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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Are you ready to lose the war to win the battle?

As we have seen in the earlier blog, excelling in life is about using unforced situations to make the right choices most of the time to enhance your knowledge in the areas of your strengths as well as using forced difficult situations in life to grow mentally.  For this to happen, one has to battle with the mind's demons all the time. Because this whole battle happens in one's mind and cannot be seen or monitored from outside, it is therefore a battle against oneself.

But contrary to the common belief, excelling is not about winning every point, every game or even a set. If you have seen the Andy Murray's US Open win, you will appreciate this principle of winner. Infact, excellent winners use the losses in wars to prepare themselves to win the bigger battle. Winners use three winning strategies to help them win even from losses. Let us understand Andy Murray's win from this perspective.

1. Until he consolidates his strengths, winner does not worry about losing  

A baseline player like Andy Murray likes to play from the back of court. He does not like to go to the net even when it is easy to win a point. Despite what the critics and analysts have been telling him, Andy Murray does not still go to the net. If you see the match statistics of US Open, you will see that he came 24 times to the net, as compared to 56 times for Djokovic. Andy Murray was ready to lose points at net. Instead of using net, Andy murray preferred to consolidate his forehand which, according to Boris Becker, was a significant factor in Murray's win.

If you see Pravin and Angad's case, you will see that excellent professionals in knowledge field use the same strategy. Angad consolidated his strength of 'sales', even though he did not like 'sales'. So even though, you may not like working in software, BPO, or in any other function, please consolidate your strengths before you move into a new function, domain, skill, or venture. Being prepared to lose 3-5 years helped Angad win the ultimate battle.

2.While flowing with the unfolding of events, excellent winner does not think of losing 

When a server in tennis has made a good serve, he has a upper hand in the point. The receiver has to be defensive and play defensively. In such a situation, receiver has to flow with the unfolding of the shots and learn to wait for the right time to strike. If the opportunity does not come in that point, he has to let the point go without letting his mind affected by the loss of point. Sometimes, when an excelling professional is serving well, he loses many games before he gets an opportunity. The exceller uses this strategy to train his mind to wait (and not get impatient) so that he can play the right shot at the right time. Without training his mind, he tends to play low-percentage shots and try to manipulate the events forcibly.

Knowledge professional finds it very difficult to use this excelling strategy. I often find professionals reacting to the events instead of learning from the events.  Many professionals, for instance, approach me in May/June  to change their jobs, because they have get less than expected rating ( or increments) in their current jobs during the year-end performance appraisal? Instead of learning the dynamics of rating or increments, they just run away from it and then tend to repeat the mistake in new company! Instead of remaining with the flow, professionals are desperate to 'change the flow' forcibly, often causing too much of hardship for themselves. And more importantly, they never learn the winning habit of 'waiting for the right time to strike' which is a must-have skill of winner.

3. Losses are useful to tame the demon of Self doubt 

The demon of self doubt is always lurking in the corner. It can be best tamed when one suffers a loss.   Recall how Lendl helped tame the demon of Andy Murray's Self doubt after losing to Djokovic in Australian Open of 2012. Instead of saying 'he lost again', he said 'He got a self belief that if he could hang in, he could win'.It is more important to remember that Self doubt has to be tamed, not banished from the mind, because it is very useful to keep one's feet firm on the ground when one is winning.

Without self-doubt, one starts believing that 'he alone has caused the outcome of winning'. As we have seen, this  belief 'that we can produce outcomes' is unrealistic. And having unrealistic beliefs does not help us in sustaining our habit of excellence. Losses therefore are useful to tame the self doubt and keep it alive because it is required to sustain the excelling habit. If you hear Roger Federer's interviews after winning his match, you will see how he credits his wins to outside events and situations !

For a knowledge professional, this strategy is even more important. In an organisational dynamics, one often gets 'undue credit' for an outcome ( like big sales order, or good project management) because the team and colleagues performed well. Without self doubt, professionals often get the success in their head as they start believing that 'they alone' are responsible for their success. In corporate life, you will find many such 'one-victory'  professionals who survive with their one brilliant performance. They are unable to regain their winning habits, because they could not tame their self doubt.


In short, losses and successes both are required to sustain excellence practice because both are just feedbacks to your way of thinking. Like Thomas Edison said ' I have not failed 1000 times. I have successfully discovered 1000 ways of not making a bulb'. If you have to practice the habit of excellence, you will invariably win some and lose some.  And that is why it is important to be prepared to lose , if you have to excel.

Are you prepared to lose to sustain your excellence habit? 

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Map the organisational interdependencies when you join a new company

When you join an organisation, it is important to know the expectations from your job, the constraints and opportunities in the new job, the interconnects with other departments that can help or hinder your performance in the job and the organisational protocols. This should be done in the first month of the job. But while doing this mapping, one needs to approach from the top.

Map the boss to whom you are reporting 

When you join an organisation as Sales manager, R&D manager, or Project Manager, it is important to clearly define your role. But before understanding your role, it is important to understand the role of your boss, of which you are a unit.

For instance, if you are a sales manager of Mumbai Region, you must identify the role and responsibilities of your boss who may be designated as GM ( Sales), or VP(Sales). Understand the importance of Sales ( or R&D) in your company. Are the top people supposed to have worked in Sales function before they reach the top? In the organisational scheme of things, what is the role of sales function visavis marketing? And delivery? Between all other functions, what is the role and power of sales? Understand the budgets that your function has? 

In order to understand this well, it will often require a helicopter view of the company vis a vis competitors. What is your company's explicit vision? If your company has operations in the world, what is the importance of India operations to its global balance sheet?  If you are joining a company at a higher hierarchy, this analysis provides you with high leverage actions. But even at lower levels, it is very useful. A MBA degree helps in doing this analysis. But a help from a MBA colleague or friend is also enough if one knows how to get this help. But doing this analysis often provides one many ideas that can spell a big difference to your success in a new organisation.

Only after the role of function ( sales, R&D, or delivery) has been understood, identify the person who is your boss. What kind of credibility does he enjoy in the company? How long has he been with the company? What are his strengths and weaknesses as others see them? What is the formal power and informal power of your boss? Is the power derived out of position, authority or expertise? How is his relation with his boss? What is your boss being measured against? What are his KPI's ? 

Map your role in the function along with your constraints and opportunities

Understand what is expected of your role in clear terms. There is a big difference between explicit and implicit role. A job in R&D may include also the work of productionising a new product idea in one company which may not be present in another company. A project manager in a specific company may include customer management , but in another, it may be different.

Once the role is clearly understood, understand the KPI's ( Key Performance Indicators) of your job. They are the metrics against you will be measured. They determine the yardstick by which you will be termed as 'successful' in your job. Here again there are explicit and implicit KPI's. Both need to be understood.

And more importantly, you need to understand the official and unofficial support that the organisation is offering you to perform your role and deliver your KPI's. The official support may be in the form of budgets, policies, formal processes ( how to include new customer requirements in a current project, for instance) and flow of information (how is the project doing) to take your decisions. These last two are difficult to dig out but surprisingly influence your job considerably. 

The unofficial support is equally important. It includes the ability to override policies in emergency situations, help in the form of quick decisions from the boss, and informal protocols that govern the day to day work ( such as when to fill up the customer reports). 

Map the horizontal departments and the people in those roles who influence your job performance (this is mapping the interdependence of your role)

In my coaching, I have often observed that professionals ignore to do this mapping. But producing any significant output in a company often requires to coordinate our work with others as a team. An organisation often provides explicit support in this coordination of work, but not everything can be made explicit. Therefore the extent of coordination is determined by the informal culture of the organisation. This is often invisible to an outsider. One has to take conscious effort in wearing a special kind of filter lens to see this.

First identify the colleagues within the department, their roles and the person behind the role. For instance, in project management, you may have to interact with other project managers to fulfill your job. Or R&D manager has to work with other legal counterparts to fulfill their role. Or sales manager has to function with other sales managers. Each colleague is performing a function. They depend on you to fulfill their function and you have to depend on them to fulfill your function. If the interdependence is mutual, it helps. When it is lopsided, then either you have more power to help/hurt others or vice versa.

Once the interdependence of colleagues is mapped, then map the interdependence with other departments. If you are in sales, you have to map the interdependence with marketing colleagues to get the right marketing support to promote your 'x' product in your territory. If you are a project manager, you have to map the interdependence with HR colleagues to get the right person when someone resigns. If you are a R&D manager, you have to depend on marketing colleagues to properly launch a product to succeed in the market. Their performance significantly affects your 'overall performance', but you do not control them. You can only influence them. And this requires considerable 'interdependence intelligence' to make it work.


This mapping of your role and organisational interdependencies spells the difference between succeeding or failing in a new organisation . Without this mapping, you are just roaming in the terrain. Your chances of reaching the destination depends on luck.

By mapping these interdependencies, however, you get a map of your terrain. The map helps you know where you stand what can you do next to reach the destination. The map helps you avoid costly mistakes, especially in the initial phase. And because mistakes are common in a work, it gives you a way of mitigating those failures so that they do not hurt you. More importantly, they clearly spell out the high leverage actions from the routine mundane actions so that you can focus on the more important and not get deluged by the daily routine. 

More importantly, this helps a professional in taking charge of his first priority: the priority of delivering immediate performance in his job. We have discussed elsewhere how he can deliver immediate performance. Please check it out. We shall later discuss the steps one has to take to ensure that one also simultaneously prepare to deliver long term performance.