5 C’s for Great Talent

What do you look for when you look for talent?

Competence is the key to solving problems but competence alone is not sufficient for success. In current context, I would define talent as a combination of competence, commitment, learning agility, attitude/character, communication skills, ability to collaborate across different cultures, critical thinking and creative problem solving.

Back in 2010, I interviewed John Spence on this blog when he released his new book titled Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies For Turning Ideas Into Action. The book offers great ideas to simplify work life which I often refer.

In the same year 2010, American Management Association released result of their Critical skill survey which outlined Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking as key skills for future success.

In the book, John defines business success as a combination of culture and great talent, and further offers 5 C’s of Great Talent, which I found very useful. 

Here is a quick sketch note version of 5 C’s of Great Talent.

Related Reading at QAspire: Skills For Future Success in a Disruptive World of Work

What Makes a Team Great

Last week, during an internal team event, we organized an interesting activity. Team members were asked to form a human chain by holding hands. A round hoop was then passed through one end of the chain and participants had to pass the hoop through themselves to other end without breaking the chain. The team that passed hoop across in least time would win.

The hoop signified challenges and issues that a team faces. To achieve the goal and overcome challenges, team members had to contribute equally – each link of the chain was important. When a team member was struggling to put the hoop through the head, the other team member would just raise the hand and help put the hoop into next person’s head. They empathized with struggle of the other team member and changed their posture (alignment) to help put hoop through the head. Teams learned that empathy, emotional intelligence, self-alignment (adaptability) are the key ingredients of a strong team.

In the same week, I stumbled upon a 2015 NY Times article titled “Why Some Teams are Smarter Than Others”. According to the research presented in this article, three characteristics that differentiate a smart team are:

  • Equal Contribution: from all members rather than a few team members dominating.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Ability to read  complex emotional states of others.
  • Women Power: Teams with more women were found to be more effective. This had little to do with diversity (equal number of men and women) but just having more women on team. Women are, on average, are more intelligent emotionally than men.

Read the full article here and a summary of the same in sketch note form below:

Related Posts/Sketchnotes at QAspire.com

Leadership: Start With Trust

Leadership starts with influence and influence starts with trust. Ability to truly connect with others is vital for leaders to build an environment where a leader is trusted for the intentions before being respected for competence.

I once worked with a new CEO who came on-board, took charge and immediately got into action. I remember when he first met a group of senior folks, he started with his introduction and talked at length about his past experience, competence and all the great things he had accomplished. Soon after requesting a short template introduction from all of us, he started off with his grand plans about the organization. He clearly failed to build a non-threatening space for other leaders and came across as someone who was ego-centric and hard-nosed.

Our first instinct as human beings when we assume a leadership role is to show our strength, competence and skills and prove a point about our fitment to the role.

I was reminded of the CEO (and many other leaders I worked with) when I read the classic Harvard Business Review article titled “Connect, Then Lead” which says,

A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.

I think of the CEO again who was, through his aggressive show of strength, able to generate dispassionate compliance to his decisions. One of the biggest challenges for leaders is to create an ecosystem where people exercise their discretion (tapping into intrinsic motivations). Trust is a good place to start.

I strongly recommend that you read the HBR article “Connect, Then Lead” by Amy Cuddy, Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger for rich insights on this topic.

Here is a short summary of key insights that stood out for me from the article in a sketch note form.

Related Resources at QAspire

  • Graceful Leadership 101: Free PDF Book

  • Taking Charge of a Team? Avoid These 4 Mistakes

  • Leading Others: How NOT to be in Control

  • Leadership and Building Emotional Infrastructure
  • A Compelling Vision is an Anchor

    Seagull Half Shot QAspire Blog Tanmay Vora

    Management has a lot to do with answers. Leadership is a function of questions. And the first question for a leader always is: ‘Who do we intend to be?’ Not ‘What are we going to do?’ but ‘Who do we intend to be?’ – Max DePree

    Specific, measurable and time bound goals are important to set expectations on results and drive performance in short term. Goals is like math; they address the head. Goals have an end date.

    Goals however, are not sufficient. If you only try to provide direction to people through goals, they will know “what” needs to be done but may not know “why” something needs to be done.

    When leading others, we need math but we need music too. Something that addresses our hearts and taps into our emotions. Something that is larger than us and gives us a powerful “why”. Yes, we are talking about vision.

    I have seen companies falling into the trap of managing people through quarterly or half yearly goals without clarifying the vision. That works to keep everyone running, only without a sense of direction. Result? A disengaged workforce that just complies to goals, and that too – dispassionately. This becomes even more challenging when an organization has distributed teams across the geographies.

    In a creative economy, people will give their best output and exercise their discretionary effort only when they are completely aware of the vision. In moments of handling difficult conversations, choices and ways of working, vision serves as an anchor. It provides a meaning to our day to day work. Vision is not a destination, but more like a compass that guides us through our goals and decisions.

    Managing your organization’s work only through goals is like focusing your kid on simply getting good grades in the next examination. Kids need goals but they first need a vision of what kind of human being they should become.

    What is true for kids is also true for organizations and teams. They are, after all, made up of human beings too!

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    In 100 Words: The Cracked Pot and Leadership

    An elderly woman used two pots to fetch water, each hung on the ends of a pole. One pot was perfect and delivered full portion of water while the other had a leaking crack. The imperfect pot felt very ashamed and this went on for a year.

    One day, the woman told the cracked pot, “Do you see flowers on one side of the road? They are your gift to this world. Knowing about your flaw, I planted flower seeds on your side of the path which you watered”.

    We all have cracks. Effective leadership is about handling them well.

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    Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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    Photograph by: Tanmay Vora, Earthen pots arranged on the roadside, India.

    Developing Leaders: Why Training Interventions Fail?

    Companies spend considerable amount of time and money on developing leaders through training programs and workshops. My experience so far suggests that these time-bound and finite interventions fail over a long run in developing leadership capabilities.

