Monday, December 19, 2016

How to transform your staff into a dream team

I've been thinking of my former editorial team recently because (1) I'm in the middle of being interviewed for some jobs and the topic of managing a team always comes up, so I've been asked about specific stories about my time as an editor-in-chief; and (2) my Facebook feed reminded me that this time 4 years ago was me saying good-bye to my OK! magazine team.

Boy, do I miss them! 

I miss them not because they were my friends (and yes, they are still), but mostly because I've had the immense luck of having had really talented and driven people on my staff. They were much better than I was, to be honest, and my only real skill was I knew how to manage them well and make a group of wildly different, stubborn, passionate, and amazing people work well as a team.

So for today's working woman post, let's talk about turning your staff into an A-team.

In business, there are generally two types of teams. There are those that are unbelievably productive and manage to rattle through projects and churn out new products at lightning pace (like my OK! staff!). And then there are those that are dysfunctional, don’t get things done, and generally cost a lot of money.

But crafting the perfect team is something that is tough to do. Each person might seem like a great addition individually, but once they join the team, they can suddenly become a liability.

So what are the keys to transforming your workers into the A-Team? Let’s take a look.

1. Team members should make decisions together.
The team leader will always make the final decision. That's a fact. But a leader who doesn't listen to her staff or makes decisions without taking her staff's needs, opinions or situations into consideration will face a mutiny sooner or later. 

One of the reasons why teams can become dysfunctional is that one person alone takes over the decision-making process. On one hand, other team members (usually the lazy ones) are happy to let one person take over the difficult task of making decisions allowing them extra time to relax, chill out and exonerate themselves from responsibility. On the other hand, when one person just decides on everything, it will deny other team members a voice and this will make the team less cohesive. 

Teams that don’t rely on the input and intelligence of all members often find that they don’t make the best decisions: many brains are almost always better than just one. For example, in OK! magazine, which was a Hollywood entertainment title, Twilight and Gossip Girl were huge hits. I don't know why. I like sci-fi, mystery, thrillers, crime, and adventure shows so I just couldn't understand the allure of Twilight and Gossip Girl. If I had made all the decisions, we'd never have featured Rob Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Ed Westwick, and the whole gang in our pages. So thank goodness I listened to my staff! Whenever we put those people or just even those words on our cover, sales skyrocketed. So listen to your team. They know better than you do sometimes! 

2. Communication needs to be respectful.
As employment law specialists will tell you, there are a lot of rules about how team members can interact with each other in the work environment. These rules are designed to protect individuals and companies from litigation. But all too often, communication is disrespectful or nonexistent, and teams quickly fall apart. If people are unable to express their feelings and opinions, they’ll stop feeling as if they have a stake in the success of the team. When this happens, some members will feel apathetic and not as interested in helping the team achieve its goals. 

I'm sad to say that this happened to us in OK!. When I became a mom for the first time, I was overwhelmed with new motherhood. I focused on my new role so completely that I forgot about my staff. I had mistakenly assumed that because they were so amazing, they can do everything on their own now with minimal supervision. My managing editor now suddenly was taking on my responsibilities and she was feeling the strain. Instead of talking to me, her resentment festered. Instead of me talking to her and to the team, I blissfully basked in my new job as a mommy. You know what happened next. A complete meltdown from my managing editor, who had always been my most trusted member of the team, and me feeling awful and ashamed that I had let them down. We sorted it out, but the damage was done and it took a while to fix things. That experience definitely made me realize that motherhood may be the most important job in the world but that doesn't mean I should forget that other people were counting on me, and in fact my team also sees me as their mother. Because we failed to communicate, I failed them.

Good teams spend time listening to the concerns of all people on the team, making sure that they ask questions and listen deeply to what is being said, rather than dismissing the comments of other team members without proper consideration. Always talk to your staff not just about the work itself, but also how they feel about being part of your team and how you can improve your relationship. If your staff knows they can talk to you anytime, they will give you their undying loyalty.

3. Team members understand goals.
Every team has to have a mission or purpose that each person is able to comprehend. All too often some team members are left in the dark with respect to what a particular team is trying to achieve. When this happens, they are just going through the motions, performing a process, and not really working towards anything greater than themselves. It’s important, therefore, that teams set clear expectations and that everybody is on the same page throughout a project. Shared goals create common purpose and ambition. 

With OK! magazine, we were obviously about reporting entertainment news, celebrity stories, and everything fun and fashionable from the world of glitz and glamour. And that sounds really silly and shallow. So around two years in, we had a big staff pow-wow and talked about how to make our job more meaningful. First, we wanted to make people—the fans—happy. That meant no unflattering stories or photos of their idols ever. Second, we wanted to say thanks to the stars because without them, we wouldn't have our fun jobs. That meant only true stories—no gossip, no unfair treatment, no damaging reports (unless the story is true). Third, we wanted to make our readers aspire for a life that's just as glam as their favorite stars' lifestyles but we promised to make it achievable. That meant local finds that will make fans feel they're living the fine life but on a budget. This part was the hardest haha but we did it!

When your staff feels they're part of something bigger, they all want to help out. Don't just talk about "the job," talk about the dream, the vision, the mission, the purpose. It's easier to get everyone passionate when they're inspired.

I hope these three tips will help you make your team better in 2017! As a sole businesswoman these past 4 years, I really value a good team now more than ever. It's so hard to do everything on your own! So to my former OK! staff, thank you for everything you did for our magazine, for me, and for each other. You were amazing! You inspire me to this day. Mwah!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

OMG. Duck ham!

Our Noche Buena will be super extra special because I am serving True Deli Peking Duck Ham. And it is the most delicious ham I have ever tasted. Ever!

Kinda strange to call a duck a ham when ham is the upper part of a pig's luscious leg which is preserved through salting, drying or smoking. So I'm going to just accept that ham is now also a bird. And what a bird!

Take a look:

I also got True Deli's Pinoy Pork Ham and we're finishing it off na. As in now pa lang I already opened the big box, sliced it, fried it, and served it. With rice, in sandwiches, in omelettes, and today I'm slicing that ham into cubes for my macaroni salad. It's such a big ham, though, so we're still working through that who leg of sweet, juicy meat. And you know what—kahit ilang ulit ko nang ininit, it's still juicy. It didn't become dry and stringy. Sobrang sarap pa rin!

Mommies, may kamahalan yung duck ham but it is so WORTH IT!!! Like, mapapapikit ka sa sarap. It is that good! Plus, it's also gahigante so sulit. This is not a sponsored review! If wala pa kayong ham for Noche Buena or for New Year's Eve, get the True Deli hams. Get both the Peking Duck and the Pinoy Ham! Pasayahin ang buong pamilya!

True Deli Cafe
Victoria Station 1 South Triangle
EDSA Kamuning, Quezon City
(Beside GMA 7)
Tel no. 441-8560
Mobile no. 0917 524-3815

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Blog Biz: 7 tips to improve quality no matter what you produce

This post is brought to you by Solane.

I've been in the publishing industry for 18 years. I started as a writer for magazines, websites and newspapers, then I became the editor-in-chief of a magazine. In the middle of all that, I started blogging as a hobby, but my blog soon turned into an income-generating activity and now baliktad na—writing for magazines is now a hobby while I've turned my blogging into a business. This post, for example, is a collaboration between my blog and Solane, and when major companies like Solane want to work with me, I know that I made the right decision to become a digital entrepreneur.

Solane wants working moms like me to be part of their "Dapat Lang" campaign, which encourages everyone—mom, dad, single or married, young and old!—to always do what is right. Kasi ang tama ay dapat lang nating gawin! The campaign hopes to bring back traditional Filipino values of kasipagan, katapatan, paggalang sa matanda, and just being good and decent folk. Part of being a good person is having integrity. For working moms like me, that means being committed to always delivering quality work. Today, I will share with you tips on how to improve the quality of your work. For me, that's my blogging business and if you have a blog, too, then these tips might help.

When I began my blog ten years ago, it was just an online journal. So I just wrote whatever I wanted and published it without really thinking about how it reads or how it will affect the readers, because back then I had no readers. As the blog's audience grew, I slowly realized that I had to create quality content because I was taking people's time and whatever they read should be worth their time.

This realization was stressed when brands started paying me to work with them. When people are paying you good money, you can't just wing it anymore. I had to make sure what I produce will be worth the brand's budget and will be useful and appreciated by my readers.

Here are a few tips on how I improved the quality of my blog so that both my clients and readers will love it:

1. Plan ahead.
Whether you work from home or in an office, planning always makes your day easier to manage. In my case, as a professional blogger, I create an editorial calendar of blog posts helps me plan out my content better. I can research, do interviews, look for stock photos, and style products and take photos of them well ahead of time. This is especially important when I have a lot of brand collaborations because I have to schedule their sponsored posts and balance them with my own personal stories. No one wants back-to-back sponsored posts—not my clients and definitely not my readers.

2. Pay attention to details.
With my personal posts, I'm usually more relaxed. But when I'm writing a sponsored post, I have to consider the client's instructions and still make sure that what I write still sounds like me and not a press release. Readers are turned off by press release-types of blog posts. So I have to plan every word in consideration of the needs of both my client and my readers.

3. Use the right images.
Fact: Blog posts that are accompanied by great photos are read more. So always put at least one photo for every post you write. But it can't be just any kind of photo. It has to support the content of your post and it has to be beautiful. Blog posts that have Pinterest-worthy images are also more likely to be shared so when you plan your calendar and your post, think of the best photos that will accompany your post and prepare to create them.

4. Edit mercilessly.
Write with the heart, edit with the brain. Read what you wrote at least 10 times, then look at it again in the morning. Check for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, especially on sponsored posts because your client has an image to protect. Check the links, especially if they're links provided by your client.

5. Be visually appealing.
Sometimes, even if you're the best writer in the world, if the reader has a hard time reading what you wrote, they're not going to read it. Your content is your product and the design of your blog is its packaging. Heaven knows that a lot of blogs aren't even that well written but because they look so nice, the blogs become popular. So choose a good design—you can either download free templates or buy them from many designers. You can also hire a designer. Just make sure to keep your blog free of clutter, choose fonts that are easy to read, and pick colors that won't hurt eyes.

6. Be useful.
If you want to succeed in blogging, you have to create content that matters. It's not enough you say what you think about a product, you should also provide information about where it's sold and for how much. When you review restaurants, say how much the dish costs and where the parking is. Always try to add something useful to your blog post so that your readers can take away good things—especially when it's a sponsored post because readers are usually leery of sponsored content but if you included useful tips, not only will they read the whole thing, they might also share it!

7. Engage with readers.
Your readers are your customers. They devour your content and if you're really lucky, they'll tell everyone about you. So always open the comments section and pay attention to what your readers like and dislike. Not only will this help you plan your content better, it also creates a friendship with your readers. And once they're loyal, they'll be your best marketers ever!

I was inspired to write about these tips because I was studying Solane's 7-Point Safety Check, a system they created to make sure their LPG is the best their customers can get. I've been a Solane user for 4 years now and I've been very happy with their service and their product. I like how they have a system for quality control and it made me think: Do I have a system, too? I knew I had one but I've never written it down. And now I have so I can share it with all of you so that your blogs will also improve!

If you're an entrepreneur like me, you can tweak my tips to apply to your own business. For example, if your business is planners, your quality-improvement tips can look like this:
1. Create a production plan.
2. Design the planner down to the very last detail.
3. Use the right illustrations and fonts.
4. Edit mercilessly.
5. Create a planner and a marketing campaign that is visually appealing.
6. Make sure every feature in the planner will be useful.
7. Ask what customers think and take action on improvements they suggest.

I hope you liked my 7 tips to improve the quality of your blog and your business! If you have more tips or a special system for your own blog or business, I hope you can share them in the comments below. Thank you!

For more information or to order your very own Solane LPG tank (like I do!), go to or like their Facebook page: