Effective 1-1s – Fostering trust and creating no-harm zone

Effective 1-1 is the cornerstone of a successful management career, and acquiring necessary competencies in order to have a great 1-1 with your reports is a great career enhancement technique.

I have referred to this topic many times in my posts and have couple of posts devoted to this topic (see Managing 1-1s and Effective 1-1s). Those posts talk about tips for making 1-1s effective and efficient.

One of the basic premises for a successful one on one is to be able to build the trust and openness that can let communications happen. This is what one of ex-boss called ‘no-harm zone’. This is the place and time when participants can be open, truthful, critical, candid and emotional, and still can rely on the other party to keep all this in confidence. Notice that I am not saying that only one party (your report if you are a manager) has to feel and act that way; both parties have to feel and act the same. Continue reading

Change Initiatives – Managing self-fulfilling prophecy

In a previous post on taking initiatives to advance your career, I had discussed about handling peers when you take initiatives because they may cause your initiatives to fail. Here I want to talk about another phenomenon that one needs to be aware of. Here is the term I use to describe it: self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wikipedia describes it this way:

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.

In organizations, this is seen most commonly as resistance to change (in process, strategy, technology, etc.). All changes are hard, and organization-wide changes are very hard. Successful changes require 100% commitment and support from 100% of team members and leaders, which is obviously very hard to achieve. This means that every change initiative will have a set of dissenters. Here are typical behaviors dissenters show: Continue reading

Managing conflict at workplace – II

In the previous post, I described the scenario of two smart people in conflict in an organization and why they need to engage in a deep conversation.

Here are some of the aspects of such a conversation that A and B need to keep in mind:

  1. Create shared goals: Without such a goal, no conversation or work relationship can happen. Assuming A and B feel they want to belong to this organization; they have a good place to start creating a shared goal. If they want to contribute significantly to the organization, this is another shared goal to use. A and B need to have at least this conversation before other kinds of conversation can take place.
  2. Empathize: Putting yourself in other person’s shoes is critical to understand why the other person is behaving the way he is. If you can truly see things from other’s perspective (and hold off your own biases), results are sometimes very surprising and insightful. Both A and B need to try it.
  3. Be charitable: Both A and B need to be willing to give the benefit of doubt to the other, and assume they have good reasons to behave the way they are behaving. Just changing to this perspective can make each of them understand the other better. Ask the question “Why would a rational and smart person behave/say the way they did in all these examples?”. Continue reading

Managing conflict at workplace – I

I would like to talk about one of the topics about work relationships that come up very often (and came up again very recently).


A is a smart guy, well-established and on track to be promoted to next level. He is admired by others in his group and he is proud of himself.

B is a new hire in the team, equally smart (maybe more), who is trying to establish himself in this team. He has better skills than A in some areas and his hiring manager had mentioned he could be the next lead of this team.

Expected result

A and B work together to improve the performance of the team manifold because now the team has two smart guys to leverage.


A and B get into conflicts way too often and these conflicts drag down their performance as well as performance of the team. Net result is that team is less productive than when only A was around.

Sounds familiar? This is a very frequent occurrence in growing organizations where smart existing people have to work with smart new people and the result is not always on the expected lines. Continue reading

Personality Style or Weakness – you are the judge

One of the persons reporting to me mentioned he has bad memory and so he cannot quickly respond to out-of-context questions. He further inferred from this that this weakness will stop him from doing his job effectively.

After more discussion, it was clear to me (though I leave this decision to the person himself) that it is not so much a memory problem but instead a manifestation of his personal style where he is not very good at quick response when put in a spot. So my advice to him was to understand this aspect of himself more deeply and see how he can avoid being put into such situation (or use his other strengths to get out of it!), rather than treating this as a weakness and trying to acquire skills (memory enhancement, public speaking courses?) to mitigate this. Continue reading

Developing career by taking initiatives – Handling peer pressure

Taking initiatives and proposing ideas are some of the best ways of boosting your career. However, be careful when taking initiatives, your peers may not like it. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. They may lose the limelight they are used to
  2. It may put them in bad light
  3. It may mean more work for them
  4. It may increase competition for that coveted promotion

What can you do about it?

  1. Anticipate: If you are willing, it should not be difficult to anticipate reactions from your to one of your initiatives or idea. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what they have to gain or lose if this gets accepted. Continue reading

Performance Review – Weaving personal goals into organizational ones

Often times, setting goals for next year’s performance review takes into account only organizational goals set by the manager for the employee. This misses an opportunity to set the goals in a way that could benefit the employee’s career growth plan in the most direct way.

As an employee, you should look at goals set by your manager as what organization wants to achieve. You then need to identify your personal goals and figure out a way (working with your manager) to write the goals and execution plans in a manner that can incorporate personal goals without compromising organization goals. This creates a win-win situation for you and your manager. Continue reading

Measuring Career Growth – Final (career phases framework)

This is the last article in the series on Measuring Career Growth, which started off by talking about measures of success and implication of having multiple measures vis-à-vis time, and was followed by posts on financial and learning goals, followed by a post on job complexity and satisfaction. As I promised in the last post, I will try to provide some framework to handle these measures in some useful way when we engage in our career planning and review.

As I mentioned before, job complexity and job satisfaction are important measures, but difficult to quantify in any meaningful way; I have found them more useful in subjective reviews of the career plan. In this post, I have focused on Financial and learning measures and their interplays with time elapsed.

Assuming that you have defined your financial and learning measures that you want to achieve over a defined time period, following table describes various scenarios that may happen. I use a positive and negative signs to denote that actual value is more or less than planned value. This means that + is good in financial and learning column (achieved more than planned) but bad in time column (using more time than planned).

  Continue reading

Measuring Career Growth – Part III (Job Complexity and Satisfaction)

This is the 3rd post in the series on measuring career growth, and a follow-up to the post on financial and learning goals. In this post, I will talk about 3rd goal (job complexity) and also touch upon the job satisfaction aspect of all these goals, which came up in one of the comments.

Job Complexity goals: As I mentioned before, this is a hard one to measure since it changes infrequently and there are too many parameters that influence this. Job complexity come from how many of the following dimensions are involved in your regular actions and decisions: Continue reading