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Tag Archives: Leadership Failures

Is Barack Hussein Obama the most disconnected President ever? Learn from his mistakes, be a better leader


In Obama’s government, though employees are responsible for performing their duties, no one is accountable for their actions. From IRS to Benghazi, so called phony scandals, no one is brought to justice. It feels like, the first world country has now fallen in to some kind of an inefficient or secretive government. Where are the basics of Obama’s ideology? Where is the transparent government, which he once promised? Though I understand that Government has its own secrets, which keeps its citizens safe; I don’t agree with the Obama’s current narrative of – all talks but no action. I am not a politician, so I am not going to comment on this issue from either a republican or a democrat perspective, but I would rather provide my perspective on the leadership failures of this administration.

Inconsistent operations: This administration definitely misses the mark on consistency. It seems like, they don’t have any predefined rules/regulations to carry out their day-to-day activities. They pick and choose on what to respond, and what not to. It is commendable that Obama’s administration is looking into re-opening one single case of Trayvon Martin after its judgment, but at the same time this administration remains silent, even after a year, when someone asks for justice regarding Benghazi victims. And this kind of irregular behavior is consistent across this administration. Take Obama Care (Affordable Care Act) for an example, the implementation of this law is also faulty. Though people and businesses are considered as an entity in strictly IRS terms, those two entities will be treated differently, when it will come to file the taxes for FY2014. While employers won’t be mandated to pay penalty in the next fiscal year, employees (normal people) are still mandated to abide by this law.

All talks but no action: I haven’t been in the US for long. So, I am not sure how other administration dealt with these kind of a situation. But I can assure you, the way Obama administration is handling the foreign policy, it is going to lead us to a disaster. Take Benghazi incident for an example. When this incident happened, Obama’s government promised to its people (stakeholders) that it will bring all the culprits to justice. Forget about the justice, they were unable to even find out the exact reason behind this attack. Was it an anti-Muslim video or a targeted attack? Obviously, going after terrorist takes a lot of time due to the complexity of the job, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t established certain milestones, and publicize them, when they are achieved. Take Iran for another example. The administration is telling Iran that it needs to stop its Nuclear initiative, otherwise it will have various consequences. But when the time comes to deliver on the promise, this administration doesn’t hold Iran accountable for its action. This is not called leading from behind, this is called a leadership failure. Period.

The blame game: Let’s assume that you own a business, and one of its department is involved in a fraud. Let’s also assume that you don’t know anything about this issue, and suddenly everything breaks in the news with some documented proof. What will you do in that situation? Will you take any action? Obviously. If your company is publicly owned by your shareholders, you have to take some action on that. As a CEO, you might call a meeting with your key personnel to find out more information on this issue, and maybe, work on getting this issue resolved. Right? While you look at the same issue in the Obama’s administration, they look so disconnected that it’s hard to believe. Take IRS targeting issue for an example. Even after this issue out in public for a week or so, Obama didn’t have any clue on what happened. This behavior not only shows that he is an incompetent leader, but it also portrays the inefficiency in the government, where no one knows who is accountable for what. If you are an effective leader, instead of blaming the issue on your own department (or employees), you should take the complete ownership of the problem, and present a public plan to resolve the issue, so that you can gain back the trust of your shareholders.

There are various other areas, where Obama has failed to be a leader, but in this blog I am only sharing some of the major issues from my perspective. If you want to be a better leader, you need to take responsibilities of all the actions in your team (or organization), you can’t pick and choose on what you would take responsibility of, and what you won’t.

Do you see any other leadership failures in the current administration? Are there any lessons, which you want to share with my readers here?

Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Can you win your team’s trust by blaming the upper management?


Blaming managementAs a line-manager, it becomes really tempting to distance yourself from your own superiors. It seems an easy option to win the hearts of your employees by blaming aggressive deadlines, overtime, and new process changes to the upper management’s initiative. Isn’t it? Does this mean that you have discovered a gold mine to develop a trust relationship between you and your team?

It’s not quite that easy. If you want to create bonding with your employees then there are other avenues to do so instead of creating this bonding over being a victim of the upper management together. By blaming all the unfavoring decisions to your upper management, you are eventually damaging the confidence of your team. Some of the side effects may be…..

1. High turnover: Your team will feel that they can’t trust the organization anymore, and hence, they will start looking for their next career move.

2. Team stagnation: Due to the negative perception of the upper management, your team will think that their inputs are not valuable in the organization. Thus, they will stop providing their valuable inputs to you, and hence, they won’t be able to provide any value to the organization.

3. Loss of respect: Even though you started blaming the upper management for all the negative decisions to build the trust between you and your team, you won’t be able to help yourself from losing the respect of your team. Due to your negative publicity of the upper management, your own team members will think that you are weak and powerless in the organization. And hence, their respect for you will decrease over time.

Thus, when you think that the easiest escape from your team’s negativity is to blame the upper management, then think twice. Don’t ever use phrases like…..“I don’t know why we’re doing this”, “no one ever consults with me on these new initiatives”, “I disagree with this upper management’s decision as well” etc.

A true leader should have the courage to represent the upper management and their views. If you disagree with their decisions, then instead of blaming them in front of your team members, confront them, try to understand the reasons behind those decisions. And remember……by blaming your superiors, you are not going to build any relationships, you will only lose respect of your team.

 
 

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Leadership DON’Ts: Learn from leadership mistakes in the Benghazi attack


Attack on Benghazi ConsulateRecently, I have been seeing a lot of news stories about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. This issue is definitely older, but how the White House handled this issue can teach us few things about leadership. In this blog, I am going to view this incident through the leadership glasses, and provide you with few tips on “what not to do”.

Don’t act on partial information: Through different news conferences, e-mails, and the number of congress hearings, it had become clear that the White House spoke too soon about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. If White House was trying to hide this issue, then its a different story; but let’s assume that the conspiracy about White House lying to the public is wrong. Even then, it is clear that White House had changed its talking points multiple times. If they didn’t have the complete information at that time, then they shouldn’t have spoke anything about that issue at all. Sometimes, its ok to give no answer, if you don’t have the correct information. Though there will be an eagerness to get those answers quickly, by not giving those answers on partial information, you (as a leader) will be avoiding lot of confusion in the future (like Obama administration is dealing with currently).

Take the first hand feedback: I am not a proponent of the theory that Hillary Clinton lied to the american public. But it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to figure out that the communication protocols defined for the disastrous situation like this were poorly implemented. Transparency was definitely missing in the equation. Talking points about the event were made by people, who didn’t have any idea on what was going on. Even if those points were made by administrative people, they should have been reviewed by the people on the ground. Let’s take this for an example……as a leader you implement a completely new process in your organization, and never care to see how it is going. Will that be acceptable? If so, how will you measure your success? Since there was no feedback loop attached to this action, of course the results from this new initiative won’t mean anything to you, since you can’t compare it with any baseline. And hence, there won’t be any mechanism through which you can find out the success/failure of this new process.

Find the root cause first: When Hillary Clinton said “What difference does it make?”, I was stunned by her response. Even if I neglect the fact that no one can do anything about the people who have died in that attack, how they died makes a huge difference in this case. Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Remember the famous example of “iPhone 4 antenna problem”? Initially it was thought to be the network issue with ATT, and then they realized that the issue was due to the new metal cover of iPhone 4. And hence, they produced a workaround on the iPhone side, instead of trying to strengthen the ATT network worldwide or changing the carrier through which iPhone was provided exclusively. What would have happened, if they didn’t identify the real issue, and kept blaming on the ATT network? In that case, the issue wouldn’t have resolved, and future customers would have kept seeing the same issue. Similarly, if we don’t find out the root cause of this Benghazi issue, we can’t secure our US consulate in other countries in the future.

Well……there are various other leadership “not to do” lessons that you can learn from this incident, but I would like to stop here for this particular blog. If you think that you have few other examples/points that you would like to share here, then feel free to drop your comments.

Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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Why should you NOT let your employees work from home?


Work from home

Marissa Mayer might be under scrutiny by many of her employees due to her recent decision of ending ‘work from home’ culture in Yahoo, Inc. Though I am not aware of those extreme circumstances under which she needed to take this drastic step, I can say this for sure….’work for home’ culture is not for every organization. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for workplace mobility, when required. But some of the organizations are just not made to support ‘work from home’ culture. Thus, in this blog I will  provide you few reasons for NOT having ‘work from home’ policy in your organization.

Depends on your business needs: Not every organization can afford to have the popular culture of telecommuting. Sometimes the business need, itself, won’t allow you to implement this culture in your company. Let’s say, you own an Apple Store. Are you going to be able to make your “Genius” employees work from home? Though these technicians can resolve people’s technical issues over the network, it is a strategic disadvantage for them to do so. Apple Store is widely known for its best customer support. And hence, the business need requires their employees to have some face time with their customers and develop that strong customer relationship to promote their brand.

It’s not for every company: Some people just can’t communicate well over the messenger, email or phone. There can be various reasons for this situation including lack of training, stagnant workforce, availability of appropriate tools, etc. Nonetheless, if your current workforce and your current company culture can’t support the initiative of working from home, then it might not be for your company. If some of your employees are not self-starters, and if they need someone to hold them accountable, and can’t be motivated themselves at home, then they need to work in the office. OR If you have some of those employees in your team for whom ‘work from home’ is the other name for a ‘vacation’, then this is definitely not for your company.

You lose the human touch: While communicating over a phone or a video conference provides your team the flexibility to join the meeting from anywhere, it comes with the dual edge sword. With the virtual nature of the communication for a ‘work from home’ team, it becomes challenging to schedule a meeting, since your team member have to wait for other people to come back to their IM client so that they can communicate. Also, written communication over e-mail or the verbal communication over the phone can create many inter-personal conflicts due to misunderstanding, which taking long time to resolve them. With written communication being so inefficient and passive, it might not be a good idea to go with the ‘work from home’ culture, if your employees are not ready for it yet.

Can create security concerns: I know, we have the latest technology today with the VPN connection and the secured channel communication. But as the technology advances and becomes complex, it becomes very difficult to address these security concerns remotely. No matter how strong is your office network, if your employees are working from home, your company can be exposed to various security loopholes. If you don’t have adequate IT support to address these security concerns for the people who work at home, then you might want to wait before implementing a ‘work from home’ policy in your company. Internet security is not the only problem. When your employees work from home they are exposed to various other security issues like their laptop getting stolen, having their password getting hacked due to lose WiFi network key, etc. Obviously, these issues will be less frequent if all of your employees work in the office, instead of their less secured home environment.

So, what do you think about my argument? Do you know any other situations in which you should not allow your employees to work from home?

Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to manage your Chinese employees effectively?


Chinese employees working in a manufacturing plantMy first real exposure to China and Chinese employees was in the early 2009, when my company decided to open its research and development center in Beijing, China; and put me in charge of newly developing system automation team in China. Since then, I have worked with Chinese employees extensively, either it’s at my current job or at some of the smaller companies that I have consulted over the years. Though I am still in the process of learning more about the Chinese culture, one thing is clear, the leadership style of the Western Countries is not effective when you work with Chinese employees. Thus, in this blog post, I would provide you with some insight on how to effectively lead your Chinese employees.

Management style: In developed countries like the United States, we provide opportunities to our employees to resolve problems/issues by themselves. While this kind of strategy (delegate and disappear) is very effective in developed countries, it doesn’t work well with Chinese employees. Chinese people are very traditional, they respect authority and are introverts in some cases. So, they will depend on you to take critical decisions of the project that you have assigned to them. In order to work better with them, you might want to …….(1) Stop by their desk or video conference them at least 1-2 times a day, and ask for blocking issues with their projects ……….(2) Have frequent team meetings to go over critical issues …….(3) Make their introductions to all of the stakeholders of the project, so that they can feel comfortable going to them directly instead of coming to you for smaller issues ………(4) Develop personal relationships with them. Strong relationships can help you go a long way.

Obtaining Information: Similar to adjusting your management style, you might need to change the way you communicate. Let’s say, if you are trying to get some information from a Chinese manager, and if this is your first time communicating with him, then you might want to utilize your contacts at similar levels in the organization to get that information. In most of the cases, information may not flow downward through the hierarchy as easily as one might expect, when the culture of the company is less hierarchical. In order to get the correct information on the right time, you might want to cultivate your informal contacts within your Chinese branch. And yeah! Always make sure to rephrase your understanding of the issue/solution, once you get the desired information. This practice will ensure that you are on the same page with your Chinese counterparts. Sometimes, language barrier can create various problems.

Presenting Information: Chinese culture is very status-oriented. Let’s say, you are a manager in the US company, who manages the offshore team of 10-12 Chinese employees. Now, assume that you want to change your current process. I bet you……when you will present your new plan to these employees, you will get very minimal or no feedback. Due to their status-oriented culture, there may be less feedback from the audience during a presentation than one might expect in a more equality-focused culture. And hence, I would recommend you to give them the opportunity to provide their feedback later through an e-mail or an anonymous forum. In most of the cases, they feel very comfortable in providing their feedback to their superior in a private setting as compared to a public setting.

I hope, these tips can help you to become a better manger, when you are working with a Chinese team. What other changes would you make in your management style, while working with Chinese employees?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 

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Did you get promoted to a management position for the first time? Then stop doing what you know. Find out why.


After seven years in software development at a San Francisco based e-commerce company, my friend (let’s call him Mr. X) was promoted to his first manager’s position as an Engineering Manager. Up to that point, his track record had been stellar. His intelligence, focus, and determination had won him recognition and various promotions in his organization.

When his company assigned him to be the engineering manager for one of the company’s hottest new products, he ran into trouble early on. Mr. X’s past successes were due to his extraordinary technical leadership and programming capabilities. Accustomed to programming, he was a control freak and had the tendency to micromanage. His efforts to micromanage the engineering team alienated them. And within few months, Mr. X was back as being a technical leader (sr. programmer) and someone else was leading the team.

Mr. X failed as an engineering manager because he was unable to make the transition from being a strong individual programmer to an engineering manager. He failed to grasp that the strengths which had made him successful during his sr. programmer role could be liabilities in a role that required him to lead an engineering team by trusting their programming skills instead of doing it yourself.

What might Mr. X have done differently? He should have focused on mentally promoting himself into the new position, a fundamental challenge for new leaders. The one thing to remember is…………..you can’t become successful in your new job as a manager by continuing to do what you did in your previous position as an individual contributor.

Since you might have been promoted due to your skills and accomplishments, it is only human to think that your senior management wants you to do what you were good at. Maybe that’s the only reason why you might live in the denial, and believe that you are being productive and efficient, if you continue your old behavior. But instead of continuing your responsibilities as an individual contributor, you need to prepare yourself mentally to move into your new role by letting go of the past and embracing the imperatives of the new situation to give yourself a running start. This can be hard work, but it is essential that you do it.

I hope, this blog comes to you as a reminder to forget what you knew, and try adapting yourself to the new management role that you have inherited. What would you do in this situation, if you were to be promoted to your first ever management job?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

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

 

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Why shouldn’t you let your poor performer slide?


Oftentimes, as a manager we believe that as long as project goals are being met, we can let poor performers slide. Handling poor performers can not only consumes lot of time; but if handled incorrectly, it can create a hostile work environment for your other employees. After all, no manager is looking forward to have a difficult conversation with their employees, especially in a crunch time. But if you keep ignoring these poor performers then it can create a disastrous situation for your team. You might encounter following consequences, if you refuse to deal with your poor performers.

Decline in your team’s productivity: Let’s say, Joe is your go-to guy, and a good performer. Let’s say, Steve is your poor performer in the team. Joe is monitoring Steve’s performance from last 2 months, and he sees that even if Steve’s performance is bad from last 2 months, their manager is not taking any action to correct his behavior. So, now Joe may begin to wonder what the point is of his extra efforts and working overtime. Due to the multiplicity effect of this behavior, you will have a team of 60% poor performers within few months.

High turnover rate: When your poor performers are not working, your good employees are working twice as hard as usual to keep projects on track or to correct the mistakes of the incompetent employee. If your poor performer doesn’t face any consequences from you, your good employees can lead to resentment, unhappiness, and, eventually, leave your team to seek employment elsewhere.

Creation of rumor mills: If your go-to guy (Joe) keeps on seeing that the incompetent employee is getting away with his poor performance for months, then he might think that your poor performer (Steve) might have connections with upper management. It’s human nature. When we see any wrong action from someone without any consequences, we try to think up number of reasons for justifying that behavior. In my example, some of the rumors that can stat are….What does so-and-so have on the manager? Why is everyone so afraid to reprimand so-and-so? Etc.

Though it is very difficult and unpopular to deal with your poor performers, it is your utmost responsibility, as a manager, to address these performance issues as soon as they are noticed. This practice will help you to avoid problems in the future and create a healthy work environment for your team. I hope, this blog came to you as an eye opener, so that you can handle your poor performers in the future. Let me know, if you know of any other issues that your poor performer might create. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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