Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Unreasonable Leadership

These are some excerpts from my mentor on leadership from his experience and success over a period of 20 years in IT Industry.  The definition of leadership is simply difficult to state. However, it is not very difficult to state the terms of leadership.

There are four pillars of leadership at very high level.

1.       Top Line  (Revenue Growth)
2.       Bottom Line (Profit Growth)
3.       C-Sat (Customer Satisfaction)
4.       E-Sat (Employee Satisfaction)

Though, all the four parameters are distinct and extremely important to deal with - these are very much interconnected. One has to be extremely careful in considering the change in any of these aspects as the impact will be severe in at least one of the other aspects in the worst possible manner. Any of the promises that a leader makes in any of these aspects will have impact over the other parameters either positively or negatively or both.  This is a vicious cycle and each aspect of it needs to be dealt in very precise manner.

Leadership is neither a position nor a designation. It’s the style as to how a person leads his/her team. Unarguably, the progress of a leader depends on the progress of his/her team. Leadership is not getting success/failure, it’s the journey of the entire team to the success/failure. The true challenge for any leader is to make this journey most fascinating and worthwhile for all the stakeholders without compromising any of the above four parameters.  It is easier said than done, however, there are lot of leaders who achieved it and showed to the world by creating  products/services which the world would never have been in existence otherwise.

Three Important aspects to consider for a leader to be successful : 

First - The Obvious, The central aspect of the four pillars is Customer Satisfaction which also results in all the other three pillars.  Building trust with the customers is the key for any business and taking it to a different level is the business of the leader. The era is gone where we deliver what the customer needs. This may build a professional relationship between the two entities as it did in past decade for most of the businesses. Ownership of the product/service and providing excellence by working relentlessly within the business boundaries and giving the customers a wow factor for every release is what builds trust. The only way it can happen is by building a team who believes in Innovation as a process and not just a task. By giving a new function - improved performance or enhanced stability or compatibility with all browsers or simple to use User Interface which is not part of what the user gave as a requirement. This kind of proactive ability to help the product/service builds trust which otherwise takes decades to build. This helps the client ignore escalating petty issues and request the team to help them in a gentle manner. It is the job of the leader to make it happen, not by dictating terms but by being part of that process and making the team believe in this divine aspect and considering it as the only way to go forward both for them and for the entire business as an entity.  

Second - The Conviction, of the leader in everything he talk about and everything he does for achieving those four pillars. The leader is not an authoritarian and a delegator of tasks but is an extended member of the team and is a facilitator in the entire journey.  He should help the team develop the same conviction he/she has by being part of the team in all activities possible.  The team is a web and everybody knows one or the other way - even the slightest of actions which are not in align with the envisioned thought process.  Knowing the pulse of the team in a most constructive manner is the best means of understanding and correcting oneself by making the team part of the decision making directly or indirectly. It gives them a sense of belongingness and ownership to the entire mission. By being genuine to each and every team member and by making them believe that they are secure with their future in the organization with this team.  By building a team where one can say "I am very proud of my team, they know what they need to do to handle an uncertain situation or approaching me to handle the situation" is what a leader strives for.   (Please read  'The Power of Intent' a HBR Blog post by HCL CEO - Vineet Nayar :

Third - The most important of all and the toughest to keep the four pillars intact is to be unreasonable for taking any excuses for handling a situation or solving a problem. One should be tough enough to say that it is not acceptable to give an excuse and skip the process of resolving the situation. This should not be done by giving orders but by being with the team in the entire process of resolving it, helping the team with the required resources & time and by shielding the team from any other external pressures. It is this support during the challenges which ensures the team learns to challenge the challenges and handle them to become confident about themselves. This is the period which genuinely builds trust for the client with the belief that the team is here to provide excellence with the product/service that they are building.  This not only makes the team tough but also the result provides great belief within the team and in the circle of entire stakeholders about pursuing excellence.  (Quitting Versus Not Quitting - a beautiful poem which the leaders are made up of: )

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Should there be a reason to love !!!

I remember, my professor telling us about our innate feeling that we are intelligent and to prove to the world in every case possible. So, when we don’t know things, we try to guess with the knowledge that we have in past instead of answering genuinely that “I don’t know”.

