Why #leadership development #fails & #How to #fix it!


What’s with the # – It’s for #twitter. But imagine if everything was written with a ‘#’, if everything was a keyword? How would that work?

Well, it is no different for the first time leader. A new language, new words, new meanings and too much information which can be blinding. A new place where everything has an alternative and every decision has a repercussion, more than ever. If you are already what one can call a ‘leader’ you know the pressure I am talking about.

The pressure to change, to live up, to manage, to drive and to deliver! But how? With a world where everything seems to be top priority, like the # or the keyword, every new leader takes one of two ways  :

A: Ignores all hashtags ‘#’ and goes with the best guess any way! OR B: Tries to deal with all of them and eventually burns out!

While our poor protagonist is making the wrong choice or the wrong choice, the mounting pressure teaches him/ her to either pretend or defend. That’s the behavioral approach which is the social equivalent of being either a lifelong victim or a ‘know it all’. Where is the ‘leader’ in all this, you ask? So do I!

Add to this, a dose of the ‘leadership development workshop’ and the person in question hears the following :

#Sources of power for a #leader | #Types of #leaders | #Leadership principles | #Leadership Best Practices | #Leadership Models | #Delegation | #Situational Leadership | #Action centered #leadership | #level5 Leadership | #Feedback | #Lead by #example | #Team-Management | # Task-Management | #Conflict Management | #People & #Project Management | #Inspiration | #Problem solving | #Decision making | #Motivation”

Thats pretty much every two day leadership workshop ever designed. To you, me and every other L&D / HR professional these are must have skills! To the protagonist, nothing but more words.

How do these words benefit them? What should they do when, under pressure, these words frankly just don’t occur to them?

The answer is not to change everything head over heels and de-credit what the best of thinkers and management maestros have thought up. All the buzzwords and # (hashtags) are both important and relevant. The challenge however is in how these are driven and drilled down the to-be leaders #neural network?

The answer may be in Bloom’s taxonomy. Blooms taxonomy is a model that demarcates levels of adult learning. Understanding this could be the key to teaching and driving leadership development.

Most of current leadership content takes people (learners) to the receiving andresponding level i.e. they understand the definitions and are able to recall it when faced with the terms in day to day conversations.

Some workshops, practice oriented sessions and customized learning experiences do manage to take this leadership learning to the organizing level i.e. participants are able to plot valid responses, scenarios and tools together. But is this enough to prepare these learners for the real world challenges and expectations?

To make meaningful difference, we need to take this learning to the ‘Valuing‘  and ‘Internalizing‘ levels. How?

While even through workshops that are limited in content but deep rooted in practice, some amount of this is certainly possible. However, I have always seen the best results through #gamification and #simulation.

Here are some ideas that you can use for the next set of people you work with :

1. Use theatre – It’s nothing complicated and there are many ways of using this. For e.g. Make and prepare a drama club in your office and use them to drive situations where learners participate and get to respond to complex workplace conversations as leaders and managers. Feel free to take this to other avenues of learning like communication and customer service. If not this, give simple scenarios and get teams to role-play them without knowing what the opposition plans to do.

2. Use Gamification – I don’t mean to complicate at all, but this simply means to create content where people get to decide on their own, pay for the consequences and build rewards on their own with limited supervised learning. For the nay-sayers, this is not idealistic because the activity is still very much supervised, the learning is not! For e.g. here are few things you can do :

  • I designed this simulation called the ‘6talk plan’ for managerial development.
  • This is basically the 6 key conversations every manager needs to have with their subordinates – 1. Start of the annual goal setting 2. Quarterly / Incidental Review 3. Half Yearly Review 4. Personalized feedback / teaching moments (Task based) 5. Personalized feedback / teaching moments (Behavior based) and 6. Annual review and appraisal discussion.
  • I recommend that you go the whole hog and invest a week in building content for this. You will need a Fictitious company brief, a CEO brief (To whom everybody reports including the protagonist), a Manager Brief, Team member profiles 4-5 (Fictitious). This is just background.
  • Then you need situational cases for each of the 6 conversations and cue cards for concepts / models that you would like people to use. If possible, even video record these briefs as personal anecdotes instead of words on paper.
  • Each case then needs to be played by unique trio’s , Manager – Team Member – Observer (Regulate roles here!)
  • You can also record an ideal conversation on video so that people can learn and compare to.
  • Quick-tip – Make it tough and realistic at all times. Too basic and you will have people bored, too complicated and they will disengage. Don’t be afraid of some trial and error.

