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The new, new thing

About seven years ago I had a five-year plan to become an external executive coach.

Why five years? For one, five years seemed an awfully long way off. So there was a degree of security in a monthly salary. After all, living in Hong Kong isn’t cheap - school fees, property, etc. Not to mention the desire for the new and the shiny – ‘convivial pursuits’ in my expense tracker.


At the end of 2014, corporate HQ decided on a new strategy and close most of the bank’s operations outside the United Kingdom.

I didn’t really experience all the emotions that textbook change curves suggest. After all, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross1 had developed this to explain the grieving process. And let’s be frank – losing a job ought never, ever be compared to being terminally ill.

The bank was brilliant in supporting employees through the process by being fair with the redundancy package; clear in communicating and looking at non-financial ways of motivating employees.

Motivation in an upward business cycle is easy - the brain is wired to seek future rewards. How do you motivate employees when they are working themselves out of a job? Daniel Pink suggests, that once money (in this case, redundancy) is off the table, motivation is about mastery, autonomy and purpose.

And yet, losing your job can be a loss of identity – your status, your place in the corporate hierarchy and the fear of uncertainty. If losing that monthly paycheck means not putting food on the table, then it’s a serious matter.

But in my case, I had the conviction to activate my plan. So after almost three decades in corporate life, The Library& became real.

1 Read her brilliant memoir The Wheel of Life (1997). Remain inspired through Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal (2014) and Paul Kalanthani’s When Breath Becomes Air (2016).


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