Monday, September 07, 2009

The whys of life….

* Why don’t we feel excited when we learn something new?

* Why don’t we admit in front of colleagues, friends, family that we don’t know something and wish to learn it?

* Why have we stopped asking questions, remember when we were young, we had so many questions to ask, as we grew older and older, we tend to ask fewer and fewer questions. Are we ashamed of being ridiculed or just that we know too much?

* Why don’t we appreciate others for their good and celebrate with them in their joy more often.

* Why don’t we go to friends’ house, without calling beforehand?

* Why do we send text messages to our spouses telling “I LOVE YOU”, when we can say it in as many words.

* Why don’t we appreciate our kids’ low marks as a sign of learning rather than being left out of the competition?

* Why do we wear mask in front of others, when we know that they know it’s a mask (a mask interacting to a mask).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Leadership development is going nowhere fast

It has not been hard over the past few weeks to pick out the negative or critical of the HR function, especially when it comes to leadership development. The 2008/9 DDI Global Leadership Forecast1, which surveyed over 13,000 HR professionals and business leaders throughout the world, found that “leadership development is going nowhere fast.” This is compounded by further observations that include decreasing confidence in senior leaders who lack basic skills from 47% in 99 to 35% in 07 for senior leaders and from 42% to 25% for front line leaders.

The survey also finds that organizations are poor at leadership selection, have ineffective talent identification programmes and poor succession planning. A further alarming tendency highlighted in this survey is that HR and managers are locked in a spiraling circle of blame as each blames the other for failures in leadership development. Where development programmes do exist there is a lack of effective measurement of their impact.

This focus on quantifying the HR impact is a common theme these days; however the difficulty in linking or measuring the impact of strategy on performance is highlighted by Kim Warren 2, who hits the nail on the head by stating that this will not be possible until the influence of intangibles on performance is fully understood.

Reflections 08-09

I am completing one year in Saudi Arabia next month, thought I shall share my thoughts and my success with all my friends and family members who have made this transition possible. More importantly, how did I fare on my Intellectual Capital, Financial Capital & Happiness Capital is described below.

Intellectual Capital (IC): One the biggest gain for me this year has been going thru Strengths’ Finder test from Gallup series. This has enlightened me about my strengths (while I knew of some of them) and how do I put them in real use (thanks to Naveen, for being my coach). Working on Managers’ Development Process (designing, developing and implementing the competency based leadership development initiatives, development centers etc.,) has been a fulfilling effort for me. Also meeting people from different parts of the world in ALJ has opened my mind to different cultures and styles of working.

Financial Capital (FC): Well generally I tend to ignore the FC whenever I take up a new role for the meat of the role. I ended up clearing all my backlogs with the job in hand and that made my mind lighter and pocket heavier. I will be saving for my son’s education and our winter days this year onwards (my wife and parents will be happy to know that).

Happiness Capital (HC): I have always been happy in each and every job assignment that I have done. The joy of seeing work being appreciated by one and all after all the hard work is something I cherish during my Managers’ Development Process Development Centers execution. I have seen my son grow older and naughtier by 1year.

While I miss my Bangalore, my family, friends I am happy to have spent more time with my Wife and Son, being here, than back home where I would have had to spend time in office and trainings.

What about things not gone right? Well when I landed in this country, the initial 3 months were very crucial for me get settled down fast. While I didn’t get to do what I was hired far, but the work I am doing so far has been like a blessing in disguise.

I also had plans of setting up some sort of charitable institution to build guest houses for poor in a Ganesha Temple near Mangalore, couldn’t progress much in that direction.

On a concluding note, I have grown as a matured individual, as a doting father, as a loving husband and a dutiful son in this last one year. I will cherish this and will have to be really thankful to all the support, guidance, wishes I have received by one and all in this journey.

Monday, April 06, 2009


One area that is important to address when defining the strategic role of HR is HR’s historic emphasis on cutting costs. While cutting costs are important there are several reasons why it is essential that HR shift its focus away from cost cutting and towards increasing output and revenues.

Every major corporation strives to increase its profits; however in striving to meet that goal it is important to realize that there are two distinct parts of any profit loss equation, revenue and costs. A business can increase profits into basic ways: first, by reducing costs and second, by increasing revenue (either by charging more or selling more). HR has traditionally focused almost exclusively on the cost cutting portion of the equation, quite possibly because cutting people cost is relatively easy.

Unfortunately, cutting people costs can have some disastrous consequences. HR’s long-standing practice of “undercounting costs” is one of the prime reasons that HR fails to increase worker productivity. “Undercounting” is the process of omitting the additional costs caused by a bad practice or process because these “unintended consequences” are not directly connected to the initial action by HR. Some obvious examples of dubious cost cutting and the “undercounting” might include:

1. Hiring workers with fewer skills in critical positions is certainly cheaper than hiring individuals with superior skills but it may negatively impact product quality and innovation
2. When top performing workers demand more money, they can be replaced with cheaper, albeit less effective workers that in the long run creates the need to hire significantly more workers just to maintain the same level of production
3. Ignoring market compensation rates and underpaying in salary and benefits that ultimately hinders the ability to hire and retain top people
4. The substitution of low cost training for average cost training that results in increases in error and safety rates

As you can see, there are some potential negative consequences of arbitrarily cutting costs without simultaneously looking at the impact of cost cutting on revenues and productivity. In fact, any accountant can blindly cut costs but it takes a true productivity expert to understand that cutting costs and “undercounting” can actually have a significant negative impact on the firm.

The strategic target for HR should be to increase revenues and productivity while simultaneously maintaining or reducing your relative labor costs. If you give any CEO a choice as to whether they would prefer increasing revenues or cutting costs, they invariably pick the option to increase revenues. This is because whenever you increase revenue in a competitive marketplace it's obvious that you are improving your products and services, which are long-term competitive advantages. Short-term cost cutting might actually improve short-term profits but in the long-term, profits may go down and careless cost cutting may permanently harm our competitive position and image among customers.

Strategic HR presents a new challenge that few HR departments universally accept today, the challenge of managing workforce productivity. For some the reluctance to accept accountability for managing productivity is an issue of control, while for others it is the lack of a clearly defined customer the muddles their existing efforts. Regardless, becoming strategic requires that all HR efforts become coordinated and united under a uniform set of goals and objectives.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Leadership - What is it?

A great deal of work has been done by many authors and researchers in trying to identify and define "leadership". The vast body of research has focused on leadership traits, habits, competencies, behaviors, styles, values, skills and characteristics. Dave Ulrich (Ulrich, D et al, Results Based Leadership, Harvard Business Press, Boston, 1999) categorized much of the research into:

· Who leaders are - values, motives, personal traits
· What leaders know - knowledge, skills and abilities
· What leaders do - behaviors, habits, styles and competencies?

However, when one looks at the vast body of research into leadership, it is mostly concerned with the inputs of leadership and leaders, not the outputs - i.e. What leaders achieve.
A further point that has led to a great deal of confusion around the issue of "leadership" is the definition of leadership itself. Many authors use "leadership" and "management" interchangeably and a great deal of the research into leadership has been with people who are in formal organizational positions (e.g. supervisors, managers, senior executives) - the inference being that leadership is an integral part of the formal management role (Parry, K.W., Leadership Research: Themes, Implications, and a new Leadership Challenge, Leadership Research and Practice, Warriewood 1996).

Let me give my perspective as I understand the differences between the two often interchanged or linked terms

Leadership occurs at all levels of the organisation. The essence of leadership is concerned with creating the conditions that encourage others to follow. Specifically:
· A shared understanding of the environment
· A shared vision of where we are going
· A shared set of organizational values
· A shared feeling of power

While the leadership function is "big picture" the management function has a narrower focus. Leavitt described leadership, as "path finding" while management was path minding". Management is situational and involves:
· Getting things done (task focus)
· Through people (relationship focus)
Best practice in Leadership involves many things, all finely tuned to both the organisation and the environment in which the organisation operates.

Leadership is contextual and is concerned with outputs
The Leadership focuses purely on the four outputs achieved in any particular organizational context by the leader as discussed earlier

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Values Provide Strong Foundations for Training

The values an organisation holds and shares with its people can be instilled and reinforced through its management educations and development efforts.

I once worked for an organisation that seemed to embody the epitome of the ideal. If fact, everything the management gurus suggest should be evident in the "excellent" organisation, was there. Employees who were dedicated, management who cared about the staff (and who knew the business!), and customers who were loyal. The organisation even had a marketing department that involved the staff in the latest advertising and promotional schemes before going public!.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed working there (and like all the others, would have shed blood, too), I thought the halcyon environment was merely a fluke and it was my good fortune to strike it lucky. With hindsight, I can now see the logic of why this organisation worked so well: it was the solid foundations on which this idyllic structure was built.

Those foundations were the corporate values. However, they were not mentioned overtly. Nor were they written up on any brass plaques. But evident they were. How did this organisation succeed in having "everyone singing from the same hymn book"? The answer lies in the nature and extent of the training that all staff experienced. For example, everyone joining the company attended two weeks of induction training before commencing in his or her role. This even applied to senior managers, who might be responsible for managing some of their fellow trainees.

It has taken me some years and the study of hundreds of organizations to realize that cementing organisation values into the training fabric of an organisation can have a dramatic impact on collective performance.

The Americans have coined a phrase that has become quite faddish in India - "walking the talk". It is intended to mean that management (and particularly top management) must model the behavior they expect of others. But how often does it happen and, more importantly, does it work? "

The only thing that really changes behavior is when the proclaimed values are practiced at every level including at the top". The inference can be drawn that not only must managers "do what they say", but there also must be a collective understanding of "what precisely it is that we should all do".

Management education and development can be the vehicle that drives the collective understanding and turns the corporate values into practical, day-to-day behavior. My experience suggests that few Indian organizations take the time and effort to base their management training on such solid foundations as corporate values.

A senior manager of a very successful Korean organisation put it "Corporate values work in mysterious ways - they can spur performance and satisfaction while instilling a sense of pride in belonging to a unique organisation". All organizations have values, whether they are publicly evident or not.

Before deciding to base the organization’s training on the values, it is important to have some understanding of what these values are. Lebow suggests there are two types of values: business values and people values. Business values are directed at the outside world, for example, "high product quality" and "superior customer service".

People values are directed to the inside world, for example, "trusting people" and "giving credit where it is due". When the business values and the people values are in harmony, the organisation is healthy. When the two are not in sync, training and education (while being well meaning) will not be effective in the long term.

It is the leaders of the organisation who must convert the corporate values into day-to-day behavior at all levels. In their studies of Indian leaders, Evans and Afors (Leaders in India, 1996) found that leaders who are committed and stick to their principles are those who have a personal alignment between their own welfare, the common good, and the organization’s values.

To help leaders develop the necessary leadership skills, training should be planned in four phases.

1. Identify each leader's personal values. This requires individuals to consider when (in their career to date) they have been most satisfied, motivated, and valued at work. What values did this role satisfy? This enables the leader to enunciate, perhaps for the first time, the values they inherently hold and often use as their basis for decision making.
2. Using their personal values as a base, leaders develop a scenario of their ideal organisation. Phase two requires managers, first as individuals and then in teams, to describe the ideal organisation. What does it look like? How does it function? What does it value?
3. Assess the leader's organisation against their ideal. In phase three, managers compare their own organisation to their ideal. What is inhibiting my organisation from being more like my ideal? What enables my organisation to be similar to my ideal? Compiling a list of inhibitors and enablers helps managers see how personal values can relate to their organization’s values.
4. Develop strategies for moving both personally and organizationally towards the ideal. The final phase involves developing strategies for translating the shared values into day-to-day actions.

One of the most effective ways of doing this is to repeat the four-phase leadership training
approach with managers and staff throughout the organisation. Each manager leads his/her team to assess the core values and how they can translate them into their field of operation.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Leadership is about Influencing

Leadership is about Influence, not authority. All the more relevant now, when leaders need to be Inspiring role-models. on how Leaders can acquire charisma to Inspire
To make people feel good, feel happy and feel hopeful is an important Leadership responsibility. This power to make people feel positively charged needs to be developed for effective leadership. Please share your thoughts on how this "Positive-energy-movement" can be created by Leaders.
A Leader who wishes to lead the people needs to have the following,
· Charismatic Power
· Referral Power
· Assertiveness in Communication
· Should use Listening as a power
Influencing for leader has 3 different types, a. Retribution b. Reciprocity and c. Reasoning, the most popular method is to use Reasoning as a source of influencing.
power is the capacity to produce affects on others, influence is the measurable change in attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors that result from the agent’s application of influence tactics. The nine common influence tactics are separated into two categories: soft tactics and hard tactics
Soft tactics are those considered friendly or non-coercive and are perceived to be fair. They include:
Rational Persuasion. Trying to convince others with reason, logical arguments, or factual evidence.
Inspirational Appeal. A request or proposal that attempts to build enthusiasm by appealing to others’ emotions, ideals, or values.
Consultation. Inviting others to participate in planning, making decisions, and changes to obtain buy-in with the leader’s initiatives.
Ingratiation. The practice of getting others in a good mood before attempting to influence them, often taking the form of flattery.
Personal Appeal. Referring to friendship and loyalty when making a request.
Hard tactics involve more overt pressure, generate resistance, and are perceived as being unfair. They include:
Exchange. Making express or implied promises and trading favors to gain compliance from the target.
Coalition tactics. The agent enlists the aid of others as a way to influence the target to do something.
Legitimating tactics. Basing a request on one’s authority or right, organizational rules or polices, or express or implied support from superiors
Pressure. Using demands, threats, frequent checking, or persistent reminders to influence the target to do something.
The success of an influence tactic can be distinguished by the target’s commitment, compliance, or resistance to the desired result. Leaders with a relatively large amount of power may successfully employ a wider variety of influence tactics than those with little power. For example, leaders who use referent power have the widest range of influence tactics from which to choose (e.g. consultation, ingratiation, exchanges, inspirational appeals, personal appeals, and coalition tactics) while those who have legitimate power are limited to using only coalition, legitimizing, or pressure tactics.
The challenge is in properly assessing the situational environment, the intended outcome, and the appropriate influence tactics to employ based on the leader’s source and magnitude of power.
Integrating leadership with power and influence
Deck plate leadership is critical to the success of any organization. A firm understanding of the interconnectedness between power, influence tactics, and leadership is instrumental in building and maintaining an effective unit. The best mix of power and influence tactics for optimal leadership is dependent on the leader, the target, the situation, and the intended outcome. Leaders at the deck plate level should make it a priority to appropriately use all sources of power and influence.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Mistaking functional ability as a sign of leadership potential

‘In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence’ says the Peter Principle. Perhaps that’s why recent research has suggested:

Leadership is a skill in short supply and a lack of leadership often leads to *
a. Poor succession planning and performance (wiping £2bn a year from the FTSE 350)
b. 41% of workers have no confidence in their senior managers
c. 85% of large companies run leadership development programmes and cite a lack of good leadership in the UK, with the primary lack being people management ability .
(courtesy: personnel today website)

I think we are getting leadership just about as wrong as we can;
“Often potential corporate leaders are identified because they excel in a technical area and are then taught leadership skills. Functional excellence seems to magically imply leadership effectiveness.

The RAF (part of Royal Air force) provides a contrast. If you join you probably want to fly a plane. But you have to wait six months to get to that point: for the first six months you are immersed in issues of brand, leadership and follower-ship. This is even truer in the Red Arrows. We assume the 35-40 applicants a year can fly. The week-long selection process focuses on informal judgment of applicants’ behavioural skills. Although the skill bar is high, the team prefers someone who’s only just there but with excellent behavioural ability rather than vice versa *. (Courtesy: personnel today website)

In my view organisational leadership development is the wrong way round: behavioural skills should come first. Waiting to develop all of these skills at a senior level is a harder “nut to crack”. Development must be more evenly invested.

Employers should be putting more emphasis on embedding leadership values and behaviour at junior and middle management levels. It is a fundamental step in identifying potential and making sustainable improvements to organisational performance and leadership effectiveness.”