Are you child-like with new ideas?

Put in front of new toys, children often explore them and without much fear (mostly).

Bringing that spirit to work can be powerful – explore possibilities when new challenges appear, and do it without fear.

Sticking to one way is great for a process economy (do more, quicker at reasonable/standard quality). Finding new ways is useful in a creative economy (solve it with best quality at a reasonable speed).


Balancing what you know and what you may not – in your field of expertise

When faced with a problem – in a field you consider yourself an expert – you often tend to believe you know the answer.

Experience and knowledge (from experts, books,etc.) gives us an answer – the version of what we believe will solve the problem. There exists however the need for humility and awareness – that despite being an expert there is a lot left unexplored & unknown that may influence the answer in this situation. What are the mechanisms and tactics to force ourselves to think harder?

My thinking on the subject isn’t sharp. But I think there is a value + predictability vs. effort trade-off at play (more important a problem – or if you can’t predict your opponent’s response, less you should rely on conventional playbook answers). I can think of a couple scenarios, curious for more:

  1. Don’t apply conventional wisdom to an important & hard-to-solve problem: When you’re solving something foundational – often existing knowledge will suffice. But for hard problems, try to take conventional answers with a pinch of salt. In sports this is obvious – if you’re looking to defeat your opponent and you both know each others’ weaknesses – victory will come from outthinking not from the conventional playbook.
  2. Do not provide prescriptive answers to your team (and make sure you tell them its ok to fail) – If you believe you know the answer, still challenge that curious team mate to explore more possibilities.

Moving to a leader leader model – 3 Cs

Turn the Ship Around Summary_leader-leader approach

Relevant quotes from the book:

Don’t move information to authority, move authority to the information

What we need is release, or emancipation. Emancipation is fundamentally different from empowerment. With emancipation we are recognizing the inherent genius, energy, and creativity in all people, and allowing those talents to emerge. We realize that we don’t have the power to give these talents to others, or “empower” them to use them, only the power to prevent them from coming out. Emancipation results when teams have been given decision-making control and have the additional characteristics of competence and clarity. You know you have an emancipated team when you no longer need to empower them. Indeed, you no longer have the ability to empower them because they are not relying on you as their source of power.

Book source – Turn the ship around

Five Dysfunctions of Team

Loved the quick read. some lessons/notes:

Framework to build a well functioning team:

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: How Valid Creates a  Results-Oriented Organizational Culture - Valid

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

Vulnerability and build trust: “Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”

Accountability with trust : “Push with respect, and under the assumption that the other person is probably doing the right thing. But push anyway. And never hold back.”

Disagree & Commit – “Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision. They leave meetings confident that no one on the team is quietly harboring doubts about whether to support the actions agreed on.”

A First Team – is the idea that true leaders prioritize supporting their fellow leaders over their direct reports—that they are responsible to their peers more than they are to their individual or “Second” teams.

Link to Book on Goodreads

Setting Goals

Over the last decade, I’ve signed up for Goodreads’ annual reading challenge, and my goal used to be standard 12 books a year. One year I read 15 books (I was particularly free), but most often found myself short (5,9, etc.).

Last year, I wanted to increase the number of books I read each year, and what better way to scale that than a goal that track against the year (so 19 books in 2019,etc.) . I set myself a goal of 19 books (because 2019), while knowing fully well it was above my punching weight (I wasn’t going to prioritize reading over rest of my work/home life). I fell short of the goal but read 17 books. This year, the goal is 20 books(because 2020), and am at 9 done so far, but likely to get much higher than my average from previous “busy” years. While the 12 books per year goal was achievable, it was in some ways holding me back from how much I was capable of reading. Now I’m discovering my own reading appetite.

We often think through goals and make sure they’re achievable before signing up for them. What’s the point of signing up for goals, unless we know it is achievable with some line of sight- Right? The big dreamers and achievers however sign up for massive goals – land on Mars, build the largest company, change the face of poverty ,etc. I suspect these visionaries have made a habit of setting goals bigger than their current lives, and over time gain more confidence in crossing the bridge between their current state and their aspirational goal state.

So, while logic tells you the realm of possible, I think goals help you explore the world of the attainable. Goals shouldn’t be based on logic, and in some way be pulled out of thin air. In order to balance logic and aspirations, I’ve been working on two changes:

  1. Set goals based on instinct – in the realm of aspirational and motivational. Good goals should motivate you
  2. Use logic and planning to work towards them, and to understand how to cover for the short fall (i.e. goal vs. your line of sight)

The line between a large attainable goal, vs. impossible pipe dreams. I think that’s a personal decision. The test is – does the goal motivate you, and push you? If not, perhaps the goal is a bit too big, or often – you just don’t see a path between the current state and the goal. You might need some help to understand that path better.

Keep me honest & share your reading recommendations –

Management – 60% you – 40% others

60% of management is managing yourself, 40% is reaching out to people and addressing their fears.

Heard this fantastic way to think about management from Suresh Narayanan, at a talk about brand management organized by MMA& Equitor 

So fascinating. When thinking about how to lead better, I often focus on how I can understand and respond to people. While those skills are important, much of the challenge lies in the prep leading up to that moment.

Case in point – providing your team clarity, often begins with clarity in your own head.

Keep Opening doors for yourself, keep walking through them

Wonderful message from Rich Lesser (CEO, Boston Consulting Group) to the graduating class for 2020.  On Linked here, and embedded below.

My favorite part, timely but also timeless, is right at the end:

Keep Opening Doors for yourself,

Keep walking through them,

With a willingness to let yourself grow, change and learn,

Not just now, but always,

With persistence driving you.

The opportunities are limitless – for you to make a difference & create a sense of fulfillment in your own lives.

Your duty today…

Our duty today is:

  • To perform at your highest potential
  • To build a better version of yourself

“Today” is typically derived from the past and the future.

The past does not exist, only our memories of the past exist. Our version of the events of the past, invokes in us a reaction in the present. Any event evokes in us a positive reaction or a negative reaction, and leaves behind a lesson.

Our duty to the past then, is to take the pieces that will help you be the best version of you today. Take from the past anything that will motivate you today, and the lessons you can apply today. Gratitude towards people & events of the past are always great motivators. Memories, thoughts, or emotions from the past that do not serve this purpose – must be deleted, subdued or best – reprogrammed.

Our duty to the future, is to bring to the present that which will provide drive & direction now. Typically, this starts with articulating your dreams for the future, and truly visualizing it to give it life. The dream maybe a be a monetary goal, a new skill, or a slightly more intangible objective e.g. “being a better leader”.

The bigger the dream, the harder it is to begin. Begin by focusing on the now. Break down your big dream into smaller bits – pieces for the now. Then ensure a considerable portion of your calendar today is dedicated to that future you.

If you struggle with this piece – your goal may still be vague or your action for today is unclear. Cut yourself some slack, this is not a perfect linear path. Plan some actions for now anyway– actions that might help you explore and uncover those goals & actions (talk to someone or complete that “somewhat aligned to my dream, but not quite” task). After all, this is better than no action, and will help us build a better version of ourselves.

All of this takes constant effort of course – but that is the goal. You have a duty today, dependent on the past & the future.

P.S. For those who journal, think of yesterday & tomorrow.


Incurable Optimist

Inspiring Ilango  described himself an “Incurable Optimist”, a phrase I have since loved. He spoke of a Thirukural that inspires him :


“Idukkan Varungaal Naguga Adhanai
Aduthoorvadhu Agudhu Oppadhill”

Optimism combined with the acceptance of the world/hand you have been dealt, and sky is the limit.