Active Listening : Basic Managerial Skills; V3 Issue 4

Active listening is essentially effective listening. It is not just passive hearing ie., hearing only the words that a person is saying. Active listening is trying to understand the total message ie., the content and the intent by paying attention to what is left unsaid as much as what is being said, the body language, the tone of voice, inflections, volume etc. As a manager active listening helps significantly in soliciting better information from others and in understanding, responding and influencing others in a positive way. To help you listen actively and in turn improve your productivity, listed below are some tips.

Tips for Active Listening

Pay undivided attention: Most individuals speak at the rate of 175 to 200
      words per minute but are capable of listening and processing words at the
      rate of 600 to 1,000 words per minute. So, quite often while listening, you
      may start thinking about a task or start framing a response to what the
      person is saying etc. Instead put aside distracting thoughts and focus on
      giving the speaker your complete attention. Look at the speaker and avoid
      being distracted by environmental factors.

Do not talk: Though this may seem obvious many people listen with
      impatience. They are just waiting for their chance to speak or they interrupt

  Demonstrate that you are listening: Show the speaker you are listening by nodding your head. Maintain eye contact with the person. Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention. Lean forward and do not use your hands to play with things. Smile or use other appropriate facial expressions. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes”, and “uh huh”. Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically. 

Defer judgment: Avoid early evaluations when listening to a person with whom you disagree. When listeners begin to disagree with a sender's message, they tend to misinterpret the remaining information and distort its intended meaning so that it is consistent with their own beliefs. Interrupting with counter arguments can frustrate the speaker and limits full understanding of the message for the listener. So allow the speaker to finish. Be open and don’t just search for a point that supports your own opinions. Be willing to gain new insights and learn about someone else’s ideas.

Don’t get defensive: Don’t take what another person says personally when what he or she is saying is not meant to be personal. Even if you do not agree with what the speaker is saying, avoid defensive statements or phrases that argue with his or her points. There is time for that later. As an active and effective listener, your role is first to give the person the time and space to fully express his or her feelings

Paraphrase: Paraphrasing is putting into your own words what you thought you heard and saying it to the sender.Paraphrasing by saying “What I’m hearing is…” and “Sounds like you are saying…” are great ways to reflect back. For example, when your subordinate states that “You have promoted Simmy over me. I can do the job better than her”, you can paraphrase by saying “I think you are upset about not being promoted and you feel I have been unfair while making the promotion recommendation”. Paraphrasing clarifies to the sender that his or her message was correctly received and encourage him/her to expand on what he or she is trying to communicate.

Ask questions: Ask questions to clarify certain points or to obtain additional information. Ask open-ended questions like “What do you mean when you say…” “What kind of problems are you facing?” They require the speaker to convey more information. Questions should be framed in a way that makes it clear you have not yet drawn any conclusions.This will assure the speaker that you are interested in obtaining more and better information. The more informationthat you have as a listener, the better you can respond to the speaker's communication.

 Listen for feelings:When listening, focus not only on the words but also on the way they are being said. Observe the speaker’s body language. The way a speaker is standing, the tone of voice and inflection he or she is using, and what the speaker is doing with his or her hands are all part of the message that is being sent. A person who raises his or her voice is probably either angry or frustrated.

    Respond appropriately: Be candid, open, and honest in your response. Assert your opinions respectfully. Sometimes people just want you to listen so that they can work out the problem themselves. The moment the problem is stated don’t suggest solutions.

Appreciative Inquiry : Management Funda; V3 Issue 4

Do you believe that “organizing is a problem to be solved” or that, “organizing is a miracle to be embraced”? David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivatsva, who developed Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in the 1980s, believed in the latter. AI is based on the premise that “organizations change in the direction in which they inquire.” So organizations which inquire into problems will keep finding problems. And organizations that try to appreciate what is best in them will discover more and more that is good.

In 1985, a team from Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management (Cleveland) was consulting with The Cleveland Clinic, consistently ranked among the top hospitals. They discovered something interesting. As the team asked the clinic's employees questions related to positive work aspects, a wave of energy was seen to be unleashed. The factors that had contributed to the clinic's success were actually being enhanced by the interview process. Thus was born AI, a philosophy and process that builds on the goodness in a person, a situation, or an organization and enhances capacity for collaboration and change. It is the opposite of problem solving. Instead of focusing on gaps and inadequacies an attempt is made to build organizations around what works, rather than trying to fix what does not. AI is a particular way of asking questions and envisioning the future that fosters positive relationships.

Building blocks of AI
AI should have four characteristics. It should be Appreciative, Applicable, Provocative and Collaborative. To understand how AI is implemented let’s look at how a company actually used it. In the late 1990s, Waterbury, VT-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) was expanding. It was tripling its sales force and doubling its plant size. It was an exciting time of growth for the now $100 million specialty coffee company that CEO Bob Stiller founded as a coffee shop in 1981. In 2000, Stiller realized he needed to capture the economies of the company’s new scale to prevent the company from sinking under its own significantly increased weight. He decided to deploy AI. 

GMCR worked through the "4D" AI process comprising of following four phases:-

  • Discover: Here people talk to one another, often via structured interviews to discover the times when the organization is at its best. These stories are told in as much detail as possible. GMCR team identified where the company's processes worked perfectly.
  • Dream: This phase is often run as a large group conference. Participants are encouraged to envision the organization as if the best moments discovered in the ‘discover’ phase were the norm rather than exceptions. GMCR team envisioned processes that would work perfectly all the time. “We identified the one best path in each process,” says former CFO Bob Britt, “and asked, “Why don't we do this with everything?”"
  • Design: In this phase a small team is empowered to go away and design ways of creating the organization dreamed in the conferences. GMCR team defined and prioritized the elements of perfect processes.
  • Destiny: This is the final phase in which the changes are implemented. GMCR team participated in the process design creation.

Initially the four phases used to be spread out over a long period of time. But nowadays it is more common for the whole process to take place at an ‘Appreciative Inquiry Summit’, a 4 day large group event. Each phase takes place on a separate day. GMCR organized formal AI summits on the company's major business processes—procure-to-pay, order-to-cash, plan-to-produce, and market-to-sell. More than 200 employees, over half the work force, focused on raising productivity.


How can I use it?

Interestingly you can use AI to improve your team’s functioning too. The following exercise can aid in developing shared mental maps of group success, reenergizing the team and improving its performance. It can also help create a safe way of discussing difficult issues for a team.

  • First, ask your team members to recall the best team experience they have ever been a part of.

  • Ask each team member in turn, to describe the experience while encouraging the rest of the team to be curious and to engage in a dialogue with the person. Fully explore what about themselves, the situation, the task, and others made this a ‘peak’ experience.

  • Once all members have exhausted their exploration, ask the team, on the basis of what they have just discussed, to list and develop a consensus on the attributes of highly effective teams.

  • Conclude by inviting members to publicly acknowledge anything they have seen others in the team do that has helped the team be more like any of the listed attributes.



So often we fall into the trap of trying to understand why 1% of our customers are dissatisfied rather than exploring how we have satisfied the 99% of our customers. Or we conduct exit interviews instead of interviewing people who choose to stay with the company and work on factors that demoralize the team instead of dwelling on the factors that give energy to the team. Taking an Appreciative Inquiry approach will help you view your work and your relationships with others in a different perspective, more positively. And this will yield more positive results for you and your company.


   ‘Appreciative Inquiry’

   Kinni, T, ‘The Art of Appreciative Inquiry’, September 22, 2003

   ‘Appreciative inquiry’

   ‘Wipro Inducts ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ For Better Team Work’, Dec 02, 2002

   Bushe , G R, Ph.D. ‘Appreciative Inquiry with Teams’ 

Employee Speak: Tiger Ramesh, MD, Vignani Solutions; V3 Issue 4

1. What is the importance you place on building good business relationships for your company’s business? Why?

Relationships are built on trust. In any business, people buy from people. People conduct business with people. Organisations come later. Thus, it is very crucial to build good business relationships to further your company’s business.


2. What according to you helps a company build a great business relationship?

The 3 successful ingredients of building a great business relationship are:-

  • Having a transparent approach
  • Understanding the customer’s problems
  • Helping the customer win

3. Are the ways used to build great business relationships different in different geographies?

The approach has to be different in different geographies. Each of the geographies has a very different culture. Thus, it is highly critical that one must understand the social and cultural aspects of the geography while approaching someone from that geography.

4. Business relationships are increasingly being built online. Is Vignani as a company using any of the social media tools to build business relationships?

According to me relationships can’t be built online. Only introductions can be made/gained through online media. Social media tools shorten the time period required to connect with people, but they do not guarantee a relationship. Relationships are still built through a person to person contact, face to face. Building good relationships take a long time and do not happen overnight.

5. How important has building business relationships been in your own professional life? Can you share an example of how it has made a difference?

Over the last two decades, I have developed a few significant business relationships based on transparency, trust and promise of delivery. These have helped solve customer problems. Some of these business relationships have resulted in good friendships. Even though some people changed organisations, we have ended up working together because of the relationship we had developed. An instance that readily comes to mind is that of a CIO of a large banking organisation. He had so much confidence in me that when he moved to another banking organisation, he invited me to do business with him.

6. Please share a few ideas that our readers could put into practice which would help them improve their business relationship building skills.

The first thing that one should keep in mind while developing a business relationship is that he should not try and sell to the customer.

One should understand the pain points of the customer, organisation and of the industry as a whole. If you are unable to solve the customer’s problems, then don’t approach him. Successful business relationships are built when you have been able to solve the pain points / problems of the customer. Else you would have made a sale, but no relationship would have been built.

One should understand the customer’s business thoroughly. The customer should clearly understand what you are offering him / her. If this is achieved, the customer will look to you for help.

Assess how you can make your customer win and look good – in business, among peers and in front of his boss.

Make a little extra effort to keep in touch constantly / periodically even though there maybe no immediate business opportunity.

Determine your primary Conflict-Handling Intention: Activity Corner; V3 Issue 4

People have an underlying disposition to handle conflicts in certain ways. To determine your conflict-handling intention, indicate how often you rely on each of the following tactics by circling the number that you feel is most appropriate.



Place the number that represents your score for each statement next to the number for that statement. Then total up the columns.

Your primary conflict-handling intention is the category with the highest total. Your fall-back intention is the category with the second highest total. Each of the categories is explained below.

Competing: A desire to satisfy one’s interest, regardless of the impact on the other parties to the conflict.

Collaborating: A situation where the parties to a conflict each desire to satisfy fully the concerns of all parties.

Avoiding: The desire to withdraw from or suppress a conflict.

Accommodating: The willingness of one party in a conflict to place the opponent’s interests above his or her own.

Compromising: A situation in which each party to a conflict is willing to give up something.


Source: Robbins, SP, 1994, ‘Organizational Behavior’, 6th edition, Prentice Hall of India, New Delhi.

The Tipping Point: Book Review; V3 Issue 4

Title: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Publication details: 2001, Abacus
Number of pages: 259 pages

In this very interesting book, Malcolm Gladwell analyses and explains the ‘tipping point’, “that magic moment when ideas, trends and social behaviours cross a threshold, tip and spread like wildfire.” He looks for clues among spread of disease viruses, on how social epidemics like fads, crime waves and revolutions get started. And he identifies three key factors that play a role in ‘tipping’ a particular trend into wide-scale popularity.

The ‘Law of the Few’ factor states that certain people with exceptional social skills and social contacts can cause change. These people are Connectors (people who know a lot of people and are in a position to influence a lot of people or spread an idea and make it visible to a lot of people), Mavens (people with a focused interest in particular areas, like where to get the best prices, and a willingness and interest to share that information with others) and Salesmen (people with a talent for persuasion, and for changing our minds and making us see or act differently). The likelihood of a new idea tipping into exponential success is much higher if these three groups endorse and advocate the idea. The book cites the example of a nurse who wanted her community women, who would not ordinarily do so, to get tested for diabetes and breast cancer. When holding seminars at local churches failed, she switched venues to beauty salons and trained some stylists in the information that needed to be transmitted and it worked!

Gladwell defines the ‘Stickiness’ factor as the quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea. The message has to be so memorable that it can incite change. Stickiness can be deliberately cultivated and refined to maximise the impact and 'spread' of content or behaviour. For instance Lester Wunderman created a ‘gold box’ treasure hunt in the TV commercials for its Columbia Record club account that made viewers part of an interactive advertising. This created stickiness for these ads. In the case of a successful children’s TV show ‘Blues Clues’, it was the repetition and the format of asking questions and leaving preschooler sized pauses before the off-stage audience answered them that created stickiness.

‘Power of Context’ factor asserts that epidemics are sensitive to the environment in which they occur and that small changes in environment can make a big difference to outcomes. For example, some sociologists believe that New York City turned around a high crime rate problem by cleaning up graffiti, repairing broken windows and being intolerant of cheating on subway fares. Taking care of ‘little things’ ensured the ‘big things’ took care of themselves and New York became a much safer city. The magic number 150 is an interesting example. Once a workgroup exceeds 150, relationships break down. Traditionally, tribes used to split off when they grew beyond 150. Modern organizations like Gore Associates have also found by housing only 150 employees or less in a building, the R & D people know the sales people, the production people etc and hence work together more effectively.

So what if Gladwell’s ideas are not original, they bring together ideas in such a compelling and clever manner that it has become a very popular book. Gladwell has a way with words that engages the reader. Consider this “Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push — in just the right place — it can be tipped.”

Gladwell not only explains the factors for ‘Tipping point’, but also gives incisive examples of how to understand, measure, and take advantage of all the factors. By studying ‘The Tipping Point’ you can get insights into human behaviour. And a deep understanding of human behavior can help you create a more effective marketing message, promote political change and solve social ills. Hence, I feel, this is one of those books that anyone with a desire to create a wide spread change, can benefit from reading.

Building Great Business Relationships for Business Success : Feature Article; V3 Issue 4

Your customer, your supplier, your strategic partner, your vendor, your banker and others who help you execute your role responsibilities and do your job smoothly are all people that you have a business relationship with. Apart from delivering quality service or making timely payments ever thought about how your business relationships can be strengthened. Why? Well, look at the benefits of building a strong business relationship and see if you can think of any reason why you shouldn’t.

The benefits of building strong business relationships

The benefits of building a strong business relationship can be best illustrated with some examples. The benefits are also indicators of a great business relationship.

Ok so there are plenty of reasons why you should be forging strong business relationships. Now how did Raj, Sameena, Gautam and Shibu build these relationships? Is there a formula? Perhaps yes. 

Building business relationships

Talk to a few people who have built great business relationships and this is what you will discover. While depending on one’s’ personality and creativity there are umpteen styles one can adopt, from enquiring about family to playing golf, to build a relationship, there are still some fundamental rules which apply. These tried and tested rules for building and sustaining a good business relationship are:-


  • Learn as much as you can about them: What is their business strategy? What are their short term and long term goals? What are their company values? What is their internal structure and practices? Who do we need to know at the organization to build the relationship? Don’t just learn about them, act on that knowledge. When their needs change, be there to provide them with what they need to stay happy with your business. Knowing the client/vendor partner/ service provider in and out will help you extract better value over time from them.
  • Set clear expectations and provide support: Tell your clients what you can and cannot do. Tell your vendors how they can assist you. Give them all the information and support they need to serve you. Suppose your six sigma consultant wants all key stakeholders to be there in the kick off meeting, ensure they are there.
  • Strive for mutual benefits: If you want them to work for the success of your business, you need to also do the same for them. When you renew that contract with your supplier don’t just work out the savings you will make but also the value of additional business the supplier will enjoy. Highlight to your partners, the additional benefits they get from working with you – they will value your business more.
  • Enjoy equal relationships: Interact with your clients / vendor partners on a platform of equality. Drive them to respect you for your intellectual contributions to their business. Look for these opportunities and play an ‘Advisory’ role to all. Once your intellectual contribution to their business creates value for them they are hooked to you - provided you keep following up with more intellectual contributions!
  • Communicate: Inform them about changes that take place. Acknowledge mistakes and keep them informed of the corrective actions being undertaken. In difficult situations avoiding phone calls and emails simply because you do not know what to say or are afraid of saying the wrong thing will lead your client thinking the worst. If your business partner or client knows and understands your situation, they are much more likely to accommodate any inconveniences caused.
  • Stay connected: Find ways to remain connected through phone calls, personal visits etc with people you want to further business with in future even if today they are not doing business with you.
  • Connect emotionally: A 2003 Gallup study suggested that no matter how high a company's customer satisfaction levels may appear to be, "satisfying customers without creating an emotional connection with them has no real value.” Some of the ways you can connect emotionally with people you want to build business relationships with are by…

    • Listening: Listen carefully to what they have to say, to their opinions and feelings. This way you will be able to empathize with them and understand their needs well.
    • Telling stories: Sharing with your customers, stories of challenges you have encountered in business in the past is a way of humanizing who you are. These stories remind them that you are not all that different in terms of your aspirations, goals, as well as in terms of what you worry about. This increases their feeling of connectedness to you.
    • Being thankful: Take every opportunity you can to demonstrate how thankful you are of them associating with you in business. It can take the form of thank-you cards, festival greetings, spending time with them over lunch etc.
    • Being thoughtful: This requires knowing the different needs of different people. So while one business partner may value a book, another may value tickets to a cricket match and another an interesting article on the internet related to their business.
  • Show appreciation: Always recognize a job well done. Everyone likes to be told they've done a good job. Give a ‘Best vendor’ award. Call your banker to tell him/her how much you appreciate him/her for doing a good job of managing your funds. Include your business associates in your company’s celebrations of business success.
  • Act with integrity: A key component of having a successful business relationship is integrity ie., honesty, truthfulness, honour, veracity, reliability and uprightness. It is the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards. This means you honour your commitments be it making payment to a supplier or meeting your client delivery schedule. They will trust you because they know they can accept your words as honorable, without any hidden meaning or agenda.
  • Refer business to them: Refer business whenever you can to a person you are in business with. Rest assured you will have earned a well-wisher for your company.
  • Be responsive and punctual: Return all phone calls and emails as soon as possible. Your delay in response will be considered a sign of not caring enough for the relationship. Value their time. Be on time for your appointments with them.
  • Be flexible: Being flexible when say a vendor cannot supply the required material, but is providing an alternate material, is important for strengthening the relationship. Instead of getting annoyed, try and understand the problem the vendor is having and how you can minimize the impact on your business.
  • Don’t be rude: This is an obvious but important rule. If you don’t’ like the design options given to you by your website designer, there is no need to be rude about it. Give him/her feedback about what you like and want different in a nice way. Be pleasant and respectful at all times.


The Relationship strategy


Now is it possible and is it required that you build enduring business relationships with every person you interact with at work. No, that would take up too much of your time and energy. Everybody need not be rewarded with your loyalty. You should instead follow a relationship strategy that allows you to focus 80% of your time on 20% of the relationships that can help you reach 80% of your business goals. A core relationship strategy has five steps:


1. Develop criteria for ideal and nightmare business relationships: For instance some common criteria for ideal client relationships are:- 

  • Long-term revenue and profit potential (beyond one year)
  • Fit with your personality style
  • Fit with your target market
  • A budget for your services, and willingness to pay
  • Fit of their needs with your skills and capabilities
  • Visibility of the client and their projects
  • Opportunity for you to develop new skills, a new marketable product or service

You must choose criteria that are most suitable for you and make them as specific as possible. For instance it could be ‘The client will challenge me to remain on the leading edge of software design techniques and tools’.


2. Rank your relationships: Once you have a good list of criteria for each kind of relationship, you should list all your clients, vendors etc and rank them in terms of the criteria.


3. Focus on the top ones: Develop a plan to reach out to, and build your relationship with the top 20% on each of your list i.e., client, vendor etc. Most likely these 20% will turn out to be completely different from the ones you are today spending a lot of time on. Don’t worry about it.


4. Do away with the bottom ones: You should discontinue relationships that are a nightmare. That way you no longer have to tolerate poor service and serve clients who are unwilling to pay you adequately for your work. Part company gracefully and gradually. Explain diplomatically why you need to move on. Suggest to them some other resources that can help them.


 5. Watch the middle ones: These are neither your best nor worst relationships. Relationships in this category are to be watched. Serve them well, and see if you can convert them to meet more of your ideal criteria. Focus your attention on your top relationships, but do not abandon the revenue and goodwill that comes from the middle of the pack.




If after having followed the relationship building rules and strategy you find you are still not benefitting, just give it time. It is going to bear fruit one way or the other. Take for instance what happened with us. We send our newsletter Prerana to all our existing and potential clients. A company we have been sending the newsletter for two years contacted us recently and we have signed a long term contract with them.


  10 Ways To Strengthen Your Business Relationships, December 7, 2007

  Pedro, O, Building Customer Relationships as a Critical Part of Selling July, 2006

  The Key Component To Having A Successful Business Relationship, July 15, 2008

  Francis,C, Connecting Emotionally: a Vital Way to Build Deeper, Meaningful Business Relationships January 15, 2009

  Neitlich, A, ‘How a Core Relationship Strategy Can Help You Increase Profits’, January 4, 2005

Are you an effective listener? : Activity Corner; V3 Issue 3

Listening is an important part of being able to communicate effectively. To determine whether you are an effective listener put yourself in the shoe of a colleague who talks to you regularly and respond to the following statements with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’. In fact to be doubly sure about how effective your listening skills are, also conduct this exercise with a colleague who you actually communicate with regularly at the workplace. Request him/her to respond honestly with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’.

1. You feel I pay undivided attention to you i.e., I am not doing something else simultaneously when you talk to me.


2. I do most of the talking even when I am listening to something that you want to communicate to me.


3. When you are talking to me I interrupt often and do not let you finish what you are saying.


4. I maintain eye contact with you most of the time when I am listening to you.


5. I encourage you to talk by responding appropriately with the nod of a head and with small verbal comments like “yes”, and “uh huh”. You don’t have to ask me “Are you listening?”


6. I do not ask you enough questions to clarify and understand what you are saying.


7. You feel I am able to understand your feelings along with the words spoken. I do get you.


8. If something you say does not agree with me, I often get defensive.


9. I am able to paraphrase effectively what you say most of the times and demonstrate to you that I have been listening and have understood most of what you have said.


10. You feel I do change my view point after having heard your views on a subject and having discussed the same at length with you.


Score your responses by giving a point to every ideal response of an effective listener. Similarly score the responses of your colleagues.

The more the ideal responses the better you are at listening. To ensure you have the right assessment about your listening skills, it is important that you have not just answered these questions yourself. The way we perceive our behaviour can be very different from the way we actually behave with others. The difference in the scores between the way you thought others feel about your listening skills and what others actually feel underlines the difference between self-perception and reality.

Delegation : Basic Managerial Skills; V3 Issue 3

Delegation typically is the assignment of authority and responsibility by a manager to his/her subordinate to carry out specific activities. The manager remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work. Delegation empowers the subordinate to make decisions. As a manager, delegating allows you to concentrate on things that you believe require your personal knowledge/skill and helps you raise your subordinate’s level of knowledge/skill.

Tips for Effective Delegation

  •  Select the right person for the job. The person should be qualified to deliver the results or experience learning from taking on this task which the company can draw on at a later time.
  •  Explain the reasons: Why is the job being delegated. Why to that person? What is its importance and relevance? Where does it fit in the overall scheme of things? What's in it for him/her?
  •  Delegate the entire job to one person and give them full authority: This will heighten the individual's interest in the project and provide a deeper sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when the task is completed. Although the ultimate responsibility lies with you, when you delegate something to someone, be sure that others know that you've given the responsibility and authority to that individual, and that he/she is accountable for producing the result.
  •     Focus on results: When assigning a project, allow the person to develop the methodology for how to achieve the goal. Focus on what you want, not how to do it. That way the individual feels a greater sense of ownership for achieving the results.
  •     Involve the person while delegating: Don't do all the talking. Encourage subordinate’s suggestions and comments. Instead of just asking "Do you understand?", ask questions such as, "Any ideas as to how you'll proceed?" etc. State required results and establish deadlines, parameters, conditions and terms before you delegate: 
  •       What must be achieved? Explain what success looks like so he/she has a clear picture of what you want to accomplish. Make sure they know how you will decide that the job is being successfully done. Don't leave due dates uncertain or open-ended. State parameters etc up front and do not impose controls after you've delegated.
  •     Periodically review: Keep track of the status of the project without micromanaging. Ask the person to report progress on specific dates you've agreed upon.
  •     Give positive and corrective feedback: While reviewing focus on what is right and what can be done to improve.
  •     Provide the resources required: Provide finance, use of technology tools, access to any knowledge base, necessary manpower resources etc.
  •     Offer guidance and advice without interfering: Point out potential roadblocks that they may encounter like unpredictable market or a slow to respond vendor etc.
  •     Don't let them delegate back to you: If your subordinate brings a problem to you, you can listen without assuming responsibility for solving the problem. He/she may ask you for your suggestions. You should instead ask for his/her suggestions first before making any of yours.
  •     Provide back-up and support when necessary: It could be in the form of making a discreet phone call to someone involved who is not cooperating with the person, standing in for him/her when he is tied up with something else etc.
  •     Give full credit and recognition to the person who gets the job done: Don't take the credit yourself. But if the person is unsuccessful in delivering, absorb the consequences of failure yourself.

Pygmalion Effect : Management Funda; V3 Issue 3

In an interesting study researchers looked at 12 separate research studies involving employees and their supervisors from different work settings, a total of 2,874 participants. Each study randomly assigned employees to two groups.

Supervisors were told that one group of employees had considerably greater potential thus creating a positive attitude among supervisors about one group of employees who were basically no different from other group of employees. Result? With only two exceptions employees in the former group responded with greater productivity. This was because of the Pygmalion Effect.

What is Pygmalion Effect and how did it originate?
Pygmalion Effect is essentially the power of others’ expectations. Positive expectations produce positive results and vice-versa. Typically every supervisor has expectations of the people who report to him and these expectations get communicated consciously or unconsciously. When people perceive expectations about their performance from their supervisors they perform in ways that are consistent with the expectations they have picked up.

J. Sterling Livingston, wrote on the Pygmalion Effect in the ‘Harvard Business Review’ in his article, ‘Pygmalion in Management’, "The way managers treat their subordinates is subtly influenced by what they expect of them," and that unskilled supervisors "leave scars on the careers of young workers, cut deeply into their self-esteem, and distort their image of themselves as human beings. But if he is skillful and has high expectations of his subordinates, their self-confidence will grow, their capabilities will develop and their productivity will be high. " 

This concept has its roots in Greek mythology, when Pygmalion, a sculptor and prince of Cyprus made a statue of his ideal woman, whom he called Galatea, which came to life. The story was also the basis of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion”, later turned into the musical “My Fair Lady”. In Shaw’s play, Professor Henry Higgins claims he can take a flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, and turn her into a duchess. But, as Eliza herself points out to Higgins’ friend Pickering, it is not what she learns or does that determines whether she will become a duchess, but how she is treated.


Pygmalion Effect was initially successfully demonstrated by Robert Rosenthal, a Harvard University professor, and Leonore Jacobson, a school principal in a publication called ‘Pygmalion in the Classroom’. At the beginning of the school year, they gave an intelligence test to all students at an elementary school. Then, they randomly selected 20% of the students without actually relying on their test results. Their teachers were told that those students showed "unusual potential for intellectual growth." Eight months later, they retested all the students. The 20% labled as having "unusual potential" showed significantly greater advancement than other children not singled out for the teachers' attention

Using the Pygmalion effect to get the best of people

Firstly reflect on what kind of expectations do you have from each of your team member. Determine what are the fundamental beliefs about people that you hold. There are some fundamental beliefs about people that help managers have a high performance expectation of their subordinates. They are…..

  •    Most people want to do a good job
  •    Most people can be trusted to do the right thing
  •    Most people, given the same information, will reach the same conclusion
  •    People are natural goal setters and achievers
  •    Most people will accept change

Knowing this can help you understand why you tend to have high or low expectations. Work towards changing those beliefs that prevent you from having high expectations of others. Next look at how do you communicate these expectations. Subtle communications from the manager like the tilting of heads, the raising of eye brows or the dilation of nostrils and not so subtle communications as listed below tell the employee what the expectations are.

Some examples of how managers communicate their expectations

Are you unwittingly communicating low expectations to people? If yes, gradually change the way you behave with such people.

Finally understand that people’s expectations of themselves also affect their performance. This is called the Galatea Effect. Employees who think they will succeed are most likely to succeed. So it goes without saying that any actions the supervisor takes to increase the employee's feelings of positive self-worth will help the employee's performance improve. Let’s look at some of the ways in which you can encourage positive, powerful self-expectations in employees.

   The best part of having positive performance expectation from their team members is that a team leader can even
     create a positive Galatea Effect i.e. Pygmalion Effect can cause Galatea Effect. Hold frequent, positive verbal
     interactions with the employee and communicate consistently your firm belief in the employee's ability to perform
     the job. Keep feedback positive and constructive.


  • Provide opportunities for the employee to experience increasingly challenging assignments.
  • Make sure he/she succeeds at each level before moving forward.
  • Enable the employee to participate in potentially successful projects that bring continuous improvement to the workplace.
  • Focus on the strengths. In a one-to-one coaching with employees emphasize improving what they do well rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Help them apply their strengths in ways that contribute positively to the organization.
  • Make sure the employee is receiving consistent messages from others around him/her. How you speak to others about him/her will mould their opinions about the person.
  • Demonstrate your sincere commitment to the employee's success and ongoing development.


The bottom line is both Pygmalion Effect and Galatea Effect can be powerful performance management tools. Your expectations of your people and their expectations of themselves are the key factors in how well they will perform at work. So believe in your team members. More often than not, they will meet or exceed your expectations. You just make sure that the expectations are high.




Employee Speak: Ankit Patel, CEO, Ankit Fasteners; V3 Issue 3

1. In 2007 Ankit Fasteners received the Society of Aerospace Manufacturing Engineers (SAME) National Governing Council Gold Medal award? What factors contributed to Ankit Fasteners winning this prestigious award?


SAME set up to coordinate with all companies in the aerospace industry, is promoted by ISRO and VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre). Our relationship with VSSC started way back in 1991 when we started Ankit Fasteners. Ankit Fasteners has played a major role in indigenization which was a major national requirement in mid-nineties especially in the context of nuclear blasts and a lot of sanctions that were required. Overtime ISRO has become completely self-reliant in fasteners which even though are small value items, have always faced critical bottlenecks.


The efforts put in by the entire Ankit Group during the last 15 years have been remarkable. I think the following factors helped us win this award.

  • We are pioneers in the country for aluminium rivet manufacturing.
  • We use Russian alloy. Russian markets are difficult to penetrate on account of language disparity etc.
  • We make Alloy steel fasteners for which we import material from France.
  • We have been competitive as far as price is concerned.
  • We offer time advantage. Manufacturing lead time that used to be close to 12-18 months way back in mid-nineties when ISRO used to import fasteners has come down to 3 months.

All this was only possible due to the efforts and leadership of my father and the continuous employee support.

2. For organizations typically to achieve good results they need to develop execution excellence across the organization. Considering the growth that Ankit Fasteners has had despite recession, would you say this has been so in your company too?


Yes you are absolutely right! Even if a company has a robust goal setting process at the senior level, what is important is the execution across the company. In our case despite recession few good things helped us going and reach where we are today. We picked up a good industry and have always maintained good choice of products. We have some solid customers like ISRO. We lay strong emphasis on Continuous Improvement Process. Our business strategy has always been to not run behind low margin businesses. Despite taking a cost conscious decision like downsizing, our net sales have gone up by 10%. Financially not being a leveraged company helped us during recession.

3. An important managerial skill is ensuring execution excellence. According to you what is execution excellence?


What I have tried to do here is break down goals into targets / milestones. We have completed a detailed KRA setting exercise this year for all employees. At Ankit we have 20 performance measures like Sales, Customer service, Rejections etc to meet our 3 values namely Customer satisfaction, People focus and Safety. In a month where we meet targets our score becomes 1 and failure to meet makes it. So the ratings help us get a clear picture of where the company is heading. That according to me is an execution excellence wish list that management across companies possesses.

4. What programs and initiatives do you have in place at Ankit for leading, supporting and encouraging effective execution by your team?


Our focus on stringent Continuous Improvement (CI) programs ensures that each employee undertakes CI projects and CI training programs which help them evolve as effective executors. We also have mandatory training programs. Each employee is ideally required to go through 3 hours of monthly training i.e. 36 hours of annual training. By this we ensure that our human assets appreciate in terms of performance quality and flawless execution

5. What are the challenges you foresee for your company in the coming years? What are the key managerial skills that you want your managers to develop given these challenges?


We definitely need human resources to take us ahead in our growth path. Currently we do a lot of external hiring. The challenge here, especially in senior level hiring is the time taken for the new hires to internalize and adjust with the organizational culture. I would prefer building a system where in we can identify and facilitate movement of employees to bigger roles and expanded job responsibilities. Our middle management needs to improve their people management skills – communication of expectations and ability to set goals. We have some good resources at the junior level, but they expect a fast track growth. Their attitude is that of biting more than they can chew. We can probably look at identifying few good resources and training them meticulously to fit into the middle management role.

6. To meet the external and internal challenges of a changing world, managers need to develop their capacity to lead. At Ankit how would you like to build this capacity in your managers?


Firstly we believe that every manager should be held accountable for self and the team. This inculcates responsibility amongst team managers towards the team.


Secondly we encourage functional managers’ inputs and active participation in the recruitment process. If the individuals hired fit into the expected skills set then we can ensure a healthy organization in terms of skill building.We are also planning to organize technical development programs once we reach a certain headcount because we believe that managers need to be abreast of new technological innovations which can then result in knowledge sharing. The lesser you work more work gets done. The key to this is to hire good people who would work for you and help the organization grow.

7. Personally how do you ensure that you continuously develop yourself as a leader and as a manager?


I make it a point to attend the mandatory company training programs because I feel that in order to be a successful leader you must be one amongst the team and always accessible to your team members. I always read up on new technological advancements and new manufacturing processes. When you yourself are well informed and aware of the happenings, you can add value to your team members as well. I attend seminars wherein I can interact with fellow entrepreneurs and take their inputs. We have much older board members. I look at them as my mentors and they help me a lot with their experience. As a leader I also believe in following my instincts.