Archive for the ‘Personal Effectiveness’ category

‘D I P’ – An interesting phenomenon

January 3, 2012

I have always been intrigued by downturns, failures, slump, downslides; but more than this I am interested in how often we claim to have been caught by surprise when things take a turn for worse.  It’s always been interesting to me to see how some of us consciously try to defend by saying that we were caught unaware, or that everything was going good so far but this sudden slide…or we become creative to find some vague reason to justify that we were or are not at fault for this slide and the downturn.  Then there are some who just don’t understand what happened or why it happened and continue to keep wondering in vain.  And finally there are those little few, who actually tried what they could but still experience the downward spiral.  In reality, no one likes to fail or be a part of a failure.  But what [I think] we do not understand is that a failure is probably the most decisive and an extremely fertile phenomenon; only if we want to make a difference.  For those who don’t understand what happened or don’t care about it at all, they would never ever make any difference; so let us hop over them and move on to those who lose their sleep over this sudden downslide, those who want to make a difference – now these could be those who gave a reason or just accepted the state and want to start looking forward or rather upwards.

We always try to start our efforts in understanding what happened by critically analysing ‘what’ happened and try to establish ‘why’ it happened in a hope that we could uncover the errors, fixing which will help initiate the resurgence.  If so is the case, then why do we continue to see cases of repeated downslides, or why we are unable to successfully resurge.  But on the other hand we see some who have emerged completely rejuvenated, re-energized and firing on all cylinders.  Why do some teams or organizations go through a slow process of recovery while a few come out with a solid recovery and in fact lead a wave of improved services, offerings and performance – they lead the pack in their field of operations and often become the new paradigm thinkers of their space.

The ‘D I P’ thus is an interesting phenomenon.  To quench my curiosity and improve my understanding of this classic and; in some context; a desirable phenomenon, I studied quite a few teams [some of which I have worked with directly or indirectly], a few failed or semi-successful recoveries, a few out and out successes.

Here, I have tried to condense my understanding and present an illustrative schematic with various PHASES in DIP through TIME and have taken a shot at answering the How? Why? What? of this phenomenon.  I am continuing to improve my understanding of this phenomenon and would request you [the reader] to share your experiences and thoughts on this topic.

Stage 1: Ripples [Early Signs]

These are really the indicators any manager can clearly see and thus act.  But because of our method of functioning [in most cases], we generally are found fighting the fire and being reactive.  Fortunately, these ripples start slow and have spaces of time in between them.  But because we are mostly caught up in ‘urgent’ tasks [not necessarily ‘important’ ones] and are in reaction mode, we fail to utilize the period after a ripple to device and implement longer term corrective measures.  Our KPI’s may not always show us the right picture or the gravity of a potential situation or for that matter a pattern which is taking a shape.  With time, the spaces between ripples reduce and they become frequent; and this time they are spanned across different aspects or parameters of service.  It appears like rat holes.  And as always we are busy fighting the fire, one after the other… which exhausts and burns out teams’ and organization’s critical thinking abilities.

Stage 2: Slide … the ‘DIP’

Ripples are the causes and its effect generally is a pretty sudden disturbance.  This disturbance is a downward slide which takes place in a very short period of time, with hardly little time to think and course correct.  It generally results in poor client satisfaction, loss of client confidence and business, teams having very high stretch index with all their time invested in patch work resulting in eventual burnout.  Nothing seems to be going right.  The question thus is, why does this happen?

Dip generally is due to lack of timely course correction when the ripples have started to occur, wanting to address a problem from a longer term perspective instead of a mere short term patchwork.  In other cases, a dip occurs if the teams or organizations are not having enough foresight and agility to adapt to external environment and its conditions.  More often, it is observed that teams which slide into a downward spiral have silos of operations with very little interaction tending to lack of end to end knowledge which is needed to remain agile and in line with market conditions.  In some cases, lack of transparency in terms of organization’s vision, strategy, goals and / or there is no alignment of the systems-processes-people to these goals.  Overall, I feel this is largely to do with ‘culture’ in the teams or organizations.

3: Reconfigure – Restart

But thankfully, a dip always allows for a period of reconciliation, reconfiguration and re-initiation.  It always provides for just enough time and duration to correct the fatal issues, for implementing the right practices both at the team and organization level and set the tone for a desired culture.  If an organization can rightly utilize this patch of time and work hard, they can change the course of their performance from negative to positive; significantly increase client confidence resulting in higher client retention followed by improved client acquisition.  It allows for organizations and teams to reinvent their core and focus on what makes the biggest difference to their clients and more importantly to the individuals in the team, it helps them maximize the utilization of individual talents towards a common unified goal.

As for every situation, there could be one of the two outcomes – Positive Recovery or Negative Slump.

4: Outcome – Positive Recovery

Here are some observations I have made from my analysis of those who have used a dip to their advantage.

  • This is the time for the leaders and managers to show courage and lead by example.
  • Proactively analyse the causes, blanket rule to ban the blame-game.
  • Do not take on or focus on too many things.  Focus only on a few critical and high impact items.
  • Set a very clear direction for the short term and explain its impact on the medium and/or longer term objectives.
  • Be willing to take risks, being unconventional and thinking out of the box… participative management is best suited in such situations.
  • Set clear targets and place accountability, give autonomy and be prepared as leaders to back up the team for what they do.
  • Lay very high emphasis on the right culture and never compromise on it.
  • As a leader, always walk the talk.  Never doubt the potential of the team and their ability to accomplish targets.
  • Continue to instil vigour, motivation, and energy.

5: Outcome – Negative Slump

There are some unfortunate cases where some teams or organizations fail to utilize the most fertile phase of the dip and experience at times a fatal slump.  What I have observed is that these teams or organizations…

  • Have inward looking managers or leaders.
  • Resort to placing the blame instead of analysing what cause the failure and wanting to fix it.
  • Fail to instil right culture or correct the cultural issues.
  • Have a very low or unclear accountability structure.
  • Seldom or are mostly unwilling to take risks or be unconventional.
  • More often than not, lack a strong and proactive leadership.
  • Fail to make hard decisions, like for example weeding out those who do not align with the culture; not choosing the right focus points etc.

Overall, I feel that a dip is like a forest fire.  If it is handled well, it sets the tone for renewed progress and even better prosperity.  It pushes you to the wall, makes you think hard and question yourself – in other words, forces you to think out of the box.  It helps you be lean and agile.  Innovation and foresight thus becomes a part of your team / organization culture, constantly challenging the status quo, seeing through the numbers and understanding the patterns to act now rather than later… and continue to keep pushing yourself upwards.

I believe that the DIP is a very interesting phenomenon, it is inevitable.  Welcome it, be confident through it and make the fullest out of it, it has the potential to change your course forever.

What has been your experience being in a dip or seeing a dip?

The Second Coming…

January 1, 2012

It has been a significantly long time since I last published an article.  Like the last time, it wasn’t a dearth of content which prevented me; instead it was a sense of responsibility towards some feedback I had received and some introspection which made me rethink my approach.  In other words, I knew it needed something similar to a second innings or let’s call it a ‘second coming’.

I dedicated this time to review, rethink and rewrite a lot of my articles with a focus on improving upon the following:

[1]   Being empathetic.  When I wrote in the past, I always used to think about how I normally would read and review an article, the amount of details I looked out for, ease of understanding and interpretation I desired.  I felt that a lot of the articles which I read were at times very thematic, as in they would only touch upon the subject with hardly any illustrative case to aid understanding.  Obviously they lacked a level of details I thought would help a lot of readers like you and me.  This built in me a sense of being very explicit and elaborate.  A tendency which thus resulted in me trying to make my thoughts as easily explained as possible.  But when I read my own articles, at one point I felt that they were longer than the attention span of most of us and was left wondering if it would thus have a lot of readers finish reading the entire article in one go.  It was an interesting awakening of sorts for me.  This made me think if I was writing for myself or those like me who liked things in details.  I quickly realized there are many readers who could benefit from the articles and thoughts I want to share but can only spare 5 minutes to read the article or those who prefer to read it all in one go.  I needed to be empathetic towards their needs, that of time and delivery of the message in the most telling way.

[2] Keeping it short but interesting, saying the story well.  Because I like to have things detailed and sharp, I ended up writing articles which would often span over 3 pages, with two or more illustrative cases to deliver the point across.  I learned that while engaging, but the readers get overwhelmed by the sheer size of these articles.  This would have failed me on my objective of sharing my thoughts and experiences towards continuous knowledge exchange… which the readers of these articles could relate to and learn from.  I once saw a documentary made on life crisis in some parts of Africa [detailed, sharp and perfect… just the way I like it] and I was inspired.  I then saw a short clip with a touching message on the same topic [it was concise, covered my attention span there by gaining fullest of my focus – concentration] and it left me equally inspired as the movie.  And then I saw a 56 second advert on the same theme and the result was same… I was touched and inspired.  This made me wonder if size of an article equalled quality of message delivery.  Some may argue yes, but I felt that it has to do with the objective you are trying to achieve.  If you want to touch someone and inspire a thought then you need to focus on making sure that you are saying the story well; the size of your content then is not relevant but impact you’d create is the same.  This was a vital learning for me from the purpose of my blog and for my personal self.  I rewrote almost all of my pending articles with focus on telling the story well and keeping it crisp and concise.

[3] Validating and re-validating if the article succeeds in its objective of being thought provoking.  If the article does not make you ponder or is not thought provoking then the whole purpose is failed.  I have focused on making sure I guide the reader to a point of correlation and then leave him or her there, for them to finish the rest of the journey from being provoked to finding the answer for their own selves.

[4] Never deviating from the very purpose of the article… isn’t it what it is written for after all.  The best journeys are those of findings the answers and I have ensured that this journey if facilitated by posing the right and sometimes unconventional questions.   Isn’t it the whole purpose of L-E-G, that we first create a sort of a ‘knowledge exchange’ and use it to share mistakes, successes, the experiences in between these extremes, knowledge gained through this course.  It is this exchange which will fulfil the ‘Learn’ phase providing for ‘Empower’-ment and in resulting ‘Growth’.

Think about it for a second, had Steve Jobs not had his ‘second coming’ in Apple, then Apple may not have transformed from a very good technology company to a great of its time.  It is never too late for pausing and restarting on the path you believe.  A second coming always has a very specific focus on things which matter the most.

So ‘fire’ yourself from what you are in your company or the designation/position you hold in family or society; and think for a moment.  What would you like to have a second coming for?  What is it that needs you to stop, introspect and improve upon to make you more effective?

I N E R T I A

April 2, 2011

The last post I published was almost 8 months ago. 

During this time, work kept me very very busy, frequent and long business trips, and I just could not dedicate time to something I started – the initiative called ‘L E G’. 

Did that mean I stopped thinking about it?  No, I didn’t. 

I continued to scribble my thoughts, observations and ideas on my note pad, started writing about some of them – 19 to be precise, and read a lot. 

But if this was the case and if I actually started writing these articles, why did I not post any one of them for so long? 

Well, that is the dilemma; it is called ‘inertia’. 

Most of the articles I started to write, they could either not reach to a conclusive end or did not make me feel comfortable about posting them and honestly, after a point I became stationary with those articles.  I got stuck to and with them without realising it and while I would read them, make an attempt to finish and publish them; I never got around to doing it.  

I was then in, what I’d like to call, state of ‘negative’ inertia – when things are immobile, they stagnate and really, it’s you who stopped progressing on or with it.  And soon comes a point when you start wondering…

Should I do it or do I have other things which demand my focus at the moment? 

Or…

Uh oh, it’s become so complex – ideas and thoughts are just not coming to me… why? 

Something which I think of so much and while I want to do it, why am I not able to focus on it and reach a conclusive state? 

Why are things stuck?

And out of all this, there is one resultant feeling; that of frustration and dejection [on one’s self]…and all of a sudden the very thing you started / initiated starts to appear difficult and overwhelming – and more often than not, you will start giving or finding yourself a reason on why you could not or didn’t do it.  It was never that you did not want to but because it’s the vicious cycle of negative inertia; you lose your drive, focus and sheer enthusiasm-joy of doing it.

How often has it happened to you?  Happens from time to time, right. 

Have we ever wondered why does it happen?

I was actually pondering upon it myself as I was stuck with it [and this was not the first time for sure] and I felt the following to be some symptoms of when it is about to creep in…

[1] Time lapsed:  Time that has passed by and there is no progress

[2] Loss of Interest and Drive:  You have actually lost interest or are convinced it is not good utilisation of your time at the moment…thus the drive which was present initially now seems to be missing

[3] Lack of recognition or following:  You’ve started something but there is no one or only a very few who seem to be interested in hearing your story

[4] You’ve had way too many expectations:  It can happen, you may overestimate the potential and expect too many things out of it, but when it doesn’t meet your expectations, it starts to drain your enthusiasm and drive

[5] A tough choice to make?:  You may have to make some tough choices, like between what you ‘wish’ to do [the initiative] against what you are ‘required’ to do [day to day tasks] – like your pet projects against your daily tasks list which just doesn’t get over…and you have a choice to make, which in most cases is obvious – forget the initiative and stick to the task list.

[6] Procrastination and deviation from the track you were on when you started with it

There could be many other reasons to it but the ones above, I feel, really brings out the essence of what indicates, as a pattern, that you are slipping into a state of negative inertia.

You would ask – Well, fair enough but if I am doing what I am ‘needed’ to and could not continue on the thing I started [which of course I always wanted to do but couldn’t] then how does it affect me?  Right question. 

Here is how it affects you and your professional life [and thus businesses]…

[1] All of a sudden you transform into a ‘task player’ from a person who used to ‘think’.

[2] It affects your overall confidence.  It’s simple, we all as humans like our plates clean and tasks accomplished; it’s in our nature.  But if you initiated something and it gets stalled, it will keep lingering in your mind – there by affecting it…it will keep coming back to you and you will, in a way, start to feel awkward [for the lack of a better word] about it – and that’s it, your confidence is starting to get affected by something which you yourself started.

[3] It will rob you of your creative thinking, at times, as you would not be sure if you can see / lead it through to the end – because if you couldn’t accomplish one then how sure you to accomplish another?…it’s all in the mind and it plays on you.

[4] You will become a meddler from a hero, become reactive from being proactive and start taking instructions rather than assessing the situations and taking a lead in putting measures in place.

[5] A resultant feeling of non-accomplishment and disappointment seeps in.

[6] You will do your job [day to day tasks] well no doubt, but you ‘may’ not enjoy it because you know something else needs to be done as well however you are not able to get to it or finish it.

And if the above affects your professional life…it affects your personal life too.  No matter how hard we try, our professional and personal lives are interestingly intertwined – because at the end of the day it is the same mind and heart that is working for you both at work and at home.  So if there is something that has ruffled your mind at work let’s say, it won’t let it be 100% at home too.

Let me give you a few examples…

Sit in on a project that has been going on for some time now.  You will see marked difference.  If the project is on track then you will see most of its action items, in work breakdown structure, will be marked with one of the two statuses; WIP [some portion] or Complete [most of them] and those which are WIP are on track to meet the timelines.  Against this, if a project is getting delayed or has lost the track, the action items will have a very high percentage in WIP or Not Started; and those in WIP would’ve had their timelines being missed or changed a few times.  And have you ever gotten a good, confident feeling coming out of review meetings of such projects?  Rarely.  This is a clear indication that the project is slipping into negative inertia.

The other example if when we have started an initiative for our teams or ourselves.  How often have we procrastinated, resulting in tasks being piled up?  How often have we promised ourselves to get on to it the next day as today was very busy…and that ‘next’ day has taken a very very long time to come?  In worst case, how many of our initiatives have seen a dead end, not because they were bad but because they just lost the traction?  We all would’ve experienced this either as those who were leading it or those who were a part of the steering/executing team.  I for one have experienced a few of them.

When I could not post my articles, it was because I was in the state of negative inertia.  Being in negative inertia does not mean everything you do will start slowing down or falling apart…as I said, you would do just a fine job at things which you ‘need’ to do but will struggle a bit for those which you ‘really want’ to do.  This state doesn’t hit everything, it just hits one or two of so many things you had/have to do and it is from these one or two things that it starts to slowly affect others…but thankfully most of us do a fine job of carrying out our daily routine tasks / task lists very well.

Likewise, so many of us would’ve had great ideas about how to improve our processes, our functions or businesses.  Let me ask you this…how many of these – really good ideas – have you been able to initiate and see then through till the end?  The answer would be, very few.  That is because all of us slip into negative inertia at some time or the other.

Does this mean there is nothing one can do about it?  No, that is not true. 

Negative inertia is just the state of things or really, the state of mind.  Like negative inertia, I believe; there is a state of motion – ‘flow’, state of progress [though slow but gradual] and this state is what I call the state of ‘Positive’ Inertia.

Map out the companies who have really done well, or your peers at work who have really progressed…and you will find one common string; they have always been in motion, they have always seen their initiatives until the finish line and thus are generally proactive, driven and upbeat about any new concept / idea / initiative – they clearly stand out, don’t they?  They knew some tricks which a lot of us didn’t or struggled to understand / follow. 

So I started to think what would they be…and I derived the following methods:

[1] Take your ideas / concepts / initiatives etc. and put them on the table; review – assess them until you clearly know [a] how long it will take, [b] how complex can they become, [c] what will you get in return out of it once it is complete, [d] how to stay on track – this is critical, [e] so what are the distractions you run into and need to avoid, and finally [f] should they thus take it up or park it – not kill it, but simply park it for being taken up later.

[2] Always know the value of being in motion – so you should always target the low hanging fruits, take up things you know you can accomplish faster…in the end you want to finish what you started, right.  You would feel good and confident if you finished the task you undertook and are waiting for the other to be undertaken…you have the motion at your side.

[3] Never or avoid getting stuck on one thing, or at one step or at one question; always remember the important lesson from our school / university examination days…that is, you have a finite time and you have to hit a target, so if you remain stuck at something which you can’t address or resolve then move on to the other which you can, and come back to the earlier one once you are done with those you can resolve / address.  You work actively to find ways and paths through the puzzle.  Use these skills you knew for so many years.

[4] Do not expect too much, be realistic.

[5] Estimate correct efforts and focus needed from your side.

[6] Of course, discipline and determination without saying.

[7] Avoid procrastination…if you planned to do something today then find time and do it today, because ‘tomorrow’ is hard to come.

[8] This one I guess is important…if you believe in what you are doing and the value it will deliver, no matter what following you have or what recognition it is bringing to you, just stick to the task and only think about the end state… ‘if you didn’t get it then, you will get your cake in the end

Again, there could be many more to add to the list, but I believe these are some of the key pointers/ways to stay in the ‘flow’ and in state of positive inertia.

Yes, the road would be tough, but persevere and you shall reach the destination…and really, the beauty is seldom in reaching the destination but it is in the journey to the destination – that is when you learn the most and experience the most.

So, always try to be in the state of Positive Inertia, because best results come out of you when you are in the ‘flow’ – or as it is said in the music world; being ‘in the zone’, and in the sports world; being ‘in the groove’.

If you read this post, do share with me your thoughts on this topic…I will be interested to know your perspective on it.

Transforming CRITICS to ALLIES

July 5, 2010

Last week I was at an industry conference.  It was my first for the company I had joined a few months earlier.  I was relatively new to the company, so was not truly aware of a lot of things except for those which I was directly involved in.  We were exhibiting at the conference.  Like everybody else, I went to the conference with a belief and confidence of creating a good impression for my company and its services.

First half of Day 1, of the 2 days long conference, brought with it some hard lessons for me which in some ways rattled me and pushed me into a hole.  There were some folks who had very strong negative feedback and criticism…and I was at the receiving end.  I stood there; thinking to myself for a few seconds; why am I receiving it – why me – I wasn’t even there in the company when all this happened; but soon I learnt a very useful and a key lesson.    I had a choice to make…either go back to the hole or come out positive and face it – even though I may not know everything about what had happened or why they had the impression about the company which they had.  I chose to do the latter.  I now had a task on my hands to now convert these critics to possible believers in the company, that of converting their criticism to constructive feedback and showing those people a whole new way of seeing things with us as a partner helping them realise it.

In the second half of Day 1, I went out and met with all those who had strong things to share with me and I was listening very carefully, noting down every single point they made and shared with me, asked questions to understand them and their perspective better and sought their views on why they built the impression they had about us. 

The day ended well and I went back to the hotel feeling quite positive about how some of those critics were converted to possible believers in our company.  Today [around 6 days after the conference] I spoke to one of those ‘critics’ and if I were to draw from my 15 minute chat with him, he seemed to have changed his impression about us – I succeeded with the choice I had made and what I believed I could achieve at the conference.

I know all of us tend to face criticism for some or the other thing in our lives at or outside of work.  For me, personally, what I had faced at the conference was hard…but it taught me how to handle it well and build allies out of critics – how to face criticism and convert it into a positive discussion, focused on sharing constructive feedback aimed at improving something.

How to do it though?  Well, I am not an expert but below is what I did [and have done in the past] which has – in most cases – helped me convert the critics into allies.  I hope it helps you too…

[1] When you know you may face criticism or receive a strong feedback, do not ever back out…always show up and be present.  By doing this you demonstrate that you are not afraid and you let them see the leader you are by being accountable and thus turning up to receive the feedback.

[2] Always be open and transparent about the details, and also about the feedback or criticism you receive. 

[3] Always show your willingness to engage with those who disagree with you.

TIP: Try to videotape or record the feedback or criticism received.  I have not done this myself but every time I have seen this done it has made the critic be at their best behaviours since they are being taped.

[4] Always be cool, calm and composed…control your emotions , being calm-composed will make you appear stronger.

[5] Never raise your voice even when the person criticising has, it will make him/her lower their voice.

[6] Always receive and honestly acknowledge your shortcomings.  Express through right choice of words and with passion that you did what you could do best given the circumstances.  It will make them appreciate you and instead of criticising, it will make them explain their standpoint.

[7] Never be defensive and always accept your mistakes with sincerity and confidence.  No one respects a leader who doesn’t believe in his deeds – right or wrong.

[8] If you need to share a counter feedback then always do it gently – always remember that while the spotlight is on you, the heat is also on them…so you can always give as good as you get but with appropriate diplomacy.

[9] Smile frequently and show that you are not stressed and that you are in control but smile only when appropriate.  Never smirk.

[10] Always know when to close the discussion and to take things offlineAlways leave them wanting for more.

[11] Always remember that if nothing bad is ever said then nothing good will ever get done…so strong feedback and criticism is as important to you as is good positive feedback.

The above is what I have learned through my experience facing criticism or seeing someone else face and handle it.  I must admit I had failed many a times but when I have been confident, tried some of the above pointers; I have more often than not ended up making it a constructive discussion and transformed my critics into my allies.

Try it and share with us how it worked for you…let us all learn together.  If there is any other pointer you think can be added to the list above then please share with your comments.

There’s more to racing than winning

May 29, 2010

I picked this line from the very-famous animated movie ‘Cars’ [2006]. 

I find this movie to be technical masterpiece, a showcase of commitment, teamwork and a drive to excel.  To cite an example… the team at Pixar took almost 17 hours to create one frame of animation only to ensure the lustre and shine on the animated cars mirrors the real world cars, which it superbly does and those who have seen it would agree no less.  They wanted it to look real even though it was an animation – now how is that for commitment and drive to excel.  But there is one more thing which is so very important about this movie…the message around which it is centred, as seen in some of the dialogues in the movie.

‘There’s more to racing than winning’ and ‘…it’s only an empty cup’.

Now it is important to compete, so don’t get me wrong when I emphasize on the message above.  We need to read in between the letters here to understand the implied meaning.  While it is important to compete, work hard towards the goal, be aggressive and do whatever it takes to achieve it; but more importantly it’s about the ethics, the values we bear in ourselves and the very essence of our core – our guiding principles, either as individuals or as teams, which will set us different.  Yes, winning is important but what is more important is to win without compromising the ethics and principles, and put the values at the forefront.

I am sure those who saw this movie, never for once cheered for the winner of the final race.  Instead, they would’ve cheered for the act of the car, who was about to win the race hands down, pulling back inches close to the finish line, driving backwards to reach the car which met with the accident and pushing or rather nudging that car to the finish line. 

Wonder where this came from…well some part of it could be the scriptwriter’s imagination and the other inspired from this real life incident.

This happened during 1976 Special Olympics in Washington. 

Nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100 yard dash.   At the gun, they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish to run the race, to the finish, and win.  All, that is, except one little boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over, and began to cry.  The other eight heard the boy cry.  A couple of them slowed down and looked back.  Then they turned around and went back.  One of the contestants with Down’s syndrome bent down and kissed him and said “this will make it better.”

Then all of them linked arms, and walked together to the finish line.  Everyone in the stadium stood, and cheered; the cheering went on for several minutes. 

People who were there are still telling the story.  Why?  Because deep down we know this one thing: What matters in life is more than just winning for ourselves.  What matters in life is helping others win, even if it means slowing down, and changing our course.  What matters in life is going by our heart, sticking to our values and do whatever we possibly can to help someone else do better [and succeed].  It gives a sense of fulfilment which goes a long way in our lives and makes us true team players and even better human beings.

Now for a moment, think of a situation where one of your team member, junior, peer, or senior is struggling with something.  He could definitely use some help which will make a world of a difference to his morale and confidence.  How often do we face this in our daily work lives [and also in our lives out of work too]?  Quite often isn’t it. 

How many of us have went ahead and extended a helping hand, helped that person accomplish the task and succeed [in whatever sense it may be]?  Those who have would surely agree with me about the sense of fulfilment and empowerment it gives you, which would definitely have made your day and would have gone down your memory lane forever.  But more importantly, it made you a better and a stronger person from within.

Just imagine, for a moment, how would it be like if anyone and everyone in the team at work is willing and ready to extend the helping hand, support each other what ever it takes and help each other with things to make each other succeed?  I bet workplace would then become a very good place to be and you would love coming to work every day.  And more than that, you would win and succeed more often that otherwise.  The synergy which would then exist would only help improve the morale, the strength and the performance of the team.

I know to achieve this is easier said than done but someone needs to start rolling it.  So why not you? 

Remember, ideal teams [which is always dream of to be a part of] are not available readymade…they are to be built, one step at a time…shaping one person at a time and building on one principle at a time.

If you see the value in it then why not take a step forward and help someone win/succeed.  And please be sure to share with us the experience you had.

Making of an Expert

May 25, 2010

I recently read an article based on László and Klara Polgár, the two Hungarian educators who decided to challenge the popular belief that women can not succeed in areas requiring spatial thinking, like chess.  They wanted to make a point about the power of education, training, practice and quality coaching.  The Polgárs homeschooled their three daughters and as a part of their education, the girls started playing chess with their parents from a very young age.  Their systematic training and coaching paid off; by 2000 all their daughters were ranked in top 10 female chess players in the world.  An early result was Susan [one of the three daughters] winning the Budapest Chess Championship for girls under 11 at the age of four.  The other daughter, Judit became a grand master at the age of 15, breaking previous record by a month.  Today, Judit is one of the world’s top chess players and has defeated almost all best male players.

The Polgárs believed that ‘geniuses are made, not born’ and they proved it.

There several studies and researches conducted which support this fact, that outstanding performance is a product of years and years of intense, focused, quality practice and coaching, not of any innate inborn ability or talent.

It is not only the assumption around gender differences in expertise which has started to crumble.  I read about a very interesting study conducted by Benjamin Bloom which was published in his book, Developing Talent in Young People in 1985.  He took a deep retrospective look at the childhoods of 120 elite performers who had won international competitions or awards in fields ranging from music and the arts to mathematics and neurology. Surprisingly, Bloom’s research found no early indicators that could have predicted the grand success these performers achieved.

So, what correlates with and leads to success?  What really goes into making of an expert?

From what I have read about success stories of sportsmen, business leaders, musicians, artists and what I have also observed from my work experience…some of the key themes which I could jot down are these:

[1] They had a very clear vision – an objective to satisfy and they felt very very strongly about it.  It can generally be seen in their tenacity, focus, concentration and aggression.

[2] Intensive Practice…learn – repeat – improve, learn – repeat – improve, learn – repeat – improve until you master it, sweat it out for the methods and techniques until they are mastered completely.

[3] They studied and trained with an equally devoted trainer or mentor, who was aligned to the vision and objective, who felt it equally strongly about it.

[4] Enthusiastic support in the developing phase from family, peers, seniors.

[5] Amount and Quality of practice.

[6] Honest and often painful assessment…and constantly working to perfect it.  I feel this is something that separates the best from the average.

There could be many more contributing factors but I feel these are those key things which go into the making of an expert.  One thing is for sure, there are no shortcuts in becoming or making an expert.  It takes time, focus, attention, dedication and unshakeable determination.

As leaders we need to become those devoted mentors, completely aligned to the goal of making experts.  We need to relook at and question ourselves on how much time we spend with our team members on developing them, giving them the support they require from us and the very important honest assessment of their capabilities-performance.  We need to relook at our people development plans, methods we use to identify those in our teams who can go that extra mile and endure it to emerge as experts, reassess our training modules and methodologies and make them synchronize with the objective of laying a solid foundation to build a team which will produce experts tomorrow.

We need to remember, that making experts requires a lot of practice and coaching methods…methods which can always be reproduced and are verifiable.  In other words, there exists a formula to make an expert which can be shared, learnt, and adopted.

So…let us be that devoted mentor and try making some experts from within our teams.

What’s your ‘Personal Brand’?

May 20, 2010

In the current day and age where competition is cut-throat, there exists enough or more than sufficient resource and talent availability, with many out there wanting to get the same thing what you possibly are aiming for… you could very easily go unnoticed and end up being one amongst the crowd.

I, therefore, believe here is a question that everyone should periodically address about themselves…

What’s your ‘Personal Brand’?

We are the Chief Brand Building & Branding Officers of ourselves and our own personal brands. We have the power to determine, establish and control our own reputation, either through our actions at the workplace or, in this era of social media and networking, through what we decide to tweet or blog or write as our status updates. We can build and develop upon our own sense of distinctiveness, trust and confidence. In every environment, may it be at work or on our website or any social media platform, we continuously keep making choices and actions that affect our personal brand; like who to work with and who to avoid, who to follow, who to be friends with, or what message to share as our tweet, blog or status update.

How you manage your personal brand will significantly determine how others will view you and would in a way play a crucial role in shaping your career and your life.

To really identify and crystallize your personal brand, you should ask yourself:

[1] What is your objective?

[2] What do you want to be known for?

[3] What differentiates you from others who may have a similar background or set of experiences?

[4] What skills, capabilities, knowledge and attitudes do you have or are developing that will make people want to consider you, work with, follow or be friends with you – either online or offline?

[5] What value do you and can you create for others as a friend, colleague, peer, senior or subordinate?

[6] And last but not the least, what is it, your inner calling that will make you feel truly satisfied and fulfilled about the contribution you would be making?

This set of 6 questions [though they may look simple and straightforward] is very tough to find an answer to – a true answer reflecting your real self, and admittedly, I have trouble answering them for myself. Here is my attempt at identifying my own brand:

[a] my ‘brand’ of leadership insight is objective, practical, simple – applicable, and straightforward – no complex theories, designs or frameworks

[b] my brand of leadership is a considered combination of hands-on and hands-off, it is thoughtful and inspirational [picked it from what was often mentioned by those who I work or have worked with]

[c] the style of my brand is direct, always challenging the status quo, progressive and hopefully thought-provoking

…and I am still reflecting…

Well, that was a quick [and in progress] overview of my ‘personal brand’. What’s yours? Think about it…it will be worth it.