Tuesday 25 November 2014

Be the change …one that you always wanted in People/Team management – Create a Quality Work Place (QWP).

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We will refer to the term Quality Work Place as ‘QWP’ as we would be using it a lot in this post. Observing your previous leaders or from your prior experience, there may be few practices that you adore and always wanted to incorporate within your work place. Similarly, there may be some practices that you have objections to. These observations may also result from current practices within your team. At this point, you want to get rid of the prevalent negative practices and bring in some positives to the team. Changes like this, that you believe in and help create a QWP for one and all. You need to take initiatives and introduce these modifications to your team. You need to be the change here to create a QWP. Remember change in order to be effective has to begin with you always. Following is a method suggested to achieve it. It has always helped get great results, be it creating a QWP with a team, or coach on individual performance.

First of all, commit yourself to bringing about the change that you always wanted. Commitment is a major step towards creating a QWP. Identify the positive and negative practices from your previous experiences and current observations in the team. Discussing with the team to identify the factors is a great way of engaging them.

Positive Observations:
·         Promoting a fun filled work environment.
·         Motivate to perform better and assist the under performers.
·         Have an effective feedback mechanism in place that addresses issues immediately.

Negative Observations:
·         Fault finding exercise when team/people fail at a task.
·         Taking credit for someone else’s work.
·         Delayed or no feedback mechanism in place, issues piling up as a result.

The above mentioned list of the positives and negatives practices serves just as an example (the mentioned points may vary from case to case).

These pointers thus form an actionable item, on priority, integrating the positive aspects and overcoming the negatives.  The next step would be conduct brainstorming sessions with the team while discussing specifics of each parameter. Finally agree on a time frame to achieve it. Regular follow it up is required till the goal is achieved.

Mark off ones that your team has worked on; have achieved or overcome. The sooner you achieve it, the closer you are at creating a ‘Quality Work Place’. This tool has various possibilities; it works wonders as a quality tool, performance coaching and for action plans addressing under performance. This work place betterment model never fails to attain measurable results when implemented; however, as any other method needs to be followed sincerely with regular follow up.

The entire exercise has to be communicated to the people involved, upfront, clearly explaining how the process works. They must know that they are key stakeholders for achieving success using it. Adopting this method they will participate in the exercise, work the suggested changes and see benefits out of it always.  This way you will train and teach them simultaneously, building a Quality Work Place whenever they have such an opportunity.   

Saturday 22 November 2014

‘You’… the most important aspect of any conversation in People/Team Management – Implement and achieve it.

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The term “You” here refers to your team. We need to understand that in all our conversations, the people involved are vital aspects of a winning communication method. Though you introduce the idea of how things are done, it is actually they, who implement and achieve it and complete the communication cycle. It is very crucial that you minimize “I” and “Me” verbiage here and focus on “You” for a better and long lasting results.  For instance, phrases like:

I want you to do this in order to increase your performance… can be replaced by
Doing this, you will see a definite growth in your performance…

Similar small changes to your day to day communication style, will help your team, understand the significance of your conversations, and do their best to achieve. Hence the beautiful quote:

"The art of communication is the language of leadership”. — James Humes.

Communication can be briefly explained as a process of exchange or flow of information and ideas from one person to another. When we say it is an exchange, it implies that it needs to be an arrangement that requires both the parties participate to complete and attain success towards information exchange. Else, it does not fulfill the objective. Communication plays a vital role in our day to day activities; it would be difficult to imagine a world and its possibilities, without our ability to communicate effectively. Needless to mention, it is paramount while working with a group of people to attain a desired result. Verbal communication, eye contact, body postures and gestures are few means of achieving it.  We coordinate, coach, counsel and supervise using this ability.

I will not stress the importance of communication further, as I am sure most of you, already are fully aware of it. However, we will discuss the finer elements of communication, that are relevant, in fact compelling factors that make our conversations with people more productive. Having a great thought is important, sharing it with others to achieve results is even more important. A great quote:

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere”.  — Lee Iacocca.

Further, on finer elements of an effective communication process within a team, it should be devoid of certain barriers both physical and psychological. These are things that we need to bear in mind while communicating with a team. Things that form physical barriers may be background noise, accent, and clarity in our speech that includes speed. Psychological barriers may constitute our perception, distraction, assumption and we being biased. In our attempt of communicating with the team, ignoring the said barriers sometimes defeats the sole purpose of it. An interesting quote to remember:

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives” - Anthony Robbins.

Together, focusing on the importance of “You” which is your team; and crossing the discussed hurdles will ensure, that you successfully set up and fulfill a great communication cycle, with your conversations always. Proving once again:

Wednesday 19 November 2014

You are able to identify under performance as… a skill or a will issue in People/Team Management – Determine and resolve it.

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I am sure that all of us understand the definition of under performance of an individual, its impact on team and its morale. I am not suggesting that you tolerate it. You should never accept it within your team. Yes it needs to be addressed at an early stage; else it will develop into a habit. It is true that if we start living with it will set a wrong model. It will unnecessarily put pressure on the rest o the team. You are also aware that the individual concerned naturally assumes that the behavior is acceptable. Not only that, pretty soon it will spread within the team and you hate it to the point that you shun it. Everything that we feel so far is all true.

We all know that a person who consistently fails to deliver on performance is tagged an under performer. But first of all let’s understand the reasons of such behavior, that we despise so much. It is necessary that we understand the said behavior in detail, before we actually chalk out an action plan for it. The reasons can be broadly understood, as the person in question, is either not being able to perform or is not willing to perform. Once you classify the problem as a skill or a will issue, you will have clarity as to how to proceed. Following are certain indications in classifying the behavior, as either related to skill or will:

Skill Issue: 
·        Individual will have unacceptable standard of work against the set parameters of performance.
·        Low productivity level against the team’s average performance in spite of putting efforts.
·        Poor outputs in quality parameters owing to poor knowledge on the subject.

Will Issue:
·        Individual may have the ability to perform well but chooses to under perform.
·        Clear indicators come in the form of being habitual lateness and frequent absenteeism.
·        Consistent resistance, attitude towards work and colleagues.

We are all aware of how to resolve the situation with the “skill issue” guys. We usually provide more training or buddy the person in question with a strong skilled person and things like that. These guys can be quickly corrected with a little support and attention from you. However, challenging situations are the “will issue” guys. I recommend that you have a one to one discussion with them to understand the root cause of the situation. Open communication with them during these discussions could be helpful. Following are few guidelines that are useful in such discussions:

·        You acknowledge the fact that you know their performance capabilities, should they actually decide to perform.
·        You are aware that they are restricting performance willingly; in the process harming their own career.
·        You are open and willing to discuss the actual reasons (ascertain if there are any outside factors restricting performance).
·        Instilling confidence in them that should they decide to work on their will issues, you are more than happy to work with them through their situation.

The root cause identification exercise can be effectively achieved by referring to my earlier post: Using ‘How’s and ‘Why’s a lot in People/Teammanagement – Identify the root cause.

As a great leader, you are confident and will explore all possibilities to determine the hidden reasons, as to why a person is willingly under performing. Most importantly create a turn around and convert that individual to be a part of your winning team.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Exchanging and practicing positive habits… a powerful game changer in People/Team Management – Pursue it with your willpower.

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If you want to see quick positive changes in your team and yourself, there is a great suggestion, which never fails to work wonders. It is easy to understand and one with no strings attached.  The only catch is that it requires you to strongly believe in it, that it will provide positive results always, sooner than anticipated. You will have to practice it with perseverance though. The idea itself is very simple; you are in constant touch with a group of people; your team, as a part of your daily work. Each one of them comes with their own positive practices, habits which they are very good at. These are good things that you have identified in the other person; one which you always appreciate and desired to possess.

My recommendation is that you identify such simple habits, within each of your team members and try to inculcate those. Discuss this with your team and encourage them to do the same. At the onset, do not choose or suggest complex skills, to follow as it will be difficult to pursue and will not provide immediate results. They need to be simple practical habits that are easy to pursue and learn. It comes with immense benefits, few of them are:

·        You and your team will slowly learn to identify positives in every other person.
·        Will appreciate the other person for possessing it, and put efforts to learn it.
·        When successful, each of your team members will have all the good practices, that all of you together acknowledge.

Let’s say you are working with a team of ten; worst case scenario is that the idea hasn't gone well with your team members. They haven’t learned a thing. You have got nothing to lose; you still are a winner, having picked up ten different good qualities for yourself.

Inspirational quote by Swami Vivekananda:

If we both exchange one rupee, we each have one rupee.

But if we both exchange one good thought, we each have two good thoughts.
Mind is not a dustbin to keep anger, hatred and jealousy. But it’s a treasure box to keep love, happiness and sweet memories.”

Please do not restrict it your work place alone, practice it in your personal life too, wherever you possibly can and share the idea. Remember always share things that you feel good about, things that you feel will benefit you. If it benefits you, it surely will profit others too. People remember you for sharing good things with them, for a real long time. For true benefits in sharing, please refer to my earlier post: Small ‘Groups’ within the ‘Team’ an AlarmingSituation in People/Team Management - Diffuse and Re Structure.  

Now answer the question that is persisting in your mind. Will it work? Is it even worth it? What and how could it possibly benefit me? The answer to that question lies in your own willpower. How keen are you willing to pursue it and how strongly you believe it to be a game changer. 

Sunday 16 November 2014

You have a way with people…setting expectations in People/Team Management – Walk the path.

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Yes that’s right probably you may have not realized so far, but you certainly have a way with people; or else how would you have made so far up the ladder? Remember the times that you have resolved someone’s problem, or have been a supporting shoulder to someone in trouble. You shared information to help and provided valuable guidance to others. You were a source of inspiration to some or a wonderful part of the team to others. Whatsoever, you excelled in what you did and had inherent qualities that are prerequisites for a leader. You were quite an achievement as an individual contributor, and hence were fairly chosen for the current role; one with bigger responsibilities. You have a team now. With it comes a different set of challenges, now you are responsible for the performance and success with a group of people.

An expectation setting exercise at this stage is essential. It needs to be done at an appropriate occasion, but soon as you assume the role and take up your new team. It provides the basic guidelines to the team on your thoughts about certain things.  They may be strong principles that you believe in based on your experience or learning from your mistakes. Following are pointers that could be included in this exercise:

·        Defining how you were successful working within a team; how team work is the most critical thing and above everything else.
·        Describing how adhering to a strict time schedule is critical in success always; stressing on importance of time management.
·         Explaining how interested you are in your team’s growth; spelling out the essentials of the advancement path from an individual contributor to become a leader.

Expectations when set with the new team set a tone.  For people who are first time leaders, stressing on how strong principles are important to achieve success, gain an advantage. When they inspire their team to follow the same, they lead by example. For an in depth explanation, please refer to my previous post: ‘One day I want to become like you’…inPeople/Team Management – Create that Impression.   

 This process also applies to seasoned leaders who feel a need for new solutions, to the challenges of leading people in demanding work environments. It reiterates things that are important to you; those that you are not willing to compromise with. And when your team sees you walk the path, and lead them to success always, they gain from a great leader, their role model…You (who have a way with people).

Thursday 13 November 2014

The art of delivering feedback…before and after of the actual thing…in People/Team management – Master it.

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Delivering feedback plays a vital role for a leader in the process of continuous development of the team. The reason it’s an ongoing process is that we regularly strive to better ourselves at accomplishing various tasks. If we skip or delay this process people in the team will automatically assume that everything is going on fine and there is no need for any improvement. I won’t stress any further, as we are all aware how critical the feedback mechanism is for smooth functioning of the team. Instead we will discuss what needs to done prior and after we deliver feedback. Let’s begin with how you make your feedback felt; is the person in question really benefiting out of it. First of all, we need to understand that the feedback we are about to provide should be aimed towards development. It needs to be conveyed in total clarity without any misconception. When delivered successfully should return a desired outcome always. The above mentioned process should be explained in clarity to the person in question. Pointing out that their certain action is a cause of concern and clearly will be a hindrance to their own development. You have observed it happen in past; and are providing feedback as you are interested in their development. Once they implement your feedback, they should see desired results themselves. Once they learn the right way, they will do it right always. They will also teach the right way of doing things to others whenever such opportunities arise.

A word of caution here, this entire exercise should be done strictly on a one to one basis, as explained in detail, in my earlier post: You and I…Together we make a great team.

A few important things that we need to keep in mind while delivering feedback are the following:

·         Your feedback is based on your personal observations and not by inputs of others; have examples of your observations.
·         Feedback should be relevant in terms of time; provide feedback for the incident as soon as possible.
·         Conversation should be incident specific only; do not discuss previous faults.
·         Last but not the least, feedback you provide should intend to have a beneficial purpose; explain it clearly with examples and suggestions.

Assurance of support and follow up are key elements in the implementation phase of the feedback. It is these things that make your feedback effective. Together the efforts that you put in before and after the actual feedback ensure to get desired results from individuals – a key in building winning teams always.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Define success for you…avoiding confusion in People/Team management – Attain it.

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All of us have a fair understanding of what success means to us. We need to outline success for ourselves. You need to avoid any confusion clouding the very definition of success to you. Unfortunately, since our childhood days there were a lot of factors defining success for us at different stages in life. These notions continued to haunt us throughout our entire life. We fail to understand a simple fact that the definition of success is a person’s own thing to do. At times we forget that it varies from person to person. It is sad that we sometimes allow others to influence our idea of success and vice versa.

How do you define success for yourself? Are you successful in life? I have always answered to that question saying success to me is being happy. I would consider myself unsuccessful in life, the day I can no longer smile. I hope most of you agree with me in thinking so.  The answer may vary at different stages in life owing to the pressure by others. However, the most important thing is that we are sincere and have a crystal clear understanding of it, while in a responsible phase of life. For some, success may mean the joy of a corner office, swanky cars or an enormous bank balance. Others may just be happy with a moderate and peaceful way of living without any huge desires. Either ways it aims to bring about immense satisfaction. However, once you outline it you need to pursue it relentlessly though. There is nothing wrong with the definition itself, as long as the ways and means to achieve it is right and does not offend anybody.

Now let’s say that we have arrived at a logical outcome that success and happiness are closely related, to the extent of being synonymous to each other. Being happy always is not that an easy a thing to achieve, and sometimes not appropriate too. After all you cannot seem happy when the other person is discussing a major problem, explaining a loss to you. Instead what you can do is empathize and provide your support to the person through the difficult time. It will be a source of comfort to the person who will eventually be glad to have you around during stressful time. Similarly it is also essential to spread happiness among others to get it back from them. If you aim to be happy and thus successful you need to keep the surrounding happy too. Adopting this approach, will help a great leader like you build happy winning teams always, and attain success in the process.

Monday 10 November 2014

When in doubt…look at your fingers in People/Team management – Tap the potential.

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People in our team come with diverse mentalities, behaviors and skill sets. Some of them are lively, cheerful and chirpy, while some others are moody, impulsive and whining. Sometimes we wish we had a choice who we work with. At times, we may also feel our previous team was much better than the current one; both in terms of performance and our period of time with them. Needless to mention, given a choice we tend to pick the best of the lot. There may be a reason to why we feel that way; familiarity and a prepared resource are favorites to all. We need to understand here that people in a team are different and unique. Each of them has their own advantages and limitation. However, working together as a team they form a perfect sync, coordinating their individual competencies to flourish as a team. They are effective that way.

Now let’s imagine your team consists of say ten people, each one of them are identical to you in the way they think, work and act; possess the same great skills as you. How according to you would the work place be like? I would say pretty soon one would get disinterested as it lacks diversity. Variety keeps us engaged, we thrive at it. Have you ever thought how our hand would function if all the fingers were replaced with our strongest finger? I doubt it would be half as functional as the present one. Worse still it would be a major hindrance to accomplish even simple tasks. So the next time you are in doubt about the constitution of your team or feel a couple of them might just not be a good fit; just have a good look at your hand. Fingers while so different from one another, yet when they work together accomplish feats that are stronger than you might imagine. Working together they provide great strength for people to climb vertical surfaces supporting their entire weight. Same is the case with different people in a team. As a great leader, it is in your hands; using your experience and abilities to get all the different individuals with varied strengths and skill sets to work together as a team. Hence the beautiful quote:

“The best helping hand that you will ever receive is the one at the end of your own arm.”
- By Fred Dehner.

People are unique and possess certain exclusive abilities that are amazing. I have known people who though average at their own performance; are a phenomenal source of team spirit by their vibrant energy levels. Their presence itself boosts up team morale and results in an observable difference in team’s performance. Individuals with such spirited abilities are instrumental in promoting fun at stressful work environments.

Our job is to identify such varied talents and tap those resources to ensure smooth running of the team. Create a happy work environment for one and all in the process. Remember a happy team is the most productive one too.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Live for things… that you simply would die for… in people/team management – Establish it.

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Yes that is right, live for things that you simply would die for. An interesting quote that reads: “It’s a short life live it wisely”. An addition to that would be a suggestion to do things that would please you; be it pursuing what you always dreamt or standing up for your people in need. Never compromise on what you believe is the right thing to do, else you start compromising as a habit; a way of living. Many a time we find ourselves at crossroads, a junction where we need to take a decision or make a choice both in our personal and work life. Often sacrifice is an essential component of it. Sacrifice in various forms; our passion, opportunities, and in worst case scenarios our principles. Why do we do it then? It could be a reason that we perceive it as the best solution for the situation at hand, at that point of time. Let us not forget that there are two vital guidance mechanisms influencing our decision making abilities at all times. Our head and our heart; head responsible for crunching data for us and finding a logical way out of the situation and our heart urging us to take that bold step and experiment. All our choices are based on mixed inputs from both; with the emphasis on the judgment of our brain.

Having said so, decisions concerning people that are data driven alone may not be very productive and consistent. Especially, if the guidance from your heart is not pursued you may lose out on the opportunities of great achievements. Although any decision that we make devoid the other is risk prone; with people it is rewarding to stress on the opinion of our heart. Following are pointers to explore such possibilities:

·         Taking bold decisions; believing in yourself and your people.
·         Gathering inputs from your brain; but following your heart to achieve remarkable results.
·         Considering what is right always; based on your learning, tried and tested methods.
·         Establishing strong principles on similar lines; adhering to it.
·         Motivating your team to achieve outstanding events; by rightful methods.

Building strong principles, which always steer you through the right path, is fundamental in guiding your team to follow likewise. They learn that you make no exceptions to your principles; consistently abide and adhere to them even in adversities.

Going forward, the leaders of future will learn from you; the culture of living by fair principles is instrumental in shaping up the future work environment.

Thursday 6 November 2014

You are a great leader who knows Courage…is the only substitute to Fear in People/Team management – Foster it.

