Entrepreneurship is not Easy – Five lessons from my journey so far


No, I am not complaining. To live a life of my choosing and to do work that I love is a blessing indeed and I thank my stars every day for this. An adventure it is, but it is not all fun and games. And the next time one of my ex-colleagues from the corporate world tells me that I am living THE life and I have it all easy and set – be warned, I might just punch you. I was prepared for the hard work, the dedication and the perseverance that is needed to build something valuable from scratch – that’s the easy part. The hard part has been some of the experiences in the past two years since I moved from being an employee to a  micropreneur to an entrepreneur – some known, some forgotten, some unique, some learnt – but all experiences that have taught me some tough lessons. Lessons that I hope will help me grow and become more successful as an entrepreneur.

Today’s post is a summary of some of the jottings in my diary in the past year since I launched a full-fledged business – jottings that helped me understand, clarify internally and get clarity to take decisions. As I look back, some of the jottings assume special significance and I believe are worth sharing. So here are the big five lessons from my diary on entrepreneurship in the past year:

 Entrepreneurship - On a wing and a prayer

Entrepreneurship Lesson #1: A “NO” is not Personal – and I can’t move ahead if I don’t learn to recognise and accept all the nos quickly. I have reached out far and wide in my contacts to get more business. And of course, there are more nos than yeses.  And while I am really thankful for the yeses that got me started, it took me some time to accept that a no from my circle of contacts is not a personal rejection. Given all the nos, now I have this background track of a door opening and closing (with various levels of sound effects) playing in my mind whenever I make the pitch. There is the direct “bang” NO – brutal but efficient in the long run. There is the “creaking” half-hearted no – I will see what I can do (no), Call me next month (no), let’s wait for my budgets to be clear (no). And there is the deadly “total silence” no – no response at all to emails, calls, etc. I am a great believer in the power of sales funnel conversion stats – my belief in myself can be shaken but not my belief in the infallibility of numbers and metrics. It took me some time but now I have learnt to be happy with a no. The quicker I finish my quota of nos, the faster I can reach the yeses in wait for me.

Entrepreneurship Lesson #2: Every Hire is not a Great hire – With all my experience in hiring and managing people, this is one mistake that hit me hard. I have been very careful in building my initial team – this is the team that after all will determine what the company culture will be. The team that will walk the talk of the mission, vision and values and set examples for the rest to follow. It hurt when I realised that even after careful screening, I had hired someone who did not fit in with the core culture of my company. It hurt more when “sitting down” and having a discussion with the team member did not work. I had to take rapid action to let the person go. And that is the lesson – that even after being very careful, there will still be people who may be great performers but are not “right” for the organization. Hire slow and fire fast – strong words but very important ones for a startup.

Entrepreneurship Lesson #3: Every Customer is not a Great customer – And there will be times when I need to let a customer go. I have to let go of the temptation to add customers indiscriminately (and especially at the time when I can count all my customers on fingers of my hands). Being small and starting up, I needed to be careful about where I am directing efforts towards. And my fingers were burnt badly when I spent a lot of time and money working to satisfy a customer who though was known to me in my earlier life, I was not very comfortable taking on. There was a conflict in values when I initially assessed the opportunity and I should have listened to my gut feel/instincts that this conflict cannot be ignored and things will not work out. After a lot of back and forth and heartburn – it didn’t. Lesson learnt – I would rather stay small than compromise on what I need my business to stand for.

Entrepreneurship Lesson #4: Cash on Invoice is not Cash in the Bank – Can’t believe it even now, that I with all my revenue and cash flow management experience was sliding into this trap of false security. But I was – serves me right for building castles in the air and nearly building a few on the ground based on all the $$$ that I had raised invoices for. One big bill paid and my castles fell apart. And common sense came back. I now plan my costs and investments only based on the cash in the bank. Being self-funded, this is quite tricky but absolutely necessary for my peace of mind and my company’s financial well-being. That’s another thing about entrepreneurship – money balance in bank is the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep every night. Money was never a priority for me when I was in a job – never thought I would see this day or night :)

Entrepreneurship Lesson #5: Expect the Unexpected – I made an excellent business plan in December and had to throw out more than 50% of the planning on customers, revenue streams and sources by February end. Solid depression for a week (how could my planning have been so flawed? Who was I kidding? Is it time to wind up even before it starts properly?)  And then another revenue stream opened up. A customer was served up to me on a plate by a connection who I did not expect it from (thank you so much A). And I was back in the running :). Lesson learnt – things change. And things change rapidly. Have a Plan B (and C) in place. Be flexible and go with the flow. A plan is great but if the real world throws up some opportunities or challenges, be ready to grab them or fight them. And to prepare for change I now expect it and experiment with change by shaking things up and around a little bit more often in my business.

