June 30, 2009

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

- John QuincyAdams

June 29, 2009

"A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world."

- John Le Care

June 28, 2009

"The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work."

- Agha Hasan Abedi

June 27, 2009

"The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity."

- Peter Drucker

June 26, 2009

"An army of lions commanded by a deer will never be an army of lions."

- Napoleon Bonaparte

June 25, 2009

"We don’t grow unless we take risks. Any successful company is riddled with failures."

- James E. Burke

June 24, 2009

For every innovative initiative or idea you propose, be ready with your elevator pitch

Whenever you propose a new initiative or an idea, always prepare an elevator pitch as well. It's one thing to make a neat two page note of your idea but it is a completely different ball game to explain the idea in 30 seconds flat! Believe me, your ability (or inability) to make sense of your idea in 30 seconds can make or break your excellent idea.

Big guys who decide on the worthiness of your idea are often impatient. They may or may not read your proposal. Even if they read it, they may not give it all the seriousness. Very often, after sending across an idea or proposal, you will find that the big guy corners you at coffee vending machine and ask your idea to him. And the next 30 seconds may decide eternity or obscurity for your idea!

So before sending the mail about your million dollar idea, diligently prepare and memorise your elevator pitch. You never know how soon you may need it!

"You now have to decide what 'image' you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place."

- David Ogilvy

June 23, 2009

"The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself."

- Peter Drucker

June 22, 2009

"Advertising promotes that divine discontent which makes people strive to improve their economic status."

- Ralph S. Butler

June 21, 2009

"The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it."

- Dee Hock

June 20, 2009

"Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy, the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence."

- Norman Podhoretz

June 19, 2009

"What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form."

- David Ogilvy

June 18, 2009

"Customers buy for their reasons, not yours."

- Orvel Ray Wilson

June 17, 2009

"In advertising not to be different is virtually suicidal."

- Bill Bernback

June 16, 2009

"The philosophy behind much advertising is based on the old observation that every man is really two men - the man he is and the man he wants to be."

- William Feather

June 15, 2009

Many able leaders fail to deliver because they fail to connect with grassroots. In any company, it is the grassroots where the real action is and from where the bucks come to run the company. Failure to recognize the importance of grassroots is a sure shot way to lose it all as a leader.

A successful leader has his ears always to the ground. Unless there is a certain degree of empathy between a leader and the grassroots, taking right decisions and implementing them is an uphill task.

The grassroots disconnect is often a result of too much dependence on a few people who are part of a leader's inner coterie. Over dependence on this coterie gives excessive power to this select group of people and chances of misuse of that power increases significantly. Over a period of time, the leader gets only filtered information through his coterie and that information is something which he is likely to hear. As a result, reality gets lost and decisions are made on judgement of vested interest rather than the ground realities.

At the same time, a leader need not get too much dependent on grassroots alone for his decisions. When a leader gets too involved with grassroots without giving due attention to the voice of people at various levels between a leader and grassroots, he often loses the sight of big picture and starts taking decision at micro level. This can lead to another disaster.

A true leader excels at the balancing act. He empathises with everyone in an organization - right from grassroots to his top management team. And the decisions are a result of holistically weighing the realities of a situation seen through the eyes of each and every stakeholder. A leader who consistently delivers is an expert in managing excellent coordination between various parts of the body.

"Diverse groups of problem solvers—groups of people with diverse tools—consistently outperformed groups of the best and the brightest. If I formed two groups, one random (and therefore diverse) and one consisting of the best individual performers, the first group almost always did better. … Diversity trumped ability."

- Scott Page

June 14, 2009

Question vs. Answer

Posted by Bizaholic | 11:21 PM | with 0 comments »

What is more important - right answers or right questions? Questions seem to be more important than answers. Questions set the direction; answers reveal the way.

If a problem is not structured into a right question, chances of getting a right solution for the problem are remote. If a problem is paraphrased into a wrong question and then a brilliant answer is given for that question, the whole exercise, in all likelihood, would be futile. If the questions are wrong, answers can never be right for a particular problem. It is like asking for directions to go to North when you have to go to West.

Questions are the key to tackle any problem. The quality of solution to a problem is directly proportional to the quality of questions asked. Of course, quality of answers to the questions also matter but they are secondary in importance. Correctly answering wrong questions will lead to nowhere. Asking the right questions first and then coming up with right answers to them is the only way to effectively resolve of any problem.

"The one thing you need to know about sustained individual success: Discover what you don’t like doing and stop doing it."

- Marcus Buckingham

June 13, 2009

"Management works in the system. Leadership works on the system."

- Stephen Covey

June 12, 2009

"A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one."

- Henry Ford

June 11, 2009

Planning is a good thing as long as it helps in reaching the destination. Often, planning gets too mired in details to the extent that it makes effective implementation virtually impossible.

The problem starts when leaders think that everyone down the ladder needs a step-by-step action plan to achieve a desired objective. Nothing could be farther from truth. The biggest fallacy of a leader is to do a micro level planning instead of letting people at ground zero do that. If the leader starts drawing a plan in extreme details, it may hold good as long as the situation at ground zero remains same at the time of execution. But situations frequently change. And too detailed plans often fail miserably at execution stage. Planning can be effective only if it has an inbuilt flexibility for modification to care take of surprises on the path to execution. Too much detail takes away this flexibility and makes the plan rigid and vulnerable to hit a dead end in face of unexpected situations.

Great planning is a necessity for great execution. But great planning in no way means detailing everything for your team. Great planning involves giving a road map and a destination to the team and letting them navigate through the road map on their own and trusting their judgement to bust foreseen as well as unforeseen obstacles on the way to reach the destination.

Great planning is all about letting your team know your intent in simple and unambiguous terms and empowering it to take suitable decisions for accomplishing it. At every level of leadership in an organization, the leader should strive to communicate his intent and let his team work out the details of a plan. Restraint should be exercised in delving into detailing every aspect of execution. At the highest level, the intent would be broad. With every leadership level down the line, the leader's intent would reflect higher and higher degree of detailing by taking into consideration the operative environment and increased availability of information pertaining to ground realities. Through this approach, by the time the intent of the higher level of leadership is passed to the execution team at the bottom of the rung, the original intent gets refined and structured by a number of minds by taking into consideration multiple sets of information, accumulated knowledge, and experience. As a result, execution is more effective and in line with the leader's intent.

"The strategy process defines where a business wants to go, and the people process defines who’s going to get it there. The operating plan provides the path for those people. It breaks long-term output into short-term targets."

- Ram Charan, Execution

June 10, 2009

"A person should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. The person who always knows exactly what people cannot do, but never sees anything they can do, will undermine the spirit of her organization. An executive should be a realist; and no one is less realistic than the cynic."

- Peter Drucker

June 9, 2009

Get interested in results rather than reasons for lack of it.

Have you come across people who have a reason for all the ills but never a remedy for curing the ill? If you have worked in corporate environment, chances are high that you have had an encounter with this special breed. These people are so adept at reasoning that they can come up with hundreds of reasons for a given situation in no time. But ask them for a solution and they start to fumble.

Managing such people can be quite a painful experience if you are not adept at straight talk. The simple and the most effective way of tackling such people is tell them straight that you are not interested in hearing reasons and instead prefer results over reason. In the whirlwind of reasons, result orientation is often lost. As a manager, it is of utmost importance to clarify that finding reasons for not making things happen is no body's job profile. Every job profile has a single minded purpose - to make things happen despite odds.

Experience shows that once you start demanding results rather than reasons, your subordinates get the message and they start investing greater part of their energy is busting obstacles to achieve results instead of inventing reasons to justify ills.

"Those who have changed the universe have never done it by changing officials, but always by inspiring the people."

- Napoleon Bonaparte

June 8, 2009

Monday Blues: Mirror Never Lies

Posted by Bizaholic | 7:00 AM | with 0 comments »

In corporate world, one often comes across people who can blame everything on external factors. Come what may, they are least willing to look internally to find the cause of a problem. The feeling is that they are always right and if anything goes wrong, it must be because of some external factors. Sometimes this tendency is so deep rooted in an organization that it affects the entire culture.

The problem with these people is that they don't like to look into the mirror because the mirror never lies. When you look into the mirror you don't see what you like to see and you see only what the reality is. Looking into the mirror could be disarming for people adept at passing the bucks away from them. Facing the reality and owning up things are not for a weak hearted person.

Let's take recruitment of management trainees. Many companies recruit management trainees but only few excel at retaining and grooming these trainees for key management positions. Why only few companies excel at the art of managing management trainees? Because the management of these companies take it upon themselves to ensure the success of these trainees and are accountable for the quality of output. And why most of the companies fail with their management trainee program? Because at the end of the day they have the luxury to pass the buck and say that management trainees are not good enough! But who interviewed these trainees in the first place? The very people who assert later on that the quality is not good enough! Now, if you look into the mirror, you don't start with the premise that management trainees are not good enough. You own things up and say that you didn't manage the trainees well enough. Looking into the mirror may show you that perhaps you didn't train the trainees well, or you failed to give them good exposure to learn the ropes, or if indeed quality of management trainee is not up to the mark, you messed up the recruitment process. But in no way you would blame the management trainees for the debacle.

Looking into the mirror makes you own up things resulting from your decisions. This attitude not only helps in developing high level of responsibility and accountability among the people but also helps build the character of an organization. By helping its people learn to face the mirror, an organization can develop a healthy environment of integrity, accountability, and trust that creates high potential leaders.

"It is far better to do the right thing wrong than to do the wrong thing right."

- Russell Ackoff

June 7, 2009

"A man's errors are his portals of discovery."

- James Joyce

June 6, 2009

"Unless your campaign has a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night."

- David Ogilvy

June 5, 2009

"What"s a brand? A singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect."

- Al Ries

June 4, 2009

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind."

- William James

June 3, 2009

"Everyone wants to be appreciated. So if you appreciate someone, don't keep it a secret."

- Mary Kay Ash

June 2, 2009

With ever increasing proliferation of media alternatives and a consumer with a baby's attention span, it is becoming harder to break through the clutter and make your brand stand out. How do you deliver your brand message in this noisy media environment? The key is to create impact through the brand campaign.

In the present scenario, there are two ways to create impact and force your brand message down the consumer's throat -

  • Hijack the available media opportunities during a campaign period so that wherever the consumer goes, your brand follows.
  • Negotiate creative integrations within the media content linking your brand message with the content.
First option is a costly approach. If a marketer has huge budget at the disposal, that would be a feasible strategy. For example, Vodaphone hijacked the IPL-2 with its Zoozoo Ads. So if you have the money, make yourself present all across that the consumer cannot escape the brand message. Of course, you have to make sure that your message is cool enough not to irritate consumers by forcing them down their throat.

Second option is more practical, particularly for brands without huge media budget. The trick is to identify hot media properties poised to create impact and associate with them by negotiating value additions in the form of creative integration with the main content. The idea is to align a brand and its message in all possible ways around high voltage media properties. Creative integration could be in form of Aston bands, Squeeze-backs, break bumpers, and many more depending on the creative prowess of a marketer and the advertising agency is and the negotiating power of the marketer. But there is a caveat with this approach. The marketer will have to get deeply involved with the media property owner and negotiate the best possible creative integration leveraging relationships. This approach cannot be left at the mercy of media agency guys, who are more inclined to negotiate uniform deal for all their clients instead of specifically working for a particular client.

Creative integration, if used creatively, can be the new clutter breaking mantra for brands.

"To uncover hidden category needs, don't ask ‘How can I differentiate my brand from its competition?' but rather ask ‘What are the unmet needs that no brand is addressing?'"

- Janine Keogh

June 1, 2009

Tough times call for tough decisions. But that doesn't mean that fair business requirements are ignored in the name of tough times. One of the biggest mistakes companies do in tough economic times is to curtail marketing budgets. It may make short term sense to cut marketing expenses to boast short-term margins but long-term effects may be harsh, particularly if you face an aggressive competitive environment. A more prudent approach would be to take a short-term cut in margin to strengthen pillars of long term profitability.

Let's take an example of a brand which we will call "X". This brand has a virtual monopoly in its category. But of late competitive pressures have set in and the category is witnessing aggressive competitive dynamics. To worsen the things further, misfortune comes in the form of economic slowdown and brand "X" comes under severe duress. Sales stagnate and threaten to remain so as economic recovery if not foreseen in immediate future. What should the management do? Should they cut their marketing budget to maintain margins during sales slowdown? Or should they go into overdrive to accelerate their marketing programs, even at the cost of lower margins in short-term, to cut competitive pressures to size before they become monsters?

If the overall margin is healthy for brand "X", a suave marketer would opt for a marketing overdrive to ruthlessly cut competitive pressures to size. Even if it meant taking a beating on margin front in short-term, this approach would bode well in the long-term in terms of profitability and market dominance. On the other hand, a conservative approach to marketing expenditure may mean less focused approach in tackling competitive pressures thereby resulting in serious ramifications in future.

Bad times are always good time to make great investment. Marketing is one such long-term investment companies should make during tough times. Better to be pound wise and penny foolish rather than the other way round!

"Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It's inevitable, if you're honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: you'll avoid the tough decisions, you'll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you'll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset. Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally "nicely" regardless of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization."

- Colin Powell