Monday, June 29, 2009

Time to A-C-T Stress

STRESS, perhaps is one of the most oft used words of modern world. ‘I am stressed’ is one phrase that I have been uttering more than my name ever since my post education days. Work stresses me, family stresses me, friends stress me, relationship stresses me. And it’s all real I can actually feel the weight.

I got married recently and marriage as you know is a package. New people, new ways of thinking, new ways of everyday living, along with expectations from your existing relationships and demands of your existing job. Till about a fortnight ago I was heading very clumsily attending to both personal and professional life. So busy did I get with this ‘attending’ business that I almost forgot about a life I had once aspired to enjoy. I went around asking friends on how to tackle the situation. But while on surface it might sound similar, actually all of our situations are so different that it is difficult to derive what worked for others into your life.

I realized stress is something extremely internal to me and it is I who can do something about it. After a bout of real hard thinking I embarked upon a method which I would call A-C-T: Ask-Contemplate-Tackle. Many might feel it is a clone of SWOT – well may be.

What I did here is: I first Asked/Analyzed the situation looking at all the whats, whys, whens and hows. Next I Contemplated on the character that I am (good, bad, ugly), people I have around, environment I am in, my financial and social standing. Finally, based on all my derivatives above I charted out on how I tackle the situation.

One bit of caution before we go about the A-C-T exercise is to be as unbiased as possible. Though all questions are extremely subjective we need to keep an independent view of all the entities in question here – ourselves, people around us and our environment.


What is the situation?
Why have I fallen into it?
When are the times when I fall prey to stressful situations?
How has my external environment played a role in it?

CONTEMPLATE: (A combination of both strengths and weaknesses)

Look at self

What am I like?
How do I react to a situation?
How do I take feedbacks?
How do I react to the unexpected or unknown? …..etc

Look at people around you:

What kinds of behavior make me feel good?
What kinds of behavior intimidate me?
Who all can I open up with and how much?
Role people around me have played in such situations in the past?
Role they could play now?
Do I need to bank upon anyone or is it self handle(able)?

Look at the environment around you

Environment am I comfortable in (could be anything crowded place, not so crowded place, intellectual talks, light talks etc)
Environment I am not comfortable in
What all have I landed myself into, in the past, because of my like or dislike of any environment?
Role, my liking or disliking of my current environment, is playing now

Look at your financial and social standing (independent of stress to asses whether the stress is real or artificial)

Are you fine enough financially?
Are you secure – house, security policies, safe job etc?
Relationship – are you doing fine with all your everyday contacts like spouse, parents, siblings, close friends, boy/girl friend?

Our minds enjoy intense thinking. Stress I would say is another form intense thinking. So sometimes when all is well (finance, security, relationships) we still feel stressed for reasons unknown to us (what many of us call as BLUES). That's because our minds would have created some artificial intense thinking cloud just so that it is occupied. That is why assessing whether the stress is real or artificial is necessary.


Now I have some clarity about:
The situation
How I react and think about something
Impact that people and environment around me have on me
Whether or not I have essential materialistic want

Based on the above make an outline of the following:

ACCEPT: I am stressed because am in real trouble and I want to do something about it.

OR My stress is artificial all that looks wrong to me are actually minor issues

If the stress is real, answer these:

What are those (part of character, people, environment) that I shouldn’t and can’t do away with?
What are those that I should avoid and to what extent?
How much should I get involved intensely (conversation, a situation, a feedback etc)
When should I keep it to surface level?
What are the things that I can let go without hurting myself?
When should I send the ‘I don’t like it’ message?
Which emotions/reactions of mine should I take seriously (based on my experience or real or artificial stress)?
How do I deal with set of people (ones I can/should get closed to, one I should keep it at formal level)?.....etc

There can be many more ways of dealing with a situation. Crux of everything is: The Answer lies within us, all we need is to look for it!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

OPINION: ‘Nice’ guys go to heaven; all others could be corporate honchos

Assuming you are not reading this entry along with your boss, you might probably LOL at the notion of a ‘nice boss’. And there are enough Boss Jokes sites anyways. But consider this: what if some years down the line you get into that very position, or if you are already leading a team, what do your subordinates think of you? Can you be ‘nice’ and still get the job done?

In his book, ‘Snapshots from Hell’, Peter Robinson mentions that the workplace is driven by ‘testosterone induced aggression’ - a set of masculine traits such as dominance, fierceness and even ruthlessness. Being a boss entails managing a team to get the desired results within the specified time frame in such a competitive corporate environment. So when the pressure mounts and deadlines approach, a boss can’t be smooth-tongued with the team for a successful completion.

If you look around your workplace vicinity, you might be surprised to see that the guys with candy-sweet words and easy temper aren’t quite high up while the guys who are not considered so are usually in the big league. Don’t confuse this correlation with causation; aggressiveness might be seen in most people high up but it might not be the (only) cause/reason why they are up there. Needless to say, other leadership qualities are essential. But so is aggressiveness. Simply put, you can’t aspire to be the CEO of your company next month by snapping at all the people you meet from now on. But if you ever intend to get there, you can’t do so by being ‘nice’.

A boss who is achievement-oriented can’t possibly be people-oriented at the same time. So he is unlikely to grant you a week’s leave when an important milestone is round the bend, thereby incurring your displeasure and this is where he differs from the ‘nice’ guys. Eventually, it is this that takes him higher up. He doesn’t allow his ‘desire to be nice’ to impede his ‘desire to achieve and deliver’ when he is forced to pick only one of the two. Not that he resorts to aggressiveness at the very first instance but he doesn’t back off when he thinks it is time to do so. And looking at it from an organizational perspective, ‘nice’ guys could end up being repetitive show-stoppers while the aggressive guys could be the ones the organization counts on to deliver progressively. Therefore, being ‘nice’ is perhaps not a quality organizations look for!

If you are planning to climb the corporate ladder, you might probably want to gear up for the ‘not-so-nice’ title. Yea, you can practice putting on that mean face right away but don’t forget to exit Solitaire and show some great results out of the task you are currently working on ;)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Essential Tools for your Virtual Office

Not every business can afford to invest in important utilities and resources, especially during the startup stage. But assuming you have enough dough to own a desktop in working condition and broadband, here are some free web tools to address the 5 most crucial needs of any business:

1. Video conferencing and telepresence: Tokbox is a web utility that enables onscreen Vcon using a web cam. Unlike the more popular Skype which mandates an installation on all terminals and permits Vcons only among registered users, Tokbox is purely online and only one person in the entire team need maintain a profile; all others may directly join the Vcon after they receive the session URL from this user. Dimdim is a similar service but the free version allows only 1 webcam. TinyChat allows upto 12 members in the free version. Chat, session recording, file-sharing, whiteboard and screen-sharing options are other features available between the three.

2. Document storage and sharing: Dropbox, Mozy, Wuala and are store-sync-share utilities and may be used like an online USB drive. Google Docs, and Zoho enable online creation, editing and sharing of docs, spreadsheets and other Office Suite components. Both have mobile versions so you can access your docs on the fly. Additionally, Evernote, Google Notebook for notes, Flickr, Picasa for pics and SlideShare, Authorstream for presentations are useful sharing options to explore.

3. Finance Management: Mint is a good tool to manage your business’s income and expenditure. You can link your bank account to your profile after signing up and get ready reports, charts and break-ups as the money keeps going in and out, practically eliminating the book-keeping task. Other features like alerts, easy categorizations and mobile access ensure you are always on top of things. Wesabe is an interesting alternative.

4. Project Management: ClockIT takes care of all your time tracking, milestone mapping and Gantt chart plotting requirements. You can assign tasks to co-workers and track progress conveniently. It also has a file storing facility that enables sharing of project related documents with the concerned team mates. Onyaka has a dead simple interface and is a convenient tool for staff scheduling.

5. Space Management: Floorplanner is a cool tool to ensure that you plan and utilize every inch in your office. Starting with a 2D layout, you can drag-n-drop furniture, flooring, windows, doors, plants, electronic items etc from the elaborate library and then render it in 3D at the click of a button. You can also share your workspace designs with non-registered users. Dragonfly is a similar tool with all the functionality of Floorplanner and has a sleeker output, with the translucent walls creating a really classy effect.

So until you can afford a swank office with ubercool telepresence gizmos and a team of expensive-looking finance blokes, the above utils should certainly help you run the show just fine.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It’s About ‘Who’ you Know more than ‘What’ You Know

We post our CVs on a Monster or a Naukri and we think we’ve done our job. Think from employer’s shoes – wouldn’t s/he want to trust what you claim in your CV, wouldn’t s/he want to validate your candidature from an industry connection known to both you and your prospective employer?

May be it’s time we relooked at our job searching approach. Today, it’s about who (who can validate your potential) you know in the industry rather than how much or what you know. Job search through industry connections on social networking sites like are increasingly getting in vogue.
With millions of resumes hitting HR inboxes, candidates referred through social networks is becoming a popular way for recruiters to filter applicants.
Tarun Hukku, an active social networker feels jobs have become ‘Topic No.1’on networking sites. Hukku is the founder of the regional social networking site - Bangalore Business Network which belongs to Ryze - a business-networking site which has groups based on career and geographical regions.
“It’s easy for an employer to check out the subtler nuances of an applicant’s character which are usually never documented in a CV. For instance a quality like if a person is active on a social network and has a good standing amongst the members then the chances of him being a good team player are high.”
Indians, he thinks, are equal if not more active than most nationalities as far as online social networking goes. “In fact some sites have a dominant Indian presence. And this trend will continue to grow.”

Though job hosting portals are still in, traffic to social networking sites is amongst the fastest-growing on the Internet, claims ComScore Inc.
LinkedIn is thriving in the recession with traffic doubling to 6.9 million in February from 3.3 million a year earlier. Facebook today has 175 million-plus members.
Both Facebook and Twitter have career oriented online groups and applications like Jobster Career Network and sites like TweetMyJobs. In India there is Jobeehive, which not only does company surveys based on user generated content, but also has professionals networking actively.

Software engineer Kushal Das says “Connections on networks are people known to you through work or personally. Added to that if you have couple of recommendations from fellow professionals, it helps building the trust factor for the employer.”
Harit Mankad, manager in a software company, “In social network sites the jobs on display actually match your profile as against talking to consultants who don't always understand the job we do.”
Business Analyst Arun Ghodke who also social-networks for career feels, sites like “Linkedin have features to pinpoint the search for suitable job openings like posts on latest jobs opening etc. That helps.”

So what are you waiting for, get a public profile and start connecting to people.

Websites you could look at:

Linkedin , RYZE , Slip Squad , Tweet-My-Jobs , Facebook , Twitter , Meet Up , Jobeehive

For affective networking:

•Widen your network before getting into the situation of needing another job
•Keep your online profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) connected
•Ping your contacts that you are looking for a change
•Help out your connections whenever you can that’s the best way to get noticed
•The more the number of connections and recommendations the better is your social credibility.

Happy networking to all!


Monday, June 1, 2009

More Goats, Lesser Coffee. What next?

Recession induced layoffs has almost become an everyday feature in most of the news sources. But many companies have resorted to less brutal measures to save jobs and cut costs. Of course, the intention of the organizations is unquestionably benign and the employees have no choice either, but some of them seem really odd when compared to the good old times when things were aplenty.

Gone are the times when there used to be unlimited free coffee in the dispenser, organizations now ration caffeine and deliver it to addicted employees in metered doses. Outgoing calls from landlines are being monitored, usage of staircases instead of elevators is strongly encouraged and printing any document more than two pages is almost a luxury! Even Google has decided to use goats to mow lawns instead of the traditional lawn mowers to save on electricity.

Our Product Marketing Analyst, Sneh was involved in an online discussion where she has got wind of the fact that toilet tissues have vanished overnight from the loos of an organization. ;) We bet there are more such measures wafting around. We can’t get a peek into your offices so do tell us some of the cost-cutting measures your org has resorted to, which you think are beneficial, thoughtful, irritating, ridiculous or even downright hilarious… if you are in the habit of laughing at yourself that is ;)