A Piece of Rant Club…

15 05 2008

X: I Am Good At Management…

Me: Why Do You Think So?

X: Umm… I am good at coffee table conversations. I am good at talking to people. My communication skills are super. Top of the world actually. And, finally, I think I am good at coordination (really, any one can schedule meetings and handle logistics! ) and I enjoy doing it.

And finally as the discussion proceeds, I realize that its either the lure of flexible time, or the seemingly easy work that acts as a persistent motivator than the idea of career.

There is a lot of misconception about the so called management roles, at least in the field that I work in. Thought most of the senior people in those roles seem to be doing only talking, preparing pretty presentations, or spending most of their time in meetings, there is lot more under the hood than that meets the eye. One doesn’t account for the years of experience or the knowledge that they are equipped with to handle client demands on the feet, or the experiential insight that they bring in while addressing specific issues. Even bad communicators may have sound understanding or a strategic approach to the problem at hand. We can’t ignore the skills that they bring to the table because someone has bad presentation skills, just the way we can’t give weight for garrulous mouthing of words with little essence.

For those who are contemplating management career or decision making roles, a little bit of soul searching is crucial. List out all the reasons and hidden factors that propel you to consider this option. You can give a load of convincing answers to the world, yet please don’t deceive thyself.

Do you have it in you to face tremendous odds and come out trumps? Can you handle tremendous pressure or do you get fizzled out at the drop of a hat? Do you have the never-say-die spirit or do you give up easily and are driven by the principle of fatalism, i.e. the belief that you don’t have control over your deeds and some external force like God determines that.

After going through these discussions umpteen number of times, and talking to aspiring MBAs my mood turned nostalgic as I leafed through those memories of college days. I am blessed with a great mentor during my engineering days, and I am sharing a piece of those exchanges. These are times when I feel that the basics of these questions hasn’t changed over 5 years.

Why you want to do MBA?
1. Is it for money?
2. Is it for fame?
3. Is it for getting power?
4. Is it for getting a good job?
5. Is it for getting social recognition?
6. Is it because you want to make a career in Management?
7. Is it because you like to take challenges?
8. Is it because you want to broaden your horizons?
9. Is it because you have an academic bent of mind?
10. Is it for the sense of achievement?
11. Is it to get yourself equipped with an additional degree so that you can have an edge in this dog-eat-dog world?
12. Is it because you get turned ON by business and economy like nothing else?
13. Is it because you have nothing else to do?
14. Is it because of peer pressure?
15. Is it just for the sake of it and enjoyment?
16. Is it for making yourself more eligible in the marriage market?

It doesn’t require a great deal of analysis to figure out the secret motivator behind picking brain about management roles. For most of us in corporate field, its unavoidable. As we add on experience to the work life, most of our work or output depends on the deliverables of others. Thats when people management, communication, planning and organization skills come into play. For some, a management degree is a way to break free from the technical roles or a launchpad into different industries. For students, MBA is either a lucrative career option or a way to extend unemployment. ( Pun intended 🙂 )

But for those with mammoth goals and lofty aspirations, I am sharing this piece of advice that I received years ago from my mentor.

“A person doesn’t become a CEO just by doing MBA or just having the desire. The culmination is only due to untiring efforts and careful grooming over many years. Do bear that in mind. Although, having lofty ambitions is laudable, being nervous even before the battle has begun doesn’t behoove you. You need to have the emotional poise to handle things at ease. “

And finally, chill. We are all good at management in one way or the other. We all are managing our lives without much catastrophes. Acquiring management skills isn’t rocket science if we put our mind and heart to it. They say, vision without action is a dream and action without vision is a nightmare. Be true to the choices of life and be true to your dreams and longings. Life will sail on much more easily and happily.





On Lame Excuses….

14 05 2008

“Never Offer Lame Excuses”..

That was some advice that’s offered by my teacher during my school days that stood the test of the time. This article that I received today in email made me think for some time on the excuses that we mouth at the simplest opportunity.

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Excuses, Excuses
by Marshall Goldsmith, Ph.D.

When Bill Clinton published his best-selling memoir in 2004, he knew he would have to deal with the Monica Lewinsky scandal during his second term. He did so by explaining it as a personal failure, a yielding to private demons.

“Once people reach the age of accountability, no matter what people do to them, that is not an excuse for any mistakes they make. I was involved in two great struggles at the same time: a great public struggle over the future of America with the Republican Congress and a private struggle with my old demons. I won the public one and lost the private one,” Clinton said.

“I don`t think it`s much more complicated than that. That`s not an excuse. But it is an explanation, and that`s the best I can do.”

Clinton understood the distinction – and not just because his behavior was inexcusable. There is simply no excuse for making excuses.

When you`re late to an appointment and you hear yourself saying, “I`m sorry I`m late but the traffic was murder,” stop at the word “sorry.” Blaming traffic doesn`t excuse the fact that you kept people waiting. You should have started earlier. You certainly won`t have to apologize for: “I`m sorry I`m early, but I left too soon and the traffic was moving along just fine.”

If the world worked like that, there would be no excuses.

I like to divide excuses into two categories: blunt and subtle. The blunt, “dog ate my homework” excuse sounds something like this: “I`m very sorry I missed our lunch date. My assistant had it marked down for the wrong day on my calendar.”

Translation: “You see, it`s not that I forgot the lunch date. It`s not that I don`t regard you as so important that lunch with you is the unchangeable, non-negotiable highlight of my day. It`s just that my assistant is inept. Blame my assistant, not me.”

The problem with this type of excuse is that we rarely get away with it – and it`s hardly an effective leadership strategy. After reviewing thousands of 360-degree feedback summaries, I have a feel for what qualities direct reports respect and don`t respect in their leaders. I have never seen feedback that said, “I think you are a great leader because I love the quality of your excuses,” or, “I thought you screwed up, but you really changed my mind after you made that excuse.”

The more subtle excuses appear when we attribute our failings to some genetic characteristic that`s apparently lodged in our brains. We talk about ourselves as if we have permanent genetic flaws that can never be altered.

You`ve surely heard these excuses. Maybe you`ve even used a few of them: “I`m impatient.” “I always put things off until the last minute.” “I`ve always had a quick temper.”

Habitually, these expositional statements are followed by saying, “I`m sorry, but that`s just the way I am.”

It`s amazing how often I hear otherwise brilliant, successful people make willfully self-deprecating comments about themselves. It`s a subtle art because, in effect, they`re stereotyping themselves and using that to excuse otherwise inexcusable behavior.

Our personal stereotyping frequently comes from stories or preconceived notions about ourselves that have been preserved and repeated for years, sometimes going back as far as childhood. These stories may have little or no basis in fact. But they imprint themselves in our minds and establish low expectations that become self-fulfilling prophecies.

The next time you hear yourself saying, “I`m just no good at …,” ask yourself, “Why not?”

This doesn`t just refer to our aptitudes at mathematics or mechanics. It also applies to our behavior. We excuse our tardiness because we`ve been running late all our lives, and our family, friends and colleagues let us get away with it. These aren`t genetic flaws. We weren`t born this way, and we don`t have to be this way.

If we can stop excusing ourselves, we can get better at almost anything we choose.

[About the Author: Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. He is the author or co-editor of 22 books, including The Wall Street Journal No. 1 business best-seller What Got You Here Won`t Get You There.]

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Weather Storm People..

6 08 2007

Have you ever felt a sinking feeling in heart when you are with someone? Mood is becoming cloudy, Heart is already heavy, Mind is rankled, You are seething for reasons unknown.. Did this happen to you when you are in company of someone? Pick up your skirts and make a run! You have just experienced a weather storm person..

I never thought of any person in that way. But when I look back, I have realized that there are certain people who are bent on seeing the worst in everything around them. They crib, criticise, gossip and moan about anything and everything in this world. It becomes so much a part of their nature that they forget to appreciate little joys and beautiful moments of life.. And that effect rubs off on any person around them. My experience is that there is little you can do, apart from being aware of an inherent urge to stay away from them. Heed to that and stay safe!





