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A Call To Young Leaders ... A Boss or a Leader?

I was reading a few of my old articles or blog posts with a friend, and found this from my old blog: A Call To Young Leaders. I'm happy to have shared this to a few of my team members and dear friends as well. I strongly believe in these concepts and I guess, the story that comes with it will be helpful to new and aspiring leaders.

Allow me to repost it here then in my new blog ... After all, I also miss one of my previous bosses, who is the topic of my blog post ... As a manager now, I still look back to these concepts that help me go with my life now ...


Have you tried working in a corporation? Did you like how its management team handled their business decisions? What role did you play in the growth of the company? Did you ever encounter conflict with your supervisor? How did you resolve it? I have thought of these questions as some queries that any interviewer might ask. This is a rather long post (due to conversation pieces and photos ... but I've highlighted good notesdo read the conversation the snippets at each "realization")

I will not be talking about how to ace an interview and get the job you've always dreamed of. In fact, I am writing about someone. Right now, you may think I hate this person and that he has humiliated me so much hence I wanted to talk about him. Haha! Well, read on. This is about ... my boss. This person changed my perspective of the corporate world and he eradicated my views about bosses. He completely shaped my thinking and made me the person I am now. He is really at fault! Yes. This is all his fault! He made me believe what I've already learned ... that there's really a difference between a boss and a leader he has shown me the complete deviation between the two concepts. He is an embodiment of one of them!

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REALIZATION # 1

When I first reported to him, I thought he will be a piece of cake to me. He is a goody-wooly type of person who smiles back to you when he sees you smiling. Most of the people in the office who don't know him are thinking that he's just another manager who has been promoted for nothing but charm. They're wrong here. He is in fact a very intelligent man hiding in gentleman's face. He is wise and witty. He is full of jokes. I've always had coaching sessions with him during his cigarette break. Actually, it was me who needed the time for development. He never denied me of that and he was always available to give me learning sessions. However, instead of him answering my questions, it was always I who answered them. In fact, even when I was not directly reporting to him, he already strarted coaching me in a way I did not realize.


Chai: Hey, how do I do this report about the team's vision for 2010? I will present this to the Director.
Boss: What are you thinking of doing?
Chai: I already made a business powerpoint presentation on this outlining the team structure and 1st Q goals. Mind looking at it?
Boss: What is your objective in presenting this?
Chai: I want to realign the organization and reassess performance in accordance to the company's mission-vision and our own vision for 2010.
Boss: Do you think that meets your objective?
Chai: I think so. Why? Am I wrong?
Boss: Then do it.
Chai: Huh? You won't even look at it? What if I get scolded?
Boss: Chai, you already know what to do. You're even more knowledgeable than me in those materials. How can I be more of help in that?
Chai: But you're ... I need your approval. I need help!
Boss: Chai, you don't need help. You just think you need help. You are an intelligent woman. You just need to be more confident.

From then on, I started to be stronger. I've always thought that people who look too-intelligent may not be as bad as they seem to be. He made me feel confident to face even the highest-ranking official of our company by exposing me to different functions together with the VPs and EVPs and owners. I thought that bosses would always want their thoughts voiced out and followed by their personnel. This one did not. And so I say this is true ...

(1) A leader inspires his men. A boss drives them. My idea of a boss that time was a "do-this-do-that" type. He led me with minimum supervision instead. He inspired me to believe that I can do it ... that I do not need second opinion or whatever. It's my own judgment that will pass, as long as I have confidence in what I am saying and doing.


REALIZATION # 2

There are days when I render overtime, averaging about 14 hours/day shift and I don't get paid coz I'm already a supervisor. I have led a team in charge of the Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance to all our American clients. I lacked manpower and have requested for additional employees but I have not been given additional staff for months! I have complained and all whining that I can do, I did. And since he is someone I can talk to freely, I opened up.

I started going home on time and it made a big difference. I only finish what I can finish for the day and map out a schedule for the next days. Of course, the prioritization quadrant applies - identify what is important vs. urgent. Although I know this already, it made more sense now that I was given a go signal hehe. The # of hours I stayed in the office became less ... like just 10 hrs/day. It was a drastic change. And so I proved this point.
Chai: Are we bankrupt? Why can't we hire additional staff and they let me do all these staff work. Not that I can't do it but it's been months that I'm doing this out of courtesy and I'm getting sick of it. It's too daunting.
Boss: What do you think you should do?
Chai: Nothing else but do all these. I got limited # of people and they're already extending shifts. Even doing double-shifts (18 hrs/day) just to complete the tasks. I have no choice but to do this. Otherwise, the complaints from Operations will increase due to unfinished tasks.
Boss: Do you really have to extend your shifts? There's a thing called "work-life balance." Remember the prioritization quadrant.
Chai: I can't practice that. I can't go home on time. I've asked help from you, from all the managers in the department, but I'm still in this state. How can I enjoy my life now?
Boss: Ok, for me this is what you need to do. After your 9 hrs in the office, you have to log out and go home. Clear?
Chai: What? You want me to abandon the tons of workload here?
Boss: I did not say that. I'm just telling you to work for what you're asked to do and not to offer a fifth helping hand when you're only asked of two.
Chai: But I will get blamed for this. I already pity my people enough. The overtime pay is not enough to compensate them.
Boss: Chai, the company cannot blame you. You already did what you could. You have processed the necessary requests for a new employee but they were not able to provide. It's no longer your fault. Don't blame your self. Enjoy life. You're still young and you're thinning fast. Your work is not enough to be exchanged with the value of life. After all, your health care is only reaching this much limit and if you get sick more than that amount, you will spend more in the hospital.

