“You are the Master of your fate, the captain of your soul”

“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” – Henley. This is such a powerful statement, from “Invictus” a short Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903). As time goes by, I increasingly appreciate this statement in my personal and professional life. Today, let me share some of my related experiences with you.

Over the past three years, our team in APAC has grown exponentially (from 10 to 120+, across 5 offices). I spend most of my time listening and coaching our team members to solve their problems/concerns with team dynamics, client relationships, and individual stressors. Many of these challenges seem tough and emotional, especially when a team member has to work late or under extended periods of stress. I’ve noticed that even our star performers’ judgement starts to get clouded under these circumstances; the decisions they make are not “normal”.

Some people have problems with difficult client relationships, while others may have internal issues like not knowing how decisions are being made or having enough team members to do the work.

The idea that “we all have different choices, always have and always will, because we have the power to control our thoughts” (Napoleon Hill) is what guide me in everything I do. I truly believe that my work is a partnership between myself and the company/client. Every day, we both make the choice to continue this partnership. And like with any worthwhile relationship, it has to be beneficial for everyone involved if it’s goingto last long-term. This belief allows me to think more clearly and makes better decisions, even under pressure.

Making a conscious choice to work longer hours

I want to emphasize that our culture does not involve asking our team to work overtime unless it is an unavoidable emergency. That being said, if a team member wants to put in extra hours and they are healthy and do not have any personal issues with doing so, I am fine with it. The main distinction here is between making a conscious decision vs being “asked” or simply going along with what your boss says without thinking about it first.

When I was just beginning, I logged around 55 to 60 hours every week. This included writing for this blog after finishing up my day job at home. Although difficult, it paid off and I never regretted putting in the extra work. We had another outstanding team member from whom I learnt a lot. In the first three years of her career, she worked more than 60 hours per week under a visionary founder and progressed extremely quickly in her approach, story telling, presentation skill. I am no match to her at all. She told us before that she didn’t regret spending so much time working in the first 3 years because it was her own choice and she gained invaluable experience from it.

Treating everyone with respect and dignity

It’s our belief that no matter what is right or wrong, everyone should be treated with respect and dignity. Moreover, everyone should try to communicate in a professional way because it’s more effective that way. “a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” – Dale Carnegie.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a manager/director or team member, on the client or agency side, it’s how we should treat each other human being. If you work with anyone (internal or external) who behave/communicate in a non-professional way, don’t keep quiet, escalate it, try to find a suitable way to address it. Though when emotion runs high, practising this is not easy but we should try 🙂

Senior managers and directors: treat our team members as intelligent/brilliant human beings, who are capable of making their own choices

Lastly, if you are a line manager, it is essential to treat your incredibly talented team members like the adults they are and capable of making their own decisions. Your team members need to learn how to make choices for themselves- this applies in both their personal and professional life. We don’t always make the correct decision, but we can learn from our mistakes. If a situation would be absolutely terrible as a result of certain decisions, then by all means offer guidance to your team. In any other case, empower and respect the decisions that would be made by each individual member on your team.

It can be frustrating to watch someone make a poor decision, but as their manager, you have to learn to let them choose for themselves and face the consequences. This is how they will grow and avoid making catastrophic mistakes in the future.

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In conclusion, these are some of the things that I live by as a manager. What are some of the things that you live by?


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