page title icon 098: Michael Teoh: I thought I could motivate my staff

Michael Teoh Show Notes

Michael Teoh was working on growing his business and he was getting results. Michael kept pressing forward thinking he could motivate his staff to meet client demands. But his staff pushed back. That’s when Michael learned a valuable lesson.

Michael was born in the northern state of Malaysia, known as Penang, a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and even food delicacies, renowned for being one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

He was raised in a typical middle-income family, where Michael’s parents ran an education school, which provided academic support to the poorer students in the state. At a tender age of 4, Michael was brought up in a ‘Classroom-like’ setting where he recalls fondly, of the moment he picked up a chalk and started to sketch his stories for the amusements of teachers and the students.

Despite his humble beginnings, life did not ‘Spoil’ Michael, as he too had to struggle through his years in school, where he was bullied because he was weak in sports and that he hailed from a middle income family, who couldn’t afford much.

However, Michael learnt an invaluable lesson from his journey, growing up, and that is ‘We should Strive to Create Opportunities to Help Others, rather than to Wait for Others to Give Opportunities to Us!’

Today, Michael Teoh has surprised many of his ‘Naysayers’ who had once bullied him. He is the Founder of Thriving Talents, an award-winning ‘Millennials-focused’ talent development company who attracts, develops and retains young leaders for Fortune 500 companies across 39 countries – A business which Michael excitedly wakes up every day to reach out to clients like Microsoft, Intel, General Electric and more, to share his services to train up their talents! He has also been featured on CNN, BBC and the Malaysian Book of Records, while being recognized as a ‘National Youth Icon’ by the Malaysian Prime Minister.

Michael is also a serial investor with investments in properties, precious metals, commodities and had recently endeavoured into the food & beverages industry in South East Asia’s booming consumer market. He was also a Global Advisor with Microsoft’s Youth Spark initiative, SAP’s Millennials at Work campaign and a Board of Director of several companies & public entities in Malaysia, with his focus on Talent Development, Sales and Leadership.

He is the Co-Author of the Potential Matrix®, a book in which he has researched the world’s most celebrated young leaders and has been serving him, as the tool for him to inspire and guide other people to succeed in their lives and at work as well!

Michael currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @michaelteoh to get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“If we want to see any positive change, we need to develop our skills and attitudes.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet

“Why not give the best we can give in life?” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet  

“As human beings we need that one turning point.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet 

“The biggest pitfall for any human being is to just give up.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet 

“If you want purpose, commit and do it to the best of your abilities.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet 

“There is a time to have fun and there is a time for the bottom line.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet 

“Never wait for opportunities to come, instead create your own.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet 

“Have the heart to create opportunities for others.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet 

“Live with kings, walk with kings, but never lose that common touch.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet 

“Never forget how, and why, and where you started.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet 

“Always think about the people first, the results will follow.” -Michael Teoh Click to Tweet 

Hump to Get Over

Michael Teoh was working on growing his business and he was getting results. Michael kept pressing forward thinking he could motivate his staff to meet client demands. But his staff pushed back. That’s when Michael learned a valuable lesson.

Advice for others

Create an environment of caring AND bottom line performance.

Holding him back from being an even better leader


Best Leadership Advice Received

Always think about the people first, the results will follow.

Best tools that helps in business or Life

My persistence to deliver excellence.

Recommended Reading

Awaken the Giant Within : How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!

Contacting Michael





54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.


Show Transcript: 

[expand title=”Click to access edited transcript”]

098: Michael Teoh: I thought I could motivate my staff 


Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.


Need a powerful and entertaining way to ignite your next conference, retreat or team-building session? My keynote don’t include magic but they do have the power to help your attendees take a leap forward by putting emotional intelligence into their employee engagement, customer engagement and customer centric leadership practices. So bring the infotainment creativity the Fast Leader show to your next event and I’ll help your attendees get over the hump now. Go to to learn more.


Jim Rembach:     Okay, Fast Leader Legion, when my good friend Karen Hurt, who’s on Episode 64 of the Fast Leader Show said that I needed to meet this person she was right, so I have him on the show. Michael Teoh was born in the northern state of Malaysia known as Penang, a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities even food delicacies renowned for being one of the top tourist destinations in the world. He was raised in a typical middle-income family were Michael’s parents ran an education school which provided academic support to the poor students in the state. At a tender age of four Michael was brought up in the classroom-like setting where he recalls fondly of the moment where he picked up a chalk and started to sketch his stories for the amusement of teachers and students.


