Friday, August 27, 2010

The Little Squirrel from 'Ramayana' - A Dream Employee for Entrepreneurs!

A friend of mine in business recently told me," I have got several employees who have got long standing in my company but they have no ownership and accountability for what they do. How do I make them accountable & take ownership on what ever they do? "

Sounds familiar? His complaint or question is not unique rather a universal problem which every entrepreneur and manager face on a day to day basis - Lack of Ownership & Accountability among Employees!

Before we discuss more on this, let me share with you a small story from the great epic 'Ramayana' which always inspires me. The story is about a little squirrel’s contribution to the construction of the mighty bridge to Lanka. In order to reach Lanka when Hanuman’s vaanar sena was busy building the bridge, a squirrel was seen doing something funny: rolling herself in the sand and then shaking off her body to deposit sand particles amongst rocks brought by the monkeys. When asked, she said, “I am making my own small contribution to build the bridge for ending the injustice against Sita.” The monkeys roared in mocking laughter: “We have never heard anything so foolish.”

Listening to this, Lord Rama remarked, “Blessed be the little squirrel. She is doing her work to the best of her ability. Therefore, she is quite as great as the greatest of you. Never despise those that are not as strong as you. What truly matters is not the strength one has, but the love and devotion with which one works.” Then he gently stroked the squirrel on the back, and it is believed that the marks of Rama’s three fingers are still seen on the squirrel’s back.

I am sure, many of us wish to have an employee like the little squirrel. Dedicated and motivated, ready to do anything, stretch to any level to contribute the best. We know, when we motivate our workforce to create a sense of ownership and accountability for desired results, the job of getting results gets easier. But we should also understand for our people to get desired results, it is imperative that the leader attempt to create an environment in which employees have a sense of ownership in activities he or she is engaged.

The easiest answer we can say is, use motivation as a tool to create ownership and accountability. But to me, motivation is not simply a means to get people to pursue organizational goals; rather, it is a means to get people to buy in and take ownership of the organization's needs as well as their own. It drives to two areas, (1) things to increase ownership of performance and (2) things to create accountability for results.

Let's zoom into it and understand what are we supposed to do to create ownership & accountability among employees :

Things to Increase Ownership of Performance:

1) Develop a personal connection with each employee so that we know and understand that employee's strengths and weaknesses. We can encourage ownership by developing trust and maintaining a positive attitude with the employees.
2) Clarify each employee's responsibility through effective delegation so that they all know what challenges they must meet and what work they must take ownership of.
3) Ensure that people are properly trained and equipped to perform their work so they will feel prepared to succeed. Make it clear that we want all our people to be successful.
4) Make sure that employees are empowered with the authority and information they need to make decisions that affect their performance.
5) Involve employees in key practices that affect them-such as goal-setting, planning, and implementing change-so that they take ownership of decisions that affect them.
6) Always listen to employees, and when problems emerge, encourage participation, new ideas, and ownership of solutions.
7) Practice "open-book management" with employees in terms of sharing organizational goals, plans, and performance feed back. In this way, our people see the bigger picture.
8) Develop linkage between desired performance and rewards and incentives to demonstrate to people that there are good reasons to take ownership of their performance.
9) Allow people an opportunity to grow and develop new skills and talents. Dong so causes people to be more committed to both the job and the organization.
10) Celebrate success because people want to be part of a winning enterprise and because feeling successful makes it easier for people to come to work. Recognition for strong performance increases the desire for more good performance

Things to Create Accountability for Results:

1) When responsibilities and goals have been clarified, always establish standards of performance that should be challenging yet realistic enough to encourage people to hit the mark.
2) Provide balanced, ongoing performance feedback for our people so that they know and have no doubt about how well they are performing.
3) Provide ongoing coaching for our people on how to improve their performance and be very specific in doing so.
4) Use the formal appraisal process as a strategic planning activity to review performance, identify ways to improve, and recognize and reinforce desired levels of performance.
5) Deal with non performers who are damaging group performance and morale by either implementing a corrective action program or setting the stage for the person's departure from the organization. To not do so is to send all the wrong messages to non performers and performers alike.

