Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dead dog

Do you feel bad when somebody yells at you? You know, that's the time to feel good. This is because people being angry or upset with you is far better than people being indifferent. "Love me or hate me, I got you. Ignore me and I have lost you."

OK, this is not to mean that all sort of yelling and personal attacks belong to this category. The things that belong to this category are the professional yellings you get from your bosses and constructive criticism from anyone.

OK, if nothing helps to make sense to believe that being yelled is a good thing, remember "nobody kicks a dead dog". People apparently kick a live dog for whatever reasons. You get yelled at because people still think you are important and can deliver something they want but are impatient with you. Being yelled at more and more is a sign that you have got them hooked. Do not take it too far though. Once the value of yelling exceeds the value that you provide, people start thinking that they rather spend their energy finding more responsive dog to kick rather than kicking you who is becoming a dead dog. So, keep wagging the tail, get kicked and feel important.

Becoming yellable is also a good quality. By becoming yellable, you make it easy for all kinds of people to provide feedback. If you are not yellable and take offense to being yelled at, then people being afraid of anti-harassment and other HR policies refrain from yelling but you lose out on their valuable feedback. So, even if you do not agree with their way of providing feedback, do not take an exception to that. Bear with it. Extract valid feedback and work on it. Also, do not let people to walk all over you. That's not going to earn you any respect either especially from your peers and subordinates.

When we are in the process of becoming yellable, it is not easy to put up with a boss or someone in the position of authority whose primary means of providing feedback is yelling. If the person is genuinely nice person, then telling that person in a diplomatic way that you very much value his/her feedback but when they raise the voice the point is lost. Sometimes people like such candid feedback and change their ways.

Then there is a category of people who yell at people especially the ones less powerful than them just to insult them and make them feel miserable. With such people,you have to develop a thick skin. If the position you are in really matters to you, then moving away from such people only lets them become more belligerent with you and others. That's the time to stand firm and take it to whatever level necessary to show such people where there position is. No organization tolerates people who routinely yell at people for no good reason. Smart people are aware that reprimands delivered in harsh ways only demoralize the work place. With such people, take it up with their higher authorities and eventually with HR as needed.

Actually even faking that you do not bother about the harshness of the yelling is the best way to go. People tend to develop respect for your maturity even if you are faking it. Whatever you do, do not ever lose your temper in a professional setting, that's the worse thing that can happen to a good professional in you. People will remember that one instance when you lost your cool. Even if your boiling, count till 100 and remain calm. Such virtues are more admired than someone raising their BP and acting like a jerk.

With all this, I am sure, you would never yell at anyone else. That goes without saying. There are professional ways to disagree, there are professional ways to provide feedback and there are professional ways to remove people who are not working for you. Whatever you do, do not 'kick the dog' that hard that it bite you so badly that you will lose a good portion of your leg :)


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Saturday, October 28, 2006

3rd Party

Let's say,  we are in a gathering. Some topic comes up. Someone picks it up and starts off talking about it like an authority. For a few minutes, we think he may be a real authority. But, very soon, if we know something about the topic, we start recognizing a few deviations from facts and sometimes truth stretched way too far. We also notice that there are others also who are feeling the same way. No one saying anything to counter him or her for either sounding rude or being snubbed off or some other kind of harsh treatment. People who are overconfident, careless, insensitive, spotlight-hungry are routinely seen talking about subjects which they know little or nothing about. So, how do we deal with that without being put up with the crap they are dumping on us and other sensible folks in the gathering.

There are a few ways. Easiest is to  walk away and be done with it. You can do that if you are the only person there and if you leave, this person automatically stops his/her dumping. In such a case, do not even waste your breath, just leave with little wastage of your energy. Those kind of people do not deserve your time or effort to refute. They are not willing to correct themselves in any case.

However, if you are in a gathering of many nice people, by leaving, you will lose out on the fun which you can have with those nice people. That may have been the only reason you came in the first place and this person has taken the assembly hostage by his non stop blabber on something.

