The Pragati Leadership Blog

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Possibility Thinking – A sine qua non


I would like to start my blog with a famous story of two salesmen who were sent to Africa by a shoe manufacturing company. Both reach Africa to explore the market opportunities. Surprisingly, both present divergent perspectives on their market research findings, when they speak to their managers.While one excitedly looked at the opportunities the continent offered for developing the shoe business, the other one cribbed about the lack of opportunities, as no one wore shoes! For him, it was impossible to sell an unknown product to such customers. So here, one saw possibility while the other didn’t.

  • ‘Possibility thinking’ goes beyond ‘Positive Thinking’.

Whenever we hit the end of the road, we generally say, “I am stuck, what do I do now, to get out of this situation?” We begin to feel like victims. However, if we use possibility thinking, the same situation can have innumerable solutions.


Possibility thinking is a simple practice – which I call ‘Walking Talking’ meditation. We need to prime our brain to use possibility thinking every moment e.g. when watching a TV show, I look at those aspects of the show which I can correlate to my outer world and question myself, how can this correlation help me improve my overall quality of life or to solve a problem that I face every now and then.

  • How possibility thinking benefited my friend?

Not only do I use possibility thinking extensively in my own life, but I also influence my family and friends to apply it at all times. Though, the concept is so simple to use, very few use it. It can be used as a self coaching tool and also an effective instrument for leaders to help their peers and juniors to break out of the rut.But for doing that we need to have a good amount of knowledge to connect the dots to culminate the random thoughts into possibility thinking.  This way, it becomes our new way of life.

My dear friend who is an educationist was once narrating an incident about her mobile data possibility thinking story. Her usual internet usage is restricted to wi-fi which is easily available in her office and home. But on few occasions, when she couldn’t book a cab, she realized that it was important for her to have at least a basic mobile data pack. On enquiry, her telecom service provider offered her the cheapest Rs. 150 data plan which in her case was of no use.

She wanted a data plan which offered her flexibility and convenience of using it whenever she needed. With this question in mind, she went to the store.To her surprise, after little resistance, the customer care eventually offered her a reshuffle plan which allowed her to use internet only when she needed it. Though some part of her data plan still remains unutilized, but she is happy. She had found a possibility!

  • Seasoned professionals also forget this simple practice:

On the professional front, I met a Senior Human Resource professional of a leading MNC in Mumbai. She was really frustrated with her new junior who was taking undue credit for work done by her. My coaching session started with me asking a very basic question, “What actions have you taken to resolve this issue?”

As she was going through an emotional turmoil, her thinking had become foggy. She had got into victim mode! She had not thought of any possible steps to resolve the issue. I then asked her, “Do you send status updates of the work you are doing to your boss?” I never expected the answer to be in negative, especially from a seasoned human resource professional like her. As she was not updating her boss regularly about her contributions; her boss obviously ignored her work in the organisation.

  • Task master to a friend:

A senior auditor who works with one of my clients was labelled as a fault finder by his colleagues. After my session on possibility thinking; instead of finding faults he actually teamed up with procurement team to find alternate fruit vendors to save on the organisational expenditure on procuring and servicing fruits to employees. He initiated this just to test the efficiency of the concept, but both he and the organisation were eventually benefited because of this exercise. People see him differently now – A fault finder converted to a solution provider.

In a nutshell, we can say, “Possibility thinking is a tool which when effectively inculcated in our day today life will definitely help us to get out of the rut and think creatively.  We will always feel motivated and thus see enhancement in our overall quality of life.”

By  Dr.Niloufar Aga

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Personal Leadership: Using my strengths to achieve peak performance


In the corporate world the word “Personal Leadership” is a new lingo to use. Personal leadership is growing the leader within YOU. When you practice personal leadership traits, you lead from inside out. Therefore, I thought of penning down some real life practices of an Icon who rewrote the game of boxing, which earned him the name of “The Greatest”.

Muhammad Ali  was crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC. Ali began training when he was just 12 years old and at the age of 22, he already had won the world heavyweight championship in 1964. Ali remains the only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion.

Ali’s golden principle for personal leadership: Identify-Attain Mastery-Reinvent

  • Identifying your personal boxing style:

Corporate world is a world of cut throat competition and it is a world where you need to know what you are good at. What is your strength, your own boxing style and how to use this strength repeatedly in your battles?

