Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Winning strategies to fast track your career - 7 ways to connect powerfully and build your influence at work

In today’s competitive corporate environment, you need to take your career in your own hands if you want to fast-track your career to the peak of success. It is a myth that you can delegate the responsibility of planning your career path to the human resource department. Here are 7 strategies to help you connect powerfully and build a successful career in your company.

1. Schedule lunch

Make it a point to schedule lunch at least once a week with people who can help you in your company. These will consist of potential mentors and people from other departments. Build an ally within the company each month. Diversify your network. This allows you to tap into opportunities available within the company, and build up resources to get things done more effectively.

I placed lunch on the top of the list, because it is one of the most valuable ways to build relationships in the company. Everyone needs to have lunch, and most people (including senior executives) are grateful for lunch companions, and will usually accept your invitation.

2. Take the initiative

Volunteer in committees and projects which allow you to showcase your skills and interest. Most companies have recreational clubs, charity and other project committees which are a great platform for you to connect with colleagues from various departments. Performing in your company’s jam band, being the master of ceremony at functions, or being a champion of the corporate social responsibility project boosts your visibility in the company and strengthens your personal brand as a person with initiative.

Take one step further and organize “meet the people” session with the highest ranking person you can get to tour your department. In the background, support the top guy by furnishing him with some personal achievement or contribution each person in your team has made, so that he can specifically thank them. This helps him to connect with each person positively and powerfully, and builds the momentum for natural feedback from the ground to flow to him. Your level of influence in the company is proportional to the number of connections, and hence goodwill you help create.

3. Know your boss and his boss well

Learn about your boss’s priorities, strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. In this way, you can be an effective ally to him in helping him look good and achieving results. Don’t stop there. Take the effort to know your boss’s boss as well. This helps you to best position yourself, and is the key to your promotability.

4. Align yourself with the “inner circle”

Understand the dynamics of your company’s “inner circle”, made up of people who hold the reigns of true power in the company. Some call it the “boy’s club”, and membership is by invitation only. Typically, this is built up around the CEO and his key executives. What are typical profiles of the members of the “inner circle”? You can reference the career paths of individuals who make it into the “inner circle”. For example, in some companies, the CEO traditionally has a finance or engineering background, whereas in other companies, it’s the people in sales and marketing who call the shots. This will give you an idea of the various corporate roles best for you to take on to ascend to the reigns of power in your company.

We are not asking you to be a schmoozer, whereby your priority is on being “seen” with people of power. Focus on building real connections. Identify a key member of the “inner circle” which you have most access to, or whom you best want to model your career after. Schedule lunch. A simple way to connect is by expressing interest in what they do.

5. Seek positions in profit centres

To ascend the corporate ladder, you should be working in a profit-centre, as opposed to a cost-centre. Profit-centres bring in the money or have direct relationship with profit and loss of your company. These positions include the sales person, the marketing director, the general manager, the product manager. Cost-centres are support departments which keep the operations of the company going. Typical cost centre departments are administration, human resources, marketing communications and finance.

If you are currently in a cost-centre, seek out opportunities to move to a profit-centre. Your experience as a financial analyst can lend a valuable perspective to a product manager position. Engineer your move for a transfer by building relationships with key people in profit-centres.

6. Attract a mentor

Is there someone in the organization you respect and look up to? Successful mentoring relationships are 2-way relationships whereby both mentor and mentee gain value and satisfaction. Understand that mentors gain satisfaction from the appreciation and acknowledgement from a motivated mentee. They can also benefit from an exchange of ideas and intellectual stimulation you provide from your perspective. For example, many Generation Y’s have greater expertise than their more experienced colleagues in the areas of the internet and social media applications. As a mentee, you can get valuable career guidance and coaching.

Don’t ask someone to be your mentor from get-go. Develop some personal chemistry with him first. Invite your mentor-to-be for lunch, or approach him for a chat at a company function, or volunteer to work on one of his company-wide projects.

7. Share your expertise

If there is an opportunity to share your expertise, make full use of it. There are many conferences which offer great platforms for you to represent your company as a speaker. Internally, you can also conduct in-company training, or contribute to management conferences or even orientation training programs. When you speak, train or present well, you are establishing your reputation as a company-wide expert for your job function.

You will be seen as playing an integral role in your company, not only by your colleagues but also others in your industry.

Start by putting any one of the 7 winning strategies in motion today. You will be on your way to fast-tracking your career. See you at the top.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Published in the Straits Times

My article: Keep in touch - Build value-added relationships with your contacts in seven ways is published in the Straits Times today - 5 August 2009.

I first wrote this article for Shanghai Networking News, during my stint in Shanghai. I remember being particularly inspired one morning after breakfast coffee at my favourite joint, and penned down how embedding value in my keep in touch process made a dramatic difference in nurturing truly rewarding and appreciative relationships.

as published in The Straits Times
5 August 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Corinne Gibbons: A singer's journey



Karen and Corinne: Up Close and Personal

Corinne Gibbons. Singer, Song-writer, Independent Artiste. Entrepreneur who founded Singapore Sing - runs a corporate team building company which uses choral singing to inspire and energise staff. Corinne has just launched her new album Melt with a 3 night performance in Singapore. She then performed to a crowd of over 30,000 people at Summer Solstice 2009, Stonehenge in the UK. She is now taking her music to New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Sydney, Perth and Vienna. And that's just the beginning.

