RRGwrites

On life…and learning

Archive for March 2014

Love, Hope, Miracles…

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Corrina and Michael Schumacher

“She would view breaking faith with the hope of a miracle a betrayal, little better than treachery”

Sometimes, on an otherwise mundane day of our lives, life brings to us stories of true love, of grit, hope and other such miracles of life. Today is one such day, when I came across the sentence quoted above. This was a family friend of the Schumachers, Corrina and Michael. He was echoing sentiments of Corrina, Michael’s wife, who is hoping for miracle. We all know the F1 champ is in coma since Dec 29, after suffering severe brain damage in a freak accident while skiing. Corrina, his wife for 23 years, is spending £10 million on a fully-equipped medical facility at their residence, in the hope that her husband can return home to recuperate, instead of being lodged in an ICU.

In the world full of ‘practical’ people, who prefer rational approach while dealing with such hope-without-hope situations, her belief, her companionship, her unflinching support to a near-lost husband is a rather relieving news. There is hope for hope, it seems!

Schumacher, our beloved champ, is in prayers of his millions of fans. I am adding Corrina’s faith too in my prayers. After all, didn’t someone say, ‘Miracles are natural. When they do not occur, something has gone wrong.’

Let’s add our faiths to hers; it is still known to move mountains…

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Image-credit: Eurosport – Corrina and Michael Schumacher

You may read the full text of this news here…

Written by RRGwrites

March 31, 2014 at 8:57 PM

A Leadership Crucible – Managing Below-Expectations Performance

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image

Almost everyday, we hear the phrase – ‘performance-improvement plan’ or PIP, as it is famously, or rather infamously, known as. This is a scary word, most of the times, for the employee in question. And if we are talking about an employee who is either new to the company or role, and is not found doing as well as it was envisaged, the phrase becomes all the more grave – again for the employee, i.e..

But what about the role that the supervisor need to play in making this employee successful? Aren’t her stakes as high as the employee himself? And more importantly, what is the role the senior leader(s) play in this entire episode? Because for them, the task is two-pronged – one, to ensure fair chance be given to the employee in question, and two, to make the supervisor and other seniors in the hierarchy learn to deal with this crucial leadership challenge, thereby in the process making them better leaders… and the team-leader has to tread this double-edged sword without losing the sight of organisational goals of result-orientation and productivity. Some challenge, this is!

I have faced this challenge many times in my career as a HR leader. And experience has taught me one thing – there is no shirking of responsibility that can happen, if the leader really wants to make his team successful, in all aspects.

Few years ago, one of my lieutenants came to see me with his subordinate, who was herself a young, promising people-manager. They were perplexed with a similar challenge, as I discussed above. Her predicament was – a newly inducted subordinate of hers, who showed a lot of promise at the outset, was struggling within 6 months of joining. Despite a lot of coaching and guidance by herself and even her own supervisor, this new team-mate’s performance wasn’t up to mark. And worse, the business had started to feel the heat…

A long discussion ensued in my office. For my readers, I am sharing a note that I wrote to this manager, outlining my thoughts and an action plan.

Let me share upfront; this is a rather long note, which I felt was required to cover my thoughts on managing performance and developing a high-performance team. To assist in your reading, I have made necessary modifications. Other than me, the other three characters in the case are:

  1. Ms.ABC – the young people manager;
  2. Mr.JKL – her manager, also my deputy;
  3. Mr.RST – the employee whose performance is being discussed.

Here goes the advise that I gave her:

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Dear ABC

Yesterday, we discussed at length the performance & aptitude challenge that we are currently managing with RST. I heard both you and JKL, and shared my thoughts too. I am writing my notes, as under, to encapsulate my thoughts on this critical leadership challenge that we have on hand.

I have always firmly believed in the gospel of ‘making everyone successful.’ Having said that, to do so is indeed a daunting task for a leader; for multifaceted as the team is, no one ever seems to behave & perform like the other! Out of the lot, the toughest ones to manage are those, who showed a lot of promise & capability while being inducted into the job, but have slipped off the performance charts somewhere.

Now, it requires meticulous thought and concerted action, to bring such team-mate back to where he belongs – road to success for self and team.

Firstly, let me thank both you and JKL for showing commitment towards your team-mate’s development. This is by no means a small act – requires a lot of honesty and courage to stand up and say, “Hey! My team needs to do better, and I am game to make them better, whatever it takes.” Thank you, for recognizing the need for improvement and showing the promise to do better.

Our first step with such a below-expectation performer is to figure out what went wrong. Something did go wrong. Nearly all employees start their new job with positivity, enthusiasm and are raring to go – we all know RST did start like that. Maybe, something along the way diminished his enthusiasm. Or, he killed his own enthusiasm; both are possible in the workplace. Ascertaining the primal cause of this poor performance is the key if you are committed to help teammates like him become, not a poor performer, but a contributing member of our team. No employee decides to have a miserable day at work and feel failure as he leaves the workplace daily. Even an otherwise incompetent or misfit employee wants to do well for himself!

Very importantly, you need to ascertain if RST has his intentions right; for, if he is really a work-shirker, there is little hope for improvement. However, you have all hope if he really wants to succeed. That said, whatever conclusion you arrive at about why he is a below-expectation performer, you must try your level best to turn him around. Start by assuring him that you have faith in his ability to succeed. Inspire through showing the big picture – help him see the what fruits his efforts shall bear – why should he strive to succeed and improve. Guide him and make him set several short-term, achievable goals; which should be time-bound, with clear outcomes about which you agree. Once the goals are set, track execution and progress. And don’t forget the power of daily engagement – make sure he gets an opportunity to record small daily wins; that should take care of the morale front.

We also discussed yesterday the need of a written performance monitoring document. For those who feel that the team-mate who needs a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) will never succeed, I have many success stories to offer – we have seen so many of them succeed. In fact, I have used this to my benefit many a times, in making my team successful. So, I am a believer in the power of a well-planned, measurable PIP that is reinforced by well-intentioned and demonstrated support and encouragement provided by the manager.

We discussed at length yesterday the key ingredients of such a PIP. Some points that I wish to reiterate:

  • Clearly outline parameters of expected improved performance. Please be objective in setting these parameters and explain clearly, leaving no room for ambiguity.
  • State the minimum expectation level of performance. Ensure there is an appreciation of consistency of this improved performance. This is crucial as sporadic spurts of improvement aren’t really sustainable.
  • Discuss and agree the upon feedback mechanism. Specify the time and periodicity of performance reviews. Set the documentation mechanism of each review stage.
  • Ensure he understands measurements of improvement evaluation.
  • Specify what role you shall play in order to make him successful.
  • Explain upfront if he needs to make any changes in behaviour or attitude towards work. Share examples.
  • Focus on ‘what if’ – clearly outline what is the road ahead if expected performance levels aren’t achieved on every parameter, at various review-stages.

With above seven parameters considered, you’d have a robust PIP document ready. With this, ensure you provide any other support, resource, training, et al, which will help him expedite his improvement.

Let me say, I’ve always regarded problems as opportunities to do better, gain experience, and learn more, just to be a little bit smarter and perhaps wiser on how to handle life issues and situations. After all, as they say, we learn best, not by being taught and not by studying or reading, but by experiencing and then reflecting on what we did and what happened and then drawing conclusions and experimenting.

As a coach, I’ve practiced this method with considerable success; it helped me build and develop stronger teams. I am quite inspired by this leadership nugget that I read long ago – ‘the tactics espoused by great managers of people are very simple, they select people based on talent; when setting expectations for the team, they establish the right outcomes; when motivating an individual, they focus on strengths; and, to develop an individual, find the right job fit for the person.’ As we speak, you are currently managing the second and the third aspect, and what will make you successful is the willingness to make your team successful. I am sure; you have it in you do so.

Please do reach out, should you need any support from me.

Happy leading!

RRG

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A rather long note, wasn’t it? However, it helped me manage the challenge at hand. Let me tell you, this worked for all the characters in the story above, it helped each one of us become better. This helped the struggling employee receive a fair chance to demonstrate improved performance, guided and backed by her supervisor’s encouragement and intention to make her team successful. It helped her supervisor learn the leadership lesson in managing poor performance; and helped my lieutenant resolve a crucial team-managing issue and not miss out on either productivity or morale of his team. Given the fact that both these managers were young professionals, they learnt the invaluable lesson on people leadership and taking responsibility for their teammates in an utmost well-intentioned manner, unlike a lot of managers who consider PIP only as route for creating documentation and exiting the employee. What did I get? Well, I got three super-engaged team-mates in return! What more should have I asked for 🙂

Do you agree with my approach? Have you too experienced or observed a similar approach to managing below-expectation performance? Or have you witnessed poor leadership doing the irreparable damage? Do share your thoughts…

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Image-credit: whatisonthetable.wordpress.com

विचारों की सान पर…

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23 मार्च – ‘शहीद दिवस’

RRGwrites

Bhagat Singh Sukhdev Rajguruआज ‘असली शहीद दिवस’ है – बस हम जानते नहीं हैं।

शहीद शिवराम राजगुरु, शहीद सुखदेव थापर और शहीद सरदार भगत सिंह 23 मार्च 1931 को अपना बलिदान दे कर जा चुके हैं। देश स्वतंत्र भी है, शायद। कम से कम किसी दूसरे देश का गुलाम नहीं है, बाकी तरह की गुलामियत के बारे में नहीं कहता।

भगत सिंह ने जीवन के कुल 23 वर्ष ही पूरे किये। जितना ज्यादा मैं जानता-पढ़ता हूँ उनके बारे में, मेरा आश्चर्य बढ़ता जाता है कि इस छोटी सी उम्र में उनके सोचने-समझने की क्षमता कितनी जागृत और परिपक्व थी। क्या आप जानते हैं उनके विचार और लड़ाई सिर्फ ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य के खिलाफ ही नहीं थी; सामाजिक पिछड़ेपन, साम्प्रदायिकता, अकर्मण्यता और विचारों के क्षेत्र में अन्धविश्वास के विरुद्ध भी उनकी लड़ाई थी? शायद आज का युवक ये जानता ही नहीं। और ऐसा क्यों न हो, जब हमारी अपनी ‘स्वतंत्र’ सरकारों ने ही हमारे क्रांतिकारियों के विचारों को, उनकी याद को, महज एक ‘धन्यवाद्’ का…

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Written by RRGwrites

March 23, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Posted in Life

Capability and Career-Growth Go Hand-In-Hand

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RRGwritesSharing something that a young HR professional recently said. Thought-provoking words that have stayed with me…

This one’s a bright and promising junior of mine from college, with whom I was exchanging a few emails a while ago. He works for a large Indian IT multinational and had been associated with the company for over seven years now; he joined them right after MBA school. He performed well and consequently, has climbed up the ladder at a speedy and consistent pace.

During the conversation, I remarked on his consistent growth within the organization and as his proud senior, expressed my admiration. He responded in measured words. Words of wisdom, I would say; something that young managers don’t speak too often, at least whilst referring to the pivotal cross-linkage that depth of learning has with career-growth.

I am quoting him:

“…My career priority is to build depth. Growth has been incidental…”

Sharing this with all budding professionals; these are words their worth in gold.

As someone who interacts with young professionals and management students extensively, I often observe a disturbing mismatch between the aspirations of management professionals vis-a-vis their quest & hunger for knowledge – the real mastery… In fact, I wrote a blog on this a while ago – (MBA की ‘मास्टरी’)

Let me know what you think. If you are a young professional entering the corporate world or a management student; I would love to know your thoughts…

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Image-credit: venuscablejoints.com

5 Things We Can Change This Women’s Day…

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RRGwritesInternational Women’s Day is round the corner; and like every year, quite a lot is being said and written about the subject. My view; every such day is a soft reminder to all of us that some things should change, and they better change for good, else, what’s the point in the entire fuss we make about this day! More importantly, such change should bring about simple, yet meaningful difference in lives of those around us…in our daily lives.

As a man who works in offices, travels extensively, meets hundreds of people every week, and observe myriad human behaviour, here are the five extremely easy (and yet, quite apparently difficult for a lot of us!) things I believe we can change, in recognition to the Women’s Day:

  1. At work, let’s acknowledge that women are equal in all aspects, if not better; and let’s do so purely on merits and not merely because some ‘increase-the-female-ratio’ campaign of your organization says so.
  2. Cease our boys-like addiction to pornography. It is disrespectful… and not worth the time and energy either.
  3. While travelling in locals, metro, tube, buses, let’s vacate seats meant for women. And not because it is chivalrous to do so, because it is their right to take that very seat reserved for them. You want to do it even better? Please vacate the seat for a lady even when you aren’t seated on the reserved ones!
  4. There isn’t any real fun in passing on those ubiquitous, lewd SMS-jokes on women; real men don’t need to resort to such biased acts to have fun. For a change, let’s try cracking jokes and laughing at ourselves at times; it is indeed funnier!
  5. Let’s start looking into the eyes of the women we speak with, and not stare elsewhere.

These five changes, trust you me, will be the real change in the lives of the women around us.

With this thought, wish all a very happy Women’s Day…

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PS: Only 3 days after the Women’s Day, this image clicked by a commuter inside a Delhi Metro train became viral on the social networking sites… This is what needs to change….image

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