Be Mindful

While undergoing leadership program, our trainer used to ask us to notice subtle changes that were taking place in group. After every exercise he used to ask us to reflect on how we performed, what nonverbal exchanges were taking place in group, the body language of others etc.

At that time I did not find this important, but post training I reflected on it and realised importance of noticing subtle changes. It makes you mindful about what is happening within group, within organisation, between different units, within your function etc. Things you normally miss in day to day routine. Routine makes us unmindful and blind to such subtle changes.

Trainer used variety of tools like case studies, skits, psychometric tests, feedback from others on our performance etc. to make us mindful.

I find few tools quite useful, esp. the theories of Carl Jung , William Marston and David McClelland, 360 degree feedback and use of tools like Malcolm Baldridge Model (which gives you holistic knowledge of business).

Organisational change is  all about synchronisation of hardware (systems in your organisation) with software (values and motivation) to bring about desired change.

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Are you in 40s and afraid?

Globalisation and liberalisation of Indian Economy threw lot of opportunities for Indians in terms of jobs, lifestyle, products, overseas opportunities etc., which they could only dream decade back.

Some benefited from this, and had salaries and positions they had never imagined before, while others found this change disturbing. In case of second category, this change was something they were not prepared for. They have to face two fears

  1. Fear of losing existing job to someone who could do his job better, faster and at lower cost.
  2. Fear of not getting another job after losing earlier job.

Some factors that contributed to this were

  1. New generation that is hungry for more- This generation is willing to work harder and faster. Armed with management degrees they are willing to work harder, at lower salaries and at faster speed. “Tenure creep” i.e. staying in same position for long time has made those in 40s costlier, without significant change in skills.
  2. Many of those in 40s and older felt that it was organisation’s duty to update their skills, with organisations delegating the responsibility of skill up gradation to employees, these managers felt betrayed. If removed from job, they will have to compromise on their salary if they were to do job of same value in another organisation.
  3. Job opportunities cropped up in sectors like retail, telecom, IT and ITES which went for younger workforce, the CEOs of these organisations were in their 40s.
  4. World has changed for those in 40s- children’s education, real estate, medical care etc. is costlier. EMIs eat half of salary. Lifestyle diseases like diabetics, heart problems now affect you in 30s instead of 50s, and bosses are more demanding. All this makes managers desperate to stick to their jobs, while management is more interested in axing these jobs. This fear of losing job prevents them from looking for alternatives like part time jobs, changing career track,becoming consultants etc.

Sooner the managers accept the reality that days of job security/ company loyalty are over, better it is for them- because only then will they go for new cheese.

Performance Management, Coaching, Mentoring, 360 feedback etc…

Is performance appraisal in your organisation an annual ritual where some mysterious number (derived from equally mysterious method called a “fitting into bell curve”) decides what you will be paid for next one year, whether you will be promoted or not, quantum of performance linked pay?

Does feedback consist of sermon on how you could have done better, how smart your boss is and how he would have handled the same situation differently?

Does sermon end up with some areas for improvement and you are told to attend some training programs as and when they happen?

Are no efforts made to understand your strengths and weakness, no coaching, no mentoring? Not to mention you end up getting lower than expected increments and promotion goes to someone else.

Do you end up feeling devalued and cheated and promise yourself that you will quit ASAP?

Appraisal system starts with noble intention i.e. to give employee feedback on his performance and help him to reach his potential, but somewhere the administrative aspect dominates the developmental aspect, and the plot is lost.

Many appraisers cannot distinguish between appraisal feedback, coaching and mentoring. They feel by giving sermons they are doing everything in one shot. But impact on employee is anything but positive.

Everyone is curious to know how he is performing- he needs feedback on his performance. The feedback should be based on fact and judgement free, something like video recording.

During career transitions or while taking additional responsibilities, an employee may see his performance going down, here he need guidance from expert who is regularly watching his performance. He also needs to commit himself to goals and timelines to achieve the desired level of performance. Here someone who is constantly observing his performance can play role of a coach.

Mentoring has different purpose; it is about getting tips from your role model on how to achieve your career goals. The mentor can help you to seek clarity on your goals by asking questions. Unlike coaching, you need not be under direct observation.

Another good developmental tool to understand is 360 degree feedback. It can make you aware of those aspects of personality which may not come out in normal appraisal.

The combination of fact-based and judgement free feedback, 360 degree feedback with coaching and mentoring, wherever required, will make performance appraisal a useful tool rather than annual ritual.