The 9 Rules of Innovation by Greg Satell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also Read at QAspire.com

Future of Work: Ways to Prepare

At #SocialNow conference recently, Luis Suarez shared a slide by Thierry de Baillon on ways to prepare for the dark side of technology. I loved the ideas and decided to sketch the approach.

Once again these ideas reinforced my belief that leading organizations and self in the future is all about the stuff like connections, empathy, flow, learning and thinking differently. It is clear that these implicit and human/social elements of work are the real antidote to onslaught of technology.

The sooner organizations embrace these elements into their culture, the sooner they will start adapting. That is the way to ride the wave of technology changes rather than getting crushed under it. 

Related Visual Posts at QAspire.com

10 Characteristics of Companies that Succeed

What differentiates companies that succeed over a long run from those that don’t? As the rate of change and disruption continues to accelerate, companies need a strong foundation of fundamentals that enable long term success and growth.

In this respect, I recently read Leandro Herrero’s post on characteristics of companies that succeed in long run. 10 characteristics are outlined in the sketch note below.

Also Read:

Organizational Leader as a Social Architect

Leadership success is largely governed by, amongst other things, one’s ability to create an ecosystem of engagement, meaning, performance and growth. A leader creates this ecosystem through conversations, communication (leading to clarity), connection, systems, rituals, processes and decisions.

Leandro Herrero, in his post, “Five spaces that the organizational leader needs to design and nurture”, calls leader a social architect. The idea resonated very strongly with me since social architecture (physical and psychological spaces) is a way to create the ecosystem of high performance. 

“Yes, leaders need to see themselves as architects, as space designers, creators, and implementors. This is an area where what the leader says counts less than what the leader does in this social engineering. It is therefore very silent, but the spaces will be very visible and the legacy will be enormous.” – Leandro Herrero

Here is a quick sketch note I created based on the ideas presented in the post.

Related Posts/Sketchnotes at QAspire:

Organization Culture is a Reflection

You cannot change your reflection in the mirror if you want to change how you look and feel about yourself. YOU have to change and the reflection changes accordingly.

And to enable that change, you have to do all the right things based on what you wish to achieve.

Trying to change an organization’s culture is much like that too. Culture of an organization is a reflection – a by-product – of what people within the organization do.

If you want culture to change, you have to first change your intent, behavior, systems, processes, mindset and then narrative. Trying to change an organization’s culture only through narratives (tall mission statements, values on the wall and lip service) is like trying to change the reflection in the mirror. It doesn’t happen.

As Euan Semple so succintly puts it –

You can change things that affect people in the hope that doing so gives them a good reason to adapt their behaviour, but culture emerges from the collective behaviours of the people in your organisation over time.

Culture itself cannot be created – it just happens as a result of doing the right things.

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In the Photo: Mountains at the Dawn, Jhadol, Rajasthan, India (2013)

Why Organizations Don’t Learn? #Sketchnote

Organizations that don’t learn constantly, adapt continuously and execute relentlessly are more likely to be disrupted by constant change and competition.

Peter Senge, in his book defined a learning organization as:

“where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”

We have to go beyond formal learning methods if we have to truly build learning organizations in a rapidly changing world. A learning organization is not possible without learning individuals and individuals learn the most with each other in a network and  and through their work in an culture that promotes informal learning.

I emphasized culture because it can be one of the biggest bottlenecks in how organizations learn and apply what they learn to create meaningful results. It doesn’t matter how much you invest in formal learning, tools and methods, if you do not have a culture where people are encouraged to share without any fear, learning may not come to the fore.

Why do companies struggle to become and remain learning organizations? In November 2015 issue of HBR, I came across an article by Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats titled “Why Organizations Don’t Learn” where they outline the cultural and individual biases that don’t allow organizations to learn. They also provide useful tips to overcome those biases.

Here is a sketch note I created to distill key biases that prevent organizations from learning. To know what you can do to overcome these biases, I recommend you read the full article at HBR. 

Related Posts at QAspire Blog:

Building Critical Thinking Muscle: An L&D Mandate

Last week, I was invited as a guest on PeopleMatters #TChat (Twitter chat) on the topic of developing critical thinking muscle within the organization and the role of learning and development. I was joined by Mahalaxmi R who is the CLO & Global Head Talent at Airtel and Rajesh Lele. It was fun contributing and learning a great deal in return from the Twitter HR community. Here are the highlights from the chat. (You can see more tweets at the storified version of the chat)

Q1: Why do you think Critical Thinking is an essential skill to be built across the organization in today’s context?

A1 Organization grows (or doesn’t) one decision at a time. Critical thinking is an enabler of effective decision making. – Tanmay Vora

A1. Helps in reducing risk in & raises quality of decision-making. Helps problem-definition & solving by testing assumptions. – Rajesh Lele

A1 It’s a VUCA world! Crucial decisions are needed to be taken at every level in the organization, everyday without much guidance – PearsonTalentLensInd

A1. The application of #CriticalThinking results in better decisions, fewer mistakes & improves d level of collaboration – Ester Martinez

A1. Today’s interconnected #VUCA world demands CT as a necessary competency. – Tanaz H Mulla

A1 Critical thinking skills are basic building blocks for higher level competencies like strategic thinking. – Tanmay Vora

Critical Thinking is identified as one of the core skills of 21st century workforce to deal with an evolving landscape. – Sahana Chattopadhyay

A1 Several important workplace competencies hinge on critical thinking – PearsonTalentLensInd

Q2:How can Critical Thinking be developed? Share interventions that work best to build Critical Thinking?

A2 Assessments are a good starting point – both for evaluating current competencies as well as when hiring talent. – Tanmay Vora

A2.“Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.” ~ Thomas Szasz –Develop courageous conversations – Rajesh Lele

A2 When you need quick strengthening of CT skills, selecting critical thinkers during hiring yields faster results  – Tanmay Vora

A2 Self Assessment and Development of Data driven approach are some of the tool to develop #CrticalThinkingAkanksha Mishra

A2 Having leaders in organization who are critical thinkers sets the right precedence for everyone to think critically – Tanmay Vora

A2. Developing Critical Thinking requires skills like reflection, assessing assumptions and biases, evaluating options. – Sahana Chattopadhyay

A2. Projects that bring divergent thoughts and multi stakeholders together =best way to learn. – MAHALAKSHMI R

A2 Case studies, Simulations, Summary of past business decisions Experience, if not forgotten, can be a guide to the future. – Gurpreet Bajaj

A2/2 Leaders to encourage others to voice their thinking. Ensure employees have the ability to get to an answer by solid reasoning – Gurpreet Bajaj

A2 Beyond training, experiential learning sessions & workshops involving problem solving, thinking and writing helps. – Tanmay Vora

Don’t forget traditional problem solving tools –5Why, TRIZ, etc & go beyond. Build a “love for solving problems” – Rajesh Lele

A2 Developing CriticalThinking needs practice to train the mind to think in a certain way. RED model helps – PearsonTalentLensInd

Q3. Who is the owner and stakeholders involved in this process of infusing Critical Thinking across the organization?

Critical Thinking is every corporate citizen’s responsibility. Begins at the individual’s desk. Institutional approach secondary. – Rajesh Lele

A3 Senior leaders of the organizations are the first stakeholders in creating the culture of critical thinking. – Tanmay Vora

Most orgs now anyways look for leaders who can connect the dots +build strategy that’s inclusive which is a clear case for CT – MAHALAKSHMI R

Everyone, it is part of organizational culture – Subir Chatterjee

a) Leadership to Demonstrate open culture to challenge status quo b) L&D to Drive c) People to be naturally inquisitive! – Gurpreet Bajaj

Managers, leaders & each individual. Managers as coaches. Individuals as self-driven learners. It’s a life skill everyone needs – Sahana Chattopadhyay

It is the leadership teams role. If all decisions are data driven and not people dependant then it will percolate – Gautam Ghosh

Anyone who decides in an org context is a stakeholder – esp. senior leadership and middle management – Tanmay Vora

Q4: What are the road blocks that L&D practitioners & Managers are likely to face in implementing these change intervention?

Danger in focus only on tool/ methodology without behavioral anchors in implementing critical thinking skills – Rajesh Lele

Biggest challenge: aligning every single decision making individual to the critical thinking agenda. – Tanmay Vora

Roadblocks in the form of established processes, drive for productivity/speed over quality, mindset of what worked in the past – Sahana Chattopadhyay

Biggest roadblock would be if CT becomes a HR agenda instead of biz demand – MAHALAKSHMI R

When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there, Zig Ziglar – Ester Martinez

Failure to take real problems of the business in the intervention. #ActionLearning & real projects best teacher – Rajesh Lele

A4. Fixed Mindset is the biggest challenge. Leaders, by majority, have a bias towards action. CT hence lags behind – Tanaz H Mulla

A4 Over reliance on best practices and past experiences without aligning them to current context can be a major roadblock.Tanmay Vora

Managing resistance – Critical thinking isn’t easy and doesn’t come to everyone naturally. – Tanmay Vora

A4 a) Conflicting Cultural Hypocrisy- Open vs Closed; b)Training Program vs Change? c) Limited business grounding for mentoring CT – Gurpreet Bajaj

Q5. What are the benefits that organizations can derive from these training interventions?

A5 Better decisions and planning. Better problem solving. Improved analytical skills. – Tanmay Vora

Resilience and ability to deal with change, agility over rigidity, growth over fixed mindset when #criticalthinking is adopted. – Sahana Chattopadhyay

Thinkers at all levels; Empowered and engaged employees who can see their impact on bottom line,Transparency,Respect,Innovation – Gurpreet Bajaj

Sustained biz success due to a.Well thought through strategy. b. Higher thought diversity & inclusion c. Long term view – MAHALAKSHMI R

A5 An organization with critical thinkers is likely to be more collaborative, strategic, innovative, make better decisions & grow well. – PearsonTalentLensInd

Critical thinking and creative problem solving are intricately linked – drivers of innovation. – Tanmay Vora

This is the reason why I love tweet chats – in just about 30 minutes of time, so many diverse perspectives came to the fore from equally diverse participants – talk about the power of community in learning!


Also read: My article series on critical thinking at Pearson TalentLens Blog.  

#Leadership: Humanizing Our Approaches

I remember being inspired by a Maths teacher who once told me, “If you start loving the mental stimulation and excitement you get when solving a problem, mathematics is easy.” He did not try to inspire me by the grades I must achieve, but by something more deeper. That did not change the fact that I still needed to score well but now, scoring well was a by-product of chasing the stimulation and excitement.

The practice of business is driven by hard stuff. We need more revenues, better margins, higher utilization, more leads, strategic diversification, differentiation, operational efficiency, lower attrition, strategic focus, branding et al. For a business, these are crucial but..

…but on their own, they often fail to really inspire people.

That is because people’s needs are different than a businesses’ need. People often look for being a part of a larger vision. They want to be valued when they deliver value. They want to be respected for who they are. They need to constantly see the meaning of their work. They want to be understood. They look for learning and growth. They need a conducive space to perform. They need independence.  They want to be cared for before they care for the work. They need love, belongingness, trust, honor, honesty and purpose. All extra-ordinary human accomplishments have their roots in some of these virtues.

In business as well, we need more intrinsic motivation. We need to address precisely those things that inspire human beings. We need to create an environment where people can thrive.

We need to humanize our leadership approaches and communication to build a system where intrinsic motivation is more likely to happen.

Hard stuff then, is the by-product of doing the right things for right reasons.


