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November 5, 2015

Our Personal Mirage : Strengths & Potential

Yesterday evening, while browsing LinkedIn I noticed this quote. This update has an interesting comment from one of my ex-colleague - "Fantastic - though even the first one is something that people take for granted and never realize its FULL potential. How many times in your life have you been praised enthusiastically (making you feel deeply embarrassed) for your strengths?"

This comment created a thread of thought process.

We don’t understand who we are and what our strengths are. We are aware of and realize only a fraction of our potential.

Insecurity from lack of appreciation of our strengths. Low self esteem because of unawareness makes it hard for us to appreciate others for what and who they are. Making us unduly competitive, unappreciative and demanding of others.

We keep living our life as lost person in dessert who keeps chasing mirage in search of water. Our personal mirage is caused by cooler air of “what we think of us”,also known as comfort zone and hotter air of our potential, i.e., “who we are”.

Our challenges and failures come from “whatever it takes” and life time of conditioning - “best way to make a line smaller is by drawing bigger one”. We put too much pressure on ourselves constantly comparing to others. We never take a breath to appreciate and enjoy what we have and our strengths.  It’s far more rewarding to leverage your strengths compared to overcoming limitations.

Big challenge in retaining personal or organizational leadership (overcoming limitations) is in understanding Smart people & ideas are grounded in information & facts, requiring people to interact with patience.

You have responsibility for your world (perception, point of view and so on). Don’t let others shape your point of view. This is ignorance. When you do your tasks by appreciating there are many forces at work, not all under your control, this is wisdom. (What’s missing from our answers?)

Maturity is learning to walk away from people and situations that threaten your peace of mind , self respect, values, Morales or self worth.

Warm Regards,

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August 21, 2015

Things Successful people do differently

Successful people don’t do different things, they do things differently.

Success is measure of the results achieved by someone in a given context. However we often hear the phrase that meeting numbers isn’t enough. Its how you achieve results is true measure of one’s success. 

There is no dearth of examples and material on how to be successful. This post is not about giving a list of right things or different things you need to be successful. We will focus on few things which successful people do differently.

Successful people mostly have impeccable Etiquette. Here is a quote to help understand conventional meaning of etiquette - The cardinal principal of etiquette is thoughtfulness, and guiding rule of thoughtfulness is the Golden Rule. If you always do unto other as you would have done unto you, it is likely that you will never offend, bore or intrude, and that your actions will be courteous and indeed thoughtful. – (Emily Post’s Etiquette by Elizabeth L Post)

However, successful people take thoughtfulness to another level, and their golden rule reads something like – “If you always do unto other as they would have wanted you to, it is likely that you will never offend, bore or intrude, and that your actions will be courteous and indeed thoughtful.”

Key to understanding what others want is Communication. To quote from my earlier post – “You can’t, not communicate. However, importance of listening keeps growing. Leaders will need far superior listening skills. It’s much more than sensitivity. It is about tolerance.” You can address someone as sir / boss / Mr /Ms and still come across as rude or disrespectful. You can come across as warm and respectful while addressing people as buddy / dude. It’s not only about what you say but how you say. We are communicating all the time even when we are not, a tweet, an email, and posts on social media everything counts. It’s important to have measured and sincere approach. So many over hyper people end up either with foot in mouth disease or worst they are blissfully oblivious to self embarrassing impact of their communication.

“The first time you greet someone presents an opportunity that will never come your way again: the chance to make a fist good impression. Your appearance and manners play a part in forming these impressions, and they continue to do so even when you meet or greet someone you already know.” (Emily Post’s Etiquette by Elizabeth L Post)

Successful people are disciplined in their approach. They strive for excellence day in day out. Our appearance has tremendous influence on what and how our message is understood. A tidy, tasteful and hygienic appearance implies that you respect others but more importantly you consider yourself worthy of respect and effort in dressing yourself up. This applies irrespective of your attire being formal, casual, business casual, club wear or even beach wear.

Success is 24X7 occupation. From our early teen till retirement an average person spends 44-50% of their time on activities related to their profession (including education time) and 28-34% time in sleep. It’s our behavior in remaining 24-15% time which separates successful people from not so successful people. Successful people commit 100% to whatever they pursue or do.

You can have this discipline and commitment only if you enjoy doing what you do. “Pleasure in the Job puts perfection in the work”- Aristotle. So light up your efforts with passion and joy. “The only way to do great works is to love what you do” - Steve Jobs

To sum up, Successful people have great etiquette, they communicate with sincerity, purpose and discipline because they are committed to and enjoy whatever they do.
Warm regards,

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July 22, 2015

Commitment, Loyalty and Sycophancy

Commitment and loyalty are the pillars which strengthen relationships in all spheres – personal, professional, spiritual, business, social etc.

Most organisations may not have them laid out in their evaluation process explicitly but hardly anyone gets promoted or hired unless people involved are confident of their commitment and loyalty. At the same time across organisations great numbers of people believe sycophants are preferred instead of truly loyal people. Yet there are no efforts to help people understand meaning of loyalty and commitment. Let’s have this story from Hindu mythology before we dwell further on the issue at hand.

Sage Narad is an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu (the Preserver- Part of holy trinity in Hindu mythology). He keeps chanting "Narayana! Narayana!” (name of Lord Vishnu) all through  the day.  He believed that he is the greatest devotee of Lord Vishnu and there is no one else who keeps thinking Narayana  as he does. He wanted to get that confirmed from none other than Lord Vishnu himself. So he reached Vaikunth, the abode of Lord Vishnu. When Lord Vishnu asked purpose of his visit, Narad said he needed some clarification. Vishnu asked, "About what Narad?" Narad replied," I want to know, who is your most ardent devotee?" Needless to say he was expecting his name from Lord Vishnu.

Lord Vishnu asked Narad to go to a village and meet a farmer residing there. He told "I consider him as my ardent devotee." Narad was surprised and was eager to see this devotee. He reached the village mentioned by Vishnu.  By the time Narad reached at farmer’ hut, it was almost night. He knocked at the door. The farmer welcomed sage Narad. The farmer offered Narad food to eat and offered bed to sleep. Narad was keenly observing the farmer as to how many times the farmer is mentioning Narayana. The farmer before going to sleep, uttered 'Narayana!, Narayana" and went to sleep.

Next day the farmer got up early in the morning, finished his morning chores, then he looked at the photo of Vishnu and uttered, "Narayana" and started his daily work. Narad watched him the whole day to find the number of times farmer utters Narayana. To Narad’s surprise farmer didn’t pray or utter Narayana even once till later in the night before going to sleep. Narad returned to Vaikunth and told Vishnu, "The farmer prayed only twice in a day  and still he is considered as an ardent devotee by you. I don't understand this".

Vishnu gave Narad a pot filled with oil to the brim and asked Narad to go around Vaikunth, without spilling even a drop of oil. Narad readily took the Pot of oil and with great care walked around Vaikunth. He completed the walk around Vaikunth with the Pot of oil without spilling even a drop and gave back the Pot of oil to Lord Vishnu.

Vishnu asked Narad, "How many times did you utter my name when you were carrying the Pot of oil?" Narad said, "How is it that you expect me to utter your name, when I have to carry on the Pot of oil?" Vishnu explained, "When you have to focus on simple Pot of oil, you never prayed. But the farmer with all his worries, duties and work, never forgot to pray and utter my name twice a day. Is there any devotee greater than him? "

The story has two significant lessons, being able to recognize someone’s performance in wider context (the Farmer’s ability to remember God twice with all the load); secondly Lord Vishnu being the Preserver, a person contributing to making things happen in worldly affairs will be considered more committed and devoted.

It’s important for leaders (like Lord Vishnu in the story) not only to recognize and reward the performance, but also ensure that both contribution and the context are widely understood by the people.Leaders need to know what they value – loyalty and commitment to them (as individual) or to what they represent – organisation, ideas, profession, values etc. These may not be mutually exclusive to some but they are separate. 

Most of the Career advancement text, teaching and counsel put too much stress on internal selling, standing out from the herd and so on. All this creates a false notion among leaders that it is employee’s job to not only perform but also ensure that their performance is noticed by various stakeholders. Smart leaders take this NVA (non value added) activity away from their team’s plate and give them the confidence to excel on the Job. This immediately puts a lid on culture of sycophancy.

Like Sage Narad, so many people think that they are A players and doing what needs to be done. Validate your self assessment with the Manager. It’s important to have clear understanding of what is expected out of you but also very important to map your deliverable to big picture. You need to figure out what you are committed and loyal to – the Individuals, e,g,, managers, team members, or to profession, ideas, values, technology and so on. In real world effective ones need to have a mix of most if not all. Your effectiveness lies in finding the right mix and balance.  

I am reminded of a quote – “If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.” - Abraham Lincoln

Warm regards,

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February 25, 2015

Managing ‘A’ Players

One thing which keeps Business Leaders and HR Leaders awake at night, across industries and geographies, is managing star players. How to retain and keep them motivated? Organisations might be adapting or experimenting with performance management systems but nothing takes away identification of Stars and challenges of managing them.

Here is some perspective which gets lost most of the time. These are the elephants in room nobody talks about.

While it’s important that your best talent is rewarded and appreciated; it is also important not to lose sight of using various resources effectively. Your compensation and benefits strategy has to look beyond salary hikes, bonuses and incentives.

Commonly, executive compensation strategy and planning gets done and executed in isolation, focusing on monetary rewards, i.e., hikes, bonuses, stock options and incentives. Lion’s share is given to top performers and rightly so.  

Subsequently, managers and HR continue to follow same packing order in almost every decision. Same set of people keep getting nominated for all important training programs, leadership connect, face time with top leadership and so on.  People forget that Stars have too much exposure leading to burn out. They carry burden of huge expectations and stress of living up to them. Too much time and effort is spent on ‘A’ players instead of giving them freedom and allowing them to lead.

We end up creating sense of entitlement. Stars have huge incentive to kiss up and kick down; very little incentive to allow and support other people to grow.

Key to effective differentiation is how and what. Having rewarded Stars handsomely it is important for leadership to leverage other opportunities in supporting and nurturing wider talent base. It creates healthy talent pipeline, in turn relieving pressure from your top talent.

Really exceptional people are outliers constituting low single digit percentage of employees in an organisation, just like non performers. Any business driven by meritocracy should differentiate such people on basis of their special skills, ability to use their skills and make significant business impact or producing exceptional results in given context. The entire idea of 10-30% people rewarded highly and 80-40% of organisation treated good/average is mockery of differentiation.

At GE one key discussion during talent review is always about releasing your top talent for opportunities across businesses and verticals. All organisations don’t have breadth and depth of businesses and opportunities like GE. However seldom leaders and HR explore outplacement as part of strategy to manage Top talent. By definition your talent growth has to be better than your need for talent. Instead of being caught by surprise of attrition, objectively evaluate possibility of out placing talent with customers and suppliers to build lasting relationships.

‘A’ players by definition are good at identifying and seizing the Opportunity. It is hard to accept but fact remains that ‘A’ players end up hiring or creating screens to hire B players. Because, of their influence on organisation decisions. Decisions are made by those who show up. Hence either way buck for quality and effectiveness of workforce stops at ‘A’ players. They are responsible if showed up and are still responsible if didn’t.

If you are hiring A/A+ players, your bottom most people are better or equal to best available talent and deserve best compensation, support and inputs. They need best in class eco system to support them.

Effective Talent plan and strategy targets 90% of employee base as ‘A’ players. Too much focus on few means, higher attrition of remaining talent, wider and more negative influence on employer of choice drivers.

It is important to retaining leadership, not only people in leadership roles. (Challenges in Retaining Leadership). Mostly, brilliant people end up rattling the cage, they are opinionated and yes as managers (HR or line) you may feel very uncomfortable. (Tips on Talent Management / Acquisition).

Warm Regards,

January 16, 2015

Hiring Great People

Holiday season is over and teams are gearing up to meet new challenges and goals. It is also time to hire and look for great talent, some thoughts to help while you look to attract and hire people.

First and foremost always let your best people represent and hire. Your most equipped people have to front end.

Great talent has to be acquired, just like customers for your business. Being a leading brand and consistently being rated high as employer of choice across broad spectrum of publications and media is just entry pass to arena. Organisations have to be at the top of their game, when it comes to attracting top talent. Begin by putting your best foot forward. More often, we think that as long as final interviews are being done by best people, it’s a great hiring process. In reality, most of the damage has already been done by the time better equipped people get involved in hiring.

It will be prudent not to let front-line recruiter, recruiting analyst or HR assistant be the first contact. Similarly candidates for wide spectrum roles or leadership roles being interviewed piece meal for technical / skills screen is not smart idea, although widely prevalent. Instead start with best interviewer and let them candidly share the need for skill screen post their meeting with potential hire. 

Invest your time and effort to communicate what you are looking for and what is special about this opportunity. Only then you are going to get the special one. When you are contacting someone, you have to make them feel good and wanted (even if they are currently unemployed). People have to be able to trust you with their careers and need to feel valued. (Leadership Hiring: Experiences & Lessons Learnt)

Almost all articles, presentations and advice on hiring talks about cost of a wrong hire. But hardly any attention ever is given to talent lost during the process and it’s opportunity cost.

Avoid staged behavior and environment during interactions with potential candidates. People are sharp and perceptive, they are able to sense. This creates doubt in candidate’s mind. Some people will take their cue and adjust their response to play ball but a lot of them may not be comfortable in such situation. Net net you may not end up hiring the best. People need to trust you with their career and feel valued.

Get rid of your bias and conditioning to judge people as too eager, too enthusiastic, desperate etc. When your sales team is approaching a customer to acquire the account, would you want them to be less eager or enthusiastic? As long as candidate meets your values screen and have required skill set, stop guessing their motives and reasons.

So many times when hiring managers or key stakeholders tend to add too many reasons to eliminate candidates and end up supporting not the Best but most acceptable one. (Tips on Talent Management / Acquisition from West Wing)

Interviews are conversation with purpose. They are not interrogation. Asses people based on their response during conversation. Asking questions like, “give me an example of out of box thinking on the Job”, will not help. Who knows person may have applied out of box thinking just that one time and was too happy to share it with you to cover for his/her lack of creative thinking.

Never use interviews to coach someone in your team unless some coaching and one on one mentoring has been done. Organisation train people on hiring skills through class room training and certify them as Interview panel. People must be mentored and coached one on one ideally in internal hiring or allocation discussions and interviews before putting them in Interview panels.
People are work in progress. Don’t look for best or greatest but look for better and wanting to be better. They are better bet any day.  Hire for Potential, remember, you are hiring for future. It’s important to gather information and data for past performance and achievements. But never forget you are hiring for future. (Tips on Talent Management / Acquisition from West Wing)

“It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand  underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions"..... Steve Jobs

Warm regards,

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