(2) A leader depends on good will. A boss depends on authority. My fears were that I am bound to stay longer because my team renders long hours in the office. I feared that my boss nor any Director would mandate me to stay until the day's load is done, even though they did not commanded it outright. I just felt responsible for the team. In a sinking ship, the captain is always last to abandon it. In a battle, the troop leader dies for his men. He was concerned more of me than my team's task. He was more concerned of my health than commanding with authority for me to stay.



REALIZATION # 3


I've handled several people already (not too much) from the team I was a supervisor 'til I became a company officer. At my early 20s, I already feel old. I know there are more younger managers than I am now but I can say I've dealt with multiple types of personalities already. I've encountered some Specialists in the team who are conceited that they believe they already the best staff I can ever have. The truth is, they are the worst. No matter what training I give them, they always do it wrong. I know I should have all the patience in the world considering that I both train and lead them but sometimes, you also can't help but get frustrated.

In the end, I did not terminate them but I did let them go. They resigned from their own volition. Surely, what I feared happened. They made lies about how bad I am as a boss and that they couldn't stand me. I got affected at first but I learned to move on. After all, they are just a few of the many other people I need to deal with. I'd rather concentrate on the people who are willing to learn more than them. And again I've realized ...
Chai: Gaaaah! I can't tolerate this anymore! 5 hrs of sleep average everyday ... during working hours? And another one who can't even produce a report using VLOOKUP (function in MS Excel)? I can die right now!.
Boss: Are they worthy to be kept here? Or is the company just paying them for nothing
Chai: Well I will lack people again and I can't risk it.
Boss: But what are they doing?
Chai: Well they can be considered as wasting of resources but I can't just terminate them. I also need replacement. The other one needs the money badly and the other one, well, we've been friends already so I just constantly develop ...
Boss: It is no longer healthy for the team. Learn to let go. You earn friends at work as a bonus but you are here to work first than make friends.
Chai: I know they'll hate me for this. How do I do it?
Boss: Would you rather be a boss that your team follows out of fear? Or would you want to be a boss that is liked and loved?
Chai: Huh? What kind of question is that? Well, I don't want them to hate me but I can't sacrifice much anymore. Of course I want to be liked but sometimes, you have to let them know when they're wrong, right?
Boss: Correct. It has to be a mixture of both. But you must show love too. Let them understand where you're coming from than nag at them. Chai, you have to let go.
Chai: But what will they say? They might spread rumors about how bad I am as a boss and other people might believe them. They will ruin my reputation.
Boss: Chai, it's part of the game. But don't bother. Do not let other people's opinion bother you coz you know who you really are. I know who you are. I know what kind of staff you have. We both know they have this "idea of grandeur" that they know it all but they know nothing compared to you. Let them be. It might be because how they were pampered before they reported to you. We don't know the root cause but it's one cause. You can't do anything about it. But do not manage their reactions. The same way that you don't need to manage your boss' perception. Look at me, how many staff have I terminated while smiling?

(3) A leader radiates love. A boss evokes fear. For sure, there have been a mixture of this along the path I took into management of teams. Sometimes, my people just followed me because they fear I will get mad; or that because I am already mad. They did not understand the concept my boss taught me - do not manage perception. There is a reason why your boss will get mad and it's (should be) purely business reasons, and nothing personal. My boss indeed have terminated people not worthy of their posts, but with a smile and they never retaliated (well, except a few you can count by hands I guess). But your team will never understand it unless you explain and talk to them. With this, I've practiced it in my leadership. It helped my people understand more why they need to do something, than do it just because they're afraid of me. This produced better results.


REALIZATION # 4


I've led in several COPC Audits for due diligence (industry term for a client acquisition activity) visits and aimed for certification at least to this contact center standard. It seems that there have been 3 or 4 times already and we've always produced reports showing how our company faired during the audits. In all of these cases, I was the one who did all the legwork and my boss just gives me directions. He never stated "directly" what I need to do but simply gave me guidelines. He had let me do my own thing and style in all those summaries. And so I asked ...

Chai: Why are you letting me alone to present in front of the Directors?
Boss: We are building up your self-confidence, right? So don't complain.
Chai: Yes I know that but why did you have to say as well in front of them that "Chai did this. Chai did that." Etc?
Boss: If they think it is me, how can they trust you?
Chai: But if it's wrong, they will blame me too, right?
Boss: Again Chai, don't be afraid to get blamed. It's part of your responsibility.
Chai: Yeah I know. But they will think you did nothing at all. I don't want that!
Boss: Let them be. I don't give a damn (I laughed hard here)! If they're really good Directors, they will know why.
Chai: You mean it's ok for them that you didn't do a thing and I did everything? I'm getting all the praises now but I'm shy.
Boss: Don't be. You see, your achievements are my achievements. If you do good, that lifts me up. If you do bad, well, that's life. We all commit mistakes. We just need to learn from them and stand back up.
Chai: Hmmm (I smiled). I wouldn't be able to do this without you anyway. You gave me all the directions. They gave you the instructions, you relayed them to me.
Boss: You did all the hard work.
That's what you call delegation. Proper delegation entails the boss to direct you on what you need to do than instruct you. He knows what to do but he is not the one who's supposed to do it, at his level. He instead relays it to his people so his people can learn. And this I say is true ...

(4) A leader says "we." A boss says "I." My boss never lifted up his own chair. He always made me the "star" of the game. All my praises are his praises. He never said "I did this. I did that." He always said "Chai took care of this. Chai finished that." Whenever there are directives from upper management, he meets with me and tells me the truth without sugarcoating. He lets me think of best strategies than instruct me what to do. And so I have adapted this style. In my team, whenever I give them directions, say "Let's do this ..." instead of "I want you to do this." This helped me in my relationship with my Specialists back then. I always remembered ... the boss is the leader that says "follow me" while the leader, beyond the title, is followed regardless of instructions.


REALIZATION # 5


I was once tasked to do a company-wide (local) organizational initiatives project tracker wherein I've been so confused what to do due to the changing instructions and not matching directives from previous ones.

Chai: I knew it. I'm wrong again. I'll get scolded!
Boss: Do not manage perception.
Chai: But you've heard, right? It should've been done this way blah blah. That it was never intended like this and that blah blah? I did my best! I went to everyone who needed to update yet it is wrong? How else can you get updates?
Boss: What do you think should've been done?
Chai: I think I did fine, did I?
Boss: What if we did this instead ... say, send an email request to update and say you expect a response on blah blah. Will this help?
Chai: But they don't have time to read emails anymore! OMG! What can I do *sobs*!
Boss: Do not let your emotions handle you. Handle your emotions. You look like Sugarfoot now..
Chai: He's a donkey! I am not. *sobs* I really think it's the best way I could've gotten the expected results.
Boss: Ok. Why not try my suggestion and do yours as well. Let's see what will happen.
Chai: You're not mad at me? You'll get scolded too..
Boss: No. You did what you can do. You see the difference between the positions in the hierarchy? A supervisor has the tendency to be bossy. A specialist, expert, officer up ... may tend to be bossy. A manager, he can always have his way but interprets his boss. A Director, he can show tantrums any time. You know what I mean? You're a step near a manager position already. You're lucky. You're still young and you've already experienced these. You will learn more.
Aside from building my self-confidence, this made me understand more how the corporate ladder works. Supervisors will always be "bosses" first feeling their first-hand newly-assumed power. As they get promoted to other positions such as a Subject Matter Expert, a Specialist, or a Company Officer, they get to feel stronger of this power but gets confused as they see a need for developing people. A manager is tamed and is concerned more on managing than doing. The Director can have tantrums and all but the manager will be the one to interpret it. If there's something wrong, the manager will fix it, down the line. With this I say ...

(5) The leader shows "what" is wrong. The boss shows "who" is wrong. While there may be times that these happen to both, this is a stronger concept to apply. My boss never blamed me for my faults. I just realize I am wrong based on our conversations. He never pinpointed although there are times he would say "you should've" but it was never in a condescending tone (or maybe I just understood him well now) He let's me see where we went wrong and guides me how to fix it. I adapted the same in my team. While there are times, due to the difference in personality, that I may point who is wrong (not in front of everyone of course), I am glad my team was able to understand and they function without hesitations anymore. They immediately learn what is wrong too.


REALIZATION # 6

 
I have already mentioned about "delegation" and how it's best applied. Multiple times, this happened with me and my boss. He was so easy to interpret as we get along the way of work and leadership. There were times when our assignments are overlapping that there can be no place for a breather.

Chai: This is exhausting!
Boss: I know. Do not whine.
Chai: I am not whining hehe. So what do we need to do?
Boss: We need to come up with a Standard Reports Metrics for your function using the ISO format. Can we do it?
Chai: Ok. What do you want me to put in there?
Boss: I'll just send you the template and you fill it out ok? *He sent me the file*
Chai: Uh, Sir, what do I need to put in the Location field? The actual link of the files? That's what I did now.
Boss: Do you think it suits the requirement?
Chai: I think so.
Boss: Then go ahead and do it that way. You're a company officer now. You are more intelligent than me so I trust your work. I know your expertise in MS Excel. Mine is not that good so you do the filling. As long as it fits the requirements.
I always did it my way then. And when it's wrong, again we just fix it. This made my dislike of micro-managing worse. My boss never micro-managed me. He never get into the details of my work. He gives me my own decision's right to be followed. This strengthened the anti-micro-managing thought of ...

(6) The leader knows how to do it. The boss knows how it is done. My boss knew what to do. He is just humble enough not to dictate to me what to do. At times, we shared tips and tricks in MS Excel. He definitely knows his turf. Not that he's lazy to do things but he's just being a good boss. He sees into improvement areas. He lets me know his thoughts but he makes me do my own way. While it is also important to sometimes, show your "best practices," it is not always suggested. And so I did the same. I have never told my team "This is my way. That's how you do it then." Athough there are times that your practices are indeed the best, you can translate it better to your people by saying, "This is how I did it in the past. It was effective so I know it'll help you in your work now."


REALIZATION # 7

 
My boss always found time to be with me and give me tips. He never hindered me from learning. He always made sure I get proper training and right knowledge. He is not ashamed that I know more in technical stuff than what he knows. Instead, he is proud of me. Our coaching sessions are always informal - during cigarette break. When he tells me it's break time, I know I should follow without mandate.

Chai: You'll burn your lungs with that!
Boss: I'm on diet now. Just 3 sticks per week so help me.
Chai: Haha! So you're prohibited to smoke hehe? Mamu ("mom" - his wife) stopped you ei?
Boss: Hehe. Yes. You know what, I'll miss this.
Chai: Ok stop. I don't wanna go there.
Boss: Chai, it's a fact. It is getting nearer and nearer.
Chai: Pleeaaaaasseeee! No. I'll tell Mamu you made me cry.
Boss: Chai. There's your Xanga. There's Google Talk. There's email. You contact me.
Chai: *sobbing* Noooo! This is not happening. You can't.
Boss: Chai, just do as I say. Remember my words.
Chai: I'll have a hard time. I can never recover.
Boss: You are indeed very lucky. You are still young yet you've undergone all these. Not a lot of people are given this privilege of leading people at your age. In our industry, yes it might be common but your post is not. And you are unique.
He never instructed me by means of saying who's boss. I just knew I need to follow.

(7) The leader commands respect. The boss demands respect. My whole experience in the corporate world never had an instance when he would instruct me to do something by saying "Do it coz I'm your boss." Instead, I already knew he was my boss so I had to follow. Regardless of what he said (of course he won't command me to kill my self), I follow. Take a break, be second-hand-smoker (haha I know this is not good), relax, breathe, etc. This style has been gracefully accepted by my team too. It helped smoothen my relationship with my team members.

I know I've learned more from him than just these. These are just mere concepts that you can also read in leadership or management books and they are common. What I did now is just prove that these concepts are true and they happened to me. I've never learned from anyone to separate accountability vs. responsibility.

As a leader, I am accountable for my team but they are responsible to do the tasks. I learned not to give them exactly what is needed to be done nor what I want done exactly but I let them do their way (not 100% freedom, mind you!) instead and coach them when they're wrong; or even when they're right but have areas of opportunities to improve on. In no one else did I see, a boss who does not get offended when his staff is more knowledgeable than he is. He is a clear picture of a great leader.

That time May 25, my boss left the country ... left me. He transitioned me to another boss who was equally competent back then. She took good care of me though but I still cannot forget my old boss. He left and went to Canada for good, together with this wife and son. I can never forget how this family has treated me well. He and his wife are hilarious and awesome! A couple who have set great examples to their people.

And so I call to you people, young leaders of the world, the seat of my boss has been vacated. It's about time to rise up. After all, it's never too young an age to start leading. I hope this post enlightened you on how you want to lead your life ...

My boss was not just a boss ... he's a leader.

As the old saying goes ... You can never say that a teacher is great unless you see a student of his who surpasses his achievements ...and let me add ... and he never gets insecured, instead, he smiles and says, "I'm proud of my student." To "Daddy" Jack Robert Schaeffer Delos Santos, this one's for you. God bless always. Thank you for everything. It's all your fault I learned all these!


 

Chai

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