Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Why I Loved my Lazy Team Member

Today , in Calcutta , India , it was a lazy winter morning. I got up late and  felt very lazy to go for my  routine morning walk. As I sat in my verandah with my morning cuppa,  the warmth of the bright and lovely sunlight made me feel even lazier!  After some time , I looked at my to-do list and just as I started feeling guilty about my laziness,I remembered him !

The lazy team member whom I loved to have in my team ! 

He was a very lazy, bright, creative person with lots of enthusiasm and initiative ! Yes, sure this sounds contradictory.... But after working with him for some time , I just could not do without him . Let me explain .

  • He was forever looking for ways to reduce his time for work  so that he could go and play table tennis . So , he came up with creative and very ingenious ways of doing things. Usually when I learnt how he did certain things , I made it a tool for improving the  productivity of the rest of the team members. 

  • He always looked for ways to automate things since he wanted to expend the least effort . He created marvelous macros in excel sheets, looked for tools which could simplify the complex and time consuming processes.

  • He never rushed into things and thought about the shortest and the best path . He tried to make things repeatable so that they don't have to go thru it again and again.  I could make many best practices due to  his laziness !

  • Since he did not want to spend time in rework, he always did things right the first time !

  • He was intelligent and very productive, so he was quickly promoted to lead a team. He delegated the work intelligently.  He leveraged the strengths of his team and got his work done so efficiently that his effectiveness as a lead was set as an example in the organization. He did not micro-manage his team and this worked famously with them and the team doted on him. 

And yes, I loved to have this intelligent lazy person in my team  !  

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Why you should SHOW your Anger

Once upon a time, in a deep forest lived a venomous snake.  

He loved the power of his poison and used to bite anyone who came in his way.  He poured his venom at the slightest provocation and everybody in the jungle was afraid of him.  He could get away with anything and laughed at other animals in the jungle who scurried away when they saw the snake coming towards them. No one ever dared to disobey him and he gloated over his ability to rule the jungle.

One day, a saint was passing through the forest. He had heard about the angry snake.  The saint deliberately took the path which would cross the place where the snake lived.  Hearing the unknown footsteps of the saint, the snake came out of his den and stood in front of him with his big poisonous hood, ready to strike.

“Who dares to cross this path without my permission? Don’t you know I am the ruler here ?”
“I am a saint and this jungle is not your property. Pray, tell me, why are you always angry ?”
“Well, I have power !  Everybody bows to me. If I am not angry, people will not listen to me !”
The saint sat down beside the snake .

“Dear Snake, do you realize the amount of sins that you are accumulating by biting innocent people? What will you answer to God when you die ? “

The conversation with the saint transformed the snake. He promised to the hermit that he will never bite anyone from that day.  

After a few months, the sage was passing thru the jungle again and he was surprised to see the snake lying on the ground. He was wounded all over and in a pitiable state.

“Oh !  What happened to you ? Who hurt you ? “

“I had promised to you that I will not bite anyone. Slowly the word spread in the jungle and the people who used to respect and fear me and listened to whatever I said started ignoring me. After some time, anyone who passed this way pelted stones at me. And nowadays they jeer and trample over me.  This is the outcome of my promise to you.  I am powerless without my anger “.   The snake wept.

“I asked you not to bite and get angry, but who stopped you from SHOWING your anger? Did I ask you not to “HISS” ?  

It is very common for the people at the top of the hierarchy to become tyrants and get their work done with the help of their positional power. They feel that if they have to control their team, they have to be autocratic else people will take them for granted, just like the angry snake.  This really does not work very well in the modern work scenario.  Nowadays the team wants a leader whom they can respect and love. Though this is true, sometimes, the managers and the leaders are taken for granted and then the managers lose control of their team. It is important for the managers to strike a balance.   Anger is a tool to manage.

Anger should be used as a useful weapon to be used in certain situations but you should be able to CONTROL your anger ….. Anger should not control you ! 

So, sometimes, when you think it is appropriate, SHOW your anger and “HISS” to control unwanted situations and avoid getting trampled by team members who act oversmart.

Note : This story is by a famous saint from India – Ramkrishna Paramhansa.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Are you listening with your Heart ?

Guess what is the first Rule of  Leading ? Authority ? Knowledge ? Sympathy ? Empathy ? Vision ?

 No. All these are incorrect.

The first rule of leading or managing is Listening.  

Not just hearing. Listening with a heart. Believe me , it is a really tough task !  The true leader is a listener. The Leader listens to the ideas, needs, aspirations and wishes of the followers and responds to them appropriately and adequately within the boundaries of her own beliefs.  

Leadership begins with listening. Usually we are so excited about speaking and expressing ourselves so explicitly that we do not even listen to the responses. When someone responds, our minds are so  busy and pre-occupied with our own thoughts that the inertia of motion of our thoughts overrides our listening capabilities. Inevitably, we miss out on vital clues inside the mind of our teams and this hampers the basic output or consequences.

 These tips will help us improve our power of listening :
  • Stop Talking : You cannot listen when you are talking. You will only be thinking about what you are going to say next ! Try to focus your attention to the speaker.
  • Put them at ease :  Specially when  you are in a position of authority, put the speaker at ease. Smile. Look at the speaker.  Lean towards him. Look interested. Remove distractions.
  • Listen with your eyes : Research says that  55% of the message is  nonverbal , 38% is conveyed by the tone of the voice and only 7% are conveyed by words.  So try to understand the true feelings behind the words. Listen for what is not being said. Usually people hesitate to speak the most crucial points !
  • Patience- Do not interrupt : Be polite and courteous and give ample time to the speaker to convey the full message. Interruption sometimes diverts the moot point.
  • Walk in their moccasins : Empathize. Sometimes just listening to the person helps him vent out his emotions. Remember , as a leader, you will not have ready-made solutions to all the problems.But just listening emphatically sometimes clears the clouds and the silver lining becomes visible !
  • Hold your own emotions at bay : When emotions are high, there is a tendency to become defensive or give unwarranted advice. So, hold your temper, do not argue. You will lose your credibility as a leader by doing so. Even if you win , you will lose ! 
I have been in many situations where just by virtue of listening, solutions to problems emerged, from the person himself who had come to speak to me. There have been  numerous instances when I could hold my emotion and kept quiet, but the other person cried and the tears made him lighter and he could face the situation in a better way. 

Your team or followers should believe that you really want to listen. And when they say something you will feel it with your heart and take it in the right spirit. They should feel that their point of view is important to you. 

It is in the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen. 

Open your eyes and  heart  to listen. Ignite the leader in you !

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Can we avoid FOMO ?

Today , as I  waited in the Airport lounge , I looked around me.  Though the sight was very common , but for a few minutes, somehow I felt very strange.  Almost 90% of the people were using either their cell phone or ipad or laptop, looking at the screen - sometimes smiling, sometimes frowning, some were clicking photographs , some people were talking but about something on their smart screens !  The power of connectivity ! 

We are always "on".  Checking and replying to messages, emails, tweeting or posting on social networking sites.  We reply within seconds ! The first thing which I checked after landing is whether my cell phone network is working or not.  Technology has brought about a revolution in keeping us connected through multiple communication channels.  Facebook has made us virtually omnipresent.  These have changed our lives drastically.  So big is the impact that a fear has crept in our psyche.  FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out.  

We are so connected with one another through our Tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn updates, that we can’t just be alone anymore. The fear of missing out (FOMO) — on something more fun, on a social event that might just happen on the spur of the moment — is so intense, even when we decide to disconnect, we still connect just once more, just to make sure.

When we see something nice, we want to click a photograph instead of  seeping in the beauty. Rather than writing something creative, we want to remark on some one else's comment or picture. Because of the attention span deficit, we prefer to look at photographs or visuals than reading something thought provoking.  In her book "Alone Together", MIT professor  Sherry Turkle has explored this aspect beautifully.  As I write this piece, I have checked my facebook twice . Is someone doing something more interesting , something more exciting or something better ? 

It is definitely a heady feeling to be connected with my old school friends , knowing what my contacts are doing or feeling (Facebook now prompts "How are you feeling Ananya ?" in the status update box). But sometimes I miss the feeling when in my childhood , I waited with bated breath , running towards the door, to check whether my Uncle has reached with my birthday gift. The excitement of opening a letter written by my pen friend. The gossips during our lunch breaks where we discussed the whackiest thing a friend did last evening. 

I want to break free  in 2013. 

I want to be missed, but  I do not want to be drowned in the fear of missing out.  

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Do you want a Pay Raise ? Tips ...

First of all a very Happy and prosperous New Year to all the readers ! 

As I talk about prosperity, usually the first thing which comes to our mortal minds is the annual increment . In most of the organizations, appraisal forms must have been completed, discussion appointments must have been set in the calenders and    every body must be waiting with bated breadth about the increment percentage ! At  this time of the year, the most common water  cooler discussions revolve around the percentage of  salary hike to be given to the employees.  

Is it possible to get a better raise ? Are you dreading the appraisal discussions and salary negotiations ? Some of you feel that it really does not matter. Even if you discussed and negotiated, will it really make a difference ?   

These are some tips which might help you in having a fruitful discussion and a better negotiations on the pay raise :

  • Research and prepare : Find out what the others make for similar role inside your organization and in other organizations. Your research should be well rounded and include everything - bonus, variable component, in hand salary, perks, incentives , working hours etc. Preparation is the key. You should have the data ready with you so that the discussion can be logical and factual. 

  • Think about your value to the organization : Sometimes people undervalue what they have to offer. Think objectively about your efficiency and indispensability to the organization. How do you compare to your colleagues ? Sometimes we have more "power" and "responsibility" than we think. But be careful not to become over-confident.   Just think in terms of the value which you bring to the organization and this will give you a better sense of pride and you will be able to discuss confidently  without being overtly aggressive. 

  • Advocate and Ask : In salary negotiation, the rule is "Don't ask, don't get".  I have experienced situations where people think "Why should I ask ? My work and performance should talk .. ". I think that is an utopia. We have to advocate ourselves , communicate our accomplishments , document them meticulously and precisely and then finally ask for our dues. The timing of your asking should be proper. Usually the appraiser/interviewer brings up the salary/hike discussion. 

  • Know your boundaries : You should be very clear about what you want and the best options for you. Prepare for the discussion and if possible try to do role plays with different scenarios.  While preparing , be clear what works for you and what is really acceptable to you. This will help you in managing the negotiations and the decision making will be easier. Know your limits - for example a range of the percentage hike ,  flexibility in timings , extra vacation time etc.. Salary might not only be cash in hand.  The negotiations can also revolve around things or opportunities which matter to you. Thinking creatively will also give the employer better flexibility and can result in a win-win situation for both. 

  • Put yourself in your boss's shoes : Test your requests from the employers' point of view. Think whether you are being reasonable. What is it in for them ? What is motivating them ? Have you overlooked any concern they might have ? How can you help them ? Ask how the boss will explain to the higher levels and your peers if they grant your request. Help them in explaining to others by documenting your achievements and accomplishments. Document if possible in monetary terms how you have contributed to the organization . Communicate how you have created value for the organization. Help your boss !

  • Don't overreact : It is very common to get shot down. Do not overreact or show too much disappointment. Take some time to think and maybe your boss also might want some more time to think about your request. Thank them for the discussion and end the discussion in a light note. This does not indicate that you have cowed down but it shows your etiquette and culture. You can always have the last say by smiling and saying that you would expect more. Remember that if you are really your worth, then the current organization is not the only one.  Be willing to search for and consider alternative job offers. Be professional and end the discussion on a civil note. 

All the best !