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CSR Budgets or PR Endeavours?

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own – Benjamin Disraeli

These days one hears a great deal about how industrialists and wealthy entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Azim Premji and a few others are spending a large part of their wealth helping the poor and needy around the world. In fact not only are these people donating generously themselves; some of them are involved in charity full time. Perhaps their greatest contribution is that they constantly advocate that the super wealthy corporations around the world use a large part of their accumulated wealth on social welfare.

The record of most wealthy corporations is actually quite dismal in this, a few noteworthy exceptions apart. Though most such corporations do have reasonable CSR budgets, these are more often than not PR endeavours, and totally lack focus and direction. The major part of their annual expenditure is spent on mega events like golf, football, tennis, cricket tournaments, car racing events, fashion weeks and film festivals, not to mention sponsoring celebrities for millions of dollars, when they already happen to be multimillionaires. It is not as if they were doing things in the right proportion. Most such events could be organized at a fraction of the cost that they entail and celebrities could opt to charge less for their appearances and (if only) the entertainment and partying side of things were toned down a bit but when one can drink & dance the night away while thousands die that night due to starvation, poverty & hunger, what does it matter?

Besides being good for the environment, it also makes tremendous economic sense. The more people you help come out of poverty, the greater is the economic windfall that results. Look at the case of India which was living off wheat donated by wealthy countries in the nineteen sixties. The economic growth of India over the decades has meant that not only is India a net food exporter, but its 300 million middle class are being targeted by every major luxury goods maker of the world. Who would have thought that about India just two decades back?

There is also a strong moral argument against any entity; corporate, individual or government with access to huge wealth that is deployed just to create more of the same, when there are millions of destitute, sick and dying men, women and children in need of help and succour. By not investing in the spread of resources, such organizations are sowing the seeds of disaster. Over exploitation of resources, and the resultant environmental degradation are beginning to take its toll on the world economy. The old template of over exploitation of resources and intemperate consumption by a few are no longer tenable. A brand new template of growth that is holistic, inclusive and in harmony with nature is the only way forward. Sharing of excess wealth with the needy is correct for far too many reasons that are both moral and practical. I hope the corporates are listening!

I would like to end in the words of Margaret J. Wheatley:
In our daily life, we encounter people who are angry, deceitful, intent only on satisfying their own needs. There is so much anger, distrust, greed, and pettiness that we are losing our capacity to work well together.

The urge to splurge – The pitfalls of debt and how we can avoid it!

We live in a consumerist society, where consumption and even conspicuous consumption is considered par for the course. In an era where the sales numbers of consumer goods companies are indicators of the health of an economy, it is inevitable that debt will be the easiest way of supporting this insatiable demand. When used wisely and for the right reason debt can serve a useful purpose. For example if you are a student and take a loan for higher studies, you will improve your job prospects and not only repay the loan, but contribute to the economy by way of taxes. best domains Similarly a loan taken to invest in a business is nothing to be looked askance at.

What is not right is keeping multiple credit cards and buying whatever it is that you fancy-clothes, electronic gadgets, liquor, jewellery, cosmetics, accessories etc. Such people will buy like there is no tomorrow, not thinking about how they will repay the same. secure web hosting They inevitably end up in a debt spiral with most of their payments not even being able to cover the interest incurred. This completely wrecks their credit rating, and they become ineligible for housing loans, insurance and even employment.

We live in interesting times (a most unfortunate situation to be in according to the ancient Chinese!). On the one hand while prosperity has reached unprecedented levels, our lives are full of stress on account of an unseemly competitive approach towards consumption. The easy availability of debt has clouded our ability to think clearly and we end up buying more than we need or can consume.

Getting out of this untenable situation seems to be difficult, for we seem to be programmed to put ourselves in situations of even more debt. Well that is not quite right. You can try to reform the situation and course correct by taking a few proactive measures. On top of the list would be to make out an inventory of the things we have. We can then apply perspective and refuse to spend a penny more on what you have a surfeit of. If you have twenty shirts, you should be thinking of giving a few away rather than buying a new one.

Reduce the number of credit cards that you have to one or two, and try not to shop with these, unless absolutely necessary. Instead give yourself a limited cash allowance and try to manage within that. It would also be a good idea to pay attention to how you manage your finances. Do not let your debt get to unmanageable proportions. If it has, you have to take drastic measures like tearing up your credit cards, and repaying your debts on priority. The idea should be to improve your credit score. This may appear painful at first, but is a necessary step to restoring financial viability.

