Friday, 30 October 2015

Moment of Truth

In 1982, Jan Carlson had just been named the CEO of Scandinavian Airlines. 
His company was in trouble.  They had just been ranked by a consumer poll as the worst airline in the worldLast in service, last in dependability, and last in profits as a percentage of sales. 
Yet one year later, in the same poll, they were ranked number one in all three categories. What happened?
Carlson had decided to focus on what he thought was the most critical issue...serving the customer. He wanted to keep it simple: Identify every contact between the customer and the employee, and treat that contact as..."a moment of truth."
He set out to let his people know the importance of that moment...the captain, the ticket agent, the baggage handler, the flight attendant.
"Every moment, every contact," he said, "must be as pleasant, and as memorable as possible."
He figured that he had approximately ten million customers each year, and on average each customer made contact with five of his people for approximately fifteen seconds apiece. Therefore, in his mind, these fifty million contacts, fifteen seconds at a time, would determine the fate of his company.
He set out to share his vision with his twenty thousand employees. 
He knew the key was to empower the front line.  
Let them make the decision and take action, because they were Scandinavian Airlines during those fifteen seconds. He now had twenty thousand people who were energized and ready to go because they were focused on one very important thing...making every moment count.
"A leader's job is to look into the future and see the organization,
not as it is, but as it should be."
 -- Jack Welch
Excerpt from: "You Can't Send a Duck to Eagle School" 
-- by Mac Anderson

Monday, 19 October 2015

What happens after the Job Interview

Dear Readers, 

I have talked  a lot about Job interviews in my earlier posts -  My Three Interview Questions (Click here) and  Common Interview Questions (Click here)

In this post , I will write about the crucial activities and decisions after interviewing a candidate and issuing the offer letter.  

This post is mainly for people who make the hiring decision.

So, the interview is over and the candidate has been selected by the  technical Interview Panel as well as the HR panel.  The candidate has provided reference contact numbers , scanned copies of his pay slips for the last 3 months. 

For crucial positions , it is mandatory to do reference checks diligently. While reference checking, it is advisable to check with the candidate's immediate supervisor. Apart from the technical abilities, s/he can give important inputs about the personality, teaming and other softer aspects which are very important for the person to gel in the culture of the organization

Sometimes , while reference checking,  the HR will understand that the former employer of the candidate is holding back something.  To address the same , a question can be asked like this . 

"X will be holding a very crucial role in the organization. Can you point out certain areas where he should be provided support or training ? " ... and you bet you will get an answer which will hold the clue  ! 

If you get a poor reference from one, check with other references which the candidate has provided.  Sometime, previous employers give poor feedback due to some personal conflict or exceptional events.  So, talk to a couple of references before you come to a conclusion. 

Three points to avoid : 

1.  As I have written in a previous post (click on links in the first line of this post) Appearance is important but do not get too biased about this while comparing candidates.  Emphasize on the appearance but do not Over emphasize.

2.   Beware of the "Halo Effect" : If the candidate is a reference from a very senior person in the organization or if s/he has done exceptionally well in a part of the tests or any such things, do not let it affect the overall decision making process to lean towards the candidate. Judge him without bias and without the "Halo".

3.  Similarity with you : If the candidate has similar interests, same school, same hometown etc., you might get leaned towards him . Let reason prevail and do not succumb to this. 

And then the most important part : Making the offer and finalizing the Salary !


You have already asked for the salary expectation from the candidate.  And you also have a certain range in mind which fits in with the salary structure of the organization for the vacant position. 

A few important things to keep in mind : 

  • Do not make any offer which will destroy the balance in the team/organization.  Yes, the position might be very crucial but if the offered salary is way above the employees doing similar work, then there eventually will be dissatisfaction in the team leading to attrition, conflict and disharmony.

  • We should not go beyond 20 - 25 % hike based on the salary history of the candidate. Yes, exceptions will be there when we might have to bring up the salary level of the candidate upto the organizations standard, but not otherwise.  Another exception might be the skill or capability of a candidate which is not there in the organization

  • Remember that salary is not the only thing. There are other aspects like leave policy, bonus or retention scheme, flexi hours and other benefits which should be highlighted while communicating with the candidate. 

