Reaching the pinnacle of leadership with one potato.

Alternate title: The Potato of Love

Image by Gundula Vogel from Pixabay

What can you do with a potato? Lots! French fries (chips, if you prefer), potato salad, wedges, casserole, curry puffs, creamy mash, and a chicken curry is never complete with its potato. But never did I expect to see something beautiful demonstrated with potatoes; to be exact — a boy and his single potato.

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[nrp soundbites] How to empower – Wrap up

[28 July 2021] Day 58 of the nrp* in Malaysia

I have given 6 quick tips on how to create an empowering culture by


1. Letting go of fear and starting to trust
2. Flattening the hierarchy and setting clear objectives to employees
3. Delegating with the intention to develop
4. Providing the resources to support your employees (and see an increase in customer loyalty)
5. Being open to feedback
6. Encouraging creativity and see innovation thrive

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[nrp soundbites] How to empower – Tip #5: Feedback

[13 July 2021] Day 43 of the nrp* in Malaysia

A few years ago, I was doing a project consulting project for a software company. The management had assigned Samantha, an experienced executive to act as a resource person. As I worked with her, I noticed that Samantha would stick to a very fixed way of performing her tasks and never want to learn any new ways. She would never tell me why and each time, she goes on a very long explanation about the process she takes. When asked for ideas and opinion, she would not contribute any. At first, I thought she was inflexible and unteachable.

But then, I found that this was a common trait among the staff that worked for the same department that Samantha worked in. I noticed that their manager is a subject matter specialist and takes the effort to correct his staff when they made any mistakes. He is not nasty when he does it and I believe he truly wants them to learn. But it would be better if he had balanced his feedback to be both supportive and corrective in nature.

So as a result, like Samantha, they will not want to try anything new nor share their thoughts. They don’t really know how they are performing as they feel they are being corrected all the time.

Empower and give feedback

In this How to Empower series, I have shared the following:

  1. Stop fearing and start trusting
  2. Flatten your hierarchy and set clear objectives
  3. Delegate with intent to develop to increase employee engagement
  4. Provide resources to support and see increase in your customer loyalty

Empowering employees does not mean they are to be left on their own and figure out how they are doing at their work. Expect mistakes and provide feedback.

Positive feedback works better

I’d like to share something that a friend taught me about giving feedback.

If you want to help someone improve, catch them when they do something right.

Steven Cheah

Often, leaders feel they need to point out mistakes that employees have done so as to avoid the mistake being repeated. There’s a limit to how effective this is. How many times have you heard leaders say this — Despite my reminders so many times, I still see the mistake being made.

By praising employees when they do something right, you are reinforcing the right behavior and you will see more of this behavior. This increases their confidence as well as trust in you as a leader.

How did this help Samantha? I started by giving her goals, instead of tasks. I did not give her any fixed processes and asked her to tell me what was the best way to achieve these goals. She was not used to it at first. I also made sure my feedback was positive and took the time to acknowledge when she did something right. She became more confident and had stopped justifying every single step of the process she took.

(Read the other parts about empowerment)

(*nrp stands for National Recovery Plan.)
(Feature Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay.)


About the Author: Gina Phan is a consultant and trainer with Zinfinity Consulting. She currently conducts courses in workplace performance skills. Click here to contact her, follow her on Facebook or connect with her on Linkedin.

Read her other posts.


#leadership #servantleadership #empower #empowermenttips #management #feedback
#trainergina #ginaphan #gp

[nrp soundbites] How to empower – Tip #4: Resources to support

[9 July 2021] Day 39 of the nrp* in Malaysia

This is already the 4th piece about empowerment. If you are not already convinced, here’s a major benefit of empowering your employees — According to a Gallup study, organizations that empower employees experience higher customer loyalty by as much as 50%.


Your customer’s experience with your brand is largely dependent on what is happening inside your organisation — employee satisfaction. Empowered employees take personal responsibility for doing a good job. The business reaps the benefits of this mindset.

Ritz-Carlton famously empowers its employees to spend up to $2,000 to make a customer happy, and a baristas at certain international coffee shops are authorised to give you a free drink if you have an issue with the service. No wonder these brands rate high in customer experience and satisfaction.

Resources and tools

Your employees can deliver superior products and services if they feel engaged in the organisation. They want to be able to address day-to-day challenges of customer handling more effectively. If there is an unsatisfied customer, do they have the tools and authority to make a decision to fix the problem immediately?

As a business leader, it’s good to think about how and what your employees can be empowered to do. And then, think of what resources are required for them to be able do it. What kind of changes to you need to make to your systems and processes to accomodate this?

Many years ago when I was on a business trip, I arrived at my hotel to find that my room was not ready. The staff kept me waiting at the lobby for 2 hours. Despite my complaints, they were not empowered to upgrade me to another room. And for some reason, the hotel’s General Manager was ‘uncontactable’ for that 2 hours. That was the last time I ever chose to stay in that hotel.

Compare that with another hotel that paid for refreshments for my family and upgraded us to a suite when the same thing happened on one of our holidays. No fuss; the staff at the reception are empowered to do it. Did they get my loyalty as a customer? You bet, they did!

(Read the other parts about empowerment)

(*nrp stands for National Recovery Plan.)
(Feature Image by Rodrigo Salomón Cañas from Pixabay.)


About the Author: Gina Phan is a consultant and trainer with Zinfinity Consulting. She currently conducts courses in workplace performance skills. Click here to contact her, follow her on Facebook or connect with her on Linkedin.

Read her other posts.


#leadership #servantleadership #empower #empowermenttips #management #resources
#trainergina #ginaphan #gp

[nrp soundbites] How to empower – Tip #3: Delegate to develop

[6 July 2021] Day 36 of the nrp* in Malaysia

Empowerment increases employee engagement. According to Joseph Folkman who analysed data on more than 7,000 employees, people who felt a low level of empowerment were rated with engagement at the 24th percentile, whereas those with a high level of empowerment were at the 79th percentile.

After Tip #1 and Tip #2, let’s see how delegation helps.

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[nrp soundbites] A leader’s mindset

[2 July 2021] Day 32 of nrp* in Malaysia

Today, I take a small break on the topic of empowerment and talk about mindset. Leaders are responsible for their team’s performance. Sometimes, they are sent for formal training and sometimes they rely on on-the-job experience (aka shoot, then aim). Why are some more successful than others as leaders? The biggest contributor to this difference is mindset.

Today, I take a small break on the topic of empowerment and talk about mindset. Leaders are responsible for their team’s performance. Sometimes, they are sent for formal training and sometimes they rely on on-the-job experience (aka shoot, then aim). Why are some more successful than others as leaders? The biggest contributor to this difference is mindset. O

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[nrp soundbites] How to empower – Tip #2: Flatten and set clear objectives.

[1 July 2021] Day 31 of nrp* in Malaysia

On this first day of the second half of the year, I share the second tip on how to empower successfully. To make empowerment effective, it’s good to flatten the hierachy. Flat organisations have few or no levels of intermediate management between staff and leaders. This “flattened” hierarchy increases employee involvement through a decentralized decision-making process.

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[nrp soundbites] How to empower – Tip #1: Trust, not fear

[30 June 2021] Day 30 of the nrp* in Malaysia

Hey, you wrote about how important it is to empower people. Can you tell us how to do it?” Someone texted me when he read my previous post.
I agree, it will certainly be more helpful. Since these are soundbites, let me break it down.


The first tip is to look at why there’s room for improvement in your organisation. Not why it is needed — that has already been established yesterday. But what are the stumbling blocks that we need to overcome.

Is there a lack of awareness? Is it because this has always been the way it is done? Or you don’t think your employees are capable enough? You don’t trust them? Or deep down, is there a fear of empowerment? Only you can answer this honestly.

