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“…that pernicious nonsense about being a leader and not a manager. Your challenge is to help the team and team members succeed. The only way to succeed at that is to do all three kinds of work. Lead. Manage. Supervise. Do them all well. “

Read this short post from Wally Bock to know what each entails.

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The article ‘Wisdom at Work: Why the Modern Elder Is Relevant’ appeared in Wharton’s Knowledge publication (Jan 24, 2019) here. It’s a transcript of an interview wherein Airbnb executive Chip Conley discusses the benefits of having an inter-generational workforce (He argues his case in detail in his eponymous where everyone brings something to the table).

This post is almost entirely extracted from the interview transcript, lightly edited and heavily re-sequenced for clarity and easy reading.

Here we go:

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A new challenge for the org:

The fact that almost 40% of workers have a boss younger than them — that number is going to be the majority by 2025.  In fact, some studies show that power is 10 years younger today than it was 20 years ago. But we’re all living 10 years older. So, if power is moving 10 years younger and we’re living 10 years older, society has created a new 20-year irrelevancy gap for people in mid-life and beyond.

It means that we need to start asking ourselves, how do we create an ‘intergenerational potluck’ so that people bring what they know best? And what do they now best?

A challenge for the elders:

The three-stage life of the past — you learn until you’re 25, you earn until you’re 65, and then you retire until you die — that model is evaporating. Also, as the pace of technology innovation increases, companies promote more tech-savvy younger workers into supervisory jobs. Meanwhile, older workers are staying employed longer due to such things as the disappearance of early retirement schemes, recession, etc.

With the power shifting to the young and the irrelevancy gap threatening to widen, there is this period of life, bewildering and anxiety-producing, unless people constantly remake, reinvent and repurpose themselves in ways to make themselves relevant for the second half of their life. It’s not easy because it requires you to shift out of some of your habits and mindsets that you’ve held onto for a long time.

Conley’s proof of his own continued employment and what he brought to the table:

“For 24 years, I was the founder and CEO of a company called Joie de Vivre based in San Francisco that created 52 boutique hotels. We were the second-largest boutique hotelier. In the Great Recession, I decided to sell the company. I had been doing it for a long time. I was ready to move on. Then I spent a couple years thinking about what was next [for me].

There is a great Robert De Niro quote from the movie The Intern [about a senior citizen who became an intern at a shopping startup], which is, “Musicians don’t retire; they quit when there’s no more music left inside of them.” I knew I had music inside of me; I just wasn’t sure whom to share it with. I was lucky enough that Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, asked me to be his in-house mentor and then come in as the head of global hospitality and strategy, which was supposed to be a part-time job but quickly became full time.”

“Younger people who are digital natives have a digital fluency that may be greater than someone 25 or 30 years older than them — that is true. But to think that someone’s acuity and fluency in one particular scope of work means that they can apply that to anything else is forgetting about all of the human element of business, which requires a certain amount of collaboration and emotional intelligence and leadership skills. Brian Chesky is an amazing CEO. But when I joined, he was 31 and I was 52, and I was his mentor and he was my boss. That was a fascinating relationship — to be mentoring my boss. But five and a half years later, I’m still here.”

“When I joined Airbnb, I think I had been brought in because I was a seasoned expert in my field, which was boutique hotels, hospitality and the travel industry. When I joined five and a half years ago, Airbnb was a very small company, and there was not one person in the company who had a travel or hospitality industry background. I was brought in initially because of that knowledge. That was helpful, and a lot of my networking of people I knew helped. But ultimately, what I think I was able to offer them was this sense of emotional intelligence…”

On Wisdom:

“There have been a number of studies on this, and they’ve shown very little correlation between age and wisdom. As a guy who’s 58, it’s hard to hear that, but there is some evidence that shows that it is not necessarily a correlation. What is correlated is that people actually make sense of their life and their mistakes and their experiences along the way. If you have a process for doing that, then age is correlated with wisdom because you create a pattern recognition.

