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Author Archives: Bhavin Gandhi

About Bhavin Gandhi

With MBA and Masters in Computer Science, Bhavin Gandhi has over 10 plus years of business experience in various aspects of Leadership and Management roles in private and public organizations. Through his blog, Bhavin will try to help people to better manage, lead and organize their businesses and lives, in the 21st century.

How to make your feedback communications more comfortable for your employees?


GenerationXIn my last blog post, I have provided you with a couple of tips through which you can get an honest feedback from your peers without putting them on the spot. In this blog, I will provide you with some more tips on getting effective feedback, but this time I will concentrate on a few subtle methods, so your peers don’t feel uncomfortable while providing their honest feedback to you.

Listen first, talk later: Too many people ask for feedback, wait only 2 or 3 seconds, before they start talking again. It takes more time than that for most people to organize and verbalize their responses. And hence, once you ask for their feedback, you should be silent for more than 10 – 15 seconds, and give them time to think and organize their thoughts. Once they start speaking, don’t disrupt them in between, even if you don’t agree with some of their comments. If you do that, they might lose their train of thoughts, and you will end up diverting the conversation to something else completely. Thus, I would recommend you to use a pen and paper (or any note taking application) during these kind of conversations. In this way, you can present your counter argument later without interrupting your peers while they are providing you with their valuable feedback.

Paraphrase: Even when you feel sure you understand a person’s feedback, it is important to paraphrase. For example, if your boss says, “This rush job has top priority,” you could paraphrase by saying, “You are telling me that this rush job has higher priority than any other job I’m working on now. Is that right?” By paraphrasing, you are not only making sure that you understood him correctly, but you are also asking for his validation on the spot. Do not assume that you understand the meaning of the feedback that you receive from others. If you even have a slightest doubt in understanding their feedback, then don’t be afraid of asking for clarification. Worst come worst, you will get the same feedback again, but you will ensure that you understand their point of view crystal clear.

Be interactive: Don’t let the feedback be one-sided deal. Even though, you don’t want to disrupt in-between, you want to make sure that you use encouraging statements during this process, so that your peers feel comfortable while giving their feedback. People usually adjust their feedback by monitoring the listener’s verbal and nonverbal reactions. And hence, you want to make sure that you are interactive and positive during this process. If you want a person’s honest opinion, you must encourage it by purposely saying such things as “Really?”, “Interesting”, “So, you feel that. . . .”, etc.

Follow-up with a reward: If you are a manager, you can reward feedback by complimenting the person, preferably in front of colleagues. You can also implement a reward system within your team, where  “Best Idea of the Month” employee gets a public recognition through name calling or a personalized placard or a company pen with their name engraved on it. If you are an individual contributor (employee), you can sincerely thank people for their comments and perhaps write them a note of thanks. In this way, you will not only encourage them to provide their feedback again, but you will also encourage others to provide their feedback to you after looking at this person’s experience with you.

These are some ideas through which you can make the feedback communication slightly easier for your peers. If you have any other ideas through which we can improve our feedback communication, then please share it through your comments here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to get honest feedback from your peers without putting them on the spot?


FeedbackManagers who encourage their employees to give honest feedback mostly find themselves improving the accuracy and productivity of their quality of work. I know I have. Feedbacks often increase employee satisfaction with their job by providing them with a voice and valuing their opinions.

In my last blog, I have identified many hurdles due to which people refrain from giving their honest feedback to you. And hence, in this blog, I will provide you with few tips and tricks through which you can get honest feedback from your peers, and eliminate any hurdles that you might encounter.

Ask for it: Tell people you want their feedback. When people feel that their opinions and observations may be used against them or that your feelings may be easily hurt, they withhold their feedback. Thus, let them know that you consider their personal opinions, questions, and disagreements, not only useful but also necessary. If you are hesitant to ask for their direct feedback, try  to use 360-degree feedback with the help of your HR Department. In that process, your peers, superiors, subordinates, customers, suppliers, and sales staff provide their feedbacks anonymously to you. So, you are more likely to get their honest feedback.

Be specific: When you ask for someone’s feedback, they are mostly confused, as they don’t know where to start. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to provide their feedback, its just that they don’t know what you are looking for. Thus, before asking for the feedback, its your job to identify the areas in which you want the feedback. If you want personal feedback, you might say, “I am trying to improve my presentation’s delivery and am interested in knowing how confident I appeared in today’s meeting.” Similarly, if you want only feedback pertaining to the organization of your ideas, then specify that topic.

Make it regular: Let’s assume that you are working for a hands-off manager, who gives you work flexibility, and doesn’t meet with you that often. Now, imagine a situation where he suddenly stops by your office and asks for your honest feedback. What would you do in that situation? I don’t know about you, but I would be baffled, if my manager doesn’t have the habit of asking my feedback regularly. Instead of giving him my feedback, I might think that I am in some kind of a trouble. Won’t you? Your employees will have the same mindset. Thus, it is very important for us, as a manager, to set aside some time for regularly scheduled feedback sessions. These sessions will not only help you get your employee’s honest feedback, but it will also show your employees that you value their feedback and care for their opinions.

These are some of few ideas through which you can make it easier for your peers to provide their honest feedback to you. Wait for my next blog, where I will provide you with some more insight on effective feedback taking. In the meanwhile, if you have any other ideas through which we can improve the process of feedback taking, then please share it through your comments here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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Why do we refrain from taking or giving feedbacks to our peers?


FeedbackAs a manager (or a leader), we should continually be looking for feedback from our peers and employees, and try to improve ourselves. After all, management is more about listening than doing, isn’t it? Even though you would like to improve yourself from these feedbacks, they are hard to come by. So, before we find out a better way to get feedback from our peers, we need to find out basic reasons due to which people feel uncomfortable taking (or giving) their honest feedback.

It emphasizes inferiorities: Honest feedback can sometime make people feel psychologically attacked. Even the most experienced manager or employee can become defensive when feedback seems negative. Take this for an example…Recently, I had to deal with a situation where one of my employee was struggling with time management, so I recommended him to take some time management training. Even though he is a top performer in my team, he was offended by hearing that I was disappointed with his performance. Instead of seeing this feedback as the opportunity to learn something new, he saw it as a personal attack instead.

Don’t know what to ask: Some people misunderstand feedback as the sign of poor communication. To those kind of people, feedback indicates that the message was not communicated very well, and hence, there is a necessity for feedback to get on the same page again. Often people are either so confused that they don’t know what to ask or so confident of their understanding that they ignore the need for any kind of verification. Thus, people refrain to ask for any kind of feedback, after all, no one wants to admit that they didn’t understand anything properly.

It is time consuming: No matter what kind of feedback you are seeking, verbal or written, it is always going to be time consuming task. Then it maybe at the meeting or through an e-mail, you need to make sure that you ask the right question, and get the honest response. Unfortunately, most of the managers won’t take the time to make sure that everyone is on the same page by asking for their feedback; instead, they will prefer to redo their tasks that should have been accomplished correctly the first time. Maybe they are used to this practice of dictatorship, or maybe they are afraid to put in the required time to ask the right question.

People are afraid: If you work in a developed Nation like US, UK, or Canada, you don’t want to admit that you are afraid of your Boss/Manager. But inherently we all respect the authorities of our Boss, and we are kind of afraid of their authorities as well. Even though we are taught to speak up our mind, we sometimes refrain from providing true feedback to our managers by being afraid of the consequences that it might have in the future. Is that not true? There is nothing wrong with this behavior. From our childhood we are taught to respect authority, then it maybe the authority of our parents or our teachers.

Can you find any other reasons due to which people refrain from giving their honest feedback to others? If so, please share it here, I would love to hear your take on this. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to deal with the frustration of your employees?


EmployeeFrustrationWe are all humans, and we all have moments of disappointment when things don’t go our way. And I am sure, as a manager, you must have encountered these situations often, when your employees are feeling down for not accomplishing something that they have set their target on. Although most employees can easily navigate through these small bumps, sometimes you need to jump in when you see these opportunities. Having a quick one-on-one chat with your employees during these tough times would soften the blow, and lead them to a quicker recovery. So, what should you talk about during these times? Following are some of my advice…..

Appreciate their work: When you sit down with your employee to analyze the issue, you must not forget to appreciate their hard work first. Tell your employees that their work is highly valuable and their efforts are highly appreciated. This kind of conversation starter will put your employees at ease before discussing their issues. If I were their manager, I would say something like this – “These kind of issues keep on happening, and despite our best efforts, sometimes things don’t work out our way. But look at what you have accomplished, you tried something new, and got new experience, that’s what is important. After all, you can’t be perfect at everything, right?” This approach will not only let your employees know that you care, but it will also ease their mood before before having the actual conversation.

