Monday 29 September 2014

Breaking our perception barrier to work with people effectively…a necessity in People/Team Management – Experience the difference.

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Leaders are required to possess strong observation and judgment skills both in process and people. These skills in other words translate their viewpoint to form a perception. When skills like these are applied to a process, they discover new possibilities, opportunities that results in great process engineering /improvement ideas. This results in simply an effective and an easier way of doing things with systems/process. It is like a formula, the formula will never change even if you change the variables; irrespective of how many ever times you change the variables it always gives the same desired result. However, people end of it is slightly different and difficult to comprehend. We observe an individual’s shortcoming at work and his/her work related behavioral pattern in the past, to form a perception. We do this to assess how that individual will contribute when a new task is given, or how would he/she fits into a new role in his/her career progression. Although an individual’s skills and competencies are appropriate factors to a greater extent to make such a decision; we tend to involve our perception of that individual as a key deciding factor in the process. We do this because we are very confident of our opinion based on our observation/s of the person in the past. What we need to understand here, is that there is a difference between working with systems and people, based on our opinion. While our observation/judgment skills work great with systems/process giving out expected results always; it can’t be applied as a generic rule with people. The following could be few reasons as to why our perception/s; of an individual should not affect their current work situation/s and certainly not a key deciding factor in their future work opportunities:

·         People unlike systems/processes react differently when the variables in a situation are changed.
·         Our perception of the individual is based on their past events alone and by no means can be used as a prediction that he/she will not change for good, in the future.
·         At the end of the day it is our own perception, we could be wrong in how we perceive things concerning people.

The same goes for our personal relations as well; without breaking this perception barrier there is very little that can be achieved. Instead as a positive outcome of the perception formed, one could always discuss it with the person involved. There is no harm in communicating your opinion explaining him/her with past events/observations. However you should clearly point out to him/her that this notion may lead to identifying a certain behavioral pattern that describes his/her attitude. You will need to coach the person on overcoming this situation. Suggest steps that will be seen as a clear indication/s that the person is willing to change and is putting efforts towards it. As a good leader, one should always aim not to miss out on an opportunity to help people work on their flaws and learn. The team will appreciate your resolve to turn around things and make it a better place for one and all. This is undoubtedly a great way to build winning teams.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Small ‘Groups’ Within the ‘Team’ an Alarming Situation in People/Team Management - Diffuse and Re Structure.

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It is not uncommon for small groups within the team functioning independently and threatening the team morale. Leaders who work with teams face this situation at some point or the other. It is common with both big teams as well as a small team size of 10 to 12 people. Also, sometimes it is possible that this issue is already prevalent in the team that you are about to take charge of. It happens as they may have either been mishandled or the issue was not addressed at all. Both ways they are alarming and need to be diffused on priority. The reason being a team will not be successful with small groups working against each other. One of the major reasons observed is the domain expertise of one group over the other. People who are very good at process knowledge tend to team up as a group, obviously leaving behind people who possess an average/less content expertise. The second group feels neglected and suppressed. At the beginning, process expertise is the only distinguishing factor between the two groups. However, over a period of time (which is not very long) it will have disastrous cascading effects, involving emotions and making it a mess. At this point, you have two rival groups within your team who can barely stand each other. It comes to a point that even performing daily chores of the team, mundane tasks seem challenging. In order to control the situation from going that bad, measures should be taken; at the first instance you observe these occurrences. An effective way of noticing these situations steadily grow is that the people in these small groups tend to hang out with their respective cluster during the breaks. They try to spend most of their working hours in a day with the same company, showing resistance to mingle with others.
It is a very delicate situation to work with considering the perceptions of the two groups involved. To start with, the members of the group with process expertise need to be counseled first. Once again, as suggested in my previous articles; discussing with individual members; one at a time and not as a group. The individual must be first appreciated for his/her expertise and then coached/motivated on the following lines.
• One of the greatest things that an individual possesses is knowledge; and the most powerful use that he/she puts to is by sharing it.
• Knowledge is the only wealth in this world that increases by sharing.
• Sharing knowledge should be considered as an opportunity.
• Sharing definitely is caring about the other individual - a key attribute, one that will reflect as a prerequisite for a future leader.
Besides, teaching a person to fish is more valuable and long lasting; it will provide for a life time. Also, in our personal life we share a lot of things that we find amusing, interesting and of great value. Sharing brings us immense joy and a definite sense of satisfaction, that we are a source of providing valuable information to people who are in need of it. The intention and the ability is certainly a gift to possess. Now once coached, a commitment must be gained from the individual/s for a specific knowledge transfer plan involving the other group.
Similarly the other group (again individually) should also be prepared, explaining that the main aim is to reinforce the team spirit that is falling apart, and adding more value to their existing skill set in the process.
These tips go a long way to bring the small divided groups together to build one strong winning team.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Clearing obstacles within the team in People/Team management – Top most in leader’s priority list.

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Even the greatest army cannot fight the enemy and hope to win with infighting prevailing. For a great machinery to work smoothly all of its components need to be in perfect shape and rolling. Similarly, for a leader to build a winning team, clearing obstacles within the team should be the first objective to deal with. The procedure is the same for both budding leaders with their first team, and a seasoned one who moves on to a new role to work with a new team. This is the foundation process for both the leader and his/her team, for challenging times ahead in the future. For the team, it provides a first glimpse of their new leader’s problem solving capabilities.
After the formal introduction, and post warming up with the team, leaders should possess a keen eye for detail so as to identify the following behavioral patterns:
·        Any particular individual who is not fitting into the team quite well and is a cause of concern for the entire team.
·        A couple of individuals whose constant rifts are disturbing the team’s spirit.
·        A strong group formation within the team who consider themselves a ‘team within the team’
·        Team being virtually divided in two sub groups who are at loggerheads constantly.
Few tips to come up to these conclusions are by observing the way their current seating arrangements are, or the way they respond to in the team meeting, who is saying what and who else is backing them up etc. If the indication/s is not very clear you could have a one to one meeting to determine. Making notes of these observations can be very helpful. The problem area once identified should be addressed to without any further delay.
Discussion/s with the individual/s identified as responsible should be done strictly on a one to one basis. In situations like these, it is recommended not to get into group discussions, as people will tend to get defensive and won’t be helpful.  People are different in a one to one discussion rather than in a group; probably they see it as an opportunity to open up and are willing to be honest in such discussions. Most of you who have had similar prior experiences will agree on this one.
Now coming to the most important aspect, the resolution of the problem, this may consist of different steps /methods. However, it should certainly cover the following:
·        Active listening to their problem/s; their version of the issue.
·        Confirmation from you that you have understood their point.
·        Helping them understand the benefits for everyone functioning as a team.
·        Identify the actual concern.
·        Ask them for a solution to a way ahead. (suggest here) Identify a solution (involving both parties).
·        Assurance of help from your end to help them through the situation.
·        Follow up to check if the solution is being adhered to. 

This advice may seem as a lengthy process and a time consuming one, so is the foundation of any structure – especially structures based on trust. This way you will not only overcome your first big obstacle, but also set an example to your team, of the optimistic approach towards problem solving. Also, issues resolved using this methodology stay resolved for a really long time.

Monday 22 September 2014

Knowing the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) Well in People/Team Management - A Key Requirement.

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In order to fulfill the operational challenges and set a goal for self and the team, a key requirement is that the leader possesses a sound understanding of his/her self's and the team members KSAs. KSA in simple terms is the set of proficiencies required to perform a job, and can be further explained as follows:
• Knowledge - It is the sum total of information one possesses to perform a particular job, that is gained by education, training or experience in previous work environment/s.
• Skill - Is a measurable competency to perform a set of specific functions within the job.
• Ability - It is a consistent observable pattern or response which always results in a desired outcome.
These qualities/capabilities are primarily used to distinguish one individual's caliber from the other. These are very important aspects that are normally considered in conjunction, during job interviews. It's a very effective way to measure and choose the best match possible among a group, for the role.
However, our purpose of knowing the KSAs in this context is slightly different, we do not aim to use the learning to eliminate or undermine a particular individual from others. Instead we aim to sync each of their KSAs and align them to attain a common purpose or achieve a goal. The clear understanding of each individual's KSA is hence required to compliment or balance the team's performance in difficult situations/times. It can be also used as a powerful cross training tool to use one particular individual's capabilities to train other/s falling short of the same. This is also one of the most effective ways of bonding as each person is aware of whom to approach for a particular domain knowledge within the team. This way they are better prepared the next time when a similar task comes up and also strive to create a strong back up plan in the process. Altogether this enables smooth functioning of the team. As a leader, one should actively participate in this entire exercise and provide inputs using their KSAs whenever and wherever possible. And for the leader, in the longer run he/she is up skilling and contributing meaningfully to their team members overall personality development. People would certainly reinforce their trust in you and appreciate your foresight in grooming them to be future leaders, whenever an appropriate opportunity comes along. This is a continuous chain of learning as you will remind them do the same when they grow up to be leaders and have a team themselves.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Changing What We Can at Our Work Place in People/Team Management - Re Defining Work Environment

