Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why Getting Angry Isn’t Always A Bad Thing?

Someone else took credit for your efforts?  Boss took away the opportunity you deserved? No one paid attention to your opinion? Any of it sounds familiar? These are some situations that can cause disappointment at workplace. But what happens if it occurs repeatedly? It has potential to turn into “Anger”.

Losing temper at workplace is nothing new. I have experienced it in self, seen it in others. I’m sure most of you would have felt it too. We have always been told to not get angry, right? It is termed unprofessional, immature and in some sense bad. What if I say it’s not bad? At least not all parts of it are bad. What if I say getting angry can get you better results? I know it sounds crazy but let me explain.

When I reflect on recent situations where I lost my cool, I realize it did two things to me. First, I was disappointed with the way I reacted, which could potentially impact my relationship with others. On the other hand, I was furious to prove my point and in a way preparing for the next encounter. It was a mixed feeling. In some sense, I was worried. What if I’m unable to control my anger? What if it impacts my professional image? As always, I started digging for answers. In the process, I read some stuff which gave me an interesting perspective about anger.  It helped me uncover & improve on things which helped me both professionally as well as personally. Let me share some of my learning & conclusions.

Before I begin, it is important for me to explain what Anger is? According to the American Psychological Association, "Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion." Ok, so anger is normal, it is healthy and above all it’s natural. If it’s normal and natural then why do people dislike it and why is it bad? Read on…

Anger is not just a mental state of mind, it triggers an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and levels of adrenaline. When we react to criticism, threat or frustration we may become angry.  But when anger becomes a full-blown rage, our judgment and thinking can become impaired and we are more likely to do and say unreasonable and irrational things.

I was always taught that the only way to lead effectively is to eliminate, or at the very least swallow and hide, emotions like anger and frustration. Go professional or go home, right?  Wrong. Let me quote Henry Evans and Colm Foster, emotional intelligence experts, “the highest performing people and highest performing teams tap into and express their entire spectrum of emotions”. Evans and Foster say anger is actually useful when harnessed and controlled because it fosters two useful behavioural capabilities.

Anger creates focus - Get mad and you tend to focus on one thing--the source of your anger. You don't get distracted. You're not tempted to multitask. All you can see is what's in front of you. That degree of focus can be extremely powerful.

Anger generates confidence - Get mad and the automatic rush of adrenaline heightens your senses and reduces your inhibitions. Anger--in small doses--can be the spark that gets you started.

All of this made sense but there's still one major problem with getting mad. When you're angry, it's easy to do and say things you later regret.  I’m not going to preach anger management. But I do know this; it’s ok to be upset, but be intelligent while you're upset." That way you sustain your professional relationships as you work through challenges.

Next time you are about to get angry, try what I have tried. Identify your triggers that get you angry. Be aware of them. Think about a time when you found yourself starting to lose it. You felt your heart rate increasing, your breathing changing, and you felt like you can’t stop yourself from blurting out whatever was on your mind – even though you knew, in that moment, it was going to cause relationship damage. In moments when your blood is boiling, the key is to manage your physical (including verbal) reaction so you can manage your emotional response.

So, we have a choice to make in these moments about how we’re going to respond to this emotional surge. We all feel them at some point: Is it going to control you, or will you control it?

Let me conclude with one of my favourite movie quotes: In the movie “X-men First Class,” Erik cannot unleash the full extent of his power except when he is swept away by emotion — specifically, anger and sorrow. Charles Xavier instructs him on how to control his mind and his emotions in order to control his power and to unleash it’s brilliance upon the world. Charles says “True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity”. Imagine if you can find that balance within yourself!!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Caution: Don’t get addicted to Online Shopping – Discounts won’t last!!

Why do big online retailers like Flipkart, Jabong, Snapdeal continue to offer huge discounts and attractive offers despite of making huge losses?

It was a week before Diwali; I was helping my dad decorate our house. For my overseas readers, Diwali is the biggest Indian festival and just like any big festivities around the world, it comes with loads of shopping. Retailer offers discounts and schemes to boost sales and to cash in the festive spirit. One of my neighbors, who happen to be a retailer of electronic goods, started chatting with us. He explained how it’s been very busy for him due to the holiday season and that he wants to rush to open his shop. I asked him if online sales caused any impact to his business. He immediately replied; yes. I fired another question, how can they sell it so cheap? He paused for a while and then went on with his response; these websites are selling goods at cost price or even lower. He added further; they don’t want to make profits, they are only here to destroy shop owners and real retailers. They are there are here to increase valuation of their online ventures and then sell it off to the highest bidder. Before I could ask anything else, he left. I & my dad chatted about this topic for few more minutes where he gave me an example how he had seen a similar strategy by a company when he was young. Having written my last post on success of online retailers, I thought it’s fair to warn everyone on its sustainability.

Let me take you back to early 1900. This was the time when a trading company changed the way we start our day even today. This also happens to be the company which helped British, rule India for several decades. So, what change am I referring to? It is about the way we welcome guests in our homes, it is about the way we wake up, it is about the way we socialize. I’m taking about TEA, sounds familiar? Off course it will. Tea is now a part of India tradition. This has not been the case always. According to the historian Ville MelgĂ©n, the taste for tea was developed in India through a dedicated punch in the face of the producers of tea. Initially, free samples of tea were offered from horse-drawn carts. As early as 1907, Brooke Bond, an English tea company started experimenting with a fleet of horse-drawn vans for distributing teas. This is exactly what my dad told me. He told me how tea was distributed free along with a small pack of biscuits (small cookies/ crackers). My dad was born in the year 1948, which means this company distributed free samples for over 50 years. Give it for free unless it becomes an addition. That’s exactly what East India Company did, and this is exactly what online retailers are doing. They are making us habitual of free home delivery, huge discounts, luxury of ordering two sizes and returning other one, same day delivery, free returns if you don’t like the product. All of this was important to change behavior of Indian buyers, who wanted to touch everything, bargain hard before buying.

Now consider this; India's largest online player Flipkart continues to be in the red (in losses) after more than six years of operations. The fact is; no online retailer in India is currently making profits. Think about it. Why would they sell products for almost no margin? Why would they invest so heavily on advertising? Answer lies in East India Companies strategy. They are acquiring customers. They are destroying real traders. They are increasing their base and brand loyalty. You would have noticed how some of these companies have started additional features through membership programs. All of this is aimed at increasing customer base. In fact, companies like WhatsApp are doing the same thing. They started offering free messages, free media transfer, even free call (by some). All of these services were earlier charged by mobile companies. Sooner or later, WhatsApp will also charge for its services. For now, they are making us addicted to their features & cost free operations.  

Make best use of online shopping features till they remain cost effective, history tells us they won’t remain cheap forever. Share & comment if you like this post. Feel free to criticize.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CEO Narendra Modi - 6 Things Corporate World can learn from India's Prime Minister

From a tea seller to becoming the leader of biggest democracy in the world, corporate world can learn a lot from India’s present Prime Minister, Narender Modi. There are enough articles & reports on internet about his political & personal journey, and hence I will not spend time writing about it. This blog will highlight five top themes that emerge from Narender Modi’s success, that business world can learn & assimilate. I do however want to give some context to my overseas readers who may not know this gentleman as good as we Indians do.

Narender Modi was a key strategist for the BJP (Political party) in the successful 1995 and 1998 Gujarat state election campaigns. He became Chief Minister of Gujarat in October 2001 and served longer in that position than anyone else to date. He led the BJP in the 2014 general election, which resulted in an outright majority for the BJP in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian parliament) – the last time that any party had secured an outright majority in the Lok Sabha was in 1984. I hope you are able to comprehend the enormity of his achievement.

As a child he helped his father sell tea at a railway station. As a teenager, he ran a tea stall with his brother near a bus terminal. One of his school teachers described him as being an average student, but a keen debater who had an interest in theater. That interest may have influenced how he now projects himself in politics. Narender Modi last worked in the staff canteen of Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation until he became a full–time pracharak (campaigner) of the RSS (A right-wing Hindu nationalist organization) in 1970.

