A realistic self-assessment

I started my first session of the Springboard work and personal development programme for women. It’s always nice to be away of my daily work and go to do something different, for instance to reflect on me, and meet different people. Another three sessions will come in the next two months, and in between we need to work through this workbook. I’m sure it will be useful even after I finish this programme.

IMG_20171118_123756I’m touched and inspired by Judi Ryns’ personal stories and the guest speaker’s personal stories. I can see it’s never an easy path for people who are at the senior positions. It requires self-motivation and commitment for ‘what you want’ all the way.

Judi said that research findings showed that women work better in a women only environment; and men work better in a mixed gender environment. I wonder in a complicate environment like with LGBT people, if the findings still stand and if women are inborn less flexible than men in work places.

We have been asked some questions in the activities. Two questions I felt difficult to answer, but they are very useful questions.

  • What are you proud of your achievements? {I achieved many things/goals I wanted, but seems I don’t have the proud feeling.}
  • What you like and dislike the most about being women?  {We listed more disliked things than the liked things.}

Another interesting quote is the Paula principle “Most women work below their level of competence” from Tom Schuller. I found the talk on YouTube, which is worth watching. It hits my mindset on the point: “... the 60-20 rule. If men think they can do 60% of the job, that’s it. Fine, I can do it, I will go for it. If women think they cannot do 20% of the job, oh I couldn’t do that, No. I don’t think I’d better go for that. Same is true of promotions and so on… “.

Judi also mentioned 360 degree feedback. In my work, we don’t have it, so I learnt it a bit. Interestingly, I was talking to a colleague about our feedback means, and queried why we don’t have a way to give feedback on senior managers.

Due to the confidentiality, I cannot share the beautiful stories I heard from the session. However, I’d like to jot down things I feel important to remind myself.

  • Life is short. Don’t be annoyed by the things that you cannot control.
  • What make you happy? If you are unhappy, refer to the first point.
  • An experience could be a blessing as well as a curse. This is like the Chinese proverb “塞文失马,焉知祸福“.
  • If you don’t ask, you don’t know you will get or not.

Rethink “Change”

Recently I attended a course about Change and Resilience. It’s good that I had a time to rethink of “change”. Change is not the problem, the poor implementation of any change process is the problem that threatens us. Change is not the problem, resistance to change is the problem.

The robertsoncooper (is founded by Sir Cary Cooper and Professor Ivan Robertson) provides i-resilience report for individuals to build resilience skills. The website also provides leadership, management and well-being support resources.

As I didn’t think about “winners/losers” in a change too much, when the presenter talked about it, I kind of questioned myself “Is there always winners/losers in an organisational change?” “Who are the losers? Who are the winners?” “Are the winners are leading the change towards a right direction?”

The presenter drew a diagram which basically shows people’s reactions in a change. Top 10% are champions who are happy to see the change and are keen on making the change. Bottom 10% are traitors who have negative views of almost everything, and those who disagree the change strongly as it’s against their beliefs. A large number of people are not sure. It’s suggested to focus on understanding and influencing the 80% people, rather than on persuading and influencing the bottom 10% people.

I remember the diagram immediately though I can’t say it presents people’s attitudes in the change very correctly. The diagram can be useful for me to reflect on my views and position in a change. For example, I can ask myself

  • “Am I in the top 10% group of people who have insight, foresee the impact of the change, believe in it and are keen on to make the change happen?”
  • “Am I one of the middle 80% group of people who are not sure and wait-and-see?” I think people who are open-minded and keep critical thinking in this group are those people can help the change and influence others.
  • “Am I one of the 10% group of people who are often have a negative view of any change?” “Do I really agree that this change has a good impact?”

2016 review

2016 flies fast. I don’t feel I have achieved as many as I expected in work. However, I learned the complexity of working process. Life isn’t only about work, but about living. I’m glad that at least I have achieved a goal that I was working on for a few years.

* Although I read a lot online nowadays, I still read hard-copy books. This year 3 non-academic books as I can recall.
* Visited 8 new places in the UK and 15 new places abroad.
* Achieved 1 thing that has been on my to-do list for years.

