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September 29, 2014

Industry Best Practices for Leadership Development

Leadership today is about influence, and not power. All of us talk about the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) in which our leaders have to not only operate but succeed. In this scenario, it becomes very critical to take a look at what could be the best practices in the space of leadership development that help our leaders excel at what they do.

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May 27, 2014

Lessons on Teamwork from the Flight of the Geese

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much" - Helen Keller

Every spring a beautiful treat awaits those who look up to the sky: The flight of the Canada Geese! For centuries, the magnificent flight of the bird has heralded the arrival of spring. The teamwork displayed by the birds consistently every season is a paramount example of the powerful impact of teamwork. The flight of the Geese illustrates mutual respect, and collaboration within teams.

As our workforce continues to grow and develop, a shifting landscape and priorities require for a lot more to be achieved. In such a scenario, the saying, "All of us are smarter than any one of us" becomes apt. We begin to rely on teams even more. Teams have been a norm in work settings, with about 68% of work getting done in teams. Nijstad (2009) describes teams as a very special group characterized by interdependence and sharing of responsibility on task outcomes. Subsequently, there are factors that become critical in ensuring effectiveness within these special groups. Some of these include having the right talent and successively matching that talent to fit the role. Inability to resolve these challenges, often leads to reduction in performance.  

How do we deal with these and many other challenges to ensure effectiveness of teams is not affected?

            I have drawn some lessons from the flight of the Geese (based on studies conducted by Wildlife scientists) to help counter some of the challenges existing in teams.

1.   Sharing a Common Purpose: When geese fly together in the V-formation their performance is enhanced by about seventy percent. Each bird in the formation takes support of the lifting power of the bird in front, thus staying within the team and continuing to perform their best.

2.   Rotate Leadership: The lead goose, flying upfront has to put in maximum energy as it breaks up the air flow to provide the lift in-flight. Thus, when it gets tired, it is replaced by a comrade and it can move to the back of the formation.

3.   Constant Communication: Geese make frequent honking sounds even while in-flight, to ensure they are connecting with each other during the long and harsh flight.

I have felt these lessons to be applicable even amongst human teams and observe teams to be more effective when these lessons of teamwork are leveraged.

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What are some best practices that you have employed and is helping your team be successful?

References

 

·        Morgeson et. al. (2010). Developing team leadership capability. In Velsor, E.V. et. al. (Eds.), The CCL Handbook of Leadership Development, pp 285-312. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass

·        Nijstad, B. A. (2009). Group performance. New York: Psychology Press.

·       Wilson, L. (retrieved online on May 23rd, 2014). http://lenwilson.us/5-thing-geese-can-teach-us-about-teamwork/

·       Woolley, A. W., Hackman, J. R., Jerde, T. E., Chabris, C. F., Bennett, S. L., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2007). Using brain-based measures to compose teams: How individual capabilities and team collaboration strategies jointly shape performance. Social Neuroscience, 2(2), 96-105.

March 28, 2014

Psychological Capital as the key to dealing with Change

We are living in interesting times - times when the world is rapidly pacing and times when we are surrounded by lots of ambiguity. What is the key to succeed in such times? A voice inside us would say, "Build upon your capital". Wow! That sounds like an answer, a key word. Let us try and decipher its meaning. Okay - that seems a little difficult actually, doesn't it? This term "capital" has so many connotations attached to it even in this one context. The most prominent one seems the 'financial' connotation. It makes a lot of sense too. Now I would ask you to think twice and tell me if this is "the one" that explains the construct and is the answer to lead in strange times like ours. If this were the right answer, why would some of the huge organizations fail in the long run? Then another inner voice in us would very softly say that the most appropriate connotation would be 'human' or 'social' capital. Wow, sounds great yet again! But then, why would some individuals flourish and some perish? Why do some social events leave us with an intense sense of failure? Result? Still not very satisfactory - our effort of finding the right answer has not been very satisfactory.

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Building Next Generation Leaders: Role of a Leader

 

Leaders have played a very important role in building social as well as business organizations throughout our history. They are role models for us and we often develop our leadership styles by observing, listening and reading about them.

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Role of a Leader in Building Culture of Innovation

 

Goal of an organization in the initial phase of its formation is to survive in a competitive open market. Founders of the organization work very hard to reach out to their possible customers in the initial phase. Smart teams capitalize on their initial success and work hard to expand their customer base and as customer base start expanding organization starts growing. More people starts joining the organization, new departments are established and efforts are made to bring stability and sustenance. Stability and sustenance once achieved results into the exercise of expansion and brand building. At each stage of organizational growth new ideas are required to move from one stage to another. Organizations which are able to create a culture of innovation as a result, are able to generate new ideas and are more likely to move smoothly from one stage to another. However, we have plenty of examples where organizations are stuck at different stages because of lack of new ideas.

