Ask the Expert: V3 Issue 2

1. As a Department Leader I find that my team members even though empowered to do so, leave all the decision making to me and this sometimes results in unnecessary delay.  How do I address this problem?

Empowerment can facilitate team development but can be a failure if not introduced correctly. It is critical that …

  • You know what you wish to achieve through empowering team members: For instance you may want to increase sales or customer satisfaction or operational efficiency.

  • You ensure your team members fully understand what is expected of them: For example how much authority will they have to sanction customer refunds and replacements.

Next review how you have empowered your team members. Typically empowerment not only means “giving of authority” but also “making able”.  Check if your team members have the ability to exercise the authority given to them. If not make them capable before kicking off the empowerment process. Training in problem solving and decision making, will help them make sounder judgments. If the members of your team are capable of doing more in terms of problem solving and decision making and would enjoy taking on additional responsibilities then plan how to begin the empowerment process along with your team members. Ensure you have thorough knowledge of each team member’s skills and the tasks they perform in their current role before agreeing upon SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound) empowerment objectives.  Rewards for the team must also be agreed upon at the planning stage. It can be in the form of praise, bonus or salary increases.

Conduct periodic reviews to determine whether the objectives are being achieved and assess the benefits team has obtained. Do team members experience greater job satisfaction because they need less supervision and enjoy stronger support from their peers and colleagues? Do you have more time to plan for the future or work on strategic initiatives? Is there an improvement in the speed of decision making? Do not be disheartened by an initial failure. Discuss with your team and identify what went wrong and how it can be put right. Your objectives or timelines may have been too ambitious or there might be an unidentified training need or lack of motivation.

Be prepared for the change in your role on account of empowering your team. You must focus more on developing people, articulating the team mission, creating a climate of risk taking, providing appropriate resources, ensuring effective two way communication and promoting openness and cooperation across the team.


 2. I have team members in my team who are demonstrating different levels of performance. How best should I manage each set of performers and what support should I extend to them to ensure each group delivers to their potential?


Yes, you are absolutely right in saying that different types of performers need to be handled differently. There are basically three categories of performers. 80 percent of employees demonstrate average performance by meeting their goals. 10 percent of employees are excellent, demonstrated by consistently exceeding their goals. The remaining 10 percent of employees are at the bottom, reflected through regularly failing to meet their defined goals. Let’s look at how you need to raise each set's performance levels differently.

  • Coaching the top 10%: Your star performers don’t need much help in achieving their goals. But you must focus on harnessing their productive energies. Discover their motivations and tap into applying their talent in ways that will enhance their contribution to the organization. For instance, you might select your top 10 customer service agents and have them design the customer service training. Or you might make them mentors to new joinees. You need to create a win-win situation for them and the organization.

  • Managing the middle 80%: Within this group, some have the potential to be star performers. Your attempt should be identify such people and help reach their potential. The performance conversation for this group should focus on understanding the barriers inhibiting them from moving to the next level of performance. By diagnosing the barriers, you can develop mutually beneficial solutions to maximize their job performance. You must facilitate the removal of these barriers and assist the team members toward consistently achieving their goals. If the team member is asking questions, sincerely wanting to improve and has had some success, do continue to mentor and train them. Do your best in giving the person every opportunity to be successful.

  • Improving the bottom 10%: Your approach for this set of team members should be to have a performance improvement plan. The plan should include specific goals, with due dates and measurable outcomes. It should also be made clear that if they don’t achieve the goals, there will be consequences viz., continuation of the plan, suspension or termination. Alternatively assess the poor performer’s’ strengths, weaknesses and personality to see if he/she is better fit for another role. A creative person might not be a good fit for sales but can become a star performer in product management. You need to be open, flexible, innovative and supportive with such team members.

You can provide recognition to even a poor performer when he/she achieves the goals set in his/her improvement plan. But basically provide positive feedback to all team members when they achieve their specific goals to keep them motivated and engaged.


3. I lead a team of front office representatives. One of the representatives does not listen to me and takes every issue for resolution to my manager instead of coming to me or working with her other team members? My manager has clearly told her that she reports to me and needs to talk to me. But the officer is still escalating matters to my manager. How can I deal with this situation?


There are two things happening here. Your team member is not following the team norms and your manager is undermining your ability to lead. Clearly what the manager has told this team member has not had any effect. You need your manager’s support and help in dealing with both the problems.


Begin by holding a discussion with your manager. Ascertain your authority level in the department. Between the two of you figure out the reasons for the team member’s behavior and try addressing the root cause. It could be her not having accepted you as a team leader because she feels she herself is a senior member. In that case you could look at involving her more in team decisions etc. But basically both you and the manager need to decide on a plan of action to deal with this employee. Also agree upon what actions of this team member are unacceptable and the consequences for the same.


Next hold a discussion with this team member. Share the details of the consequences that will occur if she demonstrates certain behaviors as you and your manager have laid out in your plan. Explain to her that her behavior is going to determine the next steps in her career. Ideally the manager should not hold another discussion with her and in future should direct all her queries and issues for resolution to you. Stick to the plan of action agreed upon with the manager and regularly review progress.


Finally you need to also help this team member integrate with other team members. You can hold a meeting of all the team members to discuss how your department is dependent on all of you in achieving common goals. Highlight the strengths of each of team member and how you would like to leverage those strengths to make your department the best.

Ask the Expert: V3 Issue 1


1. I normally take all work challenges in my stride. But with all this talk of recession, I am getting more stressed than usual. Is this normal? How can I reduce the stress levels that I am experiencing at my work place?