  • Do not under estimate the power of the grapevine ... So do not communicate anything saying "please do not disclose ... "

  • Do not make verbal promises . Put it is in writing in some way or the other. 

So, the negotiations, agreements communications are done and job offer has been made.  After a few days or maybe 1-2 weeks before the joining date, the candidate calls up and says that his organization has made a counter offer and increased his salary so he cannot join or can join only if you increase the salary. 

Never ever go back to amend the offer again. 

Either the candidate is fooling you and does not want to join. Or he is plain and simple greedy and wants to maximize his change. Even if his organization has truly made a counter offer, he should understand that his skills are needed only "now".  Usually in such situations , once the need is over, a replacement/backup is identified to mitigate the risk of the candidate leaving.  

And of course , during the usual  annual hike , the candidate will be told that since his salary has been increased out of turn, his increment has been "adjusted " !! 

Lastly, it is a good practice to inform the "rejected " candidates that the position has been filled up.  

This shows the professionalism of the organization. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Waiting for the Almonds ?

A squirrel joined the service of Lion, the King of the Forest.

He did whatever work was given him, quickly and well. The lion became fond of him and promised to give him a cart full of almonds as pension when he retired.

The squirrel envied the other squirrels in the forest because of their carefree life. He longed to run up and down trees and leap from branch to branch like them but he could not leave the king's side and even if he could he had to move with courtly dignity. 

He consoled himself with the thought that at the end of his career, he would receive a cart full of almonds, a food that few squirrels got to taste in their lifetime.

"They will envy me then," he would tell himself.

The years passed. The squirrel became old and then it was time for him to retire. 

The king gave a grand banquet in his honor and at the end of it, presented him with a cart full of almonds as he had promised.

The squirrel had waited so long for this day but when he saw the almonds, he was seized with sadness. 

He realized they were of no use to him now. He had lost all his teeth.

Moral : 

Enjoy every moment. Remember that the journey is as important as the destination

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Most Powerful Mantra for Achieving your Goal

One of the definition of Success is achievement of an action within a specified period of time or within a specified parameter. 

Success also means completing an objective or reaching a goal. 

I am often asked  about achieving goals . 

"Ananya, I make several plans , I know my goal, but somewhere down the line , things seem to fizzle out . I lose track of things, the vision of my goal becomes blurred . When this happens, I start getting demotivated . And finally , I give up .... !  What should I do ?? "

All of us have some goal or the other. One person might have a goal of achieving the highest rung in the organization, another person's goal can be to complete his/her Ph.D  and yet another one may have a goal

to become rich.  I can dream of becoming a world famous author one day and my friend can have a goal to lose 10 Kg weight.

Whatever it is, goals are important for the individual. And having a goal is very important. Goals helps us to create a purpose. Goals help us to move forward. It inspires us, it creates a zeal for life. 

But the million dollar question is, How do we achieve our Goals without being waylaid ?

If you search on the net, you will find several tips, advice , articles on this topic. 

But , according to me , the most powerful Mantra for achieving your goal is daily ritual . 

Let me elaborate. 

Suppose , my goal is to compete in a Marathon Race next year.  I will plan for my exercizes, food, workouts etc.  I know that everyday I have to do 1 hour of running , eat a particular no. of calories etc. 

I am very motivated for 2 weeks and follow these verbatim. But slowly, things start fizzling out. Some days I don't feel like getting up in the morning, some days I binge. 

But, if we include these points as a part of my daily ritual - for example, after getting up in the morning, do we think that today I have to brush my teeth ? No! We go to the washroom and brush our teeth instinctively . 

That is exactly what I mean. 

In the above example, if I start keeping my walking shoes and outfit beside my bed, I will not need to THINK about putting them on.  Once I am ready , I will definitely go for my daily morning run.  Because, it has become a daily ritual for me. 

In the same way, if my goal is to complete a novel within a year,  it should be a part of my daily ritual to sit on my writing desk with my laptop and write. Yes, I agree that some days I will write crap, but I am sure that there will be days when I will be brilliant and my novel will be complete. 

Success does not come easily.  

For succeeding, we have to create positive rituals in our daily routine which will amalgamate with our goals.  And yes, we have to persist on these consistently. 

The 3 P's of of success along with daily rituals are : 

Persistence,  Perseverance , Patience ...

Achieve your goal and see what life has in store for you !!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

7 ways to deal with Mean People

Yesterday I read a very interesting piece in India Today , a leading magazine in India and I wanted to share it with my blog readers. 

It is titled "Our Strange World of Work".  Coming to think of it, the world is comprised of human beings and all of us are different ! This makes management of our workforce quite difficult as we have to deal differently with different people ! Definitely difficult , but inevitably interesting ! 

This different dealing is for everybody ... Team members, colleagues and  supervisors . 

So, how do we behave? Specially with mean and negative people? The following points are helpful. 

1. Insecure - They think that they know everything . They micromanage 
  • If S/he is your boss, keep her updated. Stick to your deadlines and always keep her posted about ALL the risks and issues

2. Liar - Makes Excuses, manipulator 
  • Never ever trust them. Document each and every move to secure yourself.

3. Excluder - They only look for personal gain. If not, you do not exist for them !
  • Try to keep a straight face without showing any emotion. It is better to keep minimum communication

4. Toxic - Backstabber, game player
  • Do not indulge in any gossip with them. Minimum communication.  Do not follow any advice or suggestion from them

5. Screamer - Insults, attention seeking, yells
  • Keep off as much as possible. Do not scream back. But do not let them trample over you.  Talk about any bad behaviour meted towards you as and when it happens

6. Narcissist - Wants everyone to feed their ego
  • Do not show emotion. And no need to feed their ego

7. Incompetent - Takes the credit of the work done by other people

  • Never pass on information directly to them. The information should be fed through neutral sources. 

I am sure you will be able to identify these people at your workplace. So try these out and let me know the results !

And of course , have fun !

Monday, 31 August 2015

When the Stars dim ...

The Senior Manager was intrigued.   During my weekly calls with him, he muttered  "Ananya,  Ruchika wants to switch over from Delivery Operations to HR .... I wonder why ...anyaways ... ". 

He then continued with the rest of the agenda items. 

But my antennae was sharp enough to catch this and I made it a point to talk to Ruchika after a few days.  

Ruchika was one of the best performers in the Operations and Delivery Department.

We sat face to face. She looked a bit tired after the long work day. 

"Hey ! What is the matter ? Are you not well ? "

"No... I am OK... Just a bit tired ... you understand how operations are ... something or the other always cropping up . And the customers have become so demanding ... they want everything ASAP !"

"Hmm ... Ok ... so work is keeping you very busy ... eh ? "

"Yes ... Just that nowadays I do not quite feel enthused about my work .."

"Oh ... why so ... ? " I wanted her to vent out. 

"Well ... so many things ... sometimes at the end of the day , when I ask myself what have I achieved today ... a big question mark comes in my mind ... "

"Really ? You are not enjoying your work ? You are a good performer , you have a lot of experience in this area and I always thought that you are a workaholic  " I smiled at her. 

"Yeah ... but nowadays I do not feel motivated . I think I need a change . I want to apply for the vacancy in the HR department"

"Let me understand it better. The HR role is much below what you are currently doing and the salary too is not at your current level.. and I am not sure that you will like the support role . Line function like in delivery and operation is much more challenging that support functions . So, even if you are placed in the HR role, the chances are that you might not like it after a few weeks or months."

"Hmm .."

"Ruchika ... let us talk more and think deeply... I would like to understand why you are not motivated ? Any particular reason ? " I probed gently.

"Well ... " She hesitated . 

"Yes ... go on ... this conversation will remain confidential ... ".  I worked with the organization as a change agent and a coach. 

"I ... I don't feel that I am adding value ... None of my suggestions are taken and I am not a part of any decision making ..."

The clouds started moving and I saw some light .

I talked to her for about an hour and what surmised is that she was very unhappy and demotivated about the ways of working in her department.  She was given a lot of responsibility without authority.  

She was not made a part of decision making.  When she had joined the organization about 18 months back, she was bubbling with ideas and suggestions. But by and by when her suggestions were not even acknowledged , she just stopped speaking.  Ruchika also talked about not being appreciated but whenever there was any escalation, she would be pointed at. 

Dear leaders and managers, you all must be aware that these are the most common things why an star employee becomes disillusioned and demotivated . And there comes a time , when these people leave.  As the boss , it is your responsibility to get a hang of the pulse of the employee and take necessary action. 

After our 90 minutes of discussion, Ruchika looked fresh. It is very important to listen.  Just lending a patient hearing of the woes works wonders. Listening without being judgmental is a quality which managers should nurture.  

"Ruchika,  I understand. Can I request you something ? I would like you to come up with a descriptive account of what your role should be like. Mark the areas where you think you should be a part of decision making "  .  And thus I continued.... 

I will talk to the department head and do the following :

  • Put authority along with responsibility at the appropriate places
  • Smoothen out the process of working
  • Rewards and recognition - yes it is needed at all levels !
  • Put in a process for suggestion submission and implementation
  • Train the managers on listening skills 

Cheers !

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Teeny Weeny : Freedom

"I want a Baloon Mamma ...see the small boy is selling them ... I want the big red heart shaped one !"

"Buy her one ... after all it is 15th August today "

The little boy was already at their car window with an eager face. 

"How much for the red one ?"

"Rs 25 sir .. ok... Ok.. don't go away, I will give it to you in Rs 20 ... ok , ok ... Rs 10 ...."

"Mamma .. I will set it free and it will fly up in the sky ... Freedom ... !" 

Th little boy put the 10 Rupee note in his pocket. 

Another such five  sale of baloons and then he will be free to go home ... to his mother ... who is waiting for him to bring some food ....


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

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Flaming Emails

Emails have now become an integral part of our work. With globalization, virtual teams,  distributed delivery models, emails have become a very important instrument for communication and working together.  

Emails aid us in our work,  but sometimes , it also becomes a hindrance . It is a known fact that there is no replacement of body language and so nowadays , video conferencing is becoming popular. But due to the ease and cost effectiveness, emails are and will always remain the main tool for communication .

In my career, I have burnt my fingers several times while using emails

It is a natural tendency to reply or rather retort to emails that hurt you. My dear readers, I caution you, even though the urge will be irresistible, refrain from instant reply to flaming emails. 

Sleep over it. Calm down . And reply after 24 hours. 

  • Flaming is a virtual term for venting or sending inflammatory messages in email. 
  • Avoid flaming because it tends to create a great deal of conflict that spirals out of control.
  • What you say cannot be taken back; it is in black and white
  • Before you send an email message, ask yourself, “would I say this to this person’s face?”
  • Calm down before responding to a message that offends you.  Once you send the message it is gone.
  • Read your message twice before you send it and assume that you may be misinterpreted when proofreading.
  • There are times when you may need to blow off some steam.
              Here’s a way to flame: Flame On,  Your message , Flame Off

  • Remember your audience and your situation before sending the email.
  • Understand the purpose of the email.  After you calm down from the shock of the email, spend a moment thinking about the actual reason the email was sent. Some people send hate mail to flex their muscles and just feel important. Such emails should be absolutely ignored. 

How should you respond to a flaming email ? Here are some tips :
  • Empathize with the sender’s frustration and tell them they are right if that is true
  • If you feel you are right, thank them for bringing the matter to your attention
  • Explain what led to the problem in question
  • Avoid getting bogged down by details and minor arguments
  • If you are aware that the situation is in the process of being resolved let the reader know at the top of the response
  • Apologize if necessary -  humility wins hearts and minds.

Any more tips  ? Do reply in the comments

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