March 31, 2010

A Leader and A Problem-Guest Article by Upasika Maithreya

"All organizations do change when put under sufficient pressure. This pressure must be either external to the organization or the result of very strong leadership."

Bruce Henderson, CEO, Boston Consulting Group, Inc, Henderson on Corporate Strategy (Abit, 1979)

It is only ‘change that is constant in this world which is continually evolving. Every minute a new technology is born making an older one obsolete. Every minute a child is born adding to the list of customers that have to be served. Every minute resources are running short, making it more challenging to deliver results.

The only way organisations can cope with change is by having strong leadership, a functional structure and efficient communication, that will act as shock absorbers to the rapid changes that confront the organisation.

A good leader inspires the work force; the kind of leader who makes you want to return to your work-station every morning; the kind of leader who makes you feel that you have a professional responsibility to serve the organisation that you represent.

Jack Welch once said: “The core competency of GE is the development of its people. Great people make great things happen and involving all of them is really the answer. People at any level should feel that they can reach their dreams.”

The role of a leader is to develop his people emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Some might feel that this is crossing the line of rational expectations. But one must remember that just like the car cannot operate without the clutch, accelerator and brake, the human being is ineffective without the right emotions, intellect & spiritual development.

He must be like the eagle which soars above its young, teaching them to soar to greater heights. He must be the kite-seller who flies his colorful kites in the sky, but keeps them firmly in his hold so that they do not break loose. He carefully guides the kites and keeps them away from any danger.

The leader has to first understand the individual who is like a multi-layered lotus. Every employee brings with him / her skills and talents. While these are important to the organisation these are only the external & visible aspects of the person. Deep within the individual lie many emotions, dreams, aspirations and potential. The leader must spend quality time with his people and understand them better.

A leader needs to partner with his employees & treat them with respect, dignity and value. Each individual has his role to play. The last batsman may lead the team to victory.

The best way to motivate employees is by example. Nothing motivates subordinates more than an honest, sincere and hard-working boss. There is a belief that the carrot motivates, while the stick lowers morale. The leader needs to be the first to accept the stick and the last to accept the carrot in his team.

The last part of the journey is to involve employees in decisions concerning them. A leader who discusses issues at a coffee table and invites solutions is likely to be more successful.

Man never enjoys all that comes easily to him. The fruits of labour are always savoured more when compared to rewards served on a platter. Success can only be rewarded with higher responsibility.

Lastly, the treasures buried in every man’s mind are lost forever if not shared with the world. The leader must always encourage knowledge & experience sharing.

With all these ideal ingredients in place the problem disappears, as People Rewarded Only on Better performance are never Lazy and are Ever Motivated. Such a leader creates a proactive work force that plans in advance and accepts challenges with enthusiasm. Such a leader is a transformational leader.





March 28, 2010

In conversation with Nithya Shanti

Nithya Shanti holds a Post Graduate degree in Human Resources from the prestigious XLRI and has worked in the field of Human Resources and Corporate Strategy. But what's really fascinating about him is that he is a former Buddhist Monk who underwent rigorous training living with meditation masters in remote forests across South East Asia for 6 years. At a certain stage in his practice he felt guided to shift his emphasis from secluded sadhana to engaged spirituality. With the blessings of his teachers he stepped out of the monk role so he could share the timeless principles he had learnt in a modern context. Please visit his website.

His essential teaching is 'Be loving...'

I was genuinely inquisitive to have a chat with him since the first time I heard about him. Yesterday, he replied to a few questions I had asked him online.

Saikat: What attracted you towards spirituality?
Nithya Shanti: I was attracted by the peace and joy I saw in the people who meditated regularly. They were so patient and wise and caring and great fun to be with. I also wanted to be like them. This is what attracted me to spirituality.

Saikat: What is your opinion on Spiritual Quotient'? Is it underrated at workplace?
Nithya Shanti: I have heard of Dannah Zohar's concept of SQ. But I do not know too much about it. So I will not comment on this.

