Sunday, May 31, 2009

6 worst things to do in a recession

Are we mired in a long-term recession or will the "green shoots" of economic growth we're seeing be the real thing?

Without a crystal ball we can't predict an official end date to the downturn but one can lookout for the six worst things one can succumb to:

Ignoring the situation. If you're not paying attention to your personal financial situation it's time to start. Has your credit limit been slashed or your APR spiked? Has your credit score dipped? How long could you live off your savings if you lost your job? The ostrich method to money management never works well. That's particularly true if lenders are contacting you about delinquent accounts (i.e. your mortgage).

Take a deep breath and open those bank and investment account statements, review your budget, pay your bills on time and keep in touch with creditors.

Pulling money out of investments. If money's tight it can be tempting to dip into investments to maintain your lifestyle. Doing so, however, will cost you - in several ways. You may have to pay early withdrawal penalties and fees; you'll have to pay taxes on the funds you receive and, you may miss the market recovery and fail to recapture your losses.

If you're considering cashing out because of fear that you'll lose more by keeping it in the market, let cooler heads prevail. Instead remind yourself how much time you have before you need the funds, check to make sure you're diversified and consider wise defensive investment moves instead of stashing it all under your savings account.

Borrowing more money. Do you carry a credit card balance? That's a clear sign that you're spending more money than you earn each month. Until legislation is passed, credit card companies can continue hiking interest rates, tacking on fees and penalties and put you further behind. Get financially healthy and lay off the credit spending before it spirals out of control.

Slacking off at work. It's time to get serious about staying employed. Nearly six million jobs have disappeared in 17 months (since the recession's start in December 2007) and the national unemployment rate is at its highest since 1983. Companies are facing serious cash crunches and making drastic changes to trim costs.

For example, FedEx, which touted a "no-layoff" policy for years, recently let more than 1,000 employees go to save the company $1 billion. The days of assuming your job is secure are over. Get there early, work hard and add value any way you can - your livelihood increasingly depends on it.

Co-signing a loan. With banks tightening lending guidelines, fewer people are able to qualify for a loan on their own. If a friend, partner or family member really needs the funds, they may approach you to help. Remember that co-signing makes you legally responsible for repaying if the other borrower can't (or won't). Can you afford that? If not, risk the relationship and walk away for your own financial safety.

Jumping in to the real estate market. With attractively low home prices and interest rates, the real estate market is enticing for novice real estate investors. Before racing in, accurately assess your risk tolerance - what would happen if you lost your job? Could you float the loan? Do you know how to manage real property assets? What type of return do you need to make? Learn from the housing bust that created the current recession and move cautiously.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Risks of Cowboy Sales Messaging & Four Ways to Avoid It


The article is quite interesting and I am sure, lot fo Sales folks out there will resonate with what the author would like to point out in this article....  it does hold true - i have experienced it myself.. 

Studies have shown that up to 90% of marketing collateral is considered utterly useless by sales. Frustrated sales people feel like they're not getting what they need to succeed from their product marketing team so they create their own freelance messages and sales tools. 

Commonly referred to as "cowboy messaging" it can derail your revenue stream if not collared quickly.   Furthermore, product marketing teams are equally frustrated because they expend tremendous efforts creating sales tools that aren't used.

The three most common risks associated with cowboy messaging are:


1.  Wasted Time.   Product Marketing is creating tools of no value, while sales people spend valuable selling time creating their own messaging. In today's economy, sales pipelines are thin and qualified opportunities are more difficult to find.  How much time and resources are lost on this effort?


2.  Lost sales.  Confused buyers extend sales cycles and ultimately go to a competitor or do nothing at all.  As buyers research potential vendors to learn who will best meet their needs they seek solutions to problems.   Sales people too often talk all about the product and never mention how it will help the customer.  This usually drives business away.


3.  Potential misrepresentation.  Claims and statements of the cowboy messages often appear in proposals, statements of work and even customer contracts where the claims can become legally binding.  Well-meaning sales people overpromise in the sales process and customers hold them to their words.  Once the deal is won others must deliver on those promises while your sales person is off to the next deal.  Over promising and under delivering creates ill will at best and legal liabilities at worst. 

Four Ways to Get Product Marketing & Sales on the Same Page


1.  Perform a quick collateral audit. Collect all the collateral product marketing created for sales and ask two questions of the sales team for each tool:

  • When do you use this tool in your sales process?
  • How useful is it in helping you win?

2.  Create a "Stop Doing" list for product marketing that includes the time they spend creating tools that are not useful in the audit.


3.  Get the product marketing and sales teams together in one room and don't let anyone out until they have messaging that works and consensus on the top five sales tools that drive higher win rates

4.  Ensure your messaging and positioning statements focus on buyers - not products.  The more your messaging focuses on the buyer the greater your odds of differentiating and winning.

Buyer-centric messaging is simple, gets to the point and answers the ultimate buyer question, "Who solves my problem best?"  Sales people that offer solutions to problems win more business than sales people who hawk products. 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Effective speaking!

