The Power of Positive Thinking
                                                                  A Set of inspiring Corporate Warm-Up Actions You Can DoToGet Back On Your Toes
                                                                                                                            By Leonard Kok


Whether your head is up in the clouds; or under the weather, all of us need to exercise. We also need to think more positive thoughts everyday of our lives, yes?

Cheryl and Mei Fang, two of our very positive staff from Camp Challenge, our business arm dealing with teambuilding programmes for schools, recommend you a set of warm-up exercise, arranged chronologically in the order below, which you can actually do right where you are. This is a set of physical stretches which will also put your heart, spirit and soul right where they should be. We recommend that you gather a bunch of colleagues; people who make your life meaningful, to do this perk-me-up activity. It will make you more resilient.

Are you ready? (You can remove your tie for a while) Let’s GO!

             Do This Action

            Say This Aloud When you do

                                  Action Explanation



                                  Stand with your feet comfortably apart 

                                    and stretch you hands upwards

                                    (Get in touch with your aspirations)



                                From the first position, retract your hands to

                                     your waist level, palm facing upwards

                                   (We must know who we are; our core, in 

                                   order that we can walk on solid ground)


                       From the palms up position, shoot out your

                               hands upwards to your shoulder level

                      (Opportunities abound everyday. Embrace them!)               



                                 (Be open to the ideas and opinions of others –

                                             we don’t have all the answers) 



                                 Cross and fold your arms towards yourself

                    (Don’t sweat the small stuff; do nice things for yourself often)


                                      The classic Kung-Fu fighting stance! 

                                       Ready for the next and final step…

                                        settle for mediocrity; Go for Gold!)


                              From the Kung-Fu stance, lift your left or right leg;

                                           pull your arms back with a

                                                jerk and shout OOSH!

                                                            (Feel good!)

We hope that you have a great time inspiring yourself and your folks at work or even at home with this set of warm-ups! Alternatively, you can focus on each action and in a relaxed and Yoga style, Focus on the statement for each action meditatively, doing it and breathing in deeply at the same time.

I would like to thank Wahid, our Partner, for introducing these set of actions in a programme in 2007.





                                                                                                                  A TOOL FOR INNOVATION

                                                                                                                              By Leonard Kok

Look at the diagram above. What do you see? Do you see blocks of irregular shapes? Or do you see regular blocks of shapes resembling alphabets, even a word? Well, what we see will depend on which part of the diagram we look at, literally.

If we interface this with real life issues, we can also say that the way which we look at an issue depends on the perspective which we take at the point in time. In addition, the position which we take also depends very much on our personal inclination, personality type, upbringing, interest(s) and a host of other personal and sometimes very subjective factors. In short, we have a tendency to look at an issue in a certain way most of the time.

At the organizational level, organizations which remain on the cutting edge of technology, operations and processes respond to challenges swiftly because they take a multi-dimensional perspective of the issues facing them. Sure, a company can outsource to increase price and quality competitiveness but the competitive curve will plateau in time.

Increasingly the new core competence is creativity and innovation. In fact, many people are now calling it the Creativity Economy. “Think-out-of-the Box” – the catchphrase of many corporations during the Star Wars era, is enjoying another round of limelight and the innovation saga will continue, now for a longer period of time.

So, how do we, based on our inclinations and the tendency to look at things the way we are wired to – see things from a FRESH perspective?

An excellent tool is SCAMPER. SCAMPER is easy to remember because it is a mnemonic and helps us think of changes we can make to an existing product or to create a new one. Companies or individuals can use these changes either as direct suggestions or as starting points for lateral thinking.

Developed by Bob Eberle in 1991, SCAMPER stands for:


Think about substituting part of your product/process for something else. By looking for something to substitute you can often come up with new ideas.
Typical questions:

·         What can I substitute to make an improvement?

·         What if I swap this for that and see what happens?

·         How can I substitute the place, time, materials or people?


Think about combining two or more parts to achieve a different product/process or to enhance synergy.
Typical questions:

·         What materials, features, processes, people, products or components can I combine?

·         Where can I build synergy?


Think about which parts of the product/process could be adapted or think how you could change the nature of the product/process.
Typical questions:

·         What part of the product could I change?

·         And in exchange for what?

·         What if I were to change the characteristics of a component?


Think about changing part or all of the current situation, or to distort it in an unusual way. By forcing yourself to come up with new ways of working, you are often prompted into an alternative product/process. Typical questions:

·         What happens if I warp or exaggerate a feature or component?

·          What will happen if I modify the process in some way?


Think of how you might be able to put your current solution/ product/process to other purposes, or think of what you could reuse from somewhere else. You might think of another way of solving a problem or finding another market for your product.
Typical questions:

·         What other market could I use this product in?

·         Who or what else might be able to use it?


Think of what might happen if you eliminated various parts of the product/process consider what you might do in that situation. This often leads you to consider different ways of tackling any issue. Typical questions:

·         What would happen if I removed a component or part of it?