Walk through the issue: Once you have soothed the attitude of your employee, you can then get back to the business. Now, try to talk to your employee about the issue at hand and walk through it with them. By walking through the entire scenario again, you will get some good insight on the issue, and might be able to provide your valuable feedback to your employee. If he/she was expecting one outcome while other team members were expecting something else, then try to find out where did this disconnect come from? Were there some missing communications or interactions? Don’t interrupt your employee in between or recommend any solutions, just yet. Try to listen to his/her side of the story and take your notes on what might have gone wrong, that’s all.

Help them learn: Once you have completely listened to your employee and her side of the story, now it’s your time to help her think through the ‘do-over’.  Even though you are trying to help her, restrict yourself from coming up with any solution, just yet. Let her come up with her own solution to this problem. Ask her – “How can you handle it differently the next time?” Of course, the setback may have occurred even though she did everything right. So, try to ask her – “What were the factors outside of her control?” Try to help her gain a new perspective on these uncontrollable factors, so that she can handle them well in the future.

If you follow this three-part conversation while dealing with your employee’s frustrations, then you will encourage your employees to take better steps next time, rather than acting on their natural desire to avoid such situations in the future.

Was this blog helpful? Do you have any other ideas that you can share with me here?

Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Improve your hiring techniques by learning from fundamentals of arrange marriages (Part 2)


ArrangeMarriage2In my last blog, I have provided you with a couple of similarities between the hiring process and Indian arrange marriages. Let me continue this conversation by providing you with a few similarities and a few learning lessons.

Take a communal decision: Unlike other types of marriages, arrange marriages are between two families, instead of two people (bride and groom). Unlike a normal first date, most of the first arrange marriage meetings are held at someone’s place, where there is hardly any privacy for “soon to be” bride and groom. At that point, bride and groom are not only vetted by each other, but they are also vetted by their parents and other relatives. So, if there were any compatibility issues to occur in the future, these relatives can chip-in and help them through these tough times. As an employer, we should implement a similar technique while hiring someone. We should try to involve most of the stakeholders during our interviews, so if there were any issues to occur in the future, these stakeholders can help that candidate collectively, instead of saying – “My manager hired him, let him deal with it”.

Have realistic expectations: Most Indian people don’t like to admit it, but it is true. In an arrange marriage, people are settling for love instead of finding an ideal suitor for themselves that matches all of their criteria (or check boxes). Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that love doesn’t exist between the bride and groom after their marriage. It actually develops over time, at least that is what I have seen through my personal experiences. But the idea that they HAVE TO compromise in the future tends to make their relationships successful. Similarly, if you are thinking of hiring someone, and you are set on hiring the ideal candidate for that particular opportunity, who meets all of your requirements 100% of the time, then you won’t be able to hire anyone. Thus, you need to be realistic when you are hiring someone. Just compare the quality of candidates who have applied for that job, and adjust your expectations accordingly. I am not saying that you should settle for an unqualified candidate, but make sure to hire the right person instead of being set on that ideal candidate who might not exist, or who might exist but doesn’t want to work for you. Focus on hiring an intelligent individual with an attitude to learn, and you will be pleasantly surprised to see their quality of work over time.

Look at sample of work: Have you ever been a part of the first meeting between the bride and groom, in an arrange marriage? I have, and that too, many times. And let me tell you, it is not a pleasant scene. I still remember the day, when I went with my cousin to see his “to be” bride with his family. And the first question that bride’s Dad asked to my cousin was – “So, how much do you make at XYZ company?” It was a complete cultural shock for me, being in the US for years, where people don’t dare to ask anyone’s personal income, even if they are going to marry their daughter to that guy. To my surprise, my uncle even started asking weird questions to the bride to be – “So, what do you normally cook? What clothes do you like to wear at home?” And I was like, what? Really? Is this really happening? Even though these questions were kind of personal, they uncovered very intricate details about both the parties. And later on I realized the importance of these intrusive questions. Similarly, if you are thinking of hiring someone, then you should not be shy of asking them for their work samples. For example, don’t be shy of asking for coding samples of his/her past work, when you are thinking of hiring a software engineer. These samples can give you very helpful information, such as, if the candidate has the habit of following coding standards, how does he/she organize her code, is he/she organized and disciplined in his/her work, etc.

Do you agree? Do you find any commonalities between arrange marriages and the hiring process? If so, please share it with me here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Improve your hiring techniques by learning from fundamentals of arrange marriages (Part 1)


IndianMarriageMost of my American friends cannot comprehend the idea of arrange marriages. So, when they see any of my Indian friends getting arranged for their weddings, they always say – How can you do that? How can you marry someone who you hardly know? How can you go through that experience? To those questions, I would say, you have also been through that kind of an experience when you got your first job. Isn’t it? Think about it. How is arrange marriage any different from a job interview?

When you are looking for a job as an employee, or when you are looking for a candidate to fill in for a job as an employer, both of you don’t know each other personally. Even then, the expectation is to meet the candidate (or the company) for 2-3 times, and decide your future on the basis of few conversations that you have had over the phone or in-person. Agreed, some people don’t consider a job as important of a decision as their marriage, even though by hiring someone, you are making them to commit half of their awake life to your company.

Since, we have now identified few similarities between arrange marriages and finding your next ideal candidate, let’s see if we can learn something from these arrange marriages that can help us hire and retain the best talent out there. Following are some of my advice.

Background checks: Even in the information age like today, lot of employers refrain from verifying the credentials of their candidates, and they end up hiring fake people with their dishonest profiles like – Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson. Instead of hiring these dishonest people, we should spend some time and resources in checking the background of potential candidates, before we even invite him/her for an in-person interview. In arrange marriages, parents/elders always check the background of the bride/groom’s family, before even scheduling a meeting to meet in-person. They often check the references of the family through the grapevine and through the people who know them. We should also do the same, while hiring someone. As their future employer, we should not only check the references that they provide, but we should also verify their credentials through the common connections that we might have through LinkedIn or other sources.

Find a cultural fit: Parents, who tend to chose life partner for their kids, always check for similar backgrounds in bride/groom’s family. In most arrange marriages, people come from similar backgrounds and they share similar values. Often, they share the same religion and similar economic background. Obviously, while hiring someone, we cannot always guarantee that the person that we are going to hire will share the same values as us, but we can do our due diligence through interviews and some social engineering to make sure that their cultural background is similar to our company’s culture.

Do you agree? Do you find any commonalities between arrange marriages and the hiring process? If so, please share it with me here. Wait for my next blog to find out more…..Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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What would you ask your employees, if you were given a chance to be an Undercover Boss?


UndercoverBossRecently, when I was watching this show – Undercover Boss, I got to think,  what would I have done, if I had an opportunity to be an Undercover Boss  on the show. For those folks, who are not familiar with this show, please  look at this link here. In a nutshell, this show is about how company’s CEOs  and executives work undercover in their organization, and how they find  opportunities of improvements through their experiences while working as  a normal employee. If I were given an opportunity like this, then I would  focus my questions on the following areas…

The whole picture: When you are in the field or working as a line  employee, you want to find out two most important things about your  employees and work culture, if you want to improve any kind of efficiency  in your business. First, try to understand the depth of the knowledge  people have about your organization as a whole. Second, try understand  what kind of major misnomers are floating around the company regarding  company’s perception and internal processes. By asking questions related  to these area, you will get a rough idea on how educated is your workforce  regarding your company’s functions, and what are some of the wrong  assumptions that are made in their day-to-day work life.

The money flow: Not all employees need to understand all the details in  the 10K (annual report) of your company. I don’t expect an IT Engineer to  understand each and every financial detail about the company, but at the  same time they should have some rough idea on how the business  functions at its core. At least in the IT field, most people have never been  taught how their business works, and hence, they fail to see importance of  some critical decisions that we need to take to keep the business running.  Thus, it is very crucial to ask your employees about company’s financials,  and gauge their understanding on company’s core businesses, and how the  company makes money.

Value of their work: As an executive/CEO, you should always make sure  that your employees understand the value of their work. Then it maybe the  IT Engineer, Janitor, or the field engineer; they should understand that they  play a crucial part in your organization’s success. Thus, asking questions  like.. “How is this job related to company’s overall success?” or “How is  your job making a difference in this organization?” would be very helpful in  understanding employees behavior towards their job, and how they  perceive their work in the bigger picture.

What would you do here? I mean…. what would you ask, if you were given this opportunity? I would love to hear your perspective on this. So, keep on posting. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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