You very well know that if you refute what he is saying directly, using his sharp tongue, he is going to insult your or make some corny remarks. So, you bring a fictitious third party to fight on your behalf. You would start off saying - "you know, if someone objects to what you are saying with these facts, how do you respond?". Most of the people who are talking about something they do not know fall for this trap and waste their breath, they blow hot and cold over the fictitious person you have introduced and take their ire against them. Moreover, another thing is they get frustrated too as they can not lynch this fictitious person who has challenged them. Now they are focused on attacking the fictitious person that talking crap about some nice subject on which some other knowledgeable person would have spoken. Now they start talking to you privately berating the fictitious person that you brought up. They will be speaking like "who is the person who asks such a question? Do you know him? I must know because I want to have a good argument with him and show him his place," and so on. This is your opportunity to let this person get off the high way, ease into exit and move on. Good riddance.

Once I had run into a relative who started off on something and ended explaining how his acidity problem went away when the ceiling fan fell on him and grievously injured him. Despite keeping as open mind as possible, I could not stretch my imagination to this level. There was no way to deal with this person with any fictitious person or anything. It was amazing that this person was making stronger and stronger case for  disappearance of acidity due the fall of the fan with all bogus medical reasons. Thankfully there was no doctor over there. I enjoyed his bogus medical theory for a while and said I had to take a nap. That was the end of it. Gosh, I still can not believe someone can make up such a story just defend something that they told which was untrue in the first place.

Another incident was equally funny. There was this guy whose cousin was like God. I am pretty sure this cousin  was a fictitious character this guy was using to display his knowledge of everything on the earth. You talk about Wimbledon, he would say his cousin was there in the last Wibledonr. That's it. He would start one lie after another and you should not be surprised if he ends up saying his cousin had tea with the queen of England at the end of Wimbledon. The original point was lost and the nice discussion  you could have had was lost with his cousin's visit to the Wimbledon. Next time you say something else on cricket. He would again begin his cousin's experience with cricket match which may end he having played with one or the other cricketer during his college days. So on. If you challenge him how can his same cousin have all these experiences, he would become defensive and say these are all different cousins. This way he would have needed the entire humanity to be his cousin.

Once we made  'bakra' (fool) out of him and had a lot of fun behind his back. I am sure he does not know about this even now. In order to lure him into the trap, one person in our group started talking about a garment which had the brand name of Galaxy. We were not sure that this person would walk into our trap that easily because Galaxy was a very heavily advertised brand and most of us adolescents were curious about this garment than any other garment at that time. That's it. As soon as he heard Galaxy and somehow made connection that this was garment, he started telling about his cousin and making up all stuff about that. Such as his cousin buying that exclusive brand in London and bringing it in dozens, customs catching and what no. We were all trying hard to hold back our laughter. Ultimately when he finished his cousins triumph with galaxy we all had a hearty laugh. When he inquired we told him that we found his cousin doing all that to get galaxy so funny and brave. In truth, galaxy was a brand name for most commonly available brassier. This person who always had only male cousins had not even bothered but had gone on to make a lot of stories about a male cousin buying expensive galaxy branded outfit from London and bringing all that to India facing enormous problem with customs. :)


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Leaky boat

"Pouring water out of a leaky boat takes away the focus and energy from rowing the boat." We have heard this or a variant of this. This says that any obstacles or nuisances deter us from focusing our efforts on the goal thus making the achievement of the goal that much more difficult. That is all  valid.

Important question is - how do we get back our focus on to rowing the boat and less on pouring out the water that is getting into the boat from the leak? We can plug the leak or we can carry a pump which once started can empty the water out. Which approach do we take? There is no one answer for this. It's very subjective. However, a new insight develops when we look critically into the scenario and see how it applies to ourselves. One possible way is to compare the leak to one of our weaknesses and how it affects our ability to achieve what we set out to achieve. In order to achieve a goal, we need different strengths in different measures. We may not have some strengths and in fact we may even be weak in those areas. Due to such weaknesses, the obstacles keep popping up and we have to give up rowing to pour the water out. Plugging the leak is like working on our weakness and to reduce it or eliminate it. This is one plausible solution. Using a pump to take the water out is like substituting someone else in that area where we are weak but the other person is strong. This also works.

It probably is much easier to further strengthen our strengths than to improve upon the area where we are weak. We are weak in a area for a reason. We are not able to motivate ourselves enough to become good at it. Classic example is those subjects in which we were not good at. For some it may be maths and for others it may be history and so on.

With inordinate amount of effort and frustration, we may attain passing score in the area that we are trying to improve. But, in that pursuit we may lose out on the opportunity or the level we reach even after so much effort may not be adequate to attain our goal. It's like we trying to plug the hole but water still seeping in. So, having someone fill in for us seems to be a better option. Of course, that does come with a risk because we become dependent on the person and our destiny does not seem to be entirely in our own hands. One way to address lack of control on our own destiny in such cases to address the risks. In the example of a pump, we can keep another pump. If that's too expensive and impractical, we can keep parts required to repair. We can choose to visit the shore often enough to make sure that pump is ok and so on.

Leading experts have said it over and again that it is much easier to strengthen our strengths than work on our weaknesses. "What is the best direction to ride the horse? The direction it is already going." Trying to work on our weaknesses is like trying to sharpen that side of the sword which has no blade in the first place. How futile that activity can be? But, we expend so much of precious energy doing exactly the same. We end up being mediocre. Look at highly successful people. Smartest of all just hire the best, give broad outline and get out of the way. People accomplish more than expected when empowered. Next best option is to work hard but do realize and hire right help where needed without fail. Both options work well. One that is sure to bomb  is to focus all your energy on working on our weaknesses. At the end, you may not develop required skills, your strengths may not be at their best, you may lose confidence become diffident and give up on a valid goal which was very much within the reach only if you were to change your strategy. Remember "successful people do not do different things. They do same things differently."


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Friday, October 27, 2006

Wet paint - don't touch

"If a scientist says that there is a planet far away in the galaxy, we believe without a second guess. However, we have to touch to believe the park bench even when the prominent sign says - wet paint. don't touch."

It is always mind boggling that more obvious the things are, more is our need to verify it for ourselves. Less obvious the things are less is our need to verify it. It is really funny.

Same thing applies to science versus divine science. We believe all great scientific theories even if have no idea about complex mathematics that goes behind those theories. But, the same ignorant us do not believe the law of karma or that any mystic ever attained nirvana. We with our limited knowledge put forward counter argument and ask the person to prove it. Why don't we ask a physicist to prove the existence of that far away planet, why don't we say e= mc squared can not be right? But, if we read that Ramana Maharshi or Sri Ramakrishna attained nirvana, we start questioning the very fundamentals of concepts such as karma, nirvana, god, self, soul and reincarnation. It's not at all bad to question. But, questioner in order to be taken seriously has to be open minded too. That's why smart people do not entertain questioners who approach with a preconceived notion. It is like "you can awaken the person who is sleeping but you can never awaken the person who is pretending to be sleeping." If a person with an open mind asks a question, we can attempt to answer to best of our knowledge. If we do a good job and if the intellect of the questioner is adequate, well and good. Otherwise, he will still look confused but his curiosity to find the answer is even more aroused. He will find the answer when the time is right and when he finds a guru.

One more thing that makes it even harder to convince people of spiritual truths is the fact that they are experiential. In the sense they have to be experienced and can not be explained or derived like mathematical equation. Of course, empirical evidence of law of karma is more than strong enough to convince any skeptic. But, it again is empirical and more like heuristic than an algorithm. "For believers no explanation is necessary. For non-believers no explanation is possible." This is the situation.

It's true that we are trained to question everything. That is a good thing. But, in over zealousness to question everything we should not become close minded. What, we as a humanity, have managed to understand in our millions of years of existence is very little of this universe. What mystics and sages are saying is simply this - there is more than what you have understood. It will take long time for each of you to understand all that individually. Some of us have understood it far more and these are the empirical proofs and it's in your best interest to believe in them rather than endlessly questioning them.

Einstein, greatest inquisitive mind, put it all this best when he said - everything that can be counted does not count. Everything that counts can not be counted.

So, next time when you see
'wet  paint' sign,  remember not to feel a strong urge to touch it to make sure that it is indeed wet paint.