    I have attended a number of such training programs and workshops and have observed the impact of these interventions. I could see a short-term change in people who tried applying those ‘techniques’ but the impact eventually vanished with time and people slipped back into their normal ways of working. It seemed they needed something more than just training – they needed coaching, facilitation and developmental interventions over a long period of time. They needed a change in mindset and not just techniques, process or best practices in leadership.

    According to a research by MIT Sloan Management Review titled “Why Leadership Development Efforts Fail”, the key reasons identified were:

    • Executives approach leadership development efforts with a control, ownership and power-oriented mindsets rather than an understanding of shared accountability.
    • Leadership development efforts are not aligned with strategic goals and leadership development programs are oriented around commercial products that have limited relevance to actual needs or an organization.
    • Use of incorrect “make-believe” metrics to gauge effectiveness of leadership development programs.

    Views from a McKinsey article titled “Why leadership-development programs fail” concur with the reasons stated above. Not mapping the leadership development effort with an organization’s specific context is a mistake lot of companies make. According to this McKinsey article,

    Focusing on context inevitably means equipping leaders with a small number of competencies (two to three) that will make a significant difference to performance. Instead, what we often find is a long list of leadership standards, a complex web of dozens of competencies, and corporate-values statements.

    The article also emphasizes on value of changing the mindset rather than just imparting one-size-fits-all training programs. It says,

    Identifying some of the deepest, “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a precondition of behavioral change—one too often shirked in development programs. Promoting the virtues of delegation and empowerment, for example, is fine in theory, but successful adoption is unlikely if the program participants have a clear “controlling” mind-set (I can’t lose my grip on the business; I’m personally accountable and only I should make the decisions).

    In lean terms, imparting training that does not deliver intended results is a waste. It is high time for organizations to identify this waste and look carefully at how people are developed.

    Developing people is an organic process that demands contextual mapping of best practices, experiential learning (leading through real work) and change in mindsets (and hence behaviors) required to lead in a new world of work.

    Join in the conversation: What are the other key reasons why leadership development and training efforts fail? Have you adopted a different approach to nurture leadership in your organization? If yes, how has it helped?

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    Listening Enough is Caring Enough: 11 Gentle Reminders

    We are living in a world of attention deficit where no one has the time to listen. From what I have observed, organizations suffer from a listening crisis. Everyone has the answers and everybody wants to tell their story. No one is patient enough to sit back, ask questions and then really listen.

    This calls for some gentle reminders – they aren’t cool new ideas but this is what we need as leaders if we wish to be really effective in organizations and within our families.

    1. Not listening is one of the two biggest wastes. The second is not speaking up when it matters.
    2. Effective listening starts with an intention to understand. When you constantly listen with intent of answering or replying, you miss on a lot of non-verbal clues in communication process.
    3. We want others to really understand, validate and appreciate us. The act of listening starts with realization that others have the same basic need.
    4. Listening is a way to respect others. When you don’t listen effectively, don’t ask questions, don’t confirm your understanding and don’t acknowledge the messages, you are sending wrong signals.
    5. Effective listening entails putting the filters of your preconceived notions and beliefs aside. These filters will not allow you to get into their frame of reference.
    6. People think listening happens only through ears. You can also listen with your eyes and with your heart. In pursuit to be an effective listener, it is important to remember that only about 40% of communication happens through words and sounds. Rest is all non-verbal.
    7. Listening is also about receiving the feeling behind what is being said. When you listen, listen the words, the tone, the words being used and the feeling behind it. What is being said and the meaning behind may be very different.
    8. Technology can be an impediment to effective listening. That message on your phone, the popping sound of email and unending stream of social media updates are not more important than a human being in front of you who wants to express. Listening enough is caring enough.
    9. Listening is not practiced only when we are with others. You can (and you should) spend time listening to your inner self. It raises self-awareness!
    10. I remember words of that wise consultant who said, “The more you tell, the less you sell.” All great sales people and negotiators are first and foremost, great listeners.
    11. Effective listening is a leader’s primary responsibility – an obligation towards the followers. Great leadership starts with effective and empathetic listening – an important element of any conversation.

    A leader needs to ENLIST others on their vision for which they need to LISTEN for which they need to be SILENT. Three words made up from the same letters.

    Does that tell us something or is it a plain co-incidence?

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    Critical Thinking and Talent Development: A New Blog

    Traditionally, career success was linked with 3 R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) but in American Management Association’s critical skills survey 2012, respondents emphasized on 4 C’s (Critical thinking and problem solving, Effective Communication, Collaboration and team building and Creativity and innovation) as their key priorities for employee development, talent development and succession planning.

    Organization suffers when leaders take decisions purely based on their emotion, assumption, perception or a bias without questioning them. It can sometimes prove fatal. One of the most important agenda for HR Professionals today is to assess and develop critical thinking skills of their people.

    Pearson TalentLens India has launched a brand new blog that delves deeper into critical thinking and talent development. I am so happy to be a contributing author to this initiative where I share insights at the crossroads of critical thinking and talent. In their own words,

    Effective leaders have never been in greater demand and critical thinking skills never so sought after. The Critical Thinking India blog is an online meeting place, to help you stay on top of sophisticated decision making and problem solving as a professional and gain the critical thinking edge in the 21st century workplace.

    Here are a few snippets from posts I have contributed so far.

    With people being at the core of an organization’s greatness, it is extremely important for HR professionals to pay attention to two things – that existing people are trained to think critically and people are hired based on their ability to think critically.

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    An organization thrives on people and decisions they make. An organization grows (or doesn’t) one decision at a time. These decisions, ranging from strategic ones to tactical, are taken by people at all levels in the organization. The foundation of a right decision is based on one of the most important skill of 21st century – critical thinking.

    Please take a look and read the posts I have contributed. You can also follow conversations related to critical thinking on Twitter at @ThinKritical

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    Coaching Culture: The Art and Science of Success #IndiaHRChat

    It was a time to participate in #IndiaHRChat again and the topic this time was “Coaching: The Art and Science of Success”. The topic is very dear to me and it was a great learning experience reading tweets from various people in HR Fraternity. Tweet-Insights from the special guest Mr. Gurprriet Singh (@JoyandLife), Managing Consultant and Head of YSC India helped in understanding the nuances of coaching based on his experiences.

    It was fun sharing my insights and participating in this conversation. You can read all tweets in this storified version of the chat. Here are the bite sized ideas on personal branding that I shared or amplified.

    Why a Culture of Coaching?

    A culture of coaching fosters trust, accelerates learning and builds collaboration.

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    Coaching helps people navigate change and be adaptable. Adaptable teams help in organizational adaptability.

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    Better coaching = Better team/business results = Satisfied Customers = Better Bottom lines.

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    Coaching takes the baton where training leaves it! Coaching complements training and induces behavioral change.

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    Coaching increases performance, productivity and job satisfaction at all levels.

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    "I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities." Bob Nardelli, former CEO, HomeDepot

    Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

    Coaching addresses specific purpose or task and is time bound. Mentoring focuses on the individual and long term.

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    Coaching is the subset of mentoring and focuses on specific goal or task at hand.

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    Mentoring is broad & relational while coaching often tends to be about functional improvements. (RT @sundertrg)

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    Mentoring is led from the front, coaching supported from behind. Mentor sets agenda, coach does not. (RT @SeapointCenter)

    When Should Coaching NOT be Used?

    When challenges are related to attitude and thinking of the person, coaching will not help.

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    Never ask managers to coach people unless managers have demonstrated capabilities to be a good coach. (RT @ThinKritical )

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    Try coaching in a situation of fire/escalation where response time is critical and you may fail. Coaching needs time.

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    Never ask managers to coach people unless managers have demonstrated capabilities to be a good coach. (RT @ThinKritical)

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    Coaching is ineffective when used as a last resort to retain an employee. (RT @ThinKritical)

    Characteristics of a Good Coach

    A coach has to be humane. Interested in people. Committed to growing others and elevate their game.

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    You can never coach others when you are insecure about yourself. Personal proficiency is a pre-requisite.

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    To ENLIST people, a coach has to LISTEN, probably why both words are formed using same letters!

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    When people are being coached, feedback is their compass. Trust is the currency. A good coach knows that!

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    A good coach needs content skills and context skills – ability to map the knowledge and actions w.r.t. specific context.

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    Good coach is: Positive. Enthusiastic. Respectful. Empowering. Supportive. Patient. Result Oriented. Knowledgeable.

    The Ideal Coaching Candidate

    An ideal coaching candidate is open-minded and willing to learn.

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    When it comes to a coaching candidate, as @tom_peters says, “ATTITUDE > ABILITY”

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    The coach will appear when the student is ready ! start getting ready. (RT @JonasPrasanna)

    Challenges in Establishing a Culture of Coaching

    Not having clear objective of coaching exercise OR not aligning the coaching goals with business objectives.

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    An organizational culture that thwarts new ideas will seldom succeed in building a coaching culture.

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    Coaching being given by people who don’t "get" the essence of coaching.

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    Looking for short-term ROI from coaching exercise :)

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    BONUS: Read the interview I did with Marshall Goldsmith and Chip R. Bell on The Art of Effective Mentoring to complement these lessons.

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    Also Read: Bite Sized Insights on Personal Branding #IndiaHRChat

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    How to Build a Great Team and Culture? 60 Pointers

    I recently delivered a talk at a local entrepreneurship forum on the topic “How to Build a Great Team and Culture”.

    It won’t be unfair to say that establishing a great culture and team is highest on priority of a business leader. And why not? A great culture enables success, builds team fabric and attracts talent too. We have all seen many talented teams failing simply because of a poor culture and human dynamics. Here is the running list of 60 odd lessons I shared during my talk:

    A Great Team is all about “People”

    • Good team work is mathematics – it adds leverage, divides work and multiplies success.
    • People are at the heart of a great team. Where there are human beings, there will be dynamics of how they operate. Human dynamics remain the same –be it team, family or community.
    • Treat them as humans. Living, breathing, emotional and intelligent people are not “resources”. They are not a part of machinery. They are humans.
    • Human beings have self-esteem.
    • They are driven by ambition.
    • They want to grow.
    • They want independence.
    • If ambition is the driver, inspiration is the fuel. Feedback is the compass that enables them to validate direction. Trust is the currency.

    Why Team?

    • A team of discrete individuals join hands because they want to achieve something that is beyond their own selves. Having a compelling purpose is the first pre-requisite of building a great team.
    • In today’s world, people cannot be simply “roped into” the team. They have to “opt-in” – which means that a leader’s first job and biggest value addition is to articulate the clear vision and principles for how the team will reach it. To clarify the purpose in so many words (and through actions). People need to know how their work fits into a larger picture.
    • Clarifying the purpose and setting the vision is not a one-time communication. It has to be re-iterated in every meeting and every interaction. Vision and values are not “feel good things” written on the wall plaque – they have to be lived in every decision that an organization takes. Formal and informal forums like water-cooler conversations, one-on-ones, all hands meetings, and internal newsletters are a great way to reinforce the message.
    • If you want to ENLIST people onto your vision, you have to LISTEN – probably a reason why both the words are made up of same letters.
    • Communication is the most important tool in a leader’s toolkit. Communication that sets expectations right!
    • “If people are subordinates, what are they subordinating to?” In my view, people never subordinate other people. They are subordinates to a cause. In that sense, even a leader is a subordinate to a cause.
    • Set expectations on behaviors you value. As Michael le Boeuf says, “You get more of the behavior you reward. You don’t get what you hope for, ask for, wish for or beg for. You get what you reward."

    Getting Right People

    • A team is as good as the people in it. Get people on your team who are either rock stars with proven capabilities or the ones who possess the attitude of being rock stars.
    • Never hire on capabilities alone. Attitude is as important as capabilities. In fact, with the right attitude, a team member can build capabilities. Skills alone, without right attitude doesn’t move a needle.
    • As Tom Peters says, “Attitude > Ability”
    • Embrace diversity. Diversity is the key to an innovative team. If everyone belongs to a similar background or have similar thought processes, how will the team think different? How will they look at same things with a new set of lens? How will they challenge the status-quo? Celebrate these outliers, for they are the ones who will help you grow!
    • Before hiring a team members, look for actual working skills. Learning history. Communication. Adaptability and most importantly, integrity.
    • After all this, ensure that the person is fun to work with, social and emotionally intelligent.
    • Get people on team with complementary skills. A good team is the one where people complement each other. It is like a puzzle where the whole picture is not complete without any one of its parts. Each piece of puzzle fills the other!
    • Even after having all traffic rules, accidents still happen. It will happen when you are building team. The key is to know when to let someone go.

