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MEANINGFUL & IMPACTFUL RESULTS

Category: Coaching (page 1 of 4)

What Does It Mean – To Be An Effective Leader?

Many current and aspiring leaders across the world grapple with a basic question:
What areas of competencies are needed to become an effective leader?

My first podcast focuses on the required awareness of fundamental leadership capabilities and the four competency areas for leadership success in any environment.

Developing Skills For The Future – Influencing Behaviors And The Learning Environment

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,

Prepare Students For Future World Of Work – 3 Behavioral Elements

 

 

For HR professionals – Making Your Voice Heard

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.

What Do I See Or Hear? My Point Of View?

We have arrived at the start of the last month of an eventful year.

During December last year, I wrote Another Year…Questions To Reflect On…. Those questions are still worth revisiting.

While thinking about my December post for this year, I wanted to touch something that is very relevant and would connect my personal observations to things happening around the world.

Many intense social media discussions involving individuals around the world with diverse, many times contradictory and conflicting perspectives came to the forefront this year. Social media and the increasingly digital world have given everyone a voice. It was not the differing perspectives that stood out for me but rather the quality of (or lack of) open debate or conversation and the increasing reliance on flimsy information.

While mobile devices, access to the internet, information and social media have become prevalent, one thing that is noticeable is the ease and quickness with which many of us (irrespective of whether we are from the developing or developed world) can be misguided. Is the reading habit overall on the decline? What or who influences our perspectives and points of view?

Recognition of quality sources of information seems to be a challenge. Many jump to quick conclusions and fail to do a secondary search or verification, think deeper of what they have seen or heard before developing a point of view. There seems to be a danger of a substantial number of us being misguided, ignorant or unaware. Companies like Google and Facebook seem to be getting serious about finding and taking out false news in their networks. There seems to be too much ‘noise’ that seems to win attention many times, even in the networks of LinkedIn.

The ability to discern quality among the big waves of information that we come across will become a distinguishing and important skill. 

To help ourselves from falling into these traps and developing a healthy point of view, consider three simple points while navigating through what we see or hear in today’s world.

  1. Seek quality information always and try to see if there are inherent conflicts of interest for whoever is sharing it. 
  2. Always review the relevance, experience, expertise of the author or content provider with regards to the topic and the source of your information. Look at the history, background, consistency, credibility and trust factor for your source.
  3. Use more than one source of information before concluding on your point of view. Even a minor difference in perspective could enrich the quality of your thinking and point of view.

This approach requires exercising more patience, a curious mindset and openness before finalizing your point of view on any topic and it is well worth the effort. Perhaps, it is high time that this awareness starts from the education system itself.

As a professional in any area, do remember that your perspectives and thoughts show up in your actions, work and life and personal brand. Are they worth your consideration?

“But I think that no matter how smart, people usually see what they’re already looking for…” – Veronica Roth, Allegiant (Goodreads)

An Approach To Differentiate And Stand Out At Work Anywhere

 

This situation plays out constantly in multiple local and multinational environments. A customer walks to a service counter (banks, hotels, airlines etc.), government/corporate office or store with a need for support from the staff.

If the staff member’s response focuses on why your request cannot be processed, won’t work or only through a difficult and inconvenient set of steps, you feel dissatisfied with the service and think it was a waste of time. If you notice a similar continuing trend with the same individual, you will try to avoid interaction with that staff member in future.

If the professional’s response and action focuses on the solutions or alternatives for you as the customer, you feel happy and more satisfied.

It is important to be aware that we ourselves could be in that situation.

The key differentiator for any professional here is your focus and approach to a solution. When your focus and actions are aligned to working out solutions and not getting stuck in problems, your customers prefer to return to you and recognize you as a professional who can get things done efficiently for them. 

While it is important to understand, acknowledge and think through the problem at hand, what matters more for your customer is where your focus, energy and communication are directed. We see many professionals who get stuck in the process or problem side.

On the other side, as customers ourselves as well, it is worthwhile to think how willing and flexible we are.

Even though this is not a new concept or idea, we encounter such scenarios very regularly in our daily lives. It therefore becomes really important to remind ourselves and others about this simple yet powerful message.

Our Journeys In Career And Life – Thoughts From One

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I just got back from a journey that involved crossing some of the highest motorable passes and terrains in the world. It was a tough yet breathtaking trip and some time in the wilderness led to reflections and analogies in career and life.

  • To reach a beautiful destination, we pass through tough terrains and hardships.
  • The breathtaking destination is worth the difficult journey.
  • Sometimes, our focus on the destination results in us missing the great beauty during the journey.
  • The journey is most enjoyed when we find a traveling pace that suits us the most. Others’ recommendations and experiences only serve as guideposts.
  • In order to truly enjoy our journey, we need to take appropriate breaks.
  • The journey seems long and slow when we are in the middle of one but in hindsight, it seems to have gone by fast. Be aware to enjoy, experience and cherish the beauty in those moments. In the end of our journey, we remember clearly few emotional moments.
  • When the journey seems challenging and tiring, we inevitably go through moments of difficulties and frustrations. Those moments serve as opportunities to observe, learn about, manage ourselves better and seek our inner peace.
  • In our journey, we cross paths with fellow travelers, sometimes coincidentally and sometimes planned. Some of these meetings are momentary, some involve few more moments of interactions, some may cross paths again in future journeys and some become deeper and our companions. We may never see many again. Sometimes, small crossings leave lasting impressions. Every crossing helps each other’s evolution and leaves us with experiences and learning.
  • The quality of relationship with our fellow traveler(s) is not decided by whether we go through challenging scenarios or differing view points during the journey but in the strength of the overall belief in supporting each other and the ability to bounce back from difficult moments without holding any unnecessary thoughts or feelings.
  • It is important to find our own meaning in our journey. The experience from the same journey and destination can be very different for different people.

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere…”
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (Goodreads)

 (First posted in LinkedIn on October 1, 2016)

Make Yourself Irrelevant For Higher Growth & Impact

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We tend to believe that if we stay important, at least in perception and hold on to the things we do that normally make us feel important, we become invaluable to our business and organization.  This leads to many interesting and unhealthy behaviors – including holding on to information without sharing openly, reluctance to collaborate, unwillingness to share resources, making others feel insecure, and controlling or micromanaging.  We continue to move on superficially without self reflection, personal growth and reach a stage where our egos and fears prevent us from stepping out of our comfort zones – until a major change inevitably hits us and forces us to rethink.

It may be surprising to hear and sometimes hard to accept but making yourself irrelevant will make you more valuable to the business and yourself as a leader and human being.

What does ‘making yourself irrelevant’ mean?
This means empowering and enabling team members to take up some of your important responsibilities and more.  This does not mean stepping away from your leadership responsibilities or not managing.  This also does not mean dropping your troubles and issues on others.  Rather, this is about transitioning your role to leading, developing, transitioning from being a possessive individual contributor to focusing on high impact areas for organizational success today and in the future.

Why is this important?
You create more opportunities for team members to continuously stretch, learn and grow.  You create more space for yourself and the organization for reflection, insight and action.

How can you as a leader start in this journey?
Let go of few elements that you’re currently doing for your team members.  Take a step back, let them own those elements and drive them.  Coach, support them and provide constant feedback and recognition.  Be patient through the process and reflect on the learning together.  Encourage your members to take on more challenges afterward.  Constantly build confidence.  Invite members to join key conversations and discussions.  Let them feel included.  In most cases, your team members  will step up, be happy and grateful for the opportunities to do more impactful work.

As a result, you’ll create more space for yourself as a leader to reflect, do more impactful work, innovate and explore untapped areas in personal and organizational effectiveness.  You’ll create opportunities for others to grow and do more meaningful work.  The extra space created will help stretch your thinking.  During the initial phase, it is normal to feel uncomfortable and insecure as you let go of perceived important elements or activities.  Self-compassion is important.  You’ll become more agile and adaptable to change from both the individual and organizational perspectives.  The business and organization will gain tremendously.  You will be respected as someone who can build more leaders and leadership in your organization.

Doing this successfully and developing this capability as a manager or leader will bring you more (many times bigger) opportunities within your organization. More talented individuals will want to join your team.  If not, there will be other great opportunities waiting outside.

Suffering In The Workplace

Woman Looking At Metro_Image

Similar to life in general, it is not uncommon to see constant suffering in our workplaces.  This is influenced and brought many times from our personal, social lives and also  influenced by the work environment.

The word ‘suffer’ means to experience pain.

Workplaces tend to see a lot of pain for many reasons, with a feeling of constant unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

In my observations, the following topics are some of the major causes of personal suffering in the workplace.

1. Unhealthy Ego
When the “I” and “me” feeling becomes very strong, it results in inevitable pain for oneself and others.  The need to prove oneself all the time blocks the action of encouraging and enabling others.  This also results in skewed views and inability to listen to and understand other perspectives.  The focus moves away from the key topic that needs attention from an organizational perspective.  Everything becomes personal.  There is also a need to control as much as possible directly.

2. Envy
This is probably one of the most common reasons for unhappiness and suffering.  In organizations, some people grow disproportionately  faster than others due to better capability, fit for the job/organization, specific circumstances, environment etc.  Sometimes, it may seem unfair.  Irrespective of the specific background, constant comparison with others leads to dissatisfaction with everything, personal pain and intense unhappiness that may seep into other areas in life.

3. Never satisfied
Many individuals are never satisfied.  The focus is always on gaining more, what I don’t have and what is missing for me.  There is a need for good balance in one aspect of striving for perfection and continuous improvement.  The suffering that results from dissatisfaction leads to unhappiness with self and others and constant urge for more and more, without enjoying the present.  There are umpteen number of examples of brilliant corporate leaders who have lost all credibility due to greed or need to be perceived as high achievers always.

As A Result…
The resulting themes noticed in organizations are anger, jealousy, frustration, stress, conflict, intense lack of trust and unhappiness.  All these lead to a feeling of disconnectedness and  disengagement  with self, work and colleagues.

Many people also go through a feeling of helplessness or no hope, especially during changes.  There is a feeling of having very limited or no alternative choices during difficulties.  Hence, they decide to suffer through the situation making life worse for themselves and others around them.  The negativity and helplessness seem to just grow bigger.

Extreme scenarios even lead to individual depression or mental health issues.  Unfortunately, normal work environments are not very kind or supportive in such instances due to various reasons including the high pace and demands of business.

Negative emotions in the workplace are also transferred quickly among individuals and groups.  ‘Emotional contagions’ spread much quicker than one may think or imagine.

Excessive unhealthy competition and lack of collaboration are other signs of a ‘sick’ work environment.  The organization overall suffers and falls behind in achieving its full potential and success.

What can be done…
Approaches for improvement can be reviewed from an individual and organizational perspective.  Each one of us can start by looking after our own mental and physical wellbeing, without waiting for someone else to come with a magical answer.  Organizations can support with appropriate practices and environmental approaches.

Self-Awareness and Self-Management, two core pillars of emotional intelligence are fundamental for anyone to manage individually.  We all can learn from our own experiences, reflection and actions.

Coming to terms with something that we may not agree with (acceptance) or finding our own ways to accept the difficult change helps tremendously.  If that is not possible personally and if there is a persisting strong feeling of unfairness which cannot be addressed, finding a new stream or possibility becomes a healthy choice for everyone.

During difficult times, we need constant energy and encouragement from ourselves, our closest support groups, friends and cheerleaders.  It is really important to believe that the tough times shall pass and it is up to us to start making the small steps and changes that will start a new path.

Having an individual practice to find state of peace, harmony and balance like meditation, time with nature, time out from constant interruptions, hobbies etc. can help tremendously.  Constantly reflecting on the good things in our lives and focusing on gratitude (many studies indicate that maintaining a Gratitude Journal helps tremendously) can help focus on ‘what we have’, not ‘what we don’t have’.  Self compassion and forgiveness are very important when we are not able to meet our own expectations.  Studies seem to indicate that we are tougher and more critical of ourselves than others.

