Sunday, October 31, 2010

Synergy for survival...

You must have seen the movie, “Cast Away“ starring Tom Hanks. The film shows attempts of Tom Hanks to survive on the lone and uninhabited island after his plane crashes on the flight over the South Pacific Ocean. He uses remnants of his plane's cargo, as well as his eventual escape and return to society. He sees the friend in the creature, created with the help of debris available. He understands the importance of being in society.
Our life is not different. We live in the groups. We can not survive without other people. We need people in office, families. We give titles to the relations and try to survive in the world which is like ocean. But to survive, we need synergy.  What is synergy, how do we benefit from it, and how can we achieve it? Learning about synergy and achieving synergy is another key step towards success.  Imagine that we are using Chinese chopsticks or Japanese Ohashi and our objective is to eat. We must move our fingers and our hands to ensure the chopsticks are holding the food properly, applying the right amount of pressure on each chopstick. Our mind, our hands, our fingers, our chopsticks must all be working together properly. There must be synergy among them to accomplish our objective.
Many goals are achieved only by working with others in synergy. Synergy allows our vision, objective, or goal to be attained in less time, with fewer resources and with greater quality and effectiveness.
Excellence and success are achieved when there is synergy: the capacity of a system (a person, a team, a department, a company or a city) to align its components to operate in coordination and to produce better results than they would if working individually.
When working in synergy, one plus one equals to 3. The rules of mathematics are broken when the members of a team — whether in sport,  surgery, drilling for oil, singing or filming a movie — are able to value each other’s talents over and above their differences, and achieve greater and better results.
Successful societies have been synergetic when they pooled their knowledge, abilities, skills, attitudes and behaviors, placing them at the service of a common goal that benefits all members of that society, following a clear roadmap and acting in coordination.
Knowing that we have power as a team and that synergy leads to success, let's work at creating greater synergy among our teams and our members.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Employee Engagement: The great psychological connection

“Do you think that these employees will stay here for long time by celebrating such birthdays? There are lot of IT companies who do such things, still their attrition is more than 20%.” The traditional HR Manager asked me when I started my career as Management Trainee. I didn’t give up. The budget for cake was not approved; but I started to publish a simple notice wishing employees on their birthdays. Employees appreciated this small gesture.
Employee engagement is always a hot topic for the discussion. Every HR manager has to struggle to control attrition. Unfortunately line managers are not held responsible for employee engagement. There are positive indications on this in professional companies. But still we have to go a long way on engagement issues.
Compensation, work culture, relations with superior, career opportunities, learning opportunities etc are those factors which are considered vital in engaging talent. True, absolutely right. But don’t you think that there is another emotional dimension to the engagement? I have seen companies where all above engaging factors are available, but still the attrition is high! The main factor which is always ignored is treatment given to employees; the way seniors interact with their guys and the way they treat them.
Theoretically, we define employee engagement as “psychological connection with the boss, department and organization.” The question is what efforts we take to connect psychologically? Lot of employee engagement activities are conducted in organizations. But most of the times these are rituals. The reason is, only HR professional are made accountable for this; where is the involvement of other employees and their line managers?
I was working with one Media Company, responsible for almost 3000 employees. Company had lot of expansion plans in other verticals like TV, Web, and Multimedia. Lot of priorities, urgencies was on the table. On one Sunday, I had to call urgent meeting with my 7 team members. I decided to take the team outside. Team was reluctant coming on Sunday, but they had no option. Suddenly one Idea sparked in my mind. I asked office boy to buy 7 flower Bouquets and put the note with it “I am extremely sorry for taking your husband away from you on weekly off. I have done this due to extreme conditions but I know that your husband is successful in the organization due to your support only. Thank you very much.” Bouquets were delivered at home once husbands left their home.  
Our meeting was fruitful and team members were very happy. Somehow, their wives must have called them to report this. Afterwards, I enjoyed working with this team and we achieved lot there. I had not done anything different. That was a small gesture towards their support. This small gesture helps me a lot while working with the team. They supported me in everything what I did there. 
I personally think that at organizational level lot of activities can be done however it should not be done mechanically. HR practices at macro level like fair compensation, benefits, insurance coverage, fair performance management system, training and culture building helps a lot. But at micro level lot of initiatives can be taken and these initiatives should be taken on individual level.
When somebody achieves something in the organization, I send the letter with snap of the function to the spouse or parent mentioning details of achievement and requesting continues support. This initiative also helps lot in connecting employees with the organization. I received lot of response letter from family members thanking me and the organization.
By doing all this, still employees will not stay with you for a long time; they have lot of opportunities in the market. But wherever they are, they will die for you. It is up to you how you build the repport with them and exhibit how you care them.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Oh... Expectations.....

When I try to resolve issues and conflicts, I see a clear gap between expectations of both parties. Most of the times, expectations are not made clear. In professional companies, you make the expectations clear in terms of KRAs & results. But when it comes to the appraisal, managers say, results are ok but still employee needs to improve. There are certain points discussed, which employees are not even heard in past.

There can be different stages in expectation management. It can be either in organization and even family. Imagine when new daughter–in-law comes in home, how expectations are set and managed. It is totally depend upon the culture and values of the family. The occurrence of the conflict is in mostly in expectation management. The vital factor is in communication and interpersonal skills. But it also carries a perception. I have seen one organization where the termination of employees was a common phenomenon. When we went into the details, it was the only one person who was whimsical. People were confused about his expectations. If somebody performs, he would object on something different.

Moreever expectations are the reasons behind any conflict. When there are stated expectations in the form of KRAs, Job Descriptions and Competencies, you can avoid the conflict at certain level. But it is upto the manager how he makes it more objective. There are lots of factors where it is very difficult to make the behavioural outcome in objective term and hence it should be related to some results. The results can be the outcome of certain behavioural expectations. Companies try to make it objective by competency mapping and assessment. But I really have a doubt how seriously it is done.

It is very difficult to manage the perceived expectations. Employees also have the perceived expectations from the management; however superior’s perceived expectations are also important to understand. At specific level it is perceived that the next person is matured enough and he understands well the perceived expectations. Everything can not be documented under KRAs, JDs etc. There are certain accountabilities which run between the lines in JDs.

To a large extent, bosses declare that projects/objects have either succeeded or failed based on whether it met their expectations. Few responsibilities fail, in an absolute sense -- they simply fail to meet individual expectations.

Awareness of an employee plays important role in success.  You are expected to be smart enough to understand dimensions of human behaviour and thereby perceived expectations also.

(Cartoon Source:  

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Values and ethics in your leadership style..... Challenge?

Ethics and values go hand in hand. Leaders are role model for the people. They watch their leaders, may the leader be political or entrepreneur. People always observe them and get influenced by their behaviour? That is the reason, why leader has more accountability to exhibit the right behaviour than followers.

Who is a good leader? There are lot of research, books and material available on leadership and we try to follow the same in our personal life. But there are some inbuilt traits which has the major impact on our personalities and consequent to that on our success. One of the factors is our values and ethics driven by values.

Hitler, Saddam Hussein are at one side, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King is at another side. All were leading somebody but what they gave to the society and their country? What ethical content should be given to leadership? What is ethics? What is leadership without values? Let's examine the power of ethics in leadership, a key success topic.

A leader is a person capable of influencing the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of other people. In order for a leadership to be ethical, that influence must be based on principles and values.

The charisma of many leaders such as Hitler and Hussein have led thousands and millions of followers to carry out atrocities and injustices, to commit crimes against their fellow citizens and against humanity and, in their actions, to contradict what they preach in their public speeches with such energy and “magic.”

However, this lack of ethics in leadership is not limited to the area of politics. Only recently we witnessed the serious consequences of the ethical flaws of business leaders, Raju in Satyam case. We had also the example of Enron and Andersen in the United States and the more recent case of HP CEO Mark Hurd.

If we begin with the definition of leadership as the ability to move other people towards a common objective that they would not achieve on their own, these three famous people in contemporary and current history, along with others, fit this definition perfectly. But, how ethical and value based is their behavior?

Ethics studies man’s behavior within a framework of common moral rules that have been mutually agreed to. Ethics is created by man, with a broad religious and moral foundation, for the purpose of facilitating coexistence.

I am ethical when I obey the rules and laws agreed to by society, the laws and guidelines for social behavior. I am ethical when I practice what I preach, when I base my behavior on moral principles.

Ethics plays a fundamental role in leadership because leaders inspire others to action, to achieve a vision with confidence.

Confidence grows from the credibility leaders inspire. And they credibility, in turn, arises from their integrity, from how close their walk matches their talk. If leaders promise something and fail to keep that promise, their integrity fails, they lose credibility and, consequently, their people lose confidence in them. The team spirit breaks and the possibility of making the vision a reality is weakened.

With so many spiritual and material temptations, we find it difficult to react based strictly on moral principles. External pressures can be pushing you to say YES when you should say NO.

We are not perfect, but as leaders, we have the responsibility to weigh our actions, no matter how simple they appear. In being leaders we are like a shop window, exposed to the eyes of our children, our loved ones, associates, employees, clients, providers, friends and neighbors.

Humility allows us to admit that we are weak and to ask for help to act with rectitude. Courage allows us to acknowledge our errors, forgive ourselves, express forgiveness, and be reconciled. Humility and courage help us improve the way we lead ourselves and others, to achieve inspired visions in our lives and in the lives of others.

What are your values? Under which principles do you act in your life? The impact of ethics in leadership is very high. Living a life faithful to what we endorse, "Walking the Talk,” practicing what we preach, is the great challenge. It is my daily challenge and I know that it is also yours. Be great in the small things and you will be a great leader.

Friday, October 01, 2010

With reference to the context……

The General Manager along with head of all functions would review the status and discuss day to day operations. The big company with lot of activities with 2000 plus employees needs daily review for smooth operations. One of the issues was related long pending agreement with trade union. The union was dominant, 10% of the workforce was comprised with corporators, ex-corporators, leaders of different political parties around the area. Inside the factory they all were united under one flag. As they have different ideologies outside the company, union also has lot of challenges.

Due to this, negotiations took long time and both parties could not enter into the agreement. It was pending almost one year.

The company celebrates its founder day every year in October. Union decided to boycott the function. All blue collar workmen did not turn up for the function. But the function was great success with participation of staff and their family members.

Next day, union requested that they would like to pay the homage to the founder, in the premises of the company. All the functional head were in the opinion that they had nothing to do with the founder, if they had, they would have to be present on founder day. They should not be allowed.

There was lots of discussion. At the end of the day, General Manager was one side and all others were at another side including HR Head.

There was another Dy. Manager working in HR. General Manager called the guy in the meeting room.

“Union is asking the place in the premises of the company for their gathering?” what is your opinion?” he asked.

“No we should not permit their gathering inside the company premises.” He replied.

“Do you know for what this is?”

“No sir,”

“They do not want for conducting any meeting. It is for paying the homage to the founder”

Guy looks to HR head, expecting some signal. He just smiles.

“They have committed that they would not create any nuisance. As a part of agitation, they boycotted yesterday’s function organized by the local management. They had taken the move considering the sentiments of their members. This is just synchronicity. Our today’s decision should be considering the same sentiment.” GM explained.

“I agree sir, our decision should be matured. We can not work like they work. I suggest we should allow them to give the permission for paying the homage to our founder.”

After lot of discussion considering the context, the proposal was accepted by all members.

“We should always understand the context before arriving on any conclusion. It is always better to consider the matters with reference to the context.” General Manager concluded the meeting.

Do we consider the context before concluding something?

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