Organizations

Why is empathy so hard to experience?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the thoughts and feelings of another. Empathy is prescribed as an essential attribute for leaders and managers.  When you are able to understand and identify with the thoughts and feelings of the people you work with, you will succeed. Empathy is such a natural human response to life,why then is it prescribed? After all, nobody prescribes breathing as a way to live. We breathe on our own. And so do we empathise on our own, don’t we? We instantly empathise when a stranger on a train or a flight speaks about a recent bereavement. We maintain peace and quiet for a colleague hard at work, even though usually we like to ruffle their feathers; because we know that their next meeting could be career-defining. We can identify. We can relate. On the other hand, social life and work-progress is also based on moderating or disregarding empathy. A hard thing to accept, for sure! Our much loved team leader has fought hard at a meeting of higher-ups. He did his best for all…

LeaderPlay – Compensating for flawed employment

Sometimes, I believe that compensation is the perfect word for high salary packages. As leadership positions dwindle, how else can you compensate an ambitious performer who had been misled into believing he or she will be at the top of the heap one day. The unspoken truth about personal development within organisations is that the potential for self-growth for individuals working under the same setup for long is limited. There is no real exposure to the sheer range and diversity of the world outside. This exposure makes so much of a difference.You compensate the ambitious performer for not being able to provide them that; after all, you want your best racehorses cooped up in the stable. Funnily enough, the organisation can avoid this compensation by rethinking why it has to prevent employees from seeking substantive growth experiences elsewhere, if not outright multiple employment. And it is a win for the organisation as well. Enabling your employee to engage uninhibitedly with the world is the best engagement strategy one can think of. Universities who demand that full-time faculty also take on…

LeaderPlay – Are we truly developing high-potentials?

From the place I stay, there are two routes to reach a much frequented destination. 1- The Standard route ( shorter distance-wise, longer commuting time-wise) 2 – The Faster route ( longer distance-wise, shorter commuting time-wise) As is expected, the faster route is chosen. The other day, on Google Maps, for some reason, both routes showed the same estimated time. I still chose the so-called faster route. I believe most people would do that. Most Mumbaikars – as Mumbai residents are called – do the same thing when they are travelling by local trains. If the slow train is in front and the fast train is expected much later, they wait for the fast train even if both trains are expected to take the same time, or even if, the slow one is reaching earlier. Why? In their mind, people disregard the train waiting time and get a kick out of seeing the fast train breeze past the stations where it won’t make a halt. We let our minds trick us into feeling good! This got me thinking about the…

Agility – Why is it elusive in organisations

Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily in any direction. An agile organisation anticipates, senses and responds to its external environment in ways that create a competitive advantage. Organisational leaders often feel dragged down by the weight of an organisation’s structure and the rigidity of its processes. Being in vantage points, they can see or perceive the workflow and blockages. These leaders are best positioned to appreciate the value of agility in making an organisation nimble enough to seize fleeting opportunities and make quick comebacks. If that is the case, why are they not able to bring themselves to change and be more agile? And what can be done about it? There are a few aspects of how leaders function in organisations that can explain why it is hard to embrace agility in organisations. Addressing these aspects with a systems perspective can point the way forward. Sticking to Current Competence – An organisation is a system. How a system performs is a result of the interaction of its parts, not a consequence of how the parts function separately.…

Peter Drucker – Why does Emergency Room in a hospital exist? Brilliant!

Can anybody tell doctors what a hospital’s emergency room is for? Of course, not. Turns out Peter Drucker did. A legend in his lifetime, Drucker was once consulted by a hospital. They wanted him to help the Emergency Room (ER) of a hospital become more effective. Drucker started where he always does – mission. A mission statement answers the question – Why do we exist? Drucker asked the stakeholders in ER, “What is your mission?” At this point, put yourself in the shoes of the stakeholder. When I do, I answer, “The mission of ER is to save the life of everybody who is brought in” That is why it exists. Isn’t that true? People are wheeled into the place because it is, as the name suggests, an emergency! A life is at stake. We must save the life of this person. For Drucker, my answer won’t cut it. To him, the mission had to be so clear that it spells out in operational terms what to do next to achieve it. And that is his real genius! If we go by…

The Elphinstone Stampede – Getting back on our feet

On 29th September 2017, an overcrowded foot over bridge at Elphinstone railway station, Mumbai witnessed a horrific stampede. 23 people died. What can we, as a society of organizations, do in the aftermath of the Elphinstone stampede? Let us explore the way forward using systems thinking. It might be a good idea to start with a description of the mental model we carry in our collective consciousness. Mental models are the very foundation, the source of how we create our own social reality. Mental Models Here is an articulation of the current mental models as I perceive them. ” Mumbai is the city of dreams. The financial capital. The corporate hub. Everything worth striving for is in Mumbai. We must go to work where the offices and establishments are. The best way to travel? The Mumbai locals – hands down. Cheaper & faster than anything else. Sure, it’s risky. Rush-hour.Packed trains, people falling off, getting run over. Part of the deal. We have made peace with it. Brave everything you encounter because there is a job to be done and food to…

Why clarifying stakeholder expectations matters to HR

Every organization talks about people being its most important asset. If they walk their talk, the HR ( Human Resources) function would also be the most important function. Why? because everybody assumes, HR -as the name suggests – is all about people. The reality is that HR is nowhere secure about it’s presence in the scheme of things. Clarifying stakeholder expectations is a good way to plot HR on the map. Here is a Q&A format exploration of the same. Have taken HR in the public sector as an example – with three primary stakeholders – employees, officers and unions. HR in A Public Sector Undertaking What is the Fundamental expectation of all stakeholders? Answer: Make it easy for us to perform our core task & validate the very reason why we exist. Why do the stakeholders expect this from HR? Answer: Human beings are the life-giving element of any enterprise. All capital,equipment & resources are deadwood unless human beings engineer sparks of performance by working together. HR as a function begins its work on this premise. This helps HR…

Thoughts on the TATA Group challenge

As a teenager, 23 years ago, I remember being struck by something unsual in the newspapers one day. All of them were carrying one single news story on their front page. It was the obituary of JRD Tata. And on the rest of the page, there were vignettes or anecdotes from JRD’s life. Usually, political icons got such coverage. Why such a coverage for an industrialist then, I asked myself.  As I read and devoured everything in multiple papers and magazines, I got my answer. JRD was so much more than an industrialist & a business leader. JRD showed how much a business can contribute to a nation and society if it is driven by values & enlightened leadership. In your teens, you are moved more by ideas of justice and equality than by those of making money. To know that a business can reconcile such values & make money was a revelation to me. Reading about JRD made such a huge impact then. As I read about what is happening at the TATA group now, I am not dismayed…

Leadership this month : Taking time-out

The volatile Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte was asked about his response in an anticipated meeting; should Barack Obama, the US president, talk about rampant human rights violations and extra-judicial killings under his regime. In his native tongue, he said he would call Obama, ‘son of a bitch’. Obama’s response? All he said was that given the less likelihood of a productive and constructive conversation, he would call off the meeting. Which he did. No grand riposte. No grand-standing as the President of the United States of America. The Srilankan cricket team won their Test cricket series against the mighty australians 3-0, a whitewash. In the process, Australia lost their Test no.1 ranking. The Australian cricket captain, Steve Smith was sent back to Australia during the one-day series on the grounds of rest and preparation for the upcoming South African series at home. Of course, the decision was criticised as a sign of weak leadership. How can the captain of a beleaguered team go home like that? Well, he did. Under new captain, David Warner, the Australians won the one-day series…

Leadership This Month : Missed Opportunities

Institutional Leaders with a historical legacy are faltering in the present. The International Olympic Association (IOC) & the Republican party establishment in the United States, in particular. The International Olympic Association (IOC) Russia, a sporting superpower was recently indicted in an independent anti-doping enquiry for establishment-backed doping by Russian athletes in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. Imagine hosting the Oympics and playing dirty on the side to help your country athletes win. This goes against the very spirit of everything that the Olympics stands for. With the Rio Olympics so near, the IOC had to respond and act fast. What did it do? The bare minimum was to bar Russian track and field athletes from Rio 2016. And that it did, though even here, there is a provision to get them in. But the IOC did not impose a blanket ban on all Russian participation in Rio. A blanket ban would have sent a very strong, but much needed message to all member nations and their sports-establishments that the IOC is uncompromisingly committed in its fight against doping and any other…