Name: John Yip
Title: Founder CEO
Organisation: Ever Wonder Solutions
I was unexpectedly put in charge because my old boss was impressed with how hard I worked when I was in my mid-20s. Suddenly, I had a lot of responsibilities. I had to manage people who were my age and take care of the profit and loss for my part of the company. Plus, I had to deal with a bunch of people both inside and outside the company.
Dealing with people inside the company was tricky. It required being a bit sneaky and pretending sometimes. It was like playing a strategy game. Handling people outside the company was even tougher. I had to juggle their different expectations and make them feel like we were meeting their needs, even if we couldn't completely.
As I moved up in my banking career, I realized that leadership was always going to be part of my job. To succeed, I had to be both strategic and diplomatic, like a crafty politician and a skilled diplomat at the same time.
But everything changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I had to leave my banking career, and my life turned upside down. I had to cope with early retirement, financial losses, my mother's sudden cancer diagnosis, and the loss of my beloved dog. It was a lot to handle.
However, I found strength in reading and rediscovering spiritual teachings I had neglected. Meditation and hypnotherapy also helped me during the lockdown. After three tough years of emotional ups and downs, I'm mentally stronger now and value myself more.
I'm starting a new chapter. Besides continuing to advise friends on how to present their businesses to investors, I want to use what I've learned to help business leaders who have been hit hard by the uncertainty and negativity in the business world. I want to help them rebuild their mental strength and self-esteem so they can get back to what they're good at. I believe this can contribute to a better world that respects nature and acknowledges that we all share one planet, and we mustn't harm it or ourselves.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
We’ve gone through the interviews and asked the best of the best to come back and answer 7 MORE Questions on Leadership.
I hope John's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. As a leader, how do you build trust with employees, customers and other stakeholders?
Building trust with employees, customers, and other stakeholders is crucial for effective leadership. Here are some key strategies to build trust in each of these groups:
1. Trust with Employees:
a. Communication: Open, honest, and transparent communication is essential. Share information about the company's goals, challenges, and decisions.
b. Empowerment: Give employees a sense of ownership and autonomy in their work. Trust them to make decisions and contribute their ideas.
c. Consistency: Be consistent in your actions and decisions. Inconsistency can erode trust quickly.
d. Accountability: Hold yourself accountable for your actions and admit when you make mistakes. Show that you are willing to learn and grow.
e. Recognition: Acknowledge and appreciate employees' efforts and achievements. Recognize their contributions publicly.
2. Trust with Customers:
a. Quality and Reliability: Deliver high-quality products or services consistently. Be reliable and meet or exceed customer expectations.
b. Transparency: Be transparent about your products, pricing, and policies. Avoid hidden fees or deceptive practices.
c. Customer Support: Provide excellent customer support and address concerns promptly and courteously.
d. Feedback: Actively seek and listen to customer feedback. Use it to improve your products or services.
e. Consistency: Maintain consistency in branding and messaging across all customer touchpoints.
3. Trust with Other Stakeholders (Investors, Partners, Regulators, etc.):
a. Compliance: Ensure your organization adheres to all relevant laws and regulations. Be proactive in addressing compliance issues.
b. Transparency: Be transparent about your financial performance, business practices, and future plans with stakeholders.
c. Relationship Building: Cultivate positive relationships with key stakeholders. Understand their needs and concerns.
d. Responsibility: Demonstrate corporate social responsibility by engaging in ethical practices, supporting communities, and minimizing environmental impact.
e. Long-term Orientation: Show a commitment to long-term success rather than short-term gains. This can reassure stakeholders about your intentions.
Overall, building trust is an ongoing process that requires consistency, integrity, and a genuine commitment to the well-being and satisfaction of employees, customers, and stakeholders. It's essential to prioritize trust-building efforts as a central element of your leadership strategy.
2. What do 'VISION' and 'MISSION' mean to you? And what does it actually look like to use them in real-world business?
"Vision" and "Mission" are fundamental components of an organization's strategic planning and purpose. Here's what they mean and how they are used in real-world business:
Meaning: A vision is a forward-looking statement that describes the aspirational future state or long-term goal of an organization. It provides a clear and inspiring picture of where the organization aims to be in the future.
