Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tell Them If You Want It!!

I grew up with the notion that parents know best when it comes to what is good for me. They do in many instances.  When I wished for something, I never expressed that desire.  I took this philosophy into my work.  I expected that excellent performance is all that is needed to see me grow in my job and career.  Many times it did.

In my 32 years as a corporate manager, I lived in 4 countries, visited 48 cities, and worked in 20 functional areas.  I reported to 26 bosses and had 66 direct reports.  For most of these moves, I was presented with the opportunity which I evaluated and took.  They were good for me as well as the company.

When I returned to Asia after my assignment in the USA, I had the responsibility for South Asia.  The sub-region includes India, the ASEAN countries, Australia and New Zealand.  The Asia Pacific division comprised of North Asia, led by my peer and South Asia.

After excelling in that position, another opportunity arose.  My boss wanted to return to the USA.  I knew that I had a chance for his job.  I also knew that the management is also considering someone else.  That person was performing equally well.

When I weighed the various factors, I had many advantages.  I am an Asian on local payroll.  So from a cost standpoint, I would be more effective.  Considering all the factors, I thought that I would be a "shoo-in".

Little did I know I had to fight for the job.  My mentor, a member of the management team, told me that I had to tell the president that I wanted the job.  I was surprised!  I argued and tried to rationalize that the president should know.  In her wisdom, she said, "If you want the job badly enough, you will tell him so.  He needs to hear that commitment from you."  Her words set me thinking.  I realize how right she is.

My chance came when my president came for a visit.  He had a busy schedule and the only private time that I have with him is driving him to the airport.  It was going to be a half hour ride.  I rehearsed and rehearsed my conversation.  Despite the fact that my president is a good listener and an easy person to talk to, I am not familiar with this type of conversation.  I plan to tell him that I am the best person for the job, that the role means a lot to me and why I am an asset to the organization.  It wasn't the most comfortable dialogue I had with him.

The rest is history.  I got the job.  The conversation during the drive to the airport must have helped.  

Good performance is a given.  It is very important to get your stakeholder to hear your commitment and desire.  Some may argue about my arrogance in telling my leader that I am the best candidate.  It is still an interview.  SO TELL YOUR LEADER IF YOU WANT THE JOB!!


  1. Dear Cheah,

    One of the biggest challenge of talent management is that most of the identified "potential talent" turn out to be no desire for available opprotunity due to various reasons. I would agree with you that initiative and burning desire must be shown otherwise how would our bosses know the opportunity is so important to us. Being open and frank also make his job much easier.



  2. Thanks for your sharing, KL Cheah. Good review!

  3. Thanks for sharing. The common notion people grow up with is that good performance at ones job helps one to grow. But as we grow, we realize there are more factors than just performance that helps one grow. Being demanding and having a good rapport with boss always helps :), though I personally hate this factor.

  4. KL, I completely agree. I really believe that you have to be as prepared to negotiate for yourself professionally, as you are to negotiate on behalf of your company. It makes you a stronger leader to be able to articulate your personal vision of where you want to go in the job. Thanks for the post. Mariam

  5. Thanks for blog. Keep the stories and advice flowing.

  6. I find your post very pertinent to my own career development. I recently had a training session called "Insights to Success: the Asian perspective" and the trainers expressed the same sentiments. Many times, Asians assume that good performance alone merits job progression. But it does not. As you said, one needs to express the desire to take on the new opportunity while demonstrating consistent past performance. I too felt uncomfortable telling my manager I want a new opportunity; it felt like boasting. However, the training class provided me with some tools to make me feel more comfortable. That tool is the "30 second elevator speech". It is a short, rehearsed speech that one should always have ready in case one bumps into her manager in the corridor or elevator. This helps us speak with purpose and clarity, and makes the best use of the short time we meet our leaders. Instead of sounding arrogant, we sound prepared.

  7. Sorry i dun agree to this. The fact that u took all the preparations and troubles to attend an interview is glaring enough you need the job. KokLim this is a very professional and highsounding blog...i was expecting a more casual-social friendly type where we shares about the good old times with lots of relevant pictures, jokes etc etc. Anyhow its nice to know of your tremendous achievements and success in life....salute!!!

  8. Dear KL,

    Your story demonstrated the need of good communication and sales skill. It is obvious that many of us were good to excellent performers but without good people skills, many can only be ended-up as "unpolished" gem-stones.


  9. KL. thanks for telling me that I can say what I want to do. You should have told me this 15 years ago. 3.5Kg black pepper crab and you are the most cherished memories from Sing., reverse order of course. I am looking fwd to seeing your next article.

