G.O.F.A.R.A.H.E.A.D – Decoding What Makes a Great Manager

The Manager – Feared Species or Trusted Guide?

A couple of years back when I had started blogging, I had written an article about what can transform a manager into a great manager. Today, I am extrapolating on the same subject because I know that management is not easy. No matter how good you are as a manager, you will find that there are some people in your team who refrain from opening up ‘for fear of retaliation.’ This article delves a little more into what you, as a manager, should consider when you are assigned a team to manage.

Disclaimer: I write this article based on my personal experience as a manager and do not claim to be a management guru.

Deconstructing the Role of a Manager

Many first-time managers take up the role with some pre-conceived notions about management, such as:

  • “Becoming a manager means that I have absolute control over my team members and their careers.”
  • “I will dictate how work is done in my team and I don’t have to listen to what my team has to say.”
  • “I can relax and work less after I become a manager.”
  • “The rules that apply to my team members do not apply to me because I am now a manager.”
  • “My team members should not question my authority because I am their manager.”

And many more…

All the above statements are incorrect.

Great managers should be:

  • Facilitators – You should consider yourself as somebody who is going to support your team and help them get their work done.
  • Non-political – As a manager, you should never play politics within your team, which means that you cannot create factions within your team.
  • Empathetic – A manager who can empathize is more successful because you have put yourself in your team members’ shoes and have a fair idea of what they are going through.
  • Never subjective – A manager should never allow personal feelings about a team member affect the professional interactions or assessment. A manager cannot have favorites but can identify those team members who have the potential to contribute and grow.
  • Decision-enablers – You should provide opportunities for your team members to take decisions or at least contribute to decisions that affect the entire team, department, BU, or organization.
  • Mentors – Mentoring is a very important responsibility and as a manager, you have to groom your next level to take over from you.
  • Leaders – As a manager, you have to lead by example. A leader is somebody who can motivate their teams to do better and aim higher.

Month One as Manager – Dos and Don’ts

If you are a new employee, you will need some time to settle down to get your work environment setup, attend induction programs, as well as meet your team members. If you are an employee who has just been promoted as a manager or are taking over an existing team as manager, you will probably have to undergo some management orientation programs and also get to know your team from the previous manager’s inputs. The following guidelines should help you get started during your first month as a manager.

Dos

  •  Set expectations – Present your expectations as a manager in terms of punctuality, work ethics, meeting etiquettes, etc. Ask your team to send their expectations from you as a manager.
  • Open communication channels – Have an open-door policy and let your team know that you are available for any kind of discussions, be it work-related concerns or career aspirations.
  • Schedule 1-on-1s – Set up 1-on-1 meetings with all your team members over the course of your first month. Understand what they are working on and if they face any obstacles in getting their work done.
  • Understand team dynamics – Even if the team is new, you will see some groups forming within your team. The first secret to becoming a great people manager is to observe your team members and understand the team dynamics.
  • Arrange a team outing – Take your team for an outing to break the ice and the barriers of communication. The team also get a chance to know you outside the office environment.
  • Learn from the team – Be open to learning from the team. If it is an existing team, they will surely have more knowledge about the processes as compared to you.

 Don’ts

  • Create sweeping changes to the existing functioning of the team, like changing their seating preferences or implementing new work timing policies.
  • Use harsh words or be rude (this rule applies throughout your tenure as a manager), because this creates a lasting detrimental effect on the relationship you can build with your team.
  • Try to force your team members to tattle on each other. It will create the wrong impression about you and break any chances of building trust.

The Discerning Manager

Your team will comprise people of varying levels of experience, different attitudes, and a range of skillsets. A great manager should know how to leverage all these differences to build a high-performing team. It takes time to gauge and understand each person’s strengths, interests, and areas of improvement. But the time you invest in understanding your team members will help you reap the benefits in the long term. Also, every team member does not require the same amount of attention or support. You need to identify your level of involvement in your team member’s work based on your observations. The following guidelines should get you started in this direction:

  • Observe and identify the following talent, if available, in your team:
    • attention to detail
    • work ownership
    • parallel thinking/innovative
    • interpersonal skills
    • knowledge sharing
    • team player
    • communication/listening skills
    • technical aptitude
    • adaptability to change
    • enterprising
  • Identify the areas of improvement for each of your team members.
  • Depending on the talent or lack of it, work with each team member to create a plan for leveraging their strengths and provide training in those areas that they are lacking.
  • Some team members need more support from you than others and need to be managed accordingly. Do not apply the same management style across the board. That is detrimental to a manager being successful.

