Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Magic of Thinking Big

Have you been giving excuses for all your failures? Do you consider yourself as a pygmy? Do you always find faults with others? Are you dreaming about success and not taking any actions? If you have answered "yes" to any of these questions, this book is really for YOU.

I enjoyed reading this book. David Schwartz corroborates his thoughts and suggestions with wonderful stories. You can apply his practical ideas even to change some of your perpetual habits. This book is really a motivation booster and forces you to get into action. It stimulates your positive thinking/attitude and alleges you not to make negative impressions about people/ideas/beliefs. The book affirms that successful people constantly involve in self-development.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be successful and is looking for a motivation booster.

 Author's website: http://www.davidschwartz.com/

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Baby Boomers


AC - Speeches by Management (Project II)
The Technical Speech
December 21, 2007

Introduction
Imagine it is January 2030. You are so happy because it is your payday. You open your paycheck and were surprised to see a few hundred dollars less. You rush to the pay roll department and tell your payroll manager "Bob... there is something wrong here. You've deducted more for Social Security". Bob turns away from his colorful LCD monitor and tells you "Hey... starting this year, you owe more to Social Security. Haven't you heard about baby boomers? They all have retired. You have to work hard ... to support them". You get disappointed and frustrated.
Yes. In about 22 years, all the baby boomers would have retired. We have to pay more to social security to support them. What are these baby boomers going to do with that money? Well, they are going to spend it. That is good for the economy ... isn't it?
In the next 6 minutes, you are going to learn more details on "Who baby boomers are", "When are they going to retire", "What is the impact of their retirement"?
Who are baby boomers?
The baby boom generation is a demographic term for the population born between 1946 and 1964 - right after the Second World War. Baby boom is the reflection of the sudden removal of social and economic pressures that kept people from starting families.
U.S. census estimates that the group that holds the “boomer” title is made up of about 80 million individuals. Does anyone know the total US population? It is 300 million. About 1/4 of them are baby boomers.
When are boomers going to retire?
Casey-Kirschling — the nation's first boomer was born in Philadelphia on Jan. 1, 1946. Casey-Kirschling won't bankrupt the Social Security system by her early retirement at 62. But the 80 million Americans who could qualify for Social Security during the next 22 years are sure to bankrupt the system. The first wave of 3.2 million baby boomers turns 62 next year at the rate of 365 an hour. This means 3.2 million boomers are eligible for retirement next year.
The Boomers' Impact
The imbalance between workers and beneficiaries didn't happen overnight. In 1945, a decade after Social Security was created, there were 42 workers paying into the system for each retiree. Today, there are 3 paying for one retiree. By 2030, "Every couple will have their own retiree to support"
As millions of baby boomers approach retirement, the program's annual cash surplus will shrink and disappear. Social Security will not be able to pay full benefits from its payroll and other tax revenues. It will need to consume the general revenue dollars to meet its obligations--money that now pays for everything from environmental programs to highway construction to defense. Eventually, the government has to either slash benefits or cut down on the spending to accommodate Social Security.
When more and more boomers reach retiring age, the number of younger workers, those aged 25-44, will actually decrease. There will be a shortage of qualified workers especially for service jobs.
Optimist's View
Well ... Though there a number of factors to worry about... there is also something good about the retirement of baby boomers.
A sharp rise in the number of wealthy older people will likely have an impact on the demand for several types of consumer goods or services, such as health care, travel and luxury products. The next decade or two will probably be boom times for philanthropy. Colleges and other nonprofit organizations looking for large donations may want to turn up the heat on fund-raising efforts that target this older group.
Conclusion
Baby boomers presently make up a lion's share of the political, cultural, industrial, and academic leadership class in the United States. Baby Boomers are definitely going to make a dent in our earnings. At the same time, they are also leading a consumer and workforce revolution that is changing the way we do business. Though boomers retiring in the next few years would cause more burdens to the economy, it would also increase the consumer spending to a great extent.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

If you have been wondering where to start, to develop skills on negotiations, this is a nice book to read.

The authors bring out the merits of the principled negotiations over the traditional hard/soft negotiation techniques. The book recommends to focus on the people, their interests, available options and the standards in any negotiation. I liked the BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement) concept which can be applied to many real life negotiation situations.

The content is short & sweet. This book is focussed on principled negotiations and doesn't deal with all the negotiation paradigms. I would consider this as a primer for negotiations. At the end, there are a few techniques suggested to handle people who play dirty tricks.

You cannot learn to swim by reading a book. Similarly, you cannot be a negotiation expert overnight by just reading this book. You should perpetually apply the ideas.

Author's website:  http://www.williamury.com/

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gross Domestic Product

AC - Speeches by Management (Project I)
The Briefing
November 9, 2007


It is a warm Sunday evening. You drive your car down to the nearest Wal-Mart and buy some chips, beer and groceries. You swipe your credit card to pay $50 at the counter. On the way back home, you stop at the gas station. You swipe your card again to fill gas for 50 bucks. You come back home, sit on the couch and watch TV - drinking bear and eating those crispy chips. Do you know that you increased the nation's GDP by $100 on that evening?

In the next 6 minutes, you are going to learn, the various factors that have an impact on the country's GDP.

