Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Is Distraction robbing you of your very own 86400 ?


I have a target of writing one blog post every Wednesday. But for the last two weeks I am lagging behind. Too many tasks, too many different activities and too many distractions ..... 

Consider this - I have to work on my consultancy work, my coaching assignments,  there are some social welfare activities that I am involved  in , which needs attention and on top of this certain household chores and usual problems.  I try to fit in everything in my own 86400 seconds of my day. How do I fit in the things which rejuvenate me  - like reading, music, blogging and writing ? Sometimes I get the feeling that I am being robbed of my 86400!

As I had written in one of my previous posts on PRODUCTIVITY , I am a great believer in To-do lists and Time management. And one of the the main deterrent to time management is distraction or interruption

How to tackle distractions ? I have thought about it and would like to share my tips : 

  • One of the biggest distraction is email and social networking. We always want to be available (Read the post FOMO). From today I will set aside about 30-45 min per day  for emails and networking. I will try to spread it across my day during the most unproductive periods of day.


  • Phone calls  - If I am in between some important task, and my phone rings, I will ignore it or cut it short by saying I will call back .


  • Time thieves : Some people are time thieves who have nothing to do except distract you from your work. Try to recognize them and tackle with them appropriately. They come in various avatars -Negative people, gloomy people, adoring people and lost people.  Cut them short , be selfish about spending your time on them - save your precious 86400 !


  • Me !!! - I have seen that sometimes when I am working , my thoughts get carried away towards some news ideas or projects rather than which is on my desk right now ! I will keep a notebook handy and jot down the ideas and get back on track on my current task .


  • Learning to say "NO" - Sounds easy, but it is very difficult. When people request you or demand that you do a certain task, they think that you am catering to only their job. But that is not the case.  You have to put yourself first. We can say say no politely and give a reason. People do understand. It is we who need to practice saying "No" . 


We have to keep our goals in mind and if possible in front of our eyes. Stick the Weekly to-do list on your work table. And relentlessly strive to protect the gift of 86400 seconds you get every day from God. 

Hope to get back on track on my weekly blogging . 

So if you see another post from me after a week, be sure that the above tips are working !


Saturday, 6 April 2013

How well are you managing your 80 ?


  
This  week was really bad for me.  


There were lots of meetings  -  most of them urgent  ,  adhoc tasks ,  too many transactions to be completed both at work and at home and so on and so forth. I usually plan and make goals for the week.  So , on Friday evening when  I sat down to check how much I had achieved of these goals,  I was really dismayed !   I was reminded of the 80-20 rule and I would like to elaborate on this.

This may come as a surprise, but despite all the talk about life balance, we  can benefit  by introducing a little imbalance into our day. I'm referring to the 80/20 rule, which is rooted in what is known as the Pareto Principle.

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian scientist.  In 1906, Pareto observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population. Pareto's theory of predictable imbalance has since been applied to almost every aspect of modern life.

When applied to work, it means that approximately 20 percent of our efforts produce 80 percent of the results. Learning to recognize them and then focus on that 20 percent is the key to making the most effective use of our time and effort.

Finding the 80/20 ratio is crucial for maximizing performance in any business. We have to identify the products or services that generate the most income (the 20 percent) and drop the rest (the 80 percent) that only provide marginal benefits. Spend the time working on the parts of the business that we can improve significantly with our core skills and leave the tasks that are outside our best 20 percent to other people. Work hardest on elements that work hardest for us. Reward the best employees well, cull the worst. Drop the bad clients and focus on upselling and improving service to the best clients.  

Sounds easy? But in reality, the identification of the 80 and the 20 is the most difficult.

Sample situations :

·  80% of process defects arise from 20% of the process issues.
·  20% of  sales force produces 80% of  the  company revenues.
·  80% of delays in schedule arise from 20% of the possible causes of the delays

There is also a management theory floating around at the moment – which may be a bit controversial , that proposes to interpret Pareto's Principle in such a way as to produce what is called Superstar Management. The theory's supporters claim that since 20 percent of your people produce 80 percent of your results, you should focus your limited time on managing only that 20 percent, the “superstars”.

The  80 - 20 Rule, should serve as a daily reminder to focus 80 percent of  our time and energy on the 20 percent of  our  work that is really important. We should not just  "work smart",  we should work smart on the right things.  

