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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.

Which organization’s strengths are destined to turn into organization’s blind spots?


Business IssuesI have seen many companies, whose employees are so happy with their current processes and practices that they fail to see any major market changes. Look at Kodak for example; even after being the market leader for imaging solutions, it missed the opportunity to be a part of the digital revolution in image processing. Obviously, no company wants to lag behind, but sometimes we become victim of our own success. Following are some of our organizational strengths that can turn into blind spots very easily.

Business focus: When your company grows in size, you become the victim of your own success. Instead of thinking about the basic fundamentals of the company, which made you successful, you are mostly occupied in projects, delivery dates and customers. While it is not a bad thing to narrow down your focus on the priorities at hand, this narrowed focus may kill your company’s business over time. By focusing your attention repeatedly on certain (or should I say, same) things, you can seduce yourself into believing that these are the only things that matter. This approach can prevent your leadership from noticing new options or opportunities. For example: Sony Diskman, once the largest sold music listening device, was ill prepared for the digital music revolution, and hence, the completely new way of listening to music, iPod, dominated the market.

Efficient processes: Whenever we start something new, we always look for the best alternative available out there. But once we have identified those particular alternatives, we are more likely to stick with it. Thus, it is natural for an employee to stick with an already established process. After all, it frees up their time for doing other tasks. But then, we are ought to develop an organization-wide practice where our employees follow the same processes, not because they are efficient but because they are well known and comfortable to follow. If we get too much used to our existing processes, and stop reexamining the new options, we are ought to blind ourselves with the resistance to change attitude, later on.

Successful relationships: In order to succeed in any organization, your employees must build strong relationships with other employees, customers, suppliers, lenders, investors, etc. But when the business paradigm changes, companies often find that their relationships have turned into shackles by limiting their flexibility. The need to maintain existing relationships with past customers can, sometimes, hinder companies in developing new products or focusing on new markets. This phenomenon doesn’t just affect customer-facing employees, sometimes, managers (or leaders) can also find themselves constrained by their existing relationships with their employees or their leadership.

These are some of the blind spots that your organization will face, no matter how big or small it is. Do you know of any other organizational strength that can turn into your blind spot very easily? If so, please share your ideas with me through your comments. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to increase your employee’s trust in you through your actions?


ManagerBuilding a trust relationship with your employees is a tricky business in itself. Even though you can’t control your employee’s perception of you, you can affect their idea of you by your actions. And hence, in this blog, I will continue my conversation from my last blog about how to build a successful trust relationship with your employees through your consistent actions.

Listen to your employees: No relationship can be build successfully, if you are unwilling to listen. Same logic applies here. As a manager, you should seek to understand your employees, and try to show empathy towards their viewpoints. If you don’t agree with the opinion of your employee, then don’t try to shoot their idea immediately. Let them tell the thought process behind their idea, and you might be surprised with what they can come up with. Let’s say, you still don’t like their idea after hearing the entire story. In that case, you should try to explain your viewpoints to them and explain your thought process to them rather than rejecting their idea directly. With this approach, they will feel more connected with you and they will at least try to understand your perspective rather than just thinking that “my manager doesn’t like my ideas, so he always says NO”. If you can at least get your employees involved in the decision making process and seek their ideas before making the decision, you can build a better trust relationship with them.

Keep your commitments: Let’s say, you have a manager who tells you something (ABC) and does completely different thing (XYZ). Will you be able to trust his/her words again? Same goes for your employees. If you don’t keep your commitments often, then they will have a really hard time trusting you. Thus, in order to improve your trust relationship with your employees, you have to make sure that you do what you say you are going to do. By seeing your consistent behavior, they will develop an idea on what they can expect from you, and hence, they will try to trust your words on the basis of your past actions. Take this for an example, if the final decision about a problem is outside of your direct control, then it is better that you tell your employees that you will “look into it” instead of telling them that you can “fix it”. In this way, they will know what they can expect from you, which is a key component in building any kind of trust relationship.