GDP - Defined

For those brains that are wondering what GDP is - GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product. It is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country's border in one year.
For all the mathematicians in this room, this is the formula used to compute the GDP of a nation:

GDP = C + G + I + NX

where:

"C" is equal to all consumer spending in a nation's economy
"G" is the sum of government spending
"I" is the sum of all the country's business investment on capital
"NX" is the nation's total net exports, calculated as total exports minus total imports. (NX = Exports - Imports)

Now, let us take a closer look at each of these factors.

Consumer Spending

Consumer spending includes all the money that you spend in shopping - right from your computer to your car, right from your gloves to your house. Whatever money you spend out of your pocket is accounted under consumer spending.

When labor department reports, "Unemployment rate has gone down" Wall Street becomes happy. Why is it so? A low unemployment rate indicates that most of the people have stable jobs. If they have a stable job, they'll continue to get their paychecks. If they continue to get their paychecks, they'll continue to spend more. When consumers spend more, the GDP value goes up. High GDP value is an indicator of a flourishing economy. When the economy grows, investors make more money.

Government Spending

This includes money spent on constructing bridges, laying roads, buying missiles for national defense, government employees' salaries etc., Bush spends about 1% of the nation's GDP in Iraq war, every year.

Spending by federal, state, and local governments account for about twenty percent of the GDP. From now on, if you see "Road work ahead" signs, don't get frustrated. Feel happy that government is spending money and it is good for the GDP.

Capital Investments

What are some of the capital investments done by businesses? Buying land for office space, purchasing new computers, purchasing machinery etc.,

How can companies help to improve the economy? By doing more capital spending. When will the companies do more capital spending? When they feel that the economy is looking good. It is a "chicken & egg situation".

Net Exports

This is the difference between all the exports and imports made by the country. For example, if you export "Windows software" for $100 and import 100 tainted toys for $1 each, the "Net Export" value is "zero".

What are not included?

Now that we understood what are included in GDP, let us take a look at the things that are NOT included in GDP.

Intermediate spending is not accounted in GDP. Recall the definition ... "GDP is the value of all finished goods and services".

Transferred payments like "unemployment benefits" do not come under GDP because government is not getting any service in return.

U.S GDP - Breakdown

As of 2006, the US GDP is $13.1 trillion. Let us take a quick look at the break down of the US GDP value:

Consumer Spending 65%
Business Investment 15%
Government Spending 20%
Net Exports 0
Conclusion

Let us have a quick recap of what GDP is. It is the sum of consumer spending, government spending, business investments and the net exports.

Don't worry that the economy is going down. Now, you know the factors influencing the economy and GDP. Remember ... consumer spending is the biggest part of U.S GDP. Start to spend the money that you have and economy will continue to improve. Don't wait for the government to start spending :)

Journey to Competent Communication


It looks as if I just joined toastmasters club. 1 year moved very fast.

I completed all the 10 projects given in the Competent Communicator manual. Yes. I am now a competent communicator !! Thanks to all the other toastmasters whose feedback helped me in reaching this milestone.

I've decided to continue with the program and complete at least 2 advance manuals in the next 1 year. There are 5 speeches in each Advance manual. I've opted to do projects from "Speeches by Management" and "Persuasive Speaking" manuals.

CC Project 10 - Inspire your audience - Faster Goal Achievement

CC - Project 10: Inspire your audience
September 28, 2007

Introduction

How many of you want to stay fit, but do not have a regular exercise routine? How many of you here take 'new year resolutions' but do not follow them? How many of you have personal goals for which you hardly spend any time?
In the next 7 minutes, you are going to learn simple techniques to achieve your goals faster.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

Visualize

Visualize the pleasure of reaching the goal. Visualize how you would be and how your life style will change after attaining the goal.

If you want to be a billionaire, visualize driving a Porsche or a Z3. Visualize living in your dream house with 20 different rooms, a big lawn in the front and a swimming pool at the backyard.

Visualizing fills your heart, mind and soul with the thoughts about your goal. Visualizing helps you to refine your goals and motivates to achieve them.


Find mentors or people with similar goals

I had a desire to improve my public speaking skills - for quite sometime. However, I lacked the motivation & guidance. My friend introduced me to Toastmasters. With the support & inspiration that I got from other toastmasters, I am now a decent speaker. If I hadn't joined toastmasters, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn from others. If I hadn't joined toastmasters, there would be no one to remind "Saro, the next thing that you've to improve is your Vocal Variety".

So, always find mentors or people with similar goals. They can help you to stay on track and reach your goals faster.

Split into smaller goals

You go to a pizzeria and order a pizza. Your hot delicious pizza is served. What if you were asked to eat the whole pizza without cutting into slices? You'll sit there for a while thinking "How the hell am I going to eat this pizza?" I bet you'll be able to eat it faster if you cut it into slices.

The same strategy can be applied in achieving your goals. Split them into smaller goals.

For example, you may have a goal of starting your own business in 2 years. You can split it into smaller goals like

- Develop skills to run the business
- Identify the resource requirements
- Raise capital
- Identify business partners

Assign a time line to each of these smaller goals.

If you have one big goal to achieve, you will not work on it giving an excuse "I don't have time". Splitting them into smaller goals helps you to accommodate them into your schedule. Achieving each smaller goal motivates you further and gives you extra confidence to reach the bigger goal.

