Monday, 12 May 2014

5 Tips to Develop your Confidence

All of us have heard this advice sometime or the other.

 “Be confident . Then success will follow “,  and all of us agree to this.

But what is confidence?

What is this magical ingredient that everyone covets?

Confidence is about knowing yourself, who you are, why you are here, and what you want to do. 

Confidence is all about believing in yourself. You have confidence in other people because you trust them and can depend on them. The same goes for yourself. If you trust yourself, your ideas and your abilities, then you have confidence.

A common misconception is that a lot of people think that being confident means being outspoken or egocentric. Actually the reverse is true -  The egocentric loudmouth is usually much less confident than they let on.

In truth, the most confident people are usually the ones who are quietly happy with themselves and their lives. They have their own ideas and plans, and happily go about them at their own pace. The more confidence you build the more peace of mind you gain.

Having confidence makes it so much easier for you to get what you want from your life. It means you can improve your relationships, increase your career and financial success and have a much more fulfilling, interesting life. People who are confident know themselves, are clear on what they stand for and what they are doing with their lives.

Our level of confidence and self-esteem also sets the 'level' for how we live our lives. We cannot live above or below our own beliefs about ourselves. This is especially true for confidence, as our fears can often hold us back. And the best way to overcome fears is to work on your confidence.

Where does it come from?

From early childhood, those people closest to us shape our beliefs. Our personal foundations are built like the framework of a house. After a time, they begin to form the basis for our personality and eventually our adult personality is created. Our beliefs, confidence and life path are often set within the first five years of our lives.

Unfortunately, every child is not given an equal set of encouraging, confidence-building beliefs. Many of us are told that being confident is bad, and that only 'ego-maniacs' have high opinions of themselves. Fortunately there are several powerful ways to move past this type of thinking and build our confidence.

What are the best ways to develop your confidence?

In one of my previous blog post, I have talked about 10 ways to boost your self confidence Click to Read Post. 

Anyone can improve his or her confidence. And contrary to what most people believe, it has little to do with the external parts of our lives, such as relationships, career choices, success or anything else. The journey to build your confidence starts from the inside out.

  • Set Goals : This is probably the easiest thing you can do to help yourself. You write a big list of things you’d like in your life, and then pick a few to work towards right now. Keep the list with you, and keep working on the list until you have reached your goals. Then go back to the big list and choose some more goals.

  • Be clear on your values : Each of us must stand for something on our lives, and it's important that we know what it is. This is not an easy task to do, but it's certainly worthwhile. Take the time to think about what you want your life to be about and write down some values. Words like integrity, freedom, contribution, courtesy and success are excellent places to start. The key to making your values work for you is that you must make them your own. Don’t just choose the values your parents or partner have. Always make them your own and resolve to live by them as much as you can.

  • What do you want ? : The third way to build confidence is to make a habit of asking for what you want. The old principle 'ask and ye shall receive' is still alive and true today. If you truly desire something in your life, then go ahead and ask for it. The truly confident person is able to ask people for whatever they want or need. They are willing to risk people saying no to them, because they have a sense of inner calm that goes beyond the events of the day.

  • Do not take things personally : Taking negative remarks or events as a personal attack is a reason why so many people are unhappy. Once you stop believing that the world is out to annoy or disappoint you, things become a lot easier to cope with. Next time someone or something happens to you that makes you feel angry or anxious, remember to stop taking it personally and replace the feeling with humour.

  • Trust your choice:  We all have a great capacity for thought and to make choices. A winning trait of a confident person is that they believe in their own ideas and are willing to follow through on them. If you are continually seeking approval from other people, you won?t get very far. If you are in the habit of always seeking an opinion or asking for approval (even without saying it directly), then resolve to stop doing it.

The Upward Spiral

The best thing about building your confidence is that it causes the principle of 'reciprocal causation'. 

This means that doing the things that create confidence actually make it easier to do more confidence building activities. In essence, you begin to create an upward spiral.

Bad habits are easy to form and hard to live with; good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Building confidence is a good habit that you must develop. As it continues to build you'll find it easier and easier to live with.

By choosing one of the above activities and following through on it, you will cause reciprocal causation to kick in. Soon your confidence will enable you to try more and more confidence building activities.

Eventually you will see your life, love and world transform, as you become a truly confident person. 

Just do it !

