Categories
Leadership

Avoid This Management Mistake – Don’t Shoot the Messenger

What does it mean?

“Don’t Shoot the Messenger”, it’s a common adage we all have heard. Shooting or Punishing the messenger in management context means getting angry at an employee who tells us something we don’t like hearing or expressing disdain against the whistleblowers. 

This is more commonplace than we believe. It’s so ingrained in our habits that we don’t even realize that we are making one of the worst mistakes when it comes to managing people. You can find many examples all around yourself both in personal and work life. In managing people, this is one of the most common mistakes committed by us.  

Don’t shoot the messenger – it seems so obvious. But, just to make your realize how ubiquitous it is, let me share some examples –

  1. You’re in a sales team meet and a team member breaks the news that a big deal just fell apart. Mostly the first reaction is an under the breath or a loud expletive depending on the culture of the organization and how cultured you are.
  2. A customer support executive told you that a customer is asking for a refund because she is not satisfied with our product. Your first reaction towards the executive will be that of disgust. You also start believing that the executive is incompetent more than she actually is.

What harm can it do?

Punishing the messenger does more harm than we think. I believe it’s the biggest enemy of growth mindset. People clearly start looking at you as one with a fixed mindset, not open to feedback. Remember, constructive feedback on people, products and processes is essential for any improvement in your well oiled organization.

The person delivering the message or the people who see you getting mad on the person who discloses the news that you don’t like, start perceiving that –

  • You’re a bad listener
  • You’re just passing the buck (if you’re also responsible for the situation)
  • You’re misattributing the blame (if someone else is responsible)
  • You’re not open to any criticism of your work or your product or your people 

How to avoid it?

Whistleblowers are extremely crucial to weed out negative people who creep into our organization. They are the ones who will help you keep politics, corruption and exploitation away from your organization.  

The best way to avoid the urge of getting angry at people who bring in bad news or pass you the feedback from customers or users of your product, is to THANK them. Don’t shoot the messenger, thank them.

They are helping you and your organization become better by passing the most relevant inputs for change – feedback, criticism, suggestions and so on. 

They deserve appreciation and not your rebuke. So every time you get a message, which might be unpleasant to hear but can be useful in the long term if acted upon, say THANK YOU.  

Categories
Productivity Hacks

Minimum Viable Progress – Productivity Hack to Create Value

The biggest drain on our limited willpower is to start something. You might have observed that once you start, you get the momentum or the inertia to continue. Hence you should learn more about the concept of minimum viable progress.  

One major reason for that is when we think about a task in its entirety, it looks overwhelming. Our mind starts playing games to keep us away from any feeling of discomfort arising out of the task in hand demanding our efforts.  

However, there is a way out. 

Psychologically, once you start something, even if with a small act, you send a signal to the brain that what you’re doing is not far beyond your comfort zone. You’ve taken the first step, which is the most crucial. Remember, 

“Journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”

Minimal Viable Progress

MVP is a very commonly used abbreviation in the startup lingo. In startup parlance it stands for “Minimal Viable Product”. The intention is to build the simplest possible product that will be useful to the intended user, before the actual intended product evolves. Idea is not to do shabby work. On the contrary, you develop a better product because of including user feedback you collected with the MVP.

Similarly, we can devise our own version of MVP i.e. Minimum Viable Progress. We can start asking this question to ourselves, what is the smallest amount of progress that will be useful and valuable to the task we are trying to get done. To summarize, I am quoting these lines which I picked up from the treasure of ancient wisdom, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching

Confront the difficult

while it is still easy;

Accomplish the great task 

by a series of small acts.

Minimum Viable Preparation

Any creative work, any big project or any huge accomplishment requires preparation. There are 2 ways to prepare –

  1. Late and Big
  2. Early and Small

Late and big is more common. That’s when you keep postponing the work till the end and then you do the work required by pulling an all nighter. The work might get completed, but that’s like heavy lifting for your mental faculties. Not the most healthy and productive way for long term efficiency. 

The alternative is to start early and small. If getting focused attention is a problem, try this easy time management trick to get started. Do MVP – minimum viable progress / preparation.    

Wish to write an article, write a couple of sentences

Wish to make a presentation, open a power-point file and put down your thoughts. 

Wish to build a product, make a concept note.

Wish to design something, make a rough sketch on paper. 

Wish to prepare for a speech, pen down a few points. 