I have a long way to go yet and a lot to do. But if success is measured in terms of personal growth and experiences gathered, my first year as an entrepreneur has been quite successful. I am happy in the now and my team is happy in the now too :) - what else could I ask for? Right – more money in the bank would be a good ask too, but I will get there.

Intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-in-the-making – what do you think? Any advice for me – anything I should know now before I burn my fingers? Help me by sharing your thoughts and wisdom with me.

Pic courtesy - Flying_Solo_by_Chocoreaper

From Managing to Leading – Five Attitudinal Shifts To Become An Inspiring Leader!


Why is it so difficult to find great leaders in the world of work? What is the missing element that makes most super achievers fall short of being super leaders or mentors? What does it take for a skilled manager to become an inspiring leader as well and why do so many managers fail to make this leap? In this disruptive world, there is a burning need for leaders. Much has been written on this topic but there is always space for a new perspective. For today’s post, I invited Nilisha Mohapatra to share her insights on this topic. She has studied and worked in the Human Potential Development field and is a keen observer of people in work environments.

A few thoughts on management and leadership from John P. Kotter before we move on to the insights – he has said that “leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action” and that “leadership complements management – it doesn’t replace it….strong managers produce predictability, stability and order, but leaders create, communicate and implement visions of the future, which enables companies to change themselves in a changing competitive marketplace.”

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader ~ John Quincy Adams

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader ~ John Quincy Adams

Organizations are all about its people – which is why, a lot of research has gone into understanding what motivates people! This breadth of on-going research and innovation underlines one fact for me – that people management is the most crucial and most dynamic aspect of an organization. It is difficult too, because there are people involved. So many of them!

So how does one make the shift from managing people to leading people?

There are no cookie-cutter fixes for people management. The more I mull over this, I realize that for me it is all about attitude shifts that we need to bring about, rather than finding tricks for success. It all starts with the mind-set. As Gautam Buddha says, ‘The mind is everything. What You think, You become.’
Let this saying be our Pole Star for this blog post.

Here are my five cents to answer this big question:

1. People are capable and able of owning their careers and their lives. They do not need to be ‘managed’. I believe, all people need, is active mentoring and inspiring leadership. Each individual has a Pandora’s Box of talent within them. I mean it. All it takes is a nudge here, a push there, humaneness and occasional guidance, to unlock this. I have known a lady who continued in a data entry job for 10 years because her seniors believed her capability rested there. The moment she received mentoring to try out something new, she soared. Today she is a successful artist, creating social change using various arts media! This happened when she was at the receiving end of trust, acknowledgement of strengths, encouragement for risks, and effective role modelling. This approach is a belief system shift. It can create magic.

2. Respect people for the choice they make to work with You. The part about the choice here is to believe that many people take up their jobs because they want to do that work. They are drawn to it, have a passion or vision for it. They do not just take up a job for the sake of it.  It is for us to really respect this very choice and nurture it. They choose to join You in the journey/trajectory of your organization and career, to work with you. Not for you. With You. If we can accept and value this, it will go a long way in the team members really having a sense of purpose in their careers, feel more valued and encouraged to contribute more. Engagement will sky-rocket.

3. Invest in people’s learning, and let them grow. At every point of our careers, we all need to learn. We grow because we learn. The higher up we go in our careers and seniority, the more privileged we are to work with increasing number of people. At that point it is then our responsibility as Mentors to facilitate the same kind, or even better opportunities than ours, for our team. Believe it or not, the learning is going to reach you eventually. The beauty of your experience comes into play when you mentor such growth. Investment can be in the form of allowing them to experiment, implement multiple ideas, unleash their creative thinking etc. When you can, create opportunities to invest in your team’s growth. You will foster high performance!

Be instrumental in polishing uncut diamonds.

4. Appreciation: Criticism = 4: 1. It is a scientifically proven fact by psychologist John Gottman that we need to have a 4:1 ratio of positive comments to negative (four acknowledgments for every one correction) in all relationships to have a healthy one. As mentors, we need to LIVE this. This practice really allows you to validate and acknowledge each of your team members for their work. They will feel seen and heard. What is wonderful about this practice is how it opens up the space for each person to receive constructive feedback and accept the room for improvement. If we want them to do more and be more, this would be a great place for us to start with. Genuine validation is all it takes. Start with 3:1 and then get to 4:1.

