What’s your managerial hack?

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In your team do people respond better to

1. Engagement?

2. Rewards and Recognition?

3. Competition?

4. Pressure?

5. Naming and Shaming?

We can argue 2 and 3 are the same as in a way we recognize only the winners and leave out the also-ran. In my view, we use all of them interchangeably, depending on how motivated or frustrated we are about our teams!


I wonder if it’s our individual make up that drives our managerial behavior…Meaning if we are wired to respond better to competition, that’s the tool we possibly use more? Many of us are used to the competition thanks to our education system, and maybe it has become part of our DNA.


Is the culture of the organization/team that drives any of the above?

I know culture is an often overused/abused term for everything that happens in any enterprise. But, we observe a prevalent behavior across the organisation (call it culture), which could be any of the above.


It’s the Context that drives our behavior as a manager? I remember once sitting with my buddy and bitching about my team and how I am building pressure on them. He asked me; I thought you believed in engagement and quoted some of my past tenures to remind me. I certainly felt embarrassed. However, I justified saying that this Context is different though I got refreshed with the flashback of engagement!

When I look back, I can recollect that I have used all of them knowingly or unknowingly. But, when you look at the results of “best employers to work," one can clearly see rewards and recognitions as something that stands out.

Let me ask you as a manager whats your “Go to tool" or what does your manager use more often to get the best out of you?

What’s your interview wait time?

800 371 Kamal Karanth

“All the 3 rounds of #interviews, the average wait time was about 45 minutes” when she brought that stat out, I wondered, is Interview Wait Time (IWT) a metric worth measuring?

We already measure many things like time to hire, quality of hire (still fuzzy), cost per hire, and not to forget how many we hired.

Let us say #hr gave hiring managers a score on

1) The average time to respond to a CV

2) Time taken to allot an interview schedule

3) Number of reschedules per interview

4) Average waiting time per interview

5) Number of days taken to give feedback post-interview

Don’t forget the numerous follow-ups in between to nudge for each of the processes to take place.

We do take post-hiring feedback on a scale of 10 on different parameters. But, the ‘experience’ of getting hired is often ignored when we get the salary, title, role of our choice, and some of us might be generous or forget things like wait time.

Let’s do an average waiting time for an enterprise if they

a) Interviewed 4 people for every each hire

b) Recruited 200 people a month

b) Did 3 rounds of interview

c) Had an average wait time of 30 minutes

Thats 4 x 200 x 3 x 30 = 72,000 Minutes per month 🤐

Meet the new interviewer and job seekers

Meet the New Interviewer and Job Seeker

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As layoffs become common, will we find more honest job seekers and empathetic interviewers in days to come?

Layoffs have been like weight-loss programs for companies. But for employees, being shed as a part of an enterprise’s flab is not a great start for a job-hunt. Failed business models, poor management and client losses — the usual answers that candidates give to explain layoffs are passé now. Even the fittest of companies have got a jolt in Covid times so can we just say Covid when asked “why” and get to the next question? But that’s easier said than done!

A Typical Interview

“Are you still with the company?” the CTO asked the VP candidate she interviewed last week. He said yes. But he was actually serving notice after being laid off. After the interview, I asked him why he said that. He said, “I thought if I told her the truth, she might think I am not good enough. “But, your relieving letter would bare it all. And you may not get this job,” I said with some agitation. This guy had three promotions in the last seven years and was a director with an Insurance Tech Company.

Then I turned my attention to the CTO and asked her why she was still asking those old questions. By that I meant checking for antecedents than focussing on skills and potential. She did not like it. But I am hoping she and many others would change their ways of interviewing and not look at laid off people with a coloured lens.

The shadow of Layoffs

Picture any job interview in the past; the interviewers and the job seekers more or less played the roles described above. The interviewer interrogates the candidate on why he or she wants to leave the current company, and checks the motive to join the current one. The job seeker gives those perfect answers covering the track on why they were leaving. Most interviewers focussed less on skills & fitment. Their eyes were on the “why” which is difficult to compare when you have multiple candidates for the same role.