Ali did it very efficiently in his entire professional career; he had an unorthodox boxing style for a heavyweight, his catchphrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” won him many laurels. Ali relied early in his career on his superior hand speed, superb reflexes and constant movement, dancing and circling opponents, lashing out with quick unpredictable angles. His footwork was so strong that it was extremely difficult for opponents to cut down the ring and corner Ali against the ropes. You too identify your personal style and fight your battle in your own way.

  • Attain Mastery

Today the world is looking for a combination of “Jack of all trades and Master of ONE”. It is very important to grow and attain self-mastery or signature style.

Darrell Foster, who trained Will Smith for the movie Ali, said: “Ali’s signature punches were the left jab and the overhand right. But there were at least six different ways Ali used to jab. Most popularly known as ‘snake lick,’ – a jab like a cobra striking and rapid-fire jab – three to five jabs in succession rapidly fired at opponents’ eyes to create a blur in his face.” He attained mastery in his style and pinned his opponents. Hence, it is important to focus and strengthen your strength to attain mastery.

  • Reinvent your style

Reinvent your style and use it again to be relevant. Ali became a different fighter after the three and half year layoff. This physical change led to the “rope-a-dope” strategy, where Ali would lie back on the ropes, cover up to protect himself and conserve energy, and tempt opponents to punch themselves out. Of his later career, Arthur Mercante said: “Ali knew all the tricks. He was the best fighter I ever saw in terms of clinching. Most guys are just in there fighting, but Ali had a sense of everything that was happening, almost as though he was sitting at ringside analyzing the fight while he fought it.” This helped him stay on the top of his league throughout.

Now, introspect what is your personal style? Are you focusing and strengthening enough, because Personal Leadership is not a training it’s a trait that has to be acquired and used over a period of time to attain mastery.

By Sharat Paul

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What could employment look like in 2040?

42739804 - back view of businesswoman working with modern virtual technologies

Recently, my neighbour and future-enthusiast, Ashish Joshi, shared an example of how new technology like 3D printing could impact jobs. He quotes a scenario where you walk into a shoe store, put your feet on a scanner and the digital blueprint of your feet and data of bones and muscle structure is passed to a computing device which selects the material and design and using a 3D printer, prints a set of shoes! Such a scenario almost renders many aspects of manufacturing, brands, storage, logistics and supply chain redundant. 3D printing of houses is already a reality. Imagine a future where 3D printing of entire buildings is an affordable technology. What would happen to the construction business and the millions it employs?

It isn’t only 3D printing. Things are changing faster than ever before. Self-driven cars, internet via hot-air balloons, hyperloop and electric sports cars! We live in times many had never even imagined while growing up. I found myself dwelling upon how entirely different the future of employment may be by the year 2040. Here’s what it might look like:

  1. Employee health checks via fitness trackersand other wearable technology. Data on sleep, blood pressure and exercise could be used by organisations (or health professionals) to check with employees why they haven’t been sleeping well of late… Is it a work issue or a personal one; and whether they could do anything do help? Big data meets healthcare meets HR!

Privacy and legal implications could be potential roadblocks but it remains to be seen            whether these will also change along with our world.

  1. Neural scans for hiring. We’re  already using psychometrics pretty effectively and in the future scans of the brain could suggest talent in certain areas. This could influence hiring, replace IQ tests, help us spot genius much earlier in schools, influence careers, reduce struggles occurring from unsuitable academic or career choices.
  1. Business travel could become entirely redundant. Technology that enables life-like video-conference environments may replace the need to travel. Remote teams may not feel that remote anymore. Think Telepresence or augmented reality meets social media!

This would mean employees spend less time on the road and spend more time with               family. Could this mean new things for the aviation and the hospitality industry and             for those who are employed there?

  1. The above technology may impact classroom training as well. Current e-learning and MOOC technology offers poor alternatives to the human interaction that participants desire in workshops but this could be quite different in 2040. Once again, technologies such as Tele-presence, augmented reality and social media may blend together to provide a cogent answer to this challenge. My friend Jatin Panchal, a robotics and automation enthusiast, also points to the emergence of technologies such as Sixth Sense that could revolutionize education.
  1. Learning consultants in 2040 may get gigs only if they are globally acknowledged domain-experts as technology will shrink distances and costs, enabling greater access to bonafide experts.
  1. Large scale Job Disruption will have taken place: With automation and robotics set to replace many jobs, the fear that many people may find their old job extinct is real. Job disruption has happened before and it is going to happen again. See this excellent report from the World Economic Forum to understand what kind of job disruption has already taken place.

