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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Value of Mentoring

A mentor is that one person who can guide you, help you, take you under his or her wing, and nurture your career quest.  What separates a mentor from the average contact is long-term commitment and deep seated investment in your future.  Mentors not only help you in your career, but they can also be very influential in your personal life.

Without a good mentor people find themselves running in place.  You are making decisions and going down roads blind.  No amount of hard work will compensate for going the wrong direction.  In most cases you wont even know it was the wrong direction until you reach the end.  You need that person to hold up the U-turn sign.

  So what makes up a good mentor?  Many people feel that being a mentor requires special skills, but mentors are simply people who have the qualities of good role models.

Mentors listen.
They maintain eye contact and give mentees their full attention.
Mentors guide.
Mentors are there to help their mentees find life direction, never to push them.
Mentors are practical.
They give insights about keeping on task and setting goals and priorities.
Mentors educate.
Mentors educate about life and their own careers.
Mentors provide insight.
Mentors use their personal experience to help their mentees avoid mistakes and learn from good decisions.
Mentors are accessible.
Mentors are available as a resource and a sounding board.
Mentors criticize constructively.
When necessary, mentors point out areas that need improvement, always focusing on the mentee’s behavior, never his/her character.
Mentors are supportive.
No matter how painful the mentee’s experience, mentors continue to encourage them to learn and improve.
Mentors are specific.
Mentors give specific advice on what was done well or could be corrected, what was achieved and the benefits of various actions.
Mentors care.
Mentors care about their mentees’ progress in school and career planning, as well as their personal development.
Mentors succeed.
Mentors not only are successful themselves, but they also foster success in others.
Mentors are admirable.
Mentors are usually well respected in their organizations and in the community.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Top 10 Leadership Movies

I’m very passionate about leadership, and I’m also a huge movie buff.

So it seemed natural to me to combine these two passions in to one blog post which I came across in web.
The result: my list of top ten movies that provide some inspiring leadership lessons.

So here goes (in no particular order):

1.   Saving Private Ryan
Main Leaders: Captain Miller (played by Tom Hanks)

Memorable quotes:
This Ryan better be worth it. He better go home and cure some disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb, or something. Because to tell you the truth, I wouldn't trade ten Ryans for one Vecchio or one Caparzo”. (Captain Miller)

“I don't know. Part of me thinks the kid's right. What's he done to deserve this? He wants to stay here, fine. Let's leave him and go home. But another part of me thinks, what if we stay, and by some miracle we actually make it out of here alive? Someday we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, shitty mess.” (Sergeant Mike Horvath)

Key leadership lessons: leading by example, leading through adversity, conflict management, trust, courage, sacrifice, motivating through a sense of purpose
2.   Apollo 13
Main Leaders: Flight Director Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris), Commander Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks)

Memorable quotes:
“We’ve never lost an American in space and we sure as hell ain’t gonna lose one on my watch.”; (Gene Kranz)

“Failure is not an option!”; (Gene Kranz)

“Let’s work the problem, people.”, “I don’t care about what anything was designed to do. I care about what it can do.”; (Gene Kranz)

“With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour”. (Gene Kranz)

Gentlemen... what are your intentions? I'd like to go home. We've got a burn coming up... Let's go home.” (Jim Lovell)

Key leadership lessons: crisis management, teamwork, creativity, enabling others to act, setting expectations, determination, confidence, motivating through a sense of purpose

3.   Gladiator
Main Leaders: Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Roman Armies of the North (played by Russell Crowe)

Memorable quotes:
What we do in life echoes an eternity” (Maximus)

Key leadership lessons: leading by example, trust, courage, honor, vision

4.   A Few Good Men
Main Leaders:
Col. Nathan R. Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson), Lt. Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise)

Memorable quotes:
“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”; (Col. Jessup)

“We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something.”; (Col. Jessup)

“Ever put your life in another man's hands, ask him to put his life in yours? We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It's that simple.
(Col. Jessup)
Key leadership lessons: values, code of honor, courage, fighting for a just cause.
5. BraveheartMain Leaders: William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson).

Memorable quotes:
I have nothing. Men fight for me because if they do not, I throw them off my land and I starve their wives and their children. Those men who bled the ground red at Falkirk, they fought for William Wallace, and he fights for something that I never had.” (Robert de Bruce).

“Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!” (William Wallace).

Key leadership lessons: leading by example, trust, courage, honor, vision, fighting for a just cause

6.   Gandhi
Main Leaders: Mohandas Gandhi

Memorable quotes:
“When I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won. There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it: always.”; (Gandhi)

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” (Gandhi)

Key leadership lessons: leading by example, vulnerability, vision, courage, sacrifice, unselfishness, determination, diversity

7.   Thirteen Days
Main Leaders: President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy

Memorable quotes:
“I have the authority! I am the commander in chief of the United States, and I say when we go to war!” (President Kennedy);

“No, no, no! Now, there is more than one option here - and if one isn't occurring to us, it's because we haven't thought hard enough!” (Robert Kennedy)

Key leadership lessons: crisis management, teamwork, challenging assumptions, remaining calm under pressure
8.   Invictus
Main Leaders: Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon), Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman).

Memorable quotes: “I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul. / I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul.”; (Nelson Mandela)

“The day I am afraid to do that [risk my political career] is the day I am no longer fit to lead.”; (Nelson Mandela)

“Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.” (Nelson Mandela)

Key leadership lessons: creating a shared vision, leading by example, inspiration, trust, diversity, influencing

9.   Schindler's List
Main Leaders:
Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson), Itzhak Stern (played by Ben Kingsley)

Memorable quotes:
“This list... is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.” (Itzhak Stern);

“Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.” (Itzhak Stern);

"Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire." (Itzhak Stern);

“My father was fond of saying you need three things in life - a good doctor, a forgiving priest, and a clever accountant. The first two, I've never had much use for.” (Oskar Schindler);

“I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I'd just... I could have got more.” (Oskar Schindler)

Key leadership lessons: crisis management,
influencing, courage, fighting for a just cause, sacrifice, creativity

10. The Last Samurai
 Main Leaders: Katsumoto (played by Ken Watanabe), Captain Nathan Algren (played by Tom Cruise)

 Memorable quotes:
“You believe a man can change his destiny? (Katsumoto) I think a man does what he can, until his destiny is revealed.” (Algren).

“I say, Japan was made by a handful of brave men. Warriors, willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word: honor.”; (Simon Graham)

“And so the days of the Samurai had ended. Nations, like men, it is sometimes said, have their own destiny. As for the American Captain, no one knows what became of him. Some say that he died of his wounds. Others, that he returned to his own country. But I like to think he may have at last found some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find.” (Simon Graham);

“What does it mean to be Samurai? To devote yourself utterly to a set of moral principles. To seek a stillness of your mind. And to master the way of the sword.” (Captain Algren)

 Key leadership lessons: leading by example, honor, duty, courage, sacrifice, unselfishness, fighting for a just cause

Monday, March 24, 2014

Customers, Investors, or Employees, Who Should Come First?

Much has been said and written about the dilemma of who should be your company’s first priority: customers, investors, or employees?

To be sure, this is a real dilemma for any company, including startups.

A company has three main constituents: customers, investors/shareholders, and its employees. Obviously it needs all three, and moreover, it needs all three to be happy and satisfied in order to succeed.

And yet, you can’t have three #1 priorities. So who should you rank as #1?

This is not just semantics or a mission statement exercise only. This ranking affects your long-term priorities, operational plans, trade-offs, and daily decisions.

In the 90’s the mission statement of “maximizing shareholders value” was very popular among US companies. This became the mantra of company leaders and executives. Needless to say, it didn’t inspire and motivate employees, nor did it delight customers. Eventually, it didn’t lead to higher value for investors either.

Later on, that mantra was replaces with “customer focused”. Everyone became, or wanted to be, customer-focused. Granted that makes a lot more sense than “shareholder focused”. However, treating customers like kings and employees like pawns is not a recipe for sustainable success.

For example, in the US retail sector, Sears is ranked amongst the worst in employee satisfaction rating and is losing money. On the other hand, Nordstrom is ranked high in employee satisfaction and is also highly profitable. This is just one example out of many.

