Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Manager Who Instills Confidence

I am enrolled in a dance class where 30-60 people practice, learn and perform together. We have 3 instructors – one key person and two are his assistants. So in this mix of 40 people (on an average) few of them consider taking the art form as a career, they practice all the moves everyday and are exceptional performers. Their bodies and muscles too have tuned to the kind of flexibility required in the style of dancing. There are few who wanted to learn the art form ever since they’ve gained consciousness; some find the two hours session a stress buster and a method of keeping themselves engaged on weekends. A very miniscule percentage form the crowd who once upon a time wanted to be a dancer, but got caught up in the rigmarole of life, family, kids and now when they have time to be with themselves; they are reclaiming their childhood ambitions. So precisely, this means that the forty odd crowd is a varied mix and match of preferences, motivation, agenda and learning style.
We make a mistake and no the instructor doesn’t howl, nor does he banish us. He instead mimes our action along with the correct style in a playful manner. He uses storytelling to teach the techniques and exhibits high level of intelligence while portraying a connection between art and science. He feels the pulse of every pupil and their individual momentum that they require to pick up a new skill. He very frequently claps and lauds for the class in between the session, despite we appearing in the worst of our forms. In turn we are taught to clap for ourselves, loud and in celebration after completion of a routine. He suggests we should practice between the weeks before turning for a new class and yet during the session he finds out, that a large chunk have forgotten the routine. He’s never seen scowling, not even for a moment; teaching the entire thing to the lost souls meticulously; all the while his assistants growing impatient. There are other instructors who take his place on some days, and the crowd plunges at its energy level.  Once he’s back the class is swarming with an ever growing number of learners.
So what is it that he does, which makes people return to the academy, long after they’ve learnt the dance form, asking for more? What is it that mounts his popularity? There are people who haven’t picked up much during the sessions and are finding the dance form hard to cope, yet find themselves ready for his session every following week?
His experience of perhaps a decade helps in forming the foundation for his expertise and delivery of skills, but there are other instructors too from the academy of similar expertise or perhaps better. Yet the strategy he uses to make every disciple of his appreciate their uniqueness and style is more of an attitude than just pure skills. He helps people look beyond their shoddy bodies and enjoy the energy and freedom the art form gives. Encouragement from him at every step assists an individual to explore deeper into their potential and cross the peripheral boundary created by them – even the not so good pupils of his. The instructor too is a manager, a team lead for that matter!
It’s how you treat your stubborn, ill mannered, lazy, inefficient, low enthusiasm portraying individual or trouble maker, unsatisfied, disinterested employee; when your skills as a manager display. It’s as easy as a bite of chocolate to handle the star performer and the disciplined, timeline following employee. They are more or less any day more motivated than an average employee. Perhaps more motivated than the manager too! We all stretch to be apples of the company’s eye, but those who aren't, don't really strive to be a thorn. Circumstances, priorities in life, needs, expectation from self/company, goals in life all have a very critical role to play in every decision an employee makes. Plus if he's time and again regarded as being a low performer, he for sure is just serving the bench strength or prefers to be a sack of potatoes. Now we of course cannot turn the potatoes to French fries that kids love! Nor can he be allowed to be the prince of neverland! Is the manager avoiding the individual? Is the employee being punished for some action of his which went much against the policies of the company? Does the boss have a personal disliking for the individual?
The best of ‘The Manager’ skills are not always displayed in a corporate environment or MNC’s. Sometimes everyday people and groups have a better way of dealing with things.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The 'No Learning' Employee

An employee everywhere is mostly categorized as either satisfied or unsatisfied and there goes the entire talent development team busy trying to build the environment that engages the employee and converts him to a satisfied breed.

Then there is another classification that labels employees as somebody either landing up on a job or making a well intentioned move towards professional growth. The former ones couldn’t fathom anything better, or just weren’t interested in previous occupations. Overtime exposure allows them to master the attitude and skills required for the profile. The latter ones have been living each moment of their wake hours wondering how to grab the opportunity and reach the zenith of success.

So far so good, there’s the ‘Yin and Yang’ of the taxonomy of the mental frame of an employee. The unbalance occurs when the consequences of a confused mental frame brings about a third category. Those of them, who have been engaged on a particular job for good number of years, have struggled in their lives to reach to that point and upon reflection of how the journey with the job has been – give a blunt answer - “haven’t learnt anything on the job”.

