Leadership: Humility and Focusing on Others

I often meet business leaders who are so full of themselves. When interacting with others, they try to keep the needle of focus constantly towards themselves, their business, accomplishments and stories.

It is easy to get caught up in the self because after all, you are a up there and you make things happen (or so you think!).

In one of the leadership workshop I attended in early years of my career, the trainer beautifully described humility as

Humility is like the banks of a river that gives direction to the flowing water without possessing it.

Leadership in any form is about others. A leader is just a means to an end. A steward of the larger cause, whatever it may be.

Like banks of a river, leader holds the context together in order to channel the energies of people. A leader enables flow (progress) by enabling others, asking right questions, coaching others and learning in the process. The focus of a leadership conversation is the needs of others, needs of the context and needs of the customers.

I read Dan Rockwell’s recent post titled “The Seductions of Arrogance Compound the Elusiveness of Humility” where he outlines 5 practices of humble leadership. It is a thought provoking post that emphasizes on ‘practicing’ humility by focusing on others.

Some critical questions to consider, whether you lead a kid, a team of professionals or an organization, are:

  • How often do you, as a leader, brag about others?
  • How many times do you turn the focus of conversation on others?
  • How many times have you stood up to accept responsibility, especially of failures?
  • When was the last time you thought about amplifying someone’s strength rather than focusing on their shortcomings?

Here is a quick short sketchnote summary of Dan Rockwell’s 5 practices of humble leadership (Read the full post here)

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On Disrupting Yourself

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me.


During 2001 dot com bubble, one of my friends, a competent software developer, was laid off because of lack of business in the technology he worked in. He was smart enough to understand that the company needed people in a new project that was to be developed on a totally different technology. He learned the new technology, re-skilled himself fast enough to face a client interview for the new project and was retained even before his notice period got over.

In my formative years, he stood as an example of someone who totally disrupted himself when he was forced by external circumstances. Obviously, today’s complex and fast changing world demands individuals to disrupt themselves based on internal drivers of change, before external circumstances compel them to change.

In a business context, there are many organizations like 3M, Apple, NetFlix and Google whose success can be attributed to their ability to disrupt themselves continuously.

In this episode of What’s Next podcast, one of my favorite authors and thinkers Whitney Johnson says,

“Not just products, services and companies, the fundamental unit of disruption is an individual.”

Individuals disrupt themselves when they take some risk, do things that they have never done before, learn constantly, connect the dots and think about intersections between current reality (what they have done so far) and possibilities (what they could do with all innovations around them).

One of her key advices in the podcast is:

“Play to your strengths, not just what you do well but what others don’t.”

The insights in this podcast are very relevant to individuals and businesses alike.

Here is a high-level sketch note summary of this excellent conversation, which I encourage you to check out.

Tanmay Vora Whitney Johnson Sketchnote

Related Posts at QAspire

SHRM Top 30 Indian HR Influencers on Social Media 2018

Each year, SHRM India releases a report outlining top social media influencers in HR space. Last week, the report was released at SHRMTech event in Hyderabad and I was thrilled to find a spot in this report for fifth consecutive year. The evaluation was done based on Klout score, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter activity with focus on HR specific topics.

Influence of any kind can never be a goal in itself but a by-product of doing, learning and sharing it all along the way. When the sharing enables, helps, nudges and inspires others to do better, influence is more likely to happen.

Inspired by so many wonderful people in Indian HR space in the report (and so many others in my personal learning network), I continue my pursuit of curating meaningful insights visually, sharing what I learn and contributing to conversations that matter.

Read the Full 2018 Report Here (PDF).


Nancy Duarte on Storytelling in Business

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me.


When driving large scale change, leaders often fall in trap of presenting the current reality and future state in form of data, numbers and charts. Data and information may provide clarity to people, in itself, they fail to connect people emotionally to ideas.

That is an area where modern advancements like AI with all its information generating capabilities, will still not fill the human need to connect emotionally.

For that, leaders need an ability to empathize with current realities of people, tell stories that resonate, in a way that inspire thinking and provokes meaningful change in how people operate on a day to day basis.

In this episode of What’s Next podcast, Nancy Duarte, a communications and persuasion expert discusses ideas on how to use storytelling and emotional connection to engage people/customers better. Do check it out.

While I present the sketchnote summary of this excellent podcast conversation, I also encourage you to watch Nancy’s famous TED Talk, The Secret Structure of Great Talks, which is viewed over a million times.

NancyDuarte


Related Reading at QAspire:

The Privilege of Access

Wherever the barriers to entry are low, we find masses and noise they create, especially on social media.

When masses get the power to create content from the comfort of their smartphone, they generate bottomless news feeds that only result in lack of attention and engagement. Add to that, the pushed content from advertisers and cryptic algorithms that only show you what you want to see and your limited world views are trapped in a filter bubble. 

Knowing that very little of it really adds value, we tend to scroll without paying attention and sometimes, even worthwhile signals/updates from people we care about are missed in an ocean of noise.

On the other end, a very few people actually use the privilege of having access to really ‘create’ something meaningful. Because the barrier to entry in ‘creating’ anything worthwhile is high. It requires sincere effort on a pursuit over a long haul. It requires us to sprint through the hurdles of our own resistance and fear of being judged. It requires us to be generous, ship consistently and own what we deliver or say. The emotional labor that creating and shipping entails is not everyone’s game. It is scarce and hence valuable.

We have a choice of what we do with all the access we have.

We can either choose to join the masses or leverage it to make a difference.

We can either simply consume random stuff, or have right filters to consume that which truly adds value.

To just consume mindfully or use what you consume to feed our creation in a way that adds value to yourself and others.

To rely on mighty platforms (often at the cost of your privacy and ownership of content) or build your own platform – your home base, a blog, a community, a product, an app, whatever and own the content.

Access opens up a world of possibilities, only if you are intentional about using this privilege wisely to learn, create and share.

That is where the real leverage is!

Insights on High-Tech and High-Touch Customer Experience

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me.


Common perception is that people who face the customers are accountable for customer experience. Larger organizations often fall in the trap of defining customer experience KPI’s only to executive teams, sales, marketing and customer services teams.
 
What about those who build the products? And those who recruit people? And those in backend operations? And how all of them collaborate to achieve business outcomes?
 
We see things in parts and therefore, fix things in parts. And even when parts are (sub) optimized, the whole may not have improved.
 
This equation gets even more complex in an AI driven world where customers expect personalized services.
 
In this episode of Whats Next! podcast, Tamara McCleary (CEO at Thulium.co) shares some useful insights on how technology advancements like AI and machine learning can enable companies to learn rapidly about the customers and personalize the experience at scale. This is critical because marketers think about selling to ‘customer segments’ where as customers expect personalized services based on their individual preferences.
 
Companies have to leverage “high-tech” to achieve “high-touch”
 
For everyone to own customer experience within a company, leaders have to start with a vision of what amazing customer experience looks like, build a culture of leadership at all levels, define systemic metrics (like Net Promoter Score) that everyone can strive for and finally incentivize people for their contributions to customer experience.
 
When leaders look at the whole, they provide a way for all departments to work towards the same outcomes and for everyone to clearly know that their work impacts customer experience.
 
Here is a visual summary of insights from the podcast episode, which you can listen here.
 
tamara-mccleary

 


Related Reading at QAspire:

Mindful Leadership: Productivity and Presence

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On a beautiful morning recently, I was in a park working out. I found myself distracted. While my feet raced in one direction, the mind took another route clogged with thoughts of that meeting in the evening and the numbers that I needed to crunch.

I stopped and it took me a mindful pause to bring myself back into the present moment and acknowledge the blessing that the beautiful morning was!

How often does this happen at work? Leaders falter when they are not able to receive full signals from their surroundings because they are either too distracted or thinking about other things as they listen. Sometimes we are too judgmental and try to read between the lines while missing the actual thing being conveyed. It derails our leadership, intent and outcomes. Technology and endless notifications on our devices make it even worse.

‘Leadership presence’ is often correlated with personality and charisma of a leader. But I think that leadership presence is way more than physical appearance.

‘Leadership presence’ is about:

  • Ability to listen deeply to conversations with openness without judging or reading too much between the lines. (In my experience, deep listening is only the solution people actually need sometimes.)
  • Ability to think through in a systematic way exploring all the facets of solutions, ideas and tasks.
  • Communicating right, using right words and expression to get your messages through in a meaningful way enabling you to build emotional connect.
  • Being fully available, present, attentive and engaged in present moment, conversations, tasks and challenges.
  • Being able to effectively choose the response to the triggers in a way that brings you closer to your intent and goals.
  • Execute with deep focus on the task.
  • Ability to take time to disconnect, reflect and learn.
  • Ability to let go of our “autopilot” ways of working and unconscious biases to question and challenge why we do what we do, and how we do it. Presence enables us to remain curious and ask right questions.
  • Ability to consume multiple and relevant inputs and pay attention to connect the dots – make sense of it all.

Leading organizations, teams and initiatives is all about producing tangible outcomes. Cultivating presence and eliminating distractions boosts leadership performance both in terms of tangible outcomes and intangible outcomes.

How you produce an outcome is as vital as what you produce and why you produce it.

What do you think? 


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In the Photo: Norbulingka Monastery, Dharamsala, India

Seth Godin on The Human Side of Business

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me.


Seth Godin’s work has influenced me a LOT. In fact, his book “Linchpin” transformed the way I saw my work as a leader and change maker. I have interacted with Seth twice on this blog before when I reviewed his books.

Here is an insight from the podcast episode that resonated the most with me:

“Great marketers do service. They say, “How do I serve this group of people?How do I educate them? How do I open the door for them?”

I think that great leaders share the same traits as great marketers because they exist to serve, raise the bar, initiate change and open new possibilities – and they do this consistently.

Ultimately, the experience we deliver to our people is as important as the results we deliver. Experience is the product, whatever your business may be.

I also loved the emphasis Seth puts on taking responsibility and sharing the credits. Most people stuck in mediocrity approach it the other way around – they want the credit without taking responsibility. Authority is elusive when you explicitly chase it. It is, in fact, a by-product of focusing on delivering value.

Listen to the podcast for these and more brilliant insights, and read this post by Tiffani Bova on HuffPost.

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Also Read:

Storytelling: Begin With The End in Mind

Stories and narratives that touch us emotionally have power to transform us. When hearing a moving speech, story or talk, we feel that it is delivered effortlessly but we know it doesn’t happen on its own.

I have learned that:

A performance that feels effortless is often the peak point of great preparation behind the scenes.

As leaders, our ability to tell stories that resonate at an emotional level with others is at the heart of elevating aspirations and sparking change.

Bernadette Jiwa is one of my favorite bloggers because she packs a lot of substance in a few words. She recently wrote a short post on “How to Craft a Powerful Message” which outlines three steps to create a story that resonates.

Most speakers focus on what they want to/have to share. But great storytelling starts with an understanding of the audience, aligning your message to needs of the context and then delivering it in a way that creates impact.

Here is a quick visual summary of the post:

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Three Levels of Trust in Relationships

A lot of people I meet use the expression, “Trust me…” or “Believe me…” in an attempt to build confidence. Do we trust them, just because they are asking us to?

Trust is not something you demand, it is something that you have to earn through clarity of intent (why), actions that support that intent (what) and most importantly take those actions with utmost integrity and human connection (how). And we have to do this consistently because trust is built one step at a time.

And unless people trust us, they would not care about our competence. Therefore, leaders have to truly connect before they can lead.

We commonly use the word ‘trust’ in business environment but how often do we care about what kind of trust we are expecting from others? I learned about three levels of trust through this excellent post by Randy Conley.

Also Read: Employee Engagement: 4 Basic Human Needs (by Randy Conley)

Let’s say, a new member joins your team and during induction process, the new team member understands the governing processes, explicit policies and implicit expectations while also being aware of the consequences. Through processes, we know that new member will not be able to violate the essentials. Conley defines this as deterrence based trust.

As we work with the new team member through a longer period, seeing them deliver the outcomes, we build our experience with them. At this point we know that they are aligned to the same intent and we have sufficient knowledge about their behavior and reactions. Conley defines this as knowledge based trust.

But most intimate level of trust is what Conley defines as “Identity” based trust. This is way deeper than just knowing a person. This is about having deep connection with intrinsic motivations of an individual. We understand them at a level of their hopes, aspirations and fears. And yet, we don’t misuse them. We give them the space to be their most authentic selves.

Most effective mentoring relationships I have seen – whether they are between parents and their kids, teachers and their students or between professionals – have this depth of trust.

Conley argues that this kind of trust is reserved for most important people in life, but with right boundaries, building this trust at workplace unlocks creativity and productivity.

Here is a quick sketchnote of ideas presented in Conley’s post.

So, next time you end up using the word “Trust”, do a quick check on what level of trust you are referring to.

88_trustRelated Resources at QAspire

Creativity: Jane Kenyon’s Wise Words to Live By

How will we create and learn if we don’t step down the endless treadmill of consumption? If we keep on adding things and stuff without practicing the fine art of subtraction?

Creativity and learning stems from our inner connection, meaningful conversations and mindful consumption that truly feed us internally.

Here are some wisest words from Jane Kenyon to live a creative life. (source: This post on Brainpickings)

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Being Conscious About Our Unconscious Biases

I attended a very interesting workshop a few weeks ago on the topic of “Unconscious Bias” facilitated by Smita Tharoor. I was interested in this topic because I explored the intersection of critical thinking and leadership a few years ago. This was a good opportunity to get back to the topic and add to my understanding.

What is Unconscious Bias

The term ‘cognitive bias’ was coined by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972 which quite simply means “our tendency to filter information, process facts and arrive at judgments based on our past experiences, likes/dislikes and automatic influences.”

How do these biases show up in Leadership?

A lot of leadership is about taking decisions involving group of people. Instinctive leaders often tend to decide quickly based on limited information or experience they have at hand. The result is that they end up taking wrong decisions (which may have worked for them in past but may not work in a different context), or discriminating with people of a certain color, race, sex or nationality based on their past experiences with similar people.  At work, biases (or the perception of bias) is the biggest contributor to people disengagement and cost of disengagement is huge. Lack of critical thinking also leads to short-termism where decisions are taken for immediate gains and solutions of today become thorny problems of tomorrow.

Some Ways to Deal with Unconscious Bias

Get Conscious. Be more aware about unconscious cognitive biases. Knowing that they exist is the first important step to tackling them. And they exist in plenty. Here is a list of all unconscious biases and what they really mean.

Ask questions, often. When considering a decision, ask questions that elicit understanding and clarify details. When you ask questions, you extend an opportunity to others to really express them. You are extending an opportunity to yourself to understand their thinking more closely. Encourage a culture where asking questions is valued.

Look for Patterns. Data over a period of time reveals patterns. Looking for patterns from the results of past decision can lead to important insights and learning. Sometimes data can blind us unless we learn to look at the pattern and story behind the data.

Look for the contrary. It helps playing a devil’s advocate and taking a contrarian view of things. It not only challenges others to think harder but also helps you in really understanding if they are just defending their own biases.

Embrace Diversity. This starts with hiring decisions. Don’t hire people whose beliefs are compliant with yours. You will tap into diverse ideas and viewpoints only when you have people with diverse thinking patterns on your team.

Attend to data and evidences. When you ask your people to bring data, evidences and trends, it does not mean lack of trust. It only means that you are intentional about serving them better by taking the right decisions.

Communicate clearly. Clear and accurate communication is a leader’s tool #1. Avoid using generic terms to describe people, situations and things. Biases are most commonly visible in how a leader communicates. Being mindful about our words is critical to thinking and communicating objectively.

Here is a sketchnote summary of the discussions during the workshop.

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In 100 Words: Unexpected Paths

Unexpected Paths Tanmay VoraWe decide. We experience. We Learn. And then we adapt.

We can never be certain if our decisions will turn out the way we anticipate. Sometimes, even when we have done all the critical thinking before deciding, success of a decision depends on context as well.

So, what if we change our perspective about our decisions. What if we consciously move away from our finite definitions of what is right or wrong and trust the process?

Only then can we open ourselves to new learning and opportunities.

How else shall we tread the unexpected paths? How else shall we learn?

– – – – –

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Leaders Who Create the Future

At the heart of great leadership is the ability to critically assess current state, envision the future state and take actions to bridge the gap. Execution is effectively governed by learning and adapting the approaches along the way.

The fall of Nokia is a classic example of what happens when leaders cling to ideas that worked for them in the past without recognizing (or creating) the demands of the future.

According to Bill Taylor at Harvard Business Review, there are four kinds of leaders who create the future. The post emphasizes on a leader’s ability to learn constantly, willingness to disrupt the self when required, optimism about the future and the spirit of experimentation (and comfort with ambiguity and failures) to find new ideas that work.

Please read the full post and here is a quick sketch note summary of the post.

P.S.

Last weekend, I bought a new iPad Pro with Apple Pencil to explore digital ways of creating sketch notes. Like a kid who gets excited about her new toy, I got excited too. Spent some time over the weekend to get comfortable with Apple Pencil, get ideas about possible uses, explore different tools and finally, I zeroed in on Procreate as the tool of my choice. The result of this hustle is this first sketch note that I created digitally. As much as I love my old fashioned approach of paper and pen, I am excited about new possibilities that this digital tools bring on the table. More than anything else, I am excited about new learning that keeps me going.

4 Skills Great Innovators Share by Greg Satell

If creativity is about having unique ideas and new ways to do things, innovation is all about making those ideas happen.

In that sense, the bridge between creativity and innovation is made from the bricks of execution. That is when the rubber meets the road.

One of the key characteristics of someone who innovates is that they run small pilots to test their hypothesis. When they encounter ideas (or interesting intersections of already existing ideas), they tinker with the idea, execute in small chunks and learn along the way to adapt. They understand that to make a few things work, they have to try, fail and learn from many other things. They have to collaborate and network with others. They have to be comfortable with ambiguity and chaos when they experiment.

In this context, I read a brilliant post (with some great examples) from Greg Satell about 4 skills that all great innovators share. I highly recommend you read the full post and here is a quick sketch note summary of key skills. Greg supports these skills in his post with excellent examples to make sense of it all.

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Looking Back at 2017!

‘Tis the season of new year resolutions!

Instead of having goals and resolutions, I prefer to set the intention for a new year because ultimately, defining only actions doesn’t take us far without an underlying intent that we truly believe in. That is why most resolutions fail, because they are commitments to action without commitment to the intent.

Sketchnote Project

I started the year with the intention to “Dwell in Possibilities” and looking back, it served me well. Generous sharing of my sketch notes with distilled insights on a wide range of business topics opened up newer possibilities for me. There were several high points when it comes to how these visual notes were used in different forums across the globe. Here are a few highlights of how sketch notes were used:

sketchcollageAs you can see in the collage above, my sketchnotes decorated offices, were used in global conferences, magazines and working out loud events. That picture of a group of people holding my sketch note on Working Out Loud truly touched and humbled me. I never knew that a “labor of love” project would scale to touch and influence people across the globe.

This year, my sketch notes were also featured at forums like Harvard Business Review Ascend, Huffington Post and World Economic Forum.

Blog Recognitions

Apart from this, my work on this blog and elsewhere was also recognized and resulted in interesting milestones along this journey.

I was humbled to be recognized amongst Top 10 Indian HR Influencers on Social Media (2016) by Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM, India) for fourth consecutive year.

banner-hrtMy post on Leading with Trust won the “Most Valuable Post of 2017” award by Human Resources Today. The score was determined by a mix of judges’ rankings, reader votes, and social media scores.

iba2017Finally, in the last week, this blog won “Indian Bloggers Award 2017” in Business blogs category. More than 4000 nominated blogs were judged by an independent jury of eminent personalities based on content, originality, interaction and usability of the blog.

My big lesson from all this?

When labor is driven by love and generosity (as opposed to external validation or rewards alone), it results in influence (often invisible), connections, relationships and possibilities. Rewards, even if they come, are only by-products of the pursuit.

And Other Stuff

I completed 40 years and one of my intentions in beginning of 2017 was to complete 40 in the best of my health. Along the year, I lost 12 kgs weight and it only elevated my overall well being physically, mentally and emotionally. I learned the value of discipline and that:

Our biggest wins are always over our own selves. All accomplishments in the outside world are secondary, and mostly, they are a result of winning over the self.

For 2018, I am going to continue my focus on a few themes:

And guided by these themes, the journey of creation, curation and contribution continues (and hopefully gets better).

I cannot conclude 2017 without thanking YOU – the reader of this blog, the subscribers, the followers of my Twitter stream and everyone who engages with QAspire and shares encouragement through emails, Facebook likes, Retweets, comments and social sharing. Without all your support, this journey is not possible!

On that note, I wish you a glorious 2018!

Working Out Loud: Relationships and Legacy

Last week was celebrated as International Working Out Loud Week.

For those of you who are new to this, Working Out Loud is a practice of sharing your work/work in progress with a relevant community to enable learning and collaboration.

It is about being vulnerable and putting yourself, your lessons out there in communities for others to contribute and consume. It is a great way to leverage wisdom of community to improve your own work, contribute to a community that shares your purpose and build relationships based on ideas.

I started this blog in April 2006 to simply document my lessons in leading people, projects and improvement initiatives. Along the journey, I learned that if I want people to read and share their comments, I will have to do the same. And that’s how this cycle of creation, curation and contribution started. My practice of sharing what I learn along the way for last 11 years has served me (and hopefully others) well.

This journey has allowed me to live some of the five elements of working out loud: being visible, connected, generous, curious and purposeful. And all the amazing folks I interact with, communities that feed my thinking and opportunities that come my way are only happy by-products of this journey.

When introducing November 2017 #WOLWeek, Simon Terry wrote a post about how working out loud is a way to deepen relationships and create a legacy. Here is a quick sketch note version with key ideas from his post.

I encourage you to visit wolweek.com for amazing insights and resources to inspire you to work out loud.

BONUS:

Here’s a sketchnote on five elements of working out loud with insights by John Stepper:

Carving Out

carving

We often hear the expression “carving out” a niche in corporate board rooms and career conversations.

On my recent trip to Himalayan monastery, I saw artists, surrounded by all kinds of tools and chisels, carving out beautiful designs from blocks of wood.

This got me thinking on what it really means to ‘carve out’ anything – whether it is a business strategy or a career or life itself, for that matter.

At its core, “carving out” is a way to “carve in” and elimination is at the heart of it. Unless we don’t eliminate everything that does not engage our heart and mind, we will not carve out something unique. How often do we question what we do and stop doing things that we do only to remain compliant with expectations of the outside world?

“The soul grows by subtraction, not addition.”
– Henry David Thoreau

If you are carving out according to a pre-determined formula, you will carve out things that every one else is carving out (which is fine if that’s your goal). At the heart of shaping our unique strategy, career or life is our underlying need to express who we truly are. And our need to express ourselves can be as unique as we ourselves are (unless we start thinking that we are not). So, when it comes to carving out, we have to first connect with our deeper motivations and then work inside-out. Most people however look for formulas to succeed and take an outside-in approach.

“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

In actual wood carving, one wrong stroke of chisel can change the shape of creation. But the process of carving out in real world has to be guided by trial and errors. We are seldom handed over our gifts. Just like natural resources buried deep under the ground, our gifts as human beings are buried deep under. It takes a lot of intention, iterations, trials and failures to identify what all truly lights up our heart.

In the end, it is about focusing on possibilities. You can treat things as a simple dead block of wood or as a possibility. Everyone faces constraints and roadblocks but focusing on possibilities means to ask, What can I still do? What’s still possible?”

Because the art of carving out starts from envisioning possibilities and ends with bringing those possibilities to life.

The 9 Rules of Innovation by Greg Satell

Innovation is perhaps the most used word in corporate boardrooms today. Start ups are organized around a brand new idea but they often stumble when it comes to execution. Big companies have all the required resources, but also a lot of red-tape and resistance to change.

Add to this, the challenges of hyper-competitive landscape, organization cultures, shortage of talent and agility to move swiftly and the challenge of innovation compounds.

Moreover, innovation is not as simple as having fresh ideas and executing them well. It actually stems from having a deep and wide understanding of problem and domain at hand and it takes years to get to that understanding. Also, innovation doesn’t always mean a flashy new idea. Innovation can take many forms from operational innovation to business models and creating platforms.

In 2016, I had read an excellent article by Greg Satell that outlined “The 9 Rules of Innovation”. The post provides a rich context to the topic of how to innovate.

Here is a snippet from the post that underlines the fact that innovation requires us to pursue width of understanding and not just depth:

Darwin’s theory of natural selection borrowed ideas from Thomas Malthus, an economist and Charles Lyell, a geologist. Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA was not achieved by simply plowing away at the lab, but by incorporating discoveries in biology, chemistry and x-ray diffraction to inform their model building.

Great innovation almost never occurs within one field of expertise, but is almost invariably the product of synthesis across domains.

Greg cites example of Google to outline the 70/20/10 rule which I so agree with. He says,

The premise of the rule is simple. Focus 70% of your resources in improving existing technology (i.e. search), 20% toward adjacent markets (i.e. Gmail, Google Drive, etc.) and 10% on completely new markets (i.e. self-driving cars).

And finally, a nugget of wisdom that outlines the path to success in a networked world:

In a networked world, the surest path to success is not acquiring and controlling assets, but widening and deepening connections.

I encourage you to read Greg’s post and here is my sketch note synthesis of key ideas from the post. The post also has a wonderful sketchnote drawn my Mauro Toselli, who has been an inspiration in my own sketchnote journey:

Also Read at QAspire.com

Three Pillars of Great Branding (and Leadership)

One thing that truly defines great leaders is that they “create an expectation”. Not just meeting the expectation (that’s management), but setting an expectation. Leaders paint a vivid picture of a future state and promise positive change. That is the starting point of leadership irrespective of whether you are leading an organization or improving a small process to ease execution. People want to know where you are taking them along.

But creating an expectation means delivering on that expectation. Leaders deliver a meaningful experience to match the expectation. Not just the outcome, but an experience with touch of humanity. The way outcome is delivered, the mindset and intent behind how it was all put together is a key leadership differentiator. This journey may have its peaks and lows – times when tough calls have to be made and times where difficult conversations have to be made. It only leading others was easy. But, the point of delivering an experience is staying completely true to the intent. Actions become powerful when driven with intent.

And when outcome is delivered with right mindset and intent, it resonates with others. The experience of delivering the outcome is as important as the outcome itself. When the experience resonates with people, it builds an emotional connection and people would want to work with leaders to repeat that experience.

This post is inspired by an excellent post on three pillars of branding by Bernadette Jiwa. When I read it, I found parallels between the essentials of branding and essentials of great leadership.

Here is a quick sketch on three pillars of great branding (and leadership too).