A Quick Guide To Managing Conflicts

In early years of my career, I avoided conflicts just like any other obedient contributor would, not knowing that they were inevitable in the process of doing meaningful work. Most of us learn how to deal with conflicts through our instinctive reactions when we are in middle of one.

Here’s my one big lesson about managing conflicts – whenever I tried to “react” in the face of conflict, the situation mostly worsened. But when I chose to “respond”, conflict became a constructive learning experience. Response is nothing but a time delayed, thoughtful and goal-oriented form of reaction.

In an idea cast at Harvard Business Review, Amy Gallo, author of HBR Guide to Managing Conflict at Work, outlines four types of conflicts and offers very useful guidance on how to handle them.

I outlined the key ideas from the idea cast in form of a sketch note while listening and sharing it here with an objective that others may find my notes useful. Please listen to the idea cast here for more nuanced insights on the topic.

BONUS: Seth Godin’s guidance on managing disagreements and on managing conflicts with our own selves.

Emilie Wapnick on Being a Multipotentialite

Some of us are fortunate to have found one true calling early in our lives and career but for most of the others, finding what really interests us is an ongoing exploration – a journey where we go along the direction of our energy. And then there people who are wired to have many different (and often evolving) interests.

In her TED Talk titled “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”, Emilie Wapnick refers to people with many interests as “Multipotentialites.”

In her talk, she explains:

“The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticized in our culture. It’s this idea of destiny or the one true calling, the idea that we each have one great thing we are meant to do during our time on this earth, and you need to figure out what that thing is and devote your life to it.

But what if you’re someone who isn’t wired this way? What if there are a lot of different subjects that you’re curious about, and many different things you want to do?”

She then defines a multipotentialite as:

“someone with many interests and creative pursuits. It’s a mouthful to say. It might help if you break it up into three parts: multi, potential, and ite. You can also use one of the other terms that connote the same idea, such as polymath, the Renaissance person.”

Being drawn to many different things can be easily seen as a limitation but what Emilie found out is that there are tremendous strengths in being this way.

Based on the talk, here is a sketch note depicting the multipotentialite superpowers.

And finally, in the words of Emilie Wapnick:

to you I say: embrace your many passions. Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life. And perhaps more importantly — multipotentialites, the world needs us.

Yes!

In 100 Words: Agility and Embracing Uncertainty

We are comfortable with what is predictable. This impacts our choices because we want to maximize the chances of success.

Then, once in a while, we are thrown into situations where we have no control. It compels us to carve a way out and create a map as we go. We learn the most here.

The key to success in VUCA world is to embrace the uncertain without waiting to be thrown into it. That which is predictable merely keeps us in the game but when we embrace (and succeed at) the new and the uncertain, we elevate our performance.

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Also Read: Parables in 100 Words

The Love of Learning

How do you respond constantly to the disruptive forces at work? How do you navigate in a world of work marked with constant and rather rapid changes? What is the key to success in an increasingly uncertain future?

Vivek Wadhwa wrote an interesting article at Washington Post titled “Love of learning is the key to success in the jobless future” which I read with great interest.

Here is a snippet from the post:

“A question that parents often ask me is, given that these predictions are even remotely accurate, what careers their children should pursue … I tell them not to do what our parents did, telling us what to study and causing us to treat education as a chore; that instead, they should encourage their children to pursue their passions and to love learning. It doesn’t matter whether they want to be artists, musicians, or plumbers; the key is for children to understand that education is a lifelong endeavor and to be ready to constantly reinvent themselves.”

Just today, I heard myself saying this in conversation with a colleague,

If someone ever asked me, “If there was ONE lesson you had to share with your own kids about how to succeed in their career?”, I wouldn’t wait for a moment before saying, “Learn constantly, for the joy of it, on your own and make it a lifelong habit.”

In early years, ability learn on our own increases confidence. The mindset of constant learning is a mindset of an explorer who is constantly looking for ways and creating maps on the go. It expands our cognition and as we engage more in learning, we start seeing connections between what seemed like discrete dots. It expands our  cognition and awareness. Most importantly, self-directed learning moves the focus of our attention inwards. When we cannot control what is happening outside us, we can always choose our response to those external events. Constant learning allows us to respond better. Research also indicates that later in life, constant pursuit of learning leads to regeneration of brain cells.

After reading this article, I am a bit relieved that my advice in this hypothetical situation wouldn’t be completely out of place.

Here is to the spirit of staying hungry and staying foolish. Happy Learning!

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P.S: I am currently learning how to deepen my learning experiences through the power of visual note taking. You can see my experiments here.

Specialization is a Journey, Not a Destination

I recently read this amazing quote from Robert A Heinlein which nicely captures the essence of my own belief about learning and specialization.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, fight efficiently, die gallantly.

Specialization is for insects.”

Let me share a story of my friend who was laid off in the 2002 dot com bust. He worked on a technology that was on its way to obscurity. After he was asked to leave, my friend walks up to his boss and talks about what organization needed then. Boss talked about a customer who wanted people who could work on a shiny new programming language. My friend took up the challenge to retool himself on this new technology in one month with a condition that if he failed at client interview, he will walk out voluntarily.

He worked very hard to learn the new language. Before he completed one month of his notice period, he not only cleared the interview with a customer but also landed on foreign shores for an onsite opportunity.

From a layoff situation to an exciting new possibility in a very tough economic environment is a truly inspiring story of our ability to reinvent ourselves.

We live in times when change is not only constant but unnervingly rapid and our ability to learn constantly is the single biggest differentiator. My friend demonstrated learning agility as a response to a tough situation. But we, in this hyper-connected world, don’t need to wait for any rude shocks. We have glorious opportunity because knowledge is democratized and ubiquitous. Connecting meaningfully with others has never been so easy, provided we are intentional about it.

Specialization is not a destination but a journey. Of constant learning. Of applying our lessons in unique business contexts. Of evolving our comprehension and connecting the dots. Of sharing our lessons generously. Of doing something about what we know. Of picking up new skills. Of adopting and adapting.  Of staying hungry and foolish forever.

I have seen so many specialists who cannot let go of what they know already. When fixed knowledge is the only hammer you have, every problem you encounter will start looking like a nail.

The key is to NOT let that happen!

#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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Change: The Power of Gradual

In a fast paced environment, we notice things that are urgent, immediate and abrupt in nature. We forget to notice the gradual.

One small serving of unhealthy food doesn’t seem to harm but many such servings over a long duration increase the odds of having a health problem manifold. One conversation that went wrong now doesn’t seem to have any direct impact on a relationship but with every such conversation, trust is eroded till it reaches a point where relationship ends.

In an organization, this becomes even more complex where larger system is a collection of many independent sub-systems. Decisions and conversations in each of these sub-system affects the whole. The impact of one strategic failure may not be visible in a short term but can prove fatal in a long run.

The good news is: the converse is also true. Any great success is, almost always, a result of many small things done right. Careers are built one opportunity at time. Trust is earned one deed at a time, lessons are learned one experience at a time and great teams are built one conversation at a time. It is gradual and very powerful.

Why do we fail to notice the gradual then? Because we are too obsessed in responding to the immediate. Because doing takes a precedence over thinking. Because we fail to see living systems as “systems”. We work on components without considering the impact on the system as a whole.

This reminds me of a metaphor of a boiling frog

A frog, when placed in boiling water will jump out immediately because of heat. However, if placed in cold water that is heated very slowly, the frog does not perceive the danger and enjoys the warmth. Incrementally, as warmth turns into heat, it becomes groggy unable to climb up. Eventually, it is boiled to death.

As leaders and professionals, our ability to notice the slow and subtle changes in the system is as important as our ability to respond to urgent and immediate changes. 

In the novel “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway, one of the lead characters Mike Campbell is asked, “How did you go bankrupt?”. Mike responded, “Gradually… and then suddenly.”

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Photograph Courtesy: Chaula Vora – Red Eyed Frog, Costa Rica

Learning in a Connected Age: Leveraging Social Media

Learning in a Connected Age

Before language evolved, we used symbols and expressions. They evolved to form words and hence sentences. Language allowed us to create stories and human beings learned through stories shared in a social context. Learning was social in nature.

Then, literature evolved and allowed many people to learn from the same sources. In this world, the more knowledge you possessed, the more powerful you were. Learning was imparted by one to many and progression of our knowledge was linear – one level after the other.