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

5 Great Games

One of the basic elements of working in a team is to collaborate, communicate, listen and hold on ..... Have fun !! 
The Leader has to ensure that his team learns to work together , respect and trust each other and enjoy at the workplace
In my sessions, I have used these games.  These games can be used for various occasions. Hope you like them !
For each game I list :
§  tnumber of participants
§  an estimate for the duration
§  the learning objectives and purpose
§  the material needed
§  a short description with instructions for the game’s facilitator

For the learning objectives and purpose, I’ll additionally recommend a short debriefing after the games, where you’ll find even more valuable outcomes.

Chair Game
number of participants: >= 9 (the more the better)
duration: 15 min
learning objectives/purpose: Success only through collaboration; working together across teams; finding a higher common goal; silent communication
material: >= 20 chairs
short description: Have the participants form 3 groups. Tell the participants not to talk anymore. Give each group one of the following instructions on a card (group should keep it a secret for the other groups):
§  arrange all the chairs in the room in a big circle
§  put all the chairs in the room upside down
§  group all the chairs in the room to pairs

Make sure everyone in the groups reads the instructions. Tell the groups to execute their instructions. If at some point every group is stuck, tell them that there is a solution that every group will be able to successfully execute their instructions at the same time. Debrief when there’s no movement in the room anymore.

possible progression: Groups will first fight each other, later hopefully see that they can all reach their goals together. The end state of the chairs is a big circle with pairs of chairs turned upside down.
Count to 33
number of participants: >= 3 (not more than 20)
duration: 5 min
learning objectives/purpose: simple things can be hard to achieve; listen to others

short description: Have the participants stand up and form a circle. Let the participants shout out numbers in the sequence from 1 up to 33 clockwise. Give the instruction:
“Whenever your number is dividable by 3 or ends with a 3 you have to clap your hands together instead of shouting out the number.”
Whenever a participant makes a mistake, the following participant has to start all over again with 1. Debrief when the group reaches the number 33.

possible progression: Participants will end up with this sequence (numbers are shouted): 1 2 clap 4 5 clap 7 8 clap 10 11 clap clap 14 clap 16 17 clap 19 20 clap 22 clap clap 25 26 clap 28 29 clap 31 32 clap
Escape the Room
number of participants: >= 3 (the more the better)
duration: 10 min
learning objectives/purpose: collaboration; silent communication
material: 1 chair per person
short description: All participants sit on a chair randomly distribute in a (large) room. Let participants lift their feets from the ground. Announce the following instructions:
“The goal of the following game is to escape the room. From now on, nobody is allowed to touch the floor or speak anymore.”
possible progression: Some participants hop with their chair to the exit. Others, often the ones furthest away from the exit, will cooperate by forming a bridge with their chairs. Some will also help others, e.g. by ‘islands’ (i.e. participants on chairs not connected to the bridge help by extending the bridge in their direction).
number of participants: >= 10 (the more the better)
duration: 10 min
learning objectives/purpose: warm-up; deals with post-meal coma
material: 1 chair per person minus one 1 chair
short description: Have the participants build a circle of chairs with one chair per participant (except for yourself). Assign a fruit out of three or four possible fruits to each participant and yourself, like
“Strawberry, banana, apple, mango, strawberry, banana, apple, mango, strawberry, banana – and I’m an apple.”
Explain the rules:
“Whenever the person in the middle calls out a fruit, the participants that fruit was assigned to have to get up and quickly find a new chair to sit on. When they get up, the person in the middle also tries to find a chair. Given that there is one chair less than the number of participants, one person will end up without a chair, and the game starts over. Instead of a fruit the person in the middle can shout ‘fruitsalad’, which means that everybody has to find another chair. It is not allowed to sit on any of your neighbour’s chairs.”
possible progression: Big fun in a fast paced game, where you have to react quickly.
Counting In The Dark

number of participants: >= 5 (not more than 20)
duration: 15 min
learning objectives/purpose: collaboration; silent communication

short description: Have the participants stand up and form a circle. Let them close their eyes. Tell them to count to 10 aloud. Whenever two people shout out any two numbers together, let the group start over.

possible progression: People will start calling out numbers with a high possibility for calling them out together, so they have to start over and over again. Since their eyes are closed, they can’t use sign language. They have to collaborate to find a appropriate strategy like letting one person alone do the counting, or by using a counting token which will be passed from one to the other.
Enjoy playing !  Have Fun !

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Name - Heaven - Frog

I am sharing 3 small stories which I use in my motivational workshops. Enjoy !

What is in a name ?

During Rob’s first month of college, the professor gave his students a pop quiz. 

Rob was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until he read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke. He had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would he know her name? He handed in his paper, leaving the last question blank.

Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward the quiz grade. 

