The Task of Creating Positive Change – 24

It was 0100hrs, when my mobile went beep – beep. Been a long day, however this did not deter me in reaching out for the phone and my reading glasses. What was in store for me, that was a message from my client perhaps delivered late. May be the message was sent when I was airborne, it took a long time before landing at my end. Right. The message was in form of a question, ‘What does one do to change the organization culture, create a culture of empowerment & thereby increase productivity?’ & ‘Where does one start?’. That message was enough to set thinking process on. I was tired, decided to place my mobile aside and return my reading glasses back into its case and hit the pillow. I went back to sleep consciously. The next four and a half hour was tough, I was thinking and sleeping at the same time. My client’s organization imago was vivid all through, there were multiple touch points to be calibrated, buy-in’s had to be established, envelopes were to be pushed to get the process rolling.


It was half past 7 in the morning, when I decided to thank my client for the message. While I thanked him for the message, I also managed to capture the expectations. It was clear from my client’s perspectives that ‘managers make and stand by their decision, instead of running to the seniors for validation and support’, this was consuming a lot of productive time and thereby response time to market was slow. Employee engagement score was on a decline. Workforce did not trust the abilities of their manager, as senior management team members were found validating with the workforce, therefore the workforce felt it better to wait for the review meetings.


The prognosis was clear, should the practice continue; the client will loose vital opportunities; time to market, market share, meeting or exceeding customer expectations, workforce morale & engagement, and so on. Given the situation – As Is, I mapped the clients ‘TO Be’ state, established the gaps and presented my therapeutic approach to reach the desire state. One of the interventions for my client was to enable managers to become empowering and change oriented rather than being transaction based. The approach was top down. My client managers were trained on transforming to ‘Coaching Managers’ from being ‘Transaction Managers’. What did this process involve.


Client managers were empowered to debate to establish what options lay in front of them to change in order to reduce the time to market, increase workforce engagement scores, capture vital opportunities, optimize the use of resources. The managers workshop emerged that in order to enhance the commitment levels across the following essentials had to be met;

1. Everyone in the organization had to be clear about the organization purpose, the goals, values and their roles

2. Everyone must have ownership over what they did on the job

3. Everyone must have the desired level of competence to perform the role / job that was expected of them

4. People should felt appreciated for their performance


The 4 essentials become a good start point for building an effective organization culture. In order to accomplish the above, the managers where carefully hand picked for a pilot workshop on helping managers to transform to coaching managers. The managers were put through action and rigor for over 2 days with specific action plans and mentored during the period for the next 8 weeks, followed another 2 day offsite. The results were amazing.


What did the managers do differently now?


The workforce engagement increased by 17% as a consequence of certain practices being employed by the managers, & the attribution during the next quarter was near zero. The managers started to engage and respect their workforce as people, secondly were consciously acknowledging the contributions made the workforce, thirdly they engaged in goal specific conversation and asked what the workforce would do in the circumstances. They were fully present and seen requests for ‘Big Audacious Goals’ and ‘Championing’ the workforce. Managers were listening to the workforce, making them think by asking ‘What’ questions rather than ‘Why’ questions. Workforce felt more open dialogue taking place rather than painful defensive dialogues or fault find instances. For instance during a focus group discussion cum feedback session, one of the respondents to the activity said that ‘he would normally find his manager asking him – don’t you know…., now he find hims instead paraphrasing his questions as; what can be done here?’. That’s an interesting change.


Coaching managers are more transformation in nature, they work with their workforce from where they are rather than where they want them to be. The success of a manager in the current progressive environment is help people feel empowered rather vulnerable. With vulnerable workforce you will never reach where you want to! Manager as a leader in organization is dealer in hope, people look for the ray of hope to ride. When the leader quells his hope, people will sulk and the scenario will be like walking in the opposite direction of conveyor belt movement.


Organization culture of creating an empowering movement starts with alignment of thoughts, feelings, & actions, this can be attained through creating a coaching movement in the organization rather than a managing movement. When workforce feel empowered, you succeed in creating a great workplace.


Look out for more empowering practices in the next series of ‘The Task for Creating Positive Change’.


Rgds n best wishes – Sai

Committed to the business of empowering people to prosperity.




Empowered Workforce -11

I was working with a client of mine during the recent past. My client made a bold announcement of acquisition to their workforce, there was some cheer and some silent jeers as well. I am not sure if the management representative took notice of that, however I did. My client went on distribute sweets to all the workforce in the office.

Sweets or no sweets, the news of acquisition did not go down well with some quarters. As far as the client was concerned this acquisition was meant to be strategic in nature, the CEO was happy that the acquisition happened as the company would grow by an additional 8%, and the investors would stand to gain as this was part of the wealth creation mission. The company had a small base of 110 crores of business in India, but being progressive it was bound to grow to greater heights in the years to come by.

Being analytical in nature, I carried the scene in my head and kept reflecting on it all through my drive back home. The question that emerged was ‘What made the workforce feel threatened?’, ‘What information was missing in the CEO’s address to the company workforce?’, ‘How could the CEO have made a lasting impression?’. I allowed these thoughts to incubate all through my 75 minute drive back home.

The journey was tiring, but the thinking process was even tiring. I decided to take a hot shower. Just as I was experiencing the soothing spray of hot water from the shower jet above, in my minds eye I was replaying the scenario all over. Hurrah, I had broken the code. The workforce predominantly comprised of individuals from Quality, Research & Design as this client’s business was focused on consulting and design. The workforce were analytical in nature, they were constantly asking what, how, & why in their mind. Whilst the CEO address spoke of the What’s and How’s, what it did not address was the why?

People with analytical bend of mind; are more likely to analyze information, ask questions, search, seek logical explanation, quality conscious, at times may appear cynical or critical to others. The communication planned perhaps missed this element. If the CEO and senior management was concerned with motivating the team members, the communication should have been more logical, factual, with supporting evidences constructed logically. The flow of information required to focus on What, How & Why, Why, Why, Why & Why. The Why’s (need for information) remind me of an organization which has embraced 6 Sigma or TQM. Should you have experienced the amount of data mining in these organizations, you will be able to establish the culture of the ‘Analytics’.

If you are looking at building relationships with such individuals, you better structure your conversation in a logical fashion. If you are a manager, influencing these individuals will require you to prepare & structure your conversation in a manner which is Logical, Feasible and some thing will reduce their Tension. No wonder the silent jeers were palpable.

Should you have analytics in your environment, better plan your communication.



New Year 2011

Wish all my friends, associates, training workshop participants a very happy and prosperous 2011.

I wish all a year full opportunities to create positive change to your constituents.

Rgds – Sai



The Task of Creating Positive Change – 23(A)

In ‘The Task of Creating Positive Change – 23’, I had presented a live experience which I happened to observe during one of my interventions for a client as part of their leadership pipeline development.  I presented the data to you as a result. I had also posed some questions, notable amongst them was ‘Is this manager creating a positive change for his workforce?’

I had received some responses and some discussions emerged in another group based on the experiences that I had shared. I was quizzed about the task of creating positive change w r t this posting. My view about this manager is that he has reached the level of incompetence, incompetence w r t his ability to positive engage workforce, influence, and support them.

Let us examine, why we have managers? I recall a very old book which was adorning my brothers library in my parents home, this book was by William B Given Jr titled ‘How to Manage People’ published in the year 1964 bought at a price of Rs. 5/-, I now begin to cherish the book. Given says if a manager is being paid salary, ‘he is being paid to get the work done and not do it by himself’. Ideally this manager should have either helped the team or got the work done by the team. I might be sounding a bit manipulative, when I say ‘get the work done by the team’, my intention herein is getting work done by creating the positive influence on the constituents of the team through a process of;

  • Clarifying the Goals
  • Helping the team members to develop alternatives
  • Structure a method or process for accomplishment
  • Work consistently in line with the process to produce the desired results
  • Review the results and provide object feedback
  • Encourage the members to raise the bar, take the risk, think out of the box and unconventionally,
  • Bring about creative breakthroughs
  • Be seen consistent in his behavior

thus bring about the process of positive change on the constituents of the team.

The manager in the view of Dr. Meredith Belbin is someone who has had the subject matter experience and is ready to instruct the constituents of the work team to perform the task to the desired expectations. Meaning the manger is expected to transfer his learning and experiences so that he is able to replicate them amongst the constituents and produce more quickly or else they will perish as an organization.

Given the above, there are 2 distinct generations which believe the role of task of the manager is to creative positive change amongst his constituents to produce more by leading them right, teaching them right. I believe inventories have to be managed, whilst people have to be led by teaching them, enlisting them, empowering them, challenging them, & constantly encouraging them.

Going back to the case study, the poor manager got everything wrong.  Firstly, his paradigms of

  • ‘Know it all’,
  • ‘Can & must do it all’,
  • ‘If I cannot do it, no one will be able to do it’,
  • ‘People seem to agree, therefore I must be correct’,
  • ‘No one has verbalized objections, so there might not be any’, etc

which were constantly egged by his group members proved to be his nemesis. Perhaps these were a good bunch of constituents, who were politically correct not wanting to upset their senior experienced team member through their naive contributions. If this assumption is true, then the question which arises here is ‘do we have a bunch of leaders emerging?’, ‘will the pipeline ever by populated?’.

For those of you who would want to know what I think the manager should have ideally done;

  • Invite contributions from the team through brainstorm
  • Moderated the contributions and helped in arriving at a consensus
  • Elected the best workable plan
  • Facilitated the team to come up with the economic bill of materials
  • Acted as the teams conscious keeper
  • Provided periodic feedback
  • Encourage the team to go for the kill
  • Facilitated learning through sharing of experience, etc

Managerial pitfalls:

  1. Belief that it is the responsibility of the manager to develop solutions to all problems
  2. Present plans created by self without participation from the constituents
  3. Belief that manager is more aware and experienced than the sum total experience of the constituents

I would imagine that this list is not all inclusive, however it does capture the essence of managerial beliefs.

My verdict – No positive change in this experience, only desperation and frustration for the constituents.

Your take away: think how you can create positive change every time you interact with your team members, when you do it your team members will be grateful to you for your greatness. Now that’s what I call as leadership!

The Task of Creating Positive Change – 23

During the recent past, I was invited to help a client to train their managers as part of their leadership pipeline strengthening measures. The aim of the workshop was to train the managers and individual contributors to become leaders, sustain the team, develop members to become effective. The clients requirement was a structured training workshop which would not only offer the concepts but with fun. So I got back to my desk and devised a workshop which would be hands on and interactive with games interspersed in it.

On the appointed day, the workshop was inaugurated and we got the program rolling with icebreakers. The audience had been warming up well, and I was in the groove, what more can the trainer expect? I decided that this was the time to introduce to the audience ‘The Task of Creating Positive Change’ as the primary leadership task, the audience got eager and started reciprocating back with nods, questions, supportive statements.

Given the audience level of enthusiasm, I decided to drive the concept home by engaging the audience in a tower building game. The task entrusted to the teams formed randomly was to construct a news paper tower, which would be taller and stronger as opposed to the other teams with the lowest cost. The teams had 45 minutes of time to conceptualize, present bill of material and execute the task collectively. The constraint was that, the team would will have to use a minimum quantity of paper, no wastage, all material procured should be used up fully, any wastage will add to negative scores and could possibly result in disqualification. It was all go from there on.

The teams huddled around and discussed, drew up the design, counter designs were put up by members, small cross discussions were on, the dynamics of the group was interesting to watch, except for one team where a different scenario was being enacted altogether. Being inquisitive, I decided to go up to the team and observe.

What did I find there?

The constituents of the group included one of the line manager and some cross functional team juniors. Being juniors there was a natural tendency to subordinate, whilst the senior seemed to be  not only happy at taking the lead but hog the limelight. The juniors would ask him, sir what next? The manager would love to talk and advance his point. He drew up the design, sought the attention of the group and put forth the design and asked feedback. The members agreed instantly that this was a workable proposition and it just cannot fail. Wow, what a sight.  After the design plan was placed on the table, the boss went on draw up a bill of material, before that he asked one of the member to go to the resource table and examine what resources were on offer. The member quickly made a survey and mentally listed them, walked up to the table and placed it on the table for the manager to internalize. Finally a bill of material was drawn up and the resources procurement was made.

Following which the team got into the task of creating the dream tower. Members huddled around, the manager asked for the scissor and paper, he got down to the task of rolling, folding, & cutting the paper. The scene reminded me of the classic deaf frog story, when he was struggling to climb out of the hole there were other frogs shouting at him. Get me the cellophane tape, cut it into small pieces – right away sir. Get me the rubber band, yes sir. After about 25 minutes the tower stood tall and the team reported task completion.

I moved to other tables to check the progress, the towers were emerging, people were helping each other, sticking their towers and reinforcing the towers resilience to withstand the wind power and finally the christening of the tower. Our friends were watching and ran back to seek additional resource to name their tower and provide reinforcement but it was too late.

The teams gathered and show cased their creations and explained what’s in the name, and how they hit upon the concept? Wow, it was interesting. Finally, it was the turn of the line manager’s team. There was cajoling and suggesting, no one seemed to have it in them to come forward and our manager took the stage, presented the creation, claimed to have overlooked the idea of naming the tower but on the fly gave it a name and it all ended. The towers were put to test of resilience, one tower fell, whilst the other came apart, the 3rd was shorter and wider, whilst the winning team had equal propositions all around and optimized the cost and therefore won.

The team which I had observed, what went wrong, what should the manager have done, how could he have contributed better, was he really creating positive change for the team, was he authentic?

Think though these and write back on the comments, let us discuss. In my next post I shall compile everybody’s contribution and post the impressions in ‘The Task of Creating Positive Change – 23’s addendum’.

The Task of Creating Positive Change – 22

In ‘The Task of Creating Positive Change – 21’  I had laid emphasis to  the process of delegation through a quick  mentoring session that I had held with one  of my clients. I was wondering if the  process was completed since I had  received only 2 calls to let me know what  they thought about the posting.

In my view the process is not complete. As a leader you have established the right job for the right individual and therefore you have created an opportunity for the individual concerned to execute an assigned job. However, ‘The Task of Creating Positive Change’ is not complete as yet. So, whats remaining?

The role of the leader in an organization is that of ‘Ennoblement’ creating possibilities for the individuals on the job. Remember “a leader is someone you choose to follow to a place, which otherwise you would not have made it on your own – Joel Barker”. Therefore the leader must ensure the task is not only delegated but the individual is also learning the art of task performance. The newness doesn’t remain new, but the excitement of achievement continues and the spirit is sustained.

The question is how can you achieve that result? Right then, here are 5 simple steps that you should follow whilst you are creating positive change for your workforce.

  1. Focus on the task & the individual – As a leader who is committed to the task of creating positive change you must remain focused always on the task & the individual executing the task. Focus on the complexity of the task, be aware what the individual already knows and doesn’t know about the task, make sure the resources are provided as per plan, check how the individual is doing, should you notice that there are difficulties never miss out an opportunity to teach keeping the focus on the learning of the individual.
  2. Listen Actively – There are 3 things which every subordinate / workforce in an organization would like to know (a) Tell me what you expect of me, (b) Tell me how I am doing in relation to your expectations, & (c) Please listen to me when I come to you, don’t just shoot your feedback or your mouth. The (C) points assumes critical importance. As managers very often we believe we are the ones who should do all the talking and answer questions or solve problems every-time the subordinate comes up with one. No way, you don’t need to be knowledge powerhouse, let the innate talent of the individual be brought to the fore. Therefore learn to listen, listen to understand the context, listen to understand the hopes, feelings & thoughts what the other person brings to work, listen for relating not just understanding. Listen from the other persons point of view. Feedback you understanding. Be connected.
  3. Ask Relevant Questions – seek to understand, ask questions to help the other person enumerate. Remember, influencing need not always be through advocating, you can influence by asking specific questions. Seek more of ‘Whats’ than ‘how & why’. ‘What’ questions helps the follower expand and dive deeper into the unconscious and bring out information, helps the person relate with themselves and their goals. The task of the leader is to make continuous improvements in the methods undertaken to reach the journey safely & surely. In my experience, I have worked with various organizations which encourage ‘Creativity’ & ‘Quality’. My view here is that, Creativity provides empowerment and engagement, whilst Quality is so focused with elimination of wastes and doing things right the first time, that quality consciousness sometimes eliminates ‘Creativity’ and ‘Empowerment’. Organizations paranoid of doing things right, are so mechanical in their approach to execution of tasks, problem solving that they fail sometimes to thing laterally. Managers or leaders can sometimes step outside the box and facilitate the process of de-addiction to quality or process by asking questions which will entail some amount of thinking and development of a new paradigm. This paradigm will help in marrying quality with creativity. I encourage people to ask more of ‘What’ questions than asking the traditional ‘How & Why’ questions as they tend to stifle thinking and bring about defensiveness in the individual. The task of creating positive change deals with empowerment and self belief, not stifling people and one up manship.
  4. Provide Relevant Feedback – In the task of creating positive change, one of the key roles of the leader is empowering people and helping them overcome their dis-powering / dis-empowering belief, often referred to as limiting belief. Leaders must miss out on opportunities to re-inforce positives to the followers. Besides these, leaders must also feedback objectively to the follower, thereby enabling the follower see things in new light. For example, if a leader has noticed that the follower is nurturing certain limiting belief, the leader can re-inforce saying that the previous instant when a similar task was delegated, the follower executed them to his best of ability but now he is observing that he is low on confidence. The leader must learn to coach the workforce to effectiveness by not only feeding back information but also helping the follower feed forward the information provided through coaching.
  5. Seek BIG Results – Leaders must not only enlist followers, but help follower to achieve results, therefore leaders in organizations must set goals that challenge the individual. I recall Jim Collins in his book the ‘Good to Great’ speaks about ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals – BHAG’, as leaders it is your task to set demanding tasks and provide the follower with methods, resources and necessary support in achieving that milestone without  or minimal pains.

when the leader follows the above 5 steps, there is every possibility that the delegation of tasks become easy and results oriented.

In this posting, I have used a visual of the Meerkat, based on the Meerkat manor video which was televised on National Geographic Channel & also Animal Planet. These small creatures which live in the hot and desert vegetation are constantly at risk from larger predators which are both on land and in the air, they are constantly on the move in search of food and safety. The strategies for survival and satisfaction of the hunger is a treat to watch. The role of the leadership is constantly rotated as these animals are shy and want to securitize their survival. Organization leaders can take a leaf out of the Meerkat’s for leading teams effectively to success.

The Empowered Workforce – 10

Your success in organization depends on your ability to understand & interact with everyone else. In my previous 2 postings on the subject, I had covered 2 distinctive behavioral styles namely the Aggressive driven driver, & the Expressive Influencer. Those were the 2 distinct extravert styles visible in the environment behaviorally. Whilst the Driven Driver was blunt, aggressive, task & challenge oriented, the Expressive Influencer was fun loving, optimistic, socializer, who readily influenced others to his points of view, to the extent that he was prepared to negotiate with you as long as he was not socially ostracized.

This week I am going to be focusing on the Amiable stabilizer who contribute to nearly 40% of the population world wide. It is these stabilizers that  have held the planet together for our existence, else we would all have perished long ago.

Distinct Characteristics of the Amiable Stabilizers:

They are introvert, who tend to think to speak. They are most often stability conscious and may appear to be aloof, however they are very deeply involved in the process of thought. They do not like to be rushed into things or activities, for them if something is worth engaging and executive, it is worth doing correctly and methodically, consequently they do not like to be pushed into activity. They like the environment to be orderly and even paced in a transaction. They do not use sweeping gestures in their body language nor do they use inflection verbally. They speak softly, and more or less in a flat tone. However these attributes may vary depending upon the other behavioral factors that the individual prefers.

By nature these people tend feel for the person deeply and empathize with them more. Consequently their relationships are far more stronger and have deeper meanings behind them.


Think of a person in your work life with whom you have interact or have interacted in the past. What was it like for you to influence this person? Was it easy? What did the person ask for? What information did the person give out – Verbally, behaviorally, etc?  How challenging was it to influence the person to your point of you? Did the person pace up with you or lead the conversation with you?

List out instances when you were not able to strike the right chord with these individuals. Review the notes and compare your notes with others as well. This will give you sizable data as to how other people experience the same person.

The Interaction Technique

Having spotted and classified the subject, follow the steps listed below;

  1. Be patient with them, give them time
  2. Don’t rush the talk
  3. Pace the conversation, looking for opportunities to lead
  4. Make feeling statements rather than thinking statements
  5. Give them references
  6. Be sincere & honest, etc


You will able to transact business and build honest relationships with the Steady, Amiable, Stabilizer without upsetting him or loosing him. When you win his confidence, he will be a strength to you. How? He will provide insights into methodical task execution, support you with execution whenever required. He will always be with you sincerely and a person whom you can trust.

Learning to work with these 3 distinctive styles will help you gain significant brownie points in your appraisals  w r t people relationships. Mind you irrespective of the career you choose, there is no escaping people. You will have to work them always.

Here is a passing quote by Ken Blanchard;

The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.

Regards and best wishes,

See you on top – G Sairamesh ACC, People Change Agent