RRGwrites

On life…and learning

Posts Tagged ‘Success

The Dilemma of Focus Vs. Multitasking

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multitasking-vs-focus-mediumA young management professional reached out to me today with an oft-repeated dilemma – what to chose between Focusing on one thing and Multitask. A year out of the college now, she was taught at her management school that it is good to have the skill of ‘multitasking’. And now, the same is expected at her workplace too. Armed with this learning, she till now firmly believed in the concept of multitasking to excel at work and life alike. However, working for sometime now in the corporate world, she often finds herself caught in the predicament of focusing on one thing at a time vis-à-vis multitasking – that how working on many things simultaneously may also lead to distraction in focus from the most important thing at that time!

“Won’t it impact the quality of work, leave a piled-up list of unfinished tasks and finally diminish my productivity, which could have rather been augmented by focusing on doing one thing at a time?” she asked.

I am sure many of you would have faced the same dilemma, especially during starting years of your working life. And the question is quite valid too – this dilemma does exist. It would appear that in some cases, multitasking is undeniably an efficient way to utilize time, while on other occasions, the quality of the work may suffer as a result of split attention.

Few years ago, a teammate shared with me his success secret, with quite an apt description of FOCUS

Follow One Challenge Until Success is achieved

I could not agree more!

And yet, on the other hand, multitasking is a really crucial & necessary skill demanded out of the working professionals in the chaos of today’s fast-paced scenario.

Here is what I learnt in all these years – these two are the two wheels of a bike. Both are quintessential and one cannot ride a bike on only one wheel. Given the situation, there is a reasonable dependency on both approaches and a balance needs to be achieved by ‘prioritizing’ the work.

I would like to share an invaluable lesson I learnt from an old supervisor – multitasking becomes difficult as we also confuse, a lot, between Urgent and Important – we often assume both to be same. Don’t you receive a lot of emails, with subject as Urgent and/or Important? However, in reality, not all work that is important will be urgent. Similarly, all urgent work may not be necessarily important; sometimes otherwise non-important work too requires urgent attention and action.

If we do not prioritize carefully, we can fall into this trap of

multitasking = distraction in our focus.

Then, there is more to it. Quite often, I have observed that we tend to take too much work on our plate – blame the old-fashioned fear of not being able to say ‘No’. That also leads to poor quality in the outcome, delay in timeslines and increased performance-related anxiety and/or stress. In this case, eventually, both work and the worker suffer. Hence, I would say that when you do decide to multitask, make sure to check your work carefully so as to ensure that it is of high quality, and consider abandoning multitasking for certain tasks if you notice a decline in quality. Saying a timely ‘no’ to a task you cannot do justice to is also a right start.

Again, there is an element of one’s engagement at work. As I keep saying, the real mantra behind a successful professional delivering quality output consistently is the quantum of her engagement at work. If she is working on the things that make her feeling productive and successful at the end of the day, she will be positively driven and encouraged to give her best in the same time duration and hence, this dilemma of focus vs. multitask will really not bother her way too much.

A successful professional will have a strong sense of planning her time and energy; she will focus on the high priority things at the time, while not losing sight of other simultaneous deliverables.

This is what I think and that’s how I manage the balance between focusing on priority and multitasking. Now, it is your turn. Let me know what you think. Do you too get embroiled in this dilemma? Do share your experiences.

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Photo-credit: rodneygoldston.com

The Wall. Retires…

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Rahul Dravid retires from international cricket…a glorious, incomparable career comes to an end.

As I was hearing this news since yesterday; thoughts of another sports legend kept coming back to me – Pete Sampras. He and Rahul are very similar, in more than one ways. Their grit, the way they mastered the games they played, the way they are adulated, the glorious run they had and in the way they both will go down the memory lane as two of the most revered of all those who played their game. However, I am reminded of Pete because like Rahul, he was a true gentleman of the game he played.

