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Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

People, Performance and Perception

Posted by Anadi Upadhyaya on August 25, 2013

A commonly heard complaint: “My manager is a control-freak and practice micro-management. He asks for suggestions but provide them all himself. He doesn’t believe in imperfection and try to fit us into his unrealistic expectations.”

Perceiver believes that it is the reality but he might be just focusing on the aspects which reinforce his existing beliefs.  Your friends, co-workers or the society don’t know “a real you” but “they know you as they perceive you” as they always have perception about you.  But when most of the decision makers in an organization shares the same perception about someone than it doesn’t really matter what “reality is” as “perception becomes the reality”.Perception

It’s hard for an organization to get required contribution from an individual who is not able to accomplish his own goals within organization and in order to achieve your purpose you need to know that how people perceive you. Any undesired perception about you, your products or services will not go away if you deny its existence.

It‘s not possible for you to communicate with each perceiver to explain who you really are, in case you are not happy about it. But before you make any effort to change perception, you need to understand three critical factors which contribute to perception formation process. And they are:

  1. Your performance: How you perform in a given context contributes majorly towards perception about you. Initial performance is a foundation stone in this process and often takes a lot of effort to change, in case you want to change it later, for better.
  2. Your competitor’s performance: Comparison and competition are unavoidable and if you are afraid of them, then you really fear your own incompetence.  You need to know what your competitor’s are doing before they walk over you.
  3. Perceivers’ viewpoint:  You are dealing with humans and they are prone to mistakes and prejudices. It can go in your favor or against you. These people can be your customers, key influencers in your organization or anyone who is a stakeholder in your current or future endeavors.

You may want to manage one or more of these factors depending on your power of influence but at minimal you should always be in a position to improve your own performance.

If you don’t want to be defined by what you are not, if you want to feed your opportunities and starve your problems; you need to take charge to change perception about you and the time is now. But what if you have already tried your best and are fully convinced that perception about you is unchangeable? You are neither the first nor the last person to feel it, recharge your batteries and hit the trail again. New jobs are waiting to be done, new teams are waiting to be led and new ideas are waiting to be born…

Photo Credit: Unknown

Posted in change, leadership, management | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Getting it Right: 100KM, Team of 4 and 48 Hours

Posted by Anadi Upadhyaya on March 15, 2013

It’s about an endeavor undertaken by our team of four people to raise funds for charity and to walk 100KM within 48 hours to meet the challenge set by Oxfam Trailwalker.  This post highlights our journey, the outcome and re-emphasizes some well-known facts.

We started with goal setting; success was the obvious goal so success criteria were defined at the start in consultation with all stakeholders. Key Success Indicators (KSIs) were to raise funds to qualify for the event (i.e. 50K INR) and to complete 100KM walk within 48 hours with all four members. We did identify stretch goals at the initiation phase itself and those were to raise funds of 150K+ INR for charity and to complete 100KM walk within 40 hours with all four members.

Getting it RightPlanning for the event went through a progressive elaboration process. As a team, we had to cross nine check points to register the entry and exit of the full team. Being a team building exercise, it was required that the team of four, walk together, supporting each other, fastest member walking with the slowest member of the team and completing the event as a team. As activities (aka check points) were already identified and sequenced, we had estimated duration for each activity to develop time management schedule in accordance with our team goal.

Communication among team members was planned thoroughly. Similarly, we planned how to communicate with stakeholders (family members, well-wishers, friends who donated for the cause etc) before and during the event. We performed SWOT analysis for the risks and prepared risk response strategy accordingly. We planned and conducted procurement as per the team needs for the event.

Finally on the D-Day, we first timers were at the event venue with almost a month of preparation. We started almost 10 minutes late from the starting point for 100KM walk of energy, determination and courage. We arrived at finish point exactly 39 hours and 38 seconds after the event starting time. It might not be an exceptional achievement from an outsider’s point of view but as our team could achieve predefined KSIs; this endeavor was a success for us.

