Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Picture Post: Success (Perception Vs Reality) August 14th, 2012

Vinod Kumar

Unless you’re willing to have a go, fail miserably, and have another go, success won’t happen – Phillip Adams

In continuation to the Picture Post concept I wrote last week (Ego and Work), here is a visual take on the concept of how success is perceived. In reality, there is no silver bullet to define success and is quite subjective :).

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I am not a Manager, I am a Leader May 29th, 2012

Vinod Kumar

When I wrote my last post around – “Being diffident, how can you lead?” a lot of comments had come around the topic of Manager and Leader and thought it will be nice to write some of my thoughts around the same. The fundamental differences are – management focuses on getting work done on time, on budget and on target, while leadership focuses on change, vision and innovation.

Leadership begins where management ends.

For many years, management was the more inclusive term and included leadership — along with motivating, planning, communicating, organizing etc. But the concept of leadership got singled out and given a separate mention with attention. I truly value the need to motivate your employees and you need someone who has a broader vision and passion to rally around and hence a true leader is a must. The point is "Leader VS Manager" is a myth. They are not mutually exclusive. In reality people always have shades of both. Just like in history all great men MK Gandhi, Mandela were all great leaders but they had very few things in common; except that they inspired people.

The manager must lead to be productive and the leader must manage to be effective.

If someone is a good leader does not mean that the person is bad manager. You can’t just put innovation in leader’s basket, and if manager comes out with a really innovative idea then it is not a fluke. Though I am just describing some of the traits as differences, these are not the black-and-white statements.

When we are on this subject – let me also point you to the other post I wrote around – Traits seen in bad managers. That will also be a good read if you haven’t read it yet.

Leader VS Manager

How can I define in simple terms the fundamental differences? Here is my take (yet not complete) –

  1. Leaders lead people. Managers manage people. – the simple definition.
  2. The manager has an eye always on the bottom line, the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
  3. Leaders set destinations via vision. Managers navigate the roads to get there.
  4. Leaders cultivate change and creates culture. Managers cultivate creating stability – hence enacts culture.
  5. The manager does things right, the leader does the right thing.
  6. The manager acts as boss, the leader acts as coach and facilitator.
  7. Leaders appeals to the heart. Managers appeal to the head.
  8. Managers are about reaching goals while Leaders have vision to inspire.
  9. The manager relies on control on people, the leader inspires trust on people.
  10. Leaders have followers. Managers have subordinates. (BTW, twitter and FB followers don’t count you to be a leader :))
  11. Leaders take ownership. Managers take responsibility.
  12. The manager accepts the status quo for work, the leader challenges you.
  13. Leaders are proactive. Managers are reactive.
  14. The manager creates boundaries, the leader plays as if there were no boundaries.
  15. Leaders catalyze leaps of improvement, managers improve things only incrementally, by tweaking existing processes and systems.
  16. Leaders accomplish achievements. Managers accomplish compliance.
  17. Leaders engages conflicts for ideas and solutions while Managers avoid/manage conflict.
  18. Leaders are concerned what is right and managers are concerned about being right.

Leaders are ordinary human being with extraordinary qualities. These extra ordinary qualities make them leaders. Other distinction between leaders and managers is that “Leaders create hopes and dreams and engage, inspire and align managers to achieve those hopes and dreams they have set.”

Organizations need both of these traits of people to function properly. I know there are many more traits you wish and please drop me a line on your thoughts on what you feel is a great trait of an effective leader and manager.

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Challenge of receiving feedbacks April 15th, 2012

Vinod Kumar

feedback1One of the biggest challenge in the corporate world is to receive feedbacks. And I have seen managers do this with less skill and faltering to balance confidence on one side and still offer constructive feedbacks. Any feedback system has two parts – one who gives the feedback and the other who receives feedbacks. The former cannot be changed or influenced and hence this post is about how we set out a positive perception to receiving the feedbacks. I truly understand that being on the receiving end of feedback is one of the most difficult things to accept. No one is perfect and it is a mere disillusionment of perception that we carry in our minds that we are perfect :) (if you disagree, well here is a classic example then :)).

As you start growing in the organizational ladder it is important to have the very best relationship with your peers, managers and leaders. This is very critical because in case you run into giving your boss a candid feedback, you shouldn’t get intimidated with the situation – just because he/she is your boss. Hence investing upfront time in building a rapport is crucial.

