Monthly Archives: October 2010

Pushing the Envelop

This term is often used in the leadership domains as a fancy burn out strategy by those attempting to prove their mettle in the leadership ladders at various levels. Translated – it means working hard beyond the call of duty.

It can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending upon who is looking. I have seen people drive themselves and their teams hard in the quest to achieve results. There is nothing wrong with that, provided the furious activity results in creating desired velocity (a product of speed and direction) in an environment conducive to learning and growth.

When organisations and leaders decide on a policy to push the envelope, which can not be a continuous process for fear of early burnout, there are few pertinent issues which merit consideration.

  • Firstly, the 15 percent theory must be applied diligently to ascertain the velocity required to be generated. The intent must be very clearly debated, designed and conceived to provide the doctrinal umbrella under which the organisation should operate.
  • Secondly, the ownership of ideas should be transferred to the people responsible to execute the desired missions. This calls for flattening of hierarchies and creating an environment of trust and faith. It should lay down the parameters of work culture reducing one up man ship in the organisation.
  • Thirdly, the empowerment module under such conditions requires adequate lattitude to each leader to operate independently with in his/her sphere of influence.
  • Fourthly, there should be a regular work audit to ensure teams maintain direction.
  • Lastly, while pushing the envelop, it should be the foremost duty of each leader to ensure that his team does not burn out doing non essential activities.

Organisations must continuously push the envelop – but this should be a fun activity aimed at bringing out the best in each team member rather than focussing on profits. Once the teams take on the ownership of ideas and gets the requisite fredom of action, profits automatically follow.


Potential for Growth


Reflections of Potential


This is a portrait of reflections of potential that good leaders are required to identify in the team. Once identified half the battle is won. There after it is just a matter of constructing the inner character and invoking a persons calling to enable him or her to blossom.

Often we fail to see this potential.

Experiment, Endure, Experiment

Rendering of human brain.

Unleash your potential

Leadership of organisations big or small can be frustrating if it is attempted in Closed User Group (CUG) environments with low appetite for risk taking. Such organisations at best break even and are no fun to be part of. The moment you find yourself in such a bind where creativity is subject to hide bound rules and regulations, I recommend it is time to pack your bags and quit.

For one, if you are a creative person with an innovative streak, these CUGs will kill it first before you realize it.

Second, they are averse to change and believe in the magic of “don’t fix what ain’t broke” – status quo rules supreme here within the ambit of their rules.

Third, they will not allow you to experiment and would want better results following the same archaic rules that govern them. If you walk on the edge here, they will be the first to push you over.

Fourth, Ideas die fastest in such environments, frustrating all your baby steps at change management. These organisations normally are happiest chasing change along well beaten paths.

Fifth, Creativity is a dirty word here..using it can muzzle you faster than you can imagine.

If you are serving in an organisation which bides its time within the status quo..time you moved on.

To be a happy and successful leader, accept lower remuneration but an environment which enables you to experiment, explore, endure and then experiment some more.

Try it…it will make leadership fun!!

Leadership Mantra from Kalam

Must You Have Conflict at Work?


Well conflict is a tough word..can we say differences?

My linkedin friend Justin Barry asked a pointed question on the discussion board

How do you approach and deal with conflict at work?!

His take is pasted below:

Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”

Another way of looking at conflict: “A good manager doesn’t try to eliminate conflict; he tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people. If you’re the boss and your people fight you openly when they think that you are wrong – that’s healthy.”

Why is this happening?

So lets get back to basics.  Conflict occurs because people are not getting what they need or who are seeking their own self-interests.  You may say that conflict is inevitable because we are dealing with people’s jobs, pride, ego etc.

It could be that conflict arises because of :

  • Weak leadership
  • Poor communication
  • Dissatisfaction with management style (e.g lack of openness)

Does this matter, well it SURE does if

  • Affects team/organization performance
  • Affects staff morale
  • Polarizes people
  • Impacts people or team cooperation
  • In extreme cases, eads to irresponsible and harmful behavior, such as fighting, name-calling

BUT remember that conflict can also be positive if

  • Resolves and provides solutions to business problem
  • Provides open communication channels
  • releases positive emotion and deals with staff’s anxiety and stress
  • Helps build trust
  • People improve their understanding and skills of the people and the organization they work for.

The Risk of Conflict can be REDUCED

There is action you can take to reduce these incidents from happening.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Set expectations around goals and staff performances
  • Communicate frequently and honestly
  • Be open about your concerns so everyone knows where you stand.
  • Agree that it is good to disagree so people understand that healthy disagreement would build better decisions
  • Let your teams grow and learn from their mistakes.

    My Take

    Conflict Resolution

    These arguments and suggestions are well taken but these are pragmatic efforts at answering the questions from a managerial rather than leadership perspective. Good leaders take the team on board by clearly articulating the “intent” and explaining the “why” of each activity. Once these are explained and the leader has an open approach towards taking in criticism based on continuous feedbacks..conflicts begin to minimise.

    Each human has a desire to out perform the given standards. A good leader doesn’t pit one member of the team against the other to ensure better performance or does not institute individual rewards for accomplishments. Instead he sets parameters for each member to push the envelop and out perform himself. In such forgiving and enabling environments personal conflicts are minimised to a large extent as team members work to produce collaborative answers. They do not hesitate to take or give advice and suggestions to improve work in their sphere of influence. In such win win environments alone can conflicts be minimised for the larger organisational good.

    Such leadership environment can only be developed by leaders willing to learn, love, share and mentor their team mates. They multiply the power of their team members rather than adding them.

    If conflict still persists, it is time to change the leader.

    I would end it with this quote

    “Put organisation above will largely help you flow like water and brush aside what obstructs your thoughts. If your thoughts are powerful enough they will erode the opposition over time. Else, you like water, again choose the path of least resistance to follow your organisational goals.

