Monday, December 31, 2007

Medicare - Make or Break

Early December my children fell sick both had to be admitted to the hospital. One was hospitalised for 05 days while the other was hospitalised for three days. Add to it my wife was there for two days.

Coming out of hospital I was wondering how on earth an average Sri Lankan afford decent health care, given the humongous amount of of money required to stay in hospital!

In many ways people in this country are use to free health care. However now adays more and more government hospitals are running out of capacity and the existing ones continue to function inefficiently.

When my child was admitted to the ICU there was another crowd who brought in an elderly patient who was pronounced dead after several minutes. I was really saddened to hear the last few hours of that patients life. She was first admitted to one of the primary government hospitals. However due to a strike by the minor staff no body had attended to the patient for well over 03 hours. The family decided to move the patient out and bring her to a private hospital with the greatest financial difficulty. In no vein!

I think many of the generations Y people should seriously start thinking about medicare. That will be one of the greatest assets we could have just like owning a home!

Adios 2007!

It's been bit over month since I've updated these columns. Just that my trade is as such that the month of December becomes the most eventful/ action packed month for the year. As I write at 11.01 AM I am on the phone coordinating some activities.

However there have been several interesting lessons which I learned during this period. Shall be sharing those one by one in the next couple of blog posts.

May I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a prosperous 2008 where each of you will continue to learn, experience and grow!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Doing more than what you've paid for

Yesterday I was travelling with one of my suppliers who re-confirmed the aspect of "doing more than what you've been paid for" which was coined by Napoleon Hill the famous author of Think and Grow Rich among many other books.

Many people do not realize this. But it is a sure fire way to get rich, progress in career, win business etc.

In many ways we as employees or entrepreneurs are blinded by the short term orientation syndrome. Our span of thinking is very very short term. Mostly we are there to make a quick buck! This is what Steven Covey calls short term withdrawals from your emotional bank accounts!

Most employees loose enthusiasm thinking they are paid less (there are many occasions even I've thought the same!), many entrepreneurs confine to deliveries that has only been agreed upon thinking that they loose by going the extra mile. Financially, yes they do loose in the long term. But what is more important is their ability win BIG in the longer term.

Let me illustrate;

Take a guy who works for a company with his heart and sole who might feel that he is underpaid at the next annual increment. But the fact is, if he is actually doing things beyond his prescribe scope which adds value to the organization, it will be a matter of time before he gets rewarded.

The same is true for many small time business owners. When they approached clients, they tend to be very careful in their deliveries. They are very fussy about accommodating expanding interests of the clients. Because they see how margins might erode by doing the extra thing or two. I know it's tough when you are an entrepreneur! But as they say you might have to bite the bullet and do it! Clients will offer you more business, make good referrals and above all a happy bunch of customers which is your biggest asset.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Developing leaders

Another key aspect which Mr. Welch highlights is the “continuous coaching” which they use to do at GE. A recent article series on Fortune magazine refers to how some of the companies groom leaders. Article goes on to explain how companies such General Electric, Proctor and Gamble, Nokia, McKinsey, Hindustan Lever, IBM (Fortune survey with Hewitt Associates and RBL Group) creates competitive advantage for their own organizations through breeding leaders. One of the greatest responsibilities’ of leadership is to develop other leaders.

As a manager who is responsible for two separate teams the author believes that his primary role was to develop those who were under his supervision. With the correct guidance and encouragement they’ve always come up with trumps when and where it mattered most. Author always encourage people to work on developing themselves and on regular basis work with them to chart out their progress in identified areas such as technical competency development and soft skills development. Coaching effort is indeed an investment which carries rich dividend.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Creating culture of candor

Jack Welch in his famous book “Winning” stipulates how he created and used a culture of candor at GE during his tenure to create high performance. This should be taken in to consideration by all practicing managers. Sri Lankan managers tend to give soft feedback with the intention of not “messing up”. While creating a culture of candor can be difficult from where we are, it must be understood that once it is created it is easy to operate. People will not only provide candid feedback but they will be ready to receive as well. However one needs to be culturally sensitive in this regard.

As a manager when the writer took over a new division he made it clear to the new team about the candid feedback and more importantly took them through a process of acclimatizing through regular dialogue. Initially most of the dialogue revolved around how they perceived the writer and their expectations vis-à-vis actual performance on weekly basis. The subordinates were encouraged to give feedback about the writer on continuous basis. When candid feedback was given to them they were made to understand to why it is important to receive such feedback for their own long term benefit. When team members acted upon given feedback it was acknowledged and rewarded where it was deemed appropriate.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Giving an “A”

Omar Khan in his book “Timeless Leadership” refers to many interesting leadership traits of which the writer decided to pick and practice a unique feature. It is called giving an “A”. He refers to the famous Boston Philharmonic orchestra conductor and renowned speaker, Benjamin Zander.

Zander gave all his students an A on the first day of the class, and told them that their job together was to learn how to maintain it. They no longer had to gain it, it was now only theirs to loose. The students became radiant with possibility”

When the writer took over a small size organization as it’s manager operations reporting directly to the CEO, he was entrusted with a group five individuals. The writer used the method of giving an A and the team responded amazingly well with above par performance by their normal standards. The writer also came to the conclusion that by giving an A, you create sense of camaraderie among the staffers and give them greater hope towards achieving something larger. It could be concluded that leaders belief could convert in to a powerful force which ignites physical and emotional trust within each subordinate.

The writer carries positive experience of transforming a person who has been considered under performers by using the method of “giving an A”. The subordinate not only started being efficient in what he was suppose to do but also attained a liking towards taking of out of scope projects and he is now poised to be promoted as an executive after working as a non executive for over 05 years.

There have been plenty of instances where the writer has been on the receiving end of "receiving an A" from his bosses. It creates more commitment to the task as you would find it much more difficult to loose what you already have!

After all we all know that getting there is difficult, but maintaining your level at the top is much much more difficult.

So try out next time around by "giving an A" to a colleague, subordinate,a waitress, a super market helper or anyone whom you want to get something done.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

EmergentLeadership during the time of Crisis

Our discussion topic today at the MBA class was Transformational leadership and it was based on a paper presented by our lecturer at an international conference.

Theme was based on first hand involvement of the institute and the lecturer during the famous and closer to the heart December 2004 Tsunami.

Accordingly there were four types of leadership identified during the course of the presentation.

1. Transformational leaders

2. Transactional leaders

3. Emergent leaders

4. Appointed leaders

During the Tsunami and it's aftermath all four types of leaders were surfaced.

The story begins with the Tsunami itself which was never heard of in this part of the world prior to 26-12-2004. (The writers own account of the first hand experience with the Tsunami could be read in a future article to written with photographs for the 3rd year anniversary of the Tsunami)

When the wall of water swept away the coastal belt of the island nation people were clearly dumbfound. Srilankans by nature are people who are use to emergencies with the two decade long ethnic war and continuous fighting. But this was disaster of unimaginable magnitude! Research was based upon the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami.

Emergent Leaders

This refers to leaders who are surfaced out of no where who assume leadership role during a time of crisis. Generally they are low key, unknown prior to the crisis. Specific examples include those who saved many lives during the Tsunami at times risking their own lives while many of us running towards safety. Further it included people who were unknown before who assumed duties at camp sites taking leadership roles and getting things organized, directing people etc. Interestingly most of these people have not taken part in most of the common village activities let alone leadership positions!

Somethings in them ignited and they started assuming these roles and on most occasions they were very good in their new found roles!

Interestingly during the time of crisis you find the traditional structures going disarray and appointed leaders such as Government Agents etc becoming dysfunctional. Their systems go hey wire and they cannot perform. According to the research this is because the traditional system works perfectly through systems, procedures which are properly documented. Crisis situations trows all that over the window and the appointed leadership structure find it difficult to work in a chaotic scenario!

That is when the emergent leadership qualities surface of various individuals.

Interestingly the research also found out that these emergent leaders either take a back seat or disappears altogether when things staring to settle down or system comes back where traditional leaders assuming leadership. This was a unique observation!

Another classic example was quoted by the lecturer where he explained a scenario where a beggar who was assuming the role of a traffic warden and directing traffic during 1996 central bank bomb blast in Sri Lanka when all the others were running for their lives!

I suppose sports is a great example in this regard and cricket more specifically There have been countless number of times when a side is not doing well where a lower order batsman(a cricketer who's there to BOWL) comes to the crease and plays an innings of his life to win the match for his team from the jaws of defeat! Then you expect the same or similar performance with the bat from the same guy and continuously fails!

More about Transformational

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ancient Wisdom - LBO Coverage

Ancient Wisdom
28 September 2007 11:48:03
Sri Lanka's business community explores links between religion and management techniques

Sept 28, 2007 (LBO) – Five traits described in Buddhism which do not help achieve goals in life are also well suited for business and management, a top Sri Lankan management professional said.
Restlessness, arrogance, procrastination, indulgence and doubt are traits that cloud one's mind and judgment when trying to achieve goals.
"These five are described in a very advanced spiritual development context in Buddhism. These are five design defects in human beings," Deepal Sooriyaarachchi, managing director of Eagle Insurance said in what was seen as an unconventional presentation at the LBR-LBO CEO forum.

The case study which Sooriyaarachchi described was his own and how he failed his Advance Level examination owing to the five traits.
"I can see I bring these five reasons to my management life," he said.
"We are not focused sometimes, we do not want to hear the bad story, we kill the messenger and we always look for evidence to convince ourselves of what we know." These, Sooriyaarachchi said, are traits of restlessness and arrogance.
Postponing meetings or work schedules at a business shows procrastination.
Low productivity in organization because too many people are employed than needed to complete a task is indulgence.
"Doubt means you do not have confidence in the strategy."
He said there are roughly four ways - ethical, prescriptive, interpretative and intra personal view (spiritual) - to approach religious or ancient wisdom to use with business.
In the ethical view, you are told not to do something bad, mainly due to fear of the consequences which is quite popular and widely practiced, Sooriyaarachchi said.
The prescriptive approach is the way religion can be used in a regulatory view in business.
The interpretative view, Sooriyaarachchi said, is how wisdom in Buddhism that was not mentioned in the context of business situations can be used in organizations.
The definition of prosperity in Buddhism is called atthi sukha (happiness of ownership), bhoga sukha (happiness of having wealth) anana sukha (happiness of freedom from debt) and anavajja sukha (happiness of blamelessness).
"This was not for business people. This was written for lay (normal) people and we use this definition when we motivate our sales agents," Sooriyaarachchi said.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Direct Report Wants To Resign

So what? One might wonder! But wait, What if the person is a star performer of yours? How should you react?

Well, at least I've been a witness to the 'many' nasty handling of the same. Most bosses think it is the ultimate in betrayal! They take it very personally. People go to great lengths to stop the person from moving, tries make life miserable for him/her and some times tries to talk to the party whom the person is trying to join and tries to bad mouth them.

What is the fuss all about? I know it very difficult to stomach the departure of a star performer. After all if you played any role in grooming that person. But I feel that's exactly where you can be happy sincerely.

There is one school of thought which says most of the time people leave bosses and not their companies. While agreeing with the argument on most instances, must say there are many instances where it is not the case.

What if from a company point of view you've treated them well and as a boss you groomed the individual to a greater extent. What could be the reasons for him to leave? Obviously he would have got a better break with better prospects. Then what would you do?

Well this is what I did.

