Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Business Analyst – A leader without the title!

Robin Sharma, a prolific writer in the leadership area wrote a book, and is one that I really like – “The leader who had no title.” As I was pondering about this book and also the quaint title, it dawned on me that a business analyst is really a leader without the title – and is always leading from within.

A definition of leadership that I read somewhere says – Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. In my work thus far, I have often faced this challenge where I had to lead and found myself short on authority; nevertheless a bit of facilitation skill development that I had stood me in good stead, and helped me achieve the bit that I have, and now I understand it a lot better – what I started doing was to create an environment where people could contribute – contribute everything really; the business case, the vision, the scope, and most importantly their “real” requirements.

All traits of leadership is woven into the skills of a Business Analyst. We have to use influence to get others to work to accomplish a task – many a times these tasks may not be what they like doing; that too without the authority of position. Most people in leadership positions have the authority of position (designation) on their side to help them in influencing others. Business analysts are generally in a position of not having authority to help them influence, so they have to be very innovative and creative.

What does “A leader without a title” imply?

The role of a BA primarily is doing analysis, recommending solutions, and utilizing the right tools. In projects, it usually means eliciting the requirements to create a product or solution that is expected to delight users / customers, while making their tasks simpler, and also achieving benefit for the organization. Sounds fairly simple, is it really so?

The BA works with business users and technical teams simultaneously – and both groups see the BA as part of their team (and in some situations visualize the BA as a person on the opposite side), which poses interpersonal challenges to some degree.

Many a times I have heard BA’s using the phrase – “I feel like the meat in the sandwich, being crushed from both sides,” and I usually retort = “It is eventually the meat that provides the taste.”

Is this all – yeah – but to be able to do this a BA needs

  1. attentive and centered listening, and as if this itself was not tough, do this while challenging the brain to process information in parallel
  2. influencing people, dealing with hidden agendas, resolving conflicts that range from professional to political to personal
  3. influencing people to perform tasks (that they may not really always like too)
  4. interrogating people and yet building and maintaining relationships
  5. educating and training people – many of them would not want to be educated or trained in the subject

In short, a BA is expected to push people towards results using a high degree of influencing skill.

As Scott Adams says – “You don’t have to be a ‘person of influence’ to be influential. In fact the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.”

In essence the BA is expected to do everything that a CEO or a leader is expected to do, and he has one additional handicap – no authority. The handicap reminds me of the ultimate leadership sport – Golf. It is all about handicaps, and you learn to play better than the handicap to win. The BA does precisely the same thing, lead better even without the authority. Truly, a leader without the title.

Imagine if corporates eventually got the BA’s to take on the mantle of a leader and also provide them authority – how much more effective they could be as a leader?

Post by Sanjay Dugar – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

Is Coaching the Holy Grail of Performance Management?

In today’s business world we now can compete with each other in a virtual market space where time and space get a whole different meaning. However, amongst all these changes, some things remain the same. Business is essentially still about making money or saving money and therefore about managing the performance of the organisation and perhaps more accurately managing the human capital performance.

When we think of human capital performance, coaching is one of the first things that come to mind. In the last decade, coaching has firmly taken its seat in the business world and has proven that it is here to stay. But what is “coaching for performance”? How do you do that? There is still a lot of confusion and misconception around it and people are wondering if coaching really is the Holy Grail of performance management.

Having explored performance management, it seems to be mainly a process driven system that is externally imposed on the employee i.e. outside-in. However, introducing coaching creates an inside-out approach, for the power of coaching lies very much in the fact that it works exactly the opposite way. With coaching the employees themselves are the centre and starting point for performance management and they are asked to evaluate themselves. This particularly works well when you have a high-trust culture, helpful systems that are tools not goals in themselves (Stephen Covey, The 8th Habit).

Looking at performance management, it is captured between two extremes; one end can be defined as “managing with the carrot” or using ‘soft’ development techniques and the other end of the scale as “managing with the stick” or using ‘hard’ measurement techniques. Each approach has its own positives and drawbacks. Organisations that have implemented a performance management system will fall somewhere between ‘development’ and ‘measurement’ (Hay Group, 2006)

Most companies are managing for performance through performance measurement (Hay Group, 2006). The traditional way to do that is through performance appraisals (a method by which the job performance of an employee is measured and evaluated), and that is where the performance management system starts to break down.

For many organizations and managers it might feel as a paradox, but it seems that to get your employees to become more self-evaluating, self-developing and ultimately self-managing, you need to loosen the grip and start getting used to being in command but out of control (Malcolm Gladwell, Blink).

We have seen that a balanced approach is needed in performance management, between measurement and development, left and right brain approach.

In coaching, great breakthroughs in reframing an employee’s perception and letting them move forward (i.e. develop) are made when balancing the left and right brain approach to things. The typical left brain dominant person will look at things in a narrow and deep way, while the right brain dominant person tends to take a wide and perhaps more shallow view. The combination of left and right (not necessarily both at the same time, as it can be very powerful to switch sides multiple times) will give the person a wide and deep view.

Therefore a person who is extremely left brained in their view of a certain situation will benefit hugely by shifting their perception through looking at things from a right brain perspective (and vice versa).

So there is only one last thing to do and that is to answer the question… is coaching the Holy Grail of performance management?

Based on my research, the answer is ‘No’, it is not. Although coaching has brought balance to performance management by shifting the focus towards performance development, we also need to be realistic and admit that the corporate world at this point in time is still dominated by the focus on either making money and/or saving money. Therefore businesses will ultimately remain aligned and organised to support that goal.

However, coaching has not just shifted the balance, it is very much shifting the balance towards performance development and focus on people. It might just be a matter of time before we reach the tipping point, that magical moment when the concept of coaching has reached a critical mass and tips the scales. How far we are removed from that moment is unsure, but perhaps later in hindsight we are able to say… ‘Yes’ coaching was indeed the Holy Grail, not just for performance management but for the entire corporate world.

 

Post by Vincent Bouw – Director & Principal Consultant at C2C

Why do we end up shooting in the dark?

ImageA problem that many of us training professionals struggle with – is how to ensure that the training program we conduct actually makes a difference.

The sequence of events that usually unfolds is –

We receive the training need from operations

We ask a few basic questions to understand the specific problem

We rush of to design and then deliver the training program

Once the program is done we don’t really know if we were effective since we didn’t know what the actual issue was to begin with.

In other words we end up shooting in the dark.

In order to make sure that we know we have done an effective job every single time we conduct a training program, it is necessary to have a detailed dialogue with the operations team and understand their requirements.

To evaluate Level 3 behaviors, it’s necessary to begin with the end in mind. Probe to find out the one or two key behaviors that the stakeholders would like to see change. For e.g. Critical Behaviors for a presentation skills program may be ‘The participants can manage time during the presentation’ ‘The participants can handle questions while staying within the framework of the topic’

It is important to restrict the number of critical behaviors to a maximum of 3 per program.  Too many critical behaviors will dilute the focus and participants will be unable to concentrate.

We should also ensure that there is a support system in place to aid the participants in demonstrating the critical behaviors on an on-going basis. In the presentation skills example, one of the supporting measures would be organizing practice presentations where the participants are observed and given feedback. This post training support should also be a part of training design.

With predefined critical behaviors and a robust support system in place, we as learning partners can ensure that the training we provide is effective and can be evaluated up to Level 3.

Post by Preethi Rao – C2C Training Effectiveness Specialist

7 Tips to Maximize Engagement in Virtual Teams

As globalization increases and technology improves, team work is becoming more virtual by the day. Creating high performance teams in the same office is already a challenge but creating high performance virtual teams is just that much tougher. However, isolation, confusion and fragmentation are not a fatality. Each of these 3 challenges can be overcome. Below are 7 tips to promote engagement and limit isolation in virtual teams.

  1. Treat your virtual team like a sports team: name, motto, visual identity, branded merchandising. This can only help in creating a sense of belongingness (not sure about this word but my colleague Shilpa, our very own grammar nazi, approved it).
  2. Get people to know more about each other: joint festival celebrations with pictures and rewards, SharePoint/wiki with a profile (both professional and personal) of each team member with job description or RACI, psychometric profiles if they exist and people are willing to share them. You can also create a team specific group on a social media platform and share regular official and mundane status updates to know what people are up to. I remember working with a team that was operating between California, Bangalore and Shanghai. In order to plan their project, they’d created a list of public holidays in each of the 3 geographies. After a few months they’d started a decoration competition for the most typical festival in each of these: Thanksgiving, Diwali and Chinese New Year. What they’ decided was that everyone, wherever in the world would decorate their workstation around the theme of the festival, they would take pictures of each of them, post them on SharePoint and have everyone vote for their favourite one. This simple activity allowed the different components of the team to learn about some aspect of each other’s culture and created a fun activity in which everyone was involved.
  3. When possible, use HD video conferencing technology like TelePresence (TP) or Halo. These are technologies where you see and hear everyone in the room at same time- full size and high definition. Much more effective than traditional video conferencing technology where the camera focuses on the person speaking but we don’t see anyone else, or they are all crowded in the frame. TP is the richest medium for virtual communication: it is like a face to face meeting without the possibility of physical contact. This also means that we can use TP for more informal meetings. A few years ago, I was working with a virtual R&D team that was working for between the West Coast of the U.S and India. The team was plagued by a lack of cohesion between the American engineers and the Indian ones that were working in silos, with a feeling of rivalry and distrust. One of the initiatives we took was to get them to share a meal despite the 12.5 hour time difference. The time difference actually made it easier. We asked the Americans to stay a bit later and bring a pot luck of food from home and we asked the Indians to the same thing, except it was breakfast for them. It did not start well. Silence. Complete silence for 5 minutes…and then something happened. An American engineer stood up, leaned forward eyes opened wide and asked in awe: ”Are you eating spicy food for breakfast?” To this question the Indian engineers laughed and answered that indeed they usually eat spicy food for breakfast. They started showing them, telling them about the different kinds of spiciness, etc. Feeling more comfortable, the Indians then asked the Americans what they were eating and told them that they thought that people in the US only ate pizza and burgers and it was a surprise to them to see them eating salads, Mexican, Chinese, vegetarian and even Indian food. After 10 minutes everyone was happily chatting about cuisine and food habits around the world and the weird experiences they all had. We had 30 minutes scheduled and we had to drag them out of the room for the next meeting to start. They have had the informal meetings once a quarter ever since. For these informal video conference meetings it is important to choose non-controversial topics. Food works well, as every culture has its cuisine(s), it is a good insight in a culture, and most people enjoy eating. The biggest problem is to convince the people who manage the TP rooms to let employees bring food and drinks in these rooms that can cost millions of dollars.
  4. Make sure everyone gets to celebrate team successes equally. When a project is finished successfully, managers often take their team out for lunch or some other activity to show their gratitude to the team. Just make sure you reward the entire team, whether there are co-located or remote. If the team goes out for dinner, make sure a share of the budget is kept for the remote team members so they can go and celebrate too. Of course it would be better for all of them to go out for dinner together but that is rarely possible. What we can do to reinforce the feeling of belongingness (are you sure, Shilpa? It just doesn’t sound right…) is get everyone to go out on the same day, share pictures the next day and quickly acknowledge the event in the next team meeting (“Hey guys, the pictures of your dinner looked great!. How was the food?”)
  5. Engage remote team members by making them responsible for certain team activities. This is particularly important when remote workers are working alone. Isolation is stronger in people working from home than remote sub-teams. They are especially isolated if they work only with colleagues that are co-located. One way to overcome this isolation of remote workers is to involve them in team activities: organizing and facilitating the weekly team, presenting in important meetings, organizing the next offsite, etc.
  6. Share the load of the time zone difference. Nobody likes taking conference calls at stupid o’clock. Make sure that you share the load of weird call timings. This is especially true for team that are separated by more than 9 time zones or for the ones with people spread across multiple locations. This creates a sense of fairness in the team.
  7. If possible, try and get the entire team to spend a weekend together. Nothing can replace a weekend of fun and informal interaction to create that feeling that we belong to the same team.

If you have other tips to create a sense of identity in virtual teams, feel free to add them in the comments below.

Post Scriptum: One of the best, and funniest, books I have read on managing virtual teams is Where in the World Is My Team?” by Terry Brake.

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant

4 Steps To Being assertive? Not That Simple

assertiveness dilbertIn my (almost) 15 years of experience, I have conducted numerous interventions around the topic of assertiveness with different industries, different geographies and different demographics. In all these interventions the most common expectation I have heard from learners is “I want to be more assertive so that I can have my way more often.” And that’s what most people get wrong. Assertiveness is not about getting your way; it’s about being able to create a conversation with others in order to understand how you can possibly approach a certain issue in a way that meets everybody’s needs.

Assertiveness is not about the outcome, it is about having the conversation.

2 things are critical to understand in order to be assertive:

The first one is that one’s ability to be assertive is a direct consequence of your self-esteem. Do you truly believe that your opinion, mental model and/or point of view is valuable but also that everyone else’s opinions, mental models, point of views are as legitimate and valuable as yours. People with low self-esteem will often end up pushing their way, at the expense of others, to compensate or let others impose their opinions/ideas on them to avoid difficult conversations.

The second one is linked to how we communicate. Since people’s perception is the reality on which they base their behavior towards us, how we communicate is a critical aspect of how assertive we are perceived to be. There are a few simple things to keep in mind to communicate assertively:

1. Listen. If others don’t feel listened to, they will often think that you do not really care about their needs and could perceive you as aggressive for it. Remember that the best judge of whether listening happened or not is the sender NOT the receiver, so don’t hesitate to paraphrase or rephrase to show you have listened and understood.

2. Be specific. the more unambiguous your message, the easier it is for other people to understand what you need. For example the word “flexible” (possibly one of the most overused word in the corporate world) could mean very different things to different people. What flexibility do you need? Flexibility in working hours, flexibility in process, etc?

3. Describe behavior not people.  For example, “Could you please be more organized.” is a judgment on the person and will, most of the time, make others defensive. Whereas, “I would like to better understand your filing system so that I can find the relevant documents without having to bother you.” is not an attack on the person but a statement of your need.

4. Use “I” statements  when expressing your needs. Take control of what you say. Using “You” statements makes the other person responsible for the need you are expressing and , there again, will often put them on the defensive. For example, “I needed this document from you yesterday and did not get it. Did you meet with any problem? Is there anything I can do to make this happen as I need to send this out before lunch.” instead of “You did not send me the document you were supposed to.”

These 4 basic communication principles will allow others to see your willingness to take their needs into account while also making your needs to them explicit, which is the basis for assertiveness. However, it starts with step one: do you really believe that everyone, including yourself, is valuable?

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant

May The Force Be With You. Leadership Lessons From Star Wars

YodaSince my wife and children are still on holiday, I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a Star Wars marathon for the first time since the second trilogy came out a decade ago.I have always been a big fan. I remember my mom looking at me and wondering whether i had nothing better to learn than Jedi quotes in order to pass through high school, so i always feel like a teenager when watching the saga.

I did learn a lot, not enough she would say, of knowledge and social skills at school, but I learned wisdom in mythology. The Illiad, Odysseus, the Old Testament, The Ramayana, the Mahabharata…Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. These last 2 have had as much influence on who I am, or should be, than the other ones. And there is wisdom in them too,

The overall plot of Star Wars is a lesson in leadership. The dark side of leadership through coercion and terror by the Siths and the brighter, more caring and engaging leadership of the Jedis. Both Anakin and Luke have the potential for good. Over time, Anakin let’s anger, hate and suffering  take over and joins the dark side.

Which one do you want to be? Anakin or Luke? Sith or Jedi?

The following quotes are taken sequentially from Episodes I, II and III

“Master, didn’t you tell me to focus on the future?” “Focus on the future should not come at the expense of the moment”

Vision without execution is a dream, right? Leadership doesn’t only require setting a direction and a strategy. Leaders also need to focus on the present in order to enable execution.

“You should be proud of your son, he gives without any thoughts of reward.”

Build it, they will come. The more you give to others without hidden agenda, the more inclined they will be to trust you and share with you.

“I am so proud of you, you brought hope where there was none.”

Things aren’t always easy. Leaders are those who can infuse optimism in their team. When facing adversity, Focusing on opportunities, doesn’t mean forgetting about issues  but it allows people to stay positive.

“Training to be a Jedi is not an easy challenge, and even if you succeed, it’s hard life.”

Leadership isn’t an easy life. Since people have decided to follow, leaders, to a great extent, are responsible for them. Responsible for creating the conditions for success, which might entail unpopular decisions, tough discussions, conflict…and doubt.

“You can’t stop the change anymore than you can stop the sun from setting.”

Leaders should not only be open to change, they should actively seek it. Am not talking about change for change’s sake but about restless dissatisfaction. Since perfection doesn’t exist, there is always room for improvement.

“Hard to see, the dark side is.”

Lack of self-awareness is the first step to the dark side. Understanding your own mental model and its impact on your behavior and relationship to others is crucial to leadership. How can a leader engage others if he/she doesn’t understand how they operate themselves.

“Remember, stay focused! Focus determines your reality.”

It is no spoiler to see, once again, that Steve Jobs was a Jedi knight. Focus was his mantra. Once you have set the direction, pursue it relentlessly.

“Sometimes we need to let go of our pride and do what is requested of us.”

Leaders don’t always get what they want. In the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world we live and work in, authoritarian leadership is just not as effective as collaborative leadership to attract and retain talent. Collaboration means letting go of our own certainties in order to work together towards a common goal. Easier said than done. Pride is what turned Anakin to the dark side.

“Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed, that is.”

Money, perks and other status symbols are nice. However, making these a goal rather than an appreciable by-product of success, pushes leaders and organizations to the dark side. When people or organizations put the profit motive above all other purposes, we usually end up with bad products, poor service if not downright unethical behavior.

“All who gain power are afraid to lose it, even the Jedi”

Leaders are influential. Influence does not come from position, power does. Influence is the result of the engagement you have have with others, the clarity with which you articulate your vision and the willingness you create in others to be with you. People who rely on position to lead might get very good short term results but are usually challenged rapidly.

Finally, the parallel between the discussions that Anakin has with Yoda and Palpatine are a good summary of the differences between leading with the Force and leading from the dark side.

I have dedicated this post to my dear mother. I told you mom that it wasn’t a waste of time.

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant

5 Stages to Intercultural Competence

5 Stages to Become Interculturally Competent

Becoming interculturally competent is a developmental process. No one is born interculturally competent and people don’t build this competence just because they live in a multicultural environment.

The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) was first defined by Dr. Milton Bennet in the 1980s. One of his colleagues Dr. Mitch Hammer then created a psychometric assessment, the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), to enable people to assess their own level of intercultural sensitivity. As for most psychometrics, there is no ideal profile. It all depends where you want to be.

So what does it take to become interculturally competent? Mindfulness. And a clear understanding of why you want/need to be interculturally competent. Everybody doesn’t need to be interculturally competent, and that’s fine.

We naturally start from an ethnocentric mindset – where we perceive and judge the world through our own cultural lens – and then move to a more ethnorelative as we get more exposure and create new strategies to deal with these differences.

In order to illustrate the different stages of the continuum, I will use examples that I have witnessed in India. Not that Indians are any less interculturally competent than others but this is where I have spent my entire career and this is most complete reference I can share.

1. Denial

Denial is usually characterised by a lack of awareness, or even by a lack of interest, in other cultures. “My culture is my reality and I don’t really care/believe that their could be another way to experience the world”. Even though we live in the ‘global village’, everyone doesn’t yet feel like they belong to it and, more importantly, don’t really need to care. The remote Indian farmer probably has more urgent things to think about than trying to understand different mental models when his life experience is geographically limited to his village and the local market town.

2.Polarization

Polarization is divided in two stages – Defense and Reversal – which are both characterised by an ‘us’ and ‘them’ vision of cultural differences.

When people start interacting with other cultures, they often can judge other mental models as less valuable than theirs. I have often heard in my years of experience of intercultural training in India that “Americans have no family values”. Americans, like everyone else, have strong family values but because they live these values differently than most Indians would, this kind of judgment is relatively common. In the same way, I have heard many Americans tell me that Indians are submissive because they accept arranged marriages. That is Defense.

Reversal is the opposite of Defense. This is when people perceiving their own culture as inferior to others. This was a common occurrence a few years ago in the Indian outsourcing industry. Ten years ago, I would regularly hear Indian managers say that “We Indians need to learn how to be professional like our American colleagues/partners/clients”. The mindset here was that Indians don’t know how to work ‘well’. ‘Well’ being the American definition of professionalism based on strong american values like individualism, task and result orientation.

3. Minimization

Minimization is when we level differences between different cultures. “We’re all human after all and things like respect and hard work mean the same thing for everybody, wherever they come from”. Minimization is a huge step from Polarization as it already shows the desire to move beyond judgement. Moreover, it is a very comfortable place to be for people working in a global environment and trying to create and/or implement global processes. However, it still negates the value of diversity and comes in the way of truly effective inclusion policies. A lot of expat HR managers I have met in India find it particularly hard to move on from Minimization. I remember coaching a Danish executive recently who was adamant about the fact that the values of his company, and the behaviours linked to them – as defined by headquarters – were universal need not be adapted to local cultures. I can still hear him telling me: “Respect is respect. Full stop.”

Minimization is probably one of the most important reasons why certain companies still resist intercultural training.

4. Acceptance

In Acceptance, people are aware of their own cultural identity and also accept that there are other valuable ways of perceiving the world. People see value in different mental models but don’t yet know how to adapt their behaviour when confronted with these differences. For example, a lot of Indian engineers I work with tell me that they see great value in a more direct communication style when interacting virtually with other colleagues but they don’t know how to do it without sounding rude. Acceptance is a very critical step of developmental process as without acceptance there can be no adaptation.

5. Adaptation

Adaptation is when I understand and see value in other mental models AND I can adapt my behaviour according the the situation I am in. A lot of the people I have worked with in India have no problem at all adapting their behaviour from a very conservative, indirect, relationship oriented culture at home to a very informal, direct, result oriented culture at work. With exposure and mindfulness this becomes unconscious for a lot of people. People who still have an ethnocentric mindset very often define Adaptation as cultural schizophrenia as they dont understand how others can genuinely adapt their behaviour without losing their identity.

As I mentioned earlier, there is no better stage on the continuum. It all depends where you need or want to be. However, for professionals working in global companies or NGOs, this is becoming one of the most important competencies to become a effective leader.

If this is something that is important to you, I strongly recommend using the IDI as a tool to assess where you stand on the DMIS and as a starting point for a coaching engagement that can enable you to become the leader you want to be.

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant