Monday, 29 July 2013

2 stories which my Granny told me

My Granny was a feisty lady and she told me many tales. These are two of them , which I find relevant in all situations in life . 

Thinking out of the Box 

Long time ago,  a merchant had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a wicked  moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant's beautiful daughter so he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the merchant's debt if he could marry the daughter.

The moneylender told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag. The girl would then have to pick one pebble from the bag. If she picked the black pebble, she would become the moneylender's wife and her father's debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father's debt would still be forgiven. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the merchant's garden. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick her pebble from the bag.

The Girl thought quickly. She has the following options :

1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.
2.The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat.
3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment.

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.

"Oh, how clumsy of me," she said. "But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked." Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the moneylender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an advantageous one.

Do not be intimidated by the size of the problem. Just keep your mind alive and open and think ....


The Three races

There was a young athletic boy,hungry for success, for whom winning was everything and success was measured by wins.

One day, the boy was preparing himself for a running competition in his small native village, himself and two other young boys to compete. A large crowd had congregated to witness the sporting spectacle and a wise old man, upon hearing of the little boy, had travelled far to bear witness .

The race commenced, looking like a level heat at the finishing line, but sure enough the boy dug deep and called on his determination, strength and power .. he took the winning line and was first. The crowd was ecstatic and cheered and waved at the boy. The wise man remained still and calm, expressing no sentiment. The little boy, however. felt proud and important.

A second race was called, and two new young, fit, challengers came forward, to run with the little boy. The race was started and sure enough the little boy came through and finished first once again. The crowd was ecstatic again and cheered and waved at the boy. The wise man remained still and calm, again expressing no sentiment. The little boy, however, felt proud and important.

"Another race, another race!" pleaded the little boy. The wise old man stepped forward and presented the little boy with two new challengers, an elderly frail lady and a blind man. "What is this?", quizzed the little boy. "This is no race" he exclaimed.

"Race!", said the wise man. The race was started and the boy was the only finisher, the other two challengers left standing at the starting line. The little boy was ecstatic, he raised his arms in delight. The crowd, however, was silent showing no sentiment toward the little boy.

"What has happened? Why not do the people join in my success?" he asked the wise old man. "Race again", replied the wise man, "...this time, finish together, all three of you, finish together" continued the wise man.  The little boy thought a little, stood in the middle of the blind man and the frail old lady, and then took the two challengers by the hand. The race began and the little boy walked slowly, ever so slowly, to the finishing line and crossed it. The crowd were ecstatic and cheered and waved at the boy. The wise man smiled, gently nodding his head. The little boy felt proud and important.

"Old man, I understand not! Who are the crowd cheering for? Which one of us three?", asked the little boy. The wise old man looked into the little boy's eyes, placing his hands on the boy's shoulders, and replied softly .. "Little boy, for this race you have won much more than in any race you have ever ran before, You have helped others win and with them , you too have won !"

Leaders help others to win and set them up for success !

Liked the stories ? Do leave a comment on what you think !

Monday, 22 July 2013

4 Situations Where You should use the Power of Silence

Many great men have spoken about the Power of silence

These a few of my favorite ones ......

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause"  

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” 

“You should try not to talk so much, friend. You'll sound far less stupid that way"

“Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken” 

“We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out..”

"He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak"

“There is nothing harder, at moments, than talking to someone who has all the power of silence.” 

The following are some of my own experiments with Silence and you bet they have worked for me :

  • During Presentations : I plan for the appropriate place during my presentations , where I deliberately pause with somewhat long silence.  This is usually done when I have told the audience a story. I give a long pause, looking directly at them. I can sense their involvement by the pin drop silence  and then when I say something , it has a really big impact  ! 

  • During Negotiations :  Silence works during negotiations. There will be moments when both the parties become quiet and it seems as if the discussions have come to a stand still . These moments are really awkward. But a good negotiator is strong enough to endure the awkwardness of the silent minutes and remain silent and stoic  so that the other party re opens the conversation.  This sure is tough - at least to me - and it comes with practice.

