There is no one perfect path to meaning or joy. There are multiple paths and we travel through our own paths of meaning and purpose. Every journey is special, in our own minds and hearts. There is no need or reason to compare with others. The end of a journey may be the same but the experiences are very different. We are the only ones who can appreciate the depth and breadth of our own experiences and journeys.
We are on our unique journeys. Each one of us has a really interesting story that could be made into a movie – the movie of our life. That involves happiness, joy, sadness, loss, success, failures, relationships, frustrations, struggles, pain, pleasure, meaning….
We evolve through our lives based on all our experiences and choices. There are conscious choices and there are times when circumstances or inner voice nudges us in certain directions. We cross paths with many people through our lifetimes. Some memories, attachments stay longer, and others start dwindling faster with time. The ones that I remember most are times of joy, unique experiences, deep connections, challenges, pain or vulnerability. Many times, memories are brought back through people or other associations.
As the lead character or protagonist in our own movies, we have been there throughout and are the only ones who can understand our evolution through reflections. Others will most probably not share or relate to the same feelings. They may also relate to the different versions of the lead character that they have experienced at different touchpoints. Expectations may vary accordingly. Through this journey, we ideally discover our authentic selves, pure inner voices more and more. Based on some accounts, this movie may play for us at the end of our journeys.
Every journey is interesting, beautiful, precious, unique and meaningful in its own way. Only if every movie could be seen… There is always time to reflect, cherish, find more meaning and joy.
Have you taken the time to reflect, cherish and celebrate your journey?
“If God wanted the sky to be empty, He would not have given birds wings to fly.”
We live in a world where there are many who claim to be experts or share expert opinions on multiple topics. The amount and impact of ‘pseudo-experts’ seem to be increasing. On all forms of media, lots of expert opinions on varied topics are shared constantly and many people buy into them and trust quickly without realising the quality of information, the individual who is sharing or the actual source. As a result, low quality or unreliable perspectives find lots of eyeballs and mindspace.
I wanted to share 3 tips that have helped me in figuring out right experts, better quality information and perspectives.
1. Understand background and experience, both of the expert and the source
Look for the background, expertise and experiences of the individual(s) in the relevant areas. The quality, depth and breadth of those experiences and their contributions track record over time also matter. Look for how deeply they may have studied that area and shared quality insights. A basic search on the internet or LinkedIn can help. Do note that the number of connections or titles don’t translate to being an expert.
Ideally, there needs to be a mix of conceptual/theoretical and practical experiences for high quality insights and perspectives. Being an expert in one area does not translate automatically to being an expert in other areas. We tend to see that error or bias quite a bit. It also helps to observe who have liked/endorsed them or their insights or shared further. Credibility has to be developed over time and with consistency.
If studies and researches are quoted in articles or conversations, it always helps to see who or where the research was undertaken. Ask the logical questions about the relevance and environment of those studies. The quality of the institution or individuals who undertook the study can be an important factor in the validity of results that are quoted.
2. Openness to alternate viewsand discussions
The best experts are open to listening, discussing, learning and debating alternate or contradicting views because they understand there are multiple variables to explore, some that they may not have foreseen or others that may be worth learning or engaging further. An open mindset to a quality discussion and exploration improves the outlook of an expert perspective. Keep in mind that we generally tend to read and believe in topics that we want to believe in or have an internal bias towards. We relate better to certain conversational and writing styles.
3. Observe patiently and do your own research over time
Hold off from jumping to conclusions from one expert opinion or view, unless you have done your homework and looked across multiple expert views or studies. The predictiveness of quality is better if you have been tracking someone’s work over time. Even then, it helps to maintain a broad perspective and expand your senses to multiple experts. If the opinion relates to your own area of work, it helps to reflect on your experiences and the links to the perspectives shared.
As a result of all these, the quality of your insight and perspectives will improve over time and chances of being misled will reduce substantially. Your quality of thinking, actions and growth will be on a better curve.
Have other approaches worked for you?