:How were your learning from XLRI different from the learning you received as a Buddhist Monk?
Nithya Shanti: One was focused toward being a good manager. The other was toward being truly happy and at peace. One was focused on the intellect. The other on cultivating the body, mind and heart. One was outer education. One was inner knowing. One came from learned professors. The other came from wise spiritual masters. One embraced worldly values. The other transcended worldly values. The horizon on one was this life time. the horizon of the other was many life times. One was concerned with getting a good job. The other was concerned with doing a good job. There are so many differences...I could go on for a long time :)

Saikat: How easy/difficult was the transition from a MBA graduate to a Buddhist monk?
Nithya Shanti: It was not really difficult. I really wanted to be a monk. So it was a dream come true. I loved it all and embraced the challenges with enthusiasm. Probably the most difficult part was learning to walk barefeet to the village and back each morning to get our food. But my feet got used to that in a few weeks.

Saikat: What is your advice to budding HR professionals?
Nithya Shanti
: Remember that HR stands for helping Human's Return to Source. It's not about manipulating people to attain organization objectives. Its about helping people discover their genius and find purpose. Remember that a 'job' is a chore you do so you can pay your bills. A 'career' is motivated by money, prestige and advancement. And a 'calling' is work done as an end in and of itself. Help people discover their calling.

Saikat: Tell us more about your vision?
Nithya Shanti: My vision is to spread happiness in spontaneously creative ways for the rest of my life.

Saikat: Your thoughts on the pursuit of happiness?
Nithya Shanti: Don't pursue happiness, don't gather happiness. That will never work. Stop seeking and start spreading. Start in your own small little ways. Choose to "Be happy!"

Interviewing him was a true pleasure as he readily agreed for the interview and responded to my questions within a few hours. He can be reached at Facebook, Linkedin and even Twitter :-)

March 19, 2010

Life lessons from an artist

Hi buddies!!!

I am back!!! If you are also a blogger then you would appreciate the fact that we do reach a saturation point...or ateast we feel so...I did feel that way for the past few days...And that's why I had this brief hiatus..

And while I was complaining about this to my best friend...she reminded me of a video in TED website that I had shared with her few weeks back...

The video
is titled as 'Five lives of an artist'. This video extols refreshingly unpretentious and honest vibes from the speaker Raghava KK. Now before you read the post any further please watch this brilliant video if you haven't till now.

Now that I presume you have watched the video, let me share a few observations that have inspired me to write this post:

  • Innocence is a delightful trait but it must often be coupled with courage and a strong belief to strike the perfect symphony in life. KK Ragahava received a punishment in school that detached him from his passion of cartooning for long as a kid but he got back to pursue the passion by using a simple logic of making his principal happy :-) . Passion for art along with basic sensitivity towards relationship building helped him to continue his passion.

  • Whenever you follow your heart, do it with a full stride- His decision of dropping out of school was very critical especially from an Indian context. Yet he lived up to his promise of being disciplined, curious, learn [being a learner], hardworking, self sustaining. I am sure that he has achieved this humongous amount of success and happiness in his profession because he passionately imbibed those values since the time he first promised his father.

  • Collaboration is necessary- One aspect about his speech I loved the most was the way in which he appreciated and valued each and every collaboration he made throughout his journey. I simply admired the way he valued the contribution of his mother :-), wife :-), father :-) and especially the children :-). When was the last time we learned a few lessons from a kid we know??? He indeed learned a lot from the kids. How to be more happy??... How to take ruthless criticism from kids in the right spirit??? How to be much more cooler;-) ??? Well!!! Lets keep our adult ego aside and learn a few life lessons from the kids around :-)

  • Ownership: The cartoon related to 9/11 incident left him without a job. It was probably an innocent effort from his side but it required a little more sensitivity from him. Sometimes we get driven by our passion to such an extent that we forget a few important elements of our life. Hence, ownership is a lesson which can be learned from the video.

  • This shall pass too: He went through a very dark phase in his life when his mother fell ill and his customers were not able to appreciate the honesty in his paintings. His friends left him. Yet, in this video he passionately talks about colours, his success, his family and so much more. So life can offer a few darker shades but if we are a great painter from within then we can surely add beautiful colours to our life.

