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Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on November 27, 2011

It was a cliff in southern California.

I was hardly athletic, had never climbed rocks, and it seemed too steep, and too high for my long, thin, awkward limbs to scale.

My friends convinced me to try it. They walked me every step of the way, gently prodding me along the way, to move my right foot just a couple inches to the right to find that hold. I got to the top.

It took a lot more convincing for me to rap down. My friends, and almost every stranger below, gave me the will to trust, and to let go of the rock.

I will never forget the vast blue sky above me, and the sense of accomplishment.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals are accomplished one tiny step at a time. Steps that seem less daunting, and lead us just a bit closer to that vision.

The important part is that we don’t need to have worked out every step, just the next step.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Are you getting through?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on November 19, 2011

Big companies have a poor reputation as workplaces. At big companies, one spends time on crap. Big companies have politics. Big companies are bureaucratic.

Yet, every small company that dares to dream, wants to become a big company one day.

Facebook tries to connect these two worlds by calling itself the world’s biggest start up. They want to be a big company, but one that feels like a small company.

Most bigger companies got bigger by being successful. They often make bigger profits per employee than start ups, and thus by some measure, have more productive people. The difference is not productivity (though it seems like that, when things relatively simple require herculean effort).

The real difference is that, in a smaller company, it is simpler to keep everyone on the same page, especially as the page turns.  In a bigger company, where information has to travel far, where it sometimes mutates as it covers that distance, smart people can, in good faith, easily make poor choices.

The successful people know this, and learn to communicate, not just speak. It is not what was said, it is what was understood. Learning the language of others can reduce that herculean effort a little.

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Leadership Position

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on November 14, 2011

Leadership is such an over-used word, so often confused with power.

There is no such thing as a leadership position.

Position gives us authority to make things happen. Leadership is when people do something – not for us, nor for our position – but, for the outcome that they believe will come from doing it.

Leadership is the ability to lay out a vision, and instill the confidence that it can be done. The only thing a position can give us is the audience to listen.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Do we share dreams?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on November 7, 2011

Businesses don’t exist to make profit. Businesses need to make a profit to sustain and grow, but they exist for other reasons.

People who believe in the business are more likely to feel personally rewarded when the business achieves its goals.  They are more likely to bring their whole  self to work. They are more likely to make decisions that help the business succeed.

Do our employees get our business? Do we share dreams?

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Do we know why our employees come to work?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on November 5, 2011

Why do some people view work as a joy, and others as a chore?

Why do non-profits have volunteers, and for-profits don’t?

Why do some businesses pay more or less than others?

Why do some people defend their workplace, and others make fun of theirs?

Hiring an employee is like entering a partnership. The partnership is stronger when we share in each other’s desired outcome. Do we know why our employees come to work?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Bullies at work

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on September 28, 2011

I volunteer for an anti bullying program for kids.

We have found that the best antidote to bully behavior is the bystander who is neither the victim, nor the bully. We teach her to go to the kid who is getting excluded from the play, and say: “I am done playing soccer. I would like to shoot hoops. Will you join me?”

As adults, we know that bullying happens, more often than not, when we are not present. Our job is to empower the bystander and call on bad behavior, as ways to prevent bullying. Our job also is to take action and protect victims from bullies.

We have bullies at work too. They are the ones who point fingers, pass blame, call names, don’t carry their weight, or shoot down every thought before it can develop. They sap energy and frustrate people around them. As managers, we have the same responsibility to empower our team against bullies. But when someone in our team is the bully, we have the choice to focus our energy on coaching the bully, or on helping the others get on with life without the bully.

What is your choice?

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Strategic HR

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on September 8, 2011

The CHRO and CFO oversee the two main assets of a company. They have enormous opportunity to add value to the CEO. Yet, they sometimes fall short of expectations.

Their strategic  function is not about setting solid guidelines on depreciation of capital assets, or putting together employee handbooks. Those may be required activities, and if not done right, may cause enormous harm. However, they are not leadership activities.

A good CEO can chart the strategic plan for the company. He can even channel the money, but it is much harder to channel the talent and get everyone aboard. This is where the CHRO can help. However, this involves changing the tone of the HR communications from mandates and legalese to influencing and enabling.

