Month: September 2014

Changing Jobs? Notes for an effective transition

Transitions 2 Picture

Posted on LinkedIn on September 22, 2014.

We seem to be in an era of constant changes with shorter cycles of stability.

Organizations are constantly changing to respond to market needs and competition – repositioning, differentiating, streamlining, reorganizing and restructuring. In effect, there is a much higher demand on individual efforts. As a result, individuals are moving through different jobs with increasing frequency, many times with different companies. To survive and thrive in today’s hyper competitive world, the bar is constantly pushed higher.

At a personal level, it therefore becomes critical to understand the key elements for quick and effective transition across jobs and organizations, and develop the ability to learn and unlearn in shorter cycles.

Self awareness is the fundamental building block of any development process. According to Korn/Ferry, many business leaders continue to wrestle with a lack of self- awareness, a problem that can stall or even derail their careers. Armed with self-awareness, leaders can see themselves without deception or distortion. Barriers to self-awareness take two forms. Hidden strengths are the skills leaders have, but underestimate. This can cause such individuals to expend needless energy “fixing” something that isn’t broken or under-using a critical leadership skill. Blind spots, the skills that leaders overestimate, are more problematic. These are weaknesses leaders can’t see in themselves, even though they are evident to everyone around them. Distorted or inflated self-perception is a widespread problem.

Peter Drucker wrote, “Knowledge becomes obsolete incredibly fast.”

If we look across, most jobs have the following core learning components that are critical for effective delivery.

Every job involves specific and core subject matter areas. These could most effectively be acquired and applied through a combination of on-the-job experiences and learning programs. For leadership roles, it is important to recognize and plug the knowledge gaps in the team, especially when a leader does not have deep expertise in the related areas.

Every organisation has a set of processes for most functional areas. Most of the work nowadays is defined through process flows. Building a good understanding of the organisational process flows allow us to determine what we need to do and how it impacts stakeholders.

All organisations and jobs have specific tools and technologies that support work. They generally tend to follow the processes. Having a good understanding of how they work and are applied could substantially increase overall efficiency of one’s functioning.

Sometimes, basic processes or tools create the most frustration in a new environment. I’ve seen new employees frustrated with reimbursement process, time sheets or sometimes even with the difficulty in connecting to a local printer.

This is one of the most important elements. It includes both internal and external networks of our personal connections that allow us to function with a high degree of awareness and effectiveness. In many instances, the personal networks are critical for avoiding organizational ‘landmines’, converting the perception of a new ‘threat’ to ally, achieving the extra mile of success and for managing crises. In most instances, people support beyond the specified requirements of a process when there is a strong connection. These connections are also critical links to tacit knowledge that’re often unavailable in formal knowledge management systems or databases. Treating individuals with respect and empathy normally will result in valuable help and inputs on the organizational culture, especially during the tough transition phase.

This could involve our combination of the above components and gained through the application of knowledge in a variety of situations, reflection, interactions with people at different levels, environments and learning/adjusting from successes and failures (what has worked/not worked?) over time. This is very important for managers and leaders as a lot of judgment is involved in making quick decisions on topics which may not have defined answers for the specific environment.

Korn/Ferry also found that personal flexibility is the core of one’s ability to grow and improve. People with this trait not only hear and respond to feedback but actively seek it. They also pick up on clues from other people or the situation and adapt their approach as needed. Studies have repeatedly shown that the ability to learn from experience is what differentiates successful executives from unsuccessful ones. They learn faster, not because they are more intelligent, but because they have more effective learning skills and strategies.

1. Changing Jobs?, February 2010
2. The Korn/Ferry Insititute: Illuminating blind spots and hidden strengths by J. Evelyn Orr, Victoria V. Swisher, King Yii Tang, and Kenneth P. De Meuse
3. The Korn/Ferry Insititute: Using Learning Agility to Identify High Potentials around the World by K. P. De Meuse, Guangrong Dai, George S. Hallenbeck, King Yii Tang

3 Omnipresent Leadership Coaching Scenarios

Posted on LinkedIn on September 16, 2014

We see these scenarios play out in organizations every day but leaders seldom seem to act with urgency or seriousness to support development for themselves or their teams through impactful coaching. Effective leadership impacts multiple lives, not just of employees but also their families and beyond. As we experience ourselves, emotions can be contagious and many times, our good and bad emotions stay with us beyond work.

The three most common leadership coaching scenarios I’ve observed in organizations, irrespective of locations around the world:

1. Strong Individual Contributor but Weak Leadership

2. Strong Technical/Analytic Skills but Weak Emotional Intelligence, Social, Communication Skills

3. Strong Execution but Weak Strategic and Long-term Thinking Skills

Would you agree?

Ignoring these weaknesses could lead to major derailers for leaders and organizations.

I have little doubt that disengagement in organizations stems from poor leadership and HR practices. Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace report found that only 30% of American employees, 15% of German employees, 9% of French employees, 6% of Chinese employees, 11% of Korean employees, and 9% of India’s employees were engaged at work actively sharing their best ideas and giving their all for high performance.

For leaders, it is important to recognize that building self-awareness requires a lot of work. The issue becomes compounded when leaders don’t seek feedback in the right manner and are surrounded by ‘yes’ people. In addition, they don’t receive adequate support or the ‘safe zone’ to reflect and modify their approaches. This leaves many teams and organizations with unresolved toxic emotions and issues.

If you are a leader or HR professional, please consider placing leadership coaching support and related skills high on your agenda – for yourself and others.

Have you encountered other common coaching scenarios?

From Blue Ocean Strategy to Blue Ocean Leadership

A World Of Constant Changes, Uncertainties And Disruptions


Modified version of the original post on ‘The Illusion of Work’ Blog.

We all go through many changes in life, both positive ones and those that are tough and challenging. None of us look forward to disruption in our lives.However, sometimes, we don’t seem to have much control of what life brings to our doorsteps. As much as we prepare to face difficulties, it takes a lot of energy and effort.

What are some basic, helpful steps when the world around seems to be chaotic, with things running out of control?

1. Taking The Time To Reflect and Be Grounded

When the whole world around seems to be rocky, one needs to find ways to feel grounded by finding moments of peace, silence and calmness. Consciously taking the time to reflect (individually or with a trusted connection), understanding the big picture, avoiding unrealistic panic from taking over by putting things into context/perspective, remembering what is really important to oneself in the overall scheme of things, acknowledging good aspects of life, and focusing on things that one has control over are some ways to progress meaningfully. It’s worthwhile to breathe deep, take a step back, and spend some time to think about our overall direction and focus.

2. Finding One’s ‘Secure Bases’

The term “secure base” comes from the post-war attachment theory research of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. According to this theory, all humans have an innate desire to seek closeness to and comfort from a person who gives them a sense of protection. This becomes especially relevant during tough and challenging times. George Kohlrieser and team defined “secure base” as ‘a person, place, goal or object that provides a sense of protection, safety and caring and offers a source of inspiration and energy for daring, exploration, risk taking and seeking challenge.’ In tough times, secure bases can come in the form of close friends, relatives, colleagues, teachers, coaches or leaders. They could also play an important role in providing a ‘safe zone’ to explore new paths and build momentum towards positive actions and outcomes.

3. Maintaining Physical & Mental fitness

Research suggests that staying physically active leads to better physical and mental states. According to John J Ratey, MD, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, adding exercise to your lifestyle sparks your brain function to improve learning on three levels. First, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, mood, and motivation. Second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information. Third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells. Building exercise routines with a peer group or acquaintances increases the probability of consistency. When feeling low, getting fresh air into our system or spending time in nature can be refreshing.