CONFUSION ABOUT THE PATH

How did you decide on singing as a career?

When I left school, I applied for a cadet journalist job and, and I got that cadetship. I also applied to take music at university and I got into university too. I was then torn; I didn’t really know which one to take because it’s practical to take the journalism job because I’ll get paid straight away and it's a great skill to have. But yet I really loved singing.

I remembered sitting on my front steps of my house. I was crying.

MAKING A LIFE CHANGING DECISION

My mother asked me what I was crying for, and I said, “Well, I don't know what to do.” And she said, “Well, what would make you happy?” “If I could sing, I would be so happy.” She reassured me ' You should go to the university."

I went to university. It was being around alot of really talented musicians that I knew this is what I’m supposed to do.


SURVIVAL

What kind of advice would you give to someone who dreams of becoming a singer or musician? How can you strike it out and survive?

If you’re still in school, find people that you absolutely enjoy working with. And then form a group. Surround yourself with other creative people. It really helps to have a supportive community around you. That’s one of the most important piece of advice I’d give to young people.

If you have finished school and you really want to pursue a career in music, get yourself a little regular gig somewhere. Perfect your craft. It’s by far the most positive thing that you can do. In fact, there is a growing support for local musicians and the arts.

If you don’t want to do live performances, look at ways that you can explore the music industry, either through recording or writing for other people.


I do a lot of different things to support myself here as a musician. I am touring, I’m writing music for Singapore Repertory Theatre, I'm writing music for a documentary, I am also writing for films.

What would you call the lowest point in your life?

When I lost my sister. She was my closest friend as well. Nothing compares. Our relationship was so potent. I’m so thrilled I had 27 amazing years with her. That’s how I see it now. At that time, I didn’t even know how to breathe. Now I have a much deeper empathy for the world.

A NEW COUNTRY

What motivated you to come to Singapore?

When I first came to Singapore, I was on my honeymoon. We were only going to stay a few days. But my ex-husband, who was then my new husband, he met some people when we first arrived on the very first day and they invited us to this gig. There was an incredible singer, Mildred Jones. And I was sitting in the crowd, when she announced “We happen to have a young Australian singer in the crowd....Would you like to come up and sing a song?” I was surprised, but with some encouragement, got up and sang one song. After the song, she turned around and said, “Honey child, you got a beautiful voice but you got to lower your keys.

"Oh, Really?" I wondered. She asked “What’s the next song you’re going to do?” “Oh, I hadn’t planned on singing tonight" “Oh come on you know heaps of songs.”

I came up with the song and she lowered it fourth from the key that I sang. She helped me discover my low register, because I’ve got quite a low voice. She really was quite instrumental in helping me find that voice.

She later connected me with Bryan, a fantastic base player, I went to an event of his, and got connected with another band who played at Western Stamford. Instead of a few days, I ended up staying ten days. And meeting so many different people.

Fast forward to year 2006. There was a point when I really wanted to leave Australia because though I know so many people there and love the country, I needed the space and solitude to write melt.

Corrinne's latest album melt is infused with pop, rock, Celtic, country and a little smooth jazz with a twist

TAKING STOCK OF LIFE

There was one night were I sat up and wrote down everything that was important in my life on a personal level. And I also wrote down everything that I wanted to achieve on a professional level. Two years later I look back and I actually ticked everything on the list. Except one thing. I'm still working on that, gives me something to work towards.

And I hadn't even referred to the list during those 2 years. I realised that just by writing down what was truly important to me, my subconscious then knew where I was going to head.

So, write down what you want. On a personal level and a professional level. It’s really important to have both.

Who are the people who have contributed immensely to where you are now?

As a creative person, you sometimes don’t have all the business acumen, to commercialise what you do. So it’s important to build a team around you, who believes in you.

I also genuinely like the people I surround myself with. I like this gray area between fun and work. Laugh and work just enjoy life.

I’ve had lots of things happen in my life. Every single thing that’s happened, whether it's positive or negative, has emotionally empowered me.

MAKING IT AS AN INDEPENDENT

How do you make it work as an independent artist, as opposed to being under a record label?

A label is great because they have the entire infrastructure. But, I’m sort of looking outside the square there. With the Internet, you can now do so much as an independent artist. Which is fantastic. The main thing for musicians to address is the distribution, your radio play, and your touring schedules.

What you really need is an agent, or a promoter. You have to have those connections. And you can do online distribution which is the way a lot of things are going these days. I'm going through all of that now. Because my album’s only been out two months.

I never wrote any of the songs thinking they have to finish in three minutes so that it can be played on radio. But somehow radio still picked up my songs.

I released the album in Singapore first. Because this is now where I live; this is where I work and wrote most of the album.

THE STRUGGLE FOR FUNDING

How did your vision of having an album become reality?

I met my executive producers through my landlord, who often invites me to dinner when they’re collecting the rent. That’s how I met Robin and Bojan. I’m really grateful for her connecting us up.

We all kept in touch. Bojan even invited me to sing at his housewarming. I gave him a gift of 2 songs.

Bojan and Corinne became friends, and that's when they started the Choir Training Company together. But deep down inside, Corinne had always had the idea of having her very own album - melt. She also kept evading Bojan's questions of when her album will be out.

I said to him, “Well, look, you know, it will come out. And I will record it,” I said, “But I do need to get some funding for it. You know, because I can’t actually fund it myself at this point. If I could, I would be in the studio tomorrow. I said, “So it will happen and I know that that’s going to happen. I have been putting aside any fears so that it will happen. But that was a constant question from him.

Robin was the one travelling alot. There was one time we finally met up. He asked me “So when is your album coming out? When are you going to be doing it up?” Déjà Vu. I said, “I need to get funding for the album. It will happen, but it is going to take a little bit of time. He asked “How much would it cost?” I said, “I think this will cost this much."

SERENDIPITY

I had a really intense conversation with Robin. It was a very personal conversation. It was then I got to know him a lot better. That night he wrote me an email, and said, “We think you are a wonderful person and we would really love to support melt, and so if we could put a budget together, we would really love to explore producing the album'

It still think that moment is amazing. Bojan and Robin have become two of my dearest friends. The team that’s put melt together is like family.

LOVE

I encourage people to work with people they really enjoy working with, in any field.

Because sometimes the long hours can be taxing. But when you’re with people that you enjoy working with, you can just have a laugh or two. And that’s great.



KEEPING IN TOUCH

How do you keep in touch with all the many people in your life?

For my close personal friends, I keep in touch with them over the phone. Or on Skype or I-Chat. Or face to face.

A lot of people want to know what I’m up to and that is not my forte to keep up to date with that. I’m not great with Face Book. I’m not even great with text messages. As for email, I see it largely as a business tool.


That's when I have to tell you about Bojan. He is amazing! He handles 90% of my communication. He keeps everything up to date. He’s got a separate blog for me too and he‘s updating that daily *Snaps fingers* He’s got a really brilliant way of communicating and he is the connector for a lot of these people that we’re meeting.

I think I need a Bojan too!

Everybody needs a Bojan, as far as I’m concerned.

CREATING OPPORTUNITIES

You just came back from Stonehenge performing to over 30,000 people, and are scheduled to be in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, Perth, Vienna. How did you create all these international opportunities?

I’m so fortunate that I have the team I’m working with. We’re all quite connected in different ways within the music industry. I’m doing commercial tours. I’m also doing tours with event companies. I will be performing at the Annual Meeting of ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) to 8,000 of their members in Toronto next month. I'm so excited and thrilled about this opportunity to showcase my work. Bojan organised this.

I’ve had so many introductions to people. I know quite a few people in the commercial industry as well. Its about hooking with the right promoter and the right agent to manage your overseas shows.







Enjoy the video montage of melt


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ronnie Kagan Interview (Part 3 of 3) - My midnight interview with the International Business Guru

Me: You have gone through so much and evolved over the years. Do you think you have changed in terms of your personality, and how?


Ronnie: Absolutely. I have gone from an manipulative, insecure, fearful person, to someone who is presently conscious about what he has available and uses it to the benefit and advantage of the global community rather than to manipulate the global community.


What made you sit here waiting 2 hours to chat with me?


(This question made me think. Oh yes, I actually waited 2 hours for this interview. But somehow it just didn't feel like 2 hours.... )


Me: Because its part of my calling. What I want to do.


Ronnie: So you learn somethings from me, and you gain some phenomenal information, open up some doors that could change your life forever, and other people would sit down and say:


"you're crazy, you wait for some bloke you don't know in a hotel lounge bar, what's going on?"


but you know that you are doing what you feel is right to do. And that's what makes the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.


Extraordinary people are ordinary people who just do that little bit extra. And in the moments of doing that little bit extra, within themselves they seem insignificant, but when you add that little bit extra on top of that ordinary, you end up having an extraordinary life.


And then people sit down and say to you. Gee, you're lucky Karen... Wow you are sooo lucky! Well luck has nothing to do with it.


Me: Yes, we create our own luck. Many people are stuck in their jobs or looking to take a plunge. What advice would you give these people?


Ronnie: Yes. Go out on a limb. Stop living in a fearful mindset. People want more. People know that by doing what they are doing, they are not going to achieve more. People won't change and face a new future because of fear.


We all know the acronym for fear. False Evidence Appearing Real.


So fear holds them back from giving something a go. And they never shift from where they are to where they want to be.


Me: How do you manage your relationships?


Ronnie: Don't take someone's advice if you are not prepared to put it into practice.


Me: What's after this, Ronnie?


Ronnie: (Pauses) You just brought up something really powerful. My response to you is "There is nothing after this."


This is it.


And I think that you have just taught me a valuable lesson. Absolutely, you have contributed to me in a huge way. I appreciate that. That is really generous of you.


There is nothing after this.


That is really present for me right now. Everybody is living their lives for what's happening after this. And I think they need to be consciously aware that there is nothing after this.


I am not talking about whether there is an after life, or a god, or if there is heaven or hell.

Its not about what's after this. This is it.


Start living your life as if this is the final act.


Me: There is a book titled "Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience". People always have the notion that they are happiest when they are retired, relaxing on a beach or lounging away...But what this Hungarian professor found is that when people lose themselves in an activity, when time just seems to flow by in peak concentration vs. relaxation, that's when they are most happy and creative.
(PS: The author's name is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. But there was no way I could pronounce that. Nor would Ronnie ever comprehend... my pronounciation, i mean :))
That's when they are in the flow. So what are the moments when you discover yourself being in the flow?


Ronnie: Being with someone like you. Being present. Being Real.


Me: What are the activities where you lose yourself?

Ronnie: I live my life as a flow. My everyday is a flow. Because I don't do anything that I don't wanna do anymore.


