Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Why entrepreneurship? – 36 Reasons I discovered

The decision or choice to be an entrepreneur is no easy one (usually).. – whether you are a new kid on the block or you’ve had a corporate career for some (or large) part of your life.And yet, I increasingly read see and hear of so many people taking the deep plunge into entrepreneurship..

I always wondered “Why entrepreneurship?“…And I discovered 36 compelling reasons

(1) To create something new / unique / innovative

(2) To have a fair chance to make money that a corporate job can probably never really pay you

(3) To fell the thrill / high of building a new business / enterprise (This is very different from 1 above)

(4) To be your own boss

(5) To get away from your current boss / company / life

(6) To work on a purpose larger than yourself / life

(7) To generate employment and improve the quality of life for someone somewhere

(8) To work wholeheartedly on something that you are deeply passionate about, and strongly committed to

(9) To create wealth

(10) To experiment with something you’ve never done before

(11) To fulfill a dream

(12) Entrepreneurship is in the blood ; They can’t / won’t do anything else

(13) To lead from the front (really from the front)

(14) To make life worthwhile

(15) To truly solve a problem / market need

(16) To make life easier for someone somewhere

(17) To address a higher calling

(18) To challenge yourself, and push the envelope

(19) To be in control of your life – and not dependent on someone

(20) To live a life (style) that you’ve always desired

(21) To be in full-control of your time at work

(22) To take-over the family business / set-up

(23) To be in power, and to have the power to control, influence and determine the outcome of a zillion things

(24) To build / create / groom / mentor individuals ; a great opportunity to do it your way

(25) To prove a point – to yourself or someone else

(26) To dis-prove a theory / hypothesis / widely held popular belief. For e.g.: He / She can never be an entrepreneur

(27) To find a way to do something better / faster

(28) To pioneer the way to do something in a cost effective manner

(29) To settle past scores with someone. Sometimes jealousy or revenge are the cause for one to embark on entrepreneurial ventures

(30) To heal wounds of the mind and heart; To some entrepreneurship is therapeutic I’m told

(31) To do something worthwhile / productive with your time, skills and knowledge

(32) To pay the bills and put food on the table

(33) No one else is ready to employ / hire you :(

(34) To make a difference in someone’s life

(35) To maximize usage of both sides of your brain :) – Entrepreneurship needs optimal usage of the left and right side of the brain. Ample role of creativity and logic

(36) To leave a legacy which your forthcoming generations will be proud of

 

Did I miss any? Leave comments to let me know

50 Things I wish I’d truly understood (as a WOMAN) when I started my corporate career

A lot of times I get asked questions around what it takes to be a career woman in the corporate world. Invariably, my answers vary based on whom I am speaking to. Simply because a lot of things make up that elixir – Desire to work (or need to work for some women), Passion, Dedication, Commitment, Hard-work, Experience, Qualifications, Personal Brand, your professional networks and advocates and the kind of person you are.

While a lot is written and discussed on this subject, some critical points often get missed out. In this post I am sharing 50 things I wish I’d truly understood when I started my corporate career, albeit many of them are less spoken! While I have burnt my fingers many times on many of these points, the aim of writing it is to probably help you / some working woman in her career journey.

1)      The word CAREER starts with CARE. So take full responsibility to CARE for yourself, your professional growth and success

2)      Have career goals and objectives – Both short-term and long-term. You will go and grow only as far as you want to!

3)      Plan your career in line with your goals and objectives. Have a Plan A. Plan B. And Plan C. Many women are guilty of having no real career plan

4)      Know yourself – Discover your strengths and weaknesses. Be aware of them, accept them (including the fact that you are a woman) and find ways to improve and improvise.

5)      Believe in yourself. If you don’t there’s a chance that others also won’t

6)      Value yourself if you want others at work to value yourself

7)      Learn to say NO – at the workplace and at home. And No means NO. Make sure you understand it, and those around you understand it too

8)      Find a mentor. Having one early on in your career can sometimes be the only factor in determining how long your career will span, and how far you will go

9)      Invest in professional networks. They will hold you in good stead on the rainy days.

10)  At work – Show up. Own up. Speak up.

11)  You are the “CMO” (Chief Marketing Officer) of your work and career. Promote yourself and your work. Again, a lot of women lose out because they don’t get due credit and visibility for what they’ve done

12)  Read the news / Know what is in the news – General knowledge is always good

13)  Invest in your physical health and wellness – This will be one of the most important variables if you are serious about a long term career

14)  Learn to use technology for your benefit. Make an effort to know what you need, understand the power of technology and find ways to make technology work for you.

15)  Stay relevant in your field – read, take examinations / certifications, participate in community discussions, etc.