  10. KL,
    Good write-up. This is a great way to share experiences and thoughts. You must find a way so that others can get access to the site.
    I have been a rebel all my life and is still one at this old age! At the company that we worked together, I didn't ask for any job opportunity but was told to take what was given. I was never told if I was talented or needed improvements or was just average. I never sulked on the salary increases or the stock options that were given. Be that as it may, I enjoyed every role that was passed on to me, so long that it was not a long assignement as I got bored easily.
    FYI, this is the first comment that I have made online and hope that it will not be my last.
    Take care.

  11. Hi KL,

    Thanks for sharing your blog with me.
    I agree with you on the need to express your expectations both in personal and professional life in a non threating and demanding way.
    This is the only way for people to know clearly what's in your mind.
    Having said that, there are many systems and tools in large corporate that career discussions take place. However, when it comes to a career opportunity especially in a promotion, being forthright does not hurt since the reality is that these systems do not mean much in today's competitive job environment.
    Keep Blogging.



  12. I found your first entry into this arena very interesting and it should be stimulating to those in the present job market. Your "Boss" was very correct to advise you to tell her boss, that you wanted to replace her when she repatriated. This is often easier said then done I'm afraid, and is very intimidating to many of us. Most of us feel like you did, that the "bosses" of the world should know who wants or have demonstrated the interest and performance in getting ahead, as a basic function of their managerial responsibilities.

    But I guess there are some in leadership roles who need this type of approach or stimulation to make their final decision. I do not necessarily always agree with this approach, but it is obvious that your previous boss knew her boss well enough and his needs for this type of stimulation; to advise you to take this course of action. To be totally clear about this approach or concept and resulting impact to an individual; I have seen just the opposite impact / outcome, when someone "was so bold" to approach the senior leader in this manner. Some senior managers take offense to this type of approach thinking that they "know best" . Some may turn away from a candidate for "being so bold". So my best advice is that every situation and individual must be carefully assessed before taking this approach. If there is a high degree of arrogance surrounding the individual being considered for an approach like this, then some caution might be in order.

    Regards, TN

  13. KL - I hope this message finds you and your family doing very well.
    I enjoye4d our years working together and always love to hear the different sides to mangerial opportunities.

    In this case I think you were counseled correctly. However, I am now finding myself working for an Asian company who is trying to force their managerial and might I say old fashioned ways upon our leaders in the USA. Unfortunately we are loosing some very good people to this kind of mentoring.

    My take on all of this personally is that you need to have open lines of communication. Anyone who would do otherwise is the one who loses.

    Many times in my career my bosses had no idea of who I was let alone my strengths. So presenting my goals and objectives gave me the ability to communicate the attainment of those goals. It's how I ended upin a management role. Had I not done that I would have been passed over many times to my colleagues who were using these types of strategies.

    Good luck and keep the blog going!


  14. Dear KL,

    Your last line is very interesting where you say “SO TELL YOUR LEADER IF YOU WANT THE JOB!!”. In my opinion this line is true for life as well, may not be exact, but message is same, TELL SOMEONE WHAT YOU FEEL. It doesn't matter who that someone is so long as your feeling is genuine, it could be a person or simply a universe, but tell you must.

    Wish you the very best with your blogging. Looking forward to many more of these.


  15. Great to know that you are getting into blogging as well. Is never too late for anything. I just read it and I think you are exactly right, sometimes we just have to let the bosses know what we want. I've been through that situations couple of times and frankly speaking I got what I asked for because sometime if we don't speak up, they will think that we are happy with what we are doing. Anyway, happy blogging.
    Jason C.

  16. Oh thank goddess for those rides to the airport.

    Good luck with your blog KL, don't forget the perejil...

  17. I found the contents fascinating. In the past I have often dithered and lost out on opportunities. And when I found opportunities placed in my lap, I did not do justice to them. Mine is thus a case of many misses, both in opportunities and potential. The message in your blog most certainly touched a chord. I liked your style of writing in the first person, and the examples made it personal and vividly alive.
    Regards, VS

  18. Dear K.L

    Thank you for the invitation to your blog.
    The blog with your advice based on your carrier is helpful for us.
    Please continue to write many advices in your blogs.

    I think you have many topics and ideas in various area based on your 32 years career. I would like you to share the table of content, and hear opinion that reviewers want to focus the area in your blog.


  19. Good Job KL. To your point, preparation and knowing your audience are keys to success providing solutions that address their needs.

    Business or personal.


  20. Dear KL,

    Good sharing from you. I am particularly impressed by your meticulous account of your career log.

    Your views are obviously rational and to a great extent inspirational to those bold hearts seeking to scale greater heights in their careers.

    Keep up the good work.

    kind rgds,
    st khoo

  21. KL, Thanks for this post. It is so inspiring. I will share this with others who I'm sure will find it helpful. Please keep bringing us more articles like this. Best regards to you and Catherine.


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