Meeting and Minutes

Something which schools did not teach but are vital for success in both business and non-business worlds, which is organising a meeting and writing minutes. Now, not every company requires minutes for their meetings but that does not mean that minute writing is not relevant. There are many situations in which minute writing skills would come in useful.

Now, most of the times we realize we sit in a long meeting and weeks later, we have no recollection of what was exactly discussed at the meeting. This made the meeting rather unproductive. We have no idea what transpired and what decision did it lead to. As such we forgot what is required of us to do or we couldn’t grasp the rationale and hence submit sub-standard work.

If we are able to acquire some skills in minute writing, we might be able to capture pertinent points accurately and still be able to participate in the conversation. Weeks later, we are still sure of what was discussed and hence we are able to contribute even better in the future. Minute writing might become a method of taking notes.

Should you be working in a company where minutes is required to be recorded, minute writing skills would ensure you never miss the crux of the issues and the decisions that follow. You are also able to better advise members on their action items. You will be able to send in your minutes early, ensuring that everyone has ample time to kick start their follow up actions.

I have found an e book through the e book stores on minute writing. It’s titled “Taking Minutes of Meetings” by Joanna Gutmann. I will be reading the book and recording the important points down so that I can apply it. I have started to fill the role of a secretary at a few meetings and this skill would serve me well by making me more effective and finally more efficient as I waste less time writing the minutes after the meeting. I will be sharing these skills here on my blog when the time comes!

Applying what you have learnt

We had over a decade of formalised education aimed to teach us skills in linguistics, mathematics, sciences, humanities etc, yet we have yet to truly learn the lessons that can help us as a person. Such information comes from a variety of places, for example, experience shared by a senior, words from a self-help book etc. While we know where exactly to learn some soft skills and raise our personal effectiveness, it is also important to actively use them.

After being taught on how to give effective presentations, do you still go back to the old style of presentations where you have words plastered all over the slides, causing the viewers to read actively and listen passively? After being taught a new word, do you try to use it more often or relegate it to the back of your mind? After learning how to draw an effective mind-map that can assist in your learning, do you use it or leave it to rust (figuratively)?

Mindmaps are something that I have been toying with for a very long time. My first experience of a real mindmap comes from Tony Buzan’s book titled “Mind Maps at work”. However I have failed to utilise my new found knowledge to learn newer things. I have adapted the mind map in its simplest form – a map, but I did not practice the art and science of the mind map, which consists of rules like colours, a single word on each branch etc. This caused my mind maps to be in a single colour – black. And not to mention, boring.

With this new book that I am reading titled “How to achieve your potential and enjoy life”, I have tried to make a real mind map this time. Incidentally, the book was a gift during a course on Tony Buzan’s 5 learning steps, which actually taught and allowed me to revise on the concepts of how to draw a real mind map. I am currently testing out the procedure and have since drawn 2 branches out of the possible 10 lessons from the book. To be honest it was indeed fulfilling and I felt that I was more able to grasp at the concepts than before.

Hence this blog-post. We all learn new things from many sources, but how often do we really do something about it? We learn and we know the path to success, but think about it: The wise man can show you the map, but you still have to walk it to reach the destination. Now that you know how to make it easier to reach the destination, employ the tool and use it. Then share it with other people so that they too can learn and harness these tools for their own personal success.

If you never applied the lessons, then the effort spent in learning have all gone to waste.

Reward for positive behaviour

I mentioned that I had attended a course just two weeks ago on “Buzan’s 5 learning steps”. What I did not mention was that at the start there was an activity where we had to guess a message from what seemed to be many squares and some shaded parts.

Usually, I do not become enthusiastic about something until I had sufficiently warmed up, but strangely on that day, the moment I saw the hidden message, I just blurted it out to the speaker. I was pleasantly surprised afterwards when I was presented with a book titled “How to achieve your potential and enjoy life”.

It was a positive reinforcement that encouraged me to continue to participate to the best of my abilities. Through this episode, I also learnt that we will only get success when we do something.

I could have just kept mum and not say a thing. But that would mean someone else getting the prize, and given my character I might have continued to keep mum because that just ain’t me. However, the reward altered my behaviour and set my path differently. Once you realise you can do something, you will start to do it more often.

This is the same with success. Once you have tasted success, you will keep doing the things you have done over and over again, replicating the same success in your work, your personal life, your family etc.

The human spirit has limitless potential. Sometimes we just need to take that step forward and be the difference we would like to have to this world.

Learning from others

Throughout a huge bulk of your our lives, we have been schooled and taught by educational institutes set up by the government to teach us a thing or two about languages, sciences, math, humanities like literature and history etc. But after 6 years of primary school,  4 years of secondary school, 2 years of JC, and 4 years of university education,  we didn’t learn enough to propel ourselves ahead of the pack.

We have all come out in the same packaging: brand name schools,  good grades in the same subjects etc. We are able to handle the nature of our job, but it might not be effective. It might not be productive,  and productivity is the new keyword of our new economy. We are still not good leaders and managers, and we lack the clarity of thought and the maturity to understand others.

But this does not mean we cannot develop these skills that are required for us to differentiate from the rest of the pack. We can hone our leadership skills; we can develop good presentation techniques; we can learn mind mapping to see the bigger picture. Heck, I even tried learning about positivity and happiness in the workplace.

The main gist is,  we can learn from the lessons of those who had been before us. I used to read much fiction books in my schooling days and the frequency decreased with time.  Recently I picked up reading on my trusty tablet and I have never stopped buying e books with the intention of reading and learning the content inside. These books are written by those who had done it before us and achieved the success. Sometimes they took many years to refine a certain method of success, but who is to say that we cannot replicate the process? Who is to say we cannot learn it and start applying it successfully at age 27 as opposed to the author who might be in his late 40s when they perfected their art?

The next step would then be to learn and replicate it. Then, to pass it on to others and build your own successful team. The world out there is big. Why not be that difference you want to see in your society? Never stop learning.

Article: From Mail Room to Boardroom: A Star Executive’s Strategy to Rise to the Top

So I chanced upon this article titled From Mail Room to Boardroom: A Star Executive’s Strategy to Rise to the Top through the Flipboard app on my trusty tablet and I thought that I should share such articles. Previously I tried sharing such articles on the department Facebook page; however I am not too positive about the results. Other than realizing that many people has seen my share (but I have no idea if they read it), there’s just no communication to talk about the content.

Maybe a Facebook page isn’t the right place to push such serious content? Then, I guess, I shall write about such serious content on my blog, where hopefully it will attract an audience who wants to excel in their lives. Maybe I will have a small community, who knows?

Anyway, let’s personalise the article with my thoughts about work. These are the concepts from the article:

1. Find Solutions
This is something that is rarely found in the workplace. Most people are contented with work being pushed to them and then completing it. However, those who see the bigger picture and suggest ways to continually improve will be the ones who impress the management. There are many examples of inefficiencies in the workplace, but what are you going to do about it?

2. Have a strategic vision
This is probably to align yourself with the vision for the entire company. In that way, the ideas that you come up with will tend to help in making the company progress in line with that vision. It will also allow you to know the difficulties that are occurring and why certain plans are made which does not sit well with the majority of the work force.

3. Never be satisfied to rest on your laurels
I think that this is linked to point number 1. We have to continually seek improvement. But an example to not rest on your laurels is to read widely. There are many areas that one can obtain materials to read. It can be internally within the company where certain papers document the work processes; or that memo that was written to push forward an idea. It can be an external source of books (my 1 book per month goal?) that teaches you different things (like 6 Sigma, Happiness in the Workplace, Leadership?). It can also be from magazines or online ones like Flipboard.

4. Think Holistically
Which I thought is similar to point 1 and 4. This is to project the future and what needs to be done to reach there.

5. Numbers count
Not too sure about how numbers count in my workplace since there is no concept of profitability. But I suppose lessening the number of outstanding tasks by implementing workplace productivity improvements also count too.

6. Continually “sharpen the saw”
This refers to improving oneself, which should be linked to point 3 where I mentioned about reading widely. It is an investment in one self and a means of educating yourself with the information that is present in the world.

In a nutshell, a person who can impress the bosses must be able to seek continual improvement in the workplace and this is done by focusing on the KPIs/PIs and by educating oneself. The follow up actions on educating oneself is to spread these concepts into implemented solutions which will also help improve on the numbers (KPIs). However, in order to make sure these implemented solutions help you to gain an edge, we have to consider the strategic vision of the company and make sure these improvements do not lead the company into reverse gear. Finally, even if you had achieved a single goal, never stop as there can be continual improvements made as we grow together with the rest of the human race.

Smart people producing smart kids

Just like how the rich gets richer, it is something that we shouldn’t loathe but embrace it as a fact. It is just that there is a higher probability that such things happen; successful people know how their success came about and would also have a different insight on how to deal with their kids or wealth. Especially when they are analytical people who are able to think at a strategic level.

Currently I am being exposed to the blog of this psychologist who happens to be the wife of a very important person. In her blog, she talks about her children and how they are taught. The younger brother is 12 and he is already more successful than me at my age. He is inquisitive and has a curious mind; something which I only developed later in life,plus the magnitude of my curiosity seems to still lag behind. He is working with HTML coding to build websites, and I only started such interests when I was 14-15, borrowing books from the library to feed my interest and build my websites.

Sometimes this gives me the thought that I am not good enough. This might come as a surprise since there will be many envious of my academic results from JC onwards. However I felt that I am very underdeveloped in so many areas. Truth is, the learning process never stops. There is a wealth of literature out there waiting to be developed, and peers who have gone ahead of me at my age are already valued at a higher potential. Neglecting potential, the literature is also interesting enough for me to want to learn without the incentive of being ahead.

Things like motivation theory that teaches you how to deal with your subordinates. Stuff like writing proper reports and how to structure your argument for coherence and ease of understanding. Currently I am reading a book on execution and the discipline to carry it through. When I get back home, I have a book titled “Use your brain” by Tony Buzan. Previously I read about memory techniques to improve on my memory, though it didn’t feel very applicable to the workplace.

There are so many interesting pieces of knowledge that one should strive to read up on. The learning never stops. If we chose to stop learning after getting our degrees, then we have no reason to complain about being poor and unsuccessful. Or even blame others for our lack of success in our workplace.

Making a difference, one at a time

In the Joint Leadership Programme that I had attended as part of my course to become a full-fledged Military Expert, I had the opportunity to watch a video which told a simple story. I had known this story many years ago, but as I watched the video this time, I had more reflections given my new situation as a working adult with a team under me.

The story goes like this:

There was this man who observed a boy dancing along the beach. As the man slowly walked up to the boy, he noticed that the boy was not dancing. Rather, he was moving inwards to the beach and then outwards to see. Curious, he walked closer. What the boy was did was to walk up to a starfish, pick it up, move towards the sea and throw the starfish into the sea. He asked the boy, “What are you doing?”. The boy explained, “The tide is out and these starfish are trapped under the hot sun. They will die if they do not return to the sea.” The man then said, “Do you know how many starfish there are along this long beach? You couldn’t possibly make a difference!” To which the boy calmly picked up another starfish and tossed it to the sea. “Made a difference to this one.”

Essentially the story is about how sometimes the things we do are seemingly meaningless in the large scale of things, yet if we look at it carefully, each individual effort plays a tiny part. No matter the magnitude, you’ll still make a difference.

I thought about the times I voiced out my opinion on Facebook by updating my statuses. After a few friends who repeatedly expressed their displeasure or irritation, I stopped. However the statuses might have given somebody something to think about, and it might have allowed others to gain a separate perspective if they choose to read it with an open mind. It could have made a difference to someone else, yet I didn’t continue my efforts because of peer pressure. Thinking back, it was really silly.

True leadership will not be affected by others so easily. I should have persevered. Which is why this blog is still useful and relevant. I am not sure who will read all these posts, but one day someone would stumble upon this and hey, perhaps I would have made a difference to that person.

There is a quote that goes something like this “that which is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. While my status updates have nothing to do with evil or good, the rough idea remains. That which is necessary for negativity to triumph is for positive people to do nothing.

As we look at how the internet is right now, we have many avenues for people to write and whine with no real consequences. People who have different views do not engage in conversation for fear of a flame war. People criticize others without knowing the real facts or considerations behind the case because nobody took the effort to educate them. Nobody took the effort to stand up for what we believed in.

Hence what I did today was this: I shared a link to a website containing pictures of the Holocaust, where the Germans packed the Jews into concentration camps where they tortured and killed the innocent. I tried to use a non-confrontational approach, so I shared the link with a question for people to think. “Can anyone say for sure that this will not happen again?”

The reason why we are all involved in National Service is to ensure that we have a fighting chance to prevent such sad things from happening again. Nobody can be sure that we won’t be invaded. Wars are still fought till this day; but the magnitude are just smaller compared to the World Wars. I rather have a fighting chance than not at all. Even if we bring out examples of how certain countries have no military, can anyone really say for sure we will never be bullied?

Food for thought.