Saturday, October 23, 2010

LinkedIn Question: Do closed pay-packets drive Performance/ Competition or Discrimination/Exploitation?


Consider the employment contract as a private business deal, between the employer on the one part and employee on the other. Should then the details of all private business deals in the country be made public in the name of transparency?

One gets what one can negotiate. The current system of closed pay packets is a self-authenticating language that has evolved over ages. Attempting to 'even the playing field' by making pay packets open would not work to motivate or retain the right people, as one man's perception of 'fair play' does not match another's.

Those that know how to play the game (read 'successful professionals') view closed pay packets as an 'entry barrier' that they have learnt how to overcome. If someone wanted to find out what figure they should be making, given a particular industry, year, their experience and specialisation, they most certainly could - if they knew where to look, whom to ask and how.

The average and poor performers, on the other hand, would have good reason to justify their performance no matter what kind of system they work in.

Now consider the alternative:
What if there were open pay packets in an organisation?

This would only work to motivate the right people, if performance in every role could be measured and compared on objective terms. Promotion to a higher pay cadre might then be perceived as 'fair' by the majority of the average and high-performing employees.

This, however, is not practical for most industries and companies.

Bottom line: closed pay packets drive performance and competition, but as a part of a larger system that includes compensation benchmarking, good talent management practices, focus on learning, and strong visionary leadership.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

LinkedIn Question: Key Account Management: What most often gets overlooked?

The question in detail:

There are so many different KAM courses in which experienced sales people are trained / educated / retrained / re-educated and otherwise coached in how to sell. There's SPIN selling, there's Funnel selling, there's Miller Heiman selling, there's every form of selling imaginable, but still in my opinion there's something missing...

For me it's all about PEOPLE and when KAM courses get hung up on processes and systems, I think that they fundamentally overlook the people dynamic - to sell you have to build a relationship, to build a relationship you have to relate to people, to relate to people you have to understand them, to understand them you have to yourself, etc.

Is it my imagination or should every course on KAM, every book and every YouTube video on Sales not come equipped with a mandatory mirror?

Thoughts, comments and opinions welcome!

Clarification: And of course the answer to the rhetorical question is "understand" in other words what most often gets overlooked is the "understand yourself" piece!


Key Account Management is very different from Account Management. While the overall objectives remain Reach, Extraction and Depth, the Key Account Manager is required to go much further in establishing and building the relationship between his/her organisation and the client, at various levels. He/she becomes the fulcrum around which the service provider engages the client strategically as well as operationally.

This means not just 'better selling', but a whole of lot of changes in the internal systems and processes of the service provider, centered around the Key Account Managers.

Of course the people dynamic is critical to the success of a KAM initiative. But we must understand that KAM is essentially about building systems in the company that:

  1. Take advantage of the people dynamic at different levels in the best possible way, and
  2. Bring stability and scalability to the KAM relationship thus built.

LinkedIn Question: From a HR perspective, what is the difference between a Manager and a Leader? and which is more important is this day and age?

The managerial function involves using today's resources to solve today's problem. The leadership function is about developing today's resources to solve the problems of tomorrow.

An undermanaged, over-led company would descend into chaos; an over-managed, under-led company would find itself irrelevant within a short period. Thus both are critical, but at different proportions at different levels in the organisation.

Most important, there is no ‘HR Perspective’ in this day and age – there is, and always has been, only the ‘Business Perspective’!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

LinkedIn Question: What are the ‘minimal training days’ criteria followed by different companies?


This question could be answered in many ways ... but the answers may not be what one expects.

One way of answering this question is from the traditional training metrics point of view – we did 20 days per employee of classroom training last year, and so we should do the same thing this year too.

But here’s a problem with that approach: is your market situation this year, the same as it was last year? Is your company going to sell the same products or services to the same people in the same way this year, as it did in the last? And is it going to produce those products or services the same way this year, as in the last?

The simple answer to all these questions: Probably not.