Keep a good reminder system

How many of you tell your friends or spouse about your goals? Very good!

I shared my New Year resolution with my wife. I told her that I want to go for a brisk walk every morning. So, these days, she gets up at 5.30 am in the morning, wakes me up for my morning walk and she goes back to sleep again. I'm not sure if she does that to help me to achieve my goal (or) she wants to sleep comfortably in the bed.

Your reminder system can also be as simple as a small to do list (or) a poster on the wall that lists all your goals.

Conclusion

Having a goal & doing nothing about it - is equivalent to "NOT HAVING A GOAL". If there is something that prevents you from achieving your goals, that something is nothing but YOU.
If you had postponed taking actions towards your goals, DO IT NOW. Better late than never. Follow these simple techniques to reach your goals FASTER.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

CC Project 9 - Persuading with Power - Habits come in series

CC - Project 9: Persuading with power
August 26, 2007

Introduction

How many of you here do not read at least one book per month? How many of you don't have a daily exercise routine? How many of you do not have time to spend on long-term goals and interests? How many of you spend more hours at work? Well, 3 years back, if you had asked me the same set of questions, I would have lifted my hand for every one of them. I've come a long way since then.

Ladies & Gentlemen, today, I am going to share with you the fact "HABITS COME IN SERIES".

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

Body

Most of us here are addicted to bad habits. It all would have started with just one bad habit. Take for example - you may be having a habit of "spending more hours at work". When you spend more hours at work, you won't have time for yourself. You may not be able to prepare your food at home. You'll start to dine outside, a lot. On top of that, you won't have time for a regular exercise. You'll start to gain more weight and become obese over a period of time. Having spent a lot of time at work, whatever little time you get over the weekends will be spent in relaxing - mostly by watching television, or movies. You will not find time to read good books. You'll start to assimilate hundreds of other bad habits.

I was no different from you folks until three years back. But, I found that people who lead a balanced life were able to excel in their career as well as on personal front. I decided to bring-in a change into my life.

The first thing that I did is to come home early from work. Instead of spending 12 - 14 hours at work, I started to spend just 8 hours. I did a better time management during the day, assigned proper priority to tasks and avoided all the unwanted activities. This helped me to complete the work in time. Having come early from work, I wanted to spend that time usefully. Instead of dining outside, I started to prepare my food everyday at home. I had more time left out after I was done with the cooking. So, I started to go to the fitness center. With a balanced diet and regular exercise, I became more fresh & active. I could do more things in less time. I realized that I had more time left out in a day.

For quite sometime, I had a passion to do a management degree. I enrolled for a part time MBA program. My whole world changed after that. In my classes & during various networking events, I got opportunities to meet new people from different industries. But I found it hard to initiate or participate in conversations. I hardly had any topics in common, to discuss with them. I started to keep track of the current events, tech-industry, economy, and stock market. This gave me a wealth of knowledge to participate in any conversation with strangers.

During my class presentations, I felt very nervous and found it hard to convey my ideas. I realized that I have to improve my public speaking skills to excel in management. I joined toastmasters. After joining toastmasters, I got the habit of reading books to get material for my speeches and learnt new words on a regular basis.

Now, I'm here .... standing in front of you, sharing my experiences. If I had not brought-in that "one good habit" of "spending the right amount of time at work", I'll not be standing in front of you today.

Conclusion Stephen Covey, the author of the famous book "Seven habits of highly effective people" says "substituting a bad habit with a good habit" is an easy way to get rid of bad habits. Habits always come in series. So, try to bring in just one good habit into your life. It will trigger a chain reaction. It will create a ripple effect. In a few months, you'll be surrounded by a bunch of other good habits. You don't have to wait till New Year to take a resolution. You can do it today.

Imagine what is going to happen on the second Sunday of August 2008. You'll be getting ready to attend the toastmasters meeting. You feel very happy about yourself because you have a regular exercise routine, you read at least one book a month, you spend quality time with your family & friends, and you lead a balanced life. You look at yourself in the mirror, and appreciate you for the one good habit that you brought into your life in August 2007.

Folks, give it a thought... bring-in one good habit into your life starting today... because "HABITS COME IN SERIES".

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

CC Project 8 - Visual Aids - Got an idea? Patent it !

CC - Project 8: Visual Aids
August 8, 2007


Good Evening Toastmasters. Who invented light bulb? Thomas Edison. Who invented telephone? Graham Bell. Who invented aircraft? Wright Brothers. Well, we all have or had opportunities to become popular like these inventors. We might have thought about, imagined or dreamed about ideas that could've benefited the whole world. But, we weren't persistent enough and committed to make our ideas a reality. I am one such individual. Today, I am going to talk about the 3 ideas that I missed to patent.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

Idea#1 - Wireless Keyboard & Mouse

I thought about this way back in 1995. We had a local area network in our LAB. We had about 25 PCs connected to each other using co-axial Ethernet cables. The lab was so congested and we hardly had any space between the terminals. There will be cables running all over the table for network connectivity and to connect devices like mouse, keyboard & VGA monitor. The specialty of our network is - if the Ethernet cable is slightly distorted from any workstation, the whole network will be down. Quite often, some one or the other will try to repair their mouse or keyboard connection to the workstation and that would disturb the Ethernet cables. The whole network will be down.

I used to think - working in the lab will be lot more peaceful if we have wireless keyboards and mouses. Wireless keyboards/mouse became very popular in late 90s. Thats when I realized that I should have patented my idea.

Idea#2 - WiFi in Car

This is a cool idea. What would you do if you are lost in a high way and you don't have a mobile phone with you? In my country, there will be a number of shops close to the highways. If you are lost, you can stop by any of the shops and get the directions for your destination. However, in US you have to take the next exit, find a gas station & park your car to get directions. I thought it would be nice if we have WiFi in all the cars. If you are lost, you can communicate with the other cars in the road to get driving directions.

Also, the WiFi in cars can be used to sense collisions in advance. The WiFi system can detect and alert the drivers if you are following a car so closely or if there is an obstacle close-by.

To my surprise, in 2005, I read an article saying that leading car manufacturers are going to support WiFi in cars to get these functions.

Idea#3 - Access to MAPS using 411

Assume that you got lost while driving and you have a mobile phone with you. What would you do? You'll call your friend to get driving directions, right? What if you had access to maps using 411 services? You can tell your current location and get directions from there to your destination. You don't have to disturb your friend. You don't have to install costly GPS or navigation systems in your car. You just pay 50 cents or a dollar to get this service. I thought about this idea in 2003, when I go out with friends on a long drive. We used to get lost and I wish I had access to a service like this. In 2007, Google came up with Google411, a service that is quite similar to this. You can dial-up a number to access MAPs from wherever you are.


When you come across new ideas - run them with your close friends. They can help you to refine it. Thomas Edison said, " I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others". Your inventions should benefit others. Filing a patent costs between $4K - $25K. If you come up with a work related idea, your employer may help you in patenting it.

There is an inventor in every one of us here in this room. We all have the potential to come up with brilliant ideas. However, we fail to consciously recognize such ideas and make them a reality. Needs drive inventions. You may be facing a number of problems or issues in your home, work place or society. Think how best you can resolve those issues or problems. There is a great probability that you can be an inventor.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

CC Project 7 - Research your Topic - Offshoring - not just a quick fix


CC Project - 7: Research your Topic
July 7, 2007


How many of you have dealt with (or) dealing with offshore teams? Raise your hands.

Wow! Almost everyone in this room

I polled some of my friends to find out why their companies offshore the work? They all had the same reason - To Save Money

Well, Offshoring is not as easy as we all might think. Off shoring is not a quick fix for all the problems that companies have. Coming up with an offshore strategy and choosing the right vendor requires a lot of research and planning. Today, I am going to talk about "5 things to consider before you offshore the work".

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

Does vendor have a customer engagement methodology?

What does that mean? Does your vendor understand your needs? Do they treat you well? Do they keep you informed? Do they maintain integrity in their work? How do you find out these things before you offshore the work? Well, do a few pilot projects before you choose a vendor.

You can find several offshore vendors with quality certifications like ISO, CMM, and Six Sigma. However, many of them do not invest in building "Customer Engagement Methodologies".

Research has shown that the probability of success is dependant on both "Quality Certifications" and "Customer Engagement methodology". As you can see from this chart, firms with good customer engagement methodologies are found to be producing more happy customers.

Can you get the right people?

You may think that it is easy to hire people in the offshore team. But, how easy is to get the "right" people?

I was asked to build an offshore team in my previous job. I spent nearly 3 months to fill just one position. It takes a lot of time to train your offshore recruiter to understand your requirements & send "high quality resumes". I spent several nights doing phone screens & interviewing candidates. Building a team with the "right" set of people is not an easy task.

Can the offshore employees be retained?

You would have spent a lot of your energy in building a team with "right" people. But that is not the end of the story. Will you be able to retain them?

You pay a lot in terms of $$$s to your offshore vendor. However, your offshore vendor may in-turn pay only a small piece of the pie to their employees. So, employees don't feel motivated. They start to look around for other jobs.

Offshore firms normally bill their customers based on "head counts". So, they don't care even if a "star" performer decides to leave. They can just replace him/her with another person and continue to get the same amount of money from you. However, the one who is going to suffer is YOU. You may not get the same level of performance & quality from the new joinee.

Are the contracts flexible enough?

Having a well-defined contract is GOOD. But, it may not be always true in the case of off shoring projects. I'm not saying that you shouldn't have any signed contracts at all. But, keep your contracts somewhat flexible. (ie.,) Your business needs and priorities may change over a period of time. Your offshore vendor should be able to adapt to your changing needs & priorities. So, have provisions in your contract to take care of those.

Can you really save money?

Last but not the least, can you really save some money?

Research shows that only 5% of the companies that offshored their business were able to save > 40%. About 50% of the companies had "No savings at all" or they spent more money than they would spend here to expand the business onshore.

The objective of this presentation was not to drive you away from your offshore business. But, to help you to make conscious offshoring decisions. Many of us think that "Offshoring is just a quick fix". But the reality is different. So, before you offshore your business consider these things:

Check if the vendor has a customer engagement methodology?
See if you can you get the right people?
Make sure that you can retain your offshore employees
Keep your contracts flexible enough to take care of your change in needs and priorities.
And finally, do some math to calculate your savings.

Always, keep in mind "Offshoring is not just a quick fix".

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

CC Project 6 - Vocal Variety - How to get the best rating in performance reviews?

CC Project 6 - Vocal Variety
June 8, 2007



You are a person who completes all the assigned tasks on time. You check emails or work from home almost daily. You even sacrifice some of your weekends to complete the project. You travel for your company on a very short notice. You hardly have any time for you and your family. But, in spite of doing all this hard work, you don't get the rating that you wanted.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

At the end of the review cycle, your boss says "You did a great job in completing your tasks. I wish you had done better on other areas also" or your boss says, "I personally wanted to give you the best rating. But, the top management didn't approve it". Does this sound familiar to you? Don't worry. You don't have to hear those statements again in your life. Today, I am going to give you 5 simple tips to get the "best rating in performance reviews".

Tip #1: Understand your objectives

This is one of the important things to do to get the best rating. Are your objectives well defined? Do you know the criteria that your boss has to measure your performance? Are those agreed upon and documented?

Let me give you an example. Say, you have an objective like "Deliver a high quality product". The perception of quality varies between individuals. A person from Microsoft may think that a high quality product can crash or reboot twice a day. Whereas, a person from Apple may think that a high quality product should not crash at all.

Ask your boss this question "What should I do against this objective to get an Outstanding rating?" Get a clear understanding about your objectives and the measurement criteria before you sign-up for something.

Tip #2: Always go the extra mile

If you are expected to just develop a product/feature - go the extra mile - and do some extensive testing. If you are just expected to test a functionality/feature, - go the extra mile - and complete the test automation.

Your boss may come to you and ask "Eric, I know that you have so many tasks in your plate. There is a new hire who just joined our team. Will it be possible for you to mentor him?" Your boss comes to you because he thinks that you can help him. Do not disappoint your boss. Be willing to take additional responsibilities. Go the extra mile.

Tip #3: Be Consistent

At the beginning of the review cycle, you may be very excited and motivated to achieve your goals. But the motivation should sustain.
If you are expected to send "Weekly Status reports" once a week, send it without failure every week.
If your manager expects you to complete your deliverables on time - make sure that you complete them on time, every time. You should have the same levels of commitment and performance throughout your review cycle.

Tip #4: Have a few Bulleted/Star Achievements

This is an important thing that differentiates you from others. Imagine that you are one of the 5 mechanics who work for a car service shop. You check brakes, rotate tires, change oil, change filters and fix the issues with the car like every other mechanic. If you want to differentiate yourself from others,

- come up with a strategy to service more cars in less time,
- volunteer to train the new joiners in your team,
- learn how to fix issues with the new cars in the market,
- go beyond your customer's expectations

Don't just do what you are expected to do. There should be some star items (things that are not the USUALS) and those items should be BULLETED in your performance review form.

Tip #5: Project what you do

I've seen many people slogging day & night to get the work done, but they fail to project their hard work to their bosses. How would your boss know that you are spending extra hours unless you let him know? How would your boss know that you are doing the work efficiently unless you let him know? How would your boss know that you are completing things on time, unless you let him know? Typically, a manager has 10 or more people reporting to him. So, it is hard for the boss to keep track of what each & everyone is doing.

Make sure that you send your Weekly Status Reports. Have regular 1-on-1s with your boss. Send emails after completing tasks or let your boss know in person. Some managers don't read their emails. Make sure that your team also knows about your accomplishments. In many organizations, peer reviews are considered to rate your performance. Your peers should also acknowledge your work.

In order to get the best rating in performance reviews, you don't have to work for 12 hours per day. You don't have to sacrifice the weekend movie that you had planned with your family. You don't have to be super-smart. Just follow these 5 simple tips.

I'm sure you all would come out with flying colors in performance reviews.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

CC Project 5 - Your Body Speaks - How to start/sustain conversations with strangers?

CC Project - 5: Your Body Speaks
April 27, 2007

Imagine that you are going to a social gathering on a Friday night. You see a number of people in the hall. All of them are well dressed and busy talking with each other. The hall is full of noise. You don’t see any familiar faces in the party. What would you do? How do you start your conversation with strangers? What do you talk about? Today, I am going to give you 5 tips about starting and sustaining conversation with others.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

Tip #1 - A compliment is always a great opener

I met one of the District 4 toastmasters during an officers training. I have seen her once participating in the District 4 humor contest & winning the first place. I greeted her and said, “Hello Jane… I’ve seen your humor play during the District 4 humor contest. I enjoyed it very much”. She was very happy that I remembered her play. We conversed for a while regarding the various other plays that happened in the District 4 humor contest.

Knowing about the person is not a must to start a conversation. You can initiate a conversation by complimenting — about a tie, a pair of shoes, or a haircut — people will usually respond positively. Insincerity is easily detected, so make sure you mean it.

Tip #2 - Smile and make eye contact

This is the simplest of all techniques to start a conversation. When you make a friendly smile you let others know that you are approachable. Establishing an eye contact is important to capture other’s attention.

This tactic would work out when the other person is also alone. You should make an eye contact and say “hi” with a friendly smile. I’m sure the opponent would also reciprocate that. It is a nice way of starting a conversation.

Tip #3 - Prepare for the meeting

If you know beforehand about the kind of people you're going to meet, do a bit of research. Knowing a little about whom you're talking to and what their interests are makes it much easier to begin a conversation.

For example, if you are going to attend a Web Technologies Conference – know about the top few players in the market, know about the different web technologies, trends etc., This would help in starting a conversation.

Tip #4 - Stay on top of current events & news

This is one of the easiest ways to start and continue a conversation. If someone asks you “Hey… do you know that Google acquired a online video company, “You tube”?” If you were keeping track of the current events, your response would be “Yeah. I heard that they paid a huge sum of $1.65 billion”. If you were not keeping track of the current events, your response would be “Is it so…? I didn’t know about that”.

The opponent may soon loose interest in conversing with you if you do not have any areas of common interest. Alternatively, if you are staying on top of current events & news, you can continue the conversation by talking about acquisitions, Google’s competition etc.,

Tip #5 - Let others talk

Sometimes, in a nervous burst of energy, we find ourselves talking too much. But one of the things you should learn as a socializer is not to be afraid of pauses, especially when you're talking to someone you don't know. Give them a chance to respond.

Summary

To recap the tips,

A compliment is always a great opener
Smile and make eye contact
Stay on top of current events & news
Prepare for the meeting
Let others talk

The next time you go to a social gathering,

- You don’t have to look for familiar faces,
- You don’t have to be nervous about starting a conversation,
- You don’t have to stress yourself to continue a conversation.

Use these simple tips. You would soon build a strong network.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

CC Project 4 - How to Say it - Good to Great

CC Project - 4: How to Say it
February 9, 2007



Have you ever wondered why Google is trading 5 times its initial IPO? How is Cisco maintaining its leadership in the networking industry in spite of tough competition? Why do some companies make the leap and others don’t?
Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great” explains how “Great” companies evolve. There are a number of traits that differentiate a great company from a good company. Today, I am going to share 3 important traits of “Great” companies.

 
Level 5 Leadership


Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.

Take for example Google. Larry Page was the CEO for the company until 2001. However, he knew that it would not be in the best interest of the company and its investors. So, Larry & Sergey Brin recruited Eric Schmidt from Novell. Eric Schmidt had a good knowledge from running Internet businesses in Sun & Novell. The founders of Google didn’t want to disappoint their investors. Hence, they decided to stick on to their technical roles.

Level 5 leaders also set up successors for continued success of the company. Like a sea that pushes constant waves to the shore, Level 5 leaders create successors who make sure that the company continues its journey of excellence.


First Who Then What?

Collins says that you have to get the right people on the bus (& the wrong people off the bus) before you figure out where to drive it. The people whom you hire decide your destiny. When you have the right people in the bus, you always have the flexibility of changing your course of action anytime during the journey.

When you have disciplined people you don’t need hierarchy. The right people will do the right things and deliver the best results they are capable of, regardless of the incentive system. You don’t have to spend all your time and efforts in managing or motivating the employees to get the work done. 

Collins says that “the purpose of compensation should not be to get the right behaviors from the wrong people, but to get the right people on the bus in the first place, and to keep them there”.

I couldn’t refrain from quoting Google again. Their recruitment process is stringent enough to identify the right people. One of the Google’s executives mentioned in an interview that they have around 20 – 30 people report to a manager. This would force the manager from not doing micro management. Also, this would let employee’s to use their creativity at work. 

I was working as a manager for a start up company previously. I had both right and wrong people in my bus. I spend majority of my time in managing and getting the work done from the ‘wrong guys'. The right people are highly active, accountable and accomplishing.  

Confront the brutal facts

When you start with a honest and diligent effort to determine the truth of the situation, the right decisions often become self-evident. You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without confronting the brutal facts.

Leadership is also equally about creating a climate where truth is heard. They create a culture wherein people had a tremendous opportunity to be heard and ultimately, for the truth to be heard.

I worked for a company called HCL technologies. They introduced annual employee survey for the first time. They had asked for feedback about immediate supervisors, management executives, HR, operations and all the different groups in the organization. All of us were so motivated to give honest feedback hoping that actions will be taken against improvement areas. However, there was no response to it. There was no task force formed to address the issues. There was no action plan. The employees were disappointed, dejected and depressed. We were thinking that the survey feedback will create ripples like a stone thrown into a pool of water. However, the survey feedback was lost like a stone thrown into a deep valley. One year passed... they sent out the survey forms again... but this time, they got only a lukewarm response.

10 years from now, most of us will be in executive positions. If you want to be a successful executive - you should practice “Level 5 leadership”. You should get the right people in to the bus (& get the wrong people off the bus). When things are not going on well, we should face the brutal facts and take bold actions. 

Fellow toastmasters, "You don't have to be great to start... but you've to start to be great"

CC Project 3 - Get to the Point - Mitra - My little one

CC Project - 3: Get to the Point
December 08, 2006

My topic for today’s session is “Mitra”. I never thought this 5-letter word would change my life so much. This word has got all my attention in the last one month and is going to get my full attention for the rest of my life. For those who are wondering who or what Mitra is – She is my 1-month-old daughter. She was born on 31st Oct. Today, I am going to talk about my early parenthood experiences.


The journey into parenthood began when I cut the umbilical cord. The delivery happened late in the night in Kaiser Hospital, Santa Clara. We were allotted a shared room and there was another new born in the room. My wife and I were extremely tired and we went to sleep immediately. The fun began after midnight when our neighbor's kid started to cry. By the time his parents woke up, consoled him and put him back to sleep - Mitra woke up and started to cry. We have to do the same thing for her. This went on in a loop throughout the night. Both the kids’ parents had a sleepless night.
It took a few days for Mitra to learn to breast-feed. She found it hard to latch. The lactation consultants in Kaiser hospital tried a number of techniques but nothing helped. Finally they suggested to use a syringe taped to finger. We tried that just two times and Mitra learnt to suck. From then on, breast-feeding was easy. I was very proud of feeding my daughter first, even before her mom.
We were so happy to bring Mitra to home. However, there were many challenges ahead of us. Putting Mitra to sleep is always a challenge. We sing rhymes, we play music, we walk with her on our shoulders, and we even dance. She goes to sleep when she thinks “poor folks … they too look very tired… let them go and sleep”. However, she wakes up again in an hour and says “okay guys… sleep time is over”. My wife and I have had many sleepless nights.
Mitra likes to listen if someone talks to her. She doesn’t even blink her eyes if you talk to her. At times she even forgets that she is hungry or sleepy, when someone talks to her. The first thing I do after returning from work is to talk to her. It is a very good relaxation for me. The only person in the world who is not bored of my talks is Mitra.
After being a parent for the past 1 month, I understood the routine that kids follow. They cry, then feed, then sleep, then poo, then pee and once again they cry. They do this repeatedly until their parents get tired and even after that.
Fortunately, my mom is here to help us out. Otherwise, it would have been even tougher for us. My mom takes care of all the household activities when my wife and I take care of Mitra.
5 minutes is just not enough to share all my early parenthood experiences. I’m sure many of you would have already gone through this and may have many more interesting stories. Raising a kid is very challenging. At times, we have to sacrifice the things that are most important to us, for the kid. While Mitra learns to live in the world, my wife and I are learning to live with her.

CC Project 2 - Organize your speech - Go Veg

CC Project - 2: Organize your speech
November 24, 2006
Good evening fellow toastmasters,

How many of you want to loose weight and stay fit? How many of you are passionate towards animals? How many of you want the environment to be clean and fresh? My today’s speech is for those who lifted their hands and for those who did not. 

 
The topic for my speech today is - “Go Veg”.
Many of you may ask – Why should I be a Vegetarian? There are many reasons. Today, I will talk about the top 2 reasons for being a vegetarian.
The first reason is to prevent cruelty to animals.
  1. Cruelty to Animals
How many of us feel sorry when we see an animal or bird that is crushed to death on the highway? Do we ever feel “Ah! It will be a great feast to have for lunch”? No! We are all animal lovers by nature. However, we are ignorant of the cruelty done to animals in slaughterhouses and farms. And that is the reason why many of us are still meat eaters.
I would like to share some pictures that show the cruelty done to animals in slaughterhouses and farms.
In dairy farms, cows are chemically forced to produce 10 times more milk than they naturally would. They are separated from their newborn calves and milked by machines that hurt their udders. Imagine how cruel it is…? Do we ever realize that when we sip our cup of milk in the morning?
In factory farms, chickens are densely packed in sheds without access to sunlight and fresh air. They hardly have any space to move. Do we realize the suffering these birds have to go through when we order our fried chicken from KFC?
The situation is even worse in case of “commercial fishing”. You can see that thousands of fish frozen to death. Commercial fishing also kills other rare under-water species that are caught in the fishing nets and hooks.
I’m sure every one of us is sympathetic to these animals.
  1. Health Issues
The second important reason for being a vegetarian is “to be healthy”.
I would like to share some facts regarding health issues non-vegetarians.
Research has shown that the average cholesterol level of non-vegetarians is
significantly higher than vegetarians. Also, it has been found that non-vegetarians
have high blood pressure.
  1. Advantages of being a vegetarian
- Plant-based diets protect us against heart disease, diabetes, obesity, strokes, and several types of cancer. Vegetarians also have stronger immune systems and, on average, live 10 years longer than meat-eaters do.
- Studies have shown that vegetarian kids grow taller and have higher IQs.
  1. Personal Experience
- I’m a lacto – vegetarian for the past 6 years and pure vegetarian for the last 2 months. I never had any serious illness or disease for several years now. However, I do visit my dentist often because of not taking care of my teeth during my child hood days.
  1. Vegetarian Alternatives
- These days, there are so many alternatives for non-vegetarian food. You can be a vegetarian without missing the nutrition and taste that we get out of a non-vegetarian food.
- Being a vegetarian may sound too difficult to achieve. However, with little self-control, persistence and motivation we can easily be a vegetarian.
So, do you want to save the animals in the planet from their suffering? Do you want to look slim and be healthy? Do you want to feel good about yourself? Be a vegetarian. It is not just ME who is telling this. Great people & celebrities also have said it.

CC Project 1 - Ice Breaker Speech - My College Life

CC Project - 1: The Ice Breaker
October 13, 2006

Good evening dear friends,

I am very excited to be with you all, this evening. This is my first speech in toastmasters. The toastmasters manual says “Speaking about yourself is the easiest thing to do”. However, when I started to prepare for my Ice breaker speech, I realized that “It is not that easy to talk about yourself”.
Today, I will briefly introduce myself and share some of my college experiences, with you. 

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)
Virgo
For people who are wondering who this guy is – I am Saro. I was born on September 1st 19xx. Yes. I am a Virgo. But many of my friends do not believe that I am a Virgo. There are several differences between me and a typical Virgo.
- Virgos are normally shy
o But I never feel shy to talk to strangers. Infact, I have bored them for hours. They would normally run away from me.
- Virgos are also modest
o However, I’m not. I don’t do any work behind the screens and I always project my achievements.
- Virgos are usually disciplined and organized
o I am an exception to this as well. I like sleeping for hours together. I normally do things only at the last minute. To be frank, I prepared for this speech only last night … actually, it is early morning today J
- Also, Virgos are intelligent and analytical
o People do believe that I have this quality… until they interact with me closely J


College Life

I think I was more of a Virgo until my twelfth grade. College life changed me a lot. It brought me out of the shell.
College life taught me a bunch of skills
- high jump & climbing
o Our hostel gates close at 9 pm in the night. We had to jump over fence and climb hostel wall to get into the hostel after watching night show movies.
- The next skill I developed was “tolerance”
o I picked up this skill by having food regularly at our college canteen & mess.
o At times the food will be very hot ‘n spicy and other times it will be without any taste. I started appreciating my mom’s cooking only after my hostel life J
- Another significant skill I gained was “Interaction with girls”
o Though I studied in a co-ed school, my classes typically had 50 boys
o and just 5 girls.
o College life looked more colorful to me with 30 boys & 30 girls in a class room.
o I don’t think I’ve mastered this skill a lot. But guys like Sai really did Ph.D on this J
Along with these skills, obviously I gained some engineering skills
College life got me my best friend, Sudhagar. I never imagined that we would be best friends. We used to fight a lot during our first year of college. However, situations turned-us to be friends from second year. Later, we realized that we have more commonalities, except for our heights.
One of my goals during the college life was to be an entrepreneur. One day or the other, I want to run my own company. Hopefully, I’ll achieve that in the near future.
4 minutes isn’t enough to talk about all my college experiences. I would like to finish my speech before I see the yellow card. Keeping fun things aside, college life gave me a very strong technical foundation. It brought the best out of me. I am thankful to my professors and fellow seniors who helped me to realize my fullest potential.
Thank you for patiently listening to my speech!!

The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back: Overcoming the Behavior Patterns That Keep You From Getting Ahead

Are you wondering why you weren't able to advance in your career? Do you know why you are what you are? Do you really want to break through your career impasse? This is THE BOOK to read.

The authors talk about 12 different behaviors and personalities of people. You can understand the dynamics of a specific behavior or pattern, its origin and ways to overcome those patterns. This book provides deep insights regarding certain behaviors - with stories and characters to illustrate each one of them. When you read about these characters, you can also relate them to people whom you meet or work with.

I feel that some of these habits are possessed only by 'bad' people. I do not understand the rationale behind the title which says "12 bad habits that hold good people back".

I wish they had trimmed down the unwanted content and increased the font size. It was a bit difficult to read and sustain attention because of the small font size.

If you think that you are not advancing in your career - in spite of working hard, in spite of sacrificing all your personal time, in spite of being so passionate about work - this book is for YOU.

Author's website:  http://www.careerleader.com/

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A quest to become a better public speaker


How many of you have the fear of public speaking? How many of you have difficulty in doing an impromptu speech? How many of you get nervous when challenged in front of a crowd? Well, if you had asked me these questions, a year back, I would have raised my hand for every one of them. Today, I have gotten rid of my fear of public speaking. I am a toastmaster.

I had got several opportunities since my school days to stand in front of crowd and to deliver speeches. As part of my job, I had been to several customer locations to train people. However, I was not confident enough about my public speaking skills. I realized that there was still scope for improvement.

My friend recommended me to attend the toastmasters meeting in Santa Clara University. I attended as a guest for a couple of weeks and joined as a member in September, 2006. Toastmasters not only help you to improve your public speaking skills - but also, your impromptu speaking, leadership and evaluating skills. In fact, toastmasters helped me to hone my writing skills also :)

I am going to use this blog to post the speeches that I delivered in toastmasters.

Think Big, Act Small: How America's Best Performing Companies Keep the Start-up Spirit Alive

Have you read "Good to Great" by Jim Collins? If the answer is "Yes", you don't have to spend a lot of time in reading this book. At least, 50% of the book conveys what is already told in Good to Great. Of course, with different stories as example.

I liked two concepts from this book - "Have everyone think and act like an owner" & "Choose your competitors". It is hard to institutionalize the first concept, though.

Choosing your competition is something that many companies forget to do (or) they don't do it right. Many of them aim to reach the sky and at the end, do not even take off from the land.

If you are wondering how to keep the start-up spirits alive in your giant corporation, this is a good book to read.

Author's website: http://www.jennings-solutions.com/

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money--That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

Robert Kiyosaki has shared a lot of his personal experiences of making money. I enjoyed reading the first few chapters. The rest, pretty much carried the same information. This book motivates you to become rich. The author recommends to develop and use your ingenuity to create wealth.

I couldn't still understand why "buying a house" couldn't be considered as a way of asset creation. Most of the author's examples are about real estates & investing in stocks.

If you want to get inspired about making money, this is the book to read.

Author's website: http://www.richdad.com/