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All of us at some point or other have complaints concerning things at our work place, the majority of times it's because of a particular individual or few people. Surprisingly, rarely it is about the place of work itself, it is principally concerning the people that we work closely with, could be a demanding boss or a particular team member that you just cannot get along with. Well we all know that a person at a regular job spends most of his/her time at work place than anywhere else, so we spend 'Quantity of our time' here. Now on the other side of the coin there is another group of people that we meet during the weekend our close friends/ family that we like to hang out with whenever possible. We never miss a chance to spend time with them either during weekend or during a vacation, in fact we call it 'Quality time'. We look forward to meet up with them, however difficult it is for us just to spend a couple of hours so that we refresh ourselves, recharge our batteries for a challenging week ahead. I sometimes wonder what our work place would be like if we replace Quantity time guys with our Quality time guys. So the question is why are we so comfortable, accommodating, and thriving with one particular set of people? And why don't we get along with the other group. The reason is that you are genuinely interested in spending time with these people, it's like you are with yourself, when you are with this group.
Unfortunately for most of us, we cannot choose who we work with, that is far from happening. However, what we can work towards is, try to transform the quantity time individuals to quality time group as far as possible. Trust me on this one, I have worked in this kind of environments earlier, you would look forward to, in fact want to be at the work place every single day. Sounds too good to be true isn't it. The entire team is in sync and charged up; they have fun at work and enjoy every minute of time they get to spend with the rest of the team members. There is a phenomenal increase in the deliverables of the team, both in terms of quality and quantity. Isn't it a dream place of work for each one of us? This probably is one of the reasons that led to the saying that if you love your work; you won't have to work even a single day. Well it's little difficult to achieve it, but certainly not impossible. The key to achieve this is having a great bonding with the team, most importantly having fun at work, caring for one another, enjoying each other's company. My suggestion is that within the capability of Manager/lead, one should aim and work to provide such a work environment to your team and in the process for yourself too.

Friday 19 September 2014

You and I…Together We Make a Great Team in People/Team Management - Experience It.

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Yes, you and i... together we make a great team. This sentence as an opening statement in itself has a positive and a powerful impact. It is so binding; I mean it sounds like a promise to achieve great things working together. This phrase when really meant, the resulting attitude never fails to make a connect with the team. One should align his/her thoughts, actions around it. While interacting with the team or with any individual; on a specific situation or a major task ahead, similar phrases like this reinforces the trust among one another. It could be as simple as…with a team like ours I don't see it as a major hurdle. As part of preparing the individual/team for a demanding task, a huge assignment ahead, a mention of previous milestones achieved by the team; and/or any particular individual's additional contribution to that achievement is a huge bonus.
However, care should be taken not to discuss even on a lighter note, of any individual's mistakes or areas of development in a team meeting. As each one of us, would want the whole world to know what we are good at, but at the same time we sometimes may not want even ourselves to know of our flaws. We do not acknowledge them as flaws. That is the reason why sometimes, we find our opinions differing with almost everyone in the group, when things seem as common sense to the others. This is also a reason that we have to deal with ourselves too in some situations. But don't worry it is very human and probably we are made that way. Fortunately for us, we can overcome situations like this by keeping a cool head about it, not taking decisions in haste, analyze and interpret the situation, get a third party/a domain expert's opinion at it. There is no harm in saying that as of now you do not have a clear understanding of it and need some time to get back with a solution.
However, should you encounter such a situation from the individual/team, as mentioned in my earlier write up, you should put your active listening skills to good use, backed up with the ability to evaluate and understand their reasoning. Efforts should be put to make them perceive the situation instead of convincing them to arrive at a common conclusion.
When an individual has both attitude and willingness, believes in it, practices it and gets good at it; he/she is on the right track of becoming a great leader. And a great leader knows a way to say, mean and achieve; you and i... together we always make a great team.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Key aspects of being a leader in people/team management – An interesting learning.

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As a part of exploring the fundamentals of people management in depth, first of all let’s first understand what is the necessity of operating as a team as why is it so powerful and successful whenever achieved. Now imagine any task or probably a mammoth task, like trying to build a massive pyramid with a random group of skilled people. They would certainly be able to achieve the task in a specific time frame. And now imagine, the same task given to a “Team” of skilled people, each individual knows what needs to be done and how it needs to be done, most importantly how their individual contribution fits into the big picture. Working as a team, they are aware of where their strong and weak links are. Every person is willing to raise to the occasion as per their individual skill sets, simultaneously understanding others strengths and their capabilities of contribution. I am positive that such a team would complete the same task in a shorter time frame and also in an efficient manner. There are two important factors that make this possible – one that they are operating as a team, as against operating in a random group, the other is that they have been explained beforehand that how their contribution is critical to complete the task and who could help them within their pool of expertise, at situations that they are not so good at.

Essentially, any leader who aspires to take up challenging tasks and consistently achieve success at them needs to understand the complexity  of the above mentioned factors. A leader should know that his/her key task is - to convert the “group of random skilled people” to “an enthusiastic team of skilled individuals” and keep them that way always. It goes without saying that the leader should have exceptional skill, domain expertise on the task at hand, so as to come out as a single point of contact for the team. The team may like you and appreciate you for possessing the knowledge, skill and your willingness to share, but they will love you for your intention, that you are constantly trying to help them through situations, up skill them whenever possible and eventually train them transform, to future leaders. Now that when communicated to them and when they able to understand will do wonders. The attitude that you possess and your abilities to deliver will be reinforced in their mind for a very long time.

Once again, I would not want to sound repetitive from my previous articles, that the entire exercise should be done with a genuine intention, the key word being “genuine”. I am not discussing key attributes: as being a good listener, putting yourself in their shoes, empathy and willingness to help, in depth here, as their explanation varies with different situations. These are actually qualities/tools to help you work with your team. However, without having a strong understanding of the above qualities, one should not even attempt what I am recommending as obviously it won’t be fruitful. 

Amazing things about working with people/team management – Discover it.

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Well let me begin this way. I would never have thought considering to work with people as a career given a choice. As I, for sure know even before I start working, the path I would tread would be unforgiving,  difficult, one with heaps of failures, loads of disappointment, betrayal, opportunistic behavior and the list is never ending. Each time you decide to start afresh there is a compelling force already acting against you analyzing the outcomes of your failure, a sure shot negative prediction for any and every aspect of your plan to work with people. And the frustrating bit is that this only the beginning. Working with people, I can’t sugarcoat here, will be challenging and demanding, but certainly will be rewarding. However, the process of working with people can only be possible if you are willing to work with yourself first. Unless you know for sure, that you are ready to face the hardships that are ahead and are geared up to meet them head on, there may be very little that you could do to help.

All said and done my recommendation to people who aspire to work with people, and make it as an area of strength, in their success and career progression, is that to take the plunge. I know this advice comes as easier said than done. It is like taking a bungee jump while being unsure if the chord is attached to safety rails in the first place. However, a small step taken towards your goal with a firm belief on your own kind, and with a genuine intent to back it up will go a long way. The most interesting outcome would be that it will provide you with a tremendous satisfaction, that you have made that difference. As a matter of fact, once you start working towards the culture of being genuinely interested in people, willing to work with them unconditionally through their difficult times and situations, you gain their trust and taste your first success with people. More so, you will undergo a paradigm shift for the definition of success for you. In the process, what is actually happening is that you have changed yourself to bring about the change that you were always looking for. Once you train yourself up this way, there will be a host of benefits coming up your way, seeing situations continuously the optimistic way is one great thing to begin with. It keeps you in charge always, as you will have a group of dependable people who are trained at your way of thinking to work through challenging times and demanding situations. 

To summarize, a little effort from your end, a small beginning, that small step would change your personality so dramatically, that success working with people will become a frequent occurrence and always providing a win-win situation for one and all involved in the process.

People/Team Management - Are you on the right track?

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The secret behind working with people and being successful at it is actually very simple yet a challenging one. As it involves lots of self-analysis and soul searching method involved before one might even ponder to attain difficult tasks. The essence is to possess a genuine interest in people, their overall development and progress, to actually be for them when they need you the most, as a real friend, thinker and guide. Also, the intent needs to be communicated upfront so that the other person is aware and helps you to help him/her through the situation. This attribute may be a virtue to possess or a habit that has to be cultivated.

Currently, most of our work environments demand that we work in sync with systems/ machines and people in order to produce a tangible outcome, consistently. The system part of it is comparatively simple and is fairly predictable. We have bound rules/procedures to follow to arrive at a certain result. However the people end of it is different; there is no set of rules or pointers to achieve a predictable outcome. Every now and then it can get terribly troublesome and needless to mention, could seem as a dead end. Having said that once you break that barrier with people with a genuine intent to work with them and nurture a connect, you will see a huge surge in the deliverables they have to offer for a really long time. Whenever people potential is tapped using this methodology it works wonders. Also, it paves the simplest way for a awfully healthy relationship of understanding among the cluster, thereby resulting in a harmony. One word of caution though, the entire exercise needs to be fairly clear and must be conducted with a genuine intent, else it may not be fruitful. While pretending that you have a genuine interest to help an individual in a situation, can only help to get you so far, neglecting it or adopting another means to get quick results can be very disappointing. 

However, once this becomes your DNA you may see it work miracles for you and for individuals around you. Well it's as expected a contagious habit as your team/group and your peers can notice you open new doorways, so effortlessly, to people situations that seem so complicated and impracticable. This ability when practiced and perfected will not only help you gain success at work environment but also take your personal relations to a new level altogether.