In 100 Words: Oh Thy Possibility!

Recently, my friend Tanmay Vora has started sharing his thoughts in the form of 100-word posts. We had a detailed talk about that and we shared the excitement of experimenting a different and interesting form.

Here’s my first one in that form, with the constraint of 100 words applied. Not actually a story but a kind of self-talk that extends my possibility thinking.

Oh…Thy Possibility!

Having invented you
has made the whole journey
really meaningful…

My eyes smile when I savor you
and treasure the present moment.

The journey that has begun
may see light and dark
uncertainties and challenges
successes and failures…

It may see all that
it is capable of seeing.

Maybe the purpose
of the present moment
is to fade away
and transform into
the next present moment…

Inspiring us in-between
to take certain actions
that we must take
and presume total responsibility.

That’s what makes it so powerful…

But when we take actions
we become even more powerful.

Oh… thy possibility!

Mini Saga – Reward

Effective leaders believe in developing their team members.

First, they recognize potential in a team member and then do everything possible to make sure that the selected team member play to his/her own limits and reward him/her self, the project and the organization at large.

Often team members guess that their boss uses their skills just for the sake of squeezing more juice from him/her. Many times, that’s not the case, for example, read below mini-saga:

Reward

Sure-handed Peter was disappointed playing different roles in a big software project. Analyst, Tester, Architect, ScrumMaster…Multiple. Every few months his boss would move him to take over another role. One day, he decided to resign but: A promotion letter was awaiting him saying “Congratulation, you’re ready for the next gig!”

Evaluate from this lens as well when you feel like being squeezed.

Are You Limited by Your Own Creativity (Which used to work earlier but now not)?

Though it brings rewards in the end, most of us are afraid of challenging our own thought-patterns as if it were an invasive brain surgery.

We’re designed this way, right?

Wrong.

But yes, we’re conditioned this way.

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with one of my friends who shares a rare frequency and runs a successful design firm.

We talked about building the business, creating A-list teams and providing A-class customer service.

He was discussing with me about customer feedback: designers working with his firm were otherwise very good but lacked innovation. He said that it was true for even their Chief Designer who had experience as little as 18 years in the design industry.

The conclusion was to hire a fresh (but brilliant) design graduate whose job would be to passionately challenge each one of the designs that the design team comes up with.

Last week, I met my friend again to hear the good news that his customer is very happy with the recent design innovations that his team produced.

It worked like a charm. Why?

Because the beginning of the end of any great endowment is: “Falling in love with your own creation”.

Sure, you’ve to believe in yourself, your vision and your abilities. But, at the same time, following the same way of thinking just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, is the sure-fire way to attract devolution at the lightning speed.

The decision of bringing in fresh talent to challenge generated healthy conflict. The conflict was to challenge their designers’ fixed way of being and to ensure that the best comes out in the end.

Sometimes, it’s better to have someone in your team who has eyes to look at the things from a fresh lens.  Maybe it’s good to have ‘No, but, can we not…?’ kind of people rather than yes-men.

Navigate Without a Map

When the performance appraisal happens, and one colleague is promoted,  many of his co-workers don’t feel good. They compare themselves with him and conclude that their boss favors only who flatters her. Always, that may not be the case. For example, read the below story called Navigate Without a Map.

 

Navigate Without A Map

Background
Peter and Scott – both joined the company on the same day as Analyst Programmers. Both were coming from different background but had two qualities in common. Both were hard-working and committed to their work.

Promotion of Peter
After a couple of years Peter was promoted as a Lead Programmer while Scott did not get the promotion. Scott got upset with this, drafted the resignation letter and went to Stella, his Department Manager. He complained that Stella does not value hardworking staff and promotes only who blandishes her.

The difference
Stella knew that Scott also worked hard for past two years but she had a point to address and make Scott realize the difference between him and Peter.

So, she discussed a scenario with Scott, “While working as a dedicated developer with an offshore client, if you reach a limbo stage when there is no work for couple of weeks. How’d you proceed?”

“I’d call the client and ask for the work”, was Scott’s reply.

Stella explained further, “The client responded that he needs to send you some task specifications but he would be able to send it only after two weeks when he’ll return back from vacation. So the limbo stage continues. What should be the next step?”

Scott said, “Well, since I have no work, I’ll work on my pet project or do something else. May be I will also take some leaves. Given it is a Dedicated Developer Contract, client is going to pay for the two weeks anyways so he can’t blame it on me or the organization.”

“Well,” said Stella. “Let’s discuss the same scenario with Peter and ask what would he do.”

Peter responded, “Well, first of all I won’t come in the limbo stage because I keep communicating with the client very frequently and always make him aware about the work status. But still if that stage comes and I do not have anything on my platter, here’s what I’d do:”

  1. Optimize the code for performance – I’ll utilize the knowledge I’ve gathered in Application Performance Improvement classes I attended in the last weekend of April.
  2. Recheck the code comments and take it to the next level. I understand that there is no comparison between well-commented code and just the code.
  3. I’ll do some research and learn more about my client’s business. I’ll also prepare a document which will outline the knowledge I’ve gathered by performing the research. I’ll share that with the client also.
  4. I’ve some high level idea about what changes he wants to make in the software I’m working on. So I’ll make some draft user interface and modified architecture diagram with added application scalability.
  5. I’ll record such additional activities and submit a report to the client such that he can know how I’ve utilized my time for which he is paying.
  6. I will do…

“OK, Great! This information is sufficient for what I was looking for. You may go and continue your work, Peter.” interrupted Stella.

The realization
Scott realized the point which Stella wanted him to understand. He understood that Peter has an edge over him. He observed that:

  1. Peter had absolute clarity about where to go and how to proceed even when no path/direction was given.
  2. Peter had invested his time to learn different technology verticals which are even indirectly related to his core strength by investing extra time over the weekends.
  3. Peter is a servant leader. He’s willing to learn his client’s language (business) so that he can serve his well.
  4. Peter does not need a map to navigate. Instead, he is willing to move ahead when there’s no map. He will try hard to improvise application’s architecture and would work on making it still better.
  5. Peter utilizes the information in a way it becomes meaningful to the client and the organization. Most important is that he keeps all the important information in the written form.

“I want to take back my resignation,” said Peter. “I’ll learn from Peter and try to be an equal or better version of him.”

Only hard work and commitment are not sufficient. You need to develop an ability to navigate without a map (Yes, wordings are taken from Linchpin by Seth Godin – a good read, btw.)

We’re in a different age where rulebooks are not matching pace with the changing demands of the workplace so start thinking beyond the rulebooks, take personal risks and excel at what you’re doing. Remember, observation power is a big differentiator. And, excellent use of observed information may take you a long way.

Maybe that’s the reason we are given with two ears and two eyes but only one mouth. So speak less, observe more. Maintain a mental database of observed information, index it often and use it to navigate when no map is available. 😉

Contribute beyond your title

Easier are the decisions where one side is right and the other is wrong however in many situations, leaders have to choose one from the two rights.

Here is a story about Peter, the project manager, who assumed responsibility, led beyond his title and made a difference by his decision.

Quandary or the Growth Opportunity?

Background
Peter was working as a project manager with a small but growing software service provider company.  For last few months, he was working on a project very critical for the client – Caroline.

Caroline was very happy with the way the project was progressing; especially with the way Peter was managing it. Peter never missed a Status report and always kept Caroline updated with the progress.

In fact, Caroline’s positive feedback was one of the reasons behind Peter’s recent salary rise.

Quandary of Two Rights
On a Thursday morning, Peter got an email from his CEO instructing him to “hide” an important piece of information in the weekly status report which was supposed to be sent on Friday.

Benefit of hiding the information was continuation of the contract with Caroline for at-least next 6 months which meant a lot of money for Peter’s company.

On the other side, Caroline may go bankrupt in next 6 months if she continues funding the project which had no future – at least it was apparent with the information which was to be hidden.

Peter, the project management professional, was well aware that as a project in-charge he has to do the right thing for the project. He wanted to inform Caroline about the fact but he was asked by his superior NOT to do that.

Now, he has to make a choice between two rights. Between integrity (with the client) versus commitment (towards his own company).

Now what would he do? Would he send the status report and pretend that he doesn’t know about the “hidden” fact or update the client about the situation which will lead his company to lose the contract?

The Decision
Peter decided to Eat That Frog andchose a road less traveled.

He decided to meet his CEO to tell that he won’t hide that information in the status report and still do well for the company.

Peter quickly developed a plan which would enable his organization to earn the money they were losing if they unhide the truth to Caroline and presented to his CEO.

“This plan is not bullet-proof and there is no guarantee we will gain the money we are going to lose,” said the CEO.

“But, it’s definitely a way to go!  Peter. You, the leader beyond your title – Project Manager – have made me realize that the path I was heading was faulty and was not in the favor of our company’s long term sustainable success,” CEO said slowly.

“Go ahead and update Caroline with the facts. Even if we lose the contract we will at-least win a friend who will be ready to stand by our company for the rest of her life,” added the CEO.

Conclusion
Peter sent the status report without hiding the fact. Caroline took the decision to stop further development on this project. Actually, stopping this project saved Caroline from going bankrupt also.

On the other side, CEO worked with Peter on the business plan he developed, made it bullet-proof and stared executing it.

6 Months Later: Peter, who is now leading the SBU as per the revised business plan, got a call from Caroline who wanted to start a new project which was three times bigger in size, of course with Peter’s company.

This was the story about 3 such quandaries which stand as fundamental models or paradigms while deciding from two-rights quandaries.

  1. Honesty Vs. Commitment – Honesty towards his profession and commitment towards his company.
  2. Personal interests Vs. Organization’s – Hiding the fact was easy for Peter but was going to be bad for the company over the long run.
  3. Quick-fix Vs. Long-standing – Again, the quick-fix,  hiding the fact, would have affected the company adversely over the long term.

In such situations, the first thing you need to do is to what’s right for the greater good of everyone involved, as Peter did.  The people around you will know it nevertheless.

Everyone will learn it the harder way if you don’t shout it out.

Pause. Take a deep breath. Decide how you are going to work out the problem. Make an alternative plan and execute it with a specific purpose.

Power Question: In quandaries, do you assume responsibility and take the tough but the right decision?

Great Leadership Insights By Dan McCarthy

I have been following Dan McCarthy’s blog for almost a year now and I like reading his views on leadership a lot. I’d like to share some of his resourceful posts on Leadership development:

  • How to rock as Panelist: It’s the recent one. Dan talks about how to shine as a panelist. He has shared six tips for that.  Practice (a lot), Play (fully) and (make the best) Profit out of it. Read the article here.
  • 10 tips on how to lead a global virtual team: Good tips starting from basics like respecting cultures and time zones to important ones like to make use of Global English and relevant technology. Read the article here.
  • How to write a great individual development plan: Many people don’t make a plan for personal development but if it is in place, it can make a positive difference in an individual’s career and life. Read more of Dan here.

Dan’s blog has been recently recognized as #14 Top 150 Management & Leadership Blogs list by Jurgen Appelo – the list is resourceful, worth having a look.