Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vineet Nayar and the Employee First Philosophy

The Corner Office interviews Vineet Nayar. He talks straight and I love the candidness, it takes courageous leadership to do a 360 and make it available to all within the organization. How I would love to peep in and see how this works. And stumbled upon his blog on HCL's website. BTW, does anyone has his email id?

Q. But so many C.E.O.’s are expected to have all the answers.
A. Most C.E.O.’s are not as great as they’re believed to be. There are exceptions. There is Bill Gates. There is Steve Jobs. There is Larry Page. But I’m not one of them, and so many of us are not them.
So, if you see your job not as chief strategy officer and the guy who has all the ideas, but rather the guy who is obsessed with enabling employees to create value, I think you will succeed. That’s a leadership style that evolved from my own understanding of the fact that I’m not the greatest and brightest leader born. My job is to make sure everybody is enabled to do what they do well. This is part of our “Employees First” philosophy.
Q. Talk more about how you create that culture.
A. You have to create a culture of pushing the envelope of trust. How do we push the envelope of trust? By creating transparency.
Q. Give me an example.
A. All HCL’s financial performance information is on our internal Web. We are completely open. We put all the dirty linen on the table, and we answer everyone’s questions on our internal Web site. We inverted the pyramid of the organization and made reverse accountability a reality.
So my 360-degree feedback is open to 50,000 employees — the results are published on the internal Web for everybody to see. And 3,800 managers participate in an open 360-degree and the results — they’re anonymous so that people are candid — are available on the internal Web for those who gave feedback to see. So, that’s reverse accountability.
The other thing we did was make sure everybody understands that the C.E.O. is the most incompetent person to answer questions, and I say this to all my employees very openly.
Q. How do you communicate that?
A. One thing I learned was to communicate in extremes. So I asked myself, how do I communicate to employees to not look up to me, but to look within, to communicate that I’m one of you, to destroy that hierarchy? So I decided I’m going to go into this big gathering of employees dancing to a very famous Bollywood song. And I can’t dance for nuts, right? I was dancing in the aisles with these employees and making lots of noises. What happened? It completely destroyed the gap.
I’ll give you one more example with the way we handle business planning. So, what is the absolute power of the C.E.O? You come and make a presentation to me about what you’re going to do, and I will sit in this chair God has given to me and tell you if I like the plan or not. The power of the hierarchy flows from the fact that I will comment on what you write.
As my kids became teenagers, I started looking at Facebook a little more closely. It was a significant amount of collaboration. There was open understanding. They didn’t have a problem sharing their status. Nothing seemed to be secret, and they were living their lives very openly, and friends were commenting on each other and it was working.
Here is my generation, which is very security-conscious and privacy-conscious, and I thought, what are the differences? This is the generation coming to work for us. It’s not my generation.
So we started having people make their presentations and record them for our internal Web site. We open that for review to a 360-degree workshop, which means your subordinates will review it. Your managers will read it. Your peers will read it, and everybody will comment on it. I will be, or your manager will be, one of the many who read it. So, every presentation was reviewed by 300, 400 people.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Hole in the Soul of Business.

[Via Gary Hamel ]

Here’s an experiment for you. Pull together your company’s latest annual report, its mission statement, and your CEOs last few blog posts. Read through these documents and note the key phrases. Make a list of oft-repeated words. Now do a little content analysis. What are the goals and ideas that get a lot of airtime in your company? It’s probably notions like superiority, advantage, leadership, differentiation, value, focus, discipline, accountability, and efficiency. Nothing wrong with this, but do these goals quicken your pulse? Do they speak to your heart? Are they “good” in any cosmic sense?

Now think about Michelangelo, Galileo, Jefferson, Gandhi, William Wilberforce. Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa. What were the ideals that inspired these individuals to acts of greatness? Was it anything on your list of commercial values? Probably not. Remarkable contributions are typically spawned by a passionate commitment to transcendent values such as beauty, truth, wisdom, justice, charity, fidelity, joy, courage and honor.