Despite his humble beginnings life did not spoil Michael as he had to struggle through his years in school where he was bullied because he was weak in sports and that he hailed from a middle-income family who couldn’t afford much. However, Michael learned an invaluable lesson from his journey growing up and that is, that we should strive to create opportunities to help others rather than to wait for others to give opportunities to us. Michael Teoh has surprised many of his naysayers who had once bullied him. He is the founder of Thriving Talents an award-winning millennial’s-focused talent development company who attracts, develops, and retains young leaders for Fortune 500 companies across 39 countries. 


He has also been featured on CNN, BBC and the Malaysian Book of Records while being recognized as a national youth icon by the Malaysian Prime Minister. Michael’s also a serial investor with investments and properties, precious metals, commodities and had recently endeavored into the food and beverage industry in Southeast Asia’s booming consumer market. He is also a global advisor with Microsoft’s youth spark initiative SAP’s Millennial’s at Work campaign and has been on the board for many organizations. He is also the co-author of the Potential Matrix a book in which he has researched the world’s most celebrated young leaders. Michael currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Michael are you ready to help us get over the hump?


Michael Teoh:  Fantastic. Thank you so much Jim for having me here and hello to everyone tuning in right now. I’m very excited to be here. 


Jim Rembach:     I’ve given our listeners a little bit about—I’m glad you’re here too—but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?


Michael Teoh:  Well, my current passion is developing the human potential. Because I believe—who want to see any positive change to happen in our world today, even in our own lives the day she starts with us needing to develop our skills, having the right attitude and of course having that guiding hand just to guide us to weather through the stormy weathers and help us unleash our potentials. I’ve seen how some of my students who regularly attended my talk who have actually learned some of the strategy that to me years to learn have transformed their lives overtime. And the best thing I’m doing right now Jim, is that I’ve incorporated into running it into full time business, and that’s what I do in Thriving Talents.


Jim Rembach:     You know, I’m really intrigued because of reading and learning a little bit more about you and talking about your growing up, how you were bullied, and really you had the opportunity to be someone who just melted away within society. How can you take the adversity that you went through and turn it into this whole potential thing that you’re talking about now?


Michael Teoh:  I believe it all started with a self-realization. Realization that I’ve given all my best, I try to become the best athlete that I possibly could at school but I just couldn’t make the cut. And what happened was I thought we just live once, that’s my personal belief, and I just thought why not give the best that we can in life. And that was the time I start seeking out mentors and I was very glad that when I was in school I had teachers who actually gave me my first opportunity. Oftentimes I believe as a human being we need that one turning point, and that one turning point is essential and you need that comes in disguise as opportunities for us to make the best use of. So as for me, I started participating in business plan competitions. I started participating in conventions and seminars. I become a volunteer. I start to raise up my hand to take up responsibilities in life and in school. And without knowing it, I started to realize that, hey, I found a new niche in my life. I’m may not be good in sports at that time but at least I could be good at something, and for me at that time, I was running a business, it was inspiring lives at a tender age when I was just 16 to 17 years old and that was my turning point. And I think the biggest most fatal pitfall for any human being to make sense of the purpose in this life is to just give up and like you mention Jim, melt away with the flow. I believe all of us are put into this world for a destiny—for a purpose and I think we could actually find it. And once we found it we just have to make that opportunity the best that we can. 


Jim Rembach:     Okay so I have to know Michael because it’s just kind of one of those things that as a parent, I want to make sure that I’m doing the right thing. And I look at others and I’m like, “Okay, I’m not going to do that or I should do that.” When you started talking about those moments, when you came home and probably wept to your parents and talked about how mean they were at you, what did your parents do in order redirect you or in order to have you to have the outlook that you have now in being able to accomplish the things that you’ve accomplished?


