Stress Management | Tip

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Every morning, Alfred would complain about how stressful it was to drive to office. Heavy traffic. Inconsiderate road users. And the traffic snarls from accidents caused by some ‘idiots’ as he would refer to those involved. He would enter the office in a foul mood and take hours if at all for him to simmer down.

Know anyone like Alfred?

Mabel on the other hand never complained about how stressful it was to drive in morning rush hour. She would enter the office with a cheerful greeting to all she met, including the security guard, office cleaner and coffee lady. She was the life of the office and people gravitated to her good nature and cheery demeanour.

Know anyone like Mabel?

What was Alfred doing wrong and Mabel doing right?

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To begin with, while Alfred sought out someone or something to blame—externalised his problems—Mabel internalised her responsibility, she looked within and took charge of her happiness. This was all the more remarkable, as she too used the same route taken by Alfred and, in fact, lived in the same neighbourhood.

This is how she ensured a stress-free drive to the office:

  1. Mabel departed from her home on time. She was never a minute late, for she knew in the morning rush, every minute—every minute—added traffic to the roads.
  2. She knew her route very well—in minute detail. Once she left her home, she would get onto the lane that entailed minimum lane switching. She would not switch lanes just to squeeze into one car length ahead, for Mabel knew this meant unnecessary stress and worse, the risk of accidents. When traffic slowed, she would remain in her lane. She had already factored in the time.
  3. She always filtered into lanes by getting behind the next car—not racing to cut in front of the next car.
  4. She always gave advance signals of her intentions and maintained adequate gap from the car ahead.
  5. If for whatever reason, traffic held her up, she will not let the delay irritate her into committing rash manoeuvres. On such occasions, Mabel would think of her loved ones and how much her safety meant to the people at home. And she would call in and inform her boss or co-worker that she was running late. She used a hands-free phone kit.
  6. Mabel practised safe driving. She took charge of her well-being. She always arrived cheerful at the office.

Be the Mabel in your office. And driving—even in rush hour—can be pleasant and stress free. You will be ready and calm and make good quality decisions. You owe this to your co-workers and more importantly to yourself.

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2017 ***

Team Players and Cliché Junkies

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As expected, rush hour traffic was thin today, Tuesday 31 January. It usually is the case on the first work day following a long weekend. Lunar New Year a.k.a. Chinese New Year fell on 28th and 29th January – a weekend and therefore Monday 30th was declared a public holiday.

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Many employees leverage on the long weekend and take a vacation break, and return several days later. Well and good.

But some staff and return to work on the second working day – the Wednesday. They take one day off – the first work day following the long weekend. Quite often these are the same people and you notice a consistent pattern of behaviour.

It is not because they are on vacation, though that is the reason proffered. The reality is, these people – a minority, if I might add – know that the first work day after a long weekend is also the most taxing.

Staff return to the office to face a deluge of emails and work, and it can be overwhelming and stressful.

Therefore these clever people stay away an extra day, hoping that most of the backlog will be cleared by the time they return to the office. Shrewd. But it also smacks of a person who gives only lip service to team work.

It is difficult to identify the ones gaming the system as many are genuinely on vacation. And mind you, there is nothing wrong to chill out and recuperate at home – especially after several days of partying. It gets worse when managers pull the same disappearing stunt and return to the office after the dust of the first day settles. We have all met managers who are cliché junkies – parroting something they read but not following through with action.

How do you prevent this abuse or moderate the behaviour?

Well, if a person calls in sick, there is nothing much you can do, especially if their infirmity is certified by a doctor. Even if you detect a pattern, one does not ordinarily question a physician’s decision.

For the rest of the staff – resort to rotation.

Assuming your office has six people and there are three long weekends in a particular year, allow only two people – obviously, each time a different pair – to take off. This allows staff to leverage on long weekends and also spreads the burden of clearing backlog.

Wherever you are and whatever the number of staff in your office – this is one solution.

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Why Great Team Builders Chose the Best

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1. Why do great team builders chose the best people?

Great team builders know that more than quantity, it is quality that counts. The team is made up of individuals and will succeed or collapse dependent on its weakest link.

