Thursday, July 5, 2018

UKEC's Role in Post GE14 - A Reflection

A quick background

The past one year had been one of the most challenging parts of my life. I still vividly remember the moment when I was deciding whether I should run for another term in the United Kingdom and Eire Council of Malaysian Students (UKEC) and there were a lot of self-doubts when I had to weight my decision- What if I couldn’t give my best due to my final year project? Would I be able to lead the organisation well? What if I end up disappointing my parents if I didn’t do well in my studies, especially when I almost failed my 3rd-year first semester during my first term in UKEC?

I have had the privilege to spend the past 4 years to serve the Malaysian student community. I started as an event coordinator in Malaysian Student Society of Manchester (MSSM) and served a second term as President with hopes of uniting the races within the Malaysian community and introduce ASEAN initiatives. Through the friends I’ve met in Dikir Barat, we set up Young Malaysian Engineers (YME) after organising the first instalment of the Malaysian Student’s Technology Conference. While I was in the midst of setting up YME, I ended up joining UKEC and stayed for a second term. (previously wrote about this last year here)

Last year, I decided to run for a second term because I wanted to introduce a few initiatives that I felt would improve UKEC.  There have been a lot of improvements, and I am proud of my team for the sacrifices they have made to implement those ideas. However, I feel that more could be done, we have not reached our full potential as an umbrella body yet, and we should never settle for less. Since I will be retiring soon and I do not have much time left, I guess the best contribution I could make is by sharing some ideas and thoughts on my blog. Before I point out the aspects of student activism that can be improved, I think it would be fair to start with a reflection on the time spent in UKEC for the past one year to set the context. For reference, you can find the link to my manifesto here which was published when I ran for Chairperson in April 2017.
Last year's PAN XIV- the days when I used to have round specs in hopes to look younger. 

Representation through more engagements?
As a coalition of Malaysian societies, the first point of improvement that we always focused on would be our relationship with the Malaysian Student Societies. Building on the past, one of the changes we made was providing platforms for student organisations to participate in our flagship events. For example, apart from the provision of booths, we offered platforms for Malaysian student organisations to co-organise breakout sessions at our flagship conference, Projek Amanat Negara (PAN) XV. This collaborative effort brought mutual benefits for both UKEC and the Malaysian societies as we diversified the topics that were discussed at the conference, the sessions were more interactive, and it was one of the most meaningful ways for UKEC to share its resources.
On top of having the usual Annual General Meeting and the Ordinary General Meeting (where the Shadow Council elections are held), we also tried to increase our engagement with the student leaders through strategic meetings, which was first introduced last year when I first joined as Deputy Chairperson. Essentially, this is where we scrutinise issues that are pertinent to Malaysian societies such as the proliferation of student organisations, the relevance of an umbrella body and how Malaysian Nights could be more impactful. Recently, we also looked at how we could structurally decentralise by considering the regional council.  An example of the meeting outcome can be found here. This year, we did our best to increase the frequency of engagements by having a cultural initiative in Malaysia as well as strategic meetings at London, Manchester and Ireland. The regional chairpersons also played their part by increasing the number of regional events organised.
Within the online sphere and inspired by a book called the ‘Platform Revolution’, we have also introduced three new platforms known as UKECommunity where anyone could promote any Malaysian events in the UK and Republic of Ireland, UKEConversations for an open discourse on national issues and [i]mpact Hub for anyone who wishes to recruit ad-hoc committees or kickstart a project. The website was also revamped to form a platform that is synonymous with an Eventbrite for Malaysian student organisations in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

There was an aim to help the Malaysian students with guidelines and training. One of the new initiatives that we carried out was the introduction of a leadership camp called UKEC LEAD (Leadership Exploration And Development) Programme. The intention of organising this was to serve as a boot camp for Malaysian society leaders to acquire relevant skillsets. While we had to make a few changes and open it to broader audience base, it did serve several beneficiaries from Malaysian society leaders who want to acquire the skillsets to lead their society to students who are interested to carry out their projects under the mentorship of Thriving Talents. This was also coupled with a document that we prepared for them which serves as a Guideline for Supreme Councillors.