Yes, it is perfectly natural to feel more anxious than usual in such times. However, determine the exact cause of your stress. Is it workplace rumours of job cuts, lack of communication from the leadership or the hype by media about economy woes? Try to put the negatives into the right perspective. Differentiate between things under your control and those that you cannot influence at all. Focus on the aspects under your control.

Exploring your situation with experts could ease your fears. If required consult a financial planner who can help you plan for your financial security. Talk to recruitment consultants or successful professionals in your field of work to know what you need to work on to develop your career. When you know you can handle whatever comes your way you will automatically worry less about it.

Ticking off items from your ‘to do list in meeting long term objectives’ will help you feel you are getting somewhere and in control of your work life. That sense of accomplishment and control can act as a powerful stress reducer. If you don’t have a list, make one. Think about all the small, incremental things you can do to build career success over the course of a year, or five years; subscribing to a newsletter, attending a networking conference, practicing your presentation skills etc. Don’t focus only on the short term!

Take time off now and then to relax. Get into the habit of taking a few minutes several times a day to consciously manage stress. Do some stretching or slow breathing. Take a short walk. Chat with a colleague. And don’t forget the popular stress buster - a tea break. Figure out what works for you. Keeping in shape by taking daily walks and maintaining regular sleep and eating patterns is similarly important to reduce stress levels. Maintain healthy food habits. This will have a positive effect on your stress responses. Being physically fit is essential for you to be emotionally strong and mentally alert during trying times.

I think primarily it is your attitude to stress causing factors that matter. Look for the positives in your professional and personal life and actively build on them- it helps to maintain a positive attitude. With these I am sure you will be able to continue taking all your work challenges in your stride like you usually do.


2. Morale is low currently among employees and as the HR team member, I would like to do something about it. However since the recession has hit our company’s revenues quite badly, it will be difficult to get a budget approved for such activities. Can you suggest a few low cost measures to improve morale among employees?

There are lots ways by which you can improve employee morale. In fact the money spent is only one of the ingredients for increasing morale of employees. With a little creativity and lots of determination and sustained efforts, you can improve your employee morale. For starters get the managers of all employees to thank and praise their team members for their specific contributions. Employees prefer instant and personalized recognition from their immediate boss more than any other kind of workplace motivation. Sounds simple right? But you would be surprised how many managers neglect doing this. Formalize a program whereby managers regularly hand out commendations. Also ensure public recognition of exemplary work. Bulletin boards, company-wide emails, newsletters and meetings are different mediums for the same. You can even supplement it with inexpensive tokens of appreciation.

Employees are also more likely to become engaged in their work if they know their bosses are listening to them. Listening implies caring. Sensitize managers to this aspect and encourage managers to regularly move out of their desks and chat with employees. In addition to listening, companies should frequently communicate with their employees to help employees better understand department and company wide actions, increasing efficiency and encouraging team building.

Another cost-effective way to energize employees is by soliciting suggestions from employees, showing that their ideas are valued. So ask for suggestions related to the recession related measures being taken by the company, be it cost cutting or improving revenue streams. The more valued employees feel, the more likely they will display high morale. Another morale booster is getting employees involved in implementing the suggestions made.

Offering lots of autonomy and authority is another excellent way. Freedom fosters creativity, resourcefulness and a sense of ownership, and it establishes a foundation of mutual trust and respect. Discuss with managers on how they can be clear about job assignments and their expectations from team members, while also being open and flexible as to how the team members achieve results. The tough part is to get the managers to then start providing more autonomy and authority to their subordinates.

Finally, there is the good old “introducing the fun element” to work place. Formalize fun events that do not cost much. Some good examples are creating friendly competitions between employees and departments, providing employees the opportunity to showcase their talents, bring your pet/child/spouse to Work Day, get-to-know-your-colleague exercises, funny awards ceremony etc.

All the best and do write to us about how you improved (note we are not saying “if you”) the employee morale in your company. We would love to hear all about it.


Ask the Expert : V2 Issue 3

1. Our company is facing revenue, market, and cost pressures. Our stock price is down. There is a freeze on hiring and on raises. Motivation has never been a problem with my team members. But off late because of these developments, most of my team members are demotivated. How do I motivate my team in tough times like these?


It is natural for employees to feel low in the given circumstances. But over a period of time with the following steps you can improve and maintain the morale of your team.

  • Be transparent with company news: Be honest. Don’t hold back or play down information even if it is about the negative impact of the events on the company. Let them know what is happening and also what measures are being taken to counter each challenge.

  • Discuss and address fears and concerns: Your team members may be worried about job security, their compensation, and their ability to deliver in tough conditions. People typically need to talk more in such times. Be empathetic. Try and help them. For instance give extra support to the employees that are struggling to meet their job commitments or reassure them that their jobs are secure.

  • Highlight what is working: Has sales gone down, but company has bagged a couple of long term contracts? If so there is still cause to celebrate instead of just brooding. Veer discussions to the exciting possibilities that a downturn can bring in for your company and team, not just the gloom.

  • Give them something else to think about: Inspiring goals can energise and motivate people and help them get out of their depression. Help each of your team members set goals that they find inspiring. It could even be a personal goal like upgrading his/her skill set.

  • Help team remain focused on your team goals: It is easy to get distracted by what is happening and lose focus on the goals. Encourage and appreciate even the small achievements and short term goals met. And definitely reward those who meet their long term goals.

  • Thank them for their extra effort: In times like this every extra bit done to deliver results is helpful. Ensure you notice efforts like these and let each of your team members know how much you value their contribution.

In addition to the above, if you discharge your responsibilities of a leader calmly and confidently you are sure to regain the motivation of your team members.


2. I manage a small business unit. I am doing all I can to become lean and survive the economic slowdown. Unfortunately as one of cost cutting measures, I will have to layoff some of my staff. How can I do it as sensitively as possible?


Your objective during a layoff should be to treat the employees being laid off respectfully and minimize demoralization of your remaining staff.


Firstly be clear as to the business reasons for the need for a layoff. Then determine objective criteria like seniority, critical skills etc for selecting the people to be laid off. Having done this, prepare the relevant termination information like notification letter, salary continuation/termination date, benefits, outplacement, etc. It is also important to prepare yourself emotionally to handle the reactions of the employee. Now you are ready to have a meeting 


You should thank the employee for his or her contributions and explain how the layoff decision is economic rather than personal. Explain the criteria used for determining the people to be laid off. Allow the employee to respond. Listen patiently to what he he/she has to say but avoid getting into a debate or argument. Then explain the termination process. Some do's and don’ts….

  • Prepare a script for the key message so that you are clear as to what you are going to say.
  • Ensure there is consistency of message across all employees being laid off.
  • Keep the meeting as brief as possible.
  • Do not mix performance review with termination discussion.
  • Do not engage in small talk, use humor etc in an attempt to lighten up things.
  • Avoid discussing other employees

After meeting all the employees being laid off, immediately hold a meeting of all other employees to ward off rumors. In the meeting assure all of them that their jobs are secure and explain to them the rationale for the layoff and criteria used for the same. Let their managers once again reassure them about the security of their jobs in a one on one meeting.


3. I take care of HR for my company. I am very happy to see my leadership team trying to proactively do all it can to cope with the expected pressures of the economic slowdown. As the HR representative, I would like also to help. Typically what are the ways in which HR can contribute in such a scenario?


As always HR has to play an important role in ensuring business success by deploying appropriate people practices and processes.

Some steps which typically HR has taken, in companies that have come out of economic slowdowns as winners, are listed below.

  • Align with leadership team: Providing a proactive HR service in a downturn will become easy if you can work closely with the CEO and the leadership team. You will then be able to understand what is crucial to the business success. This in turn will help you align HR priorities to the organization priorities and develop robust plans.

  • Optimize Resources: These times can provide opportunities to hire some great talent otherwise not available to you easily. They may be available at a reasonable cost. Also transition or re-deploy non critical resources.

  • Communicate: Keep communication with employees flowing, about the true financial picture, about their jobs, about everything that can affect them through appropriate channels of communication.    You would be surprised at how often employees are willing to make changes even negative ones like a pay cut, when they understand the facts and are not worried based on rumours flying around the workplace.

  • Take care of your top talent: When you are busy fire fighting and stop paying attention to your top talent, they can become targets of poaching by other companies. It is critical you retain them not only for managing current business, but also for managing future business when things pick up. Keep them engaged by involving them in the initiatives taken to manage the impact of downturn.

  • Continue development efforts: Companies that continue their training efforts gain in the long term. It need not be expensive external training. It can be in the form of books, online training, mentoring, cross functional exposure etc.

  • Relook at your performance management: You may want to add some new dimensions to your performance parameters. In addition to the kind of results you would reward in a thriving economy reward the ones which help in tiding over challenges in a slow economy.

  • Preserve the core culture and values of the company: As the custodian of company culture and values, take steps to retain them. For instance don’t discourage ‘Research and Development’ efforts if company believes in leading the market through innovation.


These are challenging and hence also exciting times for HR professionals. If you truly want to add value to your company, I am sure you will rise to the occasion and find a way. All the best!

Ask the Expert: V2 Issue2

1. My team members who belong to the twenty years plus age group just don’t take the initiative to get their work done. It is irritating to constantly tell them about the tasks they need to complete. They really don’t seem to have the work ethic that my older team members do. Please tell me how do I get them to show accountability for achieving their goals and objectives?

The work ethic of earlier generations was different. Typically, they were intrinsically motivated. They worked for work’s sake or because their self-image was based on their careers. The current generation has different work ethics. Most are not motivated by threats of punishment or firing. The good news is basically Gen Y is keen on performing. They have already been exposed to a performance culture. But they are used to their parents managing their schedules and activities. Getting them to drive their own performance will require guidance from you as their manager.

Spell out tasks to them clearly even the smallest of details. Do not expect them to understand what seems obvious to you. Demonstrate clearly to them the purpose of all tasks. Explain the business priorities, the big impact of what they are doing, especially for those tasks that may seem less interesting to them.  Regularly reiterate priorities since typically new and exciting projects grab their attention regardless of their priority status. Ensure there are easy systems in place for them to understand from you about their progress or for you to follow up with them. 

Get excited about the tasks with them to push them to take action. To ensure their energy stays high, keep up the excitement. Provide lots of performance feedback.  Coach them and provide them training and development opportunities to help them increase their expertise.What works with the current generation is setting short term goals with an end reward. Most importantly get to know them and their needs, even personal ones better. (Do read the article in this issue about understanding Gen Y.) Find out what is it that they are expecting to get out of their jobs? Link the benefit of doing a task with what they desire in a job.


2. In my team, I have people belonging to both Gen Y and earlier generations.  How do I get them to work together effectively with their diverse styles?

Conflicts between generations arise due to the perceptions they have of each other. For instance, older generations may think the youngsters in the workplace are lazy. While the Gen Y may think the older generations are too rigid. But there are ways to get people belonging to different generations to work together.



    • Encourage them to draw upon each other’s strength: Help your team members understand each other’s strengths. Then focus on leveraging those strengths for the team’s benefit rather than becoming unproductive as a team because of value differences. While allocating work, team up people from different generations who enjoy spending time together and learning from each other. So an experienced person can share his/her wisdom about the organization or the functional field with a Gen Y in exchange for knowledge on the latest in technology.

    • Build on the common values they share: All of them want a culture of empowerment, regular and constructive feedback, to be treated with respect, high commitment to the task from their colleagues and honesty in relationships. So create an environment which encourages these.

    • Focus on the team objectives: A great team is one which has great teamwork. Regardless of the generation each team member belongs to, get all of them to identify with the common team objectives and get them thinking on how is everyone going to work together successfully to achieve the same.

    • Allocate tasks based on what each generation likes:  So for example it may be good idea to give the “research on new things” part of the project to Gen Y while others focus on figuring it out how to practically implement it.

    • Have team norms but provide flexibiltiy on how each one wants to learn and work: Some generations are looking for handwritten notes. Others do not like to work independently, and they expect to have meetings any time, any place. Some generations will not entertain hearing about the project outside of work. And the Yers don’t want any meetings at all, they only communicate via voice mail and e-mail. Treat and manage them as per individual needs and not the same.


3. I am bright. So I am able to finish the tasks assigned to me fast. My other team members are slow and perhaps need to stay late beyond office hours. But not me. But my manager does not get it and expects me to be in office late? I am unable to meet my other commitments in my personal life because of this. What do I do?


I know how frustrated you must be feeling. If you think this is a temporary phenomenon then adjusting to this maybe the best thing to do. If not, talk to your manager. Maybe your manager has his reasons for expecting you to stay up late. Try and find out before you talk to him. Is the project running late because of which you need to put in extra effort for sometime. Have you not completed tasks assigned to you on time in the past? Is he the kind who thinks face time is equal to quality and quantity of work? Does he want you to be with the team and help them with their workload? Does he belong the generation for whom work is everything and who thinks it should be the same with others?

Also until one proves oneself it is difficult for anybody to assess your capability. Maybe your manager does not realize that you are smart. Why don’t you request for a review of the work done so far. Let him see the progress you have made. I think once you prove you can do good work in less time, he will not feel the need for you to work late. During the review ask him if he has anything else that he had in mind that he wanted you to complete.  Indicate to him the other commitments in your personal life and how you hope to meet them. Have a frank discussion with him/her on how they have been affected because of work.  I am sure he will be more understanding about your work hours thereafter.

In addition to getting an OK from your manager on leaving office once you finish your work, there is an important thing you must to do. If other team members are genuinely struggling with their work you should help them out. After all what are smart team members for?



  1. Burgess, P, “Leading Generation Y”,

Ask the Expert : V2 Issue 1

1. Two of my senior team members refuse to work together on projects owing to certain personal conflict. I am deeply concerned about this since this not only affects productivity but also results in undue hostility between junior team members. I need both of them to start working together and showing results! Please suggest a few effective conflict resolution tips.  

Yes, not dealing with workplace conflicts can be detrimental to the organization, both in terms of loss of productivity as well as loss of a positive work environment. To effectively resolve the conflict intervene immediately with the following steps:-

  • Understand the problem:  A conflict cannot be resolved unless one determines the root cause for it. So gather as much information as possible for the underlying reasons for the conflict. Call a meeting of the two team members. Communicate to them that the objective of the meeting is to sort out their individual differences in a calm and positive manner and not to criticize or point fingers. Allow each of them to speak about the issues pertaining to the conflict without being interrupted by the other. Make sure both of them clearly understand each other’s viewpoint. If any of them tries to derail the resolution process, deal with them firmly. Exercise your authority if required to convey that resolution of conflict is essential.

  • Brainstorm on possible solutions: Once the conflict situation has been understood, build a positive discussion to determine different solutions. Seek clarifications, ask open ended questions, and suggest possible solutions. But, do not enforce your ideas or take sides. If you play favorites it can defeat the purpose of the meeting.

  • Choose the best solution: Listen carefully. To reach a consensus, it is very important to explore the real needs, expectations, concerns and fears. Involve both of them in the decision making process. Impress upon them that you are looking for a solution that makes both of them happy. Select the solution that is mutually acceptable, even if it is not perfect for either of them. As long as it seems fair and there is a mutual commitment to implement the solution, the conflict has a chance for resolution.

  • Implement solution. Now, implementation is the toughest challenge of all! Work out the details-what each person will do, what to do in case the agreement starts to break down etc.

  • Do not stop evaluating the solution: Once the solution has been arrived at, figure out a way to consistently follow up with your two team members to ensure efficacy of the solution. If the conflict still persists, one is back to square one and you need to begin with step one.

There is no doubt that resolving interpersonal conflicts at the work place is one of the toughest challenges faced by managers. If they are handled well, however, interpersonal conflicts can actually be productive leading to deeper understanding, mutual respect and closeness between the conflicting parties.


2. I have been made in charge of a big project. The cross functional team that I will have to manage historically has been unable to deliver as per the project deadlines. How do I ensure the cross functional team delivers as per project timelines?

If it is hard to get traditional teams within departments to be effective, it is exponentially more difficult to get cross functional teams to deliver. But with detailed and rigorous planning it can be done. Some suggestions for improving effectiveness of your cross functional team are provided below.

  • Ensure that your cross functional team is structured it into smaller workgroups.  When a team is large, communications and productivity suffer since members feel less accountable and their participation decreases. Establish proper handoffs from one part of the team to another.

  • Arrange for your team members to meet outside office for sometime to allow them to get to know each other especially since they are from different departments and may not know each other well. This is a good time to determine how the team will work together…. How will it make decisions? How will it assess progress? How will it work on team issues? Identify potential barriers to effective work and ways to address them. 

  • Keep things simple. Deploy a basic project management methodology. Use terminology commonly understood by all during all team communications. For the team to be effective team members will need to be able to meet and communicate easily. They will need to have direct access to those who provide valuable input to them and to the recipients of their work. Confirm if this is so. If not talk to the respective department heads to facilitate the same.

  • Plan for adequate dedicated time for each of the team member for this project. Speak to the department heads if necessary. This way this responsibility of theirs will also be reviewed during their appraisal and hence they will feel more accountable for it.

  • Before your project team commences work ensure the team objectives are realistic, clear and specific. Define them in writing by creating a mission statement and distributing it to all involved. This will get your team motivated and unified. Determine individual responsibilities and project milestones based on your team’s ability. Encourage the team members to suggest timeframes for their deliverables. That way they will be more committed to meeting them.

  • Circulate a summary as well as detailed plan to the project team so that they get the big picture and are aware of the milestones. Regularly follow up on the status of the milestones to determine whether the project is on track. Keep everyone informed on the progress of the project so they are engaged in the whole process.


3. We, recently, hired a person for my team from one of the leading companies who have implemented some of the best practices in the industry. Towards the end of his department orientation, he confronted me, his manager, about the lack of proper planning in the orientation program. What would be your suggestions for a Manager to ensure that his/her new team members go through a proper orientation process?

All new employees should complete an orientation program designed to assist them in adjusting to their jobs and work environment and to instill a positive work attitude and motivation. Normally at the time of joining, the HR department will put the new joinee through an induction process. Let the new joinee complete that fully before joining your team. Do not insist on him/her joining soon. Understand what that induction process includes. In the department’s orientation process plan for activities which are essential but not covered in that induction process.

The Manager is ultimately responsible for retention of an employee and a smooth induction into the department is the first step towards this goal. So plan carefully. Some of the things you can include in the orientation are:-

  • Provide an agenda to the new joinee to let him/her know what to expect from the orientation and assuring him/her that his/her orientation is a planned affair. Most importantly stick to the agenda.

  • Brief the new joinee about the company and his/her job. Discuss any concerns or queries they may have. Provide a list of FAQs.

  • Also find out about the new member's interests, strengths, skills and what they hope to gain from their new experience.

  • Assign a mentor or a buddy to show the new person around, make introductions, and help him/her in the initial months to settle down. The mentor also needs to be provided with sufficient time to prepare prior to the new joinee coming on board.

  • Begin with the basic knowledge and skills required to do the job. Individuals become productive sooner if they have a strong foundation in them. So ensure this is so. If not plan for it to be provided. Convey commitment to continuous improvement and continual learning. That way, new employees become comfortable with asking questions to obtain the information they need to learn. Avoid any overload of information. Include practical exercises along with theory. Include some fun activities.

  • Involve them in various company social events. Allowing them the chance to get to know their colleagues in a more informal setting can lay the foundation for an amiable and productive relationship. Plan to take them out for lunch. Include other co-workers, making sure the employee is at ease. 

  • Keep the new person's family in mind.  A new job means adjustment for the entire family, especially if they have relocated. Do what you can to ease the transition and help them feel comfortable in the community. 

  • Lastly don’t forget to ask for constructive feedback from the new joinees on the orientation process. Incorporate changes based on this feedback.

Ask the Expert : July'08

1.I work in the marketing division of an FMCG company dealing in ready-to-eat food segment. We have reached saturation as there are various other players with similar product lines. I have a new product idea but do not know how to go about communicating and implementing the idea.

It is indeed great to know that you are keen to contribute original ideas and introduce new products that would benefit your organization. Here are a few things you can initiate to communicate your idea and ensure implementation of the same:-

  • Exploit your company’s competitive advantages -You really need to thoroughly know your company’s unique competencies that are suitable for this endeavor to succeed. Once you have thought it through, you are ready to sell it.
  • Ensure support from key stakeholders - To ensure success you need more than an approval from those in charge. You need passionate supporters in management who believe in what you are doing. Once you have identified top-level supporters, establish contact with them. Make a constant effort to keep them updated on your project’s progress so they feel empowered with the latest information and can better advocate your cause to others. But be sure to keep them in the loop on problems, too. Do not sugar-coat setbacks or obstacles to your supporters. You need powerful allies, but it’s just as important to understand how to keep them. Send email updates on your project’s progress to top-level executives, circulate summary documents with answers to FAQs to keep everyone up to speed and interested in the project’s success.
  • Enlist support from other departments - In addition to sponsors in the top management, you will also benefit from alliances in mid and entry-level positions, where people develop valuable specialized knowledge. When you are refining product features look to people in other departments for ideas and feedback. When you successfully convince people about your idea, you will be surprised to find out that someone from a seemingly random department might hold the key to unlocking the potential of your business.
  • Look beyond quantifiable metrics - A big part of intrapreneuring is selling your idea up the management chain and then convincing them that you are meeting your goals. One of the most powerful moves you can make is deciding what your variables for success are and understanding how to gather data for the same. You might get information from market research and customer surveys. Another powerful way to communicate why your idea is an improvement is by using the words of a customer or employee who is clamoring for it. Do not lose sight of your quantifiable goals, as they will tell you how you are going to achieve what you set out to do. But if you keep the words of your customers in the front of your mind you would not lose sight of the whoand the why of what you are doing.
  • I work for a multinational firm drawing a good salary. Lot is being said these days about intrapreneurship or employees acting like an entrepreneur within an organization they work. Why should I act like an entrepreneur in my current organization when I am only an employee?

We evaluate the worth of work by the benefits that are linked to it and yes, you should get extra rewards for being entrepreneurial. What differentiates Entrepreneurs from other employees in an organization is their passion and conviction for an idea - Intrapreneurs are more driven, want to see their ideas implemented and tested with the ultimate success criteria – will someone pay for their product / solution.

You need to prove first that you are entrepreneurial – only then the rewards will come. Also, each individual has the entrepreneurial mind set in varying proportions – at the high end is the person who puts aside a good career to become an entrepreneur while there are others who would not like to risk running a company of their own but have ideas which they would like to nurture and implement in a Corporation. That is the difference between an Entreprenuer and Intraprenuer.

The benefits of being an Intrapreneur include the following-

  1. You will ave gain visibility within the Company and progress quickly to maybe having P&L responsibility for your Product / Solution. Since you explore unconventional routes to complete your tasks, are proactive and do not restrict yourself to a single stream of work, you will prove your uniqueness to your peers, subordinates as well as your manager and stand out of the crowd.
  2. Unlike when you are on your own, as an employee acting intrapreneurial you will get a safety net should an initiative of yours falter. If the intrapreneurial effort fails, you will still have a job tomorrow and get another chance to implement another idea as long as you learn from the mistakes made.
  3. It is not easy to gain access to resources required when you are on your own. As an intrapreneur you can utilize talent from within the company, tap into management skills, leverage existing technologies etc to work on your pet idea and make it a reality.
  4. It will make you proud to walk on a path that is less traveled ie., do something different and courageous.
  5. You will have the satisfaction of being an inspiration for other employees and other employees will look upon you as a source of strength. They will seek your advice and value your inputs.
  6. You will get a chance to unveil your creative self. You can implement out of the box ideas at your work, which would make work itself more interesting.
  7. You will look forward to each working day for the empowerment, freedom and satisfaction you derive from work making it an enjoyable experience

2. I have a team member who wants to be an Entreprenuer. How do I channelize her energies and ideas, so that she contributes positively to her role, today?

You are lucky to have her as your team member. People with an entrepreneurial bent of mind can contribute a lot to the organization. All you need to do is take care that you do not stifle her creativity or need for freedom and autonomy.

Encourage her to be proactive in identifying improvement areas in your department and work on them. Check out if she has a new product, service idea that aligns with the organization vision and goals. If you can get her to convince top management and get the company to provide her the resources to implement that idea then there is nothing like it. She will be able to become an entrepreneur without having to the leave the company and the company will gain in terms of being able to offer a new and better product/service to its customers. But this may not be possible always. So instead give her assignments that will help build her entrepreneurial skills. Let her be part of such assignments from the conception stage till the final execution. If financials need to be worked out and a team needs to be managed, the better it will be for her. An entrepreneur has to be comfortable with all areas of running a business ie., managing of people, money and the operations of the product/service delivery.

Such people like treading on a path which others have not taken. So put her on assignments where the rules are not clear, where there are no tried and tested ways to succeed and where one needs to innovate. She will enjoy the challenge and is more likely to succeed than others since she will not give up very easily and think creatively to identify ways to tackle setbacks. Entrepreneurs have high risk appetite. So encourage her to take calculated risks in her work.

Another way you can channelize her energy for the company is by assigning her some team members with low initiative, passion, and energy to work with her. Her passion may get rubbed off on them and she may be able to inspire them to become more resourceful and enthusiastic at work.

Ask the Expert: March'08

1. I have been identified for a Team Leader position for one of the company projects. My peers are questioning this since we all worked together as a team on one of our earlier assignments. How do I go about delegating the work among my peers without them undermining my authority?

Leading your team members rather than just delegating work to them is what you should focus on. Leading individuals who were your peers in earlier assignments can be a touchy proposition, but not an impossible undertaking. You have been selected to lead the team because of the confidence your seniors have in your abilities. So exhibit confidence in your abilities.

Start by asking your team members for their inputs and suggestions in making the project a grand success. By using and implementing the team’s ideas, there would be greater encouragement and motivation among the team members. Do not just delegate the work but also assist by giving them a better understanding of the task assigned.  Do not get dejected if they don’t come to you immediately for guidance. Help those who do and if you give valuable inputs word will get around. Credit team members with project successes. Your willingness to help them while giving them credit for good work would be well appreciated! If any of the team members disobeys you, be direct and firm in dealing with him/her.

Your team members have not had a chance to see you in action as a team leader. Once they see you as being capable they will naturally appreciate and respect you. Work towards wining their confidence over a period of time.


2. Recently in a meeting with senior managers I completely embarrassed myself by not being articulate in the discussion. That day, I realized that I need to improve my communication skills to be more confident and to be able to persuade others in a meeting. What are some of the steps that I need to adopt for the same?

You are right! Being articulate gives people the impression that you know your subject well, an important aspect of convincing others.  Here are some suggestions to help you become more articulate.

  • Know your subject well: Firstly, get a thorough understanding of the subject and make a note of relevant points that can be discussed in a meeting.
  • Visualize yourself speaking: Imagine yourself adding to the discussion with grammatically correct and complete sentences.
  • Think before you speak: Once you get into the meeting, take a moment before highlighting a point. This helps you eliminate verbal pauses and may prevent you from saying something that does not make sense.
  • Be as concise as possible: Add valuable content to your discussion by stating your points briefly. That way you don’t loose the attention of the audience.
  • Eliminate pauses and restrict usage of big words: Fillers like ‘um’ etc can disturb the flow of thought and make it seem detached. Simultaneously, make sure you restrict the usage of big words, which may reduce the clarity of your communication.
  • Self-improvement: Reading aids the effort of being articulate. Attend seminars on communication and presentation skills to gain some valuable insights.
  • Have patience and practice continuously: Improving the way you speak takes a great deal of time and effort.


3. My Manager is not assertive enough when it comes to clients constantly changing their requirements. This is causing a lot of undue stress, longer working hours and de-moralization of the team. How do I convey to him the need to be more assertive in extending deadlines when clients change project specifications constantly?

This is a common scenario in most companies these days. However, it can be subtly dealt with. Bring to the notice of your Manager the current de-motivation within the team owing to the long working hours. Veer the discussion to possible ways of avoiding undue stress for the team. See if the manger himself comes up with the suggestion of being assertive with the client on deadlines. If not, you can check with him whether it would help being assertive with the client.

Make sure that the communication is positive and does not offend him in any manner. Do not take an accusatory tone of “You should….” but that of a “we are in this together” tone by using “We can…. We should explore…”

Some points that you could cover at the time of discussion are:

  • If the team gets stressed the quality of work output will suffer in turn affecting the client satisfaction. Team members may also exit the company. Cite examples.

  • If the client requires the team to complete additional or changed project deliverables, then the Manager could ensure that the team gets sufficient time to complete the project. A reasonable timeframe can be established in consultation with the team and client. If anytime this has been done in the past mention it.

  • While some deadlines can be negotiated some cannot and there still will be times when the team needs to put in that extra effort. What will help then is the team bonding. So the manager should plan for the entire team taking some time out to have fun and de-stress together. This enhances team spirit and it will also increase the productivity among team members even under tight deadlines.

Ask the Expert: Jan'08

  1. I have to perform the difficult and unpleasant task of telling someone he is being fired from from the job for non performance. How do I do it in the most humane fashion?

You can start by consulting HR to understand more about the personal circumstances of the individual being terminated in case you are not already aware. Also developing a plan with HR prior to the conversation with the employee is a good idea - thinking about what you are going to tell, making notes of all relevant points and keeping all related paperwork handy to ensure that the meeting is concluded comprehensively. Your attempt should be to keep the meeting short and concise with a focus on conveying facts as kindly as possible.

Start the meeting by telling the person straightway that he is being fired. Be candid and clear about the reasons for the same and the last working day. If there are instances like comments on his appraisals asking him to improve performance, refer to them to provide a valid case for the termination of his employment. He should know that he has been give adequate time to improve. If he wants to talk, listen to him patiently and allow him to ask any questions that he may have. However, at any point do not let him think that he can convince you to reverse the discussion. Incase the person becomes emotionally imbalanced it is important that you keep your emotions under check and calm him.

Do not undermine the seriousness of the discussion by trying to make small talk at the beginning of the meeting or be unfeeling by not offering your sympathy. Be respectful and compassionate during the entire meeting. Depending on how the discussion has gone conclude the meeting with a discussion of his strengths and jobs that will be most suitable for him. Offer him any help like reviewing his CV, giving placement agency contacts etc only if you are sure you can provide that help.


2. I am scheduled to attend a training program? I know I’ll have a good time. But I also want to want to ensure that I actually gain from the training programs I attend? How do I do that?

It is good that you want to make the most of the training programs that you attend. Following are some general ways to get value from a training program:-

  • Before the program: Any training program should help you improve your ability to contribute to your organization. So understand from your supervisor or HR what are the skills /concepts expected to be learnt during the training program and how are they going to help you at the workplace so that you are clear about the training program’s objectives. Be diligent about completing any pre training readings /exercises etc.
  • During the program: Be an enthusiastic learner - participate actively in discussions, clarify all doubts, do not let work issues interrupt your learning process etc.
  • At the end of the program: Review what you have learnt vis-à-vis the learning expectations that you had before the program. If they have not been met take guidance from the trainer on how to further develop in that area. Set some implementation objectives ie., things that you would like to try at the actual work place.
  • At work: Look for opportunities to apply all that is learnt. Take feedback from your supervisor and colleagues on whether you have improved in the area you were trained in. Make good use of any post training support offered by trainer.


3. A colleague of mine is trying to spoil my personal and professional image by trying to belittle belittle me. What do I do?

Is this a one off incident or series of incidents? If it is just one instance and does not repeat you can ignore it. The person may have just temporarily given vent to some frustration.

If it repeats several times then it is time to take action. Firstly make sure your colleague is actually trying to belittle you. It may just be his/her way of behaving with everybody. In which case he/she needs to be given feedback about how it is affecting others. You can do a reality check with other colleagues. If they too feel that you are the only one being targeted by this person then enduring it silently sends out a message that you can be treated badly.

Stand up for yourself and take action. Confront him/her calmly next time the instance occurs in front of you. If it takes place behind your back, confront the person with proof/ instances when he/she has belittled you. Tell him/her that it is not acceptable. If he/she still continues then continue to confront him/her till it stops. Report the matter to your supervisor. He/she is responsible for maintaining a workplace which is positive and such instances can be toxic for the workplace.

Ask the Expert: Nov'07

1. I have motivated team members who work on client projects. However at times I am unable to allot my team members to any projects due to lack of any immediate project requirements. When they are on bench, how do I still keep them motivated?

There are different ways to keep employees motivated during slack periods. Firstly ask them if they would like to do anything in particular. If not based on your understanding of the team member’s development needs and ability to contribute to other areas in the company you can suggest any of the following activities:-

  • Internal projects: Allocate your team members to internal projects related to process improvements or R and D activities like development of a new service or product. They could also work on cross functional projects like six sigma or non technical projects like being part of the team revamping the performance management system of the organization. The key here is to get them to understand that these projects are as important as client projects and you would be giving them equal weightage during performance appraisals. Also, improvement projects require inputs from professionals who have worked on engagements and all contributions to organization capability building are critical.

  • Job rotation: If the person has always been on projects then giving him a perspective of other jobs will help him enhance his repertoire of skills. For instance for a software developer you can look at temporary roles in quality, system administration, training or pre-sales functions.

  • Self development activities: They can devote some time on self development activities like attending relevant training programs, broadening their skill base,  getting certified in their technical areas, accompanying and observing senior team members when they interact with customers, top management etc. HR can even facilitate exercises that your team members can undertake to know themselves better.

  • Leave: This is also a good time to suggest they take that much awaited vacation.

 2. I am an executive and want to move up in my career? I am told that among other things I need to develop a better business perspective to do that. What is this business perspective? How can I improve my business perspective?

Broadly speaking business perspective is when you develop broader knowledge beyond that of one’s function and job. It entails understanding business metrics. But what is important is to use the knowledge gained to ensure that the tasks that you accomplish meet business needs wherever possible and to align operations to maximize business impact.

I agree with you that by developing a better business perspective you will be able to take on higher levels of responsibilities. Simply because it will help you contribute better towards meeting your company goals.

By being aware that you need to develop business perspective you have taken the first step towards building it.  There are several ways to improve your business perspective. Some of them are listed below:-

  • Take initiative to know your company’s business plans and understand the implications of the same on your own functional area. Your manager can help you with this if you do not know where to get hold of the business plans.
  • Try to understand interconnection between various departments by spending time with people from other departments to understand what they do.
  • Scan the environment for market/competitor trends by reading business sections of the newspaper and business magazines, talking to other people in the industry etc.
  • For any task ask yourself how it is being affected by the business scenario. If required, seek clarifications with others in the company known to have good business perspective, on the same.

3. When my subordinate gets angry with his colleagues or is frustrated by small office conflicts he simply walks away from the job site. I am to blame for this pattern of behavior since I allowed it once so that he could calm down. But now he is doing it repeatedly. How do I deal with it?

It is good that you tried to find a way to help him calm down. But walking off the job permits him to avoid work and the conflict situation. Maybe that is the reason he leaves the job site.  In other words, if at other times he gets along fine with everybody; maybe he leaves the job site because he wants to avoid conflicts due to his inability to handle interpersonal stress.

Meet with him to understand from him why he walks away. Check whether your hypothesis is right? If yes, establish a different expectation for managing interpersonal stress. Recommend him to a training program on managing interpersonal conflicts.

Whatever the reason be, you must clarify what you expect from him in situations like this and also help him find other productive ways to manage interpersonal problems that he comes across at office. Let him know that walking away from the job site is no longer acceptable. Make him understand how this behavior of his interferes with productivity. Tell him that you expect him to cooperate with fellow workers and manage difficulties in the office while remaining on the job site.  

Encourage and reinforce any positive behavior that he exhibits after your discussion. Consider formal counseling if unacceptable behavior continues.

Ask the Expert: June'07

1. I lead a team of 5 people and I feel giving my team members feedback on their work can help improve the effectiveness of the team. But I am not sure how to do it the right way. So far my experience of giving feedback especially negative one has not been too good.

You are absolutely right; feedback can improve performance of team members which in turn will improve the effectiveness of the team as a whole. By giving negative feedback in a constructive way you can ensure that your feedback is meaningful to your team members. Some guidelines for that are:-

  • Be specific than general. “You made a good presentation” is general. “You managed the audience questions well” is specific.
  • Describe behavior only, do not interpret/evaluate. “You did not complete implementation as per schedule and delayed it by a week” is descriptive vis-à-vis “You are irresponsible” which is evaluative.
  • Provide feedback immediately after the occurrence of behavior.
  • Be focused on behavior that team member can change.
  • Do not mix negative and positive feedback. Examples of both are:-
    • Mixed:  “You did the project well, but you did not take any initiative to try out things.”
    • Unmixed: “On the positive side your project execution was good. You did it with no customer complaints. In the areas of improvement, you need to work on conducting handover training to the satisfaction of the users.”
  • Stimulate suggestions for improvement.
  • Stop if emotional issues surface and deal with them.


2. I know it is not right, but I am jealous of my colleague who is my competitor at work. How can I deal with this?

Being envious of others is a natural reaction and helps in pushing ourselves further to do better. But getting jealous about it and as a result creating negative energy in you is not helpful. It is a good thing that you are aware that it is not a helpful emotion.

Write down what makes you jealous of the colleague. Write down your own accomplishments.  Question yourself – “Are you working smart and hard?” “What behavior of your colleague is bringing him success?” “Are you leveraging your skills, and exceeding your targets?” With some self reflection you will be able to chart out a plan on what needs to be done for you to become as successful as your colleague.

If your colleague succeeds does not mean you cannot succeed. There is enough work and opportunities for everybody to do their bit in today’s corporate world as long as you are willing to work for it. Use all the energy spent in being jealous to do more and better at the work place. Also getting to know the person better may make you realize he/she is just like you and that you could actually be friends and learn from each other.


3. Two of my team members do not get along with each other and this is creating a lot of negative energy in the team. Shifting one of them to another team is not an option right now. As the team leader can I do something?

Yes, you can definitely take some steps to improve the situation.

  • As a first step analyze their recent conflicts, take inputs from their peers, and understand the dynamics at play.
  • Then individually counsel the two people involved them. Let them know how their conflict is affecting the team. Tie issues to business results so you focus on events or behavior not on personality traits. Even if people do not get along they can still work together effectively. Understanding reasons for their not getting along will help. Talk about what you have observed or know has happened, not about something someone else heard or saw.
  • Next step would be to set up a joint problem-solving approach to resolve the conflict.
    • Ask the team members involved to present their view points objectively.
    • Get agreement from them on the problem that needs to be solved. Say things to make them feel you want to solve the problem, not lay the blame. Have each of them generate possible solutions.
    • Get commitment on what each team member will do to solve the problem.
    • Summarize and set a follow-up date to make sure they are working together effectively.