December 4, 2013

When Top Leaders Shun their Responsibilities

It is a frequent scenario is many organizations where top leaders shun their responsibilities and adopt a complete hands-off management style which is not really meant to empower decision making but meant to not only avoid conflict but also save their backs.

Following examples provide some insight into how such top leaders behave and act:
  • The top leader is afraid to confront the leader of a functional area who frequently misses important meetings citing another commitment every time. Instead she writes an email indirectly indicating that leader to attend but does nothing in case of another miss
  • The top leader creates a closed-knit group of lieutenants. Such lieutenants may not have the required professional competence and expertise but are part of the exclusive loyalty club created and promoted by top leader herself
  • The top leader has the habit of sending surprise emails (with some hidden agenda) once in a while requesting for ridiculous information without bothering to understand the context and current situation and then writing another email offering unsolicited and unfounded advise
  • The top leader suggests initiating utter nonsensical practices and activities relying on the advise of the trusted lieutenants without considering the advise of those who have the professional competence and expertise
  • The top leader constantly engages in communications and acts that are intended to demean and dilute the standing of those who have the professional competence and expertise but not a part of the exclusive loyalty club of the trusted lieutenants

September 14, 2013

Why Any Leader Loses Credibility in the Eyes of Those She is Supposed to be Leading?

A leader can loose credibility in the eyes of those she is supposed to be leading in no time. Building credibility takes lot of effort and time but loosing it is quick and immediate.

Leaders must be always conscious of this fact lest they start assuming themselves to be perfect.There are several reasons for a leader to loose credibility. Here are some of such reasons:
  • The leader is inconsistent in her communication. In one meeting she says that a particular customer is not reasonable and in  another meeting she says that customer is always right.
  • The leader indulges in blatant lies. Instead of saying to a difficult partner that she is not available for a certain duration, she says that she is on planned vacation.
  • The leader promotes a coterie culture where those who are not a part of the old boys club are not given the appropriate professional status in the organization.
  • The leader doesn't take any action to correct the non-professional attitude of those who are a part of the old boys club.
  • The leader discourages anyone saying a "no" or asking tough questions and in fact is against anyone becoming a part of the old boys club

August 22, 2013

Do you Dread Opening Your Office Mailbox?

What thoughts cross your mind when you walk into your office in the morning, switch on your desktop or laptop and log into the mailbox? Do you feel excited and happy? Or do you feel afraid and anxious? Or do you dread opening your office mailbox?

If you dread opening your office mailbox, then welcome to the community of those who receive “negative” e-mails. These negative e-mails are almost always from negative and unprofessional colleagues in the workplace.

Following list provides an indicative list of characteristics of negative e-mails. This list also gives a clear insight into those who send such emails.
  • Email points fingers at you for something that was a miss or a mistake from your side in a very crude, sarcastic and demeaning manner. The persons sending such emails would essentially try to act smart in their emails. After few emails of such nature from such persons you will know the ‘smart types’ in the system. The way an email is worded goes a long way in creating positive energy and vibes. However, such persons fail to realize this and are driven by a strong desire to undermine others efforts and contributions.
  • Email is written with a hidden agenda to prove a point with a mischievous intention or show the sender’s superiority in a certain sense or to show you ‘your lowly place’ in the organization. After few emails of such nature from such persons you will know the ‘trouble makers’ in the system.  Such persons carry a grudge on their shoulders. This grudge could be purely against you at the personal level (they might secretly hate you for something you may not even be aware of) or such persons have attitude issues and they are like this with everyone else or they have personal issues which have over flown into their professional lives.
  • Email is written with it being copied to additional people who may not be relevant to the context of the email. Such persons have the habit of always marking someone higher up in the hierarchy or someone you report into in a strange, abrupt way (while trying to rationalize why they did so).  Another strong reason for them to do so is their being highly conscious of their designation or position – how can they communicate with employees lower in designation to them but communicating to them as if they are at par with them in terms of designation. After few emails of such nature from such persons you will know the ‘hierarchy conscious folks’ in the system. 
In any case, one needs to exercise extreme care and tact when dealing with such ‘smart types’, ‘trouble makers’ and ‘hierarchy conscious folks’ in the system. Whenever an email from such persons lands in your mailbox your first reaction would always be “trouble on the way” or “did I miss anything” or “did I do anything wrong”.

That’s why it is all the more important that while dealing with such negative and invariably unprofessional persons you stay extremely positive and professional. It is a fact that such persons will be a constant pain in your neck (and many more necks) and would certainly make you dread opening your office mailbox.

August 16, 2013

Is Your Current Job Demeaning Your Intellect and Self-respect? Yes? Then You Got to Go

All working professionals should ask this question to themselves as part of the quarterly self-review of their career. Asking this question confirms that one indeed is on the right track and with the right organization.

The sharpness of competencies and experience that one has picked on the way while moving along one’s career can get blunted if one works with the wrong organization for more than the tolerable span of time. Interestingly, an organization which is wrong for someone can be the right for someone else. In addition, an organization which is right when one joins it might become wrong at a later point in time. The quarterly self-review is a good method to determine this.

The association of a professional with an organization depends on the career aspirations and objectives of the professional vis-à-vis the organization’s ability to help that professional achieve those. Certain organizations especially with a father figure leading a founding team of loyalists and lifers may be exception to this rule. In such organizations the loyalists and lifers work like a slave to the father figure and the father figure is a like a corporate king.

The loyalists and lifers will not move out even if the job they do is demeaning to their intellect and self-respect due to following reasons:
  • They will not get another job outside as they won’t be able to demonstrate that they can survive elsewhere. Even if they manage to move on they will come back in no time when they realize loyalists and lifers can’t survive in a true professional set-up.
  • They would form a closely associated coterie which has mutual admiration for each other due to the loyalty for the father figure but their performance and competencies might be extremely low. However, for some reason they will naively assume all the loyalists and lifers together have great brain power.
  • They will have created a comfort zone and become frogs in a well and hence lost the ability to accept new and differing ideas. The father figure would leave the pack of loyalists and lifers by showing reluctance to even hear about new ideas. As per them, things can be done only their way.
Professionals who are unfortunate to be a part of such organization would realize to their dissatisfaction that such organizations are non-professional at the core, believe in loyalty over performance, promote coterie culture, not allow new ideas to come in and artificially sustain the hegemony of the father figure and the old boys club.
True professionals in such organizations, which definition strictly excludes the father figure and the pack of loyalists and lifers, would often encounter humiliating, frustrating and unfair situations which are demeaning to their intellect and self-respect. Such professionals got to go and quickly at that.

August 15, 2013

Taking Care of Your Career

Getting opportunities to learn and chances to grow both laterally (to expand your horizon) and vertically up (to reach senior positions) is an important ingredient of professional success. You career growth and the jobs you hold on the way to professional success are important elements to ensure you are able to provide and sustain a certain standard of living for yourself and your near and dear ones. Hence, you owe it to yourself to take care of and navigate your career.

You would typically enter the workforce at around 20-25 years of age and can continue to work till 60-65 years of age which means you can have a career span of 35-45 years. However, surviving this long is not easy with so many challenges on the way – companies closing down, organizations downsizing due to business decline, reduced demand for one’s skills in the market, lay-offs due to industry-wide recession, getting fired for various reasons and difficulties on the personal front (terminal illness, debilitating diseases, incapacitating accidents).

Many professionals carry the impression that the manager you report into or the company you work with owe you a favor since you are working to make them successful. The reality is far removed away from this impression and quite harsh. No one actually works for the company, instead they work for protecting their interests - the manager works for protecting her interests till she is around, the executive management team works for protecting their individual and collective interests till they are around, the shareholders (especially those who are founders, promoters, owners) work for protecting their interests till they stay invested.

Hence professionals should also work with the same orientation - work for protecting their interests till they are around. Never expect the manager you report into or the company you work with to help you learn and grow. This is something which must be owned and operated by you solely as you are the one who gets directly and severely impacted at the end of the day.

If you are a founder-type professional you should hold your control on the company (never dilute equity beyond a certain percentage). In such a case you can work on and on as you wish, literally until the day you die, and hand over the reins to the next generation and this can go on for many generations. As long as the company’s business model adapts and stays relevant your future generations will remain founder-type professionals. In the unfortunate event of the company going turtle you won’t need to bother as you won’t be there to know about it. It is also interesting to note that founder-type professionals would have vested interest in creating an army of loyalist-type professionals who man key positions with the founder as the father figure at the top.

If you are a loyalist-type professional, chances are high you would be manning a key position in a company (such companies rely on creating an army of loyalists who man key positions with a father figure at the top). In such a case you might want to continue as long as you can. However, be careful in case the direction of wind starts changing and the ship starts sinking. Remaining with the organization at that juncture might jeopardize your career. One example when this can happen is the company getting acquired by another company. The father figure and his protégés will be the ones who will be sent home with hardly much time for packing their bags when the new management team takes over.

If you are a normal professional you should act like free agents. You should work with an organization as long as you are adding value to yourself and to the company you work with at that point. The moment you sense learning and growth is blocked, it makes complete logical sense to move on. In case you are in a company with many loyalist-type professionals, many of whom are lifers, you will generally find that it is difficult to join the group of loyalists as the father figure at the top will never trust you, no matter how competent you are and how well you perform. Moving on would be the only choice left with you after you stay with such a company for a certain duration. If by chance, you are included as part of the group of loyalists you might want to stay put while being constantly watchful of the direction of wind. In troubled times, the new loyalists will be sacrificed for the old and original loyalists.

People with Attitude Problems at the Workplace

It usually leaves a bad taste in the mouth when you hit upon people with attitude problems. In personal life, you have the choice to completely ignore such people to a large extent (unless they happen to be your next-door neighbor). However, in the workplace, it may not be possible to ignore people with attitude problems

Knowing the kind of behaviors and actions you can expect from people with attitude problems at the workplace is quite helpful in becoming aware of such people and being careful when interacting with them.
Here is a list of behaviors and actions you can expect from people with attitude problems at the workplace:
  • Their response to any request made to them which they resist would be “I will not do it. You can talk to anyone you want to including my boss” or “I am quite busy and working on something very urgent for the business. Your thing can wait, right?”
  • They would write an email highlighting trivial aspects in case someone misses something with a sarcastic and demeaning tone “people are laughing at this” or “these guys spend their life doing a certain thing” or “how do I answer to such an email” or “I have no words to express what I feel” or “to say the least”
  • They would neither accept nor decline any meeting request sent to them. You have to call them always and when you call them they would then tell you, as always, they won’t be there “I won’t be attending as I have got something more important to do”
  • They would not read and respond to your emails and meeting invitations but expect you to read and respond to their emails. And if you don’t, send an email marking your manager “awaiting response”.
  • They would never discuss anything face-to-face and send mails after mails requesting you to perform certain actions. They would then send mails after mails “as discussed, this was supposed to have been done by so and so date, please let me know the current status”. They would chase you over emails never bothering to pick the phone up or walk across to you.
  • They would not send an email directly to you even when fully knowing that you are taking care of a certain area. They would come through your supervisor as if otherwise the work would not have happened. They do it deliberately to massage their ego or to show that you are nothing and know that the supervisor would be as good as a post-master and would just forward the mail “please help as requested”. The idea is to demean, devalue and belittle you and show that you are nothing.
  • They would send the response to emails sent by you to them to your manager instead – “you can share with the concerned”. The idea is to belittle you or show you your real place in the organizational hierarchy, basically showing that you are nothing.
  • They would always copy their response to the emails sent to them to your manager also as if dealing directly with you is below their dignity. The idea is to demean, devalue and belittle you and show that you are nothing.

Accepting the Offer for a Leadership Position at an Organization

Accepting the offer for a leadership position at an organization is a crucial decision in any professional’s career. Getting an offer for a leadership position at an organization is tough but making an exit from such a position is many times tougher. Hence it is important for those seeking a leadership position at an organization to gather information on certain aspects before accepting the offer.

At the time of hiring, companies and recruitment consultants show the position is all rose with no thorns. The following questions can be helpful to gather information on the thorns that come with the rose. These will help in making an informed decision when the offer for a position is made by a company:
  • Who all will I report into? This gives good idea about reporting effort and complexity. This is quite important in matrix organizations.
  • Who all will report into me? This gives good idea about team handling effort. There may be more than one team reporting into a role.
  • Who will be my peers? This gives good idea about influencing power in the position being offered. Being placed lower in the hierarchy as compared to others with peer-level responsibilities will impede effectiveness.
  • What is the company’s latest revenue figure? This gives good idea about how big or small the organization is, especially in case of privately held firms.
  • What is the company’s future growth plan and outlook? This gives good idea about where the organization is likely to be in a few years hence and the longevity of the stay with the organization one can look forward to.
  • Who will handle the budgets for the area I would be responsible for? This gives good idea about the existence of old boys’ club culture in the organization.
  • What next position can I look forward to? This gives a good idea about the career growth path and possibilities or lack of it.

How Weak and Incompetent Managers Drive Motivation Out of a Team and Eventually the Team Out of the Organization

Reporting into a weak and incompetent manager can be a nightmarish experience for anyone. Those who have ever been in such a situation in their workplace would very well understand how energy-draining reporting into a weak and incompetent manager can be.

First and foremost, it is useful to understand how organizations place a weak and incompetent manager into his or her position. Some of the reasons are listed below:
  • The manager is placed by another weak and incompetent above him or her - This is the case in an organization where the top management layer is like frozen ice which allows no new and novel ideas to get in. The top management folks act as a mutual admiration club with a glorified impression of their competencies and capabilities. This is similar to being a big frog in a small well with a strong but utterly foolish belief that the well is the world.
  • The manager is placed due to him or her being a part of the old boys club - The manager is asked to artificially manage an area he or she knows little or nothing about and to ensure this doesn’t impact work in that area a professionally competent manager is also hired and assigned to do the real work. It’s like having a guy with a PG in a subject being forced to report into a guy with a KG in that subject just because the KG guy has strong credentials in the sense he is a loyalist of the top man and a part of the old boys club. Such a reporting relationship is not likely to run for a long time as the professionally competent manager will soon figure out the top man’s hidden agenda.
It is worthwhile to note the point that in professional organizations chances of this happening are far lesser than in the non-professional organizations.

Such incompetent managers are generally weak managers also. They will never take a stand and never defend the professionally competent manager and her team on technical grounds as the weak and incompetent manager would not only not know what to do but being a “yes sir” man of the top man offer inane reasons and suggestions . And in fact, oppose the professionally competent manager in most of the discussions.

Not only that, the weak and incompetent manager will represent that area in the important forums and discussions (since the professionally competent manager will not be allowed to represent as part of the hidden agenda of the top man and old boys club) and make illogical and utterly stupid commitments to other stakeholders. For every suggestion he will say yes without knowing what it takes and how it will be done. This would frustrate the professionally competent manager and the team as well.

The weak and incompetent manager will also try to outdo and outsmart the professionally competent manager in email communications with the top man. After realizing that he or she is working in a non-professionally organization the professionally competent manager will participate in such email communications with a clear understanding of the uselessness of offering a differing view.

Such a situation can be highly de-motivating and demeaning to a professionally competent manager and her team. As a result the likelihood of the professionally competent manager and the team leaving the organization is very high in such cases. Weak and incompetent managers drive motivation out of a team and eventually the team out of the organization.

What Every Professional Should Know About Mid-Career Crisis?

The career growth path in any organization is like climbing up a cone, slippery along the way and with just one top. What that means is only one professional will get a chance to reach the top. Many will reach the second, third and levels below to stagnate there until they get retired or fired.

One typically enters the workforce at the age of 20-25. By the age of 35-40 one would reach the first mid-career crisis and if one is lucky to get above into the management ladder well and good otherwise one would flame out there itself. Again at 45-50 one would reach the second mid-career crisis and get a chance to move into senior management ladder and in case that doesn’t happen one can flame out there itself.

The First Job

The excitement felt after landing the first job is an amazing experience for all of us. At that point “getting a good job” means everything in the world. Good in this context means a job with a branded company with a high salary and a seemingly exciting role. Besides, the feeling of finally becoming financially independent of your parents is an awesome one.

For few weeks and months all seems to go well in the first job. Very soon, however, reality strikes in an “on your face”, harsh way. There might be issues one would actually experience or get to understand from a closer angle, such as:
  • limited opportunities to learn and grow
  • monotonous and predictable work
  • unclear performance expectations and vague, infrequent feedback
  • lack of alignment with the organizational culture
  • friction with other team members
  • low motivation caused by an intimidating supervisor
  • low motivation caused by a weak manager
  • loss of faith in the organization’s future caused by uninspiring leadership
  • unclear, confusing directions and signals from higher ups
  • brush with power plays and group dynamics intended to preserve the political structure
  • deliberate exclusion by higher ups from important communications
  • illogical reporting structure intended to preserve control by the top man and his club of boys
  • clash with strong personalities with bloated egos in powerful positions in the hierarchy

The First and Subsequent Moves

So the thought that would eventually cross the mind is, “let’s move on”. After moving on and settling into another job in another organization, the above cycle would get repeated in a few years time. And so on it goes, another job in another organization, and then yet another until one reaches 10-15 years of experience and starts expecting a senior position.

At this point, mid-career crisis strikes and moving on becomes increasingly difficult for reasons listed below:
  • Acquired experience would be in a specific industry like pharmaceuticals, automotive
  • Acquired experience would be in a specific functional/technical area like sales, administration
  • Openings available for a certain experience will be limited in terms of number of positions and companies that need that experience
  • There might be mismatch between current compensation and title with what is on offer 
  • Those who will do the hiring will look beyond functional/technical competencies into cultural/political competencies. Some examples of this are:
    • A hiring manager will not hire someone with stronger qualifications and credentials
    • A hiring manager will consider the political environment in which a candidate will have to work while assessing her suitability for a position
    • A hiring manager will bring his bias in recommending a candidate

Mid-Career Crisis

Mid-career professionals are in a career transition mode and must remain calm and positive as they go through it. In case they fail to progress to higher levels (and as hard as it may sound, many would fail), they should absorb the failure in a clinical and philosophical manner. At this point in one’s career one should be highly self-aware about one’s strengths and weaknesses and in a way come to an honest admission of the fact that “one simply doesn’t have what it takes to go higher” and the fact that “it’s perfectly fine if you stand no chance to become a CEO one fine day”.

Organizations need highly specialized, deep expertise to develop next generation products and services and will align with the market changes rapidly. This might, however, take a toll on the professionals with highly specialized, deep expertise in an area as they will need to constantly and quickly learn something new, unlearn it and learn something else new. Such professionals can easily ride over the first mid-career crisis and the second one with extreme difficulty.

Top executives, knowing well that such professionals are a necessity for their business will cultivate such professionals and keep them motivated by titles such as Chief Engineer, Fellow and Distinguished Engineer.

Mid-career professionals who possess highly specialized, deep expertise in an area are viewed as rock stars in an organization until the time the market needs for such an expertise exist. However, in case of a demand shift in marketplace such professionals might find themselves out of favor unless they quickly migrate to highly specialized, deep expertise in another area. Those professionals who fail to cope will flame out from the corporate world.

Organizations need generic, wide-ranging expertise to run business operations smoothly, handle the day-to-day usual stuff.  Business is not as simple as developing a product and selling it to customers to make money. Any business needs to navigate through the expectations of its various stakeholders – government bodies, regulatory agencies, investors, customers, competition, employees, etc. The demand for such professionals tapers off while moving up the organizational hierarchy. Such professionals can easily ride over the first mid-career crisis and the second one with some difficulty.

Top executives, knowing well that they also had taken this path to the top will cultivate such professionals and keep them motivated by titles such as General Manager, Vice President, Senior VP, Executive VP.

Mid-career professionals who possess generic, wide-ranging expertise as functional and resource management are viewed as necessary evil for running the business operations smoothly. In case of troubles in business operations such professionals might find themselves out of favor unless they are working in areas to do with legal compliance and supporting business operations in a direct way. Such professionals will, however, be easily able to find employment in other organizations. Those professionals who fail to cope will flame out from the corporate world.

Managing Mid-Career Crisis

Our careers are an important part of our existence and not moving up and getting stuck or getting fired and shown the door may seem as a personal insult and a question mark on our individuality and importance in our own eyes and others that know us. It need not be this way.

Career progression depends on both individual competency, performance and how various factors play out in the career of a professional. In all situations, however, it is a truism that all but one professional will reach the top. It is also a truism that the professional at top can also slide down in no time (CEO firing is not as uncommon as one would wish it to be). 

Keeping in view some of the above aspects what can a mid-career professional do? Can he really do much or anything?  Can mid-life crisis be managed? There are some aspects which can be managed and many more which can’t be. Knowing which ones can be managed and which ones can’t be is as important as effectively managing the ones that can be managed and hoping for the best for the ones that can’t be managed.

Worst are those mid-career professionals who are in small organizations as they may have limited opportunities to learn and grow and in case they are made redundant will find it very difficult to get another job. Small organizations are generally managed by an old boys club which would be reluctant to induct a mid-career professional as part of the club. And mid-career professionals, especially those in the midst of second mid-career crisis, will not find it easy to get into a bigger organization since they will lack the understanding of scale and complexity of business in a big organization (as compared to a small organization).

Such professionals should try to move back to a bigger organization, join the rat race to reach as high as possible, and the moment they realize they will not be able to reach the first, second or third level and become redundant in the next organizational restructuring, put a plan to move back to another smaller organization at a level or two up at the bigger organization or get into a startup or get into consulting, etc.

Slightly better are those mid-career professionals, especially those in the midst of second mid-career crisis, who work in a bigger organization as some of the second level professionals might move into a smaller organization and become the top man. Many others who move out or forced to move out can end up starting their own consulting or advisory firm. Some others may float start-ups and designate themselves as the founder and top man. However, most of these professionals end up realizing very soon that this movement is generally one way with a slim chance to return to a bigger organization.

Such professionals the moment they realize they will not be able to reach the first, second or third level and become redundant in the next organizational restructuring should put a plan to move back to a smaller organization at a level or two up at the bigger organization or get into a start-up or get into consulting, etc.

Far better are those mid-career professionals who are founder and owner of a small or medium sized organization whose business model has potential to grow further. And best are those whose company becomes big by the time they enter mid-career.

Such professionals should try to ensure the survival of their organization as they will not find it easy to work for others in case their business fails for any reason. Some of such professionals might sell their business to another organization in a life-time deal and then retire.

They will not need to work for money any longer but may pursues many ideas purely for the kick one may get from them. However, they will need to stay focused on avoiding living on the edge as that can wipe their wealth rapidly in no time.

July 23, 2013

Working with Non-professional Organizations

Working with non-professional organizations can be quite draining for any professional employee. So what are the typical symptoms that indicate that you are working in a non-professional organization?

How to Ascertain You are in a Non-professional Organization

Here are some examples, which if they are happening, would strongly indicate you are working in a non-professional organization.
  • The top man has cultivated a select few as a part of the management team. All key decisions are made by this cohort and no other professional is allowed to join this group of "old boys club".
  • Any senior professional hired from outside to manage an area is given full accountability but limited authority. In fact, the senior professional is made to report into the top man through someone in the cohort.
  • The cohort is like a gang of old friends who are on back slapping terms with each other. The senior professional is belittled and humiliated by the top man by sending emails meant for the senior professional through the one in the cohort she reports into.
  • The cohort goes out for lunch together and hardly mingles with the other employees. This old boys club has no interest in informally engaging with employees over the lunch table.
  • The cohort would support each others' decisions and other senior professionals are made to look like fools as the technical decisions they make are overturned or dictated by the top man or one of the cohorts.
  • The top man would not mind telling lies to external stakeholders such as customers or senior executives in the head office and for all you know it might very well be the case that the senior executives might themselves be indulging in such practices.
  • The top man will not care to find out what the senior professional is doing and based on heresy (from the cohort or other lifers in the organization) send emails suggesting changes that may already be in works.
  • There will be many lifers in the organization who would have come to the end of their career growth phase and hence stuck and will never be able to move out since no other company would hire them. More importantly, these lifers will have huge bloated egos, unprofessional behavior and bad attitudes.
  • The organization will tell lies to customers so that invoicing can continue. Ethics will be a low priority though the organization will have a nice, shiny handbook on "values". Actions by the top man and cohorts will be in utter disregard of the values with no one objecting to it.
  • The top man will talk about future strategy, improvements, employee welfare, et al in passionate terms with no appropriate actions to back that up. Initiatives will be launched without due consideration to what really matters.
  • The cohorts will be "yes sir" men of the top man. The top man decides this way and the answer from the cohorts will be "yes sir, this very way" even if it means taking an untruthful stand or unethical action.
  • The moral compass in the discussions of the top man and his cohorts and their discussions with others will be missing altogether. Getting things somehow will always override doing the right thing.
What to Do if You are Stuck in a Non-professional Organization
If you are stuck in such a situation and especially if you are a senior professional what should you do? The answer is simple - quit and move on, as soon as you can. Here are some reasons why moving on is so necessary:
  • You will never grow beyond a certain level
  • You will have to start indulging in lies and unethical practices yourself
  • You will always be made to have a sense of being a second class citizen as compared to the top man and his cohorts and the lifers
  • You will be humiliated, belittled, devalued time and again
  • Your decisions and suggestions will be rejected and overturned
  • You will not be involved in discussions and decisions which you would normally be a part of in a professional organization
  • You will have the follow the top man's line with no option of being allowed to express your point of view
  • You will get a mail or call from the cohort or the top man himself threatening or intimidating you for something
  • You will be shown your true place time and again
Thus quitting and moving on is important so that you maintain your professional competence, maintain your professional ethics, maintain your personal dignity and above all ensure career growth. 

So get going now, and move on quickly. Time may be running out for you already. Staying in a non-professional organization that you may have joined by mistake would be committing even a bigger mistake.

May 27, 2013

Why Some CEOs are Unlike What CEOs Should Truly Be

Some of those who become CEOs may not deserve to be one. Such people are generally those who are fake at the core, take stand as per convenience, promote coterie culture and are not inspiring at all. These threads have been elaborated below.

Fake at the Core

Such CEOs are good actors who display superficial genuineness and passion. At the core, however, they are laid back with no real interest in the affairs of the organization.

Many of these people are those who are having a second career (after they get retired or are asked to leave). Such people will have no personal liability (home mortgage paid off and children educated and married off) and the job came their way as a result of loyalty rather than merit.

Take Stand as per Convenience

Such CEOs take decisions based on prejudiced whims and fancies. They are highly checklist oriented and just interested in activities happening with no consideration to the purpose and value.

For such CEOs convenience is a key method that is used to carry on with the organizational affairs with a false sense of purpose and urgency. Shortcuts and occasional slip-ups of ethics are fine as long as things get managed eventually.

Promote Coterie Culture

Such CEOs assemble a set of loyalists around them who are basically "yes sir" men and promote a culture where the CEO's statement is viewed as a diktat and hence never challenged.The people reporting into the CEO may differ but lack the professional courage to technically challenge the CEO.

Such CEOs when they hire a senior professional do not allow her to become a part of the "CEO's club" and in case she challenges the CEO on certain decisions the CEO brings his flock of loyalists more closer and belittle the senior professional. In such situations senior professionals would not stay beyond a certain period. The coterie culture feeds on itself where hiring a a senior professional becomes next to impossible.

Not Inspiring at All

Such CEOs fail to proved inspiration to the employees in general. They might be reasonably good in public speaking but those who interact with the CEO get to see the other, usually dirty, side of the CEO as demonstrated in private discussions, emails, etc.

Such CEOs would have a hands-off approach to management and would usually talk in air, talk about building castles, start initiatives in multiple directions without worrying about the organizational priorities, etc.

April 1, 2013

Try to Live to 100 and Beyond but be Ready to Die Any Moment

Death is the only reality of life. Rest everything is illusory, transient and what happens to us while we are on the way to meeting our death at a certain moment.

When we die we need just 6 ft by 3 ft hole to be burned in or buried under. All the great things we did or failed to do, all the material possessions we acquired or failed to acquire, all the nice things we said or failed to say, come to a sort of nothingness.

It is painful to think that your father and mother will grow old and weak, might fall sick as well and eventually die one day. There is no reason to assume this will not happen to you. Hence it is important to treat your parents well and take care of them when they are alive. Praying with folded hands in front of their photos on a wall after they die is meaningless.

Stay with them, touch them, hear them and listen to them. It is better to talk to them, understand their concerns, share beautiful moments with them, take them out to places they want to see, make them feel happy and blissful while they are alive. This will help them meet their deaths happily and peacefully. And it will help you also to meet you death happily and peacefully as you won't carry the guilt and regret that you couldn't make your parents life happy when they were alive.

Like your parents you will also grow old and weak, might fall sick as well and eventually die one day. Like you and your parents, your kids and their kids (and in fact everyone) will grow old and weak, might fall sick as well and eventually die one day. So be nice with your kids and enjoy time with them. Touch them, hear them and listen to them.  It will help you and your kids to meet death happily and peacefully as neither you nor they would carry the guilt and regret that either couldn't make the others life happy when alive.

It might also happen that your kids die before you die. In that case also you will have no guilt and regret if you have done the above. It can also happen that your kids don't do unto you as you did for your parents. Don't even expect it. If your kids do all that you did for your parents good and if not even better.

There is no point in waiting for tomorrow to start doing these things. It's better to start right now. Remember time is running out for all of us. The journey towards death starts the very moment one takes birth.

Watching someone die is a very mind numbing and humbling experience. More so if the person dying meets with an untimely death. But then death doesn't care about the time. It will come when it has to come. Seeing someone die and being consigned to flames is the most beautiful and pure truth of one's existence. It tells you your ultimate destination. Becoming a president, a CEO, a general, etc. is not the end point of life, dying is.

Death, however, should not mean one stops living because one has to die one day. It rather means one needs to live life to its fullest extent so that one is prepared to die when the time comes.

One should try to live to 100 and beyond but live each moment as if that's the last moment of one's life. Being ready to die any moment is the ultimate success one can achieve in life. For keeping oneself grounded to reality remember your death, as of anyone else, matters a zilch in this universe. Sun, moon, stars, earth will go on with their motions even if all of us were to die at this very moment. We are born to die and we should welcome it happily at all moments.

February 21, 2013

Black Money - Where to Look for Black Money in India?

One hears about a lot of black money flowing in India. If someone were to find out where it is hiding here are some places to look for black money:

Real Estate

Anytime one hears the phrase "you have to pay a premium" one can bet the premium is nothing but the black money asked by the seller. And who are these sellers? Mostly investors with loads of black money. Black money grows faster and fatter as compared to white money because these "investors" pay no tax on the black money - neither income tax nor capital gains tax. In fact it is really amazing that the term being used is "investor" rather than "tax violators".

Simply asking all builders to provide the names and contact details of those who have bought and sold a house before the physical possession is enough to nail these "tax violators". Most of such people would be ones with black money.

Wedding and Festivals

In many cases someone splurging loads and loads of cash on wedding, birthday parties, festivals is a good case to explore further. Chances are high that the money behind all of it would be black in color. When payments made for all such expenses are made in cash it is invariably a case of black money being used by the person making the payment. Not only that the payment accept in such cases stays in cash and gets spent further in cash, all of it remaining in black.

Simply asking all tentwallahs, banquet hall and lawn owners and restaurants organizing birthday parties the names and contact details of those who have used their services is enough to nail these "tax violators". Most of such people would be ones with black money.

February 13, 2013

Managing Cost Control

Cost control is an effective strategy for an organization to rein in its expenses and hence positively impact the profit margin. Here are some examples of cost controls that can be viewed as aggressive by employees if introduced for the first time but without exercising due care.
  • Number of cups of teas and coffees consumed by employees is rationed
  • Late stay transport is at fixed times and also drops provided to the employees both in late stay and regular transport is at fixed locations only
  • Plastic and paper cups are replaced by every one being given a mug that needs to be washed after every use
  • Quantity of food portions taken by an employee in the company cafeteria is rationed
  • Paper towels are not available in washrooms
  • Lights and AC are switched off or dimmed when not in use 
The above cost control measures should ideally exist in any organization at all times. As a matter of fact, resources should never be overused or wasted whether in the workplace or at home. This is very important in today's context where the sustainability of planet earth is at stake.

Unfortunately many organizations adopt these measures only when in distress (economic slowdown, recession, etc.). This may lead them to be viewed as aggressive by employees if introduced for the first time but without exercising due care. Cost control measures perceived as aggressive can vitiate the organizational culture if not managed nicely.

February 11, 2013

Always Remember, We Have to Die One Day

The way most of us live it appears as if we assume we would never die. Every day we go about doing our daily chores in a ritualistic manner assuming we will be doing the same tomorrow as well.

Nothing is farther from the truth. We must always remember that we have to die one day and that day could be any day. Death is a great equalizer that way. After our dead bodies are burnt or buried it is in some way "returned to nature". This means that we must always remain "down to earth".

The constant realization of the inevitability of death is a powerful method to keep one's ego at check. All of us - the famous, the infamous and the not-at-all famous - join and stand in the line of the "waiting to die" the moment we take birth in this world.

Death will come to all. And it can be said that for all of us the key question regarding death is not if but when. We must always be prepared to die but until then try to live a wholesome life each day and each second. Whenever one is felling depressed or exuberant it is a good time to do a reality check and repeat to oneself "we have to die one day".

Life is Too Precious to be Lost on a Road

If one drives on Indian roads for some time it is more than enough to make one emotionally drained initially and stiff over time. Here are the typical sights and sounds on Indian roads:
  • Mangled remains of cars and other vehicles
  • Trucks that are overturned or lying at strangle angle on or off the roads
  • Dead bodies and injured people
  • Ambulances arriving at the site of accident and rushing away to a hospital nearby
  • Bodies of animals crushed under the tyres
  • Dark red spots of human or animal blood on the road
The loss of life and material has its economic, social and emotional impact on those who experience it first hand. For the others it is the loss of life on the roads that has the maximum emotional impact.

The first time one watches a dead body of any man or woman involved in an accident the feeling can be gut-wrenching and emotionally draining. The question that lingers on for many days and weeks to come is "oh, it can happen to me also, I can also die in an accident!". After few such incidents one becomes philosophical and emotionally stiff, "well since it can very well happen to me I better buy an accident insurance policy!".

Life is too precious to lost on a road. We must keep this in our minds while we drive on Indian roads. Some of the following rules may be helpful:
  • Know and follow all traffic rules yourself but assume that others will not (expect vehicles on wrong side, over-taking from wrong side, vehicles in the night driving with both front and rear lights not working, overloaded vehicles, etc.)
  • Assume bad roads and feel happy if the roads are in good condition (expect potholes, craters, wrongly parked vehicles, extreme lanes being hijacked by shops on either side of the road, etc.)
  • Drive with a relaxed mind. If one has to reach on time it's better to start early than drive fast (expect unannounced road diversions, traffic jams regardless of the time of the day, etc.)
  • Though driving fast is not unsafe on Indian roads it is (stray animals can suddenly come on the way, other drivers can stop or turn unexpectedly without any warning, etc.)
As life is too precious to lost on a road, one must exercise due care and caution as one drives on the Indian roads. Loosing one's life on a road demeans and devalues life.

January 18, 2013

Some Thoughts that Traverse the Mind of Someone Who Finally Decides to Quit

It is interesting to analyze the psychology of someone who reaches to the conclusion "I think I need to move on". Here are some thoughts that traverse the mind of someone who finally decides to quit:
  • There is no future growth in the role one is currently in. Due to fundamental issues in the organizational hierarchy and reporting structure further growth is not possible. One scenario is when one group head (who is not a part of the executive team) has to report into another group head (who is a part of the executive team by virtue of being part of the trusted coterie of the CEO/MD).
  • There is constant intellectual difference with the CEO/MD or the executive team. The CEO/MD decides and everyone in the executive team follows suit due to the prevalence of a "Yes Sir" culture. One scenario is when one challenges the decision of the CEO/MD and is conveyed in an indirect, unprofessional manner (through another group head whom one reports into) that the decision is beyond questioning
  • There is a culture of too many emails being sent with copy to CEO/MD. One scenario is when very interestingly the CEO/MD always comes back with the statement "Let's do it folks (no questions asked and none answered)". The CEO/MD also gets the message conveyed in an indirect, unprofessional manner (through another group head whom one reports into) that the suggestion is beyond questioning
  • There is a culture of arrogance and self-aggrandizement where one of the group head who also happens to be a founder member carries the notion that his group (let's say A) is the the most important one. One scenario is when the company level strategic meet is called as A meet as if A only matters to the company's success.
  • There is a unbalanced organizational structure where various groups are manned by people with different designations (role-wise and accountability-wise the group heads are at par but grade-wise and authority-wise some are superior and others are inferior). This is further complicated by having the inferior ones report into the superior ones. It is no wonder that the superior ones are a part of the executive team by virtue of being part of the trusted coterie of the CEO/MD.
  • There is a tendency to demean and downplay the contributions made by an inferior group head and his team to the organization. The CEO/MD announces in the annual company meet about what the group helped to achieve as the biggest event of the year but there is no acknowledgement and appreciation of the group which was instrumental in the achievement.
  • There is a tendency to "show the true place" to the inferior group head. One scenario is while going out for lunch the CEO/MD bluntly ignores the inferior group head and at the same time warmly invites the superior group head - "I think you should come along with us"
  • There is a tendency of the CEO/MD to overrule the inferior group head. After a meeting where the inferior group head proposes a different view the CEO/MD tells the superior group head that "I heard that guy say there could be a delay, I don't care about that and want it to be done my way"
In above points many key cultural emerge as the factors at play in an organization. For the "inferior" group head stuck in such a situation there is one simple advise when one says "I think I need to move on" - You are absolutely right, you must move on and as fast as possible!

January 1, 2013

200 Kms Drive in Delhi NCR

Few days back I drove in the NCR covering a distance of around 200 kilometers. I started from my home in the morning and was back home the same evening. This shows how big Delhi NCR region is and more importantly the excellent roads that Delhi-wallahs enjoy.

The starting point was Gurgaon and the first stop was Sector Mu, Greater Noida. The next stop was Vasundhara, Ghaziabad and the last stop was Hindon, Ghaziabad (interestingly, this drive spanned across three states - Haryana, Delhi and UP). From Hindon I came back to Gurgaon. While driving I took the following route:
  • On old Jaipur-Delhi Highway from Sector 23 Gurgaon crossing till Kapashera Crossing
  • On the road from Kapashera Crossing till NH8 (Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway) under the last flyover before the Toll Plaza at Delhi-Haryana border (also known as KM24 Toll Plaza)
  • On NH8 till the exit on Outer Ring Road that goes towards Vasant Vihar
  • On Outer Ring Road till under the RTR Flyover
  • On the road going left from under the RTR Flyover till Inner Ring Road that passes through South Campus
  • On Inner Ring Road going towards left and then taking a big U-turn to come back towards Moti Bagh
  • On Inner Ring Road till the start of the DND Expressway a little beyond the Ashram flyover
  • On DND Expressway till the second left turn which exits on the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway that goes towards Greater Noida
  • On Noida-Greater Noida Expressway for another 25-30 Kms till the point where the Yamuna Expressway starts from where taking the road on the right side would take one towards Pari Chowk
  • On the road till Pari Chowk and then taking a right turn towards the Golf Course and then taking a left turn along the Gold Course
  • On the road next to Golf Course till the next crossing where taking a right turn would take one towards Sector Mu
  • On the road towards Sector Mu that passes through a village and finally reaching Sector Mu. From Sector Mu I returned to the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway having a brief stopover on the way at someone's house. 
  • On Noida-Greater Noida Expressway till Noida Mor on NH24, passing Mayur Vihar on the way
  • On NH24 till the left turn a little beyond the Gazipur flyover (the straight road goes towards Hapur and Moradabad). This road goes towards Hardwar and Dehradun
  • On the road towards Hardwar and Dehradun till the last intersection a little before Mohan Nagar flyover. This takes one inside Vasundhara area. At Vasundhara I had a stopover at someone's house. After that I came back to the same intersection and took a right turn into the same road.
  • On the road towards Hardwar and Dehradun till the intersection beyond the Mohan Nagar flyover. One needs to be careful as the road going towards Hindon is not easy to locate since it is at an angle. The road going towards right goes towards Meerut Bypass and Ghaziabad City.
  • On the road towards Hindon till the place I had to go. At Hindon I had a stopover at someone's house after which I started back for Gurgaon taking the same road going towards Mohan Nagar flyover.
  • On the road passing through Mohan Nagar flyover till the crossing a little before Gazipur flyover where one has to take a right turn to go towards Delhi.
  • On the road passing through Gazipur flyover till the point where it meets Inner Ring Road a little away from the Sarai Kale Khan flyover.
  • On Inner Ring Road till the point where the Barapullah flyover starts
  • On Barapullah flyover till the exit at INA market and then taking a left turn takes to meet the Inner Ring Road at the AIIMS flyover
  • On the Inner Ring Road taking the clover leaf that take one towards Dhaula Kuan and going till little beyond the Bhikaji Cama flyover where the left turn takes on towards Sector 1, R. K. Puram.
  • On the road towards R. K. Puram, going straight till the Munirka flyover where taking a right turn and then an immediate left turn takes on towards Vasant Kunj
  • On the road towards Vasant Kunj till the Masoodpur flyover where taking a right turn takes one towards Mahipalpur
  • On the road towards Mahipalpur that passes Vasant Kunj on the way till one reaches NH8 (Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway) under the Mahipalpur flyover where taking a left turn takes one towards Gurgaon
  • On NH8 till the last flyover before the Toll Plaza at Delhi-Haryana border (also known as KM24 Toll Plaza) where taking a left and then a right takes one towards Kapashera Crossing. This road passes the Mangal Mahadev on the left (a landmark that is hard to miss).
  • On the road towards Kapashera Crossing where taking a left turn at Kapashera Crossing takes one to Sector 22, Gurgaon passing Kapashera on the way.
  • And finally reaching the starting point in Gurgaon
One keyword that gets repeated many times in the route described above is "flyover" that shows why Delhi is truly the city of  flyovers.

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