Saturday, February 28, 2009

M. S Dhoni - Leadership Lessons for Aspiring Leaders

Many of us many a time might have realized that leadership is not about a position but an attitude. It is all about making a difference to one’s own self and others. It is an inner shift, a calling, an urge, a pull, a realization and a cause that kick starts the leadership or changes journey for many. Over the years I have looked for a role model, or a story of a leader that is embedded in an experience that is life changing and learning for every aspiring leader. It might be a great idea to draw some lessons from the leadership style of successful people around us from all walks of life.

My search ended the other day in an In flight magazine while I was traveling from Chennai to Portblair. It was an interview with New Youth Icon of our Country, the Captain of Indian Cricket Team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Born on 7th July 1981 in a small town called Ranchi at Jharkhand, he announced his arrival into the international arena in 2004-05 with a bang. M.S Dhoni has come a long way with his unique leadership style and aggressive brand of cricket.

Dhoni has made Team India, the best team in the world today with his charismatic leadership. Ever since he became a captain, Team India has performed like a champion in all forms of the game.

A young captain leading a team of youngsters in a game. I am sure,not many hopes were pinned on the team that traveled to South Africa from England, especially after the big three – Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly – pulled out of the inaugural edition of Twenty20.

Still, the team led by a Mahendra Singh Dhoni reached the finals to take on arch rival Pakistan. On their way to Durban, they knocked out biggies like England, South Africa and Australia, and even defeated Pakistan in the first round in a bowl-out.

Against Australia and later against Pakistan in the finals, he trusted the inexperienced Joginder Singh to bowl the last over! This too was ignoring the tested bowlers he has in the team.

He displayed tremendous potential of a great leader after he led India to victory in the finals of Twenty20 against Pakistan. The icing on the cake was the triangular series win against Australia in Australia in 2008. And the journey continues with a clean sweep against Srilankan's in their own land.

The first thing he said to Ravi Shasthri during the presentation after India won the action packed India-Australia semis was “Before I start Ravi, yesterday I read an article on Cricinfo. It says according to you Aussie's are the favorites. I think me and my boys proved you wrong and I think you are happier than us." In fact when I heard it, I told myself, here is one guy who knows how to touch the right nerve of the people!

After the series win, look at his statement - "It doesn't matter whether people say we are the best team or not or whether we have won or lost the previous match. In every match, one has to start from the scratch. It is important that we carry the momentum in the game. During the series we had the motivation, we had the plans and most importantly we executed those plans well." Doesn't it speak of a great leader?

When Ganguly was playing his last match, as a gesture of respect, or so it was claimed, Dhoni asked Ganguly to take charge of the team when the ninth Aussie wicket fell. Whenever he has an opportunity, he showers his players with praises.

Well, I guess its time for Corporate India to learn from this young leader. In business, most of us with no experience head on against the global biggies, just the way as the Indian cricket team had no track record to back them against in-form teams like South Africa, England and Australia in the Twenty20 Cricket. And the fearlessness and confidence have helped the Dhoni's devils that they are globally the best. That tells us, Dhoni's leadership kit mean a lot for Indian Industry and Corporate Leaders.

I think managing under change is a vital attribute to be learned from the leadership under Dhoni. A good leader doesn't mind going out and exploring. Change in business is very rapid. Platforms, markets, products keep changing, and when change happens, a new and fresh leadership perspective comes handy, just the way it did for a new cricket format like Twenty20, which is a completely new and disruptive change. Dhoni's risk taking ability, inclusiveness and time-pressure qualities are good examples of leaders on the business side.

If you notice, instead of pressing teammates to win, Dhoni told them to just enjoy the game. Also, he has mentioned at several forums that he believes to live in the present and not worry about future or past. That's another management tip. Too much strategizing for the future is not recommendable in a dynamic business environment. Dhoni's leadership style represents teamwork, empowerment and confidence.

Remember, he gave the last over to Joginder Sharma who doesn't have much a track record. But it worked ! This is super critical in grooming people. Most leaders tend to move people who are low on confidence to less complex tasks and away from the limelight. That kills their confidence even further and gives them the impression that the leader has lost confidence in them. On the contrary, by putting such a person in front of a challenging task, it tells the person that the leader has confidence in his/her abilities and will be fired up to put in 120 per cent. This happened with Joginder Sharma in two critical matches, where he was hit all around the ground and still given the last over. He delivered on both instances!

Dhoni's style is not just aggressive, it is more rational. Even in the absence of seniors, he could lead the team to success. This tells us, with a "B" team, it is easy to focus on getting the best out of the team - it gives opportunity and environment for the untested to show themselves and become stars.

Learning from this, even in our business, putting the team before ourselves, and putting the organization before the team, is the single biggest challenge in execution. At the end of the day it is about joining the dots (aligning the strengths and weaknesses of individuals) to work for the team rather than against.

Leaders need to be assertive yet humble and must rarely allow their personal egos to be an obstacle for the success of their organization and that's what M.S. Dhoni showing us through his current leadership style.
Another learning from Dhoni is about, Optimal utilization of resources, which is vital for any business. Instead of giving excuses for lack of best resources, especially with the current scenario economic crisis, it is better to perform in whatever resources a leader has to his disposal. Interestingly, Dhoni never complains about absence of a Sachin or Sourav or Rahul Dravid.

What more Dhoni has exemplified that a leader has to be a consistent performer himself and that is demonstrated in the way he has been entrusted with the crown of captain ship at such an young age.

I also believe, another leaf out of Dhoni's kitty is his 'talent management' skills. He utilizes every team member at his disposal and brings out the best performance whether he is a senior or junior player. He provides opportunity for every team member to prove themselves and contribute to the best of their abilities.

His 'people management' skills tell us, he is truly a great leader. When team members see their leader calm in extreme situations, they will not be rattled. It will enable them to focus on their work and do what is expected of them. Dhoni was always calm - whether the bowler started off the last over in the finals with a wide ball or the batsman played a series of dot balls in a slog over.

In short, Dhoni gives the following Leadership tips for every aspiring Leader :

1. We should be a performer and we should demonstrate the same to our team. Performance is itself the most effective communication down the line.

2. Leader has to be humble in way to consider part and parcel of the team and not above the team.

3. Give genuine respect and trust to the team members.

4. Allow them to experiment and take risk.

5. In case of failure, encourage him / her to introspect and do it next time with more vigour and better planning.

6. Make every one in the team feel that , even though we are leaders, we are just one among them.

7. We should also believe in the ones who failed in the Team. At crucial times a team member who was not able to deliver might do miracles.

8. As a leader, be calm in extreme situations and lead the team from front.

9. Share the credit of success with your team members and praise them in public.

10. Above all believe in every member in the team.

In a nutshell Dhoni's story is all about an ordinary man doing extraordinary things and a role model for every aspiring leader. Each one of us could use this model, pattern and design to create our leadership journey.

Fire in the Belly, Sweetness in Words and a Cool Head, Dhoni has arrived with a New Leadership style.

Any takers?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

" Recession is Good ! The Good Side of It "

It seems like everyone around us is obsessed by recession talk these days.
" Economic Recession, Global Meltdown, Tough Economy, Economic Crisis, Stock Market Crash..." all these terms which used to be economic jargons once has become common words for us today!

Everywhere we look, people want to know if we're in a recession. Turn on the nightly news or read the news paper, we get scary economic statistics one after another. Without doubt the main topic dominating the news is the current economic crisis, and it appears certain that it may be going to get even worse.

Anyways, What is this Recession?

Our Economists and Financial Guru's says, " it is a state of economic decline; a widespread decline in the GDP, employment and trade lasting from six months to a year ". To make it more understandable, it is when hundreds of people gets laid off from their jobs, prices of commodities are shooting up, and everybody is short on cash. Holy Cow! Quite a disaster isn't it?

We could say "There is nothing that we can do about this recession; it is out of our hands" . To some extent this is true, there is nothing that we as individuals can do about the recession. How long it will last or how deep it is, is simply out of our control.

I read in one of the leading Financial News Paper recently, "Recession is primarily caused by the actions taken to control the money supply in the economy. The Government is responsible for maintaining an ideal balance between money supply, interest rates, and inflation. When the Government loses balance in this equation, the economy can spiral out of control, forcing it to correct itself." goes on !

In short, we can blame the Government for everything that's happening right now. But, is that what we should be doing right now? Or can we talk about something better? As always, in every situation there are those that comes out victorious, so don't dwell on the negative effects of economic recession because that won't help us and take us anywhere.

Instead, what if we think of the different ways to beat economic recession ?

Great! That's one good side of it. It makes us think! Remember, in every situation we can come out victorious if we choose to. You must be laughing thinking what good side can economic meltdown offer. Well, tighten your seat belts, let me take you through that.

The Good Side of Economic Recession

1) It Makes Us Wiser : You'll be surprised how people start to lecture you about spending wisely, saving for the future, tighten your belts etc.! Seriously, in this world where consumerism is highly encouraged, the situation right now has made everybody wiser than before. I don't see people spending a lot of money like they used to. Don't you feel that's really good?

2) It Makes Us Think Out Of The Box : As I've said earlier, economic recession makes us think, which is the greatest thing. What different way have we thought of today that will earn us some extra cash? The beauty of it is that, the more we think of it, the more creative ideas we get. And that is our first step towards success.

3) It Creates a Decision Maker Out Of Us : Knowing that we have to act fast, it forces us to make quick decisions. It doesn't matter if we make a mistake, what matters is that we are doing something. Procrastination will get us no where, and that is what recession is saving us from.

4) It Makes Us Appreciate What We Have : A friend of mine used to always complain about the car that he drives, he wanted something new, a brand new Honda to be specific. But now I'm hearing him say how thankful he is to still be driving a car. How about rest of us? Do we still hate the car we drive? Do we think our house is too small? Don't you think recession really makes us appreciate what we have?

5) It Forces Change : This goes together with all the other benefits of economic recession. Change is a constant thing but recession accelerates that, it makes everybody adaptable. If we were used to eating at Five Star Hotels and Fine Dining Restaurants, I bet some of us might be at least thinking or started having it at a Fast Food Joint or even just eat at home!

6) Other Benefits of Recession : Economists say, during recession Interest rates which will come down which is good for Borrowers and Inflation rates will drop which is good for Savers. Sometimes difficult times can force us to reevaluate our financial situation. It can make us look for new business avenues and new ways to cut costs and spending. Although it may be temporarily unpleasant, the important thing is not to panic but try to make the best of any situation we find ourselves in.

I can probably list 10 or 20 more good sides of economic recession but I think you got the message what I am trying to explain and I will be extremely happy if reading this article made you to look at recession in a different perspective.

Anyways, Its for sure that, we can't control what happens to the economy, not even U.S President Obama can do that (or maybe he can, whatever!),
but " we can control our own economy " !

In the changing world there will be opportunities, and we should be looking for them. By doing so and becoming established now, we will have a distinct advantage when things start to recover. We need to research and develop our strategies for the future, and acquire the skills that will help us to succeed.

I am sure that those amongst us who survive or even prosper through this recession will do so because of the positive attitude, flexibility and willingness to explore new ideas. Another thing that we all need from time to time is inspiration. Like the old saying "Necessity is the Mother of All Invention".

Lets be appreciative on what we have, ambitious on what we want, avoid negativity and recharge ourselves with positive energy during this recession. While businesses are folding right and left and people are filled with panic and fear, can we make a positive affirmation and boldly say " I refuse to participate in this recession " !!!

Don't you think that's refreshing? A positive mantra surging through your veins? If so, joining with you to beat this recession,


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hiring Right Employees - A Night Mare for Employers! ( An Interviewers Preparation Guide )

I often come across several Entrepreneurs and Managers quoting, " We hired a wrong person... he is not able to fit into the we are struggling to send him off " ! Yes, this is a night mare for many Organizations, recruitment of a wrong person with no productivity which might even harm the morale of existing employees. So, how do we get right people on board, is it mere luck or needs a systematic preparation? I had the opportunity to interview hundreds of people over the last twelve years for our Group. Even though I am not an H.R specialist, let me take you through this interesting topic based on my experience.

Job interviews can be discouraging, not only for those interviewed, but for interviewers as well. The sad reality is that a large percentage of employees recruited simply don't stick with the Organization. I have read, in fields like sales, the attrition rate can be as high as 75 percent. For many other areas of work, one out of four new hires are gone within a few months. Every employee who doesn't perform as expected is a drain on a company’s resources.

Interviewing potential employees can be stressful, to say the least. All too often, you're under tremendous pressure to find the ideal candidate in a limited amount of time. There may not be one right way to interview. I have seen in some Companies they interview someone four or five times before they make an offer. But I guess, If we ask the right questions, we should be able to make the decision in a shorter time frame. Let me share with you some steps that might help you to make the interview process easier.

Step-1 : A good interview begins long before a prospect walks in. Every position should be covered by a job description. The employee’s place within the organization should be clarified for the record including what his/her authority is within the company and to whom he/she reports. The description should wrap up with the skills and experience required to do the work effectively.

Step-2 : The job description will structure for the interview questions. Depending on the position, specific technical abilities may be essential. In other cases, how the prospect works with the team is more important. For an entry level position, we can put a premium on enthusiasm, promptness and common sense, since the rest of the skill set will evolve.

Step-3 : Prepare the interview questions before the prospect arrives. Here’s a good set of generic questions to start. Choose the ones that work best for you.

Tell me about yourself.
What are your most significant accomplishments?
What adjectives best describe you?
What attracted you to this line of work?
What skills would you like to acquire to move ahead?
What did you do in your most recent (or current) job?
What did you like most about the work you were doing?
Why did you leave? (Or why do you want to leave?)
Please describe your relationship with your coworkers, manager, clients or customers.
What did you achieve there through your efforts?
Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?

The rest of the questions can flow from the job description, such as:

We use this hardware/software. How would you rate your skills on them?
As an Officer/Manager how many people have you handled in the past?
Do you prefer working as a team member or as an individual?
What management style do you prefer from your Officer/Manager?
What is your own management style?

Look at the other aspects of the job description whether it is making cold calls, or multitasking under pressure and get specific with questions about the prospect’s competency in those tasks. Remember, all this work is done before the prospect even enters our place of business.

Step-4 : When the interviewee comes in, take a close look at how he/she is dressed. Not everybody wears business attire; however that can give us the first impression about the candidate. Its a lot easier for a prospect to dress down than to dress up. Greet the interviewee firmly with a warm hand shake. Ask if he/she has an extra resume. It’s a good test to see if he/she’s prepared.

Step-5 : Be conversational. We are not an interrogator. Warm up with the generic questions. Then offer a brief description of the company, the position and the benefits. We can then ask the prospect specific questions about our company to see if he/she’s done her homework. If our business has a website and we find that our interviewee has not even taken the time and trouble to grasp the company’s essence by looking it up online, pass on him/her. This is either a lazy employee or one who is computer illiterate. Then follow with the questions that are specific for the position, including the most important, “Why should we hire you?”

Step-6 : Put the interviewee under stress. Ask questions like,

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
“Where could your job performance most improve?”
“What did you like least about your boss?”
“When in the past was your work been criticized?”
“How did you handle it?”

While asking questions like this, pay close attention to eye contact and body language. Examine our own gut reaction to this person. Do we like the way he/she handled this questions?

Step-7 : Give the prospect an opportunity to ask questions. Note if the questions are more about the company benefits and vacation time or more about the nature of the work itself. By encouraging questions, we'll have an opportunity to watch our prospect’s thought process.

Step-8 : There are topics to avoid, some of which can get you into anti-discrimination trouble, such as religion, sexual orientation, weight, medical condition or disability. However its worth asking, how somebody unwinds when work is done.

Step-9 : Finally, make sure that we follow up with either a letter or a call from our side about the results of the interview. It’s a matter of simple courtesy.

Well end of the day, we got to trust our gut feeling and one of the best traits for an interviewer is good instincts. If something seems out of place, keep looking for a better match. Sometimes it's easier to tell who is wrong for the job versus who is right! In the end, don't look for perfection, look for the best combination of technical skills and personality factors that will mesh in your company.

Our business success depends on the quality of our employees. Our aim should be to attract and retain the best employees. We are committed to treat them fairly, develop their potential and provide a positive working environment. Remember they are our greatest asset !

With best wishes to get the best employees on board in your next round of interview,

Monday, February 16, 2009

" Made In China " - A Threat for India ?

I receive lot of interesting questions from some of my Friends or Associates and most of the topics will be related to Leadership, Marketing, Hiring, Change, Strategy or Time Management. These questions actually come to my mind several times when I sit to write some thing on the blog.

Yesterday I received a call from an Entrepreneur friend of mine who is into manufacturing. While talking about his business, he asked me an interesting question which is the seed for this article. Let me quote him, " I have spend the last ten years bringing up my Company with lot of pain and we were extremely competitive in the market till recently. But now we're getting killed by imported products from China. How can we stay alive? "

I guess he asked me this question, since I had the opportunity to travel around the world over the past several years ever since I got into the foreign trade business for my Company. One Country I have often traveled to is China and my first visit was a decade back, during 1998. I could travel across China to various Provinces and interact with Entrepreneurs , Middle and Top Executives from different industries.

Coming back to the question my friend asked me, will there be any manufacturing jobs left in certain sectors in our Country if Chinese keep lowering and lowering the price of their products? Can our Government always protect the local industries with a temporary ban ( like the Chinese Toys banned for six months recently ) or keep on imposing anti-dumping duty? I know there is no easy answer to this China question! On the other side, we hear about China's problems - being an export depended economy how they are hit badly with present recession, its scarcity of middle managers, poor Intellectual Property Laws and the massive number of poor farming families moving into unprepared cities with not enough jobs to support them. We have also heard about Country's Banks troubled with close to 20% bad loans.

But I feel, for China these aren't mountains to be scaled, and they have grown big enough to handle any crisis. Increasing prosperity from spectacular economic growth over the past twenty years has given the Chinese enormous self-confidence. And China has more, a massive pool of low-cost, hardworking laborers and a rapidly expanding number of well-educated engineers and English speaking youngsters.

And, then, they have their work ethics, which may be their single biggest strength. Entrepreneurship and competition seems to be baked into the Chinese culture. During my last visit to China, I was watching a Television Program on the legendary political leader and statesman of Communist China, Mao Tse-tung. It showed his visits to all the villages and in all his speeches, he kept on telling his country men one thing, " work hard, work hard for the country " . No wonder, even today they follow Mao's ' work hard for the country policy '. I was at a city called Taishan and a girl visited me to have a business discussion traveling 320 Kms! She said every day she's at the office from 7.00 am until 6 p.m, goes home to join her husband and son for dinner till 8.00 pm., and then returns to work until midnight. " This is very typical here ", she said, six days a week " !

So faced with the inevitability of China, what do we do? First and foremost, get out of the tank. The sense of panic I heard from my friend is perhaps understandable and he could be one among several like him, but it doesn't take us anywhere.

It's not as if our country is next to any other country. We have a large consumer and industrial market, all thirsting for products, with great brands and distribution networks. We have an open economy and mature legal systems. Ours is a transparent society with democratic government and good education and good social systems. Even though the world has just discovered it, our growth story is not new and we are heading to be the world's largest economy sooner or later.

Our business has fully developed management processes. Many of our Corporates have gone global and successfully acquired several Big Brands and Companies. The rise of globally competitive Indian Companies like Reliance, Jet Airways, Infosys, Wipro, Ranbaxy, Tata Motors, TCS, Bharati, ICICI tells the story of Indian success. I am sure, the Indian success is market led whereas China's is state induced. The list of our competitive advantage could go on and on. So let's think positively. At the very least, ' a can-do attitude ' is a place to start. I agree, with recession and competing with Chinese products, some are in the worst of times.

But in the heat of battle, it always feels like the worst of times. Low-cost competitors are not new. History says, Hong Kong, Philippines and Taiwan have been in the game for over forty years. But how did China get on top of all these countries? Simple - because they changed. They grabbed the new technology and transformed themselves, emerging stronger than ever. And change is what China demands of us now. But the question is how?

Let me try to get an answer from the Japanese. As a part of " Association of Technical Scholarship's " training program, I went to Japan and visited several big factories including Toyota and Daifuku. And I learned whether its in Japan or in China, they all ride on three old warhorses of competition - Cost, Quality and Service - and drive them to new levels, making every person in the organization see them for what they are, a matter of survival. Lets zoom into these three factors.

Costs : Everyone needs to be searching everywhere, inside the company and out, for best practices. Find where and how every single process should be performed to increase productivity. Like I heard from the Japanese and Chinese Companies, don't think about reducing the costs just by 5 to 10 percent. We have to find the ways to reduce it by 20 to 30 percent. In most cases, that's what it will take to be competitive in the China world.

Quality : I have always heard people quoting that Chinese products are of cheap quality and I always correct them. Its not that Chinese produce only cheap quality products, they produce products to match any price and what we happen to see is just one of those low priced cheap quality product. But lets realize that, they can produce excellent quality products and most of the international brands which we bench mark as quality products are Made in China! They spend lot of money into R&D and we need to look into that aspect as well. On quality, we just can't have a trial and error approach. Getting it 95% perfect is not good enough. We need to use Six Sigma or any other methodology we like in order to deliver the best quality and get rid of defects.

Service : It is the easiest advantage to exploit. China is thousands of miles away from most developed markets. But still they manage to get new customers, give them good service and retain them. I think, our challenge is not just to improve service. It is to break the service paradigm in our industry or market so that customers aren't just satisfied, they're so shocked that they tell strangers on the street how good we are! I am sure we can do much better than China in giving the best service to Customers.

While we have to innovate to improve Cost, Quality and Service, lets go beyond that. Take a new, hard look at our market and search for untapped opportunities; find new niches. The market we're serving may seem saturated, but it is filled with plenty of demand for exciting new products, services or technologies.

And finally, while we are innovating and searching for new products and markets, lets realize the fact that China can be much more than just a competitor. I think, its time for us to think of China as a market, an outsourcing option, and a potential partner. Unlike Japan in its early development, China's huge market is relatively open to direct investment. It may be a good idea to think about selling our products or services in the Chinese market while sourcing products for our home market.

Now, I don't want to sound like a brand ambassador of China. Its presence is a real game-changer in business today. And even if trade restrictions get enacted, its currency is allowed to fluctuate, and intellectual property laws are passed, we cant ignore them and move ahead in business. Let me quote Jagdish N Sheth in his fantastic book "Chindia Rising " ( do read this book, its an amazing one ), ' the future is uncertain, but the present day makes clear that, China & India are rising, and much evidence suggests that, this trajectory will continue. "

I think, its time for us to stop looking at China as a competitor and it is a classic case of the ' glass half empty or half full '. We have two options, look at the situation and feel victimized or look at it and be excited about conquering the challenges and opportunities it presents. I prefer to pick the latter. How about you ?

Have a wonderful week ahead.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Can " Thinking Big " Lead to Success ?

Ever since I read David J. Schwartz's " The Magic of Thinking Big ", i wanted to write on this topic. It's one of the best books I have come across which tells us ' how to set our goals high and then to exceed them ', in a nut shell, ' The Power of Thinking Big '.

The question is if Thinking Big accomplishes so much, why doesn't everyone think that way? The answer is simple, all of us, more than we recognize, are in the mid of lot of negative influence every day everywhere. And no wonder, our thinking is small, not big ! All around us is an environment that is trying to tug us, trying to pull us down. It has often been said that ' bigger is not always better '. Some might say it's true when considering the current economic situation, but I feel it is never true when it comes to new ideas or personal dreams where thinking big is always better. We can achieve success only by believing we can succeed.

I have seen several young executives joining for new jobs. Each of them "wishes", someday he will achieve success by reaching the top. But majority of these young people simply don't have the belief that they can reach the top and they don't reach the top. But a small number of these young people really believe they will succeed. They approach their work with the " I am going to the top " attitude, and they reach the top. What differentiate these two sets of people is their attitude.

I read a survey recently on the the power of thinking big. It says Seventy-five percent of respondents whom they approached agreed that they don't think big enough about their work or business, and of those that do have big dreams, 75% of respondents indicated that they lack the follow-through in order to make them happen. Further, over 85% of respondents noted that they don't know where to start or what steps to take to make them happen.

Let me share with you what David J. Schwartz's point of view on ' How to use the Magic of Thinking Big in Life's Most Crucial Situations '. It's for sure that, there is some magic in thinking big. But it's equally true that, we forget it easily. When we hit some rough spots there is a danger that, our thinking will shrink in size. And when it does, we lose! Below are some brief guides for staying big when we are tempted to use the small approach :

1) When People Try to Drive us Down, THINK BIG. Be sure, there are some people who want us to lose, but these people can't hurt us if we refuse to fight petty people. Fighting with them reduces us to their size. Feel sorry for them. Let's Stay Big.

2) When That " We- Haven't- Got -What -It -Takes " Feeling Creeps Up On Us, THINK BIG. Remember, if we think we are weak, we are. If we think we are inadequate, we are. Avoid that natural tendency to see ourselves as small. Iet's feel that, we are important.

3) When an Argument or Quarrel Seems Inevitable, THINK BIG. We need to successfully resist the temptation to argue and quarrel. Think Big Enough to see that quarrels and arguments, will never help us to get where we want to go.

4) When we Feel Defeated, THINK BIG. It is not possible to achieve large success without hardships and setbacks. But it is possible to live the rest of our lives without defeat. Think Big Enough to see that defeat is a state of mind, nothing more.

5) When we Feel Our Progress on the Job is Slowing Down, THINK BIG. No matter what we do and regardless of our occupation, higher status and higher pay comes from one thing: Increasing the quality and quantity of our output. Think, " We can do better ". Nothing in this world is being done as well as it could be. And when we think, " We can do better ", ways to do better will appear.

So friends, let's have big ideas / dreams and say them out loud. Let's visualize ourselves successfully bringing our idea or dream to life. Think, What will we look like? How will we feel? Where we will be? Let's establish goals for how we will go about achieving them and determine what action steps will help us to move forward. And above all, let's select one action step and do it today!

When it comes to thinking big, remember the words of Mother Theresa, "The biggest person with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest person with the smallest mind. Think big anyway." So, what are we waiting for?

Joining you in THINKING BIG,


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Economic Crisis - A Real Fear Factor ?

A good friend of mine after visiting the blog wrote to me yesterday to write something about the present " Economic Crisis ". Well I am not an Economist or Financial Expert to write authentically about Recession or the so called " Economic Crisis ". But let me pen down something which I feel is catching up like an epidemic - The Fear Factor about Economic Crisis !

I think fear is widespread in the current economic climate. At a time when organizations need their employees to be productive, many are reacting like a rabbit in the headlights. Entrepreneurs and Managers are trying their level best to deal with this. While managing their own fears, most of them are worried about their job or business.They fear failure and stop taking decisions thinking they'll make a mistake or a wrong decision which can go against them or business.

Fear can be driven by external forces ("something has happened and I'm fearful of what will happen next") or internal forces, such as limiting beliefs or a sense of inadequacy. Am I capable of doing what needs to be done? What happens if I can't do what's asked of me? Fears of this nature relate to very basic human concerns, such as the desire to be respected and valued by other people. This is a powerful driver that can influence our behavior. I believe the real problem isn't usually the fear itself but the consequences of being fearful. Let's look at the Individual and Organizational consequences of this.

Individual Consequences

Most people are not frightened about what has actually happened. They're fearful of what they imagine might happen. Often they imagine lot of events and as a result, it can disturb their day to day work. As a Business Owner or a Manager, it's perfectly acceptable to feel fear. But we should recognize what it is that we are fearful of and how valid that fear is. I think most of us are not really looking at our business and studying the impact of Economic Crisis on it but just getting worried since we hear and read a lot about it. And the end result of it is procrastination!

To overcome the procrastination that can result from fear, it is important to take some action, to move forward and to get started. Turning our focus away from the fear and on to the action we are going to take, can distract us from our fear and give us a more positive frame of mind.

But I think fear has another side as well. Fear should not always be seen as negative. It acts as a warning sign that we need to be cautious and it can prompt us to think through the consequences of our actions. Fear some times creates an energy. It heightens our focus and our awareness of where we are and what we are doing. The fear of failure often drives people to work hard, to be productive or to seek out new approaches.

Organizational Consequences

Like a genie free from its bottle, once fear is unleashed in a business, it can be hard to put the lid back on it. However, Entrepreneurs and Managers can do much to stop the spread of fear. I have read that, the mood and behavior of the leader drives the mood and behavior of everyone else in the organization. The point is that everyone watches the boss and takes their emotional cues from him/her and the same will have an effect throughout the organization.

So, if our employees perceive that we are paralysed by fear, the likely result will be widespread fear and anxiety as well as stress and procrastination. Because we set the tone of working culture - and our mood is very important - we have a responsibility to manage our own fear and to project confidence, high energy and a positive attitude. To improve the performance of our organization, we have to begin by managing our inner life so that the right emotion and messages are given to our employees.

It's not simply a case of 'smile and the world smiles with us’. We have to be authentic. In other words, our actions have to match our internal feelings. We can't fake this by simply putting on a brave face. If we pretend to be brave but show a fearful or anxious face, people will make it out easily.

Another important point is that our mood should match the situation at hand. If we have fears, acknowledge them. But try to retain an encouraging air of sincerity and optimism. An effective leader is someone who can say:
' Yes, times are tough but what do we need to do to come out of this ?'

As a solution, I think we need to remove ourselves from this current situation for a while, which can help us to give a more objective viewpoint. Step back and examine the facts with neutral eyes.It can also help us to visualize how we can manage our fear and build confidence in our team. Let's not get paralysed by fear and don't blow the consequences out of proportion. Let's try to understand what options our team or the organization has and the risks attached to each of these. We need to gather information, involve others and decide on what we think is the best course of action.

Challenging times bring uncertainty into our lives. We all have to manage our reaction to this and this means moving beyond our fears. Successful organizations will be the ones that have authentic leaders setting the right example for those around them and I am sure, you are one of that authentic leader. Remember, " when the going gets tough, the tough get going ".

Let's " Kill the Fear Crisis " & " Kool down the Economic Crisis " !

Best wishes,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Story of Mumbai Dubbawalas- Corporate Lessons

During the motivation sessions at our Company and my training sessions on " success through excellence ", I tell stories of achievers like Sachin Tendulkar, Narayana Murthy, M.S Dhoni, Dhirubai Ambani, Dr.Abdul Kalam and the response is overwhelming. People tell me how much difference such inspiring stories have made in their lives. They yearn to read about such role models and their stories of success.

Today I want to share with you the story about a 119- year old successful business operation now carried out by 5000 semi-literate people in India. The story of Mumbai Dubbawalas!

The Dabbawalas date back to late 19th century when Bombay's rapidly growing population needed feeding at work. More than a century later Mumbai's middle classes still prefer their chapattis cooked at home supplied at the right time and place by the most indigenous distribution systems in the world.

A Dabbawala is a person whose job is to collect lunch boxes from homes, which are packed in an aluminum container, known locally as 'dabba', which they deliver to customers in their respective offices. Started way back in 1890, today it is a registered Charitable Trust with 5000 Employees, each of them a share holder. The trust, Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Supply Trust has a turnover of nearly 50 crore's. Each dubbawala earns Rs.5000/- to Rs.6000/- per month and what makes them unique is that, they have never gone on strike in the last 119 years!

Every morning the Dabbawala visits each home client, collects the lunch boxes, and then transports them through the suburban rail network. They are then handed over to another group of Dubbawalas assembled at different railway stations. Each container of lunch boxes bears a distinguishing number and is then sorted out, allocated to each pick-up man for the onward journey, and handed out to the rightful owners.

These lunch boxes are delivered exactly at 12.30 PM on every working day without fail, despite hurdles during the monsoon season or a strike announcement made by a political party. Again, in the evening the empty container's are collected from offices and delivered back to homes before 5.00 PM for another round of journey the next day morning. On an average, every tiffin box changes hands four times and travels 60-70 kilometers in its journey to reach its eventual destination!

Can you believe that, more than 200,000 lunch boxes are transported to and fro every day ( i.e, 400,000 transactions every day ) by a dabbawala force of about 5000 people. What's stunning is the fact that in this delivery of 200,000 lunch boxes everyday, there is only one mistake in every 16 million deliveries which makes a Six Sigma performance of 99.9999!

I guess in today's globalization that boasts of modern transport system, this unique human feat of delivering lunch boxes, using a non-polluting and cost-effective primitive mode of transport like bicycles and pullers of wooden carts, is unparalleled anywhere in the world.

The Dabbawalas are semi-literate, but their efficient delivery and time management skills would shame our professionally managed corporates. The American business magazine 'Forbes' has given a six-sigma performance rating to them. The dabbawalas were also featured in a 'BBC' documentary, 'Ripley's Believe it or not' and mentioned in the 'Guinness World Records'. The Harvard and IIM students have been learning about them in case studies.

The Dabbawalas achieved worldwide fame when Prince Charles, during one of his visits to Mumbai, paid a special visit to them and had shown keen interest in how they worked. He was so impressed with them that later, during his wedding, he extended an invitation to these Dabbawalas!

The Dabbawala story is an inspiring success story and demonstrates that simple ideas, when executed with discipline and dedication, can bring amazing results at the base of the pyramid. I believe, "Mumbai's Dabbawala's are providing lessons to Corporate India on Leadership, Honesty & Integrity, Team Work , Supply Chain Management and Time Management. And above all it is a classic example of how sustained success can lead to fame.

I keep thinking, is it not strange that though the Mumbai Dubbawalas have been operating since 1890 and it is only recently that we have noticed them? Where ever and whenever I have told this story, it has aroused tremendous interest. The general pattern of the listener was to see the applicability of this model to individual and company situations.

Friends it's time for us to look around and discover many noble souls like the Mumbai Dubbawalas. These souls may not have received the limelight yet, but continue to carry out their work quietly. If we develop a keen eye to notice positives, we can achieve success in every endeavor. So, let's begin fishing for goodness - starting today. If we apply our mind to this, I am sure we will be able to gain much more than what we could. Do share your experiences with me on reading about Mumbai Dubbawalas.

Good Day!


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Can We Motivate Employees through Recognition?

Through out my career, I was reminded of how important recognition is in the workplace and in life. We want recognition, we thrive on it and it makes us feel good. Yet most of us do not give or receive enough of it.

I have talked to many of my friends on this topic who are employers or employees at various levels in different industries and most of them said one of the most important things employees wanted is recognition. They want to be appreciated, applauded and recognized for the contributions they make in the company. Yet sadly recognition is something most employees feel they don't receive - at least not often enough.

Employee recognition is not just a nice thing to do for people. Employee recognition is a communication tool that reinforces and rewards the most important outcomes people create for business. As leaders we know that the secret to success is being able to draw out and encourage employees to be their best. Recognizing the strengths and contributions of those around us and taking the time to let them know how important they are is critical to organizational success. Human beings live and grow with praise.

Most employees say that they would love more money but what they want most is to be appreciated and recognized. Yet it is not happening in the workplace. Why are we hesitant to give recognition? Why do we keep the positive things to ourselves? Why do we believe recognition is someone else's job? The answer is very interesting, with my experience, I have understood, the following things prevent our Leaders to recognize their Employees.

1) It's scary. Giving recognition and praise is risky.

2) Employees might get a big head and stop working so hard. The opposite is actually true - employees will work harder when they know they are appreciated.

3) We don't have time. I know we are all busy but that's no excuse - we must make the time.

4) We don't know how to do it. There are thousands of resources available. Google "employee recognition" and we will find lots of information to help us recognize the people we work with.

5) It's not our job. Recognition is management's job. While I agree management needs to recognize their employees but we all can make a difference by recognizing and letting our coworkers know how much we appreciate them. Recognition is everyone's job!

6) We are not good with people. But we can learn - we all can. Attend a seminar, read a book and practice.

7) They will come to expect praise if we give it too often. I do believe we can praise too often if we always keep it real. Fake praise or recognition will never work.

8) We don't see anything to recognize. Watch, listen and ask questions. The best way to recognize others is to be a good observer. All employees have some merits for which they can be recognized for.

9) It's hard. Yes it can be hard and it takes time. Yet the rewards will outweigh whatever time and effort it takes.

10) We should get it first. The best way to begin the cycle of recognition is to be the one to give it. Recognition is contagious - and it may just come back to us!

Recognition takes time and commitment. Recognition is a life long journey both in our professional and personal lives. The better we are at recognizing others - the more excellence we'll have in business and in life.

As our day goes by, let's watch and listen for ways to recognize our fellow employees & friends. Look for ways we can applaud, appreciate or affirm them. Take the job of recognition seriously and go make someone's day. Sometimes a simple ' thank you ' is just the encouragement someone needs. And at other times its just a 'smile'. Whatever it is - let's do something to recognize someone today.

Let me conclude with a smile !

Cheers !

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Three Corporate Time Traps

"Be wise in the use of time. The question in life is not "how much time do we have?” The question is "what shall we do with it?" - Anna Robertson Brown.

I always love to be on time, whether it's an appointment or a meeting. Recently a friend of mine asked me an interesting question, " Can we manage time? ". My answer was simple, " No, we can't manage time, but we can manage ourselves ". The 86,400 seconds in a day may sound like a lot, but they go fast. No matter how quickly time seems to fly for us, even the most skilled time manager's hours, minutes, and seconds tick by at exactly the same rate.

The questions is, Why do some people manage their time so effortlessly, while others are always behind? How can we stay on top of dead-lines when obstacles crop up right and left?

I believe, skillful management of our time is not superficial but fundamental. Instead of aimlessly allowing external events and pressures control us, it's time for us to make deliberate choices about our use of time.

Let me share an interesting topic today from the corporate perspective.

The Telephone, Computers & Internet were supposed to make life easier; instead, all of us are busier than ever. We conduct meetings at office for better planning & implementation of things but now a days we are always busy with meetings. I fear, we all got into three major corporate time traps - E-mail Distractions, Phone Interruptions & Poorly Run Meetings!

Can we avoid, E-mail distractions, Manage our Telephone calls & Meetings ? I am sure this can save us lot of time to do things we love at work & home. Here are some tips for creating a little more time in your life each day:

1) Avoiding E-mail Distractions

> Delete junk E-mails right away

> Don't read every E-mail right away. Read the ones which needs immediate action

> Designate a specific time of the day to read E-mails

> Respond to E-mails promptly

> Don't let E-mails accumulate & clutter

2) Managing Telephone Calls

> Plan your telephone strategy in advance

> Don't answer the telephone until you're ready to

> Return the telephone calls at a pre-designated time of the day

> Ask callers politely to get to the point

> Write out your talking points before you call

3) Managing Meetings

> Don't call a meeting unless you have a good idea of what you want to achieve

> Consider carefully who should be invited to the meeting

> Cancel the meeting if key decision makers can't be present

> Don't plan the agenda at the beginning of meeting; prepare & distribute it in advance so people arrive


> Start the meetings on time

> Don't wait for latecomers to begin the meeting

> Do keep a track of time and ensure all items in the agenda are discussed

> Do end the meeting on time

" Time is the substance of our lives," writes Alexandra Stoddard in her book, Time Alive. She explains that, we don't create time in our lives but instead " create our lives in time." It goes with out saying, managing our time will positively affect our daily output, our career, financial goals, and, ultimately, our success.

Time to manage our time, sorry manage ourselves!

Have a great week ahead.

With best regards,


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Can We Develop Learning Skills?

I'd always wanted to speak to students at the college level so when ever an opportunity came along I jumped at it. And then I got little nervous. I have addressed several other audience, but students are different. I questioned myself. "Would I be a good Speaker at College?" "Did I know enough to teach them?" "Would I be able to connect with the students?" "Could I encourage them to learn?" It was a little overwhelming but I was up for a challenge.

Last week I had spend more than an hour with the M.B.A students of ICFAI National College. Now that I had finished talking to them - I'm no longer nervous. In fact I loved it. I love to be with the students. More than that, I love the learning environment. And I'm excited about learning again.

Off late, I've been trying to be a good reader and learner. But this class has reignited my desire to learn in a new way. I realized one thing while preparing to speak to them, the challenge is not teaching the concepts but the real life application of it. I don't want them to be just book worms - I want them to leave my class knowing how marketing works in the real world. I want them to learn and develop excellent learning skills. I realized, in order to teach them any of these things, I must be willing to learn along with them.

One thing I realize is that there is so much I do not know and I need to develop my learning skills which is a life long process. This made me to think, how can I develop Excellent Learning Skills and let me share those thoughts with you.

Tips for Developing Learning Skills:

1)Be willing to admit we don't know the answer

2)Ask questions, be curious

3)Stop trying to act as if we know it all - we don't

4)Make it a point to learn something new every day

5)Attend events, meet people and read things we would not ordinarily participate in

6)Keep an open mind

7)Keep it simple - academia and the use of jargon does not impress people

8)Teach others - we learn the most when we have to teach

9)Take a class

10)And most importantly - have fun with learning

"Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence." - Abigail Adams

Let's make a commitment to learn something new today.
Learning along with you, Shamim

Friday, February 6, 2009

Happy New Year with 12 themes for 2009 !

In December or early January, almost everyone is minted up by the desire to plan a wonderful New Year! We eagerly make New Year's Resolutions and set our biggest goals ever!
It's a perfect time to reflect on the changes we want to or need to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. Resolutions if carried out successfully not only act as short-term goals to success but also help in improving life and overcoming those habits, which we ourselves do not like. New Year's Resolutions offer the first of many important tools for remaking ourselves.
When we review last year, We focus on what worked and what didn't. We spend time applauding ourselves for accomplishments achieved and looking for ways to improve the stuff that didn't work. In addition to setting our goals for the year, let me suggest you with "12 Themes for 2009".

12 themes for the year 2009

1) Make a difference : I want to make a difference in the lives of others this year both with my work and in my personal life.

2) Integrity : I ask myself the question, "Will this keep me awake in the middle of the night?"

3) Give : The more I am willing to give of myself - the more fully I experience life

4) Encourage : When I listen and pay attention, I find opportunities to encourage others every day!

5) Laugh : I need to lighten up and make an effort to laugh more this year.

6) Smile : when I am smiling, I can't be angry, stressed or negative. This year I will smile more!

7) Learn : This year I am making an extra effort to learn a few new skills.

8) Be authentic : Authenticity means I am comfortable being myself no matter where I am or who I am with.

9) Dream : I want to continue to dream big dreams and take the risk of acting on them.

10) Believe : I want to believe in my dreams, in others and in the good that exists in the world. Being negative and doubtful wastes time and energy.

11) Adventure : Adventure is a state of mind - and spirit

12) Grow : I never want to quit growing. I want to continually improve who I am and the impact I make in the world.

May 2009 be your best year yet!

With best wishes

Developing Excellent Focus - How to Overcome Our Fear

"Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear." Anthony Robbins
It seems to me that right now people are consumed with FEAR. It's everywhere we go. People are afraid of the economy, afraid for their jobs, business, afraid for our country - FEAR seems to be the language of the day. Yet when we let fear in we push out peace, creativity and JOY! Fear will rob us of productivity, opportunity and relationship. Fear makes our world small and blinds us to solutions.

There has never been a better time to get out of our own way and get rid of FEAR. It is possible. We can choose to FOCUS on where we want to go instead of where we may go. Often fear is tied up in letting our minds consider all the negative outcomes that could happen. The key word is could - most of the time our fears never materialize. But when we focus on what could happen we get off course. We can choose to make a commitment to change our focus. To focus on where we want to go, where we are inspired to go.

Some ways I feel we can overcome our fears could be:

>Taking a small risk everyday. By practicing taking risks we learn that they are not so scary and that our fears usually never materialize.

>Change our language. Instead of saying, "I am afraid I may lose my job or business." Try saying, "I will focus on being the best in my field and even if I lose my job or business, I will find a place to apply my skills." All language can be turned into something that focuses us towards our future and our dreams.

>Read something inspiring ever day. Biographies, success stories or other inspirational material can help us keep on track.

>Limit our "whine sessions" to 10 to 15 minutes. We all need to vent or take a few moments to "whine" but we need to limit this. Give ourselves permission but then move on - whining will do us no good in the long run :)

>Make a list of the worst possible outcomes around the things we fear. For example, if we lose our job or business, one of the worst possible thing would be that we would end up losing our home. When we look at the worst thing that could happen, we then decide that we won't die if it happens and that more than likely it will not get to that. By accepting the worst and reassuring ourselves we will be okay - we do not need to fear.

>Focus on our priorities. Our family is the MOST important thing in our life. We could lose our home, our job or business or our money but at the end of the day what matters most is the people we love. Focusing on our priorities helps us to put things into perspective.

Focus on where we want to go - let go of our fears and live our life to the fullest today!

Have a great day !

With best regards