What could new jobs look like in 2040?

Some suggest that creative work (that computers cannot currently replicate) will be the jobs of the future. However, we already have software that can create music and write jokes. How quickly such software may compete with (if not replace) musicians and comedians remains to be seen.

Sustainability is already assuming very high importance for countries and businesses. In the future, it will be de rigueur. Legal / regulatory compliance advisers, environmentalists / carbon advisers could become essential roles for all companies.

Assuming that most things urban will be automated (think driverless cars, computerized flight, robot-run customer care, self-service kiosks) what will human beings occupy themselves with? Could it be art? Or will more and more humans shift to places where urbanization and automation still hasn’t reached? Will we see a sharper global divide between advanced, urban dwellers and relatively backward semi-urban dwellers?

Or will we see human beings move towards professions that robots may not be able to perform? Medical professionals, care givers, counsellors, artists and performers – could these be the careers of the future? Does this mean that our education must change from school upwards in order to prepare for a future like this? What does this mean for HR professionals of the future? These thoughts and the work of people like Brunello Cucinelli and Liz Ryan suggest that our school curricula may need to focus a lot more on the humanities than it does today.

Ashish points to the move away from full time to part time work and the imminent replacement of permanent employment with on-demand specialized workers / consultants. HR will need to build new models and new capabilities for engaging and paying the workforce of the future.

The aforesaid report from the WEF clearly states that governments, education and businesses have to “put talent development and future workforce strategy front and centre to their growth” in order to survive the coming disruption. This is great news for the HR and L&D fraternity. The CHRO will be as prized an asset as the CFO soon and many of the issues that they raise will get an eager hearing. We may see Chief Learning Officers and CHROs finally ascend to the CEO chair.

Alternatively, in a scenario where most jobs are done by robots and computers, could we see a future where the “Human Resource” department is a very small one? A highly specialised, much evolved one for sure, given the nature of the few workers who will still inhabit the workspace.

What other changes do you visualize in the 2040 workplace?

Whether you are an organisation or an individual, what are you doing to remain relevant in the workplace of the future? What steps must we take to prepare our kids for this future?

This is a discussion that will evolve. Do share your views in the comments section.

By Aman Zaidi

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Changing Paradigms of Leadership

Copyright: <a href=’’>JohanSwan / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

In the recent Leadership summit organized by MCCIA in Pune, we had eminent speakers share their thoughts on the current business environment and structure of the organisations. They also shared various tips to lead the business to success.

We are living in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and ambiguous) world where today becomes yesterday and we can be taken by surprise. There is a complete paradigm shift, and hence it is quite possible for the organisations to lose relevance if they don’t adapt fast enough.  Following are the key pointers that were touched upon in the summit:

  • Current Business Environment:

Today’s business environment has changed from complicated to complex. A complicated environment can be correlated to a game of chess where we have limited opening moves. As the game unfolds, the possibilities of potential moves increase. Hence, the players gradually get prepared for the future uncertainties.

However, a complex environment is like a game of snooker where every stroke is full of uncertainties and innumerable probabilities right from the start. Hence, a leader needs to address this disruptive world with a more comprehensive approach.

Aftermath of recent surgical strike operation on the Line of Control is another example of VUCA. Once the strike was carried out, it was difficult to predict the possible counter moves from the opponent, leaving no scope for planning a programmed response.

  • Proposed Organisational Structure:

Now the question arises, what should then be the structure of today’s organisations?  The earlier organisational structure had a committee approach with no intermeshing of departments or key groups. An organisation with compartments will soon lose its relevance. The old businesses with a conventional approach have either vanished or are finding it difficult to survive in today’s world of disruption. Models of the past like reductionism, super specialization and core competence may not work in future. Thus, need of the hour is to have shared awareness within various groups of the organisation and a fluid understanding.  Role of a leader is to lubricate the system to reduce friction.