In terms of advocation, we had been focusing a lot on the bread and butter issues.  For instance, in the past, we lobbied against policies that would lead to retraction of scholarships for students overseas, and we introduced initiatives to encourage more people to vote for the general election earlier this year. Yet, would these initiatives be good enough for effective representation? Why didn’t any of us show our solidarity to Cassandra when she was intimidated by certain parties for putting up a petition to take down the portrait of our former Prime Minister? I wasn’t in UKEC executive council yet then since I was still serving as the President of Malaysian Student Society of Manchester (MSSM), but admittedly, I was one of those who stayed silent since my focus was mainly on organising the usual Msoc events. Even if we put up statements, would they reflect the views of the students that we are supposed to represent when only 168 filled up our survey for our statement against the Anti-Fake News Bill?
Drawing a parallel to the National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK, they went from being apolitical (only advocated on student grants etc.) to institutionalising political agitation and protests in the late 1960s. Is it about time for UKEC to do the same? Would Malaysian Societies want to be associated to UKEC if UKEC gets too political?

Will UKEC still be relevant? Can UKEC improve?

I believe that UKEC is relevant and will still be relevant to support more Malaysian student organisations for many years to come.  It has been a common platform that unites many individual Malaysians from different races, political leanings and generations. While I will write this in more detail next time, I have learned a lot from the time I spent in student societies, from picking myself up in my studies with better time management + attention management to meeting many fellow Malaysians who share similar interests. In the end, it is not about making your CVs look good, but more of a journey for self-improvement and making friends that would last a lifetime.
Sometimes you need to be part of the system to change the system. This has been proven in history when looking at Chiang Ching-Kuo with the political liberalisation in Taiwan, Deng Xiaoping with the market-economy reforms in China and perhaps the most classic (and ironic) example of all, Tun Mahathir with the Reformasi movement. As a soon to be alumnus myself, I will play my part to contribute ideas and I encourage others to do the same for their student organisations.

These are the list of questions//ideas that I feel are worth discussing moving forward. And I hope these would help in taking UKEC further forward with its role in student activism. I do not have the absolute answers as to how and these are merely suggestions that can be further discussed by the future committee members:
  • Change also needs to come from a bottom-up approach. There has always been a disconnection between the priorities of the Malaysian student society leaders and the student activism that we should aspire to have in UKEC. The Malaysian student society leaders usually become members of the Supreme Council to represent their members in UKEC General Meetings. However, when electing student leaders at grassroots level, the focus had always been on improving events such as Malaysian Nights and Malaysian Games rather than how they could effectively represent their interests in UKEC meetings.
    • How can this be resolved? The Supreme Council members consist of (1) the president and (2) a representative of the society. Consider the case for a student activism officer and perhaps have a student activism officer to represent your Malaysian society’s interest.
  • It has been more than 10 years since there has been any major committee restructuring in UKEC. Based on my experience, the current initiatives we have are already enough to overstretch the committee (some of them hardly sleep just to carry out the initiatives we have).
    • Consider an expansion. Perhaps CEKU (an independent editorial arm of UKEC) can be absorbed under the Catalyst office, so it’s easier to have better synergy between both parties.
  • UKEC need to establish more presence in different parts of UK and Republic of Ireland. I had done my best when I travelled every weekend to London and one weekend in Ireland to establish UKEC’s presence. My committee members (especially the Regional Chairpersons under our Deputy Chairperson) have made a lot of improvements in this area by organising more regional events. However, more could be done.
    • Consider having regional councils. (Proposal can be found here) Currently, regional chairpersons are elected by 2-4 supreme councillors from their regions. Consider revising this.
    • Make full use of the social media to create more presence rather than using it only for event promotions. UKEC is more than just event organisers but we haven’t shown that enough within the online sphere. Consider emulating platforms like @twt_malaysia as well as The International Malaysians.
  • For many years, we have always been told by some alumni and others that we should work closely with Education Malaysia/High Commissioner (or basically, government agencies) and make our contributions from the networks that they could provide. This year, we have been working with them to host more sessions with distinguished individuals through speaker series, organise voters’ registration drive, attempted to have a partnership with Malaysian Restauranteers Association (MRA) for discount cards and further establish our international network through the British Malaysian Society (BMS).
    • This is more of an advice rather than a solution, and perhaps something that I wish I could have been more firm on earlier. The government agencies need us more than we need them. Remember that we do not serve them. There have been times where we had friction with them when we invited Dato Sri' Mukhriz for our conference, when we provided platforms for the student declaration that was built on Cassandra’s case and when we issued statements against the anti-fake news bill. Of course, it is Malaysia baru and we may not have the same problem anymore. But remember, power corrupts, and the government/politicians should always be challenged.
  • We can improve so much more in terms of the quality of our intellectual discourse. One of my biggest regrets was that I missed the opportunity to work with a group of students called The Independent School of Thinkers (IST) whom always have weekly discussions on topics such as philosophy and probably one of the few groups of people who have a strong commitment to intellectualism.
    • We tried to explore topics in PAN that are inspired by classical works such as the Myth of Lazy Natives and we tried to reach out to PhD students in our Coffee and Conversations Series. While we already have UKEConversations as an open platform for polls and opinions, we need to reach out further. Perhaps more could be done by organising a collaborative online platform with organisations like UTAM (Universiti Terbuka Anak Muda).
  • Having proper documentation on the history of the organisation is very important for institutional memory. Knowing the organisation’s history is important for UKEC’s identity. I have been spending the past 2 years meeting alumni such as Rafizi Ramli, Nik Nazmi, Shahril Hamdan, Akramsyah, Wan Firdaus, Amir Fareed, Arwah Nazrin and others to learn more about the history of the organisation. However, the weakness behind obtaining this information from interviews is that there may be variations based on the personal accounts of the different alumni.  At the moment, we are trying to compile a series of interviews by the alumni, compress them to a 3-minute video titled “UKEC-Our Story” so it can be presented to the public and organise more alumni initiatives.
    • A website for ukec alumni to compile documents and stories behind ukec councils was bought 10 years ago but this initiative was dropped when everyone became busy with their own families and work. I would probably work on this as a side project if I have the time.

We have made a lot of improvements in the past 1 year and I have no regrets for spending my final year with UKEC. Nevertheless, that does not mean that UKEC should settle and be complacent because we still have so much more potential. I have learned to manage myself better and I am grateful to my committee members for their work ethics. Thanks to them and for the support I received from those around me, I will be graduating next week and I managed to pass my degree with a 2:1 (but 1 mark away from a first, which made me think that I should have spent more time to lose weight. Hahaha)  Perhaps, the main takeaway is that university is not a glorified high school and this is the best time to get yourselves involved in any form of activism – join the NUS, form your own student organisations, write more, or contribute to your Malaysian societies- because you can gain so much from these experience and there are a lot of things that can be improved. I enjoyed every second I’ve spent in UKEC and I will commit my best for the remaining months I have left. For all its worth, it is about time for many of us from my batch to leave soon, and I hope that the future generations can do a better job than we did in the past few years.

Disclaimer: This write-up is my personal collection of thoughts & reflections with regards to the matters as mentioned above and does not represent the majority of Malaysian students or even in my capacity as the Chairperson of UKEC.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

From Kompang to UKEC

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

I have been making a lot of reflections lately, about the big decisions I made for the past few years; sacrificing my trip to Bath just so I could run for events coordinator of Malaysian Students' Society of Manchester (MSSM), sacrificing my plan to start a toastmasters club for university just to run for president of the Malaysian Society, and last November, taking the big step of running for Deputy Chairperson of United Kingdom & Eire Council of Malaysian Students (UKEC) when I was in the midst of starting a new society for engineering students in the UK.

To be very honest, I had a very ambitious goal before I entered university. My original plan was to apply as an executive (Catalyst office) for my first year, and then run for chairman for 2 terms. But obviously that never happened because I missed the deadline for the application. Ever since then, I gave up my ambition of joining UKEC and set my focus on improving the state of MSSM, especially since we were on £2,000 deficit back then.
Engagement session with Rafizi Ramli, Wong Chen and Nik Nazmi by Malaysian Progressive United Kingdom (MPUK).

Nevertheless, I still cross path with UKEC during my tenure as MSSM President. I started to learn more about UKEC's history when Rafizi Ramli, Vice-President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat came to Manchester for an engagement session hosted by Malaysian Progressives United Kingdom (MPUK). While I was accompanying him to perform ablution before Maghrib prayers, he told me about his mentor and also UKEC's founder, the late Adlan Benan Omar on how he started a society that built upon the idealism of changing the landscape of Malaysian student activism in the UK; from one that was partisan and a mere vehicle of the political masters in Malaysia (e.g. Kelab UMNO, Kelab MIC, Hizbi) – to one that promoted intellectualism, openness and the spirit of volunteerism. Coincidentally, a week later, I learned more about UKEC's history when I went to Cardiff to borrow a few kompangs.

Traditionally, MSSM President have to choreograph Dikir Barat for Malaysian Night. Apparently, we never really bothered to invest in a few kompangs. That meant that I had to borrow them from other Malaysian societies, and I decided to go for Cardiff Malaysian Night just to borrow their kompang. I honestly hated myself because I thought I was going to waste my weekend. Little that I know that it would be the turning point of my life.