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Authentic Leadership and its relevance in the Infosys Context

Authentic leadership is believed by many Positive Psychologists to be a very distinguishing and yet critical style of leadership for establishing future organizations that are equipped with an enthused, happy, productive, committed and successful workforce. Leadership today is not about having followers but it is more about creating or developing leaders for tomorrow. We need to first understand who is an authentic leader. Authentic leaders is one who is very high on self-awareness, believes in values, is genuine and true both, to oneself and to followers. These are leaders who not only identify the strengths of their followers, but also build upon those strengths for the good of the followers as well as the organization. These are leaders who give the autonomy and ownership to the followers and when successful shower the credit on them. Such leaders would always focus on the achievements strengths and positive aspects of followers and not dwell on their flaws alone.

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The leader as coach-- a need of the day

 

Only one half of the hardest working employees are likely to stay in their current organizations, according to the CEB Corporate Leadership Council's Q1 2014 HR Quarterly News and Trends Report, reporting on the global trend in talent retention and engagement. In another survey done in 2012 by Deloitte and Human Capital Leadership Institute among senior executives from 212 organizations across industries in seven Asian countries, including India and China, 83% identified talent retention as their greatest challenge. While career growth seemed to be among the key reasons for an employee leaving or wanting to leave, individual development and the manager's ability to develop their direct reports seemed to be another area of concern. The CEB Quarterly report found only 26% of the managers were effective in formally developing their direct reports.

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Change Leadership vs. Change Management

"Change is the only constant in life". This is statement is probably most true in today's organizational context. With so many parameters and factors outside the control of individuals and management, change is but natural. However, what most organizations fail to understand is that there is a difference between change management and change leadership.

Although a number of leadership and management books have talked about this difference and the common mistake that organizations make in not recognizing this difference and understanding the potential threat to organizations as a failure to recognize this difference, an even greater problem exists in the context of HR, performance management and leadership development. Do we (the individuals responsible for selecting, retaining and developing the most critical resources of the organization - its human capital) understand this difference?

Kotter gives a really good explanation of the difference between change management and change leadership. "When organizations have high competencies in management and leadership, they're able to meet challenges today as well as tomorrow. However, most organizations are usually lacking one or the other. When management exists without leadership, the company is often unable to change. And when leadership exists without management, the company is only as strong as its charismatic leader. Most of the time, organizations are overstaffed with managers, but lack enough leadership to help them deal with constant change." Essentially, change leadership is all about propelling and sustaining change that will likely affect the masses, whereas change management is all about making sure the change happens as quickly and efficiently as possible with little or no disruption to the work/task at hand.

Given this difference, it is important to consider this even when assessing individuals and building and executing interventions for them. More often than not, the line between change leadership and change management is blurred. Organizations expect an individual to do both (especially at the senior most levels) - initiate and propel change as well as manage it in a manner that is non-disruptive. This further adds to the dilemma as to what it is that we ought to be measuring the individual on. It is easy to think of the two as being interchangeable and use the same mix-bag of scales, methods and measurement models to capture the individual's rating on a particular index. However, there is valuable information that is missed as a result of doing this.

Additionally, it may also be important to consider the need of the hour. Does the organization require someone to shake things up and drive it towards a new horizon or have the wheels been set in motion already and what the organization needs is someone to keep up the momentum and make sure the vehicle doesn't go off track. By using the same assessments to measure both change leadership as well as change management, we lose out on identifying management skills or the lack of leadership skills that may exist in the individual. Hence, development may not be well suited to what the individual actually requires. In this sense, it is important to draw clear distinctions between change leadership and change management in a specific organization's context and measure each separately.

References

Kotter, J. (retrieved online on March 28th, 2014). http://www.kotterinternational.com/our-principles/change-leadership

February 26, 2014

STRENGTHENING THE MENTORING MINDSET

 

"I am not a teacher, but an awakener."  - Robert Frost

(Source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/mentoring)

Formal and informal mentoring has found many supporters over the years. I was recently approached by a client team to revamp a self-mentoring solution that I had designed for them four years ago. It was inevitable that the discussion veered towards the issue of why did we and others we knew; decide to continue or end some of their mentoring relationships? What could possibly strengthen the mentoring mindset?

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December 30, 2013

A big salute to the leaders

I was privileged to be part of the panel that evaluated nominations for our excellence awards in the category of "Social consciousness and Sustainability". Firstly, it's wonderful that we as a company step back, recognize, and celebrate excellence across all facets of our enterprise. Secondly, I have been floored, humbled, and extremely moved by all the nominations. To think and act beyond the self is truly commendable. This blog is dedicated to all the Infoscions who take up activities that has an impact on society at large. All of them are leaders and winners without a doubt. Lastly, I think as a panel we were compassionate critics in the pursuit of excellence. Read on to know more about the nominations and the process

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