"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They each deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello'".

 Rob never forgot that lesson. He also learned her name was Milly.

(Indian Readers of the blog ... remember Munnabhai and Jaadu Ka Jhappi ? )


Heaven and Hell 

A woman who had worked all her life to bring about good was granted one wish: "Before I die let me visit both hell and heaven."

Her wish was granted.

She was whisked off to a great banqueting hall. The tables were piled high with delicious food and drink. Around the tables sat miserable, starving people as wretched as could be. "Why are they like this?" she asked the angel who accompanied her. 

"Look at their arms," the angel replied. She looked and saw that attached to the people's arms were long chopsticks secured above the elbow. Unable to bend their elbows, the people aimed the chopsticks at the food, missed every time and sat hungry, frustrated and miserable.
"Indeed this is hell! Take me away from here!"

She was then whisked off to heaven. Again she found herself in a great banqueting hall with tables piled high. 

Around the tables sat people laughing, contented, joyful. 

"No chopsticks I suppose," she said. 

"Oh yes there are. Look - just as in hell they are long and attached above the elbow but look... here people have learnt to feed one another".

The frogs and the tower

There once was a bunch of tiny frogs, who arranged a running competition. 

The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower. A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants...

The race began...

Honestly, no-one in crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. They said ....

"Oh, WAY too difficult!!"

"They will NEVER make it to the top".

"Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!"

The tiny frogs began collapsing. One by one...

... Except for those who in a fresh tempo were climbing higher and higher...

The crowd continued to yell ...

"It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!"

More tiny frogs got tired and gave up...But ONE continued higher and higher and higher...

This one wouldn't give up!

At the end, everyone else had given up climbing the tower. 

Except for the one tiny frog who, after a big effort, was the only one who reached the top!

All the other tiny frogs naturally wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it?

A contestant asked the tiny frog how the one who succeeded had found the strength to reach the goal?

It turned out... That the winner was deaf.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Why does your Team Hate you ?

You are the Project Manager or a  Team Leader and you know that your team really hates you. 

"Oh yeah ... " You say to yourself  "They just don't understand my position ... When they will get to manage a  team like this, only then they will understand .... " You console yourself. 

In spite of the deadlines and the pressure, you think  do so much for your team but do not really understand why they always throw up bile against you at your back. 

Yes, they do. You know that. 

Get of of your shell, dear manager and leader ... here are the reasons why they hate you.

  • You Micromanage : You are a control freak and know each and every detail of what they are working on. You are forever on their heads , asking for status and try to control each and every decision. Your team feels suffocated and they think that it would be better if you did the job rather than them slogging over it . Because of this, they never take ownership of the work.

  • You always keep your hands very clean : You are always assigning work.  Doing work or making your hands dirty ?  Have you ever rolled up your sleeves and worked along with your team ? Ever done any project yourself ? Never ever.

  • You treat them as mere resources : You do not know anything about your team members - their likes, dislikes, family, priorities etc.  You treat them mainly as billable/non billable resources - they are just numbers in your resource plan. Hence you cannot empathize with them and they cannot include you in their joys and sorrows. 

  • You don't fight for them : Everybody makes mistakes. Including you.  When some crisis occurs due to some team member, you do not own the mistake, instead point finger at him/her. You do not fight for your team at the appropriate places. You team can feel it . And they hate you for this.

  • You treat them like mushrooms  : You keep your team in the dark and feed them junk. Like cultivating mushrooms. You keep information with yourself,  telling yourself "they do not need to know this " . You are not transparent.  This generates water-cooler talks and grapevines feed on the gossips thus generated. Your team has a hidden antennae and can feel important information being withheld from them. You lose their trust.  Someday, even if you tell them something, they will not believe you. Trust me !
There are a few more points. But I think that is enough food for thought for you in this post.  

Think about it . Ponder . And then change yourself to become a good leader ! 

Yes, you can  (Read the post)!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Interview Questions

Recently , during one of my workshops, I was asked by a few people to tell them what were the most common interview questions and how they should go about it . 

This blog post is dedicated to them and all job aspirants preparing for interviews .  

