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.

Reflecting on a year at Booth

I just wrapped up a year of business school – technically I started school 9 months ago, but that’s how we count years. It has been a whirlwind of a year – a year that has pushed me, a year that has taught me a lot and a year that I have absolutely loved.

Friends who started at school two years ago (21 months ago, not 18 months) are graduating now. Graduation means social media is filled with a barrage of photos, emotional messages and accounts of how much they’ll miss Booth. Some thank their friends, some thank their family, some start new fashion trends (tasteful knee slip). My batch mates, though not in as much rigour, have also taken the chance to profess their undying love for year one of the two year package. I endorse these actions(through likes on Facebook), I would do the same too. I’ve loved my time at Booth. But I’m a rebel, I want to say it differently.

I’m also a reflective rebel, so I ask myself a question. A question that partners ask each other, a question that has many right answers yet one I always find incredibly hard to answer, a question that can make or break partnerships. “Why do you love me/X/her/Booth?”.

Why do I love Booth? I have answers, many answers. Answers that almost everyone seems to repeat. I’ve loved the people here – yes sure. I’ve loved the energy I’ve had through days packed with appointments – appointments that should only be on the same day if you are a maniac or if you are in b-school. I’ve loved the classes, they’ve engrained in me frameworks to think with and I’ve been a fan boy to more than one professor (sorry Goolsbee, Kamenica is in now).  I’ve loved the trips we took together with school mates. I’ve enjoyed the geeky conversations about life, school & company strategies.

So why do I love Booth?  Its all of those things, all combined. The combination taught me a lot. I grew. It’s this growth that I loved (#selfish). It’s knowing that you can continue to grow. It’s the feeling in the morning – knowing that I can experiment, make mistakes and learn something today. I’ve loved that. That’s my #WhyBooth.

What have I learnt? Boy this post has many questions. Lessons from year 1 to follow.


3 Lessons from Improv (A)

Improv means different things to different people. For some it’s a skill to make a living, for some its a hobby, and for some its a way to build confidence and presence.

When I joined Improv classes, I expected  that it’d make me funnier, better on my feet and an all round winner. To some extent it did (some say otherwise), but it also taught me many other things. Here are my top 3 realisations.  Let me caveat them though – none of these are “new” and I think that is the essence of Improv. To me, Improv is a mindfulness exercise with immediate feedback loops. In an effort to be more effective on stage, I learnt lessons that translated directly to my effectiveness in daily life. 

Team before me – The essence of  “Yes, and”

“Yes,and” is a rule-of-thumb at Improv and frankly should be a mantra for life. It means you accept whatever your team throws at you, accept it and volley back. No rebuttals, no belittling, no arguing, no “making it better if we did it that way instead”. Instead keep building with the team.

Think about using that spirit in a team meeting.  I’ve forced myself into that rule (as often as I can remember) and its been tremendous at meetings. It means I don’t need the limelight. I don’t even need to force myself to contribute. I need to watch out for the team and add value to make the whole better. Team before me.



Stop thinking about yourself! 

I’m going to borrow a friend’s story. He was in a scene and a team member slated to join him on stage. Just before the team member’s entry – the audience started laughing hysterically. My friend spent the rest of the scene wondering why they laughed so hard – he didn’t think he said anything that funny, he was scared he accidentally made a mistake and he even wondered if there was something wrong with the way he looked. Why did the audience laugh? The team mate entering the scene had apparently walked in a funny way.

WE SPEND SO MUCH TIME IN OUR HEADS! We think about ourself, we think about what others think about us. So many questions and so much doubt. At improv it causes stage fright, and you may freeze on stage. These doubts in life have more dire consequences – they drive the lack of confidence, they stop you from executing efficiently, and often they stop you from even taking a shot.

Does Improv help you get over this fear? Yes, it trains a muscle. A muscle that makes you take the first step before your thoughts overpower your judgement. Sure, you’ll make a fool of yourself a few times,  but you’ll also learn to get comfortable with that.

Mindfulness – being present 

Improv requires you to listen to your team and accept their ideas as-is (lesson 1). Then you need to trust yourself, get out of your head and not be afraid of being judged (lesson 2) . And if you manage that – you can take a simple scene and build an enjoyable experience. BUT these skills are so hard that you can only do them when you are fully present.

Improv caught me off guard here. I would be on an imaginary garbage truck in a scene, but my mind would wander to my Accounting homework. I knew my mind wandered, but I never realised how often my mind wandered. This was perhaps the BIGGEST takeaway for me.

My class: Can you feel the love?


Since, I’ve caught my mind wandering – conversations, lectures and meetings. If the wandering mind reduces the quality of an Improv scene so substantially, the impact on life is much worse! I don’t think there is a quick fix here, but Improv gave me the awareness to catch myself.

Bonus: Weekly Stress Relief

An Improv class every week is like going to a standup show every week. Not just any show, at this is a show you are great friends with the performers (if you aren’t when you start, you will be by the end).  A combination of laughing and love does wonders when life is rushing past around you. (read:recruiting crash landings)


The fun in tough times!

Stressed about this big goal or project in your life? Yes am sure it is a lot of work, but isn’t it also fun? If it isn’t fun – are you defining fun as those activities that have minimal consequences? Watching a movie, visiting a restaurant or grabbing a drink.

Aren’t bungee jumps, scuba dives or hikes also fun? Yes, they have a danger and stress element to them, but the stress goes away when you finish. The gratification is also delayed and frankly compressed to a really short timeline. When you attempt a sky dive, you will probably feel stressed through the training, the plane’s take off and  perhaps even for the first few seconds in the air. The gratification comes in the last few seconds of the dive and in the memories that remain.

Perhaps then, it makes sense to think of your stressful project as fun – where the fun comes in short bursts and the pressure lasts longer but eventually goes away. Shift your focus to the fun – keep the reward in mind not the consequences, learn to enjoy the thrills of the journey as you can’t prevent them and attack those problems as puzzles (hell they need solving). There really can’t be anything more fun than a goal that makes you sweat.