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What would Jesus do?

"What Jesus would do?" - this is not just a catchy line on bumper stickers. If we look at it closely, it packs a lot of insight. I do not know the origin of this phrase but it's been proven very effective to role play when we hit situations when it become difficult to make decisions. We are torn by dilemma. During those times, it makes a lot of sense to ask 'what would Jesus do?' under similar circumstances. We may not have all the answers but trying to see from different angle helps a lot. This is also the theory behind the practice of praying sincerely and then seeking divine guidance. It all depends on the strength of our faith. If our faith is strong enough, the prayer helps us focus all our vital energies on the problem. When that happens, no problem is unsolvable. The concentrated energy is so strong that it is like being able to burn a piece of paper by focusing sun rays using a magnifying glass.

Some books on motivation use a slightly different variation of this method. They recommend that we ask ourselves questions such as 'what would our customer advice?', 'what would our boss advice?', 'what would our family members advice?' etc. These are all good questions and help see the issue from different perspectives. However, the original question ' what would Jesus do?' encompasses all such questions and is the best. In order to come up with intelligent insight for 'what would Jesus do?' we need to constantly enrich ourselves with the wisdom of classical spiritual texts of the world. When we stuff a lot of info into our head, it may seem very fuzzy at times and we may not feel confident that we would never be able to recall when we need to. But, mind is a super organizer. It organizes information in such a way that it serves it up just-in-time. So, when we ponder sincerely for answer to the question 'what would Jesus do?', a lot insight will be generated out of our spiritual knowledge provided we have stuffed it in the first place. It's a perfect GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out). We can validate this from our own experiences. How many times we have found that if have prepared well for an exam or interview, then during the interview we seem to be able to synthesize right answers based on the fundamentals even to the questions to which we do not know the answer directly. It's amazing. We feel good about our ability to think on our feet. But, the point to be recognized that it was our meticulous preparation which fine tuned our mind to serve us better. We can also validate the reverse phenomenon when we do not prepare well. So, sincerity in effort provides a lot of positive leverage. It not only helps us recall what we know but also enables us to connect disparate dots to develop one cohesive picture. Our glue gun will be firing at a rapid rate gluing together all points.


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"Do not suspect in the light what I assured in the dark."

Meaning may not be obvious here. It's all about faith and how strong it is. Many of us are motivated by religious scriptures, feel reassured by the gospel of God and vow that we would never let this faith waver when faced with difficulties. Then comes a difficulty, why do we waver? Why all the assurances given by God seem hollow and we start second guessing God. It's not clear. One is our over-developed intellect. Over-developed intellect in itself is not bad but when it has to compulsively over analyze it shakes all convictions because it's the nature of intellect to look for logic and rationale in everything. But, some things such as assurances from God as described in the scriptures can not be proved by conventional means. It is to be believed and experienced. We can see the glory of God in the lives of others and say to ourselves that when the time comes God will glorify our lives too. It's just that.

Look at a simple person who may not be well educated. If his 'samskaras' are good, his faith wavers under no circumstances. He faces every situation wholly and squarely with firm belief in God. "God will take care of everything." "God will not abandon us." "God will lighten the load of our problems." are not fatalistic beliefs. When believed fully and with utter conviction,they have capability to work miracles. When we believe in things fully without any trace of doubt, we are not asking some unknown cosmic entity for help, we are tapping into enormous untapped energy dormant in our own self. It is not surprising  that we use only a fraction of our potential.

"Belief in God is the beginning of wisdom." If we just follow this and give up unnecessary knit picking on issues using our superlative logic, we can only help ourselves. How much of our vital energy goes in worrying about the uncertainty of life. Life may be uncertain to us but God has planned it all for us to minutest details. It's just that he want us to look forward to every moment with curiosity that he does not reveal how the next moment is going to unfold. In fact, he gives subtle hints only if we can sense them and make sense out of them. All the intuition and premonitions we experience are subtle hints. Depending on our belief system, we can look forward to a rosy future or doomed future. We invite the kind of future we imagine. God is way too generous in granting what we want. Think about dooms day scenario and God sends one. But in his infinite mercy he does rescue us from the brink of annihilation only to make a point that despite our wish for total destruction he chose to save us out of his compassion and other designs for us.


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Sunday, October 22, 2006


"Problem is  not-knowing  how to get what you want. Bigger problem is not-knowing what you want."

When we objectively reflect on any frustrating experience, this is one of the recurring insights. This is how it typically unfolds. We have a situation to deal with in which we have some give and take with the other party. We rush into a dialog with them. We make some arguments. They make some. We come to some sort of agreement. There was also time pressure. So, we did not have a choice to defer coming to an agreement. When we retreat back to our den and spend a moment thinking about the whole episode, suddenly there is a surge of many things that we did not take into account - how the outcome would have been different. So, we end up sulking that we got a raw deal. Best example is when we make a offer on a house or a car and the seller accepts without a wink. We were expecting  a nice give and take and here we are getting what we wanted in the first place and we are feeling miserable. If we really got what we wanted then why do we feel miserable? Then the point to be pondered over is that we did not know truly what we want.

We have never been trained to treat negotiations as a scientific process. Recognizing this Harvard university started center for negotiations and conflict resolution. From there came best seller books like 'Getting to yes' and authors such as Fisher and Ury etc. BATNA - Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement. Working out a BATNA before hand requires quite an amount of effort. But, it helps in zeroing in on what you want. Of course, the definition and clarity of what you want will become clear like anything else with progressive elaboration. Another way to qualify what you want to is make sure to clearly document how much time and energy you were willing to spend  and you could actually  spend on developing what you want. That way even if you later found out that a better alternative existed, you can take some relief that under given constraints and circumstances, all that you could do was to this definition of what you wanted.

There is another big benefit to spending time on developing complete picture of what you want. As you think more and more about what you want, you can see for yourself that a plan to how to go about achieving what you want conceives in your head and develops gradually. So when your definition to what you want is ready, it is very like that your mind will also deliver a decent plan to achieve the same. Isn't that nice deal?

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Vanity & Sanity

"Revenue is vanity. Profits are sanity."

Don't remember where I heard this quote. But, this is something every businessman should keep in mind. I have seen companies making colossal mistakes and repenting it later when they chased revenue to be market leaders but undercut the price so much so that they did become market leaders and in turn incurred huge losses, were sued for liability, lost dear cash and scene was not pleasant. There is a tendency in business world that once you have the customer hooked to something, you can fleece him later. This is typical drug peddler mentality. Give initial doses free, get the person addicted and then make a lot of money out of him or her. But, in legit business world, hardly any product is that addictive. Companies have pulled plug simply on IT products they once thought were indispensable for their operations. When vendors became too greedy or did not provide requisite service, they decided to take temporary pain to live without that than to endure the pain continuously.

I like typical Indian Gujju, Marwadi business mentality. Always focused on profits. Even if it is small. They are OK even if they can break even. They are the ones who understand the time value of money better than ivy-league MBA managers who fail to recognize the most important principle that is money today is worth many more times than the money tomorrow. They make arguments saying that we have to go without cash for years because after X number of years we are going to make a lot of money. Who has seen the future? There can only be predictions about the future. At least until you build a nice war chest of cash, it's utterly foolish to go after market share when the very market share you gain may comeback to haunt you.

Same parameters should be used while we make investment decisions. If a companies revenues are growing and if profits are not growing in tandem. Or worse if the cash flow is negative, such a company is not a good investment. Hi-tech companies can be given little bit of lee way because it takes some time to develop a hi-tech product which can start bringing in some cash. But for other companies with established products if free cash flow is not positive, it's time to reevaluate the company. They did not say cash is king for no reason. Cash is what lets you solve problems. Most of the problems can be expensed away and you need cash for that.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006


What is one quality which if you improve, even by a small margin, will provide such a leverage that you reap benefits multifold?

Approachability. Sounds strange? If so, think how you feel when you have to approach some people with a request or a rebuttal. Tight knots in the stomach. Sleepless nights. What about some other people? Delighful.You look forward to meeting them even if you have to have a show-down on a issue. Now, you know that subtle thing which makes approaching certain people easy and enjoyable and others not. That is approachability.

Some people are naturally predispositioned to be approachable. They are cheerful. That shows in their words and in body language. Always welcoming. No hostility. Understanding. We pour our hearts out when we are with such people. Their biggest challenge is to make sure that people do not inadvertently misuse their goodness.

Many of us do not come across as naturally approachable. But, this is something we can change to a large extent regardless of how we look or how people see us. External features matter only to some extent as far as others determine our approachability.

You know, experts stress a lot on body language. We can mask our words, our facial expressions and other body  tell-tale clues. But, experts say body language is very hard or impossible to manipulate. It just broadcasts how your body (holistic and subtle) feel at any given moment. Body language is the strongest language and people are influenced mostly by it. So, if we can make our body language natural then we can manage how people perceive us.

But, body language can not be controlled. We just observe rd that. Then? But, you can think right thoughts and thoughts drive the feelings and feelings drive the body language.

Right thoughts for approachability are to always welcome people and interactions with them. Desire to connect with others is the strongest instinct we have. We may have tried to erode it for whatever reason such as privacy, solitude, family etc. etc. But, that instinct is already there. Just clean up the mess on it and it will glitter and that welcoming glitter shines all over you. Once you do that, you become naturally approachable.

Another way to keep the body language natural and neutral is to listen with full attention. Listen to understand and not respond. If we listen for a fraction of a second and then immediately start thinking how to respond, then our thoughts focus on the response and our body language becomes defensive even if we are nodding and trying to act as understanding. The other person notices it and feels uncomfortable that your approachability is decreasing.

Many people think acting unapproachable frees them from people asking for help, accommodations , adjustments etc. This is a sure recipe for career disaster. Despite your importance in your organization, none of us are God's  gift to humanity. People can get their work done with or without us. They may undergo some hardship without our direct help. But, they surely will get their work done. When more and more people work around your less than superb approachability, you are doomed. You are ignored and your days in that company are numbered for sure.

Another detriment to approachability is to treat every communication as objective and frank. It is not the message which offends or pisses people off. It's the way it is communicated. How often we have not received a terse e-mail from a coworker who either rejected our request or was  curt in refuting our theory etc. We feel much hurt at what we felt about the delivery of the message than what was rejected or refuted. Over the time we get over with it.But, people who think they are objective in communication, sooner or later realize that objectivity without enough sensitivity is worse than no objectivity at all. Of course, "trying to please everyone is the sure way to failure". We can deny someone's point but can do it as gently as possible without hurting anyone's feelings.

How do we say 'No' or 'disagree' without hurting feelings? First do not e-mail on sensitive subjects. Speak in person, speak in private. If not, call, Try some such direct means before firing off an e-mail. E-mail comes without context. It may be read when the person is in a bad mood and what not. IMO, more relationships become victims of miscommunication than anything else.

Stop by his or her place, take the person out, make appropriate and gentle body contacts and explain in clear clam voice. The person may still be pissed off. But, he would not feel that way with you. Then if you want for your records, send an e-mail with the summary.

Objective, frank, honest, no-nonsense communication has been taken too far by insensitive people. Do not fall into that trap. People can rude, abrasive, discourteous and still get somewhere for sometime. But, when they fall, they fall so badly that they may get seriously or fatally injured. All of us fall from time to time. Don't we? Then, does it not make sense to have a safety net? All this approachability that we built painstakingly is our safety net. When a manager is let go from a place, go and watch how people feel? If they are secretly enjoying, you know how approachable the person was. IF they feel bad for the person, these people may leave the company to work for this manager wherever he may start working.

You know, someone said it best. All these niceties, civilities are like the air in the car tire. Right amount makes the ride smooth. Not developing approachability is like driving an automobile with high strength steel wheel. Sure you can go for long without wheels suffering too much. But, your body will hurt so much due to all the rattle that you probably end your journey before 50 miles.

So choice is yours. Be nice or else?