Sane Advice

9 07 2007

Again a dose of forwarded wisdom. Some of these do’s and don’ts rang close to home and hence I am sharing it with my comments in brackets. Ponder on..

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ONE. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully. (Don’t drive yourself to martyrdom and never do anything that you would grade yourself in the category of sacrifice. Wherever you can, offer help with no strings attached in a pleasant disposition. Trust me; you would be delighted with the result! )

TWO. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

THREE. Don’t believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

FOUR. When you say, “I love you,” mean it.

FIVE. When you say, “I’m sorry,” look the person in the eye.

SIX. Be engaged at least six months before you get married.

SEVEN. Believe in love at first sight.

EIGHT. Never laugh at anyone’s dreams. People who don’t have dreams don’t have much.

NINE. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it’s the only way to live life completely. (Wear your heart on sleeve; it becomes beautiful by the number of scratches it receives.)

TEN.. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling. (We can really judge the true character of a person after having a real fight with them. Anger has its way of shedding the masks that we carry. )

ELEVEN. Don’t judge people by their relatives.

TWELVE. Talk slowly but think quickly.

THIRTEEN. When someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer, smile and ask, “Why do you want to know?” (That’s a smart way of handling it rather than lying up front and regretting later! )

FOURTEEN. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk. (Don’t be too cautious, we have all but one life, savor it to the maximum! )

FIFTEEN. Say “bless you” when you hear someone sneeze. (Sounds rather cute, isn’t it?)

SIXTEEN. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson (Reflection only enriches the experience!)

SEVENTEEN. Remember the three R’s: Respect for self; Respect for others; and responsibility for all your actions.

EIGHTEEN. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship. (Sometimes we have to give in too.. Don’t let pride rule your behavior. )

NINETEEN. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. (One you realize it, acknowledge it.)

TWENTY. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice. (I hate to hear dull and drab voice over phone.. )

TWENTY-ONE. Spend some time alone. (Some feelings are so deep that only solitude can help you find them. To cherish and appreciate other’s company, one has to enjoy one’s own company first..)





Financial Planning For Freshers

8 03 2007

It almost feels simple if I think about the topic, yet it is nevertheless important when you apply it in one’s life. I thought of giving my two pence as I have seen the confusion among the new recruits regarding where to park their money. I confess that am no financial expert and probably I may be even marked as a semi conservative investor, (esp when I mention the fact that most of my funds are parked in Mutual Funds)! Yet, financial planning goes beyond just trading in shares or meeting your tax rebate requirement. These days, one really need to get equipped with basic knowledge as the investment opportunities are getting multiplied.

For starters, esp for those who get cold feet when they think of savings and investments, look at your pay check and park 33% of your funds blindly for investment. Sentimentally, I would recommend blowing up the whole of first month pay check on your loved ones. Buy that jacket you longingly window shopped, check out a Titan watch for papa, gift your mamma that new sari or treat your family for a luxurious star hotel. Plan your savings after you have a safe net of liquid cash of say two months of your salary in your account. Why I really insist on this is because, one can never dream of emergencies. We can only be prepared for them. One good scheme that I found is the short term fixed deposits offered by HDFC Bank. For a 15 days lock in FD they are offering 5.5% interest rate, which is pretty decent if you compare it against the meager 3.5 to 4 % interest offered by you regular bank account. After ensuring that there is sufficient liquid cash, it would be better if you can write down your cash requirements and investment goals, so that you can channelize money on long term and short term investments. Once you got them in place, it’s pretty easy to divide how much money you are going to route to shares, mutual funds, insurance or NSC.

To add some personal tidbits, do think twice before you opt for insurance in endowment or whole life plans. Check the options available in term life plans. Insurance is not to be treated as an investment. Do have a one stop view for your portfolio. There are a lot of websites like valueresearchonline.com, moneycontrol.com which offer these services for free. Investment market is pretty exciting with so many options flooding the market. Plan for the contingencies, invest wisely, secure your future and enjoy!





Slow Down Culture

31 01 2007

I simply loved this article! Author Unknown, yet kudos to him!
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It’s been 18 years since I joined Volvo, a Swedish company. Working for them has proven to be an interesting experience. Any project here takes 2 years to be finalized, even if the idea is simple and brilliant. It’s a rule.

Globalized processes have caused in us (all over the world) a general sense of searching for immediate results. Therefore, we have come to posses a need to see immediate results. This contrasts greatly with the slow movements of the Swedish. They, on the other hand, debate, debate, debate, hold x quantity of meetings and work with a slowdown scheme. At the end, this always yields better results.

Said in another words:
1. Sweden is about the size of San Pablo, a state in Brazil.
2. Sweden has 2 million inhabitants.
3. Stockholm, has 500,000 people.
4. Volvo, Escania, Ericsson, Electrolux, Nokia are some of its renowned companies. Volvo supplies the NASA.

The first time I was in Sweden, one of my colleagues picked me up at the hotel every morning. It was September, bit cold and snowy. We would arrive early at the company and he would park far away from the entrance (2000 employees drive their car to work). The first day, I didn’t say anything, either the second or third. One morning I asked, “Do you have a fixed parking space? I’ve noticed we park far from the entrance even when there are no other cars in the lot.” To which he replied, “Since we’re here early we’ll have time to walk, and whoever gets in late will be late and need a place closer to the door. Don’t you think? Imagine my face.

Nowadays, there’s a movement in Europe name Slow Food. This movement establishes that people should eat and drink slowly, with enough time to taste their food, spend time with the family, friends, without rushing. Slow Food is against its counterpart: the spirit of Fast Food and what it stands for as a lifestyle. Slow Food is the basis for a bigger movement called Slow Europe, as mentioned by Business Week.

Basically, the movement questions the sense of “hurry” and “craziness” generated by globalization, fueled by the desire of “having in quantity” (life status) versus “having with quality”, “life quality” or the “quality of being”. French people, even though they work 35 hours per week, are more productive than Americans or British. Germans have established 28.8 hour workweeks and have seen their productivity been driven up by 20%. This slow attitude has brought forth the US’s attention, pupils of the fast and the “do it now!”.

This no-rush attitude doesn’t represent doing less or having a lower productivity. It means working and doing things with greater quality, productivity, perfection, with attention to detail and less stress. It means reestablishing family values, friends, free and leisure time. Taking the “now”, present and concrete, versus the “global”, undefined and anonymous. It means taking humans’ essential values, the simplicity of living.

It stands for a less coercive work environment, more happy, lighter and more productive where humans enjoy doing what they know best how to do. It’s time to stop and think on how companies need to develop serious quality with no-rush that will increase productivity and the quality of products and services, without losing the essence of spirit.

In the movie, Scent of a Woman, there’s a scene where Al Pacino asks a girl to dance and she replies, “I can’t, my boyfriend will be here any minute now”. To which Al responds, “A life is lived in an instant”. Then they dance to a tango.

Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious of living the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists. We all have equal time throughout the world. No one has more or less. The difference lies in how each one of us does with our time. We need to live each moment. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

Congratulations for reading till the end of this message. There are many who will have stopped in the middle so as not to waste time in this globalized world.





A Mentoring Session in My Organization

24 03 2006

Today I had a session with one of the senior persons in our organization. I wouldn’t call it a session anyway; it was more like an informal chat. He made questions like where do I put myself in 5 yrs, 10 yrs and so on which reminded me of placement days! I don’t know how relevant these questions are in this fast changing world. Yet, there are many pearls of wisdom one can garner from the experience.

Some thoughts to ponder after the discussion!

• If you think you are comfortable in your current job, then its time to move on!
• Learning slackens once you reach 5 years of experience as you end up doing more of a coordination role later on.
• As you grow, your job depends the most on others’ contribution and inputs and hence people skills matter the most.

It felt nice that I had this session. I love what I do, and guess I got enough to mull over from this session. I need to redesign the way I work so that I brush up my skillet and still retain the excitement. A long way to go!