Heralding the Twenties


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“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

 —Winston Churchill

We remain days away from entering a brand new decade.

A hundred years back, it was called the roaring twenties. An era of economic boom. What kind of twenties are we going to have this time?

I invite you to ponder on the above as also these questions. How would work change? What would create wealth? How would the exponential growth in 24 X 7 human connectivity through social media impact us and our lives?

We are into a world which is changing at an ever increasing pace. We need to continually become someone or something we never were before.

So what happens when we continually become someone or something we never were before? We feel discomfort, fear, uncertainty; we are on edge. How we feel impacts how we act, how we work. So being on edge with negative feelings as above leads to loss of creativity, inability to take risks, loss of productivity and engagement. And herein lies the danger of becoming someone or something we never were before. I call this the Change Trap.

So what could we do to avoid the Change Trap? Since it is difficult to control our feelings, we need to see how we could shift its impact on how we act, how we perform. One way of doing this is to focus inwards – into the kind of changeless core that we are and what makes us tick. Our big vision about the world and our self, our competences, our passions and our relationships.   

In the New Year, I invite you to do this practice for just the first fortnight to empower yourself and avoid the Change Trap. Write down the following in your diary every day for 15 days before you go to bed.

  1. When you were at your best today, what were you doing?
  2. When you saw your energy going up, what were you involved in ?
  3. When you felt happy helping someone, what did you do?

Should you persevere with this practise for a fortnight, you will notice how its impact changes your life and the world around you!

I wish you Merry Christmas and a lovely 2020 ahead.

In Learning…….

Shakti Ghosal

http://www.empathinko.in

Stakeholding


We are moving from a chain of command to a web of connection, from competition to collaboration, from markets to networks and stockholders to stakeholders, and greed to green.

 – Anodea Judith

Author & Evolutionary activist

Leadership speaks to Stakeholder, “Let us stand in the created future that wasn’t going to happen otherwise. A future which would address the core concerns of both of us. Let us take actions and decisions now to realize the future.”

At its essence Leadership remains an exercise in language which motivates all stakeholders to align into taking actions in the present to realise a common future.

I was recently engaged in a hub optimisation project for an orthopaedics implant supplier. It did not take too long for our team to work out the optimum inventory positions of around twenty thousand items as part of fifty kits. We were delighted to note that our recommendations held the potential of reducing the inventory carrying costs at the hubs by up to seventy per cent. The client’s corporate team was equally elated.  

I was therefore left disconcerted when a subsequent review revealed near zero implementation of the project recommendations and the associated cost savings. The Marketing team had effectively sabotaged the initiative. While the project criteria had been to ensure a 99% assurance of availability of all ortho kits, Marketing insisted that for its clients nothing below 100% was acceptable.

Looking back one could see that the project failed for its failure to identify ‘customer’ stakeholders like the Ortho surgeons and the hospital administrators and what might their pain points be.

Leadership in the new millennium is more about stakeholding than anything else. Today’s world is becoming increasingly granular. More and more individuals are jumping onto the technology bandwagon and getting networked with unknowable connections amongst them. And each of these ‘unknowable connections’ becomes a stakeholder with its ability to influence perceptions and thoughts.

Per Bak, the Danish Physicist, developed a theory of sand running through an hour glass. He concluded that while the sand pile seemed stable with a regulated sand flow, the pressures on each of the sand grains was constantly changing; the internal dynamics of the sand was complex, unknowable and could not be predicted.

The stakeholding world today is like that sand pile.It seems stable but in reality continues to shift in unknowable ways with instability being the only constant.

So how does one manoeuvre the unknowable, unpredictable quicksands of stakeholding? What can leadership do to ensure effective relational assimilation of all stakeholding concerns? You could make a good start with the following questions.

  • Who are your influencing stakeholders? They could be from your investors, your leaders, your staff, your customers, customers of your customers, your suppliers, your community, competitors, consumer groups, social media……. sounds daunting. doesn’t it? Well a good place to start is to observe the conversation networks and the language being used. Use this to discern the contradictions, conflicting ideas and harmonies that form part of the issue.
  • Ask of the identified influencing stakeholders about their interests and core concerns
  • What is the stakeholders’ critical analysis of the situation? How does the issue occur for them?
  • What solution hypotheses could you develop which could take care of the stakeholders’ interests and concerns?

In Learning……

Shakti Ghosal

http://www.empathinko.in

The Dynamics of Arrogance


Dear Reader,

I wish you an empowering and purposeful New Year.

As we get set to usher in a brand new 2019, I would like you to reflect on the following.

What could we do in a fast changing and complex world that would satisfy issues faced by our team?  How could we develop our relational intelligence to gain traction with stakeholders?  How could we construct a dynamic game plan to get our organisation shift from the present to the created future?

What if I told you that the key to each of the above questions lies in one specific aspect of our own personality? 

To understand this some more, let me tell you my own story.

As the business head, I was the top dog in the organisational hierarchy. I felt cocooned by the warm comfort of managers, supervisors and executives being there to do my bidding. Somewhere along the way, this ‘being there’ feeling changed into a ‘better than’ mindset. And this is when my leadership problems started.

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The being there mindset

I began to think of myself as superior. I thought that as a Leader I had to be! And this led to my being arrogant. Over time this became my garb. ‘I had to use every opportunity to make all these little people understand that I was simply better than they were!’ I could just not afford not to know everything there was to know. So the arrogance led to my being inauthentic. Worse, the decision making increasingly started bordering on ‘my way or highway’. For accepting an outside possibility would undermine me would it not! This of course led to my becoming isolated.

Dynamics of Arrogance

My inauthenticity and isolation started eating into the organisation’s openness and team work. And when this impacted overall performance, the blame game hit the roof. With me of course doing most of the blaming!

The turning point came with the plummeting organisational performance. It took the shape of the following.

  • The advent of Self Awareness in me that “I need to curb this feeling of superiority that rears its head every time I interact”.
  • Getting my hands dirty by adopting a ‘walking and talking’ leadership style and thereby becoming curious about people, not results.
  • Practicing the Attitude of Gratitude, realizing how fortunate I have been in receiving support of others inspite of my shortcomings.
  • Leading with Generosity by jettisoning the fear of being taken advantage of. Realizing that even though I would be taken advantage of,  that would be better than being closed to openness and possibilities.

So in the New Year, what could each one of us do as leaders to jettison our superiority mindset and arrogance?

In Learning……..

Shakti Ghosal

Does learning lead to performance?


“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.” 

— Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO

In today’s disruptive and hyper competitive world, the need for learning new skills and competences come in continuous waves.  Such learning becomes more and more transitory as the skills and competences get replaced by new requirements and technology. There is widespread realisation that it is this increased capacity and hunger for such learning that provides Leadership with its “last frontier of business advantage”.

Because of the disruptive and accelerating changes all around, the capacity for self driven learning within a‘learning organisation’ culture could be the key differentiator. In the book‘The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning’ its authors outline a process which they claim would add significant value to businesses through creation of such a ‘Learning culture’.

The 6D process goes through these stages.

  • Define Business outcomes rather than falling into the trap of defining Learning outcomes.
  • Design the Complete Experience rather than merely a learning event.
  • Deliver for application, which essentially means the learning in itself should motivate its application.
  • Drive Learning transfer. Possibly the most critical stage. This is when ‘Can I?’ shifts to ‘Will I?’
  • Deploy performance support to overcome the resistance mindset to change as one gets down to ‘doing it the new way’.
  • Document results. Did it achieve the results? Was it worth it?

 As I read the book, I am left pondering about what is it that stops organisations from adopting and applying the six disciplines as outlined.

Is it :

  • The absence of a link between what is learnt to how it would support one to personally succeed and get recognised?
  • The law of fast forgetting  one’s new learning  as one gets back into the comfortable rut of old ways?
  • The failure to shift from ‘Can I?’ to ‘Will I?’And the underlying reason for that?
  • The plethora of disparate factors  about one’s own motivation,  existing workflows and processes, the work place culture, the political, economic and social aspects?

If indeed there exist such a large number of factors which come in the way of learning transfer,what could be done to optimise performance? In such a situation, how could we shift people from being disengaged to be innovative, how could we transform an organisation to imbibe a learning mindset and be a leading edge innovator?

To be able to do the above Leadership too needs to Learn. Learn how to use future based generative language to articulate a future which addresses the concerns of all the above disparate stakeholders. A future into which everyone concerned comes to live into with learning and actions in the present to make the future happen.

In learning……..

Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement: “THE SIX DISCIPLINES OF BREAKTHROUGH LEARNING” How to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results by Calhoun W. Wick, Roy V. H. Pollock, Andrew Mc K. Jefferson, and Richard D. Flanagan. Published by John Wiley &Sons Inc., Hobokern, New Jersey 2015.

The Millennial Leadership Series : How do you grow your leadership?


This is a question that I am frequently asked by the students of the two business schools where I am a visiting faculty. Knowing about my decades of corporate experience, they assume that I carry nuggets of experience based wisdom that can grow leadership. I do not have the heart to tell them that my so called “experience wisdom” seldom if at all played a role in my leadership initiatives. In fact if truth be told, my leadership situation most of the times was akin to, “I have no idea where I am going”.

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So how does one grow into great leadership?

Well for a start, one cannot think one’s way into great leadership.  It really comes down to putting our feet on the ground, being a “Do- er” under all situations, never mind the nay-sayers and doomsday prophets.  The essence really is “DOING”. We grow when we do things, as we tweak our path and approach intuitively.

Leadership is really about our impact on others. Many of us though confuse this with the great intentions that we hold.  But intentions, which is all about us, has little or no alignment with impact, which is all about others.  So how does one create this alignment? We do this by seeing our self through the eyes of those we serve. I like to see this as a kind of empathy working in reverse.

Literature is full of how empathy is an intrinsic part of great leadership.  Which is all about what we need to do with getting into the other person’s shoes and looking at a situation from his / her perspective. But how often do we think of allowing the other person to get into our shoes and providing a fresh perspective from our vantage point?

Feedback from others who watch our ability ( or otherwise!) to impact others is  really the fuel that can ignite our leadership transformation.

Ask the following questions of your team.

  • What did I do that led to a positive impact?
  • What did I do that negatively impacted the team’s initiative?
  • What Could I do better to encourage the team to perform?

 

………. In Learning

Shakti Ghosal

 

‘The more things change, the more they remain the same’


The more things change the more they remain the same

 

Have you been witness to the following situation in your workplace?

Team member speaks of things like: “We just do not have what it takes. It will not work out for us. We are more involved with internal politics and lack initiative. We are always behind and late in responding to competition. Our leaders just do not possess the calibre required.  We will only go down and down…….”

Leader responds with thoughts like : “ We have a mediocre set of people working here, they just do have the capability. We keep on training them , we involve them in decision making but they just don’t have any good ideas. We just cannot afford more expensive professionals so need to make do with such mediocrity. We are doing the best we can but our team is not upto the mark………….”

The perception about the problem and what is needed to remedy it is diametrically opposite in the minds of team member and the leader. What remains common for both the sides is the direction in which the organisation is heading, which is only downwards. Opposing perceptions, opposing prescriptions, same outcome!

In the words of Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan in The Three Laws of Performance:

“Everyone experiences a future in front of them, even though few could articulate it. The future lives at the gut level, we know it is what will happen. We call this the default future, and every person has one. And so does every organisation. We live into our default future unaware that by doing so, we are making it come about.

………….the same dynamic exists at the organisational level. Statistical evidence shows that most significant change efforts fail. This is because regardless of the Management interventions tried, the default futures of employees and leaders are still in place. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

‘The more things change, the more they remain the same’

With the new millennium heralding an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, the tenets of Change Management as we know it, might not work.

So what is it that the millennial leader has to do to transform the situation and elevate performance?

 In Learning………………………………

Acknowledgement :  The Three Laws of Performance  by Steve Zaffron  & Dave Logan. Published by Jossey – Bass, CA , US.

The Millennial Leadership Series: Whatever one resists, persists…….


Pimp Slapped

The other day I was speaking to the CEO of a mid- sized organisation and we got to discussing his intentions and plans.  He told me about how he is currently engaged in bringing in technology and transforming the existing processes and the way of doing things.

“So how successful have you been till now?”, I asked.

“Well I have been able to demonstrate to my Board the trend of costs going down. Which should hopefully result in profits going up”, the CEO responded.

“ So have the profits started going up?” , I continued my enquiry.

The CEO looked troubled.  He confided, “Actually the profits are not up at all. We have been facing significant resistance to adoption of the changed processes by team members. Our team seems to have got de-motivated and are putting in less efforts. So much so that the productivity levels are actually down.”

The above is one more case of a Leadership unilaterally trying to improve profitability through implementation of technology.  When such implementation is done in a ‘command and control’ manner without adequate involvement of various stakeholders, the Leadership might occur to the team as ‘untrustworthy and self-serving’.

Such organisations become locked into a cycle. I call it ‘the cycle of repairing an old tube’. As one patches a leak in the tube and build back the pressure, a new leak starts at a different place. As the organisation resists a problem by trying to fix it, the more it pushes, the more the problem pushes back.

Whatever one resists, persists.

Amidst the whirlwind pace of change occurring in the environment today necessitating the need to constantly shift the technology and process base of an organisation, the millennial leader needs to provide the anchor of a unifying context for such shifts to occur.

What is that unifying context that millennial leaders need to create and exercise for transformative changes to succeed?

In Learning……….   Shakti Ghosal

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