You have stopped doing things you don't wanna do. Who are the people whom you have also dropped from your life, consciously?


Many. And I dropped them not because of right and wrong. Not because I'm good and they are bad, I dropped them because their mission, purpose, focus was no longer aligned with mine. So I dropped them only because we were both heading in opposite directions.


Me: So even if you liked the fella....


Ronnie: The only reason you like someone is because you have an aligned core value. So if you didn't have an aligned core value, you couldn't like them.


Now, there is a difference between dislike and like, in so much as I really like you. vs. I really dislike you. I am talking about....We like everybody. The bloke who takes my luggage, I like him.


Me: You are saying that being aligned emotionally requires a certain connection.


Ronnie: Absolutely.


Me: You are a D personality (D for DRIVE in the DISC profiling tool). Have you always been driven in your life?


Yes, that's pretty obvious. You are talking about the DISC concept right? Florence Littauer talks about Personality Plus.


We are what we are. Neither is right or wrong. We just need to learn how to operate with the other personalities in the world.


Me: So what kind of personalities do you connect strongly with?


Ronnie: All of them.


If you are going to succeed in life, you can't not like someone because they are this type or that type. Why is that any different from 'I don't like you because you are Asian and I am Caucasian? Why is that any different from 'You are from Africa, and I am not'. You are what you are, regardless of your skin colour or personality type.


There is good people in every type. There is bad people in every type. So don't pre-judge people. Give everybody the opportunity of an open heart. And when there is proof beyond a question of doubt they don't deserve it, then close it.


Me: Are you a guilty until proven innocent, or an innocent until proven guilty person?


Ronnie: That's obvious.


Me: Even if you have learnt that one of your biggest lessons is not to be guillable...


Ronnie: If you are a guilty until proven innocent person, boy-oh-boy, you are cynical and what a life you are gonna have!


Ronnie had this huge glow on his face. Its almost as he savoured his life's journey during the course of the interview, and it was truly a delight. We can tell if someone truly loves his life, and I think that makes someone incredibly attractive.


I re-discovered the law of attraction. Its definitely not a plunging neckline, or more make-up. Its not having the hottest male accessory - a Lamborghini (the Murcielago model especially, oh I digress), or a full-head of hair. Its not just learning influence techniques, body language or mirroring strategies.


"Its being comfortable in your own skin, and loving your life."


- Karen Leong

On the fundamental Law of Attraction



Friday, July 10, 2009

Ronnie Kagan Interview (Part 2 of 3) - My midnight interview with the International Business Guru

The Interview

I coach corporate executives on powerful networking - building real and fulfilling relationships for business and personal success. And nothing excites me more than distilling lessons from top performers who excel in their various passions.

Ronnie Kagan is one such person.


This interview is written in a very conversational tone. Because it is directly transcribed from the voice memo recorded on my iPhone (psst again: a free and fabulous iPhone application great for anyone who wants to freelance as a journalist)

Me: You have written a best selling book – The Winning Way…. You have the philosophy that knowing the right people, reading the books makes a difference. How has knowing the right people made a difference for you?

Ronnie: Brilliant question! And I have a very simple answer.

We all going to have to pay the price in life. We either have to pay retail (full price) or wholesale (discounted price). If we try to learn everything from our own experience, we are going to have to pay Retail Plus. We are going to make mistakes, and we are going to make some big ones, often. But if we learn from other people who have gone out there, and already made the mistakes, we can pay wholesale. We can learn from their mistakes, and shorten our learning curve.

Me: How much has your success do you attribute to having the right connections?

Ronnie: 100%.

I have the philosophy that you can’t be a little bit pregnant. Either you are or you aren't. You are either successful or you are not.


My success has been determined by the people I have met along the way.

Me: Do you have a few instrumental people that have made a huge difference to you? And can you share some of their names?

Ronnie: I was president of Brian Tracy International. I used to bring out Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Jack Welsh, Lee Iacocca. I've hung around people like Dr. John Demartini, who I used to promote and is a personal friend of mine; Allan Pease, Jim Dornan, and I have a vast network of support structure...

Me: You mentioned Tony Robbins and many other big names... How have they individually impacted you? Were they more mentor figures, idea generators... etc?

Ronnie: Everybody adds a little bit extra. Its like a layer of cake. No single person has enabled me to become where I am today. It is each person's small amount of contribution, layered upon the previous small amount of information, layered upon the previous, that has enabled me to get to where I am.

Me: Interesting. Do you have a lowest point in your life?

Ronnie: Many. (laughs) How many would you like?

Me: Lets start with ground zero...

Ronnie: My story is vast. I grew up in a home where my mother was alcoholic. She had a drug problem. My father worked as a butcher. I left home at 15. I lived in a park. I used to have to steal washing off washing lines in order to sell the clothes at the second hand store and buy food while I still go to school. I was a mercenary for a couple of years in Angola. I was happily married, then my ex-wife walked out on me. I loved her. I was devastated. I was a single dad for a couple of years. And then she decided she wanted the kids, we went to the courts and they just took my boys away from me. I lost money 3 times. The third time I lost $160 million.

I mean how many points do you want? (laughs again) I think we can stop there for the moment.

Me: Yes, I think so! What was your turning point from the lowest of low... to the first point of success?

Ronnie: You know that's a very good point. After my wife left me, I started doing drugs and drinking again, and I would go day upon day of drinking and smoking, and there is no conscious thought as to what actually happened. I then got to the stage where if I didn't take responsibility for myself, no one else would take any responsibility for me.

It's not like I had this bolt of lightning that came down through the heavens and jolted me into the reality.

It was more a matter of what I call 212 Fahrenheit (°F). (note: that's equivalent to 100 degree Celsius)

What is 212 °F? You may have seen this on TV. Water boils at 212 °F. So what happens when you have water at the temperature of 210°F? Its not boiling. 212°F? Its still not boiling. When you get to 212°F, its boiling.

So was it the last Fahrenheit that got it boiling or the first 211 Fahrenheit?

Me: That's a very good analogy... Would you attribute your success to your own personal desire?

Ronnie: I suppose part of it comes down to desire. Part of it comes down to instinctiveness.

Me: When you were the president of Brian Tracy International, you were already at a successful level. Going back in time, how did you engineer the first wave of success?

Ronnie: One step at a time. I don't have an education. I started my first job as a packer in a warehouse. I packed shelves. I worked hard. I got promoted to packing shelves on the shop floor, not just the warehouse. I got promoted from that to a junior position. And I left that position and got involved in selling cutlery and crockery door to door. From there I became a junior manager, then a senior manager and a vice president. Then I bought the company and expanded that company into 32 companies in 8 countries.

Was there any single point where I broke through?

I married the boss's daughter or I won lottery or my father left me an inheritance? (thank goodness he is still alive!) There was no single point.

Me: So its really you learning and imbibing life lessons...Do you have a mentor? People whom you have a mentoring relationship, who have guided you or coached you (formally or informally)...

Ronnie: Well, that's what all these people have been, that I mentioned earlier. They were all some kind of mentor. Was there any single individual who sat down and put me under their umbrella and said to me "Don't do this, do that", bounce off ideas with them? No there was never. Had there been one? Boy, I would have been a lot further ahead and saved a lot of pain and left less corpses along the way.

Karen's thought of the day: Successful people all have mentors. It does not mean you need to keep searching for that god-father figure to take you under his wing. Think: What help do you need? In every area of your life you want to improve on, who around you has already achieved more than you? Mentors exist all around us to help us shorten our learning curve. And they don't even need to be living, breathing people. Books and the internet qualify.

Me: How did you manage to attract these people to support you and be around you? Was it about you that attracted these connections?

Ronnie: I suppose my high energy, being authentic. Not putting up with NO for an answer. Taking responsibility for my life.

Me: What sacrifices have you made in your life, to achieve your success so far?

Ronnie: The sacrifices could be... I emigrated to new countries, started over again. There are many sacrifices I have made. But I haven't made them as a sacrifice to be a martyr, I have made them as a sacrifice to move on to a higher level. Because if you are never prepared to give up what you have got, then you better hang on to it tightly, coz that's all you will ever amount to. You need to be able to be prepared to give up what you have got, to achieve and aspire to something greater.

Me: So if you could live your life again, would you change anything?

Ronnie: Well bloody lots of things! (hearty laugh)

Me: What would one thing be? With hindsight and wisdom?

Ronnie: I would have been less gullible. I saw the writing on the wall, but didn't react to my instincts. But rather I responded to my greed.

Me: That's a powerful statement. How many times have you been gullible?

Ronnie: I don't live in the regret of the past. I don't live in the fear of the future. I rather just be present with what I have today.


Part 3 of this interview posting will shed more insights into Ronnie's keys to connecting and success. And how we all can create our own luck :) Coming up soon!


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ronnie Kagan Interview (Part 1 of 3) - My midnight interview with the International Business Guru

Interview with Ronnie Kagan - Still looking fresh!
3rd July 2009 1:00am
Friday wee hours of the morning
Changi Village Hotel Lounge Bar
Singapore


This 3-parter 'Interview with Ronnie Kagan' kicks-off my interview series with 100 inspirational individuals who have achieved success in pursuing what they are truly passionate about.

One common thread: They never achieve this by going it alone. They all attribute their success to certain people in their lives. My quest is to gain insights into how they attract these valuable connections into their lives, their networking magic and secrets to their success.

Nailing the Interview: The Approach [Monday, 30 June 2009, 10.30pm]

I met Ronnie Kagan when he presented an hour long seminar for the Asian Professional Speaker's Association monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, 30 June 2009. He had just flown in from Russia, where he had addressed a crowd of thousands. I was fascinated by this man who only achieved a high school education, yet rose to achieve heights of success, reached by so few. (Its all laid out in his profile below!)

At the end of the seminar, he was surrounded by a group who wanted to buy his books/cds. He had cleverly slipped in during his speech that he had only 8 books and 2 CDs for the evening. The scarcity bait! Unfortunately, I had used up most of my cash on the evening's entrance fee, so I didn't have moolah to buy one. Didn't see him with a credit card or NETS machine. Nevertheless, I hovered around him until there was a opening in the group, and I introduced myself.

"Hi, I'm Karen. I absolutely loved your talk. I'd like to buy your book, but I don't have spare cash on me right now. You don't happen to take credit or a bank transfer?" That question, was definitely a filler. But it was there to give him a reason to reply me.

"No, unfortunately." Ok, time to move on to securing an interview, the book purchase can come later.....

"Ronnie, I am writing an interview series on successful individuals who turn passions into profits, and you are someone that I think will inspire many people with your story. Would you have any time for me to schedule a brief interview?"