Another term for this rule is "The Vital Few and Trivial Many."  As a side-note , another of Pareto's controversial theory  is that human beings are not, for the most part, motivated by logic and reason but rather by sentiment – but this is another topic altogether and I will talk about this some other time !

Apply the 20 to work for your Vital 80 and enjoy your  weekend !

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Magic of Positive Visualization.


Have you ever tried Positive Visualization ? Have you experienced the magic ? 

In my positive thinking workshops I usually recount my own experiment with Positive Visualization.

About 12 years back, I had joined a US based Software MNC and I was located in the Delhi, India office.  The organization had a very well defined induction process. The group of new joiners went through a week long induction session and apart from learning about the organization, its vision, mission, policies etc., they were supposed to pick up a problem which they saw in the  organization and present the solution on Friday, the last day of their induction week, to the top leaders of the organization.

I had joined as a Project Manager and was the senior-most in the group. I had never worked in an MNC and somehow I was tongue tied and at awe. Because of this , I hardly communicated and contributed. A few people in the team noticed this and I knew that they were sneering at my back. So, on Thursday evening, when we had to decide as a team , who would deliver the final presentation, these people said “Well, Ananya is the project manager. Who else , but she should present !

I was very very nervous. I knew that if I failed to speak or make an impression, my job was at stake. And more importantly, my self respect in my own eyes was at stake !

I returned home at 8 pm. After dinner,  I sat with my notepad and started writing. I wrote each and every thing which I would say in the presentation the next morning.  I wrote details of when I would pick up the marker and go to the white board, when I would move my hands, when I will pause and of course I wrote each and point of the content. After I wrote it, I closed my eyes and visualized myself... talking... smiling... presenting confidently.  I visualized myself several times. I also visualized how the audience will applaud when I finish my presentation. It was in the wee hours of the morning that I caught up on 2-3 hours of sleep.

The next morning, I went to  the conference room about 30 min prior to the presentation and practiced. You bet , I was still so nervous.  But ....like magic, when the presentation started, and I picked up the marker and went to the white board and then started my presentation , it happened exactly like I had visualized. The presentation ended with a big round of applause!

I relished the look of the people who thought I would fail. I was amused to see their jaws drop in surprise.  And the most important part .... I regained my self confidence. I could respect myself again !

That is the magic of Positive Visualization.

Try it. 

You will be amazed . 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Amazing Story of the Mumbai Dabbawallahs


This must be the nth time when someone is writing about the Dabbawallahs (It is a Hindi word which means packed lunch delivery boys). But the story is so amazing that I still cannot cease to wonder about it !

Four thousand five hundred semi-literate dabbawallahs in Mumbai (Bombay, in Western India) collect and deliver 175,000 packages within hours.

 Who are the dabbawallahs ? How do they do it ?  What is the driver for their success ?

Descendants of soldiers of the legendary Maharashtrian warrior-king Shivaji, dabbawalas belong to the Malva caste, and arrive in Mumbai from places like Rajgurunagar, Akola, Ambegaon, Junnar and Maashi. Mumbai's 5,000 dabbawallahs - ferry nearly 200,000 home-cooked meals from the outer suburbs into the city each day.

Forbes magazine  awarded the dabbawallahs  a six-sigma performance rating, which ranks them alongside the likes of GE and Motorola in terms of efficiency and quality of service.

Some numbers…. :
  • 175000 boxes are transported every day, it has to go to the right person, it has to start from a point of origination, go through transshipment in the infrastructure which is the public infrastructure in the trains of Mumbai in all seasons including the monsoon and it has to arrive on time in the right place in the right box."
  • 4,500 semi-literate members providing a quality door-to-door service to a large and loyal customer base.
  • Tiffins are collected from homes between 7.00 am and 9.00 am
  • After Lunch hour  the whole process moves into reverse and the tiffins return to suburban homes by 6.00 pm.
  • The railway provides sorting areas on platforms as well as special compartments on trains traveling south between 10.00 am and 11.30 am
  • If 150 tiffins are to be delivered in the Grant Road Station area, then four people are assigned to that station, keeping in mind one person can carry no more than 35-40 tiffins.
  • It takes about ten to fifteen minutes to search, assemble and arrange 40 tiffins onto a crate, and by 12.30 pm they are delivered to offices.
  • The dabbawallah have to make a minimum investment of two bicycles (approximately Rs 4,000), a wooden crate for the tiffins (Rs 500), at least one white cotton kurta-pyjama (Rs 600), and Rs 20 for the trademark Gandhi topi.
  • Service charges vary from Rs 150 to Rs 300 per tiffin per month, depending on location and collection time. Money is collected in the first week of every month.
  • Typically, a twenty member group has 675 customers and earns Rs 100,000 per month which is divided equally even if one dabbawala has 40 customers while another has 30. Groups compete with each other, but members within a group do not.
  • Meetings are held in the office on the 15th of every month at the Dadar