It was a fun-filled memorable walk where confrontation was used as a technique to overcome difference of opinions and group decision-making was practiced for team decisions.

Four takeaway from this endeavor which are also keys for a successful project management are:

  • Success criteria must be defined at the beginning in consultation with all stakeholders.
  • Communication breeds success. A well-planned communication strategy is vital for project’s success.
  • Change is inevitable. You need to foresee challenges, risks and always need to have a change management plan in place.
  • Working together works. Remember the best team doesn’t win as often as the team that gets along best.

Posted in engagement, leadership, management | 7 Comments »

Make sure you know the second shot

Posted by Mark Bennett on March 2, 2013

4223373030_df7722f9f7_bTONY MENDEZ: Can you can teach somebody to be a director in a day?

JOHN CHAMBERS: You can teach a rhesus monkey to be a director in a day.

– from the movie, “Argo”

Ben Affleck received a Golden Globe for Best Director for “Argo” and was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air. It’s a great interview and Affleck comes across as very intelligent and articulate and relates some interesting and funny stories about making Argo and about his career. One of the stories was about his experience as a first time director of “Gone Baby Gone.” Interviewer Terry Gross asked him what it was like as a first time director. Affleck talked about some advice he got from Kevin Costner, who had received an Oscar for directing his first film, “Dances with Wolves”:

AFFLECK: Yeah. I talked to – the one advantage I had is I could talk to other people who have done it. And I remember talking to Kevin Costner and saying, like, what do I do? I’m going to direct a movie. Kevin said: Make sure that on your first day, you know what your second shot is. And I was, like, what you mean? He said, everyone goes there and knows what their first shot is, and they do the first shot, and all of a sudden think: What am I going to do now? He’s, like, make sure you know the second shot, and that’ll get you rolling into, you know, we’re going to do this. We finished that. OK, guys, let’s go over here. And now the crew trusts you.

A director is very often seen as a leader in that people and resources must be guided towards the completion of a project that achieves a vision. Costner’s advice to “make sure you know the second shot” is good advice that is delivered well. As a leader, you need to have some kind of a plan for how you are going to achieve a goal and knowing what you think you will do after the first step is the best sign that you have at least some sort of plan. And as a leader, the people you lead need to see that you have some sort of a plan. The way Costner delivered that advice was also good; he made it concrete and put it in the language of what Affleck was trying to be a leader in – making movies.

So often, you read a book about Leadership and the concepts, like “have a plan”, are stuck in abstraction. You think, “yeah, a plan makes sense.” But then you don’t know how that translates into specific behaviors for your particular situation and you ask, “What does that mean I’m supposed to do?”

If you are a first-time leader or even an experienced leader in a circumstance that you are not familiar with, find that person who has experience and get that concrete advice that describes what behaviors you need to do to demonstrate leadership in this particular situation. If you are offering advice, make sure you give it in concrete terms that the recipient can act upon.

Photo by jinterwas

Posted in leadership | 4 Comments »

It’s not important now as “nothing is at stake”!!!

Posted by Anadi Upadhyaya on December 1, 2012

nothing at stakeAttitude of focusing only on things which can save you from the trouble-in-hand and ignoring the rest often results in a bucket full of important activities to be addressed later. When you ignore things till your job or image or commitment or ego is at stake, you often end up creating a mess.

When everything is important nothing really is important. Important, very important, really important, showstopper or using any other prefix in your communication indicates that it’s important but if almost all your communications have these prefixes then it’s time to retrospect as something is fundamentally wrong.

Just saying that “Planning is important and I invest a lot of time in planning” doesn’t work till you really practice it. Make sure that you are not using planning time as a resting time or for anything else. If you are putting less important things on watch list for review, do review it regularly to pick up an activity which has potential to be important.

Be it solving the business bottlenecks, succession planning, preparation for approaching compensation or promotion cycle or anything related to business; being proactive rather than reactive will save your business from risk.