16)  Build your personal brand image – At work and out of work. Brand YOU should stand for something unique and reflective of you

17)  Communication is critical to success – Invest in enhancing you oral and written communication skills. This can sometimes be the most critical aspect of your career growth

18)  Presentation skills – Both creating presentations and making presentations is a must-have skill. Invest in learning

19)  Learn to negotiate. It does not come naturally to most women, but it can be learnt over time

20)  Learn to ask for help . It is OK to ask

21)  Make a personal resolution to learn something new periodically. Learning is one of the best ways to love yourself

22)  Find ways to improve productivity at work and home. Small things make a big difference

23)  To have a fair chance at success as a working women, learn to prioritize your work

24)  Knowing when to shut-up and when to speak-up is a personal asset. Speaking when you shouldn’t and not speaking when you should can become a liability

25)  Choose your battles wisely – at work and at home. You have finite energy and time, and not every battle is worth a fight

26)  When in doubt, use common sense, presence of mind or the Buddha Expression. They almost always work!

27)  Every now and then ask yourself the difficult questions. They will burst your bubbles and show you the clear picture

28)  Develop a daily routine and stick to it. For at least 3 months before you make any changes.

29)  Periodically, think and measure your ROTI (Return on Time Invested) for the things that you do – at work and out-of-work. If the returns don’t justify your time and efforts, pause and reflect and change course

30)  Give yourself some “ME Time” – every week to do at least 30 minutes of something you love. This will rejuvenate you

31)  Understand that while emotions define most women, control on your emotions will define your career path and its longevity

32)  Have “genuine” interests outside of work. Cooking, Dance, Writing, etc. Whatever! Find something and do it every now and then

33)  Have friends out of work. They will be critical to keep you going through the rough tides, and will provide the much needed ear, shoulder and perspective on those dark gloomy days / nights

34)  At work, it is about business. Don’t take / make everything personal

35)  Office politics is real and here to stay. Find a way to deal with it

36)  If you are at cross-roads / in a tough situation at work, make sure you speak up and share it with the right audience at the right forum. Even if it does not directly help you, it will indirectly help all the women who may face a similar situation in the future. One small voice can be the start of positive change, right?

37)  While earning is important, managing your finances and investments is even more critical. Save regularly, invest wisely and review your personal finances periodically. If you can’t / don’t have the time, hire professionals to do it. It is a worthwhile investment. Again, a lot of women are guilty of being clueless about where all their money went

38)  “The most important career choice a woman makes is who she marries” BY Sheryl Sandberg. This is 100% true. Understand its depth and accept its reality

39)  Work-Life Balance is elusive, and somewhat of a misnomer. Bottom-line, it is your work, your life and your balance. If it works for you, then all is well

40)  There is great inspiration and power in the “All women social networks”. Find one or two that interest you and become a member. Listen, Express and Share.

41)  If and when you become a mother, there will be a time-period (ranging between weeks to 3 years or more) when there could be a career break / you need to apply the career brake. That’s OK! If you are serious about a long term career , positive and objective, things will fall in place over a period of time

42)  Focus. Flow and Flex are the three foundational pillars for a working mother’s career continuum. They all play their role in the career graph of a working woman

43)  Once in a way, take up the cause and help another working woman. Just imagine the difference it can make if 1 working woman supported 1 other working woman for sometime

44)  No matter how complex, formidable, complicated and unique you think your situation is / maybe, remember that there is at least one other woman in the world who has faced a similar situation and found a way out of the adversity. So it is possible. Believe in it

45)  Every now and then, connect and speak with a working woman who is finding her way amidst the jungle for her spot in the sun. Personally, I always take away some wisdom, nuggets or insights from every such interaction, and they help me tremendously

46)  Try to stay positive no matter what! It does you more harm than good, and easier said than done. But worth a try!

47)  Have an open mind to try out unchartered territories at work.

48)  Age and Karma almost always catch up on you – no preferential treatment for women here J

49)  Your happiness is in your hands. You are the “Chief Happiness Officer” of your life. Play the part, and play it well J

50)  Thank (often and in your own personal way) your parents, your education, your teachers, your friends, your colleagues, etc. who all played their bit in shaping your career. Nothing takes you from good to great as fast as gratitude.

On that note, Thank you for reading me. And have a great day and a long prosperous career ahead.

Originally published here

Questions to ask and answer for yourself

There is power in questions. The right questions. Questions which make you think, reflect, introspect. Questions which push you out of your comfort zone, which burst a few bubbles, which show you the real picture, which make you understand and realize many things.

Asking the right questions to yourself come sometimes be the best gift you give yourself. Simply because when you ask the right questions, your thoughts are channeled in the right direction.

As I look back at my own life, some questions have been eye-openers for me.. Some have changed my outlook to life.. And many have changed my life.

In this post I’m sharing some of those powerful questions with you in the hope that they compel you to introspect and internalize life’s many lessons.

1) Am I doing things that I love?

If you are doing things you love, then great. If not, then you probably would give one of the following reasons –Circumstances out of my control, Other Priorities, Unplanned / unexpected situations, Never ending Constraints, Commitments to be honored, Personal Limitations. Well, do remember that every human-being anywhere on this earth (either today or generations ago) had / has one / many of the above at one / many phases in life– So you are not alone. And yet, some people always find or make the time to do things that they love. Maybe you need to just squeeze in that little time to do things you love or make a vocation of the things you love. Doing things you love will almost always make you happy. Even if it is for 10 minutes a day. For some this joy comes in reading, for some in writing, for some in watching TV, for some in sleeping, for some in creating something worthwhile.. Whatever it is.. Discover.. Make time for it. and Do it! It makes a difference

2) Am I learning enough?

Learning is a very important dimension to personal growth and development. It does not matter what you are learning, from whom you are learning, how you are learning, how much you are learning – But what’s important is that you learn consciously and invest some time and effort regularly to learn new things. If in your own assessment you are not learning enough, then it’s important to identify what you want to learn and set aside time on a regular basis for learning. I honestly believe if you love yourself, you will make an attempt to learn something new regularly. Try it and see for yourself if you don’t believe me

3) Am I content with the current state of my overall health?

The fact is that your overall state of health and well-being will determine the quality of your life today and tomorrow. Hence, it is imperative that you take time to invest in your overall health and wellness. In reality, you know your state of personal health the best, and hence you would be the best judge. If you are not content, then it’s time to ask yourself what is it that you need to, want to do and should do to improve it?

4) Am I really happy with myself?

Another very profound question – But the answer to which can sometimes be a revelation to you. Simply because you try to make everyone around you happy; and end up unhappy with yourself. While it is great to make others happy, it is also important that you invest in your own happiness. So do mull over this and see if you need to change one / many aspects of your own life

5) Am I spending time with those who matter to me?

Again, time is one of your most valuable personal assets. So use it wisely, and ensure that you earmark some time periodically for those who matter to you – It can be your family, friends, staff, acquaintances, colleagues, soul-mates, etc. But sharing your life with those who matter strengthens relationships and does wonders to your happiness quotient

6) Am I living life to the best of my potential?

You are endowed with infinite potential – Some you are aware, some unexplored and some ignored. But if you ask yourself this question again and follow it with Why? Why Not? – You will get the answers. Not just a Yes No kind of answer, but more importantly answers which will enable you to live life to the best of your potential

7) Am I happy with the current state of my immediate living environment?

Your current living environment – be it at work or office or anywhere else affects your thoughts, your energies, your productivity and your creativity. So make sure it is clean, well-organized and the way you want it to be – to get the best out of yourself

8) Have I made peace with my past?

Many of us tend to hold on to our past; and how ever hard we try we are unable to let-go. And in life it’s important to let-go and make peace with your past – especially the negativity. Just accept it and release the baggage  (Easier said than done, but it is not impossible!). Of course, it is wise to take the lessons along. And then focus your energies on the present and future

9) Am I giving enough?

In life, you give some and you get some. Most of us tend to receive more than we give. In the long run, it’s important to give – To friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, an unknown face, a needy soul, someone less fortunate, another living being.

And what can you give? A smile, an advice, a thought, a good deed, an idea, a motivation, an inspiration, time, knowledge, support, a shoulder, a ear, a helping hand, a life lesson, wisdom..

10) Am I really experiencing life?

Are you really experiencing life – Love, Laughs, Romance, Tears, Cultures, People, Heart-breaks, Passions, Rainbows, Disappointments, Failure, Trials, Experiments, Cuisines, Technology,….. In the moment.. In this moment… And are you making the moment count? Because the more open you are, the more your experience, the more you enjoy and the more fulfilling life is…

Those are my questions for the day? What are your questions? And what are your answers? Leave a comment to let me know 

And just I was about to Publish this, I came across an excellent infographic titled “The Self-Reflection Manifesto” : 101 Questions to ask yourself. Truly powerful questions, right? Now read and answer for yourself

The Self-Reflection Manifesto

Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


Originally published here

The Working Mother’s Career Continuum: FOCUS. FLOW. FLEX

The Working Mother’s Career Continuum: FOCUS. FLOW. FLEX

Let me start with the wishes. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to you and your mother and all the mothers who made a difference in your life! Mothers are indeed the reason you and I exist, and most often the reason why we are what we are today and possibly / probably the BEST thing that happened in our lives (If you don’t believe me, ask your mother / someone who lost their mother!)! Take a moment to say THANK YOU for the fact that you have your MOTHER in your life.

Ever since I became a mother, I have a new found respect and admiration for any / every working mother.

No matter where she works

No matter what her work entails

No matter where she lives

No matter what her circumstance is

She is a STAR!

Not for a day.

Not for Mother’s day.

But for every single day!

Let me start with the facts | It is TOUGH… Really TOUGH to be a working mother. It tests you at every level in very many ways almost every single day, and you have to find a way to pass. You can fail for a day or two, but then you will to get up, move forward and find a way to pass. No grace marks really! First, there is sheer physical exhaustion in getting through each day at work and at home. Then there is mental stress (again both at work and at home). Following closely are the the emotional pangs (of guilt, fears, anxieties, worries, concerns about your role as a mother and your children). Next are the expectations of the family, spouse, work, the education system (both from the children and from the parents) and last but not least, is the collective impact of the society we live in (in terms of continuous judgment, expectations, day-to-day operational issues / constraints / dependencies, etc.). Every single day is a tight-rope balancing act. You fumble a little, lose focus, lose balance and the entire equilibrium is disturbed. And yet, as working mothers you have to find a way to make it all fall-in-line.

Now first is the much-debated decision of “To Work or Not” after you become a mother. There is no right or wrong. It is a personal choice and depends on your personal context / situation and circumstance. Some mothers find that full-time-motherhood is their calling and give up everything else. Some are forced to become full-time-mothers by family pressures. Some mothers have to quit for lack of any alternative / support systems. Some mothers have to work due to financial commitments and liabilities / to put food on the table / marital discord. Some mothers find alternate career choices (not corporate careers) and make it work because they passionate about something / because full-time-motherhood is not their cup of tea. And some mothers find their place in the corporate world. There really no-one-size that fits all and yet, it has to fit RIGHT for YOU!

A lot of times I am asked for my views on what it takes to be a working mother. In this post, I’m sharing my opinion based on my personal experiences in a corporate career, and what I’ve seen in other working mothers.

As a working mother, if you are serious about your career and want a fair share at success, your career continuum should have 3 foundational pillars

(1)    FOCUS

As a mother, to have a career, you have to be focused

As a mother, to have a fair chance at career success, you have to be super-focused

 The one MUST HAVE mantra for any / every working mother is FOCUS. Without focus, you will really not be able to survive or thrive at work.

Following are the things which you should be focused about:

(i)                  Your work tasks for the day – Know what you should get done for the day, Plan for it and Just do it.

(ii)                Your career objectives for the year – Ensure you define / know them and work towards achieving them. You will only go so far without knowledge / clarity on your career objectives

(iii)               Your career goals for the long-term (say 3/ 5 / 10 years) – Be clear (somewhat) on where you are headed in the long term. If you have a view on the end, chances are you will reach there. If you don’t, chances are you will spend enough time in the journey without reaching anywhere. And if that is what you want, it is fine too. But make sure you acknowledge this to yourself.

 

(2)    FLOW

As a mother, to have a career, you have to flow today

As a mother, to have a long-term-career, you have to keep flowing today and tomorrow

By flow, what I really mean is “career continuity”. I cannot emphasize how critical it is to be in touch with your work and to keep going no matter what. Sometimes you may be compelled to take a break / brake. Sometimes, you may have to choose “not-so-great” options / career paths / alternatives, but in the long run being in the “flow” makes all the difference.

Why? One, you earn (whatever little, it does wonders to your own self-confidence and independence). Two, you learn. Three, the “gaps” in your resume will not really go against you. Four, you stay in touch and enhance you knowledge, skills. Five, you are at the table, so more visible than when you are within the confines of your home. Six, you have more opportunities to network and build professional relationships.

As a working mother, there will be times in your life when you have to take career breaks / put a brake on your career. The issue for most mothers becomes that they don’t really decide on the duration of this and plan around it. Consequently, it gets harder to get back to active work. First, it is your own inertia to get back to work which is a huge impediment. Then there is the lack of ‘relevant’ knowledge and skills due to the time away from work. Lastly, there is the issue of lack of a commensurate compensation in lieu of the career breaks.

Following are the things which you should know about “Flow”:

(i)                  It is better to be in a state of flow than being stagnant for too long – especially if you have a corporate career / harbor entrepreneurial ambitions. If you flow, chances are better for you to move ahead, right?

(ii)                Ensure that you are focused on “being in flow” with respect to your work / career. This will be the most crucial with respect to career longevity and growth

(iii)               While flow without focus (i.e. a definite end goal) is good in some career phases to give you career continuity and longevity, make sure you “time-box” these phases.

(iv)              While flow is important, once in a way make sure you pause – for career reflection, introspection, insights and course corrections. Being in a state of perpetual flow does not help either

 

(3)    FLEX

As a mother, to have a career, you have to make flex work for you today

As a mother, to have a chance at success in your career, you have to make flex work for you almost every day

 No working mother ever managed without a little or a lot of flexibility. It is the only realistic way to manage the elusive work-life balance.

 Following are the things which you should know about “Flex”:

(i)                  “Flex” is great if you have “Focus” and are in the ”Flow”

(ii)                There is no universal definition / agreement on what “flex” working is. Make sure you know and understand what it means to you and to the people / organization you are working for / with. The lesser the gap and mismatch of expectations, the better your chance at success

(iii)               DO NOT abuse / misuse the “flex” work option. It does more harm than good if you are caught on the wrong foot – Both for your own career and the larger cause of “work flex” options for other working women / mothers.

As I sign-off, my mantra for working mothers

Be focused

Ensure you flow

Make “flex” work for you

 

What are your views of the career continuum of working mothers? Leave a comment to let me know

7D Ladder to Achieve Your Goals in Life

Do you have goals?

Do you want to achieve them?

Do you know how to get there?

Hmm.. Well.. If you’re looking for some guidance, then this is the post written for you based on all the I have observed and learned in my life…

 

 

 

D1: Discover your goals for life

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” BY Albert Einstein

Discovering your goals is the first step to get there. And discovery can sometimes take a lot of time, effort and also support from those around you. But discovery is really the process in which you think through what you want to achieve. For e.g.: I would like to write more often can be a broad goal that you discover for yourself

 

D2: Define your goals in a clear and concise fashion

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”  BY Bruce Lee

The next step is to precisely define what you really want to achieve. The more specific you are, the better are your chances in reaching your goal. And the best way is to define SMART goal (Simple Measurable Action-Oriented Realistic and Time Bound). For e.g.: I will publish one blog every month of this year is a good target to start off with for any blogger

 

D3: Design a plan to achieve your goal

A goal without a plan is just a wish.” BY Larry Elder

Once you have defined your goals, design a realistic plan to achieve your goal. I emphasize on realistic as you need to be cognizant of your current commitments, circumstances and constraints; and model a “personalized plan” factoring all of these. For e.g.: I will wake up at 6 AM and write for 30 mins on Tuesdays & Thursdays; as I need to reach work only by 9 AM.

 

D4: Develop your skills and everyday routine in line with your plan

To reach any goal, you usually need to develop new skills on some areas and also possibly hone and enhance skills on some areas. The best way to do this is to integrate specific tasks into your everyday routine. For e.g.: Let’s continue with the goal of writing. Every writer needs to read continuously to hone their writing skills. So one specific action plan is to set aside 15 mins everyday (say during lunch time) when you will read diverse articles from diverse authors. Not only does this reading enable you to become aware of writing styles, but also increases your own knowledge base on one / more topics.

 

D5: Be Dedicated in doing what you have to do when you have to do it

Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”  BY Paulo Coelho

Next and very important is that you need to be personally dedicated towards achieving your goals. If this means that you make some sacrifices and choices to achieve this, then so be it. But be dedicated, sincere and put your best foot forward to reach your goals.

 

D6: Be Determined to achieve your goals

know what you want, work to get it, then value it once you have it.” BY Nora Roberts

The road to any goal has its share of ups and downs. And what will make the difference in helping you reach your goals is usually how determined you are. So stay focused, objective and positive; and when things get rough and tough – be a little kind on yourself, but never lose sight of your goal.

 

D7: Dream about your goals at every opportunity you get

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”  BY Rabindranath Tagore

One of the most important dimensions to achieving your goal is to dream about it at every opportunity you can. Dream the moment .. Create a visual memory .. and live the dream everyday. Before you know it, your dream will be reality and your goal will be well achieved..

 

On that note, Dare to Dream BIG; and work towards achieving your GOALS in LIFE!

Asking for Help: Are you an A+ on a D-?

STRESS” – That 6 letter dreaded word! Stress can be the cause or / and effect of many a physical ailment, emotional upheaval, mental discord and dissonance, financial turmoil, and lack of a social life. Stress can be the one single cause that prevents many of us from doing our best in life. Stress can be the cause for many of us to stay awake all night. Bottomline, stress can be manifested due to several things in life, and stress has many manifestations in our lives.

As I observe, converse and interact with working women (especially working mothers) in India, I find that they are probably and possibly the “most stressed out” profile of people. The sheer diversity and complexity of issues women deal with on a regular basis is mind-boggling. Issues from demands of the workplace, office politics, marital discord, extra-marital affairs, new age parenting and dealing with the children of today’s era, self-confidence, sheer anxiety of dealing with every-day operations (the house-help, the cooking, the home maintenance, etc.), exhaustion and health issues, dealing with expectations of family / extended family, lack of “ME” time, financial woes, depression, etc. After all being a working woman does come with its share of challenges. Click here to read the multi-dimensional issues that she deals with.

As I look back at my own career and life, I strongly believe that 2 things can help the cause of “working women” / “working mothers” to deal with stress.

1)      Learning to say NO. Click here to read my earlier post on this

2)      Asking for help

In this post, I’m going to share a few tips and pointers for working women based on my personal experiences.

Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful.” BY Ric Ocasek

1)      The easiest way to get help is to ASK for it

Don’t be shy asking for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, it only means you’re wise

A lot of us find it hard to ask for help. I speak from experience here! I don’t know if it is due to our culture, upbringing, education or just the way we are wired. But I used to find it very very hard to ask for help. Until I became a mother. I then realized that it would be impossible to survive without help. So I asked for help. I used to feel very uncomfortable initially, but I learned over time. Today, I don’t think twice.

So, the important take-away

  • Be clear about what exactly you want help for. For e.g: “I need help at home in the morning” V/S “I need help from 7 AM to 8 AM to help me with cooking
  • The easiest way to get help is to ASK for it
  • Sometimes the best way to ask for help is to understand “how to do it”, and “to get it done”

2)      Too much help is not good either

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.” BY Audrey Hepburn

 While asking for help is great, I know of too many women who ask for help for everything under the sun. To the extent that they just cannot do even basic things themselves. I know of women who don’t know how to draw money from an ATM or even women who don’t know where and how to buy vegetables! That is not good either. Simply because when you try and do something yourself, there is great learning in the experience. And with learning comes growth and self-confidence

So, the important take-away

  • Think before you ask for help. Answer honestly whether the reason you are asking for help is due to lack time, lack of ability or your habit of asking for help

 3)      Professional Help is fine too, nothing taboo about it

We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” BY Ronald Reagan

A lot of us are uncomfortable about hiring professional help for many things. Reasons range from lack of awareness on the kind of services in the market, to it being the first time you are asking for help, to that is just not the way it was always done. As an example, most Indian homes go through the annual house cleaning exercise during a festival like Diwali. It takes time, effort, can be exhausting and many times you’re not happy with the outcome. Last year, we hired professional cleaners for the job. They did a fantastic job and the house looked “brand sparkling clean and new”. It came at a price we were willing to pay. We wondered why we had not done it before. Check this interesting link on Life as a Service. There are so many interesting services out there, and so many service models which provide help.

So, the important take-away

  • Be aware of the kind of services in the market for different things. Read, speak to people and share your issues / solutions.
  • Be clear on how much you are willing to pay for a service

4)      Self-Help is the BEST HELP

To help yourself, you must be yourself. Be the best that you can be. When you make a mistake, learn from it, pick yourself up and move on.” BY Dave Pelzer

So, the important take-away

  • Before you ask for help, try doing it yourself
  • Sometimes, the best help you can do to yourself is to find effective ways to “do things. There is no need to re-invent the wheel for everything! Someone somewhere has done it before. Try to re-use the approach / methodology in your own context
  • Sometimes not to help someone is the best help

So as I sign-off, I leave you with a few questions…

Do you ask for help? NEVER? Hmm.. You get D-

Do you ask for help? ALWAYS? Hmm… You get D-

Do you ask for help? Sometimes based on the need / situation? Great! – You get A+

Can you do better? Worth a thought and a comment :)

Originally published here

What working women can learn from productivity in ants?

A few days back I came across an infographic titled 7 Productivity Lessons from Ants. Packed with wisdom and insights, I loved reading it. Refer below to the details.

7 Productivity Lessons from Ants

7 Productivity Lessons from Ants

Source: http://visual.ly/7-productivity-lessons-ants

As a working mother, I’m always looking for ways and means to improve and enhance my productivity. After all, we are trying to do things as quickly and efficiently as we can every single day. And honestly, whenever I see or read or think about ants, I almost always go back with a lesson. They are small, hard-working, focused and do what they have to do!

So based on the wisdom from ants, and my own experiences, I am sharing a few points in this post. These are not about how to excel at the workplace, but really about how to maintain a balance between the expectations and demands of your professional life and the expectations and demands of your personal life. I’m not an expert in this department and I’ve not figured it all out. It is work-in-progress for me, but I do have more than a decade of experience of things that work and make a difference. I only strive to share what has helped in my journey this far with a hope that it may help you – sometime, somewhere

So without any further ado.

Focus – on the things that matter

Look around you at anyone who achieved anything in life – and you will see one defining characteristic. That is FOCUS. Focus is important for anyone in life, but more critical if you are a working woman.

a. Be focused on what you need to accomplish at work for a day, week, month, quarter, year. Keep your eyes on the end goal and objective. In between, even if you deviate, that’s OK! But make sure you come back on track as soon as you can. The best way to do this is to write down what you need to accomplish for a specific time horizon, and look at it at the start of every single day. That will ensure you are on track, at least as you start each day!

b. Be crystal clear on what all you need to do as a part of your personal life (in terms of things to do at home) and for yourself. Identify what is absolutely essential, and let go of everything else. Either outsource or delegate or just let it be. In the long run, many trivial things that you are stuck up about (in terms of your thoughts, time and energies) are really not worth it. For example, I used to be a stickler for a clean, well-organized house every single day, and anything below my expectations was not acceptable. Over time, I realized that this was taking up a lot of my time and energy, taking me away from what I really wanted to do and it really did not matter to others .With time, I relaxed my own benchmarks and go easy on myself. And when I do embark on a house cleaning exercise, it is usually time-boxed.

c. Give undivided time and attention to the task at hand and make sure you complete it. Say NO if and when you have to say NO – To people, friends, distractions, phone calls, TV, Social Media, the spouse, the boss, mummy, spouse, kids et al. The sooner you learn to say NO, the better for you.

Most importantly, as they ants do – focus on one small thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a working woman’s boon, but for things which need to be done really well – Do it one at a time.

Build your team and collaborate

As a working woman professional, you will realize that the sooner you put together a good team to help/enable you at home, the more effective and productive you will be at work. What I really mean by this is to build and nurture a team within the 4-walls so you can be the best possible you at work. From experience, I can say the following are critical members in your core team:

Your maid/helper/cook – will always be on the No. 1 spot. Trust me, you really cannot be a working woman and have this wrong!
Your spouse – needs to be highlighted because he plays a critical role in what you can do at home and work. This usually determines how far your career will go! It is for a very good reason that Sheryl Sandberg says, “The most important career choice a woman makes is who she marries“
Your family – especially your mom, your mother-in-law and your kids
Your friends
Your neighbors

Most importantly, as the ants do – recognize that you will go farther if you collaborate as a team.

Develop a routine that works for you

I can’t emphasize this enough. Suffice to say, create a routine that works for you. Stick with it. And see the magic unfold. It seems very simple and logical. But for many working women, it takes years of experience, many, many failures and serious introspection to come up with the right routine. And once you do, everything falls in line.

As a working woman, you should have the following routines planned out – a daily routine, a weekly routine and a monthly routine. Among other things make sure your daily routine has time for eating right and healthy, catching up on the news and general reading. Make sure your weekly routine has time for exercise, doing something you love (‘ME’ time) and speaking to one/two people in your friends and family network. Networking is critical in the long run, and many working woman lose out here. Ensure your monthly routine has some time to learn something new. Constantly learning, re-skilling, cross-skilling and up-skilling is the need of the day. This can/should include professional learning.

Most importantly, as the ants do – follow a routine to become more efficient and effective.

Communication

Make sure you communicate things that need to be said in a clear and concise fashion – at least to those who play a critical role in your life. Be sure to express clearly what you really want and expect from them – especially your core team at home. Be real and reasonable on expectations from others. And most importantly, say it, and listen to what they have to say.

As a working woman, I’ve burnt my fingers many times by assuming they know. They DON’T! Be it your maid/domestic helper, your spouse, your kids, your boss, your team – assume they don’t know till you clearly call things out for them – in terms of what you will do, and what they will do. And what is non-negotiable! Many times I assume they are OK; many times, they are not OK. So make sure you listen and pay attention to what they have to say. It makes all the difference.

Lastly, to communicate clearly you need to be clear in your head. That clarity usually takes time to get, but it is well worth your time. Be clear in your mind. Be clear in your words.

Most importantly, as the ants do – focus on communicating right and to the right people. And yes! Listen. Communication is two-way.

Stay Positive

Being a working woman is not easy. Being a working mother is tough. I speak from experience here. As working professionals, many women face gender discrimination, workplace bullying, harassment, slow-paced career progression, questionable compensation, unsupportive workplace environment and outdated policies. They are the realities of the environment and ecosystem one is a part of. And there is no easy way to survive, and no magic mantra to thrive.

And yet, every single working woman I’ve met or known has to be positive if she is to have a fair shot in her career. So stay positive and be positive. Read positive messages/books/blogs, speak to positive people and think positive.

Most importantly, as the ants do – Look ahead into a great future.

Set Deadlines

The beauty of a deadline is that there is a line drawn, and the bane is that the line dies somewhere before we get there! So the universal truth is that most deadlines are really not deadlines – they end up just as moving line! As a working professional, it becomes critical to define what a deadline means to you and then set some deadlines – for your own well-being. For e.g., at work, it is important to set deadlines around how long you will stay at work on most days (critical for your personal safety), how soon you will complete tasks assigned to you, how fast will you be able to demonstrate your value, etc.

Similarly, at home it becomes critical to put deadlines around phone conversations and general chit-chat/gossip, TV time, bed time, social media/FaceBook time, etc. Each of these deadlines if consciously defined, and judiciously worked towards will ensure success in the long run.

Most importantly, as the ants do – bring on board your advocates, your allies and your brownies before the storms.

Division of Work

Does this need explanation? Especially for things at home – identify what all needs to be done to keep your house going: cleaning, shopping, home maintenance, cooking, paying bills, etc etc. And then, divide the work or delegate the work – to family, friends or anyone else who can help you. The sooner you figure out the art and craft of division and delegation, the more productive and successful you will be at the workplace and in life!

Most importantly, as they ants do – clearly define the roles and responsibilities. Share it. The sooner people know what they have to do, chances are they will do it sooner than later.

These are some of the points that worked for me. What has worked for you? Leave a comment to let me know.

 

Originally published here

I BELIEVE in you, do you?

There are few topics of genuine interest for people from the Indian male fraternity. Cricket, Bollywood (with special emphasis on the Katrina Kaif!), Politics, General Affairs (including the US, Japan, China, Pakistan et al), Cars, Gadgets and Technology (mobile and tablets included because I used this word fairly loosely and broadly!) and Women. Under the topic of women, a few sub categories get more interest than other’s. One of them is the topic of “a woman driving a car”. “They don’t know driving”, “They can’t drive”, “I bet it’s a girl driving that car”, “She can never get the parking right”, “Reverse parking and she? Pray for the owner of the other cars”. I heard all of these words (& more) for a large part of my growing up years (and continue to hear them even today!).  Somehow somewhere, I believed it to be true.  Consequently, I could not get myself to drive a car for several years.

One fine day, I decided I had to learn car driving. I can’t recall why, but this one burning desire consumed every waking moment of my life. And so I enrolled to a driving school. Unfortunately for me, during one of those learning sessions, I had a ‘head-on’ collision with a private bus. Fortunately for me, the car and I survived. Almost all the boys / men I knew said “I told you so! This is not meant for you.”. I listened to them and believed it. As a result, I stopped the lessons and driving.

After a few years, I mustered the courage to again enroll into a driving school. I completed the course and got my driving license. But the lack of confidence and fears persisted. So I rarely drove. After a few years, I got fed-up being dependent on others for ferrying me around. But I still lacked confidence, so I decided to refresh my driving lessons. Thanks to a friend who offered to risk putting his life at stake with my amateur driving, I lay my hands on the steering wheel.  I drove like an amateur. If I saw vehicles come near me, I’d steer away. If it was a big vehicle, I’d freeze and give way. If there was a junction in sight, I’d pray for it to be clear (along with a list of bribes to the Almighty!). If there appeared to be traffic ahead, I’d wish all the vehicles disappeared by the time I reached.

After a few patient days, my friend had THAT talk with me. He said “Why are you so scared? Rather, what are you so scared of? I’m the one who should be scared since you are driving. But I’m sitting here – happily next to you in spite / despite your driving skills. If you do drive, drive like a king. The road is yours to take. I BELIEVE in you, do you?”. That was the moment it all changed for me, and driving a car has never been the same again.

As I look back to connect the dots of my life, I have been fortunate that I’ve had people who believed in me at the most vulnerable and decisive moments of my life.  From my family, friends, teachers, colleagues and managers at work – they all had their way of saying this to me “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”.  6 simple words, but truly powerful and truly transformational. I speak from experience here!

Coming to women at the workplace, it is no different. Almost every working woman I’ve come across (irrespective of age, irrespective of ethnicity, irrespective of seniority, irrespective of past successes) has a lot these moments in her career. Moments of self-doubt, uncertainty, questions and fears around her capability, competency and value. Not once, not twice, but very many times. And to help her cross the chasm during these moments, many times all she needs to hear is “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”. Trust me, it can shape, influence and steer her career in unimaginable ways.

Pause and Reflect

When did someone last tell you ““I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

When did you tell someone “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

When did you tell a woman “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

When did you tell a working woman “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

You have a chance today..

“I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

 

Originally published here

After Maternity Leave – Getting Back To Work?

Getting back to work after maternity leave is a unique experience – both for the baby and the mother.

First is “THE” decision. To work or not? And when? And how? And what work to take up? Most mothers go through a range of deep thoughts and human emotions – ranging from worry, to guilt, to anxiety, to indecisiveness, to happiness, to questions, to what’s really the right thing to do, to how to balance professional commitments and personal priorities, to….. The list is endless.

From my own personal experience and discussing this with several of my mummy friends here is what I can say with absolute conviction: There really is NO right or wrong in the decision to work or not. It all depends on YOU…

What do you want? What is right for you and your family at that particular point in time? What kind of circumstance are you in? What kind of support system do you have? And most importantly, how bad do you really want to work?

I went through all of the above when I became a mother. And I decided to resume work after my maternity leave. Along the way I learned a few lessons which I am sharing in this post – with the intent that it may help some mother somewhere.

It’s a personal choice

Be clear on your priorities

Plan, Plan, Plan

Start the solid foods for your baby (if possible)

Get the right support network

Recalibrate your expectations of yourself

Express yourself & Speak-up

Converse with other mothers

Give yourself ‘Me Time’

Of course your situation is personal and unique to you. But then again, how unique can it really be?

For full reading, click here

Strategy.. Strategy.. What is this Strategy???

At the start of every new year, most organizations are abuzz with this word called “strategy”. Every one is talking strategy, reviewing strategy, attending strategy presentations, drafting strategies or finalizing strategies.. Sigh! I wonder how strategically successful all these people / companies are?

Don’t get me wrong here. Having been in the corporate world for several years now, I do understand and appreciate the importance of strategy, and how it can be critical in your growth, differentiation or success. But once in a way I also think it is important to step-back, go back to the basics and see what others have to say.

Sharing some words on strategy from the wise

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” (Winston Churchill)

“Strategy formulation, then, is an ongoing requirement of good management. It is, to quote Michael Porter, ‘a process of perceiving new positions that woo customers from established positions or draw new customers into the market.’ This is a process you must permanently embed in your organization.”
(Harvard Business Review Blog Network)

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” (Michael Porter)

“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” (Michael LeBoeuf)

“A strategy is something like, an innovative new product; globalization, taking your products around the world; be the low-cost producer. A strategy is something you can touch; you can motivate people with; be number one and number two in every business. You can energize people around the message.” (Jack Welch)

“There’s only one growth strategy: work hard.” (William Hague)

“The best CEOs I know are teachers, and at the core of what they teach is strategy.” (Michael Porter)

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” (Sun Tzu)

“In marketing I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss – and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last.” (John Romero)

“What business strategy is all about-what distinguishes it from all other kinds of business planning-is, in a word, competitive advantage. Without competitors there would be no need for strategy, for the sole purpose of strategic planning is to enable the company to gain, as efficiently as possible, a sustainable edge over its competitors.” (Kenichi Ohmae)

“In McKinsey’s world, all of life is one of two things: strategy or organization.”  (Tom Peters)

“The real challenge in crafting strategy lies in detecting subtle discontinuities that may undermine a business in the future. And for that there is no technique, no program, just a sharp mind in touch with the situation.” (Henry Mintzberg)

“Strategy is not the consequence of planning, but the opposite: its starting point.” (Henry Mintzberg)

“In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.” ( Jack Welch)

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