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Archive for April, 2011

It’s All About The Kiss

Even if you’re not a fan of the royal wedding, what’s not to like seeing two beautiful young people kissing over the glorious Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, carriages and the royal guards in the background?

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We are lucky to be in a place where the royal wedding isn’t the biggest news that people can ever talk about.  The live broadcasts are expected to begin sometime around our Friday afternoon, just when happy hour is about to begin.  In fact, this is going to be yet another highly anticipated long weekend, thanks to the labor day public holiday on Monday, and perhaps some folks are still vacationing somewhere.  When people are downing their beers and wines in pubs and lounges, I wonder whether they will choose to tune in to the wedding channel rather than the usual sports games.

If you don’t have the slightest interest or curiosity over how glamorous and extravagant Kate Middleton’s wedding dress is going to be, here are a few ideas that you can do to “actively” avoid the royal wedding altogether, from mydaily.co.uk.

  • Rival the royals

Get married yourself and live-stream it internationally.  There’s nothing more healthy than a bit of competition so if you think you’ve got what it takes to outshine the royal couple then what are you waiting for?  Westminster Abbey will be busy but St Paul’s might be free, plus we reckon more than a few dress designers will have mocked up a spare royal gown or two just in case something dreadful happens to Kate’s at the last moment. 

  • Read a biography of Oliver Cromwell

This man knew how to organise an overthrow of the monarchy.  Fine, the whole thing collapsed pretty soon after his death and even a toddler could teach him a thing or two about international diplomacy, but if you’re looking for anti-royalist sentiment, Cromwell’s your chap.

  • Work on that novel

With everyone else heading to the pubs and the street parties you’ll finally have the house to yourself.   Add in the fact that every telly and radio station will be set to “wedding” and you’ll suddenly find the motivation to write your literary masterpiece.  That or you’ll spend eight hours watching old Buffy DVDs  and eating party rings.   Either way, well done you!

  • To infinity and beyond

Head to Florida (or indeed the internet) to follow the launch of space shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Centre.  The 14 day mission will see Commander Mark Kelly and his crew take Endeavour on its final flight to deliver an Alpha Mass Spectrometer and spare parts to the International Space Station.  Perfect for anyone who dreamed of being an astronaut instead of a princess.

  • Retail therapy

Make the most of the deserted town centre and go shopping for that Issa dress, Whistles blouse or crown you’ve always wanted.  Alternatively you could pop down to Wilkinson’s and see whether they have any guillotines in the DIY section.

  • Hijack a street party

If you’ve ever nursed even a small delusion of grandeur then the idea of your neighbours hosting a party in your honour will probably sound pretty good.  Simply sneak over and staple pictures of your own face over that of those of happy couple.   If you get caught just grab as many sausage rolls as possible and run.”

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Countdown To The Royal Wedding

The royal wedding is just a day away, and for some reason the Americans seem to be way more excited than some Brits over the event.  All the prominent network news anchors will be reporting on location this week, and will be broadcasting live starting from 4am Eastern time on Friday.  Apparently, what’s happening in Libya, Syria or Japan aren’t going to cut it.  Are the Americans fantasizing over fairy tales of princes and princesses, or are they longing for some good news to divert their attention from all that suffering we see on the news?

I can’t help to notice that aside from the union of William and Kate, Friday’s spectacle is the ultimate public endorsement of the UK’s national standing and economy.  Take a look of these facts.

  • Some 550,000 people will experience the event in person in the Westminster environs, nearly a million plan to watch it on big screen and over twenty million will favour the convivial experience of huddling round a television. Half a million will watch it on the internet and 51,000 will watch it on a mobile phone.
  • 295,000 Londoners travel into Central London to experience the event.
  • Time off: Over six million adults will be taking extra holidays to make the most of the confluence of Easter, the bank holidays and the Royal Wedding. Workers from London (17%) and the West Midlands (17%) being the most likely to do this, while employee from the South West (7%) and Scotland (9%) the least likely.
  • Economic benefit: PwC calculates the commercial benefit to London from visitors’ expenditure to be £107 million.
  • 560, 000 adults are travelling to London from around the UK for the wedding – regional groupings ranging from 69,000 from Scotland to 17,000 from North East England. While the vast majority will be travelling with friends or family, over 50,000 will be travelling alone.
  • Travel: Travellers choose car, tube and train as the most popular form of transport to get to (Central) London for the wedding. Interestingly, the bicycle is a more popular choice of transport than the bus.
  • 37% of visitors will stay only for the day, but one in five intends to stay for two nights. Men intend to stay longer than women.
  • Accommodation: 185,000 people will stay in hotels, 50,000 in B&Bs. 18,000 will stay with friends.
  • A quarter of the visitors will spend between £50 and £75 a night on accommodation. One in five will spend between £100 and £149. Over 20, 000 people will spend upwards of £300 a night.
  • Shopping: Over two-thirds of visitors will go shopping while they are here and well over half intend to visit bars, clubs and restaurants. 58% say they will visit tourist attractions while they are in London, with 36% of visitors budgeting to spend between £75 and £99 per person per day on tourist attractions.
  • Shopping centres (eg. Westfield Centre, Brent Cross) will be the most popular shopping destinations followed by famous shopping streets (eg. Oxford Street, Carnaby Street) followed by well-known street markets (eg. Portobello Road, Brick Lane).
  • One in five people have budgeted £75-£99 for shopping per day while, at the more extravagant end, 13% say they have budgeted £200-299 per day.
  • The night economy: 60% of people intend to go to the pub, 45% are going to nightclubs, 40% will go to restaurants, 26% to theatres, 24% to cinemas and 7% to casinos.
  • Finally, when asked what they would spend their royal wedding budget on if they weren’t travelling to the wedding, 35% said general living expenses which may lead some to conclude the boost for the London business will be counterbalanced by a negative impact elsewhere. 27% said they would put the money into savings and one in four said they would make debt repayments or pay off credit card bills.

The survey was conducted by PwC.

Last but not least, London is expecting to bring in over 1 billion pounds (1.6526 billion U.S. dollars) from the sales of merchandise, estimating the sale of over 20 million bottles of beer and over 4 million bottles of champagne!  Hmm, I really can’t see myself toasting champagne over the royal wedding.  To be honest, I can think of a million better reasons to down my champagne, any day of the week.   

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I was captivated by the title of this book by Anita Bruzzese a few years ago.  I think it was my wicked sense of humor to attempt to do some of these 45 things to get even with my boss at the time.  Yes I said it was wicked, and I plead myself guilty.  However, at the end of the day, I did nothing of the sort since I cared so much more about my own professional reputation rather than some silly grudges over the most childish cases of office politics.

Are you curious about what these 45 things are?  Well, they are not as obnoxious as you think.  Or are they?

  1. Treating the office like it’s your love shack
  2. Punching the soda machine when you’re stressed out and ticked off
  3. Goofing off on a business trip
  4. Earning a reputation as a whiner, drama queen or general pain in the neck
  5. Discussing your personal beliefs at work
  6. Telling dirty jokes and cussing on the job
  7. Having questionable personal integrity
  8. Blogging about your job (Oh no….)
  9. Having poor writing and spelling skills
  10. Failing to write thank-you notes
  11. Committing e-mail blunders
  12. Failing to speak intelligently
  13. Wearing the wrong thing to work
  14. Behaving immaturely at company parties
  15. Being disorganized
  16. Being a poor listener
  17. Losing sleep
  18. Using your personal cell phone too much
  19. Acting like a boot at business meals
  20. Not appreciating coworkers
  21. Failing to delegate
  22. Being intolerant
  23. Disrespecting a mentor
  24. Not getting to know others in the company
  25. Giving feedback that is deliberately hurtful
  26. Fostering an offensive workplace
  27. Gossiping
  28. Not giving or accepting an apology
  29. Crying at work
  30. Caving in to a bully
  31. Failing to learn from mistakes
  32. Being unable to overcome obstacles
  33. Having too much – or too little – confidence
  34. Neglecting to write things down
  35. Asking for a raise you don’t deserve
  36. Lacking knowledge of current events
  37. Holding grudges (bingo…)
  38. Giving lackluster speeches or presentations
  39. Squandering time at seminars
  40. Skipping company-sponsored events
  41. Ignoring the company’s goals
  42. Dodging meetings
  43. Not going beyond your job description
  44. Neglecting new coworkers
  45. Fighting change

I recommend this book if you are eager to find out how you can avoid the mistakes and mend things with your boss, or, if you have the same devious reason as I did.

Well, of course I’m kidding.

 

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I love the city during this past Easter weekend.  A big part of the population was gone vacationing somewhere and what’s left was an adorable quiet city at a much slower pace everywhere.  Add on the light spring breeze and a hint of sunshine, I am falling in love with Hong Kong all over again.

On Friday I picked a normally bustling Starbucks in Central and found that the place was completely deserted, at 1pm in the afternoon.  I almost cried out for joy.  I picked up my usual venti cappuccino, grabbed all the male fashion magazines I could find, and picked the best sofa to lounge myself away.  Half hour later, an Indian fellow wearing a white shirt, a big gold pendant around his neck, and khaki pants (I believe) walked by where I was sitting with a big smile and saying “Congratulations my friend.”   Normally if I were on the streets, I would have headed off without a doubt.  But I was trapped.  There was nowhere for me to run and I kind of hesitated to get out of my heavenly seat.  Plus, I was in a public place with witnesses.  I took a mental note of where my belongings were and got myself prepared for the worst.

“Pardon me?” I asked.

“My friend, I just want to congratulate you today.  You are a lucky man.” “May I sit down?” He pointed to the seat next to me and invited himself to sit down.

“Errr….I guess.”  I reluctantly replied.  You get the drift of what happened next.  He then went on saying that he was from Singapore, showed me a picture of his “master” from his filofax, and told me 3 great things will be heading my way in May.  My work is going to be much better, my love life is going to be eventful with multiple people loving me (I can’t help giggling even when I’m writing this now), and I’m going to make a lot more money.  He gave me a small crumpled-up yellow paper knot, told me to hold on to it while asking me how many siblings I have in my family, and my favorite color.  After he wrote down what I said, he asked me to unroll the crumpled yellow paper to reveal exactly the same answers I provided to him.  To be honest, I wasn’t really that surprised at all, perhaps due to the all-too-predictable setup.

I wonder how he was going to wrap this up.  He opened his filofax, asked me to return the yellow piece of paper with his predicted answers in it, and said “If you could put in some money for your good luck.”  Alright, the secrets of the trick were finally revealed.   “$100 or $200 would be enough,” he said.  No to hell would I give him $100, but I was prepared to reward him with something for the time and entertainment he had provided.  “You have $30 more?”  He asked seeing the $20 note I was putting in.  I gave him my biggest and brightest smile with a no, and I thanked him for the 10 minute spectacle.

After this self-proclaimed psychic walked out, a tall caucasian man sitting opposite me approached.  I almost thought there was part 2.  “Hey I am just curious to find out what he said,” the man shared.  “I ran into someone similar somewhere before and he could name my dog’s name.  I felt that was spooky then.  And by the way you seem totally calm and in control of the whole thing.”  I replied saying that I just found the whole encounter entertaining.

It was surely unanticipated entertainment of an otherwise quiet Good Friday.  My friends are amazed with how generous I was with a scam artist, but I really had nowhere to run at the time.  Plus I know I am a rational minded person and I made a quick assessment of the worst case scenario right when he started to sit down.  I seriously paid little attention to his predictions at all, but as I told my friends, 3 great things coming my way are way better than him telling me I have only one month to live.

Guess I see a silver lining to everything, huh?

 

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I went to a primary/secondary school that is heavily focused on musical extra-curricular activities.  Every year the school makes sure it is sending its finest team of orchestra players and choir teams to the annual inter-school music competition in Hong Kong.  I am quite sure that the music teachers are all measured in how many trophies they can get every year, very much like the sports trophies some other schools are focused upon.  Then it slowly branches out to other elements of the arts.  Our English teachers start to pull students to participate in prose reading competitions, as well as an intensively trained debating team.

