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Of lessons learnt and resolutions

Happy New Year! And Happy New Decade!

It has come to that time of the year when we look back at how things have been for us in the past year, see the lessons learnt, the missed opportunities and resolve to do a better job for the coming new year.

To do this, we apply one concept in our strategic thinking programme - Thinking in Time.

When we think in time, we first look at events in the past, and see how we got to where we are. Be it positive or negative, these events shape our current situation, and from there, point us to the way forward. Once we are clear about how we got here, we decide what we want to do to make it towards a positive outcome. In essence, we are looking at the lessons learnt from 2019 and the resolutions for 2020.

Oh by the way... resolutions are usually focused on us being a different person/organisation, and not doing a different thing.

And with that, let's see how these play out for GCA...

Lessons of 2019

Let's start by looking at the significant events that happened over the past year, and to see what lessons we can glean from them.

a. First, take stock of all the positives of 2019.

For GCA, we had quite a number of positives. Key was our collaboration with McDonald's Singapore where we created their leadership development programme for their corporate employees, starting from the Managers / Senior Managers, then to the Consultants / Team Leads, then the Executives / Individual Contributors. In all, we created 24 separate leadership development modules, from strategic thinking to program management, from cross-functional team leadership to negotiation, all within one year! This project pushed our curriculum development capabilities to the max! It is great that we were able to meet all our deadlines. What an achievement! We also re-acquired an old client, who signed up for our strategic thinking programme. This is a brand new curriculum where we sharpened and re-ordered our 8-steps, creating such an impact on learning. Our course feedback had 8 dimensions (not related to the 8 steps!), all on a scale of 1 to 7. For the workshops we conducted for this client, all 8 dimensions scored above 6! This was a consistent score throughout the different workshops; which shows the impact of our programme on their learning. A nice positive!

b. Next, we look at the negative events.

One key event is our inability to reach an agreement with our assessment vendor. As some of you know, we had a growth mindset assessment that we applied to identify who has a growth mindset or not. The backend tool was good; and we applied this throughout the last 3 years. However, we were not able to enter into a new agreement for 2020. This underscores what we teach in our negotiation program - if you have to concede more than you receive, and if the discussion seems to be one-sided, win-lose (where you are on the losing end), then the best option is to walk away.

Another negative event - which is not really negative for GCA but an interesting lesson learnt here - is the hiring for our new Business Executive. After posting the advertisement for this position on social media, we received 10 applications. Now, because the role is a very flexible, home-based position, and where KPIs are co-created between the Founder and the employee, and which are not sales quota-based, the salary range was between $2.9K and $3.8K. It is not really very high, but at the same time, not low as well. But of the 10 applicants, nine of them started out by asking if the salary was negotiable, even before we could fully explain the construct of the role. Only one person came to the interview not focused on the money, but on how she could add value, and how she could contribute to the business. No prizes as to who finally got the job.

c. Lessons learnt from both positive and negative events

The lesson we learnt from the McDonald's project was that we have more value to offer to customers than we previously let on. Not only were the 24 modules created from scratch, it met the needs of a global company. This allows us to confidently seek out similar customers and offer similar value to them. We have expanded our capabilities with one project. Of course, it is easier said than done - to offer a comprehensive leadership development programme. But, this re-acquired customer that we mentioned have already signed on to an element of this and so, we can further hone the value proposition, and create a sustainable business from this!

And our lesson from the 6.0+ course rating for all dimensions? What lesson did that bring? Actually, it brought several lessons. (1) Never be content with good enough. Always look to improve. The programme that we delivered was re-created to address some very minor inconsistencies. These inconsistencies are imperceptible to those who are not intimately connected to the content. But by tweaking that, and overcoming those inconsistencies, suddenly everything fell into place! So, we took a great programme and made it even better! Never rest on your laurels! (2) Another lesson from this is that we need to develop more trainers. That I can deliver the programme to this level means that the programme can be delivered to this level. Now, we need to get more trainers delivering at this level. I can do it because I am the creator of this programme; and as such, I have intimate knowledge of how it was formed, and why one step precedes another or not. This intimacy came from the 10 years that this programme is continuously being tweaked. Yet it is time to stop the tweaking and start making it into a systematised programme that other trainers can consistently deliver at a high level. That is a pretty profound insight - and lesson!

