Posts Tagged ‘Leader’

The power of questions

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2011 at 10:24 am

As someone who has worked in a variety of verticals and business functions, I attribute some of my success to common sense. However, the adage that common sense is not that common is very true. Often, people look for complex solutions to problems to showcase their value-ad to the organization. How do you tell them gently and politely that there are other better ways to solve the issue?

You can be direct and to the point. If your coworkers share similar style and are open minded, this works well. However, lets come to the real world. Yes, the real world, where you have coworkers who have their ego and emotions attached to their ideas. The real world where they can just bulldoze you to make their point or brand you in the wrong way. This often leads to friction and frustration.

Even if you get your solution implemented, you may win the battle but lose the war. When you work in a team with peers, it is imperative to have a conducive environment. Also, you ‘want’ to team to work with you instead of ‘have’ to work with you. By asking the right questions, you spark the team to develop better solutions. You can influence the team and guide them in the right direction.

One tactic that works really well for me is to ask clarifying questions instead of just offering solutions. Show them that you understand their solution, you are curious about how it will play out in different scenarios, and how their solution will help in such situations. As they try to answer these questions, they will uncover the folly of their idea and become more open to brainstorming a better solution. This makes people more comfortable around you instead of being threatened by you.

As a bonus, here is a video I came across about asking questions:

Second but Better

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2009 at 8:44 am

Do you ever find yourself thinking: “I wish I had come up with that idea first instead of the other person. It would have given me such an edge!” Inventions and brilliant ideas are rare. However, innovation can be incremental. If innovation is not your cup of tea yet, you may want to read my article on automation. But, to be successful, you do not have to be an inventor. Clean execution is also a very good skill.

Identify ways to apply others’ findings to your work to solve problems. For instance, you did not invent the TV. But you can use the TV to reach a broad audience for your marketing campaign. If you are targeting a niche ethnic segment, you can use the TV monitor in these ethnic stores and restaurants. This helps you to stand out.

Not all innovative companies succeed. Execution and ongoing improvements matter. Yahoo has been the first to market on several products. However, their points of differentiations have been reduced at a fast pace by competitors like AOL. Google on the other hand is not the first to come up with search engine or email or chat. However, Google has managed to execute well and continues to improve its quality by making the service relevant to the target audience. Being second can also be an effective strategy. In this web 2.0 era, a lot applications come and go. You might benefit from waiting to find out what really works and then investing your resources in that area. If you find yourself in a bind for ideas, focus on execution, identify bottlenecks and focus on enhancements. See where that leads you.

I’d like to hear your ideas on how you applied other concepts to improve your work. Please leave comments.

Visual Presentation

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm

The adage that a picture speaks thousand words rings a bell quite often. Staring at a 2-page long email or sitting through a 30 minute long presentation where you think you almost got it only to realize that the speaker confused you yet again can be frustrating. Most concepts can be conveyed simply and clearly using pictures. If you are stuck and don’t know where to start, here are two tips:

  1. Is your goal to move audience from point A to point B? Draw the as-is state & the to-be state? Can you map them?
  2. Is your goal to inform the audience? Draw the benefits.

With cheap storage and the advent of bountiful applications, data is everywhere. If you want to standout from the crowd, garner information instead of presenting data. You can use a variety of applications to do that. Excel helps to convert data to charts & helps to identify trends and patterns. Business Intelligence is another way to gather data and provide meaningful information. These can provide insights into what needs to be improved or addressed.

When I am stuck, I just start with the age-old cliched technique of using a paper and pen instead of a computer. First, unlike a computer, it doesn’t limit me to what I can draw. Next I can draw free flow in no time compared to getting those shapes correct and arrows aligned in a computer. This freedom enables me to express freely and capture the thoughts into pictures. Its much easier to transfer this to a computer later. As a manager / leader, it is important to be productive. Instead of spending cycles on data, use information to move the organization to the next step. When you combine yours with information from other organizations, silos can be broken. A leader is one who can look both within and outside the team to do the right thing for the organization. Use visual presentation to your advantage.