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.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Recipe for successful leaders - 30 min of walking around

A couple of years back ,  when I had joined a great organization ,  I observed that there was one leader who was unanimously counted as the best by almost the full organization.  After one week of rigorous induction,  we had a small ceremony where the new joinees were welcomed by the organization.  I saw the great person talking to someone and I meekly went towards him and waited for him to finish the conversation. 

He looked at me and I blurted out nervously .. "I have heard a lot about you. I also want to be a successful leader. Tell me your secret. What do you do ? How do you lead such a large team ? And by God ! Everybody just swoons over your leadership style !! "

He looked at me and gave me a big and warm smile. 

"Hey ! You want me to tell you my secret ?  Well ... here it is ... I walk around .... " He laughed a full throated laughter, winked at me and walked away ... "

I thought he was joking. But he was not. 

I did see him walking about - a minimum of 30-60 min everyday. Despite his busy schedule, lots of meetings, engagements, deliveries, responsibilities, he walked around , met people, even sat and shared his thoughts with a few members of his team,,,, everyday... 

And then I understood what he had meant when he said " I walk around...."

A boss who is always sitting on his desk can be very intimidating and unapproachable. But to know what is happening "at the trenches" , he has to walk around.  To be connected and stay connected, a leader has to  walk around, talking to the team, help and support them , ask questions which will make them think and take the right decision.  Better connection will help the leader to understand and motivate the team. They will feel that the leader is always around and is genuinely interested in them. 

Leading by walking around helps in these :

  • Builds trust : When the leader talks , it breaks the barriers and builds trust. The more you communicate , the better it is .
  •  Makes the leader approachable :  When the leader walks around,  he is perceived as a supported rather than a boss . The issues become clearer and they can be resolved before they become a problem
  • Morale booster : When people are heard,  they feel better about their jobs. They feel that there is an opportunity for them to talk to the leader about their problems or achievement.
  • Productivity : While talking, many creative ideas are generated.  When the leader is walking around, people feel free to come up with their ideas.
But beware ! This is not like walking about in a mall.  The leader has to be genuinely interested in the team and after conversations , he has to follow up and take necessary actions whenever needed.  Listening and observing has to be more than talking. Walking and talking should be utilized for recognition and appreciation.  Chatting about something other than work is also important. And then , this time should not be used to criticize or chide.

And finally remember, do not overdo things. The team should not feel that you are constantly around just to check status and then your presence becomes a hindrance. 

I have tried this and has worked wildly with me.  It has build relationships which my team and I cherish. It is easy , economical and fun !

Try it.  I am sure you will love it . And so will your team !

If you have any experience on leading by walking around , do share in the comments .

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Five Situations where Emails Fail

We just cannot imagine our life without emails, can we ?  Even when I am on vacation or during relaxed weekends, at the end of the day,  I somehow crave to check my emails. Not a very good habit, but whether we like it or not, emails are an integral part of our lives.  

And of course emails are important and useful. Specially for work.  It can reach many people at the same time, very effective for onsite - offshore global communication, it is fast, it creates a record of the communication. Email etiquette is a fast growing subject and I will talk about this in a later blog post.

But sometimes, emails just don't work.  We have to work around emails  to deal with these situations .

  • When you are delivering very delicate news then the best way is face-to face.  The facial expression, a light touch, a gentle smile or an encouraging look can convey the most difficult message without any words.  Emails will never be able to substitute for these.

  • When the situation becomes very heated , the possibility of misunderstanding the email increases. Emails just don't work here. It is better to talk and put the situation in the right perspective.

  • When immediate response is needed , please pick up the phone and talk. Or better still have an impromptu meeting or walk up to the other person's cubicle and talk.

  •  When the email strand becomes very long, assess the status of the communication and determine when to intervene with a phone call or a meeting or initiate a new consolidated email. Recommended guideline is a maximum of four to five notes on an email chain before intervention.

  •  Privacy - there isn't any. When you have to deliver a confidential or sensitive information, emails is the worst medium. Remember, an email can be forwarded without your knowledge or consent to anyone. So beware !

Can you think of any other situation when emails do not work ?  Have you experienced any situation when emails failed ? 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Worried CEO

The CEO of the organization was sitting with his hands on his head, eyes closed, terribly upset.  As I entered his office,  he looked up with worried eyes. 

"Hey ! What is wrong ?" I was concerned. 

"I  am really worried ! And puzzled.. ! I don't know what is wrong . I have done everything possible , but still there is no improvement in the productivity of the employees ! My job is under fire ... bosses from the Head office in Chicago have asked for an explanation ... !"

I offered him a glass of water . I waited till he gulped it down. " Well, can you summarize what steps you have taken to improve productivity ?"

"I have hired managers from the best technical institutes. I have personally reviewed the project plans, estimates and conducted periodic reviews. I have introduced piped music and office parties to motivate the staff, I have even increased the salary of the facility by using whatever little discretion I had .... but still there is just NO improvement in the productivity ! In some of the projects , the productivity has decreased ... !"  He panted . 

"Hmm... " I said . "What about the softer aspects ? "
"What ..? "
"The softer human aspects , which have  hard effects on the organization ..."
"Please elaborate
"Ok. Let me take you back to the basics.  

Recall the famous experiment which changed the concept of Leadership - The Hawthorne Studies. These experiments were conducted for an organization named Western Electric, in Chicago. the experiments were done by the great thinker Elton Mayo in conjunction with Harvard and MIT. It was a period when the Scientific management theory (Taylor) was in vogue which elucidated the use of time and motion and shop-floor methods of management.

First experiment : The Great Illumination  

This experiment wanted to conclude the relationship of physical working conditions with the productivity of the workers.

Two teams of 6 people each were created.  Initially both teams were allowed to work under the same level of lighting so that they could acclimatize to that level. After a period of time, the illumination of one of the group was varied. First , the illumination was increased. And the productivity increased. After some time , the lighting was decreased. But still the productivity increased !  The productivity kept on increasing till the team could not see at all. Strangely, the productivity of the second group , where the illumination was unchanged, also increased !!

So, the relationship with the physical condition and the productivity remained inconclusive. 

2nd Experiment :  Relay team experiment 

6 females were chosen to be a part of the experiment.  There job was to assemble telephone relays .  They were provided with snack breaks and reduced work time and their productivity soared !  After some time, their breaks were discontinued and then their original work timings were again restored. Their productivity remained constant. Then they were given autonomy to create their own processes and again their productivity increased.  But , here too,  strangely when everything was back to the original settings, their productivity , still continued to increase !

So, it was concluded that incentives did not make much of a difference to the productivity, though autonomy  did make some difference. 

But then ... what was the missing link ? 

3rd Experiment :  Interview experiment 

About 21000 employees were interviewed by a large number of interviewers.  In the interviews the feedback and the ideas of the staff were meticulously noted.  The workers talked about varied aspects - not only related to work but their family problems and how it affected their work , they talked about their supervisors etc.  And all through the experiment, the productivity soared and soared  !!   This experiment gave a "ventilating effect" and the workers could speak out their hearts . They felt that their problems are reaching the management and they are being heard. 

What made the difference ? 
Softer and social/human aspects led to the improvement in the productivity . 

In all the three experiments , the groups were aware that they are being observed. They got a feeling of  participation in the decision making of the organization.  The feeling that they are also important to the organization , their cooperation is being sought by the management in solving  crucial problem, boosted their productivity. A feeling of self respect, dignity made them feel integrated with the organization which in turn had an effect on their productivity. 

The "I" feeling got replaced with "We" feeling. Suddenly, the problem of the organization became their own problem. 

"So you see, the Softer and the human aspects made all the difference ! " 

"Hmm" he said , deep in his thoughts "Yeah ... , I am getting your idea ... I think I know what I should do ... "

I smiled. 
"Thanks a lot !
"You are welcome ! It is my job as a coach to make you see !" 
As I stood up to take my leave , I grinned my mischievous smile. 
"What ?" He said 
"Well ! All the three groups knew that they are being observed. So a fourth experiment was done - the wire cabling,  where they were unaware that they are being observed,  and again , some startling things were noticed ... "

"Tell me ..."

"Some other time .... now you might get even more confused"  I winked and went out of his office into the glorious sunny morning  ...

Monday, 23 September 2013

10 Ways to Boost your Self-Confidence

 In my corporate experience I have seen many people with very High IQ not being able to perform and I have also seen several people with mediocre IQ do fantastically well in their lives. 

The biggest determinant for this inconsistency is Self- Confidence.  This is one of the key characteristic of a Leader.  And yes, Self Confidence can be developed. 

