Jun 18, 2011

Working in Teams to achieve ones goals

I spent 10 hours with a large team today - all of whom were working on a common goal, and I came out more charged up than I went in. Most successes in life are a  result of teamwork and not individual pursuit. Even so-called individual sports, success cannot be attained all by oneself - without help from anyone. Team-work can help us leverage and scale our ambitious goals.

I always ask people if they can do some impossible task or attain some impossible goal - and most respond negatively - that they cannot do it. Seldom do I find people thinking how to achieve a goal with a team in mind.

There are so many companies who make lots of money in profit. Some reward the employees and partners who have got them there and others who keep the benefits to themselves and distribute the spoils only to the few stake-holders. The latter do not succeed in the long term.Taking your own team in the profitable journey is a sure-shot way of keeping the employees within the company in times of trouble/recession. They become part of the family. Unfortunately, this concept is lost on many modern organizations that are driven by shot term stock-market results.

The collective output of a team that is achieving their goals is far more than one extraordinary person achieving their goals alone.

Jun 17, 2011

Dealing With Uncertainty

There is a fine line that needs to be crossed in the making of a leader when he goes from managing the "knowns" to managing the "unknowns". This ability to deal with the uncertainty in every aspect of life is one very important skill that we should strive to exhibit, master and then preach.

As we grow up, we are always asked if we are sure about any decision we are making. We learn to stop taking decisions till we are really sure of the outcome. After sometime, many people lose the ability to deal with the uncertainty since most things are uncertain in life and we are never really sure. This is the difference between administrators, who deal with the sure shot processes and continue to experience life in deterministic ways, and  leaders, who embrace the unknown and take decisions that take them to higher planes of achievement. Entrepreneurship too is impossible without the ability to deal with the unknown.

Our other life decisions, starting from what pre-school to choose, what school to choose, what second-language to choose, what extra-curricular activities to do, which college to choose, what job to choose, which girl to love and which girl to marry - all have inherent uncertainties - but we somehow take these decisions and deal with it.

Uncertainty is certain. We should not fight it. We should embrace it. It will reduce tension in our lives. Once we are calm about this, we can think about mastering uncertainly and make the best use of it in our lives.

Jun 14, 2011

Having Mentors of All Ages

Having spent so many years working with and managing people of all ages across different countries, I have started to appreciate the need to associate with and make friends with people across all ages.

The wealth of experience that is there in people who are older than you and the freshness of ideas and energy in people who are younger - much much younger is infectious. Every opportunity to meet and talk to your friends is an opportunity to learn something, is an opportunity to be encouraged to do something. Even without any formal appointment, these people can end up as your mentors. If you consider them to be your friend then status and power is ignored. The knowledge, skills and attitude is happily transferred. People of the same age group seldom present themselves as mentors - but more as friends and there is so much to learn from them too. If the relationship is used properly, mentors and friends can bring out the best version of you.

I used to spend many hours talking to young members of my team every fortnight. For them it was an opportunity to meet the "big boss" and talk freely and for me it was an opportunity to learn about what keeps the generation buzzing, ticking or rocking. In my present situation, I now try to help young people with their start-up ideas.In many occasions, I have come out more inspired than I went in.

Having a mentor is important to make progress but making a mentor out of every friend is the secret to a lifelong of learning and extraordinary success.

Jun 12, 2011

Communicating your "Longterm" plans

I was asked this question under two different circumstances this weekend and as I articulated my plans to two different people, I realized that having and communicating ones long-term plans is very essential in life - both personally and professionally.

There are two kinds of people - one who makes their long-term goals and plans public and then there are the other type, who keep their plans to themselves. Both have their reasons and there is no one right or wrong way. Obviously I am not counting the many who do not have a term goal or it is not structured enough to be articulated.

As a "leader" (or the Head of your group, family, tribe, company), communicating your long term goals is very important to your constituents. The followers build their own identity and their own goals based on the vision and goals of the leader. One of the distinguishing characteristics of a leader is the ability to have and set this vision. Unlike many people, successful leaders are not afraid to spell out their goals. They put in place a set of actions to execute their plan. They are not afraid of failure. The risks associated with the plan are mitigated and life is managed as a project. Contingency plans are constantly created. Generally CEOs are able to openly communicate large and lofty plans for the company, however when it comes to personal life goals, most people are lot more reserved (especially if the goals are extra-ordinary).

This clarity is required for the family as well. Two working parents and growing children with education needs require an equal amount of planning and alignment of the personal plans of all family members is important. Everyone has to therefore communicate their long-term plans openly. 

Jun 9, 2011

Following the Leader

Over the last many months, I have marveled at how the leaders in my organization work and how a 100 year old organization creates leaders who at the same time are good followers as well.
A lot has been written about the "Leader" and everything that a Leader is supposed to do or not do to be successful. Very little is written about the follower. Every successful Leader was once a follower and a good one at that. In high school I read a short story about "The Accompanist" - it was about a Tanpura player who played with the Maestro. It was about the dedication and selflessness with which the accompanist had to do his job. I really did not get the point of the story or the deep significance about being a good follower - not trying to out-smart your Leader - especially a really good one. 

To be a good leader, you have be a good follower as well . You have to follow your own words and your actions will speak louder and people will see it. The way you follow will impact the way you lead. Just like an accompanist, a Leader has to follow the market, has to understand the mood of the market, has to react to those subtle changes in mood, temperament, audience. He has to follow his employees, understand them and on many occasions take cue from that and lead them to a common goal. Only then can they set the agenda to control that environment and be a master of the environment.

A good leader always listens to others. This skill comes only after one becomes a good follower first. A good follower is also one that comes with no emotion or the ability to control ego and emotion. This is very required to be a Leader as well. A small but essential learning.

Jun 6, 2011

When Learning Happens on its own...

This is a happy weekend to start this BLOG as it is the weekend of birthdays for my kids. Also, I feel I am in the positive spirit of things and the powerful forces of nature are pushing me along a journey - a journey that I am enjoying.

Talking about learning - the focus of this BLOG, my son got his report card over the weekend. Getting marks for any final exam is always stressful when you are on either end of the spectrum - and luckily he is on the correct end of the scale. In two subjects he got way below his expectations. I could see him visibly distraught and sad. For the first time in his life, he had given final-exams and was learning what annual exams were like. He had set high expectations of himself on his own. He was self-analyzing all that could have gone wrong (including the obvious "they made a mistake in the grading"). He also realized that his recent acquisition and subsequent distraction due to the iPhone was a contributing factor. No intervention was required for him to learn from this. I was glad that this lesson were happening at an early age instead of when he was 16 or 18 or even later.

Many a times, as parents, coaches, mentors and bosses, we deliberately intervene in the lives of people to ensure that people learn from each encounter. We repeat the "moral of the story" many times. Silence is sometimes as loud as the noise and has as much or more significance. Providing a comforting stance, a strong shoulder, lots of respect actually goes a long way for lessons to be lasting instead of the mandatory "I told you so" or "you should have done this or that" and the extreme "if you repeat this you are in for trouble". Punishment for failure is almost never a way to teach anyone to perform better. Sometimes, we need to watch our children, our employees, our proteges, our mentees learn from their own encounters in life. I advocate and an active hands-off policy - where you are actively watching and deciding not to intervene or even speak. You guide and coach when necessary - only when the direction is wrong and when learning is not happening on its own. Otherwise should watch and marvel when learning is happening on its own.