What’s your Vantage Point

Atypified

If you’re human, like me, from time to time you’re going to find yourself in those round-about, back and forth discussions that passionate people have. The kinds where you either release the hulk, or pray to God to help you keep him buried inside. God knows I’ve said that prayer a couple of times.

The truth is, I can be a rather emotional person – when I think my truth, my experiences and my time are being devalued and discredited. Like a warrior I take to the offense, fighting hard to defend my viewpoint. And why shouldn’t I? If I have lived through something, and witnessed it firsthand, no one should be able to discredit it – right? Wrong!

Have you ever watched Vantage Point? If you haven’t, then I recommend you do. Vantage Point, released in 2008, is a political action thriller film, which explored different eye…

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The Gift of Giving: Your Present to the Future

Networking Works!

This past weekend, North Americans celebrated a well-known tradition called, “Father’s Day”. As one might have it, retail stores and outlets promoted products like cologne, golf clubs, polo shirts, watches, and sunglasses aggressively to encourage consumers to buy for the Dads and other male father figures in their lives. In my personal opinion, the best gift that goes the longest way is just a simple and genuine, “Thank You”.

I recently attended Ms. Porter Gale’s talk here in San Francisco on networking where she promoted her new book, “Your Network Is Your Net Worth”. I kept hearing the phrase, “Give, Give, Get” and intuitively, I knew exactly what she meant by it.

In all aspects of my life, I have always been known to give a lot more away than I ask for back or receive. For instance, whenever I met someone new either at a social party, networking event…

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The Follow-Up and Why You Should Do It

Networking Works!

Ever email, phone, or plan something with someone and never have it followed through? Did you think that reaching out again would be perceived as pesky, annoying, or  unwanted?  Think that following up is a waste of time, irritates people, and is unnecessary? I beg you to reconsider and look at it from a more objective point of view.

As someone who emails and pays attention to all my messages at almost every hour of the day, I can safely say that following up with people has always worked in my favour. Looking at this topic from my own lens, there are many instances in which I would appreciate someone emailing, calling, or messaging again to remind me of the things I have committed myself to, say I would do, or forget. Sure, an initial email and first response may work in some cases but in the things that I…

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How to Tell Your Boss He’s Wrong

Hi readers,

This blog has come about after a lot of introspection about my experience with start ups in Africa and India.

Whether its a product based start up or a technology start up, the dynamics remain just the same, irrespective of the vertical, the geography, or the people who were the founders !

So let me build up this piece like a story…

I was recently hired in a sales leadership role, to which I was bringing deep experience. Over the first few weeks, I gathered data and information, which led me to conclude that my territory was doomed to failure (as it had previously failed) if we followed our company’s current strategy. Since I reported directly to the CEO, I wrote him a professional report explaining why the current strategy would fail, what should change, and how the firm would benefit from that change, with a detailed cost/benefit analysis. The CEOs response was: “I felt you were criticizing me!” Everything went downhill from there and I was canned. The way I saw it, I had a choice between speaking up and losing my job in three months, or being quiet and losing my job in six. 

So what do you think my options were in this classic situation where I was caught between the devil and the deep sea??

I think personally you dont need to  use your “deep experience” in sales to sell your ideas in these tricky situations. Your CEO would obviously feel that you were criticizing him because… actually you were criticizing him!

The fact that your argument was compelling, and backed with a cost/benefit analysis, just makes the situation worse. No wonder you get canned. That is lousy salesmanship!

Suppose you had a customer that was doing something stupid and hadn’t yet figured out what was wrong. How successful do you think that you’d be selling to that customer if you opened your cycle by sending them a detailed report that said: “You’ve been doing stupid things, and you’ve been too stupid to figure that out, and here’s what you need to do differently?”

Ideally, the best way to get around your CEO in these sort of situations is to treat him like your prized customer and here’s how it would possible look like.

TEP 1. Lay the Groundwork. Spend one-on-one time with the boss, finding areas where he is open to new ideas and planting seeds of discontent with the current strategy. Ask questions like: “Why did this strategy fail in the past?” “What other strategies have you considered?” and “What strategy might we pursue if this strategy doesn’t pan out?” This is, of course, very basic consultative sales theory.