The following are 10 ways you can enhance your Self Confidence :  

  1. Recognize your fears and insecurities.Bring to the foreground emotions and thoughts that are always present at the back of your mind.
  2. Never be ashamed of yourself or to ask for help
  3. Talk to your friends and loved ones about your problems. Focus on the things that are creating problems for you and then try to find a way to solve these problems.
  4. Know that  nobody is perfect. Even that famous film star  or supermodel have insecurities.
  5. Enjoy and celebrate your success. 
  6. Discover your talents and then focus on them. We should build on our strengths. 
  7. When you feel low, look around you and at the problems that others are undergoing and thank God that he has blessed you with so much more. Believe me, a visit to the hospital or an orphanage can be therapeutic. 
  8. Never fall victim to self-pity. It can be very damaging to your self esteem and self confidence. Self-pity promotes us to give excuses to ourselves. Also don't let others pity you; this will only lower your self-esteem and self-confidence.
  9. Try to smile as much as possible. A smile will add to your confidence. People are always appreciative of a smile.
  10.  Fake it !  Sometimes just pretending to be confident makes you really confident ! You will never know when you will make a transition from pretension to reality.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Goodbye email of a Leader

Friends ,
 I have been struggling to write this email for the last couple of hours.   I am finding it very difficult   to sum up the experiences of  7 years and 2 months in a couple of lines.  What a tenure it has been …. It seems just the other day that I walked into this office and then everything is history …
 For me , the learning has been immense .  From a purely development background, I delved into quality, process, testing, training – and simultaneously doing delivery and project  and program management, setting up teams – Warranty,  DNS , Alpha and TDCJ . Learning about Test Automation - QTP. Continuous Improvement,   ISO certification , going on stage and taking the prize on behalf of our facility  for the  Best Practice Showcase in Chicago, conducting the training sessions , the list is endless ........
I will never forget the issues of “Quality Times” which I published, the book club,  the parody on the office colleagues in “UTSAV” and our annual days . The  pot-luck lunches and my workplace no. “191” will always remain etched on my mind.
 I have seen ups and downs , I have taken lessons both from the good and the not so good .  I have known whom to emulate and whom I do not want to become.  I have interacted closely with so many different people and everybody has  left a mark on me and made me a better and a more mature professional. I have received lots of accolades and recognition for the work  I have done but there are two things which I have received in abundance here which are priceless. I have received  your love and respect and I am carrying these with me forever.  I am humbled and awestruck by the adoration and adulation that people have bestowed upon me . I consider myself lucky to have gained these from  you.  These priceless gems will be with me throughout my life …
 I am feeling sad to leave … but I have a wide world in front of me now. I am not done yet and I have to reach larger horizons.  I want to taste and try some different flavours and see what greater things life has in store for me.  
As I strive towards the large looming horizon, I want to say a BIG Thank you to all of you . I will be able to reach my goal with your love, trust , belief and good wishes.
 This is a very small world and I am sure that somewhere, someday we will  meet again  ! Till then adieu !
Best wishes to all of you !
What do you notice in the letter ?  What sort of leader do you think this person is ? Do write your comments .

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Why do we Fail ?

Recently I came across a post in a leading internet site. It said : 

Why do I fail at everything I do. I cannot find anything that I am good at?

I'm now in my late forties and have had a number of "careers" which I have failed at. I recently was fired and was told that it was due to continually making the same mistakes. I went back to school at the age of 40 .. After failing at so many things , I now find my confidence has been shot and I feel like a total failure. I'm not sure what to do. If anyone has any suggestions or can even relate please feel free to jump in.

Whether we admit it or not, all of us have failed in our lives sometime or the other. I am not saying that failure is bad.Successful people take failure as a learning step in the right direction  In fact, it is good to fail sometimes and I will expand more on this aspect in another blog post, but why do we fail ? 

  • Quitting too early :  Failing does not mean that we are not good . It does not mean that we will be deemed as "Failures".  Quitting is easy. Persistence and grit are difficult. But if we can persist, we are bound to succeed. As Churchill said "Never, never, never, never, never, give up".  Always remember, that maybe when you gave up, you were just about to succeed !

  • Losing Confidence : Sometimes , when we are failing again and again, we lose confidence in ourselves. We become mentally fatigued and weak. But the people who can keep a brave face are the ones who taste success. It takes a lot of effort , but that is the difference between the traits of an ordinary person and an extraordinary one.  We can be one of them. 

  • Not taking lessons from past mistakes :  Wise people learn from their mistakes.  All of us take the advise of experienced people when we are in a fix because of the simple reason that they have gone through and learnt from situations which we have not yet encountered. The lessons which they have learnt from their failure enrich our journey. Similarly, our past mistakes should guide us towards success. We should harvest our past mistakes.

  • Being afraid of losing our empire : Sometimes when we become too comfortable in our life , specially at work, we fear of losing the empire which we have built so painstakingly. That makes us risk averse and after a certain point, we stop growing and learning.  The current economic situation is making people more and more fearsome and that prevents us from stretching the boundaries .  The more we fear, the worse we will do at our jobs and the more we are destined to fail.  Success means taking risks, learning pushing forward and growing. 

  • Lack of Goals : Sometimes , in our lives and in our career, we feel that we have "hit the ceiling".  We feel that  there is no where to go further. Our lives have reached a full-stop.  Yes. It is true that this does happen. But , to succeed, we have to sense this before we reach the stage when we think that we cannot progress further and take positive steps on the next part of our lives and career.  We should have a clear vision where we want to go.  It is perfectly fine to make changes to your goals when the need arises, to think about altering your course. We can always have a list of excuses, but to succeed , we need clarity of thoughts, self discipline and a sense of self worth.  Remember, everything is in finally in the mind ! 
 (Click and read my blog post link " It is all in the mind .... Stupid")

Whatever problems we might be facing, we have to believe in ourselves and have trust on ourselves. We have to remember that as long as we are alive, we have the ability to try and solve it .  

To overcome failure and succeed, we have to keep on moving. 

We have to make things happen rather than wait for things to happen to us. 

What is your take on reasons for failure ?  Want to add more to the list ?  I will be happy to learn more from you , so please write your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Who is Barun Biswas ?

10 years ago, in a sleepy village named Sutia , near Calcutta,  in the State of  West Bengal,  in the Eastern part of India, on a rainy July morning, some people had huddled together distributing pamplets. They had come together to protest against the spate of crimes in Sutia. They talked in hushed voices , with a despondent look on their faces. People passed by with their umbrellas , not paying heed to their meek voices- afraid ... .  Suddenly, a young man in his late twenties, walked up proudly and spoke on the mike. His voice was fearlessly bold and calm. " If we cannot take care of our mothers and sisters , we do not deserve to live in  a civilized society.  It is better to be dead than living in constant fear. Come, let us join hands and protect the honour of  the women ".  This young, bold, courageous gentleman was Barun Biswas.  He sparked the fire of  the movement against atrocities  in the "Rape Village " - the unofficial name given to Sutia. 

A gang of politically powerful goons , led by a miscreant named Sushanta Chowdhury , prowled the Sutia area. They extorted the people and used gang rapes as a means to silence the protests. Anyone who protested or wanted to go to the police were silenced by the gang by raping the females of the family, in front of their eyes. By official numbers, there were about 40-45 rapes in two years , a dozen or more murders , but the actual numbers were much more. Barun spearheaded the formation of a group named Pratibadi Mancha, who helped the families garner courage and the first FIRs against rape were registered.  He helped the rape victims get married.  Slowly, many people joined the movement and the Government was almost forced to take notice.  Finally , Sushanta Chowdhury was arrested and is currently serving in jail. 

On July 5th, 2012, after alighting from the suburban local train at Gobardanga Station , he was gunned down by some unidentified youth.  It is being suspected that Sushanta Chowdhury had masterminded the killing from jail.

But, his fight for peace and justice lives on. The threat remains but the fear is gone .  In the houses of Sutia, the garlanded photograph of Barun Biswas is kept beside the idols of the gods and goddesses. 

Barun Biswas was made of steel.  The son of a poor landless farmer, he had this passionate streak of helping others.  Even in school, he was never afraid of speaking up - even against his teachers , if the need be. He was scared of no one and  helped the needy at the cost of his own comfort. There were numerous needy students who he had helped and given shelter - offered them his own bed while he slept on a plastic sheet.  He bought medicines for the poor and elderly,  gave free coaching to bright students seeking jobs. He had submitted a plan for dredging a canal to prevent flooding of Sutia and nearby villages.  Recently this plan has been passed by the government.  He had passed the state civil services examination , but he wanted to stay in his village and, so he took up the job of a school teacher in Sutia. And he enjoyed it. It gave him so much more time for social service.  "Nothing pleased him more than helping people. He did it passionately, out of genuine love for the people," said Arun Biswas, his brother.

"If killing Barun was meant to gag the voice of protest, hundreds of Baruns will emerge . He will live through our work" - the villagers say. He is their Guardian Angel.

Barun , you will not be forgotten.

On 5th July, 2012, as you lay on the station platform, crying for help, with bullets riddled in your body , no one came forward to help you.  Forgive us Barun !

Your dog Bholu, still sits on the steps of your house, waiting for his master to return. 

We too are waiting for you, Barun... through thousands of common people in the world who will protest whenever they see injustice.... 

Your Leadership has sown the seeds of many many leaders in Sutia village , who are taking your cause forward .

Long live Barun.  May your tribe increase !

Thursday, 22 August 2013

It is all in the Mind ... Stupid !

A few days back, I bumped into an old school friend of mine. 

After a few minutes of exchanging pleasantries, she asked  me “ Ananya, do you remember Vidya? “  

I said  “Of course I do. She was the head girl of the school when we were in class 10th.  A very bright, sweet, mild and intelligent girl.  I really liked the way she used to enact Shakespeare in school and she was very humble and friendly with everybody . What about her ? Did you meet her? How is she ?” 

Well, it is really sad…. She is in a mess.  I met her last month. She is suffering from severe depression. You know , she was studying medicine, but quit when she was in her last semester. She feels she is not capable of anything. In fact, I was really upset to see that she could not even operate her cell phone properly… really sad ….!”

Vidya was the brightest student in our batch. She was good in academics, extra curricular activities and was friendly with everybody. All of us loved her.  We used to imitate the way she talked,  her dressing sense, her haircut et al.  I remember, one day , Vidya and I had stayed back in school for a drama practice.  She told me a strange thing on that day.  When I recall that now,  I get a glimpse of what must have gone wrong. She had told me “ Ananya, do you think I will be able to become a doctor ?  You know , my mother keeps on telling me that I am too soft to handle tough situations” .

This is what I think must have gone wrong.

When you constantly hear negative things about yourself, somehow, you start believing in them.  After sometime, she must have started believing it and in her mind, the constant conversation and conflict of these negative thoughts must have been hard on her. 

 Patterns of positive or negative self talk starts mostly in our childhood.  It is very important to curb the negative self talk and replace it with positive ones.

 Though it should start early, but any time is a good time. 

  • Notice Your Patterns - The first step toward change is to become more aware of the problem. You probably don’t realize how often you say negative things in your head, or how much it affects your experience. An effective method to know is Journaling . At the end of the day, write all the negative thoughts which have crossed your mind. Once you do this for a few days, you will be able to identify what you need to curb.  As soon as some negative thoughts come to your mind,  say “Stop !”. Better if you can say it aloud.

  • Replace Negative statements :   Words , which we say in our minds as well as aloud , have a huge impact on us. Replace powerful negative words with milder ones. Example, “Impossible” with “difficult", “Pain” with “discomfort”,  “hate” with “anger”.  It works. Believe me.  Also,when faced with adversity, we should proactively see how we can change the adversity with advantage. For example, when we have to cancel a trip at the last moment , after the rush of disappointment, can we feel that maybe the time that we have in our hands now can be fruitfully used, and anyways we can always go for the trip later.  Many a times, when I feel really down, I think of one of my visits to the hospital. Seeing all the ailing people made me think how lucky I was to be able to do simple things like breathe, walk and smile. I know it is difficult, but when we try proactively, it can be done. This is the way to build resilience. 

  •  Develop The Right Attitude : Resilient people tend to view life’s difficulties as challenges and respond accordingly with action, rather than with fear, self-pity, blame or a "victim mentality.". Part of resilience is emotional awareness.  it’s important to understand what you’re feeling and why. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with their emotions, and this frightens and immobilizes them. Knowing why you feel upset can provide valuable information about what needs to change in your life.

  • Feel that you are in control : Resilient people believe that they’re in control of their lives, and it’s true. While we can’t control our circumstances, we can control how we respond to those circumstances, and that makes a big difference in our attitudes and in the course our lives   Be optimistic.

  • Visualize A Better Life : Building and maintaining a visual image of what you want in your life (instead of focusing on what you don’t want) can be a powerful way to attain positive change and opportunity. Make a detailed list of what you’d like in your life. Sit down daily and visualize what your new life would look like and how it would feel to have these changes. (Click and read my blog post on  Positive Visualization)
I am a great believer in the " Law of Attraction”.  I plan to write a separate blog post on this.  

It is a real pity that unknowingly we do damage to our children and people whom we mentor,  in a way that it becomes self deprecating for them. In workplaces,we should motivate people and  bring out the best in them by praising and giving constructive feedback rather than criticizing .

 As leaders we have to understand that each person is a unique individual and everybody is a mix of good and bad. As parents, leaders, mentors, we have to bring out the best in them. We have to motivate them to make them shine.

If we do, then the Vidyas of the world will be able to realize their dreams and the world will be a happier place. 

Note : The name has been changed for anonymity

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Be sure that the work will NOT be done IF .....

All of us know the story about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. Just to re cap ...

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.

Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.

This is the age old  recipe for the work not getting done !

I have experienced many meetings where significant decisions were taken and there were several to-do's listed out.  All of us nodded our agreement to do these, but finally it was not done . The sole reason for this was that there was no designated "Owner" for the tasks. 

  • Against each line item of to-do's , put a name. This is the owner of the task. Being an owner does not mean that s/he is supposed to DO the task. Her responsibility is to see that the work is completed.  She can create a group or delegate the work, but finally, she is answerable if the task is not done

  • Even if you put a name, be sure it will stretch endlessly if there is no planned completion date.  Insist on an end date . Reassure the owner that the date can be modified in case there are any hurdles in the job. 

  • If the above two points are there and you do not have any means of tracking the items, again, you will not be sure that the task list will see the light of the day.  Create a regular mechanism to track the list . It is not necessary that you would have to meet , but emails, phone calls etc can be simple mechanisms for tracking.  What works best for me when there are multiple tasks and owners,  after tracking, consolidation of the progress of the item and sending the update to all the stake holders - including the owners. 

The above points makes everybody focused on the tasks. Tasks get done because ownership is given to one person. S/he feels responsible, important and answerable and usually the work gets completed successfully.

What do you think ? Any more tips from your experience?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Five Great Ways to build Culture

I perform a simple test in some of my Leadership workshops. 

To the group of  leaders sitting in the room, I  ask "On the piece of  paper in front of you, write the names of two organizations where you really enjoyed working and you get just 2 seconds to write".  And once they are done, I ask some of them to tell everybody why they loved to work there. 

Inevitably, what comes out  is the admiration of  the "Culture" of the organizations. 

As Leaders, we have to build the Culture of the organization. Culture is like Internal Branding.  Culture is built upon the Values , Mission and Vision of the organization. Culture binds the employees together and they feel themselves as  a part of a community. 

These are some great ways to build the Culture :

  •  Rituals :  In one of the organizations where I worked,  every project had their own "Team Cheer".  At the end of every meeting or gathering or celebration, the full team cheered together . I remember calling out "Hakuna Matata " (No worries) every time we had a meeting in one of my projects. When we said it together, we all smiled and felt geared up, cheerful and ready to take on the world ! Simple rituals like Monthly birthday parties, team huddles, burger parties builds a cult in the project and the organization. The best companies - Google,  Walmart, Dell have these rituals. 

  •  Values :   Most of the organizations have values. And most of the values are just a picture on the wall , near the reception area.  To build a culture, the first step is to create a solid set of  values for the organization. Something which the leadership believes in. Things which define the character of the organization.  The next and the most difficult step is to communicate the values and actually "live" them.  Talk about the values in all the gatherings, meetings, presentations, activities. Touch upon at least one facet of the values whenever you talk to your team.  Act according to the values so that your team can emulate you.

  • People  :  It is the employees who build an organization. So , to build the culture, we have to build them first.  Be paranoid about recruiting the best fit not only for the present but in the future too. Investment in employee development like organizing Leadership workshops,  team leading, team building sessions,  technical trainings etc. go a ,long way in building the culture of  learning in an organization.  The employees should be nurtured such that the culture is ingrained in their hearts and they it in the organization 

  •  Unique Story :  Every organization has its unique story. How it was started by five college friends with their savings in a garage. How they overcame the hurdles. These stories should be narrated at the appropriate time and gathering. These informal stories become a part of the culture and instills a sense of pride. 

  • Workplace Setup :  Many  organizations do not have any cubes. It shows "Open"culture. Why does Google let their software engineers decorate their own desks ? Yahoo now wants their employees to run into each other for better and more frequent interaction. So the way the office is designed impacts the behaviour and reinforces the values and the culture of the organization. 

So, do you want to architect the culture of your organization or your project ? 

Which ones from the above do you think you would like to  implement ?