    Managing Smart

    • People don’t need micromanagement. They don’t need carrot and stick. They need an ecosystem where they can exercise their discretionary effort and deliver their 102% – 100% of what is expected and 2% value addition.
    • How to create such an ecosystem? Dan Pink’s new theory of motivation comes in handy. People need autonomy (control over their work). They want to pursue mastery (work that helps them become better). They need a strong purpose (working on what matters).
    • Trust is the currency for eliciting excellence. Because it is simple: people only do their best work when they are trusted. With traditional “command-and-control”, people will comply at the best. With trust and empowerment, they will exceed the expectations.
    • In a team, people share the same vision, but not accountability. Establish clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities early on.
    • If people are involved in planning, they co-own the plan (buy-in). Involve people when planning for tasks that impacts their work.
    • Rituals are powerful. Communication cannot be left to a chance. Establishing rituals (daily stand-ups, weekly meetings, one-on-ones, retrospective meetings) are a powerful way to ensure that team stays on track.
    • Have systems in place. It is said that “Processes without results are a waste. Results without processes are not sustainable.”
    • Share feedback early and often. Feedback validates the direction and helps in course correction.
    • Manage meetings well. Keep them short and focused on actions.
    • Foster collaboration. Don’t rely on emails when you can walk up and talk to a team member.
    • Play to their strengths and let them shine. A lot of team leadership is knowing who can do what and delegating accordingly.
    • Let them take lead. People fondly remember what they started or owned.

    Grace Under Fire

    • In Storming phase of a team’s lifecycle, conflicts are inevitable. It is not about conflicts but how you manage them.
    • The harder the conflict, the glorious the triumph – because every conflict tests (and strengthens) the team fabric. It refreshes the dynamics.
    • Treat people well when they make mistakes – when they least expect it.
    • When you have to be firm, be firm – but not at the cost of politeness. Being firm and polite is an art! Dealing with others without grace kills autonomy.
    • Manage the grapevine. Avoid small talk within the team. Encourage people to address issues directly.
    • In all situations bad and good, always be transparent about what is really going on and how will it impact the team.
    • Monitor progress, not people.
    • Question process, not individuals.
    • When you encounter an ego situation, quiz your goals. Am I (are you) focusing on ‘who’ is right, or doing ‘what’ is right?
    • Be graceful, always!

    Inspiration and Gratitude

    • Someone rightly said, “We always get more from people by building a ‘fire within them’ than we do by building ‘fire under them.’
    • Be generous about recognizing contributions. Be authentic when appreciating. Say more than just “good job” and tell them what exactly do you appreciate.
    • Thank often.
    • Own failures but share success.
    • Gratitude and Recognition feeds self-esteem (one’s assessment of self-worth) – one of our basic needs.
    • Inspire by improving the work, processes and rituals. Constant improvement leads to better engagement. “The greatest danger a team faces isn’t that it won’t become successful, but that it will, and then ease to improve.”
    • Celebrate successes and early wins.

    A Note about Culture

    • It is said that an organization is an elongated shadow of the leader. As a leader, your beliefs, opinions, likes and dislikes will become the culture of your organization. It pays to be careful about what kind of organization you want to build.
    • Be the example others want to follow. If you want excellence, be excellent first. First “be” and then “seek”.
    • Culture is built one choice at a time. Choices made up in start-up phase often end up building culture.
    • If you are not conscious about what culture you want to build, culture will happen. Culture by default or Culture by Design? That is the choice every business leader has to make.

    Growing Others

    • When people do the work, their work makes them. It helps to see what people are becoming as a result of the work. 
    • A leader’s real legacy is the net positive difference they have made in lives of people working in their team.
    • Actively mentor them through the journey. Mentors elevate human potential and hence performance. Mentors open up a world of possibilities for people being mentored. Great leaders are farmers – cultivators of human potential.
    • Practice tough love with them – push them to achieve more or achieve better!
    • Have a goal to make yourself redundant, so that others (with potential) can step up and play a bigger role.
    • Dr. John Maxwell puts in brilliantly, “The point of leading is not to cross the finish line first; it’s to take people across the finish line with you.”

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    Also Download: Graceful Leadership 101 (PDF)

    Interview: Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith on Art of Effective Mentoring

    Last week, Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith released the revised edition of their classic bookManagers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning. This week, they open up in a free-flow conversation with QAspire on the art of effective mentoring. In my view, this interview is almost a definitive guide to become a great mentor! Let’s get started:

    [Tanmay Vora] Chip and Marshall, it is my pleasure interviewing you. Effective mentoring is a great way to elevate capabilities of people. How does one approach mentoring when working in a hyper-competitive business environment where speed and results take up precedence?

    [Chip and Marshall] The same way any leadership or coaching activity occurs…it comes down to priority. In today’s time’s up work world, mentors can be impatient thus rendering the mentoring. Mentoring means starting where the protégé is, not where the mentor wants him or her to be. Mentor and protégé must focus on the quality of the process not a rush to the outcome. Mentoring need not be a long leisurely dialogue away from the chaotic highs and lows of a busy enterprise. Few mentors or protégés have the luxury of time to have a conversation as if over a five-course meal in a fancy restaurant. But, there must be time for a rapport-building appetizer and a where-do-we-go-from-here dessert. There must be time for focused listening and meaningful reflection. And, there must be time for the sincere communication of interest and concern.

    [Tanmay Vora] If I am a mentor, what is your #1 tip for finding my protégés. What is your #1 tip if I am looking for a mentor?