In Cardiff, I bumped into some of the current and past UKEC committee members (Josh, Ryan and Syafiq). We decided to have dinner after the MNight and we had a very long conversation from 10pm until 5am while playing politiko. I still vividly remember our conversation where our topics ranged from Malaysian politics, to UKEC's past and aspiration. I got to understand more about the organisation that I wanted to join for a long time. At the end of our long conversation, Josh teased me about succeeding him as Deputy Chairperson  but I never took him seriously and didn't really think about joining the organisation back then.

Fast forward to April, I started to venture on starting a new society for engineering students. It started when I received a phone call from Mona, who's one of the person in charge of the HR department for UEM. UEM wanted to organise an engagement session with Manchester students over Easter break. However, I told her not to come to Manchester because nobody will be around and they may find themselves disappointed. But we didn't stop the call there and one of the questions that was raised was why aren't the engineering students as organised as KPUM which eventually led to the idea of starting Young Malaysian Engineers-UK (YME-UK).

Establishment of YME-UK at Taylors University after Malaysian Students' Technology Conference.

Group photo with YME committee and speakers for our first event.

With Marcus Lee whom trusted our vision to empower engineering students in the UK; the very person I trust and stepped up to take the role of President of YME-UK when I moved to UKEC.

As I was about to retire from MSSM, I started to shift my full attention on YME-UK and personal development such as going to the gym and refining my public speaking through toastmasters. I was finally back for toastmasters after a year away due to my commitment for MSSM. Upon my return for the weekly sessions, I received a very warm welcome by familiar faces in toastmasters when they greeted me by announcing "Welcome back to our Malaysian friend and his Malaysian jokes, Faizul Zuraimi!!".

On that same night, I received a call from Josh who convinced me to run for UKEC Deputy Chairperson. I never came back for toastmasters ever since (so much for the warm welcome). After the phone call, I sent in my nomination at 11:53pm. (could have been more dramatic if I sent my application at 11:59pm but oh well)

With my predecessor, one of the most convincing person I've ever met.

This year had been the craziest year for me because I had to juggle between UKEC, YME (I dropped in meetings every week last term), and my 3rd year engineering. It was much tougher compared to last year when I only had to balance between my role as the president for Malaysian society and my studies. Some of us including myself ended up doing more work in UKEC due to extra challenges that we faced internally. And there were times I felt I was burning out. But I never regretted a single moment.

These are the moments that I feel I could only have while I'm still a student. Online meetings until 4am, staying up all night to prepare for the political session with YB Mukhriz, getting involved with real politics and student activism, and meeting amazing like-minded individuals as I travelled for almost every weekend to support different events- these are the memories that I will always cherish for the rest of my life.

Joining UKEC is one of the best decisions I have ever made. As one of the American founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin once said,
"All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move."

Be the ones who move, and send in your application for UKEC today! :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Reflection on EM-UKEC first strategic meeting.

A personal reflection on last weekend's EM-UKEC first Strategic Meeting with 22 different societies. 

In 1995, UKEC was first formed in hopes to change the landscape of Malaysian student activism in the UK, from one that was partisan and a mere vehicle for political masters in Malaysia, to one that promotes intellectualism, openness, and spirit of volunteerism. (not elitism) While our course of actions may differ than 20 years ago, it is important for us to maintain true to our principles and go back to the basics of the organisation. 
Time has changed. The Malaysian student activism is more dynamic than before. There has been proliferation of Malaysian student societies and people have started to question the status quo. Hence, it was about time for us to scrutinise these areas and delve further to find a concrete, outcome-driven action plans that are not imposed by the UKEC council, but rather a result of synergy between student leaders to work towards a common agenda. 