One of the main reasons why Obama is so popular and effective is his oratory skills. Yes, oratory skills can be honed. You can actually improve your public speaking skills by joining Toastmasters. You will learn how to develop the necessary skills in engaging your audience, build on your subject matter, learn about delivery, phrasing, etc... To get to Obama-level, you need natural charisma, much like JFK and Martin Luther King. Leadership qualities, to a large extent can also be honed, but to be a natural leader where people instantly look up to you is a quality that is hard to find. I have come across a few articles that tries to look at how Obama works his oratory skills. Here are the main points:

a) Always know your audience, their expectations, their anxieties, their concerns. When you speak to a group of parents-teachers, its different, when its with union workers about to lose a lot of jobs, its different, when its in front of TV, its different, when you are speaking to political reporters, its again different.

b) Following on the first point, you then broadly define the issues at hand, bring up the context of issues in the audience's perspective, show that you know what they are concerned about. Anticipate what they are thinking. Bringing up points on both sides of the issue and clarify your stance. Justify your stance. At the same time, you must not be seen to be playing your audience - hence you must show integrity, honesty, pragmatism and be realistic about the issues.

c) You have to learn to pause, to allow the audience to reflect and absorb the points. You need to build up your argument and thesis and let your words resonate. When you rush past prepared text, you will lose the impact key words and phrases can have on the audience... e.g. "yes, we can" long pause...

d) Use short phrases. Use phrasing techniques to bring your audience along, like a boat ride, riding out each wave of euphoria and reflection.

e) Be aware of your body language. No fidgety movements. Eye contact and facial expression must be correlate. You have to rehearse how to maintain calmness. If you have to flip pages, do it slow and deliberate. Always look out to the audience as if you were commanding the troops.

f) Always have a good beginning, a casualness (or light hearted humour) to embrace the audience to your side before you launch into your speech. Be aware that you do not climax in your speech too soon, you need to b uild it up, much like a conductor writing the various parts for his orchestra - you want to bring things to a crescendo.

g) Always end well, with the key phrase or what the audience should get from your speech.

A person even of Obama stature cannot do all things by himself. In Obama's case, he has a very very good speechwriter in Jon Favreau. Though only 27, he has the necessary energy and idealism to act as the sounding board. He has the tenacity to understand various tough issues, and drive through the points in a clear way in line with Obama's political views and leanings. That is not an easy task. He has to write the way Obama is thinking, and even the way he usually speak, because if not the speech will sound contrived and regurgitated.

Its not easy to speak well with integrity and class.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

MBAs vs. Entrepreneurs


The one growth business in this shrinking economy is speculation about where MBAs and other elite students will flock now that Wall Street is a vast wasteland. "What will new map of talent flow look like?" wondered a piece last month in the New York Times. The tentative answer: towards government, the sciences, and teaching, "while fewer shiny young minds are embarking on careers in finance and business consulting."

Just five days after that article, the Times was at it again, chronicling the difficult career choices for business students, including one former Goldman Sachs intern who started her own shoe-importing company, and a Wharton grad contemplating rabbinical studies. (He wound up in real estate.)

Now, I understand the use of students from elite business schools as a proxy for "talent" in the business world. But as the economy experiences the most deep-seated changes in decades, maybe it's time to change our minds about what kinds of people are best-equipped to become business leaders. Is our fascination with the comings and goings of MBAs as obsolete as our lionization of investment bankers and hedge-fund managers? Is it time to look elsewhere for the "best and the brightest" of what business has to offer?

One place to look for answers is the fascinating research of Professor Saras Sarasvathy, who teaches entrepreneurship at the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia. It's been a long time since I've encountered academic research as original, relevant, and fascinating as what Professor Sarasvathy has done, in a series of essays, white papers, and a book. Her work revolves around one big question: What makes entrepreneurs "entrepreneurial?" Specifically, is there such as thing as "entrepreneurial thinking"—and does it differ in important ways from, say, how MBAs think about problems and seize opportunities?

The answer, Sarasvathy concludes, is an emphatic yes—and the differences boil down to the "causal" reasoning used by MBAs versus the "effectual" reasoning used by entrepreneurs. Causal reasoning, she explains, "begins with a pre-determined goal and a given set of means, and seeks to identify the optimal—fastest, cheapest, most efficient, etc.—alternative to achieve that goal." This is the world of exhaustive business plans, microscopic ROI calculations, and portfolio diversification.

Effectual reasoning, on the other hand, "does not begin with a specific goal. Instead, it begins with a given set of means and allows goals to emerge contingently over time from the varied imagination and diverse aspirations of the founders and the people they interact with." This is the world of bootstrapping, rapid prototyping, and guerilla marketing.

The more Sarasvathy explains the differences in the two styles of thinking, the more obvious it becomes which style matches the times. Causal reasoning is about how much you expect to gain; effectual reasoning is about how much you can afford to lose. Causal reasoning revolves around competitive analysis and zero-sum logic; effectual reasoning embraces networks and partnerships. Causal reasoning "urges the exploitation of pre-existing knowledge"; effectual reasoning stresses the inevitability of surprises and the leveraging of options.

The difference in mindset, Sarasvathy concludes, boils down to a different take on the future. "Causal reasoning is based on the logic, To the extent that we can predict the future, we can control it," she writes. That's why MBAs and big companies spend so much time on focus groups, market research, and statistical models. "Effectual reasoning, however, is based on the logic, To the extent that we can control the future, we do not need to predict it." How do you control the future? By inventing it yourself—marshalling scarce resources, understanding that surprises are to be expected rather than avoided, reacting to them fast.

Ultimately, she says, entrepreneurs begin with three simple sets of resources: "Who they are"—their values, skills, and tastes; "What they know"—their education, expertise, and experience; and "Whom they know"—their friends, allies, and networks. "Using these means, the entrepreneurs begin to imagine and implement possible effects that can be created with them...Plans are made and unmade and revised and recast through action and interactions with others on a daily basis."

Sounds like a plan to me! So the next time you read an article about what MBAs are doing, don't forget to think about what entrepreneurs are doing as well. They're the ones with the right stuff for tough times.

Provided by Harvard Business—Where Leaders Get Their Edge

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It pays to have fun at work!


Really superb article...which i couldn't resist to put it here on my blog.. 

IN the late 90s, I was invited to a debate between Herb Kelleher, CEO of Southwestern Airlines and Jack Welch.

I became impressed with Herb Kelleher and his usage of fun to drive productivity. No whips or initiatives, or forced compliance to the cause, but a simple but unorthodox philosophy of levity to drive productivity at his airline.

Southwest’s former CEO often rode to work on his Harley and once settled a legal suit with an arm–wrestling match. And on occasions, Kelleher was known to dress up as Elvis Presley or a Bunny, just to keep his employees smiling and happy.

And smile they did, as Southwest built for itself a reputation as the nation’s most profitable airline, posting in 2000 sales of nearly US$5.7bil and a profit of US$603mil.

A few months later, I was given the responsibility to be the functional leader of a business. When I began my assignment, I met my new team and spent the first few days getting to know them and understanding their working styles.

They were hard-working and a technically talented team but there was low morale and extremely poor productivity. Everyone worked late hours but had minimal results. And everyone disliked their work.

Kelleher’s words on leveraging levity and fun to drive productivity kept ringing in my mind and even though it seemed illogical, I decided to test out his philosophy with my new team.

Every quarter, we closed the department over the weekend and had a retreat where we just had fun and started bonding as friends. We started having team lunches together as often as we could.

We developed an after lunch “crazy hour” ritual, where the team would do crazy things – like have everyone wear a straw on their shirt, or exercise together, or just play practical jokes on each other.

We started weekly team activities like Latin dancing or playing volleyball. Just as Kelleher had done with Southwest, as we had more fun together, interestingly, productivity in my team increased and our accomplishments began to multiply exponentially.

While many of the other departments used to stare at our “crazy” department initially, they soon were craving to “hang-out’ with us and join our quarterly retreat rituals.

Fun, instead of making us less productive, actually had the opposite effect of increasing our effectiveness.

There are numerous reasons why fun is important in the workplace.

Levity boosts our ability to think outside the box and enables us to generate innovative solutions necessary to solve problems. Fun is a great creativity booster. Research also indicates that while having fun, we develop new neural cells in areas devoted to learning and memory. Fun is also good for teaching.

Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher wrote about how learning in the classroom is enhanced by fun: “... Humour also works in the classroom. In fact, college students are more likely to recall a lecture when it is sprinkled with jokes.

Psychologist Randy Gardner’s fascinating research showed that when levity about relevant topics was injected into lectures, students scored an amazing 15% higher on exams than their non-humoured, bored-to-drooling peers.”

Fun is a critical element in employee retention. Employee turnover can easily cost over RM60,000 per person if you include severance pay, exit interviews, hiring costs and lost productivity while training the new hire.

Then add the indirect costs like loss of intellectual capital, decreased morale, increased employee stress and negative reputation.

A fun workplace is a cure for employee turnover. I remember after my department became a fun workplace, most of my employees did not want to miss work.

Not only did they have friends at work, they did not want to miss any fun “action” at work and they definitely were not sending out their resumes. Google, with its fun workplace, retains about 95% of their employees.

People are naturally attracted to fun. A recent survey of employees showed that humour displayed by their manager increases their loyalty (retention) and productivity.

Another survey by Ipsos had employees rate their managers’ sense of humour, along with the likelihood of them working in their current job a year from the date of the survey. The results were striking! They found that managers with better sense of humour were more likely to retain employees.

So how do you make your workplace fun? Think it’s something that only the multinational corporations can afford? It really doesn’t have to cost you as much as building Google’s extravagant facilities, a fancy swimming pool or a rock climbing wall.

It can be something as simple as fortnightly charades championships, breakfast potlucks or making fun at KPI at all meetings. Just providing an environment where people can lighten up is all it requires.

Too often fun doesn’t see the light of day, because we sentence fun to the bottom of priorities list. “Business first, fun last,” is our mantra. Taking our jobs seriously and ourselves lightly is the key to making fun of work.

At my previous office, one person signs up each day to blast a song daily in the afternoon when everyone needs a break and people get up and dance.

The Lego company has scooters for workers to ride around its business park. At Southwest Airlines, the crew have fun with their passengers. At Hakia, employees express themselves on blank canvases that hang on the walls. At Leaderonomics, we unwind by having fun contests amongst ourselves.

But what happens then if you’re not a “fun” person by nature? Not to worry, like everything else, it can be learnt. We don’t need to suddenly become a fun person, because play is something that we enjoyed unconsciously as a child.

All we need to do is to learn to give ourselves and others permission to have fun. As a leader, we need to build enablers for fun to thrive.

“You don’t have to have a team of comedy writers,” says David Summers of the American Management Association.

“Managers just need to give employees permission to be human, open to giving and receiving humour at work,” he says.

And therein is the secret to enabling fun to thrive in your workplace – embracing fun yourself and opening up your organisation to elements of fun, even occasionally allowing yourself to be the object of fun at the workplace.

A final thought – fun is important as it attracts new customers. People are attracted to organisations that are cool and fun.

I recall a big customer who ended up signing an exclusive multi-million deal with the company I was at a few years ago.

When I questioned him on why he signed up even though our performance was not near world-class, he replied quickly: “Your organisation is fun and it’s contagious. All your employees love their work and I bet in a few years you will become world-class.” He wasn’t wrong.

All being said, fun is a key tool to leverage in these recessionary times.