Michael Teoh:  You know, I’ll be honest with you, Jim, and for all of you who are coming from the parts of Asia, you will know that Asian parents were normally want their kids to excel very well in academic studies, at least during my time, where we just turn to the millennium it was the early 2000’s. But one thing I really appreciated what my parents did was they supported me in my pursuit of enhancing what we today know as sought skills. They knew that I was not so academically inclined because I was studying something that I didn’t like that was science subject, I didn’t like science subjects during that time, but one thing though when I had put in the effort to explore other side about me, oratory skills, public speaking, acting and drama, debating, business plan writing, one thing that 


I really appreciated that my parents and my grandparents as well did, was that they supported me. And I’m not asking parents out there to give all their wealth to their kids to experiment on an idea, what I am asking is to all parents out there is to give that moral support. Because you cannot imagine how just a simple remark from your dad or from your mom encouraging you to pursue your dreams or find that purpose in life could lead that ordinary person to become an extraordinarily person in the future. And I think as for me personally, as the son, as the daughter or as the kid at that time, I believe there should be more conversations that should be held between ourselves and our parents to make or at least try to make them understand, I would say, about our perspective or the world of what we may not good at right now and what can we excel in and just have a win-win situation. 


One of the things that I basically did with my parents was to form a wager in a sense where I was not so academically incline because I was studying science but I have proven to them that whenever I join competitions, whenever I commit myself to get involve in businesses I do it at 100% and I think if you really want success, if you really want purpose in your life, just convince the other party, your stakeholders that you are there to give your 100% commitment and just do it to the best of your ability and show them results. 


Jim Rembach:     There’s a study that I was reading in regards to the difference between Asian parents, cause you brought that up and just say American parents cause I’m here on the states, so when you started looking at some of the things that were associated with how your parents supported you, one of the things that they were talking about on the study was that American parents would do too much coddling they would actually—when you talk about support they would give support and say that they did well even if they didn’t do well. Whereas Asian parents, kind of cut to the chase and said, “Hey! You did bad in that. You did bad in that because you didn’t focus on and do these things. And so therefore, if you want to perform better at it you need to be no more diligent and show more effort to be able to have the performance.” And they talk about the difference between the coddling and the tough love. Did your parents coddle your or they give you tough love?


Michael Teoh:  Well, I would say it’s a mix of both actually. I would imagine that my mom coddles me while my dad gave me tough love but I would imagine that it’s very important to have the best of both world. One of the things that really change my life was that, I was 16 years old and I was trying to find a purpose in my life and I remember my dad permitting me to go for a real estate conference. At the age of 16, I was there all alone by myself and I was attending a conference about real estate, what do I know about real estate? One of the thing that I did realize is that it opened my mind and it also, I would say broaden my horizons to see what are the opportunities out there and how all these riches assess with people manage to accomplish their dreams and how did they get to where they are today. 


So I think, as much as you ask the question, Jim about whether it’s coddling or tough love, I think parents would also require some assistance from the outside that is why it’s very important one thing I would suggest to parents is get yourself involve with associations. I understand that there’s some organizations or NGO’s out there like the Rotary Clubs or the Lion Clubs or Leo Clubs which parents could bring their kids to expose them to some early childhood dose of market reality and then the parents coming in to become a coach for the kids. I believe the time has passed when last time we could see parents often seen as dictators. They would often dictate what the kids should do, what the child should do at least from Asian perspective. But I think right now the parents should be a coach in the sense, do not dictate but at the same time have a chat with the kid, with the child, and help them to find their purpose in life. 


Jim Rembach:     The reason I’m bringing this up is because we’re finding this same thing really in the workplace. This whole coddling/tough love, this parenting/coaching it’s what has to happen in the workplace these days. It is no longer a situation where you can just say, “Here’s your job, here’s the expectations go to it and I’m going to put you through this evaluation process in order to develop you or terminate you.” That just doesn’t work anymore.


Michael Teoh:  Right. It’s so interesting that you mention that because this is one of the things I want to share right now.  Leaving my childhood days, let’s talk about business, let’s talk about leadership and I manage a team of 12 full time talents at the moment, very passionate talent, and I am the dinosaur in the company at the age of 29, the rest of my directors, my middle management, my executives, they’re all in their mid-20’s to early 20’s. And managing the millennials group, as they say it, can be quite an interesting challenge at the same time when do you push them, when you bring them back and coddle them, as you would say. And I just recently found out was that there’s actually two types of environment that you need to create in your office space. Number one, all the millennials in the world because they are influenced by Facebook, by Google, by Apple, they were influenced by the [inaudible 12:34] cultures, so in their mind they are thinking it’s all about fun, fun, fun it’s all about colors, it’s all about having the perks at work. 


