Tuesday, 31 March 2015

One Question & The Real King

I am a great fan of Akbar-Birbal stories and I find great leadership lessons from these simple folk lores. 

The following are two of my favourite stories. Enjoy .....

The Real King

The King of Iran had heard that Birbal was one of the wisest men in the East and desirous of meeting him sent him an invitation to visit his country. 

In due course, Birbal arrived in Iran. 

When he entered the palace he was flabbergasted to find not one but six kings seated there. 

All looked alike. All were dressed in kingly robes. Who was the real king? 

The very next moment he got his answer. Confidently, he approached the king and bowed to him. 

"But how did you identify me?" the king asked, puzzled. 

Birbal smiled and explained: "The false kings were all looking at you, while you yourself looked straight ahead. Even in regal robes, the common people will always look to their king for support." 

Overjoyed, the king embraced Birbal and showered him with gifts. 

Leadership lesson :  Open your eyes and spot the leader.


One Question 

One Day a scholar came to the court of Emperor Akbar and challenged Birbal to answer his questions and thus prove that he was as clever as people said he was. 

He asked Birbal: "Would you prefer to answer a hundred easy questions or just a single difficult one?" 

Both the emperor and Birbal had had a difficult day and were impatient to leave. 

"Ask me one difficult question," sad Birbal. 

"Well, then, tell me," said the man, "which came first into the world, the chicken or the egg?" 

"The chicken," replied Birbal. 

"How do you know?" asked the scholar, a note of triumph in his voice. 

"We had agreed you would ask only one question and you have already asked it" said Birbal and he and the emperor walked away leaving the scholar gaping. 

Leadership lesson : Tact and wit are important to win the game


Raja Birbal, was an advisor in the court of the Mughal EmperorAkbar. He is mostly known in the Indian subcontinent for the folk tales which focus on his wit. Birbal was appointed by Akbar as a poet and singer in around 1556–1562. He had a close association with the Emperor, being part of his group of courtiers called the navaratna or nine jewels. In 1586, Birbal led an army to crush an unrest in the north-west Indian subcontinent, which failed tragically when he was killed along with many troops, in an ambush by the rebel tribe. 
By the end of Akbar's reign, local folk tales emerged involving his interactions with Akbar, portraying him as being extremely clever and witty. As the tales gained popularity in India, he became even more of a legendary figure across India and neighbouring countries surrounding it. These tales involve him outsmarting rival courtiers and sometimes even Akbar, using only his intelligence and cunning, often with giving witty and humorous responses and impressing Akbar. By the twentieth century onwards, plays, films and books based on these folk tales were made, some of these are in children's comics and school textbooks. [Source : Wikipedia]

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Trust me ...Trust them !

Anne was perplexed and confused.   

She had joined Softmicro two months back. Softmicro was a big software solutions provider and it has offices all across the globe.  Anne had joined the Technology team as a Senior Project Manager - five Project Managers reported to her and her total team size was about 250 people.  

Anne's experience was in managing large enterprise project development , implementation and delivery. She was a part of the Quality Circle where she had implemented lots of innovative ideas in the organization.  In her 18 years of work experience, she had well rounded knowledge about most of the  aspects of corporate functions.  She was a great team player and the most sought after Manager in her previous organizations. 

After a year of sabbatical, she joined Softmicro with great zeal and renewed vigour.  At the first meeting , Neena - her boss told her "Anne, beware of the people under you ... they are all work shirkers .  Deal with them with a strict hand.  They have a tendency to spin stories and waste time...". 

Anne had tried to follow Neena's advise.  But after a few weeks , her experienced eyes sensed something amiss.  She could feel an atmosphere of  "They vs. Us". Her direct reports did not open up with her.  There was an important project delivery two weeks back , but her team missed the deadline. The risk of schedule variance was evident, but it was not brought to her not brought to her notice.  Neena was upset.  And so was Anne.  
Her job was at stake. 

A heavy layer of "distrust" pervaded in the air.....

Anne went to the cafe below and ordered a cup of Indian lassi . The sweet, frothy drink made from whisking yogurt and water , with a cube of ice on it seemed to soothe her senses. 

She pulled out her mobile and called up her mentor - Bala. 

Bala answered within two rings .

"Anne... ! I knew you would call me today..." Bala's nasal South Indian accent made Anne cheerful in a jiffy. 

"Bala ! Ok ... If you are a clairvoyant, then tell me why I have called you up ..?"  She egged him

"Well , well ... problems at work ... what else .... ha , ha...  " Bala's trademark full throated laughter resounded on the phone. 

After a minutes silence , Anne said "Bala ... need your guidance ... desperately.."

Anne narrated her story. 

"Hmmm ... the same problem prevalent everywhere ... of trust... Anne, let us meet today, at 7 pm". 

In the evening , Bala gave the  following sermon to Anne. 

Trust is an essential part in managing people and building a high-performance organisation. It's the foundation upon which all relationships are built. As in any relationship, trust is central to stable and productive workplace relations and successful team building initiatives. High trust environments correlate positively with high degree of employee involvement, performance management, commitment and organizational success. If trust is present in the workplace, the organization gets maximum effort and commitment, and the employees receive security and know they are appreciated.
Trust is strongly linked to attributes such as caring for colleagues, actively involving them in the company's vision, mentoring, role modeling and inspirational motivation
 The more high tech, impersonal and sophisticated organizations become, the greater the need for leaders who can build a culture of trust in the organization.
Smaller organizations consistently rated higher on job satisfaction, commitment, trust, loyalty and respect
Creating smaller business units, flattening the management structure, involving staff in decision making and opening up timely and transparent channels of communication is central to creating trust in organizations.
"Anne, create trust ... else you will fail.  The Triangle of Trust is the buzzword now "
The three sides of the triangle are these :
Self-Trust - Inner Trust
Self-trust is based on acceptance of yourself and your own inner intuition and wisdom. It is that deep, intuitive sense or gut feeling about something. If you follow your inner intuition, your self-trust is high. Trust comes out of the experience of pursuing what is true. What is true lies within each of us. 
Self-trust is at the core of trusting others and being trustworthy.
"Anne, do you trust yourself ?"
Trustworthiness - Being Worthy of Trust
Usually when we think of trust, we think in terms of trusting others. But how trustworthy are you in others eyes? 
  • Do you follow through on your promises? 
  • Do you act with integrity? 
  • Are you honest, caring and reliable? 
  • Do you have the competence or skills to carry out the task at hand? 
  • Do you fulfill others' expectations of you? 
  • You are worthy of others trust if you score high in these areas.
"Anne, how do you score on these questions ?"

Trusting others
Trusting others is based on expectations. It is like a bank where we deposit goodwill. We typically trust someone if we know they will fulfill our expectations. We each have a set of characteristics, known only to us, of someone who we deem worthy of trust. Our degree of comfort with trust is also based on whether we see the world as a friendly, safe place or a hostile, unsafe place. The more we see the world as basically friendly and safe, the more open we will be to trusting others. The reverse is true if we see the world as unsafe and unfriendly.
"Bala... I knew I could trust you to help me " Anne smiled.
"Any time, my dear lady ... and good luck with Trust .... "

Thursday, 12 March 2015

9 ways to eliminate Stress at Workplace

Nowadays all of us are stressed. Either our organization is going thru a major restructuring and we face uncertainty or we are doing so much of multitasking that we are spread out very thinly.  We are interrupted and distracted and our mind wanders.  We are unable to concentrate and focus.  All these lead to too much stress at work. Everybody seems to be overtly busy with no time for leisure or fun with family. 
1. Do not React but Act

When we feel stressed, we should sit back and see what are the conditions on which we have control upon and what are the ones on which we don’t have control.  Usually it is 50-50.  So , proactively we should try to control the 50% on which we have control upon and Act on them

2. Breathe
This is an age old trick . Simply inhale for five seconds, hold and exhale in equal counts through the nose. As soon as the oxygen increases in the blood level,  you feel better.
3. Create a To-do list  and Focus
Most of us go through the day using a “push, push, push” approach, thinking if we work the full eight to 10 hours, we’ll get more done. Instead, productivity goes down, stress levels go up and we have very little energy left over for our family. Creating a to-do list will help us focus.
4. Cut the Interruption
Most of us are bombarded during the day -  emails, phone calls, pop ins, instant messages and sudden, urgent deadlines distracts us. . While we do not have control over the interrupters, we can control our response. Either agree to be interrupted or Accept the interruption, cut it off, or just disconnects or make a plan for response.  One of the way which I employ is to set a timer of my email that the emails will be delivered  at the interval of 30 minutes . I have time boxed myself  for checking emails at particular intervals. I have also set a particular ring tone in my phone which enables me to distinguish which calls to answer immediately and which I should ignore and return the call later.
5. Identify Self-Imposed Stress
Learn to stop self  imposing stress by building your own self-confidence rather than seeking other’s approval.  If you’re too caught up in others’ perceptions of you, which you can’t control, you become stressed out .  Once you shift your focus from others’ perception of your work to the work itself, you’re more likely to impress them.
6. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
It is important  to define what’s truly important and why.  It’s important to understand your role in the organization, the company’s strategic priorities, and your personal goals and strengths. Cull your to-do list by focusing on those projects that will have the most impact and are best aligned with your goals.
7. Take short breaks, Eat Right And Sleep Well
When we not sleeping well, we  are not getting the rejuvenating effects.  According to the CDC, an estimated 60 million Americans do not get sufficient sleep, which is a critical recovery period for the body. During work, try taking short breaks – preferably every one hour . Get up from your seat and walk to get a cup of tea. Eat a low sugar high protein diet .  And sleep at least 6-8 hours a day.  Try soft music, a nice story book which will relax your mind. 
8. Be positive and encourage yourself
Internal negativity is bad.  Instead of being harsh and critical of yourself, try pumping yourself up.  Encouraging thoughts will help motivate you to achieve and ultimately train you to inspire others.
9. Hobbies Help
Cultivate a new hobby. Learn a language.  Practice Soduku. Enjoy Crosswords.  Remember, work is important but not everything in life.  Stress can eat into perfectly happy lives and we can go down the spiral, having a detrimental effect on our work as well as our personal lives. 
So take stress by the horns and deal with it with strength and perseverance
Cheers !