Great Quotes: Focus on Experience

In a competitive world obsessed with goals, people recommend that we should periodically review our performance. Performance appraisals in organizations are almost a necessary evil. The problem with focusing excessively on our ‘performance’ is that performance is always judged by others, by some external entity. When you constantly try to align yourself to external expectations, you dilute your own expression and voice.

I read the following quote in Peter Bergman’s recent Harvard Business Review post titled “Stop Focusing on Your Performance”. He says,

When you’re performing, your success is disturbingly short-lived. As soon as you’ve achieved one milestone or received a particular standing ovation, it’s no longer relevant. Your unending question is: what’s next?

When you’re experiencing though, it’s not about the end result, it’s about the moment. You’re not pursuing a feeling after, you’re having a feeling during. You can’t be manipulated by a fickle, outside measure because you’re motivated by a stable internal one.

Here is a related quote from my 2010 post titled “Enjoy the Process”:

Focusing on the moment, on task currently on our hands enables us to fully express ourselves. One of the best gifts we can give ourselves is to enjoy the work while we are doing it (being in the moment) – and expressing our skills fully. It is both gratifying and satisfying.

The joy is in the work itself. Focus on experience and performance will eventually take care of itself.

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Photo Credit: Stephan Comelli’s Flickr Photostream

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Related Posts at QAspire:

Enjoy the Process

Enjoy the Process – 2

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Managing the Real

How often do we, as professionals and managers, get sucked into the whirlwind of status reports, new-initiatives-everyday, number crunching, endless meetings and presentations? Sometimes, the best management is to do simple and obvious things more effectively.

In this context, I enjoyed reading an insightful post titled “Finding more time for real management” at Business Strategy Review, London Business School. Here is an important question raised in the post.

The classic example is people management. The principles (work autonomy, knowing what you do matters, the importance of the first-line manager) are well documented, but they are frequently ignored in practice. So what would happen if we could find a way of putting some of them into practice in a dedicated way?

In this post, authors Julian Birkinshaw and Simon Caulkin report on one experiment they did with sales and service team at the Stockholm offices of a major insurance company. In this experiment, they asked a team’s manager to free up a few hours each day (delegate more effectively and excuse herself from meetings etc.) to just do the real management. The team was not aware that they are a part of experiment, just the manager knew about it. She started spending these couple of hours everyday to work directly with her group, help them do their job better, brainstorm and improve constantly. After 3 weeks, the results were dramatically different with 5% improvement in sales, improvement in team performance and increased motivation levels.

Here is the key thought:

If you are trying to help your company to improve its management processes, it is easy to get drawn towards exciting new initiatives like crowdsourcing; but the real impact is more likely to come from doing simple and obvious things more effectively. And frontline coaching is about as simple and obvious as it gets: every company needs it, and yet most do it pretty poorly.

Read the original post for more details and findings. They are definitely worth a thought (and action).

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Great Quotes: On Expectations

“Nobody rises to low expectations.” ~ Calvin Lloyd

One of the most important qualities of a leader is to believe that they can do better. People respond to expectations and the only way to grow people is to consistently raise the bar of expectations.

If a team is not doing great, it is either because the team members are incapable or the leader has established very low expectations from them. Low expectations result in lower or mediocre performance.

To be able to set the expectations higher, a leader has to have a deep understanding of the work people do. As a leader, if you don’t understand the nuances of how work is done, you will never be able to raise the bar for others. Leader also needs ability to decide when to focus on details and when to see a broad picture.

If you are a leader at any level (yes, parents are leaders too), do keep raising your bar of expectations. You will be surprised to see how people step up and respond!

P.S: This also applies to expectations that you have from your own selves.

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Great Quote: On System of Management by Deming

W. Edwards Deming, the pioneer and guru in quality revolution wrote the following paragraph when commenting on Peter Senge’s book “The Fifth Discipline” and it instantly struck the chord.

Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning.
The forces of destruction begin with toddlers — a prize for the best Halloween costume, grades in school, gold stars — and on up through the university.  On the job people, teams, and divisions are ranked, reward for the top, punishment for the bottom. Management by Objectives, quotas, incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable.

The birth of an organization happens with a technical idea that solves a problem. It starts with creativity, passion and inventive thinking. When people start organizations, their sole interest is to focus on excellence to deliver best results. Success breeds success and somewhere in the growth process, the focus shifts from creativity and passion to profits and numbers. At one point, this focus on numbers becomes a chronic obsession. Organization starts being driven by numbers alone and the human aspects of work (respect for people, intrinsic motivation, creativity, innovation etc.) are pushed into the margins. Physical infrastructure gains prominence over emotional infrastructure.

Deming said this in 1990’s and still sounds so true in current context when we look at how our schools, colleges and organizations are being driven.

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Food For Thought – April 2012

From a number of GREAT bloggers and authors I read, here are a few snippets of thought provoking insights – straight from my feed reader. Note: Important take-aways marked in bold+italics.

Michael Wade on “What Managers Can Learn from Novelists

Recognize that life is not a novel. At least, not in most cases. The most powerful characters in life are the quiet heroes who support families, meet obligations, hone skills, and fulfill civic duties. The same is true in the workplace. Your most important employees are not the charismatic home run hitters. They are your base hitters who, although devoid of drama, win ball games.”

Nicholas Bate suggests, “Spend Time With The Best

The best will remind you that nothing’s guaranteed but more is predictable when you take responsibility for you career rather than leaving it to your CEO, take responsibility for you life rather than leaving it to a smooth-talking politician and start reading every day. Hang out with the best. Listen to the best. Read the best.

Wally Bock knows “Where Greatness Lives

Like great companies, great business teams are excited about the work they do. Foster excitement in the work. Revel in it.”

Dan Pink shares “50 Centuries of Work = 5 Important Lessons”. One of them below:

“Choose a career for the intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones.

Chris Guillebeau thinks, “It’s Not the Process, It’s Not the End Result, It’s the Act of Making Things

No matter what, you’ll encounter setbacks and experience disappointments. But when you encounter them, your response is to keep creating. Use the setbacks for greater good. Write your 1,000 words, paint your painting, build your business, lead your team—whatever you do. Focus on the act of making things. The act of creation is where joy and effort intersect.

On Creativity: SRK and Seth Godin!

Two personalities from two diverse nations; One is an Indian mega-star Shahrukh Khan (SRK) and the other is a relentless instigator (and my hero) Seth Godin. Both live a creative life and express themselves fully through their work. Both have a significant impact on large number of people. Recently, both expressed their views on creativity.

At his recent talk as Chubb Fellow at Yale University, SRK shared his view on creativity and said,

Creativity is your gift to the world. It was never meant to be barter for anything, not even appreciation. You have to believe, that you create only because this is the biggest gift you have to give to your world. Maybe that’s why we even say God is a creator. It’s not about the cars or houses…it never was… those are peripherals. They never come about because of your talent or your creative outpourings… they come out of a business that people around you do. Those people are in the business of barter — not you. Yours is the business of giving and learning. Your work of art may never be complete in your lifetime. Your fulfillment will always lie in your creative expression not in its products.

In his usual provocative style, Seth Godin urges us not to expect applause. He says,

But when you expect applause, when you do your work in order (and because of) applause, you have sold yourself short. That’s because your work is depending on something out of your control. You have given away part of your art. If your work is filled with the hope and longing for applause, it’s no longer your work–the dependence on approval has corrupted it, turned it into a process where you are striving for ever more approval.

These insights led me to think and following lessons emerged:

  1. Don’t barter your originality and expression with external drivers, and rewards. When recognitions or rewards happen, cherish them. Treat them as by-products. But don’t let that get into your head, because once it does, logic rules. And when logic is a dominant force over emotion, creativity quickly eludes us.
  2. The pre-requisite of being creative is to first be yourself. If we are not true to our authentic selves, if we are not aware about our inherent interests, it is hard to be creative.
  3. Being true to your self means that you might need to break some rules, re-invent some and create a few. Non-conformance is good for creative diversity.

Also read: 5 Insights on Creativity from Osho

Late Dr. C. K. Prahalad’s Business Wisdom

Gift of thoughts is the best gift we can receive. After my talk at Ahmedabad Management Association recently, I was gifted with a book titled “Purely Prahalad – Business Wisdom from Late Dr. C. K. Prahalad’s thoughts”. This book is compiled and edited by AMA’s team.

It is a brilliant collection of useful gems. Here are 5 thoughts from the global thinker that I learned the most from:

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Continuous Change

I am not interested in “charismatic leader” approach to innovation. Companies need continuous changes – not just episodic breakthroughs.

Don’t Wait Too Long

Finding the motivation to affect change is very difficult when the existing business model seem to be working well. But the question to ask is, “Will their zone of comfort force them to wait too long before they make a transition?”

Next v/s Best

Best practices lead to agreement on mediocrity. I do not have much interest in best practices. Because all of us benchmark each other, we gravitate towards mediocrity in a hurry. What we really need is to ask what is the next practice, so that we can become the benchmark companies, benchmark institutions around the world.

Creating an ‘Unlearning’ Organization

Creating a ‘learning organization’ is only half the solution. Just as important is creating an ‘unlearning organization’. To create the future, a company must unlearn at least some of its past. We’re all familiar with ‘learning curve’, but what about the ‘forgetting curve’ – the rate at which a company can unlearn those habits that hinder future success?

Helping Others

If you are honest about helping others rather than showing how smart you are, things are very easy.

Seth Godin on Project Leadership

We live in a time when our career is not just a sum total of years we spent in the industry. Our career is about what projects we initiated/handled/led and what difference did the project deliver. Project is a new eco-system, a new playground where we play and thrive as professionals to deliver our best.

Since everything we do is a project, I thought of seeking some guidance from Seth Godin (my hero) via his blog posts on how to thrive and lead in a project-oriented world:

If you choose to manage a project, it’s pretty safe. As the manager, you report. You report on what’s happening, you chronicle the results, you are the middleman.

If you choose to run a project, on the other hand, you’re on the hook. It’s an active engagement, bending the status quo to your will, ensuring that you ship.

Via post: “The difference between running and managing a project”

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Here’s another gem:

Instead of seeking excuses, the successful project is filled with people who are obsessed with avoiding excuses. If you relentlessly work to avoid opportunities to use your ability to blame, you may never actually need to blame anyone. If you’re not pulled over by the cop, no need to blame the speedometer, right?

Via post: Looking for the right excuse

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You don’t work on an assembly line any more. You work in project world, and more projects mean more chances to screw up, to learn, to make a reputation and to have more impact.

When it’s you against the boss, the goal is to do less work.

When it’s you against the project, the goal is to do more work.

– Via post: When is it due?

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So here are some critical questions:

  1. What projects you initiated in past few months (not because someone asked for, but because you believed in them)?
  2. Are you simply managing a project, or leading one?
  3. What difference are you delivering via your project(s)?

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Related Posts at QAspire

Projects as Opportunities to Practice Leadership

Thoughts on Project Leadership and Choices

7 Favorite Quotes From Blogosphere

I remember collecting and writing quotes in my diary as a student. A good quote has power to inspire us, to stir us and sometimes, make us uncomfortable. Quotes provide a spark to our thinking.

Here are a few recent quotes from my friends (via their posts) in blogosphere, that inspired me lately. You will like them too:

From: “Seeing Others” by Mary Jo Asmus

Most people crave acknowledgement; in a word, they want to be seen. Seeing others takes attention and quiet thought on your part. It requires you to notice, to listen, and to (sometimes) be surprised at what you see. Acknowledging others takes effort, but the rewards to you and your organization will be great.

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Via: 7 Breaths

To succeed, you must focus on the person you want to BE, not the things you want to have. Exercising is not a verb, but a way of life. The same thing goes for healthy eating. To succeed in anything you must BE the person who is consistent, intense, and intelligent. Work on seeing yourself as this person.

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From: “In Praise of Doing” by Dan Rockwell

Do something; stand on it and do something again. What you do makes a difference not what you want to do.

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From: The Danger of Walks By Kurt Harden at Cultural Offering

Employees need to be challenged.  They need to keep their chops sharp.  Without the stimulation of new challenges and, yes, problems to solve, sloppiness settles in.  What is the saying?  If you want something done well, give it to a busy person.

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From: Nicholas Bate

Brilliant isn’t making it on the stock exchange if you never see your kids. Brilliant isn’t winning the company Porsche two quarters in a row if the third quarter you were in hospital with chest pains.

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Via: “Indira Gandhi on Doing Work Versus Taking Credit For It” by Bob Sutton

My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.

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From: “Why Sport is Actually a Spiritual Pursuit” by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Being a sport means you are willing to play. Willing to play means you are involved or alive to the situation in which you exist, and that is the essence of life. If there is anything that is truly close to a spiritual process, in the normal course of life, that is sports. Swami Vivekananda went to the extent of saying, "In kicking a ball or playing a game, you are much closer to the Divine than you will ever be in prayer." You can pray without involvement, but you cannot play sports without involvement, and involvement is the essence of life.

Passion in Work: What’s Your Ice-Cream?

Bringing our energy to work is not optional anymore. It pains to see people at workplace who seem to be dragging themselves with work assigned to them. They do it because they get a paycheck at the end of month and they do it only when someone asks them to do it. Work, for them, is simply a means to an end, and that is evident from the quality of their outcomes.

Our work can mean different things to us. For some, it is just a profession. For others, it is a passion. What your work means to you makes a big difference in your success.

I have interviewed hundreds of candidates so far during recruitment process. Some people do what they are doing because that’s what they got into. They were in by a chance and were pulling on. Others chose what they were doing and they clearly shined out.

During a recent interview, when I asked a candidate why he preferred software testing as his career, he gave a very interesting answer. He said, “Everyone likes ice-cream. Software testing is my ice-cream”. Thought provoking.

Bill Strickland wrote,

“Passions are irresistible. They’re the ideas, hopes, and possibilities your mind naturally gravitates to, the things you would focus your time and attention on.”

Our passion for our work is the source of energy, and this energy clearly translates into physical energy – the motive force that pushes us to initiate, to finish, to persist in between, to experiment and hence learn. This energy can be felt and seen as a sparkle in the eye when a person talks about/executes the work.

Doing what we love doing, and then doing it with passion is not only important for executing a job. It is our obligation to ourselves.

Vincent Van Gogh said it beautifully,

“Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” – Vincent Van Gogh

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Join in the conversation: Think about and tell us why you are doing what you are doing? What makes you tick? What’s your ice-cream?

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Related Posts at QAspire Blog:

Actualizing with the self
Great Quotes: Work and Play
Follow your Energies
Passion Power

Great Quotes: On Constant Improvement

I have always loved great quotes and I started collecting these bite-sized packets of wisdom since my early days as a student. Quotes encapsulate years of experience and wisdom from great thinkers in just a few words – words that inspire us to act and put things in perspective. Great quotes have always had a special place on this blog.

Improvement is a never ending journey, and anyone who seeks to improve constantly should never look for destinations. It is a journey that needs to be enjoyed and every significant improvement you make in your habits, processes or business is just a milestone. The following quote from Sir Winston Churchill nicely encapsulates this thought:

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will be a stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” – Sir Winston Churchill

Improvement starts with a desire (or rather a passion) to change things for better. Improvement is a quest to understand how things are happening around you, and then take an initiative to improve upon those. Unless we seek to understand and experiment, we will never be able to improve. Bertrand Russell puts it brilliantly:

‘The desire to understand the world and the desire to reform it are the two great engines of progress, without which human society would stand still or retrogress.’ – Bertrand Russell

On this fine Monday morning, these quotes have helped me gain better perspective on my work of improving processes. Your work may be programming software or managing people – know that improvement is a journey and every small win along this journey should inspire you improve further. That is the core of what we, in process management field, call “continual improvement”.

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Have a great start into the week!

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Join in the conversation: What quotes inspire you? What quotes have guided you along the way?

A Worthy Goal for 2011 and Beyond

New year brings with it new predictions, agendas, resolutions and trends. New business models, new ways of working, cooler tools and technologies.

One thing that remains constant (and has remained constant) is “Excellence” – which is at the core of the success of any organization, product, service or an individual.

If I were to select only one theme for next many years, it would be excellence because once you start looking for excellence in everything and commit yourself to it, you often tend to get it.

Quality is often defined as “degree of excellence”, extent to which organizations, people and products reach their potential. In my view, quality is a route to excellence and continual improvement is the tool. Excellence requires passion to improve constantly.

As we start a new year, let me share one of the best definitions of excellence I have come across in the last year:

Excellence isn’t about meeting the spec, it’s about setting the spec. It defines what the consumer sees as quality right this minute, and tomorrow, if you’re good, you’ll reset that expectation again.

The surefire way to achieve excellence, then, is not to create a written spec and match it. The surefire way is to be human. To be artistic: to make a connection with the customer and to somehow change them for the better.

From Seth Godin’s post “What is Excellence” at Tom Peters website

So, seeking/delivering excellence in everything you do is a goal worth chasing in 2011 (and beyond). “Striving for excellence” should be a call to action for us to renew our focus on developing a culture of excellence, great leadership, adopting best practices, making them work in our context, continual improvement and superior service to our customers/peers.

On that note, wish you an “excellent” 2011!

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Great Quotes: Gems from Subroto Bagchi on Leadership

I have always enjoyed reading thoughts of Subroto Bagchi, one of India’s most well known and respected leaders from the IT industry who operates as a “Gardener” and Vice Chairman at MindTree.

I have read both his books, “The High Performance Entrepreneur” and “Go, Kiss the World” with great interest. (Read the reviews here and here).

Mr. Bagchi recently gave an interview at Emploi Global Newsletter where he shared some very interesting (and profound) insights.

I would like to share some excerpts of that interview, and ideas that touched me the most:

On Servant Leadership

“Servant leadership is about the conviction that I am just a means to an end; I am not the purpose, I am the mode of conveyance; like a municipal water pipe, my job is to deliver the water and not quench my own thirst.”

On Receptivity as Leaders

“The Japanese say that the mind can be a mountain or a valley. However tall a mountain is, and however torrential the rain on it, it cannot hold water. To hold water, you need to make your mind a valley.”

On Being a Gardener

“The job of top leaders is to build leaders. That is a one-on-one thing like a gardener must tend to his or her plants in a one-on-one manner. Each plant has different needs at different times and the gardener must anticipate those and be proactive. The plants do not come to the gardener; the gardener must go to where the plants may be.”

Read the full interview here.

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Excellence: Lessons From Anupam Kher

I have believed that most good things in life are either free or inexpensive. A good walk, a great hug, a few moments spent together, a long drive, a free lecture, time spent with friends and so on.

I write this because over the weekend, I experienced some of these. Monsoon is at its best. Cool weather and Friendship Day on a Sunday!

I visited an interactive session with one of the greatest Indian actors Anupam Kher at Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) as a part of “Face to Face with Achievers of Excellence” program. Anupam Kher needs no introduction to the Indian audience, but for the others, Anupam Kher is one of the best actors in contemporary cinema who has worked in over 400 films and 100 plays winning a number of awards including Padma Shree.

Anupam talked about excellence – as he sees it. He delivered some simple yet powerful messages on excellence while narrating the tale of his life and career. Here is a quick summary of those powerful lessons:

  • Be your own enemy: We get too bogged down by comparisons and competition. On the road to excellence, you are your own benchmark. You have to be your strongest critic.
  • Remain curious: We are born curious, but as we grow, we loose our sense of wonder along the way. Never stop dreaming.
  • Failure is overrated: Schools and colleges sell the fear of failure. In pursuit of excellence, failures make you better. Failures bring us closer to ourselves and makes us do more. World does not stop if we fail, so do things you love doing, and if you fail, learn from it. Consistent success can sometimes become boring. Henry Ford said this, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”
  • Be comfortable with self: Most people spend their lives trying to become someone else. Be yourself and be comfortable with who you are. You can only excel in life when you are happy with who you are. (Read my piece on self-actualization)
  • Don’t stop trying: When you see your goal clearly, the hurdles become invisible. That does not mean hurdles are not there. They just become insignificant. When faced with hurdles, don’t stop trying. Anupam shared a great quote, “When you try, you risk failure. When you don’t try, you ensure it.”
  • Honesty and hard work: Once you know what you are good at, you need a lot of honesty (with self and with others) and hard work. I would add that persistence is equally important.

These lessons (and more) were nicely wrapped in powerful personal stories that engaged the audience. While all these things were known and read somewhere, a lecture like this with successful people helps a great deal in reinforcing them to your belief system.

I am inspired on this Monday morning, and you too have an upbeat start into the week.

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P.S: Jason Seiden at “Fail Spectacularly” blog has hosted the latest Carnival of Leadership Development featuring my post “5 Ways to Build Trust” Lessons from a Conversation)” along with a host of other GREAT posts on leadership and executive development. Check it out – some great ideas waiting to be explored!

Great Quotes: Be a Yardstick of Quality

I love quotes because they inspire and ignite a thought process. Today, I read this brilliant quote from Steve Jobs:

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” ~ Steve Jobs

Loved the first part. Be a yardstick of quality. As professionals, we can only differentiate ourselves with our commitment to excel, regardless of our chosen field. Quality is a moving target. You delivered a great performance today. Tomorrow, the same performance becomes good enough. The day after, it is termed ‘mediocre”. Not because you din’t do it so well, but because someone else started doing it better than you. It is easy to get commoditized but very difficult to differentiate. Be so good that people take your performance as a yardstick to raise their game.

So, my takeaway for this Friday (and for the rest of my life) is – Be a yardstick of quality.

Have a FANTASTIC Friday and a wonderful weekend!

Are You An Artist? A Review of Seth Godin’s LINCHPIN

Over last couple of weeks, I was reading and re-reading Seth Godin’s remarkable book “Linchpin”. I have been following Seth’s blog and books since last 4 years. This book has brilliant ideas that can change the way you work, how you work and most importantly, why you work.

Linchpin urges us all to be artists – to be the best we can, to take our work to such a level that it is viewed as an art. Seth says that manufacturing world required cogs – people who follow the instructions, were compliant, low-paid and replaceable. New world of work needs people who care, who are original thinkers, risk-takers, provocateurs – Linchpins, who are difficult to replace.

Linchpin is about being remarkable – being different and being original.

On being an artist – Seth says:

‘You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.”

This book also introduces us to “Lizard Brain” – a little voice inside our head that prevents us from being different. This voice convinces us to stick to old ways of doing work – because doing it differently is a risk, of failure and embarrassment. Lizard brain thrives on our strongest emotion – fear.

Organizations need more linchpins to deliver more value – and for people, their jobs are a platform to deliver value, to be generous, to express their unique skills and be an artist.

The book also made me realize that doing “emotional labor” is extremely important to be a linchpin. Emotional labor is the task of doing an important work, even when it is not easy. It is about walking that extra mile, when you don’t feel like doing it. A larger part of work involves doing things we don’t particularly love doing. But unless that is done, art cannot happen.

The book is a GREAT read (also a NY Times bestseller), because it drives important points home with brilliant examples and stories along the way. I specially liked the diagrammatic representation of ideas – making it simple and easy.  A blog post is way too short to express the profoundness of messages this book encapsulates.

Most people don’t know about their unique gifts – their art. It sometimes takes a lifetime to discover what their art really is. This prompted me to ask a question to Seth. Here is the question and Seth Godin’s response:

Tanmay: Being a Linchpin is impossible without actualizing with one’s gifts (that we are all born with). How does one discover these gifts and unwrap them for the world?

Seth Godin: To use your analogy, if you want to find gifts, you have to look under the tree. And if you don’t know which tree, look under all of them. Too many people want a promise that the effort will be instantly rewarded. It won’t. Fail frequently. That’s the only way I know.

Tanmay: Thank you so much. “Fail Frequently. Ship Early. Ship Often. Realign” that is my takeaway and probably the only way to discover your gifts.

Seth Godin: Thanks Tanmay! Keep Shipping.

Thanks Seth, for that insightful conversation through your book and your response.

Linchpin is a wake-up call – to stop being ordinary and compliant and start being remarkable. Life – as Seth says – is too short not to do something that matters!

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P.S: Check out Carnival of Management Improvement at Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog by John Hunter – fantastic collection of posts on leadership, improvement, lean and quality. Carnival includes my post “Building a Culture To Promote Differential Thinking

Great Quotes: Super Seven From The Collection of Michael Wade

Michael Wade is a GREAT blogger I have been following since 2006. He provides very interesting commentary, shares some fantastic resources and thoughts on his blog Execupundit. He was the first blogger to have linked back to this blog way back in 2006.

Whenever I need some inspiration, I refer to “Quote of the day” series on Michael’s blog. You know what? They never fail to inspire me. Today, I am presenting Seven best business quotes I have read off late on Execupundit

A prudent question is one-half of wisdom. (Link)
– Francis Bacon

Why do questions matter more than answers? If you don’t ask the right question, it doesn’t matter what your answer is. And if you do ask the right question, no matter what your answer, you will learn something of value. (Link)

– Alan M. Weber

Power of right questions in business environment cannot be undermined. You can read my views on this in my posts “Right Questions > Right Answers > Right Results” and “Ask Right Questions”.

Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality. (Link)
– George Santayana

I wrote two posts (here and here) which presents my views on quality and quantity – and why achieving quality is the first step towards excellence.

The usual way of doing things often gets in the way of doing things. (Link)
– Russell L. Ackoff and Sheldon Rovin, Beating the System

In some cases, a system can be beaten by rigorously following its rules and regulations. (Link)
– Russell L. Ackoff

In my view, processes are “tools” that help us become more effective. That, in no way, means that processes are a silver bullet that will solve all your problems.

People don’t work for an organization; they are the organization. (Link)
– Richard W. Buchanan

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. (Link)
– George Santayana

I collected great quotes ever since I was in school, because they allow us to peek into the minds of great thinkers. Profound learning in a few words.

Thank you Michael for sharing such brilliant wisdom.

P.S: Michael Wade also wrote an advance praise and a review of my book #QUALITYtweet – 140 bite-sized ideas to delivery quality in every project.

Great Quotes: It is not the critic who counts – Theodore Roosevelt

You are not doing much if you are not being criticized, it is said. As you set out to start your week, remember the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt. It is awe-inspiring.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

So let the critics do their job while you get busy in :

  • Getting things done.
  • Embracing the change.
  • Stirring the pot and thinking.
  • Ruthlessly re-prioritizing.
  • Raising the bar.
  • Getting better by learning
  • Enjoying what you are doing.
  • Being the best of what you can be.
  • Thinking possibilities.
  • Living each moment to its best.

Remember, it is not the critic who counts. Have a great week ahead!

Quotes to Energize Your Monday!

Once in a month, I spend some good time reading books at Crossword. It is not only an opportunity to read/buy some great books, but also to spend some quality time with myself thinking about what I read there. The ambience at Crossword is so good for reading, I have to push myself out. I got some great books on Quality, Management, Self-Help and Motivation.

As we start the week, I thought of sharing some inspiration from the book “The Treasure – Essence from World’s Greatest Motivational And Self-Help Gurus”. This book is a brilliant compilation of great thoughts from all time great authors and coaches. Here are 7 gems to wish you a great start into the week –

  • “A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is caring, sharing person inside” – Denis Waitley (Success Coach)
  • “Excellence always sells” –Earl Nightingale (Success Coach)
  • “For true success, ask yourselves these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?” – James Allen (Success Coach)
  • “It is important to remember that we are energy. Einstein told us that. And energy cannot be created or destroyed, it just changes form” – Rhonda Byrne (Discoverer of Secret)
  • “The best strategy for building a competitive organization is to help individuals become more of who they are” – Marcus Buckingham (Motivational Expert)
  • “How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.” – Wayne Dyer
  • “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Drucker

You might also like reading Collection of thoughts to have a GREAT start into the week! and (How to) Have a Great Monday!

Have a super-productive week ahead! Stay tuned for more posts this week.

Projects as Opportunities to Practice Leadership

If you are managing a project, you have a great opportunity to consciously practice leadership. Project Management is a great leadership opportunity because project:

  • has a vision and goals that realise that vision (VISION)
  • is a great opportunity to make a big difference in client’s business (VALUE)
  • involves working with people and swinging them in meaningful action (ACTION)
  • involves alignment of people with the project vision (ALIGNMENT)
  • allows you to serve your customers (SERVICE)
  • enables you to help your people grow and make them better with each passing project (GROWTH)

So how do you combine effective management practices and leadership fundamentals to get the best out of your team? How do your raise your team above mediocrity?

Here are 10 basic leadership acts for every project manager and project leader:

  • Being a leader means being under scanner. Your actions are being carefully watched. Be self-aware and authentic to set right examples.
  • Get people who are better than you on your team. Celebrate diversity and create a well-rounded team.
  • Learn fast and aim for self-mastery. Excellence in your own work sets a bar for your team.
  • Practice humility. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.”
  • Learn to say “I don’t know” when appropriate. If you bluff about anything, your people are smart enough to judge that.
  • Seek early wins in the project. It not only increases team’s confidence but also clients’ comfort.
  • Avoid group think. Try to play “devils advocate” to encourage contrarian thinking.
  • Emphasize on shared responsibility. Project success cannot happen unless everyone plays their part well. Communicate this as often as you can.
  • Manage change effectively because change, as we know, is the only constant!
  • Treat people well when they make mistakes. Mistakes are always a learning opportunity, unless a mistake is repeated.

I recently read a very good quote on Twitter – We always get more from our people by building a “fire within them” than we do by building a “fire under them.”

I am in total agreement with that quote. And you?

Photo courtesy:’s Flickr Photostream