2018 review

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun …

John Lennon – So This Is Christmas

This is an unavoidable song over Christmas each year. I often felt happy to summarise the things I had done at the end of the year, but this year I feel I didn’t achieve as much as I expected even though I kept doing slowly. It’s hard to answer if I have tried hard enough. Like this situation, I remind myself what Steve Jobs said in the Stanford Commencement speech (June 2005):

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.

So what have I done in 2018?

* Webinars, recordings and online resources started to take over most of my reading time. I noticed increasing useful resources online. I become catching up things and have to improve my speed reading techniques and the skills of information retrieval. Roughly I viewed 3-4 work-related videos/recordings per week.
* Read 2 hard-copy books (this is a lot fewer than I would like to).
* Reviewed 2 Journal papers and assessed 2 submissions.
* Visited 5 new places in another country and 8 new places in the UK.
* Helped family members to achieve their goals.
* Helped a stranger about Grounded Theory research (I used the methodology ten years ago).
* Continue volunteering.
* Cycling as commute safely for another year. Rebuilt my confidence after my bike accident in June 2017.
* Slipped away from Facebook (Seems I gradually missed the first news about friends’ life…).
* Started to learn an instrument by following YouTube teaching sessions.
* Since November, got up 30 mins earlier each day to do healthy exercises.

Confirmation bias” is a term I learnt from Alex Edmans’ talk. Regarding to sharing, he says that “… We should ask the following: If it’s a story, is it true? If it’s true, is it backed-up by large-scale evidence? If it is, who is it by, what are their credentials? Is it published? How rigorous is the journal?… If the same study was written by the same authors with the same credentials, but found the opposite results, would you still be willing to believe it and to share it? … Only if it’s true, can it be fact. Only if it’s representative, can it be data. Only if it’s supportive, can it be evidence. And only with evidence, can we move from a post-truth world to a pro-truth world.”  I did not really check all tweets I shared. In 2019, I will be more careful and gain more trustful evidence before I share.


Half-day training on the project management framework

We often hear PRINCE2 and Agile in project management. This week I attended the Cardiff University Programme and Project Management Framework Introduction course. It’s the University’s own approach, not a specific certificate course.

It’s unexpected to know that people feel the fail rate of projects is 70-80%. However I didn’t think the projects I involved in have failed so much. The data is from the book “The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook” (2014). I need to read the book to check if I  misunderstand it.

The University’s Framework is designed for the University projects and only available for the University members. There are many resources online. I found the Charles Sturt University’s short courses on YouTube are very useful.

2017 review

Another year passed, isn’t it fast? Why Life Goes Faster as You Grow Older? No matter what it could be called, I like YanLiZhang’s attitude – At the end of every year, list the people who you admire/like but didn’t live over the age you are (This video is in Chinese. I haven’t found a translation). It’s an interesting way of appreciating our lives.

In 2017, I focused on things that made me feel adding values to my life.

* Webinars and online resources become popular. I therefore had spent increasing time on learning new things through online resources.
* Read 4 hard-copy books.
* Visited 6 new places.
* Reunited with many old friends.
* Took 5 new courses.
* Achieved two certificates.
* Continue volunteering.

Here I embedded one of my favourite talks for my 2018. It is based on the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a 79 years long-running research study.

What is Mental Toughness?

Following the second Springboard work and personal development programme for women session, it’s good to find the Academi Wales website, and read the two useful booklets:

We have an automatic network in our brains for the negative, the ancient parts of our brains evolved over millions of years to respond to threats without thought or delay. We have no similar system for the positive and opportunities in life…

It suggested us to use 3:1 at work, which means to “give three pieces of positive feedback to every piece of negative feedback” based on Losada Ratio. I don’t know how accurate the tip is. But I think we do need to make effort to increase positive communications.

The concept of 7+/-2 was noted by George Miller in Psychological Review in 1956.

The basic formula is:

happiness = set point (50%) + voluntary actions (intentional activities 40%) + conditions(circumstances 10%)

I tried the test to learn my positivity ratio (set point) on the Positivity website owned by Prof Barbara Fredrickson. It actually tests a ratio at that moment you test it. It’s not a general resault.

Four C’s of Cloughs model – Commitment, Control, Challenge and Confidence suggests that Mental Toughness is a combination of resilience and confidence. I found two videos:

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.