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Survive before thrive

What do we have to do before we thrive in any field? Field may be personal or professional. We have to SURVIVE before we can thrive. We may not realize but survival is not something that we can take for granted. We do exactly that because we have survived so far. Survival needs a lot of attention in infancy in any field. That's when chances are high that we are annihilated due to variety of reasons some of which may be beyond our control.

Let's reflect on survival strategies at the work place. Some of us may take an exception to the very  notion of having to survive at the work place. That may be disgusting for some of us especially if we think we command serious attention in the workplace due to our knowledge, experience and other credentials. Yes, it is true. All our worth is like the power in a seed to grow into a big tree if and only if it is sown and nurtured. Again survival is important even for most talented people.

It's not at all surprising that people losing their position due to soft skills exceeds people losing due to hard skills by many folds. Employers are smart enough to hone in on hard skills quite well. They know what they want in terms of hard skills and grill candidates appropriately to select a person they think can do the job for them. Can the do the same thing with soft skills? Probably not. So, we have a situation where in a new hire is a good fit from hard skill standpoint but a questionable fit from soft skill standpoint. So, chances are high that people are found to be a misfit for lack of soft skills.

First and foremost, we have to recognize that our success or lack there of in any organization at any point in time depends a lot on our soft skills. This is a no brainer if we recognize that organizations are a collaborative entities in the first place. If a person can not collaborate (not just work together), he does not meet the first principle on which organizations are run.

So, first thing is do whatever we can reasonably do to fit into the culture of the organizations we are in. It is not enjoyable some time. If we have ended up in an organization which is not in sync with our values and principles, the conflict can be quite distressing. But, if we are going to be there for a while, it makes sense to accept the fact and do what it takes to make the best of it. It's like doing crazy things to fit into your peer group. Most of us have done stupid things to be part of the crowd when growing up. Those of us who did not do ended up being isolated. That time it may not have mattered much because we were focused on school and in school a lot of stuff  individualistic. But, in companies things change and keeping to oneself or staying aloof does not help in anyway. On the contrary, it may hurt if people around you mistake you for minding your own business. So, do all that is reasonable to fit into the company's culture. If majority of your colleagues go out for  lunch, do go out as often as possible with them. Join them to cafeteria. If they have a program every Fri evening and invite you, make it a point to show up at least for a while. The good thing about group acceptance is that it demands only the bare minimum. Nobody is going to complain if you leave bowling alley in 30 minutes Fri evening. Important  thing is that people should remember having seen you there.

Second thing is to swallowing our pride. In my practical value chain, pride is all the way down. It makes no sense to walk with you head held high with pride all the time. You risk banging your head against all the beams when you walk if you fail to bow when there is a beam across. Real pride does not require attention or outside exhibition. It's an internal feeling that you are doing right things in a right fashion. The pride that we need to watch out for is external pride which forces us to be right all the time, get our dues for our worth etc. This has to be watched for. Especially when you are new in an organization, not paying attention to managing your pride can be a serious problem to survival. People despise proud people. It may be absolutely wrong. You may be the gift from lord to the company but more your portray that image, more negative feelings you garner from your colleagues. Take it easy. Bow more often than you do. Take little more crap than you usually tolerate. Take care to say only politically correct things. Do not be in a hurry to rock the boat with your pronouncements. Lie low and take it as it comes. You know it is like fumbling your way through a dark room full of low hanging beams. Without knowing where the beams are you protect your head well by moving around bowing all the time till you figure out where all the beams are. After that you can time your bowing your head just in time when you are about hit a beam.

Third is patience. Patience pays. How? Patience is probably one of the very few things that pays because it conserves your vital energy which is spent when we are impatient. How do we become patient? We become patient by thinking thru our plans and setting realistic goals. By setting realistic goals and realistic plan to achieve them, we know what to expect at what times. If things we expect happen in advance, we can rejoice momentarily and move on. If they take longer, we do not have get impatient because our deadline is far into the future and we have contingency. Patience also goes a long way in winning over people around you. Do you like to be around an impatient person who is always in a nasty mood? Hell  no. Impatient people in authority figures are sure killers of productivity in their people. Their impatient demeanor immobilizes the very people from which they are trying to extract productivity. With patience, you start waiting for right opportunity. With patience, we can get along with all sorts of people. With patience, we win people's respect and admiration for being thoughtful for being a good listener and for being a good guy in general. Even if things take longer than you expect, be patient especially if you are someone who has manage solely by influence.

Fourth is to stay focused on your goals.  A lot of distractions and dilemmas come due to our lack of focus. With a clear focus in mind, we can banish most of the distractions and dilemmas. The goal need not be a long term goal. Even a goal such as 'I want to finish these 3 tasks by the end of the day' is a very valid goal. Once these tasks are your focus, nothing should come in its way. If anything has to come in your way, one or more of the tasks from the list of three must exit. Staying focused saves a lot of vital energy. Some of us are well tuned to fighting fires only. We can not survive without fire. The way we operate is that we come to  work, sit out watching for a fire to break out.  As soon as we get the emergency call, we rush to the place of fire and put the fire off. Do we always have to fight a fire? Think about it- do we always want to fight the fire? The best advice I got was 'fight the fire only if it is on the way to your goal.' Then it is a real impediment and needs to be attended to.  If it is burning somewhere else, let the firefighters there take care of it. Go there only if someone makes it a higher priority for you to fight that fire first and your original mission the second one. Bigger problem with fire fighting is that we become addicted to fire fighting and we can not operate without fires. If there is none, we light one up and fight that valiantly to justify our wages. That's our way to glory by pyrotechnics.

Fifth is going an extra mile to make yourselves valuable. This does not mean biting more than you can chew. It means going out of you way to help out where you can. Believe it or not. People who willingly take additional responsibilities without grumble or nagging are loved everywhere. For your manager as such is a big headache that he has to get some additional work done and on top of that he has to convince you to help him or her, there can nothing worse than that. Do not make your managers sweat out to ask you can you do that for me. Always portray the image that you are a 'can-do' guy.


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Sunday, October 15, 2006


For what I have received, may the Lord make me truly thankful. And more truly for what I have not received.

Storm Jameson

We routinely fail to be thankful to the lord. We do not care to value what we have already got and grumble about a few things we did not get. We thought that the life would be so much more delightful if we were to get them without knowing the full truth.

But, this quotes has a lot of power in it if we remember that we could have received more raw deals than we got. Imagine what were to happen if you were to get a few worse grades in school or not to have gotten the job which you have today and which is paying well. For everything we missed, we must remember that we also missed something worse than that. For every small problem that came on our way, it helps to remember that God was kind enough to dilute much bigger problem with his mercy and sent us only a small one. How nice it feels to look at a small loss when we can think that this small loss was in lieu of a much bigger loss. For example, getting into a car accident is no fun by any means. The very thought sends us shivers. But, what comes to most of our minds first is all the hassle we have to deal with car repair, insurance, money etc. Loss of life never comes to mind. Even the general thought of death does not come. We should never forget that every small accident could have been much worse and we would have been in some unimaginable problem. These are the things that we should be thankful for what we have not received. These things are better not received. Let's not grumble too loud on what we did not receive. Lest God hear that and shower on us everything including those we do not want by any chance.


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Lion and Gazelle

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle and a lion wake up with these thoughts. Gazelle knows that it must run faster than the fastest lion to survive. Lion knows that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle to get its meal and survive."

I think this quote was from Tom Friedman's latest best seller 'World is Flat'.

I think this quote sends out a clear message about the realities and strategies required to deal with off shoring.

To keep ones job in the developed world, one has to be better than the best in the place where jobs are going to. However, in developing world, in order to steal a job from the developed world, they just need to be better than the most incompetent one here. Cruel but hard truth. Globalization which is based on capitalism is ruthless. It is based on use and throw. It might be short sighted but that's how it works. Workers in the developed countries have sort a become gazelles requiring to run faster than the fastest lion and workers in the developing countries due to cost differential have become lions requiring to run only faster than the slowest gazelle. For gazelles, running faster than the slowest gazelle also works because the slowest will be caught by the lion. But, law of averages works slowly but certainly and every gazelle will become the slowest at one point or another.


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