3. Use Business Simulation – Personally, I am a big fan of Ram Charan’s and Larry Bossidy’s book called ‘Execution’. I feel it effectively describes what every leader should know about getting things done. In essence it says that there are three key aspects to perfect execution : People, Operations and Strategy

Points 1 and 2 in this article work really well when teaching ‘People’ and to some extent ‘Operations’ aspects. But for strategy the key is to teach people about the broader picture. Strong debrief, business leader feedback and buy-in are crucial here. If you have a good budget, maybe you can go for some real time online simulation like Capstone etc., if like me the budgets are often tighter and the management wants ‘Harvard’ like learning in ‘private-tuition’ costs, try using Monopoly and/ or Human Chess!

What I have shared here are merely some quick ideas of building more meaningful leadership development options for your workforce. Needless to say that the intent is not to prove that theory isn’t important. The question simply is how to treat it the right way to ensure application?

While you try your hand at the above tips, please do use your judgement focusing on how to leverage on these ideas and not just replace everything else. Let me leave you with a story that tells us why this judgement is critical for both , leadership development and learning in general :

This is allegedly a true story. Engineers at a major aerospace company were instructed to test the effects of bird-strikes (notably geese) on the windshields of airliners and military jets. To simulate the effect of a goose colliding with an aircraft travelling at high speed, the test engineers built a powerful gun, with which they fired dead chickens at the windshields. The simulations using the gun and the dead chickens worked extremely effectively, happily proving the suitability of the windshields, and several articles about the project appeared in the testing industry press.

It so happened that another test laboratory in a different part of the world was involved in assessing bird-strikes – in this case on the windshields and drivers’ cabs of new very high speed trains. The train test engineers had read about the pioneering test developed by the aerospace team, and so they approached them to ask for specifications of the gun and the testing methods. The aerospace engineers duly gave them details, and the train engineers set about building their own simulation.

The simulated bird-strike tests on the train windshields and cabs produced shocking results. The supposed state-of-the-art shatter-proof high speed train windshields offered little resistance to the high-speed chickens; in fact every single windshield that was submitted for testing was smashed to pieces, along with a number of train cabs and much of the test booth itself.

The horrified train engineers were concerned that the new high speed trains required a safety technology that was beyond their experience, so they contacted the aerospace team for advice and suggestions, sending them an extensive report of the tests and failures.

The brief reply came back from the aero-engineers: “You need to defrost the chickens….”

Regards,

Abhinandan Chatterjee (Article also available independently at www.abhinandanchatterjee.com / www.humanwareworks.com / LinkedIn)

Connect on twitter for #HR folks : @humanwareworks

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L&D 2.0 – Why Learning in Business needs a Makeover?


learning_0 (1)Let’s get to the point – L&D, when too simple – is a farce and when too complicated – doesn’t deliver. I am not saying this, but a lot of organizations have come to prove this statement true over the past few years. The ROI myth is still going strong and neither people (learners) nor learning leaders seem to be able to take accountability.

How? – you would ask.

With research, technology, expertise, education and the good old fashioned trial and error, we know that people, culture, leadership and organizational learning are more critical today than ever before. We also know that its possible to drive if all small pieces in play come together. And we also know that this entire process is -Fragile!

For an organization to learn , there are no simple ways. Where there are ways, they are complicated and people just don’t seem motivated enough to see them through.

A lot of talented professionals spend years of work to drive results through L&D but how many can take credit and say that they contributed to the business top-line – or bottom-line directly through what they did. My problem is that when the effort is made the result should be visible.

Having worked with over 200 world-class organizations as a consultant, I now feel the need to work long term (say 3 years) with a single corporate and help them see through the change, later in my career, lead the HR team from a business standpoint to deliver numbers that add to net profit and grow enough to become the CEO of a regular business. I have at least 25 years of a career left ahead of me, so I m sure I will get this done!  But for this to happen, either for me or for anyone else, we need organizations that are great at learning, high on adaptability, comfortable with change and aligned to the same business objectives regardless of the department. Along with this, we need HR that has business acumen and aspires to become the CEO some day.

As of today, we have a long way to go!