I believe that employees should always come first. My rational is very simple. Happy and motivated employees perform better. They develop better products to meet customers’ needs, provide better service to customers, and find innovative ways in which to make the company perform better, and be successful.

This in turn makes customers happy since they get better products and service. Happy customers purchase more, remain loyal to the company, and recommend its products and services to their friends.

This makes the company successful and profitable, which of course, delights its investors and shareholders.

Thus, my ranking is:

1.   Employees
2.   Customers
3.   Investors

What’s yours?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective EXECUTIVES

You might have read Stephen R. Covey’s top-seller – ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’. Taking inspiration from the same and adding my own observations and experiences, here are the 7 habits of highly effective executives:

Habit 1: They endeavor for excellence in their domain AND keep track of super performers in their market space

Habit 2: They learn from the past, focus in the present AND lead into the future

Habit 3: They welcome diversity of thought among stakeholders AND collaborate with them to achieve the business objectives

Habit 4: They build dignified relations in their business community AND earn respect among their industry peers

Habit 5: They ascertain performance based on metrics AND differentiate reality from hype

Habit 6: They hold a healthy balance between their individual & business interests AND maintain integrity with their personal values

Habit 7: They foster a learning culture in their organization AND actively seek solutions to overcome challenges faced in their business

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

5 Best Practices for Sales Management

The challenge for Sales Managers has been to align the individual sales person’s behaviors to match with the company’s direction.

By driving an ongoing alignment of various teams inside your organization; Sales Managers could increase their business relevance to the customer.

Sales Management Best Practices:

· Provide marketing support services (mailers, brochures, newsletters, social media) for your sales team to develop and close new opportunities

· Empower your sales team with rich context (deeper client and industry insights) for enabling consultative selling

· Align your internal staff for linking your company’s unique capabilities to your customer’s priorities

· Use meaningful content (blogs, whitepapers, informative articles) for stimulating trusted conversations with prospective customers

· Analyze outcomes and make requisite modifications to improve results


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Prioritization matrix for competitive advantage

Professional Services Organizations comprise a diverse set of firms – information technology, management consulting, audit & advisory, architecture, engineering, recruiting, marketing, advertising, public relations, legal, research & development, training etc.

Here’s a matrix for analyzing various initiatives/ business segments. It’s in the form of a quadrant (four boxes) taking as its axes – ‘cash flow’ against ‘differentiation’. It is useful for selecting initiatives to actively focus and allocate your resources in order to maximize profits and get highest value returns. It may also help you analyze your revenue stream and redefine offerings in the market.

Some of the business initiatives/ units for a typical Professional Services Organization are: Staffing services, advisory services, managed services, project-based consulting, strategic planning, process re-engineering, change management, integration services etc.

Quadrant 1: Low Cash-flow & Low Differentiation

These are commoditized areas where your market presence is weak due to lack of differentiation. These initiatives generate barely enough profit to maintain the sustainability of the unit. Furthermore, they depress the company’s profitability over a period of time.

Recommended Actions:
  • Dilute your focus
  • Avoid any capital investments
Quadrant 2: High Cash-flow & Low Differentiation

These units generate quick & surplus cash in comparison to the amount needed to maintain them. If competition is high and there are few opportunities for differentiation; then it may be less attractive for further investment. These units are regarded as dull and boring in a mature market.

Recommended Actions:
  • Harvest the cash-flow & maximize profits
  • Invest resources only if it gets immediate ROI
  • Increase market share by volume discounting
 Quadrant 3: Low Cash-flow & High Differentiation

These units are niche and/or fragmented segments with a potential to grow. They could generate higher revenue and improve the company’s competitive advantage. You need to work incrementally to gain market share. If you do not succeed then the unit might consume a lot of cash and hinder your profitability; and drain your resources.

Recommended Actions:
  • Expend efforts wisely and in a discretionary manner
  • Use innovation to differentiate from competition
Quadrant 4: High Cash-flow & High Differentiation

These are areas where you are well-established and you have a good reputation with clients. It’s a growing market with many opportunities and scope for building your own market share.

Recommended Actions:
  • Focus actively on this business
  • Grow market share by engaging your best resources
  • Make continued investments

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