Then, why should the ‘number of training days’ for this year bear any connection to the previous year’s figure?

'Training' is a part of 'Learning', which ought to be tightly linked to organisational strategy. If you could articulate the strategy, business needs and performance needs of your company, a Learning consultant might be able to boil that down to 'number of training days per employee' for the current year, after an appropriate Learning strategy, plan and the Learning events calendar have been created.

This number could vary significantly between industries, companies and from year to year, because every company's strategy is different, and evolves from year to year.

To quote a parallel: “What is the minimum number of days companies take to achieve their targets?”

Well, doesn’t that depend on which company, what target and when?

Friday, September 17, 2010

The 4 Minute Mile

(Author Unknown)


Recollect the four minute mile. People had been trying to achieve it since the days of ancient Greeks. In fact, folk lore has it that the Greeks had lions chase the runners thinking that that would make them run faster. They also tried drinking tiger’s milk. Nothing they tried worked. So they decided it was impossible for a person to run a mile in four minutes. For over a thousand years every one believed it. Our bone structure is all wrong, wind resistance is too great. We have inadequate lung power. There were abundant reasons.

Then one man proved that the doctors, the trainers and the thousands of athletes were all wrong. In 1954, when Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile myth, it was a miracle. The year after seven other runners broke the four minute mile. The year after three hundred runners broke the four minute mile. After a few years the record was ninety percent. Now it is every runner’s record.

What happened? There were no great breakthroughs in physical training. No one discovered how to control wind resistance. Human bone structure, lung power and physiology didn’t improve suddenly.

But the human attitude did that.

Let go of the minor to have more energy to focus on the major.

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

By Bronnie Ware

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.


2. I wish I didn’t work so hard

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.


3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.


4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.


5. I wish that I had let myself be happier

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

LinkedIn Question: What is more effective - having an in-house dedicated training team or outsourcing training to an external training vendor?


The answer is: Depends!

The real question is, would you want to play:
(a) The niche game (the internal team will provide consulting services and handle specialised requirements and overall coordination, while most generic and some specific needs will be outsourced) or
(b) The volume game (the internal team will take care of all the bulk training needs and overall coordination, while niche needs including analysis and measurement of those needs will be outsourced)?

There is no correct answer to this question - each organisation needs to find its own answer. Some of the decision parameters are given below:
1. What is your organisation's mandate for the internal L&D team size? What is your organisation's mandated L&D budget?
2. Are the right kind of resources available in your market at the price you can afford to pay, particularly for certain niche skills?
3. Can you groom your internal team to become not only great trainers but also effective consultants?

There are both types of outsourced vendors - those that play the volume game, and those that play the niche game. Also usually outsourced vendors do a better job of resource utilisation and consequently work out cheaper overall.

However the challenge is to find a few vendors that can integrate deeply with your organisation and pace with its changing needs, while maintaining consistent quality. These vendors should be able to deliver operational excellence in respect of the bulk requirements, and also have specialist credibility for catering to the senior and specialised levels. Such vendors are very few. Consider: how many vendors exist today who can credibly offer end-to-end training solutions for an organisation with national presence?

My preferred path would be, to view the Learning function as an independent business unit providing four inter-dependent but distinct services: Consulting, Training Operations, Training Delivery and Content Development. Keeping quality paramount, I would analyse the case to outsource or retain each and work out an appropriate mix for my organisation. And in all possibility, this mix will constantly change as availability of resources varies.

- Kaustav

LinkedIn Question: How do you differentiate between Career Path and Learning Path?


Career path highlights the path planned through your organisation - both laterally and vertically - for a high performing professional, to be progressively groomed to take on more and more senior roles.

Learning path is the corresponding sequence of Learning activities that this professional will need to undertake, to be able to face the challenges at each level in their career path and move to the next level.

In the language of gaming, think of the career path as the path the player takes through various levels until finally reaching the topmost - and most difficult - level of the game. The learning path consists of all the various weapons, tools and powers that the player needs to acquire at each level / set of levels, to move onto the next higher level / set of levels.