From an Operations lens, there are three kinds of HR team cultures in organizations (Across the company for SME’s and in pockets and silos for large , multi-layered corporates). Hence,  approaches towards people, culture and learning management are only usually a blend of these three. Not based on the Org. charts but on the actual culture, these are:

1. HR as Service Provider – HR is just the ‘yes’ man and the part time office boy who gets what operations asks for. There is rarely any depth to the actions and its usually about compliance. In all this the learning perspective is :

  • Organize generic programs to keep people occupied
  • Meet the ISO mandated number of training days
  • Don’t take too much pain to find what is needed but give only what is asked
  • Nobody invites you to the serious business talks, accept it!
  • Play up to an audience and show the CEO your accomplishments to get next years budget!

2. HR as a News Anchor – In this case, the companies seem to have a little more faith in HR, they are given the news (Good, bad and ugly)  and the responsibility to share it, specially when it is bad and ugly.

While the key role is still keeping discipline and managing payroll, its usually after a key discussion of ‘serious business’ , they are called in to the board room and told about the judgement. ‘What can I do, it is a business decision’, is one statement you would hear often in this culture from the HR representatives. In all this the learning perspective is :

  • Business takes priority, learning takes a backseat.
  • Learning is often looked as an event and not a solution/ application process.
  • Managers, learners and unfortunately sometimes even learning leaders want crowd pleasing ‘fun’ driven learning as opposed to things that can actually make business sense.
  • Budget is decided before outcomes are decided – which are usually vague (Ref: the ROI Myth).
  • Basic L&D deliverables are rebranded as super successful and good looking (On Paper) outcome drivers, not much changes in what it actually happens. Add some pre and post tests if you will!

2. HR as a Business Partner : Agreed, its a novel concept. But what matters is where the designations have changed, have the organizations changed too? Many a places still call the new HR guy a ‘business partner’ but discusses no business with him!

In an ideal world, this would mean using HR as a strategic driver to ensure business outcomes. Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy, in their book ‘Execution’, talk about business being driven by – Strategy – Operations and People. Equally and not selectively. But I will leave it to you to judge how often that happens!

In all this the learning perspective is :

  • More business driven , so at least a TNA happens and ops is on board as a client where the HR is consulting.
  • The moment is gets too ‘businessy’ HR pulls a step back and says things like ‘I can do this much but the rest is up to you’
  • In words of a senior ops. professional talking about Sr. HR business partners, ‘it’s like working with the MD’s son. They come, they ask, they tell – throw some weight around and propose a change or two. Then they get busy with their own thing!’
  • There is a blend of calendar programs (Kool to do) and the need based programs (Need to do to shut ops. up) along with ‘Value’ based initiatives, glorified and often exaggerated e mails for what has been achieved.
  • No doubt, this leads to some short term successes which is more than what can be said for the first two approaches.
  • On the positive side, there is a lot of work that gets done – but it is affected when participating in all this just becomes voluntary and optional for every employee.
  • A lot is expected from Ops in terms of implementation assistance which seldom comes through and everybody finds some data to validate post which everyone lives happily ever after.

Isn’t this sounding all too negative? Take a moment to think what all have you experienced as a professional so far?

These to me are good reasons to believe that learning indeed needs a makeover. Here are some of the key things that I have figured out based on research, technology, expertise, education and the good old fashioned trial and error which would certainly feature on my Learning 2.0 Agenda :

1. Say bye to calendar programs – Its important to meet your ISO or whatever other certification standards you want to meet, but the the first element of learning 2.0 is about being deadly serious on ROI. Generic programs add zero to no tangible value, take them online, replace them with e learning and create internal champions who could do seminars from a business standpoint. (This qualifies certification hours)

2. Teach HR to talk business – Whether you do it through committee based decision making or more business oriented HR hiring, if your HR team talks business, they help create a culture where the operations team trusts them and can truly look at them as partners. It  is simply about credibility.

It is this credibility that HR/ L&D needs to build and bank upon while driving initiatives that make people take accountability.

3. Teach business the value of HR : Lets look at it this way – what are the key moments when ops. guys have to play HR type roles ? Annual Goal Setting / 4 Quarterly Reviews / Final Appraisal – I call this the ‘6Talk Plan’. If you can ensure effectiveness in just these 6 touch-points to start with, I will bet my money on the fact that you will see positive changes in your culture over 12 months or less!

This is why every manager needs to have the HR pill, whether they like it or not. To take this a step further, drive managerial cross skilling to build empathy and unity within your managerial audiences.

4.Executive coaching is not the only type of coaching – Its expensive to get an senior and certified executive coach , honestly, its somewhat irrelevant as well if you are doing this for mid to junior level professionals. So create internal coaching systems and maybe even create a new designation, the idea is to use OJT (On job training) more sincerely and create a blend of generic + feedback based learning. For Eg. a coach who can talk about Maslow’s hierarchy while giving feedback on team management to a first level supervisor. Get your internal coaches to mix models and meaning to make magic!

5. Create curriculums and reward learning success – There are many ways of doing this meaningfully. The most common one that you too would know are MDP. The issue is not that they are not done. At many places, they are not done seriously enough. Either senior leaders do not value them and propagate them or Ops/HR does not follow up hard enough.

It can also be done through MOOC’s on Udemy, Coursera etc. Only word of caution is to ensure validation.

One way I feel this can be done is by asking people to pay for their own learning and if they complete it successfully, reward them with a 3X payback. Adding curriculum completion points for IJP’s / Promotions and Even appraisals may be a good idea. Now this is what an IDP (Individual Development Plan) should look like!

6. Action Learning Projects – This is nothing new, but I have not seen it being done to well, so it is still on the list! Every program is done with a set of clear achievables which are documented by individuals and teams as projects. They don’t choose independently but from a list of business approved projects that add real-time value. Don’t give up on the follow ups and calculating ROI will be easy.

7. Teach Twitter (OR any social platform, even internal!) : Most people who don’t use twitter do so due to a lack of understanding. Teach them how twitter can help them, maybe even schedule twitter time and let the tweets flow. Stay away from touchy topics – this is just developmental. Not a platform to discuss policy but just to learn! This has tremendous advantages when it comes to social learning, recognition and award systems. There are risks, but where are they not?

Maybe even make IDP’s as Individual dev. plans as individual dev. profiles. Get people to want an all-star rating for their profile which helps with appraisal and also gives them a reason to keel learning!

8. Do more with less : Your L&D offering does not have to have a 100 elements. Let it have 5, be focused on quality and depth of application. Not on quantity. I even advocate ending full day workshops (Business loves this!) , make it frequent, make it small, and make it application oriented. For eg. Teach a time management technique in an hour, get people to commit to applying and schedule a review next week. Reward doers, give the nay-sayers another chance but document it all. Map this to commitment and accountability during appraisals.

9. Spend Wisely – Use the ops and finance expertise to plan you L&D budgets.  A lot of companies plan for processes , i.e. 20% for Technical training / 30% for Behavioral Training etc. ; Instead, plan for outcomes, what do you want to achieve, how much could it impact business, how long term is plan, is the task maintenance or progressive and lastly, what % of my budget should be allocated to that. Then plan for how to use the money towards the best possible outcome!

10. Target Harmony – Organizational Harmony – I can learn from James bond here, when he is in a tough spot (Like he always is, much like HR), he has to prioritize, make tough choices; So if I asked you to choose only two things that you could do as HR / L&D leads in you organization – What would they be ?

This question has bothered me for a while now here is what I have finally come to terms with :

  1. Align Values > Competencies > Vision > Mission > Strategy > Targets > KPI’s / KRA’s > Rewards > PMS > On-boarding and Exit as one experience with a simple goal – People should know 100 % of what their piece is and a 10,000 feet overview to everyone else’s. In simple terms, writing and pasting this at the reception is not going to help. These things have to become a part of the lingo, the everyday talk in teams and the manager’s feedback in high stress situations for everyone else but HR. (HR is busy talking business – Remember!)
  2. Make the ‘6Talk Plan’ Work – What people care most about in any system is how they were treated. it is about respect, fairness and trust. These 6 conversations (Point 3 from the above list) is what can be a solid foundation to a culture that makes this happen.                               (While these two things are not small and easy things to accomplish, they are only two, and as HR , I am sure that you have done much more!)

Thinking about a MDP project that I worked on recently got this thought going. I would love to hear from you about what you think about these pointers and if you would also recommend anything else.

I feel L&D today needs a makeover – Do You?

Also posted on my linked pulse feed.

Story Time: What determines the strength of a wheel?


An ancient Chinese story, retold by Phil Jackson, coach of the phenomenally successful Chicago Bulls basketball team, makes this point rather more emphatically.

In the 3rd century BC, the Chinese emperor Liu Bang celebrated his consolidation of China with a banquet, where he sat surrounded by his nobles and military and political experts. Since Liu Bang was neither noble by birth nor an expert in military or political affairs, some of the guests asked one of the military experts, Chen Cen, why Liu Bang was the emperor. In a contemporary setting, the question would probably have been: “What added value does Liu Bang bring to the party?”

Chen Cen’s response was to ask the questioner a question in return:

“What determines the strength of a wheel?”

One guest suggested that the strength of the wheel was in its spokes, but Chen Cen countered that two sets of spokes of identical strength did not necessarily make wheels of identical strength. On the contrary, the strength was also affected by the spaces between the spokes, and determining the spaces was the true art of the wheelwright.

Thus, while the spokes represent the collective resources necessary to an organization’s success-and the resources that the leader lacks-the spaces represent the autonomy for followers to grow into leaders themselves.

In sum, holding together the diversity of talents necessary for organizational success is what distinguishes a successful leader from an unsuccessful one: Leaders don’t need to be perfect, but they do have to recognize that their own limitations will ultimately doom them to failure unless they rely upon their subordinate leaders and followers to fill in the gaps.

Source: Leadership Ltd: White Elephant to Wheelwright by Keith Grint | Ivey Business Journal, January/February 2005

Dreams,Faith &; a Beer Belly!



Dreams

I believe some things are just not meant to be. Impossible means ‘I am possible’ I like the tagline, but it is just always a tagline. I am a conformist, I have been a conformist all my life.

I care about what is possible and I have a problem when people get too ambitious. It’s okay to get ambitious but some things are possible, some are not. That is a well established fact..Who doesn’t think so ?

But I dream, I dream about a BMW in the next 3 years and a big 4 bedroom house with 5-star like interiors, a study, play area and even parking ,and here is the biggest one ‘all in Gurgaon’ in the next 5 years. Dreaming has taught me to dream more and dream big – correction, day-dream more and day-dream big, Day-dream on!

To daydream is to think and to think is to learn. Now learning is not compulsory, neither is survival. W.Edwards Deming said that.

Today, lets learn to- day dream !

Since I was a kid, I have known what to do, when. Mostly I was told, with examples and valid references and an explanation that was designed to convince me  that it’s either this way or no way at all!

Whether to take commerce or Science, whether to wear full pant or half. Whether to eat now or later ( It is a standard ‘now’ for me to this always!)But I fixed the way it works. Or so I thought, while all I fixed, were just limitations for myself. Beliefs about how things can and can’t be done.

I even tried to fix the society, the systems and cultures – I never asked  questions before because I knew, ‘kool’ people don’t ask too many questions, Amitabh Bacchan didn’t, neither did superman – they always just have the answers.

Then I came to work and realized I need to be accountable – how would I look like if I ask for help, which big guy at work ever did that? …and I never escalated, even the things that I should have.

Then I got married, and I hated shopping, I told everyone so while I spent 3 hours picking the right suit to wear today. But don’t tell anyone that, because we Men, don’t like shopping!

I did these things because either someone told me to or it looked socially acceptable or at least logically possible! It’s funny how this is not just an issue with people.

Even large organizations do this. A leading camera film maker with over a century of business experience, almost ran out of business because they stuck on to the cash cow of film photography products in spite of having developed the digital tech. Clingy!

Such thought has a definition – RTP ( Rational thinking perspective) , now we all know rational is right. Don’t we?

Rational thinking perspectives are good because they educate us about our possibilities.

A man with a body on which nothing moves. Stuck to a bed for all his life. The only RTP I could think of is ‘Mercy Killing. Stephen Hawking.

Another man contracted polio as a child, and he used a wheelchair for a while. He devised his own exercises to strengthen his legs. The only RTP I could think would be to learn typing and shorthand. He went on to become one of the most successful Olympic athletes of all time, winning 10 gold medals. In the years 1900, 1904 and 1908. With about 1 % of the means and methods of today, none of the modern medicine and no google for instant advice or Facebook for popularity. Ray Ewry. How many did we as a country win in the last Olympics?

There is a another side of this coin,  it is called Generative thinking perspective (GTP), which is governed by intuition, faith and conviction. You do what you feel right.

Hey I have an idea, how about I leave everything and start a new website where all people can connect online, maybe we can call it FACEBOOK. Oops, that’s taken, by a Harvard student who dropped out to pursue a website and left what could have been an amazing job in the silicon valley which would have paid millions, in dollar. That’s Zuckerberg and think of the Steve Jobs if you will.

Another man who did not make so much money but taught me most about GTP was my father. I learnt this later, and I will get to it in a bit.

I am sure some of us could have answered these questions about rationale or gut, but when I was 16, I never could. It was so tough to get all this sorted because I had never seen anyone ask these questions before, there was no guidance available. To be logical or to  day-dream was as tough as answering shakespere’s ‘to be or not to be’?

Dream = 1,600,000,000 (160 Crores) ,references on Google. If so many people talk about this must me something good.

Faith

What do we learn out of day-dreaming. One dream that lasts long enough and is desired bad enough gives birth to faith.

Faith leads to only two things, We learn to Regret or we learn to Perform.

When I was 13, I lost my father to a heart attack, his 13th – 4 major and 9 minor. The last one was minor. Even on his last day he was in a client meeting after 1 very successful job, 5 failed businesses and 1 somewhat livable construction venture. Bed rest was the only rational thing but he pushed because he had immovable faith that he can.

That’s GTP.

So, when I went home, saw his dead body and had absolutely no clue of what to do. Maybe stupid, but I was still thinking about what to do? I had an idea, I wanted to get a live wire and give him an electric shock. In our movies they do it to anyone who is unconscious. Maybe that will work!

So I went and told my mother this, who smiled and continued crying. I never got to do that. But even today, every time I think of my father, I regret not doing that. What if he stood up?

‘What if’ is a big question. Is there anyone, anyone at all in this gathering who has not asked themselves a question starting with ‘what if’ ?

To do is better than to regret. Haven’t we all had those days when we thought, ‘I should have said something to that girl, I should have bought that thing, I should have learnt that art and last but not the least, I should have paid attention.’

Thousands of people with ideas as brilliant as nano, brail, chocolate and algebra.(Cut algebra out, wasn’t a brilliant idea) go to work, come back home and push it to tomorrow and years later they ask themselves ‘what if’.

It is really easy to confirm to things, we believe them to be true, mostly blindly.

While you read this in the last 7 minutes and 30 seconds based on the number of words, 810 people confirmed to death with all their ideas which will never be heard again. Ideas but not dreams!

All I wish is that, before I die, I could leave this world with one idea that continues to live even after I die.Dreaming is non conformity, some us do it because we are allowed to.Some of us do it because we have to. And even death cannot make a dream confirm to it.

This article was titled dreams, faith and a beer belly. We spoke about dreams and faith. Here is the Beer belly, and I believe, I look better with it than without it, I am comfortable with it. Because 1 more tablespoon of belief is the only thing missing from our lives.

P.S. I wrote this article primarily for the speech at a  TED Event. Though it was changed eventually these thoughts have had my minds occupied. What would you consider yourself; A conformist or a non-conformist?

You can even view the my TED talk at this link : http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxGurgaon-Abhinandan-Chatterj

Lead Yourself


‘Leadership’ has been a business buzzword for well over 30 years now, most of what could have been written about it, has been written, what could have been thought, has been cerebrated upon and yet we stand amidst people who struggle to be the leaders they have always wanted others to be.

Why is leadership such a hard choice?

Robert Frost, in his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ said the best of what I think every leader would agree to;

“And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference”

All of this bubbles out a lot of questions every professional asks at the hierarchical crossroads, and how they answer them, determine their journey ahead.

–    What is leadership?

–    Do I qualify to be a leader?

–    How can I be a successful leader?

Let’s see if we can find some simple yet practical answers for these age old dilemmas’.

–    What is leadership?

Leadership is Responsibility. You can get it or you can take it.

I learnt my lesson early here, after my father died when I was 15, we were left stranded in the middle of nowhere – financially, emotionally and socially. Expensive treatment led to debts and an expensive lifestyle, like my family had, led to problems and an acute inability to manage in less resources.

I am the eldest son in the family and it was going to be my responsibility later to do the damage control (once I grew up – Sigh!)

I just had one question, can we afford ‘later’?

Every bit of logic I had said ‘No’

The crossroads came, I had to either ‘take responsibility now’ or ‘wait or watch the things to move on their own’.

I chose to take the responsibility, surprisingly a lot of hands started to come handy.

Lesson learnt: Help comes only to those who help themselves!

My school was the most expensive school in the city, I couldn’t have paid the fee, My teachers paid it from their pockets, I never understood, why?

