Monthly Archives: December 2014

Higher EQ, Better Job Performance

The trend is clear. Companies no longer hire employees based only on their brilliance or intelligence level. Today, companies put more emphasis on emotional intelligence to determine an employee’s effectiveness in the workplace.

Intelligence Quotient or IQ used to be the only acceptable benchmark to predict a person’s success in the business world. Back in high school, we were taught by our teachers that those high performing students with IQ 140 and above will be the future lawyers, doctors, and CEOs. Fast forward twenty years and suddenly we realise that IQ is not that important after all. The ones who make it to the top are the ones who have high EQ as well.

better EQ

What are IQ and EQ?

Emotional Intelligence, referred to as EI or EQ, is basically defined as a person’s ability to understand emotions, both our own and others. While IQ measures how intelligent a person is, EQ showcases your soft skills: communication, negotiation, empathy, understanding and self-awareness.

Why EQ can be more important?

We work with other people and many of the problems we encounter at work may be due to miscommunication or difference in personalities. Trainer and Consultant Bill Duncan says, “Emotional Intelligence can have a significant effect on the performance of a project, especially if you have a team of low EQ people. Overall it has a negative effect on teamwork.”

Research has also proven that higher EQ leads to better job performance.

For example, one study shows that a national insurance company found that sales agents who have low EQ sold policies with an average premium of $54,000. Sales agents who have high EQ, however, sold policies with an average of $114,000.

Improving our EQ

While research shows that our EQ level is developed during our early childhood and fairly stable over time, but fear not as it is not set in stone. Our EQ is not rigid, which means, everyone can change for the better. Your boss can learn to manage his/her temper and your colleague can become more understanding.

Change, however, takes time.

Improving our EQ does not happen overnight and it clearly needs dedication and hard work. Just like trying to quit smoking, improving our communication skills or being more open minded towards critics take practice.

How important is Emotional Intelligence in the success of a project? Is it equally important factor as cost, time or scope? Learn more at

How to Answer The Interview Question: “What Is Your Expected Salary?” – Part 1

This article, and the two that follow, talk about how to approach the interview question “What is your expected salary?” In this first discussion, we’ll cover what a job interview really is.

According to 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement by SHRM, compensation or pay is the third most important aspect in job satisfaction (60%), right after job opportunities (63%) and job security (61%).

This report shows that being overworked and yet underpaid leads directly to job dissatisfaction. The catch is, unfortunately, this fixed amount of money you receive was usually set up when you sat in that first interview.

How should we approach this sensitive matter? During an interview, is it okay to state a number first, or should we persist in forcing the employer to give a range?

salary interview question

But first, the basics

What is a job interview? Basically, an employer has a vacant seat and he wants to find the right piece of the puzzle. The candidate brings their piece of the puzzle to the interview to see if it fits.

But most often, as soon as we walk into that strange room with strange people, we feel like a gazelle hunted by the lions on the savannah. Almost instinctively, we try to impress and please them as much as we can.

Here’s something your prospective employers never tell you: they are already impressed with you. Out of the piles of resumes, they specifically handpicked you for an interview. Now their job is to make sure that you are the right piece of the puzzle they’ve been waiting for.

And your job is to figure out if you want to be the right piece of the puzzle to complete the set.

The job interview paradox

In approaching job interviews, some describe them as a game, while others think of them as a talent show.

Such descriptions portray nailing that job interview as a plain win-lose situation, with our job being to mould ourselves to an employer’s liking and interest to win the prize called contract offer.

They show the job interview as a one-way street where the employer controls everything.

But that’s not true. On the contrary, a job interview is more like dating.

You have an interest in the employer already (if not, you wouldn’t apply for the job), and the employer has an interest in you (if not, they wouldn’t ask you for an interview). Meeting face-to-face is a way for them to see if you will fit their company culture, and if their company values are adjacent to yours.

So the next time you are preparing for a job interview, remember that it’s a two-way street, and the employer’s not the only one who holds the key to your next pay cheque – you do too!

Watch for Parts 2 and 3 of this series, where we will further discuss how to best approach the salary interview question and whether you should be the first to state a number.

The 3-Step Problem Solving Method

As humans, we face problems every day. Your client can suddenly file a complaint on that project or your boss can suddenly pick up on an error that has actually been there for months.