Start by removing these barriers. If you want your employees to go the extra mile, it is not about going out to look for new ones. It’s about creating an environment in which your current employees feel safe to do it.

Stop fearing; Start trusting

I have met managers who fear that when their staff do better, their position will be threaten. So they withhold information and give half-instructions just so that they can look good in comparison. I had one such manager. Each time he gives me a task, he would always make sure it is not complete. So, I will always fail in front of the bigger bosses. But he forgot one thing — I can read. After I realised what was going on, I always did my research and found the missing piece of information.

So what happened to me after awhile? I got better at my work and was given higher responsibilities eventually. What happened to him? He stayed put and continued to complain that his team members are always making mistakes, making him look bad. And he ‘always had to come in to rescue them‘. He certainly looked at them as his competitor. What he didn’t realise was that the bigger bosses looks at the performance of his team as a reflection of his leadership. So, the strategy of tripping your own team members is counter-productive. I feel sad for him. He was a smart person,a very good developer but his fear worked against him.

Then there’s the business owner who feel that once his employees are empowered, they will leave and compete with him. Yes, that happens all the time. It happens whether you do it or not. The only question I have is “Do you prefer to empower them and they leave, or do you prefer that they remain as ineffective and stay?” Some may prefer the latter. It’s totally acceptable if they are happy with their business growth rate and the amount of energy they have to put in themselves. Employees who want to thrive will still leave eventually because the environment will be too stifling for them. Either they will leave to help your competitor or they will start their own business to compete with you.

Here’s one idea for those in this position: Instead of looking at people who leave as competition, look for ways to collaborate. This is how you can turn a win-lose situation into a win-win. My friend’s boss did that — he invested in my friend’s new business.

Start by trusting. It is an investment into the future.

(Read more about empowerment)
(*nrp stands for National Recovery Plan.)
(Feature Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.)


About the Author: Gina Phan is a consultant and trainer with Zinfinity Consulting. She currently conducts courses in workplace performance skills. Click here to contact her, follow her on Facebook or connect with her on Linkedin.

Read her other posts.


#leadership #servantleadership #empower #empowermenttips
#trainergina #ginaphan #gp

[nrp soundbites] Why leaders should empower their employees?

[28 June 2021] Day 28 of NRP Phase 1* in Malaysia

Remember the days where we had to go to the bank to deposit a cheque? Back in the day, I would arrive at the banking hall, take my queue number and wait for my turn. When my number is called, I approach the counter, present the cheque and my savings account book. The bank officer the bank would take both, process it and then pass it over to someone with a higher authority to checkmark on the slip before my attempt to put money into my own account is considered successful. I have always been amazed as to how inefficient this process is. Not only does it take longer to complete a transaction, but it shows how disempowered the person working at the counter is.

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[fmco soundbites] I thought I was being empathetic, really.

[27 June 2021] Day 27 of the fmco* in Malaysia

Yesterday, I posted about how a leader should be empathetic. This is not something that we can get right all the time. It can be pretty tricky.

Many years ago, one of my co-worker was going through a difficult time because her mother was at the last stages in her battle with cancer. After work, she would rush to the hospital and stay with her mom throughout the night. I did not know at first but detected some change in the quality of her work. When I talked to her, she explained her situation to me.

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[fmco soundbites] Extreme micro-managing

a lot of clocks
[19 June 2021] Day 19 of fmco* in Malaysia

Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a Facebook post (someone else’s) that talked about how his company micro-manages them now during the lockdowns. I was amazed at the extreme this company went to micro-manage.

The company had installed a screen activity tracker on the computers that are used by the employees. The system sits in the background and tracks if there are any mouse movement or typing activity on the computer. After a certain period, if they detect that there are none, a window will pop up to verify why they have been idle. The system will ask if they are still on the break or if they want to continue working. And the system will screenshot everything that is displayed on the computer. (Alert: this may have broken some privacy laws if personal data was displayed.)

When I wrote about the invisible leader being visible, this is certainly not what I was referring to. LOL!

Why do people micromanage?

Micro-management involves the close supervision of an employee by a manager. The term has a negative connotation because it stems from distrust and does not promote autonomy. Many are clock-watchers as in the case of using the screen tracker.

There are many reasons employers micro-manage their team members. Fear drives many of the behaviors they exhibit. Here are some common reasons why people micro-manage:

  • Loss of control over projects
  • Unskilled employees on team
  • Belief that work deemed superior to their own may make them look inadequate
  • Extreme need for control and domination
  • Poor self-image and insecurities
  • Inexperience in management
Micro-management is damaging

This distrust damages relationships with your staff. According to Brigette Hyacinth, the long term negative effects on the business are:

  1. Decreased productivity
  2. Reduced innovation
  3. Lower morale
  4. High staff turnover

If you think you have a tendency to micro-manage, take time to do self assessment. What is the real fear, deep down? Perhaps, it’s not fear but you need to learn how to teach, not tell.

fmco = Full Movement Control Order


About the Author: Gina Phan is a consultant and trainer with Zinfinity Consulting. She currently conducts courses in workplace performance skills. Click here to contact her, follow her on Facebook or connect with her on Linkedin.

Read her other posts.


#micromanage #micromanager #fear #leadership #management
#trainergina #ginaphan #gp

(Feature Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.)

[fmco soundbites] The org chart (part 8) – Becoming invisible

[17 June 2021] Day 17 of the fmco* in Malaysia

Some leaders want to build the organisation and community centred on them and their abilities. While others prefer to truly serve his people from behind. A few days ago, I wrote about the Lion Dance troupe. One of the major roles in the community is its invisible leader.

In most lion dance troupe, the sifu is the owner/founder/guru. Nobody knows more than him. He is respected by his students and by his peers. (cue Wong Fei Hong theme song) And yet, most times, he is not seen and does not seem to take up any role in the performance. People know his abilities through the work of his students. His presence is felt.

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[fmco soundbites] The org chart (part 7) – Self Awareness

picture of a man in Guy Fawkes mask looking at a smaller Gur Fawkes mask in his right hand
[15 June 2021] Day 15 of the fmco* in Malaysia

Who am I?
Back in 1979, one of my favourite songs was Supertramp’s Logical Song. There’s one part in which they sing “I know it sounds absurd, Please tell me who I am….” Self-awareness can be rare.
A holistic understanding of the various approaches in servant leadership requires self-awareness in the leader.

Often, people in positions of authority and power are blissfully ignorant of their own strengths, as well as their shortcomings. We need to be conscious of how our own behavior, the expression of our values and emotions, and our psychological biases affect those around us. This becomes even more essential during critical moments. It is key to establishing trust and openness in your team.

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[fmco soundbites] The org chart (part 5) – Committed to others

[12 June 2021] Day 12 of the fmco* in Malaysia

Wolves are interesting animals. The wolf has these indispensable qualities: sociability, and a capacity for learning, communication, and expression. According to Living with Wolves blog, they live in well-coordinated and collaborative packs. They form unique bonds and care for each other individually, which is the foundation of their cooperative living. In short, they are devoted and committed to the pack.

What great leadership lessons we can derive from them?

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[fmco soundbites] Authenticity in business communication

[11 June 2021] Day 11 of the fmco* in Malaysia

Today, I take a break from the upside-down org chart series to talk about being authentic in communication. This applies to leaders as well as anyone else in the organisation.

The business landscape has changed and will carry on changing. Authentic communication is now required in all levels of conversations – whether it’s between government officials with the people, an employer with an employee, or between a business and its customers.

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[fmco soundbites] The org chart (part 4) – Compassion

[10 June 2021] Day 10 of the fmco* in Malaysia

The upside down organisation chart and how a compassionate leader can inspire people to new heights.

My friend, Jasmine shared her experience to me. She used to head the smaller Malaysian office for a US-based company and had been working there for about 8 years when it happened. I am sure you agree that her boss showed what compassion at the workplace means in real terms.

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