Challenges for the 21st Century Manager

  • Social media – Today, with the advent of social media, smartphones, and digital technology, it has become difficult to ensure that your team is productive and efficient at work. While some organizations limit the access to social media, personal email accounts, and the usage of smartphones in office premises, it has become a challenge for managers to monitor and track their employees regularly. The solution to this problem is to stop trying to prevent how much time they have spent on social media or other distractions. Instead, track their work and check if they are sending out their deliverables on time and with high quality.
  • Remote employees – The other challenge that today’s manager faces is dealing with remote employees or an employee that works from home (if your organization has such a policy). With such employees, you need more frequent 1-on-1s and regular tracking. Again, the only way to track a remote employee is to track the amount of work they churn out and see if there are any dips in productivity or efficiency.
  • Millennial – Managing Gen Y or the millennial is one more challenge that today’s managers have to deal with. They are connected to social media and digital technology. They are well-educated or at least more aware of what is happening around the world, and they tend to question anything that does not make sense or appeal to them. They are also more accepting of differences, whether it is the thought process or way of living or any other cultural or demographic differences. The most effective way of working with Gen Y is to be as transparent as possible in your communication as well as your work style.
  • Work force reduction – Another challenge that most managers face today is the possibility of frequent work force reductions. When such an event occurs, the entire team morale is shaken up and you will find your team members jittery about their job stability. The best way to handle such situations is to ensure that you are transparent about the reasons why somebody lost their job and also to address any concerns or fears that your team members may have. They need to be assured that there are no personal feelings involved when somebody is terminated.

Empathy – Your Most Powerful Tool

If you can empathize, you have crossed an enormous barrier that most managers face. It is not easy, but it is worth the effort. To be able to empathize, you need to know and understand your team members. Your team members will not open up to you unless they trust you and believe that you always have their best interests in your mind. So the first step to being empathetic is to gain your team’s trust. One way to gain your team’s trust is to open up about your vulnerabilities or fears. When they see you more as a fellow human being and less as a manager, the path of trust starts getting paved. After trust is established, learn more about your team members’ lives so that when they approach you with a problem, you can provide an informed solution or an informed decision.

G.O.F.A.R.A.H.E.A.D – Ten Commandments to Becoming a Great Manager

Be Genuine – you have to care about the growth of your team members, and not as part of some goal-setting activity.

Be Objective – you always have to play fair and be objective. Everyone has to be treated equally. That does not imply that you give the same professional responsibilities to everybody – that has to be decided based on your team member’s capabilities.

Be Fun – nothing endears a team to their manager more than somebody who can let down his or her hair at times when the occasion calls for it.

Be Approachable – whether you have a solution to your team member’s problem or not, your team member should feel free to come up to you and discuss their issues.

Be Receptive – you need to be open to negative feedback and also discuss corrective actions if any.

Be Assertive – when a team member is going down the wrong path, you need to immediately take corrective action and guide them.

Be Humble – when your team sees you as another human being, who is just their bridge to upper management and who protects them in adverse situations, the usual barriers start to dissolve.

Be the Example – you cannot expect your team members to follow certain rules if you do not follow them yourselves. You have to set the example and lead the path.

Be Appreciative – whenever your team member does well, be prompt in appreciating. If we forget, they don’t forget.

Be Discerning – not every team member needs to be monitored or managed the same way. Don’t use the same yardstick for all team members.

In conclusion, I hope this article has proven helpful to those who are struggling as a manager or are soon going to become one. These guidelines should help you along and channel your energies in the right direction to become a great manager and more importantly, remain one.

G.O.F.A.R.A.H.E.A.D – Decoding What Makes a Great Manager

The Manager – Feared Species or Trusted Guide?

A couple of years back when I had started blogging, I had written an article about what can transform a manager into a great manager. Today, I am extrapolating on the same subject because I know that management is not easy. No matter how good you are as a manager, you will find that there are some people in your team who refrain from opening up ‘for fear of retaliation.’ This article delves a little more into what you, as a manager, should consider when you are assigned a team to manage.

Disclaimer: I write this article based on my personal experience as a manager and do not claim to be a management guru.

Deconstructing the Role of a Manager

Many first-time managers take up the role with some pre-conceived notions about management, such as:

  • “Becoming a manager means that I have absolute control over my team members and their careers.”
  • “I will dictate how work is done in my team and I don’t have to listen to what my team has to say.”
  • “I can relax and work less after I become a manager.”
  • “The rules that apply to my team members do not apply to me because I am now a manager.”
  • “My team members should not question my authority because I am their manager.”

And many more…

All the above statements are incorrect.

Great managers should be:

  • Facilitators – You should consider yourself as somebody who is going to support your team and help them get their work done.
  • Non-political – As a manager, you should never play politics within your team, which means that you cannot create factions within your team.
  • Empathetic – A manager who can empathize is more successful because you have put yourself in your team members’ shoes and have a fair idea of what they are going through.
  • Never subjective – A manager should never allow personal feelings about a team member affect the professional interactions or assessment. A manager cannot have favorites but can identify those team members who have the potential to contribute and grow.
  • Decision-enablers – You should provide opportunities for your team members to take decisions or at least contribute to decisions that affect the entire team, department, BU, or organization.
  • Mentors – Mentoring is a very important responsibility and as a manager, you have to groom your next level to take over from you.
  • Leaders – As a manager, you have to lead by example. A leader is somebody who can motivate their teams to do better and aim higher.

Month One as Manager – Dos and Don’ts

If you are a new employee, you will need some time to settle down to get your work environment setup, attend induction programs, as well as meet your team members. If you are an employee who has just been promoted as a manager or are taking over an existing team as manager, you will probably have to undergo some management orientation programs and also get to know your team from the previous manager’s inputs. The following guidelines should help you get started during your first month as a manager.

Dos

  •  Set expectations – Present your expectations as a manager in terms of punctuality, work ethics, meeting etiquettes, etc. Ask your team to send their expectations from you as a manager.
  • Open communication channels – Have an open-door policy and let your team know that you are available for any kind of discussions, be it work-related concerns or career aspirations.
  • Schedule 1-on-1s – Set up 1-on-1 meetings with all your team members over the course of your first month. Understand what they are working on and if they face any obstacles in getting their work done.
  • Understand team dynamics – Even if the team is new, you will see some groups forming within your team. The first secret to becoming a great people manager is to observe your team members and understand the team dynamics.
  • Arrange a team outing – Take your team for an outing to break the ice and the barriers of communication. The team also get a chance to know you outside the office environment.
  • Learn from the team – Be open to learning from the team. If it is an existing team, they will surely have more knowledge about the processes as compared to you.

 Don’ts

  • Create sweeping changes to the existing functioning of the team, like changing their seating preferences or implementing new work timing policies.
  • Use harsh words or be rude (this rule applies throughout your tenure as a manager), because this creates a lasting detrimental effect on the relationship you can build with your team.
  • Try to force your team members to tattle on each other. It will create the wrong impression about you and break any chances of building trust.

The Discerning Manager

Your team will comprise people of varying levels of experience, different attitudes, and a range of skillsets. A great manager should know how to leverage all these differences to build a high-performing team. It takes time to gauge and understand each person’s strengths, interests, and areas of improvement. But the time you invest in understanding your team members will help you reap the benefits in the long term. Also, every team member does not require the same amount of attention or support. You need to identify your level of involvement in your team member’s work based on your observations. The following guidelines should get you started in this direction:

  • Observe and identify the following talent, if available, in your team:
    • attention to detail
    • work ownership
    • parallel thinking/innovative
    • interpersonal skills
    • knowledge sharing
    • team player
    • communication/listening skills
    • technical aptitude
    • adaptability to change
    • enterprising
  • Identify the areas of improvement for each of your team members.
  • Depending on the talent or lack of it, work with each team member to create a plan for leveraging their strengths and provide training in those areas that they are lacking.
  • Some team members need more support from you than others and need to be managed accordingly. Do not apply the same management style across the board. That is detrimental to a manager being successful.

Challenges for the 21st Century Manager

  • Social media – Today, with the advent of social media, smartphones, and digital technology, it has become difficult to ensure that your team is productive and efficient at work. While some organizations limit the access to social media, personal email accounts, and the usage of smartphones in office premises, it has become a challenge for managers to monitor and track their employees regularly. The solution to this problem is to stop trying to prevent how much time they have spent on social media or other distractions. Instead, track their work and check if they are sending out their deliverables on time and with high quality.
  • Remote employees – The other challenge that today’s manager faces is dealing with remote employees or an employee that works from home (if your organization has such a policy). With such employees, you need more frequent 1-on-1s and regular tracking. Again, the only way to track a remote employee is to track the amount of work they churn out and see if there are any dips in productivity or efficiency.
  • Millennial – Managing Gen Y or the millennial is one more challenge that today’s managers have to deal with. They are connected to social media and digital technology. They are well-educated or at least more aware of what is happening around the world, and they tend to question anything that does not make sense or appeal to them. They are also more accepting of differences, whether it is the thought process or way of living or any other cultural or demographic differences. The most effective way of working with Gen Y is to be as transparent as possible in your communication as well as your work style.
  • Work force reduction – Another challenge that most managers face today is the possibility of frequent work force reductions. When such an event occurs, the entire team morale is shaken up and you will find your team members jittery about their job stability. The best way to handle such situations is to ensure that you are transparent about the reasons why somebody lost their job and also to address any concerns or fears that your team members may have. They need to be assured that there are no personal feelings involved when somebody is terminated.

Empathy – Your Most Powerful Tool

If you can empathize, you have crossed an enormous barrier that most managers face. It is not easy, but it is worth the effort. To be able to empathize, you need to know and understand your team members. Your team members will not open up to you unless they trust you and believe that you always have their best interests in your mind. So the first step to being empathetic is to gain your team’s trust. One way to gain your team’s trust is to open up about your vulnerabilities or fears. When they see you more as a fellow human being and less as a manager, the path of trust starts getting paved. After trust is established, learn more about your team members’ lives so that when they approach you with a problem, you can provide an informed solution or an informed decision.

G.O.F.A.R.A.H.E.A.D – Ten Commandments to Becoming a Great Manager

Be Genuine – you have to care about the growth of your team members, and not as part of some goal-setting activity.

Be Objective – you always have to play fair and be objective. Everyone has to be treated equally. That does not imply that you give the same professional responsibilities to everybody – that has to be decided based on your team member’s capabilities.

Be Fun – nothing endears a team to their manager more than somebody who can let down his or her hair at times when the occasion calls for it.

Be Approachable – whether you have a solution to your team member’s problem or not, your team member should feel free to come up to you and discuss their issues.

Be Receptive – you need to be open to negative feedback and also discuss corrective actions if any.

Be Assertive – when a team member is going down the wrong path, you need to immediately take corrective action and guide them.

Be Humble – when your team sees you as another human being, who is just their bridge to upper management and who protects them in adverse situations, the usual barriers start to dissolve.

Be the Example – you cannot expect your team members to follow certain rules if you do not follow them yourselves. You have to set the example and lead the path.

Be Appreciative – whenever your team member does well, be prompt in appreciating. If we forget, they don’t forget.

Be Discerning – not every team member needs to be monitored or managed the same way. Don’t use the same yardstick for all team members.

In conclusion, I hope this article has proven helpful to those who are struggling as a manager or are soon going to become one. These guidelines should help you along and channel your energies in the right direction to become a great manager and more importantly, remain one.

Acing that interview

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I have attended countless interviews and I have also conducted countless interviews. Sadly enough, many people do not follow the basic etiquette when they come to the interview, and these mistakes cost them an opportunity to get a job.

Through this article, I hope to give some helpful tips to those individuals who are unsure about handling interviews or who have not been able to land their dream job yet.

Preparation Tips

These tips should help you prepare ahead of your interview:

  • Learn about the company – Before you attend any interview, you should do a thorough research on the company for which you are attending the interview. You don’t want to appear ignorant about the kind of business the company does.
  • Understand the job opening – You should get a basic understanding of the role for which you are being interviewed. You need not know all the details, but you do need to know if your experience is suitable for the opening and whether your skills would prove useful.
  • Update your resume – Depending on the job opening, you may want to highlight those skill sets that are required to be successful for the role for which you are being interviewed. An interviewer usually scans resumes, and if you place the most relevant information at the beginning, it will immediately make the interviewer more interested in you. Also, ensure that your resume does not contain any typos, spelling errors, or grammatical errors (since I come from the technical writing field, whenever I see poor language editing in a candidate’s resume, I immediately place the resume in the reject pile). Your resume should be neatly typed, arranged chronologically with your most recent experience at the beginning, and should not contain any errors. And, you should NEVER falsify any information in your resume. Why? Because, in case you are given an offer and you decide to accept, the company will most probably conduct a background check on you and if anything does not match with your resume, the offer stands nullified. And you are also blacklisted by the HR team. Forever.
  • Refresh your memory – If you have been out of touch with certain technical concepts or tools, go ahead and refresh your knowledge so that you can answer the questions confidently.

Basic Etiquette on Interview Day

  • Be on time – Unfortunately, although this seems to be a very basic etiquette, many interview candidates fail to follow it. Believe me, as an interviewer, it makes me very irritated when an interview candidate does not show respect for other people’s time.
  • Dress smart – Wear neatly-pressed clothes. Do not wear casual attire (jeans, t-shirt, shorts, sneakers, floaters, etc). Make sure you take a shower and you comb your hair. Unless you are the next Einstein and you already have made a name for yourself (in which case you shouldn’t be reading this article!), an interviewer would get the wrong impression about you.
  • Bring your resume copy – I remember one instance when a candidate came in for a walk-in interview without a copy of her resume. When questioned, she said that she was environment-conscious and did not want to increase the carbon footprint (noble thoughts, but not a great excuse!). Well, all I can say is that her footprint did not reach the interview room! So, make sure you bring a copy so that the interviewer can use it as reference during the interview.

Handling Questions during the Interview

  • Gauge your interviewer – Some interviewers do not smile and seem very distant. Some interviewers are very stern and at times, rude. And some are very friendly and make you feel instantly comfortable. Although you do not need to hide the person you are, ensure that you do not make your interviewer uncomfortable by being either too obnoxious or too quiet. Strike the right balance in your attitude and your responses. A smile may work wonders for you during the interview, but don’t keep on smiling all the time. Remain true to yourself.
  • Take the center seat – Whether you are being interviewed by one person or a panel, make sure that you take the center seat that allows you to face your interviewer(s) face-to-face.
  • Do not pretend – If you do not know the answer to a question, do not reply with some mumbo jumbo. Just say that you do not know the answer. And for good measure, you can say that you can find out the answer and let them know later.
  • Listen carefully – Listen to the questions carefully before replying. Do not listen to half the question, and then answer based on assumptions about the full question. You may end up making a big fool of yourself.
  • Answer to the point – Do not reply with a short story. Answer to the point. You will quickly lose the interviewer’s attention if you launch into a 1000-word reply for a simple question.
  • Do not interrupt – Do not interrupt the interviewer when he or she is talking. That’s simply bad manners. Wait for the interviewer to finish before replying.
  • Be expressive – Use hand movements to emphasize a point you are making. Maintain eye contact with your interviewer. Use appropriate voice intonations to be more expressive about your answers. Nothing throws off interviewers more than a monotonous, robot-like candidate.

Tips on Answering Some Common Questions

  • What are your strengths? Please don’t give answers like “I work hard,” “I am sincere,” “I am passionate about working,” or “I am intelligent.” Frankly speaking, as an interviewer, I would expect you to be all of the above or there is no point in hiring you if you don’t have even one of these qualities. And this is not a strength, this is a necessity. So, how should you answer such a question? You can talk about your in-depth understanding of a certain technology or process. You can talk about your ability to handle difficult customers or people with ease. You can talk about how you try to think differently to arrive at a better solution. Again, do not say anything that is not about you or your abilities. Be truthful.
  • What are your weaknesses? We all have areas where we are weak or where we need to improve. If you want that job, please don’t go into all your negative traits. Talk about those traits that may hamper your performance in the role for which you are being considered. Also add what corrective actions you have taken to overcome these weaknesses. For example, let’s say you are being interviewed for a sales executive role, and you are basically an introvert by nature. If you are asked this question, your response could be something on the lines of “I am an introvert by nature, but I made myself a target of meeting one new person every week to overcome this weakness, so that I can be successful at my work.”
  • Where do you see yourself in 3/5 years? Be realistic. Don’t say stuff like “I want to be the President of my country” or “I want to be the catalyst for world peace.” Don’t get me wrong – you may very well be capable of doing all these things, but from an interviewer’s perspective, your reply needs to be of relevance to the position your are applying for in the company. So, talk about your aspirations for growth within the company’s hierarchy.

Wrapping up the Interview

Usually at the end of the interview, the interviewer asks you whether you have any questions. So, here are some tips on what questions you could ask and what questions you should not ask:

Good questions:

  • Can you elaborate a little more about my role in the team? Ask this question only if the interviewer has not already explained what role you are being considered for.
  • Is there a platform within the company that encourages and promotes innovative thinking? This is a very good question to ask, but be prepared for a reverse question from the interviewer about examples of your innovative thinking.
  • Do you encourage training and skills enhancements within the organization? This is also a very good question because it implies that you are open to learning new skills and broaden your exposure.
  • Would I get opportunities to work on different technologies or the latest trends in the industry? Another great question to ask because it shows your willingness to explore new avenues.

Avoidable questions:

  • What salary can I expect? That is a question that HR will answer if you clear the technical/business round of interviews. Salary is naturally going to be one of the top questions on your mind, but that is something that has to be discussed with HR, not the technical interviewer.
  • Will I have to travel a lot for this job? This question implies that you may not be open to travel. You can always tell the interviewer that you have some personal constraints that prevent you from traveling frequently. That is fine. But you should not appear as though you are completely against travel.
  • What are the extracurricular activities that employees are active in? This looks like you have not come to work, but to entertain yourself. You don’t want to give that impression to the interviewer.

Well, I hope this article proves to be helpful to those of you who have trouble clearing interviews. It is not comprehensive, but I am sure it will be helpful. All the best for your upcoming interview!

When Cupid strikes at work

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During my 16 years in the IT industry, I have come across many office romances or affairs. Personally, I have always felt it is better to avoid romantic liaisons at office simply because the office environment is not suited for such pursuits. But, that is my personal opinion, and I am not going to judge anybody here for having been involved with somebody at work.

This article is more about how an office romance or affair can affect a person’s credibility at work. I am not saying that all office affairs are subject to scrutiny, but most are. One of the oddest things about office affairs is that the people involved think that they can keep the affair hidden from their colleagues. But, it most probably remains a secret only in their minds because word does go around as soon as one person gets a whiff of the affair. And it only takes one person to get the rumor mills spinning. Office affairs can become detrimental to the people involved, especially if the professional relationship between the couple in question is that of a manager-team member. Any action taken by the manager favoring the team member immediately comes under speculation, and even if it is a fair, unbiased action, a lot of unsavory gossip starts doing the office rounds.

The other kind of affair that can cause serious damage to people’s image and standing within the organization is when married people get involved with their colleagues. I agree it is their personal choice to be romantically or sexually involved with their colleagues, but they risk losing the respect of their team members, peers, and their managers. It also indicates bad judgement on the part of the people involved, and it can affect a person’s professional growth. Their loyalty and integrity, which are highly-valued qualities in any organization, are questioned.

The most detrimental kind of office affair is the one that goes awry. When a relationship at office turns sour, any number of bad things can happen if the people involved are not mature enough to handle the breakup. There may be charges of sexual harassment or even certain secrets, which were shared in confidence, may be exposed. It is always a good practice for people to keep their personal and professional relationships apart.

Let me also add that not all office romances or affairs are damaging. If the couple in question do not work for the same team and are peers, nobody is bothered. Even if they work in the same team and are peers, nobody really cares. So, people who are in such a situation do not need to worry as long as the relationship does not distract them from their work.

There will be many temptations and because office is one of the places where people spend more than half of their time, there is a natural tendency to become close to somebody at work. My advice to such people is that they proceed with caution. The respect that people work so hard and long to earn at work, can be lost in a matter of minutes because of some irresponsible, on-the-side frolicking.

Yes, the heart works in mysterious ways. But, when in office, use the head!

Working for an IT services company versus a product development company – How is it different?

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For those of you who are not familiar with the term ‘IT services company,’ it refers to those companies that provide human resources and IT/BPO services to other organizations, including product development companies. I have worked for both types of organizations and this article covers my experiences and learning over the years I have spent in both of these environments.

So, what are the differences?

Parameter IT Services Product Development
Organization Size Human resources bring in the revenue from billing clients, so IT service companies are always in need of people. You will notice that established IT services companies have a strength of more than 100,000 people. Human resources eat into the OPEX budget. Product companies will hire only if there is a need and a value-add. The usual size can vary between 5000 and 100,000.
Skills Enhancement Employees of IT services companies get to work across different verticals, different technologies, and different tools. Obviously, the learning is high and employees get a lot more exposure to different kinds of industries. Employees of product development companies learn more about the products they are working on, the technologies supporting these products, and the tools needed to support these products. They generally do not get exposure to other verticals unless they are a part of the product implementation team.
Talent Management IT services companies give high importance to talent management, and you will notice that the HR talent management team is very active in providing employees opportunities to learn, collaborate, and grow. Product development companies usually do not have a strong HR talent management team and it is not actively involved in team-building exercises or people-building exercises. Of course, employees are trained on technical and soft skills, but the investment in training is not emphasized as much as it is IT services companies.
Work-life Balance The work-life balance in IT services companies is not consistent and at some levels, it does not exist. The expectations on employees are very high, which can cause stress. There is usually no option to work from home, unless you are in management. Product development companies usually provide better opportunities for work-life balance. Most product development companies allow employees to work from home, with of course the manager’s approval.
Career Growth Career progression in IT services companies is generally faster because of the size of the organization and the rate at which these companies grow. Career progression in product development companies is slower in comparison to IT services companies. They are smaller companies and the rate of expansion is, for the most part, slower.
Salary & Hikes The joining salary at IT services companies is usually lower than market standards. However, the yearly hikes and bonuses, if applicable, are pretty good. The joining salary at product development companies are equal to or higher than market standards. However, the yearly hike percentages are usually in single-digits. Bonuses, if applicable, are lower than the bonuses offered at IT services companies.
Layoffs Layoffs in IT services companies occur mainly because of poor performance. Usually the bottom 5% of employees, who are the least performers, are affected. Even so, there is usually a 3-month performance improvement period where the employee is given a chance to improve. Layoffs in product development companies can happen due to various reasons: mergers and acquisitions, OPEX concerns, or because of the poor performance of both the company and the employees. Usually, layoffs in product development companies are swift and surgical.
Expertise Usually employees of an IT services company do not become experts in any one technology or product, unless they have been associated with a client or a project for a long time. Employees of a product development company gain expertise and knowledge of the product over a period of time. If they leverage their knowledge, they can even become specialists in their chosen field.