From an organizational perspective, building a community feeling and social support in the workplace can also go a long way.  Social support is at the core of successfully helping individuals to rebound from difficulties and challenges.  Work practices, supporting tools and environment have to be developed.  Every leader and manager can also play a key role in the wellbeing of the their teams and organizations through mindful interactions and actions.  If consciously and carefully managed, they could play a major role in building healthy environments and mental well-being in the workplace.

Even a minor reduction of suffering in our lives and workplaces can bring a major difference to the individuals in our lives and the world around us.

(Posted on LinkedIn)

Image Credit:
www.unsplash.com, Eutah Mizushima

Paradoxes At Work For Leaders

Paradox photo - Please Do Not Touch

paradox is a statement that apparently contradicts itself and yet might be true (or wrong at the same time).

Figuring out and thinking through a paradox is an important and valuable exercise in any organizational environment, for individuals and teams.  This also becomes valuable for leadership decision making and judgment calls.

Thinking through paradoxes is also extremely useful to stretch, question and develop our own thinking ability and approach.  From personal experiences, the lack of clarity and absence of active dialogues on such topics can lead to confusion, frustration and stress within organizations.  Getting caught in ‘no man’s land’ on decisions happens more frequently than we imagine.

Leaders encounter many of the following paradoxes frequently (all but one are from the book, “HR From The Outside In”).

  • Business & People
    How do you balance the tradeoff between people and business?
  • Organization & Individual
    How do you manage the tensions between individual talent and teamwork, individual ability and organizational capability? How do you balance differentiating top performers and rest of employees?
  • Outside & Inside
    How do you simultaneously understand the dynamics and operate in the external and internal environments?
  • Strategic & Administrative
    How do you balance flawless execution of administrative and operational actions with strategic adaptation to future business scenarios?
  • Short Term & Long Term
    How do you choose between short term and long term benefits, especially in decision making?

There may also be relationships to be considered among these paradoxes.  e.g., balancing the tradeoffs between business and people may need to take into consideration the balance between the future and past.

We can build clarity through a continuing, active dialogue with ourselves, our stakeholders, teams regarding our thinking, core principles and approach.  This becomes fundamental for success and increased effectiveness in a constantly changing world.

It is great to see that the 2016 RBL Group/University of Michigan HR Competency model includes ‘Paradox Navigator’ and brings out many tensions commonly faced – tensions between global and local business demands, between the need for change and stability, between the internal focus on employees and external focus on customers and investors, and between high level strategic issues and operational details.

How do you think about and manage these paradoxes?

What other paradoxes do you encounter?

(Previously posted on Linkedin)

Suggested reading:

  • Paradox – Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox
  • Book – “HR From The Outside In – Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources”; Dave Ulrich, Jon Younger, Wayne Brockbank, Mike Ulrich; McGraw Hill.
  • Paradoxes for HR – http://www.tojoeapen.com/blog/paradoxes-for-hr/
  • 2016 HR Competency Model – The RBL Group, University of Michigan
  • Image Credit – Zach Stern, The Observer’s Paradox, http://foter.com,https://www.flickr.com/photos/zachstern/7532320120/

Another Year…Questions To Reflect On…

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We see many people in our world every day and sometimes ourselves go through daily routines in a pre programmed, meaningless manner.  At the same time, we also are reminded constantly that our lives are valuable gifts with an expiry date, at least in this realm.

The end and start of a year provide valuable opportunities and reminders for personal introspection and reflection.  Great questions help us think and reflect deeply about our existence, life experiences and progress.

Few useful questions that may help with the self-review process:

  • How did I live my previous year, especially in the context of things I aspired to do?
  • How much did I live meaningfully and purposefully?
  • What impact did I have on the people and environment around me?
  • How much progress did I make in becoming the person I really aspired to be?
  • What have I learned from my experiences?
  • What are key things in life that I am grateful for?
  • What do I need to do more of, less of and stop doing?
  • When did I feel in touch with my soul? How can I do more of this?

Don’t worry if the answers are not found easily.  Not having answers may hold opportunities to look inside deeper, become more aware and mindful.

Best wishes to you for a peaceful, meaningful and happy new year…

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.” – Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

References
1. Image Credit – Joshua Earle; pixabay.com
2. On The Shortness Of Life by Seneca, goodreads.com

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