Leadership Notes from Dean of HC
Note 19 – May 29, 2020 – Wrapping up the 2019/2020 Academic Year
This is the last group mail from me for this academic year. I hope you have enjoyed reading my Friday mails, which I hope have somehow and somewhat inspired you, over the past months.
Trust that most of you have finished your final examinations! Hope you are satisfied with your performances! If you are not, this is perhaps a good time to reflect why. Have you demanded too much from yourselves? Have you spent enough time in the preparation for the exams? Have you taken enough time and tests to ensure your electronic systems work for your learning and examinations? No matter what and how, please be reminded that time does not stop, life goes on, and so will your future. Learning from your past is good; lingering is not. Please prepare yourselves for the forthcoming encounters and exposures!
This semester has been very special and challenging, filled with stress, confusion and worry amid the COVID-19. I can very confidently say that no one has ever had such experience before, but I also feel proud at how we all managed to reach this point. Can you imagine life without WiFi and electricity? I certainly can’t! We survived! We grow stronger! We explored more about the necessities for and of living, and perhaps even realizing how spoilt we have been. We are given this rare opportunity to treasure our beloved, family, relatives and friends again.
For those HCers who have been, or are still, abroad for exchange and the study abroad program, I can assure you that you are not left behind. If you are still stuck at wherever you are, we really hope you will be back home soon. The HC Office will continue to try every measure to stretch our capacity and capability in order to help you! We are also very proud that you have been strong, safe and healthy! A warmest welcome for those who managed to come back in late March, and more recently in May! It has been a long journey for each of you! Guys and gals, great job!
For those HCers graduating this year, we are sorry that you have not been able to experience what graduands would normally do in this last semester of yours at UM. For instance, there would have been graduation photo-taking; there would be graduation dinner. We are nevertheless positive that you will be proud to be members of the UM family, and even better, HCers! Please keep in touch! All my best wishes to you for your new exciting pages in life!
To all HCers, one year has passed, and the next semester will begin in three months, albeit later than usual! It is a pity that we cannot carry on with our activities for the 10th Anniversary of HC, such as the Honours Forum by Mr. Grant Bowie, the CEO of MGM China Holdings Limited, and the Anniversary Finale Concert. We at HC hope to see you soon and to offer you more exciting and enjoyable experiences in the next academic year.
Finally, wish you all the best for your exams, your job hunting, your study abroad, your pursuance of your dreams, and your health! Add Oil!!! (Are you aware that this Chinese slang, “add oil”, has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018?)
Till we meet again!
Note 18 – May 15, 2020
Following the message of last week, I am very interested in sharing more inspiring messages from Jay Shetty with you. But before that, today I would like to have some Vocabulary Time! Prof. Victoria Lei, our Faculty Coordinator from FAH could share more, and/or correct me if I am wrong.
We non-native English speakers sometimes tend to use the same word repeatedly, particularly adjectives. For example, other than “beautiful”, what else will you say? Boys and girls, do you know the difference between “beautiful” and “pretty”? I was once praised as “You are pretty, not beautiful!” Lesson learnt! And oh, by the way, how about “You are pretty not beautiful!”? OMG! That is really not good!!! You know why? If you are not sure, and you want to know, feel free to write to me!
It is always good to learn more and be able to use more variety, especially when you have chances to talk to people in English. So, here is a sample list of words, of which the left column includes those many non-native speakers would use, and the right is the alternative.
|Very often||Frequently, repeatedly (which I used above)|
|Very open||Transparent (Please check the NOTE below)|
Note: Be careful not to describe a person being “transparent” as it can be offensive to some people! Being “open” is good, and welcomed by most people around you. However, describing the person as “transparent” might mean that this person has the intention to hide something, but failed. This also means the person is not being honest, but turns out to be a poor liar. A synonym can be “honest” or “open”.
Hope you find them useful!
This is the last mail of the series for this academic year.
Good luck for everyone in your exams! Wish you the best of luck for the graduating HCers!
Note 17 – May 8, 2020
As bright students, have you ever found yourselves feeling detached from the surrounding? For example, you find people around you discussing about topics that you find uninteresting and superficial. You find being with them seems to be a waste of time. You find it difficult to have someone really understanding you. Or you find you are being ignored. Today, I would like to share with you my two cents about sense of detachment.
My first observation is that you might be too narrow-minded! You must have thought you are way more intelligent than many around you. This may mean your territory is actually too small! Go outside of your territory, meet more people. You will find that there are too many smart people on earth, and you will instantly find you are small like an ant. If you still can’t find one, go further. I am very sure that you are not the smartest person on earth! Do not be too contented by being the top of your tiny “world”. And if you haven’t already known, very intelligent people tend to be quite modest because they know they are good at certain things and skills, but not everything.
My other view is the following. Sometimes it is not because you think you are too good. In fact, despite good enough GPAs (come on, don’t be too modest; after all, you are part of HC, and that must mean something!), you still feel very detached from the world, feeling you don’t belong to where you are. If this is the case, you should not be upset. In almost no occasion would pessimism helps. So, think positive! I would like to introduce Jay Shetty to you. He gives a lot of inspiring messages. This is what he said: “Detachment doesn’t mean you own nothing. It means nothing owns you.” Do not try to suit the surrounding that you think you don’t belong. Do not feel bad when you think you are being ignored. The people surround you do not own you! You don’t live for them!
Think positive! Be positive! Behave positively! You will be able to contribute to yourself, and contribute to the world before you even notice!
Note 16 – April 24, 2020
Following my email dated 27th March, the idea of the book “Nine Lies About Work” can be summarized by Ashley Goodall, who mentioned, “When you look at people who are thriving in their jobs, you notice that they didn’t find them, they made them!” He also said that successful people take “the job that was there at the beginning and then over time they transform the contents of that job.”
How can this be done? The authors suggest that you can have a notepad with you all the time, separating the page into two, one side for “love” and the other for “Loathe”. Whenever you do something on each day, big or small, think about how you feel about it. Exciting? You look forward to it? Time flies when you work on it? Or will you procrastinate? Time passing too slowly? You are feeling being drained? This exercise helps you reveal what your tasks are to you. Then you can start thinking what matters to you, what don’t. Reframe your work, your tasks, turn what you have to do into something that would energize you, and that you will excel at. If you doubt what I just said, you can at least believe some in Mr. Buckingham who said, “If you don’t know what you’re like when you’re in love with your work, no one can do that for you… This has always been in your hands, and it cannot be in anyone else’s.”
Think about it!
Note 15 – April 17, 2020 – How to Handle Anxiety
Hope you have passed a Happy Easter, albeit quite an unusual, perhaps very quiet, one!
The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused many people, who would normally not be anxious easily, becoming very sensitive and anxious. Occasionally, even the best leaders would encounter unusually anxious behavior. In your case, you might become more anxious than usual because the examination period is approaching, and yet you have to cope with taking comprehensive exams online, perhaps for the first time in your life (except TOEFL?). I hope to share with you this week an article published by the Anxiety UK, called “Health and Other Forms of Anxiety and Coronavirus” from this URL: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/blog/health-and-other-forms-of-anxiety-and-coronavirus/
The main point I would like to emphasize is to practice APPLE when you are anxious or worried:
Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.
Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts. This is especially true because there are often fake news in social media! Choose not to believe in everything you are told.
Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud. Don’t hang on negative feelings! They will stop you from moving forward, and drag you down!
Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.
Hope you are preparing for your exams without too much hurdle!
Note 14 – April 3, 2020 – Reflection from COVID-19
I hope you are coping well in this very special period of COVID-19. Never had before have we gone online teaching and learning for all courses for this long, staying at our residences 24/7, seen the extremely busy and crowded streets around the Grand Lisboa Hotel that quiet, and so on, and so on! Some may enjoy playing basketball games online and miss the actual games! Others have learnt to drive very well,… on TV!
Staying at home all the time is not as easy as we once thought. So is surviving through crises. There is a Chinese saying, “Those who can cope, survive!”. I am sure most, if not all, of you, will not only survive but thrive in your career in the future. Still you should equip yourselves well to “cope” in your best ways.
This week, I would like to share with you how scholars suggest turning crises, or their aftermath, into opportunities. The first one is by Professor Bill Aulet, the Managing Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. In his article about “Teaching Entrepreneurship, Cultivating Antifragility” written on Nov. 18, 2019, he wrote the following:
‘To deal with future challenges, we will need people who don’t just survive in a chaotic, stressful, and complex world, but thrive. … An antifragile entrepreneurial mindset is not just a “nice-to-have” skill … It is a “must-have” skill … Their future—and ours—depends on it.’
Do remember that when you are STRESSED, think about reverting it; you will get DESSERTS! It is up to you to use your intelligence to change your days, and your lives!
Note 13 – March 27, 2020
Again, from the Preface of the book “Nine Lies About Work”, Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall define “freethinking leader” as
A leader who embraces a world in which the weird uniqueness of each individual is seen not as a flaw to be ground down but as a mess worth engaging with, the raw material for all healthy, ethical, thriving organizations; a leader who rejects dogma and instead seeks out evidence; who values emergent patterns above received wisdom; who thrills to the power of teams; who puts faith in findings, not philosophy; and above all, a leader who knows that the only way to make the world better tomorrow is to have the courage and the wit to face up to how it really is today.
Would you like to be such type of leader? Even if you are not a leader, by having that in mind, you can become a good team player. And by the way, as I emphasized many times, not everyone on earth is a leader defined by the normal world. But I am certain that every HCer must be a leader in the future. This is because the “normal” definition of leader is to lead a team at work. My sense of leadership is that whenever needed, you can be courageous enough to contribute, and if appropriate, lead a group of people who would eagerly follow you to effectively solve the issue through teamwork.
Note 12 – March 20, 2020
Following last time, I would like to continue with the book “Nine Lies About Work” by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.
…leaders who are asking themselves how they will get the most from each team member; how they will keep them all focused when each seems to have their own personal goals; how they will prevent them from making mistakes that will hurt the team, yet allow them room to experiment and learn; how they will be fair judges of their performance, yet still build relationships with them that are real and caring; and how they will do all this while remaining true to who they are as people. … in attempting to do all this, would be confounded … by all the things we know for sure but just ain’t so.
THINK! Do you notice that each of the clauses above is contradicting, somehow? How can you ask someone to stay “focused” but also have his/her “own personal goals”? How can someone be prevented from making mistakes and yet allowed to experiment and learn? And so on and so on… and hence, “we know for sure” but “just ain’t so”!
Think about it!
Note 11 – March 13, 2020
This time, and the next few, I would like to share some points taken from the book “Nine Lies About Work” by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. Marcus Buckingham is a British writer and business consultant. Ashley Goodall is the senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco.
The following is extracted from the Preface of their book. Instead of interpreting it in my own opinion with my own words, I will leave it to you to think and “taste” it:
… someone leading a team for the first time—someone who is facing a glorious but challenging world, and someone who wants to do something extraordinary with his or her team, to achieve greatness with them, to enable greatness for them, to become the kind of leader they talk about for years to come.
Do you envision yourself as someone like this when you have the chance to lead for the first time? THINK and IMAGINE! Reality to be explained in the following weeks!
Note 10 – March 6, 2020
I would like to start by sharing with you this quote from Mark Twain, an American writer who was praised as the “greatest humorist of American”:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure, that just ain’t so.”
Please think about this quote versus “You don’t know what you don’t know”, which you would hear more often.
If you can realize that “you don’t know what you don’t know”, you will tend to be more cautious because you are aware of your limitations. But if you think you know something “for sure”, please pause for a moment to ask yourself if you really know for sure. How sure? Is it “too good to be true” that you really do know for sure?
This also leads to the jargon of “Never say never”.
My point this time is that, being an effective leader, you have to keep questioning yourself, sometimes even doubting yourself, if you are right, and why you are right. Matters in life are very seldom either 0 or 1, or black or white. Allow room for decimal numbers, for grey area; allow flexibility. This way, you will become more flexible, adaptive, and more open to others’ suggestions. And in order to prove to yourself that you are right, you need to be open to objective (not subjective) evidence. If you cannot have strong evidence, please be modest and accept that it is not just 0 or 1. Never say that something will “never” happen, or that you will “never” be wrong! This nevertheless does not mean you have to be less confident. Confidence and assuming you are always right are two different issues!
I hope you will keep these quotes in mind, as they are good reminders of you sometimes being overly confident, which is not what good leaders should be.
Note 9 – February 28, 2020
This time, I would like to cover some important points in preparing your resume, or curriculum vitae (CV). Notice that people receiving your CV will only spend a few seconds to glance through it at the initial stage, and would have built up impression on you in those few seconds. Hence, getting your CV “appearance” right is very important at least in keeping people’s eyes on it so they could actually get a chance to know more about you.
