Sunday, 13 August 2017

Why Stories are so important

I once had the honour of visiting a Military Cantontment area of the Indian Army and I was amazed at the discipline, orderliness, courage and commitment of our soldiers. After lunch, I was strolling in the well kept garden and I saw a sepoy guarding the gate. 

His Khakhi dress was clean and well pressed, clean shaven , his eyes were bright with pride. 

I smiled at him and he smiled back .  And I started chit chatting with him. He was from a remote village in Bihar, where his old parents, younger brother and sister stayed.  His face lit up when I asked him about his village

"Ma'm, I have applied for a month's leave and I will visit them . I have bought a pretty salwar kameez for my sister, a shirt for my brother , a sari for my mother and a nice pair of shoes for my father !" He beamed. 

"But I have heard that sometimes the leaves get cancelled ... " 

"Han, Ma'm ... but that is OK ... the leaves gets cancelled only if the country is in danger - internally or externally ... and anyways , duty always comes first"

"You will not feel bad if you cannot visit your hometown ? " I probed.

"If my leave gets cancelled, it is a small thing.  I will get it later. I can and will give my life for my motherland if needed ..."

I was amazed . 

A person , at the lowest rung of the organization, and such was his pride about his job ! And he was not fibbing ! Almost everyday I read about insurgencies in and people laying down their lives for the country.  

What makes them so loyal and passionate ? 

Money ? No ! They get peanuts compared to us who sit in AC rooms in big MNCs. 

Perks ? No !

Swanky offices and status ? No !

Then what ?? What gives them the pride , selfless commitment and sense of responsibility. 

Well, my dear readers, it is stories . 

Yes ! Stories about the Indian Army, stories about independence struggle and great leaders, stories about their own regiment and the heroes of their own regiment , about the sacrifice of the martyrs . 

These stories gets ingrained in the minds of the soldiers. Right from the start when they are inducted into the force,  they are told about these stories. The stories are recounted and repeated several times.  They are motivated by their seniors who are passionate about these stories . So by and by they are indoctrinated into patriotism, loyalty and sense of oneness with the army, their regiment and the country. 

Coming to think of it, the family bonding also gets that inseparable adhesive from the stories. Whenever I meed my extended family, my siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts we laugh and roll at the same jokes, same incidents and same stories. These are the memories which have now become stories. It gives a character to each family, the glue which holds us together, in thick and thin. We are joined by the spirit of oneness with these stories. 

We can do the same thing in organizations. 

Each organization is unique.  The character and personality of the organization is the organization's Vision and Mission statement.  The employees should be bound by stories. I remember in one organization where I worked previously,  in all the presentations, the first slide was mandatorily  the Vision and the Mission slide saying "Who We Are ".  The presenter would pick up one element of the Who We Are and elaborate how the session was linked with the broader Vision of the organization.  The President of the Company, an adorable and great orator, whenever he visited any facility, he would tell the story of how we started as a small company with two employees . He would describe small details, personal ones about his joining the organization and seeing it grow.  The employees loved the stories.  It brought them closer. The bond became stronger. 

In another organization, in the 7 day induction program, the new joiners were told to talk to the senior employees about how they "live" the "Values" of the organization.  As the new employees talked to these people, they heard stories, personal experiences in the organization, how they dealt with problems, overcame them ... all in the spirit of the values and beliefs of the organization. 

In these two organizations, the attrition is minimal. The employees swear by the organization. They love and respect the company and take great pride in working .  Stories help to manage and lead changes

Do you have such stories in your organization ? I am sure you do. Start feeling good about these stories and start putting this powerful adhesive to use and see how well it works !

Cheers ! 

Jai Hind !

Monday, 31 July 2017

7 Myths about Leadership

Leadership is the ability of a person to motivate the team towards a common goal, common objectives.  Her role as a leader is crucial in maximizing and integrating the potential of available resources. For that, she needs multiple skills, which many of think cannot be developed. Usually  we nurture certain wrong theories about leadership. Knowing what these misconceptions are enables us to build effective leadership skills.
Here are 7 common myths about leadership.
1. Leaders are born and not made: The most common myth about leadership. Yes, some people have leadership qualities in their genes , but it is rare. Usually leaders are made b circumstances. The extraordinary and mostly difficult circumstances propel them to become effective leaders. You can also develop leadership skills by training and practice

2.   Leaders sit back and  give orders: Leaders do not always give orders, but mostly the position they are in requires them to do so.  They inspire others. They exude charisma. The people follow her because she is respected for her hard work, integrity, ideas, and commitment.

3.   Leaders know everything: Know that leaders do NOT know everything under the sun. They  have  a vision and a sense of direction

4.   Leaders do not make mistakes : Yes, they do. Leaders do make mistakes like all humans beings. But they consistently learn from their mistakes. And great leaders do not have any qualms about admitting their mistakes.

5. Leaders have strong persona: All Leaders do not have impressive personalities. Leaders have  the ability to influence people . They can inspire others . They lead by example. They lead from the front.

6.   Leaders never delegate important stuff:  Leaders do delegate the right work to the right person. They share work and responsibilities judiciously and get the job done. And this in no way undermines their credibility.


7. Leadership can be attained through study: Leadership is about attitude and not about knowledge. Even if you study thousands of books, you cannot become a leader if you do not have the right attitude.







Wednesday, 26 July 2017

It is Complicated !


Yesterday I was in a very bad mood. I snapped at my husband, growled at my daughter, scolded my maid and was generally irritated.  Late at night, I tried a few minutes of "mindfulness" meditation , trying to sort out myself.  

But that made me thinking about Moods, emotions and affects ... It is really complicated ... but let me try a bit of rambling in this post to explain . 

Affects - this is a generic term that covers a broad range of feelings that individuals express 

Moods - they are less intense as compared with emotions and they frequently lack contextual stimulus. For example , if someone asks me why my mood was "off" yesterday, I will not be able to pinpoint to any specific incident or person per say !

Emotions : these are intense feelings directed at someone or something. 

But hold on ! Sometimes an emotion can change into a mood and a mood can change into a longer term emotion !  Again attitude and values are somewhat permanent and more stable than moods or emotions.  I may have negative emotion towards a person, but my value will forbid me to behave inappropriately with her . 

Coming back to emotions, research says that there are six categories of emotions . Anger , Fear, Joy, Love , Sadness and Surprise.  In the Indian culture we have "Nav Ras" . Nav = 9 , Ras = emotion.  The three extra emotions are namely Valor, loathsomeness and Peace

In life , including workplace we go thru hassles, uplifts and down periods.

It is very important to understand the influence of emotions at workplace and how charismatic leaders make use of emotions for transformative leadership.  For some job roles, it is imperative that you "put on " a smiling face irrespective of what you are feeling. Have you ever seen a grumpy air hostess or a customer care executive  ? 

For such jobs as well as in situations where the employees have to behave in a particular way their organization demands , during interpersonal transactions at work whether or not you are experiencing any emotion, is called "Emotional labor". The term "labor" comes because of the dissonance

The fact is that you cannot keep up the "labor" or dissonance for too long. If you are unhappy at your workplace, some day or the other, the mask will fall off and you will quit. 

Let me give you an example. 

Suppose , you believe that job responsibility and authority is a very important factor at workplace. If your supervisors and peers say or do anything which hits this belief, you will have an attitude of "I do not like my job" .  And once this feeling settles in, after a particular period of time , the result will be that you will quit your job. 

Here is where leaders and senior management of the organization has to step in.  For Job satisfaction, the following are the five facets : 

  1. The work itself - responsibility, interest and growth
  2. Quality of supervision - technical help, empathy, support
  3. Relationships - Respect, Integrity
  4. Promotion opportunities 
  5. Pay 
There are often constraints for the last two points , but the the rest can be easily implemented.  But to do that , the leader must have emotional intelligence , to understand her own emotions as well as the other person's emotions and then deal differently according to the situation. 

But it is not so easy ! 

Emotions vary across cultures.  Walmart's emphasis on friendliness did not work in Germany ! The Germans did not like the greetings and their helpful personnel.  In fact, I too find it quite irritating when I am browsing thru perfumes or clothes etc. in a mall , and an attendant comes and asks "Can I help you ?"

The Britishers do not like overtly show of emotions unlike the Americans. The Indians do not like showing affection towards their children or spouses in public... It is changing though ... I am told that in a business meeting in Japan, if they show eagerness and inquisitiveness , that means they will not sign the deal !

The same applies to individuals as well. So, the leaders have to deal with each one individually. The leader also has to put across a common goal for everybody. 

I am reminded of Bapu, Father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, how he motivated and got to the core of every Indian's emotion when he picked up a fistful of salt from the coastal sea shore of Dandi and said "We will disobey , but with non violence ... follow me ! British Quit India ! ". 

The crowd behind him swelled from 10 people to more than 50,000 Indians in that Dandi March.   

Such is the power of Emotion ! 

By the way, something to ponder upon. There are evidences which says  women suppress more negative feelings and emphasize more positive feelings !  Good in way and bad in a way. Good because this makes the females better leaders having higher emotional intelligence. Bad because , they will be a day when the females will just blow the top and dissent . 

Both at workplace and at home. 

Oh ... just to let you know, my mood is much better now ... Cheers !



Monday, 17 July 2017

Aesop's Tales in Corporate Management


I love Aesop’s tales.

From my childhood , till date, I have learnt lessons from these cute tiny tales.

Here in this blog post, I present 4 Tales with Corporate scenario lessons.

Hope you like them .

The Dog and the bone

A dog was walking home with his dinner, a large slab of meat and bone , in his mouth. On his way home, he walked by a river. Looking in the river, he saw another dog with a handsome chunk of meat in his mouth.

"I want that meat, too," thought the dog, and he snapped at the dog to grab his meat which caused him to drop his dinner in the river.

Corporate Scenario lesson :

You are getting a good salary in your current organization. In addition to that your boss is good, the work is satisfying and you have got a good impression in your organization. One day you talk to an old friend of yours and come to know that he is getting about 20 – 25% higher pay packet than you are.

You become unhappy. You want what he is getting. You start looking out for a job change and get a 30% hike. You quit the current organization and join the new firm and after a few month, it gets bankrupt and all the new employees are laid off.  


Including you.

***

The Goose that laid a Golden egg

A man and his wife owned a very special goose. Every day the goose would lay a golden egg, which made the couple very rich.


"Just think," said the man's wife, "If we could have all the golden eggs that are inside the goose, we could be richer much faster."


"You're right," said her husband, "We wouldn't have to wait for the goose to lay her egg every day."

So, the couple killed the goose and cut her open, only to find that she was just like every other goose. She had no golden eggs inside of her at all, and they had no more golden eggs.

Corporate Scenario Lesson :  

This one is for the Top Management. 

An employee is loyal and has been working for several years in the organization. He has been constantly delivering results. But, taking his services and efficiency for granted, during the increment cycle,  the Top Management  doles out the same increment to him as an ordinarily performing executive.  They pay good salary to the people who negotiate and hold them at ransom and not to this silent performer.

One day , when he puts in his resignation letter, they realize his worth.

But by that time, the loyalty, sincerity and trustworthiness of the employee is dead.

***

The Fox and the Peacock

 A peacock was very unhappy with his ugly voice, and he spent most of his days complaining about it.

"It is true that you cannot sing," said the fox, "But look how beautiful you are!"

"Oh, but what good is all this beauty," moaned the dishearten bird, "with such an unpleasant voice!"

"Oh hear," said the fox, "Each one has it's special gift. You have such beauty, the nightingale has his song, the owl has his eyes, and the eagle his strength. Even if you had a eloquent voice, you would still complain about another thing."

Corporate scenario lesson :

As a team leader, you should be able to identify the USP of each member of your team. You should recognize them for their special abilities . This will motivate them to understand their worth and contribution to the organization.  One word of appreciation will make his self esteem soar sky high and in turn his performance and efficiency will increase.

***


The Fox and the Crow

A fox was walking through the forest when he saw a crow sitting on a tree branch with a fine piece of cheese in her beak. The fox wanted the cheese and decided he would be clever enough to outwit the bird.


"What a noble and gracious bird I see in the tree!" proclaimed the fox, "What exquisite beauty! What fair plumage! If her voice is as lovely as her beauty, she would no doubt be the jewel of all birds."


 The crow was so flattered by all this talk that she opened her beak and gave a cry to show the fox her voice.

 "Caw! Caw!" she cried, as the cheese dropped to the ground for the fox to grab.

Corporate scenario lesson :

This one is for the Top Management.

There will be many people who will flatter you. These are all “Yes Men”. Whatever you say,  they will nod their head and say the things which you would like to hear. Beware ! These are the ones who quickly change sides once the tides turns. 


With their flattery, you will imagine that you are a cuckoo , not being able to grasp the reality .  You need critics around you, who will tell you the truth and show you the risks, however unpleasant these might seem. These are your real friends and well wishers who love even your “Caw, caws“ !

***



Thursday, 6 July 2017

10 very effective tips for Time Management

Last month was very bad for me in terms of posting blogs . I was very busy(???) with the presentation of a research paper . I presented it successfully on 4th July. Three days have passed after that but still no blog post . 

I am a stickler for time . I want to utilize every second , but still I could not write a blog post ! I have written so many posts about time management , but I failed myself this time. Even while preparing for the presentation, I could have saved time. I lingered on it unnecessarily, changing a period  here and a hyphen there ! Remember Parkinson's law ? " Work expands itself so as to fill the time available for its completion ".  How true this is !

You know, it is easy to say certain things but we have to sustain doing it.  In this post today, I want to remind revise and refresh my time management skills. Hope this tips helps you too to do the same . 

  • Where are you headed ?  If we do not know the answer to this ? we will never be able to prioritize . If we are not able to prioritize, we will never be able to focus. If we cannot focus we will waste time and will be waylaid away from our goal . 
  • Do it Now !  The best way to do tough , challenging jobs or boring jobs is to do it NOW. Just jump into it without thinking or procrastinating.  When we know that we have to do it, then why delay
  • Sleep over it . This is just the opposite of the previous point. Sometimes, when we keep on trying to do something which is just not getting through or we are going dry on ideas, just leave it for the day. Sleep tight.  And the next day ... magic ! We strike upon the most amazing solution for the task and it gets completed successfully in a giffy. Yes.  This has happened many times with me. Actually, our subconscious mind keeps on working on the problem even when we sleep ! 
  • Work when you are the most effective . All individuals are unique. We all have our circadian cycles and specific time periods in the day when we are the most productive. We should identify this golden time period and utilize it for the work which is of the utmost priority.
  • Perfection... good or bad ? It depends.  For me what works is that the output should be good enough (not perfect) and a little bit extra.  Slogging away to do a task till you are 100% perfect (apart from few tasks like heart surgery or rocket manufature etc. )is usually not needed , neither very productive or noticeable.
  • Beware of Time thieves ! There are people who will try to steal away your time. For example , a phone call which is not related to your work, or some mindless whatsapp message or looking at social media.  Beware of these and try to protect your time like a new born baby. Yes , it is as precious !
  • Exercise and stay healthy and fit ! If you feel sluggish or tired , your productivity goes for a nosedive. So , keep moving, eat healthy, energize your mind and stay positive.  Believe me, it saves time !
  • Use your travel / wait time. I find this very effective.  I have a list of people with whom I need to talk.  While driving , I utilize my time to catch up on social talks, calling my parents or my daughter. Yes, I do try to see that I am not disturbing their schedule !  I can concentrate quite well on my writing while I am travelling on train. Also, I keep my kindle handy with me so that I can catch up on my reading whenever there is any traffic jam or I have to wait in a queue !
  • Learn to say "No " . Yes , at work or at home, you will be bombarded with activities , tasks or adhoc requests . I know we cannot say "No" everytime to our boss, but sometimes even that is needed.  First and foremost, I am the slave of my own tasks. There are ways we can say no, without being rude. 
  • No to too much of multitasking.  I am a big victim of multitasking. I want to do many things together.  As a result of that, I am spread across too thin and none of my work gets done in the time frame that I want to and I get the feeling of being unproductive. So, folks, I have started reducing my tasks . I am trying to focus . 

Half the year is gone, but another half is there ! So , I want to utilize each and every second and work towards my goal. 

What about you ?