Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Leadership Lessons-Donald Keough

An Interview with Donald Keough,
Chairman of the Board, Allen & Company, Inc. Ex-President Coca-Cola company


A few inspiring stories of leadership of conviction and determination. Positions like CEO's have no choice but to act but those who dared act based on what their gut-feel and foresight said, became 'leaders'. Leaderships is not a title associated with tags like CEOs, CTOs, CFOs, COOs and CHROs', they are the reward for being one who others could not date to become! Leadership is a matter of conscious choice, very few have courage to take. 

Leaders like the two discussed below are people, whose attitude and forthrightness impresses us. We have not seen them or heard them. We do not even care, how they looked like and which color or race they belonged to. What matters in leadership is 'what you are known for'. We all have learnt, 'we live in deeds, not in years'! This is not a Harvard created statement. This is simply the value statement of leadership. 
Let's not use term 'leadership' so casually as we do! Let people earn it! And also, let's not use leadership examples of only the oft repeated names like Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, etc. Talk about leadership of all those leaders you see around, who may not be visible on billboards and on covers of biographies, but their creation that changed our lives and that touches our lives everyday! 
Do we have leadership celebrations day? Like Teacher's day, father's day, mother's day, can we have "My Leader's day"?

Two short stories below (told by Don in an interview in 2008)

Robert Woodruff, the legendary builder of the Coca-Cola company, held a dinner for all the top company executives to celebrate the 50th anniversary. In effect, his message was that he didn’t know what they were there to celebrate. He said when he looked back over the 50 years at the mistakes that had been made and that were continuing to be made and at the opportunities that had been missed; he was shocked that they had survived 50 years. He said if the company were to continue doing what it had done over the past 50 years, he believed no one would be around to celebrate the 100th anniversary. That little talk set the stage for the leaders of the company to continue to reach out, expand, and broaden their dimensions. It took courage for an Atlanta-based company to go outside the United States.

When Jim Cantalupo came in as CEO after McDonald’s had gone through six or seven years of lackluster performance. He met in New York with the analysts. He stood up and said, I’m probably not going to talk to you for the foreseeable future because I have a lot of work to do in the stores, and I’m going to spend my time and effort, and that of all of my associates, to fix the stores. When we do that, you’ll be able to make up your own mind. He died a year and a half later, but he set the pattern. If you look at what’s happened to McDonald’s in the past several years, it can be attributed to that simple, honest statement. There are good examples of people in the business who are not going to let some analyst decide how they’re going to run the business.

Nothing works unless it works through relationships. Nothing is possible unless you do it with and through others

Success is a journey and not a destination. The minute you believe it’s a destination, you’d better ask for the farewell party.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are you ready for a star candidate?

"Let your top performer walk away"
"Do not hire the best".
"Candidate is too good for us"

We have heard many such gospels. What matters is context. Hiring is not always for the best. Hiring is a "best-fit", scientific hiring! But is JD is a good boundary for defining a best-fit? What is a quantifiable measure of a good-fit?

Have you heard of the term, "scientific hiring"? Wonder what is this? Is this a robotic exercise of hiring by putting candidate under every test battery and finally stamp it out "Tested", "EC" (Europe Compliant), etc.
It is actually not. Scientific hiring is the process that is consistent and integral and does not change due to context.
I have heard people questioning the validity of”JD based" interviewing” and times sanctity of a “Resume based interviewing” too?

What shall be done? Do we do a “candidate based interviewing”? How do we do that?

·        Ask a candidate, what motivates/excites him to apply for this position?
·        What does he think this position will offer him?
·        What all skills and experience he thinks, he will learn and hone on this job?
·        What all factors will define success of this role? How does he measure his success on the role? What does he think is detrimental to the success of this role/position?
·        Talk about achievements?
·        Talk about risks he/candidate took in his professional role ?
·        Talk about a serious conflict he had with his seniors/points of disagreement, where he had a different view, at times contrarion to the senior's views/views largely held by higher up/s? Talk about conflict with the team that he managed, his approach and why that approach?
·        Where does he think his seniors should have helped him and he rather did not get that support?
·        Who does he attribute his success to and why?

Most of the people will say, 'team', boss, peers, mentor, many people at different times and at times my gut feel, strong belief, etc. This is good, talk about a situation where he attributes his success to his gut feel and strong belief? These questions differentiates deeply between a task-jockey against a thinking and application guy, a learning and un-learning guy, an adaptable and success oriented guy, a person aware of eco-system and sees in them a code and support mechanism to succeed, etc.

What are the types of fit in hiring?
·        Culture fit. - Lives by the values that core values, core principles define and appreciate. May not stipulate as rules. Not prescriptive but reflective.
·        Team fit- Can be a great team player
·        Technology fit- Quickly learns technology and yields the best out of it to meet requirements, can leverage and optimize
·        Customer fit- Empathetic, compliant, responsive, dependable, enslaves client
·        Geography fit-Culture neutral, highly pervasive, socially apt and highly
·        Manager fit- Can be a best complementing factor to manager, meets her/his needs, can ease out manager of lower end responsibilities thereby helping manager climb up and create/innovate
·        Process fit- Perfect fit for the current process, a machine, robot, loves process, has no life outside process.

Decide what suits you best to have an objective subjective assessment!


How to test for Integrity and Honesty in an interview

Emotional Intelligence or EI, everyone knows has been a popular topic for leadership discussion. An emotion oriented tool to lead one to be better understood, empathized, connected, related, engaged and cared and give the same feelings to others and all these are good behaviors that determine a healthy relationship where people thrive, together. Watch the words, biblical as it may sound, “thrive together”!

This place is an anti-cut throat competition place. Brotherhood! Benevolence!

How can we use EI at interview to select a right-fit, for selection, success of the candidate and success of the role? 
Questions shall revolve around, understanding self-drive, passion, decision-making, inclusiveness, empathy, 'subjective objectivity' into the decision-making process, wider and deeper outlook to consider all factors, situations, people, environment, culture, and overall seeing and positioning oneself under lens of EI scrutiny all the time and in all such situations of human/emotional interface, etc. the UI (user interface) must always be attractive?

...and then begins the talk ...

What was the situation? (tell me about a situation when you had to take a quick decision on ramping up (staff-augmentation?)/down-sizing your team..)

-
What was your exact role? (What were those key expectations from you, do you think?)

-
What were the circumstances? (What circumstances, you think had led to the situation with management and what were situations at people's end and your end at that point in time to meet this need)

- What did you do exactly? (exactly)

-
How did you do it? (yeah! please tell me in steps)

- What were the consequences? (and were these consequences anticipated,? How did you respond to them?)



Now you have a deep-dive into the maturity, depth of experience of the person and his approach and candidate’s self-governing principles, capacity to manage emotions vs. ruthless needs of the job at hand and make communication inclusive yet decisive will reflect a factor called "personality"! See how you look like and project the other in front of you: a hero, a villain or a victim! And how do you sound, appear and act like: Hero, villain or a victim! In the story of situations and circumstances, we all appear like either a hero, villain or a victim or if you are in audience or reflecting on a bye gone story, whose side do you sit it what is your character!

Integrity comes after establishing that there is a personality! A defined being with a set of values and mechanism to respond to time, people and tasks!

Measuring EI is not possible. What is possible is to understand the depth of one's ability to comprehend situation, articulate the needs, build an approach,  plan it thoroughly, act decisively considering all factors and stakeholders and arrive at a result. 
It is a serious process of interviewing as you are trying to measure the un-measurable and unless process done with absolute 'integrity', it will just lead to huge pile of notes and they all will be so diversified for different candidates. 

Only 'integrity' gets integrity!

Cross-sectional view into personality and EI layer would pop-out if the values, approach, principals are challenged and there comes out "integrity" or absence of it!
There is no other exclusive way to find out 'integrity'. It is only through immersed listening, watching and over all experiencing of the theatrics! 