So, I don’t want to prove myself as an intelligent guy and define love - which I don’t know. I really don’t understand the purpose of my life except that there is a purpose – I remember reading in a book “The purpose of life is a life of purpose”. I agree with it and I am in search of the process to find that purpose. Without understanding myself, I feel it is absurd about assuming my relationship with people. I do not know on what parameters we call ourselves like/love certain people. I do not want to believe that there is certain criteria exist for this.

What is the reason that I like people? Is It because they are like minded, they are good to me, they respect me, they belong to my family - or is it because I am a social animal and need company and obliged to like people around me - who don’t hurt my feelings.

What is the reason that I want to help those people I like? Is it because I want to get their attention, I want them to be happy, I want them to acknowledge my friendship, something I feel as an obligation or is it something I feel they expect this from me or is it the way I am.

When I search for the reason why I like and don’t have a persuading answer to myself – being a rational candidate, I am unable to believe the fact that “I have no reason to like/love somebody”.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Certainty in the Uncertainty

When a flight is cancelled because of bad weather or any other reasons by the airlines then they will provide you with another flight and accommodation till you get another flight.   So, it is up to you to negotiate and get the immediate flight. If you have access to the internet and able to find the next immediate flight and then discuss with the airline people if you can get the tickets for those airlines. You have to be tough with those guys, otherwise they will convince you with whatever they can provide with that can be after 2 days or 3 days. If you do not have any such information then talk to the fellow passengers who are at the other counters and find out what is the kind of airlines and the dates they are getting the tickets. Based on this information you can check with the airlines people in order to find the available tickets in the next immediate flight. You have to fight literally and create an urgency in order to get the next immediate and best possible flight. 

When they book the tickets, make sure that the tickets are booked without any domestic flight. There is a high possibility of cancelling or delaying the domestic flight and hence missing the international flight. In this case, International airlines will not take the responsibility for the delay of domestic flight. And in the total frustration and after travelling so much you will not be able to go back to domestic airlines for requesting for the accommodation. In this case, you are the mercy of international airlines as you missed the flight even though there was collaboration between International and domestic airlines.
 When we miss an international flight by any chance (because of delay in domestic flight or by your mistake), you might not be provided with any accommodation as the rules might say that they are not responsible for delays to due to weather etc. So, you need to fight in order to get the accommodation and ask them to provide with immediate next flight due the urgency you have.  It is very important to talk to the domestic airlines prior departure about the delay and the consequences of that delay.  We have not discussed this prior departure, so don’t know about it.
If it is you who have to pay for the hotel expenses because of the delay, then it is going to be more than $70 per night and around $20 for food if the airlines provide you with discount coupon for accommodation. Otherwise it is going to be more than $120 in total. So, in worst case request the airlines for the discount coupon for staying in airport hotels.  (This case is with respect to United States and must be true for any other case)
Disclaimer: These insights are my opinions, Please consider them accordingly and use it based on the situation.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Experience the uncertainty

It was19th Dec’10, the day we were waiting to come back home - .  The flight was at 8 PM and we planned to start around 3:30 PM from our hotel. We did the packing of our 4 bags to keep the entire luggage according to the weight rules. We changed it 4 times in order to balance the weights. Finally our (Amit and mine) cabin bags weighed around 15 kgs. As we didn’t have any option, we felt we have to live with that.

Finally we started from the hotel and it took half an hour to reach the airport. We saw a lot of confused people in the airport. I started wondering as to what it was all about and then Amit told me about the cancellation of flights due the bad weather in London (Europe). So, as expected our flight was also cancelled and we waited in line to check what was store for us, facing such a situation for the first time.  We stood in the line looking at the counters and talking to other familiar Indian faces and their plans. We got our turn and the lady who stood over there took our passports and tickets and disappeared for almost half an hour. We were just discussing the options that we have in case we need to take another flight. The lady came and told us that we have got the best booking possible. We hoped that it really was the best and asked her what it was.  She told us that it was for 21st evening in Etihad Airways.  We have to take a domestic flight from Atlanta to Chicago and from Chicago to Abu Dhabi and then to Hyderabad. We asked her if there was any other option available. She said that there is no other option and that they had booked the best possible one for us. We didn’t have any other option but to laugh at ourselves. She told us that they will provide accommodation for the two days in an airport hotel. Looking at the uncertainty, we thought fine. We stayed in the hotel for two nights updating facebook about our status and agony.  We faced some difficulty in getting our luggage to the hotel and to the airport on 21st, however considering that the check-in is through (directly to Hyderabad from Atlanta) we felt little relieved. 