STEP 2. Offer a Face-saving Alternative. Give the boss an excuse to change strategies without looking like an idiot. Blame changes in the outside world that have suddenly made the current strategy financially impractical, rather accusing the boss of persistent wooden headedness. Example: “Due to rapidly changing market conditions, our current strategy will require an additional $25 million in marketing to guarantee success.”

STEP 3. Transfer Ownership of the New Strategy. Package your new idea as something that the boss created, and which you have subsequently fleshed out into a practical alternative to the current strategy. Example: “As you suggested in our meeting on 6/20, the most viable alternative to our current strategy is… And here are some suggestions for implementing your backup plan…”

STEP 4. Present the Alternative in Person. Because the boss feels ownership of the current strategy, the alternative strategy should be presented face-to-face (or even lips-to-butt), so that you can better sense the boss’s reaction and help him make the transition. This is exactly like presenting your solution to a customer and then closing the deal.

To read more blogs on career, sales management and marketing, log into https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

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Five Qualities That Make You a Better Manager

Hi folks,

This one came about after a detailed discussion with my key account management team at OUR VIVAHA (www.ourvivaha.com)

The young team , comprising almost wholly of women (yeah! we are pioneers in empowering great women and future leaders) were very animated in their deliberations and wanted to understand a few qualities that ensure that you are a better manager than your contemporary, and I used all my 20 years experience to give them 5 pointers that I Think help make you a better manager.

  • Balance. Sanjeev and I were both wrong – balancing intelligence and experience is more important than either one. Strategy versus operational execution, ideology versus practicality, intuition versus logic, passion versus calm. The key to balance is knowing when you need one versus the other and not going overboard in either direction.
  • Humility. It’s okay to be arrogant or young and full of yourself, but it also leaves you wide open to all sorts of issues like shortsightedness and believing your own BS. Humility leads to objectivity. It’s also an important leadership quality; if you can be humble, then confidence and strength can’t be far behind.
  • Objectivity. Since executives are by definition immersed in their environment, perspective is as critical as it is difficult to achieve. One of the most powerful tools in decision-making is being able to take a step back, ask others what they think, and see the big picture.
  • Teaming. I once had a boss who asked me if I ever looked back to see if anyone was following me. I was more than a little head-strong in the early days. I can’t overstate the importance of team, meaning aligning with peers, working with customers to solve problems, and understanding what being part of a company means.
  • Knowing what you don’t know. It’s good to be intelligent, logical, and able to wrestle tough problems to the ground and reason them out. But knowing what you don’t know is just as important. Until you know what you don’t know, you won’t ask the tough questions and arrive at the right conclusions.

To read more about career, sales, marketing and some of my world travels, follow me on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

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Five Qualities for Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Hi folks,

This is one is coming after a long time since I was away on business travel ….

One of my colleagues at GramVaani technologies ( http://www.gramvaani.org) asked me…”Ashish, we are a startup now, but after some years we will definitely grow, and when that happens I would like to be prepared to climb the corporate ladder”

This set me thinking and I realized that many ambitious young professionals aspire to know how to get to the top and dont seem to have a clue.

This post is meant to answer some of the questions that you too might have on how to get to the top in a corporate.

Five Qualities for Climbing the Ladder to Success

  1. Flexibility. Willingness to change direction, do what it takes, let go of personal agenda, and swallow pride, all for the greater good and the overall health of the business. Also being a team player when it counts most. There’s a maturity factor, for sure. This is the trait that surprises people most.
  2. Honesty. Courage to look people – especially customers and authority figures – straight in the eye and tell them the genuine truth, regardless of consequences. Telling the story straight without sugar-coating bad news. “Yes men” are toxic to companies. Ethics and morality are related.
  3. Leadership. This is not as complex or subjective as you might think. Leadership is the ability to encourage people to follow you, especially when they don’t have to. It also enables executives to drive consensus, or pull a diverse group together, united behind common goals, strategies and plans.
  4. Accountability. Willingness to take responsibility, own a problem, and be held accountable over the long haul, regardless of the risk. Maturity to take it on the chin without pointing fingers and wasting time on CYA activity. Stickwithitness and loyalty are related.
  5. Intelligence. Anybody who denies this is full of it. Everything else can be learned, but not this. Forget old notions of book smart versus street smart. You have to be both. Ability to rapidly digest and analyze information, reason, solve complex problems, and make critical decisions.

To read more of my blogs , go to https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

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How to Manage Your Boss

Hi readers,

I decided to tackle this subject because I felt recently that this aspect is never “taught” to budding managers, leaders in organizations and it is perhaps because of this that they never get their relationship off to a roaring start with their boss.

I have been a boss of numerous teams for well over 15 years now, and it was now that I am back in India after roaming around Africa and the US for 10 years, and getting involved in my own startup with my dear friend, Shyam ( http://www.ourvivaha.com) that I realized that its high time I wrote about this issue for my gorgeous and handsome CREBEL team!!

this goes out to you all OurVivaha CREBELS!!

It’s nice to imagine that the success of your career rests upon your basic competence at doing your job, but that’s only half the picture. Raises, promotions, and other perks depend directly on how well you can manage your boss. If he or she doesn’t warm up to you—or worse, doesn’t remember that you exist—you’ll never land the plum assignments you need to get ahead. In addition to performing well, you have to make sure the boss knows about all the things you’re doing right, while also building personal rapport so that he or she will keep your best interests in mind.

Make “Keeping the Boss in the Loop” a Regular Activity

Goal: Reassure your boss that you know what you’re doing.

The secret fear of every boss is that employees are screwing up and either not telling anyone or (even worse) aren’t aware there’s a problem. To reassure themselves, bosses may sometimes pick an aspect of an employee’s job and begin randomly asking penetrating questions about the details. If you answer these queries with grace and aplomb, the boss assumes you’re competent. Hesitate or evade, and the boss may assume all your work is slipshod.

QUICK Checklist

What Your Boss Expects: The Basics

  1. Credibility. Follow through on assignments and do what you say you’re going to. If you want your boss to trust you, your word has to carry weight.
  2. Professionalism. Bosses appreciate individuals who are serious about what they do and willing to take the time to achieve a deep understanding of their craft.
  3. Integrity. The test of integrity is whether you’ll take a stand, even when it’s unpopular with your boss. The boss has the final decision, but it’s your job to make sure it’s the right one.
  4. Caring. Bosses value relationships with direct reports who care about them. Show that you’re truly concerned about what the boss has to say by responding with solutions rather than complaints or excuses.
  5. Knowledge. Bosses need people who have unique expertise. You don’t have to be a pro at everything, but you do need a specific area of knowledge that your boss values.

Create a Core Message for Your Boss

Goal: Bosses are forgetful. Make sure yours knows just how valuable you are.

When you’re working your butt off, it’s easy to assume that your boss knows exactly what you’re doing. But even though she may have assigned your work to you, in the crush of daily pressures and changing priorities, your contribution easily gets lost in the shuffle. Worse, you could end up pursuing goals that no are longer important priorities.

Hot Tip

Self Promotion Without Smarminess

If marketing yourself to your own boss feels a little slimy, think about ways you can casually talk things up without overselling—and without driving your core message into the ground. Each interaction should add new information, and when you can, fold the message into the day’s news, for example: “I just got off the phone with a candidate for the R&D job. We’re getting resumes from some really impressive people.”

Tap a Vital Resource: The Boss’s Influencers

Goal: Enlist others to spread the word about your importance to the company.

You may think you have a one-on-one relationship with your boss, but you’re actually part of a crowd of people—from your peers to your boss’s peers to your boss’s bosses—who influence the boss’s decision-making. Their comments and gossip will inevitably affect your boss’s opinion of you and your work, so you want to be certain that, if they’re not actively singing your praises, at least they’re reading from the same hymnal.

For Example

Supporting Messag

Audience

Message

Your Boss (VP of Marketing) I’m developing a channel sales program that will increase revenue and profit. (core message)
VP of Engineering This new program will get the products you’re designing out to as many people as possible.
VP of Manufacturing With channel sales, we’ll be able to predict demand, which will cut down on job overruns.
VP of Human Resources The program I’m developing will let us expand the business without exceeding headcount limitations.
CFO

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With channel sales, we can sell products at a 20 percent higher gross margin than with direct sales.