Admit your mistakes: We are all humans, and hence, we are all prone to make mistakes. But if you make a mistake and don’t admit your mistakes, then it will send a wrong message to your entire team. They will consider this as the new precedence, and they won’t admit their mistakes either, when they make them. If you do something wrong, then it is very important to apologize and admit your mistakes. This behavior will bring you and your team members close together. When you accept your mistake, try to explain your intentions going forward and live up to the new expectations that you have established. Everyone makes mistakes, the difference is what you do when you have made one. If possible, try to share what you have learned as a result of your mistake so your employees don’t make the same mistake again. By sharing your experience, you will not only be improving your relationship with your employees, but you will also be teaching them a lesson that you have learned.

With these pointers, I am ending my two part series blog about – ‘manager-employee trust relationship’. If you have any other ideas through which we can increase our trust relationship with our employees, then please share your ideas with me through your comments here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to build a successful trust relationship with your employees?


234ec-encourage-othersI have seen many managers struggling with building a successful trust relationship with their employees. Building a trust relationship with anyone in itself is not easy, and it is even more complex when you have to build that relationship with your employees to whom you can’t disclose certain confidential information. Thus, most managers take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach. Obviously, neglecting that part of the employee-manager relationship will not help you either. Trust is very critical to the success of any organization, and as a leader you need to be able to trust your employees; and more importantly, your employees need to be able to trust you. Hence, in this blog, I will provide you with few pointers through which you can build a successful trust relationship with your employees.

Be open with your employees: I am not telling you to disclose all the confidential information to your employees, at the first chance that you get. But you should at least keep your employees informed about what’s happening in your organization. You should always try to disclose some general information that you know without releasing any sensitive (or confidential) information. Also, whenever you get an opportunity, you should try to share your values, thoughts and beliefs with your employees, so that they get the opportunity to know you better. If you support and praise your employee’s achievements and try to be positive most of the time by maintaining each other’s self esteem, then you will at least earn their respect by showing this consistent behavior.

Provide regular feedback: Unfortunately, most managers don’t consider feedback-giving process as the avenue to build trust relationship with their employees. For some managers, feedback is just another process through which they have to go through once a month during their one-on-one sessions with their employees. If you change this mindset and recognize the potential of your one-on-one time with your employees, then you can do wonders. Do this…try to develop a habit of talking to your direct reports at least once a day. I know, it will be hard at first, but you will be surprised to note the positive change in your employees within few weeks. By providing them regular feedback (yes I mean it, regular), you will be giving some time to this manager-employee relationship. And sometimes, only the time is needed to build stronger relationships. Don’t you agree?

Trust others: I know, this is easier said than done. But trust is a two way street. Unless you trust your employees, and always assume their positive intent, you won’t be allowing them to build a trust relationship with you. If you are serious about building this relationship with your employees then you need to stand up for your employees, and suspend any judgment that you might have. You should develop a practice of respecting your differences and appreciate each other’s skills. I know, it will take time, but it can definitely be achieved. And once you stand up for your employees, you will see that your employees will start standing up for you.

These are some ideas through which you can improve the trust relationship between you and your employees. If you have any other ideas through which we can improve this trust relationship, then please share your ideas with me through your comments. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to effectively provide negative feedback to your employees? Part 2


ManagementStyleMost managers blame their employees for their poor performance instead of talking directly to them about these issues. Unfortunately, some of these managers try to take the easy way out, and turn a blind eye to their employee’s issues. After all, confronting someone about their behavioral issues is not the prettiest thing in the world. Thus, in this blog, I will continue my conversation from my last blog, and provide you with couple of other ideas that you can use while providing negative feedback to your employees.

Don’t give advice: Even though most managers recognize the importance of giving their feedback to their employees, they completely misunderstand the meaning of feedback itself. Instead of utilizing the feedback time for giving their feedback to their employees, these managers try to give their advice to their employees during these feedback meetings. It is not always appropriate to give advice to other people. If your advice does not work, you will be blamed later for it. Thus, you should rather try to share your opinions and ideas with your employees, and let them come up with an appropriate solution by themselves. Suppose an employee who is having trouble with some task comes to you and asks, “What am I doing wrong?” Instead of giving advice, share your personal experience with your employees. For example, you might describe a similar problem you had, and how you handled it. It is then up to them to decide what to do. This approach will not only make them independent, but it will also improve their knowledge base.

Don’t delay your feedback: If you want to provide an effective feedback to your employees, you need make sure that your feedback is always timely. Well timed feedback is more likely to provide you with the right results than delayed feedback because it allows the person to correct actions or behaviors while they are still fresh. For example, if your employee messes up the accounting system, you might want to discuss the problem with the responsible employee immediately, if possible, or at least within a day or two. Even though you want to provide your feedback to them immediately, try to consider the environmental factors first. For example, if you point out the employee’s mistakes in front of a group of coworkers, it is likely to be resented. Thus, try to provide the sensitive feedback in a private setting, probably in a one-on-one meeting or something.

Don’t be overpowering: No one wants to look bad in front of others, we all want to feel intelligent in front of others. This goes for your employees as well. During your negative feedback communication, your employees will often continue to argue for a plan even when it is obviously not working or in the best interest of the organization, because they want themselves to look good in front of you and others. Thus, during these meetings you should provide an avenue to your employees to save their face. Your employees are more likely to accept your negative feedback if you allow some degree of face saving for them. For example, instead of saying, “Your idea was rejected,” mention that the rejection was due in part to lack of funds or other factors, thereby allowing them to save their face.

With these pointers, I am ending my two-part series blog about – ‘providing negative feedback to your employees’. If you have any other ideas through which we can make this process easier, then please share your ideas with me through your comments here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to effectively provide negative feedback to your employees? Part 1


FeedbackFirst of all, I would like to thank my readers for really liking my last blog series about ‘honest feedbacks’. I really appreciate your feedback, so please keep it coming. Secondly, many of you have asked me how to provide honest, but negative feedback, to your employees, and hence, I am writing this two-part series blog for answering some of your questions.

Refrain from personal attacks: While giving feedback to others, try to direct your feedback towards their behavior rather than towards that particular person. A common mistake lot of managers make is to criticize the person rather than their negative behavior. If you tell your assistant that she is a poor excuse for a secretary, then it is a personal attack rather than a constructive criticism. These kind of feedback can only make your employees more defensive towards you and your feedback. So, try to identify the problematic behavior and focus on what can be done to correct it in the future, instead of launching personal attacks towards your employees. For example: This is what you tell your secretary when she makes an accounting mistake … “Jackie, an accounting mistake like this one can cost way more than our weekly office budget. From now on, please check with me before finalizing any orders costing more than $100″.

Be descriptive: While providing feedback to your employees, don’t be evaluative or judgmental, instead be descriptive. Descriptive feedback is tactfully honest and objective, whereas evaluative feedback seems to be more judgmental and accusatory to the feedback receiver. Here is an example of an evaluative feedback: “Where is your sales report? You know it is due on my desk no later than 9:00 each morning. You’re obviously not reliable anymore.” Here is an example of a descriptive feedback for the same situation: “When you don’t turn your sales reports in on time, I’m unable to complete the departmental report on time. This makes both of us look bad. You’ve been late twice this month. Is there something I can do to help you get those reports in on time?” Like in this example, descriptive words are more likely to result in cooperation.

Keep it short: If you are providing constructive criticism to your employee, don’t have a marathon about it. Try to include only as much information as the person can handle at one time. Suppose during a performance appraisal, you give an employee a list of 20 items that need improvement. Even though you might feel better after fully expressing your feelings, your employee will only remember 2-3 major bullet items from that meeting and forget everything else. How can anyone improve on 20 things at the same time? Think about it, can you do that? What would have happened if your manager gave you similar feedback? Wouldn’t you require more time to analyze this much information at once? Thus, you should restrict yourself while giving negative feedback to your employees. Give only two or three suggestions that your employee can reasonably handle at a time.

These are some ideas through which you can effectively provide negative feedback to your employees. If you have any other ideas through which we can make this process easier, then please share your ideas with me through your comments here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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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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