  • Are you aware of the role and the responsibilities of the job you are applying ? Elaborate
  • What are your current responsibilities and duties ?
  • Describe your typical work day 
  • Which areas do you like the most about your current job and what do you like the least ?
  • Describe a problem which you have faced at work and what did you do to encounter it ?
  • Suppose you could not handle a problem yourself, what would you have done ?
  • Are you proud of any aspect of your current job ?  Tell us about some accomplishments at work .
  • Why do you think that you are suited to the job you have applied for ?
  • What has been your greatest disappointment so far ? 
  • How has this changed your view towards work and life ?
  • I see that you have switched jobs quite often. What are the reasons for your instability ?
  • Why do you want to leave your current organization ? 
  • What do you think about working in teams ? What works and what does not ?
  • What do you like the best about work on a team and what is the least ?
  • How do you see yourself after 5 years ? What are your long term goals ?
And then, there are my 3 interview Questions (Click on the link)

There are no right or wrong answer.... but in case someone wants to know what I would have answered to any of these question, put in your remarks and I will respond !
Cheers !

Sunday, 23 March 2014

His Dog is the Team's Dog

This is the age of Virtual Teams.  

Using Video conferencing, Skype, Chats , Teleconferencing have become the norm in most of the Global Organizations. In fact these are promoted as they save time and money and can be as effective as face-to-face meetings – if used correctly.

Of course Ground Rules have to be set .  Things like No multitasking,  having a fixed meeting agenda, starting and ending on time,  respect for diverse culture  have to be followed.  

But even after taking care of all the factors, the main disadvantage or if I may say the lacunae of virtual teaming is the lack of personal touch.

We miss out on the  important aspects of  the body language – the smile on the lips, the tweak of the cheeks and the hurt in the eyes.  I attend and conduct  several video conferences and have to join teleconferences almost everyday and I have found out that if you can make “His Dog the Team’s Dog”,  a lot of barriers of the lack of personal touch is broken.

Let me elaborate.

One day,  while attending the teleconference,  Tim’s dog started howling.  The people in the teleconference went silent for a few seconds and then the conference continued as if nothing had happened. Just after concluding the meeting , before the “Byes” , Susan asked Tim “Hope your Dog is OK ....".

And this started the conversation around Tim’s Dog.  Almost everyone quipped in and this went on for about 5-7 minutes.

But these five minutes were the Golden Minutes. 

The team shared thoughts about their pets , gave tips and a very personal bridge was made between the team members. 

In the next meeting,  the first question asked was “Tim, How is your Dog  ? “

His Dog was now the team’s Dog !

So, do not be ashamed if you are attending a teleconference or a video conference from your home and your door bell rings.  And neither should you feel awkward if  you hear someone’s baby crying.  

In fact,  take advantage of such instances and create a personal bond.

This goes a long way in building rapport in a virtual team and you can actually feel the smile and warmth of the person  who is sitting far far away from  you !

Try it !

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Best Motivator

I remember once I was walking around the office (Read : MBWA) , I saw a person sitting on her desk with a clearly despondent face. She was a very good and efficient worker and had a cheerful countenance. I asked her "Hey ! What's wrong ?" .  My simple prodding seemed to open a floodgate of tears.

She said  "I have worked so hard for the last one year, I think I have made some difference to my department and my organization... but today, during the appraisal,  I was told that whatever I had done was anyways expected from me.... but was was reminded several times about the one slip which I had made .... " 

An autocratic boss always criticises, never forgets negative performance and takes good performance for granted. It might have worked some decades earlier, but nowadays, leaders have to re- inforce the good things instead of harping on their  inefficiency. 

Human beings crave recognition

Money is a great motivator, but middle managers usually do not have much say in changing company policies and monetary aspects, but they do have the power for the real BIG and the BEST motivator - Recognition .

So, how can the people be motivated ? Yes, it certainly is a tough job, as each individual is different and their  keys to motivation also differ.  I am sharing some of the things that have worked for me  : 

  • Put it in writing :  Just like you should always criticize in private, you should always praise in public. Verbal appreciation is great , but writing it is even more effective. And always write immediately. Appreciation loses its sheen if it is given late. Appreciation emails work wonders.  And emails can be copied to relevant and appropriate persons. Emails do not need money neither consumes too much time.  

  • Awarding an object : In one of my organization,  I had started a ritual of awarding a small figurine - a karate kid in a karate pose.  Whenever a team member did something extraordinary in terms of performance, quality, teamwork or taking initiative, I awarded this figurine to them in my weekly team meeting. And how they loved it !  They proudly displayed it on their desks.  Everybody craved to have it .  I was moved when I met one person a few years back who told me "Ananya, I still have the Karate kid on my desk... It inspires me to keep on doing well ...!" 

