Being Productive vs Being Busy

In a world where we are constantly “connected” and always have something to do, we can very easily confuse being productive vs being busy. Like most vices, short term impacts are often never felt and we only get to see how far behind we are on our ‘actual’ tasks after a couple of weeks or sometimes even months. This is a problem faced by almost everyone at some point in life. In fact, statistics show that more than 77% of people are disengaged with the work they do every day. I received a piece of advice that has helped me greatly in overcoming this problem, it was, to systematically break down my goals into achievable chunks. Listed below are some steps to get started:

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I Do Not Know What I Want To Do?

My niece is on her way to college later this year and like most people her age, she has very little idea what she wants to do at or after college. Unfortunately this trend is a global issue and many parents and their college going kids think that college is some magic bullet that is going to help them realize their true calling. There are several pieces of advice I like to give when this conversation is brought up. Some of them contrary to the common worldview where everyone has a predetermined idea that they must follow. Some of them are:

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Overcoming the Execution Gap

With the new year in full swing, many of us may have set goals towards what we aspire to achieve in 2013. However, there is a big difference between setting goals and achieving them. Essentially the execution gap in the middle is where many fall. In 2013 you may want to become healthier, boost your business forward or write the book that you have always wanted to. These are good goals to work towards but in order to be truly committed about this we need to over come the execution gap.

Here are three steps to get you started:

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Looking Back at 2012

As I sit down to write this post I really can’t believe that 2012 is over. These last couple of years, time seems to be accelerating at a quantum pace where it is becoming difficult to keep track of all the things which again seem to be taking place almost all at once! I remember quite vividly this year starting off with us closing one of our biggest deals with British American Tobacco, we have been fortunate to have just built our pace from there. For this review I am going to take a different approach and document all that went well and the areas which need improvement in the coming year.

The Things That Worked out Well:

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Culture & Performance

A recent article in Fortune by Jack and Suzy Welch in which they say:

“Soft culture matters as much as hard numbers. And if your company’s culture is to mean anything, you have to hang — publicly — those in your midst who would destroy it. It’s a grim image, we know. But the fact is, creating a healthy, high-integrity organizational culture is not puppies and rainbows. And yet, for some reason, too many leaders think a company’s values can be relegated to a five-minute conversation between HR and a new employee. Or they think culture is about picking which words — do we “honor” our customers or “respect” them? — to engrave on a plaque in the lobby. What nonsense.

“An organization’s culture is not about words at all. It’s about behavior — and consequences. It’s about every single individual who manages people knowing that his or her key role is that of chief values officer, with Sarbanes-Oxley-like enforcement powers to match. It’s about knowing that at every performance review, employees are evaluated for both their numbers and their values.”

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Performance Optimization

Great leaders have an inherent ability to distill complexity into simplicity. A great story which reflects this talent is attributed to steel magnate Charles M. Schwab. One day one of his floor managers came to him complaining about varied schemes he had attempted in order to increase the average output per shift, without any luck. After having listened to his strategies Mr. Schwab simply asked him one question “How many heats has the day shift completed?”. When he got “6” as the answer he simply took a piece of chalk and wrote a big “6” on the entrance door!

When the night shift workers came in and enquired about the significance of the number “6”, they were told that the boss had enquired about the output of the earlier shift and had written that on the wall. That night, the night shift beat the day shift and demonstrated this by erasing the number “6” and writing “7” there instead. Over the next couple of weeks output from each shift surged.

Stimulating competition has a powerful effect in getting individuals to push themselves harder. To get optimal results, it is important that performance tracking is not only tracked on an individual basis, but also done in relative terms to others in the group. By using relative performance gauges we are able to push ourselves further or then simply acknowledge another’s edge by bowing out when we think we are out of a given league.