Do you build consensus?

Image result for participative leadership styles

Democracy is the largest form of governance in the world now… close to 60% of the world’s population live in democratic nations. Our societies value freedom of speech, majority view and the power of making choices. Organizations are microcosms of our societies and hence, we behave the same way at work. We expect our leader to be consulting us, acting upon our views, figuring out the majority view and updating us about the state of affairs from time to time.

Long and Arduous

Leaders often are worried about the time it takes to arrive at a decision if they open out the process to their team. Given the diaspora of our society, it is natural that the manager gets wide-ranging opinions and perspectives. Firstly, it takes time and effort to explain the issue to the team; secondly, it takes time to listen to the opinions of people. And most importantly, given the diverse suggestions one receives, it is not easy to decide. In the leader’s mind, there might be something very compelling but the team might not be seeing it with equal fervour. So, the leader takes time to re-position the issue and repeat the process. This is undoubtedly a long and arduous process.

Apply it in the right context

It is not possible that a manager builds consensus for each and every decision. As long as the guiding principles and values are clear, governance becomes easy and non-controversial. So, first of all, organizations need to create appropriate methods and platforms to co-create the guiding principles which determine the way of life. Secondly, a manager must recognize when the issue is complex either because of the inter-dependencies or it has a conflict with one or more principles. Those are the situations which need a larger involvement of people at different levels of the organization.

This is easier said than done. When one opens up the issue to the larger audience, various possibilities come at play. Some people see various lacunae in the capability of the boss; some people come up with utopian ideas due to their lack of knowledge or experience; some people in their quest of coming under the spotlight raise various issues. So, a manager ends up spending a lot of energy in cancelling the noise.

One needs to know which level of the organization needs to be involved and to what extent in the process. At times, discussions with colleagues help simplifying the issue and evolving new possibilities. Hence, participative style of leadership has to be applied in the right context!

Sustainable method

It is unlikely that the manager or the leader knows all. And at the same time, one must have the humility to learn new perspectives and develop solutions in collaboration with others. While making a decision, one has to be clear if the decision has a long term impact on the organization. For example, evolving the 3-year strategy, introducing a new product, launching a new advertisement, entering into a new wage agreement with the union, modifying the rewards scheme and so on have far-reaching consequences on the organization.

An organization can ill-afford to let all such decisions rest squarely on the shoulders of one person or a handful. While building a consensus takes time and calls for efforts to dialogue, it is critical to invest these efforts for the long term health of the organization. Participative style on all strategic issues for the organization assures sustainability.

The leader has to know when to apply democratic style and involve whom in the process.

How do you know if the new job offer is better than your current job?

ciel blog - new job offer vs current job

Over 4 million people change their jobs each year in India and many more face job interviews. Most of them are anxious and unsure if the new job offer is better than their current jobs. Is there a tool that can help somebody pick the one that scores higher over the other?

What do we look for in a job?

Compensation, of course, is one of the features that is associated with most jobs. That apart, there are several factors that determine one’s thoughts about the job consciously or subconsciously. Firstly, it is the purpose, the mission and the social norm associated with the job. Be it the job of a driver, a doctor, cook, teacher, cleaning staff, engineer, plumber, accountant, content writer, salesman, software programmer, all of us want to do a job that adds value in the ecosystem that we care about. Most often, the identity of a person is linked to the profession and where one works. Hence, it is important that the job and the industry are held highly in the person’s mind.

Secondly, it is the work environment – the colleagues we work with, the bosses we report to, the empowerment that we receive, the recognition that we receive and the challenges it poses on the way. Each of us wake up to make the day more productive and satisfying. It is our workplace that helps us realize the goals for the day. Hence, we look forward to a workplace that creates energy, optimism and ignites a creative spirit in our mind.

Finally, certain aspects of the role are important for each of us. For example, working on a particular kind of equipment, tools and software is important for the person in a technical job. Similarly for someone who has significant responsibility in the family, commuting time, work hours and holidays are important considerations. Opportunities to grow along a particular career path are important for an ambitious worker. We find the job satisfying when most of these are in place and on an overall level, we feel fulfilled.

Hard and soft aspects of choice-making:

Given the above construct, one should make a list of factors under the 3 broad categories: the job, the workplace and the fine-print. Job change is an important event in one’s life and can have a huge impact on one’s future. Hence, adequate care must be taken to consider all aspects from a rational as well as emotional standpoint.

It is easy to compare two opportunities on aspects such as compensation, title, industry’s attractiveness, the level of technology in use and practice of internal promotions. However, what about the soft aspects of the workplace? As someone once said, “We get to choose neither our parents nor our boss”, it is important that you know about the culture of recognition, the colleagues that you will work with and the boss you’ll report to.

We can network with colleagues in industry, refer to various studies that rank best practices in various organizations, study what people are talking about the employer on social media and industry platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn etc. We can speak to ex-employees of the company to understand about the workplace. It is not easy to do it and has to be done.

Do we have the check-list of what we look for and value?

After making up our mind about the decision factors pertaining to each of the 3 aspects i.e. job, workplace and role-specific details, one needs to list them down. Each one of these factors has to be assigned a weight on a scale of 1 – 5 where 1 indicates least significant and 5 is the most.

Then the next step is to score both opportunities on each of these decision factors and weighted score has to be arrived at. Based on the sum of the weighted score for each opportunity, one can decide which one is better. Simple, isn’t it?

Let us take an example: a software engineer is ambitious, looking for growth opportunities and a good work-life balance. The decision table could be something like this:

Decision Factors
Decision Weight on scale of 1 – 5
Current Job on a scale of 1 – 5
Weighted Score for Current Job
New Job Opportunity on a scale of 1 – 5
Weighted Score for the New Opportunity
1.       Compensation


4 20 5


2.       Reputation of the firm


4 20 3


3.       Opportunity to work in various industry sectors


2 10 5


4.       Well-qualified Colleagues


2 8 5


5.       Supportive boss


4 20 3


6.       Recognition for the work done


4 12 5


7.       Opportunities to learn


4 16 5


8.       Challenging work


3 12 5


Role-related Specifics          
9.       Commuting from work


5 25 2


10.   Work hours


5 25 3


11.   Leadership opportunities


3 15 5


12.   Impact on the organization


2 10 5






This tool helps one identify all the soft and hard aspects of decision making, consider them holistically and take the ultimate decision. It makes our life simpler and organized. Let’s go for it!

Should you outsource hiring?

ciel blog - outsource or inhouse recruiting

Companies consider talent as their competitive advantage. Leaders believe that machines, technology, capital, knowhow and processes can be acquired easier than talent. Various studies have proven that acquiring talent is one of their major challenges. Should organizations build their internal capability to hire for themselves or rely on external agencies?

Needless to mention that either method has its own pros and cons. The solution lies in the old saying – ‘horses for courses’.

When do you build inhouse capability?

Some think of talent acquisition as a critical success factor and hence, they must deal with this strategic task inhouse. They cannot outsource this to anyone. Some leaders think that the skills that they are hiring are rare to find and assume that nobody other than an inhouse team can invest their energies in finding those needles from the haystack. We find another argument in support of inhouse hiring when the company doesn’t want many people to know that it is hiring for the particular role.

All these are myths! Rather one should use a simple 2×2 matrix to decide the strategy.

Decide if talent acquisition is strategically important for the organization’s results and secondly if it impacts operational metrics of the organization.

For an airline, in-flight catering is an important function but not strategically important; neither it impacts the operational metrics of the airline in a significant way. However, for a restaurant, it is not only a strategic value but also important operationally. Given this example, one knows that a restaurant has to have inhouse capability to prepare the food.

Outsource when Recruitment is Strategically Less Important but makes an Impact on Operational Metrics of the firm

Leaders choose the top few levers (typically 3 to 5) which are strategically important for the organization. Recruitment may not figure there in the list. However, recruiting the right people on time could be important from operational perspective such as servicing customers, running important errands, completing tasks with speed and accuracy. In these situations, one must leave it to experts than invest energies inhouse to focus on something which is not on the strategic agenda item. The external expert knows how to minimize the cycle time, increase process efficiency and optimize the quality.

This is like a company outsourcing its cleaning needs to an agency; hiring people for sales support, sales promotion, administrative tasks, customer service, maintenance and several other non-core activities through an outsourced agency; back-filling vacant roles.

Outsource and Build Strategic Partnership when Recruitment is Strategically Important but does Not make an impact on Operational Metric of the firm

Organizations take up new projects or have ongoing needs to back-fill vacancies or have a few key roles to fill. These are strategically important for the organization because future revenue streams are linked with the success of these. And most of the times, these do not impact the operational metrics of the organization in the short term.

In these situations, leaders make the mistake of building an inhouse team to deliver on these. Such an effort becomes not only a distraction for the senior leaders but also is an expensive proposition. Moreover, these teams turn inefficient over a longer period of time, say 2-3 years.

The solution here is to build a strategic partnership with an outsourced player who provides high mindshare for the engagement, considers it important for them, works as an extension of the organization, stays efficient and competitive, leverages on its knowledge of the market and works under an objective framework of governance.

Plan it yourself if Recruitment is a Strategic Lever and Impacts the Operational Metric

The top leaders of an organization may feel that getting the right talent on-board is one of their critical success factors and moreover, recruitment impacts the operational metrics of the firm. This situation shows hiring is high on strategic importance and at the same time, has a high impact on the operational metrics such as revenues, cycle times, error rates and so on.

This is like an assembly shop for a car company, kitchen for a restaurant, design shop for a consumer product company, engineering team for a manufacturing company. All these have to be done inhouse.

Planning for recruitment is critical and it must not be confused with the implementation of the plan. Once the organization is clear about the kind of people it needs, the timelines, the critical attributes and the value proposition for a prospective employee, execution starts. Many a times, organizations fail to plan this well and hope that the plan will evolve alongside the execution. If this happens well, it is just a sweet coincidence and cannot be repeated.

For an organization providing services to its customers, it needs to have the right people at the right time. The situation here scores high on both the dimensions : strategic importance and operational impact. Hence, the organization must own the critical piece of planning the talent acquisition process and managing it.

Stop Recruiting if it is Not on Strategic agenda and does Not Impact the Operational Metric of the firm

If nobody cares about recruiting, the firm has to eliminate the function and not even think of outsourcing either. This is simple decision because it scores low on both the dimensions: strategic as well as operational importance.

Talent Acquisition as a process is to be outsourced when it appears on the strategic agenda of the firm or when it impacts the operational metric. Keep the planning function inhouse if it is on the strategic agenda as well as impacts the organization operationally. Leaders have to take a clear stance!



Is it worth Crowd-sourcing?


The last five years in our lives have been transformed significantly with the advent of social media, cloud computing and smart phones. Traditionally companies held brainstorming sessions, appointed consultants, conducted site visits, gathered information about the behaviours of competitors, held surveys, asked users of their products and services to draw insights. They converted some of these nuggets into a few implementable ideas. This process took time and required efforts of senior people right from designing the process to leading it.

The power of Social Media

Business leaders are enthused by the fact that using the social media, one is able to reach a large number of people across a large demography and engage them in a conversation. Secondly, the results come fast because there are many tools available to capture and process the opinions and ideas from the crowd. Last, but not the least, they are able to generate ideas from several perspectives and at times, such ideas could be extremely powerful. Hence, it is very useful to leverage on the power of social media to source ideas to solve a problem.

There is a dark side too!

Several experiments to engage with a large number of people elicits numerous responses. It takes a huge amount of energy to process those inputs in spite of all the modern automation such as natural language processing. And at times, such efforts give a very little output. The problems of such crowd-sourcing initiatives often are that the respondents might not have the required expertise and knowledge to provide meaningful responses. Secondly, the herd mentality works at times and people might just want to vote up an idea rather than challenging what many others spoke before them. This does not help the leader; rather this drowns the other voices. Hence, it is important that crowd-sourcing is done in the shape of ‘crowd-wisdom’ing. Else, the cost of the exercise could be higher than the returns. It is important to involve the right people and the discussion has to be moderated in such a way that no respondent influences the process unduly.

Let’s not hype it! This calls for rigorous execution!

Often people think that crowd-sourcing is successful when good ideas have been generated. However, the fact is that the rubber meets the road when the transformation is visible. Often ideas fail to generate the desired output because the execution was either poor or the idea was put to use before the market was ready to accept it. They say, the Guru arrives when the disciple is ready! So, the leaders have to execute the idea well and at the right time.

One has to judge what is the best time for an idea before one starts the process. The first step will be to target and on-bard the right audience to engage in a conversation. The audience should be able to relate to the issue at hand and feel passionately about it to be able to contribute meaningfully. Many a times, the respondents or participants of the process are either sceptical or dis-interested. This doesn’t lend a good foundation for the process.

The next step will be to generate insights which become the food for choosing the right idea and the timing. Hence, asking the right question and guiding the discussion in the right manner helps one generate the required insight that is new and ultimately paves the way for an innovative idea.