Studies on meditation find that if practiced consistently, it has a huge impact on overall individual wellbeing, recovery and happiness. The practice of mindfulness meditation by trying to simply focus on own breath (non-judgmental observation) is a highly effective way to counter the panic and stress button in my brain from taking over. Tony Schwartz recommends in his HBR article (Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time) that deep abdominal breathing is helpful in defusing negative emotions. Exhaling slowly for five or six seconds induces relaxation and recovery, and turns off the fight-or-flight response. Dr. David Rock indicates in his book, ‘Your Brain at Work’ that a person’s capacity to use his or her brain effectively can be impaired under conditions of peak stress or anxiety. Our self-awareness muscle can be developed in everyday life by paying attention to the relationship between how we feel and what we do. Calming ourselves down or quieting the mind will help us to be highly effective.

4. Focus, Inspiration and Humor

Neuroscience studies support the notion that our focus is fundamental – focusing on inspiring, positive thoughts have a higher probability of spurring us towards action. Once ideas and insights flow out from our thinking, we have to follow it up with small, practical actions quickly. A general feeling of expecting good things generates a healthy level of dopamine and may be the neurochemical marker of feeling happy. When the going gets tough, even small moments of inspiration and humor can go a long way. Inspiration can come in different forms. It is important to keep an open mind and proactively seek them out as well – in the form of stories, books, movies, pets, real life role models and experiences. Humor tends to defuse stress and we immediately feel a bit lighter. It is also contagious. An important related choice is in considering with whom or where we spend our time. The book, ‘How Full Is Your Bucket’ states that 9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they’re around positive people.

As we all know, no two human beings are the same. The effectiveness of change practices, how we cope with stress, and related solutions vary with preferences, individual personalities and environments. It is also important to recognize and act quickly when we ourselves or someone around needs professional support. This could unfortunately be an extremely difficult step in many places due to the fear of social stigma and negative attitudes in society. Understanding and compassion are critical.

What has helped you to personally navigate through challenging scenarios?

Wishing you the very best in your journey…

“Your joy is divine, and so is your suffering. There’s so much to be learned from both.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer


  1. Secure Bases
  2. Your Brain At Work (Book) by Dr. David Rock
  3. NeuroLeadership Institute Website –
  4. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, Harvard Business Review Article
  5. Exercise and the Brain
  6. Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn (Video of a session on Mindfulness at Google) And Multiple Books Published
  7. How Full Is Your Bucket? (Book) by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton


India & Global Competitiveness – Miles To Go

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index and report for 2014-2015 was released last week.

I am highlighting key notes on India from the report, as the topic of global competitiveness in today’s world is critical and impacts all our lives, directly or indirectly.  These notes indicate the amount of work and important contributions needed especially from our leaders, elected representatives, administrators and all key stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

The World Economic Forum defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country.  The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) includes a weighted average of many components, each measuring a different aspect of competitiveness.  The components are grouped into 12 pillars: Institutions, Infrastructure, Macroeconomic environment, Health and primary education, Higher Education and training, Goods market efficiency, Labor market efficiency, Financial market development, Technological readiness, Market size, Business sophistication and Innovation.

These are the key notes on India:

