Thursday, September 28, 2006

Trust brings in tourists

Business Times p.B2
Thursday, September 28, 2006

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Trust brings in tourists

Ni Hao. I just came back from Taipei, Taiwan, where I presented a paper on developing supervisors and teambuilding at the Summit of Globalization of Human Resources 2006. It was hosted by the Taiwan Ministry of Labour Affairs, Executive Yuan, and organized by Tze-Chiang Foundation of Science and Technology. It was held at the beautiful Taipei International Convention Center on September 22 and 23.

The convention was a definite success, with more than 600 delegates from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, England among others. From the Philippines, there were Manuel Sy Peng, Jr., president of the PMAP Bulacan Chapter; Noli Tibayan, HR director of Roche Philippines; and Marybeth Monies, HR manager of Ortigas Group of Companies.

But what I am most impressed about is Taipei and the Taiwanese people.

Even from the airplane, I was very impressed with what I saw. There is no idle patch of land, no matter how small, in Taipei and in adjoining areas. All lands are functionally used for buildings, farms, gardens and others. There is this teeny-weeny patch of land in front of the world trade center adjacent to the convention center and Taipei 101 along Taipei’s main road in the middle of the financial district and there was this couple who was tending the small garden of kamote, sugar cane, okra and I don’t know what else.

The places we visited—Taipei City, Taipei suburbs, Nanya Coastal Trail and Chiupen Village (an abandoned gold mine which has been converted to a tourist shopping area)—were very clean. The only litter we saw was the fallen leaves. Maybe, every kilometer, we saw a solitary cigarette butt, only if we really looked hard to find them.

The streets are wide and lined with trees. Until mid afternoon, the whole city smells of fresh plants. It was only during the afternoon rush hour that we smelled the fumes from exhaust pipes of vehicles. From the balcony of my room on the 16th floor of Pacific Business Center, I’ve never seen any trace of smog at all in the early morning. It is so encouraging to walk the streets of Taipei. There’s also plenty of room for pedestrians—wide and well-paved sidewalks. You could stroll along the sidewalks of Taipei blindfolded and not trip on any obstructions whatsoever.

The food is super. I am not a fan of Chinese food, but I really dig the way Taiwanese prepare their food. Save for the typical smell, I really enjoyed one week of Chinese food.

What is more impressive is that we felt safe walking the streets of Taipei at any given time, day and night. There is no need to clasp at your handbag tightly. They say that you could leave something valuable anywhere and when you go back, it will still be there or you could retrieve it from the Lost and Found. Wow! We saw thousands of motorcycles and bicycles parked in designated areas everywhere and they are left there just like that—not chained to any post or what.

The one that wins my highest esteem are the Taiwanese themselves. At the conference, they maintained a very respectful silence (you could hear a pin drop during the sessions). They talked to one another animatedly, but they were mindful of people around them. They were time conscious—all the sessions started and ended on time. The Taiwanese walked briskly everywhere they are. Hats off!

They listened attentively during the sessions and asked thoughtful questions. They are very eager to learn. By the way, the language of the conference was English because the Taiwanese are trying very hard to learn English as a second language to be more competitive in the global market.

They are also very helpful. Everywhere we asked around, the Taiwanese did not only answer our questions, but actually showed us the way. For example, at the train station, the ticket clerk (only one clerk at every station) gave us very good direction, got out of his glass office to show us how to use the MRT card and walked us to the stairs leading to the loading area. Sometimes, we’d rather not ask because we didn’t want them to drop whatever it is they are doing just to help us.

Oops, don’t be turned off by the personnel at the Taiwan Consular Office. I find it easier and more convenient to apply for a Visa at the US Embassy. My experience with them is the wart in my otherwise flawless experience in Taiwan.


Moje is a consultant on human resource and organization development and is accessible at

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Listening builds organizational trust

Learning & innovation – September 21, 2006
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Listening builds organizational trust

Dr. Toto Estuar does not just say that he practices “open communication,” he actually makes it happen. Every Thursday, his door is wide open to anybody who wishes to discuss with him any topic under the sun. No need for an appointment or permission from his secretary or to knock at the door.

That is one reason Dr. Estuar is a trusted leader. He listens attentively. No wonder that he was able to turnaround the badly bleeding Maynilad Water Service during his first year at its helm. No wonder that wherever Dr. Estuar goes, he is warmly greeted by friends and employees, past and present, he meets.

In his talk to various sectors of the Lopez Group of Companies, David Spong, retired president of Boeing Aerospace Support Program shares the Operating Principles they practiced. How do you continuously and uniformly communicate with 12,303 employees in 131 USA and offshore locations? Please take note that all of these principles entail a lot of listening and not much talking. Some of these trust-building principles are:
• We insist on integrity, first and foremost
• We tell it like it is
• We communicate openly and candidly in all our dealings
• We respect, honor, and trust one another
• We work toward consensus
• Disagreement is healthy and encouraged, but once a decision is made,
we proactively support it
• We have one conversation at a time
• Our silence is consent
• We actively listen and question to understand
• We do not attack the messenger
• We identify clear objectives and expectations for our meetings
• We praise in public, we coach in private

No wonder that under his leadership the two Boeing Companies he led both won the prestigious and much-coveted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Boeing Airlift and Tanker Program won it in 1998 and Aerospace Support won it in 2003. Indeed, a unique feat to win the award for both manufacturing and service business sectors in Baldrige Award’s 19-year history.

What’s the similarity between Dr. Estuar and Mr. Spong? They make listening and preserving the trust they give and earn part of their leadership habit.

Unfortunately, many of our experiences in our own organizations are variations of these examples:

 Boss comes in and mumbles something (sounds like “Good morning”) without looking at anybody in the room.
 Boss seems to be talking to us, at the same time to two other people and might even be doing some math in his head. He calls it multitasking (read faking listening) because he is pressed for time.
 Boss seems to be listening, but his responses to our discussion are way off tangent; not a response to what we said, but what he wants to say on the subject matter.
 Boss pretends to listen while looking over some papers and affixing his signature on a few.

Listening and building trust are leadership contact sports. It is something you do, with your whole body, heart and spirit. You don’t fake listening, you’ll soon be found out. Some of its dire consequences are low trust, low morale, low productivity; high turnover, high wastages, high repeat jobs, and more of the same uncaring behaviors.

Condolences to the family of Dr. Jose Lirag Lapeña, 84, UPCM, who peacefully joined his Creator last September 13, 2006. His bereaved wife, Dr. Rosa Fabella; children, Joey and Josie Isidro, Cynthia and Deke Amador, Elmer and Agnes Lorenzana, and Corinna and Francisco Llorin; grandchildren, Melay, Ro-an, Jica and their mother Maeyet Guanzon; Kitt, Bian and their father Elmer Rueda; Justin, Lian, Meimei, Jeremy, Ricci and her father Jobbee Baens; and great granddaughter, Shibby, and her father JP de Guzman; brothers; and sisters request relatives, friends and the pious readers to pray for the eternal repose of his soul. Dr. Joey Lapeña (ENT) can be contacted at 0917-9137258.

(Moje consults on business excellence and can be contacted at

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Listening builds customer trust

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, September 14, 2006

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Listening builds customer trust

“Ganyan na talaga iyan, eh.”
“Policy kasi namin ganyan.”
“Wala akong magagawa, empleyado lang ako dito.”
“Bibili ba kayo?”
“Hindi puede.”
“Punta na lang kayo sa ibang tindahan.”
“Mahal ’yan.”
“Kung nabibilisan kayo sa metro ko, sakay na lang kayo sa ibang taxi o sa jeep para mas mura.”

These are the outright answers to some simple questions or remarks that customers ask of salespersons: Mayroon bang ibang kulay o hugis o kopya o sukat? Puedeng tumawad? Magkano ito? Puedeng humingi ng extra table napkin o ketsup? “Kada 100 metro na ba pumapatak ang metro?” “Bakit parang may sira ito?”

Worse, these salespeople give you a cold shoulder, a blank stare or a shrug of the shoulder or they immediately shift their attention to another customer or start chatting with a fellow salesperson. Worst, they are texting while talking to you.

These attitudes are not only uncaring, but downright insulting. You know that they are only interested in making a sale, not in satisfying your needs. You don’t trust these people to give you the products or service that you need because they don’t listen. Rather, they focus on their “selling points.”

The Baldrige Criteria for Excellence emphasizes the importance of listening to grow customer satisfaction and loyalty. Some of the questions asked under the Category on Customer and Market Focus are:

• How do you listen and learn to determine key customer requirements, needs and changing expectations and their relative importance to customers’ purchasing or relationship decisions? How do your determination methods vary for different customers or customer groups? How do you use relevant information and feedback from current and former customers, including marketing and sales information, customer loyalty and retention data, win/loss analysis, and complaint data for purposes of planning products and services, marketing, making process improvements and developing new business opportunities? How do you use this information and feedback to become more customer-focused and to better satisfy customer needs and desires?

• How do you keep your listening and learning methods current with business needs and directions including change in your marketplace?

• How do you manage customer complaints? How do you ensure that complaints are resolved effectively and prompt­ly? How do you minimize customer dissatisfaction and, as appropriate, loss of repeat business? How are complaints aggregated and analyzed for use in improvement throughout your organization and by your partners?

When you have and are able to implement all the processes to address all the above issues; then, you are on your way to becoming globally competitive. When you listen to your customers and use their inputs you are able to manage and improve your processes and grow your business.

Listening, though, is very hard to do. That is why most salespersons have developed ready scripts to handle customer inquiries and complaints. Most of the time they are not listening; they are simply faking listening. They are just waiting for the customer to stop talking and then they deliver their memorized lines. They are not paying attention—they are faking listening.

Customers do not just want to buy things; they need to be listened to and given the undivided attention of sales-people. When they have the gift of your listening, they give you their trust and their money. Otherwise, they go to another store, restaurant, salon or take another taxi or whatever. And they pass the word around.

Malugod kong binabati ang aking kapatid na si Dr/Prof Jess Fer. Ramos sa kanyang nakamtang Gawad ng Pagkilala mula sa Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino dahil sa mahalagang ginampanan niya bilang propesor, manunulat at editor sa pagpapalaganap ng Wikang Pambansa. Ang ibang pinarangalan ay sina Ariel Dim. Borlongan, Dr. Lydia Buenafe Liwanag, Mabuhay Singers at Advanced Filipino Abroad Program ng Unibersidad ng Hawaii.

Ang Komisyon ay pinamumunuan ni Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, Ph.D. bilang nanunung­kulang tagapangulong komisyoner. Ang Gawad ay ginanap kaugnay ng pagdiriwang ng Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa.

Moje consults on human resources and organization development. Her e-mail address is

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Wussup, doc?

Business Times p.B2
Thursday, September 7, 2006

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Wussup, doc?

Let me talk about a different level of trust.

I just received a distress call from Dr. Joey Lapeña of UP-PGH. He said that they have 25 residency positions in their department every year. This is a four-year program. In previous years they were swamped with applicants for residency slots at the UP-PGH Department of Otorhinolaryngology, as many as 40 applicants for seven positions. They used to have the leisure of choosing the best and the brightest.And this is happening all throughout the UP-PGH system.

They never thought they would suffer from this. After all UP-PGH gives the highest pay among government training programs and, generally, more than what private programs give. Not bad in terms of remuneration that they would get for the amount of and quality of training they could derive from the residency programs at UP-PGH, where they get the greatest number of patients and a variety of cases.

Dr. Joey said, “This year, in fact, we had 12 applicants and six of them UP graduates. They were supposed to report for the pre-residency evaluation where they actually go on duty.

“When the actual day arrived for them to begin, only six showed up. This early, one quit. Only five decided to push through with their application. Where have all the other doctors gone? As we all know, some have decided to take up nursing and we know why.

What worries me about all these is that UP-PGH is the hospital of “last resort”—so-called, in the sense that people who can no longer be treated elsewhere end up at UP-PGH. Of course, some who could afford seek medical care abroad. Those who come to us do so mostly because of financial considerations and partly because of the available expertise. Given that scenario of what is happening to us in terms of the number of applicants it seems UP-PGH might not be immune from the mass immigration/doctor drain infecting our healthcare system. Unfortunately, other smaller hospitals especially in the provinces have closed down or are in the process of doing so because of lack of doctors and nurses.

“Some fields are equally important, like anesthesiology. When the anesthesiologist leaves, what happens to the surgeons, obstetricians and other surgical fields? They can’t do anything.

“What is alarming is that otorhinolaryngology is a high-profile field, a very desirable profession, almost an elite subspecialty; but there are now very few of us here in the Philippines, only 400 board-certified. Yet, there are not enough doctors and the remaining are not interested in our field. In the USA, it’s very difficult to get into otorhinolaryngology.

“Among the top 10 diseases in any age group are a few that require ENT specialists. The World Health Organization lists ear infections among the top five childhood diseases. The other four are diarrhea, fever, respiratory infections and convulsions. Respiratory infections also involve ENT doctors.

The very young and the very old are especially vulnerable and could suffer when we lose our otorhinolaryngologists. They treat everything that could go wrong with the ear, nose, oral cavity, throat, head and neck.

Wussup, doc? Dr. Joey Lapeña and UP-PGH trust that you would heed their call. I trust that you will honor your Hippocratic Oath and serve us, your fellow Filipinos, here.