Saturday, October 14, 2017

An Entrepreneurial Journey and a lesson

As the Leader of a reasonably large sized team, the team does have ups and down. Sometimes, an initiative we design does not see light of day or is rejected by stakeholders. Sometimes, it is a moment of frustration. Sometimes it is dejection. These things keep happening.

One of my managers told me the other day, "The one thing I see about is a never say die quality. Whatever happens - be it the worst thing - you only see it as an opportunity and you always see the positive side"

As a leader, we do not have a choice. You cannot be dejected or have a hang dog expression. It is important to keep the spirits up. It is important to show a positive direction to people.

And when you go off on the entrepreneurial journey, some amount of optimism is needed. Well, correction. A large dose of unbridled optimism is required. And this time, there is no team. All that optimism is for you, with you, inside you.

I have read all I can about this. How to handle rejection. How not to click refresh 847 times in a minute to wait for the email that you expect to receive. The difference between role and identity. Have many sets of small victories to celebrate. And so on.

The entrepreneurs journey is a lonely journey.

It is also a deeply personal journey.

It is a journey of a loss of identity.

It is like running to a cliff with a glider on your back. The glider has not really been tested in the open air. It works well in closes spaces where there is no draft or vagaries of weather.

Will you fly, will you fall? Will you fall and then a timely updraft will rescue you? Can you read the wind? Or will you land safely enough to take the next attempt.

That glider is your identity. The old one. Its gone. Weathered. You need to build a new one.

And discover a new identity.

It is like the hero's journey...Fly...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The perils of working from home

530 am...wake up and plan to do a whole lot of work

530 to 6 - snooze all alarms

6 to 7...rush hour. Kids are sent to school...Wife is off to work

7 to 9...a morning walk, breakfast and just about time to open the laptop. What a beautiful day apt for working...

9 am...Wife calls. I am in a meeting. Please tell the maid what has to be cooked for lunch.

9 to 10...start work by checking email - click some random link and browse 71 sites in the name of research (but actually twitter, news, random social media)

10 am...Maid walks in complaining about traffic. Instructions are passed on to her on what is to be made.

10.01 am...Maid returns with a list, saying, unless these items are purchased, cooking wont happen for the day.

11 am...1 hour wasted in shopping for essentials. Day is saved.

11.05 am...Maid wants to share stories of her life - all pointing to how she badly needs a raise after last months raise. In the spirit of employee engagement, give her a patient ear.

11.30 am...message from wife. Many bills to be paid. Some plumber, pest control, water purifier repair,  <insert any handyman> is supposed to come. Anyway today you have no meetings, so I have asked them to drop in.

11.30 onwards till 3 - try to do a bit of work, but lunch and post lunch hibernation have to fought, plus various people are ringing the doorbell

3 pm...All service people have been seen off. Kids are back from school.

330pm...They dont like anything that the maid has prepared for snacks. They protest by going on hunger strike. Negotiation skills deployed.

4 pm...Maid protests that kids are not having milk now and want it give it all to the cat. On arrival to event site, cat is overjoyed and is purring loudly while kids are pleased. Negotiation skills deployed again. Cat is clearly displeased with this turn of events. Pass some milk to the cat as well...remaining milk is quickly finished by the kids...Open laptop again and get distracted by being called to referee three impossible to decide arguments for the next half an hour...

430 pm...Kids want to go out and play. What about homework? They will do it later it seems...not that I was interested, so permission is granted - anyway they were only informing.

430 to 5...irritated that no work is done since morning...realise one courier has to be sent...Go and courier said invoice.

5 to 6 - Realise that there was an email that came in a few days ago that wanted 23 corrections in one invoice that was sent two months ago - and make those corrections - check, double and triple check.

6 pm..Wife is back...

6 pm onwards...Now I get to work

6 to 10 - work, hover to the kitchen, munch, work, browse, reply mails, payments, invoices among other things

10 pm..wife - you are never available when you work at home...

Science Fiction can make you creative?

Science fiction can make you creative?

Of course it can...

Anything can make you creative - including all the "40 ways to become creative" stuff that you see on Pinterest, but question is, are you open to the possibilities your mind creates? Is your mind trained to create those possibilities? And therein lies the answer...

