Thursday, 17 July 2014

President's Message Issue #2

100 Days and Looking Ahead
After participating and witnessing the Gold Coast Marathon on the night of 6th July 2014, seating at my apartment in Wyndham Surfers Paradise, I realized that in 10 days, on the 15th July 2014, it would be my 100th day as president of PAC. While PAC is not a political party, nevertheless, it is not unreasonable for members to ask their president what has been achieved or being planned. By coincidence, 15th July 2014 is also the opening day for registration for the Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014. This event to be scheduled on 2nd November 2014, will be the first of the three public events the club is offering to its members.

Forming the Team & Volunteers Recruitment Strategies
We have made many small initiatives that will take the club forward.  The most significant piece is that we will focus on people, recruiting the team beyond the 11 elected office bearers. We need about 35 core volunteers to manage the club’s various initiatives. In the next E-Fooloose, we will disclose all the names of those that are holding non-elected positions in the club that will help to drive the club forward.

I am an admirer of Jim Collin, the author of “Built to Last” and “From Good to Great”. I consider these two books as essential reading for leaders, not only in the business field, but across communities such as an NGO like ours.

The first lesson in the book “From Good to Great” is getting the right people on board. I have been on the lookout for individuals that can contribute to the club and have spoken to a number of them. Of course not everyone buy my story and quite a few turn down my invitation to join the Exco or be appointed in a non-elected position such as Group Leader etc.  As for those who are holding appointed positions, we reaffirm their commitment or we accept their decision to discontinue their services. 

It is not easy to recruit volunteers given the current culture in the club, with members asking “What are the benefits for me”.  While this is a fair question, at this juncture we have to be honest that we can’t offer much tangible stuff other than a set of club shirts or merchandise.  However, we would like to convey that serving the club enables one to derive invaluable benefits and memorable experiences which money cannot buy. To the working adults, it is a good break from their routine, very healthy and therapeutic, relief stress and help to recharge, makes one become more effective, enable better time management and sharpen their management skills. It's an antidote. It works better than a paid holiday and the best part is that it's free except in the time invested.

To quote the former President of Maybank, the job will be:

  1. "Professionally Enriching" - learning new and sharpen existing skills, broaden  exposure;
  2. "Socially Enlarging" - making new friends from different circles and strengthening bonds, and
  3. "Spiritually fulfilling" - contributing and giving back to society by doing good deeds.
(Source – Chong Ting Chow, Treasurer PAC)

In my research back in 2009, I read from the American Association of Retired People (AARP) website and here is their statement on volunteerism:

          People volunteer for many reasons. Some people may want to learn a new skill; others want to make new friends or contribute their time and talent to improving the well-being of others or society in general.
          Many people enjoy a sense of accomplishment and making a difference in the life of others through their volunteer activities.
          Research indicates that people who participate in their communities through activities like volunteering may lead healthier, happier and longer lives.
          AARP encourages all citizens, including older persons to consider volunteering in their communities.

We will be sending out a flier to recruit more members for various sub-committees or appointed positions. We sincerely hope more members will come forward to offer help one way or another.

Communication Sub-Committee
The first sub-committee we formed was the Communication Group as they play a critical role in this whole Strategic Plan 2014-19. We are happy to bring on board Linda Trivino, Michael Gan, Foo Sook Ying and Mahendra, with Tammy Lim our Secretary of the club as the head. The Footloose has migrated to E-Footloose with the first issue released on 28 June 2014. Prior to that, our blog was revamped with Michael Gan as the chief blogger. Mahendra, who was elected into the Exco, had to relinquish his position as he is a foreigner (Malaysian law does not permit foreigners to hold elected positions in societies). He is appointed as our administrator for the club’s new Facebook page (for members only). Sook Ying’s role is to compile the stories for the Footloose and Linda remains as the Footloose Editor. The migration of Footloose from print version to e-version has posed some challenges. While Mahendra has designed the template in WORD, the Communication Sub-committee has to learn new application skills to complete the formatting job from various articles, in particular the BC generation. In the computer era, we have 2 generations of people, the BC and the AC. BC is born before computers and AC is born after computers. I belong to the BC era but have successfully acquired new computer skills after my retirement from the bank. Likewise, Linda & team have to upgrade their computer skills and shortly they would be able to provide lessons to senior members who are now unable to keep up with the club’s new mode of communication via electronic medium. We have discontinued most paper based communication except for the AGM package and an annual print issue of the Footloose that will have a collection of all activities of the club in the past 12 months. 

Area Group Leaders & Area Representatives
I instrumented the formation of the Area Groups back in 2000 as an important strategy to expand the outreach of the club, which was partially successful. Fast forward to 2014, we are left with only one functioning area group, the Kuantan Area Group led by William Chin. The Kuantan Area Group is an excellent example of what an Area Group should be.  We did a diagnosis of the various Area Groups listed up to the most recent Footloose in March 2014. We concluded that only four area groups could be salvaged; the Bukit Aman mother group, Permaisuri, Kiara TTDI, and the Sabak Bernam. We have decided to discontinue FRIM, Gasing Hills and Bukit Jalil. As for Singapore and Penang that do not have the required membership base of at least 20 members, we have re-designated the Group Leaders there as Area Representatives. I have drafted the revised role and responsibilities of the Area Group Leaders and Area Representatives but would share them after our Strategic Plan briefing on 19 July 2014.

Strategic Plan 2014 – 19 (Teaser Only)
We had a Strategic Planning session on 14 June 2014 at the OCM Board Room and various ideas were tossed about. I have taken in all the suggestions and have given them much thought over the last 3 weeks.  As president, I have the prerogative to put in the final touches that I will share with the Exco and all the appointed position holders on 19 July 2014. Their feedback will be fodder for the refinement of, and thereafter we will disclose, our strategies in each area to all members. The Strategic Plan will not be a 100 page blue print but will be a concise booklet focusing on the WHATs. The HOW, WHO and WHEN would be thought out and executed by sub-committees appointed to the various initiatives. The Strategic Plan is just the 1% inspiration and we need the 99% perspiration to make it a success!

Managing Conflict of Interest
When I was first elected as president on 12 April 2014, I received feedback from friends that some members had asked how I was going to manage the potential conflict of interest, given that I am a run event organizer and the club is also involved in run event management. Good question and I shall take it head on. Conflict of Interest is not a legal consideration and more of a moral consideration and I shall use a few examples to properly explain the difference and the materiality involved. When Tun Daim was appointed Finance Minister, he was a successful businessman owning several businesses that was worth many millions. To avoid conflict of interest, it was reported that he put his business in a blind trust during the duration he was the Finance Minister.

My run event business is larger than that of the club but not a multi-million dollar business. It is more of a vocation for a retiree to spend his time rather than a business. We can’t discuss this on the same breath as that of Tun Daim’s business. The easiest way to resolve all this is that I do not hold the president position which is not the solution now as most of the members who voted me in were aware I have a run event management vocation. The next best solution is to figure out how to mitigate it.

Let me share a sport example; if you are a football fan like me, you would recall Pierluigi Collina, the bald headed Italian football referee for World Cup Finals between Germany and Brazil in 2002 – he is regarded as the best football referee in the world in his time. Pierluigi Collina is sponsored by Opel for various commercial activities. His contract with Opel, also sponsor for AC Milan resulted in conflict of interest as he was also the referee for Division One Italian Football League where AC Milan was playing. He was later only allowed to referee in the Division Two to avoid this conflict of interest.

In my own case, the potential conflict of interest can be managed too. The club has two broad types of events; own events like Pacesetters 3030 Run, Pacesetters 4 x 3km and Pacesetters 15km. Examples of third parties’ events are the Kuala Kangsar Run, the BHP Orange Run and the Mizuno Wave Run. These third parties’ events are owned by others and PAC acts as event manager. I have come to this understanding with the Exco that I would not get involved in third parties’ events. The organizational structure has been drawn up with Tai Kok Keong, the First Vice President in charge of third parties’ events. I would not get involved at all. Engagement with these third parties will follow the policies and guiding principles set up by the Exco. Even for those third parties’ events negotiated by the club but not taken up, I on my part have given the commitment that I would not touch those events. I can afford to do this not just to avoid this potential conflict of interest, I also have enough repeated events from my regular clients such as MPI, SCKLM, IEM, Alliance Bank and MWM. This year I got a few more in PUMA, BOH, MRCA and CENTRO. I am busy enough as a retiree and do not need to take any event from the club! I need to set aside time to travel while I still can; my annual pilgrimage to China etc. Of course as for club’s events, I will be at the driver seat to do the best to build them up to be the “best in class” events regionally.

Life Long Learning – My Experience
During our strategic planning session, Chong Ting Chow our treasurer mooted the inclusion of “Learning” as one of our core values. This would mean the club would be forward looking in terms of skill sets that are required to propel the club forward. Two cases in point are the migration to E-Footloose and adoption of an online members system that allows members to carry out their renewals online and new members to sign on online.  Linda Trevino, our editor and Chong, my fellow BC Era members have to upgrade their skills to perform their role. Michael Gan learned to update a blog at a ripe age of 50 plus. At this juncture, I like to share my experience on what I did after I left my full time employment in 2009 at the not so ripe age of 52. I went through a transformation from a high ranking bank executive to a young retiree and now a proud self-employed professional. I managed to achieve this through a series of self-discovery processes, learned and relearned new skills. When I knew I was leaving the bank in early 2009, I was wondering what I could do with my spare time. Catching up on all my TV series and movies was one thing but that could not be totally fulfilling. At the encouragement of Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, General Secretary of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), I signed up for an 8 month Advance Sport Management Program (ASMC) at OCM. This program is entirely funded by the Olympic Solidarity, Switzerland and delivered by local program directors.  I signed up as a member of PAC and use PAC as my case study. I was very committed and diligently completed all my six assignments via six Power Points presentations and six written assignments with more than 3,000 words each. I learnt the use of Power Point the hard way with my eldest daughter Adeline as my coach. I swallowed my pride and listened to her attentively and she was unlikely to show me many times. I was unofficially regarded as the best student from my batch. I was offered to take up the master program from Olympic Solidarity twice but it did not happened due firstly to limited slots for the English medium session and secondly to some timing reasons as the course required me to travel 4 times during the year to attend the sessions in countries that are far away; Switzerland, Slovakia and Trinidad & Barbados. I just could not fit into the traveling schedule.

All was not lost. I was instead invited back as the facilitator for the ASMC  for 2010 and 2011. In late 2011, an opportunity came when one of the two incumbent program directors of ASMC decided not to continue and I was nominated to become a program director and was sent to Switzerland for a one week induction program. I have since been the program director for ASMC from 2012 to 2014. Tammy Lim, our Secretary of the club is my student for the 2014 batch. She too felt that she needs to upgrade her sport management skills to better manage the club. My training at the ASMC since 2009 has been enriching. I have enlarged my circle of contacts to beyond the running fraternity as the participants of the ASMC came from a variety of sport. I was able to learn from them during the discussion sessions that I need to participate as moderator. I am also required to mark their assignment papers and give feedbacks such that their final assignments are better crafted before we send their assignments to the Olympic Solidarity. While it is entirely up to local program directors to pass whoever they deem fit, the assignments sent to Switzerland is a form of check and balances that quality worthy of the Olympic Solidarity is maintained.

The ASMC has strengthened my sport management skills that I first acquired during my presidential term from 2000 to 2005 and now with my experience gained from the various events I operate as a run event project manager. I am well equipped to lead the club. I would encourage my fellow Exco Members and those appointed into various non-elected positions to improve their skills and it would come in handy in years to come. As for the senior members, you too have to upgrade skills to lead a more meaningful life. Air Asia was the first to push this forward when they came out with their online ticketing system and if you want to buy cheap tickets you have to go online. Sorry, there is no turning back this IT tide, you have to upgrade your IT skills to engage with modern society. On the part of the club, I wonder if we could get someone to teach the seniors better IT skills, including how to better use their smartphones that they can afford to buy but don’t know how to extract full potential from. I have one such person in mind…Uncle Sonny Ng.

Wan Yew Leong

7 July 2014

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