The strategic function of recruiting is not to enforce pay boundaries; it is to get the right people to fill the right jobs. The strategic function of performance reviews is not to get 100% participation; it is to foster career growth. The strategic function of succession management is not to make sure all critical jobs have successors; it is to help find the right successors, wherever they are. The strategic function of benefits is not to pass top heavy tests; but to provide benefits that are best provided via group enrollment. The strategic function of time cards is not to keep record of attendance; but to compute gross margin per product, so we know which products to continue to build.

HR’s strategic function is to breathe, speak, and live this, and to be able to see everything from the lens of the business. The rest is to HR what accounting is to finance. It may sometimes be essential, but it is not strategic.

I have been super lucky to work with HR counterparts who get this. They keep me from the legalese and the HR policies.  They share information with me. They suggest ways I can avoid obstacles. And they focus on helping me get the job done. This is business execution.

Posted in finance, hr transformation, leadership, strategic hr, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Why information overload is good for me

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on August 24, 2011

Wikipedia defines knowledge worker as one who uses “research skills to define problems and to identify alternatives. Fueled by their expertise and insight, they work to solve those problems, in an effort to influence company decisions, priorities and strategies.” We can’t define these problems, if we don’t have information. Hence the term knowledge worker.

As a young grad student, I learned quickly that information came through books, and peer reviewed journals and articles, which I diligently read. Email was just chatter to get through the daily mill of little things, and the less time I spent on email, the better.

This has changed.

Today, a good bit of my information comes through informal conversations, email, blog posts, twitter, RSS feeds, and such. In order to keep up, I need to view these, not as getting in the way of work, but enabling work. I have learned to quickly glean through what is coming my way, to find my nuggets. I have also learned not to sweat what I miss.

If I do unto others, as I would like others to do unto me: my mantra is no longer “prune the email cc list, and don’t spam everyone”. Today’s mantra is “improve the email’s subject line, and send it to more people”.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Technical Leadership: The Technologist

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on August 4, 2011

In Technical Leadership – An Introduction, I talk about how growth is associated with doing different things, and not necessarily doing more. The first change is the transformation into an independent problem solver. The second and third changes are about understanding keizen (改善). The final transition into a technologist involves:

  • Looking beyond what the customer asks for, to what the customer is trying to achieve. Maybe, the customer asked for a stain remover for ink that leaks from their ink pen onto their shirt pocket. Maybe, we give them a ball point pen that does not leak ink.
  • Understanding what the customer doesn’t know she wants, and providing it. This almost always leads to disruptive technology, and new markets. Almost all established markets started this way, including personal computers, light bulbs, cars, fridges, microwaves, telephones, televisions, social networks, search engines, and so on. Before these existed, we did not know we needed a car, a telephone, or a search engine.

Being a technologist is not just about pushing the envelop of technology, but also about identifying a real problems that can be solved through innovative use of these technological advancements. Post-it was invented by two peopleone who happened to invent a glue that does not stick, and one who found the killer use for it. Both of them are scientists, but it is the latter’s skill that is not easily learned by going to school.The two previous transitions taught us to identify real problems, and then solve them, which is what makes those transitions crucial on the path to this coming of age as a technologist.

Thanks for reading my posts on this topic. I am overwhelmed by the responses I got, privately and in the posts!

The full series of blogs on Technical Leadership:

Technical Leadership – An Introduction

Technical Leadership – The First Transition

Technical Leadership – The Leadership Transition

Technical Leadership – Impacting The Customer Experience

Technical Leadership – The Technologist

Posted in Career Development, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

The net worth of your network

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on July 30, 2011

Social currency, in spite of the word social in there, is not online presence. It is simply the power of one’s network – online or offline. It did not have a fancy name, but was recognized since my grandfather’s days as:

  • People who you don’t know have the power to shape your future. Get to know them, and be known by them.
  • Build a supportive community around you of people you like, and who like you.
  • People who know of you, don’t always know you. Share who you are, what you have done, and what you want to do. It will help them know and help you.
  • Learn that building relationships starts with small meaningful encounters that go well, and leave a positive impression.
  • Help others. Your good karma will come back to you when you least expect it.

Question: In today’s world of interconnected, geographically removed people, is this possible without an online presence?

Posted in social network, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »