If only I knew

So this was my first managerial job and I got selected after a heated discussion in which I lost my cool, being the hothead I was. First day on the job I realised I had two senior people to manage along with a fresher and two peers – all of them new to the company just like I was. Intimidating since I knew some of them by reputation and felt these guys probably knew more about the job than I did. A series of high level meetings with managers from other regions and the top honchos left me with a complete understanding of the company’s vision, mission and future road map.

Back at base I called my team together and passed on my company’s mission statement and what our goals were. I made a huge poster and slapped it on the wall for everyone to remember it. I had one-on-one meetings with each team member to understand why they took on their role, what really interested them and tried understanding their motivation. I insisted on the following:

a)Daily brainstorming meetings before we began the day’s work so each member of the team knew what the other was up to

b)The team had to be reachable on phone

c) Work would wind up by 5 every evening

d)I would deal with the top management while the team focused on getting their work done

First month into the job and we were already battle scarred! Two of the team members could barely get along and wanted the same roles & responsibilities. I was busy trying to resolve their conflicts and ensuring the team was on the ball I never got around to interacting with managers and team members from other regions. I was busy ensuring my team had a solid rep that I fought their battles with top management slowly ingraining a Us vs Them culture. I wanted to be their friend resulting in people taking leave quite often and lower productivity. I did not want to get involved in office politics so I seldom met with the administrative or sales staff.

Eight months later I was up to my neck with conflicts within the team; senior members directly interacted with top management and I was given the impression during a review meeting that I did not run a tight ship and a junior team member resigned since the conflicts demotivated her. I quit shortly afterwards, miserable and low on confidence.

Of course, I had several managerial stints later during my career but they were riddled with challenges such as these. Now I only wish I had found a mentor much earlier in my career who would have warned me of the pitfalls of getting too close, too soon; of not interacting with peers in other departments; of not looking for developmental mentors; etc, etc…

Recently, I read Lineback and Hillman’s Being A Boss and it was an eye opener. The book is filled with valuable insights on tips and tricks for first-time managers to practice avoiding the snake pits of a corporate life. The authors recognize the role of the Boss in shaping the outcome of teams and organisations through their power to influence others and using the power of the network to grow.

According to the authors, the three imperatives of Being a Boss:

  • Manage Yourself
  • Manage Your Network
  • Manage Your Team

Hill and Lineback’s model of managing self, network and team is a great way for new managers to break the overwhelming task of management. The purpose of this book is to help a manager understand how to be an instrument to get work done and contribute to the organization. At the core, this book seeks to answer one crucial question: How to Exert Influence?

Influence is at the key of persuading your team to work towards organizational goals or achieving a business outcome. Many managers think their lack of knowledge, experience or skill especially ability to manage time becomes a hindrance to becoming an effective manager.

Imperative One: Learn that management isn’t about getting things done yourself. It’s about accomplishing things through others.

Imperative Two: Understand how power and influence work in your organization and build a network of mutually beneficial relationships to navigate your company’s complex political environment.

Imperative Three: Build a high-performing team out of all the individuals who report to you.

If you are serious about evolving into a good manager from a greenhorn and becoming a great manager who leads through example this is just the book for you.

I only wish I had read this much earlier……



Work Ethics

The earliest memories of my demure, 5’4″ mosima (grandmother) are always associated with sunrises, woody smoke, cotton sarees and the fragrance of Charmis cream. 

I’m nearly five I think, my summer holidays have just started and I burrow myself deeper into the thick blanket mosima has wrapped around me.

No books to be bundled inside my canvas bag, no homework to be checked by a hawkish uncle, no poems to be learnt by rote and no tests around the corner.  I will away the chirping of the sparrows, the woody smoke from the kitchen and the  morning light I knew awaited me. The chill of the morning along with the rhythmic snoring of my grandpa was enough to make me glide back to sleep where I knew I would dream of books piled high along with hot samosas and Boost.

But rain or shine, holidays or school my dearest would be up before the cock crowed. Yes, we had roosters at every corner in Bangalore then along with cowsheds. My city was truly a garden city. My road was lined with yellow and orange champa trees, their fragrance intoxicating and heady in summers; gulmohars in resplendent red during the monsoons and always, mosima pottering around the house like a goddess. She was omnipresent.

In the kitchen, making breakfast and packing lunch for a family of 8 that sometimes expanded to 15 and more. In the garden, watering her beloved papayas, pomegranates, banana, jasmine, hibiscus and all the other myriad bushes and trees that dotted our small plot. In the veranda giving a bowl of egg and milk to a stray dog we had adopted. She wasn’t a dog lover but there was just no way she could refuse to care for yet another creature. To her all of God’s creatures were to be loved and nurtured. She would be in the backyard serving coffee to the old lady who helped with cleaning vessels and washing clothes. To the market she would go with her cloth bag and me in tow. At times, I would accompany her on a 6 km hike to our ration shop to buy the monthly groceries of rice, dal, oil, sugar and wheat.

Till the day she was admitted to the hospital where she breathed her last my dearest never wearied of fulfilling her duties to her family, her neighbors and the ones she cared for. 

Always the first one to wake up and the last to sleep. Non-complaining, ever-smiling, quick with a hug and a patient ear. Non-judgmental and driven, to be the best she could for us, her thankless brood. 

Now as I pour over management books and read articles galore I realise my dearest had the traits of a successful entrepreneur and an inspiring leader.

  1. She worked harder than the rest of us, whom she united as family
  2. She never asked but gave willing of herself and commanded us with a gentle smile, never a tear or a threat
  3. She was always willing to give a second chance and yet another chance till proven wrong
  4. She was driven by an inner moral compass and higher principles
  5. She never advised without being sought
  6. She never sat on judgement but stood by your side to pull you up and get you going

As I look around me at  papers piled high, clothes strewn around, empty bottles of water and the clock ticking by I see a sweet lady pick up and arrange with nay, a murmur nor a rebuke.I hear her sing, cook and clean with never a care for her aching body or thankless brood (smaller though it be) and I think to myself, I can’t go wrong. For my mother carries on where mosima left off.

I have a long way to go but I know the work ethics I have imbibed from the women in my family run deep within me.

As I trace my career,  adventures in living, challenges and triumphs I realise it is my mosima I look to for inner strength and retaining my authencity of who I am and being the best I can be; of staying true to myself and bouncing back every time I fall.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be gorgeous, brilliant, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. …As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love





Second hand living

The past couple of weeks I have started living second hand.

Books and LPs i have always purchased second hand, there is a romantic streak in me that gets unleashed. I found this Larouse English-French-English dictionary (1948 print) which had a note inscribed in the 2nd sheet. This is what I remember of it… “We met at the class, and I never knew when I would teach you je ne sais quoi and j’etre conjugation we would become amis for life..” and the note went on to describe shared coffees and verb conjugations. I was hooked.

Unfortunately, I lost this copy when we moved house and than I lost several more precious copies as I moved on through life but my penchant for living second hand never wavered.

LPs I got hooked on to after jiving to a funkily weird beat and singing ‘Heh heh Bombay, I know you never goin away. I know you will stay alive till judgement day. ” I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of this kookey number but if ever you get a chance, DO. It’s Remo Fernandes at his raw best.

I haunted the streets of Avenue Road and than Fort when I stayed in Mumbai for a spell to collect LPs of Funky Town, Jagjit & Chitra Singh at Wembley and oh-so-many-more and this was even before I had me a turntable.

Movies are the latest additions to my list of living life second hand, and blissfully so.

So, all the Hindu Jagran Vedike, moral policing, rape & pillage, atrocities against women, senior citizens and humanity, ludicrous statements from NCW, politicos, so-called pillars of society had me boiling in fury. And I turned to The Accused, V for Vendetta, Irreversible, 12 Angry Men, Memento & Clockwork Orange. Enough gore there to make you puke but more importantly, enough spunk & ballsiness that we, civilised folks, lack to tackle wrong doing the way it should. Idyllic in a gorey sense, but heh!!

I don’t intend to review these flicks for you but here’s a short line on The Accused. Jodie Foster & true life story make a heady combination of ballsiness to stick it in to people who deserved to be maimed to a slow death; and another on 12 Angry Men for Henry Fonda’s courage of conviction & standing up for what is right. Only wish I could do that more often.

Jack and Sarah, The Holiday, The Thirteen Chairs, Fast Forward, Step up 3, Breakin, Flashdance, AS good as IT gets, The Terminal and It happened one night carried me unscathed through bleak weeks and dark days.  It hammered the fact that Life is always about giving yourself a second chance, even if nobody else does.

And that good ole cliches like…

–For every cloud there is a silver lining

–the hour is darkest before the dawn

–every night is followed by day

–into each life must rain fall

and so on and so forth

aren’t so much cliches at all…

Like the wise lady said everything happens for a reason in this best of all possible world my friend, so make the most of what comes your way ‘coz life is too short and ’tis so easy to forget.

Cheers, and God Bless!!

Leveraging Social Media

Often heated arguments erupt between Bambubhai and I over the power of the Social Media. (A quick note: Bambubhai is my sounding board, thick as brick and sharp as a harp with his tongue and wicked wit!!) Oh where was I, ah yes the arguments. He being a SM-hater and me being PRO-SM or New Media as I prefer calling all these great platforms.

Bambubhai: Pah and boo to Social Media, what social media?? This is nothing but intrusion of privacy. I don’t know why fool people want to waste time posting pics and boasting about stuff they would normally dare not get associated with including sloshed out pics and rave parties!!!!! And don’t you ever talk about getting me into all this NONSENSE.

Me: But honey, you don’t get it do you?? You need to be on these platforms and increase your network. Who knows someone may be needing your help right now.

Bambubhai: Like hell I care. If someone wants my help they can call me or meet me. See, that’s what social media does. It takes away the human connect. People spend more time on FB than they do with family. What’s the point? And networking, well I go out for a beer with my boys and yap with the gang. What better way to network, eh??

Naysayer though Bambubhai is, he still has hooked up with buddies across the globe on FB but not capitalized the rich network that Linkedin provides. Well to those of you interested to taste some of my pickled wisdom, here goes:

Facebook not only serves as a great place to hook up with friends, keep tabs on shall we say pppl whom u r green-eyed about, catch up with DJs/RJs/MCs and all the other alphabets, know the latest dos and win free tickets…FB is also a great place to set up your page if you are interested in getting your business/hobbies off the ground. I know of a theatre group, Yourstruly, which has optimally used FB to capture a ready audience.

The like/share button available on FB page also allows you to get more people involved in this type of marketing who would attract even more people on their page to see your project and thus it goes on.

Trick is to keep the content INTERESTING, involve reader participation, encourage comments, make it INTERACTIVE

Linkedin is a great platform to network professionally not only with peers or seniors in your field but related fields too. I have checked out other sites like ApnaCircle and Viadeo but personally, did not get much value from these as compared with Linkedin. (No: not getting paid to promote).

Look up for people whom you know ONLY and get connected. Very simple reason for this thumb rule: you do not want STRANGERS/ppl with whom you share a bad rapport use this site to badmouth you or spike your chances of creating helpful connections.

Join groups that are from your area of expertise or potential area so you can gain valuable insights into the industry or market. Unlike FB where you would go around adding folks with whom u would share a Hi once in six months, be selective about whom you add on in professional networking sites.

I scratch your back, you scratch mine may be crass..but it works best this way for those who are just starting off on a professional networking platform. Later, you can use even more discretion in adding folks on your connected list.

Do not go around plastering recommendation with/from people whom you have not worked on in a personal level. And even if you do, specify the key adjectives on which the commendation can be framed so it at least has credence of authenticity.

Participate in group discussions and follow normal etiquette that you would in a formal face-to-face conversation. Smart alecks and Talking down are not welcome. Initiate discussions. Be genuine.

Twitter isn’t a fad. Yes, I wrote it off a few years back when it started but the micro-blogging platform has survived and thrived despite naysayers like me. I’m a believer in Twitter reach especially after the Brigade Carlton episode. Twitter is yet to be harnessed fully.

Twitter not only provides you the freedom of creating lists but also allows you to create new trending topics with the use of a # tag. Again, follow common day-to-day etiquettes. Your stepping into the loo doesn’t require a 140-word tweet, does it 😉

Blogging is more than a personal journal.

And some new age consultants like businessblogging.com are an eye opener as was the great social media experiment I was privileged to be a part of. CIIConnect 2010 was a great experience and ardently hope that I get the opp to participate in more such events. Meanwhile, remember a blog is a great outlet to outpour your angst and showcase your wit aka ‘A’ Corner but also is a great way to increase your network and visibility.

Whether WordPress or Blogger, all the widgets these blogging hosts provide can be creatively used to increase traffic. Check HellBound Bloggers and Mashable for updated+Tips on optimal use of New Media.

Rules to be followed are same as the other platforms. Refrain from foul language unless that is your USP, but be wary of the followers you attract. Always Pay It Forward. It helps to give because end of it all .. what you give is what you get my friend.

Happy networking, and do keep on coming back to share your valuable insights and great feedback.

Too much of Networking, and not enough working

While I admire (and at times envious of)  those who are able to quickly gather Friends/Likes on Facebook, there are times when Facebook rattles me and more so the people who spend all their waking hours on this Zuckerberg creation. A friend even said, “I seem to like people more on Facebook than when I interact with them on person.”

Should he see a shrink or the people he commented about?

And to add to my angst… here is an interesting read from the Irish Independent, the text of which is given below.

Joe O’Shea on the workers who said too much and paid the price

Unless you want to see your status change to “Just Got Sacked!”, it’s probably best to keep your work life and your social networking apart.

The online world is seeing a sharp increase in Facebook-related career catastrophes.

And it’s not just politicians and celebrities suffering from momentary brain-freeze who are getting caught out.

With the world and your boss’s granny now very much online 24/7, say anything at all about your terrible job, lazy colleagues or obnoxious customers and it is going to get around.

And the result could be an immediate and unplanned increase in the time you can devote to goofing around on the internet — at least until your broadband gets cut off.

All it takes is one dodgy photograph, one careless tweet or a couple of status updates mentioning your boss and his probable chances of staging a drinks party in a brewery.

You will get caught out, you may get fired and you could even end up facing criminal charges.

It can happen in a variety of ways and recent cases include:

The Bed-Surfing Banker

An employee of Nationale Suisse Bank called in sick, claiming that “she could not work in front of a computer as she needed to lie in the dark”.

When she was discovered to be surfing Facebook from home, she was fired. The woman maintained that she had used her iPhone to check her Facebook page. However, Nationale Suisse issued a statement saying that the incident “had destroyed its trust in the employee”.

Give Me A P! (45)

Caitlin Davis, an 18-year-old cheerleader with the New England Patriots, was fired over party photos she posted to Facebook.

The pictures showed Davis and a friend leaning over a passed-out boy whose entire face and body was covered in distasteful graffiti.

The face-graffiti included the word “Penis,” (accompanied by said phallic symbols), “I’m a Jew” and a couple of swastikas.

The Runaway-Mouth Juror

A juror in the UK was dismissed after she disclosed sensitive case information on her Facebook profile.

“I don’t know which way to go, so I’m holding a poll!” the juror wrote, asking her Facebook friends to weigh in on the case.

A concerned friend tipped off the police and the juror was off the trial and facing possible contempt of court charges.

The Snobby Stewards

Virgin Atlantic took disciplinary action against 13 crew members who participated in a Facebook discussion that trashed the airline’s safety standards and insulted passengers.

The crew posted messages on Facebook referring to passengers as “chavs”.

And as if that wasn’t enough — they joked that planes were full of cockroaches and claimed the airline’s jet engines were replaced four times in one year.

All 13 crew staff were sacked for “bringing the airline into disrepute”.

Tip-ping Is Not A City In China

A waitress in a US pizza parlour was sacked after her boss found out that she had complained on her Facebook account about customers who tipped too little.

Ashley Johnson, a former waitress at Brixx Pizzas in North Carolina, called her customers “cheap”.

But her bosses, after being shown the Facebook comment, decided she had violated company policy and showed her the door.

The Angry Mascot

Andrew Kurtz was fired from his job as a mascot for the US baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, after he used his Facebook page to criticise the team’s management.

Kurtz had to hand in his giant potato-cake costume (they are local delicacies) after club bosses found out. But he was rehired when the club’s fans launched a Twitter campaign calling for him to get his job back.

An employee of the Philidelphia Eagles American football team wasn’t so lucky.

Eagles staffer Dan Leone was fired after he used his Facebook status update to call the team management “Retarded”.

The Facebook Six

Six Australian prison guards were fired after they set up a Facebook group that trashed their boss and a plan to privatise the prison service.

The corrections officers used the Facebook page to claim that the best way to make savings would be to fire incompetent managers.

When their boss found out about the page, he tried to have the guards, who became known as The Facebook Six, fired immediately.

After six months of legal wrangling, the six won their case against the NSW Corrective Services Department.

Boring? In That Case, You’re Fired

Teenager Kimberley Swann thought her job was “boring”. And said so on Facebook.

Her employer, Ivell Marketing and Logistics of Clacton, UK, gave her this update: “Following your comments made on Facebook about your job and the company we feel it is better that, as you are not happy and do not enjoy your work, we end your employment with Ivell Marketing & Logistics with immediate effect.”

Miss Swann later said: “I did not even put the company’s name, I just put that my job was boring. They were just being nosy, going through everything. I think it is really sad, it makes them look stupid that they are going to be so petty.”

Getting Fired In 140 Characters Or Less

Who needs Facebook when you can tweet your way out of a job before you have even started it?

The case of Twitter user “theconnor” started when a young US man got a sweet job with web giants Cisco Systems and tweeted; “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”

It wasn’t long before a Cisco manager called Tim Levad spotted the tweet and shared this open response:

“Who is the hiring manager? I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”

The man called “theconnor” immediately deleted all info from his page and set his Twitter account to private. But it was too late. Web sleuths revealed his real identity and the job offer was, according to reports, withdrawn.