A poem for my 2016 and George Bernard Shaw’s quote for my 2017:

Letting go 
by author unknown (from this website)

To “let go” does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To “let go” is not to cut myself off,
it is the realisation I can’t control another.

To “let go” is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To “let go” is to admit powerlessness,
which means that the outcome is not in my hands.

To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another,
it is to make the most of myself.

To “let go” is not to care for,
but to care about.

To “let go” is not to fix,
but to be supportive.

To “let go” is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.

To “let go” is not to be in the middle, arranging the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own destinies,

To “let go” is not to be protective,
but to permit another to face reality.

To “let go” is not to deny,
but to accept.

To “let go” is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.

To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take every day as it comes, and to cherish myself in it.

To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To “let go” is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To “let go” is to fear less and love more.


Understanding unconscious bias

The university runs a self-study course about unconscious bias. I’m glad that I studied it at the weekend.

For me, the most interesting one is the “hollow mask”. Professor Richard Gregory of the University of Bristol explains how our brains are tricked into seeing an inverted hollow mask as sticking out.

It’s always useful to remind myself:

  • We are all biased.
  • We all have unconscious biases.
  • It is far easier to spot biased behaviours in others than it is seen in ourselves.
  • Egocentric bias means we believe we are fairer than others around us.
  • Unconscious biases affect our ability to make good decisions.
  • Cognitive illusions shows us that even when we understand what we are seeing, the brain still wants us to see what it understands. The illusion persists.


This is a Chinese book that was recommended by my sister. Luckily I found the original English book “Scarcity: why having too little means so much” written by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir in our library.

I immediately enjoyed reading it as there are so many examples I can link to easily. I kind of see why I have made decisions in certain circumstance, and why I feel busy and can’t finish things I planned to do on the day. Although I have applied some good methods to make life smooth and simple, this book explains why sometimes I still go into the trap.

This is a talk from the authors.

On page 174-175, it mentioned a “financial education” class designed by economist Antoinette Schoar and her coauthors. This is a video that presents their work.

Two-day training course of “Leadership”

I always wonder what’s the difference between Leadership and Management? This course helped me to learn it.

What is leadership?

This video explains Leadership through an easy example. To lead is to have the ability to get people to follow. To influence people, we need to do:

  • Start from simple easy movement, which is easy for people to start
  • Be prepare you are alone, people won’t follow
  • Keep doing
  • Keep encouraging
  • Transform

Actually, I quite like Jack Ma’s talk which shows that he is an effective leader.

What is effective leadership and what is effective management?

Leadership and management are not either-or options. They work together as a blended approach. If management is about the procedure, then leadership is about people.

What are leadership styles?

The first approach is to use the Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum to see how we can balance between the level of freedom that a manager chooses to give to a team, and the level of authority used by the manager.

(image is from URL: https://culcj15020110.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/sa.png?w=1000)

The second approach is to use the Situational leadership model to understand different circumstances. Effective leadership is actually  working from high management towards low management. Trust and Believe people can do will make us spend less time on managing people. (e.g., displayed in the diagram below: S1 -> S2 -> S3 -> S4, sometimes it works another way around S4 -> S3 -> S2 -> S1)

(image is from URL: http://www.people.vcu.edu/~rsleeth/HBFigure.jpg)

Understand motivation

Motivation is a drive to satisfaction. It makes people make work forward positively, responsibly, and happily. We can motivate people in many ways, however it all depends on individuals. From Howthorne effect, we can see that more resources do not always make better outcomes and performance.

(image is from URL: http://cdn.b2binternational.com/images/stories/publications/white_papers/herzberg_theory_motivation.png)

So how do we know what motive the person and how can we motivate them? The approach is:

  • Talk to people and find out what’s important for them (their motivators)
  • Open your eyes/ears (try new ways; look opportunities for them)
  • Motivate them using their motivators daily

What are transformational leaders?

Transformational leadership is social skills that get the best of you and people. It creates real, fair, honest interpersonal connections. It creates valuable and positive change in the followers which develop followers into transformational leaders.

(image is from URL: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/d8/f2/4c/d8f24c8405a986c97f9ef77b095344a1.jpg)

So how can we develop transformational leadership skills? One crucial approach is to develop Emotional Intelligence, which fits in transformational skills well. According to Dr Goleman’s study, we know that it’s important, we can develop our EQ, we can learn it. It brings out the real self.

(image is from URL: https://managementpocketbooks.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/danielgolemaneimodels.jpg)

Then, we need to learn how we make the team work together. Here is an example of developing plans. It’s not a very good one. And it is not a single direction process. No7, actually linked back to Step 4, 5, 6.

(image from URL: http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/inspb3/html/images/circle.jpg)

Understand objectives

Objectives are difference from aims/goals. Objectives are short-term, highly specific and achievable new state of outcome. It’s never “ongoing”!  As a leader, you need to know your team objectives that you are able to governance.

Objectives can bring the team: motivation, focus on reality/priority, and measurable performace/sucess.

I quite like one of the skills the trainer used. When we state an objective, we should define the output like:

“By xxx (specific deadline), I will have + verb-ed (action) + noun (a new state).”

We can use the SMART checklist when we write objectives.

(image is from URL: http://cdn.zoeticamedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/SMART-Objectives.png)

Deal with tricky cases and conflict 

This is too complicate to discuss here. I have seen many examples, but they were manageable and not exceptional. I was joking with a colleague and said, “The more different-characteristic people you work with, the more you learn.”

A few reminders for myself:

  • It’s a conversation aims to resolve a problem. You don’t solve people’s problems, you offer support and input you can.
  • Always deal with what presents!
  • Don’t mention the individual’s name when bring up a complaint from the person.
  • Bring the issue by saying something like “I notice…”
  • If people ask you a complaint they had, say something like “I will deal with it.”; “I am working on it.”
  • If the person respond silently, you can go back to your expectations for them and say something like “I can suggest… If you notice anything that I can do to support you, tell me.” Then you two need to set a reasonable agreed timescale to resolve it.
  • Divisive conflict needs to be dealt with at the time it happens.
  • Using verbal warning means a formal process starts.

Stress and Resilience

It’s good that I had a chance to learn ‘Resilience’ again.

I learned (1) to aware my thinking (2) keep myself away from me and look at me, and (3) build my own toolkit and apply tool(s) when I need. Today’s session tells me that I haven’t created my handy toolkit yet. I probably have collected some tools and use one or two for a while, for instance, I have been putting ‘exercise at least 30 mins every day’ into practice. I have kept writing grateful notes for a while. However to have a collection of useful tools/methods for myself and open my toolkit to choose what I can use will be important for me.

Here are the tools I collected from today’s session.

2015 review

It was a sad year though I lived as happy as I can, but deeply in my heart I fear of thinking about it. My beloved grandpa left us. I don’t have grandparents who I can go to visit and listen to their stories any more. Plus, sad things happened on my good friends too. Bye 2015.

* Read 4 non-academic books.
* Visited 4 new places in the UK and 2 new places abroad.
* Did 2 things that have been on my to-do list for years.
* Move my first blog from Blogger to WordPress.

A poem for my 2015 and a poem for my 2016:

Inside Our Dreams
© Jeanne Willis (from this site)
Where do people go to when they die?
Somewhere down below or in the sky?
“I can’t be sure,” said Grandad, but it seems
They simply set up home inside our dreams.”.
Choose To Be Happy
© Marlene Rose (from this site)
Choose to be happy,
Choose to feel great,
Choose not to let things make you irate.
I know that some people are not feeling great,
And I know that some people just know how to hate.
And I wish that all people could be healthy and strong,
And I wish that all people would just get along.
If wands could be waved, and the world would be cured,
I’d wave that big wand, you can be assured.
But I’ll do what I can every day I am here,
And try to remember “the good,” year to year.
And I choose to be happy,
And I choose to feel great,
And I choose not to let things make me irate!

The differences betwen education systems

I watched the BBC program “Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School” recently. I’m glad to see that the Chinese teachers won by the exam results. As a Chinese who was educated in the traditional Chinese way, the program brought me many memories, both pleasant and unpleasant. It kind of reminded me how I grew up.

It’s too much for me to cover everything. Here I write down my views about the education purely based on my own experiences.

Personally, I think some rules in the Chinese education affected me a lot and I’m happy that I was taught since I was a kid. They are:

  • Morning exercises (It helped me to start the day with a positive and new status. It may not work for those night owls)
  • Compulsory physical education (It helped me to be physically healthy, see my potential of doing some sports, come out of my comfort zone, and gradually build an exercise habit. The students in the program said it put them in a competition situation. In face it is, however in life we are actually only competing with ourselves. It’s the feeling that shown our weakness in public that makes us to defense and don’t do it.)
  • Eye exercises (It helped my eyes to relax and keep a good eyesight. Wearing glasses is inconvenient.)
  • Self-study time in the classroom (It helped me to finish coursework at school. I could get help from classmates and teachers if there was anything I didn’t understand. Then after school I had free time for other interests and activities. Also, it freed my parents to some extent)
  • Apart from the main subjects, there were some optional classes that encourage students’ interests such as sewing, drawing, gardening, music and dancing.
  • Clean the classroom (It helped me to learn what responsibility means and don’t take things for granted. We helped parents to do housework too without payment for sure.)
  • Keep quiet in the class (I know this is hard. As a child, I liked to talk to peers, day dreaming, peek my cartoon books, or drew anything on my textbooks… But I gradually learned to respect other people’s time, teachers’ and peers’. So in the class if I’m not interested, my brain could wander or dream, but I stopped talking to peers or making noises.)
  • Respect teachers and behave. (This point implies the culture difference very much. For example, British people respect women by opening doors for them or letting them go first. Chinese people respect elders and teachers by listening to what they taught them and by keeping disciplines. This doesn’t mean Chinese youngsters wouldn’t have their own opinions and just obey without challenging views. But it’s definitely not as free and straight as the manners those British youngsters had.)

On the other hand, some aspects in the Chinese style restricted me to some extent and some of the aspects are uneasy to change considering Chinese own culture and circumstances. However, I think it changed over the last 20 years, but wouldn’t have changed to the UK style obviously. Clearly many of the rules are embedded in the family, in the culture and in the society since you were born.

  • Large class (It’s hard for Chinese public schools to have small size classes because of the large population. Students who sit at the back of the classroom do got affected considering distractions from peers who sit in front of them. Naughty students normally were arranged to sit in the front so that teachers kept an eye on them. “Good” students would sit at the back because teachers believe they could learn well themselves and had self-disciplines. This was the teachers try to help the “bad” students. There were also “good” students were arranged to sit in the front, “bad” students sit at the back. This was the teachers have given up the “bad” students.)
  • Teachers physically published naughty students and asking students to stand outside of the classroom during the class was normal. It’s a sign that they didn’t do what the teacher told them.
  • Students who are good at their study would be selected as a subject representative. This means they could be a model and good example for others. However, it’s temporary as some teachers didn’t name the representatives but encouraged students to vote or self-recommend.
  • Results of examinations were the key. Individual, special, or personalised needs and interests were often on the second or third position.
  • A lot of coursework and additional learning materials from both school and parents.
  • Students have few chances to ask questions, interact with the teacher and do group work in a class session. 
  • Fewer options for students apart from the path of going to middle school, high school, universities, and having a good chance to find a decent job.

Sign languages

I attended a 2-hour sign language session on Monday. I was glad that I learned using hands to say greetings, introduce myself, count numbers and spell the 26 A-Z alphabet in British Sign Language. I knew how to use one hand to say 10 numbers in Chinese, now I know how to say them in British Sign Language and Welsh Sign Language too.

Just now I tried to recall what I had learnt, I forgot the “F”. Without practice, I don’t know how much I will forget soon.

If you are interested in sign languages, some good resources are below.

Continue reading Sign languages