Now, being a startup or running a company like myself, we need to adapt. We know that the millennials are influenced by the cultures of this companies so we need to follow suit. So one of the thing that I do is, I do appear to be become a coach to my other employees. I ask them questions like my favorite question is, Jim, how can I help you? How can I make your job easier? Or your current task? What can I do to help you with it? When you ask this golden questions, your staff your employees will open up and in their mind you would appear more as a coach than a boss. Now, that is the first environment you want to create. You want to create your coddling, love thing environment so that you could stimulate your motivation. 


However, there are also some scenarios because we are running a business web the bottom line is important ensuring that we deliver a high quality of services to our client is of utmost importance. We also have a second environment that we have created, we call it the key performance indicator hour. Now during that hour our staff or employees when they come in to our office they know that if they have not been performing we are going to question them. We are going to share with them what has gone wrong? What can we do? What are some of the policies that we may need to amend and change? So what happened is when you create both of those environment your employees will know that there is a time for them to have fun, there is a time where they know you’re going to be there as their coach, the coach there to maximize their potentials but there is also a time for seriousness, there’s also a time when you’re there to talk about the bottom line with them. So, I believe this is a very synergistic relationship that we have built in the office and it has definitely helped us to retain and motivate our staff forward. And I need to share this with you, Jim, Thriving Talents we are angel-invested, so we have two angel investors who back us up. We work with Fortune 500 companies, a lot of people tend to say, Wow! You’re so great.  But to be honest our stress level is always in an all-time high. You work with Fortune 500 clients, they expect the best from you they benchmark you across all the global best practices, you have investors who are always chasing you for the bottom line performance. So, we need to be upfront with our employees, without staff just like how I am doing with my team. So that would be my take point.


Jim Rembach:     Thanks for sharing that. I think the whole dynamic piece is something that is going to be difficult for organizations if they’ve already been operating in a certain way and a certain manner, is to bring that dynamic in to prepare themselves for the next generation of workers that’s going to be the largest group of workers that we’ve ever had throughout human history. So, I also know that—you’re high energy, you talked about all these research that you’re doing, I know you have so much inspiration and places that you seek inspiration, and we like quotes on the show to help us with that. Is there a quote or two that you like that you can share? 


Michael Teoh: There are two quotes that have guided me throughout my life. And one of the quote, you’ve actually mentioned it just now but I’m going to repeat it again because it really resonates that is, “Never wait for opportunities to come, instead create your own opportunities”. And I also believe once you’re able to create your own opportunities have the heart to create opportunities for other people as well, help them out. Because that will make your life much more meaningful and much more purposeful as well. The second quote that I like to share is, “Live with the kings. Walk with the kings but never lose that common touch.” I’m always a believer as a human being all of us are blessed with the ability to speak. We are blessed with our appearances right now. We need to make the best use of it to make a positive impact to the world. But never, ever forget how and why and where you started. Because I believe for every great leader in the world they would always remember and reflect the lessons they’ve learned throughout their journeys since the day they started.


Jim Rembach:    There’s definitely a lot of journeys that we have to go through and there’s a lot of humps along the way. Is there a time where you’ve got to get over a hump where it’s made a difference for you? 


Michael Teoh:     Definitely. And I must say this has just happened just last week. My staff came up to me and said, “Michael, we are over worked you are taking too many projects. We have too many high profile clients, we can’t take it anymore.” I can share with you all the previous humps I’ve gone through but this has just occurred to me just last week. I couldn’t believe it and I thought I was this energetic entrepreneur, I was this energetic speakers speaking with thousands of people around the world, working with the biggest companies ever, and here I am thinking that I could motivate my staff and that my staff they are motivated, my employees are great but they find it they’re now overworked. 