I talk to a lot of CEOs, and every one professes a commitment to building a “high performance” organization—but is this really possible if the core values of the corporation are venal rather than venerable? I think not. And that’s why humanizing the language and practice of management is a business imperative (as well as a moral duty).

A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance. In so doing, it transforms great talent into exceptional accomplishment. That’s a fact—and it leaves me wondering: Why are words like “love,” “devotion” and “honor” so seldom heard within the halls of corporate-dom? Why are the ideals that matter most to human beings the ones that are most notably absent in managerial discourse?
John Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods Markets, once remarked that he wanted to build a company based on love instead of fear. Mackey’s not a utopian idealist, and his unflinching libertarian views are off-putting to some. Yet few would argue with the goal of creating an organization that embodies the values of trust, generosity and forbearance. Yet a gut-level commitment to building an organization infused with the spirit of charity is far more radical and weird than it might appear.

If you doubt that, here’s another experiment. The next time you’re stuck in a corporate staff meeting, wait until everyone’s eyes have begun to glaze over from PowerPoint fatigue and then get up and announce that what your company really needs is a lot more luuuuuv. When addressing a large group of managers, I often challenge them to stand up for love (or beauty or justice or truth) in just this way. “When you get back to work, tell your boss your company has a love deficit.” This suggestions invariably provokes a wave of nervous laughter, which has always struck me as a bit strange. Why is it that managers are so willing to acknowledge theidea of a company dedicated to timeless human values and yet so unwilling to become practical advocates for those values within their own organizations? I have a hunch. I think corporate life is so manifestly inhuman—so mechanical, mundane and materialistic—that any attempt to inject a spiritual note into the overtly secular proceedings just feels wildly out of place—the workplace equivalent of reading a Bible in a brothel.

Leadership and Spirituality

[Via Ode Magazine ] A rather long article on Intersection of Spirituality and Leadership

The new story is described as High Touch and High Concept.
High Touch is about finding purpose and meaning to life, eliciting joy in others and being content.
High Concept is about detecting new patterns and opportunities and creating artistic and emotional beauty. Unrelated ideas are brought together to form something new.
This is spirituality. In the new story spirituality is the foundation for Authentic Leadership. 
So, how can we marry spirituality with leadership ?. The only way is to focus on self through a life of inquiry and mindfulness. 
What is Spirituality?
Let us explore this further. What does spirituality mean ?. To me, spirituality is about integrity. It helps us to find meaning in life, provides a foundation of our values to guide us in the way we behave with self, others and the world around us.
Spirituality is a way of facilitating a dialogue between reason and emotion, between mind and body. This provides a base for growth and transformation from our ego centered material self to an active, unifying, meaning-giving centre.
Spirituality is about a transpersonal vision of goodness, beauty, perfection, generosity, graciousness, and sacrifice. It hinges on dignity for self and others and the foundation is true integrity. Love and compassion is its cornerstone.
In contrast, our education system has shaped us to be more left brained, analytical, rational and target oriented. Religion which is supposed to teach us about spirituality has externalized it and handed over responsibility to an outside entity. We could do anything and ask for forgiveness, but the damage has been done to humanity. There is no focus on the individual responsibility and based on moral values. Religion focuses more on ritual and not personal inquiry and meaning to life. So we misconstrue it to worshiping external deities and statues rather than focusing on self, where our spirituality resides.
If we are to make a lasting transformation in individual behavior, we have to begin with education.
To redesign our education system we have to get away from the traditional Cartesian mind - matter divide which has been the focus of our global education system for the last 500 years. This system promotes IQ based rational, target based learning. It has done well to develop science and technologies to make some of our lives comfortable. Yet, this is the system that has the entire planet on the edge now, with the social challenges of a divided world of ‘haves and have nots’, steeped in insecurity, fear and violence for the ‘have nots’ and the environmental challenges we all face – both the rich and poor. Only a few fortunate of the 6 billion people on this earth live life of dignity for now. The disparity is outrageous, when one thinks that 80% of the world’s wealth is held by a mere 5%. Something has to give and we may lose it all.