Playing with Fear


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Fear is a primal response to threat. And, it has played a crucial part in the management of human instincts and survival trends through the ages. While it served its purpose of taking a fight or flight decision when faced with physical danger during primitive times and also serves for the same, during modern times; it has also shaped into a formidable management tool through the industrial age to modern times. This time, it’s not necessarily about facing physical danger but facing uncomfortable situations as a result of not following planned direction. However, it’s usage and potency is arguable and I am sure there will be people on either side of the fence deliberating fear’s effectiveness as a management tool.

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Today, I am more interested in exploring fear for what it is and how, as an individual and leader, you need to understand it, to use it effectively to your advantage. Like someone said, risk or danger is real, but fear, it’s a choice. Either you can decide to let it control you or you take over the reins and control it. And, if you do manage to take the reins in your hands to manage fear, let me assure you, you will experience freedom in its full glory.

Fear, like many things that are the most potent when used in calculated measures, is the most effective, when used sparsely. Life is a swing, there are ups and there are downs. That’s a given and most of us have experienced it and continue to experience it. There is euphoria with the ups and fear with the downs. However, with effective preparation and management of the downs, fear doesn’t have to rule you when you are experiencing them. Fear, at optimal measures, can be a great motivator for yourself as well as when applied to a team that is pursuing a goal, to nudge them in the direction of achievement, deft responsibility management and understanding accountability. In such situations, triggering fear can help with the release of tension and buildup of energy to tackle the problem at hand and eventually result in a sense of accomplishment.

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However, when fear starts to engulf you or you end up using it beyond its potent value, it can be very damaging; its potency is lost to keep you or your team on track and as a result, chaos can take over. Knowing when to pull back is as important, if not more than to when and how much to push. When fear takes control, it tends to paralyze creativity and decision making prowess. As a result, there is a tendency to shift responsibility and depend on others’ decisions to act on, in order not to be held accountable. That just goes against the grain of accomplishment and progress. Be what you expect of others. Foster a flexible and positive atmosphere where mistakes are allowed but challenged not to recur, and when not on track, to come back to it. Knowing that its okay to screw up, so long as you learn from it and get back on track, helps everyone and instills a sense of camaraderie and trust among co-workers. It’s also important to understand that being on a constant alert to tackle stress is not healthy and can cause burnout. Winding down, relaxing and rejuvenating before picking up the mantle, is all a part of fostering the right stress management process.

On the individual front, fear tends to curb adventure and can hold you back for no reason. Any venture can either flourish or flounder. The risk or reward for any steps you take, tend to stay defined. If you fail, have the willpower and planning to get back up and try again. It can’t get worse than that. Then, why, let fear take you over and hinder you from make an attempt for a prolonged period, when there is a decent chance of you succeeding? Go ahead, and do what you plan to do. Believe me, the rest will all follow through.

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Frontline Performance Management-What​ it means to the top-line, bottom-line ​ and organizational ethos!​


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An organization and its performance are dependent on the day-to-day functioning of its frontline employees who generally make up the bulk of its workforce. The tactical stewardship of execution is in the hands of the frontline staff that reflect the company culture and its values to the customer. And generally, these associates who are the majority of an organization’s workforce are the ones affected by several challenges across industries – low levels of motivation, economic and emotional stress, stressful work goals and management pressure to meet them, poor growth prospects, all of which result in high levels of attrition.

Today’s organizations are moving toward building their future prospects on customer experience. According to a recent article I was reviewing, an estimated 90% of all organizations are expected to craft themselves around customer experience by 2025. With customer experience becoming such an integral part of an organization’s success, it’s important to re-focus on the frontline staff who are the face of the organization to the end consumer. Although technology in its various forms is making in-roads into customer experience, the human element is still very much an integral part of the value an organization provides to its customer base. Be it retail, airlines or business process outsourcing, frontline employees play a major role in day-to-day activity and customer interaction.

With customer experience playing such a vital role in the performance and growth of any business, productivity and progress of the frontline staff becomes that much more important and its imperative to focus on them to ensure that there is a fair exchange of value going on.

With a slew of challenges, from financial wellbeing, poor work environment, boredom, and lack of challenges to stimulate creativity, poor growth prospects and high-pressure micromanagement to reach goals established by management without any space to induce their own personalities in what they do, the frontline employees continue to paint a poor picture of the organization to the end consumers, and move between jobs frequently trying to find a suitable position and organization to work for. As a result, management challenges include finding the right associates, coaching and training them to only lose them and work on the next while also battling work goals that need to be met. Dealing with the revolving door continues to be an impediment that affects operational and financial goals of organizations.

How can an organization double down on and tackle this issue, especially in these times of renewed focus on consumer experience to drive the engines of an organization?

That is where building a culture of empowerment comes into play. The frontline employees are the visible face of the organization. Development of a culture of performance through focused drive, clarity of mission and vision, and imparting value individually and as a team, should become the tenets of frontline management.

Better pay and employment conditions are the first tenet. It’s important for organizations and management teams to understand that the first line of employees on the job is the most vital arm of an organization and its long-term success. Since these employees are on the lowest rung of the ladder, doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be the lowest paid, more importantly, they should be paid to have a decent living base, without the worry of day to day financial challenges in their personal lives which tend to have an impact on their performance at work. All employees should be treated as an extension of one work family. Equanimity of base pay and benefits go a long way in improving employee morale. Pay for performance, whether positive or negative has some implications on performance, but not necessarily long term.

Next, support through training and coaching is important to ensure clarity of purpose for frontline employees. Each individual needs to understand, not just their work but also the impact it has on the larger scheme of things. They need to understand their contribution and value they bring to the organization, to own it and impart it on a daily basis to their best. Coaching, especially through peers or managers on a one on one basis reflects the investment the organization is willing to make in them, as valued employees, to learn about their strengths and weaknesses and help them cope to get better, and more importantly to advance in their careers. Frontline employees should be coached to look at their roles, less as jobs and more as careers where they have opportunities for advancement, provided they work on their specific strengths to take the lead as opportunities come up within the organization.

Empowerment is also a vital aspect of this puzzle. Generally, frontline roles are treated as jobs with high attrition and to be easily replaced with the next person coming in. It is also assumed that the role is a set of repeated tasks to be performed thus boxing in the role. That notion has to change. These are probably, the most important roles within an organization as the first line of customer interaction. Empowering the frontline employees garners multiple benefits for the individuals in the roles as well as for the organization. By empowering the employees to identify challenges, think creatively and come up with ways and means to interact with consumers, find and execute solutions to the challenges, the organization gains to improve upon its frontline as well as other specific challenges, finds new ways of interacting with consumers, thus raising customer satisfaction and loyalty with the organization and also helps identify the difference makers within the employees and offer them better career growth prospects. This empowerment also boosts employee morale as they feel challenged and in control of their work execution, thus bringing the best out of them. Productivity boosts can be seen in employee work ethic and improved influence on organizational performance resulting in higher revenue at the same or lower costs and better profit margins allowing the organization to experiment further and provide better opportunities to its employees. Further, the brand recognition and goodwill gained in the market is invaluable.

All of the above alleviates stress from the work environment, focuses on training, coaching and empowerment than micromanaging, using positive and negative motivators that have a limited shelf life and more importantly, brings the employees and management closer as one work family out to succeed together, working on a unified mission and vision, that they all take pride in.

Rules of Engagement and Realm of Influence


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It’s the people, human resources that are the most important asset of any organization. It is these associates, employees, contractors and those engaged in various capacities that turn the wheels of the organization every single day in the direction of its aspirational mission. These associates come together in various roles, manning several myriad functions that together create the structure of the organization.

The roles and responsibilities of such associates, often times are overlapping and most definitely closely inter-twined to form the fabric of the organization. That is where rules of engagement and the sphere of influence come into play. Rules of engagement vary for every role within an organization and are based on their core responsibilities toward the organization. The job description lays a framework of expectations from a role & its associated responsibilities as well as expectations from the incumbent. However, rules of engagement are unique and evolve based on several factors. The role and its connectivity to other roles as well as the overarching organization are crucial. But what makes it unique, is the personalities occupying those roles. Every person is unique and is a sum total of their experiences at a given point in time. Their understanding of the role, responsibilities and inter-personal dynamics are unique as well. Their interpretation of this has an impact on their framework of rules of engagement. They engage and act based on all that they are influenced by.

In order to succeed at a role, it’s a given that one has to have clarity of vision of their role’s expectations and responsibilities, but more importantly, they need to develop a keen insight into the unique organizational dynamics at play and learn to shape their transactions accordingly, to the benefit of what they are set out to achieve as a part of their role with an eye on the big picture mission of the organization. This helps them maneuver well in reaching their professional as well as personal goals. Rules of engagement and the realm of a role’s influence, although have a rough framework; they are extended, expanded and emphatically executed by the unique personalities occupying these roles. The incumbent’s unique understanding and engagement with these rules, which, predominantly is influenced by their personalities, shape the fluidity and flexibility of a role’s influence. It is for this reason that several factors are looked at when recruiting people to occupy roles. It’s never just about the role that is vacant. It’s also about organizational fit. Beyond that, it’s the organic evolution of Darwinism within the organization, evolution by natural selection.

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Fostering Team Camaraderie – It’s NOT always about the mission!


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Fostering team camaraderie is no easy task. For many, the team leader-member relationship is that of someone who leads and directs and others who follow. Nothing can be farther from truth than that. You can argue that a good leader leads from the front, is empathetic and so on and so forth. But, that’s not what I am here to discuss today.

I am here to discuss how to invigorate, spread and share the same essence of doer ship and direction across the team, to do one’s best to ensure that each team member is touched by it and dwells in that spirit, so that ultimately, the whole team moves in one direction toward one mission. That’s the stuff great teams’ and great organizations are made of. It takes them over and above individual needs and wants, the organizational benefits and aspirations and toward pure execution to attain a unified mission as one team. It’s an experience par any for the proud members of that team which they cherish forever.

Like I said, getting everyone on the team to think like one is not an easy task. Not easy, but definitely possible! While all individuals have different hot buttons that motivate them and it’s the job of the leader to ensure that they are being actively responded to, its these individuals that come together as a team, to act on one unified objective. The leader and the team members have shared responsibility in helping each other align closer with that mission. And that comes about in several forms of interactions from group to individual settings. Not everyone needs to see the big picture but everyone does need to see the picture from where they stand and understand very clearly their part in fulfilling it. At the same time, team dynamics play a crucial part in how effectively a team performs. This is where the unique differentiator between teams lies. Team dynamics is not strengthened, just by focused concentration on the work at hand. It gets stronger and more effective when the team interacts socially and participates in activities besides work. I am not talking about hitting the bar and sharing silly jokes. For some, that might work to an extent. I am talking about doing things besides work that strengthens their bond and fosters mutual respect and awe for each other. This could mean, sharing hobbies and other skills, connecting to discuss and act on social and volunteer projects, opening each other to new avenues and opportunities, thus fostering learning and cultivating new horizons for the team.

This goes a long way in forming true friendships and bonds between teammates. It takes the relationship to the next level where they draw inspiration from each other. It helps members recognize new strengths and skills in each other, allowing them new found respect for their peers. All of this comes through eventually, when the team acts as one and takes on a challenge head on, in not just successful accomplishments, but accomplishments of a greater quality and higher caliber. This elevates their professional interactions to a new level, helps them find better and more capable personalities within themselves, and most important of all, true happiness in what they do and who they work with everyday.

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The Dream Act!


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Nothing worthwhile happens in a jiffy. At the same time, it doesn’t need to take ages to make it happen as well.

Anything and everything that you want to do, be it to excel in a class, lose weight or build a ripped body, land that promotion or build your own business, all of this needs planning and effort on your part to make it happen. Whether you realize it or not, there is a certain level of planning that goes into architecting your life and everything you want to do with it. It’s when this planning is poor or not in complete recognition of factors affecting you and what you seek to do, that efforts fail. But worse than that, is not making an effort at all. You could do all the planning in the world and still not move an inch on executing your plan. Do not wonder when you hardly see any results. You could be most efficient up there in your head, but if that efficiency and execution do not hit the ground in real life, you will be exactly where you are, building large castles in your head.

The power of vision and planning is immense. But the best of plans are laid to waste due to a paucity of will to execute on them. More than the whole exercise of execution that might seem like a lofty task right at the beginning, let me say, that the conviction to start is important. You have the vision of what could be and a solid plan to back it up to show that yes, if executed this can mean an immense change for you and those around you in real life. However, envisioning the expanse of the execution and unforeseen challenges that you might come across overwhelm you. That is where you need to reign in the horses of your ever-wandering mind which starts to create this maze of “if, thens and buts” that tend to hamper your enthusiasm before you even begin. Human mind has a way of controlling you and sometimes, you have to know when to control your mind.

More important is to know that you just need to start and take it, one day at a time. You still need to have your clarity of vision but plan to execute, more for the mid to short term. Most important, go with the flow and start on it. Every small step counts; every daily challenge overcome is triumph. Soon, when you look back at the journey you took, there are miles of steps taken, dozens of challenges overcome and your vision unfolding in real life, right in front of you.

Never let go of your dreams! Never let them be just dreams!

