Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Teeny Weeny : 24th February

Again it was the 24th of February.

Mellow rays of the sunlight flooded Aditi's small one bedroom apartment.    The nip in the air, the fragrance of February filled up her senses.  Her first class was at 10.30 am. ,

But it was the 24th of February.

Like every year, she had to be in the Physics laboratory by 7.30 am.

She opened her cupboard and opened a small card which had pink rose motifs . The ends were frayed now.  The words written with blue ink had faded .

"Always smile like these roses ! " - A silent admirer.  I will tell you how much I need you tomorrow  - 24th February, at 7.30 am , Physics laboratory

25 years ago,  same day , Aditi had smiled just like she was smiling now.  She looked at herself before leaving for the college.  She was still pretty and petite. The pink cotton sari suited her fair skin. She put on a light pink lip gloss and combed her short hair which had started graying near the temples.  She pulled the off-white shawl around herself  . She started to leave but as an afterthought she came back and put on a black bindi on her forehead. Yes, she looked nice , Aditi thought.

As she stepped inside the campus of Science College, her Alma Mater and now  her work place,  she saw young students laughing and talking in groups . Their face shone in the sunlight.

Aditi hurried towards the lab.

As she reached there, she saw her class mate and now her colleague Sagar standing near the lab door.

"Hmm... so... your annual rendezvous ... eh ... !" he winked.

Aditi blushed .

"Yes.... How stupid of me isn't it ? And more so because I had confided in you .... "

She looked searchingly at Sagar's eyes.

"Well ... see , I too make it a point to come on this date and time ... just to give you company ... " Sagar laughed.

They went inside the lab. It was still the same as it was 25 years back. They sat there and laughed and joked for about an hour.

"Aditi, My students are waiting ... I will leave now ... See you later ... "

Aditi  looked up.  She waited for him to say something.

Please .... please ....come on Sagar .... I have waited for 20 years .... My heart is parched ... I want to hear what you have not been able to tell me .... I know it is you ... don't you know that I know ?

"Ok... I too will leave .... "

"Until the next 24th Feb ? " Sagar winked

Yes.  I will wait . Wait for you to tell me how much you need me .....

Aditi walked slowly out of the Physics laboratory towards class room no 404 .

Maybe next year .....

She adjusted her glasses and went inside to face her young students. ....


Teeny-Weenies will spice up the monotony of the leadership posts . Hope you like them.     Looking forward to your comments.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Leadership lessons from Eagles !

The Eagle, reflects the behaviour and traits of brilliant strategic leaders.

One leadership lesson drawn from the eagle is that of vision. It is said that the eagle soars or flies high when it is hunting. From the way of the eagle, the leader can learn the need to have a high vantage point, giving vision to the people.

Eagles spend much of their time at a great height surveying the big picture but then they spot something of interest and with their great eyesight are able to hone in and look at the detail. 

Based on this detail, they are very decisive and swift to strike before stepping back again and looking at the big picture. Eagles are also very protective of their young while encouraging independence from an early age. 

You need to have a view of the big picture while being able to selectively drill down and look at the detail. Brilliant leaders certainly need to be very decisive and often, swift to act. The idea of encouraging the independence of your staff based on effective coaching is also very positive leadership behavior. 

From the eagles, one can also learn about resilient or tough leadership.

 Leaders need to be tough and resort to positive thinking, changing the “I can’t” to “I can!” and the “I’ll try to do” to “I’ll do it!” 

When eagles are 30 years old, they go through a process of renewal. 

Finding a hidden place high in the mountains, the old eagle with curved beak begins to claw at its face, and tear out the old feathers that by now become less airborne. As a result, it bleeds badly. But this is vital for the eagle in order to renew its strength. If the eagle did not do this, it would not be able to live to its normal 40 years. 

They allow self disruption to survive. and this  builds the eagle’s resilience. 

Let us all learn from the eagle and soar high ! 

Friday, 6 February 2015

To Be or Not To Be a Lenient Manager

I have often been blamed to be a lenient manager

"Ananya,  You are too lenient !  Your team is very independent. In the town hall meetings , they always raise some point or the other ... "

"Well ... "

"They take advantage of your liberal attitude.  They always seem to be so happy and confident . They are hardly seen working late hours..... "

"But my teams have achieved the best performance awards !"  I said

"See... that is why .... you have been too lenient in giving them good appraisal ratings .  We are quite strict and do not mince words in the appraisal discussions."