Working for each type of organization has its advantages and disadvantages. From my own experience, I can say that if you want to learn a lot and you are not that experienced, it is probably better to join an IT services company, because the exposure you get is tremendous. If you already have around five to seven years of experience under your belt, you may want to try getting into a product development company so that you can gain more expertise in the field you choose.

What transforms a manager into a great manager?

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I have always believed that managers are born, not made. There are certain innate qualities that a manager should possess. However, not every person who becomes a manager has all the great qualities that you would expect to see. So, in my opinion, these are the traits that transform a manager into a great manager:

  • Be approachable – whether you have a solution to your team member’s problem or not, your team member should feel free to come up to you and discuss their issues.
  • Be receptive – you need to be open to how your team members perceive you and your actions – you need to be open to negative feedback and also discuss about corrective actions, if any.
  • Be the example – you cannot expect your team members to follow certain rules if you do not follow them yourselves – you have to set the example and lead the path – that is the true mark of a leader.
  • Be assertive – when a team member is going down the wrong path, you need to immediately take corrective action and guide them back – if you are reactive and just point out mistakes without any guidance on how things could be handled differently, your team member will not know how to improve.
  • Be discerning – not every team member needs to be monitored or managed the same way. Some people need focused mentoring, some people are independent contributors who require some guidance from time to time, some are go-getters and don’t need much support – so don’t use the same yardstick for all team members.
  • Be appreciative – whenever your team member does well, be prompt in appreciating – if we forget, they don’t forget… J Shower your team with accolades when they deserve it! It costs you nothing!
  • Be humble – humility as a manager is a very important quality to have. When your team sees you as another human being, who is just their bridge to upper management and who protects them in adverse situations, the usual barriers start to dissolve.
  • Be objective – as a manager, you always have to play fair and be objective. You may personally like some of your team members more than others, but when it comes to a professional environment, nobody can be your favorite. Everyone has to be treated equally. That does not imply that you give the same professional responsibilities to everybody – that has to be decided based on your team member’s capabilities.
  • Be genuine – most people can see through artificiality. As a manager, you have to care about the growth of your team members, and not as part of some goal-setting activity. You have to be able to understand their strengths and guide them to use their strengths to their advantage.
  • Be fun – nothing endears a team to their manager more than somebody who can let down his or her hair at times when the occasion calls for it. Sometimes the fear of losing the team’s respect prevents you, as the manager, from participating wholeheartedly in team activities, and this can affect how the team perceives you.

I hope this article proves helpful to those who are struggling as a manager or are soon going to become one! All the best!

Achieving your goals

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As we near the end of 2014, it is time to reflect on what we have achieved this year with respect to the goals that were set during the first quarter.

All of us have goals in our lives, whether it is professional or personal. Personal goals vary from person to person. And we are usually very passionate about achieving our personal goals. We are also equally passionate about achieving our long-term career goals, whether it is to achieve technical expertise in a certain area, play a certain role in the organization, or even change our area of expertise. However, our organizational goals are constantly evolving, every year. These short-term goals are aligned with our organization’s vision and mission, and play an important role in both our organization and us achieving our long-term goals. They are also time-bound.

So, what are some of the key ingredients to achieve our organizational goals?

  • Understand clearly how our goals translate to actions.
  • Set a clear timeline for performing those actions within the assessment year.
  • Track our progress against the timeline.
  • Raise blocking issues well in advance, which may prevent us from achieving our goals.

The most important ingredient is that we have to be passionate about achieving the organizational goals. Unless we have the interest or drive, our efforts to achieve our goals will not have the desired results. So, how do we realize that passion? The answer lies in aligning organizational goals to our long-term career goals. Once we can map each short-term, organizational goal to a long-term career goal, it will be easier for us to personalize and own the organization goal. The minute an organization goal becomes personal, the passion to achieve it becomes stronger.

We will always have ‘more critical release’ work that needs to be given priority, but we should never lose sight of our goals in the milieu of the daily humdrum of routine release work. We need to remember the four Ps when we want to achieve our goals – Personalize, Plan, Prioritize, and Perform.