Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fear Steer…

As the half yearly exams approach for most school kids in India, the level and intensity of threats to the child increases. If you don’t practice this, you’ll loose marks. If you don’t complete all the revision work today, you’ll get one fat one on your bum.

Kids in high school see a complete different level of threats…the threats near doomsday predictions. If you don’t get through to engineering, you’ll regret for rest of your life.

We practically grow up approaching any challenge with a heavy dose of fear!

Problem is, Fear has exactly the opposite effect on performance. Higher the fear, lower the performance.

There are those managers who drive via fear. From a somewhat direct, “If you don’t deliver this there will be trouble” to an outright threat like “If you can’t deliver this by Monday, start looking for a job”.

To be fair, it is important that consequences of missing a deadline or a commitment should be made clear and understood, but repeated such behavior points to an inherent problem in the management model.

Many times, the Manager can actually get short term results via this method but eventually this will be counter productive.

An effective manager empowers the team, such that individuals can take decisions and act on their own free will, in the right way and for the benefit of the product, team and organization.

However, Fear creates Inaction.

When fear prevails, people stop applying themselves and making decisions and may rather wait for somebody else to make a decision, or folks may take more time to analyze every what if scenario, before making a call.

Either way, it’s a loss of productivity.

Fear makes us focus on the ‘consequence’ as opposed to the task at hand. The goal becomes defensive, which is to make the least amount of mistakes…rather than excelling & exceeding at what we do.

Check your fear meter today…look at the last 10 decisions that you made.

…did you take the safe route repeatedly?
…did you delay the decision unnecessarily?
…did you defer the decision to someone else?
…did you create fear for someone else?

Is fear your steer? Think.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Attention Deficit - did I miss something?

Two lines of a song...Shrieking of a cartoon character...incessant rant of a newscaster...another cartoon...dubbed into Hindi from

All of that in less than 60 seconds...

I ask my 11 yr old son on what he is watching, and he gave me a good answer. He was 'Channel Surfing'. Sigh! Which today qualifies to be a legitimate activity.

Funny part is, even when we watch a good program, we tend to navigate away from it at first opportunity.

....we may be in the middle of a conversation or a meeting...but can't resist to see who sent the sms. (Clearly SMS can't be urgent...right?)

The age of instant information has created a huge attention deficit problem.

Look around you and you'll find that everybody is doing something + more.

Well we can always argue that the human brain can actually handle multiple tasks...we drive while we listen to radio. Or eat popcorn, while watching a movie.

Which is true, but for one distinction. Awareness Vs Focus.

We can be 'aware' of many things but focus is singleton.

There's passive information and stuff happening in the background, that you get bombarded with, but that doesn't really take away anything too much. However, there is active information that make you think and takes away your attention from task at hand.

So what's the down side, if you do indeed multi-task?

I think, two key problems tend to happen.

#1: We don't get to enjoy a good thing going.
#2: People feel short changed.

Would you really enjoy a good movie if you keep checking email every 10 mins?

There should be a very good reason, why you should stop a nice little conversation with your mom, to look at the SMS that just came in.

We show dis-interest in the current activity or person, when we switch away.

It is almost, as if we are looking for something else to do.

To be fair, a lot of this happens very involuntary but that's exactly the problem. We have almost gotten used to it so much that we have accepted it as part of the life.

It isn't supposed to be so.

Believe me, nothing different will happen if you check email at the end of the meeting.
....look at the sms after you are done talking to one person.
...don't check status of something while you are on vacation.

Enjoy what you are doing right now...without worrying about what may be happening else where.

Make the current conversation the most important conversation for this moment!

Everything else can wait. Really!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reality Check: … are you really on your way?

Driving in India is an adventure. We don’t usually carry a map…we carry a list of landmarks or town and village names, to drive through. There is so much uncertainty along the way...that every time we had to take a turn, we asked the auto fellow parked at the junction, about which way to turn for the next town on the list. Then we drive a short distance and double check with another person, if that’s the correct way to go.

Still there were wrong turns taken, and time & effort spent to recover. There are helpful people, who’ll help you get out of a traffic jam, direct you out of the wrong lane and set you back on your way.

Almost always, we reach our destination.

Contrast this with how we approach our life goals.

For most part, there isn’t a plan to achieve the goals. There’s a desire for sure…but no clear understanding of what it’ll take to get there.

Given all the uncertainlty, would it help, if we just drive fast and don’t stop to double check? Not really.

Most people want to get that next promotion. They work hard everyday…and believe that hard work will get them there. It is certainly necessary but it’s no guarantee. Many don’t take the time to understand what it would take to get there. What new technical and professional skills need to be developed…what new roles need to be played.

I see kids in class 12, spending a lot of time in going to school, then tutions and the father’s favorite, IIT coaching. A lot of effort, and grind…but most don’t measure if all that hard work and time spent is really being effective in getting them closer to cracking the exam.

We hope and pray for success. We work hard. We spend the money required. We make sacrifices.

We also need periodic reality checks.

Stop, see what’s happening around you, understand the new realities…re-adjust and start again Get your bearings right.

It’s very easy to get “busy” doing what we do, and then the routine takes over our lives. Newton’s First law of motion sets in. “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

We need that external force to change the state. A good vacation…a mentor…your mom or wife.

Get your bearings right. Plan a reality check.