Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's time to walk the talk in the new year

With the heralding of the new year there are two challenges before me which requires actioning every bit that I have talked about in these forums.

First is to regain my health situation. Need to bring down my cholesterol levels further and reduce 10 Kg in the process. Challenge is greater as it is expected be done without any 'exercise' and only with diet control. Given the strict diet control and my daily work life that is one tough ask.

Second challenge before me is to act upon the feedback I received and get my new career in swing. Again in order to achieve the annual objectives for June this year, I will have to complete the basics by mid February again.

All in all it's time to walk the talk. Let's see the progress.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"Secret - It actually works"

I was the rarely the superstitious type. However I had this belief that it was time to getting in to a job which allows me to travel to various countries and also gain experience as a sales person with the number pressure to deliver.

Was I eyeing something specific? Absolutely not. But I had this strong desire for that. On paper I would have had the worse possible qualifications for landing with such an opportunity. My experience was in the field of proper marketing and my natural progression if at was either getting in to general management, hierarchycally grow in the current role I was in or may be to move in to another multinational for a similar role in the field of marketing.

If you asked me back in May if I knew as to where the opportunity would be the answer would be a big No! I and I alone only knew about it. As a prolific reader there was renewed focus on reading about international cross border transactions, more about Fortune 500 companies and international sales etc.

I was envisioning, visualizing myself playing a role of an international sales person, doing travel etc.

Then all of a sudden I was asked by a friend of mine as to I would like to "have a chat regarding a marketing opportunity" at a Fortune 500 IT company operating in the country. Without any serious expectations in mind I thought I should just have a chat. In preparing for the discussions I started updating my CV.

Once I updated my CV I did send it to the respective referees for their reference . Low behold one of them called back and said as to whether it is ok if he send my CV across to his company as their is an internal role which has become vacant. When inquired further guess what the role was all about. It was essentially a territory corporate sales management role which requires me to handle the home country and a another country. Further it too was a Fortune 500 IT company.

Here I am today doing a job very much in line with what I was envisioning 5 months back and enjoying every bit of it.

The best part is that yet again my career change has taken a completely different turn to a totally new area. Career wise whether it was the right thing to do was always questionable. But my decade old corporate history I've always made conscious choices to gain completely different experiences. I suppose only time will be the kiddie of that.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Getting feedback

At times it is quite obvious that you are not doing something right. You know you are not getting the desired results but you just don't get what you need to do differently. You have the desire to achieve success but something seems keep you away from it. In cricket at times the best batsman all of a sudden go through lean patches. That is when a coach or a mentor will pitch in get the batsman to make that slight adjustment to his technique.

Having a mentor is so critical for a simple reason. The coach, the mentor could see the obvious mistakes one makes. Those mistakes could be simple but yet critical in the final analysis of achieving result.

Today I received suchVehicle servicing  feedback on my new job from a colleague of mine. Reflecting on simple observations he made me realize what I have been over looking for the past 4 months. I just realized how powerful the simple observations would be. I've given myself till end January to act on the rectification areas. Will be glad to share the progress with you in February.

Irrespective of whether you do good or bad at work, reach out and seek feedback. It van only help you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blog status update

It has been a long time since I have written something in my blog. I hav been going through a career change and is in the process of settling down. I have spent the last couple of months orienting my self to the new line of work and also travelling a lot by my usual standards. There is a lot of experiences to share interms of walking the talk of how to adapt to change and about the "secret". It does work!

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Raising the bar with a new hire

Hiring a new person for an existing position is always interesting. Hiring a person who is a Team Lead or a Department Head is even more interesting for various reasons. But one thing is for sure. You always look at raise the bar in terms of what the new person bring to the table.

However this becomes highly contextual. Common phenomena is to benchmark against the person who left to see for similar qualities in better packaging. That might be a recipe for disaster. Irrespective of how well one performs one to one match will and can only ensure continuity. While continuity might look stable in some instances it rarely raises the bar.

So what should companies do?

One needs to align the role in the context of organizational strategy and see what sort of a a person is required in terms of both technical competencies and soft skill set.

Also it is important to focus on the softer side of things more as the person is inheriting an existing culture. While the new head is certainly within his rights to create his own culture, how s(he) goes about doing it could very well make or break the team. Companies need to find some level of comfort about the cultural adaptability of the new hire as well.

