If you are trained to be a good listener and observer, you need not have to work very hard to know what the truth is about a person, situation or organization. External signs and behaviors are more than enough to tell you. They tell a whole lot of story by itself. So when someone is happy or when an organization is healthy, there are certain tell tale signs that you can notice.

One organization that has obvious tell tale signs of their tremendous progress, success and dynamism is RELIANCE. Today, its brand name is already so deeply embedded into the minds of the travelling consumer so much so “travel” means “RELIANCE”. It has gotten into the same league with other power brand names like Nokia to mobile phones, Rolex to watches, Maggi Mee to instant noodles and so on.

While other travel companies are still licking their wounds inflicted from the recent economic meltdown and natural disasters like the volcanic ashes in Europe, this company is dancing away with success.

And literally so, they were dancing away because I ‘caught’ them in this act when my wife Angeline and I were invited to attend an all staff event called the ‘3D Carnival Celebration’. It was a ‘let your hair down’ evening in appreciation for their people who had worked and contributed at the MATTA Travel Fair last September.

When you see a ‘baby boomer’ CEO like Datin Irene Gan rocking away in her latest party outfit together with her united team of leaders and dynamic workforce you then understand why the company has continuously stay relevant to the fast changing needs of the marketplace.

The celebration itself tells us a lot too. In the eyes of many travel companies, there is actually nothing to shout about having to work at a travel fair as there are so many in the year. Many of them would have ‘conveniently’ included this task of ‘working in travel fairs’ as part of their people’s overall job responsibilities.

However, forward-looking companies see this differently; they look for ‘excuses’ to celebrate their success with their people. When they take such an empowering perspective, it sends out a clear message that work is fun, and not dead end drudgery. They see merry making over good food, drinks, and entertainment as the best way for people to tear down the walls that stand in the way of good communication, bury misunderstanding and rebuild rapport with everyone.

Their core beliefs and values are somewhat rooted in the answers to these commonsense questions : Isn’t leisure the very thing about the travel industry? Isn’t this what the employees are expected to deliver to their customers? And doesn’t it make good sense that they are living it out themselves before they can sell this passionately to their customers?

Organizations that cleverly and sincerely combine their business vision, game plans, bottom lines with the ‘People Factor’ as an integrated strategic ‘concoction’ stands a far higher chance of gaining success in a highly competitive environment than those who simply maintain a narrow focus.

The ‘People Factor’ in RELIANCE, however, went a ‘little too far’. It was a night of entertainment provided by ex-employees for its current employees. Now that explains why I was invited there too. I too was an ex-employee who partnered them for 23 years! And still doing this from the outside!

So what’s the lesson? Even ex-employees are valued. There’s always a common ground no matter how diverse or different people are as long you believe in leveraging on people.

Somewhere in the middle of the evening, my wife Angeline whispered in my ears and said, ‘Do you realize that you are seated next to Datin Irene on one side as the former HR Director and the current Group HR Director is seated on her other side?’

Wow! That’s really something to ponder about. Not only is it an honor for an ex-employee to sit next to the CEO but also it further underscores this organization’s strong belief that human resources play a big role in their success!

When was the last time you celebrated your success or help someone celebrate theirs, and why?  Do click on “Comment” box and share your experiences and stories.



“Hide & Seek” Roadsign

 A very insightful time of my life was when I was doing my Masters’ thesis entitled “An International Study of International Tourism in Malaysia: Issues & Challenges”.

Although this was 30 years ago, my research had already revealed the huge potential of tourism in Malaysia made possible through its rich diversity of people, culture, heritage, sights etc, all packed up in one. Indeed, we are enjoying the fruits of all these right now and many more years to come.

But on the flip side, my research also revealed that we were playing “second fiddle” to Thailand and Singapore where tourists deliberately left Malaysia out even though we were so well “sandwiched” between the two countries. A host of issues were identified as “spanners in the work” which had prevented us from getting out of their shadows. Many of these issues have been solved but some still remain till today.

One that I’d like to talk about is the poor road signs which existed then and is still existing now, perhaps in larger magnitude now, considering that it is not only trunk roads we are talking about, but highways, superhighways and sprint highways that have changed the entire landscape of Malaysia’s infrastructure.

Each time when I or my friends, foreign ones included, get lost or why so many hours are wasted and unnecessary fuel burned to get from here to there, my mind automatically flashed to my research findings and I’m still amazed how a 30 year issue could be still an issue today.

The irony is that even with some of the world’s best highways, superhighways and sprint highways, one can still get lost rather easily too. Wouldn’t this put a spanner on domestic tourism or even international tourism when our foreign guests want to hire a car to drive around?I always consider myself a run-of-the-mill driver with an average sense of direction. I think I’m a good representation of at least 70% of all drivers. We do not have the “intuition” of F1 drivers but are “helpless” road users who really need help. So if I were to speak for the rest, we have a lot to do to make Malaysia a friendly motoring destination.

There are so many issues, but I want to pick just a few and I have a few funny names to describe them.

One of them is the “now you see, now you don’t” road sign. You follow a sign that says, “Damansara”. After a while, this sign is missing but another sign appears that says “Petaling Jaya” or “Subang Jaya”. And, after many kilometers, “Damansara” appears again. But you may be way led to somewhere else because you may think that you have missed it when driving.

The second one is the “hide and seek” road sign. Suddenly you discover you have overshot by a good number of kilometers because the sign you are looking out for is partially hidden by a tree branch or a whole tree! This is dangerous! If you discover this fast, you will almost automatically pull the brakes and bang! The car that has been tailgating you closely has crashed into your car! Some drivers may try to reverse their car back to where they should be turning off in a high speed highway. And that is truly dangerous!!!

The third is the “multiple choice” road sign. Suddenly you are perplexed to see three or more signs in separate bill boards located next to one another. Very quickly, you have to make a wild guess as to which one is for you. If you don’t get it, then you’lll have to come back to the same “examination center” to try your luck again.

The fourth is the “test your reflex” road sign. Without any warning, the sign suddenly appears requiring you to be very quick to turn off. This is dangerous if you have a car which is close behind as you won’t have enough time to put on your signal light.

The fifth one is the “visionary” road sign. Say you want to go to Ipoh from Kuala Lumpur but the sign you see at the start of the journey states “Kayu Hitam” instead of Ipoh. Unless you know that Kayu Hitam is the final point on the northern side of the north-south highway where Ipoh is part of it, you will be perplexed as to which way to head for.

Putting up signs is not just a straight forward task. It requires a good understanding of people’s behaviors on the road or empathy in short. Planners seem to be more focused on the planning and building of highways but not the finishing touch on how to guide people in a systematic way so that they really enjoy their ride instead of getting stressed and furious on the road. And certainly this is not a good way to make Malaysia a great motoring destination both for our locals and international guests.

I have driven many times when overseas. The road planners there really “baby sit” us. Somehow they know well in advance where, when and how you want to be helped when on their roads. That is why I always enjoy the experience of driving overseas without the frustrations, stress and anger that I often experience when driving ……… you know where, lah!

Do you have rib-tickling or hair-raising experiences or really pleasant experiences that you want to share with others? Click on the Comment box and start your story. I look forward to hearing from you.