3 C’s for Learning and Leading on Social Media

With advent of social media tools, our ways of learning, sharing and leading have undergone a sea change. Blogs, Twitter, Massively Open Online Courses (MooC’s) and a variety of other tools are nicely complementing books and classroom based learning.

Social Media is a great platform to learn, share, be a part of learning communities and build your thought leadership. Here are three C’s that can help you do just that.

  • Create meaningful stuff and add your unique voice to it. Share what you learn. Write regularly – it not only improves your writing but also helps in clarifying the thought process. Select your tools carefully. I use Twitter to share short bursts of insights and lessons which then expand in form of blog posts.
  • Curate ideas around what you care for. There is so much information out there and effective curation helps people find the most useful stuff. Curation assimilates and filters great ideas from others, gives them a new life and amplifies the reach. I use Twitter to curate useful ideas and insights that I come across.
  • Contribute to ideas of others. Take those ideas forward by adding your own unique and meaningful perspectives to them. Comment on the blogs of others. Participate in Tweetchats, online events, forums and share your ideas. Generous contribution is the currency of social media.

When you do this consistently over a period of time and keep doing it better, you get three more C’s.

  • Community of influential and generous folks that you can rely on for learning.
  • Credibility that you build around your work.
  • Confidence you gain through validation of your ideas.

So, the next time you use social media with an intent to learn, think about how you can put these three C’s to work!


In the pic: The Rock Garden of Chandigarh

Implicit Customer Expectations: Are You Addressing Those?

Customers don’t always specify everything they want. Truth is, not everything can be specified.

Lets say, you go to a restaurant and order a sandwich. You specify the type of bread, filling preferences, sauces etc. That’s what you want and it can be specified explicitly. But you also want the bread and veggies to be fresh. Preparation to be hygienic. Ambience to be nice. People to be courteous and so on. How often do you specify these expectations? It has to be that way.

These are implicit customer expectations and they are powerful. It starts with a decently working product but you deliver real value to customer when you address implicit expectations. Better yet, if you are able to create a new set of implicit expectations, you start leading the way. This not only delights the customer but creates a new standard for implicit expectations in your area of work. When you set new standards for implicit expectations, you move a customer from “experience” to “advocacy.”

Implicit expectations are slippery. Easy to overlook or ignore because they are unsaid and invisible. This is an area where you are likely to take shortcuts because RoI of addressing implicit expectations is not visible.

In your quest to deliver a working product fast (and cheap), do not forget that customer still expects you to address the intangible elements of product that are not specified but certainly expected.

If you want to deliver great value to your customers, you have to get your kitchen in order. That’s where real value is created.


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What Enables Proactive Leadership?

If there is one thing that differentiates leaders from others, it is their ability to remain proactive. I have seen so many leaders in business environment who don’t fix things till they start hurting the work. They devote more time to solve the problems that could have been fixed much before they happened. The cost of solving these problems after they grow big is often very high – sometimes, as high as losing a customer or your key team members!

What are the enablers of proactive leadership? Here are a few that came forth.

  • Systemic Understanding: Understand the System when taking decisions or evaluating issues. It is about understanding the critical interdependencies of parts within the whole. A wrong decision in one department may have long term repercussions elsewhere. The key is to see (and let your team see) those repercussions through the understanding of the system.

“Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots.” – Peter Senge

  • Constant Learning: Learning feeds proactive leadership. We all make mistakes all the time but a learning team constantly apply lessons from past mistakes to prevent them from happening in future. Constant learning also allows people to apply their knowledge to the specific business context. Here are more ideas to build a learning organization.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

  • Foresight. A leader needs to be watchful about the changing landscape and currents. They keep a close watch on discrete events and use their systemic awareness to foresee challenges, issues and risks. While they may not be able to prevent all the issues from happening, but they can always use this awareness to prepare well.

Leaders that fail to assume responsibility for developing the discipline of foresight will eventually forfeit the moral authority to lead. – Bret Simmons (post)

  • Openness to Feedbacks: Feedback and inputs from people at all levels enables leaders to understand situation at a ground level while also staying current on expectations and needs of people. In many situations, this feedback can act as a compass.

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee

  • Quick Action on Solution: Don’t let the grass grow under your feet. Risks, issues and dependencies can derail your organization if they are allowed to grow. A proactive leader maintains a constant cognizance on the potential threats and keeps them in check all the time. If you are a leader, don’t let the problems grow. Act on them.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt

  • Keep the team together. A leader who leads through a compelling vision, fosters learning and builds influence keeps the team together. People need an ecosystem to perform proactively. A leader’s ability to connect, communicate and clarify constantly on vision, values, intent and progress enables teams to take decisions with better clarity.

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” — Kenneth Blanchard


Join in the conversation: Have you seen reactive leadership in action? What have been your lessons? Share them via comments or via Twitter!

Better Leadership in 2015 (And Beyond): 9 Essentials

Year 2015 is knocking the door. A few hours later, fireworks in the sky will mark the beginning of another new year. Last few days of a year often pulls us into a retrospective mood and we tend to look back and look forward at the same time. As I write this, I am thinking about leadership.

Our world of work is constantly changing at a rate that is almost unnerving. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (VUCA) best describes the times we live in. People’s expectations from their leaders are increasing all the time. Generational shifts at workplace combined with business model disruptions is only adding to the woes of being a leader in the current times.

But the same challenges are also opportunities to practice better leadership provided we understand what it takes to succeed as a leader in 2015 (and beyond).

Here are 9 key thoughts on leading in 2015 and beyond:

  1. Leaders need to understand the new definition of power. It is not in titles or how large an office they occupy or where they stand in the pecking order of hierarchy. In this world of work, a leader derives power by engaging others, collaborating with them, build a positive influence and build an environment where people can thrive.
  2. Stability is a myth. As a leader, if you are not making forward progress, you are already moving backwards. Leaders have to maintain constant positive momentum towards achieving the vision and goals of the team. Constant improvement (and innovation) in products and processes is one of the ways to maintain positive momentum.
  3. Communication, collaboration, creativity and commitment are 4C’s that empower leaders in this world of work.
  4. In a complex environment, a leader’s ability to introduce and manage changes is as important as responding effectively to external changes. Leaders have to be creators of change too.
  5. Leaders need to stop trying to motivate people. This may sound counter-intuitive but intrinsic motivation, the one that lasts, cannot be generated externally. Creating an environment and system where intrinsic motivation is more likely to happen is the primary expectation from a leader.
  6. People need two things: purpose and meaning. A leader’s primary (and ongoing) challenge is to clarify the purpose and outline the meaning of work that people do. This is one of the key drivers of engagement that requires a lot of communication and context setting by the leader.
  7. For leaders, constant and self-initiated learning is not optional anymore. Constant learning equips leaders to remain agile in the face of uncertainty (and it sets a great example for people to follow).
  8. Work is a tool to develop people who, in turn, do great work. Traditional view of leadership is that leaders get work done through people. Which is true, however, I also believe that available body of work is an opportunity to develop people. You can use people as ‘resources’ OR you can use work as a ‘resource’ to develop people.
  9. Leaders in the new world have to be graceful and decent – even when facing uncertainties and chaos. They have to respect people, their time and their strengths.

Bonus:

With those thoughts, I wish you a glorious 2015!


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Book Announcement: Implementing Lean Six Sigma in 30 Days

I am so glad to announce that my next book is just released. It is an actionable guide titled “Implementing Lean Six Sigma in 30 Days” that aims to help readers in understanding the Lean Six Sigma methodology and solve problems that undermine quality and inhibit efficiency.

This book is for business owners, quality improvement professionals and anyone in general who is driven by the desire to improve their team performance.

I co-authored this book with my colleague and friend Gopal Ranjan (to whom I am so grateful) and this book is published by ImPackt Publishing, UK.

As also written in the book introduction,

How can we improve? This is one of the most fundamental, but challenging, questions an organization can ask itself. It is never easy, but the ability to drive significant change that can bring positive results is immensely important for a business that wants to be successful in a rapidly growing market. Lean Six Sigma offers a way of answering this question, combining the approaches of both Lean and Six Sigma in a way that offers an opportunity for exponential improvement in a way that is manageable, flexible and sustainable. Spanning a month’s implementation process, this book will take you on a Lean Six Sigma journey, where you will gain a clear understanding of the fundamental principles, and develop a clear perspective of the process as it unfolds. From defining the problems to be tackled, to their measurement and analysis, this book leads you towards the stage of innovation where you can take steps that ensure and sustain improvements.

So, if you are a quality professional or an improvement consultant, you can use this book to guide your clients/organizations through their Lean Six Sigma journey.

Available on: Amazon and PacktPub Website

And yes, when you guide your customers through improvement journey, do not forget to align the content (the concept and implementation method) to your client/organization’s unique business context.

Because in the end, any methodology or best practice only delivers results when content intersects with context. It is this intersection where meaning is created.


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#2014in5Words: Opportunities. Change. Learning. Serendipity. Love.

I came across the hash tag #2014in5Words on Twitter and that prompted me to write more about it. It is interesting how 5 discrete words can describe the core themes of a year gone by. On Twitter, I wrote:

#2014in5Words Opportunities. Change. Learning. Serendipity. Love.

Opportunities.

In 2014, I got plenty of opportunities to make a positive difference to individuals and businesses. Opportunities came in all sizes – from small help requests to large scale consulting assignments and everything in between. I am grateful for all opportunities I encountered to help others, share my lessons and learn a great deal in return. My big lesson?

Opportunity never comes across labeled as opportunity. It comes in form of a problem or situation. Apply your skills, experience and competence to solve the problem without anyone asking you to do so and you increase your chances of getting more opportunities.

Change.

2014 was really a year of transition. Taking up a senior leadership role at a large financial services product company was a leap of faith in many ways. It required me to move to a different city (with family) and experience a completely new culture/people.  I had so many reasons to resist this change, and yet, I just went in head first. This was not merely a change, but a transition. Change is everything that happens externally – outside of us. Change is gross. Transition happen within us, and is subtle. My big lesson?

In change, we grow. In transitions, we evolve!

Learning.

I have been a huge fan of self-initiated, self-directed learning. Everything I have learned so far has been self driven. To continue that streak, I took up a few MOOC courses, read so many good business books, hundreds of blogs and participated/contributed in various Twitter Chats. My big lesson?

Learning agility – ability to learn (and unlearn) constantly and apply those lessons to a specific business context is a critical career (and life) competency.

Serendipity.

I like to plan things in advance and execute those plans with zeal. But after everything experienced in 2014, I learned that serendipity can take you to places you never imagined. It is not the same thing as getting lucky. It is about doing great work and creating the dots. Serendipity connects those dots in mysterious ways and brings forward an opportunity. I was fortunate to be at the right place at a right time on my occasions – not because I planned for it but because I constantly focused on creating the dots by doing, contributing and sharing. My big lesson?

In a networked world, you increase your chances of serendipity if you share your skills, learning and expertise generously to add value; even when the fruits of your efforts are not tangible or visible. 

Love.

“To be excellent at anything we must first love our work”, they say. Like everyone else, I love my family and friends – the foundation on which I can stand tall. But I am also grateful to have work that I really love doing and knowing that it makes a difference. My big lesson?

Love is an ultimate leadership tool – it is about how much care about your people and their well being. Leadership love is about creating an environment and establishing a context where people shine. This ecosystem is the key driver of engagement.

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Over to you! If you were to describe your #2014in5Words, what would those words be? Share them in the comment or via Twitter.

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To Communicate Effectively, Connect First!

I have seen people feeling more comfortable about a presentation or a meeting when they have all the details and facts lined up in a presentation. They massage the message and try to cover as many statistics and nice looking pictures as they can.

They feel comfortable because they focus on communication – transfer of facts, information and figures. But this alone may not be sufficient, because people look for connection first. Communication is simply a tool to connect – a means to an end and not the end in itself.

Connection is the transfer of energy and emotion. Communication starts with details whereas act of connecting with others starts with an intent to identify with people, to understand their context, find a common ground and then demonstrate passion while mapping your ideas to their context.

You can devise complex plans with lot of information to do an effective sales pitch however, the real impact depends on how much you were able to connect with the prospect. That’s because people first look for energy and intent and emotion and authenticity. Once they are connected, they pay heed to information.

Ability to connect meaningfully with others and generate influence is so crucial for leaders at all levels (parents included!) and lack of connection is also the biggest reason why leaders fail to make the mark.

Getting stuff done is, quite obviously, the reason why leaders exist in organizations at first place. But the real legacy of a leader is how well they connected with others and how did it help others in becoming better versions of themselves while still getting the stuff done.

Your ability to connect with others enables you to build that legacy – one conversation at a time!

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The Journey is the Purpose: An Inspiring Tale of Nek Chand Saini

Nek Chand Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India is a true marvel of creativity and innovation. Built by Nek Chand Saini, a self-taught innovator, Rock garden is one-of-its-kind sculpture garden in Chandigarh which almost looks like a miniature of an ancient kingdom spread over forty acres. What makes this truly unique is the fact that all the sculptures in this garden are made from recycled material like ceramic pieces, bottles, glasses, ceramic pots, earthen pots, bottle caps, sinks, electrical waste, crockery, broken bangles, dust, pieces of tar, rocks and pebbles. The garden comprises of twisted, narrow and walled pathways leading to large open spaces. These open spaces house plazas, pavilions, theatre and hundreds of sculptures of men, women, dancers, animals, houses, temples, wells and decorated walls. Seeing hundreds of statues filling the canvas is nothing less than a spectacle. Interlinked and cascading waterfalls nicely complement the sculptures and walls to extend a very soothing ambiance.

The description above may sound a bit like a travelogue but it is not just that. It is an intriguing tale of passion, suspense, drama and finally the triumph of creativity over all the odds. A story with an important lesson.

Many villages were demolished when Chandigarh, India’s first planned city, was being built according to design by French architect Le Corbusier. Nek Chand Saini worked as a road inspector for the public works department when he started collecting the discarded material from these demolition sites. A few years later, he secretly started working on assembling these recycled material to create a sculpture garden that depicted his vision of an Indian village life. This hobby expanded soon into a full-fledged work of art on a government conserved forest land in the foothills of Shivalik Moutain Range. Since his work was illegal, he kept it a secret for ten long years before it was discovered by city inspectors. As the word spread, people began flocking to see this work of a genius that was already spread in 12 acres of land by the time it was discovered. Amidst the looming threat and uproar of destroying this illegal work that occupied forest conservancy, Nek Chand was able to get public opinion and support on his side. In 1976, the Rock Garden was inaugurated as a public space. Nek Chand was offered a government salary and a staff of 50 laborers so that he can expand his vision and continue his expression of creativity. In 1996, Rock Garden was again attacked by vandals after which city administration took charge of managing the park.

Today, with over 4000 visitors daily, Rock Garden is the most visited folk art sites in the world. Statues made by Nek Chand Saini decorate some of the best folk art galleries across the globe.

It is an inspiring journey of personal transformation from mundane to magnificent. He created a sublime space of innovation and creativity just out of his imagination, creativity and sheer hard work. How many of us today would spend this amount of effort and creative energy in creating something just out of love for doing it? Will we do it without any expectation on rewards or recognition? Nishkama Karma (action performed without any attachment to fruits or results) is the central message of Bhagwad Gita and Nek Chan Saini truly exemplifies it.

Did Nek Chand Saini work with a goal of becoming famous one day? Did he plan to win all the awards that he has won? Clearly, he did it just for the joy he derived out of doing it. He simply enjoyed giving form to his ideas through sculptures. He built his legacy one statue at a time.

The story of Nek Chand Saini just tells me that our work may not always be a transaction. That if we are passionate about our pursuits, have lot of conviction to do the required hard work and derive joy from simply doing it then external rewards and recognition do not matter. They are merely by-products of doing something you love doing.

The journey then, is the purpose and the reward!

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P.S.: On 15 Dec 2014, Nek Chand Saini, the wizard of creativity completes 90 years!

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Double the Love: An Interview with Lisa Haneberg

 

Lisa Haneberg is an expert (and lifelong student) in the areas of organization development, management, leadership, talent management, and personal and organizational success. With over 25 years of experience she has provided departmental leadership, consulting, training and coaching solutions for manufacturing, health care, high technology, government, and nonprofit organizations. She has written 14 business books and speaks on a broad range of topics of interest to leaders and managers.

Lisa recently published her new book Double the Love – 11 Secrets for Cultivating Highly Accountable and Engaged Teams and I had a privilege of previewing some of the ideas before it was released and share a blurb in the book. I read the book with great interest and it just consolidated what I wrote in my blurb,

“Double the Love is a treasure trove of transformative ideas, secrets and wisdom on how to build an engaged and accountable workforce. Wish I had this book early on when I built my first team!” – Tanmay Vora, author, blogger and improvement consultant, QAspire.com

I caught up on a conversation with Lisa recently and here is what she shared:

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, welcome again to QAspire Blog. I often hear senior leaders who complain about lack of accountability within their teams and organizations. What is the #1 mistake that leaders make when trying to make their teams more accountable?

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I think that the #1 mistake is failing to understand how our performance systems work. As leaders, we use two performance systems – accountability and engagement. Accountability is an extrinsically motivating system, which means that it is a “push” system and thus the secret is to be consistent and have strong follow through. I have worked with leaders who proclaim a need for accountability, publish metrics, but then do little else to operate the accountability system.

[Tanmay Vora] I loved how you have differentiated and then related accountability and engagement. Please tell us a little more about that.

[Lisa Haneberg] Accountability and engagement are distinct systems, as I mention above. What this means is that the leadership actions that increase accountability are not the same as those that increase engagement. At the same time, accountability and engagement are interdependent. When you increase accountability, for example, you might see a downturn in engagement because accountability systems can make employees feel audited and unappreciated or untrusted. This is where the phrase “double the love” comes from – when you increase accountability, you need to double the love to keep accountability and engagement in balance.

[Tanmay Vora] “Love” is not a word that we use often at workplace. What has love got to do with the whole topic of accountability and engagement?

[Lisa Haneberg] Let me start with defining “love.” Managerial love is taking initiative on behalf of someone else. It’s doing the things that enable our team members to do their best work. It’s caring enough to apply individualized support. As leaders, we give love when consider and act in ways that engage and help our team members. Sometimes love is as simple as letting someone skip a long meeting so they can get out of the office at a decent hour or spending time listening deeply. Managerial love is the fuel for engagement – it’s how we create more pull and satisfaction in the workplace, so it is HUGELY important for engagement (and helps counteract morale hits from accountability measures).

[Tanmay Vora] If there was one key message from “Double the Love” that you had to share with HR, Managers and Leaders at all levels, what would that be?

[Lisa Haneberg] In the book, I share 11 “secrets” and the final one is that the secret to performance velocity is design. This idea pays homage to Dan Pink’s belief from “A Whole New Mind” that design is a critical competency for our time. And this is particularly the case when trying to cultivate accountability and engagement. Design in this context means that we have been deliberate in choosing and using leadership practices that will support our goals. Being deliberate means that your intentions show up in your actions, decisions, beliefs, and behaviors. I believe that many leaders know – intellectually – the best things to do but that few follow through with their intentions. Design is the most fascinating discipline for leaders, I think. I love the challenge and possibility of creating my leadership practice. BTW, Dan Pink endorsed the book based on this connection to his earlier work and I love what he said.

“This terrific book brings together the intentionality of good design with the science of motivation to help leaders create better workplaces. The synergy is extraordinary.” Daniel Pink, author of DRIVE and A WHOLE NEW MIND

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, thank you so much for provocation to lead better through this book. Thank you also for being so generous with your art and sharing your insights here. I am pretty sure readers of this blog will find your blog and books very useful and inspiring.

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I hope that your readers will double the love and bring out the best in others.

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Also read: Previous interview with Lisa Haneberg on her book “Never Ending New Beginnings”

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When Your Best Ideas are Shot Down

It is very likely that your best ideas will get shot down.

It happened with me a few years ago. I went to the boss with my bright idea that had potential to generate additional revenue for the organization. My idea was shot down at first. No wonder, I was disappointed.

When our best ideas are shot down, there are reasons behind it. Sometimes, you are not able to explain the idea in a way that it generates the required buy-in. Sometimes, your timing is just not correct. Most of the other times, people are not equipped to handle anxiety and fear that comes along when judging new ideas.

What do you do? Blame them for being dumb enough and not understanding your idea? Do nothing because the someone else shot it down or simply avoid sharing your ideas in future?

I have seen many professionals who just step back when their ideas are rejected. That is the easiest way out because it involves no risk. That’s also a lame strategy. The result? Your ideas never see the light of the day!

Coming back to my own experience, what did I do when my idea was shot down? I further validated my idea with a few more people. I researched about the potential of my idea. I collected research reports, industry trend analysis from leading consulting houses and I collected newspaper clippings about the recent trends. I compiled all of it and went back to boss again – this time with more conviction. My preparation paid off and my idea got a life!

So next time your bright idea is shot down, do a bit more research. Validate your own assumptions. Fine tune it if required. Put it out to the world. Seek more feedback. Adjust your approach.And most importantly – persist.

It is equally important to ensure that you don’t fall in love with your idea just because it is “yours”. So be flexible when your ideas fail to generate required validation.

Your organization needs your ideas. Just because someone else is not able to ‘get it’ at first does not mean your ideas are not worthy. Just give it one more try – this time with more preparation, zeal and conviction.

If your idea is really worthy, it is your obligation to bring it to life.

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Join in the conversation: Were your ideas ever shot down? How did you handle the rejection and what did you learn out of it?

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