Receive feedbacks like a generous gift that you will richly benefit from. This is a foundation for your own future !!!

I know it is tough to accept everything that is thrown in front of you. But I just want to give you a different dimension / perspective to take it positively and introspect later based on the conversation. I know it is doable, just that we need to be prepared for this. Here are my Top 3 feedbacks accepting tactics:

Accept it

What ever be the feedback, it is critical that you accept it as it comes (unfiltered). Understand someone is making time to give you that feedback. People feel encouraged when they feel you appreciate them without any risk of taking them the wrong way – most importantly without any consequences. Keeping an open mind and receiving doesn’t really hurt.

Don’t jump to conclusions

feedback2The feedbacks are best absorbed without debate. There is no point in arguing and reasoning about what you are being told as it will be counter-productive. If required, ask for details and examples – this makes sure that you are indeed having a open mind and listening to them carefully. Make them feel that you truly and sincerely value their input and are making efforts to improve.

Make an environment where both the parties (giver/seeker) feel there is a value in the discussion.

Act on your feedbacks

As we called out before, receiving feedbacks doesn’t mean you jump onto every thing that is said to you. The art here is to understand, verify (with actions mentioned), internalize the feedback and make the right change where appropriate. You don’t change yourself completely just because you got a feedback.

Being yourself is an identity, don’t make a mess of that.

Final words

If you personally feel getting constructive feedbacks are adding value don’t miss the opportunity to thank the person. Accepting feedbacks and acknowledging encourages the relation you have with the other person. Best part is you are the beneficiary of having such people around.

Constructive feedback is one that enables you to feed-forward in life.

Don’t think I am painting only one side of the coin – remember how you receive and perceive the feedbacks is something within our control and hence the emphasis is on that. Do tell me your perspectives and experiences.

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Traits seen in Bad Managers March 5th, 2012

Vinod Kumar

“People don’t quit companies, they quit bad managers”

bad-manager2I think I used this phrase long time back but kept reminding me on this topic to write for a while. With close to 10+ different managers I got to work there have been tons of learnings but equally there were traits which I wish were also not there. Here is a humble try to bring out some common traits few managers have in the industry that I wish were never there. This for sure will not include ALL the traits of a effective bad manager but the top in my opinion.

Note: these are just some observations and comments, hence any resemblance to anyone out there is mere coincidence :).

Now where do I start, there is no particular order to the madness here. For a change in this blog we are not talking about positive attributes. I talked about New Job, New Manager here and will surely be a worthy read if you have landed in this topic. I am sure you equally have horror stories and traits to share and order them if required.

  1. Bad bosses change minds frequently leaving you off-balance. Bad bosses change expectations, deadlines and fail to communicate the timelines or goals. More ironical is to give you goals and make you take off in the opposite direction.
  2. Worst of the lot is to take credit for successes and accomplishments while blame others / you when something goes wrong. My only request to them is –
    Life’s real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up.bad-manager1
  3. Not to let go of problems or mistakes and continually return to discuss negative events are functional traits of someone who needs to grow. Life moves on, give an opportunity for others to change. Change is the only constant.
  4. A bad manager can not accept constructive feedbacks nor feed-forward suggestions. They think these are disagreements and have their own opinions to thrust.
  5. An inefficient manager has trouble delegating and worst prioritizing work. They swap delegating important tasks and hence you see a clear motive of illogical favoritism. This creates rift in team members and they start to distance from each other.
  6. Attention to details (via micro-management) and perfection of small tasks is often distraction from the ability to perform the actual job. This is functionally – inefficiency surfaced. Such people tend to also try to paralyze by analysis sometimes.
  7. Induce fear when positive attitude can help the employees become productive. If a manager keeps harping on failure, it is actually counter productive.
  8. Rules are to be used as guidelines not something written on stone. Making own new policies and self not adhering is the first mistake any bad manager makes. Rule makers should not be the first rule breakers.
  9. Never should a manager “try” to mind read. Ask, talk and then sort what you are assuming. If they actively invested the time on the project, they know why things go wrong and when they go wrong.
  10. Most of the inefficient managers fail to look beyond their little world and forget to pass important information to their employees. This at many times gets the employees in the back foot when any news breaks.

Wow, I didn’t know this will get this far. But I am sure these were some of my views and not exhaustive though. But they represent some of the common practices in the managers and employees I meet. Let me know what you think of this article. What were your top likes from the top 10 list above :). I am sure I have missed few more but those can wait for another post some other day.

As I conclude, wanted to point you to another blog around “what do you look out at work” which in this context of blog can also make sense.

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Productive Meeting–DO’s and DONT February 8th, 2012

Vinod Kumar

As part of our work, meetings seem to have become an integral way we perform our job. But it is critical to understand the importance of doing meetings on the first place. Have you got a bubble in a middle of a meeting –“Why on earth am I out here?”. In mature organizations, the problem is in the fact you have weekly status meeting, project meeting, Quarterly meeting, monthly meetings, business update meetings and so on. Trust me, more than half of it can be of no significance to you as an individual. Knowing the state of business is critical, but knowing your role and contributing to the business is also critical. Let me take a stab at some of the do’s and don’t when it comes to meetings based on my experience.

Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.

Prepare, else prepare to fail

It is a common phrase that if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. And meetings are no exception. If you are calling for a meeting, make sure you have a proper plan to execute and talk with the members. It has to be clear, concise and the give-gets properly outlined. Walking into a meeting with no plan could make you appear disorganized and uninterested in the topics of discussion. And, your teammates will feel like you don’t value their time.

At the same time, be flexible to constructive and productive ideas that might hijack the meeting. Keeping a closed door to the meeting structure can sometimes restrict creativity and stop people from opening up. Sometimes go with the flow, people do know when it is zero plan unorganized method versus a spontaneous discussion session. Irrespective of the style, know the limits and time constraints as part of the discussion.

People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything. – Thomas Sowell

Focus and don’t get distracted

When I started working in the industry more than a decade back, this was not the case. But this tip is more relevant for the current generation who have tons of choices to get distracted. Answering a phone call, emailing or text messaging have become a way to get distracted easily. These are clear signs of disinterests and can be really frustrating for the meeting organizers.

I personally like to silent my phone before and during the meetings. I even refrain from picking them up till the meeting gets over. There is always choice and most importantly someone has taken time to share something with you, give them the time and attention that they need.

If there is burning issue and you are expecting a call, just inform the organizer of the same well before hand and walk out to attend the call so that the meeting does not get distracted because of the phone ringing at your end.

A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted. – James T. Kirk

Some more non-negotiable

  1. Honor time of others, be there on time. Those in the meeting will be appreciative that you respect their time and, will in turn, respect what you have to say. Sometimes running a few minutes over is unavoidable, but consistently keeping your audience waiting is disrespectful of their time.
  2. Avoid offending anyone during the meeting. Don’t get into a conversation just with one person but try to get a gauge of the situation and address all the audience.
  3. Avoid eating during meetings, it most of the times distracts and annoying too. If you keep munching a packet of chips during the meeting, it will surely annoy the person sitting next to you. Unless this is a breakfast or dinner business meetings where eating is encourages during the talk – my suggestion refrain. It is not for you, but to respect the person next to you :).
  4. Learn how to run a meeting. There is a subtle difference between running a meeting and throwing a party. Engage with people and get opinion from all to get to an common consensus. This is critical.
  5. Take notes during the meeting and follow up post the meeting. This is critical because you want a proper closure to the activities and make people aware of what they need to do post the meeting. Assign action items at each meeting (who commits to do what and by when) and do so in writing.
  6. Before any meeting, communicate your own thoughts in e-mails and casual conversations. If you see to many emails floating, call for a meeting and keep announcements brief and crisp – discuss and then close the activity.
  7. Meeting organizers sometimes feel they are inspiring and know everything, the fact remains completely opposite to what reality is. So be critical about the whole meeting process and design a meeting where the attendees get an opportunity to contribute too.
  8. Look for signs of agreement – seeing nods, smiles and eye contact does measure some acceptance. If people think you are upset, they might just accept and agree to what ever you say. This is a bad sign because post the meeting, they forget the meeting, ignore the messages discussed and more alarming – ignore the idea shared.
  9. Don’t be a slave of the meeting duration. If the meeting gets over in 25 minutes, give back the rest of the time.  Don’t waste time as it would be demotivating.
  10. Avoid death by Powerpoint – get the message, discussion points and closure in simple steps.

Meetings are everyday activity for many of you who are reading this article. I just wanted to air some of the facts and things that I personally felt were important and non-negotiable. Hope these made sense and do drop in a line if you had more additions.

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