Dreams do come true, only if you come through for them!

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Knowledge is NOT Power, sans Application


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Everywhere you turn, there is a lot of emphasis on learning.

“Be a life long learner”, they say.

Learning is most definitely a vital skill for it is the one thing that validates for you, that you are living and growing, growing and living. The quest for knowledge keeps ignited in one, no matter the age; a spirit of curiosity, of yearning and seeking to understand more of the things around us.

With all due respect to the power and importance of learning in one’s life, more important is the application of what you have learnt. Of what use is all the knowledge you have acquired over the years, if you haven’t managed to learn how to apply and benefit from it and/or how to impart it to others so they may benefit from it.

You see, learning is a life long exercise, and for good reason since there is so much to learn that an entire lifetime is just not enough; but more important is the application of what you have learnt. Else, knowledge is perishable. If you don’t apply what you have learnt, or impart to others what you know, you are bound to forget or weaken your knowledge. With application comes depth, a better understanding and perhaps, further exploration, research and as a result, better command of your knowledge. And the cycle continues where, you are able to apply this new knowledge with much success.

Successful application is the fructification of the learning process and knowledge acquisition. That is the end goal of all knowledge, to reach its optimal end result – to share, apply, grow and evolve.

Hence, my dear friends learn what you seek, but better yet, learn how to apply and share your knowledge to the benefit of you and others around you.

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DayDreaming – Designing your life from the clouds


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Day Dreaming is actually a very good pastime. Did you know that?

Although abhorred as a waste of time by many and especially where parents admonish kids from doing so, it’s not truly a “waste of time” as its deemed to be.

Daydreaming is not just about building castles in the clouds and fantasizing about what could be and living through it in thin air. Agreed, to a certain extent, it’s just that. However, it speaks to your vivid, no bars held imagination and fiery creativity, it speaks to your intelligence, potential and your vision of what could and should be.

If you are a formidable personality, it can help ignite your passion, accelerate your motivation and push you to achieve your dreams in real life. Although you may think that daydreaming is unintentional, it’s actually purposeful and shaped by your environment, your surroundings and experiences and in many a case, perhaps a tad bit of escapism from present reality to where you would like to be.

Zoning out helps. You focus better when you zone back in. While having your mind wander is seen as being inattentive and lazy, it helps take you out of the constraints of the current situation and look at it from an outsider’s perspective, truly “out of the box” perspective to find solutions that you would otherwise overlook, or perhaps be unable to see at all.

It’s important to understand the difference between day dreaming and multi-tasking. Multi-tasking, where you end up thinking of or paying attention to something else while doing one thing, because either that one thing is too easy for you to do and doesn’t need all your faculties involved, or you are plain disinterested in it, is about division of attention and has nothing to do with giving your imagination wings.

Daydreaming is perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of our brain. It truly liberates your imagination and lets it fly independently to conjure whatever you feel like. From fantasies to realism, it’s all in there for it to build upon. However, not every daydream is created equal. While fantasies may lull you into momentary happiness, once you are out of it, you may feel more frustrated and disappointed. On the other hand, if such daydreaming has a path toward realism, you will find purpose and are bound to feel motivated to realize in real life. Now, its up to you to strive and make it happen, thus creating that sense of accomplishment and lasting happiness for yourself.

Daydreaming is assumed to be an unbridled horse wafting across the clouds. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that. We can structure our daydreams to work for us. For instance, if you have a realistic daydream, you can help structure it by applying yourself to it in the dream, as you would want to in real life, to achieve it. Never jump to the result straightaway and dream your success, just because you can. If you have a realistic dream, and aspire to achieve it, constantly thinking about it, creating the details and the depth of it. When you daydream, you can work through it step by step; all that needs to get done in detail. From the actions to take, the challenges you may face to how you will overcome them, all the way to achieving that goal. You can live that experience before you actually experience it in real life, thus better preparing yourself to make it happen!

When you have the ability to build your own world in your head, why not leverage it to make a change in your real life as well.

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When learning is ineffective


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Being a student for life is considered a virtue and a skill that is highly sought.

Having an everlasting thirst for knowledge and the will to learn and absorb is indeed wonderful.

No amount of learning or unlearning is useful to anyone unless you do one of two things; share the knowledge you gain so others may benefit from it and/or act on what you learn. Use the knowledge you gain to benefit from it. Apply it to improve your own life and the lives of those around you. If you do not do one of these two things, no matter what and how much you learn, is a sheer waste of time and energy. You might not think so since you are the one who has learnt something and perhaps, enjoyed learning it but, without application, that learning is not fulfilled.