This is also where the 'Peter Principle' becomes relevant - that every individual rises in his/her career upto the level whereafter their incompetence becomes dangerous for the organisation, thus preventing any further promotion / growth. The idea of a Learning Path is to prevent / pre-empt the Peter Principle from becoming real.

- Kaustav

LinkedIn Question: I am looking for cutting edge best practices around developing a company-wide leadership development curriculum. Would anyone mind sharing principles upon which these curricula are built?


10 Easy Steps To Developing a Leadership Development Curriculum That Works:

  1. Understand the business as a learning leader, and understand what kind of leadership works in this business.
  2. Learn or help identify the strategic direction of the business. Identify the top business needs to achieve strategic goals.
  3. Convert business needs to performance needs.
  4. Convert performance needs to learning needs.
  5. Consolidated learning needs into training needs. Use competency frameworks wherever possible. If this is not available, you will need to profile each role for Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes required to be successful in that role.
  6. Work to establishing a success profile of leaders who are already doing well in the organisation. Use a variety of profiling tools, including DISC (for work behaviour).
  7. Create a holistic system of classroom training, need-based passive learning infrastructure and on-the-role coaching to progressively move identified candidates to their ideal leadership profiles.
  8. Develop an effective assessment system that will show reliable needle-point movement, justifying your effort and budget. See how to link that to business results.
  9. Before you start, baseline your result and effort parameters.
  10. Always involve the business at every step. 'Evolve' your ideas from the business and let them take credit for the execution and results.

- Kaustav

Question: How to handle late arrivals in an instructor led course?


I recently answered this question on LinkedIn. The answer is reproduced below:

  1. Some methods professional speakers adopt *before* a class, to have participants show up on time:
    1. 'Show The Plan'. Help participants see the bigger picture that this class will help them move towards.
    2. 'Involve them'. Involve the participants in planning the class and its contents. Participants need to feel that a class is tailored to their needs, and will help solve their real world problems. The more you involve them before the class, the better their participation during the class.
    3. 'Hook Them'. Give participants some interest-piquing pre-class preparation to reinforce the importance of their effort. Like a self-assessment test, the answers to which will be revealed in the class.
    4. 'Build it up'. Posters with interesting visuals and thought-provoking questions related to the topic, viral marketing techniques, advertising the takeaways, automatic reminders on email or SMS ... the internal communication department will love to sink their teeth into this one and come up with many more innovative ideas to drive on-time attendance.
    5. 'Buffer it'. Scheduling 15-30 minutes of networking time with coffee and a light snack before the class seems to be a brilliant way to catch latecomers. An alternative is to start with analysis of the self-awareness tool. You should see latecomer figures drop dramatically.
  2. During the class, the most important thing is to make sure the speaker is someone who can really impart value in an interesting manner; i.e. a good presenter with a good presentation and a clear call to action at the end. “Interesting, Informative and Implementable” really works!
  3. After the class, follow up to make sure that people took away value and are putting to action some or most of their learning. Implementation support and feedback mechanisms actually work are critical in on-time attendance and participation in the next class.

- Kaustav

“Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae”

Baba Bulleh Shah, a 12th Century Punjabi mystic

Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae, Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae
What’s on the tongue must be said

Jhoott aakhaan kuch bachda ae
I speak what is not true, and something remains unsaid

Sach aakhaan baambar machda ae
I speak the truth and the fire is lit

Donhaan galaan toun ji jachda ae
I am afraid of both outcomes

Jach jach ke jibhaan kehndi ae
Apprehensively my tongue quivers

Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae, Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae
What’s on the tongue must be said


Jiss paya bheit qalandar da
He who puts on the garb of the dervish ...

Raah khojya apne andar da
... and searches within himself for the way ...

O waasi hai sukh mandar da
... will live eternally in the temple of peace ...