  •  When you are Angry :  Whether it is a face to face conversation or a telephonic one or over email, if you are really angry or upset, do not respond. Remain silent for sometime. The rule of thumb for email is that do not respond or 24 hours. There have been several instances where I have seen things in a different light after I have regained my composure and I could respond in a more sensible manner. "I have often regretted my speech but never my silence". 

  • When you have to make a point :  Several times while giving feedback for improvement, I have experienced strong vocal arguments - explaining and defending themselves. It is a natural human tendency to react to negative feedback. If the manager has enough emotional intelligence, she will not react. Instead she will remain silent till the other person calms down and even beyond that. "Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute"

Have you tried the Power of Silence ? 

Do let me know about your experiences with the unspoken words.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Will They Weep when you Leave ?

It was a very unusual sight.

In the cafeteria of a big corporate house, a group of people had joined tables and were sitting in a circle. All of them had a somber look on their faces. People had tears in their eyes and a nostalgic smile on their face. The person at the head of the table was looking at their faces and smiled brightly albeit with a few tears glistening in her eyes.  It was a informal farewell party of the Manager of the team. 

All of us know that people leave their bosses and not the organization. But the reverse is also true. People stay in organizations for their bosses. But these type of bosses are a rare phenomenon.  

So what do these leaders do that the team weeps when they leave ?  

  • They Teach :  One of my school friends, recently created a Facebook page of my Alma Mater and many of us uploaded photographs of our schooldays and our school teachers.  I was surprised to see that almost all of us remembered our favorite teachers who taught us not only text books , but something more... They taught us values which we be have carried with us ... The same goes for Managers/Leaders.  Ask yourself, are you only concerned with project delivery or with every interaction with you, your team is learning something more ?

  • They care  : In the corporate world,  sometimes we think that if you are caring and concerned about your team, they will take advantage.  The project manager/leader might be branded as a "soft" manager.  I somehow totally disagree with this. I think the managers who show emotional intelligence and care for their team , win them over for life.  A smile, a pat of appreciation soars the motivation of the team to the highest level.  Do you smile often ? Read my post [Should Leaders Smile]  Do you remember their birthdays ? Do you speak encouragingly when you feel they are trying hard to meet the deadline but are facing some problems ?

  • They share  : Being the Manager does not mean that you should not share your problems with the team. It is sure lonely at the top and if a leader shares some of the problems with her team, she will be surprised . I have experienced many situations when I told about the problem in the project, the team came up with innovative ideas. All the more, they will  stretch themselves hard. Sharing leads to de-stressing of the leader as well as build a rock solid team, with a shared goal. When the team sees that the leader is also as vulnerable as they are, they will extend their hand and become partners of success. Do you put down your guards and share both the good and the bad with your team ? 

         Share, Care and Teach . 

        And when you leave the organization and your team , see them weep !

       Can you give some more behavior traits of such leaders ?

Monday, 8 July 2013

Buffalo and Geese Leadership

Buffalo hunters had a trick to capture the herd.

They found out the leader of the herd and killed him. Once the leader was dead, the rest stood around waiting for instructions which never came and hunters could capture them easily. 

How do the Geese view the leader ?The Geese always fly together in a V formation. When the Leader is tired, another goose takes his position to lead. Each Goose is expected to take responsibility at some point in the flight.

While a leader is away, how does the team react ? Do they stand around waiting for instructions  like the herd of buffaloes or do they distribute the responsibility amongst themselves like the Geese ? More importantly, how does the leader react ? Is he too constantly on the phone, giving flurry of instructions and expecting things be done as per his wish even if he is not there physically ? These are the typical signs of distinguishing  organizations whether they have  Buffalo or Geese leadership. 

Organizations having Buffalo Leadership will not survive in today's global market.

The ultimate test of leadership is to check how well her team performs in the absence of the leader.  And this happens only when people are Empowered and adept at Self leadership.  Though these two words Empowerment and Self Leadership have been the buzzwords for some time, there are some barriers to implement them.  Knowledge is power. The managers control access to information as well as relationships to maintain power over their teams. The middle level managers should also be empowered and convinced that the better their teams perform it will add to their accomplishment too. Most Managers and Leaders feel that all the activities/work should be done only as per their way. 

"I am the boss " is the attitude and any disagreements or good suggestions are silenced immediately as it hurts their ego. 

Suppose, as a leader you feel that you have empowered your team . So how do you check whether  it has actually happened or not ? The following are some of the tests :

  • Does your team take initiative ? If the people are empowered, they will feel free to take initiatives and after proper discussions will see that action has been taken.
  • Do they think critically and find opportunities for improvement ?  Is your team fearless and identify weak areas which needs improvement ? If they are really empowered with a collective vision, they will look beyond immediate quick fixes and prevent future problems.
  • Does your team know what is expected of them and feels that they have the freedom to do their job well ?
  • Does your team feel that their manager/leader takes time to listen to their concerns and genuinely tries to take action  ? 
If  the answer to the above questions are "Yes " , then  you can be sure that the job will be done even if you are not around for sometime.  You can be proud of your empowered team !

So what do you think you have in your organization ? Buffalo Leaders  or Geese Leaders ?

Monday, 1 July 2013

My Three Interview Questions

One of my favourite question which I ask  the people during job interview is "What are your hobbies ? ".  I usually ask this question bang in between other technical and work related questions . Usually there is a pause of surprise and confusion not only on the interviewee's face but also on my co-interviewer's faces. 

There are different reactions to this question.  Some people fumble and do not know what to answer. This was not in their FAQ list.  Some give a blank look and rattle several things   - music, dance,  soccer... There is a third type who after the initial pause of surprise, suddenly seem excited. 

There is a spark in their eyes . Then they talk about their hobby .   

My next question is related to the previous one. If someone says their hobby is reading, I ask him about the last book which he read and why he liked it.   Or if their hobby is music, I ask a related question. My next question is "If you had the freedom to choose any role in the organization, what would you choose and why ?"

After these three questions, I carry on the rest of the interview. To be frank, even before the final lap of the interview, I know whether I will select the person or not.  I have been asked several times why I place so much importance to these two questions.  Well , I look for one thing .  Passion.

  • Passion keeps you going :  It is very important for everybody to be passionate about at least something in his/her life. When a person's eyes lights up while talking about the recent photography he has done, I know that the fire is inside him. If this fire can be lit up in his work , he will be a great fit in the organization.

  • Passion comes from within :  When I ask the third question about the role which he will choose and why, I get a clear picture about his work passion. Whether it is leading or technical problem solver, collaborating, or directing,the way the answer is articulated again guides me about what they really want to be .. what is it that will goad them to excel at work.  I usually spend a lot of time talking about this aspect.

  • Passion helps in innovation :  If you are passionate about  something, you will  find innovative ways to go around the problem.  Until the problem is solved, the passion inside you will goad you towards success. I have seen insurmountable tasks being done by passionate people. He kept on going when everybody else had given up. 

  • Work is sheer joy :  Though it is an ideal state, but when someone is lucky enough to work on something which he is passionate about, work is just not work. Long hours are not stressful. The satisfaction of  completing a well designed web page or composing a jingle or fixing a complex bug gives immense joy.  If you love what you do, you will never work a single day of your life.  

Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet , Marc Zuckerberg have all talked about finding passion in what you do. They have said "Never underestimate the power of passion "

And for organizations - "One person with passion is better that forty people merely interested "

What do you think ?  Is my style of interviewing controversial ? Need your thoughts !

Monday, 24 June 2013

The 3 C's

The 3 C’s of a Leader

  • Character :  People always look up to the person who has a strong and genuine character. If a leader does not have integrity or cannot instill trust and confidence  in the people,  s/he will never be able to rally them towards a common purpose. It is the personality and character which brings lasting success with people.

  • Charisma :  Charisma is an integral part of  great leadership. According to me, charisma is not external but very very internal.  How does one get charisma?  By putting others first. Charismatic leaders think about others and their concerns before his/her concerns.  Leaders exude charisma when they are more concerned about making his followers  feel good about themselves than making them feel good about the leader himself.

  • Communication : Developing superlative communication skill is absolutely essential for a leader. If the message cannot be communicated effectively and is not motivating for the team , then delivering the message does not even matter. Effective communication by a leader drives the team towards the goal , creates a sense of urgency and enthusiasm. Another important aspect is the “how” the communication is done. Depending on the “how”, the “what “ of the message gets a completely new meaning. Emotionally intelligent leaders effectively use “how” they talk to make the team feel that s/he cares for them.  The communication should be effective and motivating to seek action from the audience. 
Can you think of any more C's which a leader should possess ? Please add on ....

Monday, 10 June 2013

Leader, How do you make things happen ?

My first job was in a software firm, as a trainee programmer.  It was barely two months of my joining and I was stuck with a tricky logic for a code.  I had worked hard towards my deadline , burning midnight candle for several days in continuation, but somehow I was just not able to crack this small piece of logic for the code.   One night, after all the people had left,  I sat in from of the computer , a gloom of despondency on my face.   Suddenly, there was a pat on my shoulder and I looked up . The head of my unit was standing there with two cups of coffee in his hands. He offered me a cup and took me to his desk. 

"Tell me . What is the problem ?  Why are you looking as if it is the end of the world ? " His smile was so warm and reassuring.  Something stirred inside me and tears started flowing down my cheek.  He was silent and let me cry.  I told him my problem . I was surprised when he sat with me and looked at the logic. He gave some tips. Though , he as not accurate , but the  very fact that he sat with me, made me so comfortable and secure that I could solve my problem in the next one hour !

I have learnt so much from him and so many other great leaders with  whom I had the privilege to work.  When I look back,  I find that that these are the things which leaders possess to make things happen :

  • They know what they want : The clarity about their goal is fixed in front of their eyes . They are focussed on their goals and nothing can deter them from it. If sometimes they waver, they realign and quickly come back on track . When he sat with me to solve my problem, he knew that he wanted me to solve the problem - which I did !
  • They take risks :  Leaders make thing happen by taking conscious risks.  Big thing happen only when you have the capacity to take risks.  
  • They push themselves : The team always looks up to the leader.  When they see that their leader is pushing himself  to act,  they get inspired and things just happen ! The credibility of the leader increases and he earns trust.  
  • They make more mistakes : The more you take risks and the more you push yourself, mistakes are bound to happen. The more the leader makes mistake, the more he learns . Leaders are not afraid to admit their mistakes. It shows their honesty and the humane angle of their personality.  Leaders have " make mistakes, but can do and get done " attitude.  The grit and perseverance of the leader makes things happen. 
"Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand." - Colin Powell

Monday, 3 June 2013

Humor is Serious - 6 tips for Leaders

"If I were two faced, would I be wearing this one ? "

 This is a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln .  A simple one liner quote, but indeed a very powerful one . It shows his ability to laugh at himself . 

A recent study found that when employees are asked to describe the strengths and weaknesses of senior colleagues in their organizations, “sense of humor” and “work ethic” are mentioned twice as much as any other phrases. Research on Leadership show that people appreciate leaders who have fun and work hard to get the job done. Those who can combine a strong work ethic and sense of humor may have the leading edge in their organizations. 

If you lose a major project, or sometimes if you cannot meet a critical deadline however hard you might try due to some external reasons, guiding your team through the process without panicking is as challenging as it is important. It is better to motivate your team by laughing than by crying.  Such situations show the tenacity of the leader and the team gets the much needed relaxation to put their best foot forward and overcome the situation. A good sense of humor keeps the team motivated and charged.

True leaders should always be capable of laughing at themselves. This shows the confidence and the childlike nature of the leader and the team feels at ease and relaxed which boosts the productivity and it softens the blow of bad news.

But again, humor is a tricky thing . The following are some tips which will help the leader use humor appropriately :

  • A Leader is NOT a comedian.  Humor should be used for leadership and motivating and making the team relaxed and more productive
  • Humor should not be pointed at any one particular person, rather it should be collective.
  • Humor should never be discriminating. Never use humor to cloak racist, sexist or regional sentiments and tag them as "just joking" .
  • Laugh at yourself and the situation . Laugh WITH the team and not ON the team .
  • It is better to avoid practical jokes since we do not know how the other person will take it. It might happen that instead of being motivated or relaxed s/he feels awkward and singled out.
  • Last, but not at all the least... do NOT fake it ... ! It shows! And it will have a negative effect on the team's perception about you.

So go ahead and have a good laugh with your team  !

Thursday, 23 May 2013

"I don't agree " !

Three words . 

But very very powerful ... "I don't agree" !

How you react to the above sentence tells a lot about your leadership style

Let me give you an example.  In one of my teams, whenever I was about to sign off on a meeting after making some decision, this person in my team raised his hand and said "I don't agree with you ... have you thought about this aspect ? " , and then he usually went on to give a very different perspective.  Let me confess, sometimes it was really very frustrating.  At the face of it,  it seemed that he was forever contradicting me , but when I got used to his style, I realized how valuable this person was , and how lucky I was to have him in my team.  

When you are in a position of authority, it is very easy for people in your team to agree with whatever you decide. There are very few people who think without any bias and speak out fearlessly. As leaders, we should cultivate this atmosphere of openness where everybody thinks independently and creatively. In my own experience, I have found that these contradictory thoughts have made my mind and thoughts proliferate and my perspective became broader.  Not only in technical decisions but this helps in any decision making. 

But sadly,  I have seen many situations where the dissenting voice gets stifled when it is not well received.  It is sad since many good ideas or mediocre decisions cannot really reach the level of excellence because of lack of open discussions and contradictory opinions. 

It really depends upon the leadership style how we can utilize a person saying "I don't  agree "  by listening to him.  And if his point of view  is valid, give a real and honest thought to it and if it makes sense, amend your decision without letting your ego coming in between !  Again , if  after giving him your ears, you think that his opinion is not valid for the situation,  thank him for voicing his thoughts but go ahead what your original decision was.

This shows the leader's humility and integrity . And it earns respect !

So , the next time when you hear "I don't agree", welcome the three words and thank your lucky stars that you have a voice in your team who will help you grow even further !

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Dilemma of the Skip Level Meeting

This is the third one of the Dilemma Series. To read the previous two click on the links : ( Unwilling Emailer ,  Who is fit to be a CEO)

Andy was the CEO of  a multinational company named Brag-on Solutions which made software products for the Hospitality Domain.  Brag-on made an entry into the Indian market in 2007 and opened their first Software Development Centre in Calcutta.  In 2008, Anita was hired as the Director of the Indian operations and they grew in numbers from 20 to 250 people in the last four years.  Anita reported to Andy who was overall in-charge of the Calcutta facility.

Anita was a very efficient, goal oriented and focused Manager who had single handedly  developed and nurtured the India facility. Due the India office, Brag-on was able to sustain its profitability and keeping the overall operating expense down even in the period of economic slowdown. The US office was very pleased with the performance of its Indian arm and while they had restricted any new hiring in the other facilities in the rest of the offices around the world, Anita was given complete freedom in increasing the headcount. 

Everything was fine, but Andy was worried over the turnover rate of the employees  in  India. The attrition rate had increased from 18% to 29% the last one year. In his last visit, Andy has sensed some sort of restlessness in the employees and the employee survey indicated that the people were not happy with the leadership style of the management - aka - Anita. 

So, this year, Andy had asked the HR manager to fix up a skip level meeting with the senior employees of  the Calcutta office. he had asked Siddhu, the HR Manager   to put together a diverse group of people some senior , a few new entrants, employees who have been with the organization for 5+ years and some new joiners , people from different functions.  But , Andy knew that people in India just did not open up.  It was difficult to get feedback from them.....

The skip level meeting started . 

Andy : Folks , it is good to see all of you. I want to assure you that whatever feedback or comments you give will be confidential. And as you know that we promote an open culture. Any feedback you give will help the company improve. So , please go ahead. 

Silence ... 

Shammi ( a junior developer ) : We are happy with our work. We are getting enough opportunities to grow. I love this place. There is a bit of stretch, but it is OK.

Silence again ....

Andy : Guys , I need more conversation...

Lavanya : ( a senior person who has been with the organization from the last 5 years ) : Andy,  We are happy with the work, I agree  we get enough opportunities. We are learning and growing , but... 

Andy  : Go on ... 

Lavanya : Well , I think there is a problem of empowerment. All the decisions are finally taken by Anita.  Also , I feel that she is too technical and instead of leaving the tactical and operational decisions with the managers, she is involved in everything - which makes us feel puny. Another problem that we face is that we do not feel appreciated. Whenever there is a small lapse , it is written in the appraisal form but the good work we do is not mentioned...

Andy : Go on please...

Lavanya : And you talked about open culture. I don't know how true is that here... I am sure I will be punished for speaking out here ... but I feel it is my duty here. 

Andy had given feedback to Anita about her style and had asked her to "nurture" her employees. 

As suspected by Lavanya, the feedback from the skip level leaked and she was given a low rating in the appraisal and did not get any increment. 

Lavanya knew this was coming, so she had started looking out for a job and resigned. But she wrote an email to Andy after she put in her papers telling him "See... this is what I had known would happen". 

Andy knew that  Anita was good at her job and was getting the results... the only drawback was the attrition and the employee morale.

What should Andy do to improve the situation in the India office ?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Little Girl in the Mall

About a month back,  I visited the nearby mall and wandered into a big retail chain named Pantaloons. 

After the usual browsing , I bought a simple top and stood in the queue for making the payment.  Just in front of me in the queue stood a lady with her daughter. The little girl was about 12 years old , had nicely trimmed hair ,wore a simple pink dress , and was very cute.  But what happened subsequently took me beyond her looks and I was simply at awe of her .....

She stood there with her mother, observing the people, tapping her foot impatiently. Suddenly she asked   
"Ma, I saw a poster displayed near the entrance about saving trees and asking people not to use plastic,  but I see that everybody is carrying their articles in big green plastic bags !

"Well, you see, to discourage people using plastic, the shop is charging Rs 7 for each plastic bag" Her mother explained. 

I saw a look of puzzlement in the little girl's eyes .

"But Ma, charging money is not fair.... people do not come to malls with bags to carry their things   ! And again,  if they are charging money, they should give Paper Bags ...

Her mother did not have an answer. I was curious to know what the girl will ask next ...

Well, she did not answer. As her mother went ahead in the queue, the little girl asked for a paper and a pen from her mother and started writing an application. She wrote that she did not approve of the plastic bags being given as this raises environmental pollution and that Pantaloons should stop this immediately and replace them with paper bags. Then she went around the shop with her application and talked to several people and got their signatures in the application. I too signed on it.  Both her mother and I  made our payments and I saw the mother sitting on a chair patiently as she saw her daughter mobilize the crowd.It seemed that  her  mother must have been used to these incidents ! 

Out of curiosity , I too joined the little girl in her small little campaign. After getting quite a lot of signatures , she looked at me and said, "Will you come with me to the manager's cabin ?"  I nodded my head, full of admiration for the little girl. Once we went inside the manager's cabin, she waited patiently till she got is attention after he finished chatting with  someone on his cell. 

"Yes ! Tell me" He said disinterestedly. The little girl gave the application to him and explained ! I listened. 

"Is this a joke ? " He said looking at me. " Don't you know all the shops are doing the same thing !"

It was my turn now. I told him pointing at the little girl

" If a small girl can understand this , you know that this is not a joke ! We do not care who is doing what ! We feel that you are increasing environmental pollution by encouraging plastic and at the same time making  money at the cost of  the environment and govt. policies.  Please take care of this and accept this application.  I have friends in the press and I will write an open letter to Biyani - the owner of the Pantaloons chain - about this.  It is our duty as a citizen to protest if we see something is wrong and we have every right to protest. "

The manager looked at me and the little girl.  He accepted the letter . 

We came out of his room triumphantly. The little girl ran to her mother and excitedly relayed the happening inside the manager's room.  I smiled and walked towards them and congratulated the mother about having such a daughter. She was a proud mom. 

The little girl was a leader ! She will be an asset wherever she goes... 

Today, I went to Pantaloons again.

 I saw paper bags being given instead of plastic ones !

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Kick the Clock and adopt Flexi-timing !

This one is really close to my heart. Several discussions , debates in forums, organizational groups spend hours on this topic , but there are very few organizations where the Leadership actually follows it in its spirit.  The paradox of Flexi-timing. 

Most of the organizations have a set number of hours which the employees have to clock. For example, 45 hours in a week or 170 hours in a month and so on.  To explain it further, suppose I come to office at 9 am in the morning and leave at 5 pm from Monday to Thursday, I will have to stay for 12 hours on Friday, even if I do not have any work  !  According to me it is most counterproductive. Why should we tie the goals of an employee within a set time ? If we think deeply, organizations lose out with this.  But the argument is that, your employees might cheat you and take advantage .These are my rebuttal points  : 

  • Set Goals : The employees should be given goals which are achievable but stretches them. Leave it to them whether they finish it in 40 hours or 50 hours or 60 hours. Give them the end date when they should deliver. In my experience, I have seen them work harder and longer that the regular hours which they have to clock .

  • Ownership, ownership, ownership : Once you give a task to your team member, give him complete ownership. Do not try to micro-manage. Make it seem that the project depends upon the work she is doing. You will be surprised how she works to make the project successful.

  • Motivation works :  Sometimes when I see a team member slogging away till wee hours for several days, I usually sit with him to understand his problem. It might happen that he is stuck and needs help. Sometimes, the deadline might be killing. In these circumstances, a pat on the back or a kind word of appreciation during team meetings boosts his morale. There have been lots of instances when I have asked the person to take a day off to relax, but s/he will give me numerous reasons to continue working ... !

  • Kick the Clock : Once the organization shows flexibility , the culture of the organization becomes open and trustworthy. Counting hours make people waste time more and productivity decreases.  To have proper checks and balances, the middle tier  - the project managers and leads should be empowered to take informed decision and they should be trained in empathy and goal setting to see that the teams are working cohesively. Kick the clock and reap the benefits . 

Are you flexible and brave enough to implement flexi-timing in your organization ? 

Believe me , it works !

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Who is Greater ?

Long time ago,  in the faraway  land of  the Golden Silicon Valley,  there were two large Kingdoms ruled by two mighty kings named Vikram and Amartya.  Both of them ruled with righteousness and equity.  They  gave judgments without partiality, hatred, ignorance, or fear. The people of both the kingdoms led a happy, safe and content life. 

One day King Vikram went to the big jungle to hunt tigers. Coincidentally, King Amartya also asked his charioteer to take him to the same forest to look for a particular kind of flower which his queen wanted for decorating her hair. Suddenly, the two kings came face to face in a low cart-track with precipitous sides where there as no space for a chariot to get out of the way ! 

The charioteer of Vikram ,the king said to the charioteer of  King Amartya  

 "Take thy chariot out of the way!"

But he said, "Take thy chariot out of the way, O charioteer! In this chariot sitteth  the great king Amartya " !

Both the charioteers were in a fix. Then they decided to check who was greater of the two in terms of age, wealth, creed, kingdom etc. 

It was found that  both were lords of a kingdom three hundred leagues in extent; and that in respect of army and wealth and the countries in which they lived,  their caste and their tribe and their family, they were absolutely equal and at par !

Then the charioteer thought, "I will make way for the most righteous".  And he asked, "Tell me about your King's virtues "

Then the charioteer of the King Vikram,said :

"The strong he overthrows by strength,
The mild by mildness, does Vikram;
The good he conquers by goodness,
And the wicked by wickedness too.
Such is the nature of this king!
Move out of the way, O charioteer

Then the charioteer of the King Vikram said :“Now tell me , what are the virtues your king has?"

The charioteer of the King Amartya said

"Anger he conquers by calmness,
And by goodness the wicked;
The stingy he conquers by gifts,
And by truth the speaker of lies.
Such is the nature of this king!
'Move out of the way, O charioteer!"

And when he had thus spoken, both Vikram the king and his charioteer alighted from their chariot. And they took out the horses, and removed their chariot, and made way for the King Amartya.

Managers, How do you conquer your team ? Like Vikram or like Amartya ?

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 !