Monthly Archives: September 2010

Keep it Simple

Tips for Keeping it Simple and Sane from Walk the Talk

  • Thoughts can accumulate like old, dusty house clutter, and provide you with an excuse not to move forward with your life, but to dwell in the familiar.
  • Quit thinking about what you “should” have done. If you could have done it differently, you would have.
  • You must first be mentally balanced to achieve a total healthy balance in your life.
  • Consider words that you believe define you, words that you have heard others use to describe you, words that come from past memories, and old words that might once have been used to describe you. Are there words you are holding on to that caused you to sacrifice other, more positive words? You have the power to change those words, but it’s a choice you have to make for yourself.
  • Engage in every aspect of life that you can, and enjoy the ride. Accept the helping hands of travelers who have gone before you, and when you become a traveler, be ready to offer your own hand to those that need guidance in their own rides.
  • The Difference Between Try and Triumph is Just A Little Umph!

This is truly inspirational if applied without fear or favour. Technically the reward and punishment systems that we follow in organisations complicate things. Rewards to some diempower more while punishment dis-empowers the group. Tough Choices to keep it simple


Transcending Leadership Moulds

There are enough literature and guides available to explain the theory and practice of leadership. However, the biggest teacher of leadership is the nature itself complete with its universal intelligence.

In B Schools and HRD classes, people teach classifications of leadership models because they help students lead organized lives and have a clear picture of where things are. Despite the regular and discernible chaos in organizational leadership paradigms, people somehow feel comfortable with yardsticks they can identify with. That which is in their genetic coding. Some theories are based around the concepts of a transactional  or a transformational leader. Often people like to fall into one of the categories based on their code.

They make cardinal natural blunders here.

Ever seen a sapling grow into a tree and yield fruits against all the vagaries of nature? The key word that nature bestows upon them,and us, is adaptability. The trees adapt to storms, the animals adapt, the chameleons change colours and every activity guided by universal intelligence adapts disruptively to live in perfect harmony with its surroundings.

What happens to humans? Why do we have to be tutored in every aspect of a disruptive and adaptive life as against the laws of nature? Why should leaders be only type cast into transactional or transformational?

One comes across organizations which are sticklers for rules. Do you want to play by the rules in business? Or do you see rules as limitations that are important reference points but can be bent or experimented with for the benefit of your organisation?

There is a world out there beyond the stereotypes of transactional,situational and transformational leadership. The nature does take root as per set rules. A tree would not grow if it doesn’t get adequate sunshine or water or bend in the wind to the limit of its elasticity. So largely some rules have to be followed to have a semblance of commonality of purpose but there are others which need to be bent to suit the mandates of organizational efficiency.

This is the theory of evolution.

No one approach can be defined as the best. Time, situation, organizational needs and other expediencies should make a leader adapt his organization in a

leadership in circles

disruptive and distributed model so as to produce the sum of the whole as a multiplication factor of the individual strengths of the teams. The leader has to represent and act as the conductor of an orchestra – give adequate latitude to each musician but notice the failing notes promptly,finally producing synergy in the collective effort towards producing the required musical score.

There though is a problem here. This disruptive and directive style of functional leadership puts the onus of delivery largely on the led. If these have not been groomed to adapt to change and lead change.  armed with suitable KSAs, the ecosystem gets disturbed and results get marginalized to leadership styles. Organisation suffers.

While it is important to have some stability and equilibrium in the teams, it is equally important to flatten the hierchies to generate better and interactive output based on principles of empowerment. The more Ristakes (Risk plus Mistakes) you permit within the wider scope of experimentation better will be the evolutionary process of the organization as a whole. Leaders may face some tactical setbacks but strategically it is a win-win situation for the organization.

Leaders have to perpetuate change and teach teams to fly, as a bird does to the young ones, with attendant short term risks. It is only in such leadership environments that teams learn to soar.

Leadership training tends to be full of talk about change and moving forward, but in fact it is the simple complexity of disruptive leaders which can bring about a culture of change by leading from the front.

Change is a daily process, as is leadership, for change. To be in harmony and ahead of change, leaders have to be more disruptive than change itself. This proactivity creates the right growth environment based on trust, irrespective of the style used.

There are no mantras to be a leader. One can learn all  one wants from the books but in the end you have to be a leader and not become one. It is an inside thing – a call guided by our little voice which the nature has bestowed upon each one. We must use it effectively.

As they say in the military – leadership is spirituality in motion!

Swarming Leadership – Explained

A poster with twelve species of flowers or clu...

No one tells the bee which flower to sit on

In an earlier post on Swarming – Imperatives for the Business World we had covered various facets of how swarming can be applied to businesses. We got some pertinent queries during our in house webinar. Some issues are explained for better application of the concept.