In the strategic meeting, we looked at 4 key areas, namely Promoting the Malaysian Culture, Intellectual Discourse & Student Activism, Synergising Malaysian Student Events and Addressing the Relevance of an Umbrella Body. 
I might miss a few points, but a more detailed statement will be released by the ukec team in the near future since we did assign a few people to take notes during the session. :) 
1. Promoting the Malaysian Culture
How can we make Malaysian Night more impactful?  (Why is this important? check out
I have been part of MNight for 2 years as dikir barat choreographer and I enjoyed it thoroughly, meeting people who made my life enjoyable, and some of them made important mark in my life when they worked with me to start a new society. It is a great initiative by Malaysian Societies, and there are many ways we can make them more (culturally) impactful. Mnight should be more than "girl loves boy, some tragedy happen and then the boy dies classic love story" while culture is displayed in a superficial manner. 
-If we were to bring back UKEC award, instead of giving generic award like best Malaysian Night, a clear set of criteria should be made ie the Most Historic Malaysian Night etc. 
-Scriptwriters have the challenge of starting everything from scratch and not all of them necessarily know much about local stories that we have in Malaysia. So a bank of local stories can be compiled as a source of reference for mnight scriptwriters. 
-It is recommended that the essence of the culture should be emphasised in mnight. For example, mnight booklet can contain information about each of the traditional dances which can be informative for the audience.(especially non-Malaysians) 
-There is little to no point in promoting our Malaysian Culture in a foreign country when there are very few non-Malaysians attending the Mnight. A few incentives can be spotted/highlighted to encourage msocs to get more non-Malaysian audience, ie
a) Clashes of Mnight, which seem inevitable every year, shouldn't be a big problem if we can attract non-Malaysians to attend. 
b) It can be one of the criterias for UKEC award if we were to bring it back. 
c) It could give a better chance for more funding since thats when it meets its core purpose. I have been asking for sponsorship from Tourism Malaysia and I've been constantly asked about the number of non-Malaysians attended our Mnight.

Some emphasised on the essence of culture/identity itself, ie What is the definition of Malay? 

What about other events that can be organised to promote the Malaysian Culture? 

There are a number of events suggested, perhaps a TED style talk or workshops with topics that are centred on culture, or perhaps, a talent show (with a set of guidelines to make it more 'local'). And there are a number of ongoing events that can be emulated, such as the Malaysian Festival, and we can see some regions are collaborating to organise one as well which is especially beneficial for smaller msocs such as the West Midlands MFest. 

2. Intellectual Discourse & Student Activism. 

As mentioned earlier, UKEC was first formed in hopes to change the landscape of student activism, from partisan to one that promotes intellectualism. Hence, that leads to the question of how can we promote bi-partisan intellectual discourse instead of just giving platforms for politicians to serve their agenda? 

Some suggested to increase the standard of intellectual discourse. People react to structures. A more rigorous metric can be introduced for the research team to ensure that the content of the discourse meets the standard. While we need to lift up our benchmark, it is important to note that the information presented should be accessible to the target audience, where not everyone necessarily have background knowledge in economics etc. so a metric on how the contents presented should be included. 

While there are differences of opinion whether student organisations should take a partisan vs non-partisan stance when it comes to addressing politics, I feel that everyone has a common interest for our nation despite the difference in means to achieve them.

I think political maturity needs to be instilled to have more impact in student activism. As argued by George Lakoff in his book "The Political Mind", voters opinion are often neither logical or self-made (example: Brexit, Trump), and we shouldn't let ourselves become vehicle for politicians to spread their agenda. Instead, consider different sides, encourage more public debates, have a team to make some fact-checks for the debate, and let the audience decide for themselves. Focus on policies that can make real difference (there are so much that need to be done for parliamentary reform) and bring them to the right channel. 

3.Synergising Malaysian student activities.

There has been a proliferation of student organisations lately and everyone is working in silos, causing more overlap in events that are organised. 

I think it is necessary to highlight we are all non-profit student organisations and we serve a common interest. We are not here to compete. 

Forming a common agenda (building towards TN50? SDGs, preparation for 4th Industrial Revolution) is not easy, but it is necessary to have an effective impact. 

Some suggestions include:
-streamline events promotion
-encourage more collaboration

It is true that many if not most student societies can survive on their own. However, I think we still need to have an umbrella body to address the macroscopic  matters, which leads to 

4.Addressing the relevance of an umbrella body.

Many felt that UKEC has lost its relevance for the past few years, especially when we are no longer the main point of contact for politicians and corporates in which we used to be before. 

I think we need to go back to the basics.

UKEC was formed as a coalition of Malaysian Societies. Through the coalition, it amplified the voices of students. In the past, we played an instrumental role to pass a law that raised the allowances for JPA and MARA and made public statements on the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) in 2011/12. The previous committee did a brilliant job at meeting this mandate when they made statements on pressing issues such as NSC and the one JPA scholars. Building on the past, this is definitely something that we need to continue.

Representing and meeting the needs of Malaysian students is not an easy job and it can only be done through collaborative effort,  For example, looking at a smaller scale, drawing from past experience, Manchester has one of the largest Malaysian population in the UK, with 1,045 in University of Manchester alone. However, reaching out to 1,000+ students is not an easy job, since as Malaysian society, we usually reach out to only about 400 students, and our outreach can only be consolidated through working with communities such as Malaysian Community of Old Trafford (MCOT) and Malaysian Community of Cheetham Hill (MCCH).

For UKEC to represent Malaysian students in the UK and Ireland, relationship between Malaysian societies and UKEC needs to be strengthened and it is a two-way street. The regional chairpersons also play a very important role in representation of Malaysian students by working closely with Malaysian societies, which can be done through organising regional small-scale events and encouraging them to have an ad-hoc committee. Some suggested for UKEC to have a volunteer corp because UKEC was built on volunteerism. Besides meeting the needs, we also need to set agenda, such as encouraging more people to vote for the next GE.

“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”  -President Obama.

Change is not easy. But hopefully, the strategic meeting will be a step forward to a positive change for Malaysian Student activism in the UK. 

Disclaimer: Everything I posted is a personal opinion and may not necessarily represent the opinion of UKEC. We will produce a statement for the outcome of the strategic meeting in the near future.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

3 key points from Simon Sinek's Start With Why; Leadership with Clear Purpose

As I'm writing this, I'm currently doing preparations for speech number 4 in my competent communication manual for toastmasters. While going through the books I read on leadership and online resources that I can find, I thought I might as well put them together in a blog post for the reader's benefit. One thing that I must clarify is that none of the content in my blog post is my personal opinion or something that I made up myself, acknowledging that I have no credibility in this topic. This post is solely based on advices that can be found online and mainly from Simon Sinek's best-selling book Start With Why .

"Management is about doing it right, leadership is about doing the right thing." -Peter Drucker & Warren Bennis

Key points from the book.

Leadership and management are two different things. Management is about the bottom-line; How can I best accomplish certain things? Whereas leadership deals with the top line; What are the things I want to accomplish? Or in other words, management is about the efficiency in climbing the ladder whereas leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning on the right wall. There's only one thing that leaders have, and that is followers, not Instagram followers ( because I don't have that many :P), but followers as in people who volunteer to go where you want to go.

Generally, there are two ways to gain followers. The first is manipulation, or the carrot and stick method. In business, there are a number of ways to manipulate customers to buy your products, including by playing the price game, promotions by incentives, instilling fear, aspirations, and even novelty. Lets take novelty as an example, in 1970s, Colgate only had two different products. And when competitions came in, they felt the need to "innovate", and now they have about 32 different types of toothpaste for 1 brand. It worked in short term, but sales never maintained or raise in the long term. The problem is, their competitors do the same as well, and now they are trying to differnetiate themselves, which is probably going to repeat the same cycle.

Manipulation leads to transaction, not loyalty. When you lose your kitten and offer a reward to get it back; you don't need to have long lasting relationship with the person returning it. Police incentivise by giving rewards to those who help with giving evidence that will lead to an arrest. And like any promotion, manipulation works if the incentives are high enough to mitigate the risks. While manipulations may be a viable strategy when times are good, a change in market conditions will make them very expensive. The American car industry learned this the hard way, when they had to rely on the high cost of manipulation when what they actually need is loyal customers to nurture.

In contrast, Southwest Airlines received tremendous support from their customers following the struggle after September 11 because of the company's emphasis on high class customer experience by sending checks. One note that accompanied check for $1000 read, "You've been so good to me over the years, in these hard times I wanted to say thank you by helping you out." Although the checks that Southwest Airlines received may not be enough to make any significant impact on the company's bottom line, they were symbolic of the feeling customers had for the brand- They had a sense of partnership. In short, using manipulations to gain followers is synonymous to using steroids to gain more muscles; you'll gain very quickly in the short-term, but you will suffer heavy consequences after a certain period of time.

The reality is, in today's world, manipulations are the norm. But there is an alternative.

There are few leaders who choose to inspire than manipulate, and every single of these inspiring leaders thinks, acts and communicates exactly the same way. Consciously or not, they followed a naturally occurring pattern that is called The Golden Circle, which is inspired by the golden ratio- a mathematical relationship for proportion and even beauty, supporting the idea that there is more order in nature than we think. (symmetry of leaves, geometric perfection of snowflakes)

1. The Golden Circle Before we can explore its applications, lets define these terms starting from outside of the circle and moving inward.

WHAT: Every single company know what they do, they know what services they provide and they know what products thy sell.