2. Why don’t hiring managers chose the best people?

There are many reasons and here are a few (feel free to share your points in the comments below):

  • They’re unable to recognize the best – the most talented.
  • They do not know what they’re looking for in people.
  • They confuse paper qualifications and “years of experience” for expertise.
  • They’re fearful of bringing in people who might outshine them.
  • And many more…

3. Is it not true the more the talented, the more an employer has to pay?

Most people speak in general terms and this is part of the problem. Instead of asking the right questions, they seek the “right” answers. Getting the right answer to a wrong question is not progress, not productive. However, even a wrong answer to a right question sets you on the path of progress.

Instead of seeking the “most talented” the question should be – How do I select the most talented (the best) from a given class of candidates?

This leads us to the next question.

4. How do I determine the class of people?

You do this by clearly defining the following:

  • The job’s scope – what exactly do you want that employee to accomplish. The more detailed, the better.
  • The job’s requirements – both objective or hard skills (paper credentials, years of experience, etc) and subjective elements such as soft skills.
  • An overview of the remuneration package on offer.

These three criteria will attract the right people, or people who consider themselves qualified.

Use the objective/hard skills as a funnel to shortlist candidates, people who meet ALL the requirements (excluding the soft skills) – and this will be your class of applicants.

During your selection process, zero in on the soft skills you desire and you will have your best-in-class. You’re not paying more but paying the same to chose the best from a given class of candidates.

5. Let us be candid here, as a salaried manager, if I chose someone better than me, I risk losing out on promotions and even my job. Do you expect me to chose what is good for my employer over what is good for me?

A pointed question and it’s a very valid question. Answer pending…

 

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Note: I shall upload more questions and answers in this post, and welcome you to “follow” my blog so that you’re kept updated.

Meanwhile, enjoy this short clip: Quality over Quantity is what makes a winner!

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Warren Buffett | Recommended 9 Books

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Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and indeed all self-made billionaires are vociferous readers.

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Video clip produced by Eric Alagan for Mind Kinesis Pte Ltd

Click for Video Productions

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Public Speakers | Branding

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How public speakers come across as fakes.

As an editor and ghost writer, I meet quite a few people on the speaking circuit – motivational speakers, investment advisors, and a myriad mix of talented people who help others in their career, business and life. My good fortune is, I’ve met many great speakers, genuine people who are passionate about helping others.

Unfortunately, the speaking circuit is a busy market place, unregulated and has attracted plenty of snake-oil vendors.

Branding

How do you find good speakers who are genuine and can help you?

Look up their social media presence and you will gain useful insights. By social media, I include all on-line presence: Website; Blog; Facebook; Instagram; Twitter; LinkedIn and so on. Their posts, their comments and how they treat visitors – all give insights to the person behind the façade.

Interestingly, some people who make their living from an on-line presence are quite ignorant of how they portray themselves – their personal branding. Compare this with their signature message – something that they pin their persona on. A person might go on about how he believes in paying it forward, embracing diversity and so forth. However, his social media activity might point to something else – perhaps even detrimental to his image and business.

For example, John, a public speaker, invites Mark to hook up on Facebook.

However, let’s say, Mark declines to join him because he is not a fan of Facebook.

What should John do? How should he handle this rejection?

The worst course of action would be for John to post on Facebook about Mark’s reluctance and criticize him. By doing so, John would have revealed his true self. All the flashy sales videos and sound bites might help him in branding but oversights such as these will surely demolish and make him look like a fake.

How then should John react to Mark’s response?

He could offer Mark an alternative to keep in touch. If not Facebook, there is Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn (which especially caters to business professionals) or even via simple email. It’s so obvious. And if Mark comes across as totally disagreeable, John should respect his (Mark’s) wishes and move along. A relationship maintained is a relationship that might one day bear fruit. It’s called “paying it forward”.

John should never ignore one fact. The audience on Facebook are the very people who are in his circle – the very people he hopes to attract to his talks. The very people that matter.

He could have turned the problem into an opportunity – which is what every motivator advises you to do – but when it came to the crunch, instead of showing his graciousness and consistent branding, John goofed.

****** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2016 ******

Interview Question: Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: Question 14, 15, and 16 on July 2, 2016 (scroll down)

This post is for participants enrolled in my on-line course: Interview Questions – Interview like a Professional HRM

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  1. How often do you update this FAQ?

In the initial stages, as I foresee many questions, I shall update once a month. After the first 6 months, I shall update once every 3 months.

2. How will I know when revisions are uploaded?

I shall message enrolled participants via Udemy.

3. Can I private message you regarding my particular business?

If the questions are related to this course – Interview Questions – yes, message me privately via Udemy and we’ll take it from there.

4. Do you provide tips – other than on Interview Questions – for small businesses?

I provide business tips in this blog – aptly named Business Tips & Tutorials – where I post articles and videos.

5. How soon will you respond to questions posted on your Udemy course page?

I’ve set a target of 2 business days, but do cut me some slack if/when life interferes.

6. What are the guidelines regarding private messaging you?

First, adhere to Udemy’s guidelines on private messaging instructors.

Second, keep your message succinct – that is, no more than 100 words – and include information that will help me to assist you, namely, your Industry – Specific Segment, Staff Strength and Job Function.

Example: Transportation – Airport Transfers, 5 people including self, Owner/operator.

7. How to answer these interview questions?

  • (a) How do you describe yourself?
  • (b) If we offer this post what will you bring to our company?
  • (c) How/where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • (d) What is your weakness and strength?

First off, it is difficult to comment on the relevance of these questions without first checking out the job scope and required candidate attributes.

These are generic questions. Just because many interviewers ask these questions does not render them valid or effective in discovering talent relevant to a particular job . Moreover, one can find stock answers on the internet and even get help from career coaches. And for high paying jobs, candidates are known to seek out career coaches to prepare for the interview.

Asking a candidate to “describe yourself” or “what will you bring to the job” is similar to walking into a department store and asking the salesperson to “tell me what all you sell”. A shopper is usually specific – “I’m looking for running shoes. Show me your running shoes.”

As a hiring manager, I usually seek specifics.

For example: “This job requires a person to be meticulous. I’m seeking someone who is meticulous, who is detail oriented.”

Right, so I start by asking myself this question: What question(s) will draw out this attribute?

Asking a candidate to “describe yourself” or “what are your strengths and weaknesses” and hoping to catch glimpses of a meticulous trait is not the best way forward. The interview usually lasts 45 minutes. My aim (in fact, it is an imperative) is to maximise both my time and the candidate’s time.

One possible question (and also to verify his relevant, yes, relevant strength) could be:

“We are seeking someone who is meticulous. Give me an example from your work experience where you proved to be meticulous.”

There are no stock answers to be found in the internet and no career coach could have foretold this question and primed a candidate. Ask “common” questions, you get standard answers and you end up employing the ordinary.

You don’t build best-in-class teams by following the herd.

That as it might be, one might have no choice but to play the game – prepare for the “most common interview questions”. To answer your question:

  • Do an internet search using key words such as “interview questions” and you’ll have access to numerous sites that proffer answers.

8. I am a HR specialist in a software company. I’m looking (for) some interview questions like:

  • (a) What have you learned from mistakes in the work of a specialist IT
  • (b) What is your biggest weakness
  • (c) Why do you want to work with us?
  • (d) Why we should select you?
  • (e) What do you know about our company?

The intention of the last question (e) is obvious. What do you know about our company? You wish to know how much the candidate has researched your company and this is an indication of how keen s/he is to join your company. It is a good question because your intention is clear.

However, for the other questions , I can’t comment on how relevant they are because your intentions remain unknown.

You first need to consider the following sequence that I covered in the course:

Job Scope > Job Requirements > Interview Questions.

  • (i) What is the job scope for the position you wish to fill? This usually includes the job title.

What do you mean by specialist IT? What is the person supposed to do? Implement new systems, or carry out network analysis, security, IT audit, web administration, and etc. Will he be managing a team? Or, will he be working alone? All these require different but important skills – hard skills and soft skills.

What is the job title? For example, if he is a manager – then, perhaps he is managing a small team. Or, maybe he is only managing systems and not people. Again, different skill set. You have to make clear.

  • (iii) Depending on the job scope (which usually indicates the job title), you next come up with the job requirements.

Put another way, what are the attributes – the qualifications, experience and soft skills you seek in a candidate?

Qualifications and experience are hard skills and easily identified. These are what you use to shortlist candidates.

Soft skills and expertise are tougher to identify and evaluate. These are what you hope to identify in an interview through a combination of close-ended, open-ended and scenario-based questions. In order to ask questions – you should first know what the person must do (job scope) and what attributes he must have to carry out this job scope (the job requirements).

When you know what you hope to achieve – then, you can fashion relevant questions.

9. I am a hiring manager and would like you to provide sample questions that I can use to conduct interviews.

This course – Interview Questions – is an introductory course and is free. It teaches the basic question types and how to script these questions to suit your requirements. There is sufficient information in the course for you to develop your own questions.

The remit of this free course does not include providing free questions for your business. I’m a business consultant and make my living from providing consultancy work.

If you wish, I’ll provide consultancy services and develop questions for your specific needs. But this comes with a cost – payable upfront via PayPal.

If you wish to proceed on this basis, please submit the Job Scope and Job Requirements for which you are recruiting.

10. Did you ever hire a personnel and after he starts work found your judgment to be wrong?

Yes, I’ve hired people and subsequently found they did not work out. I usually do a post-hire review and exit interview to plug shortcomings in the hiring process. Over the years the percentage of “failed” hires diminished.

Hiring does not end when a person starts work. The hiring process ends when the newbie successfully completes the probation. In my next course I cover the probation process.

Overall, the total number of “failed hires” must constantly reduce in numbers when compared with the success rate – this should be the goal, the ever raising of the bar.

What I found was, most hiring managers do not keep score. And many simply play the blame game rather than carry out some serious self-analysis of their hiring process.

11. How do you do this/that when you constructed your course?

I’ve had some students (probably instructors) who ask how to do this or get a particular effect on a course they are constructing.

I’m no expert on Udemy course construction and anyway, it is outside the remit of my course on Interview Questions.

You can avail yourself to the many good and free courses offered by other instructors and by Udemy themselves. Also check out the Udemy forum.

If all else fails, contact Udemy Support. Thank you.

12. I don’t see the subtitiles – how do I access the subtitles on the videos?

Udemy uses closed-captions – subtitles – which you have to click open. See image below.

Closed Captions

Note: Closed captions are available only on courses where the instructor had inserted same. If you do not see the button at the bottom right hand of the screen – that means no captions, no subtitles.

I’ve inserted closed captions to cater for 3 classes of people:

  • (a) For people who might not understand my “accent” – not everyone can understand everybody’s accents.
  • (b) For noisy environments – such as on the tube or when minding children.
  • (c) For the hearing impaired.

13. How would you measure the competency level for any job?

This is an entry level course on Interview Questions. In a forthcoming “advanced” course, I shall cover the techniques for measuring competency levels of a job.

14. Could you give us more “practice” exercises?

The nature of this course does not readily lend itself to practical exercises. However, based on the examples and techniques given, you are welcome to two approaches:

  • (a) Formulate your own questions and upload on the course page and I shall give you my comments.
  • (b) Or, if you wish to keep matters confidential, you can private message me the questions you developed and I shall provide feedback.

15. Why your videos do not carry captions/subtitles in Portuguese?  

I’m sorry but this is an English course. However, I do provide English captions for the hearing impaired, for those who might not grasp my accent and for use in noisy environments.

16. Your course does not provide too much information. Why?

This is a free course with a limited remit.

I’ve covered everything that I set out to do but if you find any particular lecture lacking, you’re welcome to provide specific feedback so that I can make revisions and improvements.

Simply giving a low star rating does not do you or me any good, and only discourages others who might benefit from this course.

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Why you should treat your supplier well

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Over the last few decades, I’ve established hundreds of new customer accounts and served several thousand customers – mostly B2B.

Admittedly, l’ve encountered only about 10 customers – individual purchasing staff who had been downright rude and abusive.

How about you?

Supplier – business partner

Supplier – problem solver

Supplier – customer

Supplier – opinion leader

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Why ask job applicants to enclose their photographs?

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In Singapore, it is the norm to demand from candidates a “non-returnable” photograph with their job applications.

Many companies – small and medium enterprises (SMEs), multinational corporations (MNCs) and government linked companies (GLCs) – simply parrot this nonsense.

This creates a perception of discrimination in hiring.

But I also believe that many so-called HR professionals in Singapore are ignorant and merely copying and pasting stuff that they had seen and experienced when they first applied for a job.

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