Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking: Book Review; March'08

Title:Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Author:Malcolm Gladwell

Publication details:  Allen Lane, Great Britain, 2005

Number of pages:277 pages

Ever assessed a person the moment you met him and then later found out that the assessment was right. Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the best seller 'The Tipping Point’ writes yet another engaging book ‘Blink’ about how brilliant decisions makers make their judgement in the blink of an eye. It shows how we can hone our instinctive ability in order to become better decision makers in our homes, offices and everyday life.

Blink explores how a part of the brain can leap instantly to conclusions based on very little information. The book opens with the story of a magnificently preserved ancient Greek statue about to be purchased by the Getty Museum in California for about $10 million. After 14 months of investigation, the Getty staff had concluded that the statue was genuine. But an art historian taken to see it, in an instant decided it was fake. Further investigations revealed that the statue had been sculptured by Roman forgers in the early 1980's. The analysts who did research turned out to be wrong. The historian who relied on his initial hunch was right.

In our brains there is, Gladwell argues, a mighty backstage process, which works its will subconsciously. Through this we have the capacity to sift huge amounts of information, blend data, isolate telling details and come to astonishingly rapid conclusions. And the good news is… "The power of knowing, in that first two seconds…. is an ability we can all build for ourselves." The key is to understand and enhance a natural human adeptness at ‘thin slicing’ picking up on patterns in situations based on very narrow slices of experience. Gladwell cites successful people who trust what they know, instead of succumbing to ‘paralysis through analysis.’

What I found interesting is the way people rely on the accuracy of such assessments even when they are dangerously wrong. The book describes this ‘dark side of rapid cognition’ with examples of voters electing Warren G. Harding, one of the worst presidents, because he looked presidential. It also shows how snap decisions can lead us astray if they're rooted, for example, in cultural prejudices with the instance of the New York police shooting and killing an unarmed immigrant because they misread his intentions.

But thankfully the book says that such behavior can be anticipated if it is better understood, and can be modified. ''Every moment -- every blink -- is composed of a series of discrete moving parts,'' he writes, ''and every one of those parts offers an opportunity for intervention, for reform, and for correction.'' And like Galdwell rightly points out "It doesn't seem like we have much control over whatever bubbles to the surface from our unconscious. But we do, and if we can control the environment in which rapid cognition takes place, then we can control rapid cognition. We can protect people fighting wars, or manning emergency rooms….from making mistakes."

Nothing new here I would say, but what is new is the way Gladwell uses fascinating stories to explain his ideas. For instance in an experiment he describes, consumers invited to rank 44 different jams ranked them similar to a panel of food experts. Then another nonexpert group was asked to rank the jams, but with detailed explanations for the ranking. Result: The rankings were drastically different. Gladwell thus justifies the point of how "introspection destroyed people's ability to solve insight problems." Now I know why when I ask my husband “Why do you love me?” he is unable to give an adequate explanation. He just knows. So next time data tells you something and your intuition tells you something else, there is every reason you should explore further. With its blend of anecdotes and academic research Blink is a brilliant book. A book you must definitely read!

Making the Most of Performance Reviews : Feature Article; March'08

Performance Reviews – making the most of them !

If I mention “Performance Review” most of you would think of rating, salary increments, bonuses and promotions. Would you also think of future performance, skill enhancement and charting a stellar career? If the answer is “Yes” then you may already be making the most of your performance review, if the answer is “No” then read on. 


Why do Performance Reviews exist?
By and large they exist to review your past performance and provide you feedback for improvements. Most performance reviews are completed on a yearly basis. For the organization the main objectives of having performance reviews include:-

  • To ensure each team member knows clearly what they are expected to do, individually.

  • To set standards / establish a level of competence for both the individual employee and the workplace as a whole.

  • To plan for and receive inputs from employees for their professional and career growth.

  • To ensure performance of employees are evaluated on same criteria for the same job.

  • For a fair and objective basis for rewarding and recognizing individual performance To provide regular feedback on how one is doing to improve/develop self.

Usually performance reviews are completed by your manager and then reviewed together by both of you. This gives you one-on-one time with the manager to highlight your abilities and discuss professional growth. Thus the discussion is an important aspect of the review process. Let’s see how you can make this discussion meaningful.

Preparing for the Performance Review
Preparing for the performance appraisal ensures you are ready with your points of view and can table them with your Manager. Being unprepared means being a reactive or a passive participant in the process.  It is essential that you take time out and do the following:-

    • Review your work: Think about ….
      • Your job description, job responsibilities, and any job performance expectations set with your manager

      • Key achievements and factors that contributed to them

      • Factors that inhibited your optimal performance

      • Steps taken towards self-development

      • Career aspirations for future

      • Training and self-development needs.

    • Document adequately: If the review form does not provide space for the points mentioned above document them in additional comments section. Be detailed in writing your self-evaluation. Make sure to give specific examples. If you saved the company money by suggesting and implementing a process, add that. Mention figures. Write “Trained 8 batches comprising of 15 people each” instead of “Conducted training for a lot of batches’’.
    • Ensure feedback is received from all managers: If you've had more than one manager in the performance assessment period, be sure that the earlier manager has passed on feedback of your performance to the current one.

What you should do during the review discussion

What you should not do during the review discussion

What about Post Discussion?

The value of a performance review lies in the action that you take based on the discussion you have had with your manager. Do work on the feedback received. Follow through on action points you have agreed upon. If your manager has agreed to support you, remind him gently if he does not keep his commitment.

    1. Be an active participant: Your performance review will be effective if you are as active and involved as your Manager in expressing your positions and ideas. Performance appraisal time is an excellent time for you to make suggestions about work practices that could be changed to deliver better performance. Remember your manager can't read your mind. He/she can work with you to help you do your job more effectively, if you provide him/her with information and ideas.

    2. Be a positive contributor to the process: Seeing the process as a positive tool to build your career will help you maintain a positive frame of mind all through the discussion even when you are being criticized. The key is to participate with a problem-solving mindset focusing on how things can be improved.

    3. Review past performance: Go through your past performance and objectively identify the areas where you excelled. At the same time, do not avoid the criticism that might come your way. Be graceful in admitting where you went wrong and seek guidance from your Manager on how to proceed in future.   

    4. Understand your strengths and also weaknesses: Ask your manager to be frank in listing out your strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis your current role as well as your next planned or targeted role.

    5. Discuss your career aspirations and related development needs: This is a good time to discuss your personal career goals and to get input on achieving these goals. If you don't know what role you can move into next, ask.

    6. Mention the support you need from your Manager: Be clear in letting your Manager know the areas where you would need her/his support. If you need help with more resources or you need your Manager to provide you inputs etc to be successful in your goals, mention that clearly.

    7. Ask for increased job responsibilities: If you want to grow, you must take on additional work responsibilities. So request for it. Even if you are not given higher responsibilities immediately, your manager will remember your eagerness to shoulder more responsibilities.

    8. Seek clarifications: Some managers communicate and explain well. Some don't. However, unless you clarify the reasoning or explanations, you won't know what you need to do to improve your future job performance. It's important to leave the review meeting having a good understanding of what's been said.

    1. Focus on just completing the Review Forms: The ultimate purpose of performance review is to allow employees and managers to improve continuously and to remove barriers to job success. Forms are simply a way of recording information for later reference. If the focus is getting the forms "done", without thought and effort, the whole process becomes a waste of time.

    2. Point out your manager’s shortcomings: This is a strict NO. It's your review, not your manager’s. So, do not be tempted to highlight her/his improvement areas; rather mention the areas where you need her/his cooperation. Discuss how the two of you can work better together.

    3. Express disappointment about responsibilities in the review period: If you are upset about your responsibility areas, you don’t have to wait until the review to express it. You should mention this at the time when you feel the tasks are not challenging enough.

    4. Play the blame game: Blaming others for your non-performance reflects poorly on you. Accept your mistakes gracefully, learn from them, and move on empowered with this new knowledge. Your Manager will respect you more if you are open to work on your shortcomings. 

    5. Be defensive: It is difficult to hear others' critical comments about our work. But, if you enter into the discussion with an attitude of "defending", then it's almost impossible to create the dialogue necessary for performance improvement. This does not mean you cannot present your own opinions and perceptions, but that you should present them in a calm, factual manner, rather than in a defensive, emotional way.

    6. Blackmail the organization to get a good performance rating: Don't use threats of resignation/offer letters from other firms to get a good performance rating. If your manager changes the rating based on it and gives you a rating you do not deserve, during the normalization process it will get normalised. In the long run you will lose more than you gain in the short term by way of the negative feeling of your Manager and colleagues towards you.

    7. Focus on review as a way of getting more money: Pay is important, but the focus on what ultimately matters over the long term ie., continuous performance improvement should not be diluted especially if because of the money focus one becomes hesitant to reveal shortcomings or mistakes. Improve and deliver brilliant performance. Money will automatically follow.


Reviews are not merely about recognition and rewards. It is also about learning and development. The feedback that you get can help you move up the organisational ladder faster. While during your review, your past performance is evaluated, the roadmap for the future is also prepared. This roadmap could define all the success you will enjoy in your professional life! Choose to be an active participant in this process and chart the path to where you wish to go in your career.



    • Bose, P, “Performance review: Dos and don'ts?”,
    • Ghosh, G, “Getting your performance review right”,
      • Darode, V, “Top Ten Tips for a Better Performance Review”,
      • Kirk, J.F, “It's the need to achieve that drives top performers”,
      • Bacal, R, “Seven Stupid Things EMPLOYEES Do To Screw Up Performance Review”,

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.

Balanced Scorecard: Management Funda; Jan'08

What does it mean

The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) is a performance measurement framework that focuses on a range of measures under 4 perspectives to provide a balanced view of organization performance. A BSC typically comprise of both leading indicators (measures which drive performance, eg., in sales ‘order bagged’) and lagging indicators (actual results of performance, eg., in sales ‘pipeline value’). By focusing not only on leading indicators like financial outcomes but also on lagging indicators like human issues, the BSC provides a more comprehensive view of a business thus helping organizations act in their long-term interests.

What are the 4 perspectives

The original BSC method developed by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton in the early 1990s as a result of a year’s research with 12 companies, mentioned the following 4 perspectives:-

  • Financial perspective: This examines if the company’s strategy, implementation and execution are contributing to the company’s bottom-line improvement. It incorporates tangible strategy outcomes in traditional financial terms like cash flow, costs, ROI, revenue growth etc.
  • Customer perspective: This defines the value proposition of the organization to satisfy its customers to generate more sales through the most desired (i.e. the most profitable) customer groups. The measures selected for the customer perspective measure both the value delivered to the customer like delivering committed quality or service and the outcomes of this value proposition like customer satisfaction, market share etc.
  • Internal process perspective: This is concerned with the processes that create and deliver the customer value proposition. It focuses on all the activities and key processes required in order for the company to excel at providing the value expected by the customers both productively and efficiently. Some measures are accident ratios, defect rates etc.
  • Learning and growth perspective: This is concerned with the intangible assets - jobs (human capital), the systems (information capital), and the climate (organization capital) of the enterprise basically the infrastructure needed to meet ambitious objectives in the other three perspectives. Measures can include employee satisfaction, internal promotions %, employee turnover etc.

Can other perspectives be used

Yes. Since the introduction of BSC by Kaplan and Norton many writers have suggested alternative headings for these perspectives and use of either additional or fewer perspectives. But basically designing the BSC requires selecting both leading and lagging indicators and selecting five or six good measures for each perspective. Thus the major design challenge faced is justifying the choice of measures made. If users are not confident that the measures are well chosen, they will have less confidence in the information it provides.

Example of a BSC of a Regional Airline

Mission: Dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and Company spirit.
Vision: Continue building on our unique position -- the only short haul, low-fare,high-frequency, point-to point carrier in America.

How does it work

The general steps to using a BSC, which are also illustrated in the above Regional Airline example are as follows:-

  1. Identify a vision: Implementing BSC starts from the company vision ie., where is the organization going?
  2. Identify strategies: By identifying strategies you tell how you will get there.
  3. Define perspectives: This means you have to ask what we have to do well in each perspective.
  4. Identify the measures: From the perspectives defined, measures are identified.
  5. Evaluate: Thereafter ask how do we measure that everything is going the expected way.
  6. Create action plans: Based on this work you should create action plans and plan reporting and operation of the BSC.
  7. Follow up and manage: Here you should have answers to …How will the BSC be managed? Who should have reports and what should they look like?


What are it applications

Kaplan and Norton found that companies are using the scorecard to drive strategy execution, to clarify strategy and make strategy operational, to identify and align strategic initiatives, to link budget with strategy, to align the organization with strategy, to conduct periodic strategic performance reviews and to learn about and improve strategy.

How can I use it

Before you dismiss this tool as just another organization strategy tool please note like any strategy tool, BSC can also be creatively applied in different spheres of our life. While the implementation of the scorecard generally begins at the corporate level, it can be useful at all levels of an organization. So as a manager you can create a scorecard for your team or as the head of a department you can create a scorecard for your department. All you have to ensure is that there is a good mix of leading and lagging indicators and the different perspectives selected by you provide a balanced approach to improving performance.  Talking of applications for you, would it not be great to see your life’s score card.


    • ‘Balanced scorecard’ ,
    • How to use the Balanced Scorecard’,
    • Missroon, A M,  ‘Demystifying the Balanced Scorecard’, DM Direct, May 1999 ,

Employee Speak: Mr. Ashutosh Atray, VP Training and Fleet Management, V-Link Taxis Pvt. Ltd; Jan'08

1. Tell us something about your company and what it is trying to do in the Market.

V-Link Taxis is a service oriented company. Its main aim is to provide hassle free, quality, premium service to its commuters which is not yet available in so many cities.

2. What is your role in the company?

I am responsible for Training and Resources.  Besides developing and ensuring that quality training is imparted to drivers, I am also responsible for effective utilization of resources like infrastructure, vehicles and the mobile servicing team.

3. What are the key challenges you face in your industry and specifically in your role?  How do you deal with them?

Tapping, attracting and retaining the talent pool among taxi drivers is a great challenge. The second key challenge is to maintain quality in service delivery to the customer.  Quality is required at several levels and departments, ranging from the call center, vehicle fitment, driver selection and training, IT systems and Recovery/Accounts.  In order to ensure quality, the entire machinery needs to be well oiled and work as a single unit. Each department needs to perform as a team based on set processes in a timely manner with a firm focus on business goals. The third key challenge is driver training and attitude.  Each driver reacts uniquely to different situations and to the same situations at different times.  Ensuring their adherence to processes to deliver the same quality each time is challenging.

4. What kind of training do you provide to the drivers who are deployed in Meru cabs?

In a way the driver is the face of our company. A lot depends on how the driver performs on that day.  Every thing becomes null and void if the driver makes the customer unhappy. We have a 5 day comprehensive training program that covers several topics like good driving, road safety, basic maintenance, technical specifications, city topography, personal hygiene, etiquette etc.

5. Is the training provided by V-Link to it’s cab drivers unique to the taxi industry in India?

It is unique.  Besides being very comprehensive and covering various aspects as mentioned before, strict adherence on the part of the driver to the set processes is largely dependent on the driver since he is not just an employee but a mini entrepreneur.  Our training also touches upon this aspect and raises the self esteem of the driver by making him understand the finer nuances of his new role. He not only needs to perform well but also needs to exhibit a finer behaviour and process adherence as this impacts the company as well as his business.

6. Recently V-Link was in the news regarding the training facility provided at the Regional Transport Office. How is this unique and what are the advantages for the driver undergoing such a program? Do you feel this can be replicated anywhere else in the country?

The transport department would like to groom and educate the drivers of Mumbai city.   Being in the industry we would like to actively contribute towards this social cause.  Whenever a driver comes to the RTO for a new license or renewing an old one etc, the RTO encourages them to meet our team specifically designated permanently for training at the RTO. The training is conducted by professional trainers in a room set up for such training.  The purpose is to raise driver awareness to higher levels thereby ensuring safer roads.  This training is on ongoing basis.  When the driver completes this successfully he is presented a certificate as well. This initiative is 3 months old now and we are proud to say that every day about 60 to 70 drivers are trained and a total of over 6000 drivers have been trained so far. We have two more requests from the RTO and we are in the process of developing a multilingual training in Hindi and Marathi as well.

7. What are the unique challenges of training drivers?

Ensuring satisfactory levels of service is very challenging indeed.  For example, our training chalks out that the driver be well dressed, clean shaven, wearing good shoes in other words very neatly turned out. To ensure the above he is also given a uniform and shoes.  In addition to this he needs to display positive attitude and caring guest handling. However the driver does not consider appearance as a key factor for his success and many drivers do not realize that they can really make a day for a guest by giving perfect service. The driver is an integral part of customer experience of Meru.  Our driver relations team meets this challenge by closely interacting with the drivers and putting them through periodic repeat trainings.  In addition we also have a news letter as a point of contact with the drivers.

8. Can you tell us a little about the work done by the fleet management team?

The work of the Fleet management team is very specialized since there are a large number of vehicles involved.  The key performance indicator is efficiency.  Greater efficiency and lesser vehicle downtime results in better output and thereby translates into greater revenue.  For this purpose a large database of vehicle information is maintained and data analysis is done on key parameters like servicing and preventive maintenance.

9. What are the future plans that you have for training and fleet management that you have for V-Link?

For training we would like to establish a world class futuristic training facility where anyone can send their drivers for quality training.  This facility would adopt the best training methods and practices with handouts, top class professional trainers and multilingual training.  The MCT (Mobile Communication Terminal) will have all routes mapped and a driver will have the discretion to use best possible route to his destination.

For Fleet management we are developing software systems and processes for data analysis. We are also planning to open multi-model service centers that will service and repair all kinds of vehicles.

10. What is different about working with V-Link?

The company is growing very fast. The operations are going to be pan-India. The company has already established a good name for itself in the market place. It is a challenge to come up to expectations. A management which provides the right mix of support and liberty makes working here extremely satisfying.  I am happy to be a part of this dynamic new business initiative.

What's Your Learning Style? : Quiz; Jan'08

1.When I operate new equipment I generally:

  1. read the instructions first
  2. listen to an explanation from someone who has used it before
  3. go ahead and have a go, I can figure it out as I use it

2. When I need directions for travelling I usually:

  1. look at a map
  2. ask for spoken directions
  3. follow my nose and maybe use a compass

3. When I cook a new dish, I like to:

  1. follow a written recipe
  2. call a friend for an explanation
  3. follow my instincts, testing as I cook

4. If I am teaching someone something new, I tend to:

  1. write instructions down for them
  2. give them a verbal explanation
  3. demonstrate first and then let them have a go

5. I tend to say:

  1. watch how I do it
  2. listen to me explain
  3. you have a go

6. During my free time I most enjoy:

  1. going to museums and galleries
  2. listening to music and talking to my friends
  3. playing sport or doing DIY

7. When I go shopping for clothes, I tend to:

  1. imagine what they would look like on
  2. discuss them with the shop staff
  3. try them on and test them out

8. When I am choosing a holiday I usually:

  1. read lots of brochures
  2. listen to recommendations from friends
  3. imagine what it would be like to be there

    9. If I was buying a new car, I would:

    1. read reviews in newspapers and magazines
    2. discuss what I need with my friends
    3. test-drive lots of different types

    10. When I am learning a new skill, I am most comfortable:

    1. watching what the teacher is doing
    2. talking through with the teacher exactly what I’m supposed to do
    3. giving it a try myself and work it out as I go

    11. If I am choosing food off a menu, I tend to:

    1. imagine what the food will look like
    2. talk through the options in my head or with my partner
    3. imagine what the food will taste like

    12. When I listen to a band, I can’t help:

    1. watching the band members and other people in the audience
    2. listening to the lyrics and the beats
    3. moving in time with the music

    13. When I concentrate, I most often:

    1. focus on the words or the pictures in front of me
    2. discuss the problem and the possible solutions in my head
    3. move around a lot, fiddle with pens and pencils and touch things

    14. I choose household furnishings because I like:

    1. their colours and how they look
    2. the descriptions the sales-people give me
    3. their textures and what it feels like to touch them

    15. My first memory is of:

    1. looking at something
    2. being spoken to
    3. doing something

    16. When I am anxious, I:

    1. visualise the worst-case scenarios
    2. talk over in my head what worries me most
    3. can’t sit still, fiddle and move around constantly

    17. I feel especially connected to other people because of:

    1. how they look
    2. what they say to me
    3. how they make me feel

    18. When I have to revise for an exam, I generally:

    1. write lots of revision notes and diagrams
    2. talk over my notes, alone or with other people
    3. imagine making the movement or creating the formula

    19. If I am explaining to someone I tend to:

    1. show them what I mean
    2. explain to them in different ways until they understand
    3. encourage them to try and talk them through my idea as they do it

    20. I really love:

    1. watching films, photography, looking at art or people watching
    2. listening to music, the radio or talking to friends
    3. taking part in sporting activities, eating fine foods and wines or dancing

    21. Most of my free time is spent:

    1. watching television
    2. talking to friends
    3. doing physical activity or making things

    22. When I first contact a new person, I usually:

    1. arrange a face to face meeting
    2. talk to them on the telephone
    3. try to get together whilst doing something else, such as an activity or a meal

    23. I first notice how people:

    1. look and dress
    2. sound and speak
    3. stand and move

    24. If I am angry, I tend to:

    1. keep replaying in my mind what it is that has upset me
    2. raise my voice and tell people how I feel
    3. stamp about, slam doors and physically demonstrate my anger

    25. I find it easiest to remember:

    1. faces
    2. names
    3. things I have done

    26. I think that you can tell if someone is lying if:

    1. they avoid looking at you
    2. their voices changes
    3. they give me funny vibes

    27. When I meet an old friend:

    1. I say “it’s great to see you!”
    2. I say “it’s great to hear from you!”
    3. I give them a hug or a handshake

    28. I remember things best by:

    1. writing notes or keeping printed details
    2. saying them aloud or repeating words and key points in my head
    3. doing and practising the activity or imagining it being done

    29. If I have to complain about faulty goods, I am most comfortable:

    1. writing a letter
    2. complaining over the phone
    3. taking the item back to the store or posting it to head office

    30. I tend to say:

    1. I see what you mean
    2. I hear what you are saying
    3. I know how you feel

    Scoring Key

    Add up how many 1 ’s, 2 ’s and 3 ’s you selected.    1’s =_____  2’s =_____  3’s =_____

    If you chose mostly 1 ’s you have a VISUAL learning style. If you chose mostly 2 ’s you have an AUDITORY learning style. If you chose mostly 3 ’s you have a KINAESTHETIC learning style.

    The VAK learning styles model suggests that most people have one of three preferred styles of learning. Some people have a very strong preference; other people have a more even mixture of two or less commonly, three styles. When you know your preferred learning style(s) you understand the type of learning that best suits you. This enables you to choose the types of learning that work best for you. The three styles are as follows, (and there is no right or wrong learning style):

    • Visual learning style person has a preference for seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, displays, handouts, films, flip-chart, etc. These people will use phrases such as ‘show me’, ‘let’s have a look at that’ and will be best able to perform a new task after reading the instructions or watching someone else do it first. These are the people who will work from lists and written directions and instructions.
    • Auditory learning style person has a preference for the transfer of information through listening: to the spoken word, of self or others, of sounds and noises. These people will use phrases such as ‘tell me’, ‘let’s talk it over’ and will be best able to perform a new task after listening to instructions from an expert. These are the people who are happy being given spoken instructions over the telephone, and can remember all the words to songs that they hear!
    • Kinaesthetic learning style person has a preference for physical experience - touching, feeling, holding, doing, practical hands-on experiences. These people will use phrases such as ‘let me try’, ‘how do you feel?’ and will be best able to perform a new task by going ahead and trying it out, learning as they go. These are the people who like to experiment, hands-on, and never look at the instructions first.

    The Art of Happiness: Book Review; Jan'08

    Title:The Art of Happiness, A Handbook For Living

    Author:HH Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

    Publication details:  Hodder and Stoughton, Great Britain, 1998

    Number of pages:269 pages

    I have a loving family, good friends, interesting job and a nice life. Yet I find myself yearning for that elusive happiness. So this New Year I was delighted to find amazing ideas in the book ‘The Art of Happiness’, for including a ‘happiness’ related resolution. In this book H.H. the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s great spiritual leaders and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in collaboration with a renowned psychiatrist from the West brings to us the key to ever lasting happiness in life. As professionals this is relevant to us because given the pressures and challenges of today’s everyday life we must not only focus on developing ‘work skills’ but also ‘life skills’ to be effective.

    The book begins with the assertion that “the very purpose of life is to seek happiness… A state of happiness that remains despite life’s ups and downs…” It discusses the true sources of happiness like inner feeling of contentment, a sense of self worth etc., while illustrating the harmful effects of a comparing mind. Surprisingly rather than just recommending a spiritual path to attain happiness, Dalai Lama takes a rational approach by emphasizing learning and extensive practice ie., systematic training of the mind for happiness by cultivating positive mental states such as forgiveness, by discovering new perspectives, developing flexible thinking, finding meaning in pain and suffering etc.

    Principles of Tibetan Buddhism are applied to everyday problems like anger, anxiety, insecurity, loneliness, loss and depression to help achieve balance and complete mental and spiritual freedom. For instance, the book offers chronic worriers this solution: “If there is a solution to a problem there is no need to worry. If there is no solution, there is no sense in worrying either.” While talking about dealing with anxiety Dalai Lama says "If I'm anxious before giving a talk, I'll remind myself … the aim of giving the lecture is to be of at least some benefit to the people, not for showing off my knowledge. So those points which I know, I'll explain....With that motivation, I don't have to worry about appearing foolish or care about what others think of me. So I've found that sincere motivation acts as an antidote to reduce fear and anxiety."

    We get to understand Dalai Lama’s beliefs like human nature is predominantly gentle and compassionate. Seeing others around us in this light helps us gain trust in our fellow humans and feel safe and assured, making us feel happier. Much suffering could be eliminated by remembering that while we are all somehow different, fundamentally we are all human.

    Through conversations, stories, and meditations Dalai Lama shows us how to ride above life’s obstacles and Cutler substantiates these with his interpretations, scientific evidence and case studies from his own practice. For instance Dalai Lama’s assertion that romantic love is negative is substantiated with the case study of one of Cutler’s depression patients, who after falling in love got better, but got worse when his girlfriend broke up with him.

    As the apparently simplistic solutions unfold in the book you realize they are not that simple and slowly but surely a coherent and profound philosophy of living takes shape - having ethical discipline, reaching out to others, understanding and cultivating what gives meaning to our life, basically being a good human being. Different aspects like family, work, relationships, pursuit of wealth etc are discussed. Dalai Lama also gives practical tips like realizing the usefulness of compassion, understanding our dependence on others, maintaining closeness with as many people as possible etc in order to develop warmth and compassion.

    May you find happiness after reading the book, for as the authors put it “search for happiness offers benefits not only for individual but for individual’s family and for society at large.”

    Career Planning for Effective Career Development: Feature Article; Jan '08

    We are experiencing one of the most exciting times in the Indian workplace. One need not keep doing the same thing for years together. One need not only aspire to become a doctor or an engineer. If you want to change jobs there are umpteen jobs to choose from. If you want to improve yourself professionally there are lots of career development opportunities. Economy, lifestyles, work needs… everything seems to be changing rapidly. In such a scenario is there a need for career planning? Yes, and we will find out why.

    Career planning involves assessing personal strengths, values, aspirations; establishing career goals; and identifying the steps needed to achieve them. During periods of rapid change and exciting possibilities, a career plan can keep you focused on the important things that matter to you. It provides you with clarity to make informed choices when good opportunities emerge and helps you monitor your career development effectively. Planning your career helps you achieve your potential and avoid the boredom, disillusionment, frustration and stress that can occur on account of failing to achieve your potential.

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    Where should we plan our careers?

    Should the career be planned within the context of a single organization or several organizations? Whether it is in a single or several organizations, what is important is that careers should be planned for fairly long tenures rather than short ones in any organization.

    Short stints with organizations neither give individuals adequate time to do meaningful career planning or adequate time to understand organization culture etc to make an impact through one’s contributions. Understandably in the initial stages of one’s career we try out a few jobs before finding what is suitable for us. But frequent shifting of jobs in later stages of one’s career can be detrimental to one’s career development and can in fact indicate a lack of effective career planning. Does this mean that we should remain in an organization even when our career is stagnating? Of course not, after a reasonable time period, one should move for the right reasons like significant increase in responsibility.

    How do we plan our careers?

    The following steps can help us plan our careers effectively:-

    Understand yourself and your needs: The foundation of your career plan should be your understanding of who you are (your strengths/limitations, attitudes, personality), what is important to you (your values), your dreams and hopes for the future. Think about your current obligations and commitments and what they will be in future? Where do you see yourself in the short, medium and long term? Reflecting on your experiences and self-assessment tools can aid you in this stage.

    Assess where you are currently: Before you undertake any planning, realistically identifying your starting point is important. A good place to begin is to make an inventory of your knowledge, skills and experience. Then take stock of whether your current career path allows you the lifestyle you seek, is the number of times you are able to engage in activities you are passionate about while you are at work adequate, does your current job have more likes or dislikes, how close is your job to your dream job etc

    Get information on available opportunities and options: Now that you know what is the gap between what you want (eg., managerial responsibility) and what you have (eg., good technical skills but no managerial skills) research thoroughly on available opportunities (eg., managerial skills workshop, managerial positions within the same company, a good manager who you can learn from) that can help you bridge the gap. Remember to also explore not so obvious opportunities like coaching new juniors and part-time, job share, or flexible employment.

    Set goals and prepare an action plan: This stage is where you develop a picture of yourself and your career. Goals can be knowledge based (eg., wanting to master the field of human resources in two years) skill based (eg., developing soft skills required to lead a team) or hierarchical based (eg., wanting to head an HR department in 10 years time). Based on the opportunities available to you and your current situation you can prepare an action plan to achieve those goals. Action plans could include development activities like acquiring additional qualification (eg., a post graduation in HR), relevant experience ( eg., obtaining a transfer to the HR department from administration department) etc or making a career move like changing jobs and fields.

    A short-term career plan focuses on the coming year or the next few years and involves developing realistic, time bound and specific goals that you can meet in the near future. Long-term career planning usually involves a planning window of five years or more and involves a broader set of career goals. Since businesses and workplaces are changing rapidly, the skills that you have or plan for today may not be in demand years from now. So, long-term career planning should be more about identifying and developing core skills like problem solving that employers will always value.

    Take action: Next step is to execute your plan. Hard work and discipline in sticking to your action plan will help you in this stage. Sharing your plan with your family and close friends can increase your commitment to it and also help you get adequate support from them. For instance studying for an additional degree may mean less of family time. To accomplish this you will need your family’s understanding and support.

    Periodically review career progress: Even if you are acting as per your plans do not forget to review your goals and plans regularly. This is essential since your experiences and changing circumstances may make you realize that you have discovered talents you did not realize you had, that some skills have become redundant, that new and exciting opportunities have emerged and so on. If goals have become obsolete, do not think twice before setting new ones. Priorities also change over a period time. While learning might be the primary objective during the initial years of your career, leadership, status, power might be what you desire at later stages.

    Tips for effective career planning

    You can make use of the following tips that people have found useful over the years:-

    • Free yourself from all career barriers: These barriers could be personal barriers (such as lack of motivation, apathy or procrastination), family pressure (such as expectations to work in the family business or follow a certain career path), and peer pressure.

    • Be practical: It is possible that you may have unrealistic aspirations. Do a reality check with your colleagues, mentors, family and friends.

    • Do not take a limited view: You may view yourself as only occupying one type of job and this can narrow career ambitions dramatically. There are instances where people have had 2 career paths, both totally different from each other.

    • Be flexible: Nowadays rapid changes in the nature of work and organizations are common. Over-detailed planning can leave little or no scope for responding to changes in circumstances.

    • Do not depend on others recognizing your potential: If you think your bosses will recognize your potential, you are wrong. He/she may, but it is important you yourself recognize and nurture your potential.

    • Assume responsibility for your own career development: Blaming your company for not developing your career is like blaming your teacher for your failure in a subject.

    • Do not take unnecessary risks: Definitely experiment, but make informed choices about your career. You want to start your own venture. Go ahead! But do your homework thoroughly for the same.

    • Be alert: Career development is not a one-time activity. So, you need to continuously keep a track of the emerging trends in your industry, work concepts and its effect on employment.

    • Be an opportunist: While you are implementing your career plan, make sure that you do not ignore good career opportunities that present themselves. If an exciting career opportunity comes up in your field, make sure you are equipped to seize it.


    We plan when go for a holiday and we also plan for our child’s birthday party. Should we then not plan for the important but not so urgent things in our life like our career development? I am of the opinion that we must. A career is the way in which our work life or professional achievements progress. And leaving this to chance instead of systematic planning is foolhardy.



    • Oct 1, 2005, ‘Working out a career plan.(Checklist 061)’,, Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development.
    • ‘Career Planning - Avoiding dead end careers’,
    • Suryanarayanan, M, ‘Effective Career Planning: Taking responsibility for your Career’,

    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.

    SWOT Analysis: Management Funda; Nov'07

    What does it mean

    SWOT Analysis is a powerful but simple strategic planning technique used for evaluating the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of any context - a business venture, a project or any activity. Strengths and weaknesses are often internal, while opportunities and threats often relate to external factors. Hence the SWOT Analysis is sometimes called Internal-External Analysis and the SWOT Matrix (refer below) is called an IE Matrix. This tool can even aid in your career planning by helping you utilize your talents, abilities and opportunities in the best possible way. How? Let’s find out!

    How does one use SWOT

    • You need to start by defining a desired objective like choosing between two business ventures that you want to work on or determining your firm’s business strategy.

    • Then create a SWOT matrix as illustrated below. We have taken as an example here a small internet business that mostly employs contractors.

    • Strengths need to be maintained, built upon or leveraged. So maintain low overheads by changing pay structure to include performance bonus.
    • Weaknesses need to be remedied or stopped. We can consider implementing project planning system.
    • Opportunities need to be prioritized and optimized. Testing new market with one existing service would be a good idea.
    • Threats need to be countered or minimised. Maybe we can look at including contractors in performance based bonus schemes.
    • Next review your SWOT matrix in order to create an action plan to address each of the four areas. Determine what needs to be done on a priority basis or what is a better option between two options. Let’s consider our example.

    • You can then use another decision making tool to help you plan further.

    Effectively using SWOT analysis

    Some key points to remember while using SWOT Analysis are:-

    • It is easy to get lost in compiling lists rather than thinking about what is actually important in achieving objectives. If the desired end state is not defined, the participants doing SWOT analysis may have different end states in mind and the results will be ineffective.

    • SWOT also presents lists without prioritization. For example, weak opportunities may appear to balance strong threats. Just remember only SWOT items that produce valuable strategies are important.

    • SWOT analysis may limit the strategies considered. You might conclude that you have done adequate planning and ignore aspects like calculating ROI for alternate strategies.

    • SWOTs are sometimes confused with possible strategies. SWOTs are descriptions of conditions, while possible strategies define actions.


    Where can I use it

    You would be surprised to know that apart from using it for business planning there are many ways you can use SWOT analysis for professional and personal effectiveness.

    To construct your own SWOT analysis for your career planning, examine your strengths and weaknesses. How can you capitalize on your strengths and overcome your weaknesses? What are the external opportunities and threats in your career field?  

    Think of the times you wanted to change an existing practice. Wouldn’t SWOT analysis have helped you determine the best course of action? In fact it is a good way of involving other people in a change process. Or think of the times when you started a project and in the middle of the project encountered problems. If you had done a SWOT analysis identifying threats at the beginning you could possibly have avoided the problems.

    People have found SWOT useful for determining strategic directions for their team and department. You are faced with umpteen situations where you have to choose between two options right? Next time you have to choose between 2 job applicants who both seem to fit the bill try using SWOT. I guess by now you have ideas of your own as to where you can use SWOT analysis. Happy analyzing!



    • SWOT analysis,
    • Swinton, L, “How To Do A SWOT Analysis: Strategic Planning Made Easy”,
    • SWOT analysis,
    • S. Hansen,R and. and Hansen,K “Using a SWOT Analysis in Your Career Planning”,