    Mother of all Leadership Mantras -Intent

    As discussed through posts on swarming and management of change, the takeoff point in any organisation is the intent. Everything else depends on it.

    Definition of Intent: “Something that is intended; an aim or purpose”. Often in the quest for quick bucks in business or overwhelmed by routine or career compulsions, leaders assume every one understands the “vision” and “mission” displayed on all walls of the organisation so they would understand intent as well.

    Statements of Vision and Mission are good but they largely serve to impress clients. Intent is specific overarching statement of purpose with in the ambit of vision and mission which provides clarity to all members of the team to focus on.

    If the intent is to make money – the team may use all means and methods, however disdainful, to achieve the intent of the leader. This intent by nomination thus sets in an organisational culture that corrupts the branding of people and the organisation.

    On the otherhand, if the intent is to generate value for the customer – money will automatically flow. A lot therefore depends upon how employees comprehend the intent in pursuence of the larger good of the organisation.

    A leader therefore has to articulate the intent unambiguously to all members of his team. This is especially true outside the board room where the edges at the bottom of the pyramid (who generate value for the company with the customers), need to clearly comprehend the intent. It is the WHY of the team, they will navigate through the HOW themselves, if suitably empowered.

    Without a clear intent we often see organisations sweating furiously at the treadmill – going nowhere.

    Hungry for Change

    Ayn Rand's sign.

    Challenging the Change

    Progressive organisations are disruptive and eager to lead change. The hunger is evident by each member attempting to operate along future paradigms in a dynamic environment. Instead of chasing  change, they are always one step ahead of the change.

    This requires a hunger generated by disruptive,collaborative and inspirational leadership which is always charting routes along the edge. They take risks and accept mistakes. To these organisations beating the status quo is a daily activity by generating multiple options to lead their organisations where none have dared before. These organisation might appear chaotic and somewhat dysfunctional from a distance but up close each member is a power house capable of transforming change itself.

    The capitalistic theories of Ayn Rand have undergone a metamorphosis since Atlas Shrugged, driven by transformational and interdependent theories of today’s networked environments. While intellectual property remains an issue to contend with, the environment for growth is driven by businesses beyond borders. Each entrepreneur, who is hungry for change, can innovate  in a seamless environment of growth. Protecting intellect has been replaced by sharing intellect to multiply the resultant vector. The Web 2 environment has created seamless opportunities and provided growth avenues along the vast expanse of the blue oceans.

    There is space in the blue oceans for those who are willing to walk on the edge and take risks. For others, it is business as usual.

    This is a presentation we did some time back…things have changed since but not the hunger for change

    Remembering Gandhi – Becoming the Change

    On Gandhi Jayanti our tribute to the greatest inspirational leader who became the change he wanted to see.

    Some of his words from TOI collection

    No power on earth can
    subjugate you when you
    are armed with
    It ennobles both the vic-
    tor and the vanquished.


    A principle is the expres-
    sion of perfection, and as
    imperfect beings like us
    cannot practise perfec-
    tion, we devise every
    moment limits of its
    compromise in practice.


    A vow is a purely
    religious act which
    cannot be taken in a fit
    of passion. It can be taken
    only with a mind puri-
    fied and composed and
    God as witness.


    All compromise is based
    on give and take, but
    there can be no give and
    take on fundamentals.
    Any compromise on
    mere fundamentals is
    surrender. For, it is all
    give and no take.


    Always aim at complete
    harmony of thought and
    word and deed. Always
    aim at purifying your
    thoughts and everything
    will be well.

    Mohandas Karamchand

    The man who continues to drive leadership pradigms with his ageless philosophies in words and deeds

    Leaders Listen Passionately


    Active Listening is the Greatest Learning Tool

    Often we hear leaders chatter on endlessly about their “intent”, “visions” and how the teams should flower under their tutelage. They never tire of torturing an audience till the organisation tires out of the “How” that the leader explains with such disdain each time he gets an opportunity. This is accentuated if the employees only get to listen to the leader and are seldom allowed the latitude to articulate their own aspirations and visions about either the task at hand,  the organisation or the team.

    When they listen, they “hear” with a view to out talk the led. Such leaders start the cycle of cynicism in an organisation, especially when the leaders are not able to Walk their Talks. Teams hang on to every word, motion or activity of the leader. While a blabbering leader may forget what he said yesterday – the team remembers – and thus starts the Chinese whisper in an organisation, disempowering the teams across verticals.

    Good leaders listen and listen actively to absorb the aspirations and callings of each member of the team. This helps them find each team member’s true calling. There is nothing more motivating in an environment where a team member feels confident to explain his point of view succinctly and without parental oversights by the leader. This simple habit of the leader energises the team members and motivates them with an optimism that their views would be heard passionately towards the larger good of the organisation. They then push the envelope as active participants in the growth of the organisation.

    It is true that leadership and mentoring are not a one-size-fits-all propositions. “Different strokes for different folks” is more like it. Some people need a lot of direction or hand-holding; others need autonomy and freedom to experiment and grow. Some team members may need different things at different times, depending on challenges that arise, the level of difficulty in job assignments, and the ebb and flow of motivation. Amongst all these variations, leaders can rarely afford to stop listening passionately- it helps keeping their ears to the ground and invert the pyramid in an environment of trust and mutual respect.

    This passion is contagious across all levels of leaders and the led, where leaders automatically produce leaders and not mere followers. This creates an enabling environment where the “why” overrides the “how” and unleashes the true potential of each team member.

    Active listening accentuates an organisation’s trajectory in geometric progression and provides the leader with the most vital component of organisational success – feedback.

    As they say in the military, “passionate leaders lead by actions not words”.