Lastly one should remember that one’s measure of success or happiness has to be based not on conspicuous consumption, but on what really makes us happy. The next time the urge to splurge overtakes you, go for a walk in the park, curl up on a sofa with a book, watch a movie on tv, exercise, cook a good meal, spend time with the family, call a friend, make a small change in your home or list two way (that work for you) when you have this urge.

We are not here for a very short while. There are better things to do in life, than worry about repaying debt.

Six Things You Can Do to Think Like a Leader

All of us are called upon to assume a leadership role at some point of time or the other. You may be a team leader in your office or a teacher in charge of a class. You could even just be in charge  of a group of  fellow students working on a science project. As a parent too you don the mantle of a leader who guides those in their charge. However, many or most people would rather be led or in other words have someone else assume responsibility, than take the trouble of being a solution provider. The eminent Management guru McGregor categorises the former as the Theory X type and the latter as Theory Y type of people. Theory X assumes that people are naturally lazy and therefore need to be closely supervised, while the latter are by nature motivated and ambitious, and equal to any task. These would make natural leaders.

Be that as it may, everyone has to learn to exercise leadership from time to time, and it would be a good idea for most people to evolve some form of strategy to help them do that. The following six steps show how one could develop leadership attributes:

  1. Find your strength- We are all programmed by nature to be unique. So there have to be things that we do better than others. One needs to identify those traits and then work on sharpening those naturally occurring skills. Say for instance you have a head for numbers. That gives you a critical advantage in problem solving, and if people identify you as a problem solver, they will gravitate to you.
  2. Make a move- You are not going to become a leader merely by thinking about it. You have to be in the thick of action to have any chance of influencing those around you. If you are a problem solver and an expert in a certain area you have got to go and let people know. If all the great inventors of the world hadn’t spoken out aloud about their great ideas we would still be doing a lot of things the old way.
  3. Develop vision- If you restrict your problem solvinginitiatives to resolving minor issues you will never be a true leader with real influence. For that you need to develop vision and have a larger objective in mind. There is a difference between buying a hungry man lunch and finding out why he went hungry and enabling him to fend for himself in the future. The greatest leaders of all times had this ability to look beyond the immediate and the obvious and pursue a larger and more meaningful objective.
  4. Don’t be afraid to take decisions-The true test of a leader is the ability of taking a decision and standing by it. There is an old saying-“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. This applies to true leaders. Not only do they take tough decisions but they have the courage of their convictions to stand by them if things go wrong. That is the kind of attitude any prospective leader has to try and develop.
     
  5. Sell the people a vision- A great leader is great by virtue of his ability to get people to share in his vision. What did Martin Luther King say to his people to ignite the Civil Right Movement in the America of the 1960’s? -“I have a dream”. A leader has to let the people know that his dream or vision is the same as theirs. This is what will make ordinary people brave impossible odds at the call of such a person.
  6. Be empathetic- A leader is called upon to share his plans with his followers in an empathetic manner. This will help them identify with the objectives of the leader. A leader has to remember that they are in that position because people feel that their interests are secure with them. So it is always about the follower and never the leader. Isn’t this what all political leaders always profess? They are doing it for the people. A good leader will only show the way forward. He or she doesn’t need to get mired in every small operational detail. If they empathetically convey what needs to be done, those they lead will accomplish it!

 

The Six Keys to Surviving on the Road by Tony Schwartz (HBR Blog)

I was walking through the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose one day last week just before 6 pm, feeling a bit bleary after three consecutive weeks flying back and forth across the country to visit five different cities.

The question at hand was whether or not to attend a cocktail party being thrown by my corporate hosts. Then I spotted the spa. Impulsively, I walked in and asked if I might be able to book a massage. Minutes later, I was lying on a table, unbelievably happy to be there. When I walked out an hour later, I felt incredibly relaxed and rejuvenated.

It was a powerful reminder of a core principle we teach our clients: The greater the performance demand, the greater the need for intermittent renewal. It’s just common sense. If you’re spending down more energy than usual, you need to refuel yourself more than usual.

Of course, most of us do just the opposite. When we’re facing a tough deadline, or a difficult set of demands, the default behavior is to hunker down, push the envelope, stay the course, burn the midnight oil. The clichés abound because the practice is so common.

