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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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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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!

Making Things Work…..


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In the most trying of times, those that come out, probably tired, exhausted and even with a few chinks in their armor but definitely, triumphant are the ones that work together as a team.

After all, we have all heard that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

In business or personal life, working together is inevitable. After all, no monumental accomplishment was due to a single person’s effort. Working together can mean tremendous pressure, but if the pressure is faced and the energy channelized to build on the effort, it can mean great experiences, stronger bonds and finally impressive accomplishments for those involved.

With generations to come, and the need for instant gratification, there is less patience in those that interact. Just a tad bit of perseverance; restraint and focus can make things work through interaction, than personal gripes and would mean so much more for everyone together and individually.

Yet, this is hardly understood in colleagues working together or families working on their relationships. Personal egos get the better of everyone and as a result, everyone collectively and individually suffers whether they acknowledge the latter or not.

No matter who you are and what your role, the end goal has to be upheld over personal goals. And eventually, success in togetherness reflects on individual success as well.

So, teams out there that are working on projects 24×7 because, that’s what they demand to get accomplished, work together with complete trust of each other. There will be a time to reflect, work things out between colleagues and gather lessons to improve the next interaction. For now, focus on resolving tasks at hand to accomplish the end goal.

Families and friends, the relationships you cherish are a blessing. Happiness is in giving. Give of your time and attention to nourish and strengthen these relationships. All those tasks that you pile up to get done and seem so urgent vying for your attention can wait a tad bit. You will always have the time in the world to get them done. What you will not is the time to interact with your family and friends. Put them before your chores. Better yet, spend quality time on doing stuff together. You will enjoy such time and tasks get accomplished before you know of the effort put in.

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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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The power of “I”


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“I will _________________.”

“I deserve _____________.”

“ I need _______________.”

“I want ________________.”

“I can _________________.”

“I am going to __________.”

“I demand _____________.”

“I” is a very powerful word. Yet, it is not encouraged & celebrated as much. Infact, it is a word that has been associated with a certain negative connotation. In environments that we congregate in, at school or at work, it is teams that are encouraged and one being a contributing member is looked upon in order for the team and everyone associated with it to succeed.

I have seen and heard so much about being humble, not tooting your own horn and no matter how successful you are, never let it get to your head. Not all, but some of it is great advise. But when it comes to the use of “I”, the general treatment of what it represents has been misunderstood. It doesn’t necessarily stand for ego, pride and glaring self-centeredness in all cases. “I” has the power to elevate you to your super self. It represents and promotes self confidence in who you are, what you do, reflects your aspirations and helps reaffirm that assuredness, showing you are thinking and doing what you deem right.

Here’s a small exercise I would like to propose that you try out to test the immense power of “I”. Every morning, before you begin your day, stand straight with your head held high in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye & say the following out loud so you can hear your own voice clearly.

“I will have a great day today.”

“I will be successful today.”

“I deserve __________.”

“I will ______________.”

For the last two sentences, you can fill in what you aspire for. Do this for a week and see the change in your attitude, your confidence, your interactions with others and the results thereby. What the repetition ensures is your belief in your own aspirations which leads down  the path of you making them happen.

You will also see a positive change in how you deal with your day to day activities. You will be more vocal of your needs, aspirations, thoughts and opinions. Your realization of what matters to you is infectious and ensures that those around you believe as well. As a result, you get more out of your life.

Go out there, be confident and fear not to use the word “I”. After all, you deserve every bit of success and fulfillment that you aspire for.

Who do you work for?


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When asked the question, some of the common answers are – myself, my family & my company. There are those that refuse to acknowledge they are working for anyone, be it a person or an organization and use the word “with”, I work “with” xyz. Semantics, I guess. And then, there are those that state they work for their boss.

We all work to provide for our dependents and ourselves. The question is not what do you work for, but who.

If you are an entrepreneur and pride yourself in working for yourself, there is some truth to that, but ultimately, the superior power that determines your actions lies with your customers, suppliers & investors. They can dictate the terms of your work. If you work for an organization, ideally your work and its attributes should be focused at fulfilling your organization’s obligations toward its customers and shareholders. Each of us that works in the corporate world falls somewhere on an organizational ladder with a “boss” that we report into. The boss has the power to determine your paycheck, your upward mobility within the organization and responsibilities you’ll handle. Some bosses are company focused which means your expectations fall in line as well. In such situations, there is more transparency built-in between levels i.e. employee reach extends beyond the immediate boss and through a couple of levels above. This is healthy as hierarchical stress is not as much and opportunities open up for those truly talented and doing the right thing. Others are self-serving and that’s when conflict may arise. That’s when one may end up working for a boss. Corporate politics can dictate where ones’ loyalties lie. Much depends on the employee-boss relationship & the personalities involved therein. Many employees are in the process of pleasing their bosses than in the actual performance of their job to meet the objectives they signed up for. And, these employees cannot be blamed altogether for it since they are acting in defense of their position and in many a case, they themselves are the only defense they may have.