It improves communication, enhances creativity, builds trust and friendships in the organisation, and even has health benefits.

When people are having fun, they’re working harder, focused on your organisation, and are able to maintain their composure in a crisis. If your organisation is ready to catapult into the next level of business success, fun may just be your catalyst.

Monday, May 25, 2009

More in less!!!!

How do you like to store 2,000 movies on ONE DVD.... a piracy business owner's nightmare, so too for movie companies and producers... how easy will it be to duplicate and transfer if you could store in the one DVD. You could be a traveling piracy dealer with just a notebook and that one DVD.

Dr James Chon of the Swinburne University of Technology, holds up a DVD containing new technology that can store data in five dimensions.

May 21, 2009 

Australian scientists have unveiled new DVD technology that stores data in five dimensions, making it possible to pack more than 2000 movies onto a single disc. A team of researchers at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, have used nanotechnology to boost the storage potential nearly 10,000-fold compared to standard DVDs, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

"We were able to show how nanostructured material can be incorporated onto a disc in order to increase data capacity, without increasing the physical size of the disc," said Min Gu, who led the team.

Discs currently have three spatial dimensions. By using gold nanorods Gu and colleagues were able to add two additional dimensions, one based on the colour spectrum, and the other on polarisation. Because nanoparticles react to light depending on their shape, it was possible to record information in a range of different colour's wavelengths at the same physical location on the disc. Current DVDs record in a single colour wavelength using a laser.

The fifth dimension was made possible by polarisation. When light waves were projected onto the disc, the direction of the electric field within the waves aligned with the gold nanorods.

"The polarisation can be rotated 360 degrees," explained co-author James Chon.

"We were, for example, able to record at zero degree polarisation. Then on top of that, were able to record another layer of information at 90 degrees polarisation, without them interfering with each other," he said in a statement.

The researchers are still working out the speed at which the discs can be written on, and say that commercial production is at least five years off. They have signed an agreement with Korea-based Samsung, one of the world's largest electronics manufacturers. Last month, US technology giant General Electric said its researchers had developed a holographic disc which can store the equivalent of 100 standard DVDs.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are meetings places where minutes are kept and hours squandered


It's an interesting topic since this activity happens in almost all companies and there are very few companies or people who make use of this activity fruitfully. Just thought of sharing this article & hope to make people think about it.. so here goes.. 

MEETINGS can sometimes be a waste of time. To use a quote, meetings can be occasions where “minutes are kept and hours squandered.

At the heart of the problem is our tendency to keep quiet and compliant during the meeting and then voice our objections to the whole world after the meeting. I have observed this in many organisations and in my mind this is counter-productive and potentially destructive.

And why don’t we speak up? Perhaps we are scared of the consequences of voicing ideas and opinions that may be different. This fear may not be without grounds. There are organisations where speaking your mind ends up with the “offending staff” placed in cold storage indefinitely. This leads to a culture of “silence” and unthinking “compliance”. For that reason many meetings lose their meaning and are a waste of time.

What is the purpose of meetings anyway?

In essence it is to draw on our collective wisdom, knowledge, intelligence and experience. The basic rationale is that many minds are better than one. This makes sense and should work in practice, but only if the meeting is run in a manner that promotes the genuine exchange of ideas.

Many meetings are reduced to announcements. The boss speaks, the rest listen, nod their heads attentively, provide verbal affirmations and praise, and in the end no real knowledge has been exchanged. Disagreement does not equate anarchy.

Before I continue, let me be clear on one point: businesses are not democracies. That is why a business cannot be equated to a country. They are run in different ways based on very different principles.

In a business, there are clear decision-making hierarchies that exist. In every taskforce, committee, department, strategic business unit or subsidiary, there is a clear sense of who has the authority to make the final decision.

I am fine with this concept. As an employee, I am willing to accept that my boss has the final call. Sometimes I may agree, sometime I may not; but in the end, as long as I choose to work for this company, I need to respect and subject myself to the authority of my boss. If this principle is not adhered to, the organisation cannot function effectively.

Now having said that, it is also my role to provide my boss with all the possible information I can to help him/her make an educated decision. The boss relies on his/her team to define the options, collect the data, provide the market intelligence, and point out the potential threats and weaknesses.

Our job is not to agree and affirm and tell them what they want to hear. This would be negligence. Our job is to help them make well-weighed decisions by giving them all the intelligence possible. Accurate decisions are based on accurate information.

This includes giving them my opinion, even when my opinion differs from their own. This is not circumventing their authority, as long as my disagreement is voiced in the proper way and at the proper time. Disagreements and differing opinions should be voiced in private, within the inner circle, during internal meetings; they should not be voiced in public.

Personally, I have always held to the principle that internal meetings are the time for us to voice ideas, objections and opinions, but after a decision has been made, as employees of the organisation, it is our role to support the corporate line.

Within the circle, honesty. Outside the circle, unity.

It seems to me that this is the way intelligent organisations are run.

It is realising that a culture of truth and honesty does not necessarily need to be incompatible with a culture of order and unity. It is a delicate balance, no doubt, but one that can be achieved.

How do we construct such a culture?

It starts from the top.

First, we need bosses who are secure and confident enough to allow their staff to contribute ideas and opinions freely. They must instil a culture that encourages truth and accuracy. The bosses should reflect an approach that goes, “I want you to tell me the truth about what is going on in our business. Don’t be afraid to tell me bad news. Don’t just tell me what is good. I need to know the threats and weaknesses as well. If not, I am driving blind.”

Many psychologists believe that insecurity breeds a culture of deception and delusion. When the staff perceive their bosses to be very defensive and aggressive when they receive bad news, and dismissive when they hear differing opinions, the staff will shape their behaviour accordingly to survive in that environment.

Human beings are creatures of necessity, and if it is necessary to hide the truth to remain in the good graces of the boss, they will do it. In the end of course, this type of organisations will become uncompetitive because they are un-intelligent organisations.

Perhaps the basic psychology underlying defensive behaviour is the tendency to take any criticism personally. When team members point out weaknesses in the organisations or systems, many leaders unfortunately take this as a personal criticism of their leadership.

The truth is, no organisation is perfect. Every organisation has flaws, weak spots and areas to develop. Therefore, a leader should take ideas and critiques in his/her stride and consider this part of intelligence gathering rather than a personal inquest.

At the same time, employees need to accept that bosses can’t change everything overnight. Not all problems have easy, immediate solutions, even though from our perspective it may sometimes seem that way. I need to accept that at my level, I don’t see all the variables. From my vantage point, I cannot see all the pieces of the chessboard. I need to trust that my boss has a larger strategy in mind.

Like an officer serving in the army, my job is report all the intelligence I can gather to my general, and from time to time I may even propose ideas, but knowing in the end that my general sets the overall strategy which I must execute to the best of my ability.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Changing workplace!!!!

The other day I found myself on a conference call talking to colleagues from across the APAC region with a person who is based out of South Africa. This got me to thinking about just how much the traditional workplace has changed over the last 20 years. No longer are most of the work relationships we have based on location or the office that you work in.

My father comes from a different generation and did like many of his friends and colleagues did in their time. That is he is working for the same company until now. The people he worked with were the people in his office location and the work he did mainly was Monday to Friday between 9:00 and 5:00 (I think it was actually more like 8:00-4:00 from memory).

This type of workplace is still prevalent in many organizations, however over the past number of years I believe we have seen a shift in the traditional workplace. As many positions become more information based or service oriented, we find what used to constitute traditional workplace boundaries changing.

I am based in Malaysia, however I have many relationships with colleagues and managers who are based elsewhere. Working with people in different locations in turn changes the hours that we work and I think we are finding a blending of work life/personal life where as once the two were very separate. VOIP and Web Technologies help us connect with people more easily than ever before and the world becomes a much smaller and connected place.

It is still important to have and develop local relationships and contacts, sometimes nothing beats talking to someone then being able to do it face to face. The great thing about the changing workplace is the chance to learn and meet so many new people with different perspectives and ideas. This was not always the case and it was limited with the technology that was available.

The changing workforce and demographics associated with it is too big a topic to cover off in one blog entry but after this conference call that I was on it got me thinking how much workplace relationships have changed and how easy it now is to work with a global work-force larger than just the physical office you work in.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Big 5 Opportunities of This Down Cycle

Here is the second teaching lesson from Mr. Robin Sharma that came to my email & worth sharing with you all there...

The Big 5 Opportunities of This Down Cycle

Hi Amol,

Ok. We're in some challenging times. Economies are shifting. Businesses are reconfiguring. And deep uncertainty dominates many peoples' mindsets. But smart leaders get that crisis breeds opportunity. And so they train their brains to focus on nothing else.

Here are 5 of the NBO's (Nice Big Opportunities) I've been sharing with my clients during my new "High Performance Leadership in Turbulent Times" presentation:

1. It has never been easier to stand out. Everyone is negative. Customer service is being pulled back. Innovation is shutting down. So, great rewards will come to you as you stay positive, client-centered and wildly creative.

2. It has never been so easy to retain and secure superb talent. A great team of spirited people can achieve extraordinary results. Now is a fine time to build that team.

3. This down cycle is an excellent time to open up new markets. Not every region is in a recession so now might be the perfect time to expand into an emerging economy.

4. With all the turmoil, this is an opportunity to get back to the fundamentals. Create strong value for your stakeholders. Build a business based on integrity. Renew deep family relationships. Savor life's simpler pleasures.

5. This is a fantastic time invest in your learning. Learning boosts passion and engagement. In the up-cycle, you may have been running so fast you made zero time to invest in yourself. Yet, to be a better leader, become a bigger person.

In Leadership,

P.S. I'm so pleased to share that we'll soon be launching FastLeadership on Wednesday May 27th. Click here for details.

P.P.S.  The Awakening Best Self Weekend is almost sold out, and a very limited amount of seats are available. Register here before it's too late! The ABS Weekend is my premier personal development event held this June, and is my only one in 2009. People from all around the world are attending, and the crowd is truly remarkable.  These 2.5 days with me will take your career and life to a whole new level of success.  CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Today is sunday & usually we go out for groceries and veggie and stuff.. from the past few weeks.. our schedule on saturdays and sundays has been to go for Gymboree class for my son at 9:30 am in the morning.... we are in the last few classes for Gymboree and so we are making sure we make use of the same to the fullest.. so while my son is in the class which is like a playgroup.. me and my wife try to do the chores in the 1-2 hours between these classes that we do get .. to utilise time wisely.. 

