Connect with us


These Words Sabotage Your Promotion




You know those famous last words, right?

Be careful of what you ask for because you may end up getting it?

I started out strong in my career with lots of high hopes about what I could achieve. I enrolled in every training course that was offered, thinking that if I filled my head with concepts about how to get things done,  I would get my promotion. 

My first boss, Brian, a recently promoted eager-to-please-everyone kind of manager, wanted to do great things in our department. I was part of his team and wanted to show him what I could do so I asked what I needed to get to my next promotion.

“Show me what you can achieve!” he told me. Pumped up by the promise of a possible future advancement, I worked my ass off for 2 years running. My performance reviews were the best I had ever have. Even colleagues would come up, out of the blue, to congratulate me.  I felt pumped, happy because I knew what was coming next. 

It was not what I had expected.

My boss got promoted, due to his team’s outstanding results, in good part, thanks in part to my efforts.

Before he left, I asked him for the promotion he had promised.

[ztl_optin slug=”optin-page-mypromotiontoday”]

Sorry, said Brian, I can’t do anything right now. But I will speak to the new boss who is replacing me so he will reward you as you should be” 

I was gutted. The hardest part was facing people at work. I felt they were sorry for me but no one ever said anything to my face and that only made things worse. For the next 3 months, all I could talk about was: 

– How I could have got that promotion, but my boss… (fill in the blanks!) 

– How I should have got a better position but my boss… (fill in the blanks!) 

– It’s so unfair because my boss… (fill in the blanks!)


Do you see the warning signs? 

I made Brian my manager the prime decision-maker in achieving my goals in life. I essentially gave him the keys to decide what I would achieve or not, I gave him the opportunities to define who I be and when I would advance. He stalled my career but he did not take away my resolve to make it happen.

If you have a great boss great things will happen at work. When your boss is crap, great things can still happen but the way forward needs to be adjusted.

Looking back, I thank Brian, because of him I made a decision that year to move into a another department. I set my sights on getting promoted into a different department because I did not not want to have to prove myself again with the new boss.

So let’s look at where you are currently in your job. Do you use the killer words sometimes? Often? Can’t get those darn words out of your brain? 

I want to, but…

I should have, but…

I could have, but… 

It might have been, but…

How do you feel every time you say something like that to yourself when you speak about your job? Now, imagine the impact these words would create in your mind if you continuously used them to describe what you could have done in your career? 

I changed the way I spoke about myself. It took me a year to adjust my course and this is how I did it. 

These 3 things changed my approach got me closer to my promotion. 

j1em-lnv-eg-jacob-sciacchitanoNumber 1

Never become too comfortable in your job. When we do it so well we become complacent and stop learning. What took us days to achieve we can now do in hours so we have more time on our hands. How do we spend that time is significant for our growth. For example, I asked myself what else could I learn about my current job that would prove to be useful in my new one? What know-how could I leverage?  Who else was skilled who could help me in exchange for my help in their jobs?

I asked people, what is the number one thing that keeps them motivated in their jobs? Almost everyone answered, when they are learning new things. So what kind of new things are happening in your industry that you would like to know more about? What new program can you learn? What articles can you read to help you understand more about your job? What courses are available for you? For example, I approached my HR department and asked them for time to study to prove that I was serious.

Number 2

Before I got promoted, I asked myself, what kind of skills do I need for that next promotion? Up-skilling yourself is the most important factor in moving laterally if you cannot move upwards because you happen to have a “horrible boss”.  Go out and interview co-workers to find out more about their jobs and the kind of skills you require to move to another department. Believe me, Ask them and You Will Receive!

I asked the director of the department I wanted to move into for an interview and I got 5 minutes of her time. I put everything I had in my heart in that conversation. 

The best thing is, she listened, and asked me a few questions. The fact that I was working AND studying cinched it. 

You cringe… I could never do that??! Really? You would be surprised at how passionate people get when they love their work! People love sharing their skills and knowledge, but you will never know that until you step out of your complacency and ASK! That director only gave me 5 minutes of her time but she also suggested that I speak to her assistant for anything else I needed. That got me a foot in the door. 

As an example, this is a possible script when you ask for that interview: “Hi! My name is Shirley, I work in (…) and I love what I’m doing (…)! I am curious to find out more about your department and what you all do, because everyone here only says great things about your team (…). I know you are busy but can I buy you lunch/tea/snack/ so you could spend a few moments to answer a few questions? I’d love to know more!  

Number 3

What is it going to take to shift your mindset from “poor me, my horrible boss does not want to promote me” to “what do I want to achieve in the next 3 months in my job?”  When we view ourselves as victims, and use defeatist words like, I could have, I should have, If only … we are imprinting in our minds that we have no choice BUT to remain where we are. It’s someone else’s fault that we are miserable at work!

This is what I did. I replaced the negative words in my mind, with:

– What else is possible, if I do (…)

– What would it take for me to achieve (…) in the next 3 months? 

– How can I learn/reach/achieve (…)? 

When we use questions that begin with “Why”, our brain tends to pull us back into the past and the merry-go- round-of all our excuses lights up with all its bells and whistles! Questions that begin with “What” and “How” are more empowering as they force our brains to look forward for new options, and options give us choice. When we choose, we move forward. 

I wrote my questions down – pen and paper helps me think better – and came up with some possible options. Then I took one of those possible options and ACTED! Taking swift action creates momentum and once momentum is going, it makes it harder to back down.

For example, pick up that phone and make an appointment to speak to someone TODAY about something you really want to do/learn/know at work. Or even better, get up from your seat, walk down those stairs to the person’s work space and ask them if you could speak to them for a moment and ask for an appointment. 

Miracles happen within our brain when we start walking!

I’d like to to hear from you! 

[ztl_optin slug=”optin-page-mypromotiontoday”]

Yes I really do, I reply to every email.


Shirley Soodeen - Business Coach Luxury Fashion

Shirley Soodeen – Business Coach Luxury Fashion

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef



Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

Continue Reading


Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read, “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang



Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang.

Jeff knows how to spot and groom good culture, as the book session was held in Zestfinance a company he invested in and now, “The Best Workplaces for Women” and for “The Best Workplaces for Tech”, by Fortune.

These are the questions during the Book Launch.

How to know if a hire including the founder is Startup material?
Jeff says to watch for these qualities.

First, do the hires think like an owner?
Second, do the hires test the limits, to see how things can it be done better?
Are they problem solvers and are biased toward action?
Do they like managing uncertainty and being comfortable with uncertainty? And comfortable with rapid decision-making?
Are they comfortable with flexible enough to take in a series of undefined roles and task?

How do we know if we are simply too corporate to be startup?

Corporate mindsets more interested in going deep into a particular functional area? These corporate beings are more comfortable with clear and distinct lines of responsibility, control, and communication? They are more hesitant or unable to put in the extra effort because “it’s not my job”.

If you do still want to enter a startup despite the very small gains at the onset, Jeff offers a few key considerations on how to pick a right one.

He suggests you pick a city as each city has a different ecosystems stakeholders and funding sources and market strengths. You have to invest in the ecosystem and this is your due diligence. Understand it so you can find the best match when it arises.
Next, to pick a domain, research and solidify your understanding with every informational interview and discussion you begin. Then, pick a stage you are willing to enter at. They are usually 1)in the Jungle, 2) the Dirt Road or 3) the Highway. The Jungle has 1-50 staff and no clear path with distractions everywhere and very tough conditions. The Dirt Road gets clearer but is definitely bumpy and windy. Well the Highway speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Finally Please – Pick a winner!

Ask people on the inside – the Venture Capitalists, the lawyers, the recruiters and evaluate the team quality like any venture capitalists would. Would you want to work for the team again and again? And is the startup working in a massive market? Is there a clear recurring business model?

After you have picked a winning team and product, how would you get in through the door?

You need to know that warm introductions have to be done. That’s the way to get their attention. Startups value relationships and people as they need social capital to grow. If you have little experience or seemingly irrelevant experience, go bearing a gift. Jeff shared a story of a young ambitious and bright candidate with no tech experience who went and did a thorough customer survey of the users of the startup she intended to work with. She came with point-of-view and presented her findings, and they found in her, what they needed at that stage. She became their Director of Growth. Go in with the philosophy of adding value-add you can get any job you want.

And as any true advisor would do, Jeff did not mince his words, when he reminded the audience that, “If you can’t get introduced you may not be resourceful enough to be in startup.”

Startupland is not a Traditional Career or Learning Cycles

Remember to see your career stage as a runs of 5 years, 8 or 10 – it is not a life long career. In Startup land consider each startup as a single career for you.

Douglas Merrill, founder of Zestfinance added from his hard-earned experience that retention is a challenge. Startup Leaders to keep your people, do help them with the quick learning cycles. Essentially from Jungle to Dirt road, the transition can be rapid and so each communication model that starts and exists, gets changed quickly. Every twelve months, the communication model will have no choice but to break down and you have to reinvent the communication model. Be ready as a founder and be ready as a member of the startup.

Another suggestion was to have no titles for first two years. So that everyone was hands-on and also able to move as one entity.

Effective Startupland Leaders paint a Vision of the Future yet unseen.

What I really enjoyed and resonated with as a coach and psychologist was how Douglas at the 10th hire thought very carefully what he was promising each of his new team member. He was reminded that startups die at their 10th and their 100th hires. He took some mindful down time and reflected. He then wrote a story for each person in his own team and literally wrote out what the company would look like and their individual part in it. In He writing each of the team members’ stories into his vision and giving each person this story, it was a powerful communication piece. He definitely increased the touch points and communication here is the effective startup’s leverage.

Douglas and Jeff both suggested transparency from the onset.

If you think like an owner and if you think of your founding team as problem solvers. Then getting transparent about financials with your team is probably a good idea. As a member of a startup, you should insist on knowing these things
Such skills and domain knowledge will be valuable. There is now historical evidence of people leaving startups and being a successful founder themselves because they were in the financial trenches in their initial startup. Think Paypal and Facebook Mafia.

What drives people to enter a startup?

The whole nature of work is changing. Many are ready to pay to learn. Daniel Pink’s book Drive showed how people are motivated by certain qualities like Mastery, Autonomy and Where your work fits into big picture. Startups do that naturally. There is a huge amount of passion and the quality of team today and as it grows then the quality of company changes.

The Progress principle is in place, why people love their startup jobs is not money rather are my contributions being valued? Do I see a path of progress and do I have autonomy over work and am I treated well?

Find out more about StartupLand on Amazon

And learn from Zestfinance

Continue Reading