Video: Undercover Boss

Imagine what would happen if leaders went undercover in their own organisations with the intention of finding out what REALLY happens.

That’s what happens on “Undercover Boss”, a reality TV show in which bosses pretend to be entry-level/front-line staff in their own companies. It’s an exercise in empathy, appreciation and truth-seeking and truth-speaking, all of which I believe are important for leadership. (Yes, I admit that people behave differently when the camera is in front of them but don’t let the imperfections prevent you from appreciating the essence of this show.)

The bosses discover the difficulties faced, the strengths with which their staff members handle them, extraordinary service, family/personal challenges faced by staff as well as behaviours that lack integrity.

Watch this, and encourage your boss to....:)

I wonder how CEOs and other leaders in Singapore would be transformed if they became construction workers, salespeople, cleaners etc for a day…

I wonder how they would feel seeing the level of alignment between their company’s vision/mission/values statement and what is practised. Or between their own spiritual values and what is practised.

How much Truth do you/your leaders expose themselves to? (Thanks to Delta7 for creating these images for everyone to use!)

Literally going undercover may not be practical in many circumstances but there could be variations to it. They could:

Make surprise visits or ensure that a trusted team does surprise visits/inspections etc.

~ Become a mystery shopper.

~ Surround themselves with people who are courageous enough to speak the truth about them or the impact of their decisions on the ground.

~ Visit “Dialogue in the Dark” in Singapore, an experiential activity in empathy. Extend the learning from that to empathy in the workplaces or other areas of life.

~ Learn about leadership styles which emphasise self-awareness and self-reflection, and the impact of one’s actions on others. A few books that handle this in different ways are “A Hidden Wholeness” by Parker Palmer,  “The Leaders Way” by the Dalai Lama and international management consultant Laurens van den Muyzenberg and “Heroic Leadership” by Chris Lowney on the Jesuits.

~ Be guided by role-models who emphasises pursuit of Truth, integrity and listening to one’s conscience.

~ Slow down and really observe yourself. At the end of each day, reflect on  where you appreciate yourself, where you could have done better etc.

~ Slow down and really observe people. Master the art of spotting people’s strengths and positive actions and appreciating them meaningfully (which may not necessarily involve expensive gifts like sometimes it does on “Undercover Boss”). Here’s a useful resource on spotting people’s strengths.

What are other ways that leaders could seek and witness truth and experience empathy? How could you implement any of these ideas where you work?

I believe we are ALL leaders so although this post is aimed at formal leaders, if we all embraced truth, empathy and appreciation in our lives, we would see our world flourish sooner.

Catch “Undercover Boss” on Sundays at 10pm on Channel 5 in Singapore or watch clips on you tube. Here are a few clips:

CEO discovers safety hazards.

CEO reveals identity and rewards staff.


Video: A New Hope for Peace

Mattie and Jeni Stepanek - messengers for peace

This is an inspiring TEDxTeen talk by Jeni Stepanek, mother of the late Mattie Stepanek, poet, philosopher and peace-maker who died from muscular dystrophy.

Some highlights…

….Within reality, there’s still the choice of your attitude… how you think and speak and act…and how you reflect your realities back out into the world…

…Hope is real. Peace is possible. Life is worthy…

A heartsong is our unique gift…our reason for being, whatever it is that we need, what we want most for ourselves in the world…we understand why that matters…that’s what we’re called to offer to others… 

We know hope best not when life is going well but when we’re going through some burden…when there’s suffering…when there’s some storm in our life…hope isn’t simply a positive attitude or wishful thinking…denying the facts…hope is very real because hope is an attitude is always our choice…

…Peace begins within each one of us when we’re ok with who we are as a person… 

…We must find ways to share peace with people we don’t know, people we may not like, people we disagree with but who have basic needs just like us…

Every story matters…Mattie’s story was about peace, faith and hope. What about yours?

Related: Peace Poem + Help Needed

Honouring our Common Humanity on Vesak Day

I wish all Buddhist friends, a Happy Vesak Day today!

We all belong to different social groups – families, companies, neighbourhoods, religious groups, clubs, countries – and sometimes these put up barriers in how we connect with people outside these groups.

Here are some excerpts from Self-Compassion by Dr Kristin Neff, that elaborates on this further:

Our sense of self is imbued with social labels that define us and make us feel safe and accepted within clearly defined group boundaries. Although a sense of belongingness can be found within these groups identities, it is still limited. As long as we’re identifying with subsets of people rather than the enture human race, we’re creating divisions that separate us from our fellows.

Sadly, these divisions often lead to prejudice and hatred…According to Henri Tajfel’s social identity theory, when we incorporate a group into our identity, we derive our sense of self-worth from being a member of that group. We therefore become heavily invested in seeing “us” positively and “them” negatively. It’s our investment in social identities that underlies group discrimination and racism.

Neff speaks of our human limitations that is our common denominator. The Dalai Lama reminds us of two more things that unite us – we want to reduce our suffering and increase our happiness.

In honour of Vesak Day, here’s a short and thoughtful clip of the Dalai Lama speaking on our common humanity.

PS: This blog has a multi-faith perspective and strives to promote inter-faith understanding and harmony.

Free Spirit

Take six minutes to watch FREE SPIRIT from Nic Askew to catch an inspiring glimpse of what a free-spirited leader looks like.

Ann McGee Cooper speaks of love in the workplace, something I truly believe in. Like her I believe that “love is what transforms life”.

Here are some gems from the video to help you feel into how much of a free-spirited leader you could be:

Do you inspire “the spirit of hope and possibility”?

Do you live your calling and invite others to live their calling?

Did you know “love is the only emotion that is known to expand intelligence”?

“Effective leaders have the courage to fall in love with what they can do, the people they bring toward them and they always connect to the best in that person.”

“…child-like is where all creativity happens…”

“When we’re not connected to our authenticity, we die.”

And Nic Askew leaves us questions to ponder:

“Are you able to see those around you through a love of life?”

“Is your spirit free to live and lead within the structures that surround you?”

Related: Authenticity is… and if you’d like to see what Ann has to say about leading change through self-transformation, read this interview with Pegasus Communications Inc.

Video: Brene Brown on Authenticity

In this TEDx talk, Dr Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, speaks of the importance of being comfortable about our imperfections and vulnerabilities and overcoming shame with the courage to be just be ourselves.

Highlights –

She addresses something that plays in many of our heads: “I am not good enough…”

She says that the one variable that separates people who have a  strong sense of love and belonging and those who don’t is that the former believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.

She speaks of people who have the “courage to be imperfect, compassion to be kind to themselves first before others and they have connection as a result of authenticity. They are willing to let go of what they should be to be what they were”.

What does vulnerability look like? Saying “I love you” first. Doing something when there is no guarantee. Willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.

“We numb vulnerability…you cannot selectively numb emotion….you can’t numb those hard feelings without those other affects…we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness…”

“Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort.”

“We perfect most dangerously our children…our job is not to say, ‘she’s perfect’…our job is to say, ‘You’re imperfect, you’re wired for struggle and you’re worthy of love and belonging’.”

She asks us to “let ourselves to be deeply seen, vulnerably seen, to love with our whole hearts even though there’s no guarantee”.

More at Brene Brown’s gorgeous website.

Video: Following Your Heart


How can you parent from faith rather than fear? Illustration by Sara Chong of


Anila Angin’s “Mother and Child on Following Your Heart” is the kind of conversation I wish more parents had with their children.

Are you living the questions in your life and allowing others to as well?

To enjoy more of Anila’s work, log on to Scribbles for the Soul

Video: Greatest Love of All

Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All is probably one of the psychologically healthiest and wisest songs I have heard.  

And a great reminder on Valentine’s Day. A reminder that the most important relationship in life is the one with ourselves. I’ve learnt that if that’s strong, positive and affirming, then relationships with others are more likely to be.  

How is your relationship with yourself? Do you know how to love yourself?

Related: Love Story – With Yourself

Video: Love Story of Danny and Annie

It’s approaching Valentine’s day and I’d like to share a touching animation clip of Danny and Annie’s love story.  

Danny wrote his wife a love letter every day…and says some wise things about loving his wife of over 27 years….

“We try to give each other hope…”

“The only thing I have to give to you is a poor gift and it is myself and I give it…”

…she lights up my life when she says to me at night, “Wouldn’t you like some ice-cream?” or “Would you please drink more water?”…those aren’t very romantic things to say but they start my heart…

More than that rose or expensive gift on Valentine’s day, how can we show our love daily to people we love?

PS: Danny’s a horse-betting clerk and Annie’s a nurse…and they have much to teach us…the service people who surround us…the waiters, the construction workers, the nurses, the taxi drivers, the salespeople….also have love stories, like we do. … and lessons to teach us…..if we care and are humble enough to listen… 


Thanks to my former professor, Barbara Becker of Equal Shot for introducing Storycorps (which  recorded Danny and Annie’s story) to my “Communications and Social Change” class. She’s helped me understand the power of story-telling.