Wisdom is about being able to see the patterns in things faster than when you’re younger because you’ve seen a lot of patterns and you’ve seen the implications or results of certain things. I think wisdom can be correlated [with age], but it isn’t necessarily correlated. So, just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re an elder.”

“I think knowledge worker is a term to retire now because knowledge is in the computer, it’s in the cloud. You can get out there and find knowledge. In fact, we’re sort of awash in knowledge. But what we could use a little more of is wisdom.

Wisdom is not a plus, plus, plus equation like knowledge is. Wisdom is more of a division equation. You distill the essence of something into what’s important, and that’s what is valuable. I really think that we should change the term knowledge worker and replace it with wisdom worker, because wisdom includes a certain amount of intuitive and human quality that you don’t necessarily get from AI or from your computer. The idea of wisdom making a comeback at a time when we’re so technologically advanced is not that surprising.”

On cognitive diversity:

“And there’s no doubt that cognitive diversity is hugely valuable on teams. If you just have a bunch of 25-year-old guys on a team together, they’re going to compete with each other and try to one-up each other to see who’s the smartest. Put a couple of women in that group, people of color or some older people [and the dynamic changes]. When we think of diversity, we often think almost exclusively of gender, race, and maybe sexual orientation. We don’t think about age very often, even though age is one of the most obvious demographic changes we see.”

On collaboration:

“People go, “Oh, it’s a tech company. It’s just all engineers and individual people in their cubicles doing their work.” No, actually it’s full of teams. And to operate well, teams need to collaborate. Google did a famous study two or three years ago called Project Aristotle and found that the No. 1 common factor among successful and effective teams was psychological safety — people feeling like they could collaborate well without any kind of retribution.

So those collaborative skills are a really important thing that someone in midlife or later can bring to the table – because we have more emotional intelligence is pretty well empirically proven and emotional intelligence is something that can grow with time.”

His message:

* To his generation: “Listen, you can mine your mastery. And while you may not be running the company, you certainly can be an ally to a younger person, as long as we figure out how to create a fluency where we can learn from each other.”

“The hierarchy of the past that says the physics of wisdom only flows from old to young doesn’t make sense anymore. The physics of wisdom moves in both directions; it just depends on the subject matter.”

“The modern elder is appreciated for their relevance, not their reverence, because they’re as much of an intern as they are a mentor.”

* And to the organization: “I started to realize that there are some things they could teach me, like digital intelligence, and there are things that I could teach them, which is emotional intelligence, leadership skills, strategic thinking, etc…”

I recall a story narrated to me some time ago by a young man working in SF based software company offering sales-force automation solution.  It was review time with his boss. He expressed he wasn’t too happy in his current position, role…desired a change to more interesting positions he saw opening up in other parts of the operation. Discussion ensued, the boss tried his best to retain the talented young man. When he (the boss) saw latter standing firm on his move, he ended the discussion and gave a good letter of reference helping him find quickly a new position of his liking in the organization. Which he did before long. As he was settling down in his new role, he got his review results – a promotion, coming from a boss to a youngster who no longer worked with him! And quite predictably the young man till date is doing very well working for the same organization.

The boss had the emotional intelligence to ensure the man got his just due and the organization did not lose the talent.

On Tesla founder Elon Musk:

“He’s 47 years old, if I’m not mistaken. Could he use someone like that? Sure. But he’s relatively far along in terms of his career. He’s a bit of a genius. The thing we have to put to rest is the idea that singular geniuses do this alone. There’s always more than one person involved. The question is, who are you surrounding yourself with? To me, the answer is that you should be surrounding yourself with a diverse group of people, including some people who have some seasoned wisdom at the table.”

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In conclusion: All is far from lost for the modern elder as long as he brings his strengths to bear on what he is doing at the workplace.