I was too young to work; I didn’t tell anybody my age in my interview.

I went to an international BPO, the first in town, to get myself a Job. I appeared for the interview, cleared it, negotiated my salary and told the panel all about my age and situation afterwards.

The look on their face was worth it; they asked for some time, consulted some lawyers and gave me a job. Full time, as an apprentice.

There I was, cycling 15 miles to School, 10 back to my office and another 10 back home by midnight. But I managed to support my family. My need was met and we survived the winter.

Lessons Learnt:

Hard work is good, Smart Work is great but they can’t substitute each other.

Leaders hold themselves accountable for the outcomes of their actions, even if the task was done by the one they delegated it to and speculatively take risks.

A leader takes responsibility to take control of the situations around , no matter how good or bad they may be.

–    Do I qualify to be a leader?

In my book, there are only two ways you get into leadership.

i. Designated Leadership – A leadership role granted by authority, a type of leadership where the designation makes the person a leader. This comes with power, the power to reward, punish or make decisions. So maybe your next promotion is when you can start.

Prime Minister is a good example of this type of leadership. I can also cite my first managerial role at work. Simply put, it mattered more what my business card said than what I said.

ii. Acquired Leadership – A style of leadership where an individual develops a character of leadership within by working on his strengths continuously. This can be done either by building a strong relationship with the followers, by being a source of inspiration or by developing expertise in the chosen field. This would mean you can start being a leader ‘Now’.

Indira Nooyi of Pepsico who built her way to the top through her expertise and capability or a business consultant who enjoys no designation yet caters to high responsibilities in any organization. ( Like me , Sigh !)

Lesson Learnt:

It’s not who you are but what you dream for and how desperately so, that makes you a leader.

So, of course you qualify to be a leader; but ‘How’ is still under wraps. Let’s find out!

–    How can I be a successful leader?

“Endowed with his bright armor,

He came all the way…

A spec of doubt saw not his face,

Though he had a beast to slay…

With the rising sun he embarked

To accomplish what was right…

And till this day we sing his song,

He was the Golden Knight”

We have all heard stories of Knights and Superheroes; it almost feels that you need to be one to succeed as a leader. But think of it this way, no matter what the density or depth of water might me, if you know how to swim, with the correct technique and adequate effort you can get through the liquid.

The two things, technique and effort stand out to be the mark of any leader.

Now effort is the result of desperation and passion, of how badly do you want to achieve whatever you are gunning for. It can’t be taught but can only be realized. That’s your job!

For the technique, as the poem above talks of Armor, every leader needs one.

That needs to be developed through practice and persistence.

So, what is this Armor? How can you get it?

It’s a code of conduct which if followed ensures your success and I will share this secret with you.

L.E.A.D.E.R – The Six Elements of Leaders Armor

L– Legitimate: Be whoever you are but be real and fair. Nobody respects a phony with sly perspectives.

E– Effective: Take planned action. There are more chances to succeed if what you are doing is planned well in advance versus it being an improv.

A– Assertive: Be true to your word by being logical and comprehendible

D– Decisive: Make decisions that are fair, logical and credible

E– Evaluative: Know your environment without judging people for who they are, work around what they do and make it better

R– Resilient: Learn as if there is no tomorrow, the day you stop learning, you stop living.

This is not rocket science, in fact it’s like cooking a hearty meal – a fine balance of spices masters the taste.

Now, you have the Knowledge, your key to the power which brings along with it the responsibility. You don’t have to be a L.E.A.D.E.R, but if you wish to be one,

Lead On and Lead Well!

The Master Key to Successful Feedback


If you want to be more successful in helping others succeed, regardless of the source or sources of your coaching, you need to clearly understand this master key.

If you want to take advantage of and be open to any coaching or feedback you receive, you must understand this key as well.

The master key to successful feedback is intent.

Stated simply, when our intent is clear and pure; when we really are giving feedback and coaching with the very best for the other person in mind, it will be more successful. And if our purposes are vindictive, punitive, meant to “fix” someone, or come from our frustration or anger it will be less successful.

In other words, coaching shouldn’t be about us, but about the other person and their success.

Since we have all received much coaching and feedback in our lives, we know this is true. When we sense that the feedback we are receiving is valuable and comes from a perspective of truly wanting us to improve, we are more open to hearing and applying it.

 

All said and done , it’s you who got to choose if there is someone’s life you would alter, just a little, in a good way.