SHRM Top 25 Indian HR Influencers on Social Media 2014

Last week, SHRM India published a list of “Top 25 Indian HR Influencers on Social Media” for the year 2014-15.

I am glad to be ranked amongst top 5 influencers for the third consecutive year. Each year, SHRM India raises the bar and changes evaluation method. This year, they considered activity/interactions beyond Twitter to cover Blog, LinkedIn, Klout and Quora.

This recognition underlines my belief in the human aspect of how work gets done. Which also means we need to do better at creating systems where human beings can thrive and make a difference.

And therefore, I am excited!



Also Read: 6 Lessons On Creating a Lasting Influence

Lessons from 9 Years of Blogging

QAspire blog completes 9 years this month and here is how I feel at the moment.

They say and I agree that time flies when you are having fun. 2006 was a year when I had just transitioned into my first leadership role. Every single day and interaction with others was turning out to be a tremendous learning experience. (and it still does!) I felt a strong need to document my lessons somewhere and just about the time I started journaling my learning in a paper diary, I discovered blogs. After initial experimentation, I started writing on this blog in April 2006 – a time when Twitter was a new born and Facebook was a toddler!

In August 2006, my blog (then named “Software Quality and Management Insights”) was first noticed by Michael Wade who added it onto his blog roll. In a comment on this blog, he encouraged me by saying,

“I enjoy reading your blog. Anyone who can write clearly on software issues is, in my mind, the equivalent of a translator of ancient Greek.”

When encouragement started flowing through comments and conversations, my enthusiasm for blogging just went up. I realized soon that generosity is the currency in social world – the more you share, contribute and converse, the more you learn, gain and connect. This is even more crucial in a hyper social world that we live in today.

Starting this blog was a play for me and there were no external goals like getting more traffic or building the subscriber list. The goals were (and and still are) internal – to have fun, to learn, to sharpen the writing and to connect with others meaningfully. I learned that the only way to really learn more about things is to do them in spirit of curiosity, play and joy. Have you ever noticed that a kid learns the most between first three years of their lives and then, when they are subjected to scores and grades in the school, their joy is robbed? All rewards, recognitions and external validations are merely by-products of pursuing the inner joy of doing things.

Blogging strengthened my faith in humanity. Kindness and generosity has enriched the web and made it into what it is today. I learned that people are amazing. When you work hard to blog, every single comment, mention, view, re tweet and ‘like’ feels nothing less than a gift. The generosity and kindness of people in blogosphere (and in social media) has never failed to amaze me.

As the community around this blog grew, I was drawn to pick up the phone and talk to some people across the globe whose work I admired. These calls not only strengthened the relationship but took it to a different level. Conversations are a currency of social media and so, I learned that in social media, being social is far more important than the media.

What started as a medium to document lessons soon became a platform to express my thoughts. Any act of self-expression requires a great deal of emotional labor and is fraught with risk of failing. I learned that if we have ideas or strong beliefs on something we care about, it is our obligation to express. Our fear is mostly imaginary.

In 2010, I experimented with writing three posts each week. Recently, I experimented with daily blogging. My big learning from these experiences is – inspiration never comes before discipline – and if it comes, it does not stay. Inspiration first looks at your preparation and discipline before showering the grace. As they say,

“Discipline and perseverance beats talent.. every single time.”

Writing for a long time gives you a good view into your own mind and how thoughts have evolved. Contexts changed, thinking evolved and learning grew. This observation of the self tells me that learning is not an destination but a journey – a journey where perspectives grow, focus widens and old beliefs may give a way to newer ones. Writing a blog is perhaps the best way to stay in touch with your own thoughts.

I continue to enjoy this fascinating journey and looking forward to conversations, learning and connections it brings along.


A Note of Gratitude:

I know I can’t thank everyone who has encouraged me by visiting this blog, commenting on it or amplifying it elsewhere, but here is a list of people I am totally grateful to have connected with amongst many others:

Rajesh Setty, Michael Wade, Kurt Harden, Wally Bock, Nicholas Bate, Utpal Vaishnav, Mitchell Levy, Becky Robinson, Mary Jo Asmus, Phil Gerbyshak, Lisa Haneberg, Tanvi Gautam, Ashok Vaishnav, Folks at Pearson TalentLens, John Hunter, Dan McCarthy, Paul Schwend, Gautam Ghosh, Yashwant Mahadik, Nisha Raghavan, Mike Wong, Folks at WittyParrot, Gurprriet Singh, Folks at SHRMIndia, Folks at Hirers, Jurgen Appelo, Folks at ActiveGarage, PeopleMatters Team, Folks at Impackt Publishing, Karen Martin, Jesse Lyn Stoner

15 Simplest Acts of #Leadership

 

  1. Smile. It is a universal language of compassion, care and love. 
  2. Greet people by their names.
  3. Share positive feedback about the work they are doing.
  4. Ask them about their advice on a critical problem.
  5. Listen with an intent to understand.
  6. Learn about them, their work, their process and their challenges.
  7. Help them in getting rid of their roadblocks.
  8. Establish trust to create a non-threatening environment for people.
  9. Be your authentic self when dealing with people and remain integral.
  10. Act on their feedback.
  11. Show them how much you believe in them.
  12. Encourage them.
  13. Thank them for their contributions.
  14. Recognize their work and their achievements.
  15. Celebrate their accomplishments.

Bonus:

In 100 Words: On Blind Rituals

 

A cat that lived in monastery distracted evening meditation of the monks. One day, teacher ordered that cat be tied up daily during the evening meditation. Years later, when teacher died, the cat was still being tied up in the evening. When the cat died, another cat was bought and tied up to maintain the tradition. Centuries later, learned descendants of spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about significance of tying the cat during meditation.

In organizations and in life, complying with traditions without understanding them is a huge waste. When context changes, our thinking needs to evolve too. Isn’t it?


Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

Fluid Learning


“The tools of the mind become burdens when the environment which made them necessary no longer exists.” – Henry Bergson

When solving problems, we love standard solutions and tools. What worked for us in the past becomes our tool to solve problems in the future. A psychologist named Raymond Cattell termed this as “crystallized intelligence” – ability to use learned knowledge and experience. It is much like water frozen in to pieces of ice. It cannot flow.

But, we cannot solve problems of today with techniques of yesterday. With rapid changes all around us, it is even more crucial that we pay attention to “fluid intelligence” – to analyze and solve problems in novel situation without excessively relying on past knowledge or experiences, to observe the patterns and think critically. 

When it comes to learning constantly, we need both. While driving, we need the rear view mirror to avoid accidents but we can’t drive forward only looking at the rear view mirror. Fixed learning and experiences of the past equips us better to handle uncertainty but in itself, they cannot help us navigate the uncertainty. For that, we need an ability to learn, unlearn and relearn quickly in line with the given context. We need an ability to not let past experience interfere with the possibilities. We need to learn to navigate without a map – or create a map as you go along. We need a keen observation of patterns that emerge as we apply the learning. When we do this consistently, learning flows and grows.

The tools of our mind are fixed, but the environment is constantly evolving.

Our tools and methods of learning have to evolve too!


Also Read: Specialization is a Journey, Not a Destination

In 100 Words: Heaven or Hell?

A Rabbi used to tell a story of his tour to the heavens.

He first went to the Hell and it was horrible. Tables were laden with sumptuous food yet people looked pale and hungry. Their arms were strapped with wooden planks such they could not bend their hands to put food in their own mouth.

It was the same story in Heaven, except that people looked contented and happy. When he closely observed, he saw that people were using strapped arms to feed each other!

Hell or heaven is not about circumstances but about how we treat each other.


Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

Agility: 8 Pillars For Building Self Organizing Teams

Last week, I was invited to speak as a panelist at Agile Carnival, Chandigarh where I expressed my thoughts on Agile as a method and as a mindset. Agility in our approaches is one of the most potent ways to deal with the challenges of a constantly changing world.

Here is the summary of a few thoughts I shared (and a few more):

  1. Agile is not just a method or process, but a mindset. Which also means, if your organization wants to be agile (and strategically nimble footed), you have to invest in building a culture of agility.
  2. You need to build a system of management methods, rituals, processes, tools and motivation where people are more likely to exercise their choice of doing a good job versus doing a great job. Their discretionary effort is so vital for your success. If you are aiming to build teams that are self-organizing, this is even more crucial.
  3. To be a part of a self-organizing team, people require maturity, skills and expertise to deal with technical challenges and manage conflicts constructively. Without required technical and functional competence, team will just not be able to take decisions to move forward.
  4. Narrowly focused reward programs kill self-organization within teams. When people have narrow and conflicting goals, they will do everything to meet their goals and yet, system might fail. Setting up systemic goals are vital to encourage collaboration (everyone wins when the system wins) rather than competition.
  5. Self-organizing teams also need a leader (read coach) – only that the role of a leader is to guide self-organization and clarify the direction relentlessly. A leader enables self-organization between team members and plays the role of mentor or a coach to the team. For this, leaders have to adopt an abundance mindset and give up on old ways of leading others through command and control.
  6. You cannot manage what you cannot measure, it is said. But you only get what you measure. We need to measure right things for right things to happen. E.g. if you only measure utilization, you may get high utilization but lower efficiency.
  7. Learning – collective learning – is the currency of self-organization in a team. The job of a leader is to establish forums where collective learning can happen. I have seen leaders who use forums like technical reviews and retrospectives to guide collective learning.
  8. Prioritization is at the heart of self-organization. When you have too much on your plate, you cannot deliver excellence. I have seen so many teams  derail when multiple and conflicting priorities don’t allow them to focus. Lean methods like Kanban therefore suggests that we limit the work in progress (through effective prioritization) and make the flow of work visible.

Over to you: What have been your experiences in building a self-organizing and agile team? If you were on the panel, what would you have shared?

Talents of a Great Manager

Gallup finds that great managers have the following talents:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

Source: Gallup Business Journal – Why Great Managers Are So Rare!

Here are a few small additions to each of the point mentioned above.

  • To be able to motivate others and build relationships, they communicate with clarity.
  • They are assertive in driving outcomes and overcoming obstacles but they are graceful yet firm in dealing with people and situations. 
  • While creating a culture of accountability, they also balance accountability with engagement.
  • They work hard to build relationships and trust but they remain objective and unbiased without letting their relationships impact the decisions.
  • They make decisions based on productivity but they think critically about other aspects of decision (and its respective impacts).

Great managers are the catalysts of employee engagement.


Related Reading: 

#Leadership: Humanizing Our Approaches

I remember being inspired by a Maths teacher who once told me, “If you start loving the mental stimulation and excitement you get when solving a problem, mathematics is easy.” He did not try to inspire me by the grades I must achieve, but by something more deeper. That did not change the fact that I still needed to score well but now, scoring well was a by-product of chasing the stimulation and excitement.

The practice of business is driven by hard stuff. We need more revenues, better margins, higher utilization, more leads, strategic diversification, differentiation, operational efficiency, lower attrition, strategic focus, branding et al. For a business, these are crucial but..

…but on their own, they often fail to really inspire people.

That is because people’s needs are different than a businesses’ need. People often look for being a part of a larger vision. They want to be valued when they deliver value. They want to be respected for who they are. They need to constantly see the meaning of their work. They want to be understood. They look for learning and growth. They need a conducive space to perform. They need independence.  They want to be cared for before they care for the work. They need love, belongingness, trust, honor, honesty and purpose. All extra-ordinary human accomplishments have their roots in some of these virtues.

In business as well, we need more intrinsic motivation. We need to address precisely those things that inspire human beings. We need to create an environment where people can thrive.

We need to humanize our leadership approaches and communication to build a system where intrinsic motivation is more likely to happen.

Hard stuff then, is the by-product of doing the right things for right reasons.


Related Reading:

Great Quotes: We Are Made of Star Stuff, Carl Sagan

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

– Carl Sagan

From – “That “we are” – The Connective Tissue of Humans Being” by Bernie Nagle which is a must read. Here’s one more:

But it all begins with acknowledgment and profound appreciation for the most rudimentary fact of human existence: “we are”. Joni Mitchell said, “we are stardust, we are golden” and in the workplace we are so much more than “Humans Doing”…we are “Humans Being”, with all the wonderful gifts of our unique person-ness right there for the sharing.

Do I need to say anything more?