·         How else would I achieve the solution without the normal way of doing it?


Think of what you would do if part of your product/process worked in reverse or done in a different order. What would you do if you had to do it in reverse? You can also use this to see your issue from different angles and come up with new ideas.
Typical questions:

·         What if I did it the other way round?

·         What if I reverse the order it is done or the way it is used?

·         How would I achieve the opposite effect?

Below are three examples which illustrate the SCAMPER tool.

Example 1:

Objective: I want to invent a new type of pen.


ink with iron, nib with knife


writing with cutting, holding with opening


pen top as container


body to be flexible

Put to other uses

use to write on wood


clip by using velcro


nib to fold outwards

Example 2:

Imagine that you are a producer of computers and printers, and you use SCAMPER to aid you in the process of looking for new products.


use of high tech materials for specific markets – use high-speed components?


integrate computer and printer, printer and scanner


put high quality ink in printer, use high quality paper


produce different shape, size and design of printer and computer

Put to other uses

printers as photocopies or fax machines


eliminate speakers, colour screens, colour ink etc…


make computer desks as well as computers and printers, or computer chairs etc…

  1. Many of the ideas may be unfeasible or may not suit the equipment used by the manufacturer, but some ideas could be good starting points for discussion of new products.

Example 3:

You are a manufacturer of nuts and bolts, and you are looking for new products. SCAMPER would give you:


use of high tech materials for niche markets, such as high speed steel? Carbon fiber? Plastics? Glass? Non-reactive material?


integrate nut and bolt? Bolt and washer? Bolt and spanner?


put Allen key or Star head on bolt? Countersink head?


produce bolts for watches or bridges? Produce different shaped bolts (e.g. screw in plugs)? Pre-painted green bolts?

Put to other uses

bolts as hinge pins? As axles?


Eliminate nuts, washers, heads, thread, etc.


make dies as well as bolts, make bolts that cut threads for themselves in material, etc.


Human resource remains and will remain as the mainstay of the Creativity Economy. Is your company ready for the innovation challenge?



Infinite Innovations Ltd (2006) .Retrieved March 5, 2008, from


Mycoted (2008) Retrieved March 5, 2008, from


Mind Tools (2008). Retrieved March 5, 2008, from

4. (2008). Retrieved March 5, 2008, from


‘Get Creative! How To Build Innovative Companies ‘ (August 1, 2005)In Business Week (2008).
Retrieved March 5, 2008, from





                                                                                                       Effective Workplace communication (I)
                                                                                                                               Use the 1A+4Cs
                                                                                                                               By Leonard Kok 

All of us will be required to write at the workplace setting; some of us more than others. In our respective capacity, we would still probably have to write to the following people: Client / Boss of Client / Your colleagues and/or Your boss.

Is your writing commended for its clarity; or do you often get emails or verbal memos requesting for clarification because of your writing? If it’s the latter, fret not. You CAN excel in workplace writing! Next time, before you write any email or letter or any form of correspondence, remember to regard your piece of writing as an important piece of information or knowledge which will help the recipient achieve his or her target. Then we will have a higher tendency to write purposefully.

Having studied writing and having taught workplace communication and academic writing to young adults in the National University of Singapore, I have gleaned several important lessons that will benefit any busy executive, sales coordinator, Project Managers and anybody who wants to write better.

The 1A + 4Cs

I have distilled successful workplace communication to this ‘formula.’ This is not exactly a formula per se; it is more of a memory tool.

A is for AUDIENCE!
Who are you writing for? This is the fundamental question which should not be taken for granted. If we are clear and very specific about whom our audience is, then we will be sure also of the following:

– Whether we can be formal or informal (‘can I use slang?’)

– Concise or detailed (‘how much to say?’)

– Technical, specialised or general (‘how much technical jargon?’)

– What’s your Style guide

– What’s your purpose

– The Choice of words (vocabulary)

If we have the audience in mind, then we will be also able to put ourselves in their shoes by knowing their needs. For example, if they intend to participate in an outdoor activity in the warm afternoon, knowing your audience will mean that you will prepare a list of useful advice: wear light clothing, to apply sun block lotion, drink more water, and so on. In this way, we are creating rapport with them.

The 4Cs
The first C – Keep It Clear!

Write clearly so that your reader knows what you are trying to say. Unless there is a very good reason to be vague, our writing must first be clear. Fulfil the objective(s) and that’s it. Albert Einstein once said that ‘any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction’.

Have the basic three:

– Start with the introduction and objective;

– explain the rationale or highlight the details;

– End off with an appropriate conclusion.

Nothing is ever so complicated than this.

Simple Vocabulary

Clarity is also maintained by having simple vocabulary, which steers clear of technical jargon (unless there is a very good reason to include some specific technical terms).

Consider this: “The exigencies arising out of the temporary indisposition of my better half and the consequential exercises embarked upon by me with a view to summon medical assistance to relieve her of her distress.”

Simplified, the above actually means “My wife was sick and I had to call the doctor”.