“Logic, it is often said, is the study of valid arguments. It is a systematic attempt to distinguish valid arguments from invalid arguments.” – William H. Newton-Smith Logic: An Introductory Course (goodreads)
It is safe to assume in today’s world that a noticeable portion of professionals could experience at least one Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) scenario during their career. After having worked with few large scale organizational M&A/Change scenarios with leadership teams (on both sides), I thought of sharing few reflections for those who may go through similar environments. These may look simple but I have noticed that they appear in different environments repeatedly and if addressed, can make a significant difference. A key aspect is to figure out how to convert these elements to practices at an individual or systemic level. If you don’t get these fundamentals right, the seemingly bigger topics like strategy and execution become less relevant for an individual.
There are couple of perspectives to consider when we think about mindset and related behaviors – one is from the individual perspective and the other is organizational or management perspective.
Typically, major changes like an acquisition bring to the forefront our emotions at an individual level. Both positive and negative feelings on the acquiring company and acquired company exist and the emotions evolve in different directions through the journey. Most times, uncertainty in the environment drives our brains to first pick up and respond to all the seemingly looming threats in the new environment. Therefore, it is even more important to try to understand, develop few mindsets and balance our thinking to help manage through these scenarios. All this takes a lot of effort and support.
In an M&A environment, there tends to be lots of uncertainties and related emotional ups and downs for many employees. At an individual level, it helps to be prepared and develop capabilities to manage through such environments. This is relevant to employees on both sides, whether acquired or acquiring company side.
The three key elements to consider from an individual perspective are:
During an M&A situation, many things related to one’s immediate environment may change – leaders/managers, reporting lines, organization structure, ways of working, peers, team members etc.. There will be a lot of readjustment mentally, with many potential new working styles, strategy, systems, processes and even ways of working to adapt to. Keeping an open mind without jumping to judgments, to all the new people and organizational scenarios are critical elements for success. This also reduces stress for self and people around.
Changes and complexities may seem continuous and non stop. Ability to manage through such situations patiently come in very handy. Many times, answers may not be available. It is important to not get frustrated during such times and clarify, ask questions with an open mind and engage in a dialogue. It is helpful in such instances to build a balanced state of mind through conscious practices of taking breaks, not getting wound up in certain difficult instances, seeking support, taking time out with an awareness practice.
3. Assuming best intentions
Forgiving and forgetting unpleasant or uncomfortable situations help to move forward and not get stuck in emotions. Sometimes, things may not work out well for an individual. Sometimes, people may not behave in a manner that feels acceptable. There may differences in understanding on either side. In such situations, it helps is to engage in an open and respectful dialogue, not assume the worst automatically, stay connected to one’s support networks, find a way to discuss feelings, try to leave negative thoughts behind, and reframe/refocus on the positives and way forward. One needs all the support from support networks, self awareness, reflection and intense focus on next steps during such times to avoid falling into a (sometimes self created) rut of frustration. Coaching or mentoring support becomes even more valuable during such times.
While being prepared with the relevant mindsets, it is also important for an individual to map out the risks, related actions and continuity in work and career. Like companies, individuals also need their own strategies for careers and determining what’s right for them.
There are also three elements to consider from an organizational/management perspective.
1.Engage Actively, Be Visible
It is especially important to know on the acquiring company side especially, that most of the employees irrespective of job level, will feel high degree of uncertainty and have lots of questions. It is important to acknowledge that many are first concerned at a human level to support themselves and their families. Leaders, by nature are the first set of people employees look up to for guidance, assurance and solutions. At a minimum, engaging actively and visibility across sites indicate caring and shared concern. This translates to high or low loyalty.
2. Show Respect
Respect can be visible in different ways. At a starting level, avoid the ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ mentality in all leadership conversations. This naturally takes time but when the leaders adopt “We are all one” reinforcement in conversation and actions, the rest of the organization tends to follow. This could reflect in how people feel they are treated or trusted, how the communications flow, or how the processes change. It is really important to take the time before giving ‘do it our way’ guidance. It would be in the best interest of both organizations to explore the best way to adopt the right approach. This also has a direct link to engagement and loyalty.