  • New Leadership Styles:

Following are the leadership styles that were recommended by the speakers in the summit:

  • Tenacious: Flying against the storms will help overcome any situation.
  • Nurturing: Nurture one person at a time to make future leaders not followers.
  • High flyer: The ability to fly high and swiftly come down will help leaders be adaptive.
  • Wholesome Leadership: A combination of connecting with the inner self and expanding the leadership context outwards to embrace the whole planet. A model of Shubh Sankalp (good intentions) and Shubh Laabh (successful end results) is recommended.
  • Leaders should have the ability to see things differently, be imaginative, build the culture of speed and trust, know behavioural science and have tolerance for ambiguity.

Such leaders will sail the organisation through all the uncertainties and lead it to new heights.

  • In a nut shell:

In the VUCA world, leaders need to be able to take fresh and divergent perspectives and yet be able to reach a shared understanding. Remember, it is a complex world; we need to choose our battles carefully and take up one thing at a time. Recruit the best pilots and trust them to fly your best plane. Connect to inner self to draw the positive energy. Build bridges to people through emotional trust and lead with prudent balance of empowerment and governance.

By Vivek Yatnalkar

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Why Wholesome Leadership is Needed in a World of Disruption


The external environment for an organization today can be confusing, simply because things change so fast, making it difficult for leaders to get a handle on them, and take the right decisions. This used to be called VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, but these days I prefer RUPT – Rapid, Unpredictable, Paradoxical and Tangled.

When the world is RUPT, you can be sure that someone will DISRUPT! Someone will come out with a completely new paradigm, possibly a product or service so revolutionary that it leaves everyone else behind.

The only way to survive in this RUPT world is for us to be the ones who DISRUPT, find new paradigms and solutions that will be relevant in the future.

Organizations that couldn’t do this fell by the wayside, even one-time giants like Kodak, who didn’t see the impact of digital photography on their business, or Xerox, who couldn’t match the competitive costing of Canon.

Today, there are even more revolutionary and far-reaching changes affecting the business environment. The reality of today has caught up with the science fiction of only some years ago. An example is a ‘medical tricorder’ in the Star Trek TV serial, where many medical parameters of a person could be gauged by a single device, and that too, remotely. Today, the technology exists for this to be possible.

Those companies will survive that will be able to continuously deliver value to all stakeholders.

It’s clear that everything will be disrupted, the only question is ‘when?’.

So how can the leaders of today navigate this disruption and create organizations that flourish in the future? I will share two key concepts that are very valuable in this context.

The OODA Loop:

A model created by Col John Boyd of the US Airforce, who’s considered the ‘father’ of the F-16, the OODA loop was defined for combat flying, but is so relevant to business. OODA is an acronym for :

  • Observeloop
  • Orient
  • Decide
  • Act.

Before we see how it applies to business, let’s understand it in its original context – combat flying. If I’m a fighter pilot, I need to constantly see what the enemy pilot is doing with his aircraft. I need to observe closely, and in 360 degrees. Then, based on the moves he’s making, I have to orient my thinking very fast, and, with the help of my thinking, knowledge, intuition and creativity, I must evaluate my options. Next, I need to outsmart him, and decide on what would be the best course of action for me. Then of course, I must act based on my decision. But in the meantime, he has moved as well, and once again, I must observe his moves – that’s why OODA is a loop.

Let’s see how OODA applies in our world of work.


We need to observe how the world is changing, and our perception needs to be accurate. But perception is not a simple thing, it’s a complex thing, because you can see the same thing in many different ways. You may have to look beyond the obvious, and a lot of good entrepreneurial practice comes from good observation.

What’s happening in your field of work? What will be the impact of high speed communication, such as 4G, or of the Internet of Things (IoT)? Can you find new ways to offer value to your customers, before competitors do? We need to observe culture, values, technology and cost structures to find the answers to some of these questions.


When you observe in 360 degrees, you may gather intelligence about many different types of development and changes. Now the challenge is to integrate this knowledge, and orient yourselves as to what your choices are. This is the time when you need to innovate and connect the dots, using creative thinking, and even your intuition.

For instance, in my work in Learning & Development, I can see that 4G will revolutionize communication and connection. I can also see the new concept of Accelerated Learning, and I know that medical science is making rapid strides in the area of neurosciences. Can I integrate these seemingly unconnected developments and create the connection? Can I disrupt learning by providing breakthrough value through this integration?


You have used your creativity and innovation to identify the choices before you, now you need to decide which choice you make. Is it new product development, or a new services, or a new way to manage operations and costs, or delivery? What’s your chosen mode of disruption?


Act on your decision. There are new and interesting ways to launch, such as ‘frugal experimentation’. In today’s world, you need to move fast. Before others even know what’s happening, you have already observed, oriented, decided and acted.

By Arun Wakhlu




Taking Initiatives


Taking initiatives is a very valued skill in organizations.  Yet, very few actually take initiatives.  Some employees jump into it straightaway while others are reluctant.  After observing many organizations and people within that, I can see four flavors of initiators.

  1. Initiators who just need an open ground
  2. Initiators who need a bit of a nudge
  3. Initiators who need frequent nudging and guidance ( step by step instructions)
  4. Non-Initiators.

The first and second category is what organizations and managers look out for because they are very resourceful employees.   Throw a challenge at them, and they will put their head and heart into it.  It is a sheer joy to watch them push their own limits and come up with answers.   Every leader is on a look out for these initiators.  There is no guarantee that graduates from a premium school would have these qualities; however there is a strong chance that they would be moulded in this thought process.

Initiatives carry an associated risk.  The risk of it failing, the risk of it sucking up precious resources, the risk of creating rifts.   The element of risk taking is in a belief system of an individual.  These individuals cherish a belief that there is no point in living without taking a risk.  They would rather die than taking no-risks.  And so with this belief system, taking an initiative and associated risk comes naturally to them.

Organizations also have to safeguard from the excessive risk taking or plunging into new initiatives recklessly.  If the Initiator does not have an ability to bring things to their logical closing point, a string of dud initiatives would be then visible, eroding the confidence of others in the leadership of the organization.   An element of critical thinking and common-sense is needed here and if those strengths are not available in other senior leaders, it can lead to flawed decisions endangering the very survival of the organization.

So while initiative brings a certain edge, it is also double edged sword.   There needs to be a sanity check.  Processes to encourage initiative taking tempered with rigorous evaluation is definitely needed.

The third and the fourth category of people deserve more empathy from the organization.  It could be possible that the aversion to taking initiatives could be from some previous bad experiences.  These then have become a pattern and a belief system in their heads.   It would require hand holding and coaching for them to come out of their cocoons and display greater level of initiatives.  Non-initiators are particular of great concern because it can stop the organization in its quest to excel.   And yet they could be good performers in their own right.   Such people are also vital to the organization.   They bring stability to the organization.  Pushing them for initiatives would possibly be counter engaging for them.   However, they need to be educated and reminded of the need to change and upgrade and maybe with little bit of encouragement, they can add much more value than the stability which they already provide to the system.

By Vikas Bhatia

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Spreading the Light

In our work in people development, through coaching or mentoring, we find some coachees who seem to absorb concepts, information and have insights very quickly, and move towards implementing them, whereas some others take a very long time to appreciate and learn anything new.

Many coaches and leaders struggle with this.  I was thinking about how to help all my coachees to gain quickly from personal development interventions.  I had my ‘Aha!’ moment while performing a puja, a simple prayer ceremony in our home temple.

Spreading the light
Photo credit: jasleen_kaur via CC BY-SA

With a matchstick, I needed to light an incense stick and an oil lamp.  While the incense stick caught fire instantly, the oil lamp took a little longer. I realized that people are like that as well, just different in the way they catch the fire of new learning. We need to know whether we are dealing with an incense stick or an oil lamp.

So I have the fire within, but when it comes to an oil lamp, I need to be very aware – is the wick soaked well in oil?

How is this an analogy for people development in organizations? If I am prepared from the start, knowing how ready a particular individual is, I can tailor my coaching and mentoring, and not feel frustrated in the process.

I believe that an individual will catch the fire of learning very quickly when the following already exist:

  • Clarity of her or his own purpose
  • Hunger to achieve this purpose
  • Alignment of self’s goals with organizational goals

One more interesting insight flows from this analogy. In an oil lamp, if the wick is not soaked properly in oil, and you hold a matchstick to it for a long time, the wick will just burn down. This ‘soaked in oil’ can be considered similar to the organizational culture or supporting environment,  that facilitates not only the fire burning, but sustaining over time.

As a leader, I need to create this organization culture and environment that will facilitate learning and development, recognize the individual’s attributes, and tailor my coaching accordingly. Then the fire within me can help to create illumination among all the individuals I work with.