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There have been arguments that state flat organizational structures may be the answer to curb such influences, where employees work in teams and natural leaders emerge as a part of the execution strategy. The emphasis is on actually getting things done to meet common objectives sans a hierarchy within the organization. Well, it may work to an extent in smaller organizations but flat structures are not scalable for growth. As organizations grow, flexibility & controls need to be established using the hierarchy model. And, in every mid to large organization, there are numerous rungs on the corporate ladders. Then, what is the optimal strategy for ensuring that the focus of every employee is truly on corporate goals and not hijacked by personal corporate politics? A strong HR policy propagated by a strong HR team with the support of top management can achieve this to an extent but in a complex business environment, it is difficult to altogether do away with it. Again, having an HR team that functions independently is a difficult thing to achieve in an organization. The HR team too falls on the corporate ladder. There will always be employees serving bosses for various reasons. Although, not completely healthy, this is a true fact in the corporate world and should be managed to optimize it.

When faced with such a predicament, employees who find it detrimental to their principles & career might look for other opportunities so as not to sacrifice their potential & aspirations catering to the whims of an overbearing, self-serving boss. There are also employees who do the boss’s bidding and focus on keeping the boss happy in order to safeguard their jobs. In both cases, it’s detrimental to the corporation, whether through the loss of productive employees for the wrong reasons or by having unproductive employees stay just managing their supervisors. But, at the same time, such bosses are a more serious predicament since their influence and its effect tends to be on a larger scale. It’s the prerogative of every organization to take this issue seriously and work through its channels to monitor and minimize such situations, if not totally eradicate them to ensure optimal productivity of the employee base. Much of it comes from encouraging true transparency throughout the organization irrespective of reporting relationships. And such transparency can be propagated through frequent top-down-top communication, more objective 360 degree performance appraisals, employee reviews as well as supervisor reviews, career pathing, ensuring employees with the right skills are not in wrong jobs etc.

That’s a starter list of ways to nurture healthy employee-work dynamics within organizations. I look forward to see you add to it.

Is Your Work-Life Flexibility Debatable?


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A few days ago, Yahoo! took the decision to summon all of its associates in-house, to work from one of their offices. It scrapped the remote work option citing that the most creative of ideas birthed from water-cooler conversations or rather, face to face interactions at work. Now, that’s their vision of extracting productivity and unique to their situation as a company. And here, we have the world debating the pros and cons of remote workforces!

Those of you who read recent articles about this step that Yahoo! took might have found it very clear that it is pertinent to their particular situation. When you have associates that are not accountable, don’t even VPN in regularly, what do you do? No wonder that with such a dispassionate workforce, the management had to get to the stick rule when the carrot of free lunches and free gadgets didn’t work. If you know that your kids are slacking and not doing their homework as they should, what do you do? You ensure there is a set time to complete the homework and sit with the kids until they learn to acknowledge the practice.

One company’s situation doesn’t categorize working from home as a boon or a bane. Remote work, when not abused is an absolute boon as it helps uphold associates’ work-life flexibility. This flexibility in turn, ensures reduced stress levels for the associates who work in their own environs and in fact, also helps improve productivity for engaged employees. Is remote working suitable for all employees? Not really since one needs to be a self-starter and have an immense sense of accountability and responsibility to be successful in a remote situation. Again, a change in scene also helps when the employees want to get into an office once in a while for that personal interaction they might crave for in an office setting.

In today’s environment where work extends beyond its stipulated time and associates seek the flexibility to work through their regimen and have to shuffle between life and work, it is a great tool that helps keep that balance, yet ensures that the time spent on work is of a quality nature and associates are fulfilled while delivering their best work.

Case in point, one company’s situation and a corresponding decision to bring back the workforce in-house doesn’t mar the practice altogether as there are other examples out there who have leveraged the remote workforce model to save millions in infrastructure & logistics costs and continue to do so year over year while benefiting from a self-reliant, self-motivated & highly productive workforce. Some simple and immediate benefits include not having to depend on local talent and able to tap into the best of talent across the country and internationally as well, no relocation expenses, lower training costs by deploying on-line training, etc. Managing a remote workforce comes with its own challenges but the benefits outweigh the challenges. Of course, again; not all jobs are suited for this model. But, where possible, leveraging the practice is beneficial and trends show that this is on the growth path among U.S. organizations.

