Archive for February, 2011

By the time this post is published I am sure you are already sick and tired of seeing flowers being delivered around the city.  There has never been more flowers traveling on office tower elevators than any other day of the year.  Well you may be one of the many who have decided to pitch in to this multi-million dollar business day.  If so, I sincerely congratulate your celebration of love with your partner, as long as you don’t feel being pressured to do so.


I am not here to write about how superficial Valentine’s day is.  Millions of people had made similar observations since the day turned into a commercial bloodbath.  For those who would like to think of other reasons to celebrate this day this year, I am offering a few suggestions instead.

  1. You survived yet another Chinese New Year through over-eating, obsessive drinking, ultra-friendly relatives, and red packet giving.
  2. The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon is less than a week away.  You are not letting yourself distracted from your fitness and nutrition regime…that….started only a week after Chinese New Year.
  3. Mubarak stepped down from office.  With Egyptian citizens regaining power, dignity, livelihood and faith after bloody 30 years, isn’t everything else just seem so trivial?
  4. Janet Jackson is in town to kick off her latest world tour.  Singles now have an excuse to not hide at home during Valentine’s day.
  5. No more afraid of mainland tour guide scams.  Dispute settlements are totally negotiable.  HK$700K negotiated down to HK$120K, that’s a steal.  
  6. You got to work on time.  There were no train track cracks this morning on the MTR.
  7. You have just heard on the news that Stanley Ho has issued his 34th press release that he didn’t mean what he thought he had never said in front of his 2nd and 3rd wifes.  His 4th wife declined to comment, his lawyer said he was hired back by Mr. Ho’s 13th video recording.  Pansy, Maisy, Daisy, and Josie are preparing to make another statement outside the venue of Janet Jackson’s concert.  Now that’s entertainment.
  8. Your kids return to school today, braving the hot beds of influenza.
  9. Pizza Hut is selling beer at their Maritime Square branch in Tsing Yi!  Finally a reason to go for fast food in Hong Kong!
  10. McDonald’s is launching its wedding party package in Hong Kong.  For HK$9,999, you get 2 hours of venue rental, 50 invitation cards, a wedding gift, yummy fast food up to a HK$3,000 value, bridal bouquet, groom corsage and a pair of McDonald’s balloon wedding rings.  Each guest will also get a free McDonaldland character!  There is also a Double Apple Pie Box Cake Display for rental!  Finally!

If any of the above haven’t brighten up your day, check out this latest poll from HK Magazine.  Guess what answer has the most number of votes from readers of the magazine to the question “All I Want For Valentine’s Day is…”?

“A Date.”

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I was reading the Executive Coach section of CPO Agenda when I came across a very interesting question for coach Dr Richard Russill, who is a business coach and author, specializing in supply, cost and relationship management.   The question is: “People are debating whether “procurement” is the right name for … procurement.  What do you think?”

Dr Russill replies are: “Despite its dodgy connotations the ‘P’ word is too well embedded in the business vocabulary for it to change. Where Google, even recently, suggested ‘Community Post Office’ or ‘Chief Petty Officer’ for CPO, it now comes up with what this journal stands for. Besides, it is perceptions within companies that matter. It is great if your CEO understands procurement as a key business driver. But re-badging procurement is a waste of time if company colleagues still see it as a function in which they are not involved.

Yesterday I was folding village newsletters into envelopes. Recalling Adam Smith’s pins, I found that it was faster to do all the folding, then the insertions, then the stamping, as separate activities. It was also totally mindless. That’s the problem with functions in business. Despite being functionally excellent they can seem mindless if the job is to follow instructions set by others, as distinct from influencing the process which creates instructions. Procurement is not a function but a cross-business team activity with purchasing and supply operating as a sub plot. The CPO’s dual role is to inspire intelligent commercially-aware decision-making as well as minding the supply task. Making this a reality requires story-telling and tangible supply successes…not a new label on the bottle.”

Well I can’t agree more.  Over the years I have personally lived through many names of our profession such as strategic procurement, operations procurement, procurement and supply chain, purchasing services, enterprise supply chain services, global procurement, and global real estate and purchasing services.  Every two or three years all companies are itching to do some rebranding, but the only thing that matters is how top management engages procurement and the rest of the business teams together.  When I used to be the head of procurement for Greater China in American Express,  I found myself in front of my senior business leaders and stakeholders every 8 months or so, reinforcing everyone that regardless of how our names changed, I would still be there to take care of the same duties.  Yes that is exactly how frequent our restructuring took place.