The mysterious shadow of a layoff has, in the past, always lurked around while meeting a candidate. Especially in India and some of the eastern nations. Layoffs receive a different response in various geographies and cultures. Sweden supports laid off employees till they find their next job, and German enterprises allow time for a cool off, but Japan has its “chasing out rooms”. A baseline stigma, if not taboo, has always existed around layoffs in India.

I am trying hard to recollect a laid-off job seeker who walked in all peppy for an interview. The burden of a layoff, irrespective of the context or reason, is often heavy enough to dwarf the candidate.

Why You

The whole process of hiring has been done under a cloud of suspicion. CV fudging, tenure manipulations, inaccurate role descriptions, presenting inflated salaries have decreased the trust of employers. We know many employers who have rejected high potential senior leaders purely because reference checks revealed s/he was laid off or fired from the previous job. The larger let-down has been that the job seeker did not share those facts during the interview. Enterprises were right to consider these as integrity violations. However, from the job-seeker’s point of view, Indian enterprises haven’t shown enough character to accept and hire laid-off professionals easily.

Working From Home

Working from Home? What’s Missing?

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Consider this as a regret note…

Some of us maybe are struggling with burnout of Working from Home as the boundaries have blurred further. But, has Working From Home also given some of us more time to reflect?

When you look back at the time in office, anything that strikes you that you wish had you done better?

One of the things that may have become a handicap in the remote working world is our “relationships.”?

Yes, talent, hard work, creativity, productivity, or performance are what managers and organisations want from us. In our current remote avatar, we can probably demonstrate most of these. For a moment think about the many critical phases at work and how you navigated them in the past;

Decisions, buy-ins, breakdowns, conflicts & any new situations to state a few… Which was the most important influence to get through these tricky contexts besides authority? I observed it to be “relationships.” People who had great relationships got things done, and some of us who sucked at it struggled.

Some home truths about remote working

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Despite initial productivity gains, we could be overrating the benefits of ‘work from home’

“This April I am busy for a different reason,” quipped my HR friend. “Normally, this time of the year, I am busy pacifying angry employees about their hikes. But now we are busy training managers on how to work remotely and engaging employees to keep their morale high. I think after many years we are doing something new and it is exciting”.

He is not alone. An elated CXO who heads an engineering R&D told me her team’s productivity is at an unprecedented 70 per cent, something not seen when everybody was present at the office. An entrepreneur told me his collections were the highest in the last four weeks as his customers were all locked down at home and available to clear his payments.

The first month of full-time work from home (WFH) for most white-collar workers has been a godsend. People have been posting happy pictures of eating with family, time with pets, reading books and bonding with near and dear ones. I am getting diabetic about some of these new claims, which are making our working from the office of the past look like a war crime.

Not too long ago, the same employees were seen showing off the inaugurations of their new swanky offices and how they loved their cool cafeterias and gyms.

Will remote working be the new future for many roles and industries? TCS just announced that they would only need 25 per cent of their future workforce at their offices. This must be worrying office rental companies.

Maslow confused!

If 75 per cent of us worked away from the office at any given point, Maslow may have to go back to the drawing board to rework parts of his pyramid! Physical co-working and collaboration has, for long, been the only known pathway for us to climb up the hierarchy of needs. With physiological and safety needs partly sorted in a WFH mode, the remaining layers above seem a bit shaken and challenged as we talk.

Can video platforms and chat rooms replace the physical sense of connection and belonging that one draws from a workplace? In a WFH mode, where the dynamics of a physical workplace don’t play out enough, leadership may also need to be re-defined. Physical stature, charisma, and intellect have so far been experienced the best physically.

Self-actualisation remains to be reconfigured and learnt afresh if we sign up for an employee-lite arrangement. For many who rely on meetings, handshakes, and walk-around catch-ups, the world has rebooted itself, requiring grappling with the unfamiliar.

Calm before the storm

Let’s not forget we have scrambled for safety and security in the last four weeks. Many of us who hated our workplace for various reasons like travel, traffic, peers, bosses, found WFH a great escape and our energies flowed into work. We all wanted stability and continuity to our work with all the fear about the coronavirus around us.

Let’s not forget the threats of jobs, salary cuts were looming, and many of us must have worked hard to keep our jobs. It’s very similar to how we are on our best behaviour when we begin in our new jobs, trying to impress bosses and colleagues. Once the threat to our health, salaries, and jobs disappears, it will be interesting to see whether productivity levels remain the same. The other gain is with regard to workplace conflicts. Many of us haven’t had the time and opportunity to experience the friction with our pet hates at work as we were busy protecting our physical safety. Maybe it will take time to pick new enemies in a remote working model.

Not so soon… please

Is it too early for us to declare if WFH works? For every Aye, there’s a Nay! Current productivity figures are encouraging, but one needs to take it with more than a pinch of salt. With all due respect, the productivity we experience now is largely a result of immobility and absence of social engagements and distractions. Can I say it’s akin to the practice of celebrities authoring books behind bars!

Physical environmental aspects are a huge but often unrecognised factor of our productivity. The absence of traffic movement and noise around is an enabler for focus as it stands now. We should wait to see if the mind operates the same way once the movement, noise, resume, and the din begins in the neighbourhood. Wouldn’t we then rather rush back to the sound-proofed and air-conditioned comforts of the office space?

Personally, I got a glimpse as to what retirement looks through my newly declared state of work. Meanwhile, I saw one of my colleagues applying for leave yesterday citing personal work. My sarcastic self wanted to ask him why take leave? However, my respect for him went up!

Should I say, I am observing new meanings of remote working for sure!

remote working

Will Remote Working produce new Winners?

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Will remote working change the pecking order of employees and leaders?

Knowingly or let’s say unconsciously organizations and bosses categorize their employees as racehorses and cart pullers. It has nothing to do with their intentions; it’s how things get measured in most teams & organizations. Flashback time…

I remember my first job, where about 40 of us were recruited fresh from college as sales executives. All of us were assembled at our corporate headquarters for a 5-week initial training program. For many of us, it was also the first time away from home, staying in a hostel, sharing rooms with two other people. At Office, there were new discoveries every week.

Week 1: The Trainers introduced us to biology, where we found people who came from a science background quickly absorbing the concepts and sharply answering the questions in no time. The rest of them were wondering why they did not study science.

Week 2: The written tests started and we saw a different set of people scoring higher (in fact, art background guys scored better). People who came from a science background were left red-faced.

Week 3: The mock sales calls started. Not surprisingly, we found new heroes in this exercise. The outgoing ones enjoyed this interaction based evaluations and winged this with ease.

Week 4: We had video cameras live recording the mock calls, and all 40 of us were observing mock sales calls made by our batchmates. Each one of us had to evaluate our peers on 22 different parameters (things like how you make eye contact, body language, following the sales process). Some of us froze in front of the camera; many couldn’t complete a 3-minute session with their mock customer.

WEEK 5: We had to make mock calls with all the brochures and medical samples to the CXOs of our organization. CHRO, CMO, MD, CFO all turned up as customers and evaluated us. In the end, they declared one of us as Topper and gave him an award. Finally, we were sent to our respective work locations (90% of us got Non-Hometown postings). Five of our batchmates were considered as failed and were given air tickets to fly back home.

6 Months later, we were called to head office for a refresher course of one week. Amongst the 35 of us, about ten were no longer in the company, including the topper. We were told that many couldn’t adapt to the fieldwork discipline and pressures. Some couldn’t handle the travel, and many understandably couldn’t adjust to being out of home and not to forget their bosses.

15 Months later, when we assembled at head office, we were about 15 people from our batch. As you can imagine, with every passing day, people either found the job difficult or the managers felt they were not fitting in. On arrival, we got to know that one of our batchmates was already promoted as manager (the first from our batch).

If you are already bored reading my story above, blame it on my WFH depression! Yes, there is a context!

So far working in offices, some of us got more personal time with our teams and bosses & have been performing at different levels.

The new remote-working the situation has changed contexts for all of us. Do you think we will see new racehorses at your organisations and teams? It’s a foreign setting (but home) for all of us. Some of us may be struggling to work alone, and even our leaders may also be struggling to support you or make you successful.

Something in me says this we might see the new context of remote working bringing productivity and success for a different set of people!

At my first job with every new context, we had new performers emerging and many quitting!

Are you the one who will take advantage of the new opportunity and change the way you perform?

Time Will Tell! Huh?


Corona Virus & Work From Home

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Ever Wondered why Work From Home never really took off in India despite

1.     Expensive real estate in big cities

2.     Poor public transport systems

3.     Long commutes

4.     Clogged traffic

5.     Increased connectivity

Even the IT Industry that pioneered WFH with influence and learnings from western countries also struggled to make this Work?

Is it mostly a mindset issue of managers and organisations?

Yes and No? Some of us have worked for ages with a routine of people around us, and that has meant

When Firing becomes a necessary Evil!!

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With the growth in workforce and high demand for talent we introduced Talent Acquisition as a specialization in HR. With increased volatility and economic fluctuations, do organisations need to have specialized teams for Talent Separation?  More than that I am debating if Firing is a necessary skill to be developed?

I don’t know what to do with Kumar, results are poor but he seems to be clocking the hours. His team is happy to have him as a supervisor” I told my boss sounding confused. “Is it a capability problem or intent problem” he asked me in return. “If it’s a capability problem, coach him, if it’s intent you know what to do” he said and walked off. That was the first time I got an input on how to evaluate team members before taking a call on them. But 15 years since then that clarity still eludes me when it comes to decisions related to firing.  Leaders and organisations brag about talent as the heart of their strategy. But, seldom do they follow it up consistently.

Multiple situations force us to think of our own colleagues as dispensable. Some of these are unavoidable, many contextually right. Few of these we do to keep our job and most often to cover our own lack of timely intervention.

Let me list the likely situations which result in forced exits of colleagues, some are obvious and some strange

  1. Integrity violation, Integrity is a loaded word but it covers a range of transgressions. From financial irregularities to sexual harassment, many a times these are reasonably straightforward.
  2. Organisation is under-performing and manpower cuts allow cost savings in the short term
  3. There is a M& A situation and the roles are overlapping due to the new combination
  4. Change in strategy, focus on new business line which renders certain departments redundant.
  5. Colleague is consistently under performing and the results are below par.
  6. The behavior of the colleague is experienced as toxic or unprofessional consistently
  7. The chemistry with the team or the boss is simply not there.
  8. You suddenly discover that your colleague’s spouse is working with your direct competitor in a key role. Maybe, statistically insignificant but does happen!
  9. You find the supervisor having an affair with reportee, some of the organisations do consider this abuse of power!

I have listed what my limited experience has allowed me to remember. I am sure you can add more to the list.

Firing as a Skill

Firing like hiring is a special skill. It’s not something you use every day but something you keep in the repository for a rainy day. I once witnessed one of my colleagues asking in a job interview if she had fired anybody in her career. She was stunned by the question, but to give the right ‘interview answer’ she went on to explain how she motivated her team. As a result everybody always performed under her and never had to fire anybody. She was promptly rejected. When I quizzed my colleague he said, “first of all, it’s difficult to believe that all team members perform all the time. Second firing is a necessary skill, if I am hiring a manager I want somebody who brings that too” he quipped.

Unlike setting goals, engaging, reviewing & directing which are required on a daily basis, one rarely uses firing skills. So, why is it critical I wondered. “Have you ever fired anybody” he asked? Those days I was a rookie and my boss used to do it for me, I said “no, but I think I can”. I felt if It was the need of the hour I could do it too. All I need to do is to communicate with clarity to the colleague at a private place without violating his/her dignity.  But I was wrong, I experienced much later in my life how challenging it is to fire your own colleague.

Firing Emotions

Few things one goes through during the firing period is worth summarising

  • Losing sleep everyday while making the decision, asking yourself frequently if it’s the right decision
  • Every day seeing the colleague and worrying if you are affecting the person’s livelihood. Your own interactions with your targeted colleague in this phase is likely to be evasive or cold. This off course depends on your mental makeup. Sometimes this helps and acts as a heads-up to the person on what’s coming.
  • How the remaining colleagues would react if they got to know (nothing remains a secret).Will we create a situation of fear or lower morale?
  • The biggest challenge is in the “situation room” when you are with your colleague. You might be prepared for the legality/technicality of the firing. But, it’s difficult to prepare for the emotional outburst of your colleague. Some of them cry, few hurl accusations of victimisation, some plead to reverse the decision. Many ask for more time to prove themselves. The some stronger ones threaten to go legal, or ask for a better severance pay. But most of them out of self-esteem or fear of shame say, ‘let’s get over it’ and resign immediately.
  • The difficult part is losing the relationship post separation and  to keep status quo at work with other colleagues. This pretence of nothing happened or trying to justify the firing to other colleagues is the hardest part.

Skill or Mindset

So, what are the essentials to be good at firing people? Is it a skill or Mindset? First thing you need to have is authority. When you are in in a seat of power the necessary responsibility to make the call and the superiority mindset to fire would come with it. In todays and tomorrow’s world every manager needs to develop this mindset. Firing your team members is part of your career development, whether you like it or not. This Mindset cannot be developed by attending any course but comes through years of dealing with volatile situations. Ability to rationalise is another essential trait for people to be comfortable while firing colleagues.

Many times, it isn’t about right or wrong, but purely about the context or circumstance. Most often people do it because they have to. For that very reason, your ability to rationalise to yourself gives the strength to do it without guilt. Yes, Karma can come back at you, but holding back for that reason can render you weak. I was once procrastinating a decision to fire one of my team members. Hence, my boss told me if I didn’t, he would do it himself. That did the trick and I promptly executed his order to save myself the embarrassment.


One’s tough image also allows them to execute the firing orders at ease. One of my friends was in his notice period with his employer, his successors asked him to fire one of their senior employees. They felt his strong personality would convince the senior employee to resign without much fuss. Furthermore, for the rest of the organisation his participation would serve as an endorsement to the decision.

Firing is a mindset which can become a skill. Espceially for people who can rationalise that as an additional aspect of the job.

Imagine just like Talent Acquisition departments if we had Talent Separation Departments. You think they would be an aspiring department to work for?

As far as all the people whom I have fired so far, will you accept if I say it wasn’t me? But the moment!

chain of trust

The Chain of Trust

800 371 Kamal Karanth
“We have to shut both the offices, it’s a global MnA, we have to follow instructions,” said my boss. I promptly broke the news to both my leaders in those countries expressing my helplessness.
One of the 2 leaders asked “If you give me 3 months I can turn this around”, her numbers weren’t adding up, but it was difficult to counter her confidence. So, I argued with my boss and got her a 3 months extension.

“Please ensure I am paid till I get another job, btw, were you guys on drugs when you started this office 2 years ago” the leader of the second office shot back. Rightfully so, we accepted that request and parted ways eventually.

Eventually, the colleague who asked for that extra time ensured the survival of the biz & went on to create a successful business model against all odds during the recession.

When I reflect back, I don’t know if it was

a) her demand to stick with her

b) my relationship with her

Conference are boring

Why Conferences are Boring!

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What’s the most engaging part when you go to any conferences and listen to speakers? Did you say your smartphone? I don’t blame you as listening to panelists in many conferences makes us cringe, especially when you observe these clichés!

1) “We are between you and lunch/drinks.”

2) Its post-lunch session and we have to keep you awake. As though every day at work, we all take a nap after!

3) The panelist’s lengthy career introductions which are already there on the agenda. Certainly, The audience wouldn’t be there if they did not know who is speaking? Yeah, some of us may not know their credentials, (But, what are we doing there anyway?).

4) The moderator from time to time saying “that was a great insight” 🤫. Moreover, for an example about Uber or Airbnb which is already there in public domain

5) The eternally agreeing panel (the shake of heads in agreement with each other). I am imagining if they all keep disagreeing how entertaining it might be😇