Of our inability to agree with the assessment vendor, the lesson learnt here is to always diversify your risk. Our Growth Mindset Programme was developed around that particular assessment tool, so without it, I would certainly not be able to run the programme. We have been on the lookout to find an alternative assessment tool for a while now, but because the output of this tool is far superior to other tools, we could not find any other vendor. However, we were glad that the agreement fell through because that forced us to get out of our comfort zone and create alternatives. We certainly cannot capitulate once a vendor pulls out; we need to have a more resilient supply and value chain. Hence, we are today on track to building our own assessment system. We may not be as good as the vendor in the output, but the variation in output quality would not affect the quality of our programme. And that is all that we need to ensure our customers!

Finally, what lessons did we derive from the hiring situation? Well, if 9 out of 10 people ask the wrong question in an interview, it just shows that job/career management is a key topic that people are not grasping. There is a need for them to start looking outward, rather than inward. They need to learn that a hiring manager is looking for someone who is willing to add value to the company; and not one who wants to suck value from it! There is a need to help people realise that in the job search process, it is a dance of value; of what value they can bring to the employer, and of seeing what value that employer can bring to the individual. If both of these can meet, then there will be a successful hire. Seems like this needs to be learnt. Hence, we are launching our Career Strategy Programme!

Resolution for 2020

The lessons learnt help us map the resolutions for 2020.

(1) To be helpful to individuals looking to jump onto their second job do so in a more strategic and value-based manner.

We have been speaking to those in their first job and in a position, and hoping, to jump off on to a new job, uncovering their fears and concerns. Here is where they need to be more strategic because this next job has a very important impact on subsequent jobs since it ties in with huge life-stage changes as well. So whether they should take a specialist role or a generalist role, a technical track or a managerial track, these are all determined here! If one is not clear of this, one may well be on the road to career turbulence instead of career fluency! We want to help these individuals through a comprehensive support programme which we will soft-launch in February 2020.

(2) To be a positive partner to corporate clients and cement our programme development capabilities

Many HR directors tell us that their organisation seems to be moving in all different directions. While leadership should be a unifying factor, most of the BU heads are focused on only their function, leading the department along unaligned lines. What is worse, there is a lot of duplication as different departments embark on the same, or similar, programmes. And while it is senior management's job to bring about this alignment, it seldom happens as business results take precedence over business alignment. In fact, in their mind, a little redundancy may also be good; it creates competition, and we increase the chance of being more successful. Except it does not. Competition within the organisation leads to poorer motivation, resource wastage and higher staff turnover. By helping senior leaders align the whole organisation, and create a focal initiatives that bring all the departments together to bear, we can help them weed out wastage, increase employee engagement, and create a better sense of purpose. A comprehensive leadership development program tying with the culture and the core competencies is KEY to helping them achieve this.

(3) To be a positive influence in assisting good trainers to become better through a systematised training process for our Strategic Thinking & Design Thinking programmes

It is not enough that we can deliver a high-impact programme, it is important that more trainers can do the same. This will allow GCA to help more companies embrace the growth mindset, strategic thinking, design thinking and transformational leadership. We must ourselves embrace the growth mindset in helping develop our trainers, fully understanding that they can themselves set up a competitor to GCA. Yet this is exactly what we need to do as we also tell companies that they need to do likewise. If companies don't train their staff for fear they leave the organisation, what they end up with are a bunch of poor workers. Recall this conversation between the CFO and CEO of a company: CFO: "Training is so expensive. What if we train them and they leave?" CEO: "What if we don't train them and they stay?"

By embracing the growth mindset, and creating a systematised training to develop GCA trainers, we are raising the quality of the whole ecosystem, and with that, for GCA as well. So, we resolve to create a systematised training programme to be launched by 2Q 2020.

(4) To be a value creator to all stakeholders by growing our capabilities within and outside our company

Lessons learnt from the assessment vendor show that we cannot allow any one party to hold on to so much IP of our programme that it creates a win-lose relationship. Instead, we should create a win-win relationship by giving all stakeholders a differentiated value proposition so that they are willing to be in the relationship, and at the same time, they want the whole relationship to prosper. Creating our own assessment allows us to develop internal capabilities, yet working with other assessment providers allows us to expand their business, as we do ours. Looping this back to our trainers, the same concept applies. If we can similarly give them value proposition to prosper the ecosystem, we would be able to create more value for all stakeholders, including our clients.

Create your own resolutions

Can you see the power of Thinking in Time to create resolutions for the future? To sum up, 1. look at all the positive events of the past year

2. look at all the negative events of the past year

3. suss out the lessons that each event holds

4. create your new year resolutions on the back of those lessons (you can even throw in a few more for good measure!)

So now it is your turn to have a go at it. If you've never created resolutions like this before, I guarantee you that you will find this very helpful, very refreshing!

Here's to a wonderful start to 2020!

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