The classical wordsmith, C.S. Lewis, says “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite”.

The Second C – Keep it Courteous

With a lot of your patience in vetting the content, ensure that the language is polite and non-discriminatory: in gender, view or opinion. Sometimes, we may even have to reply to unreasonable requests or simply replying to a rude person’s email. In these situations, we can still maintain courtesy by stating facts and objective viewpoints or explaining and re-explaining the rationale. Courtesy is the fire extinguisher that douses fiery situations.

The Third C – Keep it Concise

We are not writing a narrative (although there is a place for it) so just include only essential information. For this reason, all sentence structures should be short and clear.  Conciseness usually comes with Clarity.

Compare the following:

1) The hurricane had the effect of a destructive force on the manufacturing plant.

2) The hurricane destroyed the manufacturing plant.

I’m sure you will agree with me that (ii) is more accurate and to the point, which is what conciseness is all about.

The Fourth C – Keep it correct!

If you find it challenging to keep to the first 3 Cs, then this one must be adhered to strictly! Nothing is ever so damning on your future prospects than getting your facts wrong all the time. For this reason, all organisations, no matter how lean and mean they are, keep minutes of meeting (MoM) in hard and soft copies. So, one way to verify and clarify is via the Minutes of Meeting before you click ‘send’ on your computer, which will seal your ‘fate.’ We have all heard of horror stories where some misunderstood content was circulated amongst the office staff: Good for an afternoon of gossip; but at the expense of the misunderstood person or persons.

The following should be practised, and often:

– Ensure the content is factual.

– Proofread the document for any spelling and grammatical mistakes. (better still, ask someone whom you trust to vet)

– Ensure the layout is correct.

On point 2, even punctuations can make a lot of difference in the meaning. Look at the example below as a case in point:

1) The employee, said the boss, is crazy

2) The employee said the boss is crazy

With the omission of two tiny and seemingly insignificant symbols, the one who is ‘crazy’ has changed.

Effective written communication is not only a necessary function which is attached to every job role, it is an essential one which will help realise your Current Estimate Potential (CEP) at your respective workplace. Think about it for a while – employers will only trust employees who can manage information accurately and effectively; one that brings in the clients and profits.

Follow the 1A+4Cs formula and you will see yourself increasing your professional credibility at your workplace!





                                                                                                         Lessons From The Great See-Saw
                                                                                                                          By Leonard Kok

If you have attended any Experiential Teambuilding Programmes by Focus Adventure, you might have gone on board the giant see-saw known to those in the teambuilding circles as the ‘Whalewatch’. The contraption is so named because in the popular tourist activity called whale-spotting, adventure-seeking human beings charter a boat to spot whales frolic in the great seas and oceans.  On the boat, peals of excitement can be heard as the participants collectively run to the starboard and the portside if they have spotted the magnificent creature(s). The result is that the boat tips periodically to the extreme right or left.

Balancing on the Whalewatch is a seemingly easy task. One of the main reasons for this assumption is that we have fixed notions of how to balance on the see-saw – most probably from our fun childhood experiences on a much smaller version. What is imprinted in our long-term memory thus holds following assumptions:


Only two persons are required to balance the see-saw


The fulcrum is the centre pivot under the see-saw. Result? See assumption 1 again.

However, if these two deep-seated assumptions are applied on the Whalewatch, the team on board will find it quite challenging to achieve balance. On a warm day, external conditions will cause greater discomfort to the team and they might find themselves as real-life participants of Bruce Tuckman’s model of a ‘Storming Team.’

The great See-saw holds many lessons for any organisation. For one, it tips home the point that “Assumption is the mother of all failure”. It is interesting to note that on board the giant see-saw, any single piece of verbal expression or action holds a lot of insight, especially with regards to the team’s strategy, assumption(s), intent; and so on. Having facilitated many corporate teams on board the contraption, I have listed a few common verbalizations and expressions. They are tabled as follows, together with possible strategies and assumptions.

Verbalization / action



“Okay, all move to the centre”

Team is going to start finding balance from/at the centre

By going to the centre will achieve balance

“Everybody, don’t move! Just one person move!”

Team is just going to use one member to achieve balance

Only one person is needed to gain balance

“Let’s all tell each other our weights so that we can spread our weights equally”

Team is going to distribute their the total weight equally on both sides

By spreading the weight proportionally, they might be able to achieve balance

I like to watch the acting out of the above assumptions on the Whalewatch. Fascinating statements like these lead fascinating human beings to adopt equally fascinating poses which provide for – you’re right –  very fascinating photos and videos. On board this humongous contraption, it is easy to question any assumption behind the team who is trying to find balance on board because every single piece of action happens within the rectangular platform. In the same vein, if we put all human actions on the table and lay down, as it were, all our cards, it will be quite easy to guess the motive behind our fellow colleague’s actions.

