read The Edge
  3. One chapter of the book (End Goal: to have a rough draft by end year)

And I will do a weekly review to see my progress.

I hope that I would have more favourable things to report at the end of the year.

 

Feeling Appreciated through a Farewell Dinner

Today, I went for a farewell dinner that was arranged to bid farewell to a few personnel who had left the unit and taken up other positions within the company. It was a little overdue for me as I had left seven months ago. A few years ago, I was the one who arranged for such farewell sessions, and being me, I was looking forward to my turn at the receiving end.

At the end of the dinner, I received my token of appreciation – a nice frame with kind words written by my colleagues in the department. I made a small speech which I had tried to prepare, but the result was miserable as I had not remembered the exact words which I wanted to say. I got nervous and the words came out badly.

Thinking back, I am indeed fortunate to have had supportive bosses. When I was a new person in the department, my first boss helped identify key tasking for me to gain exposure to. It has build me up significantly and I received guidance from him. He has also planned my career for me, encouraging me to take up tasks that would build my career.

I also had the opportunity to spearhead reliability engineering in my unit. I didn’t manage to articulate this in my speech as I wasn’t concentrating very well, but it has piqued my interest in the topic. Currently, I am looking to pursue two reliability-related courses, one from the Singapore Quality Institute and the other from UniSIM. Hopefully both courses give me sufficient knowledge to bring to the unit when I return in the future.

All in all, the farewell dinner gave me much to think about. I am grateful for all the assistance and kindness that people have shown me over the years, and as I reflect, I should strive to nurture the next generation.

Managing Self-perceived High Profile People

I was watching Hell’s Kitchen Season 4 on YouTube these few days and one common recurring issue with the men’s team is that there is no teamwork and everyone’s ego is too big for their own good. During the episode, one of them realizes communication is an issue and tries to get everyone to think of how to improve communication. Yet nobody needs him, and some were so fixated over the comments that others had made about themselves that they only cared about trashing it out.

After the episode, I resumed my daily book reading. The current book I am on now is “Leadership lessons from West Point”. The chapter that I started reading today was on managing high profile people, and one point stood out. The chapter described how high profile people would work in a team typically: when they feel that they are doing more than their fair share of work, they reduce commitment and might even act out in destructive ways.

To me, that sums up my learning beautifully. The chefs who made it to the show probably had lots of confidence and ego. Each of them think they are the best and deserve to win Hell’s Kitchen. However the thing is, not all of them have that level of capability. Some might be just average. Their perceived high performance might have led them into thinking that they are the contributing more than anyone else; that they tried more than others and despite making mistakes, put in more effort to recover than others. That led to a dysfunctional team where communication breakdown and no one reaps the efficiencies derived from teamwork. That is why the men’s team kept losing their challenges.

This made me do some self reflection too. Sometimes I do think that I am doing more than my fair share of work. However today’s lesson made it clear that sometimes I perceived that I do more than my fair share. That might not be the case in real life and I must be self aware. In addition, others whom I think are not pulling their weight might feel that they are contributing more than their capacity. This is a good lesson in management that I will do well to remember.

“The map is not the territory”

Over-estimating Myself

Just a couple of days ago, I attended the Change of Command parade for my previous grand boss whom I worked with for about two years. A few days before the parade, he casually mentioned that my name would be included in the farewell speech. That made me really excited about what is going to happen, and I thought about what I could possibly be recognised for. I was so looking forward to the speech that I had listened intently for the entire duration, only to discover that my grand boss had honoured everyone by listing their names.

Of course, there were a few at the higher levels who deserved special mention and had more air time. As for me, I am just one of the many names, with no examples of my contribution. I was disappointed, yes, but this also gave me some time to do self reflection. I might have over-estimated myself in terms of my contributions. Perhaps they were just minuscule and I thought they were impactful. Perhaps I could really do more and make a difference.

My closer friends knew what was on my mind when they realised that I was just a name among the many. I was sad, especially when the name was mentioned together with personnel whom I thought was undeserving. But hey, who was I to say as that was not my speech. Thinking deeper, I also realised the implications of not mentioning specific individuals when one already mentioned the names of everyone else. Then I understood, it has to be done this way.

But I need to relook at how I am contributing in my workplace and do even better; and prepare for my next role back in the units.

While talking about something that made me feel down, I should also add that there were “up” moments as well. After the parade, we had dinner and I spoke to my former colleagues. There were two specific moments where I felt that I was appreciated and I had achieved something good. First, my guys seemed really happy at the thought that I could one day return as their OC, even those who I did not think I had impacted them as much. It was very touching and motivating. Second, my encik introduced me to two new personnel in the flight, and one of them expressed interest in becoming an officer. My encik introduced me as “you should feel sad that you didn’t have a chance to work under him before he was posted out”. That made me feel very appreciated and that my little efforts to nurture everyone was on a good track. I also felt excited over the possibility of influencing someone positively to become a good officer in future. I only hope that one day I will have a chance to be his mentor.

The New Year

And so this is another of the typical new year posts that people do, except that instead of doing it in the new year, it is done four days into the new year. Anyway this is done as a means to reflect back on the year that had past and is not meant to be entertaining.

First things first. At the start of every year, I do some resolutions and it is time to see how spectacularly I have failed. And after typing this, I realised that one of the reason I probably failed that badly was because I didn’t articulate my resolutions properly in 2015. I had done so in 2014, and even did a review in Dec 14 where I mentioned how I will review my mindmaps and set out my goals. Only that I didn’t get down to it.

One of the resolutions I had, but did not express, was to continue my one book a month reading stint. I was reminded of it when I accessed my Facebook today and noticed how friends were quoting that Mark Zuckerberg reads two books a month. In 2014, I was half as efficient as him. In 2015, I should expect to have improved right? Wrong. I was not motivated and I only accomplished half. That’s six books and here they are:

Jan: Value Investing for Dividend Growth

Feb: Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits

Mar: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Jun: Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking hats

Jul: The Power Of Forgetting by Mike Byster with Kristin Loberg

Dec: Drive: The surprising truth of what motivates us by Daniel H. Pink

However this doesn’t mean that I only bought or borrowed six books this year. I have had some books on hold for some time, for example, The Fifth Discipline (bought way back many years ago), a Technical Analysis Book, The Intelligent Investor, International Reits and also Mr George Yeo’s collection of speeches. I just didn’t get down to reading as much. Even the book in December was read because I wanted to read it to use it for an essay. This has to change, and to get reading back into a habit, I should start small. I will read 20 minutes a day before I sleep. This should be easy in January as I have to continue researching for my essay.

Next, it finally hit me that my tummy is too disgustingly big and that it has reached a point of no return. Except that this has to return where it came from and I’m not going to carry it for life. To improve on my fitness, I will do sit ups and push ups daily.

In 2015, I received many opportunities at work. I continued to be an effective manager, and carried on my work on reliability. I went on a working overseas trip, and also participated in a study team to look into operational training at my workplace. I was also posted out of my workplace into a new environment which I am trying to adapt and become efficient. To be honest, it wasn’t easy and I am rather stressed out and apprehensive of the work.

So for 2016, I need to be positive and to look at each challenge optimistically. To just do my best and not have any regrets. To this end, I will:

  1. Take on opportunities along the way with a smile
  2. Do daily reflections of what went well and what didn’t
  3. Do weekly reflections on the projects that I am handling (which I did do for a while until I got posted to my new workplace)

For investments, my portfolio did well, but only because the value of USD went up significantly in 2015. Hence even though the value of my portfolio dropped, the overall SGD value increased. However this is not sustainable, so I better continue to read The Edge magazines and to do my read up on companies.

I guess I should end here. The longer the list, the tougher and less fun it gets and the harder it is to make it a good habit to adopt for new year resolutions.

I hope I will remember to periodically do my reviews so that I will be able to end 2016 saying that I met most of my resolutions.

3rd Time Being a Brother

Today was the third time that I helped out in a wedding as part of the brothers team. And it was the easiest session. Partly because the session started only at about 10am in the morning, and there were minimum travel (Just meet at bride’s house, go to groom’s house, to Marina Barrage to take photos and to the banquet venue) and partly because I was more experienced.

It was also this time which I had gained sufficient experience in previous sessions to be able to think ahead and contribute more. Perhaps I have also grown to know what role a brother should fulfil after having planned for my brother’s tasks as a soon to be groom.