Whatever is learnt has to be applied, not just because I am saying so but for in order to further the learning as well. Unless applied, what is taught and learned doesn’t evolve on its journey to its ultimate culmination. Of course, you might argue that there is no end point for anything that is coachable or can be learnt. Perhaps, how ever it can always be on a progressive journey and what we can do as the seekers of knowledge is accelerate that journey through application. And, in the process, benefit from such along its evolution.

Be curious and inquisitive, seek knowledge, apply and share for that is the essence of our time and our lives here.

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Find your inspiration closer home!


Do that. That’s where you should go looking to find some true inspiration; inspiration you can touch, feel and that will build with time and show you the path to tread on.

Shooting for the stars and reaching for the moon is what ambition is all about and that’s what we have been taught from day one. But, what about the journey from your “Now!” to get to that moon? How do you learn about the path to take, the incremental steps that get you there, the defeats you need to face before you arrive?

Defacto, attention is drawn to stalwarts of our time and times before. Gandhi, Edison and such famed personalities are pointed to as historical figures to emulate from. Go ahead and learn about them. They lived in a different time and did different things that influenced the course of our past and present. However, it’s difficult to find a constant in the realm of inspiration from them. The more recent personalities such as Steve Jobs of Apple and Dr. Abdul Kalam, the missile man of India also provide inspiration. Mostly, it is inspiration that points to aspirations to reach their heights. All of these people have a place and time in our own lives to learn from, no doubt about that. But, it’s the aspiration of their heights that is the driver more than anything else. And, we all know that there was one Steve Jobs or one Gandhi.

Everyone of us and our own lives are unique. What you do or will do is unique and it’s for you to chart your individual path while drawing inspiration and lessons from far and near as you chisel your own destiny. Mind you, none of the personalities we look up to, set off to say that one day I will make my mark and influence the world. They all set out to do what they personally wanted to achieve, in many a case not knowing when or how they will pave their path, leave alone where they would end up. They started for themselves and soon, many others found a unity in purpose with them, which made them out to be the personalities they are today.

Look for your inspiration closer home. It doesn’t always have to be a towering personality you need to look up to. My kid’s bus driver who makes it on time early in the morning every day, to pick them up and drive them to school safely, inspires me. I am inspired by the teacher who has an extra-curricular activity planned for the kids an hour before the school starts and holds the door open for them to come in even before the sun breaks out. The dad or mom who goes out to win bread for the family against all odds, no matter what, inspires me. Parents who multi-task to provide for a family yet, pursue meaningful careers and hobbies inspire me. Some venture to take on and tackle challenges of the world.

Look around you and find inspiration from those you interact with everyday. Learn from them as well as influence them with what is good in you. This keeps the flow of inspiration fluid and constant. Then, continue to build your aspirations, look to learn from the experiences of towering personalities and tweak your own agenda and actions to get to where you want to be. Following in someone’s footsteps is one thing, but the current times provide you the opportunity to tread and create your own paths and go, discover unchartered territories.

Get inspired, aspire and accomplish!

Build your brand or risk getting branded!


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Millions of us that work, very closely adhere our self-image to our work. It’s debatable whether that’s fortunate or not. We tend to closely associate our recognition by the position and company we keep. You are either a Software Developer or a Sales guy at Google, Apple or Yahoo or somewhere else.

Hence, when someone leaves a job, they are kind of lost until they find their image back at a new role. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

I believe, everyone should craft their unique identity and brand based on who they really are, what they like and are passionate about, and how their uniqueness comes across as an advantage to a position or an organization they associate themselves with.

Let me enlighten you with an example that many will understand. There are several skilled and stellar actors in our movie world. Some are known for a single role or certain kind of roles they play. They are branded for that role and/or movie or for that stream of roles they play. Their work in specific movies and roles tends to brand them. While, there are others who have crafted their own unique image and play multiple roles in a variety of movies, yet hold their own. You watch a certain movie because that particular actor starred in it. Some movies, you go to watch for the movie and others, you watch because of the actor. That’s the difference.

Not everyone is fortunate to have that range of visibility for their work, yet with a bit of smarts, you can differentiate yourself from the multitude that work in a similar line as you, and put your own stamp on the work you perform. Not only does it distinguish you but also attracts better and unique opportunities your way that can propel you way beyond your wildest imagination.

Take on the challenges you are faced with by the horns and put your best foot forward, and always give that little bit extra of yourself to make your mark!