A keen follower of tennis that I am, I recall reading this piece on Sampras very long ago; it left a strong impression on my mind and helped shape my formative years. Today, I am reminded of it as a befitting similarity it has with that of Rahul’s persona…

“Pete Sampras doesn’t want to destroy the Establishment. He doesn’t scream obscenities, grab his privates, tricolour his hair or date groupies. What he does is smack a tennis ball harder and more accurately than perhaps anyone in the world. “I was always taught to concentrate on the ball, nothing else,” he says, “I know I’m not showy or flamboyant. But this works for me. I am not changing.”

 At the 1992 US Open, Sampras was practicing one day when Martina Navratilova walked up. “Hello, Mr. Summer,” Navratilova said, alluding to Sampras’ winning streak of two tournaments and ultimately 16 matches that summer.

“Uh…no, Ms. Navratilova,” the young, shy man said, “My name is Sampras.”

That is how Dravid played his game, all these years. As an enduringly successful professional, success came to him as an outcome of perseverance, self-discipline and hard work and it did not lead to any unruly or ungentlemanly behaviour. Even when the jury was all out for him to retire several years ago itself, he never retorted via words. Failure did not push him to show his frustrations, either on or off the field. Only gritty knocks followed the rough, trying phases. He demonstrated how one has to deal with challenges more internal than external; take failures in stride and never give in.

In ‘Success Built To Last’, the best-selling and very well-researched book on defining the traits of the successful people, Porras, Emery and Thompson state, ‘Enduringly successful people have found that the answer to their life’s purpose is buried not in the passionate love or pain alone, but in the struggle over both together, working in strange harmony.’ To our Jammy too, greatness came at the intersection of pain and passion.

Today, while announcing his retirement, Rahul, as always, was his calmest best and spoke measured words. What struck me the most was when he said in the press conference, “…it is the time for me to make the way for the younger players…”

Tomorrow, the newspapers will be full of the farewell scripts, accolades and opinions, et al for Rahul. No matter what, no one will be short of praise. However, it will matter whether we indeed remember him through our own conducts, specially the younger generation. Whether we would imbibe what he taught us, from his actions on & off the field. Many of us shall reminisce Rahul as a true professional, a gritty sportsman; as a man of strong character. If character is what you do when no one is watching, then perhaps sportsmanship is conduct with everybody watching! Frankly, the cricket industry would probably survive without sportsmanship. It is so large and so well financed. However, in the much critically acclaimed IPL era of the young and brash, it would be refreshing if more players realized that there is a room to win with flair and style and even get rich and still keep the values that first brought us to the game, just the way Dravid did all these years…

I sincerely do hope Virat Kohli is listening…

Thank you, Jammy. For all that you did for the Indian cricket, for the game of cricket. The sport’s fan, all over the world, shall always remember you ever as one who left the game better that he found it.

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Photo-credit 1: coloringinthedark.wordpress.com

Photo-credit 2: art.com

Written by RRGwrites

March 9, 2012 at 1:56 PM

myTeam

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Leading a team is some interesting work! Specially, when it comprises of individuals that are as bright, capable and strong as the ones whom I lead. Here they are, in the adjoining image…

I built this team from the scratch – from a two-member unit to now a 24-strong one…took me more than 3 years to do so. True professionals that they are, each one of them is a leader in his or her own realm. Highly engaged and committed, they are proud recipients of several awards and accolades in last few years and have grown from one strength to another.

Many a times I am asked, what keeps them together. What is the trick, the magic wand…

Let’s see what make this team ‘work’ together:

  • We hire for attitude only; train later for skill. Personal integrity, high energy and passion are must-haves to join us.
  • We trust each other – one hundred percent. 99% is considered as good as 0% here!
  • Heard about the term ‘boundary-lessness’? Meet us…you’d often note the one based at Amritsar calling the one based at Lucknow to learn something new! Doesn’t matter if he could have called five of us in Punjab itself. What matters is who would’ve known the best answer…
  • We disagree vehemently – it is allowed in this team and conflict isn’t viewed as negative behavior.
  • If convinced, you can tell your manager that she is wrong – high chances she may accept it!
  • Well, we know it is OK to make mistakes. When we fail, we simply raise our hand and someone is around to help. You must see us working on our best-failed ideas some day!
  • We are honest, simple fellas and treat each other as equals.
  • There is no Boss! The leader is considered as a common connecting point.
  • Aged 24 and 36 and all others in between – gel alike. Yet, no two of us are are same. In fact, even if you ask us, we would find it really impossible to identify any two who are similar people!
  • Every member who is more than 6-months old in the team has surely trained a new member and owned his or her deliverables for first 60 days.
  • We stand by each other, in good, bad and worse. Heard about the old ‘friend in need…’ piece?
  • Do we have fun? Well, see us dancing together sometimes, or singing as a chorus! Favourite quote of ours – “Aap kaisa bhi gao, hum achcha hi sunenge” 🙂
  • We love learning and improving and do so as a religion.
  • We lovvve eating out – at the dhabas and the Taj alike! And only the Boss(!) pays 🙂
  • and many more…

Aptly put in by one of us, “This team also celebrates everything, be it professional accolades, personal triumphs or even just plain well being…with an energy level to be proud of!” Another one said, “We keep each other on our toes!” An older team-mate remarked “we are truly proud of our team’s bonding.” And the youngest one of us opined that we enjoy a candid and open culture!

Above all, we love our work and our roles in making everyone successful – believe in it every day and strive to be the best, in all we do…

Amused after reading this? Well, didn’t I say at the start that leading a team is some interesting work?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are author’s own and not of the organisation he is associated with.

What Makes A Team ‘Work’?

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All through our lives, right from the formative education years to the working years, nearly all of us get to become part of several teams – local cricket or football team, school choir, family events, Lion’s Club, societies at college, functional and cross-functional teams at work, et al.

I too have been a part of many such teams all my life, sometimes as a team-member and sometimes as the leader. However, over a period of last decade or so, I have followed the dynamics of teamwork very closely and with an albeit higher curiosity. I tried to follow patterns in behavior, codify the dynamism of team-skills and attempted to make sense of the conflicting views & outcomes thereafter. Time spent while at management and law school and several years of working thereafter helped me gain some very interesting insights and perspectives on what makes a team ‘work’ together.

While there is no dearth of literature available on this subject, one would agree that achieving near-perfect teamwork is a far cry from reality, especially in the corporate arena. The jury is still out on what actually makes a team click together, work together and subsequently achieve a common goal, each and every time. Interestingly, I also noted that many times, even great results or goal-achievement cannot conclusively state that the team did ‘work’ together as a cohesive unit or as a whole!

In my view, under-mentioned are some very crucial elements that make a team ‘work’:

Making of a Team – Willingness and Passion:

  • Clarity of purpose of the team – what is the goal and what is it worth; why and how do I fit in; what’s there for me in it…all of the three questions should be answered in order to get individuals together as a team.
  • An individual’s own willingness to be part of a particular team – you don’t need ones who don’t want to be there.
  • Passion quotient of individuals – lack of it in even one of the teammates could be a real killer. If only a few deliver upon the team’s need of passion, the team may deliver results, but will surely not hold for long as a unit.

Competence:

  • Only Competent Individuals On Board. It is quintessential for the team’s leader to define the necessary skills needed and ensure only the competent individuals are hired/selected. Compromising here will have a simmering, yet long-term ill affect, not only on the results and performance, but also on the team’s bonding. Good talent always wants to work with only other good talent.
  • No room for displaying poor ownership or lack of competencies – slackness, poor learning agility, lack of participation, are big NO. They not only adversely impact results, but also lower the overall team-engagement and pull it down. Conceding here would only invite discontent from other members.
  • Existence of complementary competencies amongst the teammates. A heterogeneous team is better than a homogeneous one; once each team-member knows and believes in the reasons of their own as well as others’ roles, responsibilities and strengths.

Culture, Respect and Connect:

  • Culture – that ‘conflict is not equal to negative behavior’. Often, we mistake genuine conflict as unwarranted and discard it. However, in my view, healthy conflict is the root of all progress. Having said that, due caution should be exercised against turning the conflicting views into negative display of emotions.
  • Culture – that it is good to disagree with each other, as far as you do not disregard. Debate and fight the idea, not the person.
  • Culture – willingness to praise good work and thank for contributions. “We are all great pals, where’s the need to thank each other?” – this is one big piece that most teams miss.  Teams that learn to praise commendable work and thank each other connect far better than a team of ‘otherwise great friends’.
  • Respect – towards every individual. Each one has a role to play and despite the professional differences that may occur, respect for each other’s personal self mustn’t go down.
  • Respect – for each other’s talent and contribution. ‘Know it all’ attitudes won’t make a team ‘work’ together.
  • Absence of personal insecurities – this one is a true make or break element. It is very hard for a team to ‘work’ together in presence of insecure behavior, demonstrated or otherwise. Insecurity amongst the teammates inspires spite and poor connect, and while the team may still achieve short-term results, the team won’t ‘work’ together for long.
  • Having fun together. How boring and disconnected a team would be, if there were no fun? Remember ‘Fun’? From amongst the pursuit of goals, seriousness of efforts, data, analytics, homework, et al, fun often takes a beating. Ensure the element of fun stays in all you do, the team would ‘work’ together. Celebrate birthdays, achievements, outings, even farewells; create avenues of having fun together.
  • Connect holistically. This works very well, especially in the context of Indian culture. We love to connect on the personal note, share personal challenges and happiness alike. I am of the view that while the team-leader has a larger role to play here, every team member can chip in with genuine interest in each other’s lives. Think of it, how strong the bond would be when each member of the team knows in his or her hearts that everyone is standing by, in the hour of need.

Leadership:

  • Leader’s absolute interest and willingness to lead the bunch is crucial. Who wants to be led by someone who isn’t willing to lead? Leader of the team must be strong enough to see the bigger picture and wise enough to identify with his or her teammates, play the role of a coach & guide and build a culture for all to succeed.
  • Team’s unflinching trust in the leader’s authenticity, abilities and competencies – brilliant individuals won’t agree to be led by a poor or incompetent leader for long.
  • Team trust on leader’s fairness towards all – a real test of character for any leader. The leader has to ensure establishing a fair and impartial performance yard-stick for each individual member, and doubly ensure that it is visible too to all team-mates.
  • Be there when needed! Leader is required to demonstrate courage by standing up for the mistakes of his/her team. Once established, this works brilliantly in keeping the faith of a team on their leader and goes a long distance in building a well-knit team.
  • Talk, Communicate, Share – surely a leader’s most crucial job in making a team ‘work’. Seamless communication, of information, praise, feedback, ideas, goals, even failures, builds a strong internal network within the team. And mind you, by communication I don’t mean one-way sermons from the leader – I am referring to open connect and communication across levels. Failure to achieve this leads to conjectures, surmises, doubts, et al, leading to poor performance and lower team engagement.

Courage and Managing Failure:                           

  • Belief – that it is OK to fail at times. Every team that concertedly documents their ‘best-failed’ ideas quickly and builds a method around each failed attempt stands the test of time longer.
  • Absence of blame-game: “We know why we failed and we will work around it next time” instead of “I did it right, only if you had not failed…”
  • Demonstrating Courage – in taking feedback without being defensive.  Well, it is easier said than done. However, when a well-meant feedback is taken in right spirit and worked upon, it not only boosts up the capabilities of the recipient of the feedback, it also does wonders to the overall capability of a team to continuously improve as a unit.
  • Displaying Courage – in giving feedback, in an unbiased, timely and constructive manner. No point in trying to beat around the bush or appease each other when the contribution and/or level of performance is lower that expected. Individual who are courageous enough to speak up their mind, without intending any personal assault, build foundation of a sustainable team effort.

Over a period of last few years of my working in teams, I believe above are the key determinants of what makes a team ‘work’.  When well-meaning and competent individuals get together as a unit, have & display faith in each other’s abilities, learn to praise and motivate each other; when the team stands by the leader and vice-versa and don’t waste time in blame-game and/or only thinking about credit, the team ‘works’ wonderfully together. As a team-member and a leader both, I understand teamwork is a journey and not an end. Thus, I have trained myself to carefully watch for all of above factors and keep implementing them as a ‘work-in-progress’; leading to continuous improvement in ensuring better individual & team effort, connect, bond and attainment of results. I would say, ‘it works!’


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Photo-credit: xtremeleaguetrivia.com

Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?

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I have often been amused by the fact that everyone calls himself or herself a leader these days. Fancy designations and titles have crowned nearly all middle and above management roles as that of a ‘leader’. Everyone is being projected a leader, without knowing what is leadership all about in the first place!

Does the fact one has become a senior manager and manages a team make him or her a leader? Does one become a leader just like that? Or there is more to it…?

To my mind, leadership is more about knowing and managing self and not only managing others. It starts with asking some hard-hitting questions to self, before embarking on the journey of leading women and men…

Twelve such questions all leaders and leadership aspirants must ask themselves and find answers for, are:

  1. Why do I want to be a leader?
  2. Am I an authentic person and appear one too?
  3. Do I prefer hiring people stronger than myself under me?
  4. Am I a teacher, a coach; genuinely like working towards making everyone successful?
  5. Do I possess and demonstrate strong learning agility or do I behave as if a ‘know-it-all’? What will my team say about me in this regard?
  6. Do I genuinely take and manage well-meaning criticism without my ego overtaking? What will my team say about me in this regard?
  7. Do I allow myself to fail at times, and document each failure, thereby creating a method around it for others to learn?
  8. Do I allow my team their fair share of mistakes?
  9. Do I like being popular, and thus avoid giving feedback?
  10. Do I genuinely give credit to my team for all good they do? What will my team say about me in this regard?
  11. Does my team know that even if all goes wrong, I will stand ahead of them in facing the music?
  12. Have I ever told my people, “As your leader, I am with you and not above you”?

If you do not have clear answers to each one of these yet, just ask another question to yourself…

Why should anyone be led by me…?

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Photo-Credit: photographyblogger.net

Making Everyone Successful…

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Retail has been growing as the fastest sector in India. In last ten years or so, this industry has grown manifolds, both in size of business and employment opportunities. Largely this sector hires people at the workmen level – those who operate as customer-service/front-end employees managing the sales floor. Since value-retail is the largest sub-sector in the industry, maximum number of people are employed herein. The sector looks for only two abilities in its front-end employees – basic education level and willingness & aptitude to serve customers. This stratum of employees is generally the minimum-wage earner and is either graduate/undergraduate or lesser educated. They span across ages, from 18 years to 40 years of age, even higher in some companies. Men and women alike are employed in this sector, and they are all from diverse work-backgrounds. In a nutshell, we are talking of a Mini-India on the sales floor!

The Human Resource managers in this industry have a crucial role to play in managing this talent pool. Making these employees successful is a challenging task, given the quantum of diversity of this workforce.

Now, what does it mean when I say ‘making everyone successful’?

To my mind, being a successful retail front-end/customer-service employee denotes very simple things. They are:

  1. Earning one’s livelihood by working with the organization: We are referring to the set of people who run their households earning the minimum wages – ranging between Rs.4000 pm to Rs.8000 pm. The livelihood of the wage-earners’ family depends upon this salary. The added sales-incentives, often a part of the remuneration, are also a substantial amount for these employees. Hence, by employing them and remunerating fairly without any bias towards education, experience, age and gender, HR Managers enable them to successfully earn their livelihood.
  2. Having sufficient role-clarity about one’s job: Howsoever simple this job appears prima facie; it is replete with processes and procedures across roles. Ignorance of the realities and expectations of this role can lead to dismal performance later. Thus, clarity about the job-description and demands thereof is a key determinant of success for any employee.
  3. Learning one’s job: No one can be successful without mastering one’s work-area. Inducting and training the employees in their job-domain, processes and bringing about the customer service orientation is a key imperative. Sourcing and hiring this workforce is easy – they are available all over. However, training them successfully & enabling them learn their job is the role of the L&D Managers and the supervisors. Lack of knowledge of one’s job can easily demotivate an associate and lead to her failure.
  4. Performing one’s job with commitment and as per expectations of the organization: This is a key determinant of success at work. Success is outcome of the ownership displayed at work and adherence to the processes and policies. Moreover, working on the retail sales-floor requires tremendous patience and perseverance. HR Managers have a significant role of building a culture of opportunity, fairness and recognition for all employees, wherein they feel belonged to the organization and its vision.
  5. Striving to be continuously better at one’s work and be a team player: Retail is a team game and success of an individual and that of the whole team is mutually interdependent. HR Managers not only need to promote teamwork, they also need to identify and build leadership talent, which acts as mentor and coach for an individual and the teams. A team where each individual has a clearly outlined role to perform and is recognized & rewarded for the same is the key for creating zealous employees. Moreover, coaching for improvement is a quintessential factor in making employees successful in their role. It is important for HR managers to build a culture of risk-taking and allowing mistakes & failures, which in turn enables an employee to strive towards betterment and not fear the penal action when she fails while attempting to do so. 
  6. Improving one’s skills, knowledge and competencies, so as to become eligible to grow further: While the above-mentioned five factors relate to one’s success in the current role, one need to keep improving upon the skills and competencies, which will help her become better at her work and add value to her job and organization. HR Managers and supervisors monitor performance and potential of an employee and look for areas of improvement and skill-development. Once the developmental areas are identified, Training team has an important role to offer in building the competencies of an individual – both functional and soft skills. Simple skills I can refer to here is learning English – verbal and spoken, and the computer-skills.
  7. Enhance one’s potential by learning newer skills: Learning newer skills help one grow further. To be able to grow further, one needs to learn skills pertaining to the next/higher work level. This would also mean learning cross-functional skills and managerial capabilities. HR Managers, in their avatar of Talent and L&D managers have a very important role to play in identifying and realizing the potential of the employees and grooming them for higher roles. This is specially a key factor for retail front-end employees, where individual contributors need to be trained upon cross-functional skills and people-management capabilities, in order to build upon their potential for a people-manager/leader’s role.
  8. Grow further: This is a most distinguishable determinant of one’s success. When an employee grows further up and does not succumb to the famous Peter’s Principle, she is surely being successful. HR Managers need to very granularly observe & assess managerial talent and potential and promote ONLY those who are ready to grow. Poor assessment of the readiness-quotient of an employee may lead to subsequent failure – not only of the employee in question, but also of the team and organization she is part of. Creating well-defined career frameworks, assessment tools and communicating the same to the employees help establish a culture of performance and merit and provides opportunities of growth and success.

Each of the above eight factors is mutually inclusive determinant of success and all of them together when achieved as a whole, make an employee successful. HR partners have a pivotal role to perform in each of these domains. However, that is not an easy task, as given the workforce diversity, no one employee would ever behave & perform as the other! Out of the lot, the toughest ones to manage would be those, who at the start show a lot of promise & capability while being inducted into the job, but if not managed well, they may run the risk of skidding off the route somewhere, leading to poor performance and results.

Making everyone successful…are you ready for this challenge?

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Photo-credit: Coachville.com

Written by RRGwrites

November 12, 2011 at 1:27 AM

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