Effective Leaders

We are all leaders in some areas of our life – as parents, employers, MDs, CEOs, COOs, supervisors, mid-managers.

Our children are sometimes deaf to what we say to them. However, they observe and absorb what they see. Our teams learn from example and what they see as much as from being coached and mentored. To be a great leader, you want to lead by example and inspiration as much as by mentoring and coaching.

There is so much richness within each person to be discovered. Until it is discovered, it will forever be absent. It is the role of effective leaders to nurture this richness.

Watch Azim’s video message on the topic

The Magic of Purpose!

uniqueYou were born into this world for a reason. You are here for a nobler purpose than just to eat, sleep, produce offspring, and die. You are here to make a difference. You are here to shine your light and leave the world in a better shape than you received it. You are here to display the gifts you have been blessed with. You are here to use those gifts to make a contribution and create significance.

There is no one like you in this world. No one in this world can match your smile, style, or DNA. No one in this world can speak like you or think like you. You are unique, gifted, and special. Your gifts are tied to your purpose. Discover them and use them fully. When you do things you were born to do and use your innate gifts to make a difference, you are living and working with purpose.

When you live with purpose, you are energized and focused and have a sense of direction. You are concentrating on things that are important to you and not wasting time on unimportant things. All of nature is on call, operating in silence and yet on purpose.

A ship would never sail without a destination. Similarly, you can’t sail through life without having a clear goal. In fact, when facing the storms of life, it is our purpose which ferries us out of them.

When you have a purpose, you know where you are going, and you know why you want to go there. You are driven to get there. A sense of purpose creates energy, meaning, gumption, and love. You lose track of time doing things that have a solid purpose. You find enjoyment and make a difference to others.

When you do purposeful work, you feel guided by principles. Your principles are the anchor, providing a source of steadiness amid tumultuous circumstances. If your anchor is bendable, then it will not hold the boat in place properly. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Important principles may and must be inflexible.” If principles can be bent, they cannot serve as reliable guides to behavior.

To conclude, Purpose takes your life from success to significance!

Journey Within!

Conch shell on beach  with waves.

A small seed eventually becomes a mighty oak tree. Upon looking at the seed, it is difficult to believe that an ultimate mix of roots, leaves, flowers, and fruits are contained within it. Thus, all life carries within it the blueprint of its destiny.
Man is also born a seed, brimming with potential. But, unless we become conscious of this magnificence within us, we cannot actualize it.

Unfortunately, most of us spend our time looking outside – dividing ourselves into tiny egotistic silos of ethnicity, religion, gender, country, occupation, and so on -when in our truest essence we have the power to be the whole world.

Without taking the journey inwards, the real magic will not unfold.

This is not to say that we must forego our interest in the outer, but our preoccupation with it needs to be curbed. It is true, the seed draws light, water, and nutrition from the outside, but the magical transformations occur when all of these external forces work together in the inner.

So how do we seek our inner treasure?

1. Meditation – Daily quiet time; ideally early morning, and if possible near nature. This powerful habit is the launching pad for the  journey inward.

2. Establish keystone habits that will help you come closer to your vision – Keystone habits are mannerisms that form the cornerstone of the Ideal that you have envisioned for yourself. For example, if you want to be a singer, your keystone habit will most likely be to practice daily for several hours come what may.

3. Identify your gifts and excel at them – Do not carry generalized notions of your gifts. Take time to articulate them; speak to others and welcome feedback. You will be pleasantly surprised by the insight you gather. Once you have a good picture, write them down and ensure you hone these gifts. For example, you can do so by taking a class; practicing them regularly or even volunteering your skills.

4. Identify your self-empowering beliefs – Think of your most empowering beliefs and foster them daily through regular visualization and affirmation.

Team Morale

Vietnamese mid-adult woman standing in front of cheering business group during a presentation.

Team morale is often a leading challenge for companies worldwide. So how do you, as a leader, create excitement and confidence in a team?

1. Align your company with a bigger purpose – Instead of emphasizing what you do as a company; focus on why you do it. Forum for the Future’s, Stephanie Draper, argues that if companies are to move beyond incremental environmental change, they need to create a strong sense of purpose.

2. Display integrity at all times – Integrity creates trust, which in turn boosts morale and engagement. We all like to work with people we can trust. So, as an individual and organization, keep your promises and act from your highest self at all times. If you make a mistake, admit it and never back away from doing what’s right.

3. Create a stimulating workplace – Whether it’s providing breakout spaces to socialize and collaborate or offering healthier food options, or onsite yoga classes or individualized training sessions, make the office a place your employees come to where they feel connected, empowered and productive.

4. Build engagement and connection – Find out what your employees are most passionate about and then create opportunities/platforms where they can connect and feel a sense of belonging with others. Whether it’s volunteering for a favorite charity together or going out for group treks create a roster of regular events for people to connect with in an informal space.

5. Encourage a culture for a free and uninhibited flow of communication – Create a culture where people are not afraid of expressing their doubts, ideas, and concerns. Allow free flow of discussions without frequent interruption and judgment to enable participation from each team member. The report of the Columbia accident investigation board found that the Columbia space shuttle disaster could have been averted by NASA had it not ignored the valid concerns of low-level employees.

6. Offer opportunities for self-development – Instead of mandated standard training programs, take time to profile the individual skill set of every employee and then help to bridge the performance gaps. An organization that provides a good learning environment with an emphasis on identifying and nurturing individual skills is more likely to have a motivated workforce.

7. Define clear end objectives and guidelines – Based on Gallup’s work with companies worldwide, only about half of the employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. Once you set clear goals, ensure everyone is clear about their individual role, relative priority, and timing of that goal, as well as the team’s role in reaching it.

8. Don’t micromanage – Bosses tend to micromanage when they fear accountability from their team members. And this distrust further builds an expectation of poor performance from employees, creating a vicious cycle of bad outcomes. The best solution is to hire the right people, set clear goals and then let them figure out the best way to achieve them.

9. Foster creativity – Each one of us is born with special talents and abilities. People feel most productive when they are working on a project which actualizes their creative potential.

10. Acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate – We all seek approbation and praise. Hence, take time out to pinpoint, share and celebrate individual successes with the entire team. This not only builds individual confidence and self-esteem but also nurtures a sense of belonging and connection.

11. Resolve issues promptly – Do not allow tensions, altercations or differences in opinion to linger or fester. Resolve the issues promptly by taking a fair overview of individual viewpoints, and then taking just action – giving a clear basis for the action taken. And ideally, address all such issues behind closed doors. Do not rebuke an employee in a public forum.

Are you Productive?

Young black businesswoman working late on laptop in office

Every day you wake up, planning to fix it all, attend that weekly meeting, answer the important mails, finish the project report you have been avoiding for weeks, attend your daughter’s first recital, pay your utility bills and on and on….but at the end of the day, you realize only a few items on your list have been crossed and you have added another three.

Work just never seems to get done. And life keeps throwing you a curve ball every now and then, keeping you up to your neck in endless activity with little desired output.

Here are four productivity tips to help you make a dent in your universe, one little knock at a time.

1. Start the Day with the Most Important things – If you want important stuff done, schedule it.  If you want it done most efficiently, schedule it for first thing in the morning. Instead of prioritizing what is on your “to-do” list, prepare a list of your priorities using your goals as a starting point.  It’s all too common to use “I don’t have time” as an excuse for avoiding the important things. The first hour of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day.  It’s the time when your energy levels are at their highest, so use it to do your highest-priority work. Let the first hour of your day be your hour of power.  Get that exhilarating feeling that rewards work well done. You’ll find that the rest of the day will be much more productive and upbeat.

2. Don’t Shuffle Papers; Make Quick Decisions – Some people waste a lot of time deciding what to do with the paper that flows across their desks.  When you look at a paper for the first time, make a decision to act on it right away.  If you are unsure about something in a communication, remember that the time to decide is now, based on the present time and situation.  When you start reading through things, you have the momentum to decide right away what you want to do with it.  Be ruthless with clutter, and don’t file away papers that can either be dealt with or thrown away.

3. Avoid Interruptions – Every interruption is a big-time drainer.  Some interruptions are valuable.  For example, when your child wants to bond with you or your parent needs medical attention. But many interruptions are nothing more than time wasters and can exhaust your energy while achieving nothing.  Don’t get ruffled every time you’re interrupted.  Just stick to your plan, based on key priorities.  Use e-mails to communicate instantly with clients or business connections, but don’t allow your email to become an alternative mailing address. The notion that you must be “connected” at all times is completely invalid.

4. Delegate Effectively – Good leaders delegate effectively.  The key to delegation is to communicate clearly to avoid any misunderstanding.  Meeting with others to plan your work creates buy-in and a better understanding of the people you are delegating to. Encouraging people to be result-oriented as opposed to problem-oriented improves productivity.  If you are delegating to your team and you notice signs of non-commitment, confront the problem immediately. If you want to be effective in delegating, involve people and get their buy-in and commitment first.

At the end of the day, it is not how much you finish; it is what you finish!

Never Give Up!

hardhat and tools  on black background

J. K. Rowling was broke, depressed, on government assistance and a single mom while writing Harry Potter before becoming one of the richest women in the world because she did not give up.

Most of us miss our best opportunities because they come disguised as hard work.  Hard work is a fact of life.  If you want to be successful, you have to work hard.  Thomas Edison was on the money when he remarked, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

But hard work doesn’t have to be drudgery.  It can be a source of great enjoyment.  If you develop joy in your work, you’ll find that it produces positive energy, which promotes balance.  To develop joy in your work, you must be doing something that you’re good at, that is meaningful to you, and that contributes to your family, your organization, and society.

You persist when you have a passion for what you do.  When you love what you do, you work with gusto.  Generally, this comes about when you align your work with your personal mission.  You may need to do some soul-searching to discover your noble calling and purpose in life.

Victory Over Self-Doubt

Woman sitting poolside doing yogaThere are countless moments in life when one is plagued by self-doubt. The very purpose of doubt is to raise a question and provoke your mind to re-examine what it thinks it knows or believes.

Doubt enters all. However, successful people do not allow doubt to creep in and influence them.

Here are a few ways to get past self-doubt:

1. Trust your gut –

Oprah Winfrey was fired from Baltimore’s WJZ-TV because the channel felt that she got too “emotionally involved” with the stories she reported. She was given a daytime position (which was considered a huge step down in the news world). However, she used the same ability, her empathy with her guests, to turn that program into the highly successful “Oprah Winfrey Show.” Oprah trusted her inner wisdom and acknowledged what made her unique.

2. Keep sight of the big picture –

When you are aligned with your vision and committed to its achievement, obstacles are transformed into learning tools and self-doubt starts to melt away. Clarity of vision gives you a sense of direction and understanding of your path ahead.

3. Get moving –

Over-analysis leads to paralysis. The best way out is to take your end objective as a reference point and your values and principles as your guide. Then, choose your path and take the next onward step. Taking this step, however small or inconsequential, frees up your energy and sets the ball rolling – helping you storm through a fretful situation.

4. Refrain from judgment –

We are conditioned by society to appropriate blame, but this blaming behavior rarely helps. A better approach is to develop compassion for self, founded on the understanding that we are not supposed to be perfect, just the best we can be in any given situation. Use this understanding to become more aware of repetitive and constricting patterns of thinking.

5. Separate the experience from the drama –

Our minds conjure up a lot of drama around an actual experience, which is not only exaggerated but also consumes a lot of our energy. Furthermore, constantly focusing on such manufactured memories amplifies our self-doubt and creates self-fulfilling consequences. So, get in the habit of challenging your doubt. Ask probing questions. Strip it bare. Detach yourself from the experience and view it objectively. This will clear up the unnecessary clutter and illuminate new ideas on how to respond to the situation.

How about you? Do you allow self-doubt to prevent you from doing what you know is right? What measures do you take to overcome your doubts?