Any technique - preferably done over a reasonably regular timeframe - makes the mind attuned to more divergent thinking. But very often, instead of using those edges of divergent thinking, we end up softening them to make them convergent thereby negating the experience itself...

Developing thought...

Monday, October 2, 2017

Teaching students

As part of an assignment - I got a chance to train students. A very different audience than my regular corporate audience and I took as a challenge. And it was fun. So what is the difference? Mind well, but these are the generation that will soon be in the corporate world - and some of them already are - the digital generation.

Couple of things struck me...

These kids are super articulate  - not that we dont know it...
They were born with the internet - so it is second nature to them
Awareness about the world is high - very high - but awareness around (state, city, culture) seems to be on the lower side
If you are going to 'teach' them, you better add value (true in all cases)
If they have a doubt/thought/comment/wisecrack - they will share it - accept it - and it makes the interaction richer
They are hungry to learn - but only those who put in the time and engage in focussed effort will cross over the inflection point (pretty obvious at any point)
The bell curve of awareness is wide - some are well read - mostly more than you as a facilitator - while some are into stuff you have no clue about - music (and its flavours) or some such thing
They are trapped into certain methods of thinking - and few have looked out of the 'matrix' so to say, and therefore worldviews are still archaic - so, I did see a significant element of 'group' think.
Great enthusiasm, great energy - and no baggage of the socialism years - they are gung-ho about everything that comes their way

All in all, it was a great interaction spread over a few weeks...

The Leadership Moment

The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem views leadership through the lens of 9 stories - most of which I was not familiar with - because the stories are not the typical cliched leadership stories one mostly hears about.

Except for the story of the Apollo 13, all the other 8 stories were new to me. And unlike many other books, it does not make the leader seem bad when things go awry - and that is an interesting lesson - because most leaders, like most human beings, do try their best given a particular circumstances.

The way the book looks at the leaders and draws lessons from each story into different actions and ties it all together is unique.

And it also takes a non-conventional approach to leadership - Mountaineering, Forest Fires, Non-profit and so on and with varying scales of problems and with human life costs involved - which are vastly different from corporate leadership - where the scale and costs are vastly different.

This is a book that makes you pause and think.

I especially enjoyed reading the mountaineering and the fire story - these are the kind of things that are never replicated in our genteel corporate surroundings. And I definitely recommend this book for someone who wants to really reflect on leadership!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A workshop for 200 people

Can you craft a workshop for 200 odd people? Was the underlying question of a leisurely call a few months ago. The idea was enticing, ticked all the boxes of creativity, comfort zone (out of), challenge, credibility (of who it came from) and purpose (who it was for).

And I found myself saying yes.

As soon I kept the phone down - I began to think. I have done large format working sessions, handled large offsite gatherings, given speeches at conferences and spoken at panel discussions - but none of them were 4 hour long and none of them were workshops - with this level of interactivity.

And then began the planning. Creating an xls with the plan, the detailing of each segment, curating content for each slide - running it through the lens of 200 people audience, talking to people who think differently - thinking of audience engagement, audience interest and takeaways - planning each aspect of the workshop, scripting, rehearsing, inserting an activity, anticipating questions.

And then as it progressed, making run time adjustments - using an app, design a learning map, plan interactions, questions, breaks, fun and dives....

Suffice it to say that all the hard work paid off...with the session leaving people asking for more. So, well, thanks for the idea @Koushik!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Brainstorming for Khaki Tours

I love brainstorming sessions. Whether I am a participant or a facilitator. So, when, Khaki Tours invited me over for a Brainstorming session - I jumped into it with both feet. The session generated a whole bunch of ideas - as you might imagine - what with people passionate about the idea of heritage evangelism. And with Bharat Gothoskar (the man behind the idea of Khaki Tours itself) fine tuning the aspects of the session in his own creative ways, it was probably the second best way to spend a rainy Saturday morning (other than being a heritage walk). 
The venue (Ministry of New) was charming. The session structure, the timing, the people (everyone with unique skills and passion) - were energetic. Room filled with post -its, charts, presentations - and yes - with plans to takeover the world!
Here is seeing this start up grow in all the million direction it has plans in...