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"Behind this beard, I am Sting" Part 2
Yeoh Siew Hoon takes the lessons learnt from Sting one step further and says leaders have to find the right words at this time to ensure their teams enter the new year with a renewed, fighting spirit.
In this week's issue of WIT-Web In Travel, I wrote about Sting's "Songs from the Labyrinth" concert in Singapore and how lessons could be learnt from his constant reinvention of himself as an artiste. (Read: "Behind this beard, I am Sting")
In the column, I wrote, "This Sting sported a beard, a somber but beautifully-cut black long coat that made him look like an Englishman in Singapore and he played a lute, instead of an electric guitar. And instead of rock songs, he sang classical pieces from "Songs from the Labyrinth", inspired by the life and works of John Dowland, an English composer and lutenist from the 16th century. It was Sting, stripped down yet made larger by the purity of his vocals and the simplicity of his new music. But to make sure his fans recognised him, he said, "Behind this beard, I am Sting.""
The column prompted several emails from colleagues who felt the sentiment expressed in it - that "all of us will have no choice but to change and find some way to reinvent ourselves and our businesses" in the new year - was timely and true.
From Thailand to Hong Kong to Singapore, they've all had to call their staff in to make their speeches - to give the team an honest appraisal of the situation and what's going to be needed to survive in the new year.
For let's face it, these are extraordinary times. We've got hotels in Thailand with single digit occupancies, staff having to work reduced hours and a very bleak winter season ahead. That's Asia's number one tourist destination on its knees, and all of us are going to feel the effects, never mind the short-term gains that one destination might have at the expense of another.
Like it or not, we in Asia are all in this together because we are one region, and we have to live and heal as one.
So in these last few weeks of 2008, travel business leaders in the region will have to summon the troops and find the right words to inspire them so that they enter the new year with a renewed, fighting spirit instead of a depressed, fearful outlook.
They have to come up with the definitive speech for the definitive time.
It's a message that has to go beyond "let's cut costs". While that's a necessity, it sends out panic signals. "Oh look, the boss is panicking. We have to cut costs."
It also focuses resources on cutting rather than growing. And we all know no garden can thrive if you just cut and cut.
It's a message that has to replace fear with fearlessness. Taking the garden analogy one branch further, I quote George Lois, "Only with absolute fearlessness can we slay the dragons of mediocrity that invade our gardens."
Arianna Huffington had a more physical approach. "Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me."
It's a message that has to replace rigidity with flexibility. Don't say no, say yes. "Yes, we can."
Or heed Tom Robbins, who said, "Stay committed to your decisions but stay flexible in your approach."
It's a message that has to replace acceptance with fighting spirit. In other words, move from "it is what is it" to "it will be what we want it to be".
No more "que sera sera" ala Doris Day, but "I will survive" ala Gloria Gaynor.
About a month ago, I was channel surfing on television and came across the old Oliver Stone movie, "Any Given Sunday". What was even bizzare was that I chanced upon it at my favourite part of the movie - the part where Al Pacino gives the speech of his life to his team.
It's a speech that resonated with me then, as it does now. Here's an excerpt which I reprint here fearlessly and shamelessly.
"You find out life's this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game - life or football - the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don't quite catch it.
"The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when add up all those inches, that's gonna make the fucking difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying!
"I'll tell you this, in any fight it's the guy who's willing to die who's gonna win that inch. And I know, if I'm gonna have any life anymore it's because I'm still willing to fight and die for that inch, because that's what living is, the six inches in front of your face. Now I can't make you do it. You've got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes. Now I think ya going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. You're gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team, because he knows when it comes down to it you're gonna do the same for him.
"That's a team, gentlemen, and either, we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That's football guys, that's all it is. Now, what are you gonna do?"
To read "Behind this beard, I am Sting" Part 1 Click Here
Reprinted with permission, Yeoh Siew Hoon and The Transit Cafe (www.thetransitcafe.com)
Yeoh Siew Hoon
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