Category Archives: Leadership

We DO Need Some Education!

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educate

How Do you ‘Educate’ Content customers?

Let me start with a confession. Last month I pontificated to my internal team that one should never use the term ‘educate’ customers and that it smacks of arrogance on our part. I stand corrected. Given the number of customers that I have seen in my short span of over four years in the Content business, I think there is a dire need to ‘educate’ customers. And then some.

I am constantly amazed at the amount of ignorance that prevails within the customer segments that want outside help to create content. For instance, there was this customer who was shouting at one of my content managers to “reduce the font size on Twitter”. There was this other customer who went live with a website two months back and gave a list of 40 (yeah, you read it right, Forty!) new features to be added to the website with a comment “they were expected in the design anyway”. I mean, on what basis did they go beta, alpha and then live? Didn't anybody check? Surely someone was asleep at the wheel and since the boss is now asking for explanations, the easiest thing is to palm it off as the vendor’s mistake. And there is this ubiquitous customer comment that I get “it is ok, but it can be better”! Agreed. But what exactly? The design, the content, the colors, the text, the font, the videos, the tweets, my hairstyle…

I concede that Content is not something that you can get your head around very fast. It is also a fairly nascent business, wherein you are using stuff that is lying within your own outfit to market. Having said that it is also fairly well established that it is probably one of the most powerful tools for marketing yourself. There are no clever one liners, no awesome creative to distract anyone. You are telling your story in the best possible manner to your audiences and using technology to take it to them in their own devices. It is that simple as a concept.

One of the easiest (and also the toughest) ways to do that is to inculcate a sense of discipline within the whole process. Here are five things to start out with:

1.     Why do you want content? Is it for your customers, prospects, to build a brand, for your shareholders, employees?

2.     Where do they consume their content? Is it on the mobile, tablets, radio, offline?

3.     Where is this content now and in what form? Normally most companies have around half the raw content lying inhouse and the other half to be created.

4.     Is content marketing a key deliverable of the marketing effort? If it is not, make it one today.

5.     Should I build or buy? Do you have the wherewithal to do all the content marketing activities yourself or do you need a partner?

The above questions may not be easy to answer in the first pass, but answer it one must, for they form the fundamental building block for any Content leveraging that an organization is planning to do. Most (Indian) companies go at it without any thought process. The visionary CEO believes that Content Marketing ought to be done and then everybody scrambles. I recall talking to one such person (who I hugely respect) who told me “we have the content, we know the market and we know the narrative . So why cant we do it ourselves?”. I said, “you got an office constructed, told the architect what you wanted and gave him the budget. Did you build the office?”.  The biggest fallacy that most organizations have is “Content is only smart written English”. If that were indeed so, ad agencies would not have needed copywriters and film makers wouldn't need scriptwriters.

By the way, we still partner the CEO in question.

Content is one of the most potent weapons in your marketing armory to make a difference in your business eco-system. To use, or not use the potency is the question you, as an organization, need to answer. And fast. There is no harm learning new stuff everyday.

I will be in touch.

After Section 66A, it is the muscle that will play!

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Section 66A

- L Subramanyan, CEO, Trivone Digital 

So Sec 66A gets thrown out of the window by the Supreme Court. No surprises there. Any reasonable thinking human being would have been appalled by the sheer brazenness of the section. Obviously, it does not include our lawmakers – who are neither reasonable nor can think like human beings.

The bigger question that is not answered here is – what gives our lawmakers the right to craft such pieces of legislation, which go fundamentally, against democratic tenets? After all, aren’t they answerable to anybody, at all? Thirdly, can those people whose lives were made miserable by the police u/s 66A, now claim compensation against the state for, willfully crafting a piece of legislation, which was prima facie against humanity.

And look at the shamelessness of these ministers and ex-ministers. The very same people who hailed it are now saying that the SC judgement is ‘welcome’. Messers Sibal, Chidambaram, Ravi Shankar Prasad, lawyers all, who had a major role to play in drafting the legislation, defending it in public, are now hailing its demise. Can the Supreme court try them under any law? Is a forked tongue allowed by law for a minister and elected representative in a democracy?

Now that they don't have the legal protection of law, the elected reps will start unleashing their goons on FB posts and tweets that they don't like. They will start beating people up, burning buses, create a public disorder to protest. Since the so called ‘perpetrators’ are any way defenceless against hooliganism by political cadres, free speech will again become a casualty.

Maybe The Hon Supreme Court should start examining the role of these politicians when they start muzzling voices of dissent using muscle!

Category: Leadership

An Anna a Day

- L Subramanyan, CEO, Trivone Digital

So Anna is back at it again! Dharna at Jantar Mantar, with Kejriwall (the second ‘l’ is not a typo) to boot. The key question I have for Anna is just this – Have you really, really, read the Land Acquisition ordinance? If you have, go for it, because I do trust you. If you haven’t and you are going by the sound bytes of our TV channels, then join me – even I haven’t read the ordinance in full but know a little more than the TV anchors.

However, that is completely besides the point!

I believe that Anna is honest in his thoughts and his actions are guided by what he thinks are ‘Gandhian’ principles. However, one small point of history… Gandhi died 67 years ago and the India that we see today has nothing, repeat nothing, in comparison to what Gandhi saw or what he wanted to see. So Anna, trying to create an India the way Gandhi ‘might’ have wanted to create India is a little like Murli Manohar Joshi saying studying yoga will lead to fewer rapes! That's that.

And Kejriwall (it is not a typo, I insist). What is his motive? A love for his former mentor, perhaps? Or simply a desire to wash away some ‘siyasi’ guilt in front of Anna? I don't know. All that I know is that the Wall has not read the ordinance or even a synopsys of it.

That leads me to the fact that since, Anna and the wall are in a dharna, why don't we make use of it and given the fact that it is budget time, there are things that they could do which can lead to a better life for some citizens:

1.     100% depreciation on PCs

2.     Broadband prices and availability:  know Anna will not be amused by this, but imagine the speed with which people can come to a dharna if only Anna were to send an EDM

3.     Ensure TRAI’s reccos are accepted by the ministry: no leeway, no committees.. Trai is a constitutional body and it is foolish to expect that it will be against the country (it is not BCCI, you know!). Again, immediate impact, prices come down and Anna can send SMS’s inviting people for his rally very cheaply.

4.     Stop CMs from giving away ‘freebies’. It is not their property, last I checked. No CM, including the Wall, can tell a business company, how to do business.. he can ask them to leave, with all the protection, that the judiciary offers him AND THE COMPANY.. nothing more and nothing less. How can the wall promise free water? Who is going to pay for it? You and me, or Anna? In any case, Anna is a poor farmer and doesn't pay for anything.

5.     Stop fighting.. Anna.. please stop. Please, please stop. You are making all of us, the poor middle class (which includes a lot of farmers, by the way) very very nervous. I am not a supporter of the PM but believe that the people of the country have given him a mandate.. allow him to succeed or fail.. but don't do what you did to the earlier government – whip up passions, promise a dream and then vanish..

No, I don't have  the standard list of 10 or 15 or 20.. These are all that I want from Anna. Read the document first, and then we will talk.

As for the Wall..

jab tak khada hai, tab tak gadh hai… jis din tootega, us din

DDA ka bulldozer ka kamaal hai!

Muffler se munh baandh lo,

Dhool sey bach jaooge

Jis din kharche se middle class ki kamar tooti

Woh din to dhamal hai

Woh din to dhamal hai

 

 

When Leaders Fail To Inspire

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By Shweta Verma, Editor- B2B Media, Trivone Digital Services

Managers who are unable to ‘lead’ their teams often try to hide behind complex matrices and leadership theories that even they don’t understand!

If you are tired of those leadership models, complex matrices, and the same old buzzwords and clichés, you are probably suffering from what is called ‘framework fatigue.’ In fact, most of us in our work lives suffer from this kind of fatigue today.

More often than not, managers try to drive their teams based on certain frameworks and management lessons they may have gathered at B-school. In reality, many of them are not able to really ‘lead’ their teams and end up hiding behind such matrices and models that even they don’t understand!

“The trouble with leadership theories is they’re easy to hide behind (often inaccurately). They become proxies for actual leadership. When something important is on the line, people don’t follow five-tiered triangles, four-box matrices, or three concentric circles. They follow real people,” Doug Sundheim, a leadership and strategy consultant, writes in his blog.

While there is no harm in using these frameworks, the real test of leadership lies in how you put your knowledge into action. In doing that, you may need to look beyond the jargons and clutter around ‘leadership’ and get into the shoes of a role model for your team.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

This may sound like another cliché, but it still holds true. Actions do speak louder than words. Hands-on leaders who are always ready to jump onto the field and take things in their hands whenever necessary always earn more respect among their people.

How many times have you gone to your manager with a problem and he has sent you back even more confused? Managers often believe that by giving ‘gyan’ they have equipped people with enough information to be able ‘act.’ But the results are usually disappointing.

Most of the time when an executive reaches out to his manager, he is not looking for those ‘words of wisdom.’ At times he could be just venting out his frustration and might feel better if you just provide a compassionate hearing.

Moreover there could be situations when a person is in real trouble and may actually want ‘you’ to act. As a leader in the company you would be entitled to certain authority and clout that he may not enjoy. Therefore, a small step taken by you might go a long way in making things easier for your team.

What Makes A Great Leader?

Leaders don’t come in standard shapes or sizes! So it could be tough to find ones who can truly inspire their teams to work towards their goals. Management Guru Peter F. Drucker writes, “An effective executive does not need to be a leader in the sense that the term is now most commonly used. Harry Truman did not have one ounce of charisma, for example, yet he was among the most effective chief executives in US history.”

Back home in India, we’ve had some great examples like NR Narayana Murthy of Infosys, Anand Mahindra of Mahindra & Mahindra group or even Kishore Biyani of the Future Group, each with his own unique style of functioning and business approach.

Daniel Goleman, the author of the famous book‘Emotional Intelligence’ says,The personal styles of superb leaders vary: Some leaders are subdued and analytical; others shout their manifestos from the mountain tops. And just as important, different situations call for different types of leadership,” he says.

Drucker goes on to say in one of his blogs on leadership, “Some of the best CEOs I’ve worked with over a 65-year consulting career were not stereotypical leaders. They were all over the map in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths, and weaknesses. They ranged from extroverted to nearly reclusive, from easygoing to controlling, from generous to parsimonious.”

Whether a leader follows a certain management philosophy or uses different matrices to achieve business goals, in the end, he has to motivate his team to deliver results. Just like different problems may call for different solutions, different leaders could also work towards creating their own leadership styles and models, instead of trying to force-fit those given frameworks into every situation!

Category: Leadership

Leadership Notes: Finding the Best Person for the Job?

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by Raj Narayan, Chief Content Officer, Trivone Digital Services

A few weeks back, I had blogged about how the ‘suck-up syndrome’ hampered senior managers from creating functional teams. Some friends who had the misfortune of reading the post quizzed me on how one could overcome this syndrome? My answer: “If I knew that, I’d be the Master of the Universe”.

I am not trying to be facetious here. The fact is most of us find it difficult to deal with our discomfiture with other individuals. The moment our we encounter a diversity of thought, the mind transmits a warning signal… “Watch out! This person might spell trouble for you in the future.”

Sally Krawcheck, former CEO of Smith Barney and CFO of Citibank and currently with 85Broads.com has an interesting perspective… “I look for people who make me somewhat uncomfortable. I look for people who are different from me, who hold different views, have different areas of expertise. I look for people from whom I learn in the interview.” Hiring such people makes the workplace “less comfortable” for the team, but that is exactly the point, she says.

This is easier said than done. One of my standard questions to prospective hires would be “Tell me everything you know about our company and share any experience you’ve had with us.” On one such instance, the interviewee looked me straight in the eye and said, “You guys need to grow beyond reportage and add context to the news you are covering. As a reader, I expect to find answers to ‘why’ more than to what, who or when.”

As head of the division, I had to really steel myself before this barrage of criticism, that too coming from a person seeking employment. The discomfiture referred to by Sally was palpable. My immediate reaction was to ask him why he wanted to join a company that didn’t measure up to his standards. “Well, I know what needs to be done to bring about the change,” he said serenely and 24 hours later he was on our team.

So, how does one find the best person for the job? Sally believes that one must actually look to build the best team together and this could be quite different from finding the best person for the job. She likens this to hiring all point guards – a playmaker position in basketball. If we were to replace basketball with cricket, it might be akin to hiring all-rounders in the hope that one or the other will rise to the occasion.

Expanding from the earlier example, what would happen if I continued to hire people who find flaws in our way of doing things? Obviously, I would end up hiring another ‘harbinger of change’ and the outcome would be complete lack of clarity on editorial positioning and quality metrics.

So, for every playmaker in the team, there should also be shooters and defenders. In cricketing parlance, to win a test match, the batsmen need to score enough runs and the bowlers need to scalp 20 wickets.

Each one plays for the other using the unique skills that he brings to the ground. That is probably the essence of good teamwork and the difference between success and failure. 

This post first appeared on CXOtoday.com on 25 Sep, 2013.

Category: Hiring, Leadership