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A leather reflection – I’m just getting started.

Posted: November 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Eve Moneypenny: So what’s going on, James? They say you’re finished.
James Bond: And what do you think?
Eve Moneypenny: I think you’re just getting started.

I just came back from watching the movie ‘Spectre’, and thoughts about the challenges I have gone through in my life re-surfaced. Our lives are often defined by challenges and opportunities, even the ones we miss. The movie was so-so, but I liked the conversation between Eve and James above. A lot of the time, when faced with adversity, I thought I would have finished. But life has a great sense of humour because she always presents you with the most valuable lesson when you are fighting your most difficult battle. And each lesson from these battles, be it big or small, will shape you and mold you to become who you are today.

5 months after the Turnaround experience that I previously shared in this blog, I still have vivid memories of the lessons I have learned. They say that if we don’t learn from our past mistakes, then history will repeat itself. Hence, I’m sharing my three most valuable lessons as a reminder that they have impacted me in my career life so far.

1. We are fighting a war, not a battle.

As a young engineer, I worked extremely hard when I started. But a career, or life in general as a good senior colleague of mine told me, is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. You will get exhausted if you sprint too fast, for too long. At one time in my career, it was normal for me to be the first to reach the office and the last to leave. I didn’t sustain that for very long. Yes, I do want to work hard to prove myself, but working hard doesn’t mean just putting in more time. It’s not about how much time we spend on a task, but how much effort we put in. Don’t get me wrong, we do need time to achieve greatness, but what is more important is your personal “why?” The main reason I was fatigued easily was not because I spent too much time at work, but because I spent too much time wandering aimlessly, hoping to find a stage on which to shine without knowing what there is for me to shine about. We need to be fast, but not rush. See life as a war, not a battle.

2. Communication

Fundamentally, every action we take boils down to how well we communicate our inner thoughts to the outside world. Communication needs to be clear, precise, timely, and effective. Each of those words seems general, but I understand that the accuracy of a fact is crucial in making sure that your team executes the work according to what you want. There are many communication breakdowns during the turnaround that I have gone through that resulted in many gratuitous conflicts within the team. This not only slows down the results but also indirectly makes your team members suffer. A difficult conversation often makes one feel uncomfortable, especially if one party is being stripped of his confidence, but it’s often needed. It was through these hard conversations that I grew rapidly.

3. Work on your weak link; be in control of your star performer

Regardless of how strong your character might be or how sturdy you team is, you will definitely have a weak link. One of my teams, my piping team that was dealing with piping contractors, was my weak link. I have acknowledged that since the beginning, but I have not taken enough action to change the situation. My group’s leadership also has weak communication and lacks a sense of urgency and accountability. Spend more time with your weak link. Things did turn out better when I spent more time talking to them, but a lot of the damages were already done, and I could only do damage control. I’m not going to go into the specifics here, but this will serve as a reminder. On the other hand, there will be people in your group that will move so fast that they break things along the way. Identify this group of people early on and set the tone and expectation for them.

Three sharing, simple but a great reminder for myself.

These challenges, when they happened, sounded demoralising, but when I think back, I tell myself that I’m just getting started.