By Vivek Yatnalkar

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Silent is an Anagram of Listen


Photo credit: The Brit_2 via CC BY-NC-ND

For some years now, I’ve been practicing chanting, in the presence of a spiritual master, and with a group of fellow seekers, and gained many insights from this practice. Yet I was struck recently, by a deeply profound insight, so simple yet so powerful that it just blew me away. I learnt something that can help all of us, so I’m sharing it here.

I would chant, and was always conscious of the vague drone of the voices of others, but mostly, I could just hear myself. In a recent session, I just happened to fall silent, stopped chanting for a few minutes, and for the first time in years, I actually heard the others’ voices. And there was so much to learn from listening to them. I could hear the different intonations, how some people were loud and others were soft, and the distinct tones in the group.

As my work involves leading and facilitating, it just occurred to me, that I, as a leader, if I have to truly listen to others, I have to stop speaking.

I know that a lot has already been written and said about the importance of listening, and how to be a good listener. As a matter of etiquette we know that we should stop speaking when we’re listening to someone, but I realized that ‘stopping speaking’ has to be done at two levels. Of course, we must actually stop the action of speaking, but even more importantly, we need to stop the clamour in our minds, actually shut it down.

Ask yourself, ‘do I really stop speaking mentally, when I’m listening to others?’  So often, we make a show of not speaking when another person is speaking, politely listening, but so much is going on in our minds. What’s going on? Our preconceived notions about the person and assumptions are talking, maybe even screaming!

I know that there are situations when a manager is listening to a team member, while preconceived opinions are talking in her head, ‘this guy is always late’, or ‘she always makes this mistake’. At this time, the listening is very superficial, and there is no chance for the manager to gain any real insights from the conversation.

When I decided to change things, I pushed myself, and said, ‘can you be silent inside?’ Now when I listened to my kids, I forced myself to be silent inside, and found a tremendous joy in just hearing what they were saying. In my training sessions, I started to listen to participants truly, shutting down the voice in my head that used to keep saying ‘what do I have to do next?’

My invitation to leaders is to try this simple yet profound practice. We believe that ‘listening expands the boundaries of your understanding’, but for that, you need to really listen. There is a lot to learn from every conversation, and if you’re truly quiet inside, you pick up the cues that help you learn. You can spot body language, eye contact, whether someone is fidgeting or restful. I found that I could spot things I hadn’t been noticing before and every conversation was a much richer experience.

To me, it’s a spiritual experience to actually listen to people.

As leaders and managers, when you’re meeting customers or team members, there may be a lot going on in your mind. You start an appraisal meeting, and you’re conscious that the company has given you certain directives, or you’re remembering the individual’s past records. But shut all that down, and listen to the individual, and the appraisal will go from being a painful formality to a profound experience for both of you.

In today’s uncertain and fast-changing world, leaders face challenges for which there are no standard answers. So we don’t have the answers in our own ‘database’, and we need to learn and derive solutions from others. To really learn from others, really listening when they speak is vital.

Let’s all try and become truly silent to gain the benefit of listening, to colleagues, or seniors, or customers, and very importantly, our family members. Life is just so much richer when you can absorb all they have to tell you, verbally and non-verbally.

I would love to know the opinions and experiences of readers. Did you try this, and what did you find? Do share your own, unique learning, I would love to hear from you.

By Vivek Yatnalkar

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Nothing You Can’t Do Once Your ‘Can-Do’ Spirit is Back

In my work of building collaboration within organizations, I often come across individuals who say that their performance is hindered due to the various issues they are facing. I have especially observed this among people who have spent between 2 and 4 years in the role, they seem to focus on all the problems – lack of resources, lack of cooperation from colleagues, issues with vendor deliveries, and so on.

I then ask these people to ‘roll back’ their lives to when they came to this organization for an interview.

nothing you can't do vivek blog

Photo credit: thetaxhaven via CC BY

At that time, the interviewer must have briefed you about the organization and your role, and probably also shared the challenges they are facing. Maybe there’s a crunch on resources, people related challenges or the market is sluggish.

So I ask these individuals, what was your mindset, what were your responses then? I’m pretty sure that you said, ‘fair enough, these are the challenges, but I will overcome them. I will find my way around, get cooperation from the ‘tough nuts’, influence the tough suppliers.

This is a great ‘can-do’ spirit, but somehow, I find that, after about two or three years, people have forgotten this ‘can-do’ spirit that they would have had during the interview.

So in my programs, I invite people, whatever their role, to recall that mindset and suddenly, there is a big ‘Aha’ moment for them.

If all of us, in our corporate lives, can start each day, with that mindset that we took to the interview, it will be magical. We will soon resolve the issues as our mindset is tuned to. Our approach will be, ‘I know there are issues, but the reason I’ve joined this organization is that I can make a difference. I will take charge. I will find creative solutions.’

I have found that this helps people to start seeing solutions, rather than problems.

Would love to hear from readers, have you seen this change in attitude? What can managers do to help individuals to find that ‘can-do’ spirit again?

By Vivek Yatnalkar

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In Formula 3 Plus 1, Everyone Wins

formula 3 plus 1 vivek blog


Photo credit: avrene via CC BY


As managers, we tend to be so busy spotting problems and suggesting improvements at the workplace, that it becomes a part of our personality. I was quite taken aback when my wife said to me one day, ‘you point out problems all the time, is it possible for you to sometimes see what’s good?’

That was an ‘Aha!’ moment for me, and made me pause in the midst of my march towards improvement.

I thought about the effect of my style of functioning, and all other managers who are constantly saying, ‘this is not right, this should have been done this way…’ and never talking about what’s going right.

There could be a better way. So I came up with this formula: 3 + 1.

What this formula means is simply that anytime we want to suggest 1 improvement to anyone, we stop ourselves and ask, ‘have I told them 3 things that they are doing right?’

I’ve now set this discipline for myself, only when my ‘account balance’ is 3 – having appreciated 3 things that are going right, can I suggest 1 thing that needs improving.

Changing Myself

Adopting Formula 3+1 brought about a change in my way of looking at things, suddenly I’m more attuned to spotting and speaking about the good things that are happening around.  I will share some of the amazing changes this simple formula brought about in team members and culture, but while we want colleagues to improve in specific areas, we as managers need to question our own natural instinct – are we just overly critical? In that case, the Formula 3 + 1 can also help us to improve!

When managers are overly critical, their teams are often not empowered. They wait to just execute orders, because they cannot afford to take initiatives, in case they fail.

In fact, managers could try to just focus on the positives, and invite team members to identify the 1 area of improvement! That will help to create an effective team, where the manager is not just an auditor of problems.

This is a little different from the sandwich method of giving feedback, where the negative is sandwiched between 2 positives. I find that a lot of team members today see-through the sandwich technique, they just wait for the criticism to come up. The technique is used in an ‘event’ called feedback, is seen as a process, and lacks authenticity.

I’m asking managers to make a real change in their perception, not just use 3+1 as a technique.

Most of the time, when you have to give the 1 negative, you find the 3 positives are so strong, your whole approach towards your team changes, and they also respond differently.

Helping Teams to Change

An amazing outcome of the formula 3+1 is, once adopted, is that suddenly that 1 thing that didn’t seem right, starts correcting itself.  I believe this results from the perception that we create, in colleagues and ourselves, that there are so many, many good things that are happening. It also changes the team’s perception about what kind of manager and leader you are, and actually changes the culture of the team.

Even in a team that’s apparently not performing well, on certain parameters, you can always find something to appreciate. That makes the team much more open to improving on the 1 area that you point out. But if you only harp on what’s wrong, people get demotivated and disengaged.

Let’s look at the people we criticize. We see them only in their professional roles, but each person, in their own personal lives, is going a lot of good, and is dealing with a lot of stuff. They are taking care of personal and family responsibilities, they have unique talents, or maybe creative hobbies.  When we, as their managers, find 3 good things that they do, it improves their self-esteem, and they gain the confidence to deal with the 1 thing that’s wrong.

Actually, appreciating leads to a person further improving in that area. If I tell a colleague, ‘you’re a good listener’. Maybe she has been listening only partially, but there’s a chance that she becomes more aware, and becomes a better listener.

Whatever you appreciate appreciates!

Whether you are appreciating or criticizing, ensure that you are genuine and not going overboard, or people will see through your words. Maintain a balance. Formula 3+1 can bring about a change in your team as well as yourself.

By Vivek Yatnalkar

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