We were in airport on 21st by 12:30 PM waiting for the American Airlines domestic flight at 4:20 PM. At 3:30 PM, we got an announcement that the flight is delayed by one hour to 5:30 PM. The next flight to Chicago was cancelled.. We felt happy that our flight didn’t get cancelled. As the international flight to Abu Dhabi was at 8 PM, we thought we can catch it easily as our luggage was already checked in. We got another announcement that the flight got delayed by one more hour and it was now scheduled at 6:30 PM. We thought that with some luck, we will be able to make it as the weather in Chicago was not good and the international flight might get delayed.  And luckily our flight to Chicago started on time (6:30 PM) and reached Chicago by 7:40 PM. However because of bad weather, they didn’t open the gates. So, we had to be in the flight till 9:00 PM. Once we reached Etihad Airlines counter, they told the flight was on-time and left already.

Tired of the drama, we asked them what can be done now. She told us that there was no flight to Hyderabad till 28th, but there was a flight to Mumbai on 22nd with a wait list from Chicago to Abu-Dhabi. Left with no option, we agreed for that. When we asked for accommodation, they told that they don’t take the responsibility for American Airlines domestic flight delay. We asked them that as there was collaboration between AA and Etihad, they should be taking the responsibility. They informed us that AA  has to take the responsibility but they don’t give the accommodation. They advised us to take the discount coupon and stay in the hotel and try our luck tomorrow and added that, “All the 12 people in the wait list got cleared today and you can clear the wait list tomorrow certainly”.. To rely on the unreliable - luck. The flight is till Mumbai and they won’t book the ticket to Hyderabad. If we need Hyderabad ticket, we have to wait till 28th. So, we left that option and agreed for the wait list. 

We went to the airport hotel without knowing what to do - tired and exhausted.  We got up in the morning wondering what was going to be in store for us that day. By the time we went to airport, we found many people sitting there looking with some hope at the ticket counters. We happened to talk to them and the story was same. Most of them stayed in the same hotel that we stayed. They informed that they will let us know the wait list position at 7 PM. It was much worse than waiting in Indian banks for loans or train tickets in Indian railway station or waiting for counseling during EAMCET. They called one by one and we saw an ironic smile on their face. Finally called both of our names and we were left with 30 min to board the flight.  There was some drama at the counter where Amit was standing to get the boarding pass. And for me, they gave the boarding pass from Chicago to Abu-Dhabi and asked me to collect the boarding pass from Abu-Dhabi to Mumbai in Abu-Dhabi and he didn’t return my ticket also. Finally Amit boarded the flight and sat beside me. The best moment after 19th Evening was to see both of us sitting in the flight to home. I got the boarding pass without much fuss in Abu-Dhabi.
The story didn’t end there. We reached Mumbai around 3:30 AM and it took almost 1.5 hours to get our luggage from luggage claim in the international airport. We had to go to the domestic airport and catch our flight to Hyderabad at 6:20 AM.  As we didn’t know whether we would be boarding the international flight or not, we didn’t book the flight ticket from Mumbai to Hyderabad. It was booked by our company (ADP) when we called them after boarding the flight. It took more than an half an hour to get the ticket, and another half an hour to reach the domestic airport.. We missed the Hyderabad flight by 10 min. But luckily with some additional pay, we got the next flight at 7:30 AM and we landed in Hyderabad around 9:30 AM. 

So, when it happens – it will happen. Better “let it go” and be serene and look for what is the best that can be done in that situation. If nothing can be done, stop worrying and face the music.

Nobody panics when things go “according to the plan”. Even if the plan is horrifying.  – From “The Dark Knight”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why Is it only me !!!