  • Dropping for the sixth consecutive edition, India ranks 71st (down 11 from previous year) out of 144 economies in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2014-2015.  It is the lowest ranked among the BRICS economies.  China ranks 28th and continues to lead the BRICS economies by a wide margin-well ahead of Russia (53rd), South Africa (56th), Brazil (57th), and India (71st).
  • The rank differential with China (28th) has grown from 14 places in 2007 to 43 today; while India’s GDP per capita was higher than China’s in 1991, today China is four times richer.
  • Despite its immense potential and promise, by many accounts India continues to suffer from poverty.  A third of the population still lives in extreme poverty.
  • Overall, India does best in the more complex areas of the GCI: innovation (49th) and business sophistication (57th).
  • In contrast, it obtains low marks in the more basic and more fundamental drivers of competitiveness.  India ranks 98th on the health and primary education pillar.  The health situation is alarming: infant mortality and malnutrition incidence are among the highest in the world; only 36 percent of the population have access to improved sanitation; and life expectancy is Asia’s second shortest, after Myanmar.  On a more positive note, India is on track to achieve universal primary education, although the quality of primary education remains poor (88th) and it ranks allow 93rd in the higher education and training pillar of the GCI.
  • Transport and electricity infrastructure are in need of upgrading (87th).  Addressing the infrastructure gap will require very strong participation on the part of private and foreign investors through public-private partnerships.  For these types of investments to materialize, the institutional framework needs to improve.
  • There are encouraging signs.  India has achieved spectacular progress in various measures of corruption and now ranks 65th.  Red tape seems to be less of an issue than it had been, and government efficiency is equally improving.  However, the overall business environment and market efficiency (95th, down 10 places) are undermined by protectionism, monopolies, and various distortionary measures, including subsidies and administrative barriers to entry and operation.
  • The World Bank estimated that it takes 12 procedures (130th) and almost a month to register a business (106th).  In addition, it calculated that taxes for a typical registered firm amount, on average, to 63 percent of its profits (130th).  The labor market is inefficient and rigid (112th).  These factors contribute to the high cost of integrating more businesses into the formal economy.  Some estimates find that the informal sector accounts for half of India’s economic output and 90 percent of its employment.  It is therefore urgent that the government create the right incentives for businesses to register and contribute their fair share to the provision of public services.
  • India achieves its lowest rank among the 12 pillars in technological readiness (121st).  Despite mobile telephony being almost ubiquitous, India is one of the world’s least digitally connected countries.  Only 15 percent of Indians access the Internet on a regular basis. Broadband Internet, if available at all, remains the privilege of a very few.  India’s knack for frugal innovation should contribute to providing cheap solutions for bridging this digital divide.
  • India’s fiscal situation remains a concern, as evidenced by the country’s 101st rank in the macroeconomic environment pillar of the GCI.
  • Because of the high degree of informality, the tax base is relatively narrow, representing less than 10 percent of GDP.  In addition, over the past several years India has experienced persistently high, in some years near double-digit, inflation.
  • Despite the abundance of low-cost labor, India has a very narrow manufacturing base.  Manufacturing accounts for less than 15 percent of India’s GDP.  Agriculture represents 18 percent of output and employs 47 percent of the workforce.  Low productivity in the sector means very low wages.  The services sector accounts for just 28 percent of employment but for 56 percent of the economy.  White collar jobs remain rare.  The business-process outsourcing sector employs 3.1 million workers, or 0.6 percent of India’s 482 million strong labor force (but accounts for 6 percent of GDP).  India needs to create jobs in the “missing middle” for the 610 million youths under 25—half of India’s population— who have recently entered or will soon enter the workforce.
  • India’s competitiveness is also reduced when sustainability is taken into account.  Social sustainability is hindered mainly by the population’s very uneven access to sanitation (only 36 percent of Indians have access to these basic services) and high rates of vulnerable employment.  India’s environmental performance is also below par because the country’s natural assets are depleting.  Air quality has slightly improved, but concentrations of particulate matter and carbon intensity are still very high.  In addition, the limited treatment of wastewater is increasing pressure on India’s water tables, and limited protected areas are wearing down the assessment of the quality of the natural environment.  Although on some issues the authorities are working to improve the situation, little action has been taken on specific but significant areas of environmental management.

Improving competitiveness will yield India huge benefits.  It will help rebalance the economy and move the country up the value chain so as to ensure more solid and stable growth; which in turn could result in more employment opportunities for the country’s rapidly growing population.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done with strong leadership focus at all levels of governance and partnerships.  It is encouraging to see India’s new prime minister and team actively putting many of these core elements among top priorities for the nation.  Hopefully, we can all contribute in our own ways to at least one of the pillars to ensure effective progress.  There is a long way to go and lots of committed work to reach our aspirations as a nation.  Like it or not, our competitiveness as a country impacts all our lives.

Best wishes…

Note: Special thank you to my Rutgers professor, Dr. Randall Schuler for actively influencing and instilling the habit of following and thinking about global reports, trends and indicators.

World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report 2014-2015

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