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vide Subramanian Krishnamurthy and Ranganathan Narasimhan

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Leadership

 

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A couple of days ago, spent some time with J, the spouse of my niece, in Bengaluru. A young man in his thirties deep into music, plays drums, works with professional groups…

He’s part of an org offering music as a medium in corporate training programs. Seriously, yes.

Asked him how. What he said made sense.

Take this for instance,

How-to-Decode-Drum-Charts-Drum-Tabs-and-Notation-for-Beginners

In the preamble of a ‘Team Building’ program, the participants are each given a drum. The lead instructor kicks off with a beat on his drums. The group tries to follow suit. Initially it is all discordant and chaotic. After a while, the participants, one by one, fall in line. And very soon they are playing in mesmerizing unison!

And in about 45 minutes, they all learn the basics to play on the drums – a skill necessary for conducting subsequent sessions –  which they knew nothing about before they had walked into the room,.

What do we get out of it?

The participants get an enormous boost to their self-confidence. In as little as 45 minutes, they have learnt something new in their life.

Well, if they could do this, what’s it to prevent them from performing/succeeding in their new roles in the organization?

So I say, team or no team, why not put all those recently-promoted employees in the organization thru this exercise?

There’s something else too at work here: a key reason for the participants to quickly align themselves as one is the avoidance of discordant and chaotic beats, an immediate and unpleasant punishment for a non-team behavior!

How do we carry this into an organization where the punishment for lack of alignment is rarely immediate and inflicting?

The HR guys would do well to think about this challenge.

Of course, not forgetting in certain contexts it might be considered as a virtue to stand out as different.

The subject of immediate punishment brings to my mind a recent personal anecdote: The cook in the house we were camping took off early one evening for justifiably personal reasons, promising to be back following morning.  Come morning, no sign of the cook. Calls to her phone went unanswered. A couple of hours went by. We were left wondering – should we order food from some nearby eatery or what? The uncertainty of it was quite annoying.

Finally she walked in. We were all set to upbraid her over patently slovenly behavior. Suddenly a thought struck us: who knows, may be the same justifiably personal reasons had delayed her from coming on time. Regardless of the merit of the case, we certainly wanted to register our disapproval.  So, changing our tack, we said: ‘Look dear L, is it fair to make us spend twice for a meal…?’ That’s what ordering food from outside meant, for we were already paying her for her cooking services at home. Instead of pulling her up, we played the victim. Immediate punishment effected here was to drive home the point – inconvenience caused by her behavior, without the use of harsh words to her person.

Here’s another example from the program:

Again, in a following session, the group is taught to play the violin this time.

Here a junior is teamed with a senior and they critique each other’s posture, technique…In a few rounds they are observed to get better at it, working on the feedback!

An interesting exercise that has made an all-knowing (!) senior to accept feedback from a junior. He does not feel threatened displaying his vulnerabilities during learning.  Quite an uncommon scenario.

The important operating principle to be noted is: Learning a new skill is a great equalizer.

How do we take this principle into an organization? A challenge for the management and HR.

A simple approach could be: as often as possible, not risking fatigue, present a new skill to the groups making it a fun activity at the work-place. Importantly it serves to bring the seniors from their exalted stations to get closer to the juniors, constantly dismantling the hierarchical barriers brick by brick. The teams could even be cross-functional. The sheer persistence of this effort without causing ennui gives it a good chance to succeed – I’m not a great fan of those traditional n-day training programs, offsite or onsite, filled with some perfectly juvenile games offered by coaches. I’ve seen time and again there are no sustained gains after the initial euphoria – all boxes ticked ‘excellent’ – with people soon going back to their old ways. The so-called follow-up’s are weak and ineffective at best, performed more in form than in purpose. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a scam.

In summary, two powerful principles, demonstrably effective, not to be dismissed as gimmicky, that could be imaginatively and profitably employed in corporate training.

Unfortunately time did not permit learning more from J.

 

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Source: TakeLessons.com

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Sanmargam

No odious comparison or put-down’s:

Shahid Akhtar, studies Physics & Technology at Ajyal Almaarefah International School, Jizan Quora hpih

Thinking about it, employee engagement is not very diff from bringing up children! A similar situation that readily comes to mind is the recognition of team performance versus an individual’s.

Just when this post was being put together, this comes along: This Burger King employee was shamed on social media – her story here makes a sad reading.

In our daily bustle, we forget garbage needs to be removed, burgers flipped…

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Source: Contributed in Quora by Shahid Akhtar studying Physics & Technology at Ajyal Almaarefah International School, Jizan

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M is your guy to grab…not many around like him.

Read on to know what I meant:

Episode 1: When he stopped ‘it’ in its tracks…unbelievable!

He was visiting Hyderabad (Begumpet airport, Secunderabad) from Chennai, in by the morning and scheduled to return by the evening flight 6.30 pm, flying both ways on propeller-driven Avro.  Till 5.30 he was checking up regularly on flight departure and he was told it was uncertain due to unfavorable weather conditions at Chennai. And then they said the flight was cancelled for the day. M happened to be nearby and hence rushed to Indian Airlines office to check on alternatives available – booking wasn’t online then.

He was in their office by 6 pm when he learnt the Avro flight was after all leaving on time! He blew his top for the  misinformation and insisted on taking that flight as he would be able to reach the airport in the next 10 minutes. It wasn’t possible, he was told. Not one DNA’ed to take a ‘no’, M insisted they inform the duty-officer (DO) at the airport about his coming in regardless. Disconnecting without waiting for a response, he rushed to airport and was at the counter by 6.25. The staff quite expectedly refused to check him in. He rushed to the DO who also regretted his inability to help, pointing out to the aircraft all ready to move with the ground staff closing the formalities and giving thumbs-up to the pilot. He threatened the DO he’ll rush out and stop the aircraft which is what exactly M did next! He jumped the security; chased by all including DO, he outran all of them reaching the aircraft just then beginning to move.

Fearing worse, the DO did what he could to keep M out of his hair: the aircraft was halted, the ladder expressly brought in, a boarding-pass printed…was he happy to see M’s back as the door closed!!

Today, of course, a mere attempt in the direction or even an expression of such intent would get him arrested!

Episode 2: Just the man for the herd

The Air-India flight from Dubai to Mumbai was for some reason diverted to Delhi. Obviously there was total commotion and clamor for seats to make the onward journey. The staff at AI counter were simply unable to handle the onslaught. Just the scene cut out for our man to jump in. M managed to push himself to the front – his lean frame lets him move edge-ways! – climbed onto the counter and raised his voice to cow down the belligerent passengers to some order. He then asked them to make up different queues: one for families with small children, another for senior citizens and, lastly, others. Further M declared seats shall be allotted in the same order of the queues i.e. beginning with the families with small children. Some in the third lot were not happy with it, pressing on their needs as urgent over others. He got the duty-officer (DO) also to make a concurring announcement and stick with it.

M made his wife and children (not small) to stand aside, not wanting to be seen as self-seeking. Thence it was smooth-going: the first lot and the second were accommodated in full. About a third of the rest could also be pushed through before the flight was full up. The remaining, including his family, had to perforce wait for another flight. He arranged with the DO to authorize priority seating for them on the next flight. Finally when the counters opened for their flight, our man duly queued up with others. That’s when he was called to meet up with the DO. The DO thanked M heartily for helping them manage a chaotic scene and gave him the glad tidings of an upgrade for his family and him to first-class – a fine gesture from AI!

These two episodes – it wasn’t easy to choose from the many on hand – give you a flavor of what M was and is.

It may just be possible yet to tempt M with a challenge, to come out of his peaceful retirement in a community off the city of Mysore. A word of caution however: liaising, lobbying, scratching people’s back…are not M’s cup of coffee as also underhand dealings of any kind. A square-shooter of the old school, that’s what Mani is and what you get, dealing with him.

 

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