The bees appear to be moving around the flowers in a distributed manner each with a sense of purpose to gather the nectar. Once done they dutifully reach their hives through a maze of complex routes and serve their offerings to the queen bee and return to perform the same task with the same energy. Ants do a similar routine. No one tells the bees or ants the “how” of collecting their goodies and  bringing it back for meeting with the fraternity’s larger needs. Science calls this innate behaviour. A sense developed overtime which then gets genetically coded.

In businesses, most of the leaders spend all their energies in explaining to the teams the “how” of the task in hand and not the “why” . These organisations thus operate in a vacuum questioning “What does the boss want”?. Unlike the queen bee which appears to be having a whale of a time watching the bees at work, these leaders never explain the intent with a clarity. It is the Intent which unleashes the creativity of the team to perform the task in a cross functional and multi dynamic way.

THAT is the difference between innate behaviors and structured patterned beliefs. The leaders who spend adequate time, energy and effort in crystallizing the intent, the way queen bee does, and have the ability to convey this to the team unambiguously create innate look alike teams full of enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. They explore their creativity to charter their paths to blue oceans and find simple but enduring answers to complex problems at hand. They work within the intent of the leader and empower themselves with in the directive style of leadership. The paradigms now change. Each member becomes a power house exploring and experimenting through unchartered territories to evolve out of the box solutions.

Swarms thus are possible only when the Intent is unambiguous and the leadership module is willing to trust his team.


Good Leaders Celebrate Life

This lesson couldn’t have come but for at the prayer meeting of death of a great soul Madhu Bhatia. The sons, daughters and grand children of the departed great “leadership model in motion” were dressed in their colourful sunday best to celebrate her life at the prayer meeting.

At first it appeared awkward for the Indian gathering, all mournfully dressed in white to see the household in a buoyant mood. Once the religious sermons were over the offsprings offered their tributes to this great lady through a series of light hearted reminiscences of her life – remembering her in death as they did in life. The hall full of sombre audience suddenly realised this great gesture and burst out in joy at each anecdote of Madhu’s life narrated with the wit and poise which only a great family leadership model can deliver. The customary tea thereafter had the desired air of  celebration – a celebration of  life, well spent.

In her passing away this great lady passed on to those present that life was a wonderful gift worth celebrating each moment. I reckon that is what made Madhu and her family leaders of a genre we seldom see in India.

This is not Deepak Chopra but much larger lesson of life one could ever have learnt at a prayer meeting.

Thank you Madhu for this wonderful life leadership shall continue to inspire us

We dedicate this poem, (author not known) to the spirit of Madhu

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying [to ourselves] that we are born to eternal life.

Humility and Perseverance

Getting good at getting along with people is a great book. A learning resource for every leader who aspires to achieve his vision through collaborative participation of his team. Amongst  great visions of bottom lines and productivity, organisations take their eyes off the ball in leading their visions through the power of their people.

The ultimate character of an orgnisation and its leaders ,therefore, is in investing in its people through humility and perseverance. These two essential organizational qualities transcend known performance enhancement matrices and catapult the leaders to an all together different dimension of governance. These two allow you to balance your life needs with the organisational goals and enable organisations to excel.

Positively controlled and managed anger, at times, can yield results in the short term but somehow leave an unsavory taste in the mouth. They cause a disconnect deep within where trust is eroded and perseverance suffers.

Humility and perseverance are thus the hall marks of all good organisations. These organisations get good at getting along with people who celebrate life in a multidimensional approach.

Profits follow

Nature’s Lessons on Leadership

These are fascinating pictures by Threesh Kapoor a passionate leader in nature photography in India and abroad. Pictures explain the larger aim of omnipresent power of laws of nature to teach us…take a break and learn from the nature as you enjoy it

I am sure you experienced the power of nature as I did.

My Favorite Leadership Resources

These are powerful presentations with valuable references teaching the tao of leadership. It is apparent that  life lived without being is a waste.

Myths of Leadership Failure

Myths of Leadership

These are the myths of leadership failure. My apologies but then…

Due respect to the leadership coach but I strongly disagree to these myths which negate optimism and pro activity in leading. If anything these are managerial mental failures which when harnessed under the regime of collaborative leadership can all be easily brushed aside.

Inability to Organize Detail This is the last of the leadership functions after you have approached your issues with  systems approach. It is a managerial function of visualizing the innards of a problem which your technical  and domain knowledge will give you. Don’t begin with the details as a leader –  that is a low end managerial function. First get the bigger picture straight and spell out your intent unambiguously after due deliberation with your team.

Unwillingness to Do what you ask of others This is true but not very important in a trusting team which has mutual confidence in each other. Trying to prove you can do it better may result in complacency or antagonism from the team. “You think you can do it better” starts inter personal rivalries. Yes the leader must put his shoulder to the wheel and demonstrate the capability to dirty his hands, when required, but as a routine let your team flower.

Expectation of Pay Knowing and doing can only be harmonized in a collaborative leadership environment. The word “they” should principally be corrected with “us or we” – then you will automatically rise to your level of competence. It is the leaders role to empower the team to transcend issues such as pay in favor of performance – pay would follow. Sack the leader if he can not measure up.

Fear of Competition This is the most misunderstood concept in leadership. Your leadership and its dedication is dependent on only one factor and that is your own out put. Leaders who perform unmindful of the competition and develop blue ocean strategies for their teams stand apart and do not have to worry about any competition – even from arch rivals in businesses or life functions.

The rest are academic issues which can be labelled under poor leadership skills and styles. Selfless leaders rise highest – others also run.

Choice is yours whether you want to follow point by point manuals or harmonize your larger construct as a leader transcending trivia. The day you develop the third eye to look with in and understand your own power – these one minute myths will not matter any more.

Being is more important than Becoming

Applying System’s Approach

As the name suggests, system’s approach is applicable to solving, streamlining and check listing various components of any issue at hand from picking apples to running conglomerates. Plenty of literature is available on the subject including integrated automated models. However, application often skips comprehension where the system’s approach becomes an end rather than a means to achieve the end. That scares people away.

It is a systematic procedure to identify the main ingredients of the problem, analyse various missions essential (METL – Mission Essential Task Lists) to achieve the task, evolve multiple Terminal Objectives (TOs) for each of the tasks and thereafter evolve enabling and learning objectives (EOs and LOs) for each terminal objective. This process of analysis provides a logical approach to analyse all perspectives of a problem before you begin to solve it.

Initially it takes some time to get used to this systematic evaluation technique but once it is in place – solving the problem systematically becomes a cakewalk – without glossing over the key components of the problem. It, as we said earlier applies to all walks of life.

Let us say you want to train your Perception Management team (Don’t have one?).

First step is to identify your basic perception management problem – what are those key issues that need to be addressed to project your organisation. They decide the METL – draw out a list viz existing perceptions about your brand, the gaps in perceptions and what perceptions do you want to commit to market’s memory. Is your team equipped and are there adequate creatives and branding experts available. If not do you intend hiring or outsourcing and so on till you arrive at the desired list

Having drawn up the METL in detail flowchart each of the Terminal Objective that would result in your Mission of good branding achieved in relation to your existing brand image in the market. These could be related to products, people, tools or approaches with suitable themes.Identify the training needs for each as you go along.

Each TO will have a few EOs and LOs which will enable you to achieve the TO effortlessly and enable wide based learning without missing out on any detail. This tree gives an overview of each step from the intent to the EO and LO.

The Military uses it effectively

Now based on this tree, draw out the gaps in information, people, resources and approaches to develop suitable themes to meet with the METL requirements. The training parameters, tools, methods and syllabi can now be orchestrated to train the team. Combine the e learning module and you save time on class room training. QED.

Initially you may take some time to start getting used to this problem solving system. But with practice it will become an approach you wouldn’t want to do with out. While the topic is vast, it’s application overtime can become innate, helping you approach daily problems systematically. Started in the armed forces to meet the training needs termed SAT, the system, as we said earlier can be matured for every human activity.

CWG 2010 would have been a different story had SA been applied to it on nomination of Delhi as the venue. Well may be next time!

Contact is the Name of the Game

Yes you read it right it is contact and not contacts!

In leadership positions management often demands too much of our time. Managing processes, tools and possibilities is a tedious, thankless and time consuming work if not understood and delegated efficiently. We can manage every thing but people,which we lead and for that we normally run out of time.

When it comes to people the mantra is leading by example. Unfortunately in  bureaucratic public sector enterprises where jobs are secure and accountability is low the system revolves around managing the environment to survive at the cost of organisational efficiency. The challenge of leadership in such environment is far too intense as compared to businesses with quantifiable bottom lines.

In both however, the operative word in leadership styles is contact. Remember the “Jadu Ki Japhhi in Munnabhai” – that contact meant a world to the lowly janitor. But the contact we are referring to here is not as much about getting physical as about physically understanding the aspirations, hopes and fears of our team mates by keeping in touch. It breaks barriers if we get to know their names and the names of their children and spouses. If we take an extra step to interact personally, the team members understand us better and are more responsive to the needs of the leadership challenges we face. It is also the best means for getting first hand feedback.

However there is a catch here. The team is always smarter than the leader in identifying phoneys putting up a facade of contact. So it is best to have genuine contact, if you consider it vital to your leadership function, or let it be.

There are plenty of smart tools available today to help you manage the team data. One must use them to remember names but keep it simple by genuine concern – as differentiated from courting cheap popularity.

In the armed forces, this is the only mantra that helps you lead from the front without worrying whether the team is behind you or not. It works everywhere – as Vineet Nayar says, Employees First!