In fact, I know of a management consulting firm that was started using a remote model and till date continues without an office where the workforce is entirely distributed. The organization has a mailing address for a head office, some space to store secure and sensitive documents, conferences and client meetings are either virtual or at rented out conference rooms at one of the several business centers. The company concentrates on its core capabilities while all the functions of running the company such as payroll & legal are outsourced. Not saying that this is viable for every organization out there, but there are companies doing this and being highly successful with the model. Look up Brand Velocity to learn more.

Have your daily life themes planned for 2013?


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You wake up early, probably get some exercise, freshen up & get ready, have a quick bite and grab your coffee on the way out to work. Then, at the office, you spend an entire 8-10 hours tackling what you came for, work. Somewhere in between, you grab a bite for lunch and if you’re lucky, get a coffee during a break. You leave and on the way back, review the day’s proceedings in your head or perhaps, brood over that nasty meeting you endured that noon or mull over how to tackle that timeline problem or resource issue, take your pick. You make it home in the evening, acknowledge your family with a faint smile and go over to freshen up and change. Next, you grab a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage, park yourself in the couch and hit the TV remote. Your spouse wants to share their day and your kids cozy up to you and want to play with you or need you to help with their homework, but you hardly have the energy or the willingness to spend time away from relaxing. You may force yourself, once in a while to engage with the kids or the family in activities. Or you want to get down to completing the work at hand, personal or work related, that has been lagging behind.

Bored yet? Hey, this is the regular life of an average adult. Don’t you see yourself somewhere in there? Well, its regular, its average & it can be boring. That’s where you come in. How do you go about adding the zest into it? There’s not much you can do about how regular life is structured but you can slowly but surely make amends to its nature by consciously making changes. Resolve to change your day to day life for the better in 2013, conscious change for the better. What changes, you may ask?

Think and make a list. Then, follow through with the execution of that list. For example; spend time with your family & kids, get them involved in your life and you involve in theirs. This strengthens the bond between you and cultivates positivity in mutual involvement. Instead of spending time with the TV, play a game of chess or scrabble with the kids. If there is an activity you are inclined toward, perhaps there is something that the family can contribute to. Delegate to them, no matter how small and complete together. Togetherness is key here.

You don’t want to sacrifice your TV time? Find a time that works for all and watch a favorite show together. Make it a habit to have dinner around the table as a family and discuss the day or any topics of choice together. Communication is key here.

Have a hobby and encourage everyone in the family to have one. Pursue hobby time together. Variety is key here.

Just the way you plan your career and work toward it, plan your daily life and work it. Trust me, it’s as important, if not more as your career, for a healthy home life ensures you have a happy and successful life outside the home. Find the themes you want to pursue in your and the family’s daily life, set goals, milestones throughout the year; plan for togetherness, happiness & sharing; cheer for each other while building a great quality of life. Act consciously and track progress. You will be surprised at how much more time and variety you can find within the 24 hour day. Don’t let life fleet by at its own pace and will. Take Control. Well, what are you waiting for? Get started!

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A little self-restraint can save you some precious “Ahs” and “Ohs”!


                                           

One would think that one can be a free soul in certain scenarios; be yourself in the midst of your loved ones, primarily your family. Well, sure. But, every situation has its own rules and tenets. After all, we are humans. How did you ever think there would be a situation or scenario where all rules could just be blown away?

In any case, what we are discussing today is about self-restraint. Every person has a unique temperament. I know “spur of the moment; say it on your face” folks as well as “duh, were you talking to me?” folks. There are those that just absorb a situation and do not react to it at all versus those that absorb, analyze and then, come out with a self validated reaction based on their experience. And, then there are those that first react and then, go on to analyze what just happened.

There are several situations you tackle every day, be it at home, at work, in a social circle or even, in your virtual world, you know what I mean, social networks on the web, your e-mail etc. With the rapid exchanges these days and a horrendous influx of information to assimilate and analyze, it somehow seems that impromptu reactions are the best way to keep on top of such daunting interactions. As tempting as it might seem, it is in your best interest to exercise some self-restraint. If an interaction is important to you, take a moment, pause, think and store your reaction away to come back to later. That “later” might be a few minutes away, a few hours away or if possible, a few days away depending on the urgency of the matter at hand. When you come back to react at this later time, you will be amazed at your self and the vast difference in your reaction then, and now. Time is a great healer and brings about the balance in your reactions, the right balance that just probably saved you a job, a relationship, a life.

I am not saying that there should not be instant reactions at all. There are situations that definitely need these to save the day or cherish a moment, but judge those and react accordingly. But, if you feel hurried before reacting or feel that your urge has gotten the better of you, STOP! And follow the wait and react approach. You will never have to cry over spilt milk!