HOW: Some companies and people know how they do it, they know how to explain how they are different or better, or they know their "differentiating value proposition", "proprietary process", or "unique selling proposition".

WHY: BUT very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do.(money is out of the question since profits are results, not the main reason why a company should exist.)  Its the question of what is your purpose, cause or belief? Why do you get out of bed every morning?

In the computer industry, Apple has the same access to the same number of talent, and other big companies like Dell or HP have brilliant engineers like Apple. They also have the capability to design great computers, mp3 players etc. But what makes Apple have stand out?

Lets look at how a typical computer company do their marketing message:

We make great computers. (What)
They're beautifully design, simple to use and user-friendly. (How)
Wanna buy one?
..... not so compelling.

Now, lets look at how Apple Inc. communicate:

Everything  we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.
The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.
And we happen to make great computers.
Wanna buy one?

The products are still the same, but the message feels completely different. There's no trickery, no manipulation, no free stuff and no aspirational messages. Apple doesn't simply reverse the order of information, they start by clarifying the question why, why the company existed in the first place, which is to challenge the status quo.
Apple's Think Different Campaign

It is no wonder that we are comfortable buying phones and mp3s from Apple, but not from Dell or Microsoft, (they actually did have mp3 players in their production line) because Apple manage to communicate their why clearly. When the Golden Circle (why, how and what) are aligned, the message will be authentic, and it will be able to stand out.

2. This is biology, not opinion

The principles of The Golden Circle are much more than a communications hierarchy. Its principles are deeply grounded in the evolution of human behaviour. The power of WHY is not opinion. It's biology. If you look at a cross section of the human brain, from the top down, you see that levels of The Golden Circle correspond precisely with the three major levels of the brain.

The neocortex, or the rational brain, corresponds with the WHAT level. The neocortex brain is responsible for rational and analytical thought. Whereas the middle two sections comprise the limbic brain. The limbic brain is responsible for all of our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behaviour and all our decision making, but it has no capacity for language.

Humans are irrational. We are more inclined to act based on our emotions than reasoning. This is what we mean when we talk about wining hearts and minds. The heart represents the limbic, feeling part of the brain, and the mind is the rational, language centre.

3. The tipping point.

According to the Law of Diffusion, mass-market success can only be achieved after you penetrate between 15% to 18% of the market. That's because the early majority won't try something new until someone else has tried it first.

Especially when you are going from zero to one (innovating with a new product/service), the goal of business then should not be simply sell to anyone who wants what you have- the majority- but rather to find people who the people who believe what you believe, the left side of the bell curve. It is the percentage of people who share your beliefs and want to incorporate your ideas for themselves. They look to WHAT you do as a tangible element that demonstrates their own purpose, cause or belief to the outside world.

SummaryMartin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Steve Jobs, Professor Yunus and many other great leaders inspire others by showing their convictions on their beliefs, by having a clear action plan and by starting with why.

This book made me think a lot about the significance of having a clear belief and communicate as well as remind about your organisation's belief to those around you. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it because once you have or attain the same values or principle, the people in your organisation//community//society will have a sense of belonging and it is one of the factors that can help them perform better in their tasks.

Personally, I want to close the gap between the rich and the poor through education, because I firmly believe that education is the key factor for those who want to advance further in their career. There's a study that shows those who are well-off and performed badly are more likely to pursue their university qualifications than those who are poor but excel in their studies. Yes, it is true that the lucky ones have their parents' support and there is nothing wrong with that, because I strongly feel that the world is not a zero-sum game. To me, the deciding factors are our ability to learn both hard skills (mathematics, writing, reading)  and soft skills (communication, leadership, especially listening) which is the reason why I decided to continue blogging and share as much as I can from a selection of books that I have read.

My dad always remind me that there are two ways to achieve happiness; purpose and pleasure. I hope this blog post will help you to find your purpose.

Leadership is not a process of invention, it is the process of discovery. :)

Do subscribe to my blog for more posts!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Leadership & Public Speaking. Introverts & Extroverts


"You can learn how to be bitchy, but you don't really have to be a bitch."
In other words, you can act like an extrovert, but you don't really have to be one. (and vice versa)

Public speaking and networking or people skills have high importance and becomes more salient when we progress from school to work. A few examples include job interviews or even scholarship interviews, where in some cases the interviewers will look for those with good "people skills" as in how well they voice out their opinions and how they disagree with others without being too aggressive. A common misconception is that some people tend to believe that public speaking are for those with extravert characteristics, and settle with a delusional belief that some people are just born with the ability to speak well in public. However, there are a number of introverts who have capabilities in networking and public speaking, such as Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Besides, not all extroverts are necessarily good at it naturally. The truth is, you can change your behaviour, not your character; you can overcome your shyness, but you can't change your introvert characteristics. So, the question is, how can introverts (or anyone who's interested- extroverts or introverts) acquire these skills? 