And this restructuring also means that our titles, levels, geographic and commodity responsibilities keep getting reshuffled.  New organization charts were drawn, and everyone needed to re-apply for the new posts, or even the same posts that they were assuming.  The job applications needed to go through the routine interviewing and grading process.  Some posts were added, and some were eliminated.  Such process lasted at least 3 or 4 months after it was publicized, and I had experienced it more than once druing my tenure.

At the end of the day, my core responsibilities were exactly the same.  The number of my superiors had expanded, and my local stakeholders simply could not care less.  The management consultancy engaged made a buckload of money.

And the world turns.

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I’m sure this is going to be a popular topic, and that’s exactly why I am attracted to the 2011 Office Romance Survey results published by Vault.com.   It’s probably because we are all working extremely long hours at the office these days, comparing with our time with families and friends, that there is an increasing opportunity to mingle with our dear colleagues.  The chemistry, may bubble over into relationships beyond the strictly professional.

Now cut to the chase.  And the survey results are in (drum roll…):

  • 59% of the respondents admitted that they have participated in an office romance. 

So if you have not done it, the colleague sitting next to you has!

  • More men than women reported having short-term flings with co-workers.  However, women are more likely than men to have had a long-term, serious relationship with a co-worker. 

Ok, not surprising here.

  • 65% of the respondents said the shaky economy has no effect on their willingness to take romantic risks at work.  Willingness decreases with age.

Hmm, it seems that passion really trumps career for most people.

  • Some relationships are more acceptable than others.  For example, the most unacceptable relationships are those of different levels, within the same department, or those working on projects together.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Apparently, the further the couple is apart both physically and professionally, the better.  The point about different levels is interesting.

  • 60% of the respondents have avoided or curtailed a potential romance that they would have otherwise pursued specifically to avoid an “office romance”.

Some believes it’s the quickest means to tarnish our reputation.  The singles however often hold separate opinions.

  • 72% admitted they have an “office wife” or “husband”, someone they hang out with all the time during breaks and lunches, but not romantically involved.

This is just sad.

  • More people have dated with their office subordinates than superiors.

Managerial perks I see.

  • 33% of the respondents said they have had a tryst in the office.  More men than women.

How?  I think all offices have security cameras nowadays.  Bet it’s the thrill of excitement or getting caught.


  • 70% admitted that their office romances had impacted their personal or professional relationships with other co-workers.

Yes, someone always knows, and everyone tells as soon as they find out.  Many people find that they have lost respect from their subordinates once rumors spread.

  • 38% felt a co-worker gained a professional advantage because of a romantic relationship with a co-worker or supervisor.  31% felt uncomfortable because of co-workers’ intra-office romantic relationships.

“You do what you have to do to move up the ranks,” said one respondent.  “A co-worker had a relationship that ended in a break up […] she wanted people to take sides and the whole thing was horribly uncomfortable for ages”, another respondent wrote.

  • 63% said based on their previous experience in an office romance, they would participate in one again.

Forbidden is fun?

I find the survey very revealing, and I particularly adore the new term used here: “Colleagues with Benefits”.

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I wrote earlier about corruption in procurement, and quite frankly this happens in just about any profession you can possibly imagine.  I really don’t get why people would find screwing up their entire careers such an easy decision.  Maybe everyone think they can outsmart others, and that no one would ever find out.  Come on, really?  Personal egos sometimes are just too compelling to overcome.

A whole team of Hong Kong based flight attendants were caught smuggling cigarettes through the Heathrow airport, without declaration of course.  Apparently it is not uncommon for flight attendants to pack a few cartons of cigarettes in their luggage and then release them to the dealers in Chinatown for a handsome profit.  We used to hear crew members buying Louis Vuitton bags in Paris for the Chinese and Japanese dealers at home, and it seems that there are now tighter restrictions on that.  Aside from obvious customs regulations, airlines have strict policies prohibiting their staff from taking airline properties from the plane and carrying illegal items on duty.  Yet, since crew bags are seldom checked at customs especially when they are in uniform, you won’t be surprised to find crew luggage filled with champagne and other spirits taken from the plane.

