Tag Archives: Challenges

How to deal with a poor performer in your team?

Have you ever encountered a situation where you had to have a difficult conversation with your employees? Or have you ever put any employee on a Performance Improvement plan? It is very unfortunate that some of the Managers try to avoid those situations. Instead of having appropriate conversation with their employees, they try to avoid those situations. Well, I am not a master of these conversations by any means, but I have few tips through which you can handle this situation well.

Verbal discussion: Let say, you have a poor performer in your team. And despite of your numerous efforts to improve his performance, he didn’t improve. In this situation, I would advise you to have a personal discussion with him, if you haven’t done that already. This one-on-one discussion will give you an opportunity to explain your concern about his performance, while it will give him an opportunity to explain his side of the story. The purpose of this meeting should be to let him know about your concerns, so that he can correct those behaviors.

Document your concerns: After you had your verbal discussion, you should always make sure to document those communications via e-mails or memos. This will help you not only in any legal proceedings that might arise in the future but it will also help you to reiterate your point. Your e-mail should contain summary of your discussion reinforcing your message and the place where this discussion took place. It’s a good idea to let the employee know that they will be receiving a follow up email after the meeting. Explain that it is to ensure each party is on the same page regarding discussion points. This can circumvent the perception that you are using the email for “tracking” purposes only.

Follow-up discussion: You should never have a discussion with someone, and then not follow up with that. I would advise you to schedule a follow-up meeting regarding your verbal discussion as soon as you send the follow-up e-mail. Of course this meeting might not happen within 1-2 months, but it’s always a good practice to keep a checkpoint on these kind of discussions to make sure that you don’t forget it. And yeah! Make sure to have a specific agenda for this meeting. For example: specific projects that he might be working on, his performance improvement within last month, action plan to success, time frame for improvement, etc. Don’t forget to include all the consequences clearly and visibly in this meeting request. This will ensure that your employee is aware of all the consequences before you decide to take any action.

I hope these tips will help to become a better manager and effectively deal with your poor performers. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can effectively deal with your poor performing employee. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 13, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to reexamine your project estimates without any major changes to the project?

ProofReadHave you ever been in a situation, where you had to revisit your estimations and adjust them accordingly? I have. Few months ago, I have created a roadmap for some of my projects. However, I didn’t have the time to perform a detailed effort/cost analysis for those projects.  Thus, I estimated those projects at very high level, and thought of validating those estimates once the actual project starts. Yesterday, I ended up creating a WBS (work break down structure) for one of the projects, and I found that it might go 60% over our allocated budget. That type of increase will either not be funded at all, or the additional funding will probably require another approved project to be cancelled. Thus, I reassessed my estimations. With this blog, I would like to share my experience through which you can reassess your estimations.

Verify your estimates: Before digging up deep and cutting unnecessary costs, you should verify your estimates. I mostly use Microsoft Project or Microsoft Excel for estimating my projects. If you are using these tools, then I would recommend you to recheck all of your formulae. You should also keep an eye on your resource rates and non-labor costs. Make sure, they are reasonably accurate. If you are convinced that your math is accurate, then you might want to apply another estimating technique to see if you can get down the project cost without making any major changes to the project.

Find other alternatives: Once you are done verifying your estimates, you should then find other less expensive alternatives for all of your resources. For example: if you are counting on contract labor resources, you should see whether they could be replaced with company’s employees. Or if you are proposing new software/hardware as a part of your project, you should see whether your company already has something that will work for you. Or find out opportunities of automation, so that you can reduce the overall cost of the project without compromising on functionalities. And yeah! Make sure to take help from other experienced people in the company. Sometimes, they might come up with the solutions that you might not have thought about.

Negotiate scope of the project: Let’s say, you have tried your best to eliminate any unnecessary costs, but your project is still going over budget. What would you do then? Don’t panic. You can negotiate the scope of your project with your stakeholders. You can talk with your stakeholders, and find out activities/tasks that you can eliminate without majorly affecting project’s deliverables. I would recommend you to start this process by looking at the priority list first. If you recommend to eliminate lower priority items from the project, then your stakeholders are more likely to be in favor of your decision. You might want to defer some low priority tasks/activities, before you can get more funding. This will ensure that you can deliver similar level of functionality without compromising on quality.

I hope these tips will help you to adjust your project estimates properly. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can better adjust your estimates in the project. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi


Posted by on January 23, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to demonstrate your value to your new Manager?

Have you ever felt that your Manager doesn’t know your value in the team? Have you ever been in a situation, where you think that you are exceeding your goals, while your performance review says something else? If you ask me, these are very common situations in professional world. I only manage 10-12 people at this time, but it becomes harder to provide personal attention to everyone in the team. So, imagine if you were to manager more than 20 people. It becomes next to impossible to provide personal attention to everyone.

I guess, my colleague (let’s call her Mrs. X) encountered a similar situation. Mrs. X came to me the other day, and told me that her new manager rated her performance really badly. I saw her past performance reviews, and they were all saying that she was above average employee in all of them. So, what happened so suddenly? Well, in her case…..she got a new Manager just few months back. And he might not have knew her potential yet.

If you were Mrs. X, what would you have done? Before I hear your answers, I would like to share my advice that I have given to her.

Meet with your Manager: If I were Mrs. X, I would have met with my Manager immediately and I would have discussed my performance review with him directly. If possible, ask your Manager if your Ex-Manager can be in this meeting too. If he allows your Ex-Manager to be in the meeting, then you can strengthen your case by getting his feedback to make your case even stronger. Make sure to give some background to your Ex-Manager before he comes to this meeting, so that he can come prepared.

Prepare your case before the meeting: Please don’t show up in that meeting without any preparation. This will look really bad on your side. So, please do a favor to yourself and prepare your case.

  • Make a list of all the accomplishments that you have done this year.
  • Highlight some of the biggest achievements that you have accomplished during the year.
  • Make sure to take your older performance reviews from HR and bring it to the meeting.
  • Jot down few points explaining why you think that you are above average employee.

Suggest some possible solutions: You can’t be right all the time. Let’s say, there is a huge conflict between your perception and his perception of your work. In this situation, rather than getting mad at your Boss, you should try to suggest some solutions. This will demonstrate to your Manager that he can trust you on taking initiative and understanding his point of view. You can start your conversation by saying “What I can do is…….we can work together to create some SMART goals for me, and let’s monitor my performance through that. In that way, we will both have shared accountability, and I will have some measurable outcome against which I can measure my performance. Also, we can arrange one-on-one periodically to go over my performance, so that we can track my progress in a better way.”

I hope these tips will help you to prove yourself in front of your new Manager. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can demonstrate your value to your new Manager. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi


Posted by on January 16, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Practical solutions to reduce time barriers between your Virtual Teams

DifferentTimeZonesI have seen various virtual teams that fails to accomplish their mission due to lack of communication. Virtual teams have many challenges like culture differences, language barriers, lack of personal touch, etc. But the ‘time difference’ is one of the most important challenge that a virtual team faces. As a part of my existing job, I manage various individuals from 3 completely different locations. And I have faced similar situations while managing these individuals. Through my experience, I have developed few practical solutions to resolve these challenges, and I would like to share those tips through this blog.

Define rigid working hours: I am neither a micromanager nor I believe in monitoring my people. But sometimes it is very crucial for a team to follow a strict schedule. Asynchronous communication channels like SMS and e-mails will only resolve few issues. But if you are working in a fast paced environment like me (Agile or Scrum approach), then it becomes very difficult to communicate through these asynchronous channels of communications. This approach makes it possible for me to meet with each and every individual at least 2 times a week (through video conference). From past few months, my team in China comes early every 2 days during the week and my team in USA stays late for those 2 days. This arrangement makes it easier to work with these people and it also helped me to increase my team morale.

Establish rules for e-mail communications: In the past, I have been in various situations when I will get an e-mail from my China team at around midnight in my time zone, and I won’t have any opportunity to reply to them until the day after. Thus, if you are working in a virtual team then you should be establishing few rules for your e-mail communications. For example: Tell your remote team in China to notify you regarding any urgent issues/concerns before midnight your time. Obviously, they will not be able to identify all the issues every time before you go to sleep, they might encounter few problems after you go to sleep. In that case, make sure that you always task them with some kind of other work, which is independent from that particular task. This will give them something to work on, before you can actually resolve their problem. This approach had helped me tremendously to increase the productivity of my team.

Make information go public: In most of the cases, people depend on each other for the information. Most of the professionals will take an educated decision in a given situation, if they were provided with the appropriate information. I made most of my information public in such a way that my team can have access to that information all the time. For example: during every meeting, I take meeting notes and prepare a list of action items. I started putting that information to our SharePoint site. This helped my team to have a baseline information and having the right information in their possession. This approach has reduced long chain of e-mails to get the same information that they would have got otherwise.

I hope, these tips will help you to reduce various time and communication related challenges with your virtual teams. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions for improving efficiency of your virtual teams. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Simple Tips to Effectively Manage Customer Expectations in a Project

Unfortunately, I have been a part of numerous projects, where customers change their expectations in the middle of the project. I am sure that you must have been a part of similar situation during your career. I might not have a perfect solution for this problem. But in this blog, I will provide you with 3 simple tips that will help you minimize any change in your project due to changes in customer expectations.

Identify what your customers don’t need:

In my experience, I have always found a “NOT TO DO” list very helpful. The list of things you will not deliver sets boundaries for your project, and it provides a comprehensive basis for scoping discussions with your users and customers. To define a “NOT TO DO” list, you can ask various questions to your customers, such as: What is of the least value to you? What if we don’t deliver this component? What will be an acceptable project? Trust me, this approach will go a long way in defining the actual scope of your project.

Communicate ONLY realistic expectations:

During my career, I have been a part of numerous projects where expectations were unrealistic. Manager/Client will over promise to their customers/stakeholders to gain their business/trust, and they fail to realize that they will lose their credibility when they can’t stand up to their expectations. Thus, I would suggest you to carefully define the scope of your project. If you suspect any infeasible components in your project, then investigate those issues before promising anything to your customers. If your investigation shows that something expected by your customers is probably impossible, then communicate your findings with them. In this way, you will earn their trust and gain some credibility by involving them into decision making. After all, it is always better for projects to under promise and over deliver than to do the reverse.

Revisit requirements often:

Those days are gone, when we used to have rigid requirements for our projects, which hardly ever changed. Today’s Project Management is a whole new game. Though our project might not change, the external environment will change, which will in turn change the requirements of the project. Thus, I would recommend you to implement a continuous feedback loop in your project management lifecycle, and revisit your requirements often. You can use various mechanisms to do this, such as: ongoing project discussions with your customers; demonstration of prototypes, pilots, mock-ups, and intermediate deliverables; feedback from testing; and other periodic customer interaction.

I hope, these tips will help you to manage changes in your project due to change in customer expectations. Let me know, if you have any other suggestions regarding the same. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Manager’s triplets for today (Part 2)

ManagerWe live in the 21st Century, businesses are becoming more and more complex with increasing government involvement, outsourcing, innovations, etc. I believe that  we are on the verge of big paradigm shift in – how we do business. In this article, I will provide few suggestions for tomorrow’s manager to cope up with this change, as a follow-up of my last blog.

Be flexible: In recent years, the dynamics in business world have changed. Thus, management techniques should become more flexible, more in tune with the needs of the business, employees, and the environment. Managers should work to be more adaptive to new ideas, new technology and brand new processes. If managers become more flexible then they can create a win-win situation for their businesses or their employees. One of the good example to be flexible would be: Re-evaluate your mission, strategy and goals more frequently than before, in order to adjust to the uncertain and changing environment.

Be humble and open minded: Today’s managers should not assume that they know the answer to everything, because more often they won’t. Things are changing so rapidly that your yesterday’s knowledge might not be valuable in today’s situations. Thus, as a manager, you need to be willing to hear hard truths from your employees, your customers, your suppliers and anyone else closer to a changing marketplace than you are.

Be up-to-date with information: The world is changing faster than ever. Today’s technology might be obsolete in 2 years time. Thus, today’s managers need to be up-to-date with the information. They not only need to know what’s going on with their customers and competitors but they need to be informed about recent innovation in their field. For example: A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, who required his top executives to go out into the field and talk to the ordinary women who use P&G products.

I hope my article was helpful, and I am eager to hear your feedback. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 8, 2010 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management


Tags: , , ,

Is Management more important than Leadership?


First of all, I would like to thank you for reading my blogs. Lot of people have e-mailed me regarding my blogs. Ironically, most of them asked me the same question – “Is your blog about Leadership OR Management”? And I tell people – “My blog is about Leadership AND Management”. But people don’t seem to understand that.

I guess, it became fashionable now days to separate “leaders” from “managers”. Some people may define Leaders as – “those who do the right things” and Managers as – “those who do things right”. I used to define Management and Leadership in the same way, before I realized that I might be missing the big picture. Most of the Leaders don’t define management as a part of Leadership anymore. And that’s where they are going in the wrong direction. With this mentality of differentiation between Leadership and Management, many leaders are detaching themselves from the messy process of managing. Thus, most of the times they don’t know what’s going on.


The truth is, many of the strategies in today’s world are built in isolation at the “top”. If this wouldn’t be the reason then we wouldn’t have seen major financial and automobile companies failing. Today, most of the Managers are told to meet their targets, or they will let go. This approach shapes-up Manager’s thinking. Instead of taking risks to create new opportunities, they become busy in meeting their targets. Besides, with so many of their colleagues gone in downsizing, they feel like, they have less and less time to think. This approach induces a big gap between Management and Leadership. Instead of thinking about the long-term vision (right thing), Managers become busy in looking good for the next quarter and “doing things right”.

Leadership and Management

Leaders/Managers of today don’t understand the fact that – Leadership and Management, both are interlocking competencies. One can’t exist without the other. I see leadership within the positional powers of managership. I understand that Managers are focused on serving the short term bottom-line numbers, to serve their own survival; while Leaders are suppose to live by the values in serving the larger and long term interest of stakeholders. But if Leaders start to manage within their organization, instead of impressing outsiders, then the organization can be efficient and successful. As far as my question is concerned – “Is Management more important than Leadership?”, I think that they both are really important. And if we can somehow create a tight bond between Leadership and Management then we can avoid companies from failing.

I hope my blog helped you in understanding yet another perspective of Management. If you have any other opinions then feel free to share with me on my blog.

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi


Posted by on August 17, 2010 in Leadership, Management


Tags: , , , , ,

How to Reinvent Large Organizations

ReinventMost of you may be thinking that smaller organizations and start-ups can change them easily, and their smart and smarter strategic moves don’t apply to your older, established business. That assumption is completely wrong. I agree that established businesses take time to change. But if done right, they can leverage their knowledge and experiences, and prove that smart strategy knows no age limit.

It may seem obvious to solve problems by applying knowledge extracted from elsewhere, but doing so takes discipline. It is not uncommon for us to forget our past experiences, even though we know that history has a way of repeating itself. But our tendency to compartmentalize issues leads us to overlook lessons learned in one context even when the problem at hand is remarkably similar. Fortunately, some of the major organizations learn from their past experiences and apply them to present challenges.

I am not an expert on organizational change, but from my experiences and observations, here are my few recommendations:

  • The leader should develop a clear vision for his/her company. And he/she needs to incorporate feedback from his/her peers in this vision building process. This will give his/her 360 degree view on all the historical experiences.
  • The leader should believe in his/her vision. This sounds very simple, but it is really hard to put into practice. For example: if a salesman doesn’t believe in his product, then how will he convince customers to buy that product?
  • The leader, who is making change in the company’s strategy, must know which assets can be leveraged and which need protecting. Knowing that Apple’s primary strength was its innovation, it needed to come up with new ground breaking technology to remain competitive. And they came with something we call as – iPod.
  • Reinvention of the Organization won’t be simple, but the process can be simplified if you know where you are, where you want to be, and how to get there.

We live in a time of innovation and expansion, a world of smart and smarter strategic options. And there’s no reason why you and your organization cannot be among them.

I hope my article was helpful and I am eager to hear your feedback. Thanks. Bhavin Gandhi.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 10, 2010 in Leadership, Management


Tags: , , ,

Businesses in the 21st Century – “Change or Die”

Organizations need to be different in the 21st century, otherwise they won’t survive. Instead of traditional rules, routines and structures; organizations need to have capabilities to change quickly, pool of talented employees, good relationships with stakeholders, and strategic unity regarding their future goals. Seeing what other organizations don’t, will give a competitive edge to your organization. By sharpening organization’s vision, one can achieve phenomenal growth rates blown past their competitors.

Let me give you an example. In 2007, I used to be an I.T. consult for a local business in the Boston area. They wanted to design one informational page for their website. Being a small business like them, I recommended that they should include tools from social media on their website to improve their sales through new tools. But they didn’t agree with my suggestions and ended up having only an informational website. Their competition used Facebook and Twitter to publicize their business and got the major part of the market share. Unfortunately, the company had to go out of business during tough economic times of 2008. Today those who fail to adapt to new business attitude, face extinction in a much shorter time frame than ever before. Just a few short years ago, who would have named Brazil, China, India, and Russia as among the brightest stars in today’s economic world? Yet in recent years, the so – called advanced economies have struggled to keep up with the astonishing rise of these economic powerhouses.

Certainly, there is no shortage of powerful new business practices in today’s hyper competitive business world. I have learned a few things from my experiences: whatever works right now is not always the right thing to do. Moreover, I am convinced that the very best management ideas come not from the old style managers whose track records and egos make them resistant to change, but from the people like me, who do the real work inside companies, people who are challenged on a daily basis and who not only survive but thrive in today’s complex, volatile, and demanding global marketplace. Thus, today’s leaders need to be visionaries and should have strong will to change. If they think – “what they are doing works; therefore, what they are doing is right” and concentrates heavily on current processes instead of changing them to more efficient ways, then your organizations will fail in this fastest changing world.

I hope my article was helpful and I am eager to hear your feedback. Thanks. Bhavin Gandhi.


Tags: , , ,

Managing Major Failures in Your Business

ManagingFailuresThose days are gone when businesses were small and local. In today’s world, businesses are becoming more and more complex. And brands are becoming bigger than ever. So, what happens when you encounter a failure in your business? What would you have done as a CEO of Toyota, during the tough times in 2010? What would you do as a spokesperson of BP, when you realize that there is a major leak in your new plant? I might not have an ideal answer for what you can do during situations like those, but from my personal experiences and observations, I have few suggestions to deal with situations like those.

First thing that you want to do in these kind of situations is to be accountable for your failures. Everyone remembers the gulf oil spill by BP. In today’s business world, accepting the failure isn’t the sole decision of the CEO. By accepting the failure like this big, they might be ruining their brand image. Whatever may be the case, I recommend you to take responsibilities of your actions. Remember the famous case of Tylenol? It was company’s quick acceptance of the problem, which saved the image of Johnson and Johnson.

In any major failures, you need to be transparent with your stakeholders, no matter who they are. A good example of this is – Toyota’s gas peddle fiasco. On July 29 of 2010, Toyota recalled approximately 400,000 cars for their problems in the gas peddle. Before this incident, Toyota was perceived to be the safest automobile maker in the world. Guess what Toyota did? They utilized lot of 21st century’s media tools like Facebook, Twitter, etc. to reach to their customers and admit their mistakes as a part of their immediate response. They also had a lot of TV and radio commercials within a month to communicate with their customers about what they are doing regarding this issue. This effort from Toyota helped them to keep their “brand value” intact by communicating their efforts to their customers.

I think that businesses might be becoming complex and failures might be becoming very difficult to handle, but if we can accept our failures and act on them quickly then we can minimize the impact of those failures.

I hope my article was helpful and I am eager to hear your feedback. Thanks. Bhavin Gandhi.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Leadership, Management


Tags: , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: