Thursday, 28 January 2010

Missing in Action!!!

Yes, the blog and Me are no more in action... its time I have to spend every minute of available time to do something better... I am hoping to be back after a few weeks, feb really once we are out of the Major release.

Until then I will try to blog only when i cant be in front of the computer and have enough time to blog..

forgive me for the hibernation enforced here

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Team Engagement - 10 ways to get loved by your Team - 3/10 Inspire Them

Sachin Tendulkar the legendary cricketer was inspired by Kapil Dev the Indian cricket Team captain who won the 1983 world cup for India, this was when he was just learning to walk. Behind every legendary man/women there is a short inspiring story, this story plays a crucial role in the lives of these legends and thus make them legendary.

Your team always look at you with very high regards, yes they idealise you, they see you as their inspiration.. no matter what you do when you begin with your team, you begin as a inspirational part of their lives. However busy in the day to day routines you forget to inspire them in spite of being inspirational...Every Team member is like a hot iron rod if several other iron rods put pressure on it, it may not take the right shape, but when the hammer puts force it may(The hammer has to take care that it applies the right pressure and not force). And surely if the iron bar takes the right shape, it is going to love you for it....

Every member of your Team holds some exclusive quality within, if you can find that out and give way to it so the team member can do something of it, is he not going to love you for helping him expose and liberate his talent? There are different ways to inspire... Some people let others do what they want to others do things that can inspire else do it too. Everything and anything that you or your team does can inspire one or the other member of your team, you just have to use the right way to present it...

A few ways to inspire your teams:

I always think there is active inspiring and passive inspiring

Active inspiring

1. If you have found something very interesting or innovative on the web world

a. Speak about it in front of your teams

b. Tell them the benefits , usage and some good points of it

c. Show them how to use it, how you use it

d. Promote to get it used

e. Ask them ideas on how it can help the teams

2. If you know certain talents of your team members

a. Speak about those topics with them

b. Discuss pros and cons with them

c. Discuss legends, stories , success stories of people in the area of interest

d. Refer them to sites, people who you know in the same field

e. Share experiences

3. Creating a forum and debating on the topics of like

a. Create a forum where a lot of people can come together and discuss things. This will help your teams take a deeper dive into things

Inspiring Passively

1. Put a note or a symbol that can be seen.. Knowing some of the developers who were interested in blogging I made a point that I put my IM status message to my blog link, only later I realised that with every change in the status I had majority of them visiting the link. You don’t need to speak, if they are interested they will find a way to do it.

2. Create curiosity by not talking much about it.. sometimes less talking does more thinking.. speak once about it and let others to explore

3. Let them overhear – When the topics of discussion are interesting to others.. let them overhear.. they will go back and find details about it, would go and take it more further.

Yes.. Inspiring your team is something you would want to do.. Because if you can inspire them, you will find that they can do more then just getting inspired.. In turn to bring some good to them, they are going to love you.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Team Engagement - 10 ways to get loved by your Team - 2/10 Just Be there

Team engagement, doesnt it get trickier as you go on doing it? But doesnt it ease up so many things when you do it? I have known companies spending thousands and thousands of bucks on this one thing, involving people , places and dont know what not... Success in Team engagement is however limited unless that Attitude and Culture is evolved....

Now coming to our next element.... take this situation:

Its 1 in the night actually early morning, you have 4 members from your team working on a very critical issue that has to make the production tomorrow morning, you have no onsite support available. You assign the issue and you leave for the day. You call your team member in the middle of the night or he calls you and updates you that the fix is done. All goes well.

Same scene.. the fix is not done.. what is your reaction now? you organize a call with stake holders, you shout , you yell, you are upset? you reschedule the fix and ask for another day, come to the office and ask them to be there to give you an explanation? firefight, issue resolved but did something go wrong here? The feeling in the Team????

Now same scene.... You are with the Team all the time, discussing solutions, evaluating options, the fix is done and all goes well.

Same scene again but the fix is not done? What will you do now? Since you have a complete understanding of what the team has done so far and what you have being doing all this while.. you can set a correct expectation?

Yes... sometimes you may not be the Technical expert, You may not add any value being with the Team while they are working hard on something.. sometimes it is important just to be there, facilitate things for them, try to check on their needs and try to remove there blockers so they can work well. Its a morale support to the Team... they know who to go back to when you are there. Now if they can depend on you for this, Aren't they surely going to love you?

Today we did a release, one of the fellow colleagues asked me "It is OK if you are not in, we could have taken care of it" I said "No worries, I just like to stick around" a few minutes later the same colleague was stuck with a issue and needed some help from me to reset some user details. I reminded the colleague "When you lead a Team, make sure you are there for the Team, you never know what will come up and when you will be needed" ....

You must have come in this situations very often... Your Team would be working day , night , late hours, weekends... if they see you around with a motive of helping them out... They are going to like it.

A few things to remember and do while you are JUST THERE for the Team

1. Make an arrangement for a quick Pizza grab if they are working late or weekends
2. Give them a ride home if it is late in the night.
3. Ask them about if they need any help occasionally.
4. Get them short breaks if they are working late.. this would release them from some pressures.
5. Do some petty tasks for them... like random tests to help them, or builds, or deploys that can save them some time
6. Get them a coffee on their desk... they may like it
7. A quick shoulder massage... of course for male colleagues is not a bad idea.
8. Appreciate their effort....

Do not

1. Be there to do a status check
2. Do not give a feeling or be there to monitor the activities.
Both of this is showing distrust.

Another small thing... But this can really help making life of Team members and Leads easier... a low cost item that can improve the leads level of engagement with the Team.. Now ask yourself ....On when you were present when your Team needed you the most...

Keep up the Bad work!!!!

How does it sound? Annoying? Well isnt that the real truth? You keep on saying this to your team member even when he is at worst of his performance... dont care for what reasons? Well the truth is out of fear of loosing, causing revolt , constraints around resources etc etc you tend to do this... you go back with a feedback to your engineer and tell him "Look mate, you are doing OK, but you have a lot to improve on" I revised this statement in a simpler way and made it "Keep up the bad work!" .

For an under performer anything that is not direct or straight is like saying "Keep up the bad work mate". As Managers it will be your duty to make and build the communication in a way that says "It's enough of beating around the bush, time for you to respond", Again based on the nature and call and time and nth event of the feedback you can lighten up the statement, but in the end you have to help your under performer friend to boost it up.

We all want to make it sound positive, but not flattery... Tom was a project Manager dealing with Max who had been under performing in spite of last few months of support and attempts made by Tom and Team to get the issues with Max's ability sorted... when the options started reducing Tom had to go and open a communication which will help Max understand that the water has just hit the deck... Tom ran through the profile of Max and saw that he as a Formula 1 follower... took an opportunity on a one on one lunch and had this conversation...

This will hopefully enlighten you to make a easy conversation with your under performing member.

Tom "So, I learn that you are a Formula 1 fan"
Max "Yes, I a great fan"
Tom "So how does a normal F-1 race works"
Max "blah blah blah...... and thats how"
Tom "And how does a driver get in?"
Max "Its touch, but you need xx,yy zzzzzz blah blah, and this is how the points and ratings work for the Team and individuals"
Tom "Ahhh.. So the points for running a championship is also relational to individual driver performing?
Max "Yes"
Tom " And what happens if say Ferrari Team who is leading the championship has a Minus Schumacher"
Max "They fall back"
Tom "So how do you see yourself in this Team?"
Max takes time, thinks over it.. replies back "I think I have to change!!!"
Tom "OK, so lets get our driving gears, define a race path, lets target steps 1 to X until the pole position. Lets work on your car and gears and see how it works for your next race?"

An easy conversation goes well, without defences and grudges. Max realise the point and wants to seek help to do what would be best for the Team. A few races later Max is up to the speed.

But if the same conversation had gone in a way where Tom says "You are racing well, you need to win now" would have maybe not gone well... and Max would have continued with what he had being doing...

So next time you have an under performer in your Team... work out a best story, his likings and hobbies along with a statement that will make it clear for him that the feedback is counting and you dont and you never say "Keep up the bad work!!!!"

You can follow me on Twitter at sameera_cmc

Friday, 15 January 2010

Team Engagement - 10 ways to get loved by your Team

Do you love your Team? Does your Team love you? Alrite do they like you? Alrite do they like to work with you? Alrite do they want to see you in office? Ok.. OK.. OK... I know the answer... You are one traditional Manager who is definitely hated by his Team. Never mind... You are not the only Manager thinking this... there are bunch of them who think they know they are been hated...hated by their teams... Initially i felt that it is just a normal human nature "Hate your Boss" but luckily I realise that it is not so (Thanks to all the bosses I have got in the past from Sakore Sir to Subhash Sangam to Kari to Gert-Jan). They all gave me a feeling that Bosses are one part of your life that can definitely make you one Hell Of a Good Manager.

To what I have learnt all these years from these great leaders and will continue to learn from... I will put down those 10 important elements that can make you love your Team and your Team love you... For those impatient soul's in here, this is not going to come in one shot... so please take I element at a time work over it, try to practice it, wait for the next and then carry on... For those Alpha Managers sitting and reading this, I am sure you may have tried all of these but read on there is nothing to loose if you get a good Idea of this.

Element 1 that will get you loved by your Team

You are leading a Team of 50 odd people, you walk into the office every day remembered ever you stopped by side of one of your engineers and asked him "Tom!!! Are you feeling better today after yesterday's headache?" Or Did you send a Birthday card to one of your new Team members on his first birthday with the company?

Well this is one of the last thing that you as the busiest manager would want to do... but who told you that no matter what you do, you will always be loved... try this with your son or daughter... just ignore them for a day or two and see they wont even want to see your face... So when our kids cant love us if we dont love them... how do we expect our Teams to love us if we dont like them , Love them , take care of them?

What was your reaction when you were mentioned in a big company meeting by the most important person in the company? You were on the 10th heaven? Well similarly when you show the care to your employees, about them they feel good.. and this good feeling is what builds an understanding and bonding that turns it to love... Yes Love for you by your Team members.

So if you havent got this right yet... The element here is your memory.... Yes if you remember the name of your Team member (In case of bigger teams), some important dates that affect them, some important days of their life and some important elements of their life... they love those who care about their personal things... and when they love you they work hard for you.

So how do you do this?

1. Get their important information
This can be done by various ways... I used a funny survey document that I asked the Team to fill. I got to know their hobbies, their partner names , their passion and much more. You can also do a social network check and find a lot about them from the social websites. You have to do some homework and be alert on this.

2. Store it in a way you would be reminded
Just having the information and doing it once is not the right way and thing to do... make sure you store the information at some place where you can retrieve it easily or it can remind you well in time. I use Microsoft Outlook and Remember the Milk tool to remind me of important dates of Team members and even family (considering the fact that I am a workalcoholic, I even store my anniversary reminders in these tools). The funny part is I still have important dates of team members who no longer work with me.
3. Show the care when they are and are not associated with you
Yes it is important that way. Even if you are not directly or indirectly linked, showing care would get the feel of closeness. This will bring more trust and love factor. And your Team would love you even when they are not in your Team.

4. Never mix work with care
"Are you feeling better today? Now since you said yes can you fix this for me now?" well dont mix it this way. Unless it is very important make sure that you keep work and personal care about your team in different zones.

Many of these things dont add up to cost. They are simple smaller things that have a huge impact on effective Team engagement. Now if you see yourself as a Good Manager you have to be honestly good.

So Today is a very Important day.... You just have to find out for which member in your Team....

You can follow me on Twitter at Sameera_cmc

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Confessions of a frustrated soul!!! - Handle it or Quit your choice

Well its not a rocket science... but it is definitely a science, an art and a lot of commerce... if you mix them up, you would definitely be able to handle frustration easily... Alrite coming back to the important part... we all being humans leaving those smart mon chips there who claim that frustration cannot run their way... we have to learn, definitely learn and practice the ways to handle frustration... like in our earlier post we know that a lot of times frustration comes up linked to competition and growth... remember it can very well positively contribute to ones growth...

Once when the speaker of Loksabha Mr. Somnath Chatterjee got frustrated with the Members of parliament shouting all over the house, he found an answer to the problem.."No and that was not suspension" He bought the noising members to desk and targeted questions to their regions be discussed in the question hour.. a lot of them eventually got quite.

So... handling frustration positively and effectively is just not the thing you can do with a cup of coffee.. we you may need a few more of it and of course shared ones... here is how I tackle frustration..

1. Speak it up

A lot of times the reason to get frustrated and angry is not speaking up. Most of the times not speaking leads to piling up things and our dirty minds then keep on adding negativity into the brains to add up to the frustration. Try to find a way to get the stuff frustrating you out.. discuss it with relevant people who can help you out with it... A previous colleague chose never to speak to anyone at work in situations where he was most frustrated... it was only known when he decided to leave the company on why he was frustrated and why he left, the reason was he was no more wanting to work during night shifts, only after he left he came to know that the Management was thinking of shifting many of people to daytime hours.
2. Take some time off

Usually the situation comes where you are in the routines and that brings up frustration to you even if you dont want to be. Its important that the time off is taken regularly to keep you energized and motivated and thus you can always come back with new flavors and new spirit. Once my 7 yr old asked me during a cricket match on why did the drinks come after every 30 minutes in cricket and why not even once in football. Apart from the logical shorter time game I could not think of another reason until when the commentator claimed that he always used the drink breaks to reset his mind set. Yes imagine a batsmen on the crease for 5 hrs waiting on the other side of the wicket to see how his partner just lets the ball go without scoring... enough to frustrate? Yes... that other batsmen, fielder and bowler need time off from the routine to rethink what they need to do...

3. Do what you like best

This is the time when you are tired of doing what you are doing.. and this is the time when you would want to do what you like the most to keep yourself motivated. A frustrated salesman who could not do any major sales in a full quarter was just about to quit when he was asked to take a break during which he did what he wanted to do best networking, social networking... he logged into his profile of social networks and started connecting to people... accidentally or with coincidence he was able to generate a couple of leads from the old school pals who were in business... Having said that this is the time and task that can let you bring your focus back, motivated with the spirit of accomplishment.

4. List down the reasons

Majority of times we dont know why we get frustrated, even if we know we dont know what to do with them. I remember a story of a scientist who while working on a very critical project had posted hundreds of post its in his bedroom... once his son entered the bedroom and started reading them .. words like "Did this approach of XYZ ever worked, what is the best way to do it?" blah blah all confusing for the kid, the kid left... he came back a month later to only find hardly few posts on the walls he asked his father "Where did all the post notes go?" Scientist replied... every time I get frustrated "I write a not about what frustrates me and post it on the wall" every day I enter my room I see them all around... I think over them and eventually get an answer to my frustration.....

Yes.. if you list them down , you may get time to rethink over them and find solutions or discuss them with others....

5. Identify the areas
As mush important it is to find the items that frustrate you is important to find the areas where you get frustrated.... A thing may frustrate you once, but if the same thing frustrates you always... my friend, its time you think over it... it is thus important to list them out and then create a pattern if you are usually "Frustrated Soul" A married man who had to go shopping with his wife every weekend realised that shopping with wife frustrates him, he had quarrel and fights with wife.... the wife never understood what was the reason to his frustration.... she once choose to change the shopping list and took the man to a lingerie shop, what happened to frustration was unknown?

6. Leave the brain and mind and different locations and Focus
Focus is key in this state. Keep your brain involved so it does not remind you of the items that frustrate you and let the mind be doing things that it likes so you dont remember what was frustrating you.... As long as you focus and remain positive the frustrating state is going to go off...keep calm, drink water, exercise and try to keep focus on positive and nicer things...



Yes, if you can't handle your frustration, you are nothing but a looser... so Quit.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Confessions of a frustrated soul!!!

My weekend was rather dramatic this time.. a few movies, some time resting and a slip in nature's arm... I kind of enjoyed the whole weekend.. and while I was enjoying my weekend, I watched a funny movie "Confessions" based on a so called true story the movie rotated around a bunch of frustrated souls and their journey towards "do nothing". While I kept wondering why "Do Nothing Attitude" so prevailing in the society I was encountered by a fellow neighbor who discussed "Frustration" with me...

Frustration about how "People bother you when you are on Holidays" , "How not hire good guys" "how show off" "how show attitude" "how do buttering to get promoted" blah blah blah.... As a good listener I listened and explained a few good things about how not to get involved in such situations.... and as an answer to the issue.. I raised a few questions to myself...

Why do we intelligent souls get frustrated?
Answer was kind of tricky... and kind of easy... I decided to use my part of the weekend to get the answer... here is what I found...

1. I asked 12 people into different professions, different types of domains... they all gave different reasons here is my list :

1. 5 said Competition @work
2. 5 said Too much work
3. 1 said Inability to cope up things
4. 1 said Success of others

The last 2 were very honest and I promised them I wont disclose any names here... but as you see the top reason seems to be competition, it links directly to work.... the moment things dont go our way, we go frustrated. And when we get frustrated it affects major parts of our lives... A student reacts to an angry professor by saying "Must have had a fight with wife?"

Father angry with Boss goes home and slams kids?

Here are a few more statements that came out of the discussions I had ...

"Well frustrations dont limit me to work... I feel like bashing my neighbors dog who barks in the night"

"I find it hard, but sometimes even your closest friend is not the answer... you just want to bang your head"

Eventually Frustration is a killer... it kills mind, focus, brains, attitude, approach and last but not the least... "Future"

So how do we handle Frustration? I went through Google and except one or 2 good links, I did not find anything to read on...Hence decided to put my next blog on How to tackle Frustration?

Keep connected...

Questions we care about during Hiring

We all take Interviews, we all look for specific roles. In the past few months we have been doing quite a few interviews.. we shortlisted a few and rejected a few.... very recently I was asked by a friend who is wanting to switch his job profile from Banking to IT on questions we ask during interviews.... I gave him a list.... during the list creation I realized quite a few questions we have been asking our candidates and of course we cared about those questions....

Now if you read through these questions and you have to think for the answers for too long or you have to make up for one... you are not the one we are looking for. If you have an answer throw the answers at us......

Here are a few of them:

1. When was the last time you were involved in a discussion which had a difference of opinion between you and other Senior members of your Team?

2. When did you last group pair with 2 or more developers to resolve a issue?

3. When was the last time you received a negative feedback? How did you take it? How did you respond?

4. What was the most challenging thing you did in your recent project?

5. What was your most challenging impediment?

6. What was the last most innovative thing you did to improve your productivity?

7. What did you learn in the last 3 months?

8. What is "Out of the Box" to you?

9. What did you do in your last few projects when you did not agree to a Team decision?

10. How do you define Quality?

What questions do you care for?

Friday, 8 January 2010

How much Rework you have to do?

I have been closely monitoring and also involved in the current project that we have being working on. When I say closely I really mean closely. In the last few Iterations I have being harassed by the fact called rework in the development that we begin on August 17th and 6 months from then.. I see that we have spent a considerable amount of work trying to avoid rework.. yet rework is inevitable.

We as a Team recently decided to run a check on the reasons for rework, this was due to the fact that the Team has being talking about refactoring within a month of development of the item. As a manager any type of rework is a time waste. When people moved to the lean principles the core objective was to eliminate waste (in other words rework).

We decided to find the root cause of rework... and here is what I found... maybe interesting if you have a Team doing a considerable amount of development....some of these elements if taken care can really really help you eliminate some waste... a lesson for future a learning from past....

1. Understanding
50% of the rework is caused due to the fact that the developer does not understand what he has to do and he ends up jumping into the feature development. A big job here is to involve the developer in the upfront understanding of the feature and system. Not only it is associated with the developer but analysts also tend to write use cases without fully understanding a feature... result is rework after some amount of development is done.

A timely feedback and understanding of the features can help a developer build a right feature with minimum amount of rework.

2. Test Driven Approach
How many of your developers after completing the features run a test script written by the QA , Analysts? It is important that the developer approves every Acceptance Test , every negative test before he calls in the feature as done from development. A test driven approach is not just for feature but also for the code... A peer review can ensure the facts covered or uncovered by the piece of code written.

3. Break up and Build up of Tasks
4 out of 10 developers break up tasks out of a feature... I haven't seen any building a task out of features... a micro view is what a developer build out of a feature they work on... how beneficial it will be if you build a macro view of combination of features? Well the Architect and Managers have architectural views at higher level.. but if you understand the fact that what other features may need you may avoid duplicate work or rework.

4. Refactoring Yes , Reorganizing NO
Give time to your developers when they write code... not to let them re-organize what they deliberately left out or to cover what they did not finish.. but to reform the code in a better way. If your developer comes to you the next day after he finished a feature asking for a refactoring time, he has messed it up.. and the refactoring time is not the quality time.. its the development time.. he is running short on estimates.
Clearly define refactoring time.. and that is not development or bug fixing time.

5. workarounds vs Driveways
Developers always tend to bring workarounds as permanent solutions... they think from a granular perspective... train your teams to answer a few WHY... when they ask or suggest a solution?

Questions like :
Why this has to be done?
Why can it be not done later?
Why it was not done earlier?
Why this time?

Agile Teams eliminate the rework element to a bigger extend.. Agile Test Driven Teams eliminate it a very large extent. Agile behavioral development Teams can eliminate the larger chunk too... but yet Agile Teams too have to put rework. The project plans have to consider this fact and build an expectation accordingly. As a manager it is our job to ensure that we consider a few of the above elements and avoid some rework.. after all it is boring, time consuming and unpleasantly wasted.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

We all suck at Feedbacks - Part 3.1/4 - How to give Feedback that can be unpleasant

The beauty of this word starting with F (Feedback) is you cannot start it with a F word.This part of the statement is the most tricky and sensitive. All the time in Managers life he has to give negative feedback to everyone.. honestly it is not negative feedback it is the feedback that will not be pleasant to hear... A Call centre manager is walking by and hears a angry Customer Service representative blasting the customer or agitating the customer... the next thing he does is blasts the CS representative immediately after the call... what good does it do to him ? the Team?.

I went to a shopping mall last weekend, While my wife did all the shopping part I took a seat in the corner watching people, I saw a old lady looking for a bed linen where a sales rep was helping her. The sales rep initially showed interest, but when he saw her not being able to make a decision got agitated and reacted a bit rudely. His supervisor was watching all this and he stepped in had a chat pleasantly with the lady and tried to bring the lady to consensus and sold the work she was looking for. After the lady was gone he smiled at the rep and told him... "We will always have bad customers, they will come buy and go. What will remain is the reputation we hold. Now next time you get an angry/painful customer like this think that she is your childhood crush you never got a chance with.. I am sure you will serve better"

Inspiring... I liked the innovative way of feedback... What I liked about it was it had patience, place , perfection and politeness. Those P's that can make the F' better.

So what is it that we have to take care while we give a negative or not so pleasant feedback?

1. Place it well
Yes the place acts very important in the feedback sessions, specially when it is unpleasant... no one in the world wants to listen bad things about himself, secondly not in front of others. Make sure that when you have to give a feedback, give it in a private place.. it should be between those 2 souls and no one else. Find a right place to let the person know about the unpleasant things... so even if it gets worse it remains in there.

2. Point it well

Its very important to point it well. Again I prefer taking a profile book of incidents to support the unpleasant thing. You cannot just go and say "You miss all deliveries" you have to mention which item, which specific delivery and when. Be very specific to point on what you think about the incident too. This will help the person get your perspective about it...

A Manager once gave a feedback to his subordinate "The Management thinks that you are not capable or ready yet to take up this role" The guy went back, tried to figure out why , when , how asked the same questions to the manager.. he did not get an answer he Quit... if the feedback is not specific it is a disaster.

3. No place to emotions
Your emotions have no place in the feedback part. There is nothing worse than a angry, agitated, shouting and yelling manager giving a feedback. Be calm while you speak the feedback. Remember after all it is all about improvement.

4. Person is not the key, Action is
Feedbacks can get personal, A manager not happy about the attitude of the employee can take it personally while giving the feedback. He may pour only the personal perception and leave the public perception of the employee in due course. Ensure that when feedback is given it is given about actions and not person. Its ugly when a Manager says "You are not committed to the task" than he saying "We find you committed always, but for this particular task you missed the nerve"

5. Time it well

Run it instant. This will help you discuss the feedback more effectively. Any delay in giving a feedback on a unpleasant or negative action may turn disastrous in long run. Try and provide a quick if required short feedback but instantly for unpleasant actions.

6. Define actions
If it is the first time about something make sure you list down action items from the feedback. Try to create a check list and summarize and agree upon the actions when you close the feedback. If it is a repeated item on feedback then document it and make the consequences clear.. Yes politely. A developer who was a cricket fan was somehow not able to get hold of the pressure in development. Technically good he was still struggling with some or the other items.. after repetitive instructions the developer was not able to perform well when the Manager gave him a message "If you are a captain of the cricket Team, what will you do if some player consistently does not score? and while others are sitting on the bench to play the game? " He got the message and he listed down the actions he would work on.
7. Speak, Wait , Listen , Speak
Speak and wait to listen what other person have to say about it. At times ask the person to speak about it. Try to get a valuable input out. make it as a discussion not a lecture.
8. Trust
Build trust by re-emphasising that your faith still lies and you would want to get better results out of the actions defined. If you show your trust , it goes well.

9. Finish it there and follow it later
End it well. Try to emphasize on the objectives and make sure that you leave the feedback there. The items discussed in the feedback should not be discussed , just the action items derived should be followed up. keeping things about feedback in mind may cause unhealthy expectations and cold wars.

Of all these things.. remember you can use your sense of humour to give the unpleasant feedback wrapped in a pack of jokes and humor.

Dont forget that the objective of the feedback is to re-achieve well what we could not do for any reasons. We as managers have to make sure that when we come out of a discussion where the feedback about someone , something was unpleasant we have a plan to make it better.

We all suck at Feedbacks - Part 3/4 How to give Feedback

Continuing our series…
We as Managers hold a primary responsibility of seeing growth for others. We see this growth for our colleagues, employees, Team and organization. In handling this responsibility we have to ensure that the set objectives are compared with the actual results and to match both of these we provide feedback to our employees or Team members… Consolidating feedback as one element would be a mistake so I would treat feedback as Positive Feedback, Negative feedback and constructive feedback the manager has to give. Remember the first 2 types of feedback can be fatal if not given in the right way and order. A constructive feedback would be the one that would be a mix of both + blended with a futuristic approach to grow collective and personally. So let’s begin our quest to find out how not to mess up when we provide our feedback…

Positive Feedback
Usually managers think that praising someone is the easiest task, honestly it is not. Just telling someone you are doing great is not working well enough for various reasons…
Once a Supervisor who was pissed off with a rail track maintenance engineer attended a manager motivation seminar, inspired he decided that he will see how praising an employee worked and went to the engineer and said “You are doing really great, keep up the good work; it’s good to have people like you in the team”. The next question the engineer asked was “Are you also giving me a raise?”

Another occasion a very excited boss went to an employee and started praising him. Confused about a untimely praise the employee went and put down his resignation with a fear that he was going to be fired.

Positive feedback has to come in right time and with right words... If you just go and say someone “What a nice job you have done” may not be the right word if said when someone recently had created a blunder. As managers we have to do the following when we give positive feedback:Again I would iterate “Feedback is a continuous process, As managers our duty is to give timely and frequent feedbacks

1. Choose the time
Pick the time when the morale of the employee definitely need a boost. Ideally the time after a good job done, a deal won and implemented, a release done and no issues from it is the right time. Never be hasty in giving positive feedback. There are 2 reasons to it:
A. Early or Late feedback may not go with the same flair as a slightly delayed one would.
B. Just after a good job done the person would be in a relaxing / parting mode and your feedback may just not hit the right angle.
The Development Manager sent an email calling for a party that weekend after a big release was done.. only later to realize that the next day of the release caused blunderers and a lot of issues from customers which the Team spent fixing all through the week and later had to roll back. Time is the key factor.. So a feedback has to go in the appropriate time.

2. Choose the incidents
Just going and praising someone may not be good. The person may not value it or the message would be misinterpreted. Ideally when you turn to give a feedback make sure that you collect incidents at work off work that can help you build a great way to give a positive feedback also helping employees realize how and when they good. I maintain a Project Portfolio for every engineer in the Team… Every Project they work on, the hit and the miss. The learning’s from the Project for them, for me and for the Team. This helps during the feedback time when it is easier to tell someone
“Time is a key in support, and as a support engineer the reaction on LIV-XXX has being very helpful. It not only helped XXX customer go with their release on time but also helped us build a good relation with them”

3. Praise with clarity
A lot of positive feedbacks go without clarity. We Managers mix feedbacks always with Objectives… as in when we have to say “You did good at XXX” we say “You did at XXX , let’s do the same with YYY” this can cause a confusion.. it can be treated as an appreciation to what is done and also may be treated as a comment of what is not done and how to do it good next time. We have to be careful when giving this feedback that we don’t mix up Objectives and Goals with the praise or positive statement.
Clarity can also be bought by giving more preference to the actions than the person.

4. Bring Objectives in as a compliment
They say that feedback is the right time to give preview of goals too. Make sure that once you give the positive view of the past give a positive view of future. This makes feedback go stronger.. it is always treated as “Where I came from, What I did and where I would go”

5. Expose the pitfalls and improvements
Every Positive step is a step to improve. Similarly every positive feedback is a notification that you have to improve. With the positive feedback expose the pitfalls and the short comings; this helps the person understand the elements of improvement. Only praise is not the idea of a positive feedback, blend it with attorney of improvements.

6. During a feedback session , keep this part in the start and the end
I recently read a tweet that said “If you begin and end well you are sure to do well” Yes.. keep a pleasant beginning and end. So that when you enter the room and go out of the room the impression is positive. It’s the beginning and the end that will also drive how you run through the session. The last thing to do on a feedback session is to start with “You are an Idiot and did not do X, Y and Z” and end with “I hope you will do well here onwards”

I believe feedback being a mass topic in itself we should split this version into 3… we talk about How to give positive feedback today, How to give negative feedback next and then we mix the 2 to generate how to give a Constructive feedback.
I hope you would like the post and the series and would feed me back on what I have to do more.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

We all suck at Feedbacks - Part 2/4 . The Reaction

Continuing with our series on Feedback from the previous post we went through how to accept feedback. What is important is the reaction to the feedback. Many of us after accepting feedback don’t know what to do and how to do it... Here are a few things that may help you post receiving a feedback.

1. You asked for it, you got it so don’t crib

Feedback usually comes as a periodic output of an expectation. Usually the receiver of the feedback is the one who asks for it. Objective is very clear “How can I do well? Better? More?” Now the human nature doesn’t let us listen to criticism that easily. You always see a complain box in front of a government office, asking for feedback. I for fun once put a note in it criticizing the way the work was carried in that department. Next the “complain/feedback box” was removed. The common ways the feedback's are reacted are:

a. Ignore – By not listening, thinking or understanding the objective of it.

b. Over react - Thinking it is personal

c. Quit – Trying to run away from the feedback or the person giving it

d. Defend – for things that you clearly need to work on

We sometimes forget it was us who asked for the feedback....

2. Your body language speaks more than your words

During one of the feedback session while the Manager was giving the “Knowledge Doses” to the employee the employee kept looking at the pictures in the office, at the marriage ring of the Manager, at the laptop screen.

Once a Manager was giving criticism lessons of how a call centre executive should handle angry customers, the CS executive begged to differ and started arguing on every incident recorded, made faces and finally walked out.

An employee listened to the Boss , took the feedback, positively went out of the office onto his desk and with full fury started throwing things haywire, unlucky enough that the Boss walked right behind him to tell him that his promotion anyways is due that month ;)

An eye to eye contact, a sincere attention to the speaker, a calm body, a smiling face trying to adapt to the situation is a good foundation to the constructive feedback and professional career. During and after the feedback a sensible way to react is to try and list down what needs to be done.

3. Defence is the best offence, but only if you know what you defend

Every time we receive criticism we try to defend.. if the Boss says “You could have done this better” you say “Yes but that’s because you had X, Y and Z problems”. Your boss says “You should have done it this way” you return “No, this is how I was told to do“ blah blah. Defence is good, but only if you know what you are defending. A defensive approach during feedback is the offensive approach... it lets you go away from the core objectives. Never take a defensive step, listen adapt figure out what to do.

4. It’s all about perception?

Feedback is nothing but a summary of the personal and public perceptions. Your Boss’s opinion based on his perception considering your personal approach and how people see it. You may be doing all the right things but they may not be the rightest one in other people’s opinion. It’s about perceptions. The best way to handle this part of the feedback reaction is to read and not the perceptions and list down how you can improve them.

5. Your feedback is not to prove but perceive

The best thing to do after a feedback is to not prove that someone is right and someone is wrong. It is to perceive and not prove. I remember an incident that happened today. We asked one of our customers in a meeting about their feedback about our web application, the customer was honest and frank and he said “It is very slow”, The first thing that came from a developer sitting by my side was “It may be the browser, internet connection, etc etc.” We chose to say that we would like to check the same thing and get back to you. The right thing to do this is to summarize the feedback items and from time to time go back to your Manager and tell him on what you have worked on and what you are working on.

6. Mr. Good boy or Mr Grumpy?

Arrogant or Grumpy will never get you feedback again. Keep the attitude to yourself.

As much as feedback is important in our path to learn and grow it is similarly important that you react with the spirit of feedback. Remember the feedback is given to let you improve, learn and grow.