An informal survey has been done on board one of Focus Adventure’s signature giant see-saw. Findings seem to indicate that the team which practises effective communication protocols will achieve balance much better results than the team which is too hung-up on the task itself. What is effective communication protocol again? It is to practise good listening and speaking on board the see-saw. For many working teams, this can simply mean taking turns to speak and listen in any communication, to speak up at the opportune time and to shut-up at the right time.

If the team learns how to listen to each team member’s verbal expressions and actions, it can enable the team on board to uncover every piece of assumption and then re-strategise to find balance. Translating this experience onto reality, openness and effective communication skills will enable any working team to achieve effective results because right or erroneous assumptions, hidden agendas and other communication blockages will be brought to the fore. This will then enable proper assignment of roles and responsibilities. More importantly, everyone will have a stake in any corporate endeavour and the taste of success will be much sweeter because everyone owns it.

Someone once said that effective communication is not how well the sender articulate his or her thoughts but how well the message has been understood and received by the recipient. Likewise, many seemingly challenging workplace issues can be resolved with better communication. Indeed, many relationship issues can be resolved with better communication.

Is your department or team an effective team? By practising effective communication protocols, it will give your team the cutting edge to triumph in many corporate ventures and adventures. In the process, your sincerity and openness in office relationships may even win you a friend or two.




                                                                                          Giving And Receiving Feedback: Are we doing it right?
                                                                                                                       By Leonard Kok

All of us have, at one time or another, given or received feedback for some assignment or job done. Look at the pictures below. They are labelled (A) to (H) for easy reference. Was/Is your situation very similar to what is depicted? You might even want to form a small group to discuss the pictures (and perhaps have a good laugh over them!)

If you are in small groups, you may want to share:

(a)Which picture best described the situation(s) where you received or gave feedback.

(b) Why did you feel that way?

Feedback is an appraisal given to the person or team after an action is executed. Many people have many labels for it but the basic purpose of giving feedback is mainly to provide timely response so that improvement in future scenarios will be made possible. All organisations have some kind of system and structure to deliver feedback to the person(s) involved for formative, summative and incentive-related purposes.
In what way do we deliver and give feedback? Where and when do we provide feedback and how do we do it in such a way which promotes professional and even personal growth?
Read on.

Basic Guidelines for Giving Feedback

McGill and Beatty (in “Action learning: A practitioner’s guide”, London: Kogan Page, 1994, p. 159-163) provide useful suggestions about giving effective feedback:

  1. Clarity — Be clear about what you want to say.
  2. Emphasize the positive — This isn’t being collusive in the person’s dilemma.
  3. Be specific — Avoid general comments and clarify pronouns such as “it,” “that,” etc.
  4. Focus on behaviour rather than the person.
  5. Refer to behaviour that can be changed.
  6. Be descriptive rather than evaluative.
  7. Own the feedback — Use ‘I’ statements.
  8. Generalizations — Notice “all,” “never,” “always,” etc., and ask to get more specificity — often these words are arbitrary limits on behaviour.
  9. Be very careful with advice — People rarely struggle with an issue because of the lack of some specific piece of information; often, the best help is helping the person to come to a better understanding of their issue, how it developed, and how they can identify actions to address the issue more effectively.

When Not To Give Feedback
Constructive feedback should not be used under three conditions:

  1. When the employee cannot take any action on the constructive feedback. The problem is not within his or her power to change.
  2. When the person giving the constructive feedback is overstressed or has a limited amount of time. Coaching sessions demand time and calm. Once a manager loses his or her temper, the feedback loses its impact because the person receiving the feedback has shut down and is no longer listening.
  3. When the focus is on the person, not the person’s behaviour or performance.In giving constructive feedback, out intention should be to modify the individual’s performance or behaviour. It’s a big mistake to focus on trying to change someone’s personality.

What If The Feedback Is Negative?
If you have to give negative feedback, be particularly careful (but don’t have to avoid it).

1.Avoid giving negative feedback in public. It is a good rule to criticise in private, praise in public

  1. Avoid historical references. Present information on “here and now” as opposed to “there and then”
  2. Avoid undue emotion – don’t lose your cool or patience – over reacting will produce defensiveness. Talk when you are calm and objective

Try this Template!

If a person (could be your co-worker, your subordinate, your partner, or even you) is not doing well, how should the person be informed? Try this:

“Hi _________________ (fill in the person’s name), When you do this ________________” (specify the behaviour)

“It is a problem because ________________” (specify how the problem is affecting you/the team )

“Next time ________________” (specify what you want the person/team to do).


What If The Person Is Angry?

Sometimes, if the person is not progressing well they become angry (as much with themselves as with you). The following provides some guidelines:

– Describe, don’t accuse. Use active listening to defuse the emotion in the situation. Make sure you are communicating a feeling rather than blaming

– Take a joint problem solving approach. Use paraphrasing and open ended questions

What If You Are On The Receiving End?

Practise the 3As


Take all criticism as “legitimate” and then move to assess its merit.


Of whether the criticism is really valid or not.
To determine if criticism is valid, you should ask:

·         Is this something I have heard before from others?

·         Is the critic an expert in this field?

·         Does the critic have reasonable standards?

·         Is the criticism really about me, or is the critic upset about something else and taking it out on me?


3 Decide what you want to do about the criticism.

In Conclusion:

A nice model to use for providing feedback that enables the person or team to blossom and grow is the Hamburger Principle. A Basic hamburger has 3 layers. So, following the 3-layer principle, We have

With the above model, feedback will be more constructive as it provides avenues for growth and development.

Office Gossip: One Bite, One Kill

Office Gossip: One Bite, One Kill


                                                                                                                Office Gossip: One Bite, One Kill

                                                                                                                              By Leonard Kok


We’ve all experienced it. You step into the lift on your way to the 38th floor where your office is and overhear two co-workers talking about someone else in a hushed tone. You know the person they are discussing. You wince. That’s setting number 1. Setting number 2: It’s lunchtime and all of you are in the building cafeteria. Talk and chatter centers on your other female colleague whose marriage is reportedly in shambles. 

Gossip in the workplace is about as common as office lunches. Most of us have engaged in it at one time or another. But workplace gossip causes a great deal of harm and affects both the individuals involved, and the organization as a whole.

 While at times the office grapevine can be a useful source of information, we have also participated in some conversations in which the details are too gory to be preserved on your mobile or recording device.

What can gossip do?


Undermines the reputation of the people involved


Causes lost productivity and wasted time


Erodes morale and trust


Festers anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without any clear information as to what is fact and what isn’t


Widens the divisiveness among employees as people may “take sides”.


Hurts feelings and reputations, sometimes causing severe damage


Jeopardises the “gossipers” chances for their own advancement because they are perceived as unprofessional


Cause good employees to leave the company due to the unhealthy work atmosphere

According to a survey, staffing firm Randstad USA ( and pollsters Harris Interactive recently asked more than 1,500 employed adults to name their biggest pet peeves about their jobs. Workplace gossip was the clear winner, cited No. 1 by 60% of respondents.

“Gossip can ruin people’s lives,” says Sam Chapman, CEO of Empower Public Relations (, who started his Chicago PR firm two-and-a-half years ago after leaving another firm where, he says, vicious gossip was endemic.

It tends to snowball, because people start projecting things onto the person who’s being talked about,” Chapman explains. “If you say something like, ‘Joe’s not pulling his weight around here lately,’ that rumor not only spreads, it gets worse, because everyone will start finding new ‘evidence’ that Joe’s not pulling his weight.”

Why do people gossip?

People who engage in workplace gossip may do so for several reasons.


They may have an overwhelming need to ‘fit in’


They have low inferiority complex and gossiping gives power


They perceive that the only way to get ahead is to kill the competition

What can your company do?


The senior management must lead the way by practising a zero-tolerance policy towards backbiting and gossip


Put this policy into your company’s HR manual and explain this to new employees


Don’t listen to groundless chatter


Seek for facts by approaching the person with tact


Practise an open-door policy whereby employees can approach the boss in an open way without fear or undesirable consequence(s)


If necessary, engage a coach to teach staff to quit sniping at each other


Don’t do it yourself!

A large part of our working life is derived from the satisfaction of being able to put in our level best and having our strengths leveraged for the benefit of our company. A happy working environment contributes a lot to this desired outcome. With conscious effort and commitment, your working environment can be a warm and cordial one where colleagues empower and encourage one another.

All the best!


Harmless office chitchat – or poisonous gossip? (November 12 2007)
By Anne Fisher, Fortune senior writer, in CNN Retrieved 18 March, 2008, from

2. (2008)
Retrieved 18 March, 2008, from


The Emotional Bank Account



                                                                                                      The Emotional Bank Account (EBA)
                                                                                                                      by Leonard Kok

In my course of work, I usually ask participants in my workshops to talk about their personal expectations for the time that they are going to spend with me. Sometimes I also ask them simple questions like “What makes you happy at work?” or “What are your pet peeves at your workplace?” I list them all down on the flipchart, into two columns. Interestingly, the things that make them happy are more often than not, human beings and the collegiality that exists in their offices. Their pet peeves, though wide-ranging, are usually non-human and inanimate. Well, surprised? I think not. When we have warm, friendly, positive relationships at our workplaces, the community increases its effectiveness and the ‘enemy’ becomes paper instead of each other.

What is the Emotional Bank Account?

Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) uses the metaphor of Emotional Bank Account to describe “the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship” (p. 188). This is one of the most powerful and graphic concepts to date on building relationships based on trust. The basic tenet of this simple yet profound principle is that we maintain a personal “emotional” bank account with anyone who works or relates with us. This account begins on a neutral balance. And just as with any bank account, we can make deposits and withdrawals. However, instead of dealing with units of monetary value, we deal with emotional units.

This concept is powerful because it transcends time, space and hierarchy; that is; it doesn’t matter whether you are the office cleaner, middle, senior management, or the boss. Thus, a kind word from anyone in the office to another person of any level is a deposit. When you do anything nice to anyone in your office without expectation of any good in return, that is a deposit. This includes making a nice cuppa for your busy colleague or offering free rides to your colleagues because it’s ‘along the way.’ Also, when you relate to your potential client as a flesh and blood human being rather than your potential bottom line, you are making a deposit.

The deposits do not stop there as it transcends time and space: After work, there are the ‘inner-circle’ people whom we relate to and love. A loving hug and a listening ear for our loved ones is definitely a deposit.
Covey describes 6 major ways of making deposits on the Emotional Bank Account:

– Understanding the individual;
– Attending to little things;
– Keeping commitments;
– Clarifying expectations;
– Showing personal integrity; and
– Apologizing sincerely when you make a “withdrawal”

On the other hand, an unkind word or deed, being disrespectful, being proud or arrogant; or actions that betray the trust of your friend or organisation, is a withdrawal from the Emotional Bank Account (EBA). Trust is needed for a relationship to thrive. Without trust, we may manage to accommodate and endure another person. However, it cannot be mutually satisfying in the long run. It is easy to take another person, a spouse or friend, a relative or anyone we deal with, for granted. Yet, it is the level of goodwill that exists in the relationship which determines the depth and strength of the relationship.

Granted, we are all mortal. We make mistakes. That’s part of life and learning. Knowing when you are wrong and admitting your mistakes prevents the wounds that you’ve might have caused in others from festering and allows them to heal. When appropriate, sincere apology will keep accounts in the positive, allowing you to maintain the balance in the account.

What can we learn from the EBA?
What can we take away from the concept of the EBA? We are reminded that people, not material possessions, are the real deal. Walt Disney is right when he says: “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality”.

Secondly, the EBA reminds us to be ‘other-centred’. Being other-centred is the first step to ‘seeking first to understand, then to be understood.’ (Covey, Effective habit #1) If we constantly make deposits into the accounts of everyone whom we interact with everyday, the account (trust) will be healthy and so will the relationship.

For those who work in the banking sector, you cannot take an overdraft if your EBA with your colleague is zero or in the red. But you can freely deposit goodwill and trust into another person’s account and it won’t cost you a real cent; just sincerity, honesty and, yes, love.

Some of us who grow up in an environment jostling and fighting for the survival of the fittest might perhaps find this entire concept bordering on the regions of naiveté. These hopefully small category of people might also constantly draw from other people’s accounts. We have heard of the phrase ‘give and take.’ However, this minority just take, take and take. They drain the account. We call this person a ‘very draining person’ (VDP). Positive Psychology teaches us to stay away such people because they drain the lifeforce from any body and organisation.

There is a movie which illustrates the concept of the EBA. I draw our attention to the critically acclaimed 2001 movie, Pay It Forward. Like some other kids, 12-year-old Trevor McKinney believed in the goodness of human nature. Like many other kids, he was determined to change the world for the better. Unlike most other kids, he succeeded. In fact, what started as a movie ended up as a real movement in the United States and in other parts of the world. Check out this website: There is a lot of milk of human kindness going around the world indeed. The basic principle of paying it forward is the desire to top up the EBA of people around us, especially those who need it.

So, the next time you relate to another person, think of your own account with that person. Is it credit or debit, in the black or in the red? Don’t despair if it is down south. You can do something about it. Top up the person’s account. Do it today. Do it NOW.


– Covey, Stephen R. Seven, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (2004). Free Press, USA.



The Creative Clay Challenge



Looking for something novel, creative and constructive for your next teambuilding programme? Try the Creative Clay Challenge!

In this all-weather teambuilding activity, participants make colourful clay pieces which serve as metaphors to describe themselves, their organization and relationship with their colleagues .

What can the Creative Clay Challenge do for your organization?

– Clarify values, roles and identitie

– Integrate new teams and new members

– Integrate diverse cultures

– Stimulate creativity

– Facilitate SWOT analysis

– Improve project leadership

-Surface hidden issue

The Basis of the Creative Clay Challenge

The Creative Clay Challenge is based on the learning theory of Constructionism, which means that one learns through personal discovery of knowledge and its meaningfulness to themselves. Through the Creative Clay Challenge, participants will go through the process of self-discovery through expressing their thoughts, feelings and attitudes in creating clay products that they can identify with and are proud of. What you learn in the process of making things that you care about sinks much deeper into the subsoil of the brain.

The Results of the Creative Clay Challenge

Teams will learn how to:

– work with constraints

– manage change

– leverage on the strengths of the members and work around its weaknesses

– listen and communicate with one another

Teams bring back their masterpieces!

The Creative Clay Challenge enables your key stakeholders to breathe life into text and transform values into colourful clay pieces which they can bring back to their workplace! What better way to imbibe the organization’s values!

Try the Creative Clay Challenge to reap maximum effects from your teambuilding!

Facilitating with Excellence

Writen: Leonard Kok

As a Facilitator, I find satisfaction in meeting the clients, getting to know their objectives and translating them into Experiential Learning activities.

Facilitating an entire programme is an invigorating, exciting experience for me, especially so when the team is able to meet their learning objectives and hearing them shake our hands at the end of the day and say: ‘Job well done!’
All of us are made uniquely and have different experiences and backgrounds in life. Thus, any facilitator who believes in Experiential Learning can and will be able to gather new insights. Alvin Toffler says that the illiterate of the 21st century will not

be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. This enlightening statement cuts across time; it can be applied in times of affluence as well as times of adversity.

What can we learn as facilitators? We interact with different programmes, create and manage learning outcomes and venues. It also, and certainly, includes participants – simply because each one of us, including the participants, have unique experiences to share. Their experiences can surely enrich us if we choose to
interact with a learning attitude.

Most of the time, facilitating is a physically tiring, sometimes mentally exhausting experience but at the end of the programme, satisfaction in a job well done motivates and encourages me to do better. I am able to sleep at night with a clear conscience that i have done a good job. Of course, receiving online and other forms
of compliments after a programme acts as a booster for continuous improvement.

Through getting constructive and very often, excellent feedback, i have garnered what i think are the factors which are important for the personal facilitator’s toolkit:

  1. Facilitate with confidence
    Confidence begets confidence. Confidence in oneself is the starting point of any programme and adventure and it sends a clear message to our participants about our professionalism and image. For younger facilitators, know that you are not standing in front of the participants alone. The boss, the organizers, and generally the participants want you to have a successful programme. If we look at it from the perspective, we can take the programme and do a good job of it.

In addition having confidence in oneself acts as a security blanket in situations where our participants have not faced before, like going against the gravity for 10 to 25 metres. So, more than a smiling face, confidence radiates not only warmth but also issues a sense of credibility and authority in our profession, which leads to trust in what we do.

  1. Relate with Sincerity
    More than many other professions, we facilitators interact not just with human beings but also the organizational processes which drive their behavior and just about everything which explains their existence in the marketplace. Their time spent with us means they are entrusting their well- being and the whole set of objectives, which they hold dear to their hearts, to us. Relating to our participants must mean more than just having professional knowledge of the things they do. First and foremost, sincerity should be the very cornerstone for our interaction with the participants. Many of us have heard of this statement ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’. Just as our professionalism encourages
    our participants to trust us, our sincerity causes the participants to open up, have fun and understand us when sometimes when things don’t exactly go the way we want them to.
  2. Facilitate with a listening ear
    More important than our verbal facilitation, we have to listen. We are the host, caretaker, first-aider, weatherman, clown, magician, servant and helper – each role we play demands a different set of job description. If we are able to listen, we will be able to fulfill these multiple roles with excellence. Listening will also enable us to ensure that our process debrief is to the point and relevant for their organization. I strongly believe that a facilitator who listens will correspondingly increase his or her situational awareness.
  3. Plan with seriousness
    When I was a student, I have been drummed with this message: ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. The same goes to planning for a programme. A facilitator who attaches the adjective ‘professional’ in front of his or her title must surely do some research into the organisation’s mission and goals, the core values which explain their market existence and other information which enable us to do a good facilitation. Just coming in at 0800 hours for a ‘template’ programme starting at 0900 hours will do fine but putting in the 3 extra mile will enable us to facilitate with a higher situational awareness and intelligence; plus a higher EQ as well because we will know what are the OB markers and will not tread onto ‘thin ice’.
  4. Manage expectations well
    The management of expectations is an acquired skill. Expectations not set or set in an unthinking way will meet with obstacles along the way. After the participants have set the expectations, what next? Do we just leave it to chance for the text on the flipchart to materialize and concretise or do we proactively seek to refer to it along the facilitation process and to provide means and platform to fulfill them? In addition, out-of-the-template requests, if managed well, will result in comebacks and returning clients. The reverse is also true – promises made but not delivered will not just drive away our clients but also create some negative publicity by word of mouth. A great facilitator I once knew said that a satisfied client will publicise to five other people and a dissatisfied client – ten.

    6. Deliver Fun
    Why do children have some much fun and ‘a-dull-ts’ have so much fewer LOL moments? We take ourselves too seriously. Seriously, that’s how I sometimes feel about myself too. However, if we include fun in the entire
    process of facilitation, it lowers the emotional barriers and will naturally result in gut-wrenching, floor-rolling moments of spontaneity. Laughter is one of the objectives of the organizers and the participants themselves.
    ‘FUN’, we have realized, will always appear during the setting of Expectation.
  5. Practice Safety
    Is this an overstated objective or understated opinion? Years ago, I was in the Combat Engineers, being introduced to C4 and other explosive devices and booby traps. In the very first introduction to the very exciting part of the entire course, we were shown gory human parts, scattered around this region in Singapore called the Area ‘D’. Due to carelessness, such tragic mishaps took place. It will serve us well if we learn from foresight instead of hindsight, because hindsight means sad sights. Safety should always be the foundation of a fun programme. Is it not a fact that ‘To have a safe programme’ is one of the often heard expectations? This therefore means that we walk the actual ground before the participants use the elements. In fact, any activity comes with a certain amount of risk – it will do everyone good if we minimize it. This brings me to the next and related point.
  6. Walk the ground
    I learnt a very memorable lesson in Batam in the not so distant past when I as the lead facilitator forgot to check the ground, only to find out one hour before the programme started, in the morning. My heart almost dropped out of my mouth when I discovered that the entire Low Elements were shifted to a location which was deemed to be very unsuitable for any programme to take place. Shocked? Just ask yourself how many times has the Low Elements moved away from a site? Thankfully, in my situation, the clients were understanding and a change of activities were put in place and accepted. I learnt that if we don’t walk the ground, we have to accept the consequences of our assumptions and plan for the unplanned. Cross-
    reference to point 3.
  7. Focus on the Objectives
    If all of us, from Project Managers to Instructors to fellow facilitators are focused on the clients’ outcomes and objectives, what is being planned and what is not planned for (‘screw-ups’) will be managed with a great deal of understanding. To me, being objective-based will enable us all to focus on the issue(s) on the ground and not on the person(s). I have had tremendous satisfaction working with my fellow facilitators who, with one heart and one mind, tried our best to meet the clients’ objectives by working shoulder to shoulder, even though our energies were almost sapped. I shall and will never forget those golden moments.
  8. Work as a Team
    This goes hand-in-hand with point 7. Coming from a background which places a great deal of responsibility on the individual, meritocracy and personal achievement (meaning competition), our society in general needs to emphasise on the simple synergy which guarantee success. We are team- building specialists but we could also do with teambuilding ourselves. Personally, I have also learnt a great deal by focusing on what each part of the team has to specialize in and not to shoulder everything, even if I am the lead facilitator. I have also learnt a lot in focusing on the strengths of the person and letting him or her do the part of the entire project. And I am still learning, since life is an ongoing adventure.
  9. Take an interest in reading
    Reading? Where do you find the time, you may ask? An excellent facilitator first has to know some current affairs so the newspaper ought to be part of one’s staple diet. Why? We are teambuilding professionals
    providing insights to organizations on organizational processes. We are in fact, professional consultants. Where do these insights come from? Analysis, observations from journalists and updates enable us to speak with depth and understanding. Reading also helps us to build up a repertoire of narratives. Narratives are powerful tools which are capable of breaking paradigms and providing catalyst to change and transformation. A narrative, well-told and at the appropriate moment, provides a great opportunity to shift an
    organization’s gear. We have never underestimated the power of the three construction workers, have we? Which is why we keep on using it. How do I improve my language? What are the Seven Habits? What kind of
    family background did Akio Morita come from? Well, there’s an answer to every single curious reader, found in the form of a book or a computer with an internet connection. Further than that, reading as an enjoyment
    helps us to grow as a person. There is a book for any enthusiast; there is a book for any willing reader.

12 Take care of yourself
This seems very self-centred but if we take a look at emergency and non- emergency procedures, most of the time, one has to take care of himself or herself before he or she can render assistance to others. In an
emergency on the airplane or ferry, we have to put on lifesaving equipment before even attempting to save others. In the same vein, we should take proper rest after programmes and apply sunblock before
going out into the sun, simply because we exhort our participants to do so. Same theory here. Prepare for the programme, rest well, and the programme will most likely turn out with better results as our physical
constitution is able to prep well and respond to any unique situation which arises. This will prevent us from running on an empty tank, which can be potentially disastrous both for our health and well-being.

Take care of ourselves can also means developing a hobby or a passion. Start and pursue a hobby. It gives meaning to our growth as a person. We can most certainly sense the passion when we talk to people who
have hobbies and healthy pursuits in their lives. We may never fully understand why a person takes up that particular hobby but we certainly 6 will identify with the word ‘Passion’ when the person is able to apply the
same amount of it into his or her work. It would not be far-fetched to say
that people who have hobbies and interests and pursue them will be able
to put that same amount onto the work areas.

13 Don’t forget your family or your loved ones
It would be an irony if we are teambuilding specialists and yet we cannot teambuild with people whom we call the ‘inner-circle’ – the ones who have a special place in our hearts. Take care of this aspect of our lives
and it will provide more meaning to the things which we do at work.

14 A Spiritual Focus
What if we have prepared well for a programme but some unexpected things happen? So, what then? Do we feel bad about it? Do we have to carry the consequences one, two days or weeks after the programme?
Well, I think it’s not necessary. There must be a time and place when after all that has been planned for, said and done, we must step back and let go. There could be a reason behind it? Having a spiritual anchor in
one’s life enables one to see life as a part of a whole rather than a moment, and it provides balance to one’s existence.

I hope the pointers will be useful for the facilitator. A facilitator never stops learning as facilitation is a skill which is honed over time and experience. All the best to your facilitation journey and share your insights!