Two Ways to Respond to Anxiety

The anxiety we feel when we are worried about an uncertain outcome (or guessing our failure before it happens) can be very disabling. We fight it out to an extent that the only thing we really do is defend our ground. When we are focused on defending, minimizing our exposure to anxiety, complying and cruising along the path of minimum resistance, we can hardly create anything meaningful.

Then there is another kind of anxiety that results from your eagerness to do something – to make something happen. Sure, there is a strong element of apprehension here as well which is why it is a kind of anxiety. But the focus here is to beat anxiety by raising the bar, changing the frame of reference and explore newer boundaries. 

If you are set out to do anything meaningful, anxiety is a part of the game. Embrace it and you will make it. Let it embrace you and you stall.

Fear of failure in advance is very human. It is our response that makes it a limiting force or a creative force. In fact, history tells us that no meaningful creation has ever happened without anxiety.

As Henry Ward Beecher very aptly said,

“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.”

So, what does this mean for leaders?

If you are a leader at any level, choosing your response to anxiety (your own or your team’s apprehensions) is so critical. Your team can only do better when they are encouraged to acknowledge the fear and look beyond it for possibilities.

Journey That Inspires Others

My journey in life and career is largely inspired by what other generous folks have shared – both online and offline.

A boss who believed in me when I didn’t, a book that altered my perspective for better, a few blogs that clarified my thinking one post at a time, an inspiring video that uplifted me, a podcast that I often revisit, a virtual friend who opens a door of possibilities, a family member who guided my perspective about life and the list goes on. When I think of everything that I have received for free, I am only filled with gratitude.

We are all surrounded by generous folks who freely share their lessons, ideas, resources and insights which inspires our own journey, directly or indirectly. 

The critical question then is: If your own journey is inspired by what others shared so generously, how are you making sure that your journey serves as an inspiration for others?

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In the photo: Train and tracks fading away on a foggy winter morning!

Better Leadership in 2015 (And Beyond): 9 Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus:

With those thoughts, I wish you a glorious 2015!


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

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

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

Opportunities.

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

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

Change.

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

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

Learning.

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

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

Serendipity.

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

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

Love.

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

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

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

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A Few Lessons From My First MRI Experience

Recently, I had my first MRI scan to diagnose a herniated disc in my lower back area. Not a great thing to have, but fortunately, not very severe either. I just need to be extra careful with my back, do exercises and manage the stress well.

MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging involves going into a narrow magnetic tube through which images of internal body structures are taken. The tube is a cramped cold space and once  the procedure starts, it is extremely noisy with deafening and unpleasant sounds. One almost feels like being in the middle of a battle ground. What started as a terrible experience ended with some interesting lessons for me.

I was very anxious when I was being prepared for the scan. My heart started beating faster as I slid into the cold narrow tube. Though, I don’t have claustrophobia, it was unnerving. A few moments later, the procedure started and the noise added to my already high anxiety. To escape the outer chaos, I decided to focus inwards and close my eyes. Focusing on my breathing helped in stabilizing the heart beats.

I then started focusing my mind on all the wonderful experiences I had in my life so far. Images from my past started filling my mind space. I thought about how I climbed to the treetop as a kid, about a cricket tournament that I recently played, about the nutty chocolate ice cream I had the previous day, about my son happily running around the house, about the warmth of my family, about our travels, about the beautiful flowers and birds I photographed and so on. These vibrant impressions occupied the blank space in front of me. Impressions that were so subtle and profound that I was actually smiling in a very uncomfortable setting.

What did I learn? I learned that there are two worlds – the one inside us and the one outside us. The world within is made of subtle – our experiences, emotions, hopes, aspirations, feelings and dreams. The world outside is gross – made up of stuff (mostly). We see the world outside us through the lens of what lies within us. The world inside us is far more colorful, vivid and powerful than the world outside. In moments of difficult choices or adversity, always pay more respect to the world that is within you.

I learned that our experiences are way too precious than the stuff. The quality of our life is largely determined by the quality of our experiences, not by the stuff we possess. When I decided to think about best things in life, only experiences came forward, not the things. The key is to invest in creating experiences that enrich our lives.

Being boxed in that crammed space with no one to talk to and no gadgets to keep me engaged enabled me to peep inside my own self. Solitude is precious for it allows you to be with your own self and appreciate everything beautiful in our lives.

When I came out of the room, I was thinking about how much we learn about life when we foresee a slightest risk to it. I walked out of the diagnostic center more aware about what really matters to me.

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Also Read at QAspire:

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In 100 Words: What You Leave Behind

Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel once read his own obituary that described him as a “Merchant of Death”. When Nobel’s brother died, a newspaper reported Nobel’s death by mistake. Because Nobel had invented dynamite, the obituary described him as someone who found ways to kill more people faster.

“Is this how I really want to be remembered?” he asked himself. To improve his image, he left 94% of his huge fortune to award people who made greatest contributions to the mankind through their work. (Nobel Prize)

Fortunately, we don’t need such accidental reminders to ask ourselves: How would I like to be remembered?

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: The Pursuit of Happiness

My one year old son seems to be in a perennial state of happiness. His playful presence and vibrant energy makes everyone around him happy. He knows how to make the most of simplest of things. “What’s his secret?” I was thinking to myself when heard I this wonderful story from a friend.

A man once asked a Buddhist monk, “I want happiness.” The monk smiled softly and said, “First remove ‘I’ – that is your ego. Then remove ‘want’ – that is your unending desire. Now all you are left with (and were born with) is ‘happiness’.

I got his secret!

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: On Success, Happiness and Frugality


One definition of happiness is ‘ability to live life on your own terms.’ But sometimes, we define our happiness based on what others do, and then we try to ‘catch up’ with them compromising our own core values.

Aristippus, a Greek philosopher gained a comfortable position in the Kingdom through constant flattery of the King.

Aristippus once saw Diogenes, another Greek philosopher, dining on a meager meal of lentils and advised, “Learn to flatter the king and you will not have to live on lentils.”

Diogenes replied, “Learn to live on lentils and you will never have to flatter anyone.”

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: Why Wait?

Driving to the office everyday is a very humbling experience.

Just a few kilometers on the bustling highway, there is a crematorium with two chimneys emitting light-grayish fume. Passing through a cemetery or crematorium, I come face-to-face with mortality. We are all going to die – and that itself should be a powerful provocation to realize the preciousness of life, to think about one’s priorities, be more human, joyful and grateful.

People who survive near-death experiences often tend to live more intentionally and fully afterwards. My point is: Why wait for such rude reminders when you can do that right away?

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Note: I met super-talented and amazing Kiruba Shankar yesterday and my conversation with him sparked the ideas outlined in this post. He is working on a very exciting project “Unkick the bucket” where he attempts to discover our true priorities in life.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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Photo Courtesy: ProAudience on Flickr

In 100 Words: Brian Dyson On Life Priorities

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.” Brian Dyson, CEO, Coca-Cola

A good life is all about balancing these balls!

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Image Courtesy: Joe Juggler: The Art of Juggling

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

In 100 Words: Climbing Molehills Without Sweating

In one of the episodes of American television sitcom “I Love Lucy” Ricky comes home and finds his wife crawling on hands and knees in a determined search for lost earrings.

Ricky asks, “You lost your earrings in the living room?”

“No,” Lucy replies. “I lost them in the bedroom but the light is much better out here.”

We fall in a similar trap; taking easier (and safer) routes to find answers rather than having courage and patience to do ‘the right thing’. This tendency plagues our careers as much as organizations.

Mediocrity is climbing molehills without sweating.” – Icelandic Proverb

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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Story Reference: Compliance Isn’t Good Enough: Building Buy-In Through Trust at The Build Network

In 100 Words: A New Day!

The dawn breaks, alarm buzzes, eyes open and a bright new day is waiting to be seized; to be lived. The air is fresh and mind, clear. Life seems to be catching its pace again.

Yes, there are challenges to be met, agendas to be drawn, priorities to be completed, and lessons to be learned. It may seem hard and sometimes, unnerving too. But, it is from conquering these tall challenges that work becomes fun; that difference is made and joy is derived.

Yes, it is a Monday, the momentum day. What’s your plan to make the most of it?

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Posts | (How to) Have a Great Monday! |

Quotes to Energize Your Monday!

12 Lessons on Life and Leadership From Photography

When you take up a new passion, it is so amazing to see how things unfold. Since last few years, I have turned into a photography enthusiast, an avid learner of the art. No, I am not taking any formal photography classes but am learning it by doing in my spare time. You can view my photographic adventures at Flickr.

In Hindi, the word “Drishti” means vision. In Sanskrit, it means a focused and concentrated gaze. Photography requires both. Here are some life and leadership lessons that pursuit of photography has enriched me with:

1. Photography has shown me that life is more beautiful that we think it is; all you need is to see it through a right set of lens (attitude).

2. If you are intentional, you can notice extra-ordinary elements even in most ordinary things and people.

3. It has taught me the importance of seeing, noticing the details and appreciating the elements may not be visible but can still be felt.

4. Someone said, “To photograph a bird, you need to be a part of the silence.” Photography teaches me to remain silent and immerse myself in the current moment. Only then, the magnificent reveals itself.

5. To get your shots right, you need a lot of patience. If you don’t get the right shot, take another. The key is to keep clicking, trying and looking.

6. Sometimes, even most mundane things can extend some profound perspectives. That noticing and enjoying small things is important.

7. What is within invariably manifests itself through our work. We express ourselves with our work and this is true for photography, writing, leadership and everything else we do.

8. Preparation is the key. You have to keep your batteries charged.

9. Create memories even when moments right now may not seem very significant. But with passage of time, those moments get very precious. Life is in the moments.

10. Photography keeps me hooked to possibility thinking. Everything can be seen in multiple perspectives. There are angles and dimensions to everything, only if we are open enough to explore them and pick the right ones.

11. Getting good shots is as much serendipity as preparation. Plan for things, prepare well but never forget that most good shots have an element of serendipity into it. We need to remain open to unexpected encounters and happy accidents, for they shape a great deal of us.

12. Finally, tools and equipments only enhance the vision and are almost never a substitute of a powerful vision. That intrinsic is more powerful than extrinsic.

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Join in the Conversation: Do you engage in alternative pursuits beyond your core area of work? What do you learn from them?

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Also Recommended: Engaging in Alternative ‘Creative Pursuit’ to Be More Effective

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Social Media and Leadership Success: A Few Parallels

When I first learned playing Guitar, I focused too much on notes, specifics and techniques. The more I practiced, the more I realized that notes, specifics and techniques are important for producing good music, but not sufficient.

So what was missing? The starting point of becoming a good artist is to have an emotion, an intent. Once you can touch the emotion and are intentional about it, tools and techniques are generally not difficult to master. Music played with technique may entertain us at the best but music played with emotion can move us.

In casual conversations, a lot of friends express a desire to start a blog. This desire is mostly fueled by success of others. They seek help in starting a blog, in creating a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. Here’s what I tell them:

The intent of connecting with others meaningfully is at the heart of social media (and leadership) success. With intent comes emotion which leads to difference. It is about liking people, interacting with them, learning from them and contributing back.

It is not about being like someone else, not about ability to use tools but about being your authentic and credible self. Once you are intentional and have right emotion to feel the content (be it music, writing, social media, programming, whatever), tools and techniques are easy to learn.

Unfortunately, most people do the inverse. They first focus on tricks and techniques and then search for emotional connect. Even before they start doing something, they want to measure their success. They end up spreading themselves thin on various social channels and often create noise.

Finally, like any other successful journeys, social media is a process and not a destination. Here again, intent and emotion fuels us through the road. I have seen companies hiring a social media marketing lead and expecting immediate business leads. It seldom happens.

Once you understand the four aspects below, you will do better, not only in social media but in other areas of life as well:

  • Be intentional. Develop an internal need to do something before attempting it.
  • Fuel it with emotion. Understand the impact of what you say and do. Be passionate.
  • In the beginning, don’t measure. Focus on contribution, not on results. Later, measure right things.
  • Enjoy the journey. Seek out new avenues. Connect meaningfully with others. Make a difference.

Join in the conversation: How do you use social media? What parallels can you draw that can help us in other areas of life and work?

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Note: This ideas in this post emerged while talking to Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence – as the name of her blog suggests, she uses social media to connect authors with online audiences, weave an influence and make a difference. Thanks Becky!

Effective Meetings: A Round Up

I love SCRUM methodology because it focuses on making meetings effective. Focus is on decisions and actions. A quick stand-up meeting everyday to track progress.

One of the biggest wastes in any organization are ineffective meetings. I have always believed that meetings (specially with the team) are a great forum to inspire action, instill a sense of urgency and get things done. I have written earlier about effective meetings and there are other great authors who have written about it. Here’s a round-up:

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Mary Jo Asmus offers ideas on conducting compelling meetings and get rid of boring, one-way meetings. Here’s an excerpt:

The unsaid gets surfaced without consequences. Most people at the meeting know where the unsaid is hidden; none of them will hold back on coaxing it out in the conversation because that’s how the team pulls together and creates a safe platform for moving ahead.

Infact, Al Pittampalli wrote a book titled “The Modern Meeting Standard”. On the book page, he writes:

If an operating room were as sloppily run as our meetings patients would die. If a restaurant kitchen put as little planning into the meal as we put into our meetings, dinner would never be served.  Worst of all, our meeting culture is changing how we focus, what we focus on, and what decisions we make.

Tom Peters has put up a special presentation on meetings in which he says:

Every meeting that does not stir the imagination and curiosity of attendees and increase bonding and co-operation and engagement and sense of worth and motivate rapid action and enhance enthusiasm is a permanently lost opportunity.

Prepare for a meeting, every meeting as if your professional life and legacy depended on it. It does.

Jesse Lyn Stoner wants no more boring meetings and provides some tips on validating the need of a meeting.

Build your agenda after you identify the purpose and desired outcomes. Make sure that each agenda item supports the purpose and drives one of your desired outcomes. If it doesn’t, take it off the agenda.

Janine Popick at Inc.com provides 8 Pet Peeves on Business Meeting Etiquettes. Here’s one:

Don’t repeat what someone else in the meeting has already said and take credit for it: a) it’s a time-waster, and b) everyone in the room knows what you’re doing.

If you are interested in best practices for daily stand-up meetings (SCRUM style), don’t miss Jason Yip’s article. Some great tips, including this one:

The goals of the daily stand-up are GIFTS. Good Start, Improvement, Focus, Team, Status.

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Here’s what I suggest: Before you go to your next meeting, read this post (and posts included here). Take just one idea and make sure you implement it in the meeting. If you find a difference in your meeting effectiveness, leave a comment and share your experience.

Join in the conversation: What are your best tips for running effective meetings? Have you been conducting daily stand-up meetings? How does it help you?

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.

What We Need The Most in 2012?

Business ecosystem is rapidly changing – and as a student of personal and organizational change, I recently re-read Dr. John Kotter’s book (published in 2008) titled “A Sense of Urgency”. I have read it before and somehow felt the need to read it again. In the book, Dr. Kotter argues that single biggest reason most change efforts fail is because we fail to create high enough sense of urgency to set the stage for making challenging leap into a new direction.

Sense of urgency does not mean frantic activity, an endless list of exhausting activities or running anxiously from meeting to meeting. Activity without purpose or meaning is a waste, a false sense of urgency. As Dr. Kotter explains,

“When people have a true sense of urgency, they think that the action on critical issues is needed now, not eventually, not when when it fits easily into a schedule. Now means making real progress every single day. Critically important means challenges that are central to success or survival, winning or losing. A sense of urgency is not an attitude that I must have a project team meeting today, but that meeting must accomplish something important today.”

I would add that “critically important” in today’s world also means challenges that give us joy, happiness and make a difference to the world in whatever way.

Dr. Kotter also goes on to explain that our major issue is not complacency – but a lot of false sense of urgency. This is a point where we mistake activity with productivity. Sense of urgency, according to Dr. Kotter, is a positive and focused force because it naturally directs you to be truly alert to what’s really happening; it rarely leads to a race to deal with the trivial.

A new year is a time when most of us reflect on personal/organizational changes we seek in the coming year. My submission: when you think of a change, also think about making it happen. If you have ideas, give it a life. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Develop a discipline to execute your art regularly.That is the only way I know to achieve excellence.

Last year, I wrote about “excellence” as a worthy goal to chase. It still is. But to achieve that, we need a compelling vision of future for ourselves and our organizations accompanied with real sense of urgency – pro-activity and desire to make a difference. We need a commitment to execute.

On that note, wish you an “excellent” 2012.

Giving Up On Need To Be ‘Rational Always’

As we grow, our belief system firms up with notions of what is right and what is wrong. What works and what not. At work, our beliefs further solidify according to the context we work in. Understanding of data, facts and trends is important because it make us “rational”.

The problem starts however, when we try to be rational all the time. A leader who always takes a rational standpoint fails to inspire people, because people are not always rational. An individual who always goes with conventional wisdom, proven tracks and charted paths quickly becomes “one amongst many”. Parents who drive kids with their own pre-existing beliefs do more harm to kids than help. Purely rational, planned strategies will never allow organizations to have major breakthroughs. A sales professional cannot sell effectively based on data and facts, for people buy on emotion, and then need facts to justify that emotion.

Rationality makes us highly predictable. It does not leave any room for an original thought. If everyone does it, and if it is working reasonably well, we should do it too.

The key is to give up on our urge to be right all the time, and balance structure with chaos. Listening to the rational mind and the emotional one.

Things like passion, faith and belief are mostly irrational. When people take “leaps of faith”, they are seldom based on evidences and numbers. They do it because they are passionate about it and they believe in the outcome. They take a decision and then work hard to make those decisions right. If those decisions don’t go as planned -they learn. That is how we change ourselves, our teams and our organizations – one irrational and original thought at a time.

As Godin says,

Irrational passion is the key change agent of our economy. Faith and beauty and a desire to change things can’t be easily quantified, and we can’t live without them.

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Three Friends, Diverse Stories and One Lesson

Three friends meet over the cup of coffee and some nicely made sandwiches.

It is a typical “friends meeting” with no specific agenda. They start talking about their lives, how they navigated through their careers, struggled and found their way through.

They narrated their personal stories of triumphs, tribulations and a constant inner struggle that goes on during those formative years. They shared major change events, turning points in their lives/careers, complexities and uncertainties. These stories helped them understand each other at a deeper level, but it also extended a common realization.

What these stories narrated was our ability as human beings to deal with uncertainty. When we pass out of school and then graduate, we are surrounded by possibilities. These possibilities and related uncertainties forces us to bring out our best. We work through that maze to find something we love doing or something that we are successful at. Success breeds more success and we start growing in our personal lives and climb up the career ladder.

With this growth comes comfort and certainty. We love this comfort and get used to predictability in everything we do. We want things to be done in a certain way and the element of “exploration” is almost dead. Along the way, we may become too timid to take risks, explore the unknown and work our way out through a maze.

Three friends, diverse stories and one realization – let our growth NOT become a barrier to possibilities that lie within us. Let us remain agile, alert and awake to everything that provides deeper meaning, satisfaction and joy to us.

It turned out to be the time well spent.

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The Creative (Process) – A Few Thoughts

I picked up a conversation with a few friends yesterday on the creative process, and that got me thinking about how inspiration or muse strikes. I have been a “process” guy professionally who also understands/respects the importance of creativity, the sort of creativity that changes the world for better. 

Our schools teach us “formulas” and we become obsessed with them thereafter. We look for sure fire ways of doing things and somewhere in this quest for certainty, our creativity is lost.

When we discussed further, our conversation revealed that creativity starts with an attitude to see things that others are not able to see, to see the new, to feel the difference before it happens, to follow our intuition, to decide that something is important and then to ‘do’ something about it. Whatever happens after the intuition/inspiration/muse/new (or whatever you call it) strikes the brain (and our mind) can be a process. But there is no formula I know, to get these ideas, to see the gaps, to connect discrete things and generate a new meaning. Creativity is more innate/personal because we bring ourselves, our values, our intuition and our DNA into the play.

In the same context, I stumbled upon an old article on Adweek which nails it:

The most celebrated acts of creativity in the world are the result of individuals deciding that something just feels right. Picasso did not need a viability study to decide where to apply his brush. And yet his highly unscientific pursuits continue to touch people in ways most ad campaigns never will. Tolstoy did not pass his concepts by focus groups for input. And yet his books and ideas endure.

Process is extrinsic. It augments the creative process and helps in better execution. It allows us to elevate our performance, visualize gaps and improve constantly. The processes employed by creative people are difficult to decode, but they surely exist. We don’t see a process there because we are untrained in that context.

Increasing competition means that we have to be “operationally” better than others, where process comes in. But it also means that we have to be “creatively” better than others, take more risks, innovate and execute great ideas, which is where our intuition comes in.

It is only when creativity marries the process that organizations can achieve greatness and remarkability.

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Join in the conversation: What do you think? Is there a process to get more creative? Can we implement processes more creatively? How does inspiration strike you? Let us know.

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Related Post: Creativity, Effectiveness and Constraints