Monday, 9 October 2017

6 Unmistakable Ways to Destroy your Organization

I have seen organizations during inception, growth, maturity and also decline. 

I have seen organizations accelerate in their growth path. Unfortunately I have also experienced the death pangs of  organizations.  I have seen the roaring tigers turn into meek mouses. And I have tried to learn from the experience.  In this blog post I have jotted down some key points leading to destruction of organizations. 

  • Put all your eggs in one basket : Have only one major customer who contributes 95% of the revenue.  You will never know when the "cash cow" becomes a "dog" and things will come crashing down. Rely so much on that one Golden Goose and become complacent about your success that you do not put adequate marketing effort to gain another big account or diversify into other areas. One fine morning, while having your morning cuppa, you might realize that the ground under feet is shaking and you are bound to fall !

  • Management by Fear :  Just thing how much will an employee work if they fear that they might lose their jobs ? Well, only just about enough to keep their jobs ! The organization will NOT have the willing cooperation of the associates . When you manage by fear, you will not be able to keep good and productive people. They will stay and tolerate high handed bosses only when jobs are scarce. As soon as the market opens up they will leave for a more pleasant work environment . And we all know losing good employees is usually devastating for any organization . So ... 

  • Be a control Freak : Do not trust the people and micromanage their work. You control each and every moment at work and want accountal of  their output.  This is sure to break the backbone of the organization. Conversely, if you want to grow your organization, and If you bring people on to do a job, LET THEM DO THEIR JOB! Yes, you started the company. No, that doesn’t mean you have to do every task. Give people freedom to operate. Get some benefit from having those talented people around. Use them as a force multiplier. If you’re paying them to do work, let them do work. They *want* to do work.  But for destroying the organization, you have to believe and do just the opposite of this.

  • Do not heed the Golden Rule  : The Golden Rule is " Do unto others as they would have do Unto you ".  If you treat your employees well and trust them, it will be reciprocated. In an organization, when it was going thru a bad patch, the senior leadership had a heart to heart discussion with the key members of the company and explained the situation, told about their losses. He asked for pay cut and asked for their support. And surprisingly, 90% of the people willingly took pay cuts and stood rock solid with the organization.  In another organization, during rough weather, the senior management took arbitrary decisions, laid off people without taking them into confidence, treated them badly.  When the key people resigned, the organization expected them to stay back and support the activities. Do you think they cared ? No way ! Instead the reaction was "If you can behave like this, so can I !"

  • Have "Yes " Men and Women around you :  As a leader, you only like to hear what you want to hear.  Surround yourself with people who say "Yes" to everything you utter. You like and appreciate people who worship you and do not contradict you.  You dislike and demotivate professional people who point out the mistakes and have constructive feedback and suggestions.  You do not admit or learn from mistakes.
    If you follow all these, then you company is surely doomed.

  • Do not believe in appreciation : Believe that if you appreciate people, they will either become complacent or ask for a raise.  You point out their mistakes and failure - often in public but  not a word of praise when things go well . You continually find fault with your subordinates, gloat over their mistakes and express sarcasm.  You will never get willing cooperation of your associates and you and the other leaders will lose their respect . The employees will become demotivated and stressed . And your organization will crumble in the future. 

Do you want your organization to survive ? If yes, then never ever follow the above points. 

All the best !

Monday, 4 September 2017

Grandpa's Cross Stitch

Like every Sunday, yesterday too I had gone for my usual round of morning walk at the Rabindra Sarovar Lake. 

I enjoy the clear blue water of the lake, the different shades of green of the huge trees  , the cool breeze and the serene ambiance of the place.  

But the best thing I like about the place are the people there. People of different size and shape. Range of age anywhere between 2 years to 80 plus years. Senior people siting on semicircular cemented benches, enjoying their doze of "adda" (Bengali word for chit chat and gossip). Young people huffing and puffing , measuring their sprints around the lake. Groups of females, young mothers , a few elderly ones , talking, sharing their experiences, smiling and laughing. 

It is a happy place and I love to stroll there, observing people and their activities , enjoying the scenery, the birds and the breeze. 

Yesterday, I saw a group of people sitting under a huge tree in a circle and reading aloud. a book reading group. I sat down with them.  They had just finished reading out an excerpt on Socrates and Plato. It was very interesting. There was a dignified lady sitting beside me. She took out a tattered piece of cloth and opened it very very carefully and lovingly.  It was a cross stitch cloth , and the Alphabets A to Z were stitched on it . It was a bit torn and frayed and faded at the edges. The creases of the folds were flaky.

Her eyes were moist when she spoke. 

"My father passed away last year . He was 87 years old. Last week I was rummaging through his belongings and I came across this piece of cloth. I was just about to throw it away, when my neighbor's 6 year old daughter came inside the room.  She was my father's friend. They enjoyed each other's company and would share stories with each other till his last day.  The little one does not know yet that her Grandpa is no more. She believes that he has gone to his friend's place and should be back soon. So she comes to his room everyday,  fiddles about with his chair, his pipe, his spectacles . She misses him. 

She saw this piece of cloth in my hands and she exclaimed - "Oh ! That is Grandpa's !!"

"This is Grandpa's ? But this is a cross stitch work . He did not know how to embroider " I exclaimed. 

"No, no... Dadu knew cross stitch. He had told me ! He had promised that he will show me a handkerchief which he had made when he was in class 1 . This is that handkerchief ! Show me , show me ! " She danced in glee . 

I suddenly recollected that my father had studied till class 1 in an Anglo Indian girl's school, along with his sisters. Boys were allowed till the age of 5 - 6 years in the school.  He was the only male in a class of 25 girls. 

In the needlework class, he had learnt and made these alphabets using pale pink thread on this lemon coloured cloth using cross stitches. 

And I am sure he was proud about this  as he had talked about the handkerchief to his small friend. 

This tattered piece suddenly became precious to me. It was about 80 years old, in the British era ! And more than that, I came to know something obscure about my father even when he is not there in this world.   

Maybe this was his way of  keeping his promise to his sweet little grand child ! "

Her voice wavered. Her salt and pepper hair shone in the rays of sunlight which fell on her face through the creeks of the leaves of the tree. 

She passed the precious piece around the group. 

My fingers trembled when  I held it in my hands. His little friend had given a gem of a remembrance to his daughter. 

Cheers to the bonding between the 87 year old and the 6 year old child . 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Is One Child Enough ?

I have been planning to write this post ever since I received a request from one of my colleague from a former organization Let me call her Ms. Pretty for anonymity sake .  

This is for you Pretty , and I am sorry for the delay. 

Nevertheless, better late than never. 

Pretty, you have asked me a couple of questions .

Do you think having one baby has any disadvantages? 
Did your daughter ever feel the need for a sibling ?  
Did she ever feel lonely ? 
I am so confused with all the advise which I am getting ! Please tell me ...

Hmm ... I am sure  many women have the same dilemma . Let me write my point of view and share some personal experiences on this topic.

First and foremost, you should consider whether you are ready for another child or not.  It should be a decision which should be mainly taken by the mother. You should not be coerced or forced into taking any decision just because your mother, father, aunt, uncle , grandmother, mother-in-law or the whole world is telling you to have the second child . Well, to concede a bit, you can hear out your the husband's words , but beware, do not be swayed too much by it . 😅😅

It is your decision. Period. 

Couple of things to be kept in mind while taking the decision.  

Are you physically and mentally prepared for another baby ? You already know that it is a 24 X 7 job tending to a newborn , at least for the first few months.  There will be nights when you will not be able to sleep, tending and feeding the baby, changing nappies and taking care of the child. Remember that though the times are changing, it is mainly the mothers who take charge as the caregiver.

You know how the family dynamics changed when you had your first bundle of joy. You know very well how it turns your life upside down and everything revolves around the kid. It will change again . Now the dynamics of the elder sibling will also be there. The family routine will change again. As a mother , you will have to divide your attention between both the kids. Usually the elder one feels a bit neglected during the initial few months and this has to be dealt very softly and delicately.  

This is rather important because the psychological complexities during childhood, if not handled correctly, leaves deep scars in the personality and is carried forward as a baggage in the future years and in future relationships. 

Are you financially stable and will be able to handle the expenditure of the baby ?  A very basic but important point to take a decision.

Career is important. My personal take on this is that all the females should work. Not only for financial independence but for self fulfillment too. I have seen many females quitting their jobs saying that "My first priority is my baby and I want to do my best ".  Yes, your children, your family are very very important, but I think that the first priority is YouIf you are unhappy, then the full family becomes unhappy.  The children should be the father's priority too.  Have you ever heard a father saying " I will quit my job as the baby is my first priority ?

It is a collective unconscious which makes the females "guilty" on this topic. Both the husband and the wife have to share the rearing of the children. It cements the relationships solidly ! My own experience as a working mother furthers my argument.  It was a very very difficult time when I had to join back office. So many problems , family advice, chiding, asking me to quit. But I really wanted to grow in my career. I persevered. Went through the struggle.   But finally, when I look back, I am happy that I did not quit my job.  When I see my daughter taking her own decisions, much more confident than some of her peers, much more balanced , logical and self sufficient, I am happy that I did not quit.  I can write a book on this topic 😊.

Enough on the criteria for the decision making, now coming to your specific questions. Did my daughter ever feel lonely .. well , I don't think so. From her childhood, she was an avid and a voracious reader. I guess that must helped her not feeling lonely. She had lots of friends and the usual childish gossips, pains, happiness were shared with them. When she was in her early teens, she had become a bit of a recluse, the usual teenage and puberty signs. But that in fact goaded me to become extra communicative with her. I started treating her as an adult and shared my feelings , recounted my childhood pains and experiences. 

In fact after I came back from work, my husband, me and my daughter had a ritual. She prepared tea for us (oh .. it was so tasty !) and we used to talk for at least 30 to 40 minutes everyday.  She talked about her day, her school and we talked about work etc.  Whenever I used to get a chance , I talked with her.  As she grew up, I told her about my childhood, my infatuations, silly things , taboo topics and slowly we became friends

Communication is so very important . But it does not happen in a day. You have to nurture it. There is no such topic on the earth which I cannot share with her and vice versa.  

Did my daughter ever feel the need for a sibling ? I don't think so. In fact sometimes she said that she is fine as the only child. But I do not take her word for that because she does not have the experience of having a sibling ! But she never complained !

But coming to think about it, sometimes I feel that it might have been a good idea if I had another kid. There are two main reasons. First, you can trust and share your innermost thoughts with your sibling. Yes, I did finally become my daughter's friend, but the equation between the siblings is a different dimension of the relationship.

Second , as the parents grow old, they need support. Usually not financial, but psychological. They want the proximity, the company of the kids. They want to talk. They want a bit of attention. If you have a sibling, this can be shared. There is a fallback for both of them. 

I say the above two points now, at this stage. But I know I took the right decision of having one child because some of the criteria which I have written earlier were not getting fulfilled.  

I am Happy. My husband is happy. My daughter is happy.

Pretty, I hope I have been able to assuage some of your agony and doubts. There is no right or wrong answer to "Is one child enough ? " It varies from person to person, differs with situations, changes with the personal priorities.

Finally, it is you who have to decide. 

But whatever you decide, be happy and safe ! Do not have any regrets please !

Cheers and hope to hear from you and all others who have some viewpoint, doubt or question on this topic ! 

Write in the remarks column and I will get back to you !

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Why Stories are so important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was amazed . 

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

What makes them so loyal and passionate ? 

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

Perks ? No !

Swanky offices and status ? No !

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

Well, my dear readers, it is stories . 

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

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

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

We can do the same thing in organizations. 

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

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

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

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

Cheers ! 

Jai Hind !

Monday, 31 July 2017

7 Myths about Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

It is Complicated !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me give you an example. 

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

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

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

But it is not so easy ! 

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

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

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

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

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

Such is the power of Emotion ! 

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

Both at workplace and at home. 

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

Monday, 17 July 2017

Aesop's Tales in Corporate Management

I love Aesop’s tales.

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

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

Hope you like them .

The Dog and the bone

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

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

Corporate Scenario lesson :

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

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

Including you.


The Goose that laid a Golden egg

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

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

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

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

Corporate Scenario Lesson :  

This one is for the Top Management. 

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

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

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


The Fox and the Peacock

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

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

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

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

Corporate scenario lesson :

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


The Fox and the Crow

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

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

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

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

Corporate scenario lesson :

This one is for the Top Management.

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

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