Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Gentleman's Wisdom on Work

“Anyone can be heroic from time to time, but a gentleman is something you have to be all the time” ~ Luigi Pirandello

A man could be smart. A man could be hot. A man could be fun. A man could be a big gun. But not many are gentlemen. Uncle Lee is not only a gentleman. He is smart, hot, fun and a big gun!

I enjoy tremendously reading his writings as he writes realities that make us all human – alive and loved. He captivates his readers' imagination and aspiration - what a sensation!

Yesterday, Uncle Lee shared his wisdom on hiring people and I told him it is too good not to share with many more out there. His wisdom is universally applicable, in my point of view, as we are after all born a leader to our family, company and community. I admire Uncle Lee’s insights building business not by going through the numbers (profit, profit, profit), cables (cronyism, nepotism) and papers. He helps people to build themselves with their innate strengths. He builds meaningful and winning relationship with those who crossed his path. He makes work a big part of life-enriching experience!

Thank you Uncle Lee for your wisdom and kindness. May God bless us all.

I hope you would enjoy reading it and pass it along to others.

Uncle Lee's A Midnight Rendezvous ~ "Work with me, not for me"

I was a Jack of all trades, master of none. I stopped reading the newspapers the day I retired.

However, I might sometimes buy the weekend papers for its section on new cars, and their road test results.

Glancing thru last weekend's papers, my eye caught on some employment vacancies, and read their various requirements for those applying.

There was the usual number of years experience preferred.

And Critical attributes required, as follows: -

'Confident, energetic, positive, self starter, and results-driven.

Ability to form trusting and professional relationships throughout the organization and company officials.

Highly effective communicator.

You have strong interpersonal and conflict resolution skills, and an independent, self starter who thrives in a team setting'.

When I employed people

I never looked at resumes, maybe only five all the 25 years I employed people.
I have employed from Sales Personnel, Mechanics, Stenographers, Administrative, Accounts, Field Executives, secretaries, Managers, Regional Managers to General Managers. (Local and foreign)

'There's no security on this earth, only opportunity' ~ General Douglas MacArthur. Supreme Allied Commander, Pacific theatre of Operations. 2nd WW

And regrettably that out of the five resumes I had actually looked at, three failed to live up to expectations.

I believed they had doctored their resumes. I let them go.
Of the ones I never looked, none failed to live up to my expectations, but impressed me with their work.

I never looked at race, gender nor religion, nor age nor for impressive credentials.

I looked at the person.

I looked for people who are better than me in various fields, be it a woman or a man, young or mature.

If the work vacancy does not require a good command of English, I took in those with minimum English qualifications, even a few with standard 6 or a Form 3 education.

The only positions I looked for a good command of English language as well comprehension was in Administrative, or as my personal secretary. Then I looked for the best.

I have always believed, we all have our weaknesses as well our strengths. Weaknesses I can cure. Their strengths I want.

That everyone deserves a chance in life. To prove herself or himself.

As long as you are not afraid of water, I will throw you in the deep end, and then throw a lifebelt.

I also believe when paying peanuts, you get monkeys.

I never tell people how to do things.

I tell them what to do and let them surprise me with their ingenuity.
Then it's lead me, follow me, my way, or the highway.

I looked for attitude, integrity, responsibility, initiative, and a sense of humour.
8am to 5pm, they work with me, not for me. After 5pm, what they do is none of my business.

I found a lot of my employees at shopping malls, on board a Penang ferry, on board a plane, in a coffee shop, even once at someone's funeral.

Should someone impress me, like a cosmetic salesgirl who tried to sell me an aftershave lotion even after I had told her I only use two brands, none of her's, it was the way she treated me and never ran down the brands I was using that impressed me.

"Mister, the brands you are using are very good, one of the best on the market, but...should you one day decide to have a change, do give our brand a try, I'm confident you will not be disappointed".

The next day, I went to see her. She recognised me. I handed her my business card and an envelope, marked, 'Your eyes only. Read when free'.

I had offered her a job in my company. She accepted. I never asked for her resume. She never failed us.

Bomb squad technician

I once created a job for a young girl I met by chance, she a Malay girl in typical Malay baju wearing a tudung, looking for a job at a small Chinese mall where every small store had their Chinese God statues with burning incense and jossticks beside the entrance or inside.

It was her positive attitude that really impressed me. She had brought her papers with her, telling me she has an Australian Masters degree in Mathematics.

I never looked. I believed her.

She was looking for any kind of work and prepared to accept a salary of Rgt 180 if employed by any of the stores should they take her.

I offered her a job with a starting salary of Rgt 500. And she never failed us. I never did look at her resume. (See posting in archive, 'A Malay girl and her destiny', d/d 4/6/10.)

I had a slight advantage over most managers. Wearing neckties was and is something I disliked most. All my life till present I only own four neckties.

One was bought at a pasar malam (night market) in Trengganu, one at a pasar malam in Ipoh,...reason being the business meeting I was supposed to attend next day requires a tie.

One given to me by my boss as I think someone had leaked out I used neckties purchased from pasar malams.

His Senior Manager wearing a Rgt 3 necktie? He presented me a Dunhill tie.

Another, a present from my girlfriend, now my wife when she discovered I was not going to wear a tie for our marriage ceremony. Marriage almost got annulled because of a tie.

I still have the four neckties today, used only for funerals, but not at mine, and weddings.

Innovative Orang Hutan

My kind of interviews, using Reverse Psychology.

Why I mentioned the above is when anyone coming for an interview and sitting in my room waiting for me, it also gave me the opportunity to discreetly observe them for a few minutes, from outside. They never guessed I was the Manager.

This was only for management positions.

I would mostly wear a checked shirt and slacks, or plain pastel shirts. No ties!

I would sometimes purposely leave on my empty table at a corner, a copy of a Playboy magazine as well depending on job vacancy, an appropriate booklet, brochure or a marketing magazine.

But unknown to anybody, I had a one inch, light pencil line drawn beside the Playboy magazine as well another line beside the Marketing magazine.

Should any one be moved or looked at, the probability of it being put back in same location is near impossible.

I would then know which magazine applicant had looked at discreetly while I was out. 7 out of 10, it was the Playboy magazine. The men mostly. Women, maybe 3 out of 10.

Next to the Playboy magazine would be my small bronze statue of the 3 monkeys, 'see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil'.

Sometimes, I would knowing before hand of several interviews I had to conduct, I would hard boiled two eggs at home, one for spare, and putting abit of salt under a thin napkin on my table, put the egg in a corner standing up.

Everyone knows an egg cannot stand on its own. Many times the egg was moved and lying on it's side when I came in.

I can imagine how they tried to make it stand again.

Good, I like curious people. But never disclosed my trick.

I wanted to see how many would ask me about it, or laugh or get distracted by it. I was looking for humour.

Quite often, while conducting an interview for a senior post, I would prearrange with my secretary to interrupt us and tell me a fictitious problem, then leave.

I would then ask him or her whether they understood what my secretary had said, and ask, "what would you do if in my place"?

When looking for a sales executive, male or female, my secretary would arrange they wait for me at the far end of the reception room.

When in turn they were invited to come to my room, I would observe how they adjust themselves, how they walk to my room.

I was looking for a relaxed, self confidence poise.

Then listened to how they greet me, whether they sit down or wait to be invited to sit down. My door will be opened, most will knock, quite a few didn't.

When interviewing a man, one of the first things I look at are his shoes. If dirty, or leather and not polished to a shiny sheen, he is toast.

Polished leather shoes tells a lot about a man.

If a lady, over makeup, or giggly, or wearing sandals for an executive vacancy, she is toast too.

Self confidence

Beginning of an interview, for management positions, I will ask them to relax, I tell them what the company does.

I will ask them to tell me about themselves.

My secretary will enquire what drinks they like, normally coffee.

And she will bring in their coffee in a Wedgewood coffee cup and saucer. Sugar and cream separately, with a spoon.

Mine iced coffee in a glass. I will light my cigarette while discreetly observing how they behaved while adding sugar and cream or without.

Women will mostly beat men at this. Some men will stir their coffee like in a coffee shop at Gurney drive..

I will tell them, "I have not looked at your resume, and assure you, if you meet my expectations, I will never look.

I will believe what you tell me".

My secretary would have seen their application letter as well enclosed resume, but on my instructions, will not show me any.

She will reply and invite them for interviews.

If advertised in media, I do not ask for photographs. I love surprises. A photograph tends to either influence or diminish an applicant's chances.

Once they are relaxed, I will ask unrelated questions, some to jolt them, some to surprise them, some humorous.

In a light hearted manner.


To men: "When was the last time you went up to Genting Highlands Casino?
You married? Kids? Two? You know any girls? Yes? Young or matured? You play poker? What stakes? What about chess? Golf? Badminton? Fishing?

Genting Highlands Resort and Casino.

This a personal question, you don't have to answer if uncomfortable. Is your wife very conservative or somewhat liberal should you have to work nights or weekends entertaining clients at nite clubs?

Can you swim? No?

If you see me struggling in the water, what would you do?

If at a pool, there are three diving platforms, different heights. I ask you to jump into the pool from one of them. Would you"?

He answers, "which platform you want me to jump from"?

Good answer. And he can't swim.

"Tell me, mentioned you have an American degree in Business Administration, three years working experience.

What remuneration you looking at with our company?

What figure would make you happy...go ahead, I just had a medical check-up, I have a healthy heart".

Mr Wong has impressed me with all his actions and replies, and I think he is capable of meeting my exact and demanding expectations, he tells me, "I'm expecting a salary of $1000, plus benefits". Positive answer.

Some have answered, "ohh, you pay me what you think I deserve". "Anything between $800 to $1200".

"I want a job, I leave it to you sir, how much I should get paid", etc.

Indecisive. He's toast.

After seeing all applicants, I decide on Mr Wong. He comes for a second meeting with me.

He had taken a peek at my Playboy magazine first interview as well moved the egg. He did not stir his coffee like in Gurney Drive.

I take him for a walk around the plant, tell him what I am looking for as an 'Executive, Sales and Delivery Operations'.

Back in my office, I tell him, "Wong, I have not looked at your resume, nor am I interested.
You have impressed me and I am prepared to accept you in our Company.

However, I will not be paying you what you asked for in terms of salary".

I now for special effects, pause and light a cigarette while looking at him.

He doesn't bargain with me like buying underwear at a pasar malam. Some do.

Then continue, "I will offer you what you asked for as well another $150. We all have to eat, take the family for weekend dinners. How's that?

Before you answer me, I give you 2 minutes to think carefully whether you can meet my 3 work related commandments;

1/ I expect punctuality in everything, and I do not take prisoners, short of you going for a heart bypass, the last excuse I want to hear is, 'traffic jam'.

2/ You will accept full responsibility in everything you do here. And if by chance you burn my factory down, or experience a snafu, you point your finger at yourself, nobody else. Even if one of your staff played with a lighted match.

Lastly, 3/ I want you to be better than me, whatever you do in your department, that's all".
He accepted.

Another interview

There was a Malay lady I employed. She about 28, married two kids. Very pretty. Tall. Very nice personality.

She tells me she has only a Form 5 education, passed with a grade 2. Five years admin working experience.

Again, I never looked at her resume. No reason to.

She had taken a peek at my Playboy magazine while waiting for me. She asked me about the egg. That shows curiousity.

She laughed and blushed when I teased her, "I know while you waiting for me, you looked at my Playboy magazine".

A few had denied. The magazine was moved! Toast!

Her reply," Mr Lee, first time I come for interview I see a Playboy magazine atas meja, ada dengar, ta'pernah tengok".

(I have heard about it, but never seen one before)

Good answer, she did not deny.

Somehow she impressed me with her replies to my questions.

One was..."If I give you work you have no experience in, as an Executive, a job maybe suitable for a graduate with a Mechanical degree, would you be prepared to accept it"?

"Mr Lee, you give me two months, I study my work from everyone here, I will not fail you".

The answer I was looking for.

Me: "Che Kairina, last question. Assuming you alone out of town on our business trip, would you feel uncomfortable facing five uneducated, loud mouth swearing small time contractors?

Or facing titled business people, and answering their questions in a conference room"?

"Mr Lee, yes...sebab saya don't have that experience before. But after 2 months I know my work, my assignment, maybe tentu nervous one time, two times, but after that I think should be no problems. And Mr Lee, I am not afraid of getting my hands or fingernails dirty too".

She was invited for a second meeting with me. I offered her a job she did not apply for and told her, "Kairina, I want someone like you. Work with me, not for me."

She got the job meant for a graduate. I like her positive attitude.

A year later she proved to be better than one of our graduate executives responsible for another territory.

She was promoted, and paid a graduate's salary. She never failed us, nor did I look at her resume.

In Kairina, Wong and the many others I personally employed, I was looking for people better than me, and together we never looked back, they followed me up the ladder of achievements, above and beyond the call of duty.

My code of conduct to employees

To all I had employed, I assured them,......

"I will never call you at home, nor expect you to work nights, or weekends, unless it's your fault.

If you have any personal problems, leave it at home. I expect you to come to work with a smile, go home with a smile.

I will not look over your shoulder. You have your responsibility, you know what to do.

I expect you to make mistakes. As I will too. Accept the responsibility.

Finally, lets have fun working together. And remember, you work with me. Not for me".

This my personal opinion.

I personally believe Managers who call, phone their employees at home, at nights, on weekends, during their vacation are either inconsiderate, inefficient, a show off, a bully, and or abusing their position. There is no excuse, there is no reason to. (Police and Doctors excepted)

25 years I never once called any of my staff at home. I don't even know their home phone numbers.

When not out of town, I make it a point every morning of walking around chatting and joking with all my staff, from coffee lady, mechanics to respective Senior Managers.

I never wore a tie (unless meeting VIPS). My office door was never closed, no brass plate sign outside of who I was, and opened to anybody, anyone who needs me.

And I dislike meetings, or having one, unless necessary. Once in 3 months was fine with me.

Meetings are for bosses who dare not make decisions, or to look important.
Everyone of my staff receives a birthday card personally signed by me.

More than half of my employees were not qualified for the jobs I gave them, or promoted them to....they never failed me.

My employees were my strength.

I gave them my trust. They rewarded me with responsibility, ingenuity, integrity and their smiles when coming to work.

'Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow, and of the man who leads that gains the victory'
~ General George S. Patton, Commander of US 3rd Army
The first Allied Forces to reach River Rhine, Germany, 2nd WW

Have a pleasant week.

Uncle Lee.

1 comment:

Uncle Lee said...

Hello Fi-Shah, terima kaseh seribu for this jalan atas ayer compliments.
I have always believed in giving anyone, everyone a chance in life.

To live out their dreams as I had. I gave them the opportunity to exceed theirs, mine and the company's expectations.

Once upon a time when I was looking for a job, a man offered me one, without looking at my resume....I did not fail him....
He had looked at me, as I later in life looked at people when offering them a job.

Resumes can be doctored, just as in cosmetics hiding blemishes.
To me, a person who does not have a degree or higher education, it does not mean he or she is not smart.

There may be other circumstances, namely ..Money. Poor parents, etc.
I now give them that be somebody in life. And to sit in my chair one day.

Everybody has weaknesses, we all have...but everyone needs a helping hand, like a baby learning to walk.
Give them your hand.....they will not fail you.

Once again, terima kaseh. You have a pleasant week, and keep a song in your heart. Best regards, Lee.