[Executive Edge] Francis Kong to business owners: Soft skills are essential

The Philippines will continue to rapidly change in 2015.

With Internet and smartphone penetration increasing across the country, more tech companies will seize the opportunities that arise in the digital space.

While most pundits will advise on business strategy or technical know-how, Francis Kong, a renowned motivational speaker and business consultant with an entrepreneurial experience from retail to manufacturing, emphasized though that business leaders need to focus on what he deems essential: soft skills.

Invest in the ‘right’ people

Soft skills or the character and interpersonal traits evident in a person’s relationship with others should complement the hard skills or a person’s knowledge and occupational know-how.

As such, technology in the Philippines and its demographics are quickly changing, so entrepreneurs need to get with the times or risk falling behind, Kong said.

“The most fundamental awareness every business owner needs to understand is that our past successes is not guarantee for future success,” Kong cautioned.

To accomplish this task, Kong is quick to remind business owners that they need to invest in people who are “qualified, competent, and creative in order to prepare for changes.” Such an approach requires a renewed commitment to both aspects of human resources – recruitment and retention.

“Hire the right people, train the existing, and deal with those who drain company resources and refuse to change and improve,” Kong said.

Have the ‘empty cup’ mindset

Kong acknowledged that there may be generational gap between business owners and their employees that gets in the way of this. Because of this gap, Kong believes that Filipino business owners first need to understand how they are different from their younger staff.

They need to first realize that the younger generation of people entering their workplace has values, behaviors, and attitudes totally different from theirs, Kong stressed.

From there, Kong recommended that business owners and their employees adopt what he calls an “empty cup” mindset. To him, the idea of an “empty cup” is more of an orientation than a series of finite steps that a person completes.

“To embrace change through the disciplined pursuit of knowledge, education, and training and to understand that they need to have their leadership skills updated and upgraded,” Kong said.

Create a choice workplace

To Kong, improvement can come any number of ways, such as through the workplace environment itself.

He believes that business owners need to create a work environment where people have the freedom to express their creativity. Kong added that some professional organizations such as the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) can help with this goal.

In his view, trying to create a choice workplace begins with adopting a few basic principles. “Treat their people well. Reward performance. Create an environment of meritocracy and not power play,” Kong said.

He added that business leaders need to make sure their pay is above industry standards and that rewards are given to employees for superb performance.

Establishing a strong work environment also involves stamping out some of the more negative traits associated with Filipino office culture. “Silos should be brought down,” Kong emphasized.

“Open space collaboration should be the norm. Turf protection and egos should be parked in the parking lot while every person in the firm should be led to rally for their common cause,” Kong said.

Model leadership


Creating a work environment of meritocracy requires that the leaders first address themselves.

According to Kong, they need to “model leadership and not just to mandate it” and to “understand they exercise the best leadership skills through inspiration and not just intimidation.”

Of course, when dealing with anything as abstract as leadership or work culture, it is difficult to assess where a company can improve and to make those necessary changes. Kong, however, thinks that the effort to examine where a venture stands on these fronts is worth the effort. In his view, the company that can create such an ideal environment will naturally attract the best talent.

“The team in any sports arena that possess the best talents working cohesively will always win,” Kong said. As a result, he emphasized the need to “develop the talents of the people (both leaders and direct reports) and inspire them to play cohesively as a team.” – Rappler.com