Normally to test or check integrity, questions are asked like, "Quite late you found that the last report sent to the client had major errors and now you are already late and team has left and it is long weekend, correcting it will require good 10 hours of team effort at least, what would you do in this situation?"

"What are some of your failures, you would like to talk about?"

Here, what an interviewer would expect is 
"Honesty": first proof of 'integrity', second, "take the right decision of owning the task and look forward", irrespective of "consequences on self", third, "keep others informed and lead like a superhuman" to correct the mistakes" to save client, respect and pride for 'company, brand, team etc.

Do we not know that people can tell all these when they respond. A smooth talker will pass the test. We will not have lie detector or an expert to read "micro-expressions". You go by gut-feel or what you 'feel' like.

So, how do we write a report on candidate's key strengths which are "Honesty", "Integrity", which are so critical to one's success in any role, especially when it is a leadership role?


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Companies don't have any good way to measure innovation like they do for execution

To quote Dee Hock: "Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replicate your strength. It is idiotic to replicate your weakness. It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom"

Companies don't have any good way to measure innovation like they do for execution. Vijay Govindarajan explains this real well in his book "The Other Side of Innovation." 
Unless the CEO creates or supports something analogous to PMO (project management office) called IMO (innovation management office), it is very difficult to get the execution team to collaborate with the innovation team. 

How do you identify the 'genes for innovation' in any interview? What is an inventive mind? Does invention happen only when one consistently endeavors to thing through an unthinkable issue? How many instances a company has where they believe and provision for entrusting the rights to 'experimentation' in employee's hands? How many companies have rewarded brilliant failures and punished average successes?

Whose KRA and KPI is innovation? Top bosses, R&D folks? Everyone to some extent? It is not defined. Unfortunately everyone thinks it is an R&D lab that works on innovation and their job is 'discovery'. 
If that is the case, then innovation will be an academic pursuit and will not encompass organisation's services or product lines.

If people are in their comfort zones, they will not innovate. Does that also mean that if you have more stable organisation, you have more people in comfort zones and you are not innovation fit?

Like pharma companies, either a company is inventive drug company or a generic drug maker. Generic means operations and sales. Inventiveness means new breakthroughs and market leading products and services and make huge margins. 
Question remains who is responsible for innovation and like the CEOs who do not make consistent profits are fired, are we firing the sitting ducks for not innovating? 
There are R&D centers where there are managers and directors galore and not a single innovative and market success product in 10 years. 
Companies live too longer on average products. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

HR-A and HR-LO: What an start-up needs

HR-A for sure as basics shall not be missing and more than that it must surprise a new employee so much of process and policies, guidelines, documents, SOPs, already in place. All employee related information shall be made available at the ESS page. Holiday List, Policies, Calendar of events, Contacts, addresses, employee profile, Company's presentations, corporate brochure, training calendar, Events update, picture gallery, blogs, Polls, surveys and analysis of interesting finding, some employee personal blogs, creativity, passion, forums, etc.


  • Time and attendance
  • Leave management
  • Payroll
  • Policies
  • Hiring-R and S
  • Joining, Life cycle, promotions, transfers, exit management
  • Compensation design and total rewards framework
  • Orientation program details of content, program design, Slides and Feedback research, New on the NEO!
  • Training programs list-Calendar-Training outline, expected timelines
  • Training archives
  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Newsletter
  • Podcasts, Videos, Seminars, Info-graphics
  • Contest, awards, adventure-team building, Social responsibilities. 
  • Core values
  • Vision and mission
  • Fun & creativity walls and posters, collage on "life@company" 
  • Wall of fame
  • Awards ceremony-Celebrating people behind our success!
  • Upcoming events!- Lectures, workshops, CSR


The HR-LO:

  • Track competency forums- Track leads, track principals, track young turks!
  • Leadership forums: Business leadership, tech leadership, Operational excellence, Inventiveness and creative thinking.
  • Talent spotting-career design-progression framework-succession planning
  • Mentoring-Leadership pipeline
  • Review and feedback
  • Skill building-capability building-cross-functional skills building

Sunday, August 3, 2014

PRACTICE makes PERFECT: The 10000 hours rule!