Technical brilliance could mean nothing in an environment which requires a lot of team effort for the regular running of the business while certain situations demand technical brilliance more than anything else.

Having said that there are occasions companies would look for complete and overall re-hauling of departments!!!

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Post 'Some One' Era - The real test of leadership

When the dust settles and all is said and done about a person leaving an organization the real question will have to be asked,

How is his team performing during post 'that person' era?

This is important in many facets.

Firstly, the real mettle of an individual's leadership capabilities could be judged in this scenario only. This becomes even more important in the context of the stage of  the team the person has developed or s(he) is leaving behind. Some teams could be matured, others could be a mixture of new and old, while the third extreme could be a relatively young team.

Judgement too should come down contextually.

Is the team allowed to perform independently or is there conflicting peer pressures from other elements in the organization?

Level of influence of the new leadership for the degree of the current team performance?

The real judgement will come in the form of what each individual and collectively as a team they bring on to the table. Most likely the key decision making power will lie elsewhere (meaning with a another senior executive who looks in to the affairs or with the new leader). The ultimate results the team produces will and shall be determined and influenced heavily by the decisions made.

As a leader there are those who achieve results through sheer individual brilliance where the team becomes mere executors of orders. Others choose a different path of providing opportunity for the team to develop even at the expense of short term drawbacks. There is notihng right or wrong here. It depends on the stage of the organization and also it's immediate requirement. I've seen many during my corporate life who belong to both types. Most of them do belong to the 'individual brilliance' types. Their achievements are conceptualised, strategised and lead by the person him/herself only. (There are those who do not belong to either of these as well)

However there is only one sustainable approach to organization development. I think that is quite obvious.

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Go the Distance - An essay to my team

Yesterday, emotionally  would have been one of the toughest days in my corporate life. Last evening I told the team about my departure plans from the company. I knew it was tough to break the news to a team who've been bloody close with me and who gave 200%. I almost broke out, lost my voice and was lost for words. While understandably my team found it both shocking and sudden, in my mind I made this decision sometime back and I was fully prepared. However irrespective of all self mental conditioning, sitting in front of my team was lot tougher than I thought. I purposely chose Friday evening to break the news giving all of us couple of days of recuperating time. After the news they were all speechless. Dialogue was not an option.......

A person is judged by his deeds and in my case I've strive hard to groom a group of people who'd be self sufficient in their own right. I was a firm believer that as a leader you are as good as your team put together. In many fronts I think I was successful in this regard although I could have definitely done better. 

However for me the greatest test lies ahead. As a leader your efforts, your legacy is not determined only on what you did but rather what you've left behind. The capacity and capability of your team to continue at minimum and better if possible in their efforts at work that they have to do is the greatest tribute one can expect. In your aftermath if things fall or should effort dilute and does not stand up to the mark, you've failed as a leader!

Change is the only constant in life! You cannot run away from it, you cannot hide from it. You cannot avoid it nor neglect it. 

Adaptation is the only way forward! It's an universal truth. You cannot fight it! And you shouln't!

These can be confusing times for my team. I'm sure there'll be plenty of questions regarding this decision. However one needs to come to terms with realities in life pretty quickly. One needs to sum up the situation, take a stock of ground realities, be able to see the new opportunities and move on with life. Men are separated  from boys at these sort of junctures. 

There are times when one needs to do the complete opposite of what is generally expected in a given situation. That is the only way to move forward with life in a meaningful way. Change in leadership can be a situation (especially in this context ) where everyone around would naturally expect you to drop your shoulders, loose focus, loose sense of direction and above all expect you not to perform to your true potential. A person's character will be determined by how quickly they'll be able to move on with life. We all have a choice, we can worry about things that happened for along time or we can choose to act in a manner that is mature and realistic. Lets be wise with our choice. 

One needs to have inner strength, character and resolve to counter this. I believe my team constitutes of people who posses these qualities in abundance. Take the road less travelled. 

During the last several years we worked together to crystallize dreams and goals in corporate life. Individually were meant to be down the passage of time. However we are all travelling down an unknown road to embrace our fate. As in this case the road may wander but somehow you need to see it through. You cannot look back you need to stay on track.