In such conversations, I do not continue further. 

But the fact is that , my teams always performed the best, always met their target and contributed well in the overall organizational growth. They were cohesive lots who fought and argued in the team meetings, but once they went out of the meeting, they always spoke the same thing . Sometimes they agreed to disagree.  

They were a happy lot, really enjoying their work.

Everybody has their own leadership style. 

There is no "Good" or "Bad" leadership style. The style has to meet the situation, the audience and the organization. I personally do not believe in typecasting a style as "lenient" or "strict".  

The leader has to lead the team to success. 

Any manager will tell you that his or her ideal staff is self-sufficient, conscientious, and trustworthy. With only the lightest supervision, they can essentially manage themselves. Sometimes, you will stumble upon employees like this by blind luck. More often, managers who are able to take a hands-off approach have invested a great deal of effort at the start of the employment relationship training, mentoring, and establishing clear performance and conduct guidelines.

It is almost like bringing up kids. 

The manager has to trust the team and treat them like adults , capable of managing themselves.  They should be taken towards being a "self-managed " team.  This happens gradually, but the leader must constantly drive their team towards this goal. 

Once the manager senses that the team can handle the freedom, only then, slowly and steadily the team becomes independent . 

I have seen the team taking ownership and pride when they feel that they are the decision makers. It is not true that they  do not put in extra effort, but fact is that there is so much of teamwork that the workload gets shared.  I have observed my team members staying late nights to solve a problem in spite  of my telling them to go home and complete the work next day. 

As a general rule, it is a bad idea for supervisors to become overly friendly with their employees, but the leader has to know how to be empathetic and where to draw the line . 

Even as you demonstrate genuine caring, you must preserve some professional distance. Otherwise, you will risk insubordination and the appearance of impropriety. 

The leader should endeavor to set appropriate boundaries at the workplace so that s/he does not compromise  on the capacity to be the boss when the needs be.

S/he should shift the focus from winning the love of the employees to managing a successful business. At the same time, the team should feel one with the manager, ready to take up challenges and achieve goals happily and efficiently.  The leader should be capable of changing his style at the right time and at the right situation. 

I don't know whether I am "lenient" or not , but when some team member , who had worked with me years ago, calls me up and says  "Ananya, I remember you saying this ......and I have tried to follow the same", I know I have succeeded.

The feeling is really exhilarating and satisfying. 

I feel that somehow, somewhere I have managed to touch their lives. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Who is a leader ?

This is a poem which inspires me.  Written by an Anonymous Poet. 

A Leader

Patient and steady with all he must bear,

Ready to meet every challenge with care

Easy in manner, yet solid at steel, 

String in his faith, refreshingly real, 

Isn’t afraid to propose what is bold, 

Doesn’t conform to the usual mould, 

Eyes that have foresight, for hindsight won’t do

Never backs down when he sees what is true, 

Tells it all 
straight and means it all too, 

Going forward and knowing he’s right, 

Even when doubted for why he would fight

Over and over he makes his case 

Reaching to touch the ones who won’t hear, 

Growing in strength, he would not be unnerved, 

Ever assuring he’ll stand by his word. 

Wanting the world to join his firm stand, 

Bracing for war, but praying for peace, 

Using his power so evil will cease : 

So much a leader and worthy of trust, 

Here stands 
a man who will do what he must. 

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Bizarre Case of my Defective Geyser

I was really frustrated.  

Last month I installed the third geyser in my bathroom . Brand new ones. But somehow the water would just not heat up ! 

I had shifted to this house a few months back. So, when the already installed geyser did not heat the water, I thought that maybe the geyser was old and I should replace it. So , I bought a locally made geyser.  But even after keeping it on for 2 hours , the water was lukewarm .

"Ok..." I thought . "Maybe the geyser is defective. It is locally made without any quality standards....".

 After a few more days of futile trials, I bought another geyser from a standard company . It also had a warranty of two years. The installation engineers came and installed the same.  It was working perfectly.  "Ahh ..." I thought. "Finally I will have nice hot showers ... "

I enjoyed my bath the next day and the day after .  After the 4th day, again the water was lukewarm. The next day I kept the geyser on for a few more minutes. The result was good . Steaming hot water. Two days it was fine. Again the fourth day the water was lukewarm ! Even after keeping the Geyser on for 15 more minutes, it was not even lukewarm ! 

The next day I called up the service centre. The service engineers came and tested the geyser.  It was working just fine.  I did not know what to say. I told them that the Geyser was behaving erratically and they should take my word for it .  

"We understand Madam... ", they said "whenever you face any problem, just give us a call and we will come the next day and fix it.... today it is working fine .... !". 

The engineers were trained to be polite . 

The end result was that even in this freezing cold, I was really nervous of taking a bath ... I did not know whether I will get warm water or not ... ! I took resort to heating water on my gas oven for my bath. 

I called up the service center again.  After 5-6  repeated calls,  the Geyser company was kind enough to replace the Geyser and install another brand new one.  But to my utter frustration, it did not solve the problem at all !  Some day it worked excellently , the next day it did not .  

I just did not know what to do ! 


About 10 days back, I went to visit an ailing relative who was suffering from acute back pain.

"You know Ananya ... " She said . "All these years I suffered , thinking that something is wrong with my bones .  But this time when the pain was really acute, I had a thorough checkup and the investigation report and further discussion with my doctor made me realize that all these years my perspective was wrong.  I was taking care of my bones, taking Calcium supplements , having probiotic food , but actually the root cause was Ergonomics !  My work involved a lot of twisting and working at a particular angle for prolonged periods of time. This was the root cause.  As soon as I took corrective action about my posture, things improved drastically "

"Really ? " I said 

"Yes ! See, I was looking at the problem with a preconceived idea about the solution ... the problem was somewhere else ..... !"

Something clicked in my mind . 


The next day, I started with a fresh mind. 

I logged the days when the Geyser worked fine and the days it did not.   I tried to link all the activities before and after I turned on the Geyser in the bathroom . The study gave a strange result.  

It showed that on the days the maid cleaned the bathtub, the Geyser did not work properly.

I investigated further. 

And the investigation result was an eye opener for me

I found out that the pipes leading to the bathtub was linked with the Geyser pipe leading to the shower. And since the pipe to the Bathtub was at a lower height , there was a backflow of water into the geyser tank if the tap to the bathtub was not closed.  When the maid cleaned the bathtub, she invariably did not close the tap of the hot water , instead she closed the main tap. 

So what was happenening is  that the Cold water tap of the bath tub was open and water from it flowed back into the pipe which led o the shower and the cold water mixed with the hot water and the temperature of the water from the shower became lukewarm !

From the next day, when I switched on the Geyser, I closed the cold water inlet tap of the bathtub and I got steaming hot water from my shower - everyday, everytime !

So, the problem was not in the Geysers , but somewhere else !


Don't we make similar mistakes at workplace and also in our lives ? 

Sometimes, we just have to make a paradigm shift in the way we look at problems. 

The solutions lie infront of our eyes, but maybe due to the dreary habit of looking at the problems with the same angle and in the same way, we fail to find solutions to them ! Sometimes, "our clear stream of reason loses its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit". 

I have learnt my lesson. 

I will always try to keep my mind open when I try to solve problems. 

Have you ever faced such situations ? Do write your comments.

Monday, 12 January 2015

My Weight Loss Resolution Fiasco

Like every New Year, this year too I made resolutions.  The top one was to lose weight. As I wrote my resolution in my personal diary,  to my dismay , I found the same resolution written dated a year back !  

Folks,  I am sorry to say that I had failed to keep up my resolution.In fact , instead of losing, I have managed to put on weight . I kept my pen down and thought really hard. Where did I go wrong ?  I did start with a bang , but what happened after a few weeks  ?  Well ... there are always some festivities , ceremonies and get-togethers where we tend to overeat and these situations are bound to happen always.  So does it mean that I will never succeed ?  I became despondent .  But again , I thought harder.

I always like to go to the root of the matter and as I went deeper, I realized that there were two major flaws in my execution of the resolutions.  

1. I did not measure my progress
2. I did not keep it visual. 

Measurements are the keystone of tracking.  If we don't measure, we will never know how we are doing, which way we are heading and when we should come back on track for making progress.  

The basic point is that "the things that gets measured are the things that get done" !

We measure our academic success and try to do better. We measure the time taken to complete assignments and set benchmarks for estimation for completion of tasks.Measurements of schedule variance, defects found in the finished products,  number of complaints lodged , effort variance etc. all are measurements which help us to take informed decisions for the growth of the organization. 

In fact , I remembered that I had written the following verse for the in house magazine in one of my previous organization : 

I wonder…..
How far is the sky ?
Is the threshold large enough to keep it blue ?                          
Scale in one hand and magnifying glass in the other,
I wonder ……
What should we measure so that we can see a problem through ?

Measure , measure, measure,
Take a scale in your hand –
What is the life expectancy of a bug ?
How many defects were introduced ?
How long are we working ?                                       
What can we measure to get a clue ?
How are we doing on effort ?
Is the variance too large ?
Are we varying in schedule ?
How do we know we have reviewed ?

All measurements but no improvements ?
Hey ! This  does not sound correct !
Let us do an ISHIKAWA to get an essence.
Let us  measure our measurements ,
We should not measure what does not make sense.

Measure , measure, measure,
We will continuously  improve !
We have to monitor our thresholds
I am sure our  customers will approve !

So , the root cause of not being able to keep up  my resolution  was that I did not measure what I was eating, how much exercise I was doing and most importantly,  I did not weigh myself  periodically .

I have got myself a new diary and written "My weight loss program" .   I will now write every meal which I eat , all the workout which I do and a weekly log of  my weight

And most importantly, I will create a trend chart of my weight measurements and make it the wall paper of  my laptop.   This will serve as a visual dashboard and act as a motivator for me to be on track. 
If we use measurements to improve the organization, don't you think it will help me improve my life? 

Do write your comments.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Factory which Converts Failure into Success

In one of my earlier blogs, I had written about Failure .  Read :  Why Do we fail ?

We all know that failure teaches us to persevere, to become stronger , learn lessons and move on

But have you heard of someone who picks up failures or drop-outs and makes a success out of them and in turn mints money for himself as well as for others ?  

Well, he is by far the smartest unknown  Indian IT entrepreneur - Sridhar Vembu  - the co-founder of ZOHO Corporation - the company behind the ZOHO Suit of online applications. Zoho.com offers a comprehensive suite of award-winning online business, productivity & collaboration applications.  It gives competition to giants like Microsoft.  It has a CRM product which gives Salesforce.com a run for money.  

Vembu, a graduate from IIT Chennai and holds a Ph.D from Princeton University in Electrical engineering is a humble, down to earth and low profile person , usually dresses in traditional Indian attire - Dhoti and Kurta has set up the most profitable product organization in India. 

Zoho has sales offices in the Silicon Valley as well as in other parts of the world, but 90% of his workforce in in the Chennai office in India. That makes it very very profitable . And ... ZOHO is Bootstrapped - never accepted a single dollar from Venture Capitalists !

But having development centre in India is not a new concept . 

What is unique about ZOHO are its hiring and people practices. 

Apart from the founders, none of the developers are from premier institutes like IIT. ZOHO believes that coding is an art and not science. It is also emotion and not just logic. 

Their unique idea is to hire drop outs - 12th graders or the students who have not been able to complete their graduation due to economic or family constraints.  The society feels that these drop-outs are failures so much so that the individuals too start feeling the same when they get rejected in admissions and marks are deducted due to their drop out year or status.

For example, a 10th grade pass out joined ZOHO as a Security Guard . But he showed lots of interest in computers and took the initiative to learn a few things by himself. He was noticed and  put through the year long training and now he works as a developer in ZOHO !

Zoho takes rounds of the Government run schools , scouting for 12th graders . These trainees start earning from day one so that they can support themselves as well as their families with some contribution.

The "failures" - the rejected people from big organizations like TCS, Infosys , who are labelled as unemployable graduates are put through a three month paid incubation programme.

According to Vembu, there is no co-relation between academic credentials and job performance. Unlike other IT organizations, employees of ZOHO do not require to produce their Academic certificates or past credentials.  After the three month incubation , ZOHO's hit rate is 60% !

ZOHO has a small HR team - less than 10 people.  The HR team mainly looks after the employees welfare .

Understandably so,  ZOHO enjoys a very low attrition rate. The employees have loads of trust on the company and its management.

Trust is the glue which keeps them together. Loyalty is the oxygen on which ZOHO survives.

 ZOHO is expanding.

Not in big cities of Metro's. But in small towns. Where ZOHO will generate employment as well as grow its business.

ZOHO factory converts Failures into Success !

May we have many more Vembu's and many more ZOHO's 


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Teeny Weeny : Forever Yours ...

She looked at the setting sun from her bedroom window.

She looked at her wrinkled hands.

She looked around her .

So many memories ...

She got up from her bed and picked up her painting brush and wrote " I miss you"  on the wall....

 The promoters will pull down the house tomorrow .....

Her pet dog Snoozie snuggled beside her ...

"Snoozie... sorry ... I made you homeless .... "

She blew out the flickering candle and went to sleep.


Teeny-Weenies will spice up the monotony of the leadership posts . Hope you like them.   
 Looking forward to your comments.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

They look at you first .....

In one of my assignments , when I was working as a  Program Manager in a reputed organization,  I had to travel to a foreign country for a few client meetings.  I had never traveled to this country earlier and neither did I have any cultural training on that part of the world. There was a crisis and I just had to rush to meet the customer - a huge pharmaceutical company,  to placate him and give him the  reassurance so that we continued to get work.

Here in India, our official dress for a woman is either a sari or trousers or Salwar Kameej.  It was my post pregnancy days and I had bloated up and put on a lot of weight. The trousers did not fit me and I did not have time to buy some western official dresses. 

So, I packed my bags with lots of Sarees and Salwar Kameej and set off.  Unfortunately,  the weather there was very cold and Sari was totally unsuitable for the climate. I had to do with Salwar Kameejes. 

It really does not matter, I thought ... I have worked with them for almost a year now and I have regular phone calls with them, so they will see my mettle and not how I look .... 

In this post, I confess that it was utterly stupid of me to think like that. 

Like it or not, in this imperfect world, they look at you first ..... 

My customer meetings were almost  disastrous. I was not taken seriously.  That made me think hard about what had gone wrong .  I went to my mentor for guidance and much to my annoyance I found out that your dress and how you look matters. 

A lot. 

"Ananya"  he said " In a perfect world,  the only thing that matters is your performance.. but do we live in a perfect world ? No.... Here, we have to make sure that apart from our skills we also look the like person in that position ....

On the face of it, how you look or how you behave really does not have any impact on the job that you do and how productive and efficient you are.

But people do make assumptions about us by how we talk, how we look and how we behave. I may be sloppily dressed but the perfect fit for the role. In fact, I have recruited many people whose qualifications and experience matched with the job description though they did not look the role and they have proved to be excellent.

 But even now, I still agree with my therein mentor that the world is not perfect.  We are judged by our height weight, age, gender, dress, mannerisms . And again, whether we like it or not, perception matters a lot in the organization.  Unfortunate, but true !

People are selected and promoted who  look more like a person who is in the current senior role which you might be vying for.  So, my advise is, if you want to be selected or want to be promoted for a certain role, try to look like the person in that position.  If you think a bit deeply , you will understand that the people who are hiring or promoting are human beings . And as human beings we tend to be biased towards familiarity.  They want to take less risk. 

I am not saying that you forget about your skills and other requisite aspects about your employability or promotion prospects. I am just emphasizing on the fact that looking like the role might make things easier for you. 

It does not harm to conform . Especially so if  it makes you look more attractive as a candidate fit for that role . 

And on top of it, dressing appropriately also make us a wee bit more confident and there is  feel-good factor in our countenance which accelerates positive thoughts in our persona.

What do you think ? 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Teeny Weeny : The Tree

"I came here everyday to play ... I kept my bicycle here and played cricket ..." He told his wife , pointing towards the huge apartment.

He  had come to Varanasi, where he had spent his adolescent years,  for official work .

"There was a small house here and the adjoining playground used to teem with people in the evenings.... "

He could not tell about her... his first love ...  How he longed to see her standing on the roof of the house... her sweet smile,  her long hair , which she combed while looking at him....

She was looking so beautiful the day she got married.  He had gone to meet her with the other boys. As he gave her the gift, she touched his hands for the first time ... her eyes were full of tears... He will never forget her gaze ...

As he started to leave,  he saw the tree which she used to water everyday. It was in full bloom now with white champa flowers . The fragrance was permeating everywhere .

He touched the tree.

She whispered  "I am still here ...... Feel me, inhale my fragrance .... "

Teeny-Weenies will spice up the monotony of the leadership posts . Hope you like them.   
 Looking forward to your comments.