 

With that widespread competitive spirit all over the school, my school days have never been left hollow.  I would be finishing my lunch box within 15 minutes and then ran to rehearse for the choir almost 3 days a week, all through the rest of the lunch hour.  Orchestra rehearsals were much longer and hence started right after school ends.  Even on long school break holidays during winter, chinese new year or summer, you would easily see a team of 50 to 60 students heading to school every other day to rehearse for the upcoming musical numbers that everyone was so anxious about.  The bus drivers used to recognize me hauling my violin case around town.

It may sound so geeky to you now, but that kind of classical music training at a young age proves to be invaluable, plus it’s all free!  For me at the time, though I didn’t get much of free time aside from rehearsals and studies, I got to hang out with my schoolmates a lot during the process.  We got to go to other schools and the city’s fancy cultural venues for competitions, and for a couple of years a few of us were selected to join the St. John’s Cathedral choir for its annual midnight Christmas mass.  The experience was literally heavenly.  Last but not least, one year the cathedral choir was invited to deliver a personal performance to the Governor of Hong Kong (Sir Edward Youde) in the previous Government House, where a grand British style party was held near Christmas.  I used to still have a few red match boxes with the golden letters “G.H.” (Government House) engraved that I snatched from the party, but they are no longer in sight now after all these years.

Our school choirs and orchestras did very well at our time, and we were always within the top 3 places in Hong Kong.  Then there was also the debating team, which was much harder since we only had 3 to 4 representing the school and it took us weeks and months to prepare with our English coach.  You need to possess a highly analytical mind, think fast, be poised, great at speaking publicly, carry confidence, character, charisma, and be able to savage any unforseen challenges, all live in front of a theatre of thousands.  Plus the inter-school competition debate topics were mostly focused on hot political issues of the hour.  We needed to make sure we could brush ourselves up on current events and viewpoints.  It could get even tougher if you were assigned a side that was the opposite of the city’s mainstream views.  I remember I was one of the 3-person team representing the school in the very final round, competing against an all girls school.  This alone was a disadvantage for us since boys are not as eloquent as girls at least at that age.  I found myself speaking in front of an audience of 3,000 students and journalists in the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, a live television camera, and blaring spot lights that I couldn’t see a soul down at the audience, defending why Hong Kong was not ready for universal suffrage in 1988.  It was a sure losing bet, and we did.  Though we lost gracefully, and our rebuttals were to the point and highly skillful.  I only wish that the lead adjudicator then, our respected Mr. Martin Lee, could proclaim in his speech that he focused on assessing the debating logic and techniques on stage rather than the topic addressed.  But no he didn’t.  Instead, he gave a speech in front of the TV crew re-iterating how Hong Kong would benefit from the power of the common vote. 

There was definitely no opposition to that from us whatsoever, even when it was 1988.  Though for a team of first runner-up debating juniors, all we thought at that moment was that the objective of the competition itself had been sidelined, and the image of a great public speaking idol of mine, slightly tainted.

 

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We’ve all made it one point in our career life, and as a consultant that chance is far greater than ever.  We are dealing with multiple client projects at the same time, though likely at different project stages.  All of them are on a time clock.  We are by default low in resources, and there is practically no one else to cross check or even cover for us at times of near crisis.  Rookie mistakes, we’ve all had them. 

Some of these mistakes are silly and understandable, but by no means are they acceptable by your boss and the clients.  Forgetting to bcc your e-mail senders is a catastrophe.   Forwarding the wrong file to a client is borderline violation to the privacy ordinance.  We can check and double-check ourselves, but looking at the same document that you have been working on for the past 5 hours, at 3am in the office, is not going to make much of a difference. 

I love this article by Kristine Schoonmaker of MyConsultingLife.com.  Knowing how to handle a crisis created by ourselves, and how to move on, is one of the most important learning chapters of our career life.  Check it out, and you will benefit from it.

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I think it was year 1990 or 1991 when I was in the United World College attending a media summit organized by the school faculty and students.   A few prominent speakers, including some movers and shakers of the media industry, were invited to address the students about the role of the media and its impact in the political world.  I don’t remember who the speaker (some American journalist) was now, but she was talking about her views on news productions around the world.  “You know what’s the worst news reporting production I have seen so far,” she shared in the middle of her speech.  “It was the Hong Kong TV news programs.”  There was laughter and gasps.  My schoolmates immediately turned to me giggling.  Being one of the only two Hong Kong students in the school, suddenly I felt that I was singled out.  Should I say something?  Should I defend something – anything?  The speaker didn’t need to be a genius to realize that a poor Hong Kong ambassador was in the hall, and she reiterated: “I’m serious.  The newscasters were babbling on and on at a piece that needs not much explaining.”

Maybe I didn’t quite get it at the time, since I hardly had much else to reference to, having only been away from my home town for less than a year.  But I get it now, big time.   Some 20 years later, I am still amazed and amused by where we are today with our news productions.

First a disclaimer.  I know nothing much about the industry, and my frame of reference since then has been largely related to that of the States.  But I think I am still entitled to share my views as a TV audience, and one attempting to seek up-to-date information from the local programs.  By the way, there aren’t that many choices to begin with.

I am a complete believer in news reporters’ and the station’s impartiality in any news stories, but do they all have to be so stone-faced and robotic?  Those of us who are also in the “people business” understand that we as the messengers play a huge part in getting our messages across.  How we say it and how we deliver it is an art by itself.  Yet throughout the few decades of TV news programs I have seen, it seems that there is a cardinal rule in their training programs that no news reporters or anchors should ever shed a single hint of emotion and intonation, whatsoever.  Hey, don’t get that mixed up with adding an opinion, as I know they aren’t talk show hosts and they are not supposed to.  I am talking about adding the right pause, phrasing, and emphasis to the key points, conclusions and transitions.  Sometimes subtle body language and hand gestures may be appropriate.  Though no, all I see is complete stiffness from beginning to end.  Maybe this is requested and demanded by the viewers?  I’m not sure, and I’m not one of them.

I like news anchors who have credibility and professionalism, and it takes them years on the field to gain that hard-earned reputation.  I don’t want them to turn into another extreme like some of the TV news programs in Taiwan, where the programs are much closer to entertainment than anything else, just so they could push up ratings in a relatively much more competitive media market than Hong Kong.  Despite the authoritative figure, I like to see some personalities being presented from time to time.  That brings an element of relatability, trust and connection with the audience.  I understand it can be hard to do here because the local presenters are not as high paid, their career prospect not as secure and promising, and hence it will be much tougher for them to build a distinct brand for themselves.

That’s what I would like to see changed, at least progressively.  It starts from the top at the leadership level, and goes down to where news stories are reported.  The news transcripts do not need to repeat everything we are already seeing on TV.  Come on, we are watching news with news feeds.  The news stories can stand to be a bit more original and non-repetitive.  Interviewing parents and school kids every year on September 1 when the new school year starts is not newsworthy material, similar to shooting at the flower market every Valentine’s Day, or dim sum restaurants on Mother’s Day.  Asking passing by citizens on the streets what they think of the recent public bus fare hike can only lead to one uniform answer.  Every time, I feel that 20 to 30 minutes of my life is robbed.  I don’t dislike the events themselves, I am just longing for a few more original questions or angles on them.

We need some pioneers and some daring moves to push everyone out of their comfort zones once in a while, even if they are of the TV viewers.  I want to envision myself jumping out of my auditorium chair some day, defending the next coming critique if I am fortunate enough to get stuck representing Hong Kong again. 

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Excuse Me, Do I Know You?

Have you had complete strangers requesting to “friend” you on Facebook out of nowhere?  [Read my earlier post on Facebook Depression] If you do, welcome to the 21st century.  It’s no big deal, according to my up and personal polls with my Gen-Y friends.   Apparently, in this day and age, you can stick to the old school traditional etiquette of meet-and-greet in the social arena, or you can cut to the fast-and-easy hit-or-miss fast food culture of what kids (and grown-ups) do nowadays.  Quite frankly, you do can tell a bit, even if not a whole lot, of what kind of person someone is, from his or her Facebook page.  In today’s well acceptable “etiquette” of background checks, it just seems that I better conform and get accustomed to making friends, or at least acquaintances, through the mighty powerful platforms of Facebook or LinkedIn.

Whenever you feel the need to ask such question, count your blessings.  At least you are interesting enough (or weird enough) for someone to come knocking.

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My Part One covers two most popular scenarios in office politics, and they are generally centered around individuals who are plain lazy and who just want to get by every single day waiting for the pay cheque to come.  Who doesn’t want that really?  Yet we should have the decency not to cause harm and inconvenience to others in the process, and that is just plain and simple professional courtesy.

Though the other biggest war field of all times is:

  • Power and control

Maybe you are a star employee and you are a high performer at work.  Instead of focusing on your own business you can’t help but notice whispers and gossips from people around you.  No, you seldom hear it directly from the originators.  These rumors have been circling around the office floor for weeks or even months before you get to hear them, perhaps from a trusted colleague.  And you can be sure these whispers are everything but complimentary.  Some include contents that you are the boss’s boy (or girl), that you are just lucky to land the biggest client, that you are playing favorites, or even contains rumors that your team is going to be taken over by them altogether, only as a way for them to eliminate competition altogether. 

Remember what your parents as well as teachers used to tell you when you ran into bullies in primary school?  Don’t take the bait.  It’s tougher when you were young since it’s pretty hard to detach yourself from a physical fight, if that’s the case.  However no matter how tempting it could be, fist fights at the workplace are still frowned upon, so we are mostly restricted to verbal and written fights which are actually nothing less hurtful.  I take my childhood learning seriously.  Don’t take the bait.  Don’t stoop to their level.  Remember what they said, and try to find out more facts and background why they said it and what their grand plans are.  Don’t confront them without gathering all the facts.  Keep your ear to the ground.  Analyze what you have heard, and synergize with your allies if available.  Is there any truth to the rumors?  Personal defamation is utterly wrong, but rumors about your team being absorbed, outsourced or even eliminated may not be a vindictive rumor but truly a managerial decision.  What do they gain from all this?  What will you lose if at all?  Contemplate all the possibilities and be prepared.  It’s no time to be hazy and reckless especially when you are at the receiving end of hateful office politics.  Keep yourself poised and confident.  Losing your ground is the number one cause of future politics.

Evaluate your options.  If you believe you have nothing to fear considering the fire power of both sides, you can take the high road and ignore these rumors, but be on the lookout for the best timing to let people around know that you are well aware of the whispers around town.  Projecting the image that you are well-informed warns others not to underestimate you, and also a subtle way to let people know you are well-connected with people you can trust.  If the rumors turn out to be less than flattering, the number one rule is still to hold yourself together, and then consult with your trusted mentors, colleagues or superiors.  Be humble and discuss what options you can take.  Can you volunteer for some meetings or tasks to showcase what you are good at?  Can you initiate a brown bag lunch session to talk about your line of work so as to invite more open dialogues that are honest and professional?  Can you have your internal and external customers provide recommendations or testimonial for you in times of need?  Remember, what you are proposing does not only apply to yourself, but to your colleagues and most likely to those who fire the bullets in the first place.  They will need to be measured accordingly and they need to be put under the same test as well. 

I am fully aware that the above is not universal to all workplaces based upon variations in cultures, seniority, level of autonomy and experience.  But you get the drift.  Today’s workplace is way more complicated than worrying about cliques, sides, fights and insults.  Much more is at stake now including our own jobs and even the livelihood of people working under us.  Don’t underestimate office politics.  It’s actually part of the work itself, and it will get worse and even more sophisticated.  If the job is so straightforward that we just need to mind our own business from start to finish, chances are we won’t even have that job to begin with.  It can well be outsourced to others half our pay.  Our job is also about getting through hurdles, aligning people, managing friction, influencing tough minds, and coming up with innovative programs to reward everyone better according to individualized motivators. 

“It’s not my job,” many would say.  But honey, that’s why you are hired in the first place.

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