So, please see the attached file. You are more than welcome to share with me any points that you think are important and you have heard of or encountered before, and I have not included in the file.
Attachment: Points to Note When Preparing CV
Note 8 – February 21, 2020
Last time, I touched on preparing personal statements. This time, I would like to offer you some etiquette lesson – The Proper Hand-shaking. You might think everyone knows how to shake hands. But guess what? You have only 10 minutes to impress a person whom you met for the first time, be him/her your future teacher, supervisor, client, customer, partner, or boss! And all this would start by firstly shaking hands! I will cover it with “Dos” and “Don’ts”
- Signal that you would shake hand before actually doing so by, for example, saying “Hi, XXX (the counterparty’s name, if you know)!” or “Hi, I am XXX (your name, if you don’t know the counterparty’s name)!”
- This can also be done at the end of the event. You might want to signal with “We’re headed out, XXX. Thanks for the wonderful party! We had a great time!”
- Maintain a proper distance so that you two are neither too intimidatingly close nor too uncomfortably far. Probably a little stretching out your hand in the most natural position will do.
- If you are sitting, stand up before shaking hand. When you are standing, make sure you maintain a proper posture. Stand straight with confidence. Don’t lean too much forward nor backward (the former shows lack of confidence, while the latter shows arrogance). Lean slightly forward and keep your eye contact to show that you are interested in shaking hand. Smile, to show you are not aggressive.
- If the person’s right hand is injured, offer your left hand instead.
- When you are holding the person’s hand, shake gently while also squeezing a little (very gently; you don’t want to tell people you practice martial arts!). This shows your affirmation and confidence.
- You can say, “Nice to meet you!” or “It’s pleasure to meet you.” while shaking hand.
- Shake a couple times, and then let go. Don’t pump for more than three.
- Resist the urge to wipe your hand after shaking someone else’s. They might notice and get offended.
- Keep people’s customs in mind. People from some countries do NOT shake hands.
- Don’t start with your hand sweating or wet (such as just after going to the washroom). Apologize for wet hand, and dry it before you shake hands. Do not use wet hands as excuse! (well, unless necessary)
- Don’t just have your hand positioned there, and wait to let the other person touch your hand, as if you don’t move. This shows very explicitly that you do not want to be acquainted.
- Don’t leave your fingers straight and let the counterparty shake them. You are like showing your lack of enthusiasm if you do not shake his/her hand with a grip.
- Don’t shake hand with your palm horizontally on top of the other person’s hand (like Donald Trump) because you are signally the counterparty that you like to dominate, i.e. there is an unfair game here, or at least you want to have one. On the other hand, if you start off with your hand open, expecting the counterparty to put his/her palm on top of yours, you are gesturing that you are open to suggestions and you are friendly. Of course, this way is not really all that necessary unless you are already very well established and you do not want to let others think that you are too authoritative. I mention this to you just so you will understand the reason when someone does this to you.
- Do not keep shaking and not wanting to let go. Be sensitive to the counterparty when they want to stop. Likewise, try to withdraw your hand when the counterparty holds your hand for unnecessarily long interval (like after shaking for three or four times). This is not impolite.
- Avoid swinging their hands around in a large back-and-forth movement.
Hope you will find this helpful. And if you have not practiced shaking hands like what I mentioned above, please do remember these Dos and Don’ts! I am quite sure it will help you start your conversation with anyone much easier!
Note 7 – February 14, 2020
To start off with this New Year of the Rat, I would like to offer you something useful for applying both for master programs and jobs, as long as you have to submit a personal statement. Even if you do not need to submit one, you should still remember and digest these tips for your interviews. Without explaining further, please enjoy the attachment.
I understand this mail comes too late for those who are already in your fourth year, and would like to pursue a master degree; but I think it would be helpful for all other HCers. I would appreciate if you would let me know whether you think these “Tips on Personal Statements” would be useful for you. Even better is if you could share with me whether you find my Friday mails helpful, and what else you would be interested in knowing.
Note 6 – February 7, 2020
It is a very strange, inconvenient, and scary start of the Year of the Rat! I understand it is very boring to be at home all the time! Me too! But please remember that this is the only way to reduce risk of getting or transmitting the new Coronavirus. On the positive side, think of how much closer you and your family are. Think of how little you have appreciated in the past what you have already possessed – your family, your room and/or space, and your home. Think about how you can focus on your study, have hours of borderless thoughts. This is the time when you can “think outside the box”. Remember how you used to complain you are too busy for this assignment or preparation of that test? No more excuse now! So, be a better HCers! Explore the world with the abundant online resources that you have never had time for.
Note 5 – January 17, 2020
(The following are some excerpt learnt from Prof. Lin Jian-Hua, former president of the Peking University, Beijing.)
The main functions of universities used to be Inheritance (傳承), Dissemination (傳播), and Creation (創造) of knowledge. This has now become only ONE broad function of universities.
In the new era of university education, “Knowledge” is only a basic need that you must get from the university. What distinguishes you from others is determined on how much of the following you have acquired beyond others in
Knowledge (知識), Common Sense (常識), Experience (見識), Courage (膽識)
To build up these senses (識), you should be more sensitive to your surroundings, think outside the box, engage more in the community, and go beyond your comfort zone, just like what I mentioned last time.
In your days to come, always pause for a while and ask yourself “How much have I acquired these days?”
Note 4 – January 10, 2020
Welcome back to school in the New Year of 2020!
Hope you are satisfied with your exam results! If not, don’t be upset! Remember, you won’t feel the fullest of sense of happiness and achievement if you have not been sad or upset! Review what you have not done enough, and improve yourself in the coming year(s). Also remember, there are always people around you to help! Be optimistic and meet your new challenges!
To warm up for this fruitful year, I would like to share with you what Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex (Prince Harry’s wife), quoted one of her mentors, Mrs. Maria Pollia, in an interview that “life is about putting others’ needs above your own fears”. This belief is particularly useful to overcome your own fear in case of emergency or critical periods.
More when you are fully geared for the semester!
Note 3 – December 13, 2019
Some of you might have already finished all your exams, while others might still have a couple to go. I am sure you are nervous and excited at the same time. To alleviate some pressure and stress from you, I have decided not to share any “tips of wisdom” this time. Instead, although a little early, I wish you all Merry Christmas!!!!
I am sure you will have a very fruitful year ahead! Your year can become even more fruitful by participating and lending your hands more in HC activities and events!!!
Good luck to your exams, too! You might occasionally have hiccups, such as exam results not as good as you would wished. But that is OK! Life is full of ups and downs. Being good students, you would have learnt how to handle hurdles. Being outstanding HCers, I have confidence that even if you have not encountered higher levels of difficulties before, you will be able to figure out how to overcome them. Remember, they are challenges of life, not problems! Also remember, you are not alone! We, your friends, peers, and family, are all around. If you think we can’t help, you are looking down on us! Try us! Try to share with us! My door is always open!
Note 2 – December 6, 2019
(The following are inspired by Prof. Jerome YEN, Head of Centre for Innovation and Enterpreneurship, at our HC Leadership Lecture Series on 20 November, 2019.)
A generally good student could deliver a high cumulative GPA.
An outstanding leader will be sensitive to his/her surroundings, think outside the box, engage more in the community, and go beyond his/her comfort zone.
To equip yourself for your future leadership, you will have to think/do the following:
Spend some time, even if 5 minutes, every day to day-dream. When you day-dream, you tend to think towards what you like, what you want, and what you hope for. Dream of the “impossible”! And, who knows, one day you will find a big dream coming true!
What is your Dream?
Ask yourself what would you want to do if you are allowed to do anything? This is a source of innovation, an origin of experience, whether of success or failure! Gather the courage and pursue for it! Don’t be afraid of tripping or falling! It is whether, and how, you can stand up from falling down that makes you stronger!
Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone
People have a tendency to avoid changes, and to feel very comfortable within their familiar zone. This is where innovation will never happen! A leader is someone who has the courage to step into uncertainty!
Be Engaged, Be Empathetic
The world is not about YOU! You are just one of the billions of people! Try to be sensitive to the world, to the needy, to your peers, to everyone around you! Lend your hands whenever possible!
Note 1 – November 29, 2019
To enhance our sense of belonging to this HC family, and to have a chance to share some wisdom on leadership that are worth noting, I have initiated this new way of communication – to send you a short mail every Friday to hopefully help wrap up your busy week and enlighten the beginning of the next.
As a first note, I would like to share with you, once again, our new HC slogan: “Be E.L.I.T.E., Be Part of the Honours College” I hope you could put the few attributes of leadership in practice:
Be Part of the Honours College