Are you Transforming your Team?

ciel blog - transformational-leadershipEvery leader wishes to leave his mark behind in the minds of the people he works with and the journey of the institution decades after he has stepped down. This is not only applicable in an organization but also for a teacher, a parent, a doctor, a caretaker, a gardener, practically everybody. A teacher imparts knowledge, builds skills and shapes thinking of the student not only to be measured at the end of the academic term rather the impact on the life of the student through the years after he or she has graduated from the class. Do we not remember such teachers? Similarly don’t we recall having been deeply impacted by the words and behaviours of a babysitter, an office assistant, the security guard in the parking lot? We certainly do. That is because these individuals transformed our thinking on a subject and our way of life. They demonstrate the qualities of the celebrated transformation leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and so on. What do they do differently? Can we learn and practice them?

They had a dream which grew vivid each day!

These transformation leaders dreamt big and saw what others did not dare exploring. Steve Jobs looked at the music players differently from the others; Akio Morita saw the need to listen to music outdoors; Bill Gates saw the need to simplify the interface of a computer so that millions can use the computer; Bindeshwar Pathak reformed the way people in India answered the call of nature while travelling for long time; Dr. Devi Shetty delivered world-class cardiac-care at affordable prices by several innovations in the work processes. We can see many more such as mobile phone camera, cab aggregation, ecommerce, social networks, advances in healthcare, agriculture, education and so on. All these leaders saw an opportunity to simplify life, serve humanity or fortify our planet. For a manager, a parent, a teacher or whatever role one might have taken, the question is, “Do I have a dream and see the possible ways to reach there?”

Mahatma Gandhi saw the picture of independent India in his head; Mother Teresa saw a world free from suffering and full of compassion. They kept thinking of the ways and means of reaching the goal. History tells us how these leaders undertook various experiments, some of which worked and some did not. The point to note here is that these leaders did not give up, kept altering the course with the same vigour and determination. Possibly, the picture grew vivid in their mind by the day and the passion took them closer to the goal. They talked about it and the others followed.

They care for the others!

The Transformation Leaders communicate their vision with their followers and inspire them to follow the path. They listen to them with interest; take personal interest in fulfillment of individual needs and aspirations to the best possible extent. They build an environment of mutual trust, respect and sharing with their team members. They care for bonding among the members of the team.  They listen to the concerns of their team members and act upon them transparently. They don’t brush issues under the carpet, rather discuss them openly and seek solutions. They mentor their team deeply, inspire them to co-create the path and co-own the achievements. It calls for high degree of sacrifice and mental energy to embrace the diversity of thoughts and energies. Do we practice it daily?

They stretch their intellectual bandwidth!

Intellectual capability is not about the academic qualifications and honours one earns in life. It is about one’s ability to empathise with others, think deeply about a situation and connect the dots to decide the course of action. They challenge the sense of purpose, evolve the course of action and do not hesitate to change the course. They recognize their strengths, limitations and egos. They balance rationality with gut-feel and use them judiciously in taking risks and making decisions. The external world which is used to a high degree of order and structure will find it difficult to relate to the internal environment of such a team. The members of the team being highly aligned with their leader, have complete faith in the path and a great degree of association with the purpose, do not find the continuous change to be chaotic and disturbing; rather, they find it invigorating and encouraging. Do we deep-dive and at the same time learn from the others with humility?

It is easier said than done to transform a situation. It takes humility to learn and the focus to practice the art each day of our lives. Our actions of today will not only transform lives in the near term but also many more in the long term.

Are you a Laissez-faire Leader?

The High Call of Church LeadershipIn our world today, a significant part of our workforce values freedom, demonstrates self-confidence and sets high ambitions. This phenomenon is not restricted to the white collar workforce, rather all-pervasive. Leaders  having the experience of directed people and having seen their managers directing teams in a certain way, find the changing environment discomforting. They are trying to readjust their styles and adapt to the new situation. It is common knowledge for a leader to practice clear communication while delegating tasks, but the trick lies in the manner of delegation, the tasks are organized and distributed.

Micro-managing or Hands-on Leadership?