It is also important to understand the “state of affairs” of the country he took charge of. India had been lagging behind in economic development. Media & critics would often use the phrase “Policy Paralysis” to define government’s incompetence & indecisiveness.  Several allegations of corruption, lack of leadership, degraded relationships with neighboring nations were few other challenges faced by preceding government.
Now that everyone has required perspective, let me bring the focus back on how businesses & leaders can benefit from Narendar Modi’s approach. He is trying to do what Isaac Perlmutter did for Marvel Comics; turning a bankrupt, out of fashion business into multibillion dollar entity. He is trying to accomplish what Doug Conant did for Campbell’s Soup where sales were falling due to prior management's decisions to raise prices and the company had lost half its market value. Conant believed the key to a successful company was employee engagement. During his first few months as CEO, he replaced 300 of the company's top 350 leaders, and implemented a 10-year plan to turn the company around.

Compare Modi’s job to a CEO who is in charge of a huge organization which has failed or is on the verge of failure. Where the competition (China) is running miles ahead and where your board of directors (Parliament) couldn't agree on anything.  I know it’s an understatement to compare Prime Minister’s job with a corporate CEO but look at the brighter side. If he can do it for the country then it is definitely doable for an organization. I've made an attempt to club his vision & actions in following five themes:

Revive Self-Belief – The biggest problem Modi had was to revive the hope, the self-confidence amongst his countrymen. He had to create the feeling of oneness & unity. Almost everyone had lost faith in political leadership of the country; most believed things will not change even if they vote out a certain political party. Consider following statements made by Prime Minister to address this issue: “If 125 crore people work together; India will move forward 125 crore steps”. OR “The youth of the nation has its finger on the mouse of computers and is changing the world. India's journey has gone from snake charmers to mouse charmers” OR “From a chaprasi (peon) to Cabinet Secretary, every government servant is competent. We will harness their strength”.
His election campaign; “Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas” (Together with all, Development for all) also hints towards his efforts of inclusiveness & development.  He wanted people to trust themselves & trust his leadership. He calls himself “Pradhan Sevak” (Pradhan mean Chief. Sevak refers to the one who serves). A sevak embodies qualities of integrity, dedication and selfless service. If the PM becomes Pradhan Sevak, you don't need to remind him of his responsibilities towards the nation. Compare this with a CEO’s job of reviving employee confidence, promoting team work and culture of oneness in the organization.

Be the Change – Consider this statement which he made in front of entire nation on India’s Independence Day: “I can promise you. If you work 12 hours, I will work for 13. If you work 14 hours, I will work for 15 hours”. One of his first decisions after becoming Prime Minister was to invite head of SAARC nation to his oath taking ceremony. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and geopolitical organization of eight countries that are primarily located in South Asia. This was a great symbolic gesture which signified inclusiveness. It can also be termed as new start to regional partnership.
He has been setting examples for others to follow. He has introduced a culture of disciple & ownership amongst bureaucrats and ministers. He hasn't allowed dynasty politics. His ministers cannot recommend their relatives or friends for any government or political position/ work. He reviews critical appointments to ensure compliance. Compare this with leading by example, building self-discipline, building the culture of meritocracy & ownership.

Core Team Matters – It seems our Prime Minister has handpicked each member of his team. From the top bureaucrats to his ministers, everyone seems to be aligned to his vision. He made the hard decision of not including any senior (above the age of 60) party member in his team. I feel this was important to ensure there was no resistance to his vision & decisions. Lot of these folks had prior experience of running ministries, departments. Despite of that, Modi picked people he could trust, not who could make his work easy.As India’s PM, during his very first address to his party members, he asked them to focus on three things: “Achar (Conduct), Vichar (Thinking) and Vyavahar (Behavior). What a way to start, I say. Where most politicians will start celebrating success, he wanted his team to be prepared for everything they promised.