Start small, but start early. 

Word of caution, if you’ve tendencies of being a perfectionist at work, this can become counter productive. Your urge to perfect your creation, can push you into the never ending cycle of small improvements. But here you need to remind yourself that 

Done is better than perfect. 

Categories
Productivity Hacks

Effective Trick for Reducing Screen Time for Kids

Screens all around us and their non-stop capability to keep us entertained, are turning us into screen zombies. Almost all parents have this question in their mind – “How to reduce screen time for kids?”

People with kids at home will be able to relate that our kids are specially impacted because of so much screen time that has crept into their daily routine. 

Most of us, as parents, are concerned about the ever increasing impact it has on studies and their mental health. For many kids, the games on mobiles or playstations have seriously reduced their time spent in physical outdoor sports. In certain cases, excessive attachment to the screen is negatively impacting the social behavior of the young ones. 

As parents, we want the best for our kids and any effort to keep them away from screens results in a squabble and is met with friction.

How to Reduce Screen Time for Kids?

I got this very useful idea from Greg Mckeown’s book titled Essentialism – The disciplined pursuit of less. My wife and I decided to try this parenting idea. We implemented this with my kids and found it super effective and hence sharing with you. 

We introduced a token system. We gave 15 tokens each to both my sons every Sunday. Each token can be traded for 1 hour of screen time. Alternatively, each token can be exchanged for Rs.10 on the next Sunday. You can decide the amount of money and number of tokens based on your circumstances.

This worked like magic. Their screen time reduced drastically. From approximately 28 hours a week to 7-10 hours a week. That’s a whopping 75% reduction. This happened without any haggling or push from our side. 

Maybe it was the motivation generated out of additional cash of Rs.70-80 per week per son. Or maybe it was just the excitement of showing off self-control. Whatever it was, it worked very smoothly for us.

Let me share another effective but little more demanding approach to answer the nagging question – how to reduce screen time for kids?

Make your kids learn trivial stuff

They will enjoy the activity part and in the process you will teach them important life skills. You can chose the activity based on the age of the child. Mentioning some activities –

  • washing their clothes
  • dusting and cleaning
  • gardening
  • arranging their books
  • arranging their wardrobe
  • cleaning their shoes
  • writing an actual letter to grand parents
  • fabric painting
  • basic cooking (be careful) like making Maggie or pop-corn
  • making basic beverage like a lemonade
  • watering the plants

There are great advantages of learning small but fun things when kids are bored. Share in comments other activities which you have tried.

Systems like this can help us bring the desired results both at home and at work. To implement any system like this, start small and then slowly improve it. Any sudden or drastic change is normally deterred by people. So start small and recognize or incentivize people on small progress.

Categories
Productivity Hacks

Easy Time Management Trick for Better Productivity

To use any time management trick, you need to understand that your attention or ability to concentrate on something is the scarcest but most precious resource you have to do amazing work in your life.

I strongly believe your attention span or your ability to do deep work, is directly proportional to the value you can create. This is especially true for any knowledge worker be it coder, copywriter or fashion designer or manager.

If you seriously want to do good in your career, you need focus on important things which you are supposed to do.

But guess what, in our hyper distracted world, our attention span is at the rock bottom. There are scores of messages waiting for you on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger at any moment. Social media feeds are designed to lure you and make you crave for more and more novelty and thus leave you distracted from your work.

Don’t get scared, I am not asking you to quit social media. So, what’s the simple time management trick I am suggesting for doing deep work?

Time Management Trick – Time Blocking

Divide your work day into time slots. At the onset of the day, fill one activity in each slot. You can also club together similar smaller activities and work on them in a slot. I also believe seeking clarity about your work by asking right questions to right people, can save lot of time.

If your main KRA is to make sales call, you can have your first 120 minutes (including the breaks, if required) slots of fresh calling followed by next slot of 30 minutes for responding to emails. Followed again by 90 minutes of 3rd slot of follow up calls.

You can fit in breaks with in the time slots. Or you can make “break” as a time slot of 15 or 30 minutes. Breaks are very important to refresh and restart. You can arrange more slots based on what work you’re supposed to do.

With trial and error, you will achieve a perfect day divided into time blocks where you do only one thing by removing distractions as much as possible. Check out this complete guide on time blocking and related techniques to master them.

If you’re a manager and you’re responsible for variety of things including team management, your time blocking schedule can look something like this –

  • 9-10 am – Making client proposals
  • 10-11 am – Checking & replying to emails & social media messages
  • 11-12 am Team meeting or one-to-ones
  • And so on!

Trust me, this one change of using time blocking to arrange your work day, can save 2 hours wastage each done. Plus, it makes you more productive, less stressed and happier! So, start time blocking, start rocking!

Categories
Personal Growth Productivity Hacks

Grow Faster By Helping Your Boss to Make Decisions

You might be frustrated with your boss not replying to your emails where you asked him or her for a decision. You always believe that you would have been able to do your job perfectly, if your boss would have given timely answers to your questions.  

In short, you’re frustrated with a boss not willing to take decisions and it’s a common scenario hindering the growth of many promising individuals like yourself.   

Let me be blunt and tell you that you’re partially responsible for this situation. Hear me out. 

Decision making is not easy. It drains you of your mental energies. Psychologists have named this phenomenon as decision fatigue. Moreover, not all individuals are wired to be good and quick decision makers. So how to help your boss in better decision making?

Make it easy for your boss. Make it simple for him/ her to make a quick and good decision. 

Imagine you asking him a single line question (say on email), like “Can we implement a customer support software in our organization?”

And the answer never comes. You get frustrated. 

But when you think of it deeply, you’ve put the onus of all the hard work on him or her. Better approach is to give him or her all the information needed to make a good decision.

To Help in Better Decision Making

Follow the C-A-O approach.

The information you give should define the Context, that is what’s the current scenario and why do you want certain decision to be made.

Share the various Alternatives which are available as per your understanding of the situation. Do your background work well before laying out options.

Layout the possible Outcomes of implementing each alternative. Try to give impact of the alternatives in measurable terms like cost saving or revenue increase or man-days saved and so on.

In conclusion of that email or talk, present the case (very briefly) for the best alternative in your opinion. That will nudge your boss to take the decision as per your wish.

So, if you help you boss make quick decisions, you make his life easy plus add value to the organization by making things faster and smarter. So go ahead and help your boss. And see happy growth in your career!

Categories
Personal Growth

Seek Clarity for Success at Work

Today I am sharing with you one Mantra that helped me a lot in my work life. Something which can make your work life interesting, fulfilling and stress-free. It’s a 2 word mantra –  

SEEK CLARITY

I believe most of the people struggle in their work life not because they are lazy or they lack intent or they lack capabilities or intellect. They struggle because they don’t have clarity with respect to their work. 

Think of this like, you got out of your home ready to travel but you don’t know where to go. You’ve no clarity on the destination. You have to go nowhere. And you will reach nowhere. That’s your work life. Maybe that’s your personal life too. 

If that’s you – Don’t be scared. Don’t feel guilty. But you gotta do something. What?

Simple, seek clarity

You should have clarity on

  1. Clarity of Purpose – Why?
  2. Clarity of Responsibility – Who?
  3. Clarity of Plan – How?

Seek clarity from yourself. From others around you. From your boss, your colleagues and so on. 

Don’t hesitate to ask questions – about your work, your KRA, the value you’re adding to the organization, about your growth and so on. 

Everyday morning, you should start with a dedicated 10 minutes “clarity seeking time”. Plan your day out. Set daily goals like I will finish coding this module today. I will make 80 calls today. I will write 3 articles today. And so on. 

Trust me, if you do this you will be moving in the right direction and with less stress. 

So be a clarity seeker from today! All the best!

Categories
Hindi Kavita

राम का सहारा

कुछ बड़ा कर गुजरने की चाह में
भटकते रहता है तू इस जग की राह में।

जब तू ऊपर उठता है पीछे सब कुछ छूटता है
तब तू राम से मिलता है जो भीतर तेरे बस्ता है।

“राम” तो बस नाम है, पर नाम के होते बड़े काम है
बिना नाम के तू उसे कैसे जानेगा,
जो तेरे भीतर है उसे कैसे पहचानेगा।

मूँद नैन और देख भीतर, सब कुछ वहां पायेगा
जो कुछ वहां ना है, वह किसी काम भी नहीं आएगा।

ले राम का सहारा
यह जग होगा तुम्हारा
हर चाह का होगा निस्तारा
तर जाएगा यह संसारा।

Categories
Personal Growth

Let Things Go

I believe the sunk cost fallacy is the most common bias infesting a large portion of the human race. We know that it leads to poor investments, unfulfilling career and taxing relationships. But we are not good at cutting our losses and moving forward.

