The Pragati Leadership Blog

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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
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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

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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

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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

 

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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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Building a Culture of Learning and Engagement – Part 2

Continuing with the ideas I had shared in my previous post, Building a Culture of Learning and Engagement, we need to find processes for learning and engagement that engage the mind-body-spirit of our employees. This would help to make employee engagement not just an intervention but a way of life in our organizations.

I received some excellent comments from readers to that post, and now I’m sharing some ways in which I believe we can achieve our goal:

  1. Creating a purpose driven work-force
  2. Including conversational processes in Learning
  3. Having a ‘Jugnu’ approach
  1. Creating a purpose driven work-force: Purpose can be described as the reason for our existence. Organizations are not always purpose driven but they are definitely vision driven and have clear goals and strategies. As part of alignment, we do help people see how the organizational vision connects to their role.Suppose we flip this approach. Supposing we start with each employee instead. Get each employee to identify their personal purpose and values – what matters to them – why do they exist – what makes them wake up with a spring in their step – what makes their eyes shine? Questions that perhaps they have never considered.Jobs don’t really require an answer to these, do they? Yet, a purpose statement helps us to understand the reason we exist, live and work. If we facilitate this discovery for employees, we build a sense of confidence and self-discovery in them. Only then should we link it with their organizational roles and the vision of the organization. We at Pragati Leadership strongly believe that this would enable a realizing of potential and power within people and they would then be able to be better engaged and involved with themselves and the organization. If I don’t understand myself and what I want, how will I understand what the organization aspires to achieve and my role in the same?Giving people the freedom, resources and autonomy to be able to pursue their personal purpose at work (along with their organizational role) would help to bring out both positive energy and involvement. Hindustan Petroleum has done this in a remarkable way with great success.
  2. Including Conversational Processes in Learning: Most of our OD and HR interventions are highly structured and well planned. They enable sharing of knowledge and building of skills.Yet it is informal conversations that lead to collaboration, connection and co-creation. Informal conversations lead to sharing of ideas, best practices and innovation. Organizations need to create spaces and forums to operationalize this. Two such conversational processes are: Open Space Technology (OST) and World Cafe. What is common among both of these is that a theme is chosen and people voluntarily sign up for areas or issues they are passionate about. This leads to learning and passionate ownership of actions. Many companies have experimented with regular monthly or quarterly forums where OST is introduced to employees . This has led to new ideas being generated, and more importantly,  people coming forward voluntarily to take responsibility for their implementation. These processes are sustainable, cost effective and require no external intervention. These are critical ongoing OD interventions that can build engagement and learning.
  3. Having a Jugnu Approach: The word ‘Jugnu’ means ‘fireflies’. Fireflies glow in the dark. Where there is darkness, they show the light. In an organizational context, Jugnus refers to those people who show more learning luminosity than others. In order to enhance the vibrancy, learning and luminosity of an organization, the HR/L&OD team can identify a cadre of employees called ‘Jugnus’ or ‘I-Catalysts’. These are people who are internal change agents for learning and engagement. They are naturally interested in sharing, learning, have a positive and optimistic approach and are natural communicators and magnets for others. These people can be identified through seeking nominations and selected using a check-list. With some degree of I-Catalyst training, they can become the extended arm of HR/L & D in order to catalyze learning among employees. I-Catalysts would typically be line managers .They would help to promote learning among employees by organizing and facilitating informal learning e.g. brown bag workshops, best practice sharing, debates, peer assist sessions, films, storytelling etc. Research has shown that the trend in learning is that organizations are moving away from formal training to informal learning where they don’t need to be in a classroom for picking up new skills etc. I-Catalysts can spearhead this process of informal learning within the organization.
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When a culture of purpose, conversation and learning gets created, it automatically leads to greater employee engagement and involvement. People’s strengths and talents are used better. There is higher ideation and innovation. People meet across departments and silos and there is a naturally higher collaboration. There is less fear and more joy. More importantly employee engagement is no longer an HR intervention, rather it becomes each person’s priority. When this happens, the goal of the HR department has truly been achieved.

Are some of these ideas adopted at your organization? I would love to hear readers’ experiences and share knowledge so that we all learn and grow.

by Anu Wakhlu

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Building a Culture of Learning and Engagement

In today’s dynamic environment, the Learning and HR function faces unprecedented challenges, both internal and external, which impact the culture and working environment of their organizations. External challenges are related to the fast pace of change and a highly ambiguous environment which demands innovative and speedy responses continuously. The slowdown of economies the world over, uncertain political affiliations, global warming, rising unemployment, religious biases and prejudices further complicate the already dynamic external environment.

All these have an impact on organizational realities. Business results are not as healthy as they should be. This immediately leads to a freeze on budgets, hiring and cutting down on all ‘frills’. Sometimes these ‘frills’ include learning and development budgets too, and training programs get slashed. This in turn may have an impact on employee engagement and involvement, as it creates a perception that ‘my organization does not care for me’. Along with news of people being laid off, this may create an environment of fear and anxiety. This is not very conducive to enhancing and sustaining employee engagement.

Paradoxically it is precisely in times of uncertainty and recession that we need creative and breakthrough ideas that can help us navigate the change around us. While ideas may exist, they are often not visible and available to Business Leaders. The interesting thing is that while we are looking for new ideas and paradigms everywhere, the infinite reservoir of creative energy that contributes to these ideas is waiting to be tapped right under our nose. It’s the untapped potential and creativity of the people in the organization! While we do need the right strategy, processes, finances etc. to make a successful turnaround of our business, it is finally people who make the difference. It is said that technology makes things possible, but people make things happen!

What kind of people though? We need people who are engaged and involved with the organization and its vision and goals. Engagement has been defined as a state of emotional and intellectual commitment to an organization. Team members who are involved and connected with the company will add value to their roles, contribute positively to the growth of the company (even beyond their stipulated roles) and continue to stay in the company. These are the kind of employees every company dreams of having!  The reality, sadly, is often different, as seen in many research studies:

  • 70% of employees who lack confidence in the abilities of senior leadership are not fully engaged: Dale Carnegie Employee Engagement Study (2015)
  • 80% of employees dissatisfied with their direct manager are disengaged: Dale Carnegie Employee Engagement Study (2015)
  • 60% of employees lack the elements required to be highly engaged: Towers Watson 2014 Global Workforce Study

The drivers for building engagement are many-e.g. Compensation, quality of life, work-life balance, work environment, leadership etc. Some of these are dependent on Management Policies and outside of our locus of control. But a key driver that falls within the ambit of an HR professional is providing a learning environment for the employees of the organization.

Employees will stay on in an organization that provides opportunities for learning and growing. This is a fundamental human need. We all recognize that in a dynamic business environment, continuous learning and change is the only competitive advantage we have. For companies to survive, we need to adapt and learn fast. We need to innovate. At any point in time, our rate of learning and renewal has to be faster than the rate of change we experience. If we don’t change, we are in danger of becoming obsolete. All this is hardly new! What perhaps may be new is that it’s not just learning and adapting that is required. We also need enthusiasm and positive energy which creates the drive for learning. Steve Drake says “Knowledge is power and enthusiasm pulls the switch”. Positive energy refers to the curiosity and enthusiasm that need to go hand in hand with learning to make it a vibrant and energizing experience.

As HR Professionals, we all work towards building a culture of learning in our organizations. We do this in many ways e.g., creating training calendars, defining competencies – assessing them and helping people to build these, job rotations, etc. Most of these are scientific, traditional structured approaches to building engagement and learning. These do work (!) and therefore need to continue to be deployed.

What we also need to do is bring in other processes for learning and engagement that engage the mind-body-spirit of our employees. This would help to make employee engagement not just an intervention but a way of life in our organizations.

While I would love to share what I believe are the best ways to achieve this, I would also like to hear from readers what they feel can be done in this direction. Please add your comments to this post, and I will write a second post shortly about my learnings as well as yours.

By Anu Wakhlu

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CEOs! 3 Ways to Get ‘Boarding Completed’ So that Your Flight can Take Off

Hundreds of people are gathered in an airport terminal, ready for the journey that will take them to their destination, shuffling along the passageways. It’s only when every single passenger is on-board that the crew can confirm that ‘boarding is complete’, and the pilot can take off. If even a single passenger fails to board, the flight simply cannot take off, and no one is going anywhere.

When we work with corporate teams to build alignment and collaboration, we see that things work in a very similar way. As a CEO, you’ve defined your vision, targets, and strategic focus areas. But it’s crucial for you to know, has every single team member really understood and committed to these? Is ‘boarding complete’ so that the flight to your goals can take off?

There are three important dimensions to this ‘boarding’ in the corporate world, and it’s important to get each one of them right

Goals: Have you clearly articulated the goals and does everyone understand them? Are the goals SURE – Simple, Understandable, Remembered and Executable? Often, we find individuals, who haven’t understood or committed themselves to the organizational goals, so haven’t boarded your flight.

Culture and Alignment: Next comes your culture – has everyone bought into that? Every individual has beliefs, values and patterns, and often this means that they believe that things will always be a certain way. This can come in the way of believing that things could be different or better. Coming back to our flight analogy, this is a bit like a boarding gate full of people with armfuls and armfuls of hand baggage. When everyone comes together into the narrow alleys, they just won’t be able to enter. Passengers need to shed some of their baggage, or someone needs to help them.

That’s just what we do in our corporate training sessions, resolve those beliefs – the myths and taboos, so that people can move towards future goals.

Seen from the individual’s perspective; unless my beliefs are either aligned with the leaders, or dissolved, or until you answer my questions and resolve my misgivings, I’m simply not boarding your plane.

As the leader, or pilot of the plane, the CEO needs to be closely tuned with these aspects, and cannot simply assume that everyone will come on board.

That’s where our work in creating alignment and facilitating collaboration comes in. We design programs and then use methods that ensure that ‘boarding is complete’, and not through enforcement, but willingly.

For instance, let’s look at myths and taboos that each person carries in their own mind. We observe the group and pick up on these, and we may find that there’s a lack of alignment between the leaders’ convictions and the team members’ beliefs. So we create a trustworthy platform, where anonymously people can say, ‘you know, that’s your belief, but I don’t buy that. Can you share that in a way that makes sense to me?’, and provide an opportunity for better understanding and alignment.

When it comes to a concept, such as a vision statement, we often use models and analogies that make them more real and less abstract for team members to understand.

Communication: To resolve misgivings, we create an honest, transparent communication forum. So, for instance, participants write their queries, we facilitate that, then leaders sit in the ‘hot seat’ and answer them one by one. In one company we saw the breakdown of alignment – the leave policy wasn’t clear to all, profit sharing was not happening and people didn’t know why, action taken on information collected at exit interviews wasn’t visible, HR was not thanking people. Clear action items emerged that could resolve these issues and people committed to them.

We design programs to overcome the difficulties in getting everyone on board. We identify the hindrances, and design programs. Alignment and collaboration are not achieved by just playing games or doing some outdoor activities. They result from heart-to-heart conversations, processes where we help to dissolve beliefs, honest and transparent feedback, and process changes. We bring a fresh perspective, a structured approach and create the magic of real collaboration, consistently.

Readers, would love to hear from you if you have faced these situations, and how you are managing them. Do reach out to me or post a comment.

By Vivek Yatnalkar

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Developing a second line of Leaders

Leadership is ultimately about developing other Leaders.There are many qualities of Leadership that we seek in our leaders that are highly valued eg Integrity,Business Acumen,Power of Vision etc. These are certainly important .However the primary task of Leadership is to develop other leaders and therefore build organization capability for the present and the future.

The role of  Leaders is to create successors for their  role and that of other critical roles in the organization.However ,in most cases this is the one aspect of the Leadership role that receives scant attention. At the organizational level also,this remains one of the areas of challenge.  In a recent study conducted by Bersin and Associates for over 700 HR and L & D Managers- the number one challenge they all stated was “filling gaps in the leadership pipeline.” And yet there is overwhelming evidence that organizations who have a depth of leadership deliver better business results! In another study conducted by Hewitt Associates (the TCFL study),a clear co-relation was identified between building leaders and achieving significant business targets.

 

Companies are realizing that building leaders and developing potential successors for critical roles in the organization is of strategic importance for the organization’s growth.Indian companies have started putting this on top of their strategic people initiatives. In a recent study of  organizations that have robust practices of developing leaders in the APAC region, five of twelve companies were Indian! These included organizations such as ICICI Bank,Aditya Birla Group,Infosys,Wipro,Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

The role of developing Leaders from within is the responsibility of three broad stakeholders:

1.The CEO and the Board of Directors : The role of most CEO’s is to grow the business and ensure operational excellence. What attracts their attention therefore in most cases is the strategic planning process,future growth prospects,operational optimization etc. The role of the CEO in building leaders is often delegated to the HR/L&D functional head.And yet,this is probably the most important aspect of the CEO’s role:building the human capital for the organization to grow and flourish. The role of the CEO is therefore to be the catalyst and champion for Leadership Development at all levels.This would start by personally identifying and developing as many potential CEO candidates for his/her role. It would then continue by offering opportunities to these candidates to learn,excel and grow in their exposure to the business by personal coaching.

Similiarly, there are very few Boards who would have the agenda of CEO and senior Leadership development as part of their regular Board agenda.In cases,where the Board asks for reports on the Leadership development as much as they ask about profitability and strategic alliances,the agenda of People development gets a firm footing in the company.

  1. The role of HR/Learning and Development Function: Development of Talent and specifically development of leaders in the organization is one of the critical areas that the Human Resources and the Learning and Development Function of organizations needs to pay attention to.It would start by identifying Leadership Competencies for the present business as well as the future. People across the organization would then need to be mapped on this. Interestingly while most organizations do have a competency framework,most of the time this is limited to functional competencies or then soft skills.Clear Leadership attributes and behaviours are not always identified.

An integrated Leadership development framework and programmes need then to be institutionalized and implemented.It is very important to make this a business initiative and not just a HR initiative. Interventions for developing Leaders need to be done at all levels in the organization .This would ensure that the leadership capability for all gets enhanced .This would then result in a better leadership band-width in the organization.Special programmes for high potential /emerging leaders also need to be run as accelerated leadership development programmes.These would need to have opportunities for the leaders to experiment with new business opportunities /challenges beyond their existing roles.

Internal Coaches and Mentors are helpful in developing internal Leaders since they can support and accelerate the process of tacit knowledge and experience sharing.The Essar Group in India has based their entire Leadership Development on the practice of Coaching and Mentoring .

3.The role of Individual Leaders:    Each Manager and Leader in an organization needs to own their role of being mentors and people developers for their own teams. In our own experience of working with over——–  people in——- organizations,we have experienced that when line managers assume the role  of HR managers of their own teams,they are able to develop leaders for their functions. This can happen when People Development and Leadership development is seen as their primary role.Getting results is a by-product of this primary role.Such Leaders pay attention to processes like the Performance Management System by recognizing its importance in tracking both the potential and performance .Similarly they are  interested in the competency building of their teams and are closely associated with the training and learning initiatives for their teams.They would sit with their teams prior to them being sent for training and spell out their expectations.After the training,they would track the improvements the person is making on the job and give feedback. Such Leaders would also spend time with their team on a one on one basis,providing coaching and support to their colleagues. They would ensure that the team has exposure to new concepts/best practices of other/similiar industries so that they are familiar with the external environment.

They are passionate about their roles as”people developers” and would spend more than 50-60 % of their time on this aspect of their role. Delegation would ensure that they are building capability within their own function.

This would require leaders to be supremely confident of themselves and their capability.Only leaders who are secure and who have a purpose in their life,would want to develop other leaders in their own functions and teams.

Organizations led by wise and visionary leaders and supported by a proactive and credible HR/L & D function   would create a cadre of leaders who promote and building leaders from within.

By Anu Wakhlu

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What Keeps CEOs Awake?

I often get asked by colleagues “What do CEO’s worry about?” This is usually in the context of facilitating CXO level workshops. Well, just as any other Management personnel, CEOs both worry and are happy! Things that are certainly on their dashboards are:

  • Business results
  • Sustainability of the business
  • Right talent in the company
  • Brand visibility/ respect for the company
  • Governance etc.

Simply articulated – what’s on the worry slate is current operations and future readiness of the business. CEOs have to constantly manage their time and attention between these two. While it sounds like something that can be easily balanced and managed, it is often a challenge for many of us. Most of our attention and executive time gets caught in the operational aspects of the business. I have often wondered why it is so? We all know the importance of having a long-term focus – we teach it, mentor people around it and champion it to others. However in practice, the constant fires that operations throw up keep most CEOs fairly busy. There is some sort of gratification or sense of importance that one gets out of being in the “fire of action”!

Long term actions and thinking therefore often gets left only to strategy sessions at the end of the year rather than an ongoing practice.
One of the core issues that CEOs have to deal with is their perceptual and thinking blocks in this area. Why is it that we don’t spend time on what we know is important for us as CXOs and also for our business? It could be due to three aspects:

  • Seeing
  • Carving time
  • Swift action

Seeing is all about knowing what is the most mission critical area of focus for us -not what enchants and seduces us – but what we need to do. With the kind of information overload that is there plus multiple pressures and ‘fires’, it is very easy to forget to ‘see’ what we need to attend to. Having the most important aspects of our roles visible to us is a key enabler. Having it in an attractive, visual format is even more helpful. Like a mind-map or a vision-board.

Carving time is what Meg Wheatley calls ‘create a stake’. Consider yourself as the most important customer and make time for the area of work that is important for you. This may involve blocking time with other  colleagues, stakeholders to create a winning proposition, having heart-felt conversations with colleagues, meeting potential JV partners ,or just revisiting old notes and ideas for a new strategy. Unless we carve and block time for this, it will not happen.

The third aspect is swift execution of what has been decided. Its only when we act, that something will emerge. In a VUCA world, where things and product lines change so fast, we cannot afford to take too long to act . Quick and swift action is what produces results.
This is the world of CEOs and what might support them in running profitable, sustainable and joyful businesses.

By Anu Wakhlu

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The Always of Leadership

How many of you have participated in a 360 degree feedback process at work?   For leaders, receiving feedback from colleagues feels like report-card day! If you think about it, it is surely a report card of behavior perception i.e. how colleagues perceive their behavior and what conclusions they draw from that (as is evident in the verbatim comments that form a part of such reports). It is very interesting to observe how people respond to feedback that they get and I must say I have really seen it all – from gratitude and enthusiasm, to surprise and shock; from calm and knowing acceptance to utter disbelief and rejection.

THE DREADED RATING SCALE

The design of such instruments is very telling…there are a set of behavior statements and a set of options from which one has to tick the appropriate one e.g.: A statement like “listens patiently to others’ ideas” can be rated as Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Usually or Always. Needless to say, most people rate themselves as Always (5/5) while their colleagues rate them as “Sometimes” or “Usually”..much to their surprise and chagrin.

ALWAYS: THE HALLMARK OF LEADERSHIP

On a recent such assignment, I debriefed about 25-30 people on their feedback reports…and I soon realized that there was magic hidden in the word “Always”. It set my mind in motion and I reflected back to the leaders that I have personally witnessed/ worked with in my career.

It became clear to me that whatever a leader “Always” did, became the “Hallmark” of her Brand of Leadership. For example:

Mr. S was such a time stickler that he “always” insisted on adherence to schedule…Soon his team members knew that if his time was blocked then punctuality was key. I remember once people arrived 50 minutes late for a 60 minute meeting. He spent the remaining 10 minutes with them and that was that!

Ms B “always” greeted visitors with a smile, asked them about their family, offered a cup of tea/coffee and made them feel comfortable. She even ensured that there was no sun in the face, by pulling down the blinds herself, if need be. Only then did she get down to discussing the business matter at hand. She was known for Warmth, for being a good person, “always”.

IS “ALWAYS” ALWAYS POSSIBLE?

Most organizations have an in-house model of leadership competencies i.e. they have a long list of behaviors which leaders in the company are expected to demonstrate. Funnily enough, the underlying assumption is that every Leader must score an “Always” on ALL desirable “Leadership Behaviors.” Is that really possible? Obviously, such an assumption is really not founded in realism of any kind! This is hardly a Class XII board exam where a score of aggregate 95% + seems to have 1000s of claimants. Human behavior is a different ball-game!

Haven’t we all seen Leaders who are very competent at, say, driving initiatives, but not so good in future planning, or colleagues who are excellent at client relationships but maybe not in peer relationships? The more I work with leaders; one thing becomes crystal clear to me – that each leader has her Hallmark, her Brand which is created by consistently demonstrating a certain set of behaviors in multiple interactions with multiple people. By corollary, there are also many things that the same leader will never be able to get an “Always” rating for. And that’s OK.

WHAT IS YOUR HALLMARK STYLE?

Ultimately the key to Success and Excellence for you as a leader is really to pick a few actions/ behaviors that drive your team to be motivated, engaged and performance oriented and then consistently demonstrate that behavior, day in and day out.. like a signature style! On those critical behaviors, you can claim an “Always” blindfolded and soon you will be dancing your way up the business and happiness graphs.

Easier said than done, of course! How you go about building your Signature Style is another article for another day… but the starting point is to look at yourself dispassionately and identify those desirable leadership behaviors that you are automatically drawn to…where moving from a “Usually” to an “Always” seems like no effort at all. As with most things to do with self development, self awareness is the first baby step!

By Yoshita Sharma

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