Testing Leadership Mettle…


I am sure you have heard, more than once, that every individual is unique. The hot buttons of each one of us are different. However, we all aspire for and come together as teams and organizations, in pursuit of the achievement of objectives much larger than our individual selves. Some tend to do it better than the others. While we work together toward common objectives, there are multiple threads and hot buttons that need to be managed at the team and individual levels. This ultimately constitutes leadership and its varying degrees of efficiency that determines the health of the organization.

The premise of leadership is founded on the universal notion that a leader can motivate individuals and energize them to go from their current state to a desired state of optimal productivity. However, to do that, a capable leader needs to understand individual motivational needs and be able to work on them. Without intervening at the individual level, optimal productivity and more importantly, a willing pursuit of common objectives of the team or organization at the highest levels, is not possible. It should be a prerogative of every manager to understand their individual team member motivational needs and to be able to act on them, to bring common objectives achievement into focus.

While we all have finite time and energy to do a multitude of tasks, an important aspect of management is the ability to interact with teams and its individual constituents. Many a time individuals themselves do not have a clear understanding of their own motivational needs. This is where the need for a mentor becomes clear, in order to help the individual grow. Mind you, I say a mentor who can help individuals identify their own needs and help them focus on fulfilling those. External motivation has limitations and the focus should be on awakening internal factors of motivation for the individual and igniting the spark within to have them act on their own needs.

The best form of motivation however, is inspiration. If the leaders embrace the principles they spout and act in ways to show that they embrace what they preach, it goes a long way in inspiring others, that look up to them and respect them, to follow and reflect better selves.  Do note that a leader cannot actively try and inspire someone; it is for the others to get inspired. Hence, leaders can do themselves a favor by not always focusing on external motivation for their teams, but embracing ideals they would like to propagate within the cultural fabric of the organization. These will find ways of spreading through the organization as inspiration. And inspiration allows willing changes that individuals make in how they act and behave, purely because they believe and also out of respect and the need to see themselves in the same frame as those they look up to.

A leader’s effectiveness is determined by the inspiration they can invoke within their team. A key aspect that leaders need to take note of is that not all individuals are made equal. Some are motivated to do the minimum for a paycheck and others, to do just enough to hold on to the job. Inspiration may not awaken in them due to multiple personal complexities and it becomes important to recognize and understand, that a team is made of individuals with varying levels of motivation and it’s the leader’s job to ensure that this mix doesn’t affect the team objectives in a detrimental way at any time. The key is to work on individuals feeling engaged in their roles, for that is when they have the freedom to be creative and express themselves through their work in the best possible ways.

While setting an example and inspiring the individuals is the highest tenet that a leader should hold themselves to, communication is a two way street, where they should be willing to listen to the feedback and act on it, for the benefit of everyone involved. Transparency and empowering individuals to unleash their creative freedom in their roles goes a long way in bolstering their attitudes and getting the best out of them. Caring for each other, is finally the one aspect that cements a great relationship between everyone where no matter the challenge, they will all rise up together to take it on.

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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.

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.

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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Sales, Marketing and Client Management – Influence of the Art and Science of it


Sales, Marketing and Client Management are key functions that, when done right, help with continued sustenance and healthy growth of an organization.

What makes someone a great sales person or passionate client management professional?

While having the aptitude to truly enjoy the responsibility of these functions is a given, the blend of having an upbeat attitude, charisma and innate traits that go with being convincing and having superior negotiation skills go a long way. Certain traits are a part of the personality and other skills can be attained or rather, fine-tuned through training.

Generally, future performance in sales and client management roles are judged based on past performance. Considered a predictable indicator, there is only so much reliability you can attribute to this.

Coming back to the art of sales, marketing and client management, prowess in these areas is based on aptitude, attitude, personality-based traits and learned skills.

When you consider using the art side of sales, marketing and client management, decisions are made and acted upon based on gut reactions, and end results rely much on personality traits and learned skills to help drive closure.