Wastage is Bad?

The reason for this is the contradictory belief inculcated in us since childhood that – We should not waste anything. Wastage is bad behavior.

Thus even if we get to know that we have made a not-so-good decision with our career or investment or project, etc., it’s difficult for us to abandon and move on. It feels like we’ll be wasting the time or money invested in it so far. So we keep investing more & thus losing more.

Because of our loss aversion and tendency of valuing what we own more than their actual worth, we fail to let go of a bad investment or a not-so-rewarding job or project.

The solution is to ask the question, if I’ve to do it afresh, will I do it? If NO is the answer, then just get out of it.

Winners don’t Quit?

Another myth which has been ingrained deeply in our conscience is – Winners don’t Quit. 

This statement is a very powerful motivator to generate conscientiousness. But it’s an over simplified truth. In fact, winners quit all the time. Yes, they don’t quit because they don’t work, they quit when the project doesn’t work as they expected. They know how to cut losses. 

To win a big war you have to let go of the urge of winning every battle. We need to choose our battles wisely. If by mistake we get into a wrong battle, we need to turn away and choose to look into a better direction. 

Hard Work Pays Off?

The most common teaching across all cultures is Hard work pays off. No doubt it does. But to whom? And How much? 

What it also does is, create a strong urge of constantly keeping oneself busy to avoid the guilt of not working hard enough. This in turn leads to shallow work which drains out our energy and leads to no growth. We feel stretched in a thousand directions with negligible progress in any. Better path to productivity is being very selective in what we do. Do less, do better. Learn to say no to all things which are not fitting into your bigger purpose. 

Sometimes you have to let things go so there’s room for better things to come into your life.

Categories
Personal Growth

Being Happy is Being Successful

There’s enough scientific evidence that being happy brings success. This is contrary to our deep rooted beliefs and actions.

We have been hardwired to believe that being successful precedes being happy. Well-being in our life can only come after we are successful. The way societies and education systems are structured post industrial revolution across the globe, we work and study hard to achieve success. More often than not, this style of living is coupled with stress, anxiety and other negative emotions. These emotions are opposite of how happiness can be defined. 

Definition of Happiness

Happiness is the experience of frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, and anger. 

The above definition is given by Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues in their study on The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?

I feel the definition could have been a little broader to include a sense of belongingness and having a purpose in life. However, for our purpose this is good enough.

Another crucial point to note is that the amount of time spent being happy is far more important than the intensity of the feeling of happiness. 

What brings happiness?

There have been multiple philosophies on what factors contribute to our happiness. At times these are even contradictory to each other. For your academic understanding you might like to delve deeper in some of the important ones like Epicurean Happiness and Stoic Happiness Triangle

A Harvard study on adult development found that the quality of our social relationships is the most important factor influencing our long term happiness. 

There are many other factors which influence an individual’s happiness. However, I particularly like the 50-10-40 formula of happiness given by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. According to this 50% of our happiness can be attributed to our genes, 10% to our circumstances and 40% to our attitude, optimism or our internal state of mind.  The numbers might not be accurate but it gives us a very important clue that we can control a considerable part of our happiness. Being happy can also be the result of very simple things in your life like learning trivial stuff regularly.

How does happiness result in success?

When you’re high-spirited you’re better prepared to handle work pressure and the resultant stress. This positively impacts your productivity and creativity.  

Secondly, when you’re perceived as a good-humored and radiant individual, you become socially more attractive. Thus you develop stronger bonds with other people in the organization because of the agreeableness. 

A cheerful individual, low on neuroticism will be emotionally more stable and thus more resilient in tough times and difficult situations.  

All the above factors result in personal success in the long term for any individual. 

Pursuit of happiness can be counter-productive. 

When our mind gets the signal that we are pursuing happiness, the first conclusion it makes is, we are not currently happy and we are trying to be happy. This exercise of trying to be happy will rarely be effective. 

A more effective way is to make ‘being happy’ as our default setting. By default I mean, the feeling you are in when you’re not encountering any other emotion like sadness or anger or guilt or sexually aroused. You’re just comfortable in your own skin. In short, if your default is being grumpy or tense or depressed, you should intentionally come back to being happy.  