I hope these tips will help you to create a workplace that brings out the best in your people, while at the same time increasing their ownership and creating accountability which will result in developing effective systems and processes that improve performance. All we need to do is to give a gentle stroke on the back of our employees like Lord Rama did to the little squirrel and remember his motivational words as well.

Fill your Organization with such little dedicated squirrels and sky rocket your results.

Good Luck.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Want To Be A Chicken Or An Eagle?

I always felt our thinking plays such a huge role in how we operate on a daily basis but seldom do we realize it. There are many people who will never experience the joy of success, all because they have already decided that, success is going to be too hard for them and that it is only there for a few lucky people.

Once after my training session got over, a participant came over and said, " I will never be able to speak like you". You know, he is exactly right! He never will. Not because I am any better or smarter than he is. But because he has already made up his mind. His thinking controls his actions, which in turn will control his outcomes. His mindset has determined his end result.

To make things clear, let me share with you a simple but powerful story. Once upon a time, there was a large mountainside, where an eagle's nest rested. The eagle's nest contained four large eagle eggs. One day an earthquake rocked the mountain causing one of the eggs to roll down the mountain, to a chicken farm, located in the valley below. The chickens knew that they must protect and care for the eagle's egg, so an old hen volunteered to nurture and raise the large egg.

One day, the egg hatched and a beautiful eagle was born. Sadly, however, the eagle was raised to be a chicken. Soon, the eagle believed he was nothing more than a chicken. The eagle loved his home and family, but his spirit cried out for more. While playing a game on the farm one day, the eagle looked to the skies above and noticed a group of mighty eagles soaring in the skies. "Oh," the eagle cried, "I wish I could soar like those birds." The chickens roared with laughter, "You cannot soar with those birds. You are a chicken and chickens do not soar."

The eagle continued staring, at his real family up above, dreaming that he could be with them. Each time the eagle would let his dreams be known, he was told it couldn't be done. That is what the eagle learned to believe. The eagle, after some time, stopped dreaming and continued to live his life like a chicken. Finally, after a long life as a chicken, the eagle passed away.

The moral of the story is very simple, we become what we believe we are. For this, we need to be aware of who we are, what we are capable of doing, rather, define our identity which will keep us focused as we set our priorities, organize tasks, deal with emergencies, and accomplish challenges in our personal and business lives.

How can we make ourselves realize that, we are not just chickens but we are eagles both in our personal and professional lives? Let me share with you some simple tips :

1) Believe in ourselves : Allow only positive thoughts to dominate our thinking such as, I am worthy, I like myself, I am strong & self secure, I can handle what comes my way & I know the future holds opportunities for me.
2) Overcome fear : Fear creates stress, panic and anxiety. Fear defeats our plans and goals. Over come it by building self-confidence. Identify our fears then take action. Once we start to do something, our fears will disappear.
3) Build on failures and mistakes : Socrates once remarked that there is more risk in buying knowledge than buying food. He is correct. If we purchase spoiled meat, we throw it out, not allowing it to harm our body. But ideas imprinted on the mind are not so easily dislodged. Once we learn from our failures and mistakes, they should be discarded like spoiled food.
4) Welcome challenges : Challenges are opportunities to break out of the routine of our job and expand our skills. Challenges can be spring boards to professional growth if they are welcomed as opportunities rather than tolerated as nuisances.
5) Take pride in achievements: As we progress in life, it is important to take pride in our achievements. Though we cannot overlook the problems of tomorrow, we should not forget to celebrate the successes of today.
6) Visualize success : As clearly and vividly as we can, we should visualize the rewards of our success in our mind. Make it such a good picture that we'll do almost anything to be part of it.
7) Be flexible : Sometimes, lack of self-motivation is because of failure to adapt or change. The solution to this may be flexibility- a willingness to adapt goals so they more nearly fit our values and skills.
8) Start now : Get in motion as soon as possible, and as our momentum builds, so will our motivation.

I believe, in life, what we focus on is all that we will see and gain. If we believe we cannot, we never will. It's time to unleash the potential inside us, realize who we are, what we are capable of. We can choose to live as a chicken who will always look up and envy the mighty eagle or we can be an eagle and enjoy the thrill of soaring in the sky.