As I've always said we can only be prepared to for the opportunities and evantiualities coming our way. Trust me this is one eventuality they've been groomed for, for a long time!   

Look beyond your current feelings, it is the hardest part, for a hero's strength is measured by his heart!

Go the distance! 

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Building Teams - Part 2 - Approach and Results

Yesterday I was having a lengthy chat with a colleague of mine regarding some soft issues that individual was facing at work and dealing with people in general. It's the kind of chat I enjoy most and reflection of the same made me write this entry.

Let me quote the last para of a previous blog entry....(

"One of the greatest reward capacities that you have at your disposal as a departmental head is your ability to give them opportunities to perform tasks. Do not undermine this. It is a major tool you have, provided you use it right. Check for their aspirations and also try to identify personal gaps, meaning personal developmental needs of your team members. Some companies have a policy of only developing 'requisite' technical skills. This is not a smart move at all. As much as possible develop them for their full potential. It pays for the company and adds value for the team as well. Speak to them regularly about their gaps and more importantly about the progress they are making if any. Give them assignments and projects, allow them to make certain mistakes. Seek their feedback regarding important tasks and acknowledge good suggestions and reward such initiatives through public praise. People do respond to this and it creates a want to be part of a team."

I just cannot reiterate how true this has been and it's wonderful to see this approach being successful on two others as well. It's a great feeling.....

As a leader one needs to work on his or her people. That's probably the most important job at your hand. Some feel insecure in doing this thinking that their apprentices might outshine them or out perform them. Guess what you should be the happiest if that happens! You've been successful in what your suppose to do!

While tasks or projects provide new colleagues with the opportunity to learn and grow, on most occasions the growth predominantly revolve around technical areas relevant to the job. While that has become a given, in today's context the requisite soft skills have become paramount to the success of the individual. It's not just the traditional soft skills such as presentation or negotiation skills. One needs to groom them on handling people, situations and even yes corporate politics!

Importantly it is not about trying to mold the person to your way of thinking. Dialogue has to be regular and contextual. While invariably you need to share with them your take on the matter it is also important you explain the rationale behind your judgement. Further you should also highlight the other options you considered and highlight as to why you preferred what you thought in this context over the others.This allows them to make their own judgment regarding the situation without being forced to do so. Be open to their questions and create and encourage a culture of candor where they ask questions regarding 'silly' soft issues. That's the speedy way to groom them.

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Life is always about choices

Life's choices are certainly not the easiest. Wish they were more straight forward. But then again they'll never be.

Situation becomes even more complicated when the entire world perspective becomes the complete opposite of yours. Ultimately one needs to back your instincts because ultimately you own your decisions. It's much harder when some of those you respect most on continuous basis tend to logically see why you should not make that decision.

There are always options. You are a fool not to consider them. But what if the options are plenty. Do you wait for the ideal? After going through life for a meaningful time, I've come to realize that there are times you need to make a call, with given information at hand. At times you might have all odds stacked against your belief. But if you see things differently with facts (obviously based on certain assumptions that the others do not agree) and something inside you strongly tells that you need to just go ahead and do it. If it is successful its great. If you fail at  least the decision is yours and you are more prepared to face the consequences.

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Good to be back

I've been fairly quiet for almost 5 weeks. It's been 5 weeks of tremendous experiences on the move. There are many project's I'm involved and I'm loving every minute of it. Lot to be written being a student of life! Stay tuned

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What vegetable growers can teach you about risk management and stock market

Recently I made a trip to Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka to meet some of the farmers who are growing vegetables to supply to our chain of supermarkets. Speaking to all of them and also the office bearers of a farmer cooperative society made me realize one thing.

Depending on the price they fetch for a certain type of vegetable, the farmer communities tends to grow that vegetable during the next season. You know what? At the time of harvesting the particular vegetable is in abundance in the market thus driving down prices resulting some farmers making losses. 

According to the co-operative officials month after month it is a similar trend and a result they see irrespective of the farmers being educated about the trend. So what drives them? It is their emotions. When confronted with this question one farmer said irrespective of any logic when the potential to earn higher is available to you they tend to take the risk. When confronted with a subsequent question on why repeat the same mistake he just shook his head. Isn't this all too common in everyday life too and specially when you are dealing in the stock market?   

