Improve Performance and Customer Relationship: Action and Inaction of Taoism

By Joanna Tong

You had a summer break and now come back to your normal life. Perhaps life is not ‘normal’ as before. Away from the routine and mundane, you recharged your battery and managed to look at your life differently with newfound inspirations. You decided to re-arrange your priorities for a new term, another quarter or the rest of 2010. Or does life remain same old same old? You went straight back to the usual routine and mundane. You pick up where you left or maybe you took where you left to holidays. It is amazing how many people keep their work mobile phones switched on so that they could reply emails and read attached documents while they are supposedly taking a break. This is not a ‘break’; rather, it is a new form of remote working. Mobile devices are designed to improve NOT diminish the quality of our lives. However they seem to generate the opposite effects as far as our taking time out is concerned.

Lao Tzu (600 BC), the founder of Taoism taught his students the importance of Action and Inaction balance. In our busy modern lives, we are on the go taking actions all the time - whether the actions are necessary, relevant and effective is a different matter. We find ourselves quite uncomfortable with and to some extent, alien to the notion of Inaction. How would Inaction benefit busy managers, CEO and business owners?

Here are some tips for you:

Take stock: when I visit a small local caf reading a book or newspaper late in the afternoon, I can normally tell when it is time to go. It is when I heard the owner open the till, counting the notes and change she got for the day. The ‘clink’ sound from coins is as effective as the recess bell at school. ‘Ah, she is doing stock-taking. Must go,’ I told myself. I am sure she and many business proprietors do that as an everyday routine. While we would stop to count the till, we don’t always stop to count the bigger taking. A complete break will give you the much-needed time and space to put work and business in perspective. It will help you realise how far you have come and how much you have achieved. Do you remember that difficult project you led from start to completion? Do you remember negotiating with a demanding client successfully? Do you remember the skills and resilience you acquired over the last few months? You don’t need to wait for others to pat on your shoulders; you owe that to yourself. Encouragement motivates you to do more.

Get inspirations:  the work and business environment is changing fast so is competition. You don’t have to compete on price (there are limits to the discounts you can offer) but you need to continuously add value to customers in your products and services. This means we (team leaders, executives, entrepreneurs and business owners) need to evolve all the time in a changing, competitive environment. Whether your intention is to improve or innovate, new ideas occur only when our mind is cleared of fixed views and chatters. We don’t sit on people’s laps on a crowded bus or underground tube, do we? We sit where there is an empty space. Similarly, when our minds are clogged up with problems and worries and rigid views and thoughts, there is hardly any space to let new ideas and inspirations in. There is no coincidence that great scientists and inventors like Einstein and Edison got inspirations while relaxing in a bath and taking a cat-nap.

Become positive: positive thinking generates positive actions. It has been proved by scientific research that Amygdale, an area of our brain is responsible for connecting emotions and actions. Its primary role is to formulate and store memories associated with emotional events and generate the responses accordingly. Memories of events caused by fear stimuli will lead to fear behaviour. Memories of events caused by positive stimuli will lead to positive behaviour. Experiments showed that putting rats in a positive condition made them learn new skills faster. So ‘Positive thinking positive action’ is not just wishful thinking. It is how our brain is wired up to function. When we feel refreshed and energised we become more positive that in turn helps us take positive, effective actions.

 Improve business: in the workplaces and group situations, how we feel about ourselves, our work and our business will have direct influences on others around us. When interacting with customers, colleagues and employees you would pass your mood on to them even though you tried to contain yourself when feeling pretty low. You would attract more customers when they found your business offer pleasing. You would surround yourself with good employees when they found you charismatic. Being in negative moods is unlikely to make you pleasing and charismatic. Taking time out will give you the above-mentioned benefits resulting in helping you improve performance and business.

Value the important: work and business are part of life not the other way round. Money can't buy health and relationships. You may be running a small and medium-sized business, a large team or an international company. Indeed you bear important responsibilities for what you do at work and in your business. However the most fundamental and important responsibility each one of us has to take is to look after our very own wellbeing and nurture the important friendships and relationships in our lives. Without health we can’t function. Without close friends and loved ones life is pretty lonely and dry.

The Chinese tradition is known for its holistic approaches to life: work, business and personal. Not only do we need work-life balance, but also Action and Inaction as emphasised by Lao Tzu. Next time when you go away for a break, think: laptops or holidays?

Motivational speaker and leadership specialist with 20-year senior management experience, Joanna Tong, author of the article introduces the holistic Dragon Leadership approach to business owners, entrepreneurs, CEO and managers. Differed from the Western models that focus on systems and procedures, Dragon Leadership is a holistic approach to improve performance and customer relationship based on the Chinese principles that have stood the test of time for 3000 years.

 Tested and refined in her various executive roles, Joanna Tong applied the holistic Dragon Leadership to manage multiple teams at senior levels for 35 million economic projects. She re-organized and doubled ticket sales for a world-class performance venue and made a 30% increase of  the visitor numbers for tourist attractions.

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