Time to decide, Chicken or Eagle - choice is all yours!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Opportunities in Life- The Touch Stone!

I got the the seed for this article when I read a quote by Disraeli, who said, “the secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” But most of the time, we always wait for the right time before they begin. But the right time never comes! It's because opportunity has always been with us. But we are not ready for it. Let me share with you this small but interesting story on opportunity which I had read recently.

When the great library of Alexandria burned, the story goes, one book was saved. But it was not a valuable book; and so a poor man, who could read a little, bought it for a few coppers.

The book wasn't very interesting, but between its pages there was something very interesting indeed. It was a thin strip of vellum on which was written the secret of the "Touchstone"!

The touchstone was a small pebble that could turn any common metal into pure gold. The writing explained that it was lying among thousands and thousands of other pebbles that looked exactly like it. But the secret was this: The real stone would feel warm, while ordinary pebbles are cold.

So the man sold his few belongings, bought some simple supplies, camped on the seashore, and began testing pebbles. He knew that if he picked up ordinary pebbles and threw them down again because they were cold, he might pick up the same pebble hundreds of times. So, when he felt one that was cold, he threw it into the sea. He spent a whole day doing this but none of them was the touchstone. Yet he went on and on this way. Pick up a pebble. Cold - throw it into the sea. Pick up another. Throw it into the sea.

The days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months. One day, however, about mid afternoon, he picked up a pebble and it was warm. He threw it into the sea before he realized what he had done. He had formed such a strong habit of throwing each pebble into the sea that when the one he wanted came along, he still threw it away.

So it is with opportunity. Unless we are vigilant, it's easy to fail to recognize an opportunity when it is in hand and it's just as easy to throw it away. The problem is we never know when the door of opportunity is going to open wide. For some, the big break comes early in life and for others later on. But for all of those who become successful, there is one key similarity: They were ready. And for every one of those who were ready, there were thousands more who weren't. So, the principle for us is: Be ready!

All we need is to adore and praise the opportunities in life. These opportunities lay foundation to the success of our life and destiny. Every other day, new opportunities will keep on knocking the door and we need to use it for our personal and professional development. All of us face crisis and disappointments in life and In the midst of crisis, we often find us deprived of guidance and support. The fact is, in such adversities, one has to stay focused and extremely dedicated towards hard work, then automatically the door of opportunity swings open. These adversities maybe looked upon as a break or an opportunity, to use all these obstacles, as a stepping stone towards achievement. It all depends upon how we choose to face it.

We need to cultivate a continual sense of adventure to take advantage of opportunities. As we know, winners make the best of opportunities while victims whine on counting their numbers. Our growth and development enables us to understand the ways through opportunities and chances creep into our life and we neglect it or ignore it by considering it as a mere or ordinary situation of life. We need to identify such prospects at right time which is necessary to bring accomplishment in life, as it is not an one-time process but an ongoing practice through out our existence. Each time a new probability must be embraced with much more passion and enthusiasm.

Our focus must be to create new ways to increase independence and opportunity improvement, for further actions in life. We all are possessed with broad range of skills and abilities and a hidden inner power to excel in preferred field. All we need is to realize our potential and back it with a strong background of experience and sensitivity to the problems we face in performance. We need to understand that, the opportunities count blessings instead of tribulations; it’s a force for bringing meaningful change in healthy magnitude. If we utilize it in proper manner it acts as a reason of mental peace, tranquility and harmony in life.

Our door will open someday like it opens for everyone. It may only open once or it may open many times. It may be different for everyone and life just isn't fair that way. But the truth is everybody gets a shot. Question is will we be ready? Once that huge door of opportunity opens up, will we be able to walk boldly through it? All we need to do is, list the things that we must do to ready ourselves when opportunities come. Then prepare them. When we are ready, we can recognize and seize every opportunity, and every opportunity will seize us.

Let's do everything we can to grab it. Let's not just sit and wish and dream. Let's be proactive and make sure that we are the most qualified when the door opens and make sure that we are the hardest worker. All we need is to make sure we are the closest to the door! When it opens – Be Ready!

Ssshhh....... Do you hear that sound? Hinges creaking! It is the sound of the door opening. Our door of opportunity - The touch stone! I am ready, how about you?