The entire session was a fun experience even for the brothers. Although I yelled myself hoarse trying to make the yum seng as loud as possible.

But the thing that impacted me the most was the realisation that I too am getting married in a week’s time. I had two years to plan for this wedding after proposing in end 2013. During the two years, there was sufficient time to procrastinate, although we did complete many of the tasks ahead of time. There was so much time in between that everything didn’t seem urgent and we could slowly do them. And even when the wedding date draws nearer and the furniture in my room gradually was replaced into a couple friendly environment, it didn’t feel as sudden as this. That next week, it would be me standing there and going through the entire thing.

I guess attending a wedding from a brother’s point of view about one week before a wedding would give rise to such thoughts. If I did not attend this wedding, I might not have thought about it this way. It is through seeing it first hand that I realise this would be me next week. And it worries me that I might be too nervous to enjoy the entire process. What to say and what not to say. Whether it will all turn out good. Whether I would have forgotten something, or that my planning was insufficient. Suddenly the jitters are building up.

I told my fellow brothers that marriage seemed to be like a step function. One day you are single and bam! Next day you are married. The lifestyle change that comes along with it is so sudden that it needs some time getting used to. Even I probably need to adapt,  not to mention my bride who will be staying with my family for the next two years. I must remember to be more understanding to her feelings as she transited from a family that she was used to living with for 27 years into mine which she only need to meet during the weekends.

I am excited for the upcoming nuptials, and at the same time worried too. But it will all be well, I guess. Most of the things have been planned and my brothers would be skilled enough to execute the plan. I will just have to endure the next six days before my wedding date arrives.

:)

The Three Focus Areas

So my great grand boss came to visit the department yesterday and spoke to everyone. It was a getting to know you session since he took up this appointment recently. He did speak about his expectations and his experience, but he touched on three focus areas that he would advise that we focus on in our career.

The three focus areas are leadership, communication and critical thinking.

I agree with them, although personally I think there are so many more interesting aspects that we can focus on as well. But this post will be on my reflections on the three focus areas.

Firstly, leadership. What great grand boss mentioned was that leadership is not only for people at the management level. Leading can be at the subordinates level where a specific person is chosen to lead in a specific project. Personally, as more and more work piles up, I would be grateful if the guys could step up to lead in certain initiatives. It would take a huge load off my shoulders, and at the same time they would also prepare themselves for eventual appointments.

Many people have the appointment but cannot lead. They might not have the flair for it and might end up turning people off with their attitudes. They might care less about others and more about themselves. But to develop people into capable leaders at the management level, they need to be leaders at the tactical level.

Secondly, communication. I cannot stress the importance of communication. There are two parts to this: listening and speaking. Listening allows you to grasp your boss’s intent quickly. Why is he saying this and what does he actually want? If the reply you provide hits the nail on the head, good! He would feel that you are able to think at his level and that you didn’t waste his time. As for speaking, it is not good enough to understand intent quickly; you have to be able to phrase your ideas well. Else, the first sentence that comes out of your mouth will only sound gibberish, or reflect that you are unable to understand the crux of the issue.

Communication at the workplace takes many forms, and each form requires a different kind of mastery. Spoken communication during huddles and meetings. Written communication in the form of emails. Other forms of written communications can be approval papers to push a certain agenda or ask for certain resources. Without the clarity of thought and the ability to go straight to the point, bosses will end up taking an excessive amount of time to read and this doesn’t reflect well.

Thirdly on critical thinking. This bothers me quite a bit that there isn’t a structured way to learn critical thinking. Critical thinking requires one to challenge the fundamentals and question the assumptions. This is also applicable to my field as a maintenance engineer. This is because we work with contractors who provide recommendations on a particular way of troubleshooting. However we need to be able to think critically, see past the smoke, and ask correct questions in order to isolate the assumptions and make our decisions. However this is an area that many are weak in, and subordinates who behave like this would end up being questioned on their presentation. They don’t look good and don’t get the recognition that they deserve.

These three points not exhaustive; there are more points that one can focus on. Great grand boss spoke about being experts in a field through learning more from the internet. Personally I am encouraging people to work productively by finding tips and tricks to energise your day, sort the clutter of information bombarded through email, Whatsapp messages and face to face meeting, and prioritise on what matters.

What is your focus area now?