Build Investor Confidence – To me, this is where Narender Modi has hit a Master Stroke. He always had a great track record of facilitating industrial development in his state. His mantra from very beginning has been “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”. He says government’s job is to facilitate economic development through people & businesses. His latest initiative of “Make In India” represents his intent of increasing investments in India. People say he wants to compete with China.
He has been boasting about India’s cost effective yet successful Mars mission. "A one KM (0.6 miles) auto rickshaw ride in India takes INR 10 and India reached Mars at INR 7 per KM" the Prime Minister said while talking about India's talent pool and potential to become one of the top most countries in the world. Total cost of this project was $74 Million, it costed less than the estimated $100 million budget of the sci-fi blockbuster "Gravity".
He also asked nation to think about ‘zero-defect and zero effect’. Zero defect in production with no adverse effect on the environment. All these efforts were made to emphasize on four things: 1) We have the technical knowledge & capability to develop complex solutions. 2) Our accuracy & quality is world-class. 3) We have most cost effective workforce/ infrastructure. 4) We care for environment. Compare this with a business leader trying to raise capital investments for an ailing organization.

Stay Grounded & Connected – “It is a tribute to Indian democracy that a person from a poor family, an ordinary family, is today addressing the nation from the Red Fort”. Narender Modi often reminds people of his humble & earnest background. I think it helps him stay connected with the common man. Did you know he is the third most followed world leader on twitter, next only to US President Barack Obama and the Pope?
He launched several initiatives to stay connected with his nation & supporter around the world. Latest one is “Man Ki Baat” – loosely translates to “Taking from the heart”, where the Prime Minister address India through a radio program. His government has also launched a web portal called; MyGov platform is a path breaking initiative of the Government of India which enables citizens to engage in consultation & problem solving. This is a place where government departments will post various online and on-ground tasks on which they would like citizen inputs & ideas. General public can register and provide suggestions directly to the concerned department. Compare this with creating the culture of two way dialogue, empower people by allowing them to share ideas & be a part of problem solving.

Clear Vision – Most importantly, all his efforts are focused towards his vision for India – “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat” (One India, Best India). He also said: “The nation should move towards one target, one direction, one intention and one decision” & that “By 2016, MPs (Member of Parliament) should have at least made one village an ideal village.  If we want to develop India, we need to develop villages. By the end of five years, each MP should have converted at least five villages into ideal villages”.
During his Independence Day speech, when everyone expected him to talk about economic development, defense services, space technology, he surprised everyone by talking about toilets in every home. He launched a campaign called “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” (Clean India Campaign) - A national level campaign by the Government of India covering 4041 statutory towns to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country. Compare this with a CEO’s clear vision for his organization.

Before I conclude this post, let me tell everyone that I’m not associated to any political party. I do not intent to criticize previous government; neither do I advocate all actions of current government. Everything written above is purely my observation, research & interpretation of our Prime Minister’s style of working. One thing I know for sure; you can love him, you can dislike him but you CANNOT ignore him, that’s our Prime Minister for you!! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How India Online Shopping Giants made it BIG?

Three top online e-retailers… All have IIT connections, all started small, all made some brave (read crazy) decisions, all of them made swift adjustments to their business model to make it “BIG”. From same day delivery to hassle free returns, from cash on delivery to monthly EMI, these companies have changed the way we shop, forever. All of them were able to sense the market and overcome their mistakes. They constantly “Check & Adjust” to survive & thrive in this very competitive world.

I have been an online shopper for a decade. My first online order was a memory card reader from Ebay. Since then, I have ordered laptops, camera, apparels, furniture, even smart TV and Air conditioners… yes that too. You can imagine my passion for online world. Let me show you the journey of these top e-retailers. Remember these companies started much later than Ebay, Indiatimes shopping & Homeshop18. Yet, they not only left all these mega brands behind but are also giving Amazon a run for their money.