Jithay charhdi ae na laindi ae
... Where there is no waxing and waning

Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae, Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae
What’s on the tongue must be said

(chorus) Na Raindee Ae

Ik laazim baat adab di ae
A point to be noted if I may ...

Saanu baat maloomi sab di ae
... I know the eternal secret ...

Har har vich soorat rabb di ae
... Within each of us is the face of God ...

Kitte zaahir kitte chhup behndi ae
... Sometimes visible, and yet sometimes hidden it flows ...

Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae, Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae
What’s on the tongue must be said


Ae tilkan baazi vehrha ae
The world is a slippery place

Thamm thamm ke ttur anhera ae
Tread carefully for ‘tis dark

Varh andar wekho kehrha ae
Go into yourself and get to know the person there

Kyun khalkat baahar ddhunddindi ae
I wonder why people search unceasingly outside

Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae, Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae
What’s on the tongue must be said


Bullah shou asaan toun vakh nahi
Bullah, the beloved is not different from me ...

Bin shou te dujja kakh nahi
... And besides the beloved, there is naught ...

Parr vekhan vaali akh nahi
... But what is missing, is the discerning eye ...

Taain jaan judaiyaan sehndi ae
... And therefore we endure the pain of separation for a lifetime ...

Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae, Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae
Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae, Munh aayi baat na rehndi ae
What’s on the tongue must be said

Parh parh ilm kitaabaan da tu naam rakh leya qaazi
Learning from books by rote, you call yourself a scholar ...

Hath vich parh ke talvaaraan tu naam rakh leya ghaazi
Grasping a sword in your hand, you call yourself a warrior

Makke Madinay ghoom aya tu naam rakh leya haaji
Having visited Mecca and Medina you call yourself a pilgrim

Bullah tu ki haasil kita je yaar na rakhya raazi!
Bullah, what have you really accomplished, if you have not remained true to your friend!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Lesson in Ethics by an Army Officer

By Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch


It was the summer of 67. I was all of sixteen years old, had just finished my schooling from a prestigious boarding school and was on a sabbatical working out what to do with my life.

My father was a colonel in the army and had a year to go before retirement. We were living in a comfortable government bungalow in Ajmer but as far as material luxuries go, we didn’t have much; no car, no scooter and no refrigerator either – the status symbols of those days. Television had not yet spread its wings in the country and a small transistor radio was our means of keeping in touch with the rest of the world. We however, felt no sense of deprivation and the lack of amenities perhaps spurred our innate abilities to keep ourselves occupied in more meaningful ways.

During those days, it always upset me that father never let us use the office jeep for visiting friends, going to the market or seeing the various attractions which the town had to offer. My brothers, my sister and I would either cycle or walk to where ever we had to go and my mother would take a rickshaw for her occasional trips to the market. Father was the head of his department and could so easily have used service transport for his family had he been so inclined. Many government officials routinely did so but for father such an act was unthinkable. It was also unthinkable for us to question him about it. One evening however, I mustered up the courage and did the unthinkable.

‘Why don’t you let us use the office jeep sometimes, Dad?’ I asked. We were sitting in the drawing room and father had just poured himself a stiff tot of rum. Mom looked at me quizzically, wondering where such a conversation would lead but refrained from saying anything. Dad turned, took a sip from his drink, looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘I would son, but the pear would not go down my throat’.

‘What pear?’ I asked.

Father waited awhile and then narrated this most amazing tale. ‘When I was a kid your age, or perhaps a shade younger than you are now’, he said, ‘I had gone out to play with my friends. On the farther side of the village there was a beautiful orchard where the first lot of pears had ripened on the trees. Which young bunch of kids could resist such a temptation? Well, we crawled under the fence and with an intrepidity that would have done a cat burglar proud, took all we could carry before scampering back to safety. I took my share of the loot home, as proud as a warrior returning home with conquests from a famous victory’.