  • Thank You Notes :  Designate a day in a year where "Thank you " notes will be exchanged. I did it every year on the Thanksgiving week.  Create a small  template for writing the note and specially the reason why they were thanking and let the team exchange it with each other.  It is important tom write the reason for the praise in the praise itself. This concept worked very well in global and virtual teams.  The team in India were thrilled to receive handwritten Thank-You notes from the UK and the US office and the same reaction was there in the US and the UK office when they received the notes from India. This helped not only in recognition but also in team bonding.

  • Immortalize their names :  If you have a big office with several conference and meeting rooms,  it is a good idea to name the rooms by the Best Performer of the Year. For Example,  there was a "Ananya Meeting Room" and a "Kevin Conference room" in one of my organization.  This is a really big motivator and the employees remember it forever.  Whenever I visit that organization , I always find some plea to go to the Ananya Conference Room and believe me , it still fills my heart with joy and pride.  And even if the person leaves the organization, they become their permanent ambassador !

There are several others .... but more in some later blog ... 

Have you noticed,  none of the above costs money but they really motivate the employee.... 

" A person's name is to that person , the sweetest and the most important sound in any language "- Dale Carnegie. 

Would you like to implement some in your workplace ?  Let me know which one you like the most or if you have any other programs which have worked for you ....

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Triple Filter Test

One day an acquaintance met Socrates, the great Greek philosopher  and said,

 "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"

"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. 

I call it the Triple Filter test. The first filter is "Truth". Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"Well, no," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and…"

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don’t really know if it’s true or not

Now, let’s try the second filter, the filter of "Goodness". Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"

"Umm, no, on the contrary…"

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about my friend, but you’re not certain it’s true

You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left—the filter of "Usefulness". Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates,

"if what you want to tell me is neither true, nor good, nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?"

If all of us use this Triple Filter test, the world will be a much better place, isn't it ? 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Have you tried REVERSE Brainstorming ?

I was in a fix. 

I was assigned to manage a project which was critical for the organization. I had to deliver the project within a very short period of time. My team was very talented and committed. But when I described the project to them in a team meeting and talked about how critical it was for the company and the deadlines were stiff and the expected quality standard was high,  I could feel the vibes of negativity emanating from them.  It was clear that they were not convinced about the success of the project. 

I did not discuss anything on that day.  

The next day, I again called for a team meeting and as expected , I saw unenthusiastic faces sitting around the table.  I took a deep breath and announced  "I would like to brainstorm about the reasons why the project should fail ". 

Suddenly there were murmurs of interest in the group. People became interested and I could see expressions of surprise on their faces.  The team was used to Brainstorming about positive things but suddenly they were exposed to REVERSE brainstorming ! 

So we followed the usual process of brainstorming and we came up with 53  reasons why this project will fail !

Just after we finished the brainstorming, I announced "There is a second part to this exercise... we will now  prioritize and select ten significant factors which pose major threats.  Then we will do a detailed action planning to ensure that these factors are taken care of ..". 

Since the team had come up with the threats and jointly created the  action plans , there was a lot of ownership and any hurdle which came up during the execution was dealt with alacrity by the team !

Our project was completed within record time and  we received the Star Team of the Year Award !  

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Most Powerful Presentation Tool

Good presentations include stories.

I usually start my presentation using a story. 

This helps to get their attention immediately and usually they drop their guards and go to the Story-time mode and connect with me instantly.

Stories engage people at because they engage people at the emotional level.

The best presenters illustrate their points with the use of stories, most often personal ones.  If you want your audience to remember your content, then find a way to make it relevant and memorable to them. You should try to come up with good, short, interesting stories or examples to support your major points.

Good stories have interesting, clear beginnings, provocative, engaging content in the middle, and a clear, logical conclusion.

If you’re not sure whether you can tell a convincing story, remember the last time you were out with friends and somebody started telling a story that reminded you of something that had happened to you recently — you couldn’t wait for the other story to finish, so that you could start telling yours, right?

And when you told it, you were so full of how exciting it was, the words came tripping off your tongue. And when your friends laughed or winced at the right places, you knew the story had hit home.

  • Start to notice what it’s like when you get that itch to tell a story — that’s the feeling you want to recapture when you get up on stage.

  • The most important thing is that the story will be meaningful and relevant to your specific audience. If it’s a business presentation and you want to make the link between the story and your proposed action crystal clear, use an an anecdote that they – or their customers – can relate to from direct experience.

  • If you think they are thinking too narrowly and need to broaden their horizons, use a more exotic story – from a movie, a novel, the news, or even an ancient myth or legend. If you do this, they may be more easily entranced – but it’s very important that you make a strong link between the lesson of the story and the main subject of your presentation.

Happy Storytelling !