5. Be Authentic. Be real and allow the person that you are, to come through in your interactions. This is a great way to build a trustful and synergetic environment in your team. This for me is also purely about walking the talk, and leading from within. If you want to motivate someone to be more accountable, you yourself have to take on the next level of accountability. Want your team to take more risks? Demonstrate risk taking. Set the tone with this authenticity. That way everyone knows that You as a mentor will always have their back!

Over time as I have discussed these ideas with people I meet, I have been told that such mentors are a rare breed indeed. And I understand why it is so. Because this is a conscious and persistent choice we are talking about, which will undo years of conditioning, which might have its roots in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution! But I firmly believe that with these five attitudinal shifts, we can really transform the landscape of ‘people management’ into ‘people mentoring’. And that is the need of the hour.

“We all need to be leaders, regardless of our formal title or role. This starts with inner self-leadership and moves outward to influence, guide, support, and lead others. The process of becoming a leader is the same as the process of becoming a highly effective human being. Leadership development is personal development. Leadership ultimately shows itself in what we do “out there.” But it starts “in here.” “~Jim Clemmer – Growing the Distance

Be your indulging mentor. Let it start with you, because You Matter! I believe that the choice to start a phenomenal trend, lies with You. So let it roll!

What have we missed ? What are your observations on making the shift to inspiring leadership ? Nilisha and I would love to hear back and learn from you.

Nilisha is trained as a Mentor Trainer, delivering complex training to Indian volunteers learning to become mentors to disadvantaged children. She has a Masters in Applied Psychology and has transformed herself into a creative and inspiring trainer who both taught acceptance and behaviour change as well as living the principles in her training. This is Nilisha (@NilishaM)’s fifth guest post for Happy In The Now and you can read all her blogs at fantasycluster.wordpress.com


Pic Courtesy :

http://www.theolivebranchblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/lead-by-example1.jpg

From a Recruiter’s Diary – Five Expectations from a Job-Seeker to ensure a Win-Win Job-Hunt


A recruiter starts work every morning with one objective – find the best candidate for her client and fill the open position FAST. A candidate hunting for a job wakes up with this thought – may today be the day when I land my dream job. Notice the similarity between the two objectives – so why not work together with MUTUAL RESPECT to achieve this common goal? You may have been contacted by recruiters many times, whether you are looking for a job or not, and you may or may not have been interested by what she had to offer. How did that conversation go? I have a feeling – not very well most of the times. And if I ask the same question to a recruiter, she would also say the same. Surprise – a recruiter is a person too! And is a useful person to cultivate, an useful relationship to nurture – not just when you are changing jobs but also when you are not so you are prepared (Per stats, today, the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times (with an average of 11 job changes) during his or her career).

So today’s post is from the view point of a recruiter for the job-hunting candidate. She wants you to succeed because in your success lies her success. And she has a few expectations from you, the potential hire, so that the common goal of a win-win job hunt for both can be reached. So here is how you can help her help you:

1)      Craft a complete resume:  Your profile should be tailored for you – please skip the long sentences with all the nice-looking Resume Myths vs. Factsbuzz words. A recruiter will spend a maximum of 30 seconds to determine if your profile is suitable. Be direct and prepare your resume in such a way that your qualifications, skills and achievements are searchable and stand out. Link to your work portfolios or online profiles (Social media links, About.me, etc.) or blogs so that there is an additional outside reference to your skills. Here are some myth-busting tips on resumes in the infographic alongside brought to you by the team at Almagreta Resume Templates.If you are not sure about your resume and need another set of eyes on it before you ship, send it to us at Contact@oorjabizops.com and we will review it for you (for free).

2)      Be Visible: Update your profile regularly. A resume should always be a work-in-progress document and have your latest details – your latest contact details (make sure your email id is a professional one by the way – crazylover777@xxx.com is a sure reject in the first 5 seconds of a resume review), your years of experience, your preferred job location/s, new skills all help the recruiter shortlist your candidature quickly.  Regular updates also help keep your profile on the top of search results in job boards. Create a separate folder in your mail box for achievements and drag those appreciation mails and promotion letters in there – big help to jog your memory if you are one of those people who update their resumes once in five years or maybe a decade.

3)      Be Responsive: The common courtesy rule: treat people the way you would want to be treated – applies with recruiters as well. Respond please – to emails, to calls – even if it is a no, thank you. If you are busy, a short email or text stating your available times (even when it is “please don’t contact me ever”) will save the recruiter time and not keep her hanging. If you do give a time slot, plan ahead and be available – being late for an interview is just not done. If you can’t attend, please do inform in advance so you don’t keep a bunch of people waiting. Professionalism pays. And being nice pays as well.