    [Chip and Marshall] For the mentor, start with people you directly influence and supervise. The old-fashioned view of mentoring as someone outside the leader’s chain of command it no longer relevant. Arie de Guies wrote in his book, “The Living Company” these words: Your ability to learn faster than your competition is your only competitive sustainable advantage.” Leaders create learning organizations. For the protégé, select a mentor who can help you be the best you can, not one you think can help you get a promotion.Remember, you can sometimes learn more from people who are different than from people who are “just like you.”

    [Tanmay Vora] In your book, you offer SAGE model of great mentoring. Can you explain that a bit for benefit of the readers of this blog?

    [Chip and Marshall] The mentoring model found in this book is built around the belief that great mentoring requires four core competencies, each of which can be applied in many ways. These competencies form the sequential steps in the process of mentoring. All four have been selected for their ability to blend effectively. Not accidentally, the first letters of these four competencies (and steps) spell the word “SAGE”—a helpful mnemonic as well as a symbolic representation of the goal, the power-free facilitation of learning. They are: Surrendering—leveling the learning field; Accepting—creating a safe haven for risk taking; Gifting—the core contributions of the mentor, the main event; and Extending—nurturing protégé independence.

    Mentoring is an honor. Except for love, there is no greater gift one can give another than the gift of growth. It is a rare privilege to help another learn, have the relevant wisdom to be useful to another, and partner with someone who can benefit from that wisdom. This book is crafted with a single goal: to help you exercise that honor and privilege in a manner that benefits you and all those you influence.

    [Tanmay Vora] Not all managers possess the qualities required to become an effective mentor. What are these qualities?

    [Chip and Marshall] Balance. Unlike a relationship based on power and control, a learning partnership is a balanced alliance, grounded in mutual interests, interdependence, and respect. Power-seeking mentors tend to mentor with credentials and sovereignty; partnership­-driven mentors seek to mentor with authenticity and openness. In a balanced learning partnership, energy is given early in the relationship to role clarity and communication of expectations; there is a spirit of generosity and acceptance rather than a focus on rules and rights. Partners recognize their differences while respecting their common needs and objectives.

    Truth. Countless books extol the benefits of clear and accurate communication. Partnership communication has one additional quality: It is clean, pure, characterized by the highest level of integrity and honesty. Truth-seekers work not only to ensure that their words are pure (the truth and nothing but the truth) but also to help others communicate with equal purity. When a mentor works hard to give feedback to a protégé in a way that is caringly frank and compassionately straightforward, it is in pursuit of clean communication. When a mentor implores the protégé for candid feedback, it is a plea for clean communication. The path of learning begins with the mentor’s genuineness and candor.

    Trust. Trust begins with experience; experience begins with a leap of faith. Perfect monologues, even with airtight proof and solid support documentation, do not foster a climate of experimentation and risk taking. They foster passive acceptance, not personal investment. If protégés see their mentors taking risks, they will follow suit. A “trust-full” partnership is one in which error is accepted as a necessary step on the path from novice to master.

    Abundance. Partnership-driven mentors exude generosity. There is a giver orientation that finds enchantment in sharing wisdom. As the “Father of Adult Learning,” Malcolm Knowles, says, “Great trainers [and mentors] love learning and are happiest when they are around its occurrence.”1 Such relationships are celebratory and affirming. As the mentor gives, the protégé reciprocates, and abundance begins to characterize the relationship. And there is never a possessive, credit-seeking dimension (“That’s MY protégé”).

    Passion. Great mentoring partnerships are filled with passion; they are guided by mentors with deep feelings and a willingness to communicate those feelings. Passionate mentors recognize that effective learning has a vitality about it that is not logical, not rational, and not orderly. Such mentors get carried away with the spirit of the partnership and their feelings about the process of learning. Some may exude emotion quietly, but their cause-driven energy is clearly present. In a nutshell, mentors not only love the learning process, they love what the protégé can become—and they passionately demonstrate that devotion.

    Courage. Mentoring takes courage; learning takes courage. Great mentors are allies of courage; they cultivate a partnership of courageousness. They take risks with learning, showing boldness in their efforts, and elicit courage in protégés by the examples they set. The preamble to learning is risk, the willingness to take a shaky step without the security of perfection. The preamble to risk is courage.

    Ethics. Effective mentors must be clean in their learner-dealings, not false, manipulative, or greedy. Competent mentors must be honest and congruent in their communications and actions. They must not steal their learners’ opportunities for struggle or moments of glory. Great mentors refrain from coveting their learners’ talents or falsifying their own. They must honor the learner just as they honor the process of mutual learning.

    Partnerships are the expectancy of the best in our abilities, attitudes, and aspirations. In a learning partnership, the mentor is not only helping the protégé but also continually communicating a belief that he or she is a fan of the learner. Partnerships are far more than good synergy. Great partnerships go beyond “greater than” to a realm of unforeseen worth. And worth in a mentoring partnership is laced with the equity of balance, the clarity of truth, the security of trust, the affirmation of abundance, the energy of passion, the boldness of courage, and the grounding of ethics.

    [Tanmay Vora] From an organizational perspective, is it important to have a culture of mentoring, starting from the top? How does it help?

    [Chip and Marshall] Today’s organization succeed if they are growth-oriented, excellence-focused and innovative Growth is about change, so is learning; excellence is about a pursuit of betterment, so is learning and innovative is about unfreezing old ways to find new ways, so is learning. When the organization embeds learning as a part of its DNA, the expression of that core is growth, excellence and innovation. So, what do leaders do in a learning organization? They mentor!

    [Tanmay Vora] Your book is a treasure trove of meaningful advice on the art of effective mentoring. If you had to share one message from the book for aspiring mentors, what would that be?

    [Chip and Marshall] Be humble, be curious, be courageous and be willing to share what you know with others in a partnership-relationship.

    [Tanmay Vora] Thank you for offering third and revised edition of “Managers as Mentors”. It was a pleasure interviewing you and I am sure, readers of this blog will find your ideas and your book, a very useful resource on developing people and bring the best out of them. Thanks again.

    [Chip and Marshall] Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share with your leaders a topic we are passionate about. Happy mentoring!

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    Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

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    6 Lessons in Leading a Cross-Functional Team

    Being into quality and organizational improvement, I have always worked with cross-functional groups. By definition, a cross-functional team is the one where members from different functional areas work towards a common goal. A few years back, I got an assignment to lead a cross-functional team (xFT) and it was a great learning experience. Our goal was to implement information security management system spanning all departments, support groups and technical production team. It was an interesting ride because of challenges it posed, and challenges = lessons.

    Recently, when one of my friends was also asked to manage a xFT in a different context, I ended up sharing the following key lessons (and challenges) on how to lead a xFT effectively:

    In xFT, like in anything else, leader is an enabler: Every team member’s contribution to the team is vital because they carry the knowledge of their own context. The role of leader in a xFT is that of a coach – an enabler who eliminates roadblocks for team members to surge ahead in their priorities.

    Leading xFT = Managing Diversity: Functionally, all team members are diverse and have their own reporting relationships, beliefs and values. They have to be led without the strings of formal reporting structures attached. This also means their time allocation may be diverse, so would be attitude and skill level. A leader’s challenge is to elicit their involvement without binding them into traditional management structure.

    Trust is even more crucial for success: Since they don’t have a formal working relationship with the leader, building trust is the only way to move things forward. Leading is all about trust, more so in the case of leading a xFT. With trust, people self-organize, think favorably and take right decisions. As a leader, be inclusive, respect their opinions, showcase their contributions, recognize their work and be positive.

    Clear goals are drivers of autonomy: In a xFT, decision making is bottoms-up. They decide the course of action and have autonomy to change the course depending on situation. So, the only way a leader drives these discrete decisions is by setting very clear goals and defining clear outcomes. This also means that leader has to work extra hard in setting up rituals for communication and status tracking.

    Early “wins” are important: When a xFT starts working together, there will be a lot of ambiguity and doubt in their minds. They may not be confident about their ability to work together. They may be swayed away by their own departmental priorities. In such situations, if they see early wins, it reinforces their confidence. A team that achieves constantly, in increments, is the team that stays together productively. Early wins make the work and progress visible.

    Constant communication is the glue: that binds the team together. Establishing rituals and communication forums (formal and informal to create face time is critical to keep team on track. These routines also helps a leader sense problems even before they actually happen, manage expectations constantly, provide feedback, learn about each other and manage conflicts. Communication is the most important tool in a leader’s toolkit for building trust.

    Building a high-performing team in any situation is difficult and when team members are from different functional groups, a leaders role in creating a performing whole from discrete parts is both a challenge and an opportunity.

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    Related Reading at QAspire:

    Leading Others: How NOT to be in Control

    Excessive use of positional power: I was interacting with a leadership expert recently when he said, “If you have to use your position to exert your power, you are not powerful.” Being at a certain position within organization means that you have a higher visibility which needs to be extended to others. Your position is an opportunity; an obligation to make a difference in how your team performs. When you blatantly use positional power, you quickly isolate others. Disengaged team will, at the best, comply to your directives but will never be able to bring their complete creative potential on board.

    Simply staying on top of information: Yes, you definitely need to know what is happening in your team. Getting status reports on various initiatives is important. However, when you excessively consume information given to you without acting on it, you fall in a trap. When team members provide you information on issues, risks and concerns, they need to be acted upon. Your are NOT in control when you know a lot of things, but when you act on it to make a positive difference. Sitting on top of information (and simply passing that information higher up in the hierarchy) is not a useful way to stay in control.

    Keeping People Uninformed: The more people in your team know what your goals are, the more buy-in you will get – and hence better results. You cannot expect your team to perform if they are not informed about the vision, context, goals and progress. Team also needs your guidance on how something can be accomplished. They need you to validate their ideas. They need to know the purpose. Good leaders remain in control by clarifying the purpose relentlessly, then allowing people to execute, and provide support where needed.

    Bottom line: Dr. John Maxwell puts in brilliantly, “The point of leading is not to cross the finish line first; it’s to take people across the finish line with you.” If you are a leader at any level who aspires to be in control, focus not on yourself but on them – your people. Connect with them, help them understand, guide them in their performance, eliminate their roadblocks, give them the control and keep them informed; the results may surprise you!

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    If you liked this post, you will also like bite-sized ideas on quality, leadership and people in my book #QUALITYtweet. Click here to check it out.

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    Cohesive Leadership Team: A Few Questions

    In software world, cohesion is referred to as a degree to which modules belong to each other. If modules have little in common, performs varied activities based on unrelated sets of data, it is a low cohesion software which is difficult to maintain and understand.

    Drawing the same analogy for an organization’s leadership, cohesion is the degree to which senior leaders belong to each other and to the collective goal as a team. If senior leadership team is not cohesive, organization runs in different directions and becomes difficult to just sustain, forget about growing further. Building an aligned and cohesive team of leaders is a crucial first step towards building a culture of excellence.

    This is a significant challenge, and the one that requires a great deal of introspection. Following questions may help:

    1. Are all senior leaders, department heads and second level leaders absolutely convinced and clear about the collective goal?

    2. Do they know the organizational value system and do they demonstrate those values through their actions, words and behavior?

    3. Have they participated in setting up those goals? Has goal-setting been a collaborative activity?

    4. Do they take decisions for greater good of the organization or to simply protect their own departmental fortress?

    5. Are they willing and open to disagree with an objective to find optimal solution or they disagree for purely political reasons? Do they avoid conflict by passively agreeing to critical decisions?

    6. Do they (really) trust each other? Do they complement or compete with each other?

    7. Are they accountable? Are they completely aware of their objective accountability (results, targets etc) and behavioral accountability (attitude, communication, behavior etc)?

    8. Do they only focus on results without caring about how those results were achieved?

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    Join in the conversation: Have you ever been a part of a cohesive leadership team? What lessons would you like to share? What questions would you add to the list above?

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    In 100 Words: The More You Tell

    I used to get angry and preachy when my kid threw tantrums till I heard this wonderful statement from a leadership expert, “The more you tell, the less you sell.”

    Leadership starts with listening. In face of a conflict, reacting is our natural instinct. We want to tell/justify immediately without an attempt to completely understand the problem.

    The better alternative is to step back and ask open ended questions. Then sit back and listen before you respond. Listening enough is caring enough.

    This works with kids and works even better in teams. There is a difference between responding and reacting.

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    Wish you a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful 2013!

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    Also Read: Other 100 Word Posts

    Taking Charge of a Team? Avoid These 4 Mistakes

    Managers often end up in a situation when they are hired to take charge of a team/department that already exists and performs to a certain level. New leaders often find it difficult to generate acceptance because a team/organization is a complex network of emotions, relationships and issues. The history comes along, but is invisible to this new manager.

    Two things add to this complexity. One is the time new leaders have to perform. They are often under pressure to perform and demonstrate some “early wins”. On the other hand, they cannot make any progress unless they have won the support of the team members. Second is that experience of leaders make it difficult for them to “unlearn”. They start operating within the confines of what they have experienced so far.

    Here are a few mistakes new leaders make:

    They fail to listen (this is #1 mistake). Joining a team in leadership position is an opportunity to gain team’s respect and support. Don’t squander this opportunity by hurrying into rapid action, dishing out directives, talking too much about your great past and giving elevator speeches. This is a sure way to alienate the team members. A new leader needs to seize this opportunity by listening. People want to explain the context provided they have an opportunity to talk. Give them that and you will know what drives them, their struggles and their ideas to grow. Missing this opportunity can be costly for your further journey with the team.

    Worst, they criticize and/or threaten. Yes, there are issues in this team, processes are not optimized and there is some resistance. Try beating these issues with criticism and threatening that you will commit the second biggest mistake. Be appreciative of what team has achieved so far. Share the responsibility of driving improvements rather than keeping it to yourself. But more important than anything else: watch your words and impact they have on the team members. Keep them positive. Use “we” more often than “I”.

    Or, they ignore resistance. Resistance is negative energy, but energy nevertheless. Two things you should never do: ignore the resistance and overpower it. Both will boost levels of resistance. Try directing this energy instead into constructive initiatives that leave people feel more valued. Once they see results of their efforts, resistance will slowly give way to acceptance.

    They lose momentum. Sometimes, situation can be overwhelming establishment can take up months. Let it not affect your results. One of the simplest strategies to generate buy-in is to generate results. Establish goals, keep setting expectations, define milestones and let your team members stretch to achieve those. Handhold and facilitate when needed. Once results are visible, team fabric gets stronger. Results are the value statement for a new leader.

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    So, what do we do? Get over with “taking over the team” mindset to be a facilitator for better results. Be positive, seek to understand first and focus on results. It all takes time, but it is all worth it.

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    Bonus: Check out some excellent posts on Leadership Development at “The July 2012 Carnival of Leadership Development” by Dan McCarthy which includes my post Leading Projects: Balancing Rational with Emotion.

    Leadership and Building Emotional Infrastructure

    Last two posts (here and here) focused on managing the emotional aspects of workplace to build a culture of engagement. While I was writing about it, I came across a very interesting paper titled “The Emotionally Bonded Organization: Why Emotional Infrastructure Matters And How Leaders Can Build It” by Vijay Govindarajan, Professor of International Business at The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and Subroto Bagchi, co-founder of MindTree.

    The paper emphasizes that role of a leader within an organization is to primarily create infrastructure. Organizations are composed of three types of infrastructure:

    1. Physical Infrastructure (buildings, furniture, equipments, offices across global locations etc.)
    2. Intellectual Infrastructure (systems, processes, technical capabilities, unique tools, patents, copyrights etc.)
    3. Emotional Infrastructure (aggregated positive feelings employees have for the organization and each other)

    According to the authors, emotional infrastructure is most time consuming and difficult to build. They state:

    In comparison to physical and intellectual infrastructure, emotional infrastructure is the most time-intensive and the most difficult to build. Yet the factors that create emotional infrastructure are not visibly manifest to an outsider and hence it is the most difficult for a competitor to copy, yielding a sizable and sustainable competitive advantage. This is precisely why numerous people visit Toyota in Japan but very few are able to replicate Toyota’s legendary manufacturing practices.

    Further, this paper outlines 8 factors that build an emotional infrastructure.

    Bottom line: Employee engagement and emotional infrastructure within an organization are a result of conscious choices at the top. Leaders who are aware of the emotional aspect of culture building will be able to build highly engaged and connected teams – a direct competitive advantage in a knowledge oriented world.

    More Insights from Subroto Bagchi

    Team Performance: Keeping Ego at Bay

    Ego is a strong emotion and often, success feeds it. As we evolve as professionals and accomplish more, we tend to accumulate beliefs about ourselves (and the world around us). Soon, we start looking at world from the lens of these beliefs and decide what is right or wrong. Unfortunately, our world view is often skewed when it is only seen from the lens of our egos and limited beliefs.

    By definition, ego is a false and emotionally charged image of the self. At work place, personal egos between peers often result in situations where work takes a backseat. He thinks that she should have initiated that difficult conversation. She thinks why would he not initiate? If he delayed it by one week, why should I walk the extra mile and complete it on time? People in meetings try to protect their forts and drive meeting through their egos. They avoid confrontations and often resist change.

    End result? Things don’t move and progress stalls.

    Here is what works for me: When you encounter an ego situation, quiz your goals. Ask yourself (and others) this question: “Am I (are you) focusing on ‘who’ is right, or doing ‘what’ is right?”. In teams and projects, doing what is right (and actually doing it) is more important than proving who is right.

    Secondly, while individual accomplishments are important for your self esteem, you need to check if they are helping the team. Higher technical proficiency or better individual traits are of no use if they don’t help the team achieve the desired outcomes. If you are known as a best designer or coder, but your projects still fail then being the best may not be as important.

    Finally, business leaders need to keep a constant check on the ego-index of middle management. You can work hard to hire best people but if they are being led by ego-driven managers, their spirit and enthusiasm will quickly fade out. People who cannot manage their own egos are not the good ones to manage others.

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    Join in the Conversation: Have you encountered ego situations at your work place? What advice would you share with a manager who is struggling to keep ego issues away in the team?

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    Fostering Autonomy in a Team: 7 Lessons

    “…leadership may be defined as: the ability to enhance the environment so that everyone is empowered to contribute creatively to solving the problem(s).”Gerald M. Weinberg

    People do their best work when they are “intrinsically motivated” and one of the most important intrinsic motivator for people is autonomy in work. People need a space to perform and they need a say in how their work should be performed. Workplace autonomy feeds self-esteem and fosters creativity.

    Here are a few things I have learned (from my experiences and seeing other leaders perform) on fostering autonomy in your team:

    1. Recruit right: That’s where it starts. It is important to ascertain that a team member is capable of handling things, take independent view of work and drive it accordingly. You can only foster autonomy when you have team members who you can rely on. Look for professional integrity while hiring, because that is at the core or self-organization.
    2. Have a strong purpose: Smart people subscribe to a compelling purpose. If the purpose of your project/initiative does not excite people, they will not be able to give their best.  Clarity of purpose also enables people to proactively align their actions and thinking in the best interest to achieve the purpose. In agile terms, a strong purpose that is bought in by all in the team is also referred to as “shared vision”. Strong purpose and clear goals automatically establishes a demand for performance.
    3. Do “Smart Delegation”: Smart delegation plays to people’s strengths. Delegating tasks that allow people to expand their capacity to deliver ensures that people put their best skills and experience to use. Smart delegation is also about setting the ground rules/expectations and setting team members free to take work related decisions within given boundaries and/or organization constraints.
    4. Offer/arrange for help: When people try to organize their work, they will definitely need help. Either you, as a leader, can offer direct help or arrange for help. How much team members help each other in difficult situations is an indicator of team strength. When people know that help is available, they will also be willing to extend help. It works in fostering autonomy where a lot of problems are taken care of at the team level. Good and timely help gets impediments out of the way and ensures progress.
    5. Monitor progress, not people: Monitoring people is easier, but it does not help. As a team lead, your primary role is to monitor progress, not people. Small wins on a daily basis can be a great motivator for people. When people know that progress is important, they will do what is needed to ensure progress.
    6. Retrospect: Once in a while, it helps to look at the journey so far along with the team. Retrospective helps team in sharing lessons, best/great practices and solutions. It fosters collaboration, strengthens the team, accelerates learning and equips them to take better decisions.
    7. Always respect: You can only expect a team member to work independently when they trust. Without respecting people, you can never build trust. Respect people, respect their views, listen to them and respect their time. Sometimes they will falter, take wrong decisions, make mistakes – but that’s what makes them human. Dealing with people without grace is #1 killer of individual autonomy.

    A leader’s role in building a self-organized team is that of a catalyst who ensures that team is aligned to organization goals. A leader also maintains boundaries for a team and creates/maintains an environment where team members thrive, grow and contribute effectively.

    Related Posts at QAspire

    5 Ways To Build Trust (Lessons from a Conversation)
    Leaders Cannot Be Blamers: 3 Things
    Creating a Learning Organization: 10 Actions For a Leader

    Effective Facilitation 25

    • A novice manager tells people what needs to be done. A wise manager listens, questions and challenges.
    • People are not interested in what you tell them to do (command and control). They are interested in what they control and learn from what they are doing (empowerment).
    • Facilitation helps in both. In getting things done and ensuring that team members learn from that process.
    • The purpose of facilitating is: to get something done and to ensure that the person who is executing learns something valuable from the process of doing.
    • Facilitation is the key to developing people. A tool to lead.
    • Further, effective facilitation is also the key to build a great team.
    • If we are dealing with professionals, why do they need facilitation? They need facilitation so that they can work together as a team, do it better, faster, more creatively and more effectively.
    • Facilitation helps people reach their potential and elevate performance.
    • If you are a manager who is facilitating a team, you are not more powerful than them. You serve them, so that they become better and make you look good.
    • The act of facilitation should make things easy for them. If you are not conscious about how you are facilitating, you can make it difficult.
    • Facilitating someone in doing something is a great way to learn newer aspects of your work. Remember the rule? We learn only a bit of what we are taught, we learn a great deal of what we do and we learn the most when we teach someone.
    • In a group, facilitation starts with a common objective that everyone understands. That is #1 job of facilitator.
    • If common objective is not understood/defined, facilitation helps them achieve consensus on the goal.
    • You can facilitate someone on three key areas: The purpose of work (Why), the process of achieving that purpose (How) and specific tasks in that process (What).
    • Additionally, you can facilitate someone so that their expectations are managed, understood and communicated. To address their real concerns.
    • People will only allow you to facilitate them when they see value. Ensure that they see the value early in the facilitation process.
    • The art of facilitation also involves knowing when NOT to facilitate. Facilitation does not equal spoon feeding. Show them the way and let them run.
    • The starting point of facilitation is listening. Acknowledging the experiences of the team member, appreciate what they say and encourage them to be open.
    • Clarity is at the heart of good facilitation. If you don’t understand their problem OR are not able to provide clarity to them on your viewpoints, facilitation does not help. Confirm, clarify and reflect.
    • Questions are your tools to clarify – open ended questions that bring out the real thing.
    • In a group situation or meetings, it is very crucial for the facilitator to balance between the extremes of clarity and ambiguity. To remain focused on the objective without getting impatient or biased is a challenge.
    • Sometimes, facilitation also means that you have to let go of the agenda and focus on an individual/team’s real problems.
    • Facilitation is about designing conversations that really matter and make a difference.
    • People make mistakes. Allow them, for their mistakes are their opportunities to learn. Share feedback.
    • Facilitation is at the core of modern day management. Teams need facilitation, clients need facilitation and individuals need facilitation. On a second thought, all the fundamentals of effective facilitation are also the fundamentals of effective management. No?

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    Join in the conversation: As a manager or a leader, do you see yourself as a facilitator? What are your lessons? Share them here.