If you spend any time traveling for business, the overwhelming likelihood is you struggle with delays, get to sleep late in your new city, wake up early, and pack your days with as many meetings as possible. If you take any time at all to relax, it’s usually over dinner, and you’re likely to eat too much and drink too much (especially if someone else is pouring).

My massage last week reminded me how vastly much better I feel — and subsequently perform — when I take time on the road to truly renew. Here are my six key strategies:

1. Do whatever it takes to get enough sleep. There is no more critical form of renewal, period. Only one out of every 40 people requires less than seven hours of sleep to feel fully rested, so the odds are that person isn’t you.

When I travel, I calculate how many hours I’m going to be able to sleep when I arrive, and if it’s less than eight, I try to make up the difference on the plane. I always bring a mask and earplugs. If you struggle to fall asleep, try a non-narcotic sleeping aid, such as Melatonin. Even a prescription sleeping pill is fine occasionally.

2. Get at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical exercise in the morning, because if you don’t do it then, you won’t do it. (But don’t do it at the expense of sleep.)

You already know how healthy it is to exercise. It’s also an incredibly reliable mood-enhancer. Choose a hotel with a good fitness facility, unless you’re happy to exercise outside.

A walk is a reasonable option, but you’ll get more bang for your buck, and likely feel better if you do some sort of aerobic exercise. At the simplest level, that means raising your heart rate enough that you’re truly exerting yourself.

As a stopgap, bring a Dyna-Band, which you can learn to use in a few minutes and allows you to get a full-body workout in your room.

3. Never, ever take the key for the minibar. There’s nothing good in it, trust me. If the minibar doesn’t have a key, consider asking that it be removed from your room before you check in. So long as you have one available, you’re more likely to eat or drink something you don’t need.

4. Breathe between meetings. Obviously, you’re always breathing, but I’m talking about something more deliberate. Take at least one full minute to breathe in through your nose to a count of three, expanding your abdomen, and then out through your mouth to a count of six.

By extending your out breath, you get more renewal. It’s possible to clear your bloodstream of cortisol — the most insidious of the stress hormones — in less than a minute by breathing this way. It’s also a great way to clear your mind.

5. Call home. It’s incredibly important to stay connected with the people you love – for you, and for them. It’s also best to call when you’re feeling reasonably relaxed and unrushed, because it will go better, and that will make you feel better.

6. Don’t let airport delays get you down. They’re unpredictable and inevitable. Always leave the day before your meetings, and be sure you have at least one backup flight. Travel with plenty of stuff to keep you happily and productively occupied on the plane, and if you’re delayed.

I bring two or three books, so I have choices about what to read, depending on my mood. I also carry a journal, because I’ve found there is no better place to think reflectively, without interruption, than on a plane, or in a quiet corner in an airport. Quiet time alone is precious, so savor whatever you happen to get.

My Company Loves Me, My Company Loves Me Not – by Gretchen Gavett (HBR Blog Network)

“Don’t love a financial institution too much, no matter how good it makes you feel sometimes,”writes Bloomberg Businessweek’s Bryan Urstadt. “It will never really love you back.”
This is Urstadt’s insight into Greg Smith’s very public New York Times breakup with Goldman Sachs after 12 years of employment. Smith, whose book on Goldman was just released, claims he was morally opposed to how the company treated its clients. But Urstadt also posits that feelings of personal betrayal helped pushed Smith to flee in such a public way. Smith saw himself as one of Goldman’s good guys, but he forgot that the purpose of his beloved company was to make money. In the end, “you really are what you earn, and the client will never trump that.”

Having a healthy dose of what Urstadt calls “useful skepticism” can give you enough perspective to avoid feeling crushed if you realize your employer doesn’t hold the values you thought it did. It probably won’t land you a book deal. But it can help you gauge how far you’re willing to stick your neck out for a company that may not stick its neck out for you.

Is It Time to Quit Your Job by Amy Gallo – HBR Blog Network

Everyone has bad days at work or even long periods when they feel disheartened about their job. But how do you know the difference between ordinary, occasional dissatisfaction and a genuine mismatch? How do you know when you’re truly ready to move on? And how do you then get out gracefully?

What the Experts Say
Quitting a job can negatively impact your career and disrupt your personal life. But staying in an undesirable situation can be worse. “I find a lot of people paralyzed by their unhappiness with their current reality,” says Leonard Schlesinger, the president of Babson College and coauthor of Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future. It’s often easier to stay put. “Most people stay too long in bad jobs because the corporate world is geared towards keeping us in roles, not matching individuals up with their ideal roles,” says Daniel Gulati, a tech entrepreneur and coauthor of Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders. But don’t let yourself get stuck. Here’s how to decide whether it’s really time to quit, and if so, how to leave effectively:

Watch for signals
Start by figuring out whether you lack excitement about the bigger picture or the day-to-day activities. “When people ask me how things are going, my standard response is that I love what I’m doing, which doesn’t mean that I like it on any given day,” says Schlesinger. Here are some signs that something larger is going on:

  • You keep promising yourself you’ll quit but never do. Gulati says that these false starts are often indicative of an underlying problem.
  • You don’t want your boss’s job. If you can’t stand the idea of having your manager’s job, you need to think hard about what’s next. Chances are that “your hungrier peers will soon pass you, creating more job dissatisfaction,” says Gulati.
  • You’re consistently underperforming. If you keep trying to get better but you’re not seeing results, it may be time to consider whether you have what it takes, or if your boss and colleagues value what you have to offer. Schlesinger warns that sometimes you’re up against an impossible task — the job is too big, the politics are too tricky, there aren’t enough resources, or you don’t have the required skills and experience.

If you notice one or more of these signs, pay attention and ask yourself whether the costs of staying in the job are reasonable and acceptable to you. It may be that the “price of admission” — opportunity loss, emotional toll — aren’t worth it.

Test the waters
To further explore if you’re ready to leave, run a few experiments to assess whether your perception is reality. “It’s better to rely on information gathered from live interaction with people rather than spinning around in your own chair,” says Schlesinger. He suggests having an honest conversation with your boss about how you’re perceived and what you’re capable of achieving in your role. If you think your manager wouldn’t be open to that kind of discussion, Gulati advises looking at your last two annual performance reviews. “Do the comments make you feel empowered or disheartened? If your performance is stagnating despite your best efforts, you might want to quit before further reputational damage is done,” he says. You can also test whether there’s a mismatch by putting your hat in the ring the next time your boss has a high-profile piece of work to be done. If you’re overlooked, it may be that he doesn’t appreciate your skills and it’s time to move on.

Know the risks
Before making a final decision, make sure you’ve assessed the downsides. Even if you’re certain you’re in the wrong job, there are risks to leaving — you may damage existing relationships, lose needed income, or blemish your resume. According to Gulati, people usually get ten chances to quit a job in their lifetime, which works out to an average of every four years. “If you’re changing things up much more than that, companies will start looking at you as a serial job-hopper,” he says. This will hurt your professional reputation and your chances of getting jobs in the future. “This could become especially problematic if you find a role you really want but can’t get a foot in the door because of your dicey resume,” says Gulati.

Always leave toward something
You can mitigate some of the risks by deciding what’s next before you leave. Both experts agree that it’s better to have at least an inkling of what you want to do, if not a full-fledged plan. “People should quit to secure a positive role, not on an emotional whim to avoid a negative situation. If you truly hate what you’re doing, you should absolutely leave but not before you identify something that you have a good chance of loving in the future,” says Gulati. Scheslinger adds “I wouldn’t leave without some sort of plan, whether it’s a set of experiments to confirm what you’re excited about doing next or a conscious strategy to make something happen.” Of course, that’s not always possible. “Many people leave it open ended, especially if they’re financially secure or craving an uninterrupted period of introspection,” says Gulati.

Don’t run out the door
You may fantasize about telling your boss to take this job and shove it, but that will only give you short-term relief and could possibly ruin your professional life. “There’s nothing worse than taking a bad situation and leaving it badly. How you leave is as important as how you arrive,” says Schlesinger. Discuss the decision with people who matter in your life: spouse, children, friends. Ask mentors or former bosses for advice. Most importantly, Schlesinger recommends, “Look at it from your boss’s point of view and think about how you can communicate a process for disengagement that is respectful of the situation.” Gulati agrees: “Once you’ve decided to quit and have a last day in mind, you should let your immediate supervisor know and follow due process.”

Principles to Remember

Do:

  • Ask yourself whether the job can be done, whether you can do it, and if the costs of doing it are too high
  • Run short experiments to test whether your current situation is unfixable
  • Have some sense of what you want to do next before your quit

 Don’t:

  • Stay if you don’t want the job your boss or another superior is doing — you need to have a vision of what will come next
  • Burn bridges no matter how dissatisfied you are — it could ruin your professional reputation
  • Make quitting a habit — you’ll blemish your resume