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The Upside of Situational Leadership That Everyone Is Talking About

Leadership differs from management in a very fundamental way. Management doesn’t have to involve inspiring or motivating others. Situational leadership is a specific style of leadership, where your leadership style is dependent on the situation. You could be leading b either delegating, supporting, coaching o directing depending on the team and complexity of the task.  Which essentially makes you practice one or more of the 4 popular leadership styles. The image here is self-explanatory.

Situational Leadership
Situational Leadership

What You Can Do About Situational Leadership Starting in the Next 11 Minutes

Leadership programs are appropriate for supervisors, managers, entrepreneurs and company executives. A leadership development program can help the company leaders in receiving new capabilities. This is a good 10-minute video on Hershey Blanchard situational leadership that you must watch

Now that you’ve understood, it’s vital that you take one of the critical projects that you are heading and see what amongst these leadership team would require at this point in the current situation.

The Number One Question You Must Ask for Situational Leadership

Leadership is more than only a word, it’s the action of leading. It can also cause a company’s demise. Situational leadership or the one size doesn’t fit all method is all about adapting your style to the particular circumstance.

“Knowing all that I know about this team and this project, what is the leadership that is required to help the project move to the next level, project right now?

Leaders help ordinary folks achieve extraordinary outcomes. They should be sent to various countries and allowed to learn that way. Superior leaders identify great talent, give them direction, then escape the manner.

The Hidden Truth About Situational Leadership

Leaders will need to function as a catalyst for change. Thus, a situational leader should have the needed aptitude in order to adjust their actions in order that they may fit with the present situation as a way to assist and meet the requirements of the faculty. Today, the leader with one principal leadership style can’t survive.


Ask Me Anything: 10 Answers Before You Turn Entrepreneur

  • Where Will Entrepreneur Be 1 Year From Now?
  • The 10 Most Understated Facts About Entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurship Explained in Fewer than 140 Characters
  • 10 Undeniable Reasons 2019 is the Year of Entrepreneurship

In my article in 2016, I had written “Turn Entrepreneur in 2016 (8 Reasons)”. 2 years later, I revisit those reasons and see if it is still valid and see what has changed?

1.   Entrepreneurs Are The New Black – $100bn In VC Investments

Despite all the uncertainties in the global markets, entrepreneurship continues to be much sought after even in 2019. And it is not without a reason.   Globally, the U.S Venture Capitalist Investments are on the steady rise from 2009(US$ 20+ billion) to over $100 billion by the end- 2018.  Investments into India alone have tripled from just over US$ $4b in 2015 has grown to a massive 12.65 billion in 2018, a record of sorts.

However, on further analysis, you will note that late stage start-ups with a proven record of success took the lion’s share of funding raised, even as the industry welcomed new ‘unicorns. What this means is that if you get to have success at every stage of your start-up, money is not a big issue for scaling.

2. The Age Of Garage Entrepreneur Is Dead

Entrepreneurs are no longer just folks starting out of a garage.  You will find that the new age entrepreneurs are well educated, are either freshers or those with experience of working in the industry, have a few skill, capabilities, and competencies up their sleeve. And they are aware of that too. You will find that they come with a passion of Garage Entrepreneurs and have ring-fenced that passion with a lot more practicality in combining strengths. They will usually partner with like-minded co-founders who fill the gap their own skill gaps required for business. This age of entrepreneurs has their feet firmly on the ground in understanding the real problem that they are trying to solve. Yet are dreamers with their own idols like Elon Musk or Sachin Bansal or a Jack Ma.

3. Lifelong Employment Is A Myth Busted, Forever.

I said this in 2016, and this holds truer in 2019 than before. The age of lifelong employment is dead – and buried. With the security of lifelong employment and associated pensions gone, more people are looking to get into the driver’s seat and take control of their destiny. They may not be quitting their day-jobs to start off but are cranking their start-ups with the luxury of income from the day jobs funding their passion in part or in full. If you are contemplating, don’t spend the rest of your life contemplating, no do you need to take that leap by quitting the day job when you will face revenue pressures to even sustain yourself. You can well do both, by spending a few more hours on weekdays and dedicate weekends to get the start-up off ground. Once you are confident of taking of jettisoning the mother-ship you can.

I said this in 2016, and this holds truer in 2019 than before. The age of lifelong employment is dead – and buried. With the security of lifelong employment and associated pensions gone, more people are looking to get into the driver’s seat and take control of their destiny. They may not be quitting their day-jobs yet, but are cranking their start-ups with the comfort of regular income from the day job, that funds their passion in part or in full. If you are contemplating, don’t spend the rest of your life contemplating. Nor should you that day job, when you now that will face income pressures to sustain yourself.

A blended approach could be that you can do both, by spending a few more hours on weekdays and dedicate weekends to get the start-up off ground. Once you are confident of taking off, jettison that mother-ship and raise your sails to the headwind.

4. Unemployment And Underemployment Continue To Be Triggers For New Ideas Take Shape

Student unemployment combined with gross unemployment and underemployment seems to be the first ‘triggers,’ though not necessarily the reason for success of many entrepreneurs. The education industry is churning out graduates and postgraduates at alarming rates and the number of big corporations that can absorb such talent is far too less. Education has become expensive, with student loans mounting, yet with no assurance of campus placement, entrepreneurship seems to be the only recourse if you have that fire in the belly.

Since supply far outstrips demand, it is logical that more students are seeking out entrepreneurial experiences with self-funding from friends and family to start with – many with aspirations to build the next Facebook, Uber, or Tesla. The others go through basic education simply to better equip themselves or in anticipation of one day taking that big leap from a cushy corporate job on to an entrepreneurial journey.

5. Disruptive Innovation Seldom Happens In Large Companies.

A lot more disruption and innovation happen today than ever before. And yet, most such disruptions have started with the new entrepreneurs and not the big corporates.

The very fact that the big companies went on to acquire the smaller players at high valuations goes on to prove the value created by new entrepreneurs. When was the last time a Google disrupted the industry? YouTube was an acquisition. Facebook acquired WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus. Microsoft did that with Skype and LinkedIn.

The pace of disruptive innovation has been accelerating since 2005. The new biggies are barely teenagers, the 100-year legends are far and few. New disruptors are disrupting previous disruptors.

6. Failure Is The New Badge Of Honour

The Silicon Valley’s adage on entrepreneurial spirit, ‘Failure is a Badge of Honour,’ is no more restricted to the Valley. In the past, Asian economies like India, China and Indonesia that constitute over half of the world’s population rewarded formal employment and had a social stigma attached to failure.

This new decade had changed all that. Today, you have the wealth created by entrepreneurs from India and China. It is more like this generation of Asians are getting back vigorously and challenging the tenets.

Even as the likes of Jack Ma (Alibaba), Sachin Bansal, Binny Bansal (Flipkart), Aggarwal (Ola) have either diluted their stake to move into philanthropy or the next big thing, there is a new generation like Rashmi Daga (Fresh Menu), Ritesh Agarwal (Oyo), Nandan Reddy and Rahul Jasimini (Swiggy), Deepinder Goyal (Zomato) that have filled in those spaces with fairly big shoes. The spirit of failure does not seem to perturb them, and they are reinventing, realigning from their mistakes along the way.

7. Freemiums Break The Jinx Of Entry Barriers

Starting a business is hard and one needs to be systematic and efficient. Hiring external resources cost money. On the other hand, buying software which you may not use or may find limited use at exorbitant prices is a big deterrent to productivity. A lot has changed in the last few years. I have compiled some of the world’s best software and tools that makes it easier for any entrepreneur–  Analytics (Google Analytics) , Collaboration (Slack, Trello) , Communication (Skype) Design Tools (Canva) , Document Storage (Dropbox/ One Drive/ Google Drive) , Email Marketing (MailChimp) , Invoices And Billing (Zoho), Social Media Schedulers (Buffer, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck), Spreadsheets (Google Sheets), Survey Tool (Survey Monkey) , Word Processing (Grammarly, Google Docs).

Thus, all components of your business that requires software tools are available for free to start off and then ‘pay as you grow.’ This is a great boost for entrepreneurs and start-ups who can use world-class tools with zero spending.

8. New Marketing Models Shackle Traditional Stongholds

Acquiring new customers and ‘spreading the message’ is no more limited to expensive newspaper advertisements and television spots. The online marketing channels are all about creating inbound leads and low-cost outbound reach, to targeted audience at extremely optimised and affordable costs. Imagine reaching out to your new prospects at budgets as low as low as $10 (Marketing on Google Facebook, Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn) for advertising each day.

The new marketing models with digital marketing and content creation techniques using some of the tools mentioned above, have spawned the imagination and amplified the marketing capability of every entrepreneur.

You can now, target, reach out and engage your audience for the right demographics and geo-focus. This translates for you into a theoretically unlimited market size with hyper-local targeting. Since markets have democratised and entry barriers for distribution busted, you have infinite opportunities as a new player that offer value to your audience.

9. You Don’t Even Need That Permission To Start

This is the best part. The world has changed and has changed forever in the last decade. Governments across the world are waking up to the new reality of changing demographics and have opened ‘Start Up’ and Incubation Centres in every part of the world to encourage and give a boost to the new entrepreneurs. The painfully expensive permissions from the Government and regulators are long outdated for most new set-ups.

Social structures have changed, sources of funding have changed and most of them are an advantage for the new entrepreneur

10. There Is No Better Time To Start

The Internet has flattened the world for 2 decades now. That the advances in mobile telecommunication, increased bandwidths and broadband penetration have led to a convergence of idea centres a decade ago. Together, they have unleashed a potential that is available today for you- in all its magnificence – for you to start. If you must start, there is no better time to start than now. A journey of a thousand miles – starts with the first step, they say.

The question today then is not: “Can we build this?” but rather, “Should we build this?”


You might also like

#Hiring: The Fallacy of Job Descriptions…

Why Do Entrepreneurs Fail? (8 Reasons)

The #1 Reason on Why Products Fail


Please do share your thoughts and feedback and I will be glad to learn from you.

**The author is an entrepreneur with two decades of senior leadership experience in India and Asia-Pacific and now runs Futureshift, a boutique consulting outfit that helps businesses chart their digital marketing strategy with the @ZMOTly framework to achieve impactful outcomes. He is available at **


The most popular word in PeopleFriday is…

The most popular word in PeopleFriday is…

#Leadership lessons. Never out of vogue.


Digital Marketing in 2018. Be prepared.

Digital Marketing in 2018. Be prepared with good infographic from @MDGAvertising


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Leadership Lesson Uncategorised

5 simple lessons – Build a culture, the Starbucks way

I have always been fascinated by Starbucks. Who is not? I am a coffee addict, and what better place to have those gazillion start-up meetings and those brain storming sessions other than Starbucks. The Wi-Fi is incidental, and so are the Espresso-double shots. What fascinated me is the experience in a Starbucks that is consistent – it does not matter whether I am in San Francisco or Singapore, Bangkok or Bali, Hanoi or Hyderabad, it is the amazingly same experience with the Baristas.

Being an entrepreneur myself and also having managed global organizations in the past, I have always been curious and passionate about building cultures. I believe that building a strong positive culture is one of the sustainable ways to makes an organisation successful – short-medium and long term. I also believe that culture plays, a bigger role on impact than building a skill-set.

A strong ‘culture’ in an organization might take a long time for it to show, as it needs to be ingrained into the DNA of the organisation. Unlike a skill, that can be incorporated by training its workforce at any point, culture requires continuous focus from the moment of an employee joins the organisation. The employee is exposed to a ‘ways of the world here’, and pretty much adopts that particular way as their own.

It is in this context, that I wish to use the Starbucks example. What makes Starbucks do something that is so insanely simple and yet, delightfully magical? It is not their covfefe for sure!

Every employee that joins Starbucks, is given a small 4″X5″ ‘the green apron book’ on the first day with the company. In a simple lucid way this booklet explains the culture of Starbucks. Since this culture is immediately manifested across the organisation, it is easy for the new employee to adapt and adopt these practices.

‘Culture drinks strategy for coffee’ Drucker would have said, had he seen Starbucks.

At Starbucks, every employee follows this green apron book, which has five values. These values can pretty much be applicable to any organisation. However Starbucks, has made it ingrained into their culture and not surprisingly it isas successful as what we see today.

1. Be welcoming:

Being welcoming helps people share their concerns openly without inhibitions. It helps customers return to the store repeatedly. It helps build a sense of belonging between people and share their thoughts openly. Such a simple phrase, when inculcated in a culture can put 1000 strategies to shame.

2. Be Genuine:

Being genuine is a simple way to ensure that everything, everyone does an organisation has a sense of connection to the other person. It helps establish trust between its employees and between its employees and customers. Being genuine means being responsive to the needs of others. We can call it by any other name, but these two words ‘be genuine’ puts it succinctly.

3. Be knowledgeable:

Love what you do, share it with others. Loving what you do is being knowledgeable on your job. When your knowledge is shared between yourselves and the community, the overall level of engagement increases.

4. Be considerate:

This is the way Starbucks ensures that everyone within the organisation and its customers have a sense of being cared for. This philosophy that drives Starbucks and I would think this is something every other organisation can adopt.

5. Be Involved:

When you’re involved with what you do, your productivity increases. You effectiveness improves. Imagine spreading it like in eponymic across your division, your company, and the community and you have a surefire answer to success.

 What makes Starbucks do something that is so insanely simple and yet, delightfully magical? It is not their covfefe for sure!

And these are not just posters on the wall, or some card at deep within the drawer.

Each one has a specific action items for each of these that can translate into everyday activities and they are described in the subsequent pages. It is easy to brush off saying they are just a company that sells coffee. Imagine yourself of a company that sells something as commonplace coffee and some becoming a global name for the coffee experience. And to add to that its beverages are not cheap. To attract that sort of a premium over something that could be domestically available, I believe requires definitely a good strategy, but more importantly a wonderful culture as described above. Wait is time for each of us to take a cue from here and see how it can help us.


Please do share your thoughts and feedback and I will be glad to learn from you.

The author is an entrepreneur with two decades of senior leadership experience in India and Asia-Pacific and now runs Futureshift, a boutique consulting outfit that helps businesses chart their digital marketing strategy with the @ZMOTly framework to achieve impactful outcomes. He is available at

Leadership Lesson Uncategorised

Be the Influence Ninja – Tips and Traps [Part 2]

In my earlier post, “Part 1: What Influencer are you? [6 types]” [Link], I shared with you the 6 types of Influence – Coercive, Reward, Position, Expert, Personal and Information.

We also saw how leadership is all about influencing people. We also shared on how different people can be influenced and are willing to be influenced.

In this part I share some frequently-asked-questions (FAQs), and thoughts post focuses on 6 sources of influence commonly used in the workplace. It is for you to use the right one that is appropriate for the occasion.

 Influence: FAQs

  • Is it true that lower-level employees respond to influence sources such as coercive and reward while higher level employees respond more to other sources?
To assume that certain forms of influence work better with different levels of employees is a mistake. Research does suggest that more technically or functionally competent individuals respond to expert and information influence. Also, newer or less capable employees tend to respond to positional, reward, and coercive influence. However, these are stereotypes and not true in all situations. So, keep an open mind and use all sources of influence available to you.
  • It seems that by focusing on influence I’m manipulating people. Isn’t that unethical?
Managers accomplish work through others. Your role includes influencing them. Using influence would only be manipulation if you used that influence for unethical or unprincipled motives.
  • Are there other sources of influence that I should consider when dealing with peers or superiors?
When dealing with colleagues or superiors, ask yourself, "How can I best work with this person?" and " What types of influence will they respond to most quickly?"
  • What is the difference between “socialized influence” that I have heard about and the discussion of influence covered here?
Socialized influence is a "motive" (motives energize our personal actions), and this article is about our sources of influence or our basis of social influence.
  • Aren’t there other sources of influence, such as the power I get from knowing or associating with important people?
You might think that's another source of influence, but the association is just a connection to another person who has one of the six sources identified in the research. Associating with others can be a way of increasing your influence.

 How can I increase my influence?


Managers can increase their influence. Generally, influence that is used, grows. For example, the more you use recognition and rewards to influence behaviour, the more that your reward power is perceived and understood by others. Some specific and perhaps obvious ways to increase your influence are listed here.

  • Coercive influence can be increased by making others aware of times you have used this influence in the past.
  • Reward influence is enhanced when rewards and recognition are publicly given.
  • Position influence can be emphasized my noting the differences in roles between yourself and others.
  • Expert influence is built with your skills and knowledge of your craft.
  • Information influence is increased with careful sharing, and sometimes by letting others know you have information, but are unable to discuss it. That can also build personal influence as it is a demonstration of your integrity.
  • Personal influence is about building personal relationships.

Finding common ground is a place to start. Demonstrating that you genuinely care about people is important. Making time for people is probably the key here.


Managers have a limited amount of influence. Because it is valuable, leaders should guard against the erosion of their influence. Below are common ways managers can lose influence.

  • Coercive influence can be lost if you threaten sanctions or discipline, but rarely deliver. People can perceive that you either do not really have the influence or you are unwilling to use it.
  • Reward influence is most commonly lost by dispensing rewards evenly, regardless of performance or contribution.
  • Position influence erodes if you fail to perform the functions that others perceive as the responsibilities of that position. This erosion often is related to loss of influence in other areas. For example, employees expect that managers will differentiate performance and reward accordingly.
  • Failing to make that differentiation decreases reward influence and position influence.
  • Expert and Information influence erode when you give expertise or information to people whose goals are not consistent with the organizational goals, or when you give them to everyone.
  • Personal influence is the most difficult to build and easiest to lose. It is lost because of lack of attention to relationship or failure of character such as dishonesty or lack of trustworthiness.


Please do share your thoughts and feedback and I will be glad to learn from you.

**The author is an entrepreneur with two decades of senior leadership experience in India and Asia-Pacific and now runs Futureshift, a boutique consulting outfit that helps businesses chart their digital marketing strategy with the @ZMOTly framework to achieve impactful outcomes. He is available at **

Leadership Lesson Uncategorised

Part 1: What Influencer are you? [6 types]

If you have been a leader in whatever capacity, you must learn to use one thing – Influence. While, Influence can have different connotations for different people, Influence is determined by only one thing – the ability to achieve desired outcomes.

Leadership is all about influencing people. Understanding why and how different people can be influenced and are willing to be influenced, can and will make you an effective leader. This article focuses on six sources of influence commonly used in the workplace. It is for you to use the right one that is appropriate for the situation.

Leadership is all about influencing people. Understanding why and how different people can be influenced and are willing to be influenced, can and will make you an effective leader.

Note: None of the types of influence listed below is good or bad in isolation. The use of influence is situational and person dependent and hence it depends on what works best with minimal conflict.

There are broadly 6 types of influence –

  1. Coercive influence is based upon the leader’s capability to punish.
  2. Reward influence is based on the leader’s ability to dispense rewards.
  3. Position influence is based upon the tendency of people to respond to individuals in higher positions.
  4. Expert influence is based upon your skill or expertise which others may hold in high regard. Information influence is based upon the information or knowledge you have that’s not available to others.
  5. Personal influence is based upon your individual personality and charisma, and the relationships you create.
  6. Information influence is based on your fact that you hold information or knowledge that others do not have access to. This is a bit different from Expert influence where the influence is because you have deep knowledge on the subject.

Some of your influence comes from the organization that you work for and your position/ title (Example – “Manager”, “Vice President”). But much of your influence comes from you personally or your ability to work within the organization. The ability to influence is important to managers. It directly affects whether they can get things done. That’s what managers get paid for!

This addresses three sets of questions:

  1. What is the ability to influence about, and what are its sources?
  2. How can I use my influence effectively?
  3. How can I maintain and, if needed, increase my own influence?

Influence: Basics

As you explore each source of influence, think of your management situation. Ask yourself:

  • “How does this type of influence apply to me?”
  • “Do my employees respond to this type of influence?
  • “Do I use this influence too much… too little?”
  • “Do I need more?”

Understanding sources of influence is only half of what you need. Using it effectively is the other half.

Coercive influence

Coercive influence is based upon the leader’s capability to punish. “Punishment” can be everything from verbal reprimands, to assigning undesirable work tasks, or even termination. Managers can use this source of influence by being quick to dispense punishment, or simply reminding others that punishment can be dispensed.


A manager joked with employees by pretending to “fire” them when he wasn’t pleased. “You’re late with that proposal. Looks like I’ll have to fire you again. That’s twice this week.” The manager was inadvertently reminding employees of the coercive influence he held.

Use this source of influence when:

  • other sources of influence are not working
  • you are dealing with unsatisfactory performance or behaviour

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • other, less negative, influences will work

Reward influence

Reward influence is based on the leader’s ability to dispense rewards. We tend to think of rewards as money. “Rewards” are also praise, recognition, good job assignments, access to information — anything that’s perceived as positive or desirable.


The popular book, The One-Minute Manager, suggested that managers should “look for people doing something right” and give them praise and recognition and rewards.

Use this source of influence:

  • anytime!

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • you might be sending conflicting messages with unsatisfactory performers

Position influence

Position influence is using people’s tendency to a respond to individuals in higher positions. Jobs higher in the organizational hierarchy typically carry more influence than those lower in the hierarchy. Sometimes it’s simply the perception of being high in the hierarchy that creates the impression of influence.


Your employee needs a shipment sent out quickly and comes to you because Distribution department will only expedite shipments with a manager’s signature.

Use this source of influence when:

  • you’re new to a department and other sources of influence levels are low
  • you need to get things done with other parts of the organization

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • more personal influence sources will work as effectively

Expert influence

Expert influence is based upon your skill or expertise which others may hold in high regard. You’re a manager, but you also have functional or technical expertise. People may respond to you from a skill perspective more favorably than from other influence bases. This is especially true with some professional groups.


A colleague of mine is an expert at IPD and project management. He frames discussions in project management terms and often talks about his experiences.

Use this source of influence when:

  • when dealing with specialty subjects where your credibility is high
  • dealing with other experts

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • your expertness could be perceived as bragging or ego
  • your audience does not value the expertise

Personal influence

Personal influence is based on your individual personality, charisma, and the relationships you create. People tend to want to do things for individuals they like and respect — even managers! The common characteristics of honesty, kindness, and interest in people can be powerful.


A co-worker mentioned that he was doing a piece of work we both hated. When I asked why, he responded, “How could I say no to Peter? He’s such a great guy.”

Use this source of influence when:

  • all the time

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • employees invite you home to meet their mothers

Information influence

Information influence is the fact that you have information or knowledge not available to others. Because of your position or relationships, you may have information others don’t have. Information can be influential power. It may give you inside knowledge of events or insights that increase other sources of power.


Managers often receive pre-announcement packages that give them information ahead of others. They can use this to anticipate reactions and plans.

Use this source of influence when:

  • you are new and other sources of influence sources are low
  • sharing the information could improve work tasks or relationships

Don’t use this source of influence when:

  • the information could hurt people
  • you’ve promised to hold the information as confidential

As you review the sources of influence, you probably recognize some as sources you are using now. Other sources, perhaps not. Every manager’s job is different. You need to assess your situation and decide how you will use your influence. You have probably seen that some of the sources of influence come mainly from the organization, and others come from within yourself. Don’t think that you can change only the latter. Remember: the ability to influence another person is power.

In my next post, I will share with you a few FAQs on Influence, How you can increase your influence with a few tips and traps.


Author’s note – I would not recommend one type of influence over the other, though I have given examples of each. It would be a great idea for you to relate to one or two people / situations in your personal experience who use that particular influence types and feel free to comment and share your thoughts below. This will help the community too and I will be glad to learn from you.

In Part 2 of this, I will talk about a few FAQ, on how to improve your influence and tips and traps. [Link here]

Please do share your thoughts and feedback.


**The author is an entrepreneur with two decades of senior leadership experience in India and Asia-Pacific and now runs Futureshift, a boutique consulting outfit that helps businesses chart their digital marketing strategy with the @ZMOTly framework to achieve impactful outcomes. He is available at **


6 Questions to Build a High Performance Team

Over the last twenty years, I spent a major part of my career in leadership roles. This had given me an opportunity to work with people in the dozens of roles, that panned across many organizations, countries.

It was also a wonderful opportunity to manage scores of teams and learn from many managers. I was also fortunate to learn many things from my managers and can proudly say that there not a single boss that I did not learn something from or admire for.

I usually, applied those learnings to managing my team. It was also an honour that most teams that I managed were also appreciated by other business units and peers in leadership. The usual feedback was that my team was high on – energy, ideas, awesome execution and good attitude. My teams and its members would receive the most awards in corporate events.

What made these teams A-teams?

We all, in the company had the same hiring process. We all had similar bunch of resumes that HR used to dish-out, based on which we made our selections. In fact, hiring the right person for the right job, was the easier part. Giving the right job for the right person is a lot more involving and effective. I learnt this, from some great leaders, who have imbibed in me the need to pay attention to each member of the team – continuously. It is anything but micro-management. I had learnt very early from some of the great managers, that focus on people is the simplest and most effective way to becoming successful.

Hiring the right person for the right job, was the easier part. Giving the right job for the right person is a bit trickier, and a lot more involving.

It all boiled down to six questions, that I would ask myself each time.

Do they know what is expected out of them at work?

This by far is the reason, that affects an employee’s productivity the most. Often, an employee may end up with a vague idea on what is expected out of them. After each 1-0-1 meeting I would ensure that we were on the same page on what was expected of them and, what was not. I would usually request them to summarize the understanding in writing on an email, whiteboard or scribble on a piece of paper. And yes, always – it would be rule of three. Never would it exceed three points. That helped both of us to remember the points and action items for the next meeting.

Do they have the materials and equipment required to do their work, right?

Once the team and its members had good clarity on what is expected, I would ensure that they had the right tools. There is little, that a woodcutter can do without his axe, however well-defined his goal is. I would give them all the necessary tools to make them effective. It could have been a faster IBM ThinkPad ®, it could be an extra resource to pre-qualify leads so that they focus on closing the deal, or, at other times by giving that approval to travel under budget constraints.

Do they do what they do best, every day?

Allowing an employee to work on their interest and passion is the easiest way to make them productive. There are times where I moved a team member from a ‘behind the desk number crunching” role to a customer facing role. and vice-versa. I have juggled the team structure and reallocated roles to accommodate the job for which that person was the best. I did spend a good amount of time understanding each employee’s strength and passion. My question would usually be “what do you usually love doing”, or “what is the best part of your job” or “what are your most memorable moments this quarter/ year“.

In the last 7 days, have I recognised or praised them for their good work?

Irrespective of their seniority, it is a good idea to find that one good reason or act that deserves appreciation each week. While one could definitely focus on areas on improvement, it works like a charm if it is balanced with that one genuine appreciation of good work. It might be a simple friendly statement during the discussion like “I liked the way you presented your case to X“, or “I love the way you have control on this Y account”.

Do I show them that I care about them as a person?

Showing people that you care is a strength. I was posted away from my hometown and my first boss, very early in career, enquired about my parents and how they would manage alone. He would regularly enquire if I had called them and spoken to them and not just be focussed on work. Sometimes he would ask the if we had our lunch, before starting the afternoon meeting and order for some food. I learnt to practice genuine care from him. I practiced it myself, throughout my career. I did not trust my memory, so I bought had a small notepad where I jotted down small details like their anniversary date, their favourite music and their children names. Occasionally I would ask about their family, about them. If they had gone on a vacation to Disneyland we would talk a bit about what rides kids enjoyed. I realise that it is never out-of-fashion to show concern and appreciation for the person, their family. And yes, show of concern does not mean being intrusive, or faking it.

Finally, I would encourage their development and pursuit of their goals.

Everyone, I believe, wants to learn and develop themselves. One of my very first companies that I worked for had a plan in place for Individual Development and that had a huge impact on me. For the rest of my work-life, I religiously practiced and inculcated Individual Development – whether the company had followed that policy or not. I share two examples here – in one technical person that wanted to learn and enhance his career by using Digital Marketing; and in another and a star Salesperson wanted to write a technical book. In case of former, the person ended up doing one of the best webinars and podcasts and, that drove sales and satisfaction levels of customers. In the other case, the sales person writing a technical book, built his credibility and insights and ended up reducing his sales cycle and conversion rates dramatically.

As I look back, these six questions that I ask myself, has been crystallised by observing different managers that coached me, and I had and put them into practice myself. If not for them, I would not have seen half the success that I have seen, but for these. Thank you!


Please do share your thoughts and feedback and I will be glad to learn from you.


**The author is an entrepreneur with two decades of senior leadership experience in India and Asia-Pacific and now runs Futureshift, a boutique consulting outfit that helps businesses chart their digital marketing strategy with the @ZMOTly framework to achieve impactful outcomes. He is available at **

Leadership Lesson Uncategorised

Landing a dream job; not any job: Tackling the ‘personal’ questions

Interview – Personal Questions – A boon or a bane

What did they ask?

Pat comes the reply – “personal questions.” … It was too cool. They did not ask about the subjects. I slogged on the course revisions four times in vain. Then all they had to ask was to talk about myself. In ten minutes, they let me go. They must have been very happy.

When the interview results were out, our friend has not even made it to the second round.

After calling the interviewer fools, our friend revised financial management twice over and attended an interview with a bank.

Did he make it? Nay.

The story continues 6 times and out friend has revised his syllabus a dozen times over.

What is happening here is exactly what goes through most of the interviews and campus placements.
The trick and the simple solution lie in knowing about themselves.

In today’s world having skills (read courses) is given. It is necessary any way. If you have a degree/ diploma, you have secured it because you have studied the course and you have the necessary skills. It is necessary criteria for but not qualifying criteria.

What am I saying here?
Personal questions” are in fact the toughest of question. It requires a lot more than just saying what schools have you studied in or if you go to Sunday Mass regularly. It is more than your grand mother having two puppies or your brother being divorced. When companies ask for personal questions, they are looking for critical talents. Critical talents. Full Stop.

The inner capabilities, the strengths, the attitude – how you have worked in the past with colleagues or how passionate are you about what you say. Do you have the humility? Are you able to have a structured thought process? What triggers you? Can you cope up with failures? Will you fire up to meet the demands? Do you fear success? This and a lot more.

The interviewers look for your understanding of yourself. Your strength and your areas of improvement. That translates into what job you are applying for and why you are doing so. Companies look for if they can provide the rapid growth you aim for or a friendly culture you may prefer. They look for qualities and talents that make you unique, special and wanted.

Wow! You may say that lot.

So where can get all this on the web or can I read a book by rote?
Unfortunately, my friend, there is just NO source. It is about you. And only one person in the world knows you the best. YOU and it is between the two ears.

So what do I do?
You may want to spend some where between 20-80 hours preparing on

  • Who am I?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What is weakness?
  • What triggers me/ ticks me?
  • What sort of a culture in organization suits me?
  • What is the type of job I can do well and passionately?
  • Where are the areas I can add value and demonstrate my strengths?
  • If I am applying for XYZ, will I really fit in their job culture?

Quite a bit of introspection even before I prepare for the specific interview.

Write this down on a clean book.
Think if it is your true character sketch.
If you were a movie director, have you communicated through the script on how you are a hero?

Now the Hero of the script has a mission to do. He knows the strengths, weakness, what excites and his weakness.

Based on this, you decide how you will steer the interview. Being honest, taking on questions you can, owning ignorance if you truly are clueless. Giving alternatives, meandering with a positive attitude and solution approach. Confident yet with humility, Assertive yet respecting the audience.
Playing to your strengths.

Victory is yours my friend and you will be there with the offer letter soon.

All the best!

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People Friday – The new address for Aspire2Be

Hi, it’s an important day for us. Finally after many years on the web as aspire2be, we have moved to a domain
Almost all of us have aspirations. Aspirations make us, us. And we are all people. People First.
Aspirations energise people, and we aim to achieving those aspirations. It does not matter when we begin, we want to get ‘there’ fast. So much like Fridays. As soon as the week begins, we look forward to a Friday.
Aspirations are for most part like Fridays.  We love them, we slog to get there and there we are at it again – for our next Friday.
People’s aspirations and thus PeopleFriday. Oh Boy! it is a Friday, today.
aspire career CEO Leadership Lesson Uncategorised

Aspire to be a CEO: Four Essentials for Happiness

Sorce: By: Brian Tracy/ email 03/09/09

You may have a thousand different goals over the course of your lifetime, but they all will fall into one of four basic categories. Everything you do is an attempt to enhance the quality of your life in one or more of these areas.

  1. The Key to Happiness

The first category is your desire for happy relationships. You want to love and be loved by others. You want to have a happy, harmonious home life. You want to get along well with the people around you, and you want to earn the respect of the people you respect. Your involvement in social and community affairs results from your desire to have happy interactions with others and to make a contribution to the society you live in.

  1. Enjoy Your Work

The second category is your desire for interesting and challenging work. You want to make a good living, of course, but more than that, you want to really enjoy your occupation or profession. The very best times of your life are when you are completely absorbed in your work.

  1. Become Financially Independent

The third category is your desire for financial independence. You want to be free from worries about money. You want to have enough money in the bank so that you can make decisions without counting your pennies. You want to achieve a certain financial state so that you can retire in comfort and never have to be concerned about whether or not you have enough money to support your lifestyle. Financial independence frees you from poverty and a need to depend upon others for your livelihood. If you save and invest regularly throughout your working life, you will eventually reach the point where you will never have to work again.

  1. Enjoy Excellent Health

The fourth and final category is your desire for good health, to be free of pain and illness and to have a continuous flow of energy and feelings of well-being. In fact, your health is so central to your life that you take it for granted until something happens to disrupt it.

“Relax and allow affirmations to go through your subconscious mind!”

According to whole brain research, you can learn subjects quite rapidly as a result of deep relaxation and music used in a systemized, organized process. Because of this, it is also possible for you to learn new belief systems using the same techniques.

The process of taped affirmations combines positive affirmations with both music and relaxation. This makes it possible for your mind to accept the affirmations at an accelerated rate, resulting in your desired behavioral change.

Peace of Mind is the Key

Peace of mind is essential for every one of these. The greater your peace of mind, the more relaxed and positive you are, the less stress you suffer, the better is your overall health.

The more peace of mind you have, the better are your relationships, the more optimistic, friendly and confident you are with everyone in your life. When you feel good about yourself on the inside, you do your work better and take more pride in it. You are a better boss and coworker. And the greater your overall peace of mind, the more likely you are to earn a good living, save regularly for the future and ultimately achieve financial independence.

Control Your Attention

Life is very much a study of attention. Whatever you dwell upon and think about grows and expands in your life. The more you pay attention to your relationships, the quality and quantity of your work, your finances and your health, the better they will become and the happier you will be.

Action Exercises

Here are three things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action.

  1. First, take time on a regular basis to think about what would make you really happy in each of the four areas.
  2. Second, set specific, measurable goals for improvement in your relationships, your health, your work and your finances and write them down.
  3. Third, resolve to do something every day to increase the quality of some area of your life – and then keep your resolution.
  4. “Recapture the Health, Vitality and Physique of your Youth!”
  5. Discover how to lose a pound a day – and keep it off.

Studies show that health and weight loss are areas of our life we say we need the most improvement in. If what you’re doing on our own isn’t getting the results you’re looking for, I will help you get there.

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Personal Development for the 21st Century: Forgiveness is The Act of Unchaining Yourself

Over the last couple of months, I have struggled with this.  Carrying years of negative energy, anger at people who I once trusted, and who let me down- all that affected me all these years.  It has started again now- and I am trying my level best to move on.  

This was a wake up Video! 

A must watch.

Personal Development for the 21st Century: Forgiveness is The Act of Unchaining Yourself: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes Most of us carry around anger…

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Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople

Steve W. Martin
Steve W. Martin teaches sales strategy at the USC Marshall School of Business. His latest book on sales linguistics is Heavy Hitter Sales Psychology: How to Penetrate the C-level Executive Suite and Convince Company Leaders to Buy.
If you ask an extremely successful salesperson, “What makes you different from the average sales rep?” you will most likely get a less-than-accurate answer, if any answer at all. Frankly, the person may not even know the real answer because most successful salespeople are simply doing what comes naturally.
Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of interviewing thousands of top business-to-business salespeople who sell for some of the world’s leading companies. I’ve also administered personality tests to 1,000 of them. My goal was to measure their five main personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and negative emotionality) to better understand the characteristics that separate them their peers.
The personality tests were given to high technology and business services salespeople as part of sales strategy workshops I was conducting. In addition, tests were administered at Presidents Club meetings (the incentive trip that top salespeople are awarded by their company for their outstanding performance). The responses were then categorized by percentage of annual quota attainment and classified into top performers, average performers, and below average performers categories.
The test results from top performers were then compared against average and below average performers. The findings indicate that key personality traits directly influence top performers’ selling style and ultimately their success. Below, you will find the main key personality attributes of top salespeople and the impact of the trait on their selling style.

  1. Modesty. Contrary to conventional stereotypes that successful salespeople are pushy and egotistical, 91 per cent of top salespeople had medium to high scores of modesty and humility. Furthermore, the results suggest that ostentatious salespeople who are full of bravado alienate far more customers than they win over.
    • Selling Style Impact: Team Orientation. As opposed to establishing themselves as the focal point of the purchase decision, top salespeople position the team (presales technical engineers, consulting, and management) that will help them win the account as the centrepiece.
  2. Conscientiousness. Eighty-five per cent of top salespeople had high levels of conscientiousness, whereby they could be described as having a strong sense of duty and being responsible and reliable. These salespeople take their jobs very seriously and feel deeply responsible for the results.
    • Selling Style Impact: Account Control. The worst position for salespeople to be in is to have relinquished account control and to be operating at the direction of the customer, or worse yet, a competitor. Conversely, top salespeople take command of the sales cycle process in order to control their own destiny.
  3. Achievement Orientation. Eighty-four per cent of the top performers tested scored very high in achievement orientation. They are fixated on achieving goals and continuously measure their performance in comparison to their goals.
    • Selling Style Impact: Political Orientation. During sales cycles, top sales, performers seek to understand the politics of customer decision-making. Their goal orientation instinctively drives them to meet with key decision-makers. Therefore, they strategize about the people they are selling to and how the products they’re selling fit into the organization instead of focusing on the functionality of the products themselves.
  4. Curiosity. Curiosity can be described as a person’s hunger for knowledge and information. Eighty-two per cent of top salespeople scored extremely high curiosity levels. Top salespeople are naturally more curious than their lesser performing counterparts.
    • Selling Style Impact: Inquisitiveness. A high level of inquisitiveness correlates to an active presence during sales calls. An active presence drives the salesperson to ask customers difficult and uncomfortable questions in order to close gaps in information. Top salespeople want to know if they can win the business, and they want to know the truth as soon as possible.
  5. Lack of Gregariousness. One of the most surprising differences between top salespeople and those ranking in the bottom one-third of performance is their level of gregariousness (preference for being with people and friendliness). Overall, top performers averaged 30 per cent lower gregariousness than below average performers.
    • Selling Style Impact: Dominance. Dominance is the ability to gain the willing obedience of customers such that the salesperson’s recommendations and advice are followed. The results indicate that overly friendly salespeople are too close to their customers and have difficulty establishing dominance.
  6. Lack of Discouragement. Less than 10 per cent of top salespeople were classified as having high levels of discouragement and being frequently overwhelmed with sadness. Conversely, 90 per cent were categorized as experiencing infrequent or only occasional sadness.
    • Selling Style Impact: Competitiveness. In casual surveys I have conducted throughout the years, I have found that a very high percentage of top performers played organized sports in high school. There seems to be a correlation between sports and sales success as top performers are able to handle emotional disappointments, bounce back from losses, and mentally prepare themselves for the next opportunity to compete.
  7. Lack of Self-Consciousness. Self-consciousness is the measurement of how easily someone is embarrassed. The by-product of a high level of self-consciousness is bashfulness and inhibition. Less than five per cent of top performers had high levels of self-consciousness.
    • Selling Style Impact: Aggressiveness. Top salespeople are comfortable fighting for their cause and are not afraid of rankling customers in the process. They are action-oriented and unafraid to call high in their accounts or courageously cold call new prospects.

Not all salespeople are successful. Given the same sales tools, level of education, and propensity to work, why do some salespeople succeed where others fail? Is one better suited to sell the product because of his or her background? Is one more charming or just luckier? The evidence suggests that the personalities of these truly great salespeople play a critical role in determining their success.

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Tips for those with a Sales Career: Creative Selling

In this post, I want to share with you a few key characteristics of successful sales people and how they differ from the normal sales people.
You would probably agree the majority view that successful sales people meet their quotas, are happy with their profession and are enthusiastic about their customer satisfaction. On the contrary, those struggling to meet quotas (quarter on quarter), that are stressed and worried each day and have a habit of constant complaints about their customers are possibly unsuccessful sales persons.
Having seen thousands of sales people and managed and coached hundreds of them, I thought it would worthwhile to share my experience in a simplistic six-point format. I share these based on my observations on what happens when the sales person meets their customer – where the rubber hits the road.
A successful seller has a distinct approach to selling. He/ She

  1. concentrates on buyer’s need and solving their pain
  2. is focused on customer satisfaction; The  purchase order for them, is means to an end.
  3. always, converts features into benefit statements for the prospect
  4. is an active listener; asks questions to clarify his own understanding
  5. cooperates with the prospect in making the buying decision
  6. congratulates prospect on making the right choice

A normal salesperson is very unlike the above and usually demonstrates the following traits –

  1. is focused on the product
  2. is only interested in getting the order
  3. can rattle out product features tirelessly
  4. talks endlessly, never missing a beat
  5. pushes for the sale, oblivious of what is running in his prospect’s mind
  6. thanks prospect for the order

These fundamental differences almost always do sift between the rice and husk.
Happy Selling!

aspire Leadership Lesson Uncategorised

Aspire to be a CEO? Overpay your people

Contrarian? Not really!
If a person needs to be paid $5,000 a month, he will know. You pay him $4750, he will know and he will feel cheated. He will not go that extra mile or work that extra hour. Some how, he will find a way to punish you – mentally, physically or financially – for paying him unfairly. It is a matter of time till he just jumps sides at the first available option – you lose all your efforts of training them. Worse still, he will go to a competitor.
If some one needs to be paid $5,000 pay him $5,750. You will get much more
 than what it costs you. This person will now stretch and justify the confidence.
Myopic Managers seldom understand this trick. They are cutting costs and feel proud of having shaved that  few hundred dollars. Little do they realise that a motivated and charged up employee contributes 25%-100% more than a normal employee. In fact, the ration may go up in multiples, compared to a morose employee who comes to work each day feeling cheated and spends his mental energies looking for better opportunities.
People are an investment, not costs. I would have a fewer people who work at 120% efficiency than a bunch of blokes working at 70% efficiency.
The old adage – “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” – still holds true. In fact if a manager prides about paying the lowest salaries, they better be sacked. After all they are doing disservice to the company and killing the innovation and larger game plan by saving a few bucks.

  1. A higher pay, does well to a man’s ego and confidence. Anything that does that is a sure shot way to get phenomenally better result.
  2. Better still, they become unemployable as most players in the market cannot afford to pay her that.
aspire Leadership Lesson Uncategorised

Aspire to be a CEO: Be an icon*!

 Anyone can be someone under the sun
To be a face in the crowd, one must be an icon *

Becoming an icon demands more
more than just flowing with the current

 an icon acts with responsibility and integrity
an icon believes in his cause
an icon can differentiate between unreal and real
an icon cares for people
an icon defies the herd
an icon detests mediocrity
an icon does not need to do popularity gimmicks
an icon exposes the fallacies
an icon has passion for his crusade
an icon helps people around him grow
an icon practices innovation as if it were a religion
an icon questions falsehood
an icon stands up what is right
an icon thinks only win-win
an icon unravels the truth

Not every one is an icon; each one  can aspire to be one.

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Aspire to be a CEO: Learn to juggle the three balls.

Learn this fundamental equation about life. Your life can be broadly classified into three areas Family

  1. Career
  2. Money

The beautiful interplay of these three facets is unceasing and perpetual. Needless to say, different aspects require different focus at different times. You may, for example, start early in life with a focus on a career where you learn new skills and become a subject matter expert. Over time you may shift your focus towards building financial security. At this point, you may want to monetize your skill sets and negotiate for better money.

Or there may also be the situation that you had just got married or had a baby and prefer to dedicate the next few years primarily to family while continuing to juggle with money and career to make you the most fantastic husband or father. This is not to say that one is not more important than the other. It is more of to help you prioritize these balls while juggling.
Remember, while juggling these balls, there can be additional complexities. These three balls change their form. At different points, different rubber balls may turn into glass balls. Your cleverness is to recognize the glass balls and drop the rubber balls if you need to. A classic example would be a situation where marriage is on the rocks because of your hectic travel (career focus), and you are on the brink of separation. Or you are fast depleting your financial reserves while you continue to stick to a career with a firm that gave you fancy titles but just has been paying you 50% of what the market can pay you for a similar job.
While they may broadly be connected and seem interchangeable – they are not. E.g., a promising career broadly would mean good money – not necessarily. Good money would mean good family life – but not necessarily – you may be chasing money while all that your daughter wants is to spend that one hour with you in the evening.
How do you action this?
Plan: Sit down and think hard. What is the most crucial thing in your life now? What is the goal (measurable timeline) on that front to say that you have achieved that? What is the second priority, and what is the third? At which point would you want to reprioritize one for the other – money for career or family and vice-versa? You must have a comprehensive plan.
Over time, monitor if you are on the right path. If at any time you feel disgruntled – revisit the priorities – are you focusing on the right areas?– Are you achieving results on the order of priority? If not, reprioritize.
– If you are already doing the right thing, be happy – you are on the right path.
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Aspire to be a CEO? For your life’s sake, Have a Goal

FREE Download of an exclusive Goal Sheet template – Goal Sheet_aspire2be.pdf;
In football or hockey you need goals to win. A goal is a result of successful effort – No Goals, No Glory.
Let us look at another example – Even before a pilot takes off from an airport, he needs to know his destination. Without the destination there is no flight path. And without a flight path there is no take-off. You may be the best of the pilots – you still need to know where you are going.
That said, the single most important action in your entire life, is the setting of goals.

The term No Goals, No Glory. Works just as much in your business as your life.
· How will you set directions for your team if you cannot tell them what to chase – sales target, cost savings, zero-defect. Whatever it may be.
· Ho will you set direction for yourself if you do not know where to go – career progress, family needs, money?
Once you have the goals – written down – personal or professional – direct your focus, energies and resources towards achieving them. You would ideally have two sets of goals – one for your business and one for your life.
You can start with a long term goal (vision) and deep dive into fifteen-ten-five-one year time tables. One way of planning it out could be as follows:

  1. Your Dream List – 15, 10, 5 year goals
  2. Your Vision and SWOT
  3. Your Year Plan of Action
  4. Your monthly Plan of Action
  5. Your Monthly self assessment

If you don’t have goals – you have no reason to get them in the first place.
My favorite way of putting it – “If you do not know where you are going, you will never get lost”.

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How do you manufacture the 25th hour each day

One wise man said 10 years ago:

“They only manufacture watches. Wish they could manufactured time”

Circa 2010, the wise man rephrased his earlier statement:

“They still cannot manufacture time, but each individual can”

And here is how the wise man realised how one can manufacture the 25th hour.
Just do one thing – Do the Important Things.
A time-tested tactic if used well would get you that extra hour or may be a couple of hours every day. Slot every activity you do into one of the four quadrants in the picture. Do Quadrant 1, 2, 3, 4 activities in the same priority order. In fact avoid 3 and 4 if you can. Quadrant 2

1. Urgent and Important: E.g. Deadlines. Your Boss needs it NOW, to make a presentation to his boss in 2 hours. Unfortunate to be in this state but some has to live with it.
2. Not Urgent and Important: E.g. spending time with family, Business Planning, Strategising to pre-empt competitors launch plan 6 months down the line. Do this and this by far is the biggest time saver as you would realise. You may just ignore 3 and 4 and nothing will happen to your life.
3. Urgent and Not Important: E.g. Interruptions and phone calls. They need to be attended to but the reason for interruption may not be all that important. In fact it might be an absolute time waster. Avoid if you can.
4. Not Urgent and Not Important: E.g. mindless switching of channels. Sleeping more than 8 hours a day. The zillion timewasters that if you reflect on, you will know.
Now go ahead and listen to the Wise Man’s trick – do the important stuff first.
PS: The wise man is none other than the author.

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The Art of Talking: Be an Active Listener

Over the weekend, my wife asked me a sudden and seemingly simple question. “How does one talk to people and make a good conversation?”
My answer was spontaneous almost as if it was a programmed – “Simple, Just be an active Listener?”
She repeated her question again, this time with a slightly stern voice – “I asked on how one does talk to people, not how one listens?”

This conversation is indeed critical and I wanted to share this particular topic on this blog.
The art of a good conversation centers squarely on one’s ability to ask questions and to listen attentively to the answers. While it might be true that you talk about your views, insights, ideas, and opinions the real art of talking is in listening.
Perfecting the art of listening is by asking relevant, well-worded questions that guides the conversation and gives other people an opportunity to express themselves. They reveal their emotions, illustrate their views and share their opinions. Each of these is super important if you want to build on the conversation.
There are simple four steps that anybody can follow. Practice diligently and you will be the most admired conversationalist in a few weeks.

  1. Ask Open Ended Questions: Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions encourage the speaker to expand on his thoughts and comments. E.g.: “How are you feeling today?”, “What do you think of …..” And one question will lead to another. You can ask open-ended questions almost endlessly, drawing out of the other person everything that he or she has to say on a particular subject.
  2. Listen Actively: In order to be an excellent conversationalist, you must resist the urge to control the discussion. The very best conversationalists, as any salesman would tell you are low-key, easy-going, cheerful, and genuinely interested in the other person. They seem to be quite content to listen when other people are talking and they make their own contributions to the dialogue rather short and to the point.
  3. Share Airtime: In fact, in a good conversation ideas and thoughts both-ways smoothly like a flow of water. Whether it is one-one, one-many, the conversation should shift back and forth, with each person getting an opportunity to talk. Conversation in this sense is like a ball that is tossed from person to person, with no one holding on to it for very long. If you feel that you have been talking for too long, you should stop and ask a question of someone in the group. You will be tossing the conversational ball and giving that individual an opportunity to converse.
  4. Learn to Listen Well: Listening is the most important of all skills for successful conversation. Many people are very poor listeners. Since everyone enjoys talking, it takes a real effort to practice the fundamentals of excellent listening and to make them a habit.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice.

aspire Leadership Lesson Uncategorised

Aspire to be a CEO? Practice Multitasking

Moving up the ladder requires you to do many tasks at the same time. They may be managing multiple projects, juggling things to do, manage people and expectations to just name a few. This also requires the coordination of efforts of several people, each of whom is responsible for a part of the job, with every part of the job being necessary for successful completion. Your ability to handle these multitask jobs is a critical skill for success.
Multitasking is a must have and no more a ‘nice to have’ quality: It is not surprising that the study by Stanford University of the qualities that companies look for in promoting people into the position of chief executive officer concluded that the ability multitask and put together a team to accomplish a task was the single most important identifiable quality of an executive who was destined for the fast track in his/her career.
Is this an inherited talent or a learnable skill? I have heard often times by people that they just cannot do multiple things at the same time? It is not their DNA. They can read the newspaper and have their morning coffee. They can watch television and brush their teeth. Project management is a learnable skill, like riding a bicycle. Similarly, any project can be divided into a series of steps, each of which you can master, one at a time. You begin by defining the end-game. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? What is the face of success?  Start by defining the end.

  1. Where to Start? Start where it matters – at the beginning. What you are going to have to do? Determine the specific outcome and timeline. Make sure that it is realistic and achievable.
  2. Build the troops: Bring together the people who are required to make this project a success. Sometimes you need to assemble a team before you can even decide upon the ideal result and the schedule. People are everything, take ample time and think carefully about the people and what they are going to do.
  3. Create a shared vision: A shared vision is an ideal future picture of success that everyone believes in. How do you do that? You sit down with the people in the team nod work with them to answer the question, “What are we trying to accomplish?” You encourage everyone to contribute, visualize, and to imagine the ideal outcome or desired result of the project. Once this vision is clear and shared by everyone, you move on to the development of “shared plans” to achieve the vision.
  4. Set Schedules and Deadlines: Once you have a shared vision and plans, and everyone knows exactly what is to be done and what the ideal results will look like, the next step is for you to set a deadline for project completion based on the consensus of your team.
  5. Follow through: Follow through to completion

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Realize your dream – in three steps

There are three steps to realize your dreams. They are inter-related and interdependent. This awareness helps you to program your mind and take charge. Only when you learn to take charge of your new and positive self, can you control your future.

  1. My Ideal: The first part of creating your dream is to create a “My Ideal“. My Ideal state determines the direction of your dream. It guides and evolves your character and personality. It is a combination of all of the qualities of other people that you most admire. My Ideal is a description of the person you would very much like to be if you could embody the qualities that you most aspire to.
  2. Go on the Path of Excellence: You have seen and read about the qualities of courage, confidence, compassion, love, fortitude, perseverance, patience, forgiveness and integrity. You might not always be the very best that you know, but you are constantly striving to be a better person. In fact, everything that you do on a day-to-day basis is affected by your comparing your activities with the ideal qualities and you’re striving to behave consistently with them.
  3. Have super-Clarity: Successful leaders have super-clear ideals for themselves. On the contrary unsuccessful people have fuzzy ideals. Successful leaders are super-clear about being excellent in every part of their work and their personal lives. One of the primary characteristics of successful men and women in every walk of life is that they have super-clearly defined ideals and they are very aware of whether or not their current behaviors are consistent with their idealized behaviors.

Go ahead, set challenging goals. Your future is unlimited. Start now!!.

First, dream big dreams. Set big, exciting, challenging goals and ideals for yourself in every part of your life. Allow yourself to imagine a wonderful life ahead.
Second, think about how you would act if you were an outstanding person in every way. Then, practice being this person, as though you were acting a role in a play. You’ll immediately notice a difference in your behavior.

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Aspire to be a CEO? Keep Physically Fit.

Your brain will make you money, but it is your body that carries your brain. The better shape your physical health is better is your mental health – the greater is your capacity to be productive and efficient.
And there is another good reason. Ninety-five percent of people trying to climb the corporate ladder are unfit or out of shape. You will be able to start earlier, take fewer breaks and end your day still energetic and with an enthusiastic spirit.
You will even sleep better. You will energy to spend time with family and even play with your kids. You will be energetic and will be noticed as an energetic leader. Your spirits will be up and there are lesser chances of you getting depressed.
You will have more  energy and motivation to meet friends, build network, play your favorite sport, socialize, see your kid’s theatre, volunteer and a lot more.
It is your choice. How you keep fit is up to you.
Food for thought: If Anil Ambani, net worth $13.7bn can run 18kms a day, so can you!
The younger Ambani is a fitness freak and his passion for running is well documented. He’s a regular on the marathon circuit and his running mates include a canteen boy who works at the State Bank of India in Nariman Point. He’s also seen at Mumbai’s Mahalakshmi Race Course with his children where they enjoy horse rides. Anil Ambani is up every day by 4:00 a.m. and reads every scrap of information published while he was sleeping before he hits the road. (Source:
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#LeadershipLesson Aspiring to be a CEO? Are you a CEO? Always take vacations.

Remember those braggers, who claim that they have never taken a vacation in years. He or she must be a fool or a very poor manager. You should be able to set people, systems and processes in such a way that they can function without you. How else will you be able to go out to meet customers?
  1. If your department can work when you travel for customer meetings, so can they when you take vacations.
  2. If your department cannot move an inch without you, then it is a shame on your management style – you have not built an organization that is self sustaining – start building it.

In any case, there are many reasons why you must take vacations.

  • If you travel and meet more people, the more you learn. The more you learn the wiser you become. It is not with a reason the great philosophers and kings in those days travelled around the world or went on voyages.
  • When you are away from the rut of routine, new ideas crop up. You can broaden your horizons and out-of-the-box thinking may emerge. Simpler solutions to solve complex issues!
  • It will be the time to pursue your other interests – writing a book, photography, snorkeling or climbing the Kota Kinabalu.
  • It is a time to think and plan. Even a planned vacation forces you to work hard before you leave and finish stuff that otherwise would have taken weeks.
  • When you come back, you are energized and raring to go to take your team and the organization to the next level – the right thing to do.

Always plan your vacation in advance. Pick your dates, let your bosses know. Never cancel, Never leave a phone number. It might be hard first – but try it. Soon it will become a norm.

Experiment and go to different places.

But always go. Get out of the rut. Smell fresh air. Get fresh ideas. Find new ways of doing things.


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Aspire to be a CEO? Do something Hard and Lonely

 Contrary to popular notion of doing something in group, Do something Hard, Do something Lonely.
Practice something very individualistic and something that that most others will be unwilling to do. This will help you feel tough, help you concentrate, boost your ego and make you feel special. It will mentally prepare you for the business battles. Remember, it does get lonelier at the Top.
Something that is hard and lonely is studying for a graduate in film making, especially in winter, when everyone else is snoozing under their sheets. Or running slow over long distances at 4:00am in the morning (versus jogging with a million others at the fitness club in the evening).
Learn carpentry, write a book, read Tolstoy, but do it yourself. Do it alone and solo.
All the great and successful athletes and artists that you admire did have endless hours of toil when the world was sleeping. So do corporate Presidents.
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Management by Moving Away

Over the weekend my wife posed me an interesting question – “How can we tell leaders to be less intimidating, even when their influence on subordinates is unintentional?”  I quipped – “Is it me, you are talking about?”, since both of us work in the same firm and I happen to be its CEO.
On a serious note , I said, “A good question, and my first answer – Just get away from there”. This is sometimes the best thing a superior can do, by physically not being there and stifle the thinking and suggestions in a group of otherwise similar-status peers. I am sure there are many examples each of us can come back with.
What is really happening here?
In many a situation the leader unintentionally imposes his ideas on others, thus hindering free thinking. This may not be the ‘Directive Leadership’ that Social psychologist Clark McCauley describes in his research on factors influencing Groupthink. In fact, in many Asian cultures the hierarchical structure is so deeply ingrained that even the mere presence of the superior, prevents free thinking and free exchange of ideas. It may be out of respect or out of fear  – whatever the cause the effect is the same – ‘Death of Free Thinking’
To prevent such situations, I have seen many leaders consciously avoid being present in a group workshop or a brain storming session. They visit only towards the end to listen to the summary. Is that a good idea?
May be, partly. While that solves this problem, it creates another beast.Over time, the superior becomes ignorant and aloof from the ground realities. The leader loses the precious knowledge on how the team thinks and works.
What then is the right answer? I do not have clear answers, except to say you may want to do either of it in moderation.
Story of Cuban Missile Crisis:
In October of 1962 when President John F. Kennedy’s advisers were debating about what to do about the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet Union was taking steps to place missiles topped with nuclear weapons just 90 miles from Florida.  Kennedy had gathered experts with diverse opinions and knowledge and encouraged them to express their opinion.
As Irving Janis mentions in his article Groupthink, at one point, Kennedy divided the larger group into multiple sub-groups and asked each to develop solutions — in order to avoid excessive and premature consensus. Kennedy also reduced the potentially stifling effects of his status as president by being deliberately absent from these subgroup meetings, 
Although historians and psychologists continue to debate how important such measures to avoid groupthink were for producing the decisions that ultimately defused the crisis, I think that the more general lesson holds: sometimes the best way for a leader to reduce undue influence is to leave the room or avoid going to meetings where his or her presence will hinder frank discussion and deep examination of facts.
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Formal Employment is a Myth

Over the last few weeks, I have been inundated with phone calls and emails from friends and colleagues, most of whom have lost their jobs because of
‘the economy.Barring a few exceptions, I believe that most Of them were worthy performers with commendable capabilities. Each of them had some worthy skills and unique talents. It was poignant, however, when I saw them live a sense of amputated existence – in their minds and spirits.

This note I dedicate to them and many others like them.

A formal employment give, or at least is supposed to give, three things:

  1. Job security
  2. A sense of identity with a name card with a title and a company name
  3. Monthly cash flow to sustain living expenses and to create assets.

1. Job security: The closure of Lehman and lay-offs by GM, Microsoft, and IBM only question the same hypothesis of Job Security in salaried jobs today.

2. Identity: a name card and title give us a sense of social status. Why would you not achieve the same if you start your own company and become the CEO or consultant? You have just given yourself a title and a job scope, which you have always wanted.

The other aspect of identity is the “company brand” or “revenues” of the company. Think about it – these top Wall Street banks just crumbled. General Motors and Chryslers reported pathetic performance; they could not get a single act right. You sure are better than those CEOs. At least you did *not* depreciate public money. In your evaluation, your worth needs to be better than what you think by being an appendage to someone else’s.

3. Monthly cash flow is the most rational reasoning and has a practical impact. We all need money to run our homes, eat food, pay rent and pay for children’s education. If we were to calculate these with a level of practicality – go back and check our current bank reserves and re-prioritize. I would reckon that most people in middle and senior management should be well off. In most cases, we can live well, without a job for 5-20 years, with a reasonably good lifestyle. Does that give you some confidence? I suggest you do this exercise and think about it. We are more prosperous than we believe, and we are far more capable than we think we are.


The above view assumes that the ones who are laid off or made redundant are good performers and have enough capability in their respective fields. It is presupposed that they have an intellect and potential which helped them in delivering success in their earlier jobs.

Needless to say, if I were the those good-for-nothing or someone who just counted the monthly pay checks into the bank without any performance or capability, then they were plain lucky to have been employed in the first place.


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Understanding Fiscal Stimulus

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Understanding Fiscal Stimulus

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# Selling [Blurb] Be proud of the world’s oldest profession

Oldest profession – did you hear that?

(Repost from an earlier post in 2010)

Yes, the world’s oldest profession is selling. While your guess is as good as mine as to how the adage about “the oldest profession” being prostitution, a little more thought and you will realize that even prostitutes had to settle on the (sale) bargain, making the solicitation as it were (prospecting, qualification), before surrendering to the act (order fulfilment).

Well, the intention is not to get into those details but, more importantly, to say why selling is an excellent profession for those seeking excellence. Selling is a profitable career. This is the one career where you are rewarded for your abilities and not normalized to the bottom-most performer on the ladder.

Think about it –

You have the enviable pride that you help solve your prospectus’s problem. You are assuaging their pain or removing it for them.

  1. A good salesman’s employment is guaranteed in boom and even more during bust times.
  2. And yes, your company may have the best product. Unless it is sold, and profitably at that – there is no way your company will make money to pay for those salaries or even manufacture that product.
  3. To sell possibly is the most rewarding decision in your life. It gives you unlimited potential for your personal and financial growth.

Happy Selling!

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Business is Social: Implementing Social Media Strategy in Business (Part 2 of 2)

In my earlier post of Business is Social:…, I shared the size of the market was and the lovable demographics social media presents. In this second and final part, I will share with you the basic steps of getting there.
Before I proceed I want to share with you a personal sorry that occurred a few days ago.

I was disappointed at mediocre internet banking infrastructure of the two banks #hdfcbank, #icicibank and the unhelpful call center of #jetairways. The numerous attempts to the call center that either put me on hold for a good 20+ minutes or were unable to understand the requests yielded no results. As their customer that lives abroad, such waits and both frustrating and costly. I did what was the next step. Vent my frustration on a tweet.

In less than 12 hours, I had ‘messages’ from two of the firms #icicibank #jetairways requesting for more details. In less than 24 hours of me providing my contact details, the representatives called me and promised to fix the issue. One bank #hdfcbank, just chose to be unheard and non-present on twitter. Needless to say thy just lost my $10K investment that I was planning to do to their competitor.

As a customer, I was delighted that a 140 character tweet could achieve what a 20min international phone call or a 300 word email could not. Harnessing its power, let’s get serious.
Unfortunately, most companies are still treating social media like just another teenage fancy. When in fact, it’s so much more.


Where can Social Media help?

  1. customer service, building loyalty
  2. public relations, networking, thought-leadership
  3. and yes, may be customer acquisition, too.

And because I’d hate to see it all not add up, I’ll add this tiny bit of advice. Do not assume that social media is the answer to every problem

  • If your product sucks, social media won’t fix it.
  • However, if your customer service sucks, social media can help.
  • If your repeat business sucks, social media can help.
  • If your company’s word of mouth sucks, social media can help.

So, here’s what you need to do:

Define your company’s social media strategy.

Hope is not strategy

Stop thinking “campaigns”. Start thinking “conversations.

Your customers are queuing there. Your resistance to social media is futile. Millions of people are creating content for the social web. Your competitors are already there. Your customers have been there for a long time.
If your business isn’t putting itself out there, you are putting yourself out of business?

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Business is Social: Making a case for Social Media Strategy in Business (Part 1 of 2)

In my consulting assignments and workshop on social media, participants ask me the same question again and again. The top three questions are –

    • “Why do we as a business need to be there?”
    • “Facebook is for friends and Twitter is there for celebrities, not for real businesses”.
    • “We are a professional organization, not some startup”

In this two part series, I will share how social media can change the business dynamics and help you get closer to your prospects and customers. In part 2 of this series I will share my own personal example with an airline and a bank on how they leveraged social media to solve customer problems.

Well are businesses really social?

A few years ago when Avinash Kaushik, an Analytics Evangelist of Google quipped “social media is like teen sex. Everyone wants to do it. Nobody knows how. When it’s finally done there is surprise it’s not better”, it seemed like just that.
Now 3 years later 36 months wiser, Wikipedia defines thus – “Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue”,
Why should I care, you may ask?
Well, I can give you not one but six trends that possibly can change your perspective.

  1. Because 3 out of 4 Americans use social technology.
  2. Because 2/3 of the global internet population visit social networks.
  3. Because visiting social sites is now the 4th most popular online activity
  4. Because time spent on social networks is growing at 3x the overall internet rate, accounting for
  5. Because social media is democratizing communications. Big time.
  6. Because social media is like word of mouth on steroids.

Because, social media is a force to be reckoned with! If facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd most populated in the world, just after China and India.

If all this is great stuff, how does it affect my business, my customers or my prospects? I will cover these in my next issue, and I leave you with this thought –

  • 93% of social media users believe that a company should have a presence in social media.
  • 93% of these users want a dialogue, not a monologue on social media and believe that companies should not treat social media as yet another channel for broadcasting bulls*t.

Well now that I set the grounding on the basics of Social Media, I will take up in my next issue on how businesses can leverage social media in my next issue.

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