A master class in Appreciation – Habit Journal Day 14

This afternoon, to my pleasant surprise, Suman appreciated me on LinkedIn for being an “Inspirational Leader”. You made my day, thanks, Suman.

Suman is a special guy. He’s what we call a people leader. Mind you, Suman is not a people pleaser. He takes genuine efforts to understand the people around him and appreciate the excellence they bring to the table. He’s a greatness detective.

I don’t say this lightly. We all leave Digital footprints, and sustained behaviour shows character. Suman’s LinkedIn activity page tells the story best.

A cursory look at his page shows he’s been recognising excellence in others continuously. His notes are personally crafted with custom badges and hashtags. A global leader has earned his appreciation for delivering an excellent presentation. A technical leader who’s displayed emulation-worthy behaviour, a mentor, four team members (each with customised hashtags!) have all been noticed and appreciated. A former colleague has been called out for his creative solutions. The appreciation is universal (it covers everyone – colleagues, seniors, teams, peers), global and unconditional. This is how recognition and gratitude ought to be.

Nice guys don’t always finish last. In the Digital Economy, trust and reputation are our most relevant currencies; and life is a marathon, not a sprint. And in this race, Suman and his ilk are the winners.

Communicating strategically (!)

Enjoying some tea at the cafe last week, I heard myself advising a colleague “we’ve got to leverage our automation accelerator and show real value soon; let’s touchbase after a week and then close the loop with the customer”.

I saw her face break into a small frown before opening out into the familiar nod and broad smile. As always, she understood what was required and would take care of it – no problem.

A few sips later, it struck me – I had just unleashed a torrent of office speak (actually gibberish) at her. Try this version (with italics for emphasis!):

“we’ve got to leverage our automation accelerator and show real value soon; let’s touchbase after a week and then we can close the loop with the customer”.

Try that on someone who isn’t privy to IT speak and I promise you he’ll sport a startled look on his face for a week. I mean here I was using “leverage” as if I was Mr.Archimedes and promising to touchbase (when I didn’t even play baseball!). I was closing loops (maybe also jumping through hoops!) and talking about real value (is there any other kind?!). Man, was I talking funny!

I checked with my colleague if she concurred that I was infected with the “office speak” bug and she did – only she hadn’t realized it until later because these words and phrases were pervasive – you found them in every conference room, in every building. Was an epidemic really underway – we decided to run tests for a week.

The next day, walking into the workplace, I found a team member wearing a dazed look. Restored with our strong vending-machine coffee, he managed to let us know what had troubled him so. He had just been asked to create a “holistic, proactive approach to accelerate the IT and business cycle for a client – and this (and I swear I am not making this up!) was for a client who wanted one person to be onboarded for 6 weeks to execute some testing! Kind of like going to book a taxi ride and ending up buying a Mercedes sedan huh!

That afternoon, in a “brainstorming” session, a participant got up and asked to share his “2 cents of wisdom”. The 2 cents turned out to be 25 minutes worth of a monologue covering (but not limited to) the army, cricket, global issues, local resort experiences and many other things. The speech was peppered with stuff like “hitting the ball out of the park”, transforming with game changing ideas (maybe play cricket in a football field?), war rooms to foster collaboration (don’t ask me how!) and a lot more. Indeed, if “2 cents (or any other currency)” could be stretched so far, it is time for our Finance minister to take some lessons from him.

Five ‘o’clock saw me and 3 other colleagues finalizing the agenda for a client meeting (yeah, I am always in some meeting!). To be exact, we were doing a “round table” meet huddled around an oval-shaped table. Someone (yeah there’s always a Mr.Smart Alec in every meeting right) asked a tough question that no one had a ready answer to. The response he got was epic “let’s connect offline on this one”. Offline? We weren’t online now (we didn’t even have laptops in that meet!) anyway!

And so it went. Once you start looking, you’ll realize how many hours of fun, “office speak” can provide you. Are you listening Mr.Russell Peters/ other standup comedians – we’re ready to pose you some tough competition!

And with that, I’ll leave you to you to enjoy the weekend. I’ve got to get back to work – there’s a holistic strategy that involves a multi-faceted technique I’ve got to spend time on. I promise you it will transform our client’s business and make them undergo a paradigm shift. So long then!

Emailing etiquette!

Imagine this. Two people are speaking to each other. A heated conversation is underway. And fifteen of us are standing around, hanging on every word – at the same time wondering why we are there in the first place for the conversation has no worthwhile import for any of us! Now imagine that we employ an even more insidious tool for this mass eves-dropping exercise. We keep recorders close to the conversationalists and listen from our rooms. One of the folks having the conversation (the listener) is actually oblivious to all of us – she doesn’t know we are listening in.

Now transpose this scene to the cyber-world and presto we are bang in the world of cc and its more invisible cousin the bcc. Welcome to the world of emails – and very bad manners (at least if undertaken in the physical world!)!

I just don’t get it – not after over a decade of seeing this behavior time and again. To understand the irrationality of it all though, you need to transpose it to the real life:

  1. Lets say you have a party organized for your friends. Chances are you will call them/ check schedules and invite just the folks who will make it a super day. Now look at how we do our calendar invites in the eworld – we many a time don’t check if someone is available, whether its an appropriate time (since it’s a global village, chances are the status meeting is actually at midnight for someone somewhere in the world!) or if the addressees are really required (hey its free anyway right -if they don’t want, they don’t have to make it!). Many a hapless soul wanders from meeting to meeting with no clue of whats really happening and why he is in the loop! In this case, all those wander are lost!

 

  1. Or think about when some work is over-due. In the real world, you probably will walk over and let the person know. Maybe you will get him and his leader/ someone who’s an expert together and discuss the way forward. You are not likely to get 10 random “senior” folks across the globe countries into a room (and periodically scream an update no one cares about over the loudspeaker!)). If you tried something like this in your school years, you may have been ostracized for life!

 

  1. Or take the note with the restricted rights (and addressed just to you). It’s like someone sending you a confidential document delivered by hand – letting you read it (while they are watching from behind – and locking it in your desk – and most importantly taking the key back with her. What will it do for trust?

I guess, with email being free and all – and with many of the earlier adopters not realizing the unacceptability of some of these practices – they have flourished. And now, its so pervasive – almost part of tradition – so we don’t stop to think about whether its appropriate.

 

But deep down when something like this happens, there’s a twinge in the heart. And a little voice cries out that maybe we changed a behaviour or two. The easiest way to validate if that voice is right is to transpose the situation to a physical world scenario – if it doesn’t seem appropriate, time to change it. You agree?

Wearing apple in a windows world

Navigating a windows, white-collared world using Apple products is a very interesting experience, here’s my offer to take you by the hand and lead you to the promised land.

But I get ahead of myself there – let’s talk first about who I am not and what this article isn’t about (for 2 negatives make a positive!):

1. This is not a review of any apple product and I am not an expert on this topic by any length of imagination! If an in-depth-review is what you desire, please type “apple product review” in google and take your pick from the 10,000 search results google so obligingly throws up (p.s: I would go with “I am feeling lucky”)..

2. I am not an apple fanboy – at least not yet. I like some of the stuff and there are a few things I think they should do differently. Considering I am not an expert however, its likely my affinities result from me not understanding enough of these toys – so best to ignore me on this one.

Now with that out of the way, let’s move on with our story.

Like many (millions I suspect) others, I grew up on a staple diet of windows software – more specifically windows office software. By now, you may have decided on me being one of the many nameless, faceless millions working on spreadsheets during the mornings and then dutifully boxing them into ppts in the afternoon – only to repeat all of this the following day – albeit with an excursion detailing the charts out over 30 strips of “word” pages. You wouldn’t be far wrong – I am he! BTW, I also spend time on drafting meticulous, humongous mpp gnatt charts, much of which end up in a forgotten file in a lost folder on a terabyte directory powered by – you got it windows!

There was a day a year or two ago when all of this changed. That momentous day, I saw a colleague hunched over a very sleek looking tablet device, all too immersed in a game requiring him to chop fruits pushed by an unseen hand (from somewhere at the top of the screen) and collect points as his reward – 20 for chopping a watermelon cleanly, 50 for an apple – you get the idea. Pointless fun of course – unless you were planning to apply for the post of the fruit salad chef. I however, loved it – it felt just like one of my excel-based- astrology-sessions where I prophesize about revenues in remarkable detail three-five years into the future. To top it all, the brilliant colours, the smooth animation (and the inestinguishable fruit bowl which was now throwing kiwi fruits at him with reckless abandon) appealed to me like bingo! Long story short, I ended up buying one of those remarkable machines (it turned out to be the iPad) and taking the first steps to becoming an apple guy. Yes, the first program I loaded onto it was that fruit chopping game – a game I played for an exhaustive period of a day and a half before delegating it to our ever reliable lost folder (the apple one is called “purchased” and belongs to a fascinating-alienisque land called iTunes). More on iTunes later in part II.

A phone followed the tablet and more recently a mac air came into my life. I suspect, thats when “the endowment effect” started playing – i.e you value things in your life more (your car’s worth so much more than your neighbours’ – you get the idea)- and I started scanning the world for other comrades from Apple land.

Many of the Apple netizens I chanced first upon seemed to come fitted with vibrant hairstyles, sunglasses that were three times too big for them , clothes that would have made a peacock proud and generally looked liked folks who had walked out of a Speilberg ET set. These were pure apple folks – not “apple in windowed places” like the ones I was searching for. My kin I was more likely to find in the workplaces where meetings were meetings and managers were managers.

So I began to look around the workplace, and the travel places which conduit one (think trains, busses, cars, bullock carts….) to that remarkable place where remarkably, unremarkable work often happens! There behold, I began to see my fellow folks and the apple technology at work. The guy in the pinstriped suit and in the backseat of a small car had one, the important looking woman seated in one of the chennai-trademark “shared autorickshaw” had it too. So too did the benign grandfatherly-looking man who was playing a game (at least appeared to be) of “teen patti” on it. Just so you know, he also sported a single earring on his left ear.

As I looked closer, I discovered these apples weren’t all Cupertino natives. Some were from Steve Jobs’ hallowed land of course. Some others had those little white stickers of the now famous bitten-white-apple on decidedly un-apple products. There were even some real specimens (with stickers saying they were grown from Monsanto seeds in Nigeria) sitting on top of a Nokia feature phone from 1970 – which when you think about it is a jugaad-version of an iPhone (india phone). Of course it was functional – and did have the one most important feature that all indians crave – the missed call!

One fact struck me as ominous though; while the sticker and monsanto’ed folks sported a big smile on their faces , the cupertino-designed- apple-owners wore a big frown. They seemed worried that their precious “apple” was turning out to be a lemon in this pervasively “windowed” world. It’s for those friends that I write this piece. Be reassured my friends – I belong to your world too and have a few aces up my sleeves to reveal to you. These will transform your frowns into 32-tooth smiles I promise!

So let’s begin – tighten your seat belts and let the transformation begin already!

To start off, turn on your machine, whip out your credit cards and buy Microsoft office for Apple now. Right now! It’s available for the mac and its available for the iPad.

You may be tempted by the 100+ imposters on the iTunes store who promise equivalents that claim to be close to the real thing. Beware of them my friends – for they are telling the truth – they are close but not the real thing – a truth that is often realised (to our discomfiture) when the imposter software edits out the all-important punchline of your presentation and you and your client are left to launch an exploration together for the missing line during that super-critical presentation! Imposters build togetherness, they sharpen hunting skills – but they do little to build business credibility. The official software on the other hand handles everything you throw at it – macros, transitions and animation, pivot charts (yes that thing taken by all excel lovers with their morning tea!) and works like a charm. Be not penny wise, pound foolish comrade. Buy the software now (sure, the software costs a himalayan-volume of pennies, but in comparison to the cost of your Apple machine it will seem molehill-ish – so the proverb does hold good).

Second, buy the Microsoft communicator (or lync if you are on the iPad). Windows-nurtured office guys and girls (actually unix, linux and applefied unix all do, but let’s stay on topic shall we?) love to gossip, and this software will allow you to listen in all the water-cooler stuff. In case you are wondering – the gossip may not help you change the world, it will however make time go faster by – and that does make all the difference!

Dont stop with these buys – repeat the buy process for all microsoft office products you use a lot in your daily work life. The more, the merrier. So if you use share-point regularly, buy the share-point connector/ document connector software. Onenote – check. All of this look like a lot, but believe me – its stuff that will give you 8 hours of sound sleep.

At this point, your purse your lips and ask (sternly) – “You (fill in your favourite swear word here) ask me to binge on Microsoft stuff on my apple – if I do this, how can I go out and say i am the Big Kahuna? Sounds more like wolf in sheep clothing ( actually the other way around if you think about it) to me?”

Here’s where I get to smile and say “Don’t worry comrade, statistics prove 60% of the office folks actually use a mac for just the above. You are in good company. So crunch your *numbers*, draw your *keynotes* and author your *pages* happily – and if you haven’t yet realised, the ones in italics are apple’s super cool (and what’s more free!) alternatives to the Microsoft office ones. By by all means use them and enjoy life (and even believe in the religion of “compatibility” all you want) – only be warned that if your boss is going to present to a key audience using Microsoft armoury, you’ll want to check and make doubly sure that when he presents his signature slide, his Ferrari isn’t magically converted into a dogcart. Compatibility issues can do that to you – and more!

Now, that we are past that hurdle (And I can already see you smiling), will sign off and be back for part 2 of the apple story next week. Like I said, once we are done with this series you will be like a toyota camry hybrid – everyone will cheer for you. And we will help you fill your tank before venturing into an electric-outlet-less-land journey. Cheers.