He looked at me for a few seconds. It seemed like eternity. And from the corner of my eye, I could see the rest of the women around me (for some reason, I could only remember the women) waiting around for their turn, and listening for his reply.

"I'll be flying to Malaysia tomorrow and will be back Thursday. I will then be flying off on Friday. How about Thursday afternoon?"

"Great!" I'll take that! Yes, though I am leading evening seminars back-to-back from Wednesday to Friday. I'll take any window of opportunity.

He then whipped out a card, and asked me to give him a call.
"I'll buy the book from you when we meet!" I genuinely looked forward to reading his book. The thought also crossed my mind that giving him one extra reason (one more book sale to a potential fan!) not to stand me up, wouldn't hurt.

Yippee! The first interview of this series confirmed.

Here's a brief profile of Ronnie Kagan as promised (of course with google search, you can get this and more, but this is here so that I can spare you the effort of additional keystrokes) :)

During his 30 years of business Ronnie Kagan has gained a broad foundation upon which his huge success is based; from Co-Founder and World Wide Vice President of a Gold Company employing over 5,000 people, to part ownership in an International Franchise organization coaching 32 licensees with over 345 employees in 8 countries. Ronnie also co-founded a property development company that turned over $1 billion per annum.

With his straight-forward, frank approach – he delivers powerful presentations on how to inspire and motivate a work force and generate more profits. Ronnie has delivered more than 1,000 presentations to a combined audience of over 1 million people in 15 different countries. As the author of the International best seller The Winning Way in Business, he clearly understands what it takes to be successful in the rapidly changing business world.

Past Midnight: The Long Wait [Thursday, 1 July 2009, 11pm till Ronnie arrived just after 1am]

Last minute meetings on my end. The decision to hold the interview at 11pm at Changi Village after Ronnie was done with his convention. Mixed signals. Miscommunication.

I ended up waiting for Ronnie for over 2 hours at the lobby cafe of Changi Village Hotel. I had been yawning away as I just finished leading a 3-hour evening seminar earlier after a full work day.

But thank god for the iPhone. Many people have commented that I seem addicted to it, but this time it was extremely nifty in doing research on the fly. Hmmm.... Ronnie's bio, YouTube videos, twitters, it takes time to research a man, in order to get under his skin.

The Interview Begins [Post-1am, 1 July 2009]

Ronnie arrives! Extremely apologetic for the miscommunication, and we settled back into the cosy lobby lounge. He has had a long day himself, but still radiated this warm glow. I think to myself - his eyes are his best feature. He seems to look into your soul with his eyes. Yet they are smiling eyes, so you don't feel intimidated, rather deeply connected.

Note to self: The eyes can connect a person to another in a way, no amount of words can. For a start.... Just look into the eyes of another 1 or 2 more seconds than you normally would. Your connection with anyone will instantly deepen.

I ask Ronnie "Would it be ok if I recorded our interview?"

"Of course. I charge for my coaching sessions. All these conversations I have with people are recorded, so they don't miss a thing" Big Smile.

I turn on the voice memo application on my iPhone. Gratitude. Steve Jobs has created a magical application the size of my palm. Can't ever imagine living without my iPhone. It ranks way higher than the invention of the air-conditioner.
Ronnie thoughtfully picks up my iPhone, checks to see where the Mic is, and opens the interview by saying "This is an Interview with Ronnie Kagan, 2nd of July, (he forgot its past midnight which means its now 3rd July morning... ) Changi Village Hotel Singapore..."
My interview begins.
Watch out for part 2 and 3 over the next 2 days!

Monday, June 8, 2009

7 Valuable Ways of Keeping in Touch - Having gratitude and appreciation come your way all the time!

Networking is now acknowledged as a powerful way of opening doors to business and job opportunities.

How do you nurture a quality network? Keeping in touch is the key to cultivating real relationships instead of superficial ones.

How many of you have attended networking events where you collect hundreds of name cards but end up not keeping in contact with any of them? Networking is not just about exchanging business cards, but about keeping in touch and building long-term relationships.

In today's competitive environment, we are constantly being sold to, prospected, and marketed to. If your keeping in touch process is uninspired and self-serving, you will be relegated to the level of spam. One way to be truly memorable is to focus on embedding value in your keeping in touch process. It shows that you have taken the time to understand the other person's needs and interests, and will motivate him to reciprocate in the relationship.

Here are 7 ways to keep in touch by providing value:

1. Remember Birthdays
Everyone values their birthday, and will remember the people who send them birthday wishes (and often those who forgot). Birthday wishes are the poorer cousin of Christmas and New Year Greetings because many people focus on keeping in touch with their entire network with mass greetings on 2 days of the year. Keeping in touch is about being personal, not efficient. There is now no reason to forget someone's birthday with the availability of social networking tools such as FaceBook or websites such as birthdayalarm.com.

2. Celebrate Special Achievements
A businessman contact of yours may have been awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Don't forget to send him a congratulatory note! People are proud of their special achievements as this represents recognition of the results of their passion and dedication. You can keep abreast of special achievements of your contacts in the media, especially trade or club magazines. A hole-in-one, a promotion, a special appointment to a board of committee, even marriage is a special achievement. Acknowledging these achievements shows that you care about what matters most to them. Celebrating the anniversary of these special achievements, allows you to keep in touch in a special way every year.

3. Be a Connector
People are continually looking for contacts to help them in their job search, secure financing for their business, engage a quality accountant, lawyer, find the best specialist for their ailments or even a potential mate! A powerful way to build up your quality network is to be a connector. If you come across contacts that will be useful to your network, offer to link them up. However it is important that you treat your current network with respect and only link people up when there are obvious synergies.

4. Be an Information broker
Many of the corporate executives who attend my networking training programs ask me "If I am networking with the affluent, how do I add value to them, especially when they are already in a stronger financial position than me?" One of the most powerful commodities today is information. Many affluent people are starved for time, and your ability to provide relevant information to them would be appreciated. I discovered that people are most grateful for information that can help in their wealth, health and children. A timely stock market analysis report, an article listing proven solutions to alleviate Irritable Bowel Syndrome or information to help a child secure a place in school of choice can earn you grateful brownie points.

5. Email humour
There is nothing like a funny email joke or interesting video clip to perk up a workday afternoon. Please don’t take short-cuts and mass forward every remotely funny email you receive. It’s about taste and personalization. If you come across a hilarious video clip of Russell Peters, one of the world’s leading stand-up comedians, your contacts who you know appreciate his humour would be impressed that you remembered to send some comic relief their way.

6. Handwritten Cards
People rarely receive mail today that is not the form of a bill or official letter. A handwritten card with a personalized greeting instantly adds value as we all love pleasant surprises in the mail. The message can be a simple “Thank you” or “It’s wonderful meeting you, let’s stay in touch” The receiver will remember that you have taken the effort to make them feel special.

7. Create experiences
In today's recessionary economy, consumer confidence is at an all time low. However, the feel-good industry continues to do well as people indulge in uplifting experiences to escape from the pervasive negative reporting on television and the newspapers. Be a catalyst. Provide a unique experience to your network. Take the initiative of organising a themed party, a movie night, a wine-and cheese gathering, a dinner experience at a good restaurant. Be creative and you will be amazed at how grateful people are to a proactive host.

Keeping in touch is about taking action. I like the simple concept of following up with at least one person everyday.

Choose a variety of ways that work for you. Have fun adding value to your network and it will do the same for you.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Last Holiday - a movie about throwing caution to the wind and learning the power of attracting the life you desire by being real

I saw a lovely inspiring movie last night, "The Last Holiday" a 2006 remake of a 1950 film, starring Queen Latifah.

Such movies remind us that we all have dreams and possibilities that we keep postponing. Many of us settle for a compromised version of what we could have been. Ah - what would it be like if we were to throw our caution to the wind, and start tasting life?

Many of us are have some inner shyness yet want to attract ourdream job, dream parter, dream lifestyle. It also reminds me that life is not about transactional relationships, its not about keeping score. Its about being real and having a genuine interest and curiosity about the world and people around us. We all can have access to the lifestyle we want if we start taking steps towards living it, even if its just a baby step.

Here is an exerpt of the review of the move "Last Holiday" by Roger Ebert of the SunTimes:

Latifah plays a sales clerk named Georgia Byrd, who works in a big chain store in antediluvian New Orleans, giving cooking demonstrations. At home alone in the evenings, she prepares elaborate gourmet dishes, watching TV cooking shows and training herself to be a great chef. Then, more often than not, she eats a lonely Lean Cuisine, because she's on a diet.
The need for dieting comes to a sudden halt when she receives bad news: She has three or four weeks to live. Her HMO won't cover the expensive treatment, which might not work anyway, and so Georgia throws caution to the wind, cashes in her 401-K, and buys a ticket to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. That's where her hero, Chef Didier, rules the kitchen, and she decides to go out in style, eating everything on the menu and treating herself to all the services of the spa and the ski slopes.

Karlovy Vary is a jewel box of a spa town 90 minutes outside of Prague. Its hotels are high and wide but not deep, because steep mountain walls rise close behind them. A stream runs down the center of the town, and at the top of the little valley is the Grand Hotel Pupp, where Georgia checks in. My wife and I were in Karlovy Vary four years ago for the film festival, and, like Georgia, we did a double-take when we discovered that the correct pronunciation of the hotel rhymes with "poop." Yes, but it is a magnificent edifice, and soon Georgia is walking eagerly into the dining room to order -- well, everything on the menu.
Visiting this hotel is another party, consisting of a retail tycoon named Matthew Kragen, who owns the chain of giant stores including the one Georgia resigned from in New Orleans. At his table are his mistress, a senator and a congressman. They are startled when Chef Didier pays more attention to the woman dining by herself than to their self-important table. They don't know that Georgia has already invaded the chef's kitchen and impressed him with her cooking skills -- both disciplined, and improvised.

Who is this woman? Kragen's table becomes consumed with curiosity, especially since Georgia Byrd is obviously very wealthy. There's a montage that reminds us of "Pretty Woman," as she raids a high-fashion dress shop (while "If I Were a Rich Girl" plays on the soundtrack), and subjects herself to being beaten with birch leaves at the spa ("I Feel Pretty"). A spa in Karlovy Vary is not quite as spartan as one in America, and does not count so many calories; after your treatments, you are free to recover with roast duck and dumplings, followed by apple strudel.

By making no claims, putting on no airs, telling no lies and acting as if she had nothing to lose, Georgia transforms the hotel. The important guests are in awe of her. The staff is in love with her. The chef adores her. And there is even romance in the air, because of her unmistakable chemistry with Sean Matthews, a New Orleans co-worker who is shy but -- I will not reveal more.
And what, you ask, about the Idiot Plot? The whole story depends on a series of elaborate misunderstandings. One word would set everybody straight. Yes, true, and yet the movie smiles and winks at its own contrivances, and we enjoy them. The point of this story is not to discover the truth about Queen Latifah's past life, but to enjoy the unfolding of her future life (if of course she has one).

One of the movie's best scenes comes when she gives advice to the tycoon's mistress -- who is conventionally sexy, but senses that Georgia is sexy in a transcendent way because of who she is. The mistress is sexy to look at. Georgia is sexy when you see her. The men at the other table can't take their eyes off.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Food Connection


What we do most naturally socially, is dining. If you would like to network naturally, one good place is to start with Singapore's national past-time.... Food! Singaporeans bond most naturally over food. Singaporeans are known to travel the distance for their favourite chicken rice, char kway teow and bak kut teh (even in the face of today's rising oil prices). The pages of The Straits Times Life! section every Sunday dedicated to glorious food and people in the food scene as well as the thousands of food blogs is testimount to our passion for food.

5 steps to Natural Networking through Food:

1. Be a Food Maven

Life is about experiences. If you naturally enjoy food, become the expert on the food scene in Singapore. Aim to try out one new place each week, and invite your friends. I love to do research through food blogs to uncover food havens, especially new restaurant openings. Be the person who creates dining experiences for others and that ups your attraction factor. This is a great opportunity to connect naturally with networks such as your alumni, interesting acquaintances, business associates.

2. Befriend the Chef

Tickle your natural networking instincts by befriending the chef, the hostess, the owner of the restaurant. Be genuinely interested. Often, they will regale you with interesting stories about their journey into food haven. Don't forget, they tend to be great connectors, meeting with different people everyday.

3. Start at the Buffet Table

When you are at a business cocktail, and you feel nervous when you first enter and don't see any friendly faces, the best place to start is the buffet table. Food is a great conversation starter. I find it easiest to speak to the person next to me, helping himself to the gorgeous looking open-faced smoked salmon sandwich, with the line "The spread looks pretty good, doesn't it?", before a question of how he is connected with the event.

4. Lets do Lunch

Lets face it. We spend most of our waking hours at work, and nothing smooths your path to the big league in your company, then healthy relationships with your colleaguesthat matter. I suggest you break away from your regular lunch clique at least once a week to lunch with potential mentors, executives in other departments, your clients, or anyone who is interesting.

5. Take up a Class

A great way to meet new and diverse people is to take up a culinary class. For example, At sunrice organises asian-themed classes. Go one step further: Select a restaurant you love and arrange for the chef to present a culinary class. Then advertise this to your contacts directly or through FaceBook or another social networking portal. A variation of the food theme is drink. There are a plethora of wine appreciation classes available. Or try out stout or vodkha appreciation classes to meet people who are more adventurous. Enjoy your food networking journey!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Power of Pictures: Communicating your personal brand

People are attracted to someone who has an intriguing personal brand that they would want to connect with.

What is your personal brand? What is the one skill or a passion you have that you can share with others?

Once you have determined the facets of your personal brand, you can get started in communicating it in the most natural and sustainable way. An effective way to do so is through pictures. With the proliferation of social networking websites such as Facebook, and blogs, sharing relevant pictures can be a simple yet powerful way of sustaining and invigorating your personal brand to your network.

Let me share with you an example of how I realised the power of the phrase 'A picture is worth a thousand words': I organised a mini-secondary school gathering recently, and met up with an ex-classmate, also Karen, who just resigned from her job as a software engineer to take up her passion for baking. She casually mentioned to me that she has a blog http://www.madbaker.net/ and her current obsession is with macarons.

I pictured Karen breezily baking at home and taking orders from close friends. I thought: Her's is definitely a small home-based hobby, as she can easily afford to be a tai-tai with her husband operating a successful software business. A good 3 weeks later, I remembered her blog and decided to have a look.

I was amazed.

Her blog had the most delectable pictures of the most beautiful baked creations I ever saw -lavender marcarons, fruit ganaches, heart-shaped cookes, caramel fleur de sel. It was a grand love affair in pictures - I saw passion, dedication and attention to the tiniest detail. Karen's personal brand as a baker extraordinaire was cemented in my mind. It was no surprise that she had raving fans who loved her and who were inspired to try out her recipes, order her creations and contribute to the blog.

Lavender Marcarons (Photo from madbaker.net)

Karen's lovely Lavender Marcarons with Honey Vanilla Buttercream I would not have been able to be touched the same way by Karen's love and professionalism if she had tried to explain it in words.

Here are some suggestions of pictures that easily connect with many:

1. Children

Children have a universal appeal. Its a great way to keep in touch with other parents in your network. It adds to your personal brand as a loving mum or dad.

2. Food

Snap pictures of delicious creations and interesting dining places. People are always on the look-out for new places to experience. With a personal brand as someone adventurous and who enjoys dining in all the interesting places, people will love to join you on your next out-of-this-world food experience.

3. Travel

Sharing your travel pictures adds to your personal brand as a well-travelled person, with many international experiences.

4. Events

Share your photos of exciting events such as social parties, themed functions, product launches, and this will add an enchanting dimension to your personality.

5. Anything interesting

Share anything funny (but tasteful), thought-provoking or captivating. For example, if you have a love for nature, capture the sunsets, scenes of the beach or any breath-taking scenery and I am sure this will inspire your network. I hope you are now encouraged to start communicating your personal brand in pictures! Happy snapping.