So, one of the things that I realized is that, being the entrepreneur we have to pace ourselves as much as we can inspire, as much as we can motivate people I think it is also very important for us to reflect on how our employees, how our staff or team working with us, catching up with us. And I was reminded over lunch with a billionaire entrepreneur in Malaysia, whom I just met, and he just created a great company it’s one of the biggest low cost airline and he shared this to me. He said, “Michael, a lot of businesses say we put customers first.” And he said, “That’s wrong. In fact you should put employees first. Because once you put your employees as your number one priority and they’re well taken care of the customers they will take good care of them.” 


So I thought that that was a very powerful lesson that I want to share with you. And I think how did I overcome that hump of motivating my overworked employees or staff? I have conversation with them. I let them off on certain days and I bring them for retreats but most importantly I believe, constant conversation is very important. Have weekly meetings with your staff and just be genuine and honest with them. In a sense where just ask them in all honesty, how can I help you? How are you feeling in your job? What are some of the things that we could together? That’s what I would recommend.


Jim Rembach:    I think that’s a good point. For me I find myself that I need to say no more often to certain things so that I can focus on the items and the elements and the people that will allow me to go forward even faster. I know you have a lot of things going on. You’re talking about all of your clients of course and all that work. But if you were to look at all of the things that you have in front you, what is one of your main goals?


Michael Teoh: One of my main goals would be to inspire and to develop as many lives as I can. But the lives that I would wanted to develop are not limited to people who are just attending my workshops or seminar or reading my book and getting inspired and changing their lives. I would want to start developing people who could then speak who could then use their own stories to inspire. Because I believe in scaling, I believe in replication, I believe in sustainability and I think as much as your own voice could move the world. I believe if you have a hundred, a thousand, a million other voices who are united with that same common goal—and we’re not talking about the sophisticated goal, we’re talking about the goal of just sharing an advice, sharing an idea with the person next to you on how they could better themselves. I believe not only we can change the world, we can change the entire universe. We could change the way how people see their lives. We could change the way how people perceived  [inaudible 20:50]. So that would be my main goal. I don’t know how I’m going to achieve it yet, but at least now I know I’m achieving it through one life training of one person at a time. 


Jim Rembach:    And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.


An even better place to work is an easiest solution that gives you a continuous diagnostic on employee engagement along with integrated activities that will improve employee engagement and leadership skills in everyone. Using this award winning solution guaranteed to create motivated productive and loyal employees who have great work relationships with their colleagues and your customers. To learn more about an even better place to work, visit


Jim Rembach:    Alright, here we go Fast Leader Legion it’s time for the Hump day Hoedown. Okay, Michael, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster.  Michael Teoh, are you ready to hoedown?


Michael Teoh: Wish me luck. Alright let’s do it.


Jim Rembach:    What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?


Michael Teoh: I believe what’s holding me back is sometimes self-doubt. Self-doubt in the sense either am I really leading my team to the best of their capabilities? Am I maximizing the potential of my business Thriving Talents to impact more lives? Am I taking more risk?


Jim Rembach:    What is the best leadership advice you have received?


Michael Teoh: Always think about the people first the results will follow. 


Jim Rembach:    What do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?


Michael Teoh: My persistence to deliver excellence and my persistence to reach out to as many companies, as many organizations, inspiring as many lives as possible. 


Jim Rembach:    What would be one book, it could be from any genre that you’d recommend to our listeners?


Michael Teoh: Anthony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within.


Jim Rembach:    Okay, Fast Leader Legion, you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to Teoh. Okay, Michael, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 21 and you have been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything back you can only choose one, what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?


Michael Teoh: My absolute focus. Just focus on the developing a business that I am excited to wake up every morning to do and that is the training, speaking, and talent development business—growing Thriving Talents. 


Jim Rembach:    Michael, it was an honor to spend time with you today, can you please share with the Fast Leader listeners how they can connect with you?


Michael Teoh:  Great. Guys, thank you so much Jim, and thank for all of you again for listening to my views. Do get in touch with me at, website for my book. And I would really encourage all of you have a look about it, you can reach out to me there and I look forward to connect with you on Facebook. Just look me up on Facebook, LinkedIn, just introduce yourself first and I’ll be more than happy to see how I could add value to your life. Thank you again Jim for having me. 


Jim Rembach:    Michael Teoh, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. 


Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the so we can help you move onward and upward faster.