Connected, yet drained!


ID-10044634

In the current digital era, the highly networked age, everyone you know or do not know has a connected device at hand. Mobile phones, tablets, laptops and personal computers are everywhere around us. You have them at home, at work and everywhere in between. You can reach anyone across the world at the speed of thought! You can call, leave a message, email, text, and chat or get on social networking sites and apps and share. Boy, are you connected! You have the reach at your fingertips that, a couple of decades ago was only dreamt of.

But, do you really connect? The human mind is so flirtatious that it cannot afford to stay put on one interaction for longer than a few seconds to perhaps, a couple of minutes. It has to keep moving, has to find new interests and fleet to the next as the previous one starts to wane away. That is what the rapid and overwhelming influx of information and our highly networked times has done to us. How many times have you glanced at your mobile phone today? Checked that Facebook app, that LinkedIn page, those Twitter tweets for the nth time yet?

There is no denying the fact that what technology has enabled is highly valuable. To reach someone on the other side of the planet in real time is immense. It has brought us all together in various aspects of life, personal and professional, and made the world smaller. It has made us one people and erased boundaries and other demarcations that once divided us. And, in every sense of what it set out to do, it has enabled us to make progress as better educated, aware, enlightened and open-minded humans that care about, not just what’s around us, but across the world.

And, this ability, in the larger scheme of things is highly efficient and valuable. However, what it has also done is, robbed us of what we once cherished and valued. True social interactions, in person meetings where we greeted each other and shared bonhomie, family and friends get-togethers where we cherished knowing each other and encouraged finer aspects of our personalities, social events where we met, talked, shared opinions and thoughts, all those are not as frequent or as rich as they once were. Perhaps, it is now that we reminisce the value of what we are continuing to lose. Think about it, you live in the same home, but communicate with your spouse and kids via devices. The family room conversations, the dinner table chitchat, the long ride interactions and coming together to participate in events that enriched us and strengthened our bonds are becoming rare; perhaps only on special occasions do these occur, if at all. Its in our best interest to save these and cultivate them, not just in ourselves but in future generations for they enriched us and defined our very existence, as people, as those who loved each other for what we were and strived to excel.

Technology has to be leveraged and used to enrich our lives, but we shouldn’t become a slave to it. It takes a conscious effort to do that and it’s in the best interest of us, humans to let it not rule our lives. And who better to begin this reversal than you. Take up the challenge and bring life back to you and those around you.

Image Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Advertisements

Leadership Today – From Command & Control to Being Inclusive


Image

Leaders are built, not born…..

Lead from the front…..

Yawn! This is old school.

Let’s look at leadership for what it is in the new age. Gone are the days of command and control. Today, there is an altogether different leadership that is expected.

Leadership, as we have understood it through the ages, stands for someone, being the champion of a cause and then, enlisting the help of others and influencing them in the realization of the same. It has also been seen as the act of leading others, directing them toward specific achievements through a means that is most effective.

However, leadership is not always about being at the forefront of a team and giving directions as to what they need to do next and how.

The entrepreneurial and corporate engines of today run with a different fuel, an altogether different steam. Nobody is directing anyone, people have the intellect and drive to choose and follow the paths they want to adventure onto 

Leadership is effectively sharing a compelling vision

What they need is a purposeful and meaningful vision, an articulation of how to get from point A to point B and finally, if you are someone who has been there and done that, there’s acknowledgement of what you’ve done and people want to listen to you. Mind you, I said listen. Today’s generation would love to listen to glean lessons from someone else’s experience. They do not care for direction. They will chart their path as long as they buy into the vision, the strategy laid to adopt and the results to be realized. They will chart their own path, a path that works for them to get there under the larger realm of the organizational vision and mission.

Leadership is being respectful of other’s intellect, skills and time

Everyone develops expertise over time at different things and then, can lead within that field, thanks to the skills they have accrued. Leaders are respectful of that. It’s often said that good leaders are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with people better than themselves in areas they lack expertise in. It’s important that to effectuate strong leadership, leaders are respectful of those that work for them and with them. These helps nurture a mutually healthy relationship between leaders and followers and only then, do those that follow, do it willingly. Followers have the freedom, not to just follow blindly, but to question and opine before they follow. A leader’s recognition of every associate’s skills, role and contributions are critical to maximize productivity in any organization. 

Leadership is being transparent, showing strength of character and conviction

A leader is respected for who they are more than what they represent. People need to believe in a person before they decide to follow. A leader needs to ensure that more than having a charismatic personality; they are transparent, just in their dealings and have a high level of integrity and moral values. Trust is a key aspect of any relationship and nothing can establish it more than your true self, reflected in your words and actions. Another important aspect of reflecting true leadership is to show conviction in what you believe and stand for. Decisions that you take need to be solid and no matter what, you should be able to stand behind them. You should not take a decision without much forethought and facts to back it up. And when you do, stand behind it, no matter what. These qualities are vital in ensuring true followership that will stand behind you all the way.

Leadership is putting your shareholders, but first, your employees before you

Leaders focus on the big picture. Yet, they need to have a handle on the tactical stuff. Leaders focus on providing shareholder value, and will put their employees, those that are working on the realization of the articulated vision before everything else. Happy employees lead to satisfied clients and they, in turn lead to a thriving business, eventually ensuring shareholder approval. As long as you’ve got your people’s back, they will have yours.

Leadership is not about directing, but about listening and co-sharing direction

Leaders of this age are no longer the ones that can sit in their ivory towers, draw the shades down and call the shots from yonder. In this day and age of Internet, social media and fast paced actions and outcomes, its important for a leader to stay in absolute touch with their organization, the competition and the market. With rapidly shifting dynamics, it’s about effectively listening to what your people have to say to you. What are they seeing out there? What are they experiencing? What do they advise? All of this needs to be appraised constantly and decisions need to be made based on every input you can possibly get. Its shared leadership as to which direction the organization should take. This is the only way to remain relevant is a fast paced ever changing market.

Leadership is personal

Leadership is personal to every leader. Every leader is unique and to be effective, needs to be comfortable with their own style. You can be at your best as a leader when your leadership reflects your values, skills and life experiences. People seek to know you for who you are. They will look to you to be ethical, moral, righteous etc. before they follow you but eventually, your unique self will be a key aspect of why they would follow you.

Yahoo! Turning a new leaf w/ Marissa Mayer…


While Marissa Mayer’s recent coronation as Yahoo’s CEO is still fresh in everyone’s mind, let’s take a look back at how Yahoo!, the “premier digital media company” has evolved over time and where it is/ should be headed. After all, the next best thing that you can do when not in Marissa’s shoes is to send her some unsolicited advice!

Yahoo.com was just another personal website that Jerry Yang and David Filo put together in 1994 when dotcom as a business model was still nascent. With a bit of ambition and dare, these young entrepreneurs turned this website into a brand name and made it unique by adding several feature filled updates. Soon, it grew to be the anchor of any internet traveler and was successful at becoming home for many such travelers, 700 million and counting.

During the dotcom boom and bust, competition grew and there were several other websites competing in the unique feature space with Yahoo. The business model had to evolve. Diversification set in and Yahoo tried to be everything to everybody. What initially started as the one stop aspirant for the internet traveler started looking at serving every niche they could get into, be it e-mail, search, news, finance, service provision, TV/ movie listings & reviews, games, personal and so on and so forth. As a result, growth and acquisition of complementary and non-complementary businesses set in. Yahoo looked at creating feature rich additions to the already burgeoning Yahoo list of properties hoping to ensure user stickiness and more ad revenue while in actuality it seemed to lose direction of its core business and as a result started slipping in the numbers game. Recently, 5 people have traded places as the CEO of Yahoo, with Marissa Mayer in the driver’s seat now.

Today, Yahoo is a big pile of properties, some viable and with promise in a highly competitive internet world that is changing so rapidly that by the time you take a breather and refocus, the focus that was there has shifted way beyond.

Marissa Mayer has her task cut out for her and based on the first couple of baby steps she has taken; free food and Apple iphones for all employees, she is beginning with rejuvenating employee morale while weaving the fabric of camraderie and pride in Yahoo among them. This will eventually have long term benefits while setting direction toward the future for developing Yahoo into an organization that is prepared for 2015, 2020 and beyond.

First things first; in order to rebuild a world class company, it’s imperative that every contributor viz., employee and associate has a sense of ownership and pride of belonging to the best of the breed. With her first steps, Marissa is headed that way.

The most fundamental principles of getting a company back on track are at work here. The need to refocus on core competencies, identifying and embracing them and having teams work with their heads down to produce results in the next several months is vital. A strategic refocus as to where the future of the internet is headed with cloud computing and mobile technology at play in the virtual world is set to happen.

At the same time, the vast majority of Yahoo properties have to be sifted through with due input from the employee & customer base; to identify what should stay and what should go. This needs to be in alignment with the strategic focus of the future, which again has to be in step with the core competencies at the heart of the company. It is to Marissa’s advantage that Yahoo is sitting on a huge cash pile to dispense as needed; one less thing to worry about as planned execution begins.

Next in line, is the constant need to innovate; to gain strides over the competition. Disruptive innovation in a cash rich environment seems attractive but evolutionary focus can help too. Not to say that moving away from current core competencies is a bad idea if they are archaic, but it will eventually happen as the focus on future term strategy gets clearer. This is especially true of a company that is surfing a highly dynamic environment and is on the downward trend of the bell curve. New core competencies will evolve and embracing such will only allow the organization to flourish. History has shown what happens with divergence unrelated to core interests. Reinvention is common among organizations poised for growth but it needs to occur after strategically defining the reinvention path as the new path that the organization will adopt as its core. I believe it’s a fundamental law of business in order to succeed.

Yahoo’s business model has been primarily dependent on advertising revenue. As Marissa Mayer takes it from being just an internet information provider into the intricacies of being the internet juggernaut of the future (with predictable sprinklings of cutting edge mobile & social media offerings coming in the future), we can expect Yahoo to gain back some of its online advertising ground that it had previously lost as well as can look forward to new modes of revenue generation.