The 10000 hours rule and how it works. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10000 hours rule in his book Outliers. 
Interestingly, there is way to expedite it as you see below in the infographics!

  • GET A COACH: इन्हे ढूंढना आसान है। They are easy to find as they wait for someone spirited.
  • SURROUND YOURSELF WITH LIKE MINDED INDIVIDUALS: They help you shape and refine your thoughts. You will find toughest support and toughest challenges here.
  • BUILD EXPERT HABITS: Think, act, behave like an expert; poised, thoughtful, mindful, humble and unassuming
  • DON'T WASTE TIME ON SMALL STUFF:This is distraction. Stay away from small stuff. They pull you down and drain your energy. Not worth your time.
  • DELIBERATELY PRACTICE: This is forceful act on yourself, Discipline yourself by yourself.
  • TEACH OTHERS: This is the best way to learn. Choose your audience from a mix of people.
  • FIND SOMEONE TO KICK YOUR BUTT WHEN YOU FALL OFF TRACK: You need to be friend with or be a mentee of someone who equally loves to lash you when you are off-track.


Leadership: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences & Personal Attributes!

There have been tonnes of debates on Leaders Vs. Managers. This went to the extent of vilifying managers as donkeys, idiots, senseless, moron, machines, robots and tools! This is so unfortunate that the attributes which makes one a leader is defined as a superior gene, that are available with only certain people. Like people evolve by experiences, leadership as a concept is also evolving with age and experiences.







Like kinds of intelligence (http://skyview.vansd.org/lschmidt/Projects/The%20Nine%20Types%20of%20Intelligence.htm)

 The theory of multiple intelligences is a theory of intelligence that differentiates it into specific (primarily sensory) "modalities", rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability. This model was proposed by Howard Gardner in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Gardner articulated seven criteria for a behavior to be considered an intelligence.

Gardner chose eight abilities that he held to meet these criteria: musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. He later suggested that existential and moral intelligence may also be worthy of inclusion.

 In the context of knowing leadership, it is advisable to read the Situational Leadership Theory.  (The situational leadership theory,is a leadership theory developed by Paul Hersey, professor and author of the book Situational Leader, and Ken Blanchard, leadership guru and author of The One Minute Manager, while working on the first edition of Management of Organizational Behavior (now in its 10th edition).The theory was first introduced as "Life Cycle Theory of Leadership".During the mid-1970s, "Life Cycle Theory of Leadership" was renamed "Situational Leadership theory".)


  We need leadership at all the levels; thought leadership to execution excellence, marketing to services, concepts to products and services, dreams to realities. A brilliant idea from a genius may find no takers, if there are no leaders who can find sponsors for those ideas, thought leadership does not see light of the day. China led in manufacturing excellence, which was execution. Anyone who runs with an idea, products and services ahead of the herd is a leader and all those who make this mission possible, are leaders. We need leaders at all levels and unless the whole value chain is not filled with leaders, leadership vision do not travel the desired path and direction with magnitude. Leadership creates the obvious difference for anyone to notice by its interventions. A leader is someone who brings that change, everyone needed and knew about but no one took it up. To sustain leadership position, one needs systems, processes and there we need managers. If managers are not leaders, leadership advantage may be short-lived.


  I would like you to relate leadership with intelligence and that will help us find what behaviors are called intelligent and what all intelligent steps that a leader takes that makes him a leader. Leader has to be insightful, visionary and that is not possible unless he has certain unique and evolved levels of intelligence.


