Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

So, What Drives You?

November 13, 2013 3 comments

Last week, I completed 3 years of blogging on wordpress. When I started on this journey three years back, I did not realize where this will take me. However after 3 years and 246 blog posts, I feel that I have only started to warm up. There is still a lot to talk about and a lot to learn and discuss.

As each milestone that passes does, this one made me to sit down and think about what keeps me going.

I would like to think one of the most important thing that keeps me motivated to keep writing blog posts is the fact that with each blog, i get to learn something new, about the topic and about myself. This discovery process is what keeps me motivated and helps me continue to on this journey to self discovery.

Unless we know what drives us, it is very difficult to do work that matters.

So, what is it that drives you to get up and do what you do every day? 


Categories: leadership, Uncategorized

Whats Your Contribution?

November 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Yesterday, I was running a workshop to introduce the concept of design thinking to a bunch of college students with the following as the challenge that they needed to solve by the end of the workshop

How might you make teaching interesting, fun and effective for teachers

We all had a great fun day and learnt something very important. All the ideas that the students came up to help teachers were to do with things that assumed that the teachers inherently were not competent people who can teach well.

I ran a similar workshop a couple of months ago with a set of 30 college professors with the following challenge:

How might you make learning interesting, fun and effective for students

And the results were very similar. All the ideas that the teachers came up with assumed that the students inherently do not want to learn while in college.

This made me thinking and I asked the students in yesterday’s workshop, to list out things that they could do in their classes (right away), which could help the teachers have fun while running classes. Collectively, they came up with about 44 different things that they could do in their classes to make them fun & effective not only for the teachers but also for themselves.

I guess this is human nature. We believe that the problem is with others and forget our contribution to the problem. Makes me question my contribution everytime i start to complain about anything.

So, what are your complaining about and what is your contribution to that?

The Most Important Decisions That we Make as Leaders

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

In 2006, I was being interviewed by Saint Gobain Glass for a role in their customer service, production planning and logistics team. I had to go through 2 levels of screening by the HR agency, followed by an aptitude test, an interview with the hiring manager, the HR manager and then finally by the MD himself.

I was told that the final interview for every employee hired in the organization was done by the MD himself (it was a 250 employee organization when I was being interviewed), irrespective of the role the employee is being hired for. That did not make sense to me at that time as the role for which I was being was too insignificant for an MD to conduct an interview for.

However, I now realize the importance of his actions. It is easier to hire people for their fit to the organization culture that you want to build as a leader than to change the culture later. No wonder we had a culture of high performance all around us and at the same time we all enjoyed working together in that organization.

So, one of the most important task as the leader of an organization is to ensure that you are hiring people whom you trust to be a good fit for the culture. Equally or even more important is for you to be decisive and quick in moving people out of the organization if they turn out to be a bad fit.

I understand that this can be a tough ask in a fast growing organization or an MNC with hundreds of employees being hired every day. However, in that case, as a leader, we still need to find time ourselves or hand-hold the local CEO/MD at the country/department to ensure that they meet and talk to every person that is being hired to ensure that there is no cultural conflict.

This is one of those activities that in the face of it doesn’t seem very significant, however in the long term there is no other action of the leader that can have the impact this one action can have.

So, in my opinion, the most important decision that we make as leaders is “Whom to Hire” & “Whom to Fire”

So, what is your hiring mantra? Do you hire for attitude or for culture? Do you know what is the culture that you want to cultivate in your organization? Do you know what kind of people will thrive in such a culture?

IF the answer to any of the above questions is a “NO”, now is a time for you to start thinking towards finding an answer. In the long term this is what will make the distinction between a good leader and a great leader.

In your opinion, what is the most significant action that a leader could do and why?

PS: Watch Tom Peters Talk about hiring the last One Percenters

Categories: leadership Tags: , ,

As Leaders, We all Should Follow Rule No. 6

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

In his book, “The Art of Possibility“, Ben Zanders offers pearls of wisdom. One of the most important piece of wisdom that we can learn from the book is what he refers to as “Rule No: 6”.


  • If as leaders, we follow this rule, we could potentially make less mistakes and learn much more from the one’s that we do make;
  • If as parents, we followed this rule, we create the possibility of a long, well nurtured and meaningful relationship with our children;
  • If as spouse, we followed this rule. we can create the possibility of a much more deeper and meaningful relationship with our partner;
  • The authors recommend that if we make a mistake, we should say out loud (& hence mean) “How Fascinating” and learn from the mistake. Add this to the Rule No 6, and we could have a lot of fun along the way

So what is Rule No 6? IT simply states: Don’t take yourself so god damn seriously!

So, what are the other rules: “None”

There are no other rules!

As parents, teachers, spouses and leaders, we take ourselves and our position of power too seriously and lose our ability to laugh at ourself.

If there is anything that could dramatically improve our quality of life and the ability to lead in uncertain times, it this this ability to not only laugh at our own mistakes and learn from them. This rule also suggests that you could learn from everyone around you as much as they could learn from you.

So, let me follow Rule No 6 and “How Fascinating” this is !

Do share your thoughts about this approach to life and leadership.

You can connect with me on twitterlinkedinfacebook or email.

You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.


Three Conversations that Help you Remain Customer Centric

September 18, 2013 Leave a comment

In a blog post, Eric  Barker shares the insights from Harvard Business School professor Gautam Mukunda, author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter and list down “Denial”, “Hubris” and inflated “Egos” as some of the most common mistakes leaders do. The post also talks about some good advice that leaders can do well to heed to.

I think that leaders need to create and keep an open line of communication to three kinds of people to stay grounded to reality.

  • Frontline staff: Regularly engage your front line employees who sell/service your customer for a frank and open conversation. Keep these conversations open and use them as a pulse check for ground reality and bullshit detection. This will work best if you schedule some time every week and randomly pick staff and engage with them directly, without having to let any of their managers know about the discussion. This keeps everyone on their toes. Most importantly, act on the information that you learn as part of this conversation. This will ensure that your staff will also take these conversations seriously.
  • Customer and customer Staff: Meet your customers (your counterparts and end-users of your products/services) and talk to them about the product or services. Try and learn why they do business with you and how they benefit from the product/service. Also, ask them about their opinion on how could you make it easy for them to work with you. Take their inputs with a grain of salt and find ways to use these conversations to explore better ways to work with your customers and make it easier for them to do business with you. Again, it would be best if you use your CRM system and get your assistants to schedule some of these appointments or calls directly.
  • Someone who is not from your industry but serves the same market segment: Some of the most interesting insights about your customers can be gained by talking to other businesses (from different industries) that also sell to your current set of customers. You can then use these insights to improve your business and interaction with your customers.

If you are able to do these conversations regularly (at least weekly), you shall remain grounded to reality and will never have any dearth of ideas to improve your businesses.

This also has a ripple effect among your staff as they will also realize that you could end up talking to any of their customers and so will continue to treat their customers well. This will also ensure that your direct reports don’t filter out bad news for you, which in my opinion is the single biggest reason for organizations going bankrupt or missing out on huge opportunities.

The overall result would be that your organization will be considered more customer focused by the people whose perception matters the most – Your Customers.

Do share your thoughts about this approach for culture transformation.

You can connect with me on twitterlinkedinfacebook or email.

You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.

PS: A great video that talks about 5 techniques that you can use to keep your organization Customer Centric:


Great Teams Are a Mix of Old and New

To add to this nice post, I think that the composition of consistently high performing teams is that they have a set of core team members who enjoy working with each other and have worked together for long periods of time thereby developing the ability to understand how each other thinks and depending upon the project, you add new people to the mix to get a breath of fresh thinking into the project.
To take the analogy of the broadway or the movie business, you can see that most directors like to work with the same set of people when it comes to the core work like camera, editing, music, dialogues, etc and team up with new people for all other roles.
This provides them a heady balance of stability and creativity.

How can CEO’s Lead in Uncertain Times and Thrive – Great advice from Ram Charan

September 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Ram Charan shares very valuable advice to CEO’s on how to lead your organizations in uncertain times. Do take the time to watch the entire video below. It is worth the time you spend on it.

For people who cant watch the entire video, I shall try to summarize a few things that I think are the lessons we can take to lead our organizations in uncertain times.

  • Ability to identify the catalyst for the changes in uncertain time. Mostly this is a person, who through some of his action or leadership creates the seed for changes.
  • If the uncertainty is very high, it will always re-shape the environment. The environment will never get back to its original state.
  • No law will change social change. Identify what kinds of social changes are happening around it. Don’t fight the social change, embrace it and move ahead.
  • Leaders who succeed in uncertain times look at unstoppable trends over a 20 year period. They know that they might miss a few things, go through ups and downs, but keep themselves anchored with the prize & a vision of their unfair share from these trends and look outside-in. This gives them emotional strength to go through all the ups, downs and the turbulence.
  • Focus on the leaders. Identify, train, coach and spend a lot of time on developing leaders in your organizations.
  • Ahead of your staff meeting, assign someone from your leadership team to present about an uncertainty, explore what was the catalyst responsible and who benefitted from this and who did not. By doing this, you are changing mindsets to learn how to look at the change, who is causing it and who is benefitting.
  • Look at the world through multiple lenses. Know your known unknowns and unknown unknowns.
  • Maximizing shareholder value in uncertain times is a dumb idea.
  • Imagine the convergence of trends and the transformation that could result from these convergence. Are you prepared for this convergence.
  • Watch out for socio-economic and socio-political trends and the impact that they can have on your and your customers’ businesses.
  • Place yourself in the bridge of information. Network with the regulators and the key catalyst who can influence your business environment, so that you are never taken by surprise.
  • The goal is not maximizing quarterly earnings. Instead, invest in building your future.
  • Have an external focus. Spend a lot of time outside the network of your organization and try to have a healthy long-term – short term balance .
  • Build new capabilities within your people and products.
  • Adapt your product by reviewing the resource allocation closely.

Some of this is common sense and some great advice from a great guy. I hope that you are able to learn from this and manage your organization better in a world full of uncertainty.