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When we confront worst situations in life it is quite human that we tend to break down with failure, guilt, shame and such varied emotions. It is also quite normal that we lament and hold ourselves responsible for the failure. Overall the situation is pathetic; luckily instances like these are very rare. I am sure most of us can relate to the feelings of a person in such a situation; for those who haven’t encountered it; well you are very lucky. A feeling that everything that you have planned has gone haywire and you are gripped with fear that what other repercussions will it have. It will seem you have lost everything you have created so far your credibility, reputation and things like that. It may be quite possible that people who you are closely working with is facing such a situation. Either ways, how you gather yourself and react in such situations define what you are made of.

At this instance, ‘What else will go wrong’ and ‘What else can go wrong’ – The difference between these two phrases tells us a lot about a person’s attitude while confronting these situations. If you are facing this kind of a situation be a pillar for yourself; if you are helping someone through similar situation please be a pillar of trust for them. In such situations, it provides a great relief to yourself or others if your actions revolve around the following thought pattern:

·         Do not create or give false hopes to yourself or the others that things will turn around at this stage.
·         Confront the situation considering that the worst to happen has already happened and you are at the rock bottom; nothing else can go more wrong than this.
·         Now the only way forward is upwards.
·         The journey upwards is for sure a difficult one, but definitely not an unattainable one.
·         Evaluating all factors that went wrong; both ones in your control and ones beyond your control.
·         With your courage, hope and efforts you will certainly accomplish it.

Remember your courage alone can deliver you out of situations like these; take measures to replace your fear with courage. Great things are achieved with courage and not with fear of someone or something. When you become a source of tremendous courage for people they will cherish you for their lifetime. Never ever mock a person that you have helped out; it will shake the pillar of trust you have created and all your efforts will then go in vain. Work places will always need great leaders like this as a source of hope and inspiration, who replace fear with courage and create miracles.


Wednesday 5 November 2014

Using ‘How’s and ‘Why’s a lot in People/Team management – Identify the root cause.

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We all know that working with people while rewarding comes with its own challenges. Situations that are challenging for both parties involved.  Mostly these challenges constitute understanding an individual’s behavior; influence and motivate them to get desired results. In order to accomplish this we need to have a lot of information about that person, information that is genuine and relevant. The process is very similar to introducing a major organizational change derived by analyzing lot of data. It is essential that the data be accurate for this entire exercise to be successful. Same goes with decisions concerning people too, unless the information is accurate there is very little chance that it will give desired outcome. Thankfully with people the process is relatively simple and a sure shot method to achieve intended outcome always. Only precautions to be kept in mind is the sincerity with which the exercise is conducted and effective usage of methods to achieve it. Information gathered by asking relevant questions constitutes a major source of collecting genuine information. Here using the questions “How” and “Why” are important and helpful to get useful information. These open ended questions let the individual do most of the talking and provide information in the process. They are effective tools in pinpointing the bottlenecks or identifying the root cause of a situation. However, the information collection will not be possible unless we exhibit effective listening skills. At this stage this we should not attempt to stop or confront the conversation flow. Instead we collate the information and organize it for future reference. Making notes is a helpful means to avoid misinterpretation or misunderstanding later. Following are few instances of how these questions can help:

·         How do you thing was your last appraisal…Why do you think so..What can you do to change it this time?
·         Why is the rest of group not getting along with you…How do you think it can be changed…What is your learning out of it?
·         How do you measure your performance over the last quarter…Why do you think it has changed…What can be done to correct it?
·         Why did the argument happen in front of the entire group…How would you convey your point on next occasion.

As discussed in my previous article, all this would be possible only if you have established connect with the individual; otherwise it will appear as interrogation. The person involved will not open up and provide information or worse still provide false information. Remember our effort in the entire attempt is to get a resolution to an issue; not worsen it further. The time spent on this exercise may differ with individuals but the fundamentals remain the same. These methods never fail to identify the actual root cause of any issue and suggest best solutions or alternatives. It will help create a transparent and healthy work environment for one and all a key in building winning team always.