Related Reading:

The Culture of Innovation and People Dimension: #IHRChat

Yesterday, I managed to get back to favorite social learning platform – #IHRChat to learn and contribute my insights on the all important topic of building a culture of innovation and the people dimension.

The guest on the chat was Steve Shapiro who is a leading keynote speaker, author and innovation advisor. Here are some of the key lessons from the tweet chat. (Read the storified version of the chat here).

Q1: How do you define innovation ?

Innovation is not always about new, but about value addition in meaningful manner – Dr. Tanvi Gautam

Two definitions. 1) adaptability. 2) value – Stephen Shapiro

To truly innovate, you must look at problems with a different lens. BREAK the #StatusQuo – Steven Z. Ehrlich

To innovate is to ensure survival in an uncertain world – Dr. Tanvi Gautam

Innovation is about acknowledging new frontiers. Kodak knew that digital will disrupt, but never acknowledged. – Tanmay Vora

Change that unsettles us and helps us look at the world and its problems differently – Nidhi Sand

And it is an end-to-end process that starts with an opportunity/problem and ends with the creation of value – Stephen Shapiro

Q2: What is the difference between innovation and creativity?

Creativity is about ideas. Innovation is about the creation of value. – Stephen Shapiro

Asking for ideas…is a bad idea. Focus on solutions to well-framed challenges. Stephen Shapiro

Creativity is the seed. Innovation is the fruit. – Gurprriet Siingh

Innovation is NOT about thinking outside the box!!! You want to find a better box. – Stephen Shapiro

Creativity is the fuel that fires the rocket of innovation into orbit! No fuel, no innovation. – Rajesh Kamath

Innovation leads to value creation for customers, partners, corporations and people. Creativity may create value. – Vivek Paranjpe

You can be creative without being innovative but not vice versa. – Dr. Tanvi Gautam

Q3: What drives innovation in a company?

Create a culture of experimentation. You don’t want to fail…you want to learn through small scalable experiments. – Stephen Shapiro

More often than not, it is the human desire to make a difference that drives innovation anywhere. – Gurprriet Siingh

Largescale innovations need Leadership of cross functional teams based on competence need of the time not based on hierarchy. – Vivek Paranjpe

Vision is one the principle drivers of innovation. Culture and Leadership are the others – Vipul Agarwal

Org has to be very clear about what is the difference between incremental change and innovation. – Jaya Narayan

Know where to innovate. Innovate where you differentiate. This is CRITICAL! Don’t innovate everywhere. – Stephen Shapiro

Leadership and strong cultural to ‘be the change’ fosters innovation – Mayanka Batra

“If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.” William McKnight #Culture – Tanmay Vora

Q4: What are the competencies and mental models of an innovator ?

3M is masterful at taking a solution from adhesives and applying to reflective or abrasives. Cross-pollination is helpful. – Stephen Shapiro

Another competency: don’t get attached to your own ideas. Confirmation bias will kill innovation. – Stephen Shapiro

When the latest innovation is being lapped up by the  market, the innovator asks ‘what’s next’? – Rajesh Kamath

Very high on perseverance, influencing ability, keen observation, experiential quick learning & ownership – Sneha Khasgiwale

Tolerance for ambiguity. Patience with Failure. Impatience with good enough. – Dr. Tanvi Gautam

Take risk, Learn from failure, Do better than before and Explore new frontiers – Shishir Misra

When most people tend to ask why, innovators tend to ask why not! – Dr. Tanvi Gautam

The ability to connect the dots. Bring solutions form one domain to another. – Stephen Shapiro

Innovators are Problem finders. Risk Takers. Persistent. Adaptable. – Tanmay Vora

Q5: Where do organizations go wrong when it comes to innovation ?

Mistake: attempting to innovate everywhere. Only innovate where you differentiate! Work with partners for the rest. – Stephen Shapiro

Incremental ideas tend to get flushed as innovation. – Kaushik Srinivasan

Innovation requires time, space, flexibility, freedom. Not allowing these could be disastrous. – Keerthi Kariappa

Overly focusing on ‘old school’ ways like bell curves, KRA’s, narrow metrics, command&control while still expecting innovation. – Tanmay Vora

Thinking that this Innovation will last a decade. – Rajesh Kamath

Expecting everyone to innovate. In all areas. Carpet-bombing versus targeted innovation. – Gurprriet Siingh

Delegating innovation to someone else basis hierarchy and process. – Tanvi Mishra

Organizations put the ‘ideas’ guys on pedestal but don’t celebrate the ‘execution’ folks enough! – Eklavya Sinha

Q6: How do you deal with people out to kill innovation ?

You need to create “pain” for others if they are to change. So if someone is killing innovation, you need to create a pain. – Stephen Shapiro

Stop trying to win over them; start trying to win them over! – Rajesh Kamath

If all else fails, walk away and find a more supportive environment. Be pragmatic and realistic about what won’t work. – Gurprriet Siingh

Often its easier to “flip” the opinion of opponents by problem solving their concerns. Ambivalent people are toughest. – Greg Githens

They are not detractors, they just haven’t been converted yet. Leveraging innovative ways of evangelising is key. – Michael Carty

Communicate relentlessly. Elevate your game. Raise the bar. Focus on “Why” before “How” – Tanmay Vora

Show them their benefit, create strong networks so they believe in you and show them ‘what’s in it for them’ – Mayanka Batra

Best way is to start with small experiments that prove your ideas. – Stephen Shapiro

Q7: How can we measure innovation?

How much it changed the lives of people along with not impacting the environment adversely; while creating material value! – Rajesh Kamath

Value creation is the ultimate measurement – Shishir Misra

Measure innovation not just by ROI but the investment in the future – Dr. Tanvi Gautam

the end game is of course value creation. But that is a lagging indicator. – Stephen Shapiro

Setting up metrics before innovating will kill innovation. After innovating, the only metric is value generated. – Tanmay Vora

With over 1.5K tweets in less than one hour, it was almost like boarding the super-fast learning train on innovation. While the chat was progressing, the hashtag #IHRChat was trending at #1 in India on Twitter – simply amazing!

Thanks to the #IHRChat community for their generosity and to Dr. Tanvi Gautam for building up this wonderful community of learners and teachers.


P.S: Thanks to Georgia Tech for mention of my article “Indispensible Traits of A Collaborative Leader” in their Leadership Education and Development section.

A Compelling Vision is an Anchor

Seagull Half Shot QAspire Blog Tanmay Vora

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Insights and Lessons on Critical Thinking, HR and Leadership Development

 

In American Management Association’s critical skills survey 2012, respondents emphasized on 4 C’s (Critical thinking and problem solving, Effective Communication, Collaboration and team building and Creativity and innovation) as their key priorities for employee development, talent development and succession planning.

I have been exploring the topic of critical thinking with respect to HR, Talent Acquisition, Leadership Development, Communication and Training via series of posts at Pearson’s TalentLens Blog (@ThinKritical on Twitter). The premise is simple – if we improve how we think, we will improve how we develop people, innovate, solve problems and grow as individuals and organizations.

Here is a round up of all posts (with excerpts) written on this important topic so far.

Why Hiring Critical Thinkers is Absolutely Critical for HR

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

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Problem Solving in Organizations: A Diamond or a Coin?

Leaders are expected to take right decisions after considering various facets of a given problem – just like an expert jeweler looks at a diamond. Logic looks at problems as a coin with just two sides where as critical thinking is all about looking at the same problem as a diamond with multiple facets.

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10 Most Important Traits of a Leader Who Thinks Critically

Ability to think rationally and critically is one of the most important leadership skills and for the leader, thinking objectively is not just a skill, but also an obligation to the people they lead.

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Training and Development: 4 Ideas to Build a Culture of Critical Thinking

The reality is that training middle managers on critical thinking skills is much like teaching an adult to ride a bicycle. It takes patience, training and practice to be able to master the art of critical thinking which, in turn, leads to good decision making.

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3 Ways Critical Thinking Improves Emotional Quotient of Your Leaders

The fact is that a leader needs a fine balance of emotion and rationality to succeed. They need to connect with their people using emotion and decide what is best for them using rational thought. Critical Thinking is the connecting link between emotions and intelligence.

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Critical Thinking – Leaders, Know Thy Biases

Critical thinking is an antidote to cognitive biases. When we think critically, we recognize our own assumptions, evaluate arguments and draw conclusions.

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How Critical Thinking Helps in Effective Conflict Resolution

The truth is that conflicts, if managed well, are an opportunity to understand better, get to the root causes, introspect, improve and learn. A well-managed conflict often leads to improved clarity, better relationships and win-win situations.

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Creativity and Critical Thinking: Friends, Not Foes!

There is a difference between creative thinking and creativity. Creative thinking is the process of ideation (thinking). Creativity is about bringing that idea to life (execution).

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Critical Thinking: The Soul of Effective Communication

If communication is defined as a meaningful exchange of information, thoughts and feelings between two living creatures, critical thinking is the engine that provides this meaning.

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BONUS: Don’t miss the guest post “Environment is Everything” written by Mr. Gurprriet Siingh, Director and Head, YSC India, an executive coach, blogger and a social media influencer. His Twitter handle is @JoyandLife.

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Coaching Culture: The Art and Science of Success #IndiaHRChat

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

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

Why a Culture of Coaching?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

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

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

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

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

When Should Coaching NOT be Used?

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

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

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

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

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

Characteristics of a Good Coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ideal Coaching Candidate

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

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

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

Challenges in Establishing a Culture of Coaching

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

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

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

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Looking for short-term ROI from coaching exercise :)

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

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Also Read: Bite Sized Insights on Personal Branding #IndiaHRChat

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How to Build a Great Team and Culture? 60 Pointers

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

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

A Great Team is all about “People”

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

Why Team?

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

Getting Right People

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

Managing Smart

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

Grace Under Fire

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

Inspiration and Gratitude

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

A Note about Culture

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

Growing Others

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

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Also Download: Graceful Leadership 101 (PDF)

Leadership and Building Emotional Infrastructure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Insights from Subroto Bagchi

9 Simple Ideas for Employee Engagement

My last post emphasized on balancing processes and practices with emotion when leading projects. HR folks know this as “employee engagement”. In simplest terms, people have a choice to do a great job or a mediocre one. They exercise this choice based on the emotional connection with purpose of project/team/organization.

Why all this buzz around employee engagement, you may ask? Consider this: A Gallup study estimated that lower productivity due to disengaged workers costs the U.S. economy about $328 million. It is more than a pronounced fact now that level of employee engagement has a net direct impact on a company’s business bottom lines. On the brighter side, engaged team members delivered 12% higher customer satisfaction scores, 18% higher productivity and about 12% higher profitability. A 2010 study by AON Hewitt also confirms this.

Actively engaged team members are the greatest source of creativity, innovation, quality and improvements within an organization. In a knowledge world, only engaged team members go out of their way to delivery great customer experiences. If you are a leader at any level within the organization, your primary job is to build a culture of consistently high engagement. How do you achieve that?

Clarify the purpose continuously: People need to know the grand purpose to which they are subscribing. Constant reinforcement of purpose and matching that with team member’s individual aspirations is a great way to keep them engaged.

Show how they contribute: Most people working on various initiatives/projects want to know how their work contributes in achieving the purpose. Show them the results, give them a broader perspective, share feedback and let them understand how customer perceives value. Once this important link is established, people are more equipped to deliver better outcomes.

Be a “potential mirror”: I am not sure if there is such a word like “potential mirror”. But whenever you share feedback and communicate, nurture their self-esteem. Criticize constructively and show them their potential. Help them identify their unique strengths and how to put them to use.

Set Them Free: Align values, give them a purpose and then set them free. Autonomy is a great driver of employee engagement. Team members need a space where they can exercise their ideas and be creative. Let them make mistakes, but handhold them so they learn. Setting them free is also a great indicator that you trust them.

Involve Them in Leading Change: People often get into comfort of their work with time. Involving them in meaningful change/improvement initiatives is a great way to keep them alternately engaged. Sometimes, when people get bored with routine, such change initiatives can be reinvigorating.

Foster Communication: Build an eco-system where communication is free. Management methods like SCRUM do this nicely where team members do a daily stand-up meeting. It keeps them aligned and accountable. These daily forums are also a great way to share progress and feedback.

Use External and Internal Feedback: Allow people to share their feedback. Listen intentionally. People want to be heard and understood. Let customers speak about their perception of team and what can be improved. Internal and external feedback can often show you the right path.

Act on it: Show that you care by acting on the feedback. Better yet, involve people in implementing those actions. Taking feedback and not acting on it is a costly mistake that can quickly disengage people.

Celebrate: Team works hard and engaged people always end up walking extra-mile to get things done. Do not forget to celebrate the team, their achievements and their hard work. A team that works together and celebrates together, performs together.

Bonus Resources:

  1. Employee Engagement for Managers: In One Sentence” (free eBook) by David Zinger – a thought leader and authority on the subject of employee engagement.

  2. UpstartHR’s Guide to Employee Engagement (where I contributed a chapter.

Great Story: Improvement and Tending the Garden

Improvement is not a product. It is process. On the journey to improve constantly, you can never announce that you have arrived because there isn’t a destination. If you get certified against an external standard, that is a milestone which can provide a framework to improve further. Organizations often fall in trap of thinking about external certifications like ISO as a destination beyond which they lose the motivation to travel further.

This reminds me of a very interesting story that I read in Subroto Bagchi’s book “The High Performance Entrepreneur”:

A monk was tending to a Japanese garden and meticulously, for hours on end, he was removing dry twigs from the immaculately maintained flowering bushes. A passer-by, who was fascinated by the complete concentration and care of the monk at work, could no longer hold himself. He asked the monk, “O holy one, when will your work be done?”

Without looking up, the monk replied, “When the last dry twig is removed from the garden”.

Bagchi adds,

“An organization, like a garden, is a living thing, and the process of removing dry twigs never ends. So, like the monk, the top management can never say, the job is done.”

Improvement was traditionally associated with growth, that if you constantly improve, you grow and prosper. As competition grew more global and fierce, constant and often dramatic improvements have become essential for mere survival.

For business leaders, it helps to adopt a mindset of Zen gardener and build a culture that strives to improve, before competition forces them to do so.

Related Reading at QAspire Blog

A Story on Importance of Processes: From Subroto Bagchi
Great Quotes: Gems from Subroto Bagchi on Leadership

Building Rapport

Rapport building isn’t just something you do when you first meet someone or as a part of a sales call or a negotiation. As leaders (and human beings) one of our goals must be to build better and deeper relationships, and one of the tangible ways we can do that is through an ongoing other-focused process of building rapport.

While you likely knew that, now that you have been reminded how important this activity is, here are seven specific activities that you can employ at anytime to build rapport and build relationships.

  • Know or learn what is meaningful to the other person.This could be learning about their hobbies, or whatever they are particularly interested in. Everyone has these items, whether a favorite sports team, their alma mater, something about their family, type of food or a favorite activity. Make it your goal to know what these things are for everyone you can.
  • Learn something new at every opportunity. Make it your goal to learn something new about the person in every encounter. Whether is it finding out what their “things” are, learning why those things are important to them, or whatever it is – make it your goal to learn something new with every encounter.
  • Keep track. It is great to learn things about others; it is folly to trust it all to your memory. Create a process for keeping track of these important pieces of information. The information is important, and treat it that way. Capture what you learn.
  • Ask meaningful questions. Even people who are straight-up business focused want to be understood and valued for who they are. Whether your questions are business or personally focused, recognize that when we ask the other person for their opinion or advice (and we really want it) it will build rapport with that person.
  • Share meaningful information. As you know more about people and what is important to them, share things with them. This may be informally, when you see them mentioning something that you read, for example. But taking it one step further, if you know what they care about and are interested in and see or hear something about it, why not let them know? Consider sending them a note with an article attached, or a link to a website you saw, a suggested book they would be interested in. These are just three examples to get your creative juices flowing! This seemingly simple idea shows people you are thinking about them and that you care about them.
  • Listen. When you really listen to people you are investing not only in their ideas, but in your relationship with them. We can do this anytime and it will make a world of difference.
  • Say thank you. One of the earliest things we learned in life was to say thank you. Say it more often, and remember to not just say it, but write it – always remember the power of a written thank you note.

Taken separately, each of these ideas will make a difference. Taken together they are a series of steps that when done consistently and authentically will build rapport and relationships faster than you can imagine.

How will you get started?

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Today’s guest post comes from Kevin Eikenberry, who is an an author, speaker, trainer, consultant, and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group. His book From Bud to Boss – Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership, co-authored with Guy Harris released yesterday and is available online and in bookstores.This book is complemented by Bud to Boss Community, a free online resource to help people who are new to the role of leadership.


From ‘Knowing’ to ‘Doing’ and Execution as Your Best Strategy

I am fond of meaningful quotes and read this one a few days back – “Half of our problems can be solved by bridging the gap between what we know and what we do.”

My experience suggests that excellent execution of simple ideas will yield better results than great ideas executed poorly. Similarly, having good intentions for your team does not help unless you act on those intentions.

When an organization grows, one of the fundamental challenge is to bridge the gap between intentions at the top and actions taken by people who operationalize those intentions/ideas. For example, a CEO knows the importance of great customer service, but a lot still depends on how much the front-line managers and teams actually do something about it. The process of ideating is a creative one, and also common-sensical. But for implementing those ideas  you require a process. Unless supported by a strong process that enables teams to persist, ideas fade away like meteors – bright in the beginning and invisible after some time. They seldom hit the ground.

(Bonus: Read this GREAT piece from my friend Lisa Haneberg on importance of following through). Lisa explains the structure needed to effectively follow through.

In this context, I wanted to share a powerful story of how “die-hard focus on execution” can be your best strategy to create a differential value. Thanks to David Witt at Blanchard LeaderChat for sharing this excellent story:

Colleen Barrett, past president of Southwest Airlines, was asked about some of the techniques she used to keep morale high at her company. One of the things she shared was how she spent time every day writing personal notes to employees recognizing them for accomplishments, noting milestones achieved, or just saying thank you. After she had shared some of her “secrets” she was asked if she was worried about competitors finding out what she was doing and copying it.

Colleen wasn’t worried. Why? Because she knew that the power of what she was doing wasn’t in the concept—it was in the execution. In Barrett’s case, she knew that most executives wouldn’t take the time to write 4,000 personal notes a year to employees like she did. And that was why she wasn’t worried that they would duplicate the culture.

The idea of writing notes wasn’t the magic. Actually doing it was. What’s waiting in your idea queue? Make the shift from knowing to doing. That’s where the power is.

 

So, important questions as you start a new week:

  • What are those top 2 ideas that you think can make a big difference to your work/project/business? (Write them down)
  • Have you planned execution/communication structure for those ideas? (Remember, what gets scheduled/planned gets done)
  • How and when will you measure progress and results? (Measuring is important to maintain momentum)

Have a great start into the week!

P.S: You might also like reading my older posts that address this topic in a different perspective.