May 30, 2015 Leadership Insight

Are you in a state of “Preparedness”?

Dear Friends,

I would like to share my insights to an interesting Saturday I had with my family last weekend.

My wife and I are planning to climb Mount Kota Kinabalu in August, together with my wife’s brother, his wife, and one other couple.  As part of our preparation for this expedition, we have been wanting to trek Gasing Hill for the past few weeks.  As it turned out, we finally got the chance last Saturday, together with my brother-in-law and his wife too.

To the experience trekker, going into the forest at 5:55p.m. would have triggered some warning bells, as any trails would take 1 – 1.5 hours to complete.  Since we were feeling adventurous and elated that we finally got to “train” together, off we went, taking a calculated risk on the time factor.

Initially, it was a relatively easy trek in and about the “Watch Tower,” taking only 40 minutes of walking.  We decided to exert ourselves a little more and pushed on to the next destination, i.e. the suspension bridge.  On the way, we met people coming from the opposite direction (indicating that they had come from our intended destination), and asked if we were on the right path, but failed to ask how far in or how much longer wit would take us.

Subsequently, we were told that we would have to trek back the same trail in order to get back.  Two other men were also heading the same direction as us, so we were not too troubled, though it was already pushing 6:45p.m.  We had no inclination that the condition of the trail, and as we neared the bridge, we were climbing up and down contours of deep roots for a considerable distance at 45 degrees – not your normal walk in the park!

ravine   20150523_suspension bridge

Eventually, we got to the suspension at 7:15 p.m., much later than we expected, and the two men who were heading in the same direction were no where to be found! (They probably left through a different exit, as we saw on the map, later).  We got out of the forest at 8 p.m.

 20150523 In the light One view from Gasing Hill. 20150523_in the dark Same view on our way out…

In hindsight, we were very ill-prepared for the hike as we only had 2 bottles of water (both of which belonged to my in-laws’!) and thank God for the torch light app on our mobile phones! =P

As if the night had not been exciting enough, whilst we were finishing dinner with our families, I received a call from a neighbour to say the streetlight outside our house was on fire!!

I rushed out the restaurant with my wife and 10-year old son running after me, jumped into the car, cut through traffic like an ambulance on siren, and drove like a F1 driver to see this sight:

20150523_street lamp on fire

The lamp post was 20 feet away from my house.  Three things could have happened:

  1. The live current running through the cables could have cause a major explosion;
  2. The wire could have burned through, and the cable would have fallen onto my car, and other neighbours’ vehicles parked along the same side of the road would have been damaged.
  3. The wires connecting to my house could have also caught on fire, which would have done the unthinkable!

The fire brigade and 3 police cars arrived at the scene in less than 20 minutes, and manged to put out the fire.  But it took 2 TNB teams (the electric company) to resolve the situation over the course of the night and the following day.

Dear Leaders, the insights from these two experiences revealed the following:

1. “Be Vigilant/Watchful”

As individuals and Leaders, we are wired to achieve “financial soundness.”  Depending on the complexity and belief in investment choices, the outcome obviously can differ.

Somewhere along the line, we got laxed and could become “overly aggressive or confident” and miss out on the signals.  To be prepared, we need to observe the internal and external elements in our lives and our businesses.

There is a need to assess and be highly aware of our environment, and the potential consequences of the decisions we make for ourselves and the business.  Likewise, to grow ourselves, we need to be intentional – not only plan, but put into action!   

2. “Be Ready”

There is a saying, “To be ready in and out of season.”  It is never too ridiculous to be prepared for the unexpected.

My wife had just attended a training workshop on how to respond in times of disaster 2 weeks ago, earning her a certificate to be an emergency relief worker for disaster zone.  One of the most important task she learned was to have a “Go Bag,” not a “Gold Bag.”  It is a bag filled with critical essential items that will enable survival for a few days.  We are truly living in volatiles and uncertain times, economically, politically, and environmentally.  Business-wise, we need to be as prepared as best as we can.  Who would have guessed we would experience a “mini disaster” of our own in such a short space of time?

Are we ready to change our leadership and management styles?  Change in strategies and direction despite years of track records?

3. “Be Anticipative”

Don’t be lulled into a comfort zone.  As leaders, we need to be on the ball – resources, and ultimately, it may or may not be utilised.  Many organisations have embarked on “Business Continuity/Contingency Plans.”  These plans are rehearsed and “blue-printed” time and again to ensure that operations can continue despite disruptions.

“Without an anticipated plan. one certainly plans to fail.”

Between the four of us, we had three mobile phones, and two bottles of water, and that would have been sufficient if we had good stamina.  We thought we were going for a simple “hike in the park”  We had not planned for, nor prepared for the extended trek and the sudden nightfall.

4.  “Be Disciplined”

I knew for a fact we were taking a risk going into the forest at 6 p.m.  But in my mind, it couldn’t be too difficult.  An unknown fact to me was that my wife had not had any substantial food the entire day, and her right knee was starting to get strained by the ups and downs of the terrain.  Towards the last 30 minutes, she was limping, and it slowed us down even more.

If I had been disciplined in preparing myself as I usually do for these situations, we could have averted some of the unexpected variables that cropped up during this experience.

In our daily leadership capacity, are we disciplined in the manner we conduct ourselves and in managing our businesses and responsibilities?

Are the necessary mechanisms in place?  Are the bases covered?  Are the infrastructure and processes strengthened consistently?  Are people being developed to handle unexpected environmental changes, etc.?

In getting to the state of “Preparedness,” we, as Leaders, have the responsibility to lead in the area of “being prepared, in and out of season.”  We are expected to be watchful by recognising the signs, be ready with anticipation at all times, and to carry out the plan with discipline.


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