However, when we come to the science of it; that is where you see an impact of the industry and solution/ product knowledge, technical prowess, understanding of competitive landscape, market dynamics and more.

In today’s world, data plays such an important role in not just decision making, but facts based decision-making. Efforts are made to understand and simulate client needs, in many a case even before, the clients themselves know of their needs! That’s where the science of marketing comes into play to educate clients about their unforeseen needs and then, propose solutions to fulfill such needs.

The science of it all helps differentiate impactful marketing, trusty and inspired relationships with prospects and clients and helps further build on pure transparency of relationships as true partners engaging in solving the same problems, and not as two counter intuitive entities playing the roles of a buyer and seller, where the relationship is based on individual organizational interests and revenue plans than working together as partners to solve problems to the benefit of both.

In the latter scenario, there is true cross pollination of ideas and experimentation of new solutions as true partners.

In summary, an understanding of market dynamics, competitive landscape, true customer needs, product and solution specifics in relation to solving customer needs go a long way in closing deals and maintaining long term reference able clients as true partners that mutually thrive. This knowledge differentiates true sales, marketing and client management professionals as trusted partners from those that rely purely on the art of it. It also has a very profound impact on industry and organizational acceleration in their respective realms of pursuit and immensely influences their success.

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It takes a village to raise a child!


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It takes a village to raise a child, they say.

Whether on a job, running a business, when in school or even when raising a family, any pursuit demands constant self-analysis in comparison to the environment around to assess where and how you fit in, to make the most effective impact on what you have set out to do. I have come across many that pay more attention to what they do not know or aren’t the best at than what they do and rock at.

For instance, those with strong technical skills question the business acumen they possess while those with a strong business background, question their technical knowledge. Financial whiz’s’ are uneasy with specific business domain knowledge they work in. Operations stalwarts tone down when it comes to business development.

This is something that I have seen to be very dominant in our times. Being aware of your shortcomings is wise and essential. But, to fret over it is not. Not everyone can be a star at everything they do. What is important is that they make an effort to know about things the best they possibly can so they are, in the least informed, when it comes to understanding how that fits in the big picture and this gives them the ability to make good decisions, many a time in their own work realm.

When you know your preferences, likes and strengths, focus on being the best at them. Do not worry about the rest. In fact, find the best possible help you can get on things that you are not very good at. It’s smart to surround yourself with people who are better than you so that you have that part of what you want to do covered. Now, you can focus on what you are excel at and trust others to focus on what they are good at so, all around, you come out successful. Remember, everything in life is a team effort; no one person did it all!

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Spontaneity in innovation – Does unbridled exuberance lead to success?


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Spontaneity, that eureka! moment, when it seems that the whole universe is prodding you to succeed, is a key factor in innovation. However, it’s not that it comes to you right out of the blue. Behind it is years of research, struggle, experience, application, trial and error, call it whatever you want. Whether active or passive, much has gone into bringing on that one idea with which you shall change the world.

However, the debate has been whether innovation thrives in an unstructured environment where you let it come to you unannounced or in a more structured environment where you create the ambience for innovative work focused on revealing what the next big thing is. Perhaps in a step-by-step fashion and eventually, it will unfold and show returns.

Studies have shown that with more formal innovation structures and processes, there is higher satisfaction and better outcomes. However, there needs to be some chaos, the ability to imagine and dream, even within formal structures in order for the unconventional to reveal itself, break the mold and set a trend. It’s important to have a product management and development structure within organizations but, its more important to separate the people focused on current products and releases that follow schedules to meet current client needs from those whose role is to imagine, dream, try to test out new things without the pressure of supporting ongoing business needs. Ensuring there is an open line to receive client feedback on current products can help influence the direction of research to keep it close to the markets being served. However, there is a balance that needs to be drawn here to ensure that the influence is not so much that the team ends up serving client custom needs but is actually focused on creating better products with better outcomes, sometimes in a sense that may even create a new pivot.

High cross functional collaboration, greater risk tolerance appetite, research driven organizations with supportive eco systems tend to do better than those that are narrowly focused on bottom lines. The truth is that true innovation results in improved employee morale, spontaneity and better bottom lines naturally.

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The astonishing power of “Will”


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Human brain is an absolutely amazing and fascinating creation, a gift that each of us is bestowed with. Yet, there is so little we know about it and such marginal use we get out of it.

Not to say that each of us needs to get into the depths of its potential and know what it can help accomplish. That would actually be, a not so good use of it and furthermore, I believe that its abysmal and infinite to even grasp its potential.

For us, common folk, let’s suffice to say that knowing, it has this infinite depth, boundaries of learning and application, that we can do wonders in our daily lives is enough. Now, knowing that, what can you do to help your brain deliver on its promise to elevate your life to where you thought, it’s impossible, or perhaps very difficult to get to.

As the old adage goes, “its all in the head!” Do you believe that you can think yourself to achieve what you want to? If not, start believing in it now for that’s a fact!

All you have to do is to believe. Have a strong will and constantly think about how to realize it. Your brain will lay down various channels of getting there. It will allow for connections, pursuits and paths for you to follow. What you need to do is to pursue them with blind faith and never give up. Does this mean that your amazing thought power will lead you straight to your goal, without hitting any roadblocks in between? Not in the wildest of your dreams! That is exactly what makes this journey so much more interesting, entertaining and adventurous. You will face roadblocks and experience hills and troughs. All you need to know is not to ever give up on your faith of where your head can lead you. As long as you do that, hidden paths will reveal to you, solutions and shortcuts will show and prod you to take on that wild road which is rarely taken. Your head will lead you to do things that you thought you were hardly capable of, tasks you deemed hard and insurmountable. Now, you will get through them with élan and each task you accomplish will fit like a puzzle piece to reveal the next, getting you closer to your goals.

All you should ask of your self is faith in your faculties and perseverance until you can look back and be amazed at what you have accomplished. And while you are at it, never forget to enjoy the ride for at the end of it, it’s the ride you will have cherished the most than getting to that peak.

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Can you Think Yourself into Your Desired Level of Success?


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During the days when I taught management courses, many a student has asked me, “How do I become as successful in life as I possibly can?” In some cases, the question was, “How do I become as successful as I want to?” The de facto answer was, “Work hard.” And there were several others such as establish goals, pursue them diligently, dream big, focus, plan your work, work your plan, etc.”

Now, in hindsight, I would have given a more introspective answer for them to reflect upon. Not that all said above is untrue; it surely is a requirement for success. But, there are several intrinsic behaviors and patterns that determine the level of success you achieve in life.

It’s often said that in order to be successful at what you do, know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with people who are strong in your weak areas. As a result, you develop a circle of strength from which to operate and find positive results in your endeavors.

However, how do you determine your level of success? I mean, how do you ensure you make a positive impact in the lives of thousands of people versus a few hundred or even tens? How do you build a business that is multi-national than locally or regionally focused? How do you build a billion dollar corporation than one that plays in the hundreds of thousands? How do you land the job you desire in the field of your choice in the organization you aspire to work for? How do you grow your career prospects as you gather experience? How do you move into your desired lifestyle? The answer to this lies in the daily life you cultivate and nurture. In other words, your daily interactions, the people you interact with, the books you read, the inspiration and thoughts you cultivate and the rapport you share with those that have done it before.

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Dreaming big and executing on a roadmap to realize your dream is just not enough. You need to build and interact with the right network, develop a nourishing atmosphere so that you can constantly draw inspiration; all your interactions, thoughts and actions need to be a sum total of this. Draw inspiration to chart your own path, the way you see it. Talk, read, and contemplate on what you aspire to do every second, every minute of your existence. Build on the intensity so that your thoughts are shaped by it which shows in your decisions, your actions and finally in your results.

It’s also often said, “When in Rome, act like the Romans.” Well, this is not about acting like Romans, but about getting to be the King of Rome. Not when in Rome, but on the way to Rome, so you arrive King!

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