Year 2007; Mukesh Bansal, Ashutosh Lawania and Vineet Saxen, all IITians started an online venture with a focus on personalization of gift items. I believe I was amongst the first few to register to their site. It mainly operated on the B2B (business to business) model during its initial years. Between 2007 and 2010, the online portal allowed customers to personalize 15 products such as t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, calendars, watches, teddy bears, pendants, wine glasses and jigsaw puzzles. Customers could order for these online and these would be home delivered in 3 days’ time. It seemed like a perfect gifting option back then. Within the initial 3 years, it became India’s largest personalization platform with more than 50% of the market share. Company was eyeing for more. It started offering personalization of jerseys of various cricket and football teams including the Indian cricket team, the IPL teams and the Premier League football teams. By 2010, this company shifted its focus to the online retailing of branded apparels. Fast forward to May 2014, another e-retailer acquired this company in an estimated $300 Million deal.  If you haven’t yet guessed it, I’m referring to “”. Company, which started with selling customized mugs and t-shirts, was valued at $300M in 6 years.

This second venture wasn’t even intended as an online business. In 2007, its founders started with an offline couponing business. They convinced few investors to support and sustain their business. In 2010, couple of their merchants suggested them to go online. Its founders and key investor agreed to convert their business to an online venture. Start wasn't great. Kunal, one of its founding members, in an interview said; the site sucked initially, and we made a lot of mistakes. However, we were extremely agile, we obsessively tracked the customer preferences, and continued to rapidly revise and improve the platform. We evolved and learned from our mistakes and kept moving forward by taking intelligent risks, eventually things started working out pretty well. Their business, probably inspired by, offered discount coupons to restaurants, hotels, health clubs etc. They expanded in September 2011 to become an e-commerce company via a marketplace model. Fast forward to May 2014, this company has raised $100 million (INR 600 crores approximately) in yet another round of funding. This round of funding valued the company at $1 billion (INR 6000 crores approximately), WSJ's Digits reported. “” is the name of this company. From an offline couponing business to a billion dollar worth, Snapdeal is in talks with for further investments.

Moving on to the third and the biggest one; “”. I knew most of you would guess it, hence started with its name. Let me start with some fun facts. Did you know, legally, Flipkart is not an Indian company since it is registered in Singapore and majority of its shareholders are foreigners? Because foreign companies are not allowed to do multi-brand e-retailing in India, Flipkart sells goods in India through a company called WS Retail. Other third-party sellers or companies can also sell goods through the Flipkart platform. Founded in 2007, the business was formally incorporated as a company in October 2008 as Flipkart Online Services Pvt. Ltd. During its initial years, Flipkart focused only on books. It soon expanded to electronic goods & electrical appliances. Flipkart kept accumulating funds through venture capitalists & other investment firms. Today it is known as an online mega store. From apparels to books to electronics to exclusive product launches. In July 2014 Flipkart launched its own set of tablet, mobile phones & Phablet. Month later they launched their router as well a personal healthcare brand called Citron. Flipkart’s current valuation is estimated to be $7 Billion. Don’t even try to convert it to INR, you will end up with endless zeroes. And yes, Flipkart owns Myntra. (Remember Myntra was sold to another e-retailer)

I did not list Jabong as I feel it had an undue advantage. It started late, in 2012.” The company, backed by Berlin-based Rocket Internet GmBH – a venture arm of the Samwer brothers – which is known for cloning several successful online business models of the US in other markets, is reverse-engineering the success formula of Flipkart in India: Add as many categories as possible; acquire customers at any cost; build a logistics arm from ground up and delight the customer. Nevertheless, Jabong is a force to reckon with.

As you can see, most of them started with a small idea & big hopes. These aren't completely unknown stories and I’m not sure if this article will inspire you to take risks. But I think it’s worth mentioning this; it’s OK to start small but keep your antennas up and change constantly. Hopefully you enjoyed reading this article. At least, you will know who are you dealing with, the next time you shop. Remember - Once there was Heaven & there was Hell, today its either Online or Offline :)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

4Us of Influencing Presentations

Few weeks ago a senior person in our company approached me to help one of her manager. She and this individual had agreed on a development. One of the aspect in his plan was to develop influencing skills. She gave me some background and asked me if I can help. I immediately said yes.  Few minutes later I started wondering, why did she approach me? I never worked with her or in her business group. We hardly spoke in last several months. Okay, may be couple of times in common meeting but never one on one. So why did she think I can coach someone on influencing skills. My mind immediately went into evaluation mode. Option A: She tried all good known resources and everyone was too busy to take it up. Option B: She thought I’m really good (if not the best) at influencing others. Options C: Her manager specifically asked for me, and she agreed with his view. I had to rule out option A. Obviously; I had to believe in myself. I was perfectly & equally fine with both option B & C :)

 A week later, this gentleman came to meet me. He & I had worked on some metric related project few years ago. He explained how this project never came to closure, how he and few others kept trying but something or other kept delaying its implementation. Conversation soon moved on to his current work and responsibilities. He highlighted how he has been trying to convince few of his business partners on something he strongly thinks is the right thing to do for his client. He explained his suggestion to me, and I saw nothing wrong with it. In fact, I thought his suggestion must be implemented. Question is; why would someone not want to implement something that’s good for their client and their organization? If there is nothing wrong with the idea, then what can this person do differently to ensure people adapt it? Or at least pay serious attention to it.  We spoke at length. We discussed his views and reasons of above idea not been accepted by others. 

This wasn't something that someone asked him to do. He was trying to pro-actively improve the process. As a result of this failure, his motivation to come up with other such ideas or initiatives has come down. I gave him few suggestions on how he can restart this discussion with his business partners, and how should his approach be different this time. We concluded the discussion by agreeing to meet again after a month.

After he left, I started reviewing my notes and scribbles which I made to explain gap in his current approach. I sat & reflected upon them for few minutes. I questioned myself; what if my suggestions aren't correct, what if there is a better solution to it? I thought of validating my views with our company’s internal best practice contents. I searched our internal training content & offerings; nothing explained how one can be a better presenter, especially in our day to day operational environment. I decided to go back home and research further about it, and what better way to start than to Google them. That night at home, few hours and several web pages later, I realized there wasn't any clear source to look for such information. There are HBR articles, several blogs, TED videos and much more but I wasn't able to find what I was looking for. Perfect opportunity for a blogger, isn't it? So here is my suggestion to improve your presenting & influencing skills.

4Us of Influencing Presentations

Understand your Objective – As with anything, you must have a clear aim in mind. Your pitch can be in person or over electronic media; it can be in front of hundreds of people or in a closed room with board of directors, you objective should be clear. It can be about selling your idea, it can be about presenting a progress report; it doesn't matter. You must know what you expect at the end of your presentation. As you can see in the image, everything else revolves around your objective. It is important to note that your objective may or may not be listed on your presentation content. For instance, Steve Jobs never wrote on his slides that he wants people to applaud but his definite objective was to create excitement.

Understand your Audience – Once you have a clear objective, next important thing is to know your audience. In my experience, most people skip this part. Who are you presenting is much important than what & how are you presenting it. Understanding your audience doesn't simply mean listing down the names & roles of people who will attend your presentation. It requires you to understand who can potentially support you or oppose you, who can influence the rest of the group, who can make it easy or difficult for you. People generally address their pitch to the highest authority that may have the decision making authority, which is not wrong. But you cannot be oblivious to the people who may influence this person’s decision.
Other aspect about understanding your audience is to know “how” to present to them. For instance you cannot expect sales guys to appreciate your presentation about emotional intelligence unless you can explain them how emotional intelligence may increase their sales. Ultimately you have to connect to your participants to achieve your objective.

Understand your Content – Let us start with Albert Mehrabian’s research. Dr Mehrabian, author of “Silent Messages”, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that only 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). You must design your content knowing the fact that not everything can be communicated through words. Your content, your words and your body language should work in perfect harmony. I have seen people putting up too much data, numbers or graphics on the slides. These things should not overpower your objective. Let me elaborate it with help of an example. Let’s say you have to present yearly business summary to your business leader in 30 minutes. Why would you want to waste 25 minutes of the meeting in going to through tons of data. I would rather focus on the core objective, which is to prove our team & systems competence and ask for help we need it. It can be done by comparing results of key performance indicators and talking about business leader feels about our functioning. You must tie your objective with your audience and then design your content.

Understand your Strengths – Last but not the least, you must understand your core strengths. Remember, the audience will judge you in the first 30 seconds they see you. You may not be a good orator but that doesn't mean you cannot present successfully. There is no denying the fact that good speakers will have higher success rate but I have seen people with relatively poor language skills delivering effective presentations. These people play on their strengths or leverage others in their teams. If you have a great sense of humor, use it. If it doesn't come to you naturally, don’t try it. Instead, focus on what you do best. Do you have a great story to tell? An interesting fact your audience hasn't heard? Frame your speech around your message — and around who you are as a person. Thoughtful and thought-provoking is every bit as powerful as dynamic and entertaining.    

Above all don’t forget to smile. I hope it helps you develop into a better presenter/ speaker/ trainer. Share your experiences if it worked for you. All the best !!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

7 Deadly Sins of New Managers

Until machines take over every piece of work, we will need people to perform tasks. And as long as people are employed, business will need managers. Here are 7 terrible mistake which managers must avoid.

Though these lessons are more applicable for new managers, I have observed even tenured managers making these mistakes. Once again, without claiming to be an expert, this is my inference basis 10+ years of management experience.

1. Don’t get confused between who you are with what you do – Don’t play God. While decision making is part of your job, don’t decide fates of people.

2. Not everything in life that counts can be counted – While every business must deliver profitability but remember that you are working with people, not machines. Next time, try doing a “heart count” instead of “head count”.

3. Don’t pretend – People are smart enough to spot the difference. Pretending to care or to listen is worse than not doing it.

4. You don’t have to be wrong for others to be right – There will be times when people with less experience will have better answers than you, that don’t mean you are wrong. Accept it. 

5. You don’t have to solve everything – Give them a chance. Remember; not everyone can be a leader but great leader can come from anywhere. Someone gave you the chance, you should have faith too. 

6. Don’t appear stressed - Just like smile, stress is contagious. It will spread to your team, if you carry it. Team looks up to you, be calm.

7. They don’t work for you – Your team works with you, not for you. Performance is best when people want to do something. Participation will only come when they see you as part of the group.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What if LUCK runs out? (Part 2)

Before I dwell deeper in to factors that could determine outcome, I read more about what others say or think about instincts. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning psychologist, co-wrote a research paper with Amos Tversky, which Daniel termed as his favourite; “On the Psychology of Prediction”. Contrary to Richard Wiseman’s view of relying on your instincts, Daniel argues that intuitive judgments are often unreliable because people base predictions on how well an action or event fits their story. Paper argues; successful outcome depends on three key factors (a) Prior or background information, (b) specific evidence concerning the individual case, (c) and the expected accuracy of prediction.

Let me elaborate it with an example. Let’s say it’s about my chances of winning a lottery. Statement 1: Only 2% of people, who play lottery, win. This is our background information. Statement 2: Lottery agent claims that last five people, who bought the tickets from him, won the lottery. This is our specific information. Key to accurate prediction is to give correct weightage to each factor. In my case, despite of last three people winning the lottery, my chances of winning will largely be based on prior or background information, i.e. only 2% of people eventually win the lottery. Fact that last three people won the lottery doesn't increases or changes my chance of winning the prize.

Both Richard & Daniel are experts on psychology. Both suggested their own ways to achieve successful outcome. Difference to me lies in the scope. While Daniel’s recommendation focuses on successful predictions, Richard’s research shows how to be successful person. However, their contradictory view on intuition confused me further.

Let me now shift focus on to Luck. What is Luck? According to the classic Noah Webster's dictionary, Luck is "a purposeless, unpredictable and uncontrollable force that shapes events favourably or unfavourably for an individual, group or cause". Author Max Gunther defines it as "events that influence one's life and are seemingly beyond one's control". Alright, so luck is beyond control and luck is unpredictable. So why do they say; Harder you work, Luckier you get? It’s true in the sense that it improves the success rate but working harder doesn’t really change your luck. So what does it really do? It adds to your effort rate, resulting in greater push to reach the finish line.

Without digressing much, let me get to what I summarized as the factors impacting final outcome. I feel any outcome is net total of four factors; Skill, Effort, Environment & Luck. While Skill & Luck have been featured in lot of articles, including Michael’s book on Success Equation, I haven’t seen much about influence of effort & environment on outcome. In a way, these two are my twist to existing tails. I have already explained a lot about luck, let’s look at other factors.

Skill - Skill is the learned ability to carry out a task with pre-determined results often within a given amount of time, energy, or both. Skill can be acquired & can be enhanced through persistent practice. There may be tasks that don’t need skill, like; predicting outcome of a coin toss. Quick way to identify if an activity relies on skill or not, is to ask yourself; can you loose on purpose? If the answer is yes, outcome doesn't solely depend on luck, because you can only loose on purpose if you control part of outcome through your skill.

Effort – Effort is defined as a vigorous or determined attempt. It is different from skill. To me, it basically includes the passion or desire, creativity to achieve better results. One may have all the skills but without enough motivation or passion degree of success can be lower. Would you agree? For instance, great cricketer like Sachin can also fail if he is not focused. Of course there are other reasons of failure but magnitude of your effort & your motivation definitely plays its part.

Environment – This one is the trickiest. It exists but not always visible, it can be influenced to some degree but can’t be controlled. To me, it’s different from luck. Remember, luck cannot be influenced or controlled at all. Environment is at the realm of your task. Consider it as combination of human & natural circumstances that will impact your outcome. It can best be dealt with better foresight. In business sense, it is the planning part of your activity. Identifying risks, preparation to handle your stakeholders, mode of communication etc. are part of Environment. Remember Environment can be your catalyst or barrier.

Now that I have explained the factors, here is the Equation:

We corporate people (including me) are always in hurry. We don’t have time for theoretical gyan. If we can’t apply it, it’s of no use. So, this is how equation can be leveraged for task specific self-evaluations.

Evaluate first three factors (S, E, & E) for your task. Assign a number from 0 to 3 to each of these factors. Consider Low, Medium, and High for 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Add all numbers. Why did I exclude luck? We cannot predict luck; hence no number can be assigned to it. Luck can be good or bad. It can either increase or decrease your total. This is how you need to interpret the result:

  • Assume final Outcome is equal to 12
  • Closer your total of S, E, and E is to 9, better is your chance of succeeding in your task and lower is your dependency on luck
  • If your total is below 6 or lower, you relying too much on luck. You should stop and try to improve your skill, increase your efforts, and understand your environment better
Let me explain this with an example. Amrita wants to be a successful baker. She wants to run a profitable bakery shop of cakes & deserts. This is her task. I asked her to score on Skill, her answer was 2. On Effort, she gave herself a 3. She thinks Environment is a 1. Environment in this case can be support or challenges she can face from family, friends. It will include the competition she may face from market; after all making good stuff is irrelevant if you cannot sell it. Her total lands at 6. She can start the venture but she is relying too much on luck, unless she improves her skill score or prepares well for the environment. You can apply this equation to any project or task at any point when you wish to ascertain its success.

To conclude, we can’t control luck but we can improve three other factors that influences outcome, after all successful outcome is all we aspire for. Hopefully, luck will never run out. I know it doesn't solve my mystery of car accidents but I learned new stuff in the journey to decode luck, I hope you did too.

I don’t claim to be a research scholar on this subject. This article is merely my interpretation of said topic, which I represented with all my heart. Share it with others if you like it. If you did not, I feel for the time you invested in reading through this blog. Nevertheless, I appreciate your attention to my interpretation of luck & successful outcomes. Cheers !!