When I first heard of the notice, I was completely shocked! Wasn't expecting it in my wildest of dreams. But then again it was real. Gave some time for things to sink in and then had a chat with the guy. It was evident that he had applied for this position long time ago. Perks were better and the position was better according to him. He had already made up his mind and decided to take up the position. I wished him good luck and went on to help him arrive at a plan for him to exit our company.

My rationale is simple. While his departure will create great havoc for me, this is in this person's best interest and as boss I should not be in his way. In fact I believe I should help him out to the fullest for him make swift transfer. Afterall we might be able to attract the same person at a later date who is much more enriched.

Well he will leave during the course of next two weeks. I'm happy that one of my colleagues are moving ahead in life and I wish him all the very best!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

When Career Choices are Many

Many would have come across a situation where you are doing well (in many ways, except remuneration may be!) in your current job and there you go you are offered another opportunity. What if the other opportunity was in a completely different field than what you are doing now? Situation makes even worse if the new opportunity gives much quicker career growth prospects! What would you do?

Well, it's lot easier said than done. How do you sum up your situation? I suppose each situation is unique and there are many facets that needs to be looked at. Let me summarise few as it crossed my mind.

Any new opportunity should be looked primarily in three angles.

Firstly, How does it impact your career progression? What opportunities does it bring to the table? While the new opportunity may not necessarily be in the same area that you are working currently, it must be realised that particular experience you are expected to gain could be valuable in the bigger picture. This is more suitable for those with generalist ambitions(People who would want to run companies). There are many who aspire to go up in a particular field and they should at all cost must avoid shifting fields even for greener pastures. However if you aspire to run companies like me, it's best that you gain overall exposure in areas such a sales and marketing, HR, operations etc.

Secondly you need to look at how it impacts you personal life. You might come across the best of career breaks sometimes which comes in the collision path with you personal interests or life style. Some would require you to change your way of doing to a greater extent. Well for some it works. They adapt themselves successfully to the work requirements while other find greater stress levels in their new found work. Thus far I've picked what was appropriate to my lifestyle all the time.

Thirdly, one needs to look at how it impacts your family life. Most people tend to miss this point. There are instances where I myself tend to do a reality check on this subject. Well you might have the best of career, best on personal interest but it might be conflicting with your family priorities in terms of wife and kids. I'm quite happy that I made the right choice in this regard on several occasions. On two occasions I was offered a job which required regular overseas travel which would have had a impact on my relationship with my wife and children at critical stage in their development. Salary mind you was triple than the little what I am even getting now. I decided not to take any of the options. Don't regret the decision I made.

I think should one carefully weighs pros and cons on all three aspects one might ended up with a decision one would rarely regret

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Avoiding new boss syndrome

When you take over a new function there is a tendency among your team mates clarify everything from you. While it gives you an opportunity to understand your scope of job better, it essentially is a time killer.

One needs to quickly sum up the capacities and capabilities of your team members and start delegating most of these tasks other than real things which require your intervention / attention. This is a tricky one. Most of the time you would find they are not up to your ideal standard. (They don't do exactly what you want!). Thus you might get in to micro management. One needs to avoid this at all cost.

Once you assess the capability of different individuals, you need to start working with them to help them achieve what you want them to achieve. You need to give confidence to those people that completely believe in them to deliver! That is a powerful way of motivating staff. Only thing is you cannot just pay lip service to it. You really need to subscribe to it. Whole heartedly.

It's important to understand that people will make mistakes or do things which are not up to your standard. You need to convince them that they are on the correct track and more importantly appreciate their efforts. Then and only then you should talk about improvements and again you need to give candid feedback.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Growing up in the corporate structure


Recently I was asked to take up another challenge back at my work place. To take over the marketing operations for the second largest super market chain in the country. Well, there were no back and forth thought processes, just took it up. Also in the process I kept my current responsibilities as well.

How do people grow up in the corporate structure? While there could be numerous ways including unethical types let me focus on the method which I've realised over my little career spanning over 07 years.

Fundamentally at the core, one needs to take more responsibilities. I'm a great believer that just because you are an expert in what you do does not mean you should be promoted to the next level. While there is no question that you need to know your "onions" and know them well, one needs to be able to show the 'capacity' to take more responsibility and take them well.

Capacity is a concept that has been misinterpreted by many. None of us, I repeat none of us are born with great capacities. It is a process you go through to expand capacities. Just like any change the process of expanding capacities is a painful one. When you stretch beyond your comfort zones you would start feeling the pain. This is where most people faulter! They put an end to that process of expanding capacities to avoid temporary pain! This is the short sighted approach. Those who realize the total picture moves ahead with it, bearing the temporary pain.

In most companies great bosses, whom I would call coaches does this quite brilliantly. They push you to limits beyond your perceived capacities. Yes, by doing that the companies too benefit no doubt. But more importantly you learn endurance! When you show great endurance then people know you are ready take up bigger challenges.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Architecture at work place

Do you believe the office set up, the architecture does help to bring up a whole new dimension to the way people work and to bring out the best in them? Or are you of the view that it is immaterial and irrespective of where you work from you'll do your job?

Well there has been quite a lot written about this subject and the expert seems to be of the view that there is something extra which the architecture brings to the table in terms of creativity / productivity of people at work.

Topping the list are undoubtably the software companies. The "campus" environments at places like google, microsoft in the states and Wipro and Infosys in India are indeed case study material! (yeah...... you wish you could work at Google where they have signature dishes available in more than 8 different free restaurants!)

Even in Sri Lanka Millennium IT could fall in to the same category. The whole custom built environment is suppose to be built to improve and assis creativity of the software developers. (By the way they too have some real cool stuff such as Gyms, Pools, Cricket Grounds, Roof top terrace, TV rooms, rest rooms and yes also a creche!)

All that is fine for IT guys. What about typical corporate people like us! Who comes to work daily to a "typical" office environment which has some form of universal similarity. When designing offices the architects are "suppose" to put lot of thoughts about various stuff including "human movement, ergonomics etc.

Has this actually helped you? Or does it actually matter?

I would think it will matter! But then again I would not know. Why because I have very much been part and parcel of the typical set up throughout.

In a typical corporate environment is this possible

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Generation Y - A Sri Lankan Experience

Generation Y or popularly known as Gen Y in the west specifically in the US can be confusing as there is no proper definition of who they are. Scholars are equally confused! The periodical Amercian Demographics classify Geny as those who were born 1976 while the famous writers "Howe and Strauss" define hem as class of 2000 or those who were born after 1982. The market research agencies consider 1978 - 2000! So you can get a feeler as to what a relative term this could be anyway.

But widely accept norm on the subject is that Generation Y follows it's more logical Generation X. (Alphabetically, certainly it does). Some defines Generation X as those who were born between 1965 and 1980. Again most are confused in this regard!

Any how the young generation those who were born after 1980 seems to be having their own traits. Even in Sri Lanka they could be considered as a TV generation who were brought up with quite a few TV and radio channels.
At work they don't seems to care much about the norms etc at the work place. Naturally they are out spoken. Seek independence in everything they do. They have least regard for the company that they work. (Meaning in terms of relatively long term employment! Say 3-5 years).
They wiil be easily lured to new offers. Constantly on the look out for new opportunities.
So as managers and companies how do you manage these people?
Well, probably one needs to take a stock of the shoter timeframes these people work on and accordingly have mid term plans for them. Take one year at a time and offer challening tasks for them. Should they find that to be interesting they'll continue. Remember they seek to learn, experience and grow more than anyone else. So create ample opportunities for that!
Also help them see the world in it's entirty. Meaning at times they can be blinded by just one aspect of a opportunity. Then do your bit to explain 'the other side'. But make it very clear to them that you are only giving another opinion. BUT THE DECISION HAS TO BE MADE BY THEM.
One last thing, once they decide to move on, help them as much as possible.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Shave your head!!!!!

I did an interesting thing today. I shaved my head! Yes that's right, just thought I should do it and simply went ahead and did it. My wifee is furious. (She promised she'll refuse go with me any where till I grow my hair back!!!!). My mother thinks I'm totally nuts! (Well I did have few grey hair, but did not shave my head to get rid of it!!!!!!!)
I did another interesting thing. I tok a picture just before I cut my hair. Another one just after. Looking at both must admit I as a person probably look much more presentable with hair.
My point is there are things in life where other people do probably know what's best for you. But you should go ahead with what you want to. Well on numerous occassions before I felt like shaving my head. However various things kept me away from doing it. But today it was different, I just went ahead with what I wanted to do.
Monday morning when I reach my work place I know there'll be people going all "gaga", "what have done", "Oh my god" kind of things. Hey, I just wanted to experience this and I simply did it.
Locus of control has been an interesting subject. Cutting out most of the crap it is all about are you driven by YOU or are you influenced greatly by external factors. Today I was quite confident thatI proved my self that my locus of control is internal.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Do you actually need an office?

I was reading "The Gig" by Nadira A. Hira on where she questions the necessity of an actual office and that made me write my own piece about my Sri Lankan experience.

Well the job that I'm involved is not one of those journalistic or software related thingy where you might be able to work from home. It involves much human contact, certain amount of fire fighting and lot of team interaction.

However I fall in to the category of having a PC at home and a "home ADSL connection". So technically I'm wired compared to most people in my country. With that background here's my take!

There were few days this year where I was either sick or due to some other home affair where I could not make it to the office. On each of those days I did manage to work on many forward looking projects which I simply was not able to perform during my 'regular' office hours. Well here the other difference. I did not spend what ever the time getting my self ready to go to work. I did not spend well over an hour on the road just to commute to my self to work (where I cannot do anything meaningful other than answer the occassional phone call and listen to radio). All in all I managed to clock in 1/12 hours of "quality morning hours" in to good use. And all this while I was wearing my good old "sarong".

While we all are trained corporate 'creatures' use to the office attaire, I sure given a choice in the context of home based work many people would prefer to wear non office clothes. (I'm a firm beleiver of good dress to work and other places)E-mail was the main for of communication between me and my colleagues although I did use IM to a certain extent with people who have it. Made less than 8 phone calls for the entire day and yet managed to complete more than what I usually do.

Because I was at home I could attend to some of the house matters while it made my wife and children very happy to see me around. I certainly had discipline to focus on work!

Well, I guess I'm lucky to have the infrastructure in place to perform the task. I know for most other people it could still be a luxury. However come to think of the cost I think it's feasible. As with anything there is cost benefit and it is up to you to benefit out it.

Must admit though that there had been quite a few occassions where I've been frustrated because the ADSL internet connection has been annoyingly slow!

Even over here I have heard quite a few people saying they either come to work very early or stay till late or come on during a weekend just have do some work without being disturbed. With that sort of thing you tend to wonder what this fuss is all about when you actually can allow employees to work from home may be couple of times a month.

Journey of a thousand miles start with a very small step.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Position based Vs Interest based Negotiation

It is interesting to note that negotiation is a life skill which all of us practice which we do not attach much science to. Since the day we were born we've been negotiating and mind you we've been good at that. We learned craft when we want mother's milk and subsequently we mastered it where we use accomplish many things by simply crying for things.

A typical negotiation ends up on most occasions with a win loose situation. Each party "come to the table" with their own position. That sets the tone for the rest of the activity where in dog eat dog world each party tries to overwhelm the other. Rationale is simple. If I walk away with anything less from my original position I have lost something. I have compromised. So let me do what ever within my power to either defend my position at a minimum or may be get more than I want. Obviously this leads to win loose situation. Those who give in most will loose while those who gain will win. Position based negotiations on most occasions become personal matters. Let me share with you the story of the genie,

Once upon a time there was this man who was walking in the beach where he came across a different bottle. For curiosity the man opened up the lid and out came the 'genie'. After thanking the man genie volunteered provide the man with anything he wants as a gesture of goodwill. However it said that what ever the wish the man is granted with the neighbour will get double of that. First the man wanted a mountain of gold and then he realised his neighbour will get double of that amount. So he gave up the idea. Then he was thinking of a place for him to live but the idea of his neighbour having two he could not live with. He racked his brain profusely and finally said to the genie, "OK , take one eye of mine".

Sometimes the competition we have is against someone else for no reason. Who cares what your neighbour gets if you are way better off than you are. Whilst it is obvious when confronted with the situation our competitive nature tends to take over common sense.

Compromise is another popular misconception. There is a school of thought that both parties needs to compromise to arrive at a workable solution or a win win situation. But in actual terms a compromise leads to a loss of something either one party or both parties have originally wanted. Thus it is not a win win situation.

Better way of negotiating is the interest based. Rather than holding on to positions if you ask the question "why" you are at that position parties have the opportunity to transcend in to another level from where they are. The best way to mov from position based negotiation in to interest based negotiation is by asking the question why?
For example let us consider a scenario of two children a mother and an orange. The two girls were arguing that want the same orange. The positions are fairly clear. Each party wants the organge and they would go all out trying to get that. However as story goes mother decided to cut orange in half give both children. Ince she did this both girls went to the kitchen and one girl made juice out of the pulp and drank and threw away the peel while the other girl took the peel from her half and used it for marmaleade while trwoing away the pulp. At that point the mother realised had she asked why she could have made two oranges out of one and allowed each daughter to have a "complete" orange!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Stamp your own team identity in an Eco System

When you are part of a large oraganization one tends to climatise accordingly. While agreeing that you need to adapt to the culture, it is not the case all the time.

Today we celebrated the b'day of one of our team members, and true to the style we made a big buzz about it. We had to take little bit of our precious office time to blow the baloons, decorate etc. Another one of our colleagues in the same premises only few desks away (not part of our team) also celebrated her b'day. However there was no such do's around that table. While there were no comments made yet, it reminded me about a previous experience.

For Christmas my team wanted to decorate the place where we are seated so I gave the go ahead for decorations. After all it was the spirit of season they wanted to celebrate! However there was an obvious mismatch once our area ONLY was decorated. there were certain comments about us being fairly selfish, self celebratory etc. While I was little uncomfortable at the outset I just realised this is our team culture and it is this that keeps us going as unit. While we are part and parcel of the larger company culture such activities should not be discouraged as it straighten our own unit.

Well for my own b'day there was lot of noise made by my team to the extent even I felt very embarrassed. Subsequently I realised that I'm blessed to have a bunch of "energetic" people to lead.

So I think while such activities my shake up the eco system a bit, still it's good stamp your own class since you have the opportunity of both setting trends and doing whats best to keep your team going.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Office Game - Part II

Moving forward from where I left,(read COACHING.....THE OFFICE GAME) similar to a coach a manager too needs to deal with different types of team members. Probably certain managers will have to lead much larger teams than most coaches do ever in their careers. However to me the fundamentals remain the same.
A common expectation of a coach is to assist players iron out their technical deficiencies and to be technically correct. According to cambridge dictionary "a coach is someone whose job is to teach people to improve at a sport, skill, or school subject". For instance in cricket the coaches use to work with players on different aspects of the game such as batting, bowling, fielding etc. They work out game plans, keep players fit and strong with scheduled practices etc. Similarly in the game of basket ball the coaches work on different aspect of your game from shooting to dribbling and to going on the offence to your defence. This is the case in almost in all the sports.
However another aspect of coaching has emerged since of late in the sporting arena. That to me has made a profound impact on sports than the fundamental definition of the coach. Take for instance some of recent comments made by Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka about Tom Moody. According to MJ, "Moody brought in something special to us. He made us stretch our selves in to limits which we never thought was possible. He challenged me, he challanged everyone including all the senior players and that helped us to raise our game" The likes of ponting echoed similar sentiments about John Bucanon the Australian coach.
I beleieve this ability to work on players mental aspect is what really differentiated boys from real men. (Like Jim Collins says Good to Great, where good is the enemy of great).The likes of Pete Sampras arguably one of the greatest players in the history of tennis use to talk about the impact of approaching each grandslam final together with the coach. The coach brought about relevant mental platform in to each game. (Infact he won a record 14 grandslam titles in his career).
So what's the similarity with the corporate environment? To start with a manager's role is very much similar. While he is there to iron out and rectify any technical defeciencies of any surbordinate he has a much bigger role to play o the mental side of the person. Similar to the coach working with each player to raise their game everytime and raise the bar as a team a manager too needs to identify competencies of each individual and work on growing him beyond his current role. Different strokes for different folks!
Many a times managers make the cardinal mistake of a task based relationship. However I feel to be a successful manager one needs to work with the individual to stretch him to that individual's capacity limits. Assignments will certainly be a part of it. How many of the manager's work on growing on the mental side of an surbordinate to prepare him for much bigger challenges. Mostly managers are only short term results driven.
Like every great coach a manager needs to learn to work on the background. It is the team players who needs to get highlighted! Well none of you will know who was h coach of Pete Sampras or for that matter it is the Ponting's, Jayasuriya's and Tendulkar's who are in the lime light and not their coaches.
Afterall they know they become much soughtafter after every assignment. And that's how they grow in their roles!

Coaching..... The Office Game - Part I

Coaching..... The Office Game

The outgoing Australian coach John Bucanan turned down several cricket coaching assignments among them a high profile assignement from India and he said he wish to move in to a mentor role next. He specifically talked about coaching in the coporate circles. Surely, having seen what he has done with a high performing team like Australia from it's dominant position where it was to what it is today where they have raised their game in to levels un imaginable, he'll be a cracker coach in demand no doubt!
It's interesting to note that most of the people in the corporate sector who are performing managerial or team leading roles are expected to do more or less the same. It's common to see most corporates having "annual appraisals" and some of the others are having "mid year reviews" adding to that. At many places that seems to be a very formal process. All of a sudden superiors are talking about how people performed during the year under review and more often than not they also discuss 'one off' career progression plans.
One tends to wonder whether this should be the case. GE's Jack Welch in his book winning talks about two page written summaries for his direct reports which list down goals for the previous year, a candid feedback on the performce, and objectives for the coming year and they discuss gaps if any. However that document is closely monitored many times during the course of the year and candid is the key word for regular feedback sessions. That seems to have worked very well during his tenure looking at pipeline of leader's they produced and continue to produce.
Interestingly I think we can all learn a lot from Sports and specially from cricket. A cricket coach's role could be wide and varied. He's a mentor, he's a guide, he teaches where required and he puts his foot down above all for the betterment of both the individual and the side.
A typical cricket squad which comes under the purview of a coach is very similar a team under a normal manger at office. To start with a squad will have seasoned campigners, the senior players the likes of Mc Grath's, Mahela's and Jayasuriya's. Then they'll have to deal with larger than life demi god figures like the Ponting's, Tendulkar's and Lara's. Not to forget the likes of Sangakkara's and Flemin's who read the game so well. Then they'll have to work with budding players, semi sesoned ones etc. Now, isn't that similar to what most of us encounter in the office environment?It sure is, and in some of the future postings let's examine how best we could transform cricketing knowledge in to 'office field'.