Then a revolution happened and all literature went online – Wikipedia democratized information and knowledge is now available in form of eBooks, Blogs, Online Communities, Social Media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, Online Video resources and now MOOCS (Massively Open Online Courses).

We moved from industrial age to knowledge economy and now into a creative one. In this economy, just having (and hoarding) knowledge is not powerful, what you do with that knowledge is!

Internet is a great equalizer – we all have access to a network that is open and connected. Open means we have access to all fundamental knowledge, resources, technology, online courses etc. Connected means we are able to form groups and communities, exchange knowledge, compile and synthesize ideas, source solutions of our problems through a community, provide solutions to a community, take the ideas forward and collaborate with global community.

In an open and connected world, learning is imparted by many to many. Progression of knowledge is non-linear, rapid and broad.

Social and informal learning can (and should) complement the classroom learning. That is because a classroom imparts knowledge that is explicit. Social and informal learning impacts knowledge that is implicit/tacit – something that no syllabus can cover or teach.

“When data is ubiquitously accessible, facts are increasingly less important than the ability to place these facts in a context and deliver them with an emotional impact” – Dan Pink, The Whole New Mind

Why do we take all the pain to learn on our own when we are paying so much to the university?

Because we live in a fast paced world which is constantly changing. Because we compete globally. Because learning is never static. Because in this world, continuous and self-directed learning is the only sustainable competitive advantage we all have.

You have an opportunity to accelerate your learning process, take more chances, connect meaningfully, take your career to the next level and make a greater difference. Learning starts with an intention and the focus is on YOU.

We have come a full cycle and learning is social again.

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Over to you! How has social media platforms contributed to your learning? What techniques or tools do you employ to leverage social media as a learning platform – for yourself or for your organization?

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Note: This post is based on a talk I recently delivered at Nirma University, Institute of Law on their annual event “Confluence 2013”. My talk was well received and students asked a lot of questions during the panel discussion on how they can leverage social media for learning.

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Sports, Life and Leadership: A Game and a Few Lessons

Table Tennis

When it comes to playing table tennis (ping pong), I like hitting hard smacks. But in this particular game, the opponents were playing defensively. The first few times I tried smacking the ball, I lost the points.

Just then, my doubles partner whispered something in my ears, “Reciprocate your game. Don’t just play your style, but adapt to how they are playing.”  When I did adapt, my game stabilized and that added some pressure on the opponents. I learned that adaptability and contextual alignment is so important – be it family, work or a game of ping pong!

I acted on my partners advice and focused on just one simple thing: pass the ball consistently to the other side of net. No heroic shots when simple shots can do. The opponents lost a few points just trying hard to disrupt my rhythm. I realized that doing simple things consistently over long haul and improvising every single time  can sometimes be more powerful than doing something drastic or heroic in a spurt.

“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” – John Wooden

 

In a yet another singles game, my opponent was anxious. A technically sound player, he took his game too seriously. He practiced through the day and would clinch his fists to curse himself every time he played a wrong shot. The driving force behind his hard practice was an imaginary fear of failure; that kept him from really enjoying his game. By the time game started, he was already exhausted! When your practice matures, it should help you gain more composure, not more anxiety!

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Don’t miss first part of this post (written in 2010) – A Few Parallels Between Sports, Life and Leadership

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Photo Courtesy: Theunis Viljoen’s Flickr Photostream

6 Lessons On Creating a Lasting Influence

Influence

Mahatma Gandhi, as we know, was a simple man who had no position, no wealth, no power and no authority. Yet, he altered the course of history by leading India to Independence through power of people. How could a man with no formal authority take on an empire and influence the hearts and minds of so many people across the country?

Gandhi’s impact is a testimony to the fact that you don’t need positional power to influence others. No matter who you are or where you are in the order, you can make a difference.

Every time I think of influence, I think of Gandhi. He worked with others and through others to achieve his objectives. In the process, he never compromised on his own principles.

In an organizational context, ability to influence is at the heart of a leader’s success in driving changes, building great teams, delivering results and implementing the strategic vision. At an individual level, your ability to influence others is at the core of building relationships, creating a network and achieving your goals.

How does one generate influence? What are the building blocks to be considered? Here is what I have learned about generating influence:

  1. Having substance is a pre-requisite for generating influence. An empty vessel only makes more noise. Having real accomplishments, experience, subject matter expertise, passion for the subject and credibility are the foundations on which influence can happen.
  2. Trust, as in leadership, is the currency of influence. People get influenced and change only when they trust you. People trust you when you deliver what you promise, speak from your heart and be integral and ethical.
  3. Thought leadership accelerates trust and hence influence. When you challenge conventional beliefs, advance the ideas and provide new points of view, people get engaged and start trusting. Gandhi’s idea of non-violence serves as a great example of thought leadership.
  4. Influence spreads on pollens of generous actions. The process of influencing others start with a genuine intention to share and contribute first. It is not about what you want to say, but what helps others.
  5. Only intention is not enough, commitment is the key. Influence is rarely generated overnight. It requires commitment, patience and being persistent over a long time.
  6. Real influence provokes change. Influence is only valuable when it provokes change in how people operate and think; when it inspires them to take required action. It is a myth that just having an audience and followers means influence.

Join in the conversation: Who are you influenced by? What are specific qualities that you are influenced by? Share your lessons!

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In case you have missed:

Great Quotes: Bill Watterson on Life and Success

Bill Watterson, creator of comic series Calvin and Hobbes, gave an inspiring commencement speech at Kenyon College in May 1990 and it made for a very interesting read. Here is an excerpt from this thought-provoking speech:

Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you’re really buying into someone else’s system of values, rules and rewards.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

Glorious words of wisdom that got me thinking.  People work long and hard, achieve the so-called success and still feel desperate and incomplete. Why? Probably because they keep doing something they don’t love, just because it pays.

There are plenty of jobs for people who prefer money over meaning. The key to professional success, fulfillment and happiness is to find work you love and a way to get paid for it. Making meaning (and difference), it turns out, is the most potent way to make money.

Watterson concluded his speech with this brilliant quote:

Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself.

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Bonus: Here is Seth Godin’s view on Doing what you love. He says,

Doing what you love is as important as ever, but if you’re going to make a living at it, it helps to find a niche where money flows as a regular consequence of the success of your idea. Loving what you do is almost as important as doing what you love, especially if you need to make a living at it. Go find a job you can commit to, a career or a business you can fall in love with.

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In 100 Words: At the Right Place?

 

A baby camel once asked the mother, “Why do we have a hump?” Mother camel replied, “We are desert animals and we need hump to store water.”

Curious, the baby asked further, “Why do we have long rounded legs and long eyelashes?” The mother proudly replied, “Long legs help us walk in desert and eyelashes protect us from desert sand and wind.”

The baby said, “Oh! We have everything we need to survive in a desert. Then what the hell are we doing in a zoo?”

Skills, knowledge and abilities are only useful if you are at the right place.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

Quality: Ownership and Getting Better

Helsinki Lutherian Cathedral, Finland Photo By: Tanmay Vora

Quality you deliver has everything to do with how much you own your work, your actions and its respective impact on the other parts of the system you operate in. When you produce work that is useful, qualitative and something that others find valuable, it feeds your self-esteem and makes you a better individual. By consistently delivering better than you did last time, you raise the bar and grow.

It is a cyclic process and the one that starts with an intention to do better, not with just having better or superior skills. It is the same intention that drives the thing we call “ownership”. This means, unless you own your work, you will never be able to deliver better than you did last time. And when you do that, work becomes a part of your identity and you value it higher. You do well in things that you value more. In a knowledge world, your work carries your fingerprints. It tells a story about you. This is even more so if you are a leader at any level.

Downed by things like organizational hierarchy, our fear of failure, lack of trust with superiors, micromanagement and poor management, we often treat our work as a transaction. I do this and I get this. You do only that which is required by the job. Work like this for a few months and you will be indifferent, uninspired and if you are ambitious, stressed. Quality of your work will plummet down and growth will be stalled. Not a great way to work and live, particularly when this is the only life you (and we all) have!

Better alternative is to take charge from where you are. Acknowledge the problems, evaluate possible solutions and work your way out. This may not be easy, but on a long run, compromising on quality of your work because of these external factors and not growing through your work can be both painful and costly!

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In 100 Words: Catch That Ostrich

Photo Courtesy: National Geographic

It is easy for us to get into denial mode when faced with a change, challenge or impending danger. People call this “ostrich effect” because there is a common (and false) legend about ostriches burying their heads in the sand to avoid danger.

We often see humans behaving like ostriches in families, teams and in leadership positions. They lack courage to address apparent problems or do important work. When they are driven by fear, they expose their weaker side even more.

Here’s the catch: You blind yourself as much to the opportunity as to the fear of confronting the problem.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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Interesting Stuff: There is a new magazine on personal branding titled “Me Inc.” and I am glad to have contributed to the first edition in form of my article “The Passion Equation” (read web version or read full article in magazine, page 24).

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Photo Courtesy: National Geographic

In 100 Words: Don’t Let the Horse Decide

There is an old Zen story about a man riding a horse, galloping frantically down a path. His friend, who is sitting by the side of the road, calls out "Where are you going?" The man replies: "I don’t know. Ask the horse!"

We either lead our lives through the center of our existence or by simply responding to all external expectations; proactively or reactively; as a flame with its own light or as a mirror that only reflects.

Our goals when derived purely based on external expectations can become our horses. Don’t let them decide where you will go!

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

Bite Sized Insights on Personal Branding #IndiaHRChat

For the first time, I participated in a Twitter Chat (#IndiaHRChat) on the topic “Personal Branding for HR Professionals“. People from diverse backgrounds shared their views on personal branding in presence of special guest Mr. Anand Pillai, Chief Learning Officer of Reliance Industries.

It was fun to share my insights on personal branding and they were well received. Gautam Ghosh, an eminent blogger and HR Professional, storified the entire chat where you can read all the ideas shared by others. Here are the bite sized ideas on personal branding that I shared.

On definition of personal branding

Personal Branding: a unique perception that marketplace associates with you based on your work/results you deliver.#indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Real accomplishments are a starting point of creating a personal brand. Establishing thought leadership is a way to grow it. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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When you begin the journey of creating a personal brand, it has to be a pro-active effort to differentiate yourself. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Proactive means thinking about what sets you apart, identify critical intersections with gaps and then execute. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Personal Brand happens when what you think, say and do are aligned with consistent set of values as reflected in the outcomes. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

On pre-requisites for creating a personal brand

Pre-requisite for creating a personal brand: A history of ‘real’ accomplishments’ and thought leadership. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Blogs, social tools are just ways to create personal brand. It is important to be intentional and have a unique voice. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Thought leaders are the ones who disrupt established thinking/habits about issues that concern organizations. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Personal branding, in my experience, happens at the intersections. Small areas where two important things intersect. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Mainstreams are crowded and noisy. Intersections are opportunities to dig deeper and differentiate. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Strong brand happens when you are deeply interested/curious abt your work and explore possibilities that others cannot see. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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To create a personal brand, you need to see nuances of your work, the subtle part of it. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Most professionals grow by staying on top of the explicit knowledge. Personal brands, almost always, focus on the implicit. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Personal brand is created when you focus on your contribution more than getting something out of it. It’s a selfless pursuit. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Also, if you have to declare that you are a brand, you are not. It is something others bestow on you! #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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The question is whether you have built it by default or by design. RT @_Kavi: EVERYBODY has a personal brand. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Personal branding, just for sake of branding may not help in long run, if it does not provoke a meaningful change. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

On How to Create Personal Brand

For #HR, every single interaction with other people is an opportunity to build a personal brand. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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To create a reliable and strong personal brand, be focused on real accomplishments. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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@_Kavi: Our quest to be should stem from our understanding of who we are. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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The world needs your ideas, understanding of nuances & insights. Be authentic in sharing them & you start building a brand. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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No shortcuts in life & no shortcuts in building a brand. It takes time & discipline. It is a journey, not a destination. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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Use social media wisely to provide maximum value.Focus on what you can “contribute” not what you can “extract”. #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

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If personal branding is a journey, passion for work and learning are the fuel! #indiahrchat (Link to Tweet)

Ability to differentiate yourself and build a strong personal brand is important to grow and flourish in a competitive environment. More than that, the journey of differentiating yourself is deeply fulfilling and enriching.

BONUS: If you are someone who is interested in differentiating yourself, you might like the free PDF ebook titled “Personal Branding for Technology Professionals” by Rajesh Setty and his super-useful series on Differentiating Yourself.

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Leadership, Self-Awareness and A Story

Last week, I delivered a talk at a leading b-school and interacted with final year MBA students who are now ready for their first jobs. Their faces radiated hope and aspiration. To me, they seemed like caterpillars who are changing into butterflies, ready to break the cocoon of academics and enter into the world of work.

My talk started with the topic of self-awareness (also called ‘intra-personal intelligence’) and I emphasized that businesses today need more people who are aware about their strengths (inherent and acquired) and are passionate about what they are doing. In the process, I told them a story of my friend named Nish.

After schooling, when Nish was at the cross road of career selection, he told his father, “Give me an inch of space in electronics and I will make a whole world out of it”. These words came from someone who seemed to be an average student then, but extremely passionate about electronics.

I remember his room with a lot of books, used printed circuit boards and some soldering guns hanging out of the wall. In school days,  when most students remain too busy (and often anxious) doing their assignments and tests, he assembled transistors and explored electronics. His father allowed him and he first took a diploma course in electronics. His grades in diploma allowed him to get a lateral entry into Bachelor of Engineering course. He went on to do his M.S in Satellite Electronics and then a Ph.D. in communication technologies from UK. This long academic journey was fuelled by only one thing: his passion for electronics.

Nish is a successful entrepreneur, a hands-on technologist and a creative human being who also teaches. He identified his strengths early on and built on it.

The journey of building a career is nothing but a quest to seek our strengths and then utilize those strengths fully to make a positive difference. If our goal as students, professionals and seekers is to express ourselves fully in our chosen area of pursuit, all recognitions and extrinsic rewards become a by-product.

The story resonated well with the students and I wish they take clues from it as they embark on the road to professional excellence.

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Similar stories at QAspire:

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

Actualizing with the self

Great Quote: Vincent Van Gogh on Profession and Passion

Getting Ahead: Interview with Joel Garfinkle

I had a pleasure of reading a new book titled Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level by Joel Garfinkle (@workcoach4you). Joel is the founder of Garfinkle Executive Coaching, author and one of the top 50 coaches in America. Joel was kind enough to share his book with me, which focuses on perception, visibility and influence as key tools for advancing our career.

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[Tanmay Vora] Joel, it is a pleasure interviewing you. "Getting Ahead’ is essentially a career oriented book. Why did you write this book now and how is it different from a lot of other career books out there?

[Joel Garfinkle] I spent the last 16 years working with thousands of executives, senior managers, directors and employees at the world’s leading companies. I realized that when a business professional works on only these 3 areas (Perception, Visibility and Influence) they will be successful. It is guaranteed. My research showed that it didn’t matter what a person’s title, background, location or responsibility. The most successful utilized the PVI model better than anyone else.

Getting Ahead is different than a lot of other career books because it provides immediate benefit, reward and easy implementation. You have only 3 concepts (PVI model) to work on and implement. With less content and concepts to be focused upon, what the reader needs to learn from this book becomes easily known, applied and implemented.

[Tanmay Vora] What does the book broadly cover?

[Joel Garfinkle] While some people leave the fate of their careers in someone else’s hands, others determine their future using these three critical skills (1) improve your perception, (2) increase your visibility, and (3) exert your influence. This book will teach you the PVI-model of professional advancement. Through practical advice, true-to-life examples, and action-oriented tips, you will learn how to:

– Create the right image
– Increase your profile across the organization
– Exert influence by driving change and inspiring people
– Identify and recruit advocates who will speak up on their behalf
– Become a known, valued and desired at your company
– Get effective tools to implement immediately so you can become an invaluable–and noticeable–resource for their company.

[Tanmay Vora] In the book, you talk about improving perception to grow in your career. Perception is a very subjective thing and while we can always be conscious about how we are being perceived, it is very challenging to always manage the perceptions of others. What advice would you share with readers of this blog about managing perception?

[Joel Garfinkle] If you don’t take control of how others see you, you will undermine both your career and your future success. People form opinions about you without any input from you. You can’t leave the fate of your career in someone else’s hands. Here’s how to manage your perception:

1. Notice how your behavior affects others. When interacting with people at work, how do they respond to you? What do they say and do? Document the patterns you notice based on your daily interactions. Learn to take the negative reactions and find specific ways to improve upon them. At the same time, it’s important to identify behaviors that cause positive perceptions and engage in them more frequently.