In fact I have personally come across people who try their best at acquiring worldly knowledge about all skills that can be remotely associated with their profile. For example if John was a wood cutter; he can always say he’s good at wooden sculpture and carpentry too. In technology terms a VB DotNet professional, within no time can portray his exposure on ASP DotNet and C# DotNet technologies; nevermind he was stuck for good with VB. There’s always that quest to show how much one knows about things happening around. Yet they always feel they’ve not learnt even an ounce from their current profile.

Such employees are hard to address, as they live in a make-belief world where the external attracts them and grasses always look greener the other side. However, the way they look at their current profiles is an inside-out reflection of how they perceive about themselves. The graduation friends’ profile is always more lucrative. The peers task is always more interesting. The colleague in another project has the best learning curve. The manager elsewhere gives the best opportunity. Best lies everywhere, but where you lay your hands! If this is the case, do whatever, you’d always be the one not learning!

The best such employees can do is find a job where they truly believe they can learn something or if they think that’s what they want in life, they need to learn the art of appreciating how the smallest of the experiences can be the biggest of the lessons. Further, never disregard the period they’ve been associated with the profile or the company. One may deserve a better profile and may have conceptualized a better opportunity for oneself; however, before this, one never knew how it would be like being here!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Leader's Vision

The vision of a leader and his team members is more like a cricket game. For that matter any sport that revolves around team games.
Coming back to cricket since it is the most viewed and followed in India, in one of the ODI series just prior to world cup, I remember instances that made breaking headline on every major newspaper. They alleged that the captain, vice-captain and top batsmen/bowlers were busy improving their individual scores and keeping their strike rate high. To mere onlookers like me who don't understand the nuances of the game, it was just a piece of news not affecting my routine. For cricket enthusiasts it was disaster and horror at its best - The Indian cricket team falling apart right before the world cup. Thousands of speculations catapulted from the performances each individual made. As for me, it later percolated to being dismayed of the fact that the team won't do that well in the world cup.
When I think of teams within organizations where each individual has an altogether different manifesto that would shine there profiles, it is the job of the leader to keep the team intact and all work on a shared purpose. However, not to forget, each one out there is just pampering one’s ego and inflating their pride with each task they accomplish. It’s like a check list being prepared to hit on the next opportunity.
I recently came across perception as a theory that involved leaders and followers. Every individual truly believes in being highly effective and efficient leaders, and that one is leading others. Whereas the reality says – very few are followers. A leader is not somebody denoted as one because of their place in the hierarchy of the organization. They are entrusted as one, when they lay out their vision for every initiative they are party to.
Yes, the team is constituted of different shades of people with varying personal and professional goals. Yes, today everybody is looking to anchor themselves in a Company to gain on the experience and exposure. Yes, one shouldn’t forget one’s interests to protect the future. But no, the leader without a sound vision and a fair enough idea of the path can dilute the peripheries of the team structure. Coming across people who advice to push on a work as long as one is adding weightage to their profile for a future employer if not the current one, would be less surprising. In an open forum, people don’t shy anymore to joke around the kind of grooming they require for professional growth. However, if the team is not held together, it’s not going to be long before team platforms are the nurturing training ground for a benefit to be reaped elsewhere.
I wonder at times, what difference can the leader make? They say, “People who decide they want to leave, will, at any cost. No amount of retaining tactics, compensation, benefits can do the wonder; as it’s all in the mind.” There are some people who have plans laid out for the next 10 years, some for the next 5 (a usual question asked during interviews), some for the coming year and still others who believe in the spontaneity of the situation. No doubt, each has a distinct style of working as long as they are being able to convert their goals. However, when it’s a team work, it’s not exactly about achieving the goal. It is about how able the leader was in transferring his ambitions down the team, how capable was he in showing the big picture that has been imagined, how good he has been in inspiring his team. A leader’s vision needs to touch every mind to the point of a possible belief and unimaginable passion. A game of cricket is not just won and forgotten; instead we have commentators scrutinizing every over and every catch, a misfield, sixer and umpires decision!  
They say, “if the boss is good, his methodologies are workable and attitude positive, it percolates down his team; whereas if he is lazy, driven by cheap tactics and doesn’t appreciate work others perform, it too percolates down his team.” Some leaders have a vision to create an impact stronger than basic hygiene factors, which bring about remarkable creativity and innovation within span of influence. While there are some, who force upon themselves a vision that makes their work a talk of the town and helps them build a market/brand value.
Now who among them sounds more convincing to a team member – somebody who plans to steadily improve the performance, places the batsmen in appropriate order keeping the middle order strong, works on a stable run rate, takes advantage of the power play overs and doesn’t allow strike rate impacted, since he wanted to be under every ball. Or somebody who is newly appointed and is playing to just look better than the predecessor or desires his batsmen to play and make two centuries without reading the context of the game just because the other team did so or is short sighted on the capabilities of his bowlers?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

HR Is Not A Policeman

Long back in a history class I had read concepts of international policeman. For a long time it enthralled and captivated every pupil’s mind, how and which policies of the United States of America resulted to it being referred as the international policeman. True to its name, even today with what happens in Afghanistan, Iraq or Pakistan; US of A has a major hand to play while portraying itself as a peacemaking force.
No I’m not discussing the world politics, but drawing a parallel to the very concept of policing around! One of the functions in an organization vis-à-vis Human Resource is several times taken to be the department used for policing around the organization’s views. The definition of being one can bring about goodness to the organization as well as be misconstrued.
When I talk of the goodness, we have a body that tries its best to lay out protocols and ensure compliance on universal grounds without deviation or exception. Some may argue why at all is the department needed when neither can it take decisions of its own nor can it think out of the box nor does it yield productivity of any kind. A function which by itself is bounded by policies those that end being meaningless, when others in the market are adopting the open house schemes. However how much ever one may decide to deny the need for discipline, end of the day as personal experiences everybody starts believing in the sanctity of the methodologies. For example dress code is a thought for contempt for many, whilst others believe it’s a must to harbour company’s culture.
The goodness is not that worrying as much as the misinterpretation is. How many times have we come across individuals from HR who believe, they have the supremacy to decide the future of an employee – either making or breaking it? How many HR’s think they can get away with whatever they do, because they are a part of the elite managerial group that handles employees? Ever heard of an HR suggesting that they have the liberty to break the rules/clauses/protocols since their policies are for the delivery functions and not support? Seen an HR who thinks they have rights to all the privileges and nobody can question them on the same? I have for myself seen people from the HR brigade exhibiting such behaviour.
Why if you ask me, or for that matter they themselves; all you can gather from their expression is that they are the one’s making the policies and they have certain anonymous powers to bypass them!
Before I got into the profession a friend of mine had then said, how one needs to be careful with not annoying an HR during campus placements. Narration of a story followed, the moral of which was, the lady HR didn’t find the candidate smart to talk and exhibited a personal disliking, hence closing his chances for employment without consultation with technical experts. Interviewees line of thought (including his friends) says unfair deal, HR are dangerous to mess around with. Interviewer’s line of thought says the person seems weak in the capability to be trainable due to severe communication barriers. For serious HR’s they know it well, how not to mix personal and professional experiences/instincts. If they aren’t one, they themselves would be poor judges of the right candidature skill and degrade the objectivity involved in the situation.
Another instance when an HR believes he is not liable to pay fine when he loses a material that is the property of the organization. While the delivery guys should be instantaneously fined, because they committed a serious offense. Why should HR or any support function be an exception here and believe they have superficial privileges that allow them to act the way they do?
Or why do they believe certain rights should be exclusively provided to them, when at the same time the policy says check the employees on it and rectify issues if any?
The other day I heard someone quip (in serious tone); let’s make a sick room within the HR room. An inquisitive person asked, and why is that the thought. The answer was something like ‘So that we can all rest whenever we feel like to. But the delivery guys should think twice before entering the room, since it’s the HR they are coming up to.’
With imaginations running so vivid about the seamless powers a designation is entitled to, HR is certainly not a policeman trying to enforce things, moreover boss around for wrong reasons. Perhaps one of the activities entrusted by the organization upon HR shoulders is be within the policy limits, however if somebody thinks it gives them the edge to act beyond their skin; they certainly require to assess their skills and career track. For that matter, any career track, if one’s acting beyond the desired attitude, time for solitude and introspection!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Being Open To Change

When we gain experiences at various levels in different organizations, apart from being employed at the place; what majority of us remember is the good boss who not only handled you well – but also helped you grow professionally. One would very fondly remember this person as a mentor who helped you groom your ways and attitude for things, presenting innumerable situations to learn things with a 360 degree directional view. He is the individual who doesn’t spoon-feed you, leaves critical things on your head with minimal supervision, has an eagle’s eye to every step that you take to fulfil your responsibilities, and doesn’t mince with words when you aren’t prepared or have been ignorant for long.
Quite many times it’s the first boss of your professional life who makes all the difference on how you take things and those who are fortunate enough find the right combination in the beginning. However, the give and take is so perfectly tuned that when due to unfortunate/fortunate multiple reasons either the boss puts up his papers or is asked to leave; the subordinate is the very first person who feels the pinch of it. There have been situations when the subordinate contemplates of putting up his papers too, despite counselling from family/friends asking to stay put. When the conditions are unknown, speculations rise and the subordinate is confused and unable to comprehend a change in the power play of the position. Several times for the initial period they find themselves in defiant position withholding information that can aid the new boss smoothly continue the operations or are unwilling to co-operate and respond appropriately. unknowingly making things difficult for themselves as people are still watching.
Being open to change is the best deal among all pulls and pushes, rebellious attitude and withdrawal symptoms. Strange it seems but people do face withdrawal. A new boss may suddenly feel incompetent to the role given to him. There may be times when the new person may ridicule the strategies of the predecessor spelling out a chance for loyalty test. Whatsoever be the reason, a successor to a post always finds the predecessor has been less effective on the role and somebody not exhibiting high levels of capability. As for the reasons unknown which paved the way for the ex-boss’s exit, the management is definitely not coming upto you and specifying the points (a), (b) and (c). In case you enjoyed privileges from the old equation and may now no longer enjoy them, time to pull up your socks and prove why you’ve been hired for the position. The working styles shall never be the same and every new person brings in lot many good things with him, from his previous employer(s), best practices from his experience and a new line of thought for the same old problem. Apart from your growth which now seems to be halted temporarily and your desire for the same conducive environment to prevail; remember the old boss too moved out for better opportunities. Most importantly nobody joins companies to befriend people and be buddies forever. Each one is a competitor to the other, trying to edge better and perform better than the other; though in the process they end up continuing a long term professional and personal association. Rewards, better compensation, more challenges in the profile are what motivate people to move forward!
So if your boss just left and a new one stepped in, instead of holding tight on your skill and still swaying under the effect of the predecessor – time to be open to change, time to be the hungry child ready to learn everything the new boss can offer and much more than that. One never knows what may be in stock for you, but if you limit yourself to the earlier learnings; you’re being instrumental in limiting your own growth. It’s in the perception and the thought, change it and you would look forward to being in office; else you would be serving a notice period – hoping to perform better and start afresh in a new organization.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Bad Practices - Retention Techniques

With ever surging attrition comes a huge responsibility on the HR and Talent Management team – ways to retain talent, those resources that were hard to find and engage in business.
For some organizations the creativity comes in booms salvaging the business needs, yet there are some of them who have bad practices being followed with utmost ritual.
Laterals are always the hard nuts to be cracked and convince from altering their decision, however freshers can always be easier to convince, except the bright fellow who is a star performer. An industry secret always says never go for a lifelong high performer. They hop sooner than the rest and are the most dissatisfied of the lot.
Coming to the bad practice, as an industry standard hardly any organization would prefer a new resource that has scored lower than 60%. There are also places where the scores can be flexible if higher up the course line a definitive learning pattern has been discovered.
There are still some who believe in absorbing as many as they can to meet their resource requirements, putting an important clause in the appointment letter, stating that unless and until the employee doesn’t provide all the certificates and testimonials he/she shall not be confirmed from his/her probation status. To many it may sound as a fair deal, as collection of documents is a tedious task and 90% of employees do not have the entire gamut of things asked by organizations. Eventually documents keep coming which in turn yields to filing issues and loss of data.
However there’s a catch in the clause, despite sounding convincing. The employees in this case are unable to submit the requisite documents as they’ve not cleared the backlogs, hence do not possess the marksheets! As long as they keep writing papers, for which they no longer are regular students; they keep being in the fluid situation where they cannot put down the papers. The question of career progression keeps falling in their laps where proving to prospective employers about the extended period of probation can be a daunting task! After all we as recruiters do raise our eyebrows when we find discrepancies regarding difference of years between important qualifications which override the stipulated time. Or even if the appointment letter says the probation period is of 6 months and the experience letters includes the detail that the individuals’ probation lasted for 1.5 years.
Those organizations may suggest that they have no alternate option of retaining talent other than this technique coz of the geographical and industry challenges they face. Quite many cities/towns are rich in resources of a certain kind (manufacturing) or are placed at strategic locations (enveloped by benchmark IT industries). Creating a niche for themselves in a hoard of others is a challenge by itself for remaining in business and making profits. Under such conditions the workforce keeps rotating among 3-4 Co.’s that hold the fort in that area, serving competitors and bouncing back at previous employers. Like a shuttle they keep frequenting among the odd 3-4 power players, hence diluting the quality of domain knowledge and innovativeness in their skills and application. Times like these invite new breed to enter the veins of the organization bringing along new energy and enthusiasm and they do not mind many a times as long as they are working and being paid for it. 
But such justifications still do not balance the bad practice adopted at those places. Giving a chance to those that do not meet basic requirements, due to xyz reasons can still be said to meaningful. Eventually those organizations that allow some flexibility also link up initial appraisal to performance and aptitude of the employee. However tapping potential and not giving them due credit or motivating to go beyond their limits just coz they do not have marksheets and testimonials speaks volumes of unprofessionalism from a Co.’s viewpoint! Either they need to eradicate such practices or come out with better ways of retaining talent and getting work done from them!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Professionalism And Friendship

I know Bill Gates and so does he! We are the best of pals and spend each Christmas vacation together. So whenever I walk upto his cabin, he’d open his books of accounts, he’s been working upon and show me how much he’s pumping in to Microsoft. Where do the finances go and how he builds his empire!
I bet 90% of you are already scoffing at the lines written above. They sound so ridiculous and irrational by all means. Half of you at this moment are telling yourself – what a sham! Or perhaps what a jerk! Some of you may question, so what if you know him – the world knows somebody or the other; but sharing statements of profit and loss is like ‘making a mountain of a mole hill’.
Nevertheless, despite knowing the boundaries between professionalism and personal ties; how many of us do actually cross the lines? How many of us actually look out for a favour from somebody, coz we have excellent personal terms? How many of us take it for granted that coz so-and-so is a cab buddy of ours we can pry into his/her work space and hang around much to his/her discomfort? Yet behave as if it’s a Constitutional right to be cheesy!
At what cost – being labelled unprofessional by all means. Some people do not understand the seriousness of a document being marked ‘Confidential’ and take easy offense when a colleague/friend/superior/subordinate tries to elude. Imagine being briefed by your VP that this is just for your eyes and ears, and a week later the VP finds out; it has now become a muse for the entire organization. He definitely isn’t going to sound pleased about the situation. What may emerge next is fire fighting, all thanks to a friendship that led one thing to the other. A perfect grapevine doing the rounds.
Now it sounds pretty much something of common sense and one may suggest, of course one’s aware of such limitations. But again the human factor and psychology comes into play. We as humans love dodging the set norms and rules. Unless and until there’s no bent of protocols one may find it tough to survive the quick bites, facts and figures. After all, close proximity can always be flaunted among informed individuals.
If you talk of ethics, and standing at the line of fire with the CEO looking over; or the Project Manager as a matter of fact too, would you oblige or shrug away and politely ask the colleague/friend to mind their business. If you choose the former you make way to being the super star of the Organization passing vital information nobody else knows. If you chose the latter, you end up being declared a smug!
So with the ball in your court, next when someone decides to shrug away; wait for a moment and tell yourself – cricket matches and shopping spree together would sound such a brilliant idea off the office hours!