Saturday, December 24, 2011

Using Experts

This afternoon I spent almost 3 hours trying to fix a problem in my camera. Suddenly my dad remembered the tech-genius in his office and called him up. I explained him my problem, he gave me instructions over the phone and tadaa - problem solved! The problem I couldn't solve in 3 hours (sometimes I tried doing the same thing over and over again) was solved in less than 3 minutes by an expert without even looking at the device. If I had consulted him in the first place, then I'd not just have saved 3 hours of my day but also would have saved the additional stress and frustration.

We cannot do everything on our own. Even if we try to then we can't be an expert at everything. Some people are good with technology, some are good with words, some are good with numbers and some are good in business. Therefore, each would benefit the most if they take help of an expert instead of trying to solve every problem on their own.

What this means to you as an individual then? Spend some time building networks and knowing people. Identify the experts and have them on your contact list. But, remember - knowing them is not enough. Relationship building is crucial here. Why should someone help you if they don't know you well? Also remember to help these experts out in areas you're good at. What if you're an organization then? Invest in hiring experts. You need not have them in your regular payroll but associate them with your organization as a consultant. You never know when you'll need them and when they can come in handy. Moreover, they think of solutions that never occurred to your mind.

Experts - they save your time and free you up to focus on those areas you're really good at. In economic terms, it is called gaining a 'comparative advantage'. Yes, using experts might be a little costly. But, a job well done and the time saved is worth every penny you pay.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Leaders Without Title


They treat you with respect. They keep their promises. They're firm yet flexible. They keep hold of their temper. They appreciate what's good and look for ways to improve the bad. They're punctual, organized and fair. They work with sincere dedication. They're continuously striving for excellence and efficiency. You might question their results but they leave no room for questioning their efforts. They meet deadlines and makes sure you do too. They don't waste their time in gossip and personal melodrama. While they work with passion, they have a cool detachment from their jobs. It is because they know how to draw a fine line between what's personal and professional. They can stay calm even in the most stressful of times. Perhaps they're restless inside but they don't show it. They are polite, friendly and sometimes even a bit docile. They encourage and support a good cause. They have the spine to stand up for their principles and beliefs. They have the courage to take giant leaps forward to achieve their dreams. The only one that can drive them or bring them down is themselves. 

However, they don't always strive all the way. They know when to quit. They don't fight all the battles for they know all battles are not worth fighting for. They don't seek for ways to blame. They take responsibility but know how to establish boundaries.They give clear instructions and demand clarity in return if they're on the receiving end.  Their words, poise and work have this air of quiet confidence. They put forward their objections without being offensive. They fight for their rights without being aggressive. They decide to be a team player even when they know they can work best when alone. Sometimes they may be hard to please, but they are always fair in their judgment. They refuse without being rude and disagree without being patronizing. They listen and don't just hear and they know how to give a proper feedback - they're good communicators. But, they're not perfect. They make mistakes but don't let these mistakes define their abilities. In fact, they learn from these mistakes and get better every time.

'They' are hard to find and organizations should strive to find 'them' and when found should try to retain 'them' in the long run for 'they' can be crucial for the growth and development of any organization. If no one finds them, they find a way out on their own. They are, after all, leaders even without a title who inspire others by setting an example. 
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

SWOT Analysis for Career Choice

SWOT Analysis is a popular term in management. It is a technique used to identify the internal strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats of a business. The SWOT analysis commonly helps an organization to devise appropriate strategies in order to capitalize its strengths, eliminate its weaknesses, utilize the opportunities and overcome the threats. This same technique can be a very valuable tool for individuals for making important career decisions.

An individual will first have to make an internal evaluation of oneself so as to identify one's strengths and weaknesses. In this process, he/she can also find out his/her likes and dislikes. This is important because nobody likes to get stuck in a career one hates. Once this is done the next step is to look at the external environment. What kind of jobs are on rise? What is the demand of the market? What are the technologies in use? What are the changes taking place and how rapid is the change? An external evaluation gives you a chance to figure out what works and what doesn't and also to identify the training needs in order to further bolster your strength.

Sadly what most people do is just look at the external environment in terms of opportunities and threats in order to make their career decisions. Most career choices are made on the basis of what's popular, what employers want and the level of return on investment. Very few people take a moment to actually identify their strengths and preferences. As a consequence, someone who's great with cooking might be pursuing a degree in business administration just because everyone else is doing it; someone who gets super anxious and nervous when interacting with people might be planning a marketing specialization because marketing jobs are on a rise; a great writer might be stuck working as an accountant or someone with great potential in fashion designing may decide to work as a bank teller.

Before you find out what professions and qualifications get greater opportunities in the market, it's important that you look inside yourself to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are. It is because you can turn even a threat into an opportunity with the right kind of talent. However, if you're weak in a certain area then no matter how big the opportunity is, you'll not be able to succeed. Therefore, first ask yourself, "What am I good at?" and "What do I love doing?" before you ask, "What kind of degree guarantees a high-paying job?" SWOT Analysis doesn't work if the first two important components are ignored in the evaluation process. Ignoring the Strengths and Weaknesses is a sure way for a strategic failure - both in decisions relating to business as well as the decisions relating to one's career. 
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

How important is winning?


I judged an interesting competition today. There were two teams in the competition – one team had one player and the other team had two. The one-man team had an average guy. In the team of two players, there was one player who was outstanding but the other one was a letdown. At the end, the winner was the average guy. If he had competed only with the outstanding one, he would have surely lost. The weak link in the other team acted to his advantage. This got me thinking – if you had to choose between winning and taking chances then what would you choose?

The fact that the weak player had the courage to try is commendable in itself. It is a noble deed to support someone who wishes to improve. But, the question is: “At what cost will the support be given?” Will it be at the cost of defeating your best player? If you’re leading an organization and have a weak performer then how many chances are you willing to take on that individual?

There is no simple and single answer to this. While consideration to a team member is important, competition cannot be ignored either. The best possible option would be to train the weak link and give him/her a number of chances to prove his/her capability. If the performance still doesn’t improve then letting go can be contemplated. The question once again is: “How many chances to give?” As organizations and as individuals, we can be supportive and considerate to a certain level to our team members but should it be at the cost of jeopardizing our own performance results? I guess it all depends on the answer to: "How important is winning?"
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