Another method of managing such a risk on perishable items is to grow the same vegetable but segregate the area of growing and grow it at different intervals with slight delays. For example instead of growing the identified vegetables across your entire land extent you could divide it into several blocks (number depends on the size of the land) and then grow the veggie in each land plot with fortnightly gaps in between. This would result in harvesting being spaced out and mitigating  whatever the sudden price drops in the market because vegetable prices fluctuate on a daily basis in the local market. However, I was told that even this method is difficult to practice among the farmers. They tend to maximise profits and nine times out of ten face detrimental price situations due to over supply. Food for thought indeed.

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Apprentice Update

Happy to note that the candidate chosen did start work and thus far turning out to be a very good member of the team. Given our foray in to several hectic projects in the last couple of weeks the person concerned was tried under real life circumstances.

Feel free to share your thoughts or feedback on this posting under the comments column

Monday, April 19, 2010

Take the rough road to sharpen your skills

This weekend I took a longer route on my regular biking endeavor. Although the root was long and it had its fare share of mini hills to tire me out, it also was a carpeted road for half of the journey. Couple of KM in to the journey I realized my level of sweating was low and further it was a smoother ride as well. Now my purpose of riding is to exercise myself better and experience more of a rougher terrain. I'm not an exercise expert but as far as I'm concerned (I may be completely wrong) when I take on a rougher terrain it gives a better feeling and really feel the workout on my arms!

With the carpeted road to ride, I made a conscious choice. I decided to take the gravel side of the road which was uneven and with plenty of potholes. Instantly the ride became rougher and I consciously enjoyed every bit of that 13 or so KM because I knew its going to give me better exercise.

While I was doing that it made me realize, in life in general and corporate life specifically, you should make sure you take the rough road when needed to, although an easier path is available. After all, at a certain stage in your career and in life, its better to take the rougher road because it will groom you for bigger hurdles in life!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Goal Attainment - Yeah I got my Cholesterol levels under control

I've got some personal achievement to celebrate. My latest reports indicate that I have managed to bring my cholesterol levels within the acceptable range after trying it for over 6 years!!

Yes for almost six years I've been trying various things to bring it under control but all efforts didn't result in any meaningful progress. It was always higher than the maximum tolerant levels. Last December when I went for my annual check up, I got a red flag like never before. was told that my risk levels are even higher because of its hereditary nature as well.

With home front pressure being enormous I decided to take some drastic action. The very next day I went to bicycle shop and bought a decent mountain bike and I peddled 14 km to reach home that evening. Ever since on average I've done1-2 trips, spanning for almost 22- 31 km per trip, every weekend. When there were holidays I made it point to do an additional trip. I also exercised on the obitrek for almost 30 -45 minutes a couple of times a week.

The other major change I forced my self in to was moving away from rice and curry and getting in to a steamed vegetable and fish chicken diet for lunch. It's tough on the home front to do it everyday, but for my sake they do it. Its not a vegetarian diet.

While I have controlled excessive junk food and fizzy drinks, I haven't completely moved out of them as yet.

Having tasted success after 6 years on something that I have not been able to do, I am more than determined to improve on my results further. I have continuously exercised (biking and obitrek) for the past 4 days. I'm determined to keep the average hereafter at 4 days a week (minimum) with attempts being made to take it to 5 if possible. I also want to control my diet further.

Let's see how determined I can be!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Corporate Training, What's wrong with it?

This is a posting inspired by an ongoing discussion in one of the Linkedin discussion threads.

Every organization today is spending millions of dollars on an annual basis to train its staff on a variety of skills. Companies have come a long way in the field of HR and specially training. There is a lot of science and technicalities behind the subject. How comfortable are the senior management and HR with regard to the effectiveness of training or the money spent on training?

One of the contemporary and strong arguments with regard to training is that it should be linked to KPIs and competency based performance appraisals. While this is well and true, as the age old saying goes there are multiple stakeholders in this process and lapses by any of them could lead to failure in realizing the intended requirements of training people.

Main actors include the trainee, the supervisor, affected parties through manifestation(peers, direct reports and direct contacts), organization (as the funding authority) and of course the trainer.

Bad or a wrong trainer is a no-brainer and we don't need to talk about it.

