The Mind of an Executive

13 Minutes with the VP for Operations

As a part-time freelance blogger and a full-time corporate employee, I soundly believe that no one goes to work with the hopes of doing a bad job. Everyone wants to unlock an achievement. Everyone wants to go home by the end of the day feeling like they achieved great things without expending their time. Everyone also wants to be promoted, and one day, one generation of leaders will soon be replaced by another, a phenomenon known by everyone since ancient histories.

I am also a docile millennial with tons of questions and fervor to learn. Hence, coming up with this idea to interview Executives from divergent industries to know their thinking and simultaneously preserve their leadership stratagem so the next generation can be well guided. Who knows one day, you and me can be the next generations of Executive too.  

The interview is strictly only for 13 minutes for a lot of people demands the Executives’ time and attention. Questions are spontaneous (or not sent in advance) to keep it real and heartfelt. Here, we are launching our first ever 13-minute interview with one of the Senior Executives from Cebu Landmasters Inc – Jess M. Kabigting. Jess is currently the Vice- President for Operations, who directly works hand-in-hand with the C-Level Executives of the company, and with span of control over Business Development Department, Leasing Department, Property Management, and Construction Group.

One of the poignant statements I always hear from Senior Execs is that they always feel lonely being on top. Is this true? What makes it lonely?

Yes, for 2 reasons. First, a Senior Exec makes decision that will impact people. Some of them are not going to be popular. Quiet often he becomes alienated from people, simply because, he has to make the hard choices for the good of the company.

Second, the Senior Exec doesn’t have the support system which is easily available for rank and file. Our circle of friends are normally the people at our calibre and it’s hard to surround oneself with such people when you’re on top. It is the price you have to pay because you are after friendship and those beneath you simply deal with you out of difference and respect, not friendship.  

Speaking of friendship, do you have friends in the company?

Yes,mostly the ones at my level.

How do you know they are your friends and not someone covertly destroying or competing with you?

To look at friendship in a general term is to basically have good dealings with them, but real friendship is much deeper. It takes time to discover real ones. Friends are those who sympathise with you and your situation. To understand that, you must be in that level. It’s hard to explain to lower management or middle management something they haven’t experienced firsthand.

How about you, are you trying to compete with someone beneath or at your level?

No. Competition is never my goal. As a Senior Exec, the more you focus on contributing to the success of the company and less on competition, the easier the job becomes. You don’t think about competing with anyone. You think about working with them in order to achieve the greater goals of the company. You don’t really think about who gets the merit. The sooner you get that thinking straight, the easier it becomes for you.

How do you keep up and handle everything in your hand?

I pray. I reflect about what is essential, on what are the important things to be done. Then, I just focus on that.

Do you still have a luxury time? What do you do when you get one?

I don’t get that a lot but when I do, I spend it with my family.

How do you handle reproach, especially when you know you are not at fault?

It’s part of the training on how to become a real Exec. Work on the top comprises mainly of making hard decisions and these decisions are both right or wrong. As a leader, it is but to be expected things will not run perfectly and because of this you get a flak every now and then. If you take it personally, then, the problem is not the system. It is you, because you are bringing in your personal emotions to judge the objective reality being conveyed to you.

Your span of control is quite massive, how do you show your trust to your team? Can you share us your strategy in empowering them?

There is a strategy in shaping people. In order to train people, you must let them make decisions while at the same time guiding them along the way. A leader cannot be a playing coach. A leader is a mentor. You cannot play the game and at the same time coach effectively. You have to be more of a mentor and a mentor is someone who knows and sees the big picture while not missing the details. A mentor also guides his team towards what needs to be done and his team members are being asked to step and to deliver.

Are you more of a sharer or a keeper of your talents and skills? Are you not afraid that someone might surpass you in the company?

What’s the purpose of keeping knowledge? The executive who feels that people will surpass him is an executive who has stopped learning. The challenge for the executive is not NOT TO SHARE. That is why he is there.

What is the greatest challenge of an Executive?

One of the greatest challenges of an executive is to keep on learning. He has to learn more than the others because as a leader he sets the base for the entire team. It’s not a question of not sharing. You have to share. The people beneath you would always need clarity of vision and direction; and an executive can only give that when he is continuously learning and improving his craft.

Are you open to  ideas from the millennials? How do you handle them when they become annoying?

As a generation X, there is big gap between Xs, Ys and millennials. A Senior Exec just needs to learn how to deal with millennials and accepts their limitations because that is where the future is.

They are raised in a modern environment so they need more time to accept reality to what it is, which the generations X and Y have. So, how do I deal with them? One word – Patience! Millennials are like that because it’s not their fault. Millennials grow in an environment where everything is provided for, where everything is quite easy to get, where everything is technology driven, yet, life is not like that.

Any exhorts to make Monday a little bit more exciting?

Any day of the week is exciting for me when I know that I am about to do something good for people and when I know that I will be challenged to use my skills and talents to the fullest. You should think it that way too. 

As a senior exec in real estate, what is that biggest dream you wanted to achieve still? Or have you achieved it already?

My biggest dream is not the top position of the company. I am not after presidency or being the owner.  My biggest dream and aspiration in real estate industry is TO BUILD and the greatest thing that you can build is a CITY. At a certain point in life, money won’t matter essentially. What drives the person forward is the innate fire – what is that something you want to give. For someone in my industry, we build things from scratch.  When the time comes and I am already building an entire city from scratch, then, you can say that I have accomplished my life goal.

End of 13 minutes yet I felt like asking and hearing more. One hat an Executive wears is GREAT PASSION, and this was seen by the way he lucidly answers all my questions- very candour in everything to his heart’s content. Indeed, with passion at work, one can fashion wonderful things, help others, be productive, be successful, and most of all be genuinely happy with the results. Without passion, one will just simply wither and not grow –sitting in a desk every day, dull and bored and just waiting for the payday. 

Look forward to the next article as we unearth the mind of another executive.

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