Again, the consequences of such actions could mean prosecution as well as termination of employment.  The team of flight attendants were detained by London authorities, and the airline offered little assistance in legal representation or logistics support.  All of them were fined and banned from ever entering United Kingdom again.  Needless to say, they were fired by the airline with immediate effect, and there should be little chance of any of them ever re-joining the inflight servicing industry, across the globe.

Is it worth it? I don’t need to interview the crew members to know the answer.  Are they evil people?  I don’t think so at all.  We are all normal people and we are all greedy in different ways.  However, we have to keep in mind that certain seemingly harmless decisions actually have detrimental effects on our lives.

But then we still hear about senior government officials scamming the authorities on housing allowances, education subsidies for their children, and tax evasions.  There must be a secret community out there for people to swap wicked ideas like that, in every workplace.  For those who have little willpower, choose your friends wisely!

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Self-Mockery (Part Two)

There are definitely monkeys in my workplaces over my many years in the profession.   The worst thing is not with the monkeys who may be genuinely inexperienced, but with their lazy bosses who won’t move out of their desks and offices to face the customers.

So, maybe I should label them as zookeepers from now on?

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In Marshall Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There“, the renowned executive coach writes about how the very characteristic that you believe got you where you are, may exactly be the one that is holding you back.

On the back cover of the book, it writes: “Your hard work is paying off.  You are doing well in your field.  But there is something standing between you and the next level of achievement.  That something may just be one of your own annoying habits.  Perhaps one small flaw – a behavior you barely even recognize – is the only thing that’s keeping you from where you want to be. “

“The Harvard Business Review asked Goldsmith, “What is the most common problem faced by the executives that you coach?”…he answers this question by discussing not only the key beliefs of successful leaders, but also the behaviors that hold them back…. Say, for example, you have an extremely loyal and talented staff.  You are known for spotting and nurturing talent.  Your inner circle of employees regularly gets assigned the plum projects.  You may think you are building a solid team, but from the outside looking in, you are encouraging sucking up.  You are guilty of Habit # 14: Playing favorites.  Goldsmith outlines twenty such habits commonly found in the corporate environment and provides a systematic approach to helping you achieve a positive change in behavior.”

The so-called 20 habits are the most common flaws, but they are not flaws of skills, intelligence or personality.  They are challenges of interpersonal behavior, often leadership behavior.

  1. Winning too much:  The need to win at all costs and in all situations – when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.
  2. Adding too much value:  The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
  3. Passing judgement:  The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
  4. Making destructive comments:  The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
  5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”:  The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right.  You’re wrong.”
  6. Telling the world how smart we are:  The need to show people we’re smarter than we think we are.
  7. Speaking when angry:  Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
  8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why they won’t work”:  The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.
  9. Withholding information:  The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
  10. Failure to give proper recognition:  The inability to praise and reward.
  11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve:  The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
  12. Making excuses:  The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
  13. Clinging to the past:  The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
  14. Playing favorites:  Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
  15. Refusing to express regret:  The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
  16. Not listening:  The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. Failing to express gratitude:  The most basic form of bad manners.
  18. Punishing the messenger:  The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
  19. Passing the buck:  The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
  20. An excessive need to be “me”:  Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

If any of the above sends a chill up your spine when you read it, good.  It’s better realizing it than never.  If you are doubting Mr. Goldsmith’s observations, you may want to know he has been the personal coach of corporate CEOs including American Express, Boeing, GlaxoSmithKline, U.S. Army, Sun Microsystems, GE, Goldman Sachs, etc..  His credibility is second to none.

I seriously recommend this book to everyone who want to be more successful from where they already are.  Learn from Marshall Goldsmith, and learn from the corporate world’s biggest CEOs.

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Attractiveness Defined

It is always so easy to look at the flaws of another person and I find it so rare that people are eager to compliment or acknowledge another person’s positive qualities.  I don’t know whether it is the lack of security that leads to so many people finding the comfort of self-reassurance through pointing at others’ miseries.   The most obvious victim is a person’s outlook.  Undoubtedly life isn’t fair, and we all love gawking at good-looking people and the immense hotness they carry.  However judging a book by its covers can mean lost opportunities for good relationship materials.  Sure it takes time to get to know a person better, but what’s with the rush?  Does it really hurt our ego that much to be seen hanging out with seemingly less attractive people?

So if I ask you what sort of qualities you look for in your lover other than looks and physical attractiveness, I will get a million different answers, but usually it sums up to a few key characteristics.

  • Talented
  • Well it’s a rather general term, and I don’t mean you have to be a distinguished pianist to earn this title.  It is perhaps a bit easier to look at this from the other side of the coin.  Can you be with someone who is talent-free?  Then you will realize that aside from beauty, talent also is in the eyes of the beholder.  Good.  Next time you want to complain about your lover, think of what talents he or she impresses you from the start, and ask yourself whether it is still there, or just that you have a forgetful mind.

  • Kindness
  • No this is not cliché, because there really are mean people out there.  I really don’t get why people choose to stay with partners who have been ill-treating them.  To me, kindness is not only to your partner but also to people around the two of you.  However, it seems that there are quite a number of abusive relationships out there for me to even begin talking about kindness to others.

  • Confidence
  • My friends who understand me know that this is my number one rule.  Self-confidence is super attractive, as long as you don’t step into cockiness.  Too many people have fallen into the latter probably due to insecurities again, but those who are confident and humble are a catch, if you know what I mean.  Confidence is the result as well as the enabler of a lot of these positive characteristics.

  • Trustworthy
  • A man needs to be trustworthy or he has no ability to take care of his partner or has the emotional strength to enter into a relationship.  Some says it’s the holy grail of one. 

  • Intelligence
  • This doesn’t necessarily come with age, and is quite an inborn gift.  Everything is relative, but most people would not want to be with somebody who is more stupid than himself or herself.  I guess no one will call themselves stupid in the first place, but I don’t think anyone will repute that intelligence is sexy.

  • Sense of Humor
  • I will focus on the humorous attitude towards life rather than the ability to crack jokes out of nowhere.  Life is too hard and reality is too cruel.  If we can all maintain a certain sense of humor and if our partner can motivate us to move on and recharge in his or her own witty ways, how sweet is that?

  • Money
  • Okay, this is way, way politically incorrect.  But I will be daring to put it out there in the open.  You know who you are, and I don’t need to explain anything further.

So what’s the point of writing this?  Well this is meant to motivate those singles or newly break-ups that everyone has a market somewhere, as long as we continue to work toward these “universal” attractive qualities gathered from so many guys and girls.  This is also written for those superficial people who check everyone off because they consider others ugly, old, short or “out of his/her reach”.  You time is coming!

Please excuse me for my playful mood tonight.  You can see my desperate attempt developing my wicked sense of humor.

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Feeling Lonely?

It seems that the biggest fear of most people in the city is feeling lonely.  The feeling is even more compelling when you know that you are in the middle of the most populated metropolitan cities of the world and yet you still feel alone.  That feeling is quite chilling indeed.  Singles are longing for relationships because they are sick and tired of being alone, and at the same time, couples split up because they feel alienated by their partners in various means.  Usually, the pain of being alone is the number one hurdle anyone needs to endure over a breakup or a divorce. 

According to relationship coach (!) Rinatta Paries, “One of the marks of maturing emotionally is learning to bear with or even thrive when alone.  And your successful ability to be alone is what allows you to have the best relationships of your life. The successful ability to be alone can mean the ability to feel alone and lonely without the need to seek someone out to fill the void.  It can also mean being alone but not being lonely, with the void filled with creativity of self-expression, or passion for pursuit of something that matters to you.”

It sounds really pathetic, cause we have always been taught that we should both take care and at the same time depend on each other in a meaningful relationship.  However it is somehow also this dependency that causes friction and mistrust between a couple, leading to an eventual breakup.  How disillusioning?

Well, the reality is that there is really no way around it.  We just have to be better at combating loneliness in life.   Seeing how others behave, I am advocating the following “Don’ts” in times of vulnerability:

  • Don’t pity yourself in emotional songs, movies, novels  or TV.  Some people tell me that they need a good cry, but I have the feeling that we already have enough material ourselves to make us cry our eyes out.  So wallowing in romantic tragedies only makes us fall deeper into our depression, which also makes it harder and longer to regain confidence in starting over.
  • Don’t resort to fortune-telling or tarot cards or the like.  I know it’s tempting to try to get some sensing out of all the broken pieces, but such baseless advice may prolong unsubstantiated pain or misery, over some “miracles” that could never happen.  Fate is in our own hands.
  • Don’t over occupy yourself.  Some people prefer to take up projects that will make themselves busy, be it taking up a new hobby, adopting a pet, or renovating their homes.  While there is nothing wrong with these constructive activities, rushing into things too soon may reinforce the reality of loneliness further.   Substituting intimacy with other human beings for a big project may pave a longer path of unhappiness.

So what are the “Dos?”

  • Talk to your friends that you trust.  Open yourself up with people and try to move a little closer emotionally to people you like.  Enough with the superficial chats.  Your friends can only be as close to you as you are with them.
  • Learn how to strike up meaningful conversations with new people.  Again, I’m not talking about the easy exchanges on what’s good to eat or meaningless gossips over other people.  Come on, aren’t these “friends” or acquaintances the reason you feel lonely in the first place?  It’s not the 798 friends on your Facebook profile page that makes your life fulfilling.
  • Surround yourself with the right crowd of friends.  Okay, I don’t mean to sound like an elitist, because there is no definition as to what the right crowd means to everyone.  I am told that the right sorts of people are those they give you energy instead of taking it away from you.  I like this definition because I think it’s very powerful.
  • Don’t demand sympathy.  Your true friends will surely take care of you, support you and encourage you without you even asking.  There is a difference between opening up yourself, asking for help, and being whinny and needy.

It certainly takes a great deal of courage and determination, but what doesn’t?

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Spending Spree Anyone?

So I was accompanying a friend who was in town for a few days.  We met for lunch and then went for a walk solely meant to kill time and lounge around casually.  This Friday afternoon was packed with customers shopping for the upcoming Chinese New Year, as well as the ever so aggressive mainland Chinese tourists who were fanatically running around name brand stores before closing time.  We couldn’t resist the wave, and so we joined in the crowds to do some window shopping ourselves.

Little did I expect that this was no window shopping at all.  My friend went to Bottega Veneta to check out the limited edition snakeskin duffle bag, and while I was answering a long distance call from my ex-colleague, he had picked out a silver / leather bracelet for himself.  We then headed to Yves Saint Laurent next door though my friend had already gotten the new black clutch bag the week ago.   At Paul Smith upstairs, he got a slim fitted check shirt, a pair of check pants, a colorful knit cardigan, and 10 pairs of Paul Smith signature socks. 

I was already exhausted from the crowds, so we had to sit down for tea at a nearby coffee shop.  After an hour of recharging over dessert and coffee, we moved on to I.T., the local fashion store that brings in a number of foreign designer brands goodies.  We spent literally three hours there where I was joined by one of the store sales associate friend of mine, dressing my friend up and offering our comments and advice.  He was walking back and forth, picking everything up and trying on everything.  No colors were off-limits.  He even went to the women’s section to look for items that matched his fair skin tone and slim waist line.  With enough commotion involving half a dozen other sales associates looking for sizes and colors, he left with 2 large bags of goodies, on top of what he already got earlier in the afternoon.

This is what I like doing on a lazy afternoon.  I got the rush of shopping without having the need to spend a penny myself.  I didn’t feel empty that I was not getting anything for myself, and I was psyched that my friend was happy with his achievement.   I enjoy shopping with people who know what they want, while at the same time open enough for experimentation.

I advocate being passionate in everything we do, whether it’s work, relationships, food, shopping, and friendships.  Being passionate means to devote your entire self in the moment of whatever you are doing in a responsible way, but without creating too much undue stress.  Some people, however, place judgements without knowing it.  “How does he get the money?”  “What does he need to proof?” “I bet he is a slob.”

Some people automatically jump on the dollar figure, but I’d rather place emphasis on the journey.  Getting something that truly fits you is worth celebrating even if it costs only ten dollars.  Getting something pricey solely on basis of the brand name is not my cup of tea.

Like this Friday for instance, if you believe you will enjoy a spending spree like my friend’s, give it a go.  You will have the time of your life looking for something you want.  However, if you know you will regret this apparent short-term therapy (for no apparent reason), stay away from it.  We can all co-exist, and there is always something for everyone.

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