Today we thought of exploring the fresh market at Bangsar (Bangsar is a very happening high end locality in KL) & has its own.. good things and not so good things.. usually the expats usually europeans/americans/australians will be shopping in this part of the town since they will also be staying close to this locality.. So anyways.. one of my colleagues has always told me that to Get Goat mutton this is the best place.. and so we thought of checking things out.. 

and yes.. we found this small stall was here there was not so much rush - mostly regulars who came by to get the fresh goat mutton.. we shopped for fruits and veggies and then went to this stall and looked at the mutton.. it looked fresh and nice.. it was RM 22 a kg.. so we thought of going for 1/2kg & the person..(owner) who had skills with his chopping and skinning knife gave a lovely thigh piece to us..with little bones.. & off we went backto gymboree to pick up my son..

later the day we had decided to spend some time eating out..and we went to one of our favorite veggie joint by the name.. sangeeta - one has to try the Thali's if out for lunch or dinner.. and if you are in mood for Chat's then again this place satisfy's you.. 

So anyways.. after doing all this.. neelum told me to
 take up the task of cooking the mutton we got & I decided to go for Hyderabadi mutton biryani... here is the recipe for the same... while it was cooking.. it smelled nice.. and it  turned out tasty as well.. except that the mutton had to be cooked a little in the pressure cooker just to make sure it was completely cooked.

Ohh well forgot to tell.. that I modified the contents to cook for 1/2 kg mutton.. so if anyone is going for 1/2 kg.. just go by half portions of the ones mentioned below.. ( I am writing some measurements in bracket.. which I found was missing in the recipe on the website & i was finding difficulty checking the portions.. w.r.t cups and tsp.. rather than gms. :) anyways..

Here are some pics of the same.


1 kg Rice (1/2 Kg)
1 kg Mutton (1/2 Kg)
10 gms Cardamom - (3 pieces)
10 gms Cinnamon - (2 sticks)10 gms Cumminseed - (1 1/2 tsp )10 gms Cloves (3 pieces)
40 gms Ginger (1 inch)
20 gms Garlic (3 pieces)
100 gms Green Chillies (4 chillies)
50 gms Fried Onion (1 onion)
1 bunch Coriander Leaves 
1bunch Pudina ( I didn't have this - but I am sure it will turn out better with this in)
2 Lemon - (I used 1)
1/4 Curd - (about 3 tbsp)
1/4 kg Ghee (4-5 tbsp)

How to make meat biryani:
  • Wash mutton and take it in a vessel.
  • Grind green chillies, ginger, garlic, spices, fried onion, and mix them all, then add this mixture to the meat.
  • Then add curd to it, mix the stuff thoroughly. Leave the material for half an hour.
  • Take 2 litres of water in a vessel and put it on the stove. ( here take double the quantity of water as rice)
  • When water boils well put the rice in the vessel. Take out the semi-cooked rice and spread it on the meat and spices mixture as a layer. Take some more rice and spread as second layer. Finally, spread the fully cooked rice.
  • Prepare a mixture of one cup of boiled water and 1/4 kg ghee and spill it on the rice.
  • Now put a plate on the vessel and seal the edges with dough. Put the vessel on the stove, cook for 15 minutes on medium flame. (it is better to cook the mutton first else let the biryani cook for 2-3 hours on low flame)
  • Then turn off the stove. Leave the stuff for 15 minutes.
  • Hyderabadi mutton biryani is ready to serve.

any mutton lovers.. do try this out.. or you can suggest any modifications.. to the recipe to have better results.. 

happy eating!!!!!!!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Can Thinking about the last time you were angry - HELP!!

Well that's what one of the popular health website claims can help.. 


When you need to make a tough decision, just think about the last time you were angry. 

Sounds counterintuitive, but a little anger can actually help you choose better, a recent study suggests. Just don’t work yourself up into a rage. That state still sends all reason out the window. 

Get Lightly Steamed, Think Straight
Researchers recently put college coeds in an angry state and then asked them to read a couple of arguments about students’ spending habits. One argument was weak, the other strong. Students were better able to spot the stronger argument when they were a little peeved. Why? Anger may trigger adaptive behaviors -- the kind of behaviors that allow people to adjust to circumstances and make productive, constructive choices. 

But Don’t Lose It
Fleeting moments of anger may give you focus, but chronic tension and hostility will take a toll on your health -- possibly increasing your risk of heart disease.

So what is your choice??

Friday, May 15, 2009


Imagine if you will, that you are in a foreign land but didn’t realize you were there until you were there. You don’t know the language, the culture, the signs, the unspoken language. You could flip someone off unknowingly and become one of those ‘heads on a stick’. 

Imagine again, if you will, that you are in this foreign land and you start telling everyone what to do. How to get from here to there in the shortest route, how to save time and effort, how to harvest information, new ideas, change, and happier lives. How long would it be before you were introduced to the boiling pot of ‘you stew’.

Isn’t that what most sales people do? Before ever learning the culture, the language, the unspoken language, they tell, and think that is sales. They say I and me and they close their minds to openness and learning. How can you ever learn if you don’t listen. Listen with intent to understand. Listen with out assuming. Listen between the lines with intent to be understood. Listen to learn how to present ideas the way they want them presented, so that the ideas to use your service and products are the ideas of the foreigners. 

Listening is the alternative to ‘you stew’!

You could also look at another article I had shared some time back on Listening skills -

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chettinad Chicken!!!

Last weekend was a blissful one, since both these days we had some very fingerlicking tasty recipes.. On saturday I had made the Sol Kadhi( & on sunday we made chettinad chicken on a recommendation from Neelum's friend.

The recipe turned out very well..and we were very happy to feast over the dishes. You can get details on the rceipe and some pictures of the way my dish looked when served by following the link below.

Do try a hand at this recipe and let me know whether you enjoyed it or not..

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sol Kadi

In recent times of warm and warmer climate Sol Kadhi is something which comes to mind & that happened to me on saturdya evening. I was trying to cool off on my notebook doing nothing productive when the thought occured to me and I gave a search for this recipe, which I have attached below.

Attaching some pics of the dish which turned out amazingly tasty.. and was a blissful time for me over the weekend.. to make such a dish and enjoy it in the comforts of home out of India.. in KL, Malaysia. 

My wife who was not such a fan of Sol Kadhi was very satisfied with the dish & she too enjoyed a few cups of the kadhi.

a small modification that I did with the recipe was increasing the number of chillis to 4-5 instead of 2 & it turned out really well.. & gave a "Kick" after you have gulped down the kadhi.

Please do try it out and let me know if you feel the same.. .:)

Serves: 4 
Cooking time (approx.): 4 minutes
Style: South Indian Vegetarian 

2  cup(s) yoghurt 
4  cup(s) water 
2  tablespoon(s) kokum peels 
2  teaspoon(s) chopped and pounded garlic 
2  green chilli(es) chopped and pounded with salt 
2  teaspoon(s) mustard seeds 
2  sprig curry leaves 
2  tablespoon(s) oil 
salt and sugar to taste 
finely chopped coriander leaves to garnish (optional). 

  1. Boil the kokum peels with some water for about 4  minutes. Strain the red water and discard the peels. Let cool.
  2. Combine the yoghurt, water, pounded spices and the kokum water. Mix well and strain. Mix in salt and sugar to taste.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and crackle the mustard seeds. Drop in the curry leaves. Pour this seasoning over the sol kadi. 
    Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves (optional).


  • Sol Kadi can be had as a drink. Also, some like to pour it over boiled rice and relish it. Hence, the consistency can be adjusted as desired by adding or reducing the amount of water.
  • Kokum is a fruit whose peels are sun-dried and stored to use as a souring agent. It is very abundant in the west coast region of India and is considered a good digestive.
  • Kokum peels may be available off the shelf in dried form in Indian stores.

Serve chilled in tall glasses before, after or with meals.

Narayana Murthy - Final Part

And what has been your biggest achievement?

In some sense, articulating the need for respect and convincing my colleagues to accept it. . . and then we said we will accept deferred gratification. We started with only Rs 10,000 as equity. We took very low salaries, we spent less than what we earned, we paid dividend, we paid tax and put money back into the business. . . our lifestyles were very, very simple.

What has kept the core Infosys team together all these years?

Clearly, the value system. We have always put the interest of the company ahead of our personal interest.

Even today whenever there is a discussion, the moment a person is convinced that this decision is in the interest of the company and that there is no vested interest in the person that is propounding that idea, then everybody stands up and salutes and . . . we go ahead. . .

How do you resolve differences?

We use facts, we use data. That is why we say, 'In God we trust, everyone else brings data to the table.'

What do you think went wrong in the case of Satyam, and how did it affect you?

I was disappointed, disgusted. The IT industry has done a pretty good job of raising the country's image in the world and Satyam has hurt it.

Satyam is a classic example of a company with a feudal culture where there are different sets of rules for the king and the rest of the employees. There is opacity due to a centralised authority and in such an environment best practices are subordinated to quick profits. Opposition is impossible. In such a culture, the rest of the people are afraid to question the king even if they perceive something is going wrong.

This is not a case of failure of entrepreneurship. . . It is a case of greed and ego of some super managers. That is not capitalism. Capitalism is all about creating an environment where individuals can leverage their innovation and entrepreneurial skill to create better opportunities.

The real character of the person can be known only through what he does when nobody is watching. It is the value system that determines the core of an individual.

What five things should young entrepreneurs do to succeed?

I have talked about it in the book, too. The five things are:

1. You must have an idea whose value to the market should be expressible in a simple sentence, not a complex or a compound sentence. . .;

2. You must have a team that brings mutually exclusive, but collectively exhaustive set of skills, expertise and experience;

3. The market must be ready for your idea. If the market is not ready for your idea, doesn't matter how smart your idea is, you will not succeed.

4. You need a good value system, because entrepreneurship in the beginning is all about sacrifice, hard work, deferred gratification, disappointments. It is the value system that creates confidence in each member of the community that other members too are doing the same to make this company succeed. . .

5. You need funds. . . but that is easy, finance is not a problem.

What does money mean to you?

You know, the power of money is the power to able to give it way it. You definitely need a certain level of wealth to take care of your material needs, no doubt about it.. housing, health, basic necessities. But beyond that the power of money is to make a difference to those people whose need is much greater than yours, to whom the value is much higher than the value that you can assign to the money you have, or for whom the difference will be much higher than what it is for you. So essentially, the power of money is the power to give it away. . .

Will your children join Infosys?

My son is doing PhD at Harvard. He is a spectacular student. My daughter is an MBA from Stanford. So both are extremely well qualified. But I believe that they probably would say that it is so much better to run their own marathon on their own legs than on my shoulders.

Is there a message you would like to give the Indian voters?

I am a member of the advisory board of JaagoRe campaign which aims at getting a billion Indians to vote. It is by Janaagraha and Jasmine Shah is the coordinator. I do believe that it is very important for every adult Indian to exercise his or her franchise.

In a democracy the most powerful instrument that any voter has is his or her vote and that opportunity comes only once in a while. . . so they have to make sure that they do this very diligently, very wisely and with utmost focus on merit so that the best candidate is sent to govern the nation.

You had plans to teach at American universities post retirement. Are you pursuing that idea?

No, not really. Tell you what, I have been on the board of Unilever, HSBC, various universities. I realise that it is difficult for me to be at one place for more than ten days.