While addressing problems, we sometimes go into the fight with a hot head which can cause more damage than good. Here are the 3 steps to act as your guide when solving problems.

problem solving

1.     Acknowledge the problem

Even though it is obvious, many people find it hard to actually admit that they have a problem. When a project goes wrong, more often than not, they would try to save their own face for the moment by acting as if everything is fine, and when their manager finds the error, it has been weeks too late to repair the damage. Acknowledging and stating the problem with a cool head leads to better understanding of what’s at stake and thus better chance to find the resolution.

2.     Plan the next steps

When faced with a problem, it is best to sit down, take a step back and jot down all the pros and cons and plan the next steps with these in mind. If it is decided to go forward with this project, what would be the risks and how can they be minimised? If it is decided to drop the project, would it harm the company even more? Seek advice from the seniors if you must.

3.     Take action

Most people stop on the second step, which is planning. Even after weighing in everything, it is still hard to 100% predict the outcome. This can cause people to just wait and do nothing instead of taking real actions. Remember that the problem will still be there if you decide to not take action, and it may even go from bad to worse.

Want to get better at your career? Visit the Institute of Management website to find out more about our courses.

5 Why’s Approach to Problem Solving

As an employee, we will encounter some problems while trying to successfully deliver our projects.

At times, the solutions easily come to mind. At other times, we may need to consult our leaders on how to best address the issues at hand. However, there are times where we get stuck, as if there is no other alternative to save the project from collapsing.

Before we cry in self-despair and get scolded by our boss for failing that project, take a deep breath, grab a coffee, and go back to addressing the problem with a fresh pair of eyes.

Here’s one approach to problem solving that you can use to help you find the solution.

5 whys to problem solving

5 Why’s approach

Let’s have an imaginative problem: The car will not start.

  1. Why? –  The battery is dead. (This is the first why.)
  2. Why? –  The alternator is not functioning. (This is the second why.)
  3. Why? –  The alternator belt is broken. (This is the third why.)
  4. Why? –  The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and has never been replaced. (This is the fourth why.)
  5. Why? –   I have not been maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule. (This is the fifth why, a root cause.)
  6. Finally,  establish why? –  Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of my vehicle. (This is the sixth why, optional footnote.)

After you have answered all 5 Why’s, make a conclusive solution to the problem:  I will start maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule.

By asking yourself 5 Why’s every time you encounter a problem, you will be more likely to determine the root of the problem, which will then increase your chances of finding the right solutions.

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.


4 Practical Ways to Improve Your English Skills

For many non-English background speakers, communicating in English (whether in the form of listening, reading, writing, or speaking) can be quite a challenge. And yet, in this growing global era, English has become the universal language that you need to  master in order  to move to the next level.

Managerial positions now require the applicants to be fluent  in both their native language and the English language. Even fresh graduate entry roles require sufficient English skills to apply!

4 practical ways to improve English

So here are some practical ways to hone your English language skills, no matter what level you are at now:

1.    Watch your favourite Hollywood movies without subtitles

Try watching your favourite Hollywood movies again, but this time, without the subtitles. It takes practice to make our ears accustomed to listening to English conversations, but the more you  are exposed to them,   the quicker your listening muscles will be developed.

2.    Forget translated books, start reading in English

Pick a book that is suitable for your own reading pace. If you feel that  taking a Harry Potter novel is too daunting, grab another one. Start reading online news, articles, or blogs in English.

3.    Write 300 words daily

Noted, writing is not everyone’s forte but in order to survive the emails and reports, writing in English has become a major requirement.

The quickest way to master the art of writing in English is to write every day, consistently. Note that the keyword here is to be consistent in your writing, which means don’t write 10,000 words in one day and take a break for a week and start writing again.

4.    Speak English often. Still self-conscious? Speak even more!

Approach those native English speakers and communicate with them. Make a pact with your friend to have ‘English-only’ time. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and most importantly, don’t be self-conscious in your learning.

Practice makes perfect

You’ve done everything, so now what? Clichéd as it sounds, practice does make perfect. The more you practice in listening, reading, writing, and speaking in English, the quicker you will master the language.

Starting 2014 The Right Way

It’s been days since the New Year and the initial hype of celebration has died down. Christmas decorations have disappeared and work certainly replaces our holiday mood early, demanding attention once more.

Before you are drawn into a series of deadlines, however, it’s best to first write down your New Year’s resolutions, or the goals you have for your career in the next year or two. This time, however, instead noting down, “Get a raise,” or “Break my bonus record,” let’s try things differently.

Let’s start by defining your ideal outcomes.

Begin with the ideal end

The best leaders always have this one thing: vision. People with vision create opportunities, and to create this vision, the first thing we need to do is to begin with the ideal end in mind.

Ideally, what results would you create for your organisation? Are there specific outcomes you want for your customers and your business? What would make you feel incredibly successful and fulfilled in your career?

Let’s begin by filling in table below:

Stakeholder Desired Results
Your customers My customers come back again to use our services.My customers tell their friends and families about their experience using our products.
Your organisation My organisation achieves $X profit.
Your manager A good relationship with my manager, being able to trust each other and create bigger goals together.
Your staff My staff exceed my expectations and empower them to improve each time.
Your colleagues We achieve a great number of sales and projects together.
You Get a raise.Improve my skills not only in sales but also in management.

Table 1. Example of your ideal outcomes

Now fast forward to the end of 2014 and imagine you have ticked all the boxes for these results to happen. How would you feel? Would you feel happy? Inspired? Excited?

Remember those feelings, and now with your desired results in place, write the specific steps you need to achieve each of them (by clark at dhead). For example, in order to have your customers come back to use your products and services again, you must exceed their expectations. This means going the extra mile and delivering outcomes before the deadline.

Let’s start 2014 with a smile on our face and inspiration in our head!

DISC: Communication Tips for Cs – Part 5

In the previous four parts of this series, we talked about the importance of DISC and D, I and S’s profile characteristics. In this final part of the series, we’ll cover  the characteristics of Cs and how to communicate with them.

If you are a fan of the Star Trek series, you would instantly note that Mr. Spock is an extremely high C type of person. That said, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Queen Elizabeth also share the trait.

Quick reminder: C measures how a person responds to the rules and regulations of others.

communication tips 4

C(autious) style characteristics

People with high scores on C have these characteristics:

  • Perfectionist
  • Sensitive
  • Greatest fear is criticism
  • Accurate
  • Require  many explanations
  • Ask many questions

People with a higher C value are compliant with rules set by others. Consequently, the lower the C value of an individual, the more the person will seek independence.

The C factor measures fear. The higher the intensity of the C value, the more the individual is motivated out of fear. The lower the C value, the more daring the individual is.

Enhance communication with C’s

Noted, he is the  perfectionist co-worker who asks again and again for explanations regarding the project, as if afraid that he will miss something out. He does a great job though, but sometimes you are afraid to voice your opinions on him because he is really, really sensitive to criticism.

Here are some tips to enhance communication with C’s:


  • Prepare your case in advance
  • Delineate pros and cons
  • Use accurate data
  • Assure them “no surprises”
  • Use precise explanations
  • When agreeing, be specific on what
  • Disagree with facts, not with the person
  • Give patient and diplomatic explanations.


  • Refuse to explain the details
  • Answer questions vaguely or casually.

Fun fact: When in an antagonistic environment, the high C will respond passively and will usually withdraw.

Last words

Now that we have talked about all four DISC behavioural styles, it is important to note that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ behavioural styles, or no  behavioural style which is better than another.

Instead, these behavioural style characteristics provide a map for us to determine our own communication styles and how to communicate best with others. As Steven Covey  said, “In order to be understood, we must first seek to understand.”

If you missed them, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 for more insights into  communicating to influence, through knowing your DISC behavioural styles. Join the conversation and tell us your thoughts in the comments section!

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Communicating to Influence. For more information about the course, please visit our website.

5 Characteristics of a Great Project Manager

The role of a project manager is crucial to the success of the project. A project manager does not only manage the budget, timeline and things to do, he also manages the team morale and delegates the workload.

Without a strong sense of leadership, a project manager may be qualified in terms of skills but he might not be able to settle conflicts that arise among his team members.

characteristics of great project manager

To ensure project effectiveness, here are 5 key qualities that a project manager should have.

1.     Bringing out the best of people

Project managers know instinctively as leaders that they can’t do everything on their own. They need their team members to tackle different kinds of work according to each person’s expertise to ensure success on the project.

Every day when they go to work, project managers should ask themselves, “How can I make my team members to perform better on this project today?” Whether it is to give guidance, provide resources or resolve conflicts, they are always striving to make sure their employees work their best.

2.     Experience

The more projects a project manager have handled, the more one knows about how to best approach a certain matter. A project manager who is highly experienced and knows what to do would be looked up to.

3.     Passion

No one wants to work for someone who is just doing what the clients ask or what the big bosses ask. That’s why passion is an important quality that a project manager should have. A great project manager is eager to ace a project instead of doing the bare minimum, and constantly shows his enthusiasm in doing the project.

4.     Management skills

Project managers who lack management skills will find it hard to get trust from their employees. If they can’t listen to complaints, provide solutions, give feedback, praise an accomplishment, resolve conflicts and build the team’s morale, it will be hard for the team members to work together on the project.

5.     Responsible

As followers, we want our leaders to have our back when things go wrong. We want a project manager who can lead us, show us the direction and achieve success together. And yet we also want the reassurance that our project manager will not just leave us in chaos when things get tough.

Want to learn more about how to become a great project manager? Check out the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.

DISC: Communication Tips for Ss – Part 4

In Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series, we talked about the importance of DISC and D and I’s profile characteristics. In this next discussion, we’ll cover the characteristics of Ss and how to communicate with them.

Steady. Stable. Secure. It is no coincidence that Princess Diana was depicted as a true lady, Mother Teresa as a humble, patient woman and Gandhi as a calm person who hates disputes. These people in fact have a high score on their S behavioural style.

Quick reminder: S measures the pace at which a person responds to change.

communication tips 3

S(teady) style characteristics

People with high scores on S have these characteristics:

  • Loyal;  gentle team player
  • Person of substance
  • Greatest fear is loss of security
  • High level of trust
  • Possessive
  • Resist change; adapt  slowly

People with a higher S value are more resistant to change. Furthermore, the higher the S value, the more a person prefers to start and complete one project at a time. Consequently, the lower the S value of an individual, the faster the pace and greater the desire for change.

The S factor also measures the lack of emotion. The higher the S factor, the less emotional they are and the more difficult it is to read that individual. The lower the S value, on the other hand, the more the person is emotional and expressive.

Enhance communication with S’s

You just can’t read this person. She may be the real S behavioural style type of person but you just can’t read the signs of whether she is in a good mood or a bad mood and whether voicing your problems now is the right move.

Here are some tips to enhance communication with S’s:


  • Build a favourable environment
  • Show genuine interest in them
  • Ask “how” questions
  • Patiently draw out their goal
  • Give them time to adjust
  • Define goals, procedures and their role in the plan
  • Assure personal follow-up
  • Minimise perceived risk.


  • Be pushy, aggressive or demanding
  • Be controversial.

Fun fact: When in an antagonistic environment, the high S will respond passively and usually without emotion.

If you missed the previous parts of this series, you can read them here. The next and final post will cover the characteristics of Cs.

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Communicating to Influence. For more information about the course, please visit our website.

Project Management 101: The Importance of using Project Management in Your Business

Without even realising it, we often use project management in every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s cleaning the house or doing an event, we use project management every day. We plan, execute, monitor, control and finish the things we set out to do.

In business settings, however, it takes skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully conduct a project. This is where the role of a project manager is regarded with high importance, as they are the people who make sure that things get done according to plan.

In this article, we will explain the basic aspects to note about project management.

project management

What is a project?

A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to carry out a unique task, service or result. It has a unique purpose and it is temporary – a project can go on for a couple of months or even a couple of years.

A project is not to be confused with ‘Operational Work’ as well. Projects terminate but ‘operations‘ are ongoing and repetitive. Another important difference to note is that projects change the status quo, while operations sustain business.

Who uses project management?

As a business expands, the nature of work itself requires rigorous management, due to increased business complexity, integration and diversification. Businesses and organisations thus use project management as they acknowledge the benefits of organising work as projects and the need to communicate and integrate work across departments and professions.

Factors in project management: Triangle of constraints

Every project wants to accomplish success. As a rule of thumb, a project has three influential factors to note: scope, time and cost.

triangle of constraints

This triangle of constraints describes the tradeoffs between scope, time and cost within projects that affect the risk, quality and resources of the product.

Why projects can fail

That said, a carefully planned project can still fail. Here are some common reasons for projects failing:

  • Lack of having a business case
  • Uncontrolled changes to the project requirements
  • No project management methodology/governance framework in place
  • Insufficient planning
  • Risks are not managed
  • Issues are not managed
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of commitment and responsibility by stakeholders

How to ensure project success

Furthermore, an individual project manager can improve the chances that his/her project will succeed by following:

  • A project management methodology that is based on best practices
  • Capture lessons learned throughout the project execution
  • Plan effectively and stick to the plan
  • Manage changes through a controlled process
  • Identify and continuously maintain engagement of stakeholders
  • Effective communications strategy and plan
  • Managing the project team by inspiring, motivating, leading
  • Always seeking to improve

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.