Friday, 31 July 2015

Teeny Weeny : The Skating shoes

"Ma !  You promised  ! "   six year old  Mishi wailed.

"Mishi ... ! I am so tired  ! "

"But ... you promised ... ! "

"I will buy you the skating shoes tomorrow ..."

"But I told my friends that I will bring the shoes to school tomorrow for practice  !" Mishi whimpered.

"Mishi ! Don't disturb me  ! Go and study " She was irritated .

"But Ma ! The God will be angry with you  and will punish you for not keeping your promise ! Remember the story you told me ... !"

She turned her back and closed her eyes.  It was a really bad day at work.

The next day she took the second half off and bought the skating shoes.  Mishi will be surprised and happy ... she smiled to herself .

 Her cell phone rang .

"Mrs Paul ... I am calling from the city hospital ! You daughter has met with an accident ..."

She sat outside the Operation theatre ... senses numb.... the shoe packet in her hands .... she tried to pray ....

The doctor came out .

"There is no life risk , Mrs. Paul ... But I am sorry , I had to amputate her left leg .."

Teeny-Weenies will spice up the monotony of the leadership posts . Hope you like them.     
Looking forward to your comments.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Mind the Rumour !

One day, I was busy working at my desk , when Rahul and Priya ,  two of my brightest team leads came and stood hesitatingly near my desk.  I looked up to smile at them but one look at their faces and I put my laptop away and asked them to sit. 

"Hey ! What is the matter ? What happened ? Why are you looking as if someone has died ?

I tried to lighten the atmosphere. 

"Er ... "  Rahul faltered. 

Priya was the outspoken one . 

"We have been hearing certain things and we are worried ... " she blurted out. 

"Well ... Tell me ... what is eating you up .. " I sensed things were a bit serious .

"We heard that our organization is planning to wind up this India facility from next month . Is that true  ?  " Priya was anxious.

I was flabbergasted.

"Who said that ? I have not heard of  any such thing. .... !"

After a lot of probing, I realized that a big rumour has infected our office ... just like a virus.

It had stemmed from the fact that as an expansion plan,  we were opening another centre and it was nearing completion.  Some of the departments were planned to shift there and arrangements were being made .

After understanding, I laughed and took them out for a cup of coffee. Over the cuppa, I told them the following folklore from Bengal , a place in the eastern regions of India.

Here it goes ....

A person crossing a field felt that there was something in his mouth and spat it out. It turned out to be a heron's feather. He could not understand how it had got into his mouth and it perplexed him a great deal. When he reached home he told his wife about it but asked her not to tell anyone lest somebody put a bad interpretation on it.

His wife was even more intrigued by the strange occurrence and felt the need to confide in someone. So she swore her neighbour to secrecy and told her what had happened.

Perhaps it was the way she told it, but her neighbour got the impression that several feathers had come out of the person's mouth. She was shocked. However, she assured the woman that such things could happen and advised her not to worry about it.

"Please don't tell anyone," said the wife.

"My lips are sealed," said the woman. But she was longing to tell someone and when she saw the washerman's wife going past, called her in and told her the whole story. Only, she made it sound as if a whole heron had come out of the person's mouth.

"Never have I heard of such a thing," said the washerwoman's  wife, her eyes popping with excitement, "and he being a vegetarian and all that, but one can never tell..."

She went away promising not to tell anyone but on the way she met her friend and the whole story sort of tumbled out of her mouth. Perhaps in her excitement she said 'herons' instead of 'heron' or perhaps her friend just imagined she had said herons but when she told her husband the story sometime later, she was emphatic that a whole flock of herons had come out of the person's mouth.

And as the story spread "herons" became "herons and other birds" and then "hundreds of birds of all shapes and sizes". 

By evening the whole village and several other neighbouring villages had heard the story and people began to arrive in droves at the person's house to witness the miraculous happenings there.

The poor fellow steadfastly denied that any bird had come out of his mouth but nobody would believe him and everybody begged him to demonstrate his wonderful power of producing birds from his mouth.

Finally in exasperation, he asked them all to sit in front of his house and when they had done so ran out of the back and hid in the jungle where he remained several days till the excitement had died down and the people had realised that the news was false.."

"So , you see Priya and Rahul ... it is the same situation here... But you did the right thing that you came and clarified this ... " I smiled. 

They were happy again ! 

"You know what rumors are like--like a jar full of moths. Once they escape, they're all over the place."  RHYS BOWEN

Sunday, 19 July 2015

It is my Son's Birthday !

We are living in a Global Village.

Distance is not a barrier any more. Telephone, VOIP, Video Conferencing, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Viber  have shrunk the world.  We are able to do business in any part of the world from anywhere.  Think of Uber and Ola Cabs and the brisk business that these aggregators are doing . 


We have advanced leaps and bounds in  terms of technology but have we been able to keep pace with adapting with the cross cultural nuances as well as  cross cultural communication ? 

I doubt it. 

Cross cultural communication is a complex subject and  can sometimes put you in very awkward situations.  I will narrate an interesting anecdote which will elucidate this. 

A typical situation in a Software MNC. 

A project is in progress . The customer is a big US Financial firm. The software is being developed in India , in Bangalore.  It is a Friday evening. As usual,  the schedule is tight and the project team is chasing the deadline of delivering it on Monday

Everything is almost ready , but a last minute change needs the testing team to test and verify things before the final delivery. 

"Abhishek, please get two people from your team to work tomorrow - Saturday  on this and then we will be good to go on Monday " , the Project Manager tells the test lead before leaving office. 

"Ok Sir !"

Abhishek,  the test lead, plans for  Neha and Srini, the two most competent testers for working on Saturday. He asks Neha to call up Srini and convey to him the plan for the next day.

Both of them work the full day on Saturday on the software build but still there are are few test cases which are pending.  The customer wants a conference call with Neha and Srini 

"Hello Srini ... !"  Anne , the customer representative greets the team.

"Hello Anne !"
"What is the Status ?"

"Well, my part is over , but Srini still has a few pending test cases which needs execution "  Neha quips.

"Srini ... will you be able to complete them today ? "

"Anne... the execution of these test cases takes about 6 hours time and it is already very late ..."  Srini tells in an apologetic voice.

"Hmmm... are you coming tomorrow for this ? "

A  long pause at the other end.

"Srini ....

"Yes.... Anne ..... "

"Yeah ...

"It is my son's birthday tomorrow ... we have to go to the temple in the morning and in the evening Payasam will be cooked .... "

"Ok ! Thats Great ! A very happy birthday to your son ! "

That was the end of the conversation

What do you think happened next ?  

The project was NOT delivered on Monday. 

Srini, when he said that it was his son's birthday and payasam etc, he thought that Anne would understand that he could not come for work on Sunday.  In India, going to the temple on birthdays and spending time for worship is sanctimonious. 

Anne , on the other hand, did not understand this cultural aspect . She politely wished "Happy Birthday " for his son , but assumed that Srini would be executing the test cases on Sunday so that the deadline can be met !  

Indeed , a classic case of  cultural differences a well as communication !

Every country has its way of saying things. The importance is that which lies behind people’s words.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Offence and Punishment

A few days back , I got a frantic call from one of my Managers.  He had served a "Disciplinary Note" to one of his subordinates . After receiving the note, the employee was very upset.  Through his tears , he had called up his manager and apologized and wanted the note to be reverted.

"What should I do ? Should I request the HR for the reversal ? He is so upset and demotivated ".  The manager sounded despondent.

It was a firm "No" from my end and I substantiated with the following reasons. 

First of all , any disciplinary action is always a well thought out and progressive process.  Second, as a leader and manager, though we should be empathetic towards the team, we should be able to clearly separate the heart from the head. I know, I know .... it is easier said than done, however that is how it is.
Third and very important, it would set a bad precedent in the organization and denigrate its culture.

There is a thin "line" between Discipline and  Learning.  

Literally . 

If you remove "line"  from the word and suffix it with an "e" , it becomes   "Disciple" !  From our childhood, we have linked discipline mainly with school  where we gather knowledge as well as learn discipline.  And it is so very important to allow for discipline at Work

At work, we deal with people and not androids. And people will always falter, some more , some less .  We will be sometimes late for office, violate company rules etc.  And this is where discipline come in. 

In most of the organizations, the disciplinary action progression goes like this :
  1. Informal warning
  2. Written warning
  3. Suspension
  4. Termination
Suspension and termination are very formal but for the warnings , the following are the guidelines :

  • The verbal , informal warnings should be done as soon as the indiscipline is noticed. The timing is important, since the reprimand loses its sheen with time.
  • Hold on to your words if you are angry. You should be in control of the yourself as well as the situation.  Sarcasm is also a strict "No-no".
  • Talk about the "What" and not the "Who"
  • Open your ears. Listen attentively with an open mind and heart. 
  • State the problem clearly and let him know the expectation. Provide constructive criticism.
  • Ask the employee what he thinks about the problem and how it can be solved. In most of the cases, the solution comes from him and he then takes complete responsibility and ownership of the same.
  • At the end, use positivity.  If needed , comment on a few accomplishments achieved by him and how you are sure that he would improve
Last , but not at all the least, if at the end of the interview you think the employee is remorseful and realizes his mistake, the manager can go all out and give him assurance and gain his trust.  

But ... again ... be careful .. you have to be a good judge to do so.  

Personally, I think that the best situation in an organization is to have highly motivated teams who can self monitor. 

This is the ideal scenario where whenever any infraction occurs, the team member is warned verbally by the leader. In the second instance,  the employee is asked to affirm that the offence will not recur.  The person is asked to take a day off and decide whether he will be able to keep his word or not and decide whether he wants to continue in the organization.

In this Utopian situation, the reprimand process becomes redundant since everyone in the team have their own goals and become self controllers. 

Discipline begins when we take action to correct the situation. And while doing so, we learn and grow. 

Cheers !