And you can't take responsibility to teach a course unless you can stay put at the university for an entire term, or at least for about two to two-and-a-half months.

I went to Stanford as a Visiting Fellow for two terms, and I gave certain lectures and also attended some classes. It was a wonderful learning after a long time. I attended a course on Mathematical Modeling in Healthcare, and another on Decision Sciences. So I spent two weeks in the fall term and two weeks in the spring term at Stanford.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Is the World Economy in Deep shit!!!!

One can surely say this when the Richest of Richest also start suffering and start declaring their losses.. 

I am talking about Warren Buffet -What's the Advice from one of the richest people living?- whose firm Berkshire reported first quarterly loss since 2001's third quarter when the company suffered large insurance losses as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Warren Buffett's company reported a US$1.5 billion first-quarter loss as it wrote down its ConocoPhillips investment.

Toyota is reporting a 436.94 billion yen (US$4.41 billion) net loss for the fiscal year through March, a larger loss than it had forecast and its worst result in company history.

Royal Bank of Scotland on Friday reported a first quarter loss of 857 million pounds, and the bank's chief executive said the company faces two very tough years ahead.

Telecom Corp., New Zealand's biggest listed company, on Friday reported a 40 percent fall in nine-month net profit to 322 million New Zealand dollars ($191 million) from a year earlier due to tougher competition and lower profit margins.

IMF has recently been revising the predictions of the economy starting to come out of the doom from the previous 2010 to little later in 2011. This is something alarming as most of the corporates have been keeping tabs on their investments & planning on their new projects, have been saying that they are expecting the reserves to last only for next 6-8 months unless things start improving soon.

One can only wait and watch......................


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Narayana Murthy - Part 4

Despite the fact that India's stature has grown globally, there is criticism that only 30 per cent engineers are employable in India. Do you agree?

You know this industry -- my own IT industry -- on an average recruits about 200,000 to 250,000 engineers a year. And we produce about 400,000 or so.

In that sense possibly about 50 per cent engineers are absorbed, and hopefully other sectors employ the rest of them. It is difficult for me to believe that 70 per cent of the engineering graduates are unemployed. However, this year it could be different because the recruitment levels of all companies have gone down.

What do you think could be done to make higher education in India better?

To enhance the quality of our higher education, we can do five things:

One, enhance the autonomy of our higher education system;

Second, encourage them to collaborate with world-class institutions outside India, within India too, but most of them are outside India... ;

Third, bring in a sense of meritocracy in the selection of students and the appointment and promotion of faculty;

Fourth, create incentives for our faculty members to do more world-class research; and

Fifth, remove any licensing in the education system. We gave up most of industrial licensing in 1991. It is silly that we continue licensing of our educational institutions.

Talking about higher education... even the recommendations made to the Knowledge Commission have not been implemented? Why does this happen?

The Indian society is a society of ideas. It is a society that has revered talk. In this society, articulation is mistaken for accomplishment. We are quite satisfied with our voice, with our writings. This is not a society that is focussed on execution.

Frankly, the problem is due to our caste system and the dominance of Brahmins in our society for long period. The Brahminical system said my job is to think of the higher worlds. My job is to think of connecting you people with God. I don't want to do anything that has a relationship with the real world.

Now that is a problem that has played havoc with the Indian culture. So, here in this culture, if you do anything with your hands, it is considered less honourable that anything to do with your brain.

Here everybody wants to be an engineer, nobody wants to be a technician. So when a society does not value implementation, execution, what happens is you create more and more reports and nothing gets done.

For example, (Reliance Industries Chairman) Mr Mukesh Ambani and I gave two reports on how to improve the higher education system: one to (then prime minister) Mr Vajpayee and one to Dr Manmohan Singh.

Second, there has been the Knowledge Commission. Nothing has happened. Third, in 1998 I was a member of the IT Task Force -- which was headed by Mr Jaswant Singh -- and that task force submitted its report somewhere in 1999 0r 2000.

Nine years and I don't think even one suggestion has been implemented. And we made 108 suggestions! So that is why I am not a big fan of ideas in India.

My brother-in-law is a famous professor of physics at Caltech and he tells me it is very easy to come out with an idea. But to validate that idea he and his doctoral students will have to work hard for six months, one year... sometimes two years. That takes 20 hours of work each day for two years. So it is important to come out with new ideas, but it is even more important to execute them.

We are not a nation of doers; we are a nation which believes that our articulation is our accomplishment.

What would you say has been your best business decision?

My best business decision is clearly sitting down with my younger colleagues and together coming to the conclusion that our objective must be to seek respect from every one of our stakeholders -- respect from customers, respect from employees, respect from vendor partners, respect from investors, respect from government of the land, and respect from society. . . I can tell you that that is the best decision that I have taken.

We had a four-hour-long discussion in 1981. Somebody said we must be the company with the most revenue, somebody else said we must be the most profitable. Finally, we all agreed that we will become the most respected company in India. Our logic was very simple. If we seek respect from our customers, we will not shortchange them; if we seek respect from our employees, we will treat them with dignity and fairness; if we seek respect from our investors, we will follow the best principles of corporate governance; if we seek respect from our vendor partners we will be fair with them and sympathetic to them; if we seek respect from the government, we will not violate a single law of the land, and if we seek respect from our society, we will give back to the society.

And then we said revenues will come, profits will come, market capitalization with come.

And in 1999, when Economic Times instituted their award, we were the first company to win the award of the Best Company of the Year, ahead of all multinationals and corporations much bigger than us! To me, that has given us the greatest satisfaction: the fact that we chose respect as the most important objective.