  Special intelligence makes a leader out of ordinary people and there to some extent genes play a role but intelligence is the set of behavior that defines all essential ingredients for the best results in any situation but to apply them is the real thing. A leader applies them taking advantage of opportunity, taking risks, move with courage and is ready to face resistance, criticism and push-backs on the way! Here certain values of individuality that is again built out of experiences and convictions in a leader helps him accomplish goals!


  So, leadership has two components; ingredient and toppings/dressing/seasoning, wherever you call it.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Compensation & Benefits is actually costing and budgeting

~70% cost of running an IT or services company or even a knowledge based consulting organisation is towards infrastructure cost and salary and benefits cost.

Revenue-cost=profit. (Revenue minus cost is profit). Profit is key as it is key to expansion, growth and diversification, etc.

Many services companies bag projects and then look for filling positions to deliver them either internally or externally. Internally, they may find resources who fit the bill or else hire from market at the cost that fits the budget. Salary is a cost and cost is decided by looking at operating cost and gross margin on the project. Who said, there is something called C&B. Ask and accountant and he will calculate your cost of resources and tell hiring the hiring budget. Ask project manager to write job specs as he writes project specs, send that to HR to post jobs and let the project manager interview and select. HR shall offer as they have the budget. If HR says guy is not accepting offer as it is less by 30% from his expected salary, the project manager says, give him 20% as I will ask him to manage some other tasks as well. HR even does not know how and why the project manager agreed to raise the salary, the real reason and so offer is made and you have done a C&B job. Well done! That is C&B.

C&B is not a brahmanical hegemony! It is just a cost calculating function. They play with mix of Base/fixed component, Variable/Performance Incentive/Bonus/Rewards and Benefits, employer brand management cost (Welfare, lifestyle, etc)

Any educated person can read and understand a C&B concept book, starting to understand the cost of services and therefore cost of service provider, complexity, scarcity, availability of skills and so the capacity to hire within a band or range. Where do you hire from and where do you lose your people to is one generic concept to set your cost bar. But many companies believe in few sharks at the top who can lead the average bundle of folks and therefore set the cost differently at different levels. High-end topping skills like 'analytical thinking', 'decision-making', problem-solving', 'Insight-building', etc are top end cost over degrees and experiences and one can follow the 20% to 40% ratio as project nature and profitability may be considered.

Talk to any business leaders, for whom  HR hires from market or campus, he would have thought of margins and then he would look at billability and resource cost + bench cost to tell them what budget he has and that becomes the C&B. Name changes but it is all accounting.

C&B is costing and data entry, data keeping. C&B follows what guidelines business gives them after looking at the salary survey report. Market report as well help them in finding what competitors are paying and so correct or re-position salary as strategy may be.
You need to watch your 5 close competitors at max.

It will be interesting to see, how and when has C&B published a job-evaluative, market researched and compared C&B data to management that tells the following-

1. How many of our employees are paid much over the band for what they do?
2. How many are paid over the band
3. How many on the band
4. How many below and quite below the band?

Many a times dumb HR and companies change title to match salary and they go for coffee for bringing this great company-killer solution. MNCs are most screwed in India as they harbor the most awful HR folks many a times who keep HR sound like esoteric and keep people guessing. They buy expensive reports and deploy consultants to show they are doing something like CIA and they would 'completely revamp company processes', make them top company. What happens is , you all know!

Leave C&B to Finance and Accounts and let CFO manage that. HR can  administer by printing letters and data-entry into systems. In that case, we may not need C&B Manager.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Career options and pathways in Human Resources

Career moves are very mysterious yet very much logical. In HR, you may observe, there are professionals who moved always in Indian companies in last 18 years of their career, people joined in recruitment function and remained there, folks joined in training and remained there. While you will find some moving across HR functions without even having a formal HR degree. How does that happen?
It all happens, when opportunity comes to you and you make it!
Factory Managers, Chartered Accountants, Engineers, all of them have made their way into HR and have traveled across functions, locations and roles. Career in HR requires quite a lot of flexibility, ability to produce results, build relationships, develop people and culture, etc. But most of the places, when I talk to people outside HR, they say, HR folks are busy. Doing what is often times a question but it is true they spend lot of time in admin work, operations. After systems implementation to manage HR functions, HR's role has remained limited to data entry and pulling reports.
There are pathways into being HR business partner and help them with hiring through recruitment department, get them compensation bench-marking, through C&B department , getting them some training through L&D, etc. Business expects you to do clerical job and job of care-taker rather than an active HR evangelist, OD and learning and talent engagement and development expert.
Ask a top HR boss, how many culture experiments he has done with the organisations he worked with and he will have no answer. Even top bosses in HR just maintain department. Give lectures, write for newspapers, HR magazines, go to conferences, etc. All personal publicity.

If you have to define your career path in HR, you need to own it and develop it by self-regulating and being decisive and committed to your cause and that may ask you to be different than other HR folks. Risk is there as you may have to look for change and not many HR folks are ready to experiment and delve into areas of expertise, that may be challenging . If you can take that challenge, ask for that role, keep pushing by producing quality and compelling materials in that area, make presentations, write and publish research papers and remain active on HR platforms, real and virtual. HR is a service oriented job and you need to be in the mind-set of service giver and be wiling to people delight and comfort.
At the same time, you may be working under tremendous pressure from top management, who will ask you to  drive their agenda through you, how unrealistic, unpopular and agonizing that maybe. Here you have to balance by playing a servant role or quit the job. HR's job is to deliver good to business and if that means taking certain unpopular decisions, it shall be taken..
Create your own path if you do not suck up. Talent managers must acknowledge first, what the test bed looks like before starting a talent war/revolution on the grounds!  

What is this HOLACRACY

The Holacracy® system was incubated at Ternary Software, an Exton, PA, company that was noted for experimenting with more democratic forms of organizational governance. Ternary founder Brian Robertson distilled the best practices into an organizational system that became known as holacracy in 2007

Holacracy is a fundamentally different “operating system” for organizations — it revolutionizes how a company is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed.
During the 4-hour meeting, Tony Hsieh, founder, talked about how Zappos’ traditional organizational structure is being replaced with Holacracy, a radical “self-governing” operating system where there are no job titles and no managers
The term Holacracy is derived from the Greek word holon, which means a whole that’s part of a greater whole. Instead of a top-down hierarchy, there’s a flatter “holarchy” that distributes power more evenly. 
CEOs who sign on to Holacracy agree to cede some level of power. The advantage is that they get to view their company through an entirely different lens. But it’s an adjustment for both leaders and employees. Zappos, which has 1,500 employees, will be the largest company to date to implement Holacracy.

Twitter Co-Founder Ev Williams is one of the system’s early adopters; he uses Holacracy to run his publishing platform Medium, which has around 50 employees.
Brian Robertson, the founder of the management consultancy HolacracyOne. 
build the healthiest possible system where people thrive”, 

Through Cultural experimentation, it became clear that we needed to focus at a process level as well — we were growing pretty quickly, and the lack of clarity in structure, process, and decision-making was becoming painful.
Through Agile methodology, software companies started seeking novel ways to organize.
Agile calls for self-organizing teams with the power to make decisions about how they’ll work together to deliver results, a structured company as a collection of self-organizing teams and get out of their way as best one could. Agile calls for adaptive planning and responding to change vs. predictive planning and control mechanisms, and it offers lots of concrete processes to enact those principles at a software development level, so we adopted and adapted them for our context. 
Agile calls for visual project boards and information transparency, which we took to heart — our walls were floor-to-ceiling corkboards in some places, covered in useful project data

And agile calls for a feedback-driven evolutionary approach to design and delivery, for providing customers with an empirically-grounded and continuous flow of value, so we integrated that at the process level and instilled it in the culture.
David Allen’s Getting Things Done method (“GTD”)
Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making by Sam Kaner

Source: Medium article by Brian Robertson; Wikipedia,