Most structured companies follow a process where individual training requirements are identified as part of an annual appraisal process and/or based on ad-hoc specific skills requirements. During the course of the year the candidate is nominated to relevant training programs, either external or internal that come up. Should the numbers be large for a similar program, the company might organize a special program for the organization.

Generally companies have a variety of methods to institutionalize and measure individual training. These include on the job assignments to test new skills learned, to simple examinations.

Thus with all this what is wrong with the approach ?

The basic requirement of training is to develop a person's competence for a required job. Now here's the interesting part. Competence refers to requisite knowledge, skills and attitude.
Note attitude. While it is relatively easier to impart both knowledge and skills through a training program, it is difficult to transform the attitude of a person. This is where many training programs go wrong. If you expect the trainer to take a 100% ownership of transforming the trainees attitude, well you are just wrong! It's not going happen. Period.

So how do we overcome this issue?

Here's what has worked for me.

As a boss or a supervisor you need to take responsibility with regard to the training of your direct report. You need to tell the individual with specific examples (remember it has to be specific examples from his own behaviour /work which he can relate to) as to why you feel you are sending him for training. Now this should be done in a very constructive, sincere and candid way. You also need to tell him/her as to how bridging this gap would help him/her personally both at work life and may be in personal life as well. (What is in it for me???) .He needs to have total trust in you and what you say. Once you show him the gap, you need to explain to him as to why it is important to bridge this gap. (This is important for all but more important for soft skill gaps). Also give confidence to the person that you believe in, that he could make vast improvements after this training. (Work on the attitude of the person both towards the training and the subsequent application of the new knowledge and skills)

If it is a training which takes more than one day, make sure you keep a tab of their progress. Take genuine interest in finding out how he/she is faring in this regard. Should there be difficulties offer help in whatever the way you can.

Once training is over receive feedback as to what the participant thought about training, specific learning points etc.

But most importantly ensure you give the individual an assignment(in case he needs to apply this learning in regular work assignments, not required) to demonstrate his upgraded competence. You've got to take time to give feedback as to what you personally think about the progress he has made with specific examples again.

Now as a boss if you are responsible for larger divisions how do you make this happen. Well, you need to do this to your immediate reports and get your immediate reports to follow the same path. Some may argue as Department Heads, CEOs there is more work to be done. Or that this this something for the HR Departments to sort out. I'm afraid time taken to develop people is some of the most productive uses of your own times as been demonstrated by companies such as GE.

Some other companies do use methodologies such as bonding people when they are sent on expensive training and getting them to train others on the skills that they learn. These methods are more effective for highly specific techincal skills training one has to undergo.

So what do you think? What are the methods that have been succcessful that you follow? Share your thoughts as a comment.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Be open to learning everyday

I was doing another round of cycling this morning. Today, consciously I took a different route around the neighborhood where I explored some of the territory previously unexplored.
Not only I figured out several byroads around the neighborhood and the suburb that I could take in case of an emergency or to avoid traffic but also it gave the opportunity to see some of the scenery and development that I haven't seen before. At the end of the 1 1/2 hour ride I was enriched in terms of what I knew about the particular area!

As I reflect upon this experience it makes me realize that as humans we come across thousands of exposures and interactions everyday. Only if we were conscious about this fact, our learning opportunities will be enormous!

So next time around when you meet someone or see something just be conscious of the fact as to what I can learn from this experience.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Polarized Service Experiences

With everything going around, one should not be surprised if decision makers in companies take services for granted. There are waves after waves of various management topics that hit different countries and after sometime, corporate public (meaning working people!) tend to think it is well understood. It seems, on most instances the understanding is confined to the surface!

Service aspect of the business is one such thing that seems to be talked less these days. Two recent experiences clearly depicts how true this phenomena is and why one cannot take this element for granted! Essentially it differentiates between owning and loosing a customer. Lessons to be learned for every business.

Let's start with the bad example.....

There is this new Chinese restaurant by the beach which is considered to be a major hit among Colombo (Sri Lanka) crowds. Everything you hear about the place is fabulous. We too decided to check this place out. True to its reputation we found easy, protected parking at an area which is notoriously known for difficult parking. Security guys were very helpful.

We went there for dinner and to enter the premises you need to walk on the beach(sand) but first sight from a distance was absolutely superb. We were welcomed by a gentlemen(seemed to be the owner) who was very professional and courteous. Once the table was offered one of the waiters assisted us to choose food from the menu. It was the owner looking gentlemen who came again to take the order. He was almost down on his knees when he was taking the order. Needless to say the experience was extraordinary, right royal.