Leaders in their quest to be clear, get highly task-focused at times. They tend to break down the goals into miniature steps, direct their team members in carrying out each of those steps, measure the results and tell them what to do when the results differ from the desired goals. Is this micro-managing or leading the team hands-on?

It depends upon the context in which the leader operates, the experience and the maturity level of the team members. Let us say, the team is highly skilled and the members have a good level of understanding and co-operation. This is a good situation to adopt a laissez-faire leadership where you need the team to know the end-goal, the near-term milestones, the purpose behind achieving the milestones and the timelines. Since they know the ‘how’ and ‘what’, the leader does not need to tell them the break-down. It is good enough for the leader to keep an eye on a few parameters at an appropriate interval of time. The team needs a pat on the back at the right time; a few insights and suggestions as and when needed. However, at times, leaders in their quest of ‘being in control’ get anxious and micro-manage. They hurt the team dynamics by over-monitoring, nit-picking and meddling too much. One must know what kind of delegation works the best in the given context!

A team which is newly formed or has many freshers or relatively inexperienced members needs support and direction. Managing them by setting a high-level goal, defining the objectives and a process might not sound wrong. However, the team could potentially feel lost, un-cared for and dull given this style of delegation. They need a style of hands-on leadership where the leader is always eager and available to help the members on-demand, coaching real time, enthusing the team when a task is done well and course-correcting when needed. In this context, the leader isn’t micro-managing, rather showing hands-on leadership.

Are you abdicating your responsibility by Laissez-faire style?

One argues that the laissez-faire style of leadership could create a lot of free time for the leader if the primary responsibility of delivering the results is passed on to the Direct Reports.

Experienced people look for independence in decision-making and a certain amount of latitude in going about achieving their goals. Hence, the top boss has to provide the space for them to function and steer their respective teams towards the predefined goals.

Given this context, the top boss has to find a way of adding value by providing the necessary encouragement to his team crafting a space to support them and continuously evolving it in tune with the challenges that they face. This is easier said than done since this space that we are talking about, is fuzzy and more often than not, determined by the dynamics in external environment.

A leader fails miserably when he passes on all his responsibilities in the name of delegation and takes on the administrative role of aggregating information and presenting them to the others. The team stops looking up to him and relating to the larger purpose behind the goals. It loses momentum and often looks forward to holidays, breaks and off-sites. This is worst that can happen to any team.

The Leader has to be playing alongside his team.

Every game has multiple stakeholders and there are umpteen challenges. The leader has to be playing alongside his team or the concerned member in the team solving the tough issues rather than merely being an observer.

It is easy to divide a target into a few parts and assign each part to a member in the team. However, the leader’s job doesn’t end with it. Rather, it starts right there. The critical contributions of the leader must be in creating an environment for the team to succeed, providing the right strokes of rewards and reprimands, getting hands-on to solve an issue or create a process or a system. The energy levels, confidence and the determination of the team must be held up by the leader.

Laissez-faire works well. But, there is no one particular style that works for all the situations. While the leader delegates, one must know what to delegate, how to monitor and what to get one’s hands dirty with.

How about the leader being a facilitator?

ciel blog - facilitative leadership

Every leader is invested with some authority, given the command over a set of resources and asked upon to deliver predefined results. Leaders make decisions each day how to marshal their resources. Some of them arrive at the decisions themselves and make announcements to their team. Some of them involve others in the team and arrive at an action plan by consultation with them. And some of them empower the others in their team to take the decisions required to achieve the results. Which style is better than the other? Does one style work most of the time?

Adapt to the market!

Today’s time has heightened economic uncertainty. Customers are increasingly discerning and in constant need of speedy action; they are looking for maximizing the value that they derive from the supplier. The environment is highly competitive and the boundaries in the world are getting highly complex due to socio-political changes all over. Technology has been changing fast and disrupting not only the internal environment of a firm but also the marketplace. Given this context, it is near impossible for any leader to be able to comprehend all relevant information, arrive at the insights and conclude the action plan. The erstwhile leader was considered a superhero who had all the wisdom and prowess to decide the course of the journey; the team followed him. However, the macho style of leadership which was commonplace a decade ago does not work now. One has to necessarily discuss the state of affairs with the others in the team and co-create the path to the destination.