If previous reputation is anything to go by, Marissa had a reputation of getting things done and inculcating her own sense of style at Google. She is seen as a highly independent & efficient person who pays special attention to detail and is very involved with aesthetics as well. Dealing with Yahoo’s day to day management is one thing and pushing the Board of Directors to get on her bandwagon will be another that currently, she seems to be in control of.

With her background in Computer Sciences and her hands on experiences building over 100 products at Google, I am sure there is much she can do in terms of providing that technical edge to steer the Yahoo ship in the right direction.

Lastly, to reiterate the obvious, the most important thing is to keep the employees and customers close to the heart. What are they saying? Where are they headed? What do they want to see different? Where are the new markets? What does the new market want? This feedback will play a pivotal role in shaping the Yahoo! of the future.

Here’s wishing Marissa Mayer the very best as she steers her employees to say Yahoo! at work, her customers to say Yahoo! for all that they deserve and get; and her Shareholders to say Yahoo! all the way to the bank!

Where does the world’s “keeping in touch” platform go from here?


With the recent Facebook IPO, the internet’s latest phenomenon is front and center.

The world is wondering on various topics. What will the newly minted billionaires & millionaires do with all their monies? Has the free publicity by the media over the years turned FB into the household name it is today? Is the company really worth $100 billion with only about $4 billion in revenues and $1 billion in profits? What kind of person is Mark Zuckerberg? Will his focus now shift to catering to his shareholders and making more money for them? Will he now start selling your and my information to companies looking to leverage the data for various reasons including selling us what we may or may not want? How much information should we make public on social networking sites? Is anything ever private? What is the future of Facebook (FB)? What modes will FB adopt to grow its revenues and what controversies will that cause? Do I still want to continue on FB? Is spending a few minutes to an hour daily on FB a waste of my time? As a user, how is it that I am not making a single penny while my data is worth something to someone out there? So on and so forth……

True, there are a lot of questions and a lot more new ones may evolve over time. But, let’s take a step back. Eight years ago, when 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg was building “TheFacebook” product, even he wasn’t aware that it would grow to be what it is today and perhaps much bigger in the future. He probably didn’t envision building a social networking site just to benefit mankind but had thoughts of making money off of it, as any youngster venturing out at that age would. It’s an undeniable fact that Facebook, as it is today is the result of investments and hard work from all those in line to gain from its IPO. There have been and are other companies in the same space that have not tasted similar success. Well deserved, indeed. And of course, scores of people like you and me are the reason FB is such a big success today.

At its core, FB is a connector, a platform for connecting, networking and relationship building, both at personal and professional levels. That is where the draw is for businesses to reach out to people through FB. Earlier, personal and professional spaces were clearly defined and segregated. With FB, that line no longer exists. A company can pitch its products and services right to you and in your face and that too very quickly. Now, that is immense power and reach, if you have something to sell.

Today, we live in the age of instant gratification. Success and failure can happen overnight. You do not have to wait a lifetime to become a success and attribute all that you did over time to it.  You put your case in front of the audience and the verdict is instant. In one way, it’s good since that allows you the time to step back and act on your next endeavor before a lifetime has passed away.

Well, back to our initial discussion. FB has thrived as a result of the team’s focus on the product and maturing it over time; and, people’s affinity to interact. It’s basic human nature to interact, share, build and nurture relationships and here is the ideal platform to do so in today’s age. When the platform showed up, people jumped at it. There are those who say that I’d rather meet and talk than use FB. True, face to face interaction or talking over the phone trumps over using a screen in between but, it’s not possible in all cases. FB has let us find relatives and friends living across the world and lost over time. It has become a valuable medium to reconnect and cherish these relations.

Talking about the impact of the IPO on the company’s future, the FB team had to cater to the stakeholders before the IPO and it will continue to do so in the future too. Earlier, they were a very product focused team whose sole aim was to evolve the product while finding ways and means of making money. About 85% of the FB revenues come from the sponsored ads you see on the right hand side of your FB page. Of course, there may be a very small percentage of people who actually click on them. Nevertheless, these are sponsored ads. There is talk that each FB user’s data may be sold to buyers for about $120.00 per head. This has been portrayed as another way the company will make money. Concerns over what is being sold, user privacy and user consent have arisen. These are valid concerns and over time, we will hear more about them. But the bottom line is that FB succeeded because of its product and that’s where the focus should lie. The product needs to be evolved and related innovations need to occur to ensure user stickiness and to find new realms of revenue.

Of the 845 million member base that FB enjoys, over 80% is international with India attributing  to 46%. The US membership base has trimmed by about 15% over the past year. Now, those are serious things to consider. International growth is good but domestic membership has to be healthy too to attract and sustain national advertisers. Loss in membership has to be researched to determine causes and to act on them. One thing to remember, in the internet world, if membership numbers can grow overnight, they can drop overnight too. Hence, it becomes all the more important that product innovation and customer service (whether direct or indirect) are prime considerations in the future FB growth strategy.

Here’s to the continued growth of the world’s beloved “keeping in touch” platform…..