3. Minimize Uncertainty, to the extent possible
It is practically impossible to have answers to all the questions but it helps to reassure and communicate with employees as the topics are being worked on. At a minimum, it helps to share the high level plan or thinking. Openness to sharing and discussing from an organizational perspective also help a lot in engagement and gives reasons for employees to trust. This needs to be active communication and clarification. Using multiple forms of communication and repetition can help a lot to reinforce.
When these three elements come together at the organizational level, tremendous progress can be made during integration phase.
Fundamentally, it is really important for the leaders on all sides to think deeply and work out the change plan elements to ensure engaging listening and communication to support successful integration and business sustainability for the long run. Assuming the acquisition objective is to maximize value for combined organization and not to shut down the acquired business, it is in the best interest to be prepared on the fundamental mindset to build and support the whole organization. Difficult decisions are inevitable but most times what sets the tone and expectations for employees is the ‘How’ more than the ‘What’.
Any M&A or large scale change is really complex. No two organizations or environments are the same but adoption of these fundamental principles can help a lot in different environments. The process of applying them may differ and depend on different factors.
It can also be really time and energy consuming for the people involved to work through this, especially for the leaders. Therefore, the need to find a healthy balance and perspective during those times become even more important.
If you have had experiences in similar environments, what else would you suggest? Are there other questions or elements that come to your mind?
As part of a yearly practice and commitment to myself, the last couple of weeks in each year become a time for deep reflection.
I started writing posts in LinkedIn during a difficult personal time in 2014. At that time, my only thought was that it would be meaningful if my writing positively influenced, educated or inspired even couple of individuals. After 5 years (recent slow years in writing), I’m very grateful for the cumulative 25,000 views, 2000 likes and thoughtful comments from readers around the world. That makes all this very meaningful. A deep thank you to all dear friends and readers who keep checking and encouraging.
There are 4 important self-review questions I love to revisit each year:
How did I live my year, especially in the context of things I aspired to do? What have I learned from my experiences, how have I grown?
How much did I live meaningfully? When did I feel in touch with my soul?
What positive impact did I have on the people and environment around me?
What are key things in life that I am grateful for?
On general observations from 2019, the following 5 themes and questions kept coming back for me. All of these impact businesses and organizations, in some form or the other.
Leadership styles and principles – Looking at events happening around the world and behaviors (including some of the world leaders), is there a fundamental shift to what people respond better to? Where is the topic of ethics headed (with some blatantly obvious public scenarios)?
Everyone has a voice but… – The power of social media and ubiquitous mobile smart devices is that anyone anywhere can share his/her voice and be seen, heard anywhere. However, there is a really important question regarding how much of that is educated/thoughtful or just ‘noise’ devoid of facts?
Short term Vs. Long term – Are we ever more focused on short term (all sides) in all sectors? How much does this impact actions all round?
Increasing Gap in Society – Collectively, it’s really nice to see most people are willing to give and help others during times of difficulties. That said, is the gap between haves and have nots, rich and poor in society increasing to worrying proportions? Are current economic models supporting that in most parts of the world?
Environment – Without doubt, we are at the mercy of mother nature everywhere, whether we like to admit it or not. How much do we really care about preserving our world for a healthy future and how many truly believe that actions today are helping?
Guessing that these topics won’t go away soon but hoping that they will get discussed actively at all levels and evolve positively. How do you see them?
Warm wishes for a wonderful holiday season, Christmas time and New Year!
I sincerely hope that this post leaves you with one positive thought and action. We evolve through all our experiences.
“Reflect upon your present blessings – of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings (goodreads)
2018 was quite an interesting stretch year for me working deep in APAC talent acquisition (TA) world, and I thought of putting down some reflections. Unlike my 2015 reflection, this post focuses on the core TA work mostly.
So, here we go:
Talent acquisition is very much a team sport. To close a strong new hire, having a great recruiter is just not sufficient. It is equally important to have a highly engaged hiring manager, aligned interview panel, recruiter and coordinator who work together in synch.
TA exists to deliver value for the business. When the focus moves heavily to costs and metrics, it is easy to lose sight of what the stakeholder values. Many times, working closely with a business stakeholder requires a deeper understanding of their context beyond the process/numbers, and flexibility to change views or approaches. Vice versa, it may also require the leaders/hiring managers to stay flexible to change past views.
From a process perspective, aligning an interview panel at the beginning of an interview process on key assessment areas, clarity on each member’s expected area(s) of assessment saves a lot of time in the end during the debrief to get to a hiring decision.
Stakeholders in general prefer transparency, proactive communication, sense of urgency, commitment to close roles and visibility on progress from TA.
Sometimes, activity on a requisition goes slow for a while and at other times, it picks up at short notice with high urgency, depending on stakeholder engagement or organizational dynamics. Candidates may notice this change in pace as well and it helps for TA partner to manage expectations on timeline proactively and continuously.
One of the key actions for a TA leader is to continuously influence key stakeholders to explore different approaches, ways of working and establish a constant, trusting feedback loop.
It is very difficult, almost impossible to keep all stakeholders happy always as the demand cycles, priorities and markets shift.
Internal and external networks of contacts are always very helpful, especially for sharing learning/experiences and, to connect with new candidates and partners. Internal referrals can make a big difference.
How a TA team or hiring panel interacts (or don’t) with candidates or external partners reflects the company’s true employer brand/culture and the individual brand as well.
Candidate drop offs after offer acceptance are part of TA partner’s life (bigger than initially expected) and therefore managing the risk also becomes relevant. It was surprising to note how some experienced candidates in India disappeared after accepting an offer and became unreachable afterwards. Shortsightedness is surprisingly common. Most criticisms on social media are about recruiters or companies but there is another side to the discussion with many unprofessional candidates.
It is always relevant to keep candidate pipelines active. Also from a candidate’s perspective, important for final round candidates to remember that the TA team can always reach out to them sooner than expected, when someone drops out or the same role may open up few months later.
Many candidates try to reach out/connect with recruiters on LinkedIn. For this approach to be more effective and workable (especially for an unknown connection), it would help the candidate to proactively do background research on open roles listed by the organization and specify interest and role.
While exploring partners or agencies, it’s not enough to see the big staffing brand, rather the experiences relevant to area of work and attitude to support. Great partners are flexible, exhibit strong ownership and partnering abilities on the requisitions they work on. They also respond well to improvement feedback and suggestions, thereby building trust.
Piloting a new approach is a great way to explore a new approach before institutionalizing. We piloted a new AI tool with a partner who was willing to flex outside their norm and we ended up extending the contract.
Workforce planning is not just about headcount and financial planning. If we lose the perspective on type of skills, criticality and labor market dynamics, it is equivalent to running half blind.
If there is no ongoing hiring/development program for young talent, it will be more expensive for an organization in the long run to pay premium for hiring lateral talent.
As with any other function, there are always different styles and preferences at play – within the team, outside with stakeholders and partners. One needs to continuously learn and adapt to the different styles at play to make the most and work through the difficult ones.
Team members tend to respond better if they feel their inputs are heard, trusted, supported and if they have autonomy, growth and learning.
When there is a mistake on your/team’s side, it helps to discuss with the team in a safe environment, own it and initiate corrective actions to avoid them in future (rather try to hide or mask it). There is something to improve continuously.
As operational as talent acquisition may seem to be, there is always a strategic perspective to ensuring a credible TA function.
I’ve found Bill George’s writings on leadership to be deeply thought provoking – based on his personal experiences, as corporate leader (CEO-Medtronic, EVP-Honeywell), board member, mentor and teacher (Harvard).
The following selected notes are from his article, ‘Reflections On Fifty Years Of Leadership’ (available in the free ebook, Lead True -link shared below). These apply to developing organizations and leaders in all environments.
As I reflect on the past half-century, enormous changes have taken place in organizations, their leaders and our expectations of these leaders. Many formerly great organizations have fallen by the wayside, as new ones have sprung up to replace them. Economists often attribute this phenomenon to rapid changes in technology and markets, using phrases like “creative destruction.” I beg to differ with them. If there is one thing of which I am certain, it is that the difference between successful, enduring organizations and those that disappear is the caliber of their leaders – at the top and throughout the organization. Among the most important qualities for leaders, these two stand out: adaptability and courage.
All of us will experience great crucibles in our lives from which we can discover what is real for us: our True North. Sometimes in life bad things happen to good people. There is deep learning in these experiences if we take the time to discern their meaning and reframe them to make our lives richer and more meaningful.
By choosing leaders for charisma, image and style – subjects often taught by business schools and leadership experts in the 20th century – we were overlooking far better leaders with character, integrity and substance.
The defining quality of today’s leaders is their authenticity – their ability to know themselves and discern their True North. Authentic leaders are secure within themselves. They do not need external validation to prop up internal insecurity. Instead, they have worked hard to develop the self-awareness to lead with clarity of purpose, practice their values every day, discern the “sweet spot” where their motivations merge with their strengths, build enduring relationships, and inspire and empower others to rise to the challenge. They know what it means to LEAD TRUE: to have the courage to adapt to any challenge while still being true to themselves.
There are many more valuable notes for reflection and learning throughout the book. I would highly recommend to read and reflect.
Source: Reflections On Fifty Years Of Leadership, Lead True, Bill George, eBook; http://www.billgeorge.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Bill-George-Lead-True-eBook.pdf
This is a video of my recent talk for engineering students and educators at an International Conclave, organized by the ICT Academy of Kerala, India. The key points covered here were shared earlier in a related blog post,
I thought of sharing some of my consolidated notes from this year’s Nasscom HR Summit 2017 in Chennai (July 20-21, 2017).
“HR is not an agenda item. It is the agenda”. – Jeffrey Immelt, GE
Next big leadership focus may be on leading differences and harnessing diversity.
Differentiated organization needs for “future fit”: 1. Adaptive Intelligence. 2. Culture fit – DNA (Very difficult to replicate organizational culture) and Curiosity Conversations (Really important to ask multiple “Why” questions and encourage them in your culture).
Leaders are brokers of hope. There is a thin line between hope and despair.
FUTURE DIGITAL WORLD
A key challenge today while thinking about change and future: In 2008, 73% of business ideas were Continuations. 12% were Novelties. Now, 71% of ideas are Novelites and 14% are Continuations.
A useful idea about the future needs to be ridiculous. What ridiculous idea are you entertaining about the future in your organization?
We will see more of Digitally Autonomous Organizations (DAO) – that involve very few to no management layers. That could be termed as technology enabled holocracy.
In a future digital world, there is a need to approach metrics differently. eg. Mahindra is moving from measuring number of cars sold to number of miles driven. There will also be a need to look at different business models that may challenge existing revenue and business models. Mahindra launched a separate tractor company called Trringo, that is similar to Uber for tractors (while maintaining their traditional tractor business).
The role of HR in a digital organization has to be more customer facing and focussed. e.g., AirBnB community interaction sessions are facilitated by HR.
We cannot ignore the social elements of disruption in our work environment. All sectors, especially government will have to rethink and implement a strong support umbrella for those losing jobs and effective re-skilling.
Approximately, 30% of India labour is on temporary or contract labor. Most of it seem to be not out of choice. A key question is how this will evolve in coming years, related impact on society and how our systems and support will need to evolve accordingly. Organizations will need to figure out more effective ways to manage a flexible talent pool. Government will again need to play a key role in thinking and establishing related public policies when the dynamics of employment relationships change.
The delivery of work in future will change significantly. Open business models are redefining value and leads to the emergence of new roles. Robotics and analytics will drive higher productivity. As a result, the employer employee relationship will also continue to evolve.
