• December 5th, 2019

Trust is good, control is better?


Lawrence Kamwi

Just before the latest edition of the SMEs Compete entrepreneurs’ roundtable, I listened with curiosity as two of them played around with the words trust (a firm belief in the reliability or ability of someone) and control (the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour). I did not get a winner: perhaps, the ancient saying that the “the Earth contains far and near, danger and ease, open ground and narrow passes” may hold the answer.

American-Chinese business consultant Chin-Ning Chu wrote that “each locale has its advantages and disadvantages… a general, however, great, cannot move mountains out of his way or cause a river to flow in another direction. He must understand the advantages and disadvantages inherent in the terrain so that he can exploit them.”

In the Asian Mind Game, Chin-Ning Chu says that “those who shape the economic policies of nations should understand that what they do has the same vital importance as the conduct of war. Asians find no inconsistency in searching for a text devoted to military strategy for the principles to apply to situations of common life, the family, the workplace, and the world at large.”

In another book, Thick Face, Black Heart, Chin-Ning Chu tells readers that “character is not made out of sunshine and roses. Like steel, it is forged in fire, between the hammer and the anvil.”
Agility (or versatility) and adaptability were trending issues. One of the issues brought before the entrepreneurs was the frustration of completing degree studies and subsequently failing to find suitable work. Participants were told that one’s paper qualifications cannot, indeed, should not, limit the other avenues one can explore.

   “A degree is just an element in a company’s assessment of applicants – so companies are looking at the skills and competencies that people have built in their education and career which will enable them to be agile and to adapt to business and social situations that we don’t know about yet.”

A businessman in electrical engineering challenged the casual tone of many CVs. “Yes, I understand you are looking for a job. But talk to the company – what are you bringing to the company?” 

   This dovetailed with an observation on the mismatch between education and the skills required by industry. A leading businesswoman decried the fact that some of her interns prefer to use the old-fashioned scissors to the modern cutting tools that are at their disposal. “How then do they learn,” she wondered.

The opening remarks were from an entrepreneur in the tourism sector – he takes no prisoners! He said “late comers and those who cannot keep their phones quiet are disrespectful.” He did not actually ban the use of phones; he just emphasised the need to respect the rules of the gathering.

   Amazingly, none of the entrepreneurs seemed to have problems with their phones. It was only after the end of the roundtable – after two hours – that some stood up to discreetly check on their phones.
Target Consulting calls this “having clear meeting rules which help everyone to stay focused on the topic and avoid distractions by calls and emails.”  

   What about a worker who has finished his or her 9 am to 5 pm shift – but still has customers or clients? Is it time to close shop or to continue serving with a smile?
One response perhaps summarised the afternoon’s exchanges – “should we always wait for things to go wrong first?” 

In a world where quality, flexibility and personal service are proving to be the most effective tools for claiming space in even the most competitive markets, the lessons from the entrepreneurs were well worth the afternoon.

   I find it useful – and this came up during discussions – that “employers are increasingly taking on graduates from any discipline and then training them up through their own internal programmes.”


Staff Reporter
2019-10-11 07:58:52 | 1 months ago

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