4)      Be Honest – Know what you want. Think it through before committing yourself. If you are not clear about what path to take on your career or what step to take next, be upfront and discuss this with the recruiter. She will respect this and may be able to provide you with options or opportunities that work for you. Nothing is more frustrating to her than last minute surprises – if you are not interested, just say so. If you are not ready for the interview – say it, her information and insights can help you prepare for it  If you have another offer (a promotion, another job) – say it, it may help you get a better offer. If you don’t want to join after accepting the offer, say it – don’t wait for the day of joining and not turn up. You waste everyone’s time and energy (including yours) not to mention the chances of another candidate like you who could be assessed instead.

5)   Engage – Network with recruiters. If you have had bad experiences with one recruiter, don’t lump the rest in the same bucket. Find the recruiters who work in your industry and who understand your career goals and reach out. Keep in touch. Build a relationship – this is one person you need in your corner when you are looking out for a career change. Keep track of the recruiter and through her, her clients, just like she is keeping track of you. Refer your friends. Find out about hiring trends and upcoming opportunities from her. Give value and get value back – this can definitely be a mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe you don’t need a job now, but she could open up a few doors for you when you do need one. P.S: You can start by engaging with me and my team at Oorja Biz Ops on Facebook and LinkedIn  :)  

 

I have been on the other side of the fence as well for fourteen years and have my pet peeves on recruiters – lack of responsiveness and forthrightness, cookie-cutter approach and more. I am sure you do as well. But I think mutual respect can be key to a great relationship and a successful story here much like in every other relationship. What do you think? Whether you are a recruiter or a job-seeker, I would love to hear back and learn from you. Share your stories. Share your experiences. Share your tips.

Five Ways the Cloud can rev up Operational Excellence for your Startup or Small Business


For the past year, I have been experimenting quite successfully in running my business through the cloud. I am no techie and this was not a planned model initially. However, I was clear that I needed to enable a flexible working environment for my team and ensure that my capital expenditure stays as close to zero as possible in the early stages. I had tried out tools like Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Skype for my personal use and loved the flexibility and ease-of-use they provided. So, it was a natural leap for me to integrate them into my business as well. And now that the business is growing, I went to my go-to-person for all things technical for advice on an IT plan and investments needed (I still don’t own a single server and that “felt” kind of uncomfortable when I remembered the huge server rooms at the businesses I have worked in). Turns out that I have actually been doing it right and have been part of a trend that is the new normal :) . After I finished my feel-good pat-my-own-back session, I requested Shashwat, my go-to person, techie geek turned cloud solutions SME to write down what he told me in the form of a blog post so that I can share this with everyone. Here is his take on how cloud computing is not just for the biggies but is also a boon for startups and small businesses.

Cloud Computing for Small Business and StartUps

Software as a service (SaaS) has been around since the 60s, when IBM and other mainframe providers introduced the concept of time-shared computing. ISVs would host their code on remote servers providing functionality to enterprises on a subscription basis. With the advent of the internet and its increased adoption in the 90s, it gave way to a more efficient and ever-present way of computing, popularly known as cloud computing.

With higher internet speeds at reduced costs, cloud computing can be a boon for your start-up. Here’s why –

1)   Productivity on the go – Productivity has been revolutionized with the arrival of personal devices. The information worker has gone desk-less and enterprise IT has been consumerized. With the Bring-your-own-device culture gaining popularity in major conglomerates, it only makes sense for startups enable their workforce with such power. With cloud storage and cloud apps, the information worker can be more agile and help the startup be nimble. There are multiple platforms/vendors to choose from, to suit your organizational needs. From software development to basic word processing, all workloads can be hosted in the cloud. And with unlimited storage options, all you projects/files are omnipresent – all the time.

2)   Reduced capital and operational costs – The world’s best companies started in a garage, and not with a lot of money. Investing in a resilient IT infrastructure might not be an option available to every aspiring startup. The costs of deploying and maintaining an IT backbone, could be an expensive deal even for a small startup. For many, investing the money to the business would make more sense. The cloud helps you run your IT, without having to worry about maintaining or upgrading it – You will always have the latest and greatest. Thick clients are a thing of the past now, thus helping you reduce the need for expensive end user computing. Effectively, all you need is a browser J

3)   À la carte Computing – Efficient use of IT hardware is always a concern for enterprises. You don’t want to under-size the environment to save cost and run into performance issues, OR invest a lot of money to buy real beefy hardware and have them sit underutilized. With fast growing organizations, scalability becomes a constant issue and a drain on your finances. Enter – CLOUD – you use what you pay for, you pay for what you use. The user-feature based licensing model, helps companies to pick and choose what they want to use, without having to worry about hardware costs. Scalability??? Not a problem, you can scale your user base on the fly with a few clicks of the mouse.

 4)   Boosted Collaboration – Audio/video conferencing, file sharing and web apps – 90% of my workday is spent on these workloads. With teams becoming more virtual now, geo locations cannot be a hindrance to productivity. Efficient use of the cloud tools ensures that people collaborate successfully. You never have to email a single project file back and forth. Multiple people can consume and work on the same data from different locations simultaneously. Business intelligence and reporting has been simplified to a few clicks.

 5)   Increased continuity of service – “The cloud is always on” – You can get to it from anywhere, anytime. Businesses spend a lot of money to ensure that their systems are resilient and highly available, increasing the overall complexity of the environment, with constantly increasing operational costs. A subscription based model eliminates the need for a business to plan for unplanned service interruptions. You pay a one-time subscription fee, the vendor takes care of everything else. Many cloud vendors out there also offer financially backed service level agreements for mission critical workloads, so you can concentrate on your business worry free.

So, there you go – Cloud solutions enable you to concentrate on your business and run IT, quite practically with a credit card. :)

Cloud Tools/Solutions for your reference:

Cloud storage:

Onedrive for business – https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/business/

Box.Net for business – https://www.box.com/business/

Google drive – https://drive.google.com/ob?usp=web_ww_intro

Business email and productivity:

Microsoft Office 365 for small business – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/business/compare-office-365-for-business-plans-FX102918419.aspx?tab=1

Google apps for business – http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/

Unified collaboration:

Skype for business – http://www.skype.com/en/business/

Microsoft Lync online – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/lync/meeting-software-compare-lync-plans-FX103842081.aspx

Google hangout – http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/

Social for the enterprise:

Yammer – www.yammer.com

Chatter – https://www.salesforce.com/chatter/overview/

Today’s post is by Shashwat Mohapatra. Sash is a Client Success Manager and has about 10 years’ experience working as a trusted advisor with large Fortune 500 enterprise organizations in various business verticals around the globe, focused on helping enterprise customers consistently improve IT health, drive successful projects and migration deployments.

Did you find this post useful? How have you used cloud for your business? We would love to hear back and learn from you.

Five Thoughts on Key Performance Metrics through Five Favourite Quotes – Operational Excellence


Numbers tell stories – and metrics are the tools through which these stories get shape and substance. And yes, I am mad about metrics. Most of my readers come to this blog to read my posts on key performance metrics – business, sales, project, human resources and more. So I know I am not alone in my fascination for metrics. There are tons of metrics to choose from and the right performance metric for your business may not be the right one for mine. I have been asked many times on how to know when to introduce metrics, what the right metric is, and how to work the metrics so that the metrics work for you. So through this post, I will try to answer these questions through another passion of mine – quotes! I LOVE quotes (as do the majority of internet users going by the number of quotes shared every minute) – do you too get the feeling sometimes when you read a quote – ahh, I totally get that one, I wish I had written that – an Eureka Moment ?

Quotes are distilled pieces of wisdom. And when it comes to metrics, my experience is that getting the perfect metric and the perfect outcome as a result of tracking the metric needs a lot of hard work and experimentation – so wisdom from people who have been there, done that certainly goes a long way in making the metrics journey easier. So, here are the five pieces of wisdom that have helped me crystallize my approach to key performance metrics:

Performance Metric Quote #1: “Measure what is measurable and make measurable what is not so.” –Galileo

From the Father of Modern Science comes this gem. The thought to keep in mind when you have to begin from the beginning with metrics. The second half of the quote – make measurable what is not so – stands out to me – just because you can measure something easily is no good reason for measuring something. Metrics need to be tied to the desired business outcomes. And we need to spend some time assessing what metrics we have already and what metrics we need, and then going back to work on creating the systems and processes that will provide the data for quantification in a shape and form that will allow us to measure that. Data collection, analysis and management is most often cost and labour-intensive – so that part should always be weighed against the benefit derived from the metric. Don’t start something you can’t sustain in the long run.

Performance Metric Quote #2: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann

What not to measure is sometimes more important than what you do measure. Selection of the right performance metric for your business is critical. Do not introduce metrics just for the sake of metrics – it serves no one and the whole purpose is defeated. Start with what is the business goal that you need to track and improve, what are the processes related to that goal, and what metric would best reflect the productivity of the process. Measure only that which is important, that which provides real value to the process in question, which can be easily understood by all stakeholders and is ACTIONABLE.  Control your love for metrics and don’t produce reams of excels and slides and/or dashboards that make peoples’ eyes glaze over right from the start. Be ruthless in cutting down the unnecessary so that the necessary can stand out and shout.

Performance Metric Quote #3: “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.” Ronald Coase

One of my favourites and sorry to say, one that I am reminded of time and again in the corporate world. Data through metrics must speak the truth even when (and especially when) it does not serve our personal needs. As professionals, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our organizations to be honest, transparent and collaborative. How you measure is as important as what you measure. Don’t devise metrics out of the data just to show things in a good light or in a bad light – keep doing that and there will soon be nothing left to measure. Design the metrics and the data collection systems in such a way that it throws the spotlight on the business outcome and is balanced to reward productive behaviour and discourage “game playing”.

Performance Metric Quote #4: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter F. Drucker

This one is a popular quote and one that has served me well every time I enter a new setup or review a long running process. Business is dynamic, why should metrics remain static? What made sense to measure last month, quarter or year may have become completely irrelevant to measure today. Many a times I have found during reviews, metrics that no one remembers why it is being used, knows who is using it or where it is being used. Trust me, the same is true for many processes as well. There may have been a good reason once sometime in the past that makes absolutely no sense today. So keep reviewing, keep questioning and keep going back to the drawing board with your list of chosen metrics so that they remain relevant and useful.

Performance Metric Quote #5: “An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” – Arnold Glasow

Do I see you nodding your head to that? All data, dashboards, metrics are useless unless the knowledge and insights derived from them are translated into action.  Ask yourself – what story does this metric say, how can it help the leadership make the right decisions (more, less, better, different?) and arrive at an action plan when necessary? Every metric should be mapped to an end goal and have an action plan defined for improvement, sustenance and excellence. The action plan reviews should go hand in hand with the metric reviews feeding each other in a continuous loop. If the metrics are chosen carefully and presented properly, then, in the process of achieving their metrics, people will make the right decisions and take the right actions that enable the organization to maximize its performance. And that is when you know you have done your job well.

So, there you have it, the method and mechanism behind key performance metrics through learned wisdom. Metrics matter, metrics need work for them to work, metrics tell a story – the ending of which you have the power to change. Make your Metrics Rock!

What is your favourite performance metric quote? What wisdom have you gathered on setting key performance metrics ? What has worked for your business and what has not? I would love to hear back and learn from you.

P.S : Gratitude to Judy Gombita (@jgombita) for pushing me to stretch myself  - thank you, Judy for your faith in me.

Pic Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rubyblossom/4674821065/

Resigning with Grace – Five To-Do’s till You Leave your Job.


“You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. 
You can steer yourself, in any direction You choose!”
-Dr. Seuss

As a working professional, there comes a time in all our careers when we have to quit our jobs. There could be innumerable reasons for us wanting to quit and we could be in any state of mind when the time for resigning/notice period approaches. Anger, nostalgia, pride, nervousness, a sense of loss, excitement are only some of the emotions you could be experiencing in your notice period, leading up to your last day. And I am saying all this with so much conviction only because I crossed this bridge a couple of weeks back. It is hard to let go off something you have nurtured. But whatever it is, no matter how you feel, a graceful exit is a non- negotiable. There is nothing more desirable than closure in such a situation. Right?

Here are five things we need to do, to ensure that graceful exit we all want:

1. Prepare them. And yourself: If it is in your control, prepare your manager/team in advance about your exit. It is bad enough for them that you’ve chosen to move on. The news should not be jolting. Have a conversation in person with your manager first. Be clear and courteous. The time in hand will allow your work to come to a closure, a suitable replacement can be brought in and it is respectful!

I had a conversation about my departure, a good 8-9 months in advance. It was hard and it took some courage. NOT venting in this conversation was also a good choice to make. This allowed me to deal with it well. I was able to gain a lot of perspective into myself in this process. My reasons to move on:

  • I was getting married and wanted to relocate with my husband.
  • I loved the work, but I wanted a different role and exposure. I wanted to build different skills.

dilbert

2. Stay honest and polite in your exit interview: Exit interviews are not venting sessions either. But if you value your time at the organization and care for them, it is important that you give honest feedback about your experiences. Don’t trash talk. Tell them what you feel. You could be honest, but not rude. I believe many conversations cannot be had in person. And if something needs to be addressed, exit interviews are the places to share.

I worked in an organization which values feedback from its employees. The leadership team really holds space for honest conversations. So I could say what I needed to. But it is for each person to assess their levels of disclosure. This may contribute to how you are remembered.

3. Reach out to all the teams:  If you have been a person who has worked with most teams in the organization, and have some skills which others depend on, inform them about your exit.  It is only fair that you make an open offer to them regarding working on anything that they need from you. That way they won’t be left in a vacuum.
I was involved in designing trainings, workshops and curricula for the organization, and I lent the same expertise to anyone who needed it. When I reached out to all the teams, I was pleasantly surprised at how many things they needed me to work on. In the end, I felt good about myself and my work, and teams got their work done! Classic Win-Win.

Panting4. Celebrate your journey: For whatever reason you quit, once you cross the bridge, know it is a new beginning. Your work stint would have brought you in contact with different kinds of people, allowed you to pick up skills, taken you towards your calling and helped you grow as a person. Celebrate that. The farewell might be a difficult time, an emotional time as well. But bringing in some joy, appreciation and fun will make your experience extremely worthwhile.

On my last day I planned with the team to organize a pot luck lunch, requested everyone to leave me messages in a bag and played a ‘Valentine’s Day’ version of ‘Secret Santa’. It was a happy day and brought me the right kind of closure I wanted. In fact, my parting gift to the organization was a painting I made on the conference room wall.

5. Allow and acknowledge the possibility of a future association: You never know when you may feel the need to associate in some way with an organization you leave, in the future. Be it in terms of work, or partnering with a colleague, reference from your manager, anything. It can happen. Hence, as they say, don’t burn bridges. Leave a door open.  Send appreciative emails/messages, be thankful. Tell your team/managers that at some point you would love to associate again. For organization, it is always good when ex-employees come back to contribute again. Remember, it is always the relationships we build, that matter most.
A big part of my role was that of a facilitator/trainer’s, and I loved it. Sometime soon in the future, having built more skills, I would love to come back as a trainer to contribute to the journey of the organization. Truly!

The multitude of circumstances we may leave under, it may get difficult to leave on a good note. But the effort should not be compromised on. Keep asking yourself at each point, ‘Am I being my best?”. You’ll know what to do when the answer is ‘No’ or a ‘Maybe’. I still think of things I may have wanted to do differently, in hindsight. But if we can all do the above, we know that both us and the organization would be in a better place.

Have similar thoughts? We would love to know! Do share you experience with us.

This is Nilisha Mohapatra’s (@NilishaM) fourth guest post for Happy In the Now. Her previous posts are “ Five Steps that help me be Here and Now – Being Mindful and Happy In The Now” , Five Life-Altering Philosophies from Calvin and Hobbes – Happy In The Now and “Five Life Skills that give wings to your Career”. Nilisha is a Post Graduate in Applied Psychology, a facilitator for Human Potential Development and Experiential workshops for empowerment. She is currently on a learning and exploration journey in life. To know more about her experiences and read more of her blog, please visit fantasycluster.wordpress.com

Pic Courtesy:  Scott Adams - http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/

Five Ways to Survive and Thrive during Organisation Structure Changes


It starts with tremors and before you realise what is happening, the ground starts shaking violently under your feet and there you are in the middle of a major seismic activity hanging on for dear life to your seat. Hold on – I am not talking about cyclones, tsunamis or earthquakes of the natural kind. I am referring to the ground-shaking encountered during organizational structure changes. If you have ever worked in the corporate world, you know the kind I mean…. A quarter or two of underperformance and you can almost guarantee that the phrase “need for change” starts appearing in management communication. Unfortunately, this drive for the need for change usually does not focus on looking at the customer value creation, the business strategy or the execution gaps. The target is usually a few leaders and some shuffling of positions and responsibilities here and there at the top levels and maybe an acquisition – all under the banner “organizing for success”.

Dilbert - Reorgs

That’s all good (actually not, this is shifting the problem elsewhere and maybe creating a new set of problems but it’s a topic for another day) but in a hierarchical organization which majority of orgs are still – this is very unsettling for all the layers of people below. And given that org changes are the norm and hiding under your seat or the blanket at home till the dust settles down in the hope that things will turn out ok in the end could be an option, there is a better option as well and that is – to Be Prepared.

I consider myself a veteran at this org change business having gone through some 25 odd organization transitions in my career – some of which I just about survived and some in which I thrived. So here is my checklist of tips on coming out a winner in such transitions:

Tip #1 – Be an Intrapreneur: No matter which layer or function you are in the structure, always be a leader.  The security of a good job in a big company often brings in a sense of complacency.  In today’s scenarios, this complacency is very very risky for your career. If you were an entrepreneur or working in a startup, what would you be doing? Hustling everyday, that’s what – because what exists today might not exist tomorrow. So bring in that hustle factor into your job everyday – work for today. As Jim Rohn said – work harder on yourself than you do on your job or business.  Be an intrapreneur – an entrepreneur within your organisation. My mentor, Entrepreneur David K Williams, shared the four essential traits of an intrapreneur – read here. Do your best work and keep yourself relevant and you become sure of yourself and the fear of changing bosses, changing teams, changes at workplace will not be a fear anymore.

Tip#2 – Be Visible:  Doing great work and no one other than your immediate boss and your team knowing about it is not going to help you when your boss changes or your team changes. Much as you may hate the idea of it, you have to promote yourself. As I have written in one of my earlier posts, this was a hard-earned lesson for me. I had always believed that my work will speak for itself and rewards may be delayed but will never be denied. But then, who knows what tomorrow may bring? You cannot afford to be shy if you want your work to be recognized.  Be aware of your worth and don’t settle for less. You have to be your own marketing manager and actively market the value that you bring in to your manager, department and organization. Make sure people know who you are and what you do. Make your achievements and contributions visible as and when they happen and not just list them at appraisal time.

Tip #3 – Help Others: The single most important thing that you can do for your career is to help others in their careers. Read that line again – it is true. In life or in work, what you give is what you get. Its extra work I admit but the benefits far outweigh the efforts. I have always held the belief that real assets that we build at work are the relationships – you don’t lose these when you switch jobs or lose jobs. All the career advice about having a strong network around you is right – but it starts with an attitude of helping, of giving. Be the go-to person – be the first person that people around you think of when there is an issue to be resolved or a problem to be solved. You become an asset for your boss, your team and you company. And being an asset gives you plenty of leverage during an organizational transition – it gives you the negotiating power to tap the opportunities that the transition may bring.,

Tip #4 – Collect Mentors: A good mentor is invaluable for your career success. A mentor can be someone in your corner when you need some additional support. And if you have one within the company, she can protect you when things go wrong, propose you for great assignments and be your own internal reference. Look around you to find people who you admire and are role models for where you want to be. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor. You might look to one for domain expertise, to another for industry expertise, and yet another for personal scenarios when you need practical and helpful advice or brainstorming. And if you are lucky to find a great mentor, invest in that relationship and make sure that you too offer support when your mentor needs it.

Tip #5 – Be Aware: Of the work that you do, of your worth, of the games around you and of what is right. This Career Manifesto by Michael Wade says it all:

1. Unless you’re working in a coal mine, an emergency ward, or their equivalent, spare us the sad stories about your tough job. The biggest risk most of us face in the course of a day is a paper cut.

2. Yes, your boss is an idiot at times. So what? (Do you think your associates sit around and marvel at your deep thoughts?) If you cannot give your boss basic loyalty, either report the weasel to the proper authorities or be gone.

3. You are paid to take meaningful actions, not superficial ones. Don’t brag about that memo you sent out or how hard you work. Tell us what you achieved.

4. Although your title may be the same, the job that you were hired to do three years ago is probably not the job you have now. When you are just coasting and not thinking several steps ahead of your responsibilities, you are in dinosaur territory and a meteor is coming.

5. If you suspect that you’re working in a madhouse, you probably are. Even sociopaths have jobs. Don’t delude yourself by thinking you’ll change what the organization regards as a “turkey farm.” Flee.

6. Your technical skills may impress the other geeks, but if you can’t get along with your co-workers, you’re a litigation breeder. Don’t be surprised if management regards you as an expensive risk.

7. If you have a problem with co-workers, have the guts to tell them, preferably in words of one syllable.

8. Don’t believe what the organization says it does. Its practices are its real policies. Study what is rewarded and what is punished and you’ll have a better clue as to what’s going on.

9. Don’t expect to be perfect. Focus on doing right instead of being right. It will simplify the world enormously.

10. If you plan on showing them what you’re capable of only after you get promoted, you need to reverse your thinking.

 So what do you think? What tip did I miss? Tell me your story – I would love to hear and learn from you.

Pic Courtesy:  Scott Adams - http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1997-11-22/

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