There are only two ways and there is no shortcut to this.
(1) learn
(2) practice

1. Learning
I learned public speaking while I was in the marching band (unexpectedly). Back in 2010, I was appointed as the Drum Major because there were no other candidates left and I had to take the job. Being introverted, I was more used to spending my time with smaller groups and I was very uncomfortable with the fact that I had to lead a group of 80 band members. I was very horrible, even infront of my own juniors because I stammered and mispronounced words a lot to the extent that my juniors made fun of me from behind- and it was very embarassing since I know I have to face this for many more months as the Drum Major.

So, I had no choice but to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to improve my speaking as well as leadership skills. Question is, how? I didn't like to read any books because there were too many words and I rather spend my time on playing video games. One day, I followed my dad to a bookstore and I scanned through the books under the non-fiction section. I realised that many of these books are practical advises to help us to grow, and I felt like these books might be relevant for me. I purchased a book called Influencer by Kerry Patterson, read it but didn't understand half of it because it was very "wordy". Nevertheless, there's a slow progress because I start to pick up these concepts and I continued to read more books.

As I progressed, reading slowly becomes a habit, not because I was so disciplined (if you know me well, I'm a very lazy bum) but because I felt like I'm growing//learning a lot from it. Here's a list of recommended books  that are related to leadership skills and public speaking that helped me a lot (including the book, Influencer that I mention above)

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie (at least read this one!)
Drive by Daniel H. Pink
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Start with Why by Simon Sinek

band days ~

2. Practice 
Like any other skills that you learn such as music or maths, we all need to have some practice. There are a lot of platform out there where we can improve our public speaking skills. If you are still in school, join a debate team, Model United Nations (MUN) or a public speaking competition. If not, find out about your local toastsmasters club. Toastmasters club aim to help those who want to improve their public speaking in a very friendly environment, so I highly recommend it as it is certainly worth the investment. Not enough time to join these societies? Then go online, there are actually FREE classes for public speaking online, all you have to do is look. One website that I would suggest you to go is this Although the lecturer won't be able to give you direct feedbacks, there's always peer-based assessment where you can join a facebook group and ask them to give you feedbacks, or just ask your friends to help you. If you want to practise anytime anywhere, try start a conversation with a stranger.

Back to focusing on the introvert and extrovert subject...

"There is no correlation between the best speaker and those with the best ideas." - Susan Cain, author of Quiet.

Energy excites, charisma inspires.
RAHHH!!! With a roar, Steve Ballmer, the man who replaced Bill Gates as CEO of Microsoft, bursts onto the stage of the company's annual global summit meeting. Ballmer loves Microsoft- he says so in no uncertain words. He also knows how to pump up a crowd. His energy is almost folkloric. He pumps his fists and runs from one end of the stage to the other, he screams and he sweats. He is remarkable to watch and the crowd loves it. As Ballmer proves, without any doubt, energy can motivate a crowd. But can it inspire a population? What happens  the next day or the next week when Ballmer's energy is not therer to otivate his employees? Is energy enough to keep a company of about 80,000 people focused?

In contrast, Bill Gates is introverted and awkward, a social misfit. He does not fit the stereotype of the leader of a multibillion-dollar corporation. He is not the most energetic public speaker. When Bill Gates speak, however, people listen with bated breath. When he speaks, he doesn't rally a room, he inspires it. Those who hear him take what he says and carry his words with them for weeks, months or years. And that is an exemplary of a good leadership.

What makes a great leader?In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins defines what he calls "level 5" leaders, as those with strong professional will and genuine personal humility. Leadership isn't just about giving instructions or telling others what to do, its also about listening to those around you. To those who are more extraverted, learn to listen. To those who are introverted, learn to speak up.

For my next post, I will write about the golden circle of why inspired by Simon Sinek. Since I will be having exams, it would be most likely that I will post after the exams which is at the end of this month. But nevertheless, do subscribe to my blog for more! :)

Thanks for your time to read.

 (ps. Carl Jung clarified that there is no such thing as absolute introvert and absolute extrovert. There's a range of spectrum to these traits, meaning that some people can be mostly introverted and a bit extroverted)