After the customer leaves for work, her lunch is packed into a tiffin provided by the dabbawala. A color-coded notation on the handle identifies its owner and destination. Once the dabbawala has picked up the tiffin, he moves fast using a combination of bicycles, trains and his two feet.

A BBC crew filming dabbawalas in action was amazed at their speed. "Following our dabbawala wasn't easy, our film crew quickly lost him in the congestion of the train station. At Victoria Terminus we found other fast moving dabbawalas, but not our subject... and at Mr Bhapat's ayurvedic pharmacy, the lunch had arrived long before the film crew," the documentary noted wryly.

The key ingredient to this smooth, effective and efficient system is teamwork and process. Logistics is the  mantra for building competitive advantage, the world over. Mumbai's dabbawalas developed their home-grown version long before the term was coined.

Their attitude of competitive collaboration is equally unusual, particularly in India. The operation process is competitive at the customers' end but united at the delivery end, ensuring their survival since a century and more.

This amazing system has been made the case study of top management institutes like Harvard and Stanford universities. The dabbawallah  representative were  invited to the Royal wedding of the Prince Charles !

Their motto seems to be "As long as people need tiffins we will be there to supply them."

Kudos to the  dabbawallahs and long live teamwork and  processes !

Friday, 8 March 2013

Who is fit for the role of the CEO ?

There is a very popular story in Indian Mythology called  Vikram aur Vetaal. Vikramaditya was a very powerful , popular and just King.  The legend says that the King,  in order to fulfil  a vow, had to carry a corpse (betaal) on his shoulder to another plac -  in absolute silence. Enroute, the Betaal would narrate a story and pose a question to the King . If the king knew the answer , he had to reply. Else ,his head would  be split into a thousand pieces.

I present this series of episodes based on real life scenarios. At the end of the incident, there will be a question which you will have to answer.  This is the second in the series . The first one is : The Curious Case of the Unwilling Emailer.

The Dilemma : Final Decision 

In  the wonderful land of Boogle,  there was a wise and just king named Barry Sage.  He had a few reliable and efficient managers who helped him in the day-to-day running of the empire.  Boogle prospered under the patronage of Barry and  his team of managers. The people of  Boogle were happy and satisfied with their work  and the amount of money which they earned.  The citizens were constantly innovating and improving their work  as well as their life and the King gave huge rewards for the innovations which were implemented and added value to Boogle. 

One day, Barry, the King was not feeling well. He consulted the royal physician and after examining Barry, the doctor was grave. He said " O King ! I have given you medicines, but it is my duty to inform you that your days are numbered. You will live not more than 4 weeks". 

The king was very brave and did not worry much about his impending death. Being a wise king, he was more worried about his kingdom Boogle. He wanted a good successor, who could look after his  dear land.  He thought deeply.  He had five managers but he had two stars amongst them.  John and Eric.  Both of them were equally efficient and capable.  He was in a dilemma. Who should get the throne after him ? He thought day and night but could not come to a conclusion.  At last he called  Steve, his 70 year old mentor. Steve was loved and respected by all the people of Boogle for his wisdom and loving demeanor.

"Steve, please guide me . Who is the right person to sit on the throne ? John or Eric ?"

Steve smiled and looked at the King. "O King ! Give me some details about them".

"Both of them are  intelligent, tough, determined and have vision. John is technically very sound , Eric is a very good negotiator . Both of them have good listening and decision making abilities. They are very trustworthy and can deal very well with ambiguity. Both of them have a strong drive to achieve.  They go along well with the people and can get things done on time. I am really very confused"

Steve said "Ok. I will ask you a couple of questions. This will help me in making the decision"

"Who can assess himself realistically and can laugh at themselves?"
"Both"
"Who is optimistic , even at the face of failure ?"
"Both of them are optimistic but Eric sometimes loses heart when he fails. But  he collects himself up very soon and tries harder to succeed which he normally does"

"Have you ever seen them cry or get emotional ? "

Barry was silent for a while.

"I have never seen Eric crying. I have seen him go through very tough situation, but he had never cried. He has very steely nerves, I have never seen Eric get emotional. On the other hand, I have seen John cry twice. Once when his subordinate lost his arm while fighting in a battle and another instance was when a lady  working in his team  implemented a innovative idea which saved the kingdom from environmental damage. He cried because he was able to motivate her to succeed - she had thought she was not capable of anything, but John had confidence in her. I think John is a bit soft  ............. So, is the decision made ?" Barry asked. 

Steve smiled 

"Yes, the decision is made. John is the correct choice !"

Dear readers, can you tell me why Steve chose John for the role of the King , aka CEO ?

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Are blue Jackals recognized in organizations ?


Once upon a time , there was a jackal in a forest by the name of  Chandaraka. One day, Chandaraka went to a nearby village in search of food. Unfortunately, a group of dogs  started chasing him. He was frightened and fled in panic. He entered a washer man’s house and  trying to hide himself, the jackal slipped and fell into a tub full of indigo. Later,  when Chandraraka reached the forest, the  animals failed to recognize him and were frightened to see the strange blue creature.

Taking advantage of the situation, the cunning  jackal schemed quickly.  He asked, “Why are you running like this? There is no need to panic. I am a unique creation of God. He told me that the animals in this jungle had no ruler and he had nominated me as your king. God has asked  me to rule this forest. Therefore, all of you can live safely under the cover of my protection.” 

The innocent animals believed the shrewd jackal and accepted him as the king. The jackal appointed the lion as his minister, the tiger as his assistant and the wolf as the gatekeeper. After allotting positions to the animals, the blue jackal banished all the jackals in the forest for the fear of being recognized. He was the  self-proclaimed king and led a luxurious life.

One day when the blue jackal was holding his court, a herd of jackals were passing by , howling to their glory. Suddenly blue jackal forgot that he was a king and not an ordinary jackal anymore. Unable to control his natural instinct, he howled at the top of his voice


Soon, the animals realized that they had been fooled by a jackal. In a fit of anger, all the animals, at once pounced on the blue jackal and killed him.

--------------------------------

In the corporate world too , there have been numerous instances where the people at the top of the hierarchy try to con their subordinates by not being transparent and use politics and shrewdness to stay at the top.  

But , like the story, does justice always happen ?  

What do you think ? Do write your comments !

Note : This is a popular story from Panchatantra -  Indian collection of short stories with a moral 



Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Should Leaders Laugh often and much ?

I laugh quite loudly and people say that I smile a lot.

A few years back, a smart lady joined as a Project Manager,  reporting to me.  After a few weeks,  after we had our weekly meeting, she muttered, as if to herself, " I guess, I too can smile more, I thought leaders should not  smile.... " . 

This is a common misconception amongst many of us.  It is a universally accepted fact that smiling and laughing shows that a person is happy. Smiling also signifies submission and shows "Hey ! I am not a threat!". All organizations have some hierarchy and when a person who has a higher designation smiles, s/he appears more accessible and humble and vice-versa !  The team / followers open up to the smiling  leader and this makes the leader's tasks easier to get done.  

It is interesting that just like yawning, smiling too is contagious. It causes people to reciprocate by returning the smile, albeit even when both are faking it too ! Just like  The Echo Effect !  Professor Dimberg of Uppsala University, Sweden conducted an experiment. 120 volunteers were exposed to happy, scowling and frowning faces and were told to make expressionless or opposit faces. The experiment showed that the volunteers did not have a total control over their facial muscles. Though the volunteers tried hard, but the twitching of their facial muscles told a different story - they were mirroring the expressions which they saw . So it proves that the more you smile, the more positive reactions people will give you. 

Another amazing story worth telling is that of the Norman Cousins, who are famous for their book "Anatomy of an Illness", later made into a film. After being diagnosed with a collagen as well as heart disease, his doctors told them that their days are numbered and they will live in excruciating pain till they finally die.  The cousins watched and re-watched every funny movie which they could find and after 6 months, the doctors were incredulously surprised to find that their disease was completely  cured !

Smiles and laughter are the best way to bond. Remember how we giggled and laughed when were were in school ?  And if you think hard, the bonding of that period are the strongest compared to the acquaintances we make later. As an adult we laugh about 15 times a day compared to a pre-schooler who laughs 400 times !  As a ritual, in one of my project teams, whenever a new person joined the team, we played a game called "Hot Seat". Once he sat on the seat, he was supposed to answer just any question which was put across to him. It used to be a hilarious session and the team bonding was just superb !

Smile constantly. It will make people wonder what you have been upto and whether you know something which they don't !

I feel that a leader should smile and laugh often and much . Then team feels at ease with her and the working environment becomes conducive and healthy. But beware,  it is easy to catch a false smile - which does not reach the eyes. A false smile usually has an exactly opposite  effect and the team will feel that you are a liar ! 

"Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
Weep, and you weep alone ....
...

Rejoice, and men will seek you ,
Grieve, and they turn and go "  - Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Want to improve your productivity ? The simplest way ...

It is not easy.  Not easy at all !  

Six months back when I quit my 9 to 9 job and started working independently, I had a vision of my day. I would start my day with an hour long walk, then browse the newspapers, do some miscellaneous work and then from 10 am to 6 pm , I would have the whole day to myself !  I will have a 15 min power nap in the afternoon and then about 20 minute of  breathing exercises after 6 and then one hour of reading before going to sleep, I had thought.   Ah ! Finally I am the owner of  all my time ,  what a wonderful feeling it was !

But it did not happen that way !  I soon realized that time just passed by and all the things that I had thought that I would accomplish just did not seem to happen. I felt that I was more productive when I worked in the office . It took me about a month to figure out what was wrong. 

 I had stopped making my To-Do list.  

If there is one thing which I have to swear upon for time management, it is the quintessential To-Do list.  Here are some tips :

  • From daily to weekly : If you are a first time in creating to-do lists, start with a daily list , but eventually  broaden it till it covers the full week. This gives a better span for your activities and you will have a good sense of accomplishment when the week is over.

  • Write them: Write everything - make sections for official and then personal , sundry etc.  Once you get the hang of it, you will see how useful it is for planning and organizing your day

  • Prioritize  :  Once the tasks are written, you should prioritize. First tackle the most difficult one or the one which falls in the second quadrant of time management - important and urgent.

  • Cross the completed tasks : Once you have completed a task, cross them on the list or put a big tick mark on it. You will feel really good . Trust me !

  • Carry them over : There will always be tasks which will not be done on a particular day.  Carry them over to the next day's to do list

I have practiced creating and following a to-do list and I can guarantee you that once you start , you will be able to gauge the improvement in your productivity. 

Give it a shot and see your tasks get done like magic !



Wednesday, 6 February 2013

How to get Power

A leader should have the power to motivate people and get things done

Most of us think that power comes only with authority and designation.  

Legitimate or positional power comes from designation and job title.  

Reward  power comes if you have the ability to give bonus or punishment . 

Expert power comes from knowledge , if you are the subject matter expert on a particular field, but the power which I am going to talk about is called Referent PowerThis power usually comes from the personality and character of the leader.

I am sure you must have come across an individual in your organization who draws people towards him or her. He or she is so respected , loved and trusted that people come to him/her for decision making, guidance and mentoring. The person may not have any link with the project of the follower, but she has the power on the people. And according to me, this is the best form of power which a leader can have. 

  • These leaders get more power by giving it away. Real power is not about what you do, but what you teach others to do.   
  • When a leader enables others, s/he extends the power. If your follower can succeed  and achieve, you get more power . Your power gets established .
  • People with real power are not push-overs. Those who are afraid of losing power, cling to it and are afraid of sharing power. A real leader empowers others and aligns them with his values

Real power comes with passion, integrity , empathy, empowerment and when you treat them with respect and  help them shine !  


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 !