Continuous education aspect that involves learning beyond formal education throughout one’s career is growing in importance. There seems to be at least three key cycles of learning today in our lives – formal education years, the first few years at work and around mid career.
Companies need multiple learning interventions and re-skilling initiatives for the future. Some companies have trained employees on agile ways of working.
To enable behavioral change, it helps to do multiple small pilot projects.
Effective learning should be accessible Anytime, Anyway, Anywhere.
The focus of HR systems and tools is moving to “Interaction” from “Information”.
Majority of employee interaction on HR systems are moving to chat and voice. There will be no need for an employee to see the HR Management System.
Internal employee experiences need to mimic external customer experiences.
For technology to be effective, it must support story telling and connection.
YES Bank uses Facebook At Work for communication and collaboration. It seems to be working well for them.
Citi sends all their graduates to NGOs and villages for one week, to get first hand experiences. HR folks spent 9 months taking on line responsibilities.
HR needs to think like the Marketing function and all solutions have to be simplified.
Career relationship managers or mentors will play an increasingly important role in organizations in future.
Google seems to have a Googler To Googler Guru Program Tool or Platform that connects experts in the organization to other employees, involving mentoring support.
PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT IN GE
Many folks still continue to refer to the GE bell curve distribution approach in performance management. GE no longer follows that approach. They have completely revamped their famous performance management system and removed the bell curve distribution approach. Some key elements of their new system include:
No annual goals, only priorities that are updated through the year.
No ratings. Focus is on “real-time” inputs for development and improvement. Feedback has been renamed to ‘Insights’ and anyone in the organization can share with the individual through a smart device application (This is based on neuroscience studies that the term feedback results in defensiveness that also blocks proper processing of feedback).
Related areas that still seem to require continued focus and work in this revamp are improving clarity for employees and communication around rewards distribution.
Hope these notes have provided at least couple of useful ideas.
We recently saw in the press about an employee situation in a leading IT organization in India. HR was blamed by many. There will be many occasions in organizations that involve difficult situations to execute and the pressure seems high. One of the most common reasons cited in such situations is financial pressure.
Many times, a different contradicting view is not raised by HR because of the fear for their own jobs, to avoid conflict with the leaders who are more powerful, whose support is needed and to avoid personal issues. Business leaders play a key role in making their HR teams comfortable and confident for such discussions.
An important lesson for HR professional here is to clearly listen to oneself, think from multiple perspectives and highlight one’s point of view, when experience and conscience clearly tells something is amiss. You have to take responsibility for a decision that you are involved in and highlight concerns at the time of review. When a delicate situation goes out of control later, you will most probably see others pointing towards you, though you were not the only person in that room. Sometimes, these may involve ethical scenarios that can come back and haunt the organization in a major way (eg. recent harassment claims in a prominent U.S. organization). The situation may require you to take a clear stand that sometimes creates tension.
For any professional, it is also important to build your credibility by constantly interacting with all key leaders regarding your points of view. One needs to develop trust, skill, knowledge and credibility to initiate and influence such discussions.
Poor leadership is seen when business or organizational leaders hide behind HR teams for decisions made and don’t feel comfortable communicating themselves. The best business leaders take responsibility for leading their organizations, initiate discussions through leadership channels and actively partner with their HR teams. They form a great partnership to build an engaged culture and everyone wins in the process, especially the organization. As an HR professional, it is important to realize you are ultimately safeguarding the organization and key stakeholder interest when you bring different and sometimes contradicting perspectives to a complex discussion.
I once interacted with a headhunter team who were sourcing for a HR Head in a startup. They seemed to become upset and dismissive on being asked related questions and ended up responding quite unprofessionally. It made me wonder that if they could not tolerate detailed questions about the organization while searching for an HR leader, what sort of HR professional and team would be hired.
We see this aspect become increasingly relevant for organizations to acknowledge. Many times, issues and scenarios go out of control because of the “How”, not the “What”. In today’s world, where everyone has access to both channels and sources of information, the professional and balanced HR perspective internally or externally, becomes critical for every professional and organization to develop, succeed and thrive.