2. Gain advocates who speak positively about you. You can directly change others’ perceptions of you by having people express their enthusiasm for the impressive work you are doing. Whether it’s your success on the projects you are leading, the accomplishments you achieve, or the recognition you receive from others, it’s vital that you have people in your company singing your praise and promoting your value.

[Tanmay Vora] If you had to summarize three key messages from the book to readers of this blog, what would those be?

[Joel Garfinkle] Here they go:

1. The most successful leaders have gotten to where they are by leveraging and applying perception, visibility, and influence better than anyone else.

2. The reality you face at work is that talent, results, and competence alone simply will not allow you to attain the success you deserve.

3. The PVI model is your guiding light throughout your entire career, so you can maximize your potential and realize your professional greatness.

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You can also find out more and download a free chapter of getting ahead. http://www.garfinkleexecutivecoaching.com/getting-ahead-book.html. View his books and FREE articles at Garfinkle Executive Coaching.

Enjoy the Process – 2

In 2010, I wrote a post titled “Enjoy the Process”. The central idea of the post was:

“My point is – if we constantly keep our goal in perspective (and get overwhelmed by it), we become less efficient. Anxiousness (and sometimes fear) kills creativity. We rush through the process to see if our efforts are delivering results. Quest for instant gratification can result in sub-optimal outcomes. 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.”

In his recent post “The Fruits of our Labors”, the awesome Steve Pressfield nailed it with a story of Cole Porter:

“I read a story about Cole Porter when he was writing songs for the movies. Sometimes the producers would shoot him down. He’d play them his newest tune and they’d reject it. They’d kick him out of the office. I loved his reaction:

“I got a million of ‘em.”

Cole Porter was a pro. He knew he didn’t have just one song, or ten songs, or a hundred and ten songs. He had a lifetime supply.

In other words, music wasn’t Cole Porter’s job, it was his career. It was his calling. It was his love. He was in it for the long haul, come rain or come shine (wait, that was Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer). He was in it for the process, not the product.”

Steve further concludes:

“Where is the joy in writing, dancing, film-making, or any art or entrepreneurial venture? It’s not in the praise; it’s not in a paycheck. (Though there’s nothing wrong with praise or paychecks.) It’s in the work itself. The sweat of it and the grind of it and the happy moments when it gets rolling all by itself. Krishna said that’s all we have a right to, and he hit the nail on the head. The joy is private and silent.”

Read Steve’s full post here.

The Attitude of Quality

A retail outlet of a leading shoe brand recently opened up in near vicinity. The design of the store is flashy with impressive interiors and product arrangement. The brand carries a lot of consumer trust since many years. Good store, great brand and competitive prices all at one stop. The only (and probably the biggest) irritant there was attitude of their staff. They seemed too busy and non-responsive leaving many customers (including myself) waiting for long. Frustration amongst customers was visible. The business owners invested a great deal in expensive interiors, they did not think enough about investing in getting the right people, training them and managing their attitudes.

From selling shoes to writing software, every product has to have a strong “service” layer. People enable this layer. At the local shoe store, things were not meant to be that way, but people made them so. In a knowledge/service oriented world, quality of product, environment and infrastructure is just the beginning. Quality of interaction, quality of care, quality of being human, quality of walking that extra mile to delight the customer matters more. They need to complement each other.

The “attitude of quality” is about wanting to do the right things. Even if they are not prescribed that way. When no one is watching. When it takes a bit of extra effort. When you are not paid ‘extra’ to do it. In the current scenario (and the time to come), a professional’s ‘attitude of quality’ will be a key differentiator for his/her success.

I remember a project manager who would test everything before sending it to customer, even after the inspection team had signed off the deliverable. He toiled at the last moment, late in the night to ensure things because he cared. Because he carried an ‘attitude of quality’. He wanted to delight the customer.

Bottom line:

Quality is an attitude. The work we deliver, the products we ship and experiences we extend to customers reveals this attitude. Invest in quality of your product/service, but do not forget to invest in people who carry the right attitude. Because only excited, engaged and enthusiastic people can excite the customers and pass on the enthusiasm. People (and their attitude) is at the core of excellence. We need more ‘attitude of quality’ in our businesses and service organizations.