  • Passion with compassion: I felt inspired in the way he created job opportunies for the billboard painters and learned the art of painting from them. That not only requires compassion but also humility.

  • If you believe you can then you can: One of his deepest desire was to see his paintings dance. He believed in the dream and he achieved it by painting his dancers :-)

  • Do that special act for the special person: I am sure what touched you the most in the video was the story of the small kid who died of cancer and how he touched her few last days with happiness...hope...and COLOURS...

After watching that video, I felt like becoming a painter. I am not sure if I will be able to be great with paper and colours but I strongly feel that if we truly want then we can infuse a but of art in our profession and daily life.

Being a painter is awesome but what's even better is believing and living like a painter. Thats something we all can do.

Keep adding colours to life :-)

March 8, 2010

Collaborative Leadership style for Gen Y

Generation Y [Born 1977 -1989] can not be ignored. They are going to dominate[They are already doing so in many industries currently] the workplace in near future not only in terms of humongous numbers but also would be taking up key managerial and leadership roles.

Hence, it becomes very important to understand how they are different from Gen X.

A particular research done by Nike has interesting findings.

Since the characteristics of Gen Y are extremely different from Gen X, there is a need for fundamental shift from existing leadership style to a new age form of collaborative leadership style.

A typical collaborative leadership style would have the following characteristics:

  • They will respect the characteristics of Gen Y if not be appreciative of them
  • They have to be non hierarchical and embrace flat structures.
  • There will be a transition from communication to conversation where social media tools in the internet would become more important than ever. The leaders have to leverage that.
  • Proactively respond to the expectations of the Gen Y in terms of career development and rewards.
  • Make the Gen Y associates inclusive of decision making process across all levels. This would include decisions that would impact the external as well as internal customers.
  • Building informal relationships that would nurture even professional development of his associates would become his focus area.
  • The leader has to make a transition from implementing rules to implementing guidelines where the Gen Y associates will have the broad guidelines to refer to and at the same time have the autonomy to use their creativity.
  • The leader has to be more trustworthy than ever to earn the respect of Gen Y.
  • The leader has to often make the associates aware of how their efforts are helping the organization to transform.
  • The leader must have an appealing sense of humour.
  • He must foster goodness and righteousness in the organization as the Gen Y would have zero level tolerance towards injustice
  • The leader must be highly execution oriented.
  • Feedback must be given immediately and in a constructive manner at a professional level.
  • Constant follow ups by the leader would be highly uncalled for. Hence, the associate’s performance expectation must be communicated to him in a clear and well defined manner before the task or assignment is initiated by him.
  • The leader has to embrace technology and use it as a lever in engaging his associates.
  • The leader must have the humility to constantly learn from his associates. In other words he should not shy away from being the follower of his associates.

This change in leadership style has to happen rapidly. The pace at which such a transition in leadership style takes place would become very critical in deciding how well the Gen Y generation would be lead, managed and engaged.

March 6, 2010

Times Ascent HR Forum- The Change Manager

The theme of the Times Ascent HR Forum held in SRM University campus, Chennai on 6.3.2010 was much beyond 'The Change Manager'.

Let me share a few learning from the event like I always do :-)

  • Mr Santhanam , Managing Director, Saint-Gobain India during his key note address spoke on the importance of nurturing the right company culture. He told us how HR competencies should be classified into 4 categories like Functional Technical competencies, Generic Behavioral competencies, Generic Technical competencies & Functional Behavioral competencies. I believe this kind of classification can make the HR professionals all the more objective about which competencies they should be evaluated upon and improved to become next generation HR professionals.

  • Swami Sukhabodhananda made a very captivating speech on how a person's past failures messes up with his present which creates mistrust for future. He spoke on the importance of having creative solutions to problems. Problems would emerge from every corner of our life. Each and every choices in our lives would have it's set of exclusive problems but the way we respond to such problems rather than reacting to them would really make the difference to our well being. He said that in order to perform at our best potential, we should be at the peak of our health, must be relaxed and happy :-) He focussed on holistic success of an individual based on personal, social, work, spiritual and family dimensions. He encouraged everyone to work out of happiness and joy rather than work for happiness and joy. One other interesting point he made was by saying that one should operate in a goodness driven manner and not ego driven manner. He concluded his speech by saying that one should add life to one's years and not years to one's life :-)

  • Mr Adil Malia, Group President, HR, Essar Group focussed on the importance of building organisational capability to respond to change. He said how it's important to never compromise on value integration during M&A process. However, complete cultural integration might not be possible and it's important in such a context to mutually appreciate each other's culture. He delivered a beautiful and inspiring Urdu poem "soch ko badlo..sitare badal jayenge...nazar ko badlo...nazare badal jayenge...kashtiya badalne ki zaroorat nahi...dishaon ko badlo...kinare badal jayenge..."

  • Mr Ramachandran, Sr Director, HR- Motorola India used a very interesting analogy for change through the way carrot, egg and coffe beans react differently to boiling water. He also spoke about how changer management is more about bringing an emotional change rather than rational change. Also he focussed on long term orientation towards change rather than short term.

  • Mr Ravishankar B , Sr VP - HR , HCL Technologies spoke on how to engage Generation Y through the right kind of communication in the change management process. For example a teacher would be able to be a good change manager when he is able to teach the Gen Y students in 140 words[Twitter context] a particular theory related to his subjects.

  • Mr E Balaji facilitated the discussion with many interesting questions and by setting the appropriate context.

  • Mr G D Sharma, President,HR,BGR Energy Systems facilitating the discussion on 'Performance Management' spoke on the importance of providing employees with clarity in their roles and the rewards attached to it. He coined the 4 Ms of Performance Management as: 1. Management of Performance Management Systems 2. Motivate 3. Mind Set 4. Measurements/Metrics. He even mentioned the 3 important principles that would make any company great would be: 1. Quality of leadership 2. Quality of excellence 3. Ethics and guiding principles.

  • Mr Manmohan Bhutani, VP, People & Operations, Fiserv India emphasized on the utmost need to communicate the organizational objectives or performance expectations in a top-down manner. I particularly loved the practice of keeping 'Performance Diary' in his company. The superior is expected to keep track of any exceptional performance or note worthy performance [can be both good or bad performance] in a performance diary which becomes very useful during performance evaluation eventually.

  • Ms Aparna Ballakur-VP-HR, Yahoo told us about how Yahoo recognizes and appreciates leadership at all levels. She said Performance management is all about talent management. She also spoke on the importance of mentoring in organizations and emphasized that mentors should mentor their mentees on a particular area of specialization.

  • Mr Surajit Maitra, GM-HR,CSC emphasized on linking employee's performance with the client directly. They also partner with their client to benefit from their suggestions and involvement in the performance management process. He also gave a great deal of importance to transparency in the Performance Management process.

  • Ms Nina Chatrath , Practice Head-Leadership & Talent Consulting, KornFerry India facilitated the discussion on 'HR.the strategic business partner' by setting the right context and by asking questions to the panel. I really liked her statement when she said that 'empathy' in today's HR context is not so much about the touchy feely soft aspect but rather it's about understanding the other person's view and context.

  • Mr K A Narayan, President-HR, Raymond Group spoke on the wide number of activities done in his company which included proper succession planning, having multiple assessment centers, usage of behavioral tools and how it helped the company in many ways.

  • Mr KS Bakshi, Head, HR, IndiGo Airlines said that it becomes very important for HR to play a part in the decision making process with the CEO. It was inspiring to know the various ways like games,town hall meetings etc through which his leadership team & HR team keeps in constant touch with the employees inspite of geographical constraints. He also said it's high time that HR starts walking the talk.

  • Mr Ragahavendra K, VP & Head-HR, Infosys BPO emphasized that HR or business should work based on a broad framework and keep on intelligently responding to situations. He also emphasized HR to focus on end customers and constantly ask a question that whether HR is enabling business to perform better.

  • Mr CVK Maithreya, Director, Professional Consultancy Services was the programme facilitator. He summarized each and every sessions by adding his own thought provoking perspectives.
It was indeed a great learning experience for me :-)