Leaders need to lead the transformation process from the front and shoulder the responsibility of engaging the right audience, asking the right questions, guiding the process in the right way, choosing the best of the ideas and driving its implementation! It sounds simple but is hard work and finesse in reality

Where should you work – A small firm or a Big one?

After having worked in a big firm and then joined a small firm that grew to a large one, I noticed the evolution of a firm and the opportunities that came along the way of this evolution process. By virtue of my job in Recruitment industry and due to personal interest, I have personally spoken to thousands of professionals at crossroads of their work-life seeking advice. I have noticed young people and freshers from colleges anxious and confused staring at alternatives before them; almost every mid-career professional gets the itch to do something different; and the list goes on to tell me that there is a lot of confusion that can be easily avoided.

What’s the difference – a Big Firm and a Small Firm?

The differences are along multiple dimensions: pay, career path possibilities, stability etc. Big firms typically score better compared to small firms on all these aspects given their history, established work methods, predictable work hours, budgets for employee benefits and development.

However, given the volatility and fast-paced environment that we live in, some of these could change quickly. We experienced them in a large-scale at the time of global financial crisis. Large firms cut pays, reduced employees and couldn’t honour their commitments to their current and future employees. And after the crisis, firms have kept their bench strength to the minimum, optimized their workforce on a periodic basis, laid off people, outsourced activities, transformed several work processes and so on; these events have had serious impacts on the careers of their employees. And many so-called small firms have grown, have been agile to seize market opportunities, grown the careers and salaries of their staff at a much higher pace than what one could expect.

So, the point is not to paint the canvas with one brush. One should rather evaluate how good the pay is; And estimate how well the career could grow, how stable the work-life could be, based on the past track record of the organization, their management practices and the outlook for the industry sector the firm belongs to.

While there are several online resources available to understand the work culture, one can carefully discuss these during the recruiting process with the head-hunter and the interviewers. Also, one can tune into various social and professional contacts to get insights of how the firm fares on these factors.

So, it’s a misnomer that a Big firm pays better, offers multiple growth options and brings in stability to one’s career.

Know what excites you!

Often it’s not the size of the company that matters. Rather it is the personality traits that matter significantly in making a career choice. There is no job that is necessarily bad or good on an absolute basis!

Large teams and firms are like an ocean while the small companies are like small ponds. One can choose what is more attractive – a big fish in a small pond shouldering many responsibilities and charting the unbeaten path or one among a million in the ocean living in harmony and peace.

Each option has its own charm. The differences here are in terms of the visibility, name recognition, risk of failure, speed of action and the possibility to influence the future. We know for sure that each human being based one one’s context and personal preference finds one more attractive than the other.

So, it’s simple : know your context and personal preferences; do your research and make the choice!

More than one boss?

multiple bossOrganizations are flattening and role boundaries are getting blurry. Silos are melting away; overlap in responsibilities is a common phenomenon these days. There are many matrices at play when we think of organization structures. With tools like SMART goals, Project management software and so on, it is very common to see project teams, shared resources and multiple bosses. You may call it a chaos. On the other hand, this kind of organization design focuses on the expertise of its people and achieving the outcomes. In any case, multiple bosses is the reality in many firms and needless to mention, it calls for certain skilful navigation on the part of the employee, the manager and the organization.

Organizations need to be transparent and culturally open in communication!

It is not easy to receive multiple instructions, process them, prioritize and deliver all of them in a way that matches the demands of the bosses. Though we see this trend on the rise, it is fair to say that most people have just one reporting line. Hence, the senior leaders need to recognize the fact that theirs is a unique design and hence, they must take additional care to ensure that their design is sustained and nurtured well.

Across the rank and file in the organization, it must be understood why they one person has to report to multiple managers. Secondly, some of the ground rules are to ensure that the managers need to be openly discussing about their priorities and resolve differences if any. This calls for a high degree of trust, openness and communication amongst peers supervising the same worker. Apart from this cultural aspect, the organization needs to have adequate systems to support such complexities and make lives easy. For example, the system must ensure that the goals for the person are set collaboratively by the managers, reviewed in a time-bound and transparent manner and disagreements or conflicts are surfaced in a safe and confidential manner.

These sound quite common-sensical, yet organizations struggle in execution!

Managers need to be Benign Statesmen!

Most often managers care for their own tasks and to-do lists. They lack the interest to know what their sub-ordinate is dealing with and where she needs help. Hence, they do not care if their peer has assigned tasks of high priority. Worse is the situation in most family-run enterprises where responsibilities and boundaries for the folks from the family are not clearly defined and often the priorities change. Poor executive being hounded by multiple bosses who are in a hurry for everything that they need and do not care what else is on the oven!

Managers need to be considerate that they do not own the resource fully and to get the best out of the person, they need to make things easy for the person. They need to do whatever it takes to reduce conflicts of priorities, deadlines and to make the person feel  valued for the contribution made.

Again very common-sensical, but many managers simply do not exhibit these qualities. Hence, the person feels to be doing a job for which nobody cares; naturally, the quality of work drops and engagement with the organization falls.

Employee needs to stretch the limits!

Firstly, the employee needs to understand that the situation of multiple bosses will have a few challenges and she has to overcome them. Proactive communicators are generally preferred at work; they tend to influence the thinking of the others. In most situations, communicating proactively about the tasks at hand, suggesting alternate methods to go about them, seeking suggestions and aligning with the most influential manager works well.

Secondly, it is very very rare to excel in working with multiple stakeholders without working hard and stretching one’s limits. It is natural that priorities will clash and at times, they will change. It is not pragmatic always that one can postpone some tasks because of some other changes. Though one can negotiate timelines or look for roping in another colleague or outsource some work to a third-party, it is not practical always other than being flexible about the work hours and the efforts required to shine consistently.

Last but not the least, every organization is political; and dynamic. An employee having multiple managers has the opportunity to learn about two senior people, view the organization from two lenses up close and access the professional circles of two people. It’s a great opportunity to grow!

A tall order, but interesting if one navigates through the twisted roads well!

Who crafts the values for the Organization?

Tonnes of research have been done and it has been proved beyond doubt that an organization has its own life, identity and personality. It values a few things dear and they define its identity. Who sets these? Do the owner(s) define the values or a group of people along with the owner(s)  define these? What is the right way?

There are experts who help organizations define their identity and sculpt their values. These get defined at various stages of the company and if lived consistently, one creates a strong culture at work that boosts its brand for all stakeholders.

Details matter : Living life each day!

It is common sense that the core group of people who creates an organization define its identity and make choices based on what they combinedly or individually believe in. It is rare that the co-owners or the core group have exactly the same belief system and use the same benchmarks to define their belief. Let’s take an example of a value that we commonly see inscribed in the annals of history of an organization : Respect. There isn’t anyone who will dispute this as a value; neither anyone will find this unpalatable. The devil is in details; in this case, it is the way one lives this value in various situations such as an under-performing employee, a seemingly confused or dumb customer accusing the company of poor performance, a shareholder activist with an apparent mental imbalance.

Matters get further complicated when you have the other values such as Rational and Performance-driven. While an underperforming employee has to be dealt with respect and compassion, the value of being performance-driven will call for exemplary penalty for under-performance. Often, the situations we encounter have multiple dimensions that contradict one another. Hence, it is important that the craftsmen discuss what they believe in, how they are going to live by those beliefs and how they will balance the contradictions.

Define them. Clarity helps.

It is not easy to define them upfront. However, it serves the organization exceptionally well to define the rules of game. The people in the company must understand what is the desired behaviour and what is not. They can use the template to decide their day-to-day actions rather than waiting for their managers to decide.

Most mistakes can be rectified but the culture of procrastination and long cycle time cannot be undone quickly. Moreover, they cost the organization heavily. So, the brass tacks are to work hard and define what is a good behaviour and what is not. The bad apple should be easily identified and isolated!

It is not a one-time exercise. Standing out in the crowd requires consistent effort.

Often organizations hold costly off-sites to evolve the common values and enshrine them suitably on the websites, the walls of the office, emails, cascade sessions and some times in the public domain. Once the exercise gets done, it tends to lose its gloss unless they are experienced by the larger organization every now and then. For example, if we said professionalism is a value and the right behaviour to demonstrate is to operate from a body of knowledge, each day an employee must experience focus on learning, reference to published literature, attempts to generate new insights, gather knowledge and share them. And such experiences must be consistent over time so that all stakeholders of a business relate to those and the organization stands out in the marketplace.

Thus, as a first step, one can decide how many people need to be involved in defining the values of the organization. However, the values get crafted each day as the leaders in the organization live them, walk the talk and the way the entire organization emulates those. The moment of truth is when a stakeholder comes in contact with the firm and forms an opinion!