Food was really good. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Once everything was done it was bit late and we wanted to sign our cheque and leave early. I told one of the service boys to get me the bill. Five minutes on, nothing happened and I again inquired from another boy regarding the bill. He too rushed backed and did not turn up. By this time we could see the owner and the manager servicing so many other guests and we were trying to get their attention using every decent way possible. After 25 minutes since I first inquired about the bill, I stood up and walked towards where most people were with the hope of getting the attention of the owner or the manager. To my utter surprise none of them took notice of me. Finally I had to "excuse" myself a bit louder to get the attention of the manager. When I told him that I've been waiting for over 25 minutes he just rushed back and send another boy with the bill! When I completed the procedure and got up to go he just came towards us and said "sorry, the computers were not functioning".

Not too sure whether the hardworking owner even knew what had happened. Never the less the last billing incident screwed up what could have been a very good customer experience.

Now to the good example...... They call themselves the world's local bank, yes I'm talking about HSBC. I've been banking with them for well over nine years now. Problem with them is that everything is system driven and there are occasions where you feel you talk to officers who go by systems to provide service which you sometimes feel is below par. With all that, I continue to bank with them because my experience with other banks have been even worse.

For the last couple of credit card billing cycles I have only been able to settle the due amount in full only on the due date itself. But the problem is, for the bank to recognise the payment on that day you need to make the payment either physically or on-line before 3 PM on the due day. On both occasions I have been only making the payment after this cut off time. However as a long standing customer of theirs I demanded that I be not charged the interest which they levy against the total amount(which comes up to a sizable amount).

The officer who handled the issue previously suggested that he would reverse the interest charged against my card but to make the payment before the due date and time to avoid being charged again. He also said that I could call and inform the call centre in case there is a several hour delay with the payment receipt number to avoid being charged. However this time around due to unavoidable circumstances I could only pay 90% of the due money before and could only pay the balance on the due date after 3PM. Thus I have been charged total interest again.

When I brought the matter up with the call centre staff they were of the view that it is beyond their powers and that I talk to their supervisor. A detailed chat with the supervisor resulted in him reducing the amount to 75% of the original amount. After further deliberations he completely reversed the interest charged and also addressed the root cause to the problem. He changed my billing cycle to fall to 2nd of next month which suits me well which also gave me sufficient time to make the payments.

Trained people still make a world of difference!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cycling - what it can teach you about endurance

Further to my previous post on 9th February under the title Endurance – Lessons for business life – Intro( thought of keying in the following thoughts.

Not too sure how many of you out there are bicycle fans but I'm sure most of you at some point in your life has ridden one. So may be just may be you guys might be able to relate to my story here!

I did like cycling all my life although I must admit for the past 12 years or so it has been quite minimum. Almost five years ago I did buy a bike wanting to renew and revive my passion but ended loosing the bike to a group of thieves who broke in to our garage and took away not just one but two mountain bikes (the other belonging to my bil)

However a recent visit to a doctor created an opportunity to enter into cycling again. There I was, a proud owner of another mountain bike.

Ever since I got it in mid January I have been doing on average 55KM every weekend (each day I do about 26 - 32KM approximately in 2 - 2 & 1/2 hours). With couple of milk breaks that amounts to average 12KMPH.

Now, for as a person who did not exercise regularly, this was a bit strange for my family members. When I think about it, it all bottle downs to endurance.

First day I rode the bike I did almost 14KM given that I had no other choice in bringing the bike home. However, when I went on a ride the next day, I did roughly about 7-8 KM. But then I made a concious choice about the distance that I will go. I worked out a route in mind. This was an area that I wasn't too familiar with and I was interested in exploring. I did the broad round in my vehicle to check the distance. It was 27.3 KM. The next day, I took the bike and completed the journey. The whole journey took me little over 2 hours with couple of breaks in between.

So next time around just make up your mind, plug in some music and just go ahead and do it!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

You're hired

After going through 6 candidates we've finally chosen the newest addition to my team. Happy to say the person is scheduled to start work on 19th April.

The candidate chosen probably had the least work experience among the seven interviewed and 5 who went through our "Apprentice" style one day practical workout with us.

While the basis within which the person was chosen is highly situational to my team scenario I want to highlight few points in general that we were looking at.

a) Capacity to do what you have to day in day out (both technical and soft skills)
b) Ability to learn and expand capacity to take on bigger projects/roles within the team
c) Cultural fit to the team (More importantly are there any disconnects that might lead to team synergy) and this should be mutual. A day out tells you a lot more than controlled interview environment
d) What the person brings to the table to add value to the team! (Skills, style etc)
e) How comfortable is the person with the work set up and people the person will work in the future (from office set ups to lunch rooms and toilets the person will have to be comfortable!)

The process becomes much easier if you share your expectations with the prospective candidates. Before asking them to come for a 'day work out' with us as part of the third stage of the interview I shared with each one of them why we're doing it and the importance of the same. They too become comfortable with the process as it gives them an opportunity to evaluate to a greater extent the 'fit' in their own terms. While the work they might have to do might be structured in such a way to represent a typical day in the life at office, as much as possible avoid stage drama!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apprentice Update

After going through four different candidates, I'm glad I used the Apprentice style interviewing. So far it's 4-0. I found one participant to be in line with my expectations but I believe that person preferred otherwise for financial reasons. There was one that came through well during the interview but ended up being a 'cultural misfit'.

In many ways this approach seems to work both for the interviewer and interviewee. I had a chat with another candidate today and I will take that person through a similar exercise. I think its worth the wait for the right candidate than rushing for someone for the sake of it. Like they say hire slowly and fire fast!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Opportunity Never Knocks Twice - A session by Nahil Wijesuriya

It was a pleasure listening to Nahil Wijesuriya, a Sri Lankan business magnate who could be classified both renegade and unorthodox at the 30th LBR LBO CEO forum this evening.

I've heard a bit about this businessman but what was dished out was never expected. He was both candid and blunt with his views.

I walked in to the room when he was explaining how he used legal framework to create never seen opportunities by many. For example long years ago when government owned Petroleum corporation had a monopoly over oil bunkering in the country, he went ahead with his own bunkering operation from a barge in the sea. His rationale was that according to the law the territorial boundaries of Sri Lanka for bunkering purposes was confined to 11KM from the shores of the country. Thus he started operating his business with a barge anchored (according to him in 3KM deep sea you cannot anchor a barge )11.5 KM from the shores of the country!!!!

In another example he was explaining his appetite towards taking on the big guns in the business world and giving a good fight for them. He detailed out how he took the fight to the largest corporate organization in Sri lanka on two different business issues. One was regarding a oil bunkering business and the other was a condominium issue for which he took the lead. When the interviewer asked the inevitable question of as to why he loves to pick a fight with the biggest, his answer was he just liked it.......(Later on as a another friend mentioned, reminds her of Branson type of Psyche)

Another key aspect which dawned upon me was that all businessman of this caliber tends to size up situations very quickly and just go ahead with some of the deals (as oppose to countless number of evaluations performed by regular corporates) seemingly with their gut. He explained a formation of a freight forwarding and clearing business where one of the employees of a supplier who approached him wanted him to start up a business in this particular line. Instead of him starting on his own he suggested to the guy to come on board as a shareholder of the company. When the guy said he only had small amount of cash (Rs. 16,000 (approx 97 USD) , he told the guy to throw in that money and that he would contribute the same while inviting another 3rd party to contribute a similar amount. Apparently he organised a deal for the the guy on the same day which gave them a profit which was several times over the equity of the firm. So he says the business began to blossom. This reminded me of Robert Kiyosaki where he says "Tie up the deal first and then we'll work out the money" (in his book "Before You Quit Your Job")

According to him he does not carry any emotional attachments to any of his businesses. He would get in to a business if he likes it and he sells when he gets bored with the day to day activities of it and if the price is right. This guy has done this many times over!!!!!!

According to him many pass over business opportunities because they are afraid of the seemingly difficult and complex laws surrounding them. But according to him that is where the opportunity lies for the true entrepreneur. He says one needs to scrutinise the relevant laws very carefully before giving up on a particular opportunity. "More often than not you find a loophole or a work around to suit your requirement", he opined.

When asked about his family life he said you belong to one of the extremes, which is either you are an extremely family oriented man or as in his case you are a business junkie!

When the interviewer asked about the failures in his business life, he could only recall one instance where one of his companies had to be liquidated by him. Not a bad track record for a guy who keeps taking on new business challenges.

Reflecting upon the discussion it dawns upon me that he is very much the local version of Donald Trump or a Richard Branson! Out spoken, renegade types who thrive on money and other things in life! (Trust you know what I mean)

Having said all that it was an hour's business master class no doubt.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Endurance – Lessons for business life – Intro

I was attending a dinner yesterday at a colleague’s place and the conversation revolved around one of the guest’s plans to do an expedition to the base camp at Mount Everest. He was talking about the preparation for the event and not being able to practice under similar environmental conditions at 1/3 of the normal oxygen levels.

The expedition is expected to take roughly 16 days to reach the base camp while the return journey is expected to take approximately 5-6 days through a different route. The expedition party consists of a majority of men and few women who are in their mid forties to mid fifties!

The individual I was talking to was a professional corporate trainer cum coach and he was telling us that from a journey point of view the hardest part would not be the 16 day ascend to the base camp but rather the 5 day descend! While the journey on your way up is expected to push all your physical boundaries and wear you off the way back is expected to be doubly tough with your then existing physical condition. Another colleague of mine endorsed this fact by drawing parallels with his experience in climbing the Adams peak!

The point that hit me most was when he said in spite of all odds, it is more in the mental rather than the physical game that you loose out. According to him there are many youngsters who fail the expedition in their over enthusiasm and personal pride. (Apparently there are many Chinese and Japanese who fail this because of personal pride superseding ground realities). Many people fail due to momentary lapses in concentration which leads to making minute mistakes like a wrong footing etc which leads to serious injuries. He was also citing one of his recent experiences in Sri Lanka where during the final stages of an expedition through a local mountain range how people began to take things easy and loose concentration and thereby failed to complete the effort through injury etc.

Driving back home yesterday I was thinking about the relevance and impact of this subject in our day to day business life. I hope to dedicate a future blog entry on some of the reflections in this regard.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Apprentice" Style Interviewing - Not a bad approach to recruiting

There was an opportunity created for a newcomer in my department recently. After considering my requirement HR department forwarded four candidates. One of the candidates was not up to mark and was rejected outright. Irrespective of my gut and first impressions, I decided to test them with a short essay challenge. Each individual had his/her merits and demerits. However even after going through all three essays, I wasn't convinced of the right candidate.

I did something totally new for me, something I haven't done in an interview prior to this. I decided to put them them through an 'apprentice' style project. Together with my colleagues we decided on a project which requires the candidate to go through an assignment where (s)he will have to,

- Draft a questionnaire based on a brief

- Find his/her own transport to reach a designated outlet

- Conduct interviews on the supermarket floor by talking to shoppers,

- Come back to office

- Based on the response to the questionnaire to conceive a creative idea

- Brief the creative agency on the requirement

- Work with the agency to finalize the concept

The first candidate went through the process today. My team went about the task of managing the candidate well. I will not comment on his/her performance today given it is an ongoing process. But truly believe it is very good way to conduct interviews. Let the best person get the job!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Taking a stock of your life

Second day of this year was the day a very close friend tied the knot. This wedding was nostalgic for several reasons. For starters my kids were the flower girls for the occasion and event was happening at the same venue where I had my wedding several years ago. The DJ who played at the event was a classmate of mine and the photographer was another kid (meaning several years junior to us) from the same school! It brought together several of our friends and made me review progress we've made almost after a decade of leaving school.

As it is the case with all the people, we too had various types of characters at school. The studious types, not so studious types, the never studious types, extra curricular types etc. Well almost all who came for the wedding seems to have settled down in one way or the other in terms of careers with varying degrees of success. There were several academically brilliant lots who continue to do well in their chosen fields such as banking, academics etc. Then of course the there are few who were academically very good but who seems to have achieved average in their professional careers / ventures for the last dozen of years! Then there are others who were average, were in to many of the extra curricular activities be it sports or otherwise and who seems to do well in their chosen fields be it business or professions!

One thing is for sure, while schooling definitely molds a person's character and then paves the necessary foundation, it is up to the individual beyond that to write his own script of success!