The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Archive for May 2012

Does your office harbour a ninja superstar?

leave a comment »

I would like to start off this post by announcing that I would like to coin the phrase “ninja superstar”. Yes, I came up with it myself and yes, there’s a story behind it.

While on one of my many refreshing breaks today, I came across an article on Inc.com about hidden talents within your organisation. I’ve always been a believer in the notion that great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone and I think it can be applied in the office, all day, everyday.

See, many times, we rely on our office superstars for the next big money maker. Need a fresh take on an idea? Why not ask Jake, the guy who’s been giving us great ideas since ’03. Need a second opinion on the people strategy? Why not call in Paul, who has been leading the global strategy team for years?

But do we really need to keep going back to the regular top performers? Yes, they’re called a top performer for a reason, but who’s to say the quiet guy next to Jake or that geeky kid opposite Paul hasn’t got the best idea ever to hit town?

Inc’s article uses the example of Jeremy Lin, overnight basketball sensation. When asked about “Lin-sanity”, LA Lakers hotshot Kobe Bryant only had this to say: “Players playing that well don’t usually come out of nowhere… his skill level was possibly there from the beginning. It probably just wasn’t noticed.”

That said, I am convinced there are several ninja superstars lurking in your office just waiting to be noticed. Seriously, I promise you, they’re there.

As a leader, it is your job to constantly allow staff opportunities for growth. If you keep going back to the Jakes and Pauls of your team, you’re going to lose the golden nuggets hiding inside your office’s very own Jeremy Lin.

Harvey Mackay, who wrote the article on inc, shares four simple tricks to make sure your ninja superstar becomes an overnight sensation:

Pay closer attention to performance reviews

Be on the lookout for special abilities or exceptional initiative. In addition, ask employees to rate their own performance and explain what areas they are especially interested in developing.

Reinstate the good ol’ suggestion box.

The employees who share innovative ideas may also be the folks who have some hidden talents that would help incorporate their suggestions. Reward the best ideas, and recognise them publicly so that others will be encouraged to share their skills.

Ask for volunteers.

When a new project comes along, instead of just making assignments, invite employees to step up and take on the tasks that suit their interests and skills. Perhaps you’ve seen the video of the Southwest Airlines flight attendant who found a way to ensure passengers would really pay attention to the typical pre-flight instructions. He decided to use his rap skills to make the announcement. The passengers will always remember where the exit rows are now, and the airline continues to bolster its reputation for making mundane travel fun.

Don’t overlook less obvious advantages.

A department assistant at an urban university liked to knit on her lunch hour. Soon other employees brought their yarn and needles, and they gathered one day each week over lunch to make caps for newborns at the children’s hospital. They hadn’t known each other well before that, but as they became better acquainted, the interdepartmental cooperation burgeoned. And the university enjoyed some very positive community reaction as well.

If I were you, I’d get right down to uncovering your ninja superstar. Remember, everyone’s got something to put on the table – isn’t that why you hired them in the first place?

Advertisements

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

May 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Leaders should be laughing stocks. Or at least just laughing.

with one comment

You know the childhood song that goes “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”? Well, when was the last time you clapped at work?

I’m a firm believer that you have got to work where you’re happy. I’m not saying quit your job and join the circus (but if you know of any openings, give me a buzz), but as a leader, I do think it’s on you to make sure your staff aren’t dragging their feet into the office everyday, dreading the next eight or nine hours of their lives.

I recently read an article, which not only supported my view (one down, thousands more to go) but also suggested leaders with a funny bone are more likely to be better managers. I had a sneaky suspicion this was true, but decided to ring up Umar Rana, founder of Comedy Masala in Singapore, and hear what he reckoned.

“People who are fun definitely have an advantage,” he said. “If you’re liked, people are willing to go the extra mile for you. Good leaders are always people who are able to make a good impression.”

Umar shared that in comedy, it takes an audience just 30 to 45 seconds to decide whether they like the comic standing in front of them. That’s not a hell of a lot of time.

Now, bring that stat back to the office. Imagine the difference it would make if a leader has mastered the ability to engage and inspire someone on his staff within the first minute of a meeting or presentation.

So if you’re interested in being a more likable boss, Umar shares some secrets right out of the comic’s handbook to help you make a difference.

“When it comes to speaking or presenting, I think a lot of people rush because of nerves. It happens all the time in comedy. Be it when telling a joke or presenting in front of a town hall, it’s important to look at everyone without actually focusing on anyone in particular.”

Umar lets me in on another secret. Although comics are excellent at making you feel as though they’re looking right into your soul, the truth is the bright stage lights make it hard to see anyone in the audience.

“But as I’m talking, I still need to make them feel as though I can see them and am talking to them. That’s the key.”

The third thing, Umar said, is confidence. “Russell Peters could be telling his best joke, but if he’s looking around, fidgeting, it’s going to be distracting. The same goes for a leader making a presentation. There has to be a visual and emotional connection, and you need to command respect.”

I’ve always considered comics to be the fastest thinkers on their feet. To create material – and funny material at that – almost instantly based off social cues is a skill I envy.

“As a comedian, I go live in front of 200 people every week. I am prepared for anything. So when I speak to anyone, no matter now senior or junior they are, they’re just another person to me. It’s my job to connect with you as another person.”

However, should you still struggle with confidence, there are ways to direct attention off yourself while still engaging your audience. “Just shift the energy to something else. Look at something else, change your body language. That’s all there is to it.”

But is comedy something you and I can pick up? I ask because I’ll tell you, I’ve had my share of cricket harmonies after what I thought was a kickass joke.

“Everyone, on some level, has a sense of humour – it’s just a matter of timing. There aren’t any prerequisites. You just need to want to do it, and that’s the beauty of comedy.”

Aside from trying to be the Drew Carey of your office, Umar also shared other things leaders can do to better engage their employees.

“The first thing you need to do is to get everyone out of the office. You can’t build those bridges in the office. A night of bowling can change a perception of someone. All of a sudden, it’s okay to laugh when the boss throws a gutter ball. Right there, in seconds, you’ve broken all those barriers,” Umar said.

“And for goodness’ sake, don’t do a team lunch,” Umar said. “First, you’ve most likely disrupted someone’s lunch plan. Secondly, I don’t want to be with the same people I’ve been with all morning. And when I get back, I’m going to be sleepy and I still have to deal with these people. Drinks over lunch makes for an easier atmosphere.”

So, if anyone’s wondering, I’ll be at Comedy Masala next week, reporter’s notepad in hand, honing my skills at being a better leader. Yes, yes, I know I haven’t got anyone reporting to me (yet), but I figured, no harm starting early.

Besides, I could definitely use a laugh or two. I’m still not over the fact that journalism is in the bottom five jobs to have.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

May 11, 2012 at 9:51 am