I have been wondering what situations made me feel worse so far whether I experienced them directly or I put myself in my friend’s shoes that have been going through the toughest phase of their life what is the biggest problem in life.

Is it financial problems, where people feel helpless wondering “why am I like this” and looking for a helping hand? “What will I do if there is nothing I can do and there is no way I can get it!!” Financial problems may cause the life to stop for a moment (moment may be months or years), leave the current opportunity and take the next one and go ahead, however makes move forward. Though the feeling is very bitter, because as human nature, we compare with our peers and question ourselves, why are we like this? After things happened, it doesn’t look like a very tough problem.

Is it health/mental problems, highly possible, where people do not have any control over the anger of god. Here, people leave everything to the doctor (living god). If he is also helpless, then again question ourselves, why it’s only me? Here, people will not have any answer unlike financial problems, they have to live with it. After sometime, if they are strong enough to let it go and stand against it, probably declare their win.

If it is personal problems, where people feel that they have become scapegoats. Where they feel ditched, helpless and what am I living for! It takes considerable amount of time, to come out of depression and get the self belief that these are just part of our life and not complete life and “We are here to achieve something more meaningful than worrying about the past”. This also takes them through some weak moments, which they regret doing it or thinking of doing it. Here also the same question, why is it only me? - However it is very likely to find the answer that it’s not only me but many around. This is ever lasting till they find some meaning to their life - the purpose of their life.

Is it loneliness, where people don’t find meaning to their lives. Just live as it goes on. After some time, when look back, don’t find anything meaningful in life. Having no purpose of living make people feel frustrated and may become a terrible thing to digest.

Any case, one question everybody has and feel is “Why is it only me?” – And it takes considerable amount of time to understand why is it! I am wondering if it is the current problem, which is the toughest of all! I doubt so? People who are strong understand the intensity of the problems and fight them calmly. They know what they are and what they are fighting for and what they are going to achieve at the end of it. By living for more meaningful things, they live and prove not to somebody but for themselves.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Listening is what some people need ….. Nothing more

“A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?”--Edward H. Richards

Wish, people have control over few things in their life. However, looking back at those things, they think it’s good as it was rather than what would have done if it was in their control and with their intervention. There are few situations where people cannot just give their suggestions, advises or learnings in life but only can direct to right people without any biased opinions. Just listen to those people in trouble carefully and seek clarifications if don’t understand. I strongly feel this is what they need – listening to them. This is mostly in case of personal issues in life which are mostly beyond the control of anybody except those who are facing it.
One may ask why we can’t help those in trouble (personal life mainly) with our knowledge, understanding or experience that gained over a period of time. The possible reason is the following as I stated in my earlier post. ( It needs special skill to make people understand their problems at root level and make them work on them to make themselves come out of them, which need lot of practice.

"It seemed rather incongruous that in a society of super sophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners."--Erma Bombeck

Friday, July 9, 2010

Don’t Suggest but Break the Cloud

We live with three things people, things and events. Our knowledge about the world is mostly confined to our assumptions or beliefs about people, things and events. These assumptions influence our perceptions and may reinforce the assumptions.

If there is any conflict in life with the way we are living that is because of our untested assumptions about people and the reason behind those assumptions. So, when people come up with their troubles (Basically conflicts with certain situations) we try to provide them with readymade solutions which we may have with us from the past. And we assume it will work because of the similar situation we encountered in the past. However, we do not understand the assumptions on which the situation is based and the assumption on which the people in that situation are involved in.

The problem comes when we are completely different individual from the other person, which is true in most of the cases. So, how they live, how they behave, how they deal and how they respond is completely different from how we do it. Generally people ask suggestions, when they don’t have clarity on the situation or when they are in some conflict with the situation. So, our suggestions do more harm than help to those people if we follow our intuition and experience and give them the solutions when the reality is completely out of sync.

However, considering the intellectual capabilities you can help them without making any suggestions. This can be done by providing with the clarity of the situation they are facing, what are the assumptions on which the situation became conflict and examining those assumptions. You can give the clarity by reiterating what the other person said and you can make them understand their situation better which led to the conflict by questioning the assumptions and hence you can break the cloud and help them to help themselves in finding solutions.