Many things have changed with technological innovations but few things have not. Planning and periodic review of your plan is one such thing that was important, is important and will remain important. Being proactive and looking things ahead of the time is a must have leadership quality to master. Faking that you have this quality may work on few occasions but will surely put you and your business at risk one day.

Posted in leadership, management | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

What does your attrition rate tell you?

Posted by Anadi Upadhyaya on July 18, 2012

Do you believe that you are doing great job just because your attrition rate is as per industry benchmark or lower than your competitors?

If you reward your entire workforce in almost same fashion, who do you think will stay with you between your performers and non-performers? If you don’t want your workplace to be a resting place for non-performers, you not only need to investigate reasons behind your employee’s decision to leave you but also to stay with you. You need to ensure that workforce holidaying at work is not the main reason for your lower attrition rate.

Knowing performer’s contribution to your attrition rate helps you to understand this number better and helps you to make required changes in your efforts towards addressing employee turnover. One-size-fits-all solution seldom works. You have to diagnose your people’s concerns in-depth before arriving on corrective actions. You need to verify early and verify often that your diagnosis is not only correct but also relevant.

It will be disastrous to depend only on the reasons recorded during exit feedback as truth may never prevail from there. It’s a mistake to expect correct feedback on your exit door at the time when “Do-not-burn-the-bridges” is the main mantra.

Neither the problem of employee turnover is new nor do the various claims to address it. Same age-old tactics to solve employee turnover problem will not give you new results. You should not dream to stop employee turnover altogether nevertheless you must try hard to save you performers. You need to understand why your performers are (or will be) leaving you. And try to address their concerns keeping in mind that:

  • No magic pill exists; you need to understand the problem before searching for a solution.
  • Conversation is the key; keep all forms of communication open.
  • Acting on employee’s feedback-data on time will save time and money for you.
  • Copying solutions blindly is a stale idea instead work on a solution tailored or designed for your need.
  • You must develop a culture of trust; nothing will ever work without it.

Posted in leadership, management | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Leadership and Complexity

Posted by Mark Bennett on July 1, 2012

We live in a complex world and the complexity just keeps on increasing. Complexity wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t have an unfortunate side effect – uncertainty. While a little uncertainty can be managed, too much uncertainty can paralyze us. Paralyzed or not, our actions (or inaction) might be wrong and come with severe consequences.

One of the main jobs of a leader is to take complexity and distill it down to something more simple that is actionable by others. Note that this is the case no matter where a leader is; this is not reserved solely for world leaders or leaders of large organizations. This also is not restricted to hierarchical  organizations – networks of people still need ways to manage complexity.

There’s a  implied reduction in uncertainty with this simplification. In essence, a leader is making a bet. They are betting that their simplification is a good one. But like any bet, it can go bad.

Now one way to limit the downside it to have back-up plans, take things a step at a time instead of putting everything on the line, and hedge.

And that’s where it gets tricky for leadership. When leadership does its job in making things more simple, the signal everyone else wants to hear has that corresponding reduced uncertainty. It gives them the confidence to move forward with their actions or planning.

But communicating back-up plans, stepwise actions, and hedging all reintroduce the uncertainty factor that you were trying to get rid of in the first place. Plus, when you try to describe what the backup plans, stepwise actions, and hedging are addressing, back comes the complexity. So should leaders hide them? Maybe, but then the downside is completely on their head, plus not communicating can effectively negate the ability to limit the downside.

Instead, leaders should communicate, but they must be careful in doing so without undermining the whole point of simplification and confidence building they were originally after.

Photo by michael.heiss

Posted in leadership | 2 Comments »

In conversation with “Silence”!

Posted by Anadi Upadhyaya on May 18, 2012

Reet comes out of a business meeting. She is surprised, as otherwise lively part of the meeting, question and answer session, did not receive expected participation. What worries Reet more is, workforce somehow preferring to remain silent and it’s gradually becoming a trend.

Are you also experiencing the same? What is causing this transformation?

Possible reasons for this change are:

  1. You are managing business extremely well, which gives no reason to complain about and it’s resulted in building a satisfied workforce.
  2. You have become predictable and participants can predict your response.
  3. Your workforce is not empowered to participate and voice their opinion.

You can ignore this non-engagement provided your meetings are not meant for attendees’ participation or if one way communication is a preferred method for your business.

Nevertheless, corrective actions are unavoidable, if you are pursuing an active involvement from workforce, as this behavior depicts lack of proper training and workforce empowerment efforts.

You might have mastered the art and economics of conducting successful meetings with no or planned participation but workforce’s withdrawal from discussion is a negative sign. You need to train, empower and motivate your employees to not only voice their opinions and issues but also for seeking solutions via constructive conversations.

It does not really matter if silence is forced upon workforce or they opted for it. As a leader, it’s your duty to listen sound of the silence and help your workforce to come out of it so that they can contribute towards the success of your business.

Posted in conversation, engagement, leadership | 1 Comment »

Check out the May Leadership Development Carnival!

Posted by Mark Bennett on May 14, 2012

If you haven’t read it already, you’ll find many excellent posts related to leadership. Dan McCarthy has assembled contributions from 27 different blogs into one post, providing a brief description of each. All of the contributions are high-quality and provide valuable insight, advice, and challenges to everyone, but you might be tight on time, so these descriptions help you spot that ones that seem most relevant to you and your organization.

If you’re really short on time, here are a few that I found particularly interesting:

  • Art Petty’s The Cruel, Bitter And Crushing Taste of Dump Truck Feedback does a great job pointing out the danger and damage that can be done in withholding feedback until performance review time. He also prescribes things that both managers as well as employees can do to correct this terrible practice.
  • Sharlyn Lauby makes a great case for What Creates a High Performing Organization. While I am admittedly biased in that I already think that continuously sharing information is one of the key contributors to superior organization performance, Sharlyn brings together a nice set of succinct facts and arguments that solidify that position.
  • Chris Edmonds presents an intriguing concept in Out-of-the-Box Thinking About Corporate Culture. The specific approach to work itself that was covered might not be for everyone, but it certainly shows how every organization has within its power to rethink how their culture and how work gets done interact and can either support, or undermine, each other.
  • Carol Morrison doesn’t just go over old ground with Executive Leadership: Trending Toward Trouble. It’s easy to get discouraged and cynical about how bad the examples from recent headlines have been about executive leadership, but Carol offers fresh and inspiring examples of what some organizations have been doing to address the issue.

 There’s a diverse set of ideas, opinions, and findings presented in this Carnival. Who knows, you may discover a blog you never knew before that you’ll want to follow.

Posted in carnival, leadership | Leave a Comment »

The New Crucible of Leadership

Posted by Mark Bennett on May 5, 2012

A crucible is used to burn off the unwanted materials and leave behind the stuff you want. Today’s world has the potential to transform leadership into more what it should be by burning away the old trappings that undermine its real purpose.

In today’s fear-dominated world, some people ask, “Where are all the leaders?” One answer was provided by James S. Rosebush in his March HBR post: Why Great Leaders are in Short Supply. Rosebush makes some excellent points about leadership and what has been eroding the ability for there to be “Great Leaders”, but I took issue with his premise, or at least felt he was misdirecting us a bit with the term “Great.”

For there is no shortage of leaders in the world. We are certainly witnessing the utter failure of “Great” leaders, and it doesn’t look like there are many alternatives fit to replace the current crop. So, yes, you could say there is a shortage of “Great Leaders.” But how much do we need, let alone want that kind? History shows us that at the very least, it’s been a high stakes game for the general population. That’s why there is hope for the future, I think, which comes from us growing away from needing “Great” leaders as much as we did previously.

Be careful what you wish for

The reason Rosebush gives why great leaders are in short supply is that in the past, they had the advantages of:

  • Privileged access to information
  • The reflected glory of their institutions
  • Broadly shared foundational principles

All I can say is, thank goodness those “advantages” are (hopefully) in decline. We don’t need, nor want, leaders who rely on those artifices to get into or stay in power.

Yes, there is still privileged information out there, and it could actually be growing, since all information is growing at an incredible rate. But it does appear that more information that was once privileged is now becoming publicly accessible. Of course, the information is a complete mess, but that’s always been the case throughout history – anyone who thought they had a lock on what was really going on was usually proven wrong. We now need leaders who can help us figure out what the information means and what questions to ask next. Hint: it won’t be the leaders who tell us.

Rosebush asks if it’s the institutions themselves, or their leaders that have caused such a decline in respect and trust of institutions, and as a result, the leaders. The answer is yes – the institutions shape the leaders and vice versa. Once corruption sets in, it’s very hard to extract and no matter how much an institution claims they’ve weeded out the bad apples, it takes a long, long time to regain public trust. To me, that’s the time when you should consider literally putting the institution more in the public “trust.” That is, close the separation that grew over time between the institution (whether actually public or “private”) and the public it was supposed to serve. This is where more leaders throughout the public can step up to make that happen.

Nothing riles up a discussion more than identifying “shared foundational principles”, especially in a world where diverse cultures and norms have more and more interaction. However, if you look at it more as a process as opposed to an event, it helps us see where leaders are really needed. It’s not about appeasing those whose values differ from yours, but it’s also not about extremism, unilateral actions, and ultimatums. Those are the crutches of demagogues, who shroud themselves in the “will of the people.” Again, it’s the leaders we are *all* capable of being that are called for here. We are responsible for our own thinking about personal and shared values – not some “Great” leader who tells you what to believe because all your neighbors believe it. Everyone is the world is your neighbor now, so how can a “Great” leader make that claim anymore?

We don’t get fooled again?

No, all of these “advantages” of the past were frequently nothing more than mechanisms for those in power to stay in power. So, good riddance, as those advantages really weren’t doing the public very much good. They were the Emperor’s New Clothes that are now getting stripped away by increased access to information, rethinking the relationship between institutions and the public they are supposed to serve, and how it’s up to the people of this planet to get to broadly shared foundational principles.

It won’t be easy, but it’s the kind of leaders that help create positive change in these transitioning areas that we need. The good news is that there are many out there already doing it and plenty more who can. What can we do to help encourage them?

Posted in leadership, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Who is setting goals for you?

Posted by Anadi Upadhyaya on April 19, 2012


Your ability to accomplish or outperform predefined goals at workplace determines your success. Goals can be your performance appraisal goals or your divisional performance goals; it can be organization wide product delivery targets or sales target. Whether you are celebrating your success or striving to achieve one, it’s important to retrospect your goals-setting process  and your role in the process.

Three most commonly observed patterns at workplace are:

  1. You set goals for yourself as well as for others, either due to your authority, influence or charisma but you don’t believe in considering suggestions from others.
  2. You set goals for yourself as well as for your team and you are open for ideas; you not only involve others but also adopt meaningful suggestions from them.
  3. You barely get involved in goal-setting process. You are happy to take whatever comes to you.

Where do you fit in? If you find yourself aligned with the first or third pattern, it’s advisable to reconsider your strategy.

It’s very likely that you are pushing someone to adopt behavior as in pattern one because you don’t want to come out from third pattern. As a leader, you need to participate and voice your opinion in goal-setting process at your level, to make your organization a better place to work. Moreover, your willingness to listen to others without being cynical is also critical.

Keep in mind, all the three patterns mentioned above may bring you success, but if you are aspiring for success that lasts, you need to make serious endeavors to move towards the second pattern. Being a dictator or a silent observer on all the occasions doesn’t work but working together works most of the times.

Posted in leadership, management | 2 Comments »