‘Your grandfather was sitting on his favourite chair on the verandah smoking his hookah. It was over a decade since your grandfather had retired from the army, but he was as fit as a fiddle, still had the strength of an ox and his back was ramrod straight. I still remember the scene so vividly; the dusk settling in, the shadows lengthening and the snow clad mountains jutting out in pristine purity over a pale blue sky that was gradually darkening.

The stillness of the evening was broken only by the murmur of the breeze and the occasional gurgling rattle like sound emanating from your grandfather’s hookah’. Father paused, as if reliving those days and then continued with his tale. ‘I ambled over to him’ he said ‘and offered him a plate with the freshly cut fruit. I don’t know what I expected to get from him; praise maybe, appreciation perhaps or possibly just an acknowledgement of my boyish skill? What I got, however, was something totally different. Your grandfather instantly divined the source of the offering and its method of procurement, but he didn’t say anything about that to me. He simply said that the pear would not go down his throat as he found it impossible to eat anything that had not been honestly obtained. There was no admonishment in his tone, no raising of the voice in anger, just a quiet statement of fact. And then your grandfather let the matter rest’.

Dad paused again, looked at me and continued, ‘I took the plate back with an overriding sense of pain and guilt. Away from your grandfather’s eyes, I took a bite of the pear to see if there was any truth in the assumption. Well, the pear wouldn’t go down my throat either. So next morning, I confessed all to the owner of the orchard. I was feeling a bit wretched but atonement was called for if I was ever to live down the sense of shame I felt. The owner, a distant relative, gave me a stern look all through my sorry narrative, but once again there was no outrage, no admonishment. Putting his hand over my shoulder, he took me inside his house and to my utter surprise, presented me with a basket of fresh ripe pears.’ There was silence for some time, then dad continued, ‘life offers many temptations, son, but some of us cannot get the pear down our throats’.

It’s a lesson I never forgot. Life offers so many temptations, so many pears. Having retired now after having served with honour as a third generation officer in the Indian Army, I hope this is a legacy which my children will carry to the future.

Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch, Additional Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS).

August 5th, 2010 .

Friday, July 16, 2010

Excerpt from The 100/0 Principle, by Al Ritter


What is the most effective way to create and sustain great relationships with others? It's The 100/0 Principle: You take full responsibility (the 100) for the relationship, expecting nothing (the 0) in return.

Implementing The 100/0 Principle is not natural for most of us. It takes real commitment to the relationship and a good dose of self-discipline to think, act and give 100 percent.

The 100/0 Principle applies to those people in your life where the relationships are too important to react automatically or judgmentally. Each of us must determine the relationships to which this principle should apply. For most of us, it applies to work associates, customers, suppliers, family and friends.

STEP 1 - Determine what you can do to make the relationship work...then do it. Demonstrate respect and kindness to the other person, whether he/she deserves it or not.

STEP 2 - Do not expect anything in return. Zero, zip, nada.

STEP 3 - Do not allow anything the other person says or does (no matter how annoying!) to affect you. In other words, don't take the bait.

STEP 4 - Be persistent with your graciousness and kindness. Often we give up too soon, especially when others don't respond in kind. Remember to expect nothing in return.

At times (usually few), the relationship can remain challenging, even toxic, despite your 100 percent commitment and self-discipline. When this occurs, you need to avoid being the "Knower" and shift to being the "Learner." Avoid Knower statements/ thoughts like "that won't work," "I'm right, you are wrong," "I know it and you don't," "I'll teach you," "that's just the way it is," "I need to tell you what I know," etc.

Instead use Learner statements/thoughts like "Let me find out what is going on and try to understand the situation," "I could be wrong," "I wonder if there is anything of value here," "I wonder if..." etc. In other words, as a Learner, be curious!

Principle Paradox

This may strike you as strange, but here's the paradox: When you take authentic responsibility for a relationship, more often than not the other person quickly chooses to take responsibility as well. Consequently, the 100/0 relationship quickly transforms into something approaching 100/100. When that occurs, true breakthroughs happen for the individuals involved, their teams, their organizations and their families.