As human beings, we are complex and we are capable of having a myriad cocktail of emotions at different times and at same time also. We should not try to suppress any feelings, whether good or bad. Being aware and acknowledging how you feel now, makes you better off in the long run.

Categories
Personal Growth

How Learning Trivial Stuff Can Help in Overall Learning

Our brain likes novelty and variety. The more we get exposed to new experiences, it will reward you by working more efficiently on the complicated stuff which you need to do in your work life. We will explore how we can use this principle for double advantage in our life – learning trivial stuff and thus being more prepared to learn more complicated stuff.

Most of our modern world addictions like social media or video games are designed around this behavior. In our hyper-distracted and hyper-connected world, the new experiences or the novel stimuli can come from various sources like playing video games, social media feeds, dating applications, watching movies and so on. In his bestseller book titled Hooked, author Nir Eyal reveals how successful companies create products people can’t resist by exploiting our love for novelty and variety. It’s a must read if you wish to build irresistible products.  

Novelty can also come from meeting new people, travelling, age old adventures like trekking, hiking, camping, diving and so on. Most importantly the urge of novelty can be satisfied by regularly learning new things.     

Get Novelty by Learning New Things

Learning simple new things keeps our mind stimulated and energized. Its impact on the brain is similar to what light exercise has on our body. In both cases we become better prepared for more challenging tasks ahead. 

There is a “novelty center” (scientific name being substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area or SN/VTA) of the brain, which responds to novel stimuli. This area is closely linked to areas of the brain called the hippocampus and the amygdala, both of which play large roles in learning and memory. You can read in detail about Novelty and the Brain here. 

Knowledge Illusion

Knowledge Illusion prevents us from genuinely being open to new learning. The collective knowledge of humans has increased beyond all limits. As a human race, we know so much more than our ancestors about everything from the expanse of our universe to the immense power of the smallest atom. 

However at an individual level we seem to be going backwards. Our ancestors, right from the hunter gatherers to the more recent ones, knew so much more about basic survival skills which helped them sail through their life. Progress in technology has made our life easier and we don’t have to learn doing many chores which were essential a few centuries back. 

Personally we understand too little about the technology being used all around us. We wrongly believe the collective knowledge as our own knowledge and we never make an effort to learn trivial stuff like cooking or stitching. If you wish to delve deeper into this concept you can read the book titled – The Knowledge Illusion: The myth of individual thought and the power of collective wisdom by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach. 

I’m not saying that these activities are crucial in our kind of hyper-served times. What I’m saying is, the advantage of frequently learning new and simple stuff goes beyond the obvious.  

What to Learn? 

For the purpose of using learning to satisfy the urge of novelty, we should keep it restricted to intellectually less demanding stuff. If we start learning complicated stuff, which is equivalent to heavy weight lifting for our brain, it can prove counterproductive. Our will power and our capacity to concentrate are limited and these also deplete very fast. Thus keeping our learning light and fun, will serve the desired purpose of enrich ing our mind with what it needs – novelty and giving us back what we need – more brain power for complicated stuff we need to tackle in our professional life.   

We can start developing basic skills in the most ubiquitous technology around us like electric equipment, computers, automobiles and so on. This will give us more power in case of emergencies. 

There are some slightly advanced skills like cooking or knitting or driving or swimming, which can be tackled in small chunks everyday. Cook one item a week, take driving lessons every alternate day and so on. Take it easy. Don’t start more than one learning at a time. Once you’re comfortable with one, take up another. Go low on the earlier one and high on the new one. However, if you feel like mastering any stuff which you picked up, it moves out of our consideration for this purpose. It becomes part of your more intellectually or physically demanding learning regime. 

Other Advantages of Learning Trivial Stuff

In the process of learning new simple stuff, Who knows you might be developing new and interesting hobbies like doodling, cooking, pottery, gardening and many more. 

Trivial, intellectually less demanding stuff gives you a much needed break from monotony of daily life

You’re better equipped to handle emergencies at home or outside like fixing a fan to fixing a car. Learning first-aid techniques, home-remedies, CPR, handling of fire equipment and similar other easy to garner skills can help you fight emergencies and save yourself and people around you.  

You’re better prepared to live life on your own if you know basic survival skills like cooking, driving, story-telling and so on.  

The most obvious place to start with is being more focused, being more interested in things around. Be inquisitive. Be a learner.