Saturday, 22 February 2014

Triple Filter Test

One day an acquaintance met Socrates, the great Greek philosopher  and said,

 "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"

"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. 

I call it the Triple Filter test. The first filter is "Truth". Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"Well, no," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and…"

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don’t really know if it’s true or not

Now, let’s try the second filter, the filter of "Goodness". Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"

"Umm, no, on the contrary…"

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about my friend, but you’re not certain it’s true

You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left—the filter of "Usefulness". Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates,

"if what you want to tell me is neither true, nor good, nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?"

If all of us use this Triple Filter test, the world will be a much better place, isn't it ? 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Have you tried REVERSE Brainstorming ?

I was in a fix. 

I was assigned to manage a project which was critical for the organization. I had to deliver the project within a very short period of time. My team was very talented and committed. But when I described the project to them in a team meeting and talked about how critical it was for the company and the deadlines were stiff and the expected quality standard was high,  I could feel the vibes of negativity emanating from them.  It was clear that they were not convinced about the success of the project. 

I did not discuss anything on that day.  

The next day, I again called for a team meeting and as expected , I saw unenthusiastic faces sitting around the table.  I took a deep breath and announced  "I would like to brainstorm about the reasons why the project should fail ". 

Suddenly there were murmurs of interest in the group. People became interested and I could see expressions of surprise on their faces.  The team was used to Brainstorming about positive things but suddenly they were exposed to REVERSE brainstorming ! 

So we followed the usual process of brainstorming and we came up with 53  reasons why this project will fail !

Just after we finished the brainstorming, I announced "There is a second part to this exercise... we will now  prioritize and select ten significant factors which pose major threats.  Then we will do a detailed action planning to ensure that these factors are taken care of ..". 

Since the team had come up with the threats and jointly created the  action plans , there was a lot of ownership and any hurdle which came up during the execution was dealt with alacrity by the team !

Our project was completed within record time and  we received the Star Team of the Year Award !  

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Most Powerful Presentation Tool

Good presentations include stories.

I usually start my presentation using a story. 

This helps to get their attention immediately and usually they drop their guards and go to the Story-time mode and connect with me instantly.

Stories engage people at because they engage people at the emotional level.

The best presenters illustrate their points with the use of stories, most often personal ones.  If you want your audience to remember your content, then find a way to make it relevant and memorable to them. You should try to come up with good, short, interesting stories or examples to support your major points.

Good stories have interesting, clear beginnings, provocative, engaging content in the middle, and a clear, logical conclusion.

If you’re not sure whether you can tell a convincing story, remember the last time you were out with friends and somebody started telling a story that reminded you of something that had happened to you recently — you couldn’t wait for the other story to finish, so that you could start telling yours, right?

And when you told it, you were so full of how exciting it was, the words came tripping off your tongue. And when your friends laughed or winced at the right places, you knew the story had hit home.

  • Start to notice what it’s like when you get that itch to tell a story — that’s the feeling you want to recapture when you get up on stage.

  • The most important thing is that the story will be meaningful and relevant to your specific audience. If it’s a business presentation and you want to make the link between the story and your proposed action crystal clear, use an an anecdote that they – or their customers – can relate to from direct experience.

  • If you think they are thinking too narrowly and need to broaden their horizons, use a more exotic story – from a movie, a novel, the news, or even an ancient myth or legend. If you do this, they may be more easily entranced – but it’s very important that you make a strong link between the lesson of the story and the main subject of your presentation.

Happy Storytelling !

Friday, 31 January 2014

Yes, You can !

Once upon a time, there was a huge tree, below which lived a group of chickens.

On that tree ,in a nice little nest, lived an Eagle , protecting her four eggs

One day, there was a storm and one egg fell from the nest on the hay kept near the chickens. 

The chickens hatched the egg and when a baby eagle came out , they looked at it in wonder.  They loved the baby eagle and wanted to protect it

Days passed and very lovingly and with lots of care, the eagle was raised like a chicken. The eagle loved his home and family and believed that it was a chicken. While playing he sometimes looked at the sky and saw the birds soaring high. He pined to be as mighty and strong like the eagles and wanted to zoom and soar high in the blue firmament. 

"I wish I could fly as high as them ... !" he sighed

The chickens laughed at him

"You cannot fly. You are a chicken and chickens can neither fly nor soar ". 

The little eagle stared at the sky and looked at the Eagle's nest on the tree, dreaming that he could fly like them . But every time he talked about his dream, he was told it cannot be done. It is impossible. 

As he grew older, he stopped dreaming. He believed firmly that he could never fly.  He lived his life like a chicken and one fine day, died , with his dead dream. 

Dream and dream BIG 

Believe yourself and not what others tell you.  You never know how close your are towards your goal.  

Believe that you are the Eagle and not what other Chickens tell you. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Secret of Success

Yesterday I attended a function which was arranged to felicitate a renowned Bengali Actor - Soumitra Chatterjee (wikipedia, on the occasion of his 80th birthday.  As the veteran actor walked into the stage, I was amazed.  Standing tall and erect, he was looking so very handsome.  His face was glowing.  He looked so full of life ! 

And then when he started speaking, I was completely mesmerized. He recited a couple of poems.  His diction, oration and pronunciation was spellbinding. In fact, I think he had improved upon all these aspects !It made me wonder. What was his secret ?  His lust for life ? 

As I listened to him talking about his childhood, how he grew up , his passion for theatre and acting,  

I noticed that he talked about his failures and how he overcame them. He talked about how much more he wanted to do. He talked about the areas he wanted to learn and improve upon ! 

  • Make your shortcomings your happiness :  All of us have weaknesses.  Being aware of them can be the seeds of happiness.  I had come to a strange conclusion sometime back after I attended the the alumni meet of my school. I noticed that my classmates who were plump in school were thinner than the ones who were slender in school. The plump ones knew their shortcoming and took care of themselves. They had turned their shortcoming to their advantage !

  • Compete with Yourself : Be your own opponent. Instead of comparing ourselves with others, we should battle with ourselves. Setting personal growth goals, tracking and measuring them and finally coming out victorious gives a greater pleasure than forever musing over and getting pessimistic about what we have not achieved compared to others. 

  • Develop your Intrinsic Self :  The strength to overcome all difficulties , possessing a strong will which is unyielding makes you self confident and calm. This is your greatest strength. Once we sharpen this ability, no difficulty will be able to sway us.  Criticism will not be able to touch us.

  • Be a Snowball : Every moment, each experience has some lesson hidden it it.  If we can see the hidden lessons in both good experiences and the painful ones, we will grow just like a rolling snowball.  We have to keep the snowball rolling even if there are pebbles and dirt on the way. Every situation that we encounter and every person whom we meet in life is a teacher. We have to learn to recognize the pebbles and gather the snow of the lessons learnt and keep on rolling to grow mentally as well as  spiritually. 
As I write this post, I say a silent prayer.

God, help me to be positive till the last moment of my life.  Let me never tire of learning. Let me yearn to strive towards excellence. Give me the zeal for life , love and learning  like Soumitra Chatterjee.  

Let my mind be filled with peace and love and help me to shun jealousy and  hatred .

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

How to get the pay Hike that you want

A brand new year has started.  

There is something about January. Somehow I always feel optimistic, hopeful and unabashedly make new year resolutions. Some of the resolutions happen and some don't, nevertheless that does not deter me from making resolutions the next year.  For me, the new year has a special fragrance .. just like the fragrance of a newly bought book when you open it and put your face inside the book and take a deep breath. It fills me with joyful feelings.  I wish all my readers a very joyful, fruitful and constructive new 2014 !

As the new year sets in , the hope of getting a good Pay hike is there in  everybody's heart.  People who see the glass as half full think that the hike will be good and the folks for who the glass is always half empty pout their lips and think "Hah ! The manager is God !  All my good work will be overlooked and small gaps in my performance will be highlighted ... ". 

But are all of us really prepared for the appraisal discussion and the salary negotiations ? Every year, after the discussion, don't we wish that we had asked for a wee bit more ? The following are 6 tips about how to negotiate pay raises.

Negotiation is all about making a joint decision when the parties involved have different preferences.

  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare :  Do you have enough data and information about how much people at a similar role make, both inside and outside your organization ? Do you know the perks, incentives, bonus ? Get real information and data to substantiate your arguments.

  • Communicate your worth :  Most of the organizations have forms where the goals are listed and periodically the accomplishments by the employee is documented there. First identify and then communicate your value to the organization. Give concrete proof of how you have saved or made money for the organization or created value in terms of quality, branding etc. Foe this, you have to be very clear about your own strengths and value addition to your employer.

  • Advocate and Ask : In salary negotiations , the golden rule is "Don't Ask, Don't Get" .  many people, including me, make the mistake of thinking that "My work will talk ... why should I ?". But this is a great folly.  We are our best advocates.  But remember,  do not hurry and bring up the topic of salary hike. Let your supervisor bring it up. 

  • Stay focused on the Goal : It is very important to understand what your goal is.  Are you looking at immediate satisfaction or are you positioning yourself for future satisfaction ? Be clear in your mind while you negotiate.

  • Get into your employers shoes : Ask yourself .. Are you being reasonable and fair ? Do you think your boss will be able to explain your hike to his boss ? 

  • Brace yourself for bad news :  Do not over react. In case you do not get what you want, be willing to consider a change of job . Do not create a scene and "quit on the spot". 

Remember, that effective negotiation occurs when issues of substance are resolved and human relationships are maintained, if not improved ,  in the process.   

And yes, managers must be aware of ethical conduct during negotiations. 

So, all the best and go ahead and get the raise that you want !

Again, a  Very Happy New 2014 !

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sonya ,George and Alligators

This is a famous story named Alligator River Story, which I use in my classes on perception , attribution and learning.

Once upon a time there was a woman named Sonya who was in love with a man named George. George lived on the shore of a river. Sonya lived on the opposite shore of the river. The river that separated the two lovers was teeming with man-eating alligators.  Sonya wanted to cross the river to be with George. Unfortunately, the bridge had been washed away by a heavy storm the previous evening

So she went to ask Sindbad, a riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him before he takes her across. She promptly refused and went to a friend named Ivanhoe to explain her plight. Ivanhoe did not want to be involved at all in the situation. 

Sonya felt her only alternative was to accept Sindbad's terms. Sindbad fulfilled his promise to Sonya and delivered her into the arms of George. When she told George  about her amorous escapade in order to cross the river, George cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and dejected, Sonya turned to Slug with her tale of woe. Slug, feeling compassion for Sonya, sought out George and beat him brutally. Sonya l was happy to see George  getting his due. As the sun sets on the horizon, we still hear Sonya  laughing at George. 

Rank the characters (  1 is the best and 5 is the worst) - Sonya, George, Sindbad, Ivanhoe and Slug in terms of their behavior and level of responsibility and their values and beliefs.  

Thursday, 19 December 2013

My “Gandhi-giri” experiment at Workplace

Gandhi-giri or Gandhi-ismdoes it really work in our day to day work in office ? What do you think ? 

Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of non-violence, integrity, truthfulness, honesty etc – does it sound too bookish and idealistic to be followed in practical scenarios where politics and rivalry are rampant ? Though I am a great fan of Gandhi, these questions plagued me too.  

So , I decided to do an experiment and in this blog post , I will describe my experiment with Gandhi-ism at my workplace.

As in any organization, there are managers who are effective and liked by his/her team and there are managers who are not so effective and usually not liked by his/her team but in general have good rapport with the senior management.

There was one such manager of the latter kind who invariably tried to put me down in some way or the other. My team loved and respected me and were really peeved whenever they heard or saw something which went against me.  

One day , in my weekly team meeting, I saw people looking at each other as if they wanted to say something. My team meetings were open and everybody had the right to speak and say “No” or be the devil’s advocate. I sensed something and smiled and nodded – triggering them to open up.

Ma’m” they said, “In the management review meeting yesterday, you were on vacation and XYZ said our team could not  complete the assignment on time... quality was poor ..... “ and they went on and on. 

Ma’m, this is always the case, whenever you are not around, all these things are being told ... We said something on your behalf, but since so many senior people were around , it would have sounded inappropriate if we said anything more ..... 

They were really hurt.

I was silent for a few seconds and then smiled.

Well ... Is it the truth ? “
 “Do we have the data to prove our statements ?"
“Do you think XYZ did the right thing?”

I smiled again – trying to keep my stance by remembering Gandhi.

Ma’m,  XYZ’s team has asked us to help them for the next 2 weeks for completion of their tasks ... but we will not do that...we will mess up their work and it will serve them right ....

You will do no such thing” I said. “We will help them fully and after completion of the task, we will send XYZ a thank you note saying you liked helping his team and in future, if the need arises, you will help them again ...

The team was stunned and nobody spoke for a few minutes.

I said  “If we also act in a retributive way, then what is the difference with us and them? Let us follow the path of truth and peace and non-violence ...”

Though grudgingly, my team did exactly what was told to them.

After a few weeks , again we had to help XYZ’s team and we did the same , with a smile on our face.

After two months, we had the Management Review again.

XYZ praised my team profusely. After the meeting, he personally came to me and again thanked me for the co-operation for which he could meet the deadline which was so important for his promotion. 

In his eyes , I could see the guilt and repentance for his earlier behaviour ... words were not needed.

I looked up at the sky and thanked Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his leadership principles.  

My experiment with Gandhi-giri was successful.

Do you have any such experience to share ? Do write about them in the comments.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Teacher Who had a Gun

The little boy clutched his father's fingers and hid behind him.  

He was afraid and ashamed. He had almost failed  in Maths and his father , after looking at the report card, was really worried  about the future of his son. 

"You have to help my son improve in his maths "

"But ... I have never taught maths to a 11 year old kid ....  and I really do not have time as I have to prepare my own Semester end reports ... " the young man with curly hair, earnest eyes and honest smile lamented

"I understand. I just want you to help him with the maths for these two months of his  summer vacation... "

"But ... "

"I know you will be able to make a difference ... I have heard you ask intelligent questions and go to the very depth of any issue. That is exactly what I want my son to imbibe from you ... I want you to invoke interest in Maths in my son... marks really do not matter so much .. and I know that you will be able to ignite the interest in him ... "  The wise father persisted. 

So , from the next day, the lessons started . 

The LCMs,  HCFs, Mensuration, brackets, simple equations. Questions were invited and encouraged. Stories about Pythagoras, Archimedes, Einstein were discussed.  Tips and tricks were talked about . The boy looked forward to the lesson.  After a month, a mock test was conducted by the teacher.  The boy got about 70%.  

The teacher laughed and told him " You know, I have a gun.  If you make silly careless mistakes, I might use that "  . The teacher told that  in good humour. but it was etched deeply in the mind of the little boy. 

For the annual exams, the boy worked very hard and during the exams , he was pleasantly surprised when he was able to answer all the questions. 

When he got the report card and saw that he had secured 98% in maths, the boy was overjoyed.  He took his report card and ran to show it to his teacher.  He panted excitedly as he held out his report card . With flushed face and bated breath he waited.

The teacher looked at the report card .  He looked up, smiled  and said  " You know, I have a gun.  And I might use that. What did you do with those two marks?"

And the boy remembered this forever and became one of the most renowned mathematician of his times.

The quest for perfection. A leader imbibes this in his followers. And help them attain the peak of excellence !

Do you know of any such leader who inspires you to reach that level ? Do share your experience. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

6 Ways to Communicate Effectively

Communication is a marvelous thing. 

It is the glue that holds relationships , organization and in fact the whole world together.We share ideas, directions, goals, expectations, emotions, feelings through communication. But sadly, very few of us communicate effectively.  "Noise" interferes with the effectiveness of communication and acts as big bad barriers to communication. 

These are six ways how we can deal with the "noise" or "barriers" to keep the free flow of communication flowing effectively. 

  • Keep the physical distractions away :  How many of you have experienced this ? Your subordinate has fixed up a meeting with you. He comes in and starts talking ... the phone rings ... you answer "Yes, I have received your message.. will reply in a jiffy .." . The team member starts  again " Actually I am facing a problem ... " You say " Hmm.". and look at the email and start typing the reply .. He stops .. You do not take your eyes away from the monitor but say " Go  on .." . He says something and someone from the accounts department enters the room and puts forth some documents to be signed.... After this interruption, the subordinate again starts... You look at your watch , get up hurriedly and say... "Uh ... I am late for a meeting ... Why don't you do this ... take a jab at the problem yourself and let me know ... I am anyways there for you ... " . Next time this starts happening,  drop everything else, close the door, lean forward and pay attention to what he is saying and reciprocate.  Both of you feel good and satisfied about the effectiveness of your communication

  • KISS : Keep It Short and Simple.  Semantics play a huge role in effective communication. Suppose your are issuing a memo or  writing emails, pay close attention to your choice of words. It is much more effective to say "Send me your recommendations for consideration " rather than "I solicit your wished recommendations for the necessity of the action and after due applicability of the policy structure it will be deemed for consideration "

  • Do not let mixed messages confuse you : Sometimes during communication, the verbal words spoken and the body language contradict each other. For example, a person might say " I agree with you " but his tight fists, strained forehead and tense demeanor conveys that he does not agree with you. The body does not lie.  So look at the body language and understand his message during the communication and act accordingly.

  • Keep the Feedback flowing :  This is very important for effectiveness of  the communication.  It is the tendency of the speaker to only "tell" rather that "tell AND listen". If you are not listening, then the communication is only one way and incomplete. One best practice which I have personally followed is to summarize the main points of the conversation and repeat before ending. Similarly,  if you are the speaker, encourage questions and feedback. 

  • Avoid the "Mum Effect " : If you are at the upper end of the hierarchy in an organization,  be careful of the "mum" effect.  Usually for fear of retribution for bringing bad news, unwillingness to acknowledge mistakes, or just to please you, there is always a tendency to keep "mum" and filter vital information. This usually leads to poor decision making at the organization level due to improper communication .  It is best to work on building relationship and trust so that communication is effective and strong between the floor and the senior management.   In my previous post  hyperlink -> (30 minutes of walking around), I have elaborated on MBWA (management by walking around)

  • Choose the proper medium of communication :  Last but definitely not the least is the proper choice of medium.  Sometimes only face to face communication works, in some cases emails are more effective and in some communication town hall meetings work better. Nowadays we have so many means and mode of communication - phone, bbm, sms/text, video conferencing, email, letters ... that sometimes we are drowned in information. So, select the medium with care so that the communication is effective. 
 Do you have any more suggestions ? Do write in the comments below.