Telling style or directive style is not going to work any more unless the situation is simply a task-based decision which has limited risk on the ultimate results. Rather the leader of today needs to show empathy, trust and respect the members of the team; be listening deeply. That is facilitating the team.

One size doesn’t fit all!

There are situations in the team which are unique to an organization and the leader of the team. For example, many members in the team could be new and the team could be establishing the practices and norms for their performance. Another situation could be that the person is a first-time leader or a young manager; most members of the team could be inexperienced. The organization could be a start-up. In each of these situations, the demands on the leader are not only to get a set of tasks done but also to build the team. Hence, one needs to balance between directive style to complete the tasks and democratic style to build ownership.

On the other hand, if the organization is established, the leader is experienced and the members of the team have a track record of performing well, the leader’s style should be largely delegation and empowerment to the others in the team. The leader largely should be happy with information coming in at regular intervals rather than intervening every now and then to take stock and direct next course of action.

It is impossible to prescribe a leadership style without taking into consideration the internal dynamics of the team and the extent of risk posed by the situation towards achieving the ultimate goal. However, irrespective of the style, any situational leadership these days has to be that of facilitation.

The leader has to facilitate in such a way that the members in the team have to be clear about the end goal, the processes to follow and the rationale of doing what they are expected to do. They value freedom and independence; but do not expect to be left alone to learn swimming by themselves. They expect appropriate amount of coaching and guidance along the way to reach their full potential. The leader has to facilitate all of these along the way!

Facilitating Course-Corrections:

One of the important roles that the leader performs is to keep the ship steady and safe on the course. Given the context of our times, the leader has to move fast, negotiate sharp turns and create alternate paths creatively. Driving these change programs is one of the most challenging aspects of leadership. This gets exciting when the pace of change is fast in the external environment as well as internally.

The leader constantly looks at the results and the process if everything ran as expected. More often than not, things have to change : they may be the metrics, the benchmarks, the process, the equipment or the raw materials. When there are changes in the external environment such as government policies, technology, the approach of the business partners or the competition, the need for change becomes all the more complex.

It is critical that the others in the team get involved in observing such trends, analyzing them and making course corrections. Such programs are critical for the leader to initiate so that the changes are co-created, co-owned and hence, implementation on the ground gets better. While the top boss cannot abdicate his responsibility of delivering the results, it is important to facilitate these change initiatives across the the entire spectrum of leadership in the firm rather than mere announcement of change measures and asking the team to implement them.

The leader’s authority in the current times do not mean much unless there is active facilitation. Let’s take these on!

Are you a disruptive leader?

ciel blog disruptive leadership

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Darwin, Lord Buddha, Prophet Muhammad and some more such people challenged the status quo, traversed the uncharted path and created history. I am sure, there are million others who tried to emulate a similar path, had the ambition to drive such major changes, were passionate but did not make the cut. Why?

Do you keep an eye on what is coming?

In the business world, we have seen challenges faced by organizations like Kodak, Blackberry and Nokia. Their Boards had learned and capable leaders; had access to the best advisors and experts that one can think of. Still, they did not see what was coming. Their bets did not work in their favour. They were slow to disrupt the status quo and missed the bus. Reports say that Fortune 500 list in 2010 does not have 40% of those listed in Fortune 500 in the year 2000. So, 40% lost their way in a matter of just one decade. And at the same time, there are leading institutions like GE, Coca Cola, Exxon Mobil, 3M, Citigroup, Ford Motors, Kellogg, Xerox and many more who have lived more than 100 years already! There must be something right that the Boards of these companies have done to weather various storms that came their way.

Leadership in these organizations have continuously challenged the status quo and examined what lays ahead. They did not fear to chart new paths. They watched the developments in various industry sectors closely and connected the dots to come up with new possibilities. They listened to various stakeholders. They were not scared to try various new initiatives and fail in some of them. They kept discovering new formulations.

If we have to talk about the current times, we see new technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, robotics; social changes such as rise of self-centricity, right-of-centre approach, radicalisation and so on. It does not matter if you are in the field of education, transport, food, health, chemicals, machinery, energy, infrastructure or technology. Any of these changes staring at us is likely to challenge the business model. If we see this ahead of the others, we can win!

Does your team care about it?

In an organization, it is not enough if the leader sees or suspects what is coming. People at all the levels of leadership need to believe that status quo has to be challenged and they have to open their minds to new vistas of doing things. The top boss has to be communicating across the rank and file in the organization about the need of being unassuming and looking at the external world. It has to be in the DNA of the organization.

Some leaders love stability, believe in making small course corrections along the journey and accordingly drive those behaviours in their teams. There is nothing wrong in this approach if the ship is sailing in a calm sea. However, given the fact that our business environment has been dynamic, it is impossible that an organization will not encounter choppy waters every now and then. A bit of chaos is the order of the day. The leaders must learn how to stay calm in the midst of a chaos and at the same time, they must be enthusiastic and dynamic to look through the window and spot opportunities as well as challenges.

What matters is Execution!

It is not enough to have the top boss keeping an eye on what is coming and aligning the leadership at all levels about the need to look at the external world. While those are the first two essentials, the most critical aspect in the jigsaw is execution.

The leaders have to determine what needs to be done and how it will be done. They need to agree on the results to expect and define the timeline. Responsibilities have to be fixed and the team driving the disruption has to be in the direct visibility of the top boss of the organization. Frequent communication on the progress of the project has to be all over the place to increase visibility and drive the message home that the organization cares for innovation and is taking to uncharted territories.

It is equally important that the leaders know when to abandon the project for there are several possibilities to disrupt. It is not easy to let go of initiatives created with a lot of efforts, emotion and fanfare. However, a significant large number of disruptive steps do not bear fruit, but all of them teach valuable lessons. It is important that the leaders have the courage to wind down projects, announce the closure transparently and protect the people who worked hands-on.

Let’s do it!

Are you a Quiet Leader?

ciel blog - quiet leader

We grow up with various stereotypes and accordingly, we look up to certain kind of leaders as our heroes. Organizations tend to choose and promote people who are boisterous, loud and confident. It is believed that such a person is likely to inspire and lead the flock purposively, keep them together and deliver the results that the organization wants. We would have seen personalities who are on the quieter side and unable to create an impression in the first interaction. Social norms work in the minds of the audience and often they lose out when pitted against a verbal enthusiast. However, I have seen poor results delivered by the team led by the seemingly ideal person. Why is it so?

Context matters… Leader must adapt!

Situations differ and accordingly the challenges before a leader vary. One has to be flexible to be able to adapt to the situation. You may be loud and dominating; leading your team from the front and in the spotlight. Alternately, you may be quiet, analytical and empowering; prefer to be in the background. Neither of the two type is ideal! A leader is a human; the followers are human too. Hence, the group dynamics and the leader’s personal style determine how well one is able to adapt to the situation.

The leader has to invest the time and space to think about the context, recognize the situation, involve the team in arriving at the decision and building ownership of the execution steps. These steps sound very textbook style. Often, the situation could be such that the leader does not have the wherewithal to go through these steps. And in some cases, personal style of the individual comes on the way of following this style.

Results take a beating when the team expects consultation and participation whereas the leader follows his own agenda to arrive at the decision and merely communicates them down the line. Given the composition of today’s workforce, team members often want to understand the rationale of a decision and participate in the process; they do not like to be instructed and watched over their shoulders. Given this context, it is more likely that the leader cannot afford to have a dominating, invincible and instructive style. Similarly, there are situations where the house is on fire and the leader is expected to be on his toes, taking quick calls and leading from the front. So, the style of being participative, passive and consensus-driven will not work.

One-size-fits-all does not work. One has to adapt to the context!

Make choices!

One of the most important characteristics that defines a leader is the choices one makes. While the speed of decision making, the process of arriving at the decision and the way it is communicated are important, the first and most critical factor behind the success of a leader is the decision one takes. Normally, there is a set of alternate paths which lie before a leader and one chooses to traverse one of them.

Isn’t it frustrating to see the leader delaying a decision, procrastinating, unwilling to bite the bullet? We need our leader to be confident and calm in evaluating various alternates; we need him or her to be charismatic and creative in bringing up new possibilities before us. It is a unique combination of self-confidence, charisma and pragmatism that we look for. Again, easier said than done! How often we come across such people?

We find the macho and communicative boss who believes in speed and his instinct in processing the information, takes a call fast and pushes the team to get ahead. It surely raises the confidence of the team, boosts team spirit and fires everyone up. When the going gets tough, the boss needs to stay strong and calm to weather the storm, make course-corrections and sustain optimism. We have seen such macho leaders fail at times.

Quiet leaders are often stereotyped as people who are slow, tentative and selfish. However, from another perspective, the same actions might be sure-footed, determined and cautious. So pragmatically speaking, our boss needs to be balanced in his approach to a problem so that the choice is made quickly; communicated with vigour; and arrived after giving it the right amount of thought and experience. No one type of leader does it better than the other!

If you love solitude…

As we can see, there is no one particular style of leadership that works better than the other. Just in case you love solitude, prefer to write than talk, hate superficiality, embrace deep-diving, stay calm and confident in times of crisis as well as jubilation, you need not worry about your prospects of being successful as a leader. You have great strengths which need to be leveraged!

It is easy for you to listen actively, empathise, give credit to your team, put your team first, stay poised and find solutions. It is important for you to communicate often, show the way forward and exude optimism. Your team trusts you, values your position and looks up to you for inspiration!

There are enough opportunities!

ciel blog - layoffs-in-it-sector

Layoffs in IT industry are inevitable given the technological changes and socio-political changes we are witnessing. 89% of respondents to a survey carried out by CIEL last month corroborate with this. They see this as an irreversible change in the employment markets for the IT industry in India. This may sound depressing, but all is not lost. There are enough opportunities to be leveraged upon.

Why is it a big deal?

Typically, organizations asked the IT companies to automate their work processes by designing and developing an IT Application and then, making it available over a network. They had to maintain the infrastructure and the application so that business runs as usual. They saved dollars, increased speed and improved customer satisfaction. However, the landscape has changed in the last 5 years with the advent of smart phones, cloud computing and social networks. Customers transact business round the clock, communicate often and expect instantaneous results. Similarly, companies now have the access to a myriad of IT applications, do not need to own it and maintain an IT infrastructure by themselves. Our IT industry has geared up well to this new phenomenon of social, mobility, analytics and cloud. They have learnt these technologies and deployed them at work well.

Now, we are witnessing the next wave of change where artificial intelligence and big data are playing an important role in the computing process. New platforms have emerged which are helping the IT folks to create and deploy an IT application much faster and simpler than ever before. Automated tools such as bots and a range of automation platforms are reducing human efforts. Moreover, they are delighting customers by letting them be in charge of the transactions that they want to carry out with an organization. These disruptions are making many jobs redundant. Our estimates indicate loss of half a million jobs over 3 years. Most people didn’t see this coming.

Socio-political changes around the world are putting pressures on Governments in the West to review their policies of outsourcing work beyond their borders and allowing people outside their countries to carry out work there. Immigration policies are being relooked. Hence, companies in India have to find other ways of generating demand and continuously climbing the value chain. CIEL’s study shows the factors responsible for the potential job losses to be the Policies of Governments in the West, declining demands of outsourcing IT work and the advent of automation tools. Only 33% of the respondents anticipated this phenomenon.

The survey shows, most people (67%) believe, this event will get taken care to a significant extent by the normal attrition that happens in the industry. 44% believe that companies will shed the weak performers in this process. Similarly, 44% believe that the change has come faster than expected. However, a significant part of the working population in IT (56%) believe that the lay-offs are being discussed a lot and is causing panic.

New opportunities

New technologies such as augmented reality, robotics and big data are making waves in various industry sectors. They are no more restricted to sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, energy and financial services. We are seeing them applied in industry sectors like entertainment, hospitality and various other service sectors. The way we live our life is changing, right from the way we cook our food, keep in contact with the others, entertain ourselves, use appliances at home to educate our kids and take care of our health and wealth. Each of these have been transformed significantly in the last few years and have created millions of opportunities for our IT sector. Our IT folks need to reskill themselves quickly to seize upon these occasions and make hay while the sun shines.

Redeployment opportunities

Some of the IT folks can migrate to the other sectors of economy because each of them are deploying digital technologies in a significant way. Right from their processes to interact with customers to internal work processes, business planning and analysis we will see application of mobility and IT applications. Organizations will increase headcount in their IT and Technology functions to create the right applications, analyse the day-to-day transactions to derive insights and protect the information and wisdom from any threat. 44% of the respondents of the survey believe that upto a quarter of the laid off people can be absorbed in other industry sectors.

All is not lost. We have a way ahead to a bright future.

Watch out if you are the boss’s Favorite!

Image result for boss's favorite

We all know, bosses have their favorites. They are human beings and so do the people who work with them. It is natural that the boss likes and trusts someone more than the others. You become first among equals, the go-to-person for prestigious project, a critical decision or a crisis. You enjoy his proximity and often become a part of the inner circle that has the knowledge of classified information. You feel privileged and start enjoying a special status in the team. Is life a bed of roses for you?

Are you able to drive Change programs effectively?

Since you are the go-to-person for your boss, your plate remains full all the time. You are undoubtedly important for your team and the organization. You get to work on challenging assignments and can potentially learn a lot from these assignments. However, there is a catch here!

Problems in the organization are solved not by just one person but by a team and often by a cross-functional team, especially if you are in a role that has a significant strategic bent to it. The boss’s favorite is a spotlight in the organization and is looked upon with a range of emotions such as jealousy and awe. When you are in the situation of getting things done by collaborating with people from other teams, you experience bottlenecks. They do not open up to you; some of them start sabotaging your intent in a stealth mode. You start feeling frustrated and shooting from the shoulder of your boss. It often back-fires especially when you are talking to people from other teams who do not report to your boss.

You are unable to get the things done as per the plan. Often, you do not get the complete picture of the ground reality because people are not forthcoming with you. You are unable to identify the root cause of the problem you are supposed to solve or give those critical inputs to your boss. You fail to deliver the business impact. So, do not oversell your clout! Stay modest and do not take advantage of your special status.

Are you developing your career?

You are protected well by your boss, enjoy a big elbow room in many things related to work and get to solve the meaty challenges. Does that mean that you are developing your capabilities and increasing your worth? Your boss could have a rough patch in your organization and might fall out of the main stream. Your boss might become cold and distant suddenly. The peers of your boss could come to the lime light and might have opportunities which are better for you. But, your deep loyalty to your boss could come on the way of you being trusted by the front-running leaders in the organization. What happens to you in that situation?

Secondly, as you work through the maze of your organization, you being the boss’s favorite tend to be the spokesperson of your boss and his ideas. This happens unconsciously; over a period of time, this leads to you being branded as someone who toes the boss’s line, lacks the depth and confidence to form opinions and speak one’s mind. This kind of an image harms your future prospects and potentially compromises the kind of recommendations that you are likely to get from the others in future.

Each passing year, you must analyze if you are increasing your experience by a year or strengthening your abilities and deepening your expertise. Staying as a sidekick will not necessarily enrich your abilities unless you are delivering on assignments which have increasingly greater impact on your organization. Your title might change and rewards might increase; you might deepen your roots in the organization. However, the most critical factor to analyze is to check if you are producing greater impact each year. If not, you must look out for career options within or outside your current employer!

Are you hungry for approval?

Many a times, we have noticed the school kid in us want to be in the good books of the teacher. We look for the pat on the back, the stars on our books and so on! We want to be the apple of the teacher’s eye. We behave well by following all her instructions and do our best to shine in the tests that she takes. Are we carrying the same to our workplace?

It is important that we introspect and understand who we are. In case, we look for the praise or the abrogation all the time, we fail to stand on our own feet. As a professional aspiring to break into the higher echelons of an organization, it is important that we learn to think independently and present those thoughts firmly. At the same time, we have to learn to stay modest and sensitive so that the bosses do not feel hurt to hear another perspective rather welcome them.

Being the favorite of the boss puts us on a pedestal. However, we must make sure that we are growing well by increasing the business impact that we deliver and build the social equity in the organization at the same time.