Real-world use: In business, a vision statement serves as a guiding beacon. It helps align employees, stakeholders, and leaders toward a common, inspiring goal. For example, Google's vision statement is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." This vision drives their innovation and product development efforts.
Meaning: A mission statement defines the fundamental purpose and reason for an organization's existence. It outlines what the organization does, who it serves, and how it delivers value to its stakeholders.
Real-world use: A mission statement provides clarity and direction for daily operations and decision-making. It helps employees understand the organization's core purpose and how their work contributes to it. For example, Tesla's mission is "to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy." This mission guides their product development, production, and marketing strategies.
Using Vision and Mission in Real-World Business:
Strategic Planning: Vision and mission statements are foundational in the strategic planning process. They help leaders set long-term goals, define strategies, and prioritize initiatives that align with the organization's purpose and future vision.
Alignment: These statements are essential for aligning all stakeholders, including employees, with the organization's goals and values. When everyone understands and believes in the vision and mission, it fosters unity and a shared sense of purpose.
Decision-Making: Vision and mission statements act as decision-making filters. Leaders can evaluate whether a decision aligns with the organization's purpose and long-term vision.
Branding and Marketing: These statements often serve as the basis for branding and marketing strategies. They convey the organization's identity and values to customers and the public.
Employee Engagement: Vision and mission statements can inspire and motivate employees. When they see how their work contributes to a meaningful purpose and vision, they are more engaged and committed.
Accountability: These statements provide a basis for measuring performance and progress toward long-term goals. They hold the organization accountable to its stated purpose and vision.
In the real world, organizations use vision and mission statements as strategic tools to guide their actions, inspire their stakeholders, and ensure that they remain true to their core purpose and long-term objectives. These statements are not just slogans but practical tools for shaping an organization's identity, strategy, and culture.
3. How can a leader empower the people they're leading?
Empowering the people you lead is a fundamental aspect of effective leadership. Here are several ways in which a leader can empower their team members:
Provide Autonomy: Allow team members to make decisions and take ownership of their work. Trust their judgment and give them the freedom to choose how they accomplish their tasks.
Encourage Innovation: Foster a culture of innovation where team members are encouraged to come up with new ideas and solutions. Create a safe space for them to experiment and learn from their mistakes.
Set Clear Expectations: Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations. When team members know what's expected of them, they can take initiative and make decisions confidently.
Offer Support and Resources: Provide the necessary tools, training, and resources to help team members succeed in their roles. Ensure they have access to the information and support they need.
Acknowledge and Reward Achievements: Recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of team members. Acknowledgment boosts morale and motivates individuals to continue doing their best.
Listen Actively: Be an active and empathetic listener. Encourage team members to share their ideas, concerns, and feedback. Show that their voices are valued and taken into consideration.
Delegate Responsibility: Delegate tasks and projects to team members based on their strengths and interests. This allows them to develop new skills and take on more significant responsibilities.
Promote Continuous Learning: Support ongoing learning and professional development opportunities. Encourage team members to expand their knowledge and skills to stay relevant and grow in their roles.
Lead by Example: Demonstrate the behavior and work ethic you expect from your team. Your actions serve as a model for how team members should approach their work.
Provide Constructive Feedback: Offer regular, constructive feedback to help team members improve and grow. Highlight their strengths and offer guidance on areas where they can develop.
Create a Collaborative Environment: Foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork. Encourage team members to work together, share knowledge, and help each other succeed.
Empower Decision-Making: Involve team members in decision-making processes when appropriate. Seek their input and consider their perspectives before making important choices.
Promote Inclusivity: Ensure that all team members have an equal opportunity to contribute and be heard, regardless of their background or identity.
Trust and Respect: Show trust and respect for your team members. Trust is the foundation of empowerment, and when team members feel respected, they are more likely to take initiative.
Provide Growth Opportunities: Identify and nurture the potential of team members. Offer opportunities for career growth and advancement within the organization.
Empowering your team members not only increases their job satisfaction and motivation but also leads to better decision-making, innovation, and overall team performance. It creates a positive work environment where individuals feel valued and motivated to contribute their best efforts.
4. Who are some of the coaches or mentors in your life who have had a positive influence on your leadership? Can you please tell a meaningful story about one of them?
I do not have the luxury of engaging a coach or mentor in my life. However, I was moved by Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore and how his leadership style and forward thinking led Singapore to become one of the rare few AAA credit rated countries in the world (USA is no longer AAA credit rated). Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore and its first Prime Minister, is a remarkable figure whose leadership style has left an indelible mark on the world. His approach to leadership has influenced many, including myself, and has shaped the belief that effective leadership is about taking proactive action, inspiring others, and cultivating a talented team to achieve a shared vision.
1. Taking Action and Punching Above Your Weight:
Lee Kuan Yew was known for his strong and decisive leadership. He didn't wait for change to happen; he actively shaped the destiny of Singapore. In the early days of independence, Singapore was a small, vulnerable nation with limited resources. Lee understood that to survive and thrive, he needed to punch above Singapore's weight. He took bold steps in areas like education, infrastructure, and foreign policy. His determination and action-oriented approach showed that leaders must be willing to take calculated risks and make tough decisions to advance their vision.
2. Painting a Narrative:
Lee Kuan Yew was a masterful storyteller. He painted a compelling narrative of Singapore's future as a prosperous, modern, and orderly nation. He communicated this vision clearly and persuasively to the people of Singapore, instilling in them a sense of purpose and hope. His ability to craft a narrative that resonated with his followers showcased the importance of effective communication and vision casting in leadership.
3. Selecting, Nurturing, and Motivating Talent:
Lee Kuan Yew understood that leadership is not a solitary endeavor but a collaborative one. He was adept at identifying, nurturing, and motivating talented individuals who shared his vision. He built a capable team of leaders who complemented his strengths and compensated for his weaknesses. This approach emphasized the importance of teamwork and the ability to inspire and guide others toward a common goal.
Lee Kuan Yew's leadership legacy is a testament to the transformative power of visionary leadership. His actions, narrative, and ability to build a talented team all underscore the essence of effective leadership: not only having a vision but also having the determination and capability to turn that vision into reality.
In my own leadership journey, I have been inspired by Lee Kuan Yew's example to be proactive, visionary, and collaborative. His legacy reminds us that leadership is not just about holding a position of authority; it's about taking bold actions, inspiring others with a compelling narrative, and surrounding oneself with a talented team that shares the same aspirations. These principles continue to guide and shape my belief in what it means to be an effective leader.
5. Leadership is often more about what you DON'T do. How do you maintain focus in your role?
To be an effective leader, there is more Do than Don't. People react positively to Do and acknowledgement rather than Don't. To me, focus comes with self determination and the mental mapping one developed. Both of these will create visualisation as to how the desired end game looks like and when will the end game be attained.
6. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Everyone plans differently. How do you plan for the week, month and years ahead in your role?
At this juncture of my life, I cannot plan too far ahead as I need to balance the unexpected challenges that daily living throw at me and the end game that I want to realise within a timeframe that I had set for myself. This is a tug of war so to speak when it comes to planning. I draw equivalence to finance in that if a business over-hedges itself in terms of product price, it will lose out on riding the waves when price surges. Therein lies the balancing act. Planning is akin to taking risk mitigation and management actions. But being surgically precise may rob one of the ability to cope with unexpected turn of events. Right now, there are constantly lots of unexpected events that unfold in my life that if I stick too closely to a rigid plan, I will more likely feel disappointed with myself for being unable to achieve the set targets. In short, I subscribed to mental visualisation as to how a working week for me should end and the deliverables that need to be yielded. A weekly planning is much more effective for me at this juncture of my life.
7. What advice would you give to a young leader who is struggling to delegate effectively?
1) be clear in your mind as to what you want to achieve in terms of measurable deliverables arising from delegation 2) be astute and aware as to the strength and weakness of your delegatee, in particular, whether the task delegated plays to your delegatee's strength 3) be upfront with your delegatee, and impress upon him/her that ownership of the task falls on him/her 4) be open about your expectations, in particular how deliverables are measured and what due achievement means 5) be willing